Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Directed by James Gunn

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russel, and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel.

Backstory

Guardians of the Galaxy was predicted to be the first flop of the Marvel Cinematic Universe due to its obscurity, but wound up knocking everyone’s socks off.  But then, people started asking, “Could they do it again with the sequel?”  The first trailers seemed to imply “Yes,” with the requisite unusual pop songs and adorable baby Groot.  So, of course, I was there opening weekend.

Plot

We catch up with the Guardians of Galaxy doing a guard gig for an alien race known as the Sovereign, so they can collect a bounty of Gamora’s sister Nebula.  But things go sideways and they soon find themselves being hunted by the Sovereign.  While hiding out on a deserted planet, the Guardians are soon approached by the cosmic being Ego, claiming to be Peter’s long lost father.  Peter, Gamora, and Drax head off with Ego to investigate, while Rocket, Baby Groot, and the captured Nebula stay behind.  But soon, Rocket, Groot, and Nebula are captured by Peter’s old crew the Ravagers, led by Yondu, who’ve been contracted by the Sovereign to bring in the Guardians.  Soon, things come to a head as Drax falls for Ego’s consort Mantis, Yondu and Rocket form an uneasy alliance, Gamora and Nebula head towards a sisterly reconciliation, and Peter learns of his true parentage…and Ego’s true plot.  Can the Guardians of the Galaxy save the galaxy a second time?

What I Liked

Like the first movie, the music choices seem unorthodox at first, but man, it works.  The performances, again, are a standout.  Dave Bautista once again steals the show as the brutally honest Drax, and he gets a good foil in Mantis, who has been raised in isolation on Ego’s planet and therefore has no social skills.  I really liked the focus this time is more on the characters and their relationships, and really adds some depth to everyone.  Especially Nebula, who I felt was a little short-changed in the first film.  Great special effects, great sci-fi universe, great everything.

What I Didn’t Like

Not much, really.  Although, I think we may be at the point where the Easter eggs are getting a little too deep-cut.  And there was a sprinkle of sequel-itis, where it just didn’t feel as fresh as the first film.

Final Verdict

Whole lot of fun at the movies, man.  Another winner for Marvel.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast Poster

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson.

Backstory

Well, Disney’s live-action remake train continue.  The latest stop:  Beauty and the Beast.  Not only is this part of Disney’s string of live-action remakes, this is also coming at the dawn of 1990s nostalgia.  Take my sister, for example, who still considers the original animated version to be one of her favourite films.  She couldn’t wait for this live action version…and to take her kids to it.  I mean, it’s record-setting trailer (most viewed trailer on YouTube) was enough proof of that.  And being that I’m a big Disney fan, too, I was just as intrigued by it.

Plot

Really?  I need to tell you the plot?  OK.  Once upon a time, there was this vain and spoiled prince.  For being cruel to a beggar woman, he was cursed and turned into a hideous beast, and his royal court were turned into household objects.  Along with the curse came an enchanted rose.  If the Beast could not learn to love, and in turn, be loved by the time the last petal fell, he would be cursed forever.  Meanwhile, in the nearby village, is a young woman named Belle.  Ostracized by the community for her love of reading and wanting more than a provincial life, Belle is kept busy rebuffing the advances of the town braggart Gaston.  When Belle’s father stumbles upon the Beast’s castle and is imprisoned, Belle makes a deal with the Beast:  her father’s life for her’s.  Now, as the Beast’s prisoner, Belle befriends the various castle items and they all wonder if Belle will be the one to break the spell.  For who could ever learn to love a Beast?

What I Liked

I like some of the expansion and backstories we get for the characters.  For example, we finally learn what happened to Belle’s mother, and we get to see a little bit of extra villainy from Gaston.  We also find out the the household staff did to get cursed as well.  Emma Watson’s Belle is a bit stronger then the animated one.  And, after all these years, that Alan Menken score still gives me goosebumps.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, with some of the new touches, they go a little too far.  Like, we get that Belle’s a little odd because she prefers a good book to the company of others.  But does she really need to be publicly shamed for having the audacity to teach kids to read?  And when the Beast starts warming up to Belle, he gets a little too quippy.  And some scenes are word-for-word, shot-for-shot, exactly the same as the animated version, making you wonder, “Then what was the point of making a new one?”

Final Verdict

Pure nostalgic joy, but really doesn’t offer much new to this tale as old as time.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull IslandKong: Skull Island poster

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jason Mitchell, and John C. Reilly.

Backstory

When they first announced Kong: Skull Island, my interest was only mild.  I mean, with Peter Jackson’s version just 10 years old, did we really need another King Kong reboot so soon?  But then came word that the production company, Legendary Pictures, got permission to mash it up with another of their films, the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, and give us a giant monster cinematic universe, officially dubbed “the MonsterVerse.”  My interest was escalated.  And with enough Scene points to see a movie for free, why not check out Kong: Skull Island?

Plot

The year is 1973.  The Americans are beginning to pull out of Vietnam.  Thanks to new and experimental satellite photographs, they mythical “Skull Island” has been discovered, and an expedition put together to explore it.  On our expedition is James Conrad, an ace tracker, Mason Weaver, a photojournalist who suspects it might be a military operation, Colonel Preston Packard, commander of their military escort, and government official Bill Randa, who has his own motives.  When they arrive on the island and being their aerial survey, their helicopters are smashed out of the sky by Kong, a giant ape.  Now, trapped on this island populated by monsters of all kinds, our heroes must fight to survive.  Some believe Kong to be a threat, and that me must be destroyed.  But others, like castaway Hank Marlow who’s been trapped on the island since World War II, says Kong protects them from the real threat.  Soon, lines are drawn.  Is Kong friend or foe?  And what are these other threats?  Will our heroes ever make it home?

What I Liked

My problem with giant monster movies is they always seem to have trouble coming up with interesting things for the humans to do.  But here, we’ve got some pretty good characters.  The standouts to me were Samuel L. Jackson as Packard, who grows more and more obsessed with bringing down Kong to avenge his dead troops, and John C. Reilly as Marlow, our castaway who has gone just a little bit loopy from his time on the island.  Throw in some great special effects and some wonderful giant monster fights, and it all adds up to a pretty good time.

What I Didn’t Like

Meh.  It follows the same general “lost world” formula that’s been followed ever since the original King Kong in 1933.  So you kind of know where things are going.

Final Verdict

A thoroughly entertaining giant monster outing.  Bring on the MonsterVerse!

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Power Rangers

Power RangersPower Rangers Poster

Directed by Dean Israelite

Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, and Bill Hader.

Backstory

Yay, childhood nostalgia!  Well, actually, Power Rangers came along in my awkward teen years so…yay, awkward teen years nostalgia!  With superheroes dominating the box office and 1990s nostalgia starting to gear up, I’m not surprised it didn’t take long for the gritty reboot of Power Rangers to hit the big screen.  And the trailers delighted me.  As I’ve been joking on social media, I haven’t seen Power Rangers taken this seriously since the fanfic I wrote in high school.  I was genuinely surprised at how excited I was getting for it as opening day came around.  So, there I was on opening day.  How does the gritty Power Rangers go?

Plot

Jason is the star player on the Angel Grove High School football team.  Until a senior prank goes horribly wrong, he’s in a traffic accident, placed under house arrest, and forced to go to Saturday detention.  There, he meets Billy, an autistic kid who accidentally built a bomb in his lunchbox, and Kimberly, a former star cheerleader who knocked the teeth out of the quarterback.  Sneaking out one night, they run into a couple of kids from the wrong side of the tracks:  Zack and Trini.  During their adventure, they discover some mysterious, glowing coins the imbue them with enhanced strength and stamina.  The coins soon lead them to a buried spaceship and Zordon.  Zordon explains that the coins have chosen them to become the next in a long line of Power Rangers — intergalactic warriors sworn to protect all life.  But they must master their powers quickly, for the ancient evil that is Rita Repulsa has also been awakened.  Will they master their powers in time and defeat Rita?  Will they be able to become the Power Rangers?

What I Liked

Elizabeth Banks as Rita is fantastic.  We don’t get a lot of…deliciously evil villains these days.  And Banks’s Rita is deliciously evil.  And I might have joked about my high school fanfic, but damn it, there is a scene that is straight out of my high school fanfic and it made me giddy to see it on the big screen.  There’s lots of great Power Rangers Easter eggs, but the best one has to be how the entire third act follows the formula of a typical episode.  Which leads me to….

What I Didn’t Like

We really don’t see our heroes suit up until the start of the third act, so a lot of the film is our heroes working through their teen angst so they can fully embrace their powers.  Eventually, you  start looking at your watch just waiting for the colorful suits to show up.  And as superhero films go, it really is a rather cliched and formulaic origin tale.

Final Verdict

All talk talk talk and franchise set-up until it turns into the biggest budgeted episode you’ve ever seen.  As nostalgia-fests go, it left me pretty happy.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Logan

Logan

Directed by James MangoldLogan poster

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephan Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and introducing Dafne Keen

Backstory

Well, here we are.  After 17 years and 9 films, Hugh Jackman has chosen to hang up the adamantium claws and retire from playing Wolverine.  And what better way to go out on than in a story loosely based on Wolverine’s last ride in the comics, Old Man Logan?  And with Deadpool opening the door for R-rated superhero films, finally we can get all the blood and gore associated with a hero who’s main power is knives coming out of his hands.  Is Jackman’s send-off a great finale?

Plot

It’s many years in the future.  No mutants have been born in years, and it looks like their kind is dying off.  Logan makes a meager living as a limo driver.  His healing factor isn’t what it used to be, as he now takes longer to heal and it can leave nasty scars.  He cares for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier, who is now prone to seizures.  And being the world’s most powerful telepath, his seizures can take out dozens.  And then a mysterious little girl named Laura is thrown into his life.  Laura seems to have powers just like Logan’s…complete with adamantium claws.  Before long, Logan, Laura, and Charles are off on one last road trip, to get Laura to safe haven, and protect her from the dark forces in pursuit.  Will Logan survive this final journey?

What I Liked

There are stellar performances all around.  Jackman gives it his all in his final show as Logan.  This is a Logan who’s very much near the end and is just trying to do right before it’s all over.  Stewart is also good as Xavier, again, as a man who has become very broken by life.  I also like the music and the overall look of the film.  It’s got a very 1970s vibe to it, which is cool.

What I Didn’t Like

We really don’t get to know who the villain is and his plot until the literal final moments of the film, so it would have been  nice if we got to know him better.  And as good as that R-rating is for pushing the violence, it does get somewhat gratuitous at times.

Final Verdict

May have felt my lower lip quiver a little bit as the end, as we said good-bye to Wolverine.  A fitting end for the character.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – A Dog’s Purpose

A Dog’s PurposeA Dog's Purpose

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Starring Dennis Quaid, KJ Apa, Juliet Rylance, Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, John Oritz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Pooch Hall, and the voice of Josh Gad.

Backstory

I know, it’s another one that’s not my typical kind of movie.  Well, it was recently Family Day here in the province of Alberta, and I celebrated with my sister and her family.  My nieces got to pick the movie, so of course they picked the one with the cute puppies.  So I was off to learn what A Dog’s Purpose is.

Plot

Our hero is a dog named Bailey.  Bailey gets reincarnated several times throughout the film, and through it all, ponders the meaning of life.  In his first life, he’s fast friends and companions with a boy named Ethan.  Ethan grows up to be quite the popular young man, a football star with a bright future, but then a twist of fate takes it all away from him.  In his next life, Bailey becomes Ellie, a police dog learning to serve and protect on the streets of Chicago.  From there, Bailey is reborn as Tino, a Corgi who helps his owner find love and happiness.  And then, as Buddy, Bailey is able to use all the skills he’s picked up in his lives to help out those who have helped him, and truly discover what a dog’s purpose is.

What I Liked

Cute dogs!  Pretty good acting all around, too.  Funny in some parts, and actually kind of uplifting.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, “boy and his dog” stories are about as cliched as superhero stories at this point, so the formula gets a good workout.

Final Verdict

Nice family entertainment, but bring a hanky.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Moviethe Lego Batman Movie

Directed by Chris McKay

Starring the voices of Will Arnett, Zack Galifiankis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes and Jenny Slate

Backstory

With Lego Batman being one of the breakout characters of The Lego Movie, and superhero films being all the rage these days, and Lego and Warner Brothers desire to start creating a Lego Cinematic Universe, making a Lego Batman movie just made a whole lot of sense.  And given the sense of humour in The Lego Movie, and the lack of humour in the recent DC Superhero films, we were ready for a more lighthearted take on the Batman mythology.  How does it work when one of the most beloved construction toys in the world meets the Dark Knight?

Plot

We all agree, Batman’s life is pretty sweet.  Beating up bad guys, being a billionaire, and universally beloved.  But if there’s one thing he’s always asserted, it’s that he can do it alone.  It’s an assertion that seems to hurt the Joker most of all, as the Joker always envisioned himself as Batman’s #1 villain and always assumed that Batman was obsessed with him.  But Batman finds his desire to do this on his own put to the test, as the new police commissioner, Barbara Gordon, wants the police department to start working with Batman, instead of relying on him.  And then, he accidentally adopts an orphan named Dick Grayson with designs on becoming Batman’s partner.  Will Batman be able to work with all these new people in his life?  And to what lengths will the Joker go to prove once and for all that he’s Batman’s #1 bad guy?

What I Liked

Dear God, when this film comes out on Blu-ray, I’m going to have to watch it frame-by-frame.  That is the only way to fully take in all the references and Easter eggs to Batman’s long and storied history.  Every scene is filled with some kind of reference.  The 1960s Batman, gets a lot of love, as does the 1989 Tim Burton film.  But it’s more than just non-stop pop culture references.  The whole “I can never let anyone into my life.  I must do this alone,” attitude of superheroes has become a huge superhero trope, and this is perhaps the most in-depth exploration of that trope and why it is.  The voice cast is excellent as well.  As Robin, I’ve never heard Michael Cera sound so happy and excited and chipper.  It was genius casting.

What I Didn’t Like

It’s a superhero movie. The formula is firmly established at this point, and it follows the formula pretty closely.

Final Verdict

We’ve got a new contender for greatest Batman movie.  It`s fast and furious and funny.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – The Founder

The Founder

Directed by John Lee HancockThe Founder Poster

Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, and Laura Dern

Backstory

I know, at the outset, The Founder doesn’t look like the kind of movie I’d typically go out to see.  No superheroes, no space battles…none of that stuff.  However, I do like fast food, and it’s far beyond just going out to sample the latest promotional burger.  I’ve spent lots of time reading up on the history of these chains that dot our landscape, and I’m fascinated with how they came to be.  So when I first heard about The Founder, a biopic on Ray Kroc, that wound up on my “must-see” list.

Plot

Ray Kroc has been a salesman for most of his life.  He does OK at it.  He can afford a nice house and provides a decent living for his wife, but Kroc wants more.  When we first meet him, he’s working in restaurant supplies, selling a special milkshake mixer that can make five milkshakes at once.  When he gets an order from a restaurant for six of these mixers, his curiosity is piqued.  What kind of restaurant needs to be able to make 30 milkshakes at once?  He soon discovers a hamburger stand called McDonald’s.  The owners and founders — Dick and Mac McDonald — have developed revolutionary new food preparation techniques that they call “Speedy Service,” getting you your food in 30 seconds.  Kroc is fascinated with this, and goes into business with the McDonald brothers.  Now selling McDonald’s franchises, Kroc begins his journey to turn McDonald’s into the fast food empire it is today.  But before long, Kroc is battling the McDonalds for control of the company.  Who will come out on top?  And at what price will Kroc pay for success?

What I Liked

Michael Keaton is just spellbinding as Ray Kroc.  He manages to walk the fine line between charming and sleazy, when Kroc’s on the road pitching his wares.  And its fun watching him chase the money and adjust his sales techniques to get that mythological more.  Equally good is Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald, the more vocal of the McDonald brothers in his opposition to Kroc’s changes.  There’s a fantastic eye to the period, as they perfectly the capture the late 1950s when this all takes place.  It also plays with convention quite a bit.  When the McDonald brother share their tale with Kroc as to how they came up with their concept, the film briefly turns into a documentary, as we get all the documentary tropes of still photos with narration and talking heads.

What I Didn’t Like

Would have been nice to delve into Kroc’s personal life a little more.  When he does eventually leave his wife for someone who shares his desire for more, it seems more like a requirement of this genre, rather than getting fully explored.

Final Verdict

A fascinating film about the rise of one of the most prominent industries today, and the people who made it happen.  I really enjoyed it.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryRogue One

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmend, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker.

Backstory

So, when Disney bought Lucasfilm and started pumping out their new Star Wars films, they also promised a series of standalone films set outside the main saga.  As Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy said, “It’s about thinking of the Star Wars universe as a setting, rather than a saga.”  And here we are now with the first of that series, Rogue One.  We all know that events of Star Wars (A New Hope) kick off when the Rebels get their hands on the Death Star plans, but did you ever wonder how they got them?  That’s the story Rogue One sets out to tell.

Plot

Jyn Erso has been living on her own, ever since her father Galen was abducted by the Empire.  But now, Erso has been brought in by Rebel forces in need of her help.  A defector from the Empire has word of a terrible new weapon that the Empire is developing, and Galen was one of its creators.  The defector, Bodhi, has a message from Galen for Jyn about this weapon.  With Jyn now a reluctant rebel, our team is off to find Galen and find out more about this weapon.  Meanwhile, Director Krennic, the one in charge of the project, is desperate to find the leak on his team, as it looks like the Empire is about to wrest control from him and give the weapon project to <spoiler redacted>.  Will Jyn and the rebels find her father?  Will they uncover the secret of this new weapon…this Death Star?

What I Liked

The humour.  A lot of the characters have a dry sense of humour, no doubt the gallows humour that comes from being in the trenches.  I really liked Donny Yen’s character, Chirrut Imwe, who was a Jedi temple guard back in the day.  While he’s not a Jedi and cannot use the Force, he believes in the Force and is a fierce hand-to-hand combatant.  There’s a lot of fun cameos, some amazing special effects, and much like the Force Awakens, the last 10 minutes are one gigantic nostalgia-fest that had me in tears.

What I Didn’t Like

Would have been nice if we got to get to know our new characters a little more.  Even though she was our lead, I never really got to know Jyn as a character.

Final Verdict

A very enjoyable addition to the Star Wars canon.  Loved it quite a bit.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Moana

MoanaMoana Poster

Directed by John Musker and Ron Clements; co-directed by Don  Hall and Chris Williams

Starring the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temeura Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, and Alan Tudyk.

Backstory

Some were excited for Moana because she’s Disney’s newest princess.  Others are excited because Broadway’s current superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda did the songs.  I was excited because of directors John Musker and Ron Clements.  During that time in animation now lovingly called “The Disney Renaissance,” Musker and Clements gave us The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Hercules.  While I’ve mostly enjoyed Disney’s current run of films, I was hoping Musker and Clements first foray into CGI could give things a little more of that Disney Renaissance feel.

Plot

On the south Pacific island of Motunui, young Moana is being groomed by her father to some day take over as chief of their tribe.  But, Moana’s heart belongs to the ocean, and she longs to strike out and journey.  There’s a darkness starting to consume the land, started a thousand years ago when the demigod Maui stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti.  And now, to save her people, Moana must strike out on a quest to find Maui and make him return Te Fiti’s heart.  It’s a quest full of coconut pirates, a journey to the Realm of Monsters, and they must even face off against a lava demon.  Can Moana and Maui survive the journey and save Motunui?

What I Liked

Almost as much as Robin Williams’ Genie, Dwayne Johnson steals the show as Maui.  He just oozes so much bluster and bravado, and who knew the Rock could sing?  Just as scene-stealing is Maui’s tattoo, who occasionally comes to life and serves as Maui’s conscience.  Newcomer Auli’i Cravalho is just as charming as our young heroine Moana.  It’s got a great soundtrack, full of incredibly catchy songs.  And because it’s Disney, you know that the animation is just amazing.

What I Didn’t Like

Pretty much the same complaint I had with Musker and Clements last film, The Princess and the Frog.  The plot is formulaic as heck.  That being said, I love that the formula this time out is more “hero’s journey,” and less “princess in distress.”

Final Verdict

I’ll tell you this, I liked it a lot more than Disney’s last princess tale, Frozen.  Fun and crowd pleasing.

3.5 Nibs

Bonus Materials

I hadn’t heard much about the short film that runs in front of it, Inner Workings.  Kind of a riff on Inside Out, this one shows us a guy’s average day from the perspective of his internal organs, and we see the age old struggle between the head and  heart.  Very fun, 3 Nibs.