Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Avengers: Infinity War

Directed by Joe and Anthony RussoAvengers: Infinity War

Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and Josh Brolin

Backstory

It’s finally here.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is 10 years old, and we get the payoff we’ve been promised ever since the end-credtis stinger of the first Avengers that had us all going, “Holy crap, is that Thanos?”  Yes…yes it is.  And while previous films teased those McGuffins known as the Infinity Stones, this is the one that brings it all together, in a 10 year anniversary celebratory affair.  Is the payoff worth it?

Plot

Bruce Banner falls from the heavens and crashes into the Sanctum Santorum of Doctor Strange, causing Strange to reach out to Tony Stark for help.  Banner has a message:  Thanos is coming.  Out in space, the Guardians of the Galaxy respond to a distress call, where they rescue Thor from the wreckage of the Asgardian rescue ship.  Thanos has laid waste to the remnants of Asgard.  Back on Earth, the disciples of Thanos attack Vision, attempting to extract the Infinity Stone from his body.  This brings Steve Rogers and his secret Avengers out of hiding.  While they may be scattered across the globe and galaxy, they being plotting against their common foe:  Thanos.  He is in search of the six Infinity Stones.  With all six, he seeks to wipe out half the population of the universe…an act, he believes, that will bring about a paradise.  Will our heroes succeed in defeating Thanos and save the universe?

What I Liked

This movie moves incredibly fast.  We’re just on from one action sequence to the next as we go from hero to hero.  And with so many diverse heroes coming together for the first time, they pair them off and have them interact with each other in unique ways.  As always, with Marvel films, the humour is there, no matter how dark it gets.  And Josh Brolin as Thanos is fantastic.  The problem with Marvel villains is weak villains, but they take the time to develop Thanos and we get to know him, thus making him a better villain.  Plus, there’s some great callback and references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including one cameo I found delightful.

What I Didn’t Like

You’d better be up to speed on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because there is very little in the way of recaps.  We hit the ground running.  And can Spider-Man please stop referring to the films I grew up with as “really old movies”?  You’re making a guy feel his age.

Final Verdict

Just amazing.  A wonderful payoff to 10 years of build-up.  Hurry up and get here, May 2019, so we can see Part II.

4 Nibs

Ready Player One

Directed by Steven SpielbergReady Player One poster

Starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance

Backstory

I’d been hearing about the novel Ready Player One online for a while now.  Consensus was it was true homage to geeks, just stuffed to the brim with references to beloved bits of pop culture…specifically, the pop culture of the 1980s.  Excitement grew when it was announced that Steven Spielberg would be directing the movie adaptation.  Spielberg announced that, to not seem too self-congratulatory, he’d be omitting all references to his own movies.  I shared with a co-worker who was a big fan of the book, and he said, “But…that’s like half the book!”  Needless to say, what glimpses we got in the trailer of the Iron Giant and the DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future had me hooked.

Plot

In the not-too-distant future, the world has become quite dystopian.  As such, the most popular past time in the world is OASIS, a massive online virtual reality video game.  When the game’s creator, James Halliday, passes away, he announces that he hid an Easter egg in the game.  The first to find the three keys to unlock the Easter egg will be granted Halliday’s personal fortune and complete control of OASIS.  Enter our hero, Wade Watts.  In OASIS, he goes by Parzival.  He, like many others, has dedicated his online life to finding the Easter egg.  He’s soon joined by his best friend Aech and rebellious spirit Art3mis.  When they find the first key, they quickly become the targets of the IOI corporation, who seek to find the Easter egg and monetize OASIS to death.  Soon evading IOI in both OASIS and the real world, it’s up to our heroes to find the Easter egg and save OASIS.  Can they do it?

What I Liked

Much like Wreck-It Ralph, I’m pleased to report that the multitude of pop culture references are more sprinkles on the cupcake and not a prerequisite to understanding the universe.  That being said, the make the action sequences such a delight as they are stuffed to the brim with Easter eggs.  This is one you’ll have to watch frame-by-frame on Blu-Ray to catch them all.  There’s a great soundtrack of 1980s hits, our heroes are likable and ones we like to root for, and the bad guys are slimy that we love to hate.  Also, the Iron Giant fights Mechagodzilla.

What I Didn’t Like

As much fun as it was, couldn’t shake the fact that it was still a rather routine “hero’s journey” kinda plot.

Final Verdict

Ready Player One is very enjoyable, very fun, and shows that Spielberg still has what it takes to do big, fun blockbusters.

3 Nibs

Black Panther

Directed by Ryan CooglerBlack Panther Poster

Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

Backstory

Another year, another Marvel movie!  Now, we get to learn the tale of the Black Panther, whom we first met in Captain America: Civil War.  T’Challa, ruler of the African nation of Wakanda, and one of the most beloved Marvel characters of the past 50 years.  At this point, I’m down for pretty much everything Marvel does, so of course, I was off to see it.

Plot

It’s about one week after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and T’Challa returns home to Wakanda to officially be coronated.  In addition to ruling the people of Wakanda, T’Challa also has to defend it’s biggest secret.  Despite its reputation as a third world nation, Wakanda is actually the most technologically advanced country in the world, thanks to sitting on a literal mountain of vibranium — the metal that Captain America’s shield is made of.  Wakanda has long hidden it’s technological prowess from the world, for fear that outsiders would use it for the own nefarious purposes.  People such as international arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, or Wakandan exile Erik Killmonger.  Before long, T’Challa is facing threats to Wakanda, and his own throne.  Can the Black Panther fight these threats and protect Wakanda?  Will they ever decide what Wakanda’s place in the world should be?

What I Liked

Oh, there’s so much good stuff.  War rhinos, for one.  The entire sequence in South Korea is pretty much a gratuitous homage to James Bond movies.  And there’s just so many great characters in the film!  Like Shuri, T’Challa’s kid sister and Wakanda’s chief scientist.  She’s pretty much the Q to Black Panther’s James Bond, and she does it with all the sass you would expect a kid sister to have.  She’s truly the scene stealer.  And while Marvel’s villains tend to be a little under-developed, they make a genuine effort with Killmonger, who has some pretty compelling arguments for why Wakanda should show itself to the world.

What I Didn’t Like

Not much.  Marvel’s got a pretty slick formula worked out now, and it does lean into the formula in quite a few places.

Final Verdict

Another winner from Marvel.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last JediLast Jedi Poster

Directed by Rian Johnson

Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boeyga, Oscar Issac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio Del Toro.

Backstory

And the Star Wars juggernaut under the leadership of Disney continue!  We were all blown away by the return of Star Wars with The Force Awakens, and its concluding return of Luke Skywalker left us wondering what would come next.  Would we get answers?  Would we find out Rey’s parentage?  Will Kylo Ren fully fall to the Dark Side?  Well, it’s two years later, and time for some answers.

Plot

Don’t forget, while our heroes managed to destroy Starkiller Base, the First Order used it to destroy the capital of the New Republic.  With the New Republic’s leadership gone, the First Order has seized control of the galaxy, and the Resistance is in tatters.  The Resistance is literally on the run, with the First Order is hot pursuit.  While hotshot pilot Poe Dameron struggles with the new leadership in the Resistance, Finn and young Resistance mechanic Rose Tico head off on a rogue mission to find a way to disable the First Order’s tracking devices, to allow the Resistance to escape.  Meanwhile. Rey’s tutelage under Jedi master Luke Skywalker doesn’t go as planned.  Rey finds Luke to a broken man, wallowing in self-pity following the loss of his apprentice Kylo Ren to the Dark Side.  Luke is ready for the Jedi Order to die with him, but in Rey, he finds a persistent student.  Will Poe, Finn, and Rose’s plan work?  With Luke accept Rey as his student, or will Luke truly be the last Jedi?

What I Liked

What surprised me is how funny this movie is.  It almost reaches a Marvel movie level of quippiness.  But the occasional quips are appreciated as this movie does go to some dark places.  I love seeing how the characters of Luke and Leia have evolved, as they get to go to some interesting new places.  We get some spectacular new characters in the form of Vice-Admiral Holdo, the aforementioned Rose, and an unscrupulous code breaker known as DJ.  Not only that, but the continued evolution of our new heroes and villains is just great.  Rey and Kylo Ren are set down some amazing paths.  Plus, there were a few great moments where the entire audience went, “Holy crap,” and some wonderful cameos and callbacks to the original trilogy.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly?  I felt it like it had one too many endings.  Several scenes near the end felt like logical endpoints, but the film just kept going.

Final Verdict

Absolutely loved it.  Great new characters, great continuing of the threads left dangling in the Force Awakens, a great new chapter in the Star Wars universe.

4 Nibs

 

Movie Review – Coco

CocoCoco Poster

Directed by Lee Unkrich; Co-directed by Adrian Molina

Starring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Alanna Ubach, and Jaime Camil

Backstory

Coco is a film that feels like we’ve been waiting for for a long time.  Pixar originally announced it at the start of the decade, at the same press conference where they announced Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur.  Things were quiet for a while, but development finally began in earnest about three years ago.  All we really knew was that it was about the Mexican festival of Dia de Muertos — the Day of the Dead.  When trailers started dropping earlier this year, it looked visually sumptuous.  But, would the story live up to the visuals?

Plot

Young Miguel craves to be a musician.  He feels a certain kinship with Ernesto de la Cruz, one of the greatest singers in all of Mexico, as de la Cruz hails from his hometown.  There’s one snag in Miguel’s ambitions, though.  His great, great grandfather walked out on his great, great grandmother to pursue his musical ambitions, and because of that, his family has banned music to this very day.  Undeterred, Miguel tries to enter his town’s Dia de Muertos music festival, but in order to do so, swipes a guitar from de la Cruz’s tomb.  This places a curse on Miguel, turning him into a ghost-like being, where he gets to meet his deceased relatives in the Land of the Dead.  Miguel can return if he gets his deceased relatives blessing…but they’ll only grant it if he abandons his plans to be a musician.  Refusing to accept this, Miguel heads out into the Land of the Dead to find the one relative who will bless him and allow him to be a musician…his great, great grandfather.  Will Miguel be reunited with his great, great grandfather and find his way home?

What I Liked

As always with Pixar, it’s visually spectacular.  And in a film where music plays such a prominent role, the music is equally spellbinding.  The characters are great, too, as we really feel with Miguel’s struggles.  We also feel for Hector, a man who fears he’ll be forgotten and becomes Miguel’s guide through the Land of the Dead.  And you’ve also gotta love Dante, Miguel’s dog who follows him to the Land of the Dead, as he lives up to the great Disney tradition of animal sidekicks.

What I Didn’t Like

I may have seen too many of these, but man did the plot seem formulaic.  And I’ve said this in my reviews of other Disney and Pixar animated films to date, but can we please abandon the “shocking twist” of “obviously evil guy” being a red herring and “kindly old mentor” being the true villain?

Final Verdict

While the plot may be formulaic, there’s a lot of that trademark Pixar heart on display.  Just a beautiful film.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Justice League

Justice LeagueJustice League Poster

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, and Jeremy Irons.

Backstory

Here we’ve got the latest chapter in the DC Cinematic Universe.  I like DC, but let’s be honest, their cinematic universe does seem rather slapped together at the last minute.  So rather than Justice League feeling like the triumphant uniting of heroes that it should be, the hype leading up to its release feels more like, “Well, here’s the next one.”  But still, I’m rooting for them.  I mean, who doesn’t like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman?  So, how does the Justice League fare in their big screen outing?

Plot

The world is still mourning the death of Superman.  But Batman still fights the war on crime, trying to get to the bottom of the strange creatures he saw in his dreams in Batman v Superman.  It appears it’s the first wave of an alien invasion, led by Steppenwolf, the minion of Darkseid.  Once Steppenwolf gets his hands on the Mother Boxes, there’ll be no stopping him.  To combat this threat, Batman begins seeking out other heroes:  reuniting with Wonder Woman, seeking out the Flash in Central City, the rumoured Aquaman who helps out coastal communities, and a whispers of a Cyborg from STAR Labs.  They put up a valiant fight, but it’s not enough, so Batman comes up with a desperate ploy to resurrect Superman.  Can they bring back the Man of Steel?  Will this league of heroes be able to take down Steppenwolf and save the world?

What I Liked

The Flash is great.  He’s still very much a rookie, out of his element, and doing his best.  He injects some much needed humour into this.  And speaking of, this film is a lot lighter than Batman v Superman.  It’s nice to see Superman cracking a smile and finally acting like Superman.  Aquaman comes off as cool, too, as they try to make the Wolverine of the group…the badass loner.  But it works.  Loved the music.  Every time Danny Elfman slips in his old Batman theme of John Williams’ Superman theme, it’s like a hug from an old friend.

What I Didn’t Like

Fairly standard villain.  No depth to him whatsoever.  It’s pretty obvious which scenes are the Joss Whedon re-shoots, because the mood suddenly shifts to very light and the characters are much more quippy.

Final Verdict

I like it a lot more than I expected to.  It was really fun seeing these beloved heroes together on the big screen, the plot was just a little too routine.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: RagnarokThor: Ragnarok poster

Directed by Taiki Waititi

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins

Backstory

It’s generally agreed that the Thor films have been the lesser of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  “Good, but not great,” is how I’d put it.  So, when the first trailers for Thor: Ragnarok came about, and it looked like they were trying something different, it was welcome.  Chris Hemsworth has been trying really hard to break into comedy over the past few years, so this latest Thor film was being treated with a lighter touch.  But, the question is, does the new approach pay off?

Plot

When last we left Thor at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he was journeying across the universe to learn more about the Infinity Stones.  But, he got sidetracked along the way, as he found the Nine Realms of Asgard in chaos and whispers of a pretender on the throne.  Returning home, he finds that his father Odin is missing, and Loki, disguised as Odin, now rules.  It turns out that Odin’s absence has weakened the defenses against Hela, the goddess of death.  Now, with Hela ruling Asgard, and threatening to bring about Ragnarok, the end of all things, Thor is stranded on the distant planet of Sakaar.  Here, fighting in gladiatorial games to survive, Thor must make allies both old and new, and fight his way back to Asgard to prevent Ragnarok.  Can Thor do it?

What I Liked

The lighter tone works for the film.  This is definitely more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than the other Thor films.  And we’re far enough along now in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have some great in-jokes and callbacks to the previous films.  A lot of the new characters are great.  Cate Blanchett is spectacular as Hela.  She definitely relishes in being evil.  Jeff Goldblum is very Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the ruler of the Sakaar.  There’s some good brotherly love between Thor and Loki, and it looks like Loki actually sets out on the road to redemption.  And we start getting to know the Hulk as a character, as he actually speaks this time out.   Totally dig the prog-rock inspired, synthesizer-heavy score.  As we saw in the post-credits stinger of Doctor Strange, Doctor Strange shows up and….

What I Didn’t Like

…it’s exactly as gratuitous and pointless as Falcon’s appearance in Ant-Man.  Not that I’m complaining, it just felt like I had to find something to complain about.

Final Verdict

Hands down, Thor: Ragnarok is the best of the Thor films.  Marvel had a great year, and they’re three-for-three in my books.

4 Nibs

Movie Review – The Lego Ninjago Movie

The Lego Ninjago MovieThe Lego Ninjago Movie

Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan

Starring the voices of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munn, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Zack Woods, and Jackie Chan.

Backstory

Ninjago is one of Lego’s more popular in-house franchises.  It’s a mash-up of kung fu films, anime, and pretty much every Asian fantasy trope.  Even has a very popular Saturday morning cartoon.  In fact, The Lego Ninjago Movie was in development long before The Lego Movie came along.  But when The Lego Movie won hearts and the box office, the creators got their marching orders:  make The Lego Ninjago Movie more like The Lego Movie.  And now, here it is, as the next chapter in the Lego Cinematic Universe.  I was ready to give it a pass, but then there was a gag in the trailer that I thought was the best “Lego world meets real world” gag since the climax of The Lego Movie.  So, I gave it a shot.

Plot

Lloyd has to have one of the most complicated backstories in these kinds of films.  First, he leads a double life as the Green Ninja, leader of Ninjago and protectors of Ninjago City.  But, in his civilian guise, he’s the most hated kid in town.  For you see, his estranged father is Lord Garmadon, the warlord bent on conquering Ninjago City.  So Lloyd is constantly blamed for his father’s attacks.  One day, absolutely fed up with his father, Lloyd uses the Ultimate Weapon to destroy Garmadon once and for all.  But doing so unleashes the great beast Meowthra, who begins laying waste to all the land.  To stop Meowthra, Lloyd, his Ninjago Master Wu and the rest of the Ninjago ninjas, must team up with Garmadon to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon.  On their long, perilous quest, will Lloyd and Garmadon finally reconnect as father and son?  Can they find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon and stop Meowthra?

What I Liked

OK, the gag in the trailer is that Meowthra is just a regular house cat who wanders around knocking over the Lego buildings.  It’s hilarious.  And a lot of the father/son stuff between Lloyd and Garmadon does have a lot of genuine heart behind it.  And it’s nice to hear Jackie Chan cracking wise and wisecracking as Master Wu.

What I Didn’t Like

Well, this is a lot more plot and character based than the other Lego movies, and therefore, not as many jokes.  It would have been nice to have gotten to know the other Ninjago ninjas (one is apparently an android…what’s that about?), but they’re just kinda there.  And it probably breaks Rogue One‘s record for “most cool stuff in the trailers that didn’t make it to the final film.”

Final Verdict

An OK action/adventure film, but just not as satisfying as the other two Lego movies.

2.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman: The Golden CircleKingsman: The Golden Circle

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Elton John

Backstory

I really got a kick out of 2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I enjoyed Kick-Ass and loved the hell out of what that creative team did with cliches and conventions of James Bondian superspies.  Audiences seemed to enjoy it, too, so a sequel was stuck, and franchise was formed.  Can the second outing live up to the awesomeness of the first?

Plot

Our hero Eggsy has fully integrated himself as the new Agent Galahad in Kingsman, and is kicking butt and saving the world.  His fling with the princess of Sweden at the end of the last film has actually evolved into a pretty serious relationship.  But then, a shadowy organization takes down the entire Kingsman organization in a serious of surgical strikes.  All that remain are Eggsy and the Kingsman tactician Merlin.  Invoking the Kingsman doomsday protocol, Eggsy and Merlin head to Kentucky and join forces with their American counterparts, Statesman.  Together, they find that the organization responsible is the Golden Circle, the world’s most powerful drug cartel, headed up by Poppy Adams.  Turns out Poppy has been contaminating her product, as part of a much grander plot.  Can the combined forces of Kingsman and Statesman stop the Golden Circle?

What I Liked

As with the first film, this has a spectacular soundtrack with some great music choices.  Particularly loved the usage of Take Me Home, Country Road.  It’s always great to see those James Bond style gadgets in play.  Eggsy is still a likable hero, and it’s nice to see Mark Strong show us a little more of Merlin’s vulnerable side.  And Elton John actually kind of steals the show playing himself.

What I Didn’t Like

There’s not one, not two, but three action sequences that try to match the amazing Free Bird sequence of the original film, and it really does come across as trying too hard.  The callbacks and references to the first film seem a little forced.  And there’s just a few too many forced plot twists.  Oh, and despite what you see in the ads, Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges amount to glorified cameos.

Final Verdict

I still liked it, but it tried a little too hard to match the coolness of the first film.

2.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Directed by Jon Watts

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Downey Jr.

Backstory

I was getting unnaturally excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming as the release date neared, and then I figured out why.  I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend 10 years ago, when Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came out the same summer.  My friend pointed out that, in the comics, it was Reed Richards who analyzed Spider-Man’s black suit and deduced it was an alien symbiote.  With both films coming out that summer, why couldn’t they have done a crossover?  Well, look to the trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, where Spidey is swinging next to Iron Man.  It’s here.  It’s happening.  The crossovers are happening.

Plot

Many years ago, after the Battle of New York, Adrian Toomes won a lucrative contract to clean up the damage to the city, but was promptly driven out of business by Tony Stark and the new federal department he co-founded, Damage Control, as they took charge of the clean-up.  Rather than surrender, Toomes takes some of the alien tech he’s already salvaged, starts selling it on the black market, and builds his own super-suit, styled after a Vulture.  Present day, after his adventure with the Avengers in Germany, Peter Parker has been returned to Queens, and continues his crimefighting, in the hopes of impressing Tony Stark and joining the Avengers.  But he still struggles in high school, hoping to win the heart of the attractive Liz.  Before long, though, Spider-Man and the Vulture and set to cross paths.  Who will come out on top?  Will Spidey need Iron Man to bail him out?

What I Liked

I really like how the kind of turned the Vulture into an evil Iron Man, with his outfit being more of a suit of armor than just a set of wings.  And of course, Michael Keaton pulls it off wonderfully.  Tom Holland is pitch perfect as Spider-Man.  We haven’t had a Spider-Man movie yet that fully capture those awkward teen years for Peter Parker, and Holland nails it perfectly.  Zendaya is pretty cool as Michelle, a sullen teen who seems to exist to just annoy Peter Parker.  And, of course, no one’s gotten tired yet of seeing Robert Downey Jr pop up as Iron Man.  And I can’t get enough of that Michael Giacchino score.

What I Didn’t Like

Not much really.  It would have been nice to see some of Spidey swinging throughout the chasms of Manhattan, but hey, we got enough of that in the past five films.

Final Verdict

It is just so nice to finally see Spidey in the Marvel Universe.  A worthy addition to both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Spider-Man franchise.

3.5 Nibs