Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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.

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Fanstastic Beasts PosterThem

Directed by David Yates

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell, and wow, that really was Ron Perlman.

Backstory

Because Harry Potter made ALL the money, you just knew that Warner Brothers wasn’t going to let the franchise die once they’d finished adapting all the books.  So they sat down with JK Rowling to come up with a spinoff.  The end result?  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Casually mentioned in the Harry Potter books as the premiere textbook on magical animals, Fantastic Beasts will follow the adventures of its author, Newt Scamander, as he travels the world documenting said fantastic beasts.  And now here we are, the first of this proposed five film franchise is in theatres.  All I know is, here, finally, is a Harry Potter film where my Harry Potter-lovin’ friends can’t give me heck for not having read the books first.

Plot

New York City.  The 1920s.  Newt Scamander arrives with a magic suitcase full of his fantastic beasts.  But, a mix-up on a street with muggle (or, as Americans call them, no-majs)named Jacob Kowalsky sees some of his beasts accidentally released.  Before long, Newt and Jacob are teaming up with a disgraced Auror named Tina Goldstein and her telepathic sister Queenie to track them down.  But, there’s doin’s a transpirin’, as dark forces seek to tear down the boundaries between the Wizarding World and the No-Maj world and conquer the No-Majs.  Scamander’s escaped beasts present the perfect opportunity to expose the Wizarding World…and Scamander, the perfect patsy.  Can Scamander and his newfound allies round up the beasts and clear his name?

What I Liked

When my friends tell me about Harry Potter, I tell them, “I wanna see the Men in Black of the wizarding world…those who are sent in to cover things up when wizard affairs start infringing too much on the muggle world,” and my friends are like, “Dude!  Those exist in the books!  They’re called Aurors!”  So it’s nice to see the Aurors and who they are and what they do.  There’s lots of cute magical creatures conjured up through CGI.  And we do get some intriguing new characters.  I liked Queenie.  After watching the movies, I said before how enamored I was of Luna Lovegood and how whimsically odd she was.  Queenie borders on an adult Luna.

What I Didn’t Like

Sadly, our hero, Newt Scamander, isn’t one of those intriguing new characters.  I like that he’s kind of shy and timid, but that gives us little opportunity to get to know him.

Final Verdict

A very fine franchise starter.  It was fun.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Doctor StrangeDoctor Strange Poster

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, and Tilda Swinton.

Backstory

Wow.  Marvel Studios.  They just keep plugging along.  For a guy who loves superhero films, we currently live in a golden age, so of course the question becomes, what new can we bring to the formula?  As many have pointed out, we really haven’t tackled any magic-based heroes yet.  Granted, Thor comes across as magic, but they’ve always written that off as “science so advanced it appears to be magic.”  So it was time to start bringing in magic.  And in Marvel Comics, the first and last name in magic-based heroes is Doctor Strange.

Plot

Doctor Stephen Strange is a highly gifted neurosurgeon, and his skill has made him cocky and arrogant.  Until, one fateful night, and he’s in a car accident.  Extensive nerve damage robs him of the steady hands a surgeon needs, and he begins searching for a cure to regain full use of his hands.  His search eventually leads him to Tibet, and the hidden city of Kamar-Taj.  But there, he finds more than a cure.  The Ancient One opens Strange’s mind to the concept of other worlds and dimensions, and soon, Strange is studying the mystic arts.  But, there is evil afoot.  Kaecilius, a former disciple of the Ancient One, as stolen some ancient texts, and seeks to summon forth the demon Dormamu to bring about the end of the world.  Will Doctor Strange be able to master the mystic arts to join fellow disciples Baron Mordo and Wong in the battle against Kaecilius and Dormamu?

What I Liked

There’s a lot of good in this movie.  I like Cumberbatch, and he makes a great Strange, bring that same “smartest guy in the room” vibe that Cumberbatch brings to a lot of his roles.  I like the character arc they give to Baron Mordo.  In the comics, he is Doctor Strange’s arch-enemy, so I like that he starts as a friend and ally to Strange, and this becomes very much Mordo’s origin story, too.  And visually, this film is dazzling.  The animators had a hell of a time depicting the other realms.  Visually, this is the most striking film that Marvel has done.

What I Didn’t Like

It’s kind of Marvel’s curse that the villains aren’t as memorable as the heroes, and we barely get a chance to know Kaecilius and his motivations.  And yeah, there’s a formula in place for superhero films now, and it follows the formula pretty closely.

Final Verdict

Enough new twists on the superhero formula to give us another solid outing from Marvel Studios

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Suicide Squad

Suicide SquadSuicide Squad Poster

Directed by David Ayer

Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Cara Delevingne.

Backstory

While I’m amazed that a Suicide Squad movie got made, I couldn’t help but feel it was made as a reaction to Guardians of the Galaxy.  It was like someone at DC said, “Hey!  Don’t we have our own wacky team of super-powered misfits we could turn into a movie?”  That’s more evident ever since Deadpool came out this spring, as the ad campaign took a turn to be more wacky and irreverent, like Deadpool.  Plus, add to that that this is now part of the DC Cinematic Universe, created as a reaction to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.  Could something so reactionary be able to stand on its own?

Plot

With the growing presence of meta-humans in the world, secret agent Amanda Waller comes up with a daring plan:  with so many of the bad meta-humans already in custody, why not blackmail them into doing government missions?  And thus, Task Force X is born, and they immediately get the nickname the Suicide Squad.  With war hero Col. Flag overseeing them, the Squad consists of Deadshot, the world’s best marksman, Harley Quinn, best known as the girlfriend of the Joker, El Diablo, a fire-demon, Captain Boomerang, the Aussie bank robber, Killer Croc, and Katana.  For their first mission, they’re turned loose in Midway City when a former member of the Squad, the Enchantress, unleashes a demon bent on world destruction.  And a further wild card:  when the Joker learns his girlfriend has been sprung from prison, he starts carving a path of destruction to get her back.  Can the Squad prove that there’s good in being bad?

What I Liked

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn steals the show.  She is pitch perfect, if only that the Brooklyn-esque accent the character traditionally has tends to waver.  Will Smith also makes an excellent Deadshot, and I really hope we get to see more of Jared Leto’s Joker in this cinematic universe.  The introductions to the characters are great, as we see how they’re apprehended (and get quick glimpses of Batman and the Flash)!

What I Didn’t Like

A lot of heroes, like Katana and Killer Croc, kind of get short shrift in the film.  As much as I love the Joker, he’s not in it all that much.  And, as many other critics have pointed out, I’m getting tired of the whole “glowing portal of world destruction” that all these movies have.

Final Verdict

As superhero movies go, Suicide Squad was just so overwhelmingly…average.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek BeyondStar Trek Beyond Poster

Directed by Justin Lin

Starring John Cho, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, and Sofia Boutella.

Backstory

I have a love/hate relationship with the Star Trek reboot films.  I love the first one, and hate the second one.  I mean, I’ve blogged extensively about my problem with Into Darkness, so I won’t go into it.  The short version is there was one moment in the film that was a callback to the most famous Star Trek film, but it’s handled with such a lack of subtlety that it pulled me out of the film, and I couldn’t get back in.  So my expectations were lowered with Beyond.  The trailers, with their Beastie Boys and dirt bike races, left me cold.  Even the promise of new blood, with new director Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious 3 thru 6) and Simon Pegg pulling double-duty as writer and Scotty wasn’t enough to get me excited.  But, a newer trailer that looked more Star Trek-y, and the fact that Star Trek remains my first fandom, got me into the theatre on opening weekend.

Plot

The Starship Enterprise is halfway through its five year mission of exploring deep space, and a certain malaise is setting in with our favourite crew.  Both Kirk and Spock are starting to entertain other offers.  While re-stocking at Yorktown — Starfleet’s most remote starbase — the Enterprise receives a distress call from a planet deep within an unexplored nebula.  They go off to investigate, but it turns out to be a trap, and the Enterprise is destroyed.  Stranded on this unknown planet full of alien technology, the Enterprise crew soon finds themselves at the mercy of the alien warlord Krall.  With the help of Jaylah — an escapee from Krall’s prisons — Kirk and the Enterprise crew begin plotting the rescue of their shipmates.  Will they get off the planet?  And who is Krall, and why does he have such an intense hatred of the Federation?

What I Liked

Firstly, there’s no big callback to a previous Star Trek movie that pulls me out of the proceedings.  There are, however, enough Easter eggs to make you smile.  (A lot of them actually have to do with Enterprise, which I’ve been revisiting recently on Netflix.)  And now that I see how the dirt bike race and the Beastie Boys are worked into the plot, it works.  As always, our crew is a delight.  It’s fun seeing them paired off when they initially land on the planet.  Spock and Bones get thrown together, and we get some classic Spock and Bones interplay.  Idris Elba is a great villain as Krall, and Sofia Boutilla is also quite delightful as Jaylah.  The plot itself is actually a great callback to the plots of original series episodes.  And they way Leonard Nimoy’s death is worked into the film is quite poetic.

What I Didn’t Like

As Justin Lin is the Fast and Furious guy, I was expecting better action scenes.  But a lot of the fight scenes are in the dark and it’s tough to follow what’s going on.

Final Verdict

I couldn’t stop smiling as I came out of the theatre.  This was the most fun I’d had in a Star Trek film since, well, the first in this reboot trilogy.  I really enjoyed it.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Ghostbusters

GhostbustersGhostbusters Poster

Directed by Paul Feig

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, and Neil Casey.

Backstory

I’d been reading about a third Ghostbusters movie online for years.  But, as the years went on, I began to agree that some kind of reboot would probably be the better way to go, as the memory of the first film fell into the past.  It was strange as the release of this film drew closer.  Never had I seen a film that so many people were primed to hate.  Me?  I remained cautiously optimistic.  Lots of good people were working on the film…but would it translate into a good film?

Plot

Dr. Erin Gilbert, a prestigious physicist, is about to make tenure at her university, when a ghost from her past comes back to haunt her:  a book she wrote with her friend and colleague Dr. Abby Yates about the possibilities of the paranormal.  Erin goes to confront Abby about the book and have her stop selling it, but soon Erin is swept up with Abby and her new colleague Jillian Holtzmann as they investigate a ghost sighting.  Once again convinced that ghosts are real, Erin, Abby, and Jillian form their own scientific research firm to hunt them down.  They’re soon joined by Patty Tolan, a history buff whose knowledge of New York’s haunted spots soon becomes a valuable asset, and Kevin, their brainless receptionist.  As they investigate various ghost sightings, they soon discover someone is planting devices all over New York to attract ghost activity.  Will these Ghostbusters get to the bottom of the mystery of these devices?  Will Erin and Abby ever be able to mend fences?

What I Liked

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann steals the show.  As the team’s engineer and designer of most of the equipment, she has just the right amount of mad scientist charm to make her one of the most delightfully odd characters I’ve seen in a long time.  I was also looking forward to Leslie Jones, as she’s one of the funniest people on Saturday Night Live right now, and she does not disappoint.  I loved the special effects, and seeing the updated versions of the classic gear.  And there are many, many Easter Eggs to Ghostbusters lore.

What I Didn’t Like

The many, many Easter Eggs to Ghostbusters lore were a tad distracting.  For example, I kept wondering when Sigourney Weaver was going to show up for her cameo, as I knew it was coming!  And, as with all sequels and remakes, you know the plot, so you know what’s coming.

Final Verdict

I am pleasantly surprised at how much I loved it.  It’s a good update of the Ghostbusters formula, with just enough new twists to keep things interesting.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: ResurgenceIndependence Day: Resurgence

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie T. Usher, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, and Angelababy.

Backstory

Independence Day is one of my favourite movies.  It’s just such a fun film.  But did it need a sequel?  It seemed like a nice, self-contained story.  But I didn’t care.  A return to that world, I felt, would be pretty cool.  I expected the film to be this year’s Jurassic World:  just one big 1990s nostalgia trip.  The first film was my birthday movie 20 years ago…it just made sense that it should be my birthday movie this year.

Plot

It’s been 20 years since the War of 1996 (the in-universe name for the events of the first film).  The planet is united like never before.  By reverse-engineering the alien technology from the first film, the Earth Space Defense force stays on constant patrol for other extraterrestrial threats.  But, it’s soon discovered that the aliens managed to send out a distress signal in their dying gasp.  And now, the Queen Alien has shown up, to finish what the first invasion force started.  Can the world cry out in one voice once again that we will not go quietly into the night…that we won’t vanish without a fight…we’re going to live on…we’re going to survive…will we celebrate out Independence Day again?

What I Liked

It’s fun seeing the world of the aliens expanded.  We go inside the ships.  We get a better look at what their society is like.  We get tantalizing hints of the resulting ground war against the surviving aliens.  We meet other aliens.  There’s some great world-building going on.  And Jeff Goldblum is at his Goldblum best.

What I Didn’t Like

Well…the first film, we had moments to breath and get to know the characters.  This film moves so fast we barely get to know the new characters and how they fit into the narrative.  Rather then revel in the nostalgia, like in Jurassic World, it’s more like they just simply go down a checklist of moments from the original film to re-visit and re-interpret.  And David Arnold’s score is sorely missed.

Final Verdict

In the end, this reminds me of the recent remakes of Total Recall and RoboCop…it’s fun, but it’s a little too slick and a little too polished.  I like it, but the original had a touch more…seasoning.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Finding Dory

Finding DoryFinding Dory

Directed by Andrew Stanton; Co-directed by Angus MacLane

Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, and Sloane Murray.

Backstory

Of all the Pixar movies I wanted sequels for, Finding Nemo 2 was pretty low on the list.  I mean, they found Nemo.  What more could they do?  But then they revealed it would be about Dory looking for her family and I was like, “Well, OK.”  And then original director Andrew Stanton came back, and for his co-director, he brought Angus MacLane, who’s directed some of the better Pixar shorts in recent years.  It looked like everything was falling into place for it to be halfway decent.  But that was the question:  in the pantheon of Pixar sequels, would it be more Toy Story 3 or Cars 2?

Plot

It’s been one year since the events of Finding Nemo.  Dory has settled in quite nicely with Marlin and Nemo.  But, this quiet rest has unquietted her mind, and she begins having flashes of memory of her parents.  Desperate to find her family, Dory, Marlin and Nemo hit the open ocean once again, and soon find themselves at Dory’s birthplace, the Marine Life Institute, an aquarium that specializes in rehabilitating rescued sea life.  Here, Dory makes her way from tank to tank, trying to find her parents.  She makes some new friends to help her:  Hank, the septopus (an octopus that lost a tentacle), Destiny, the whale shark, and Bailey, the Beluga whale.  Will Dory find her family?  And what does this mean for Marlin and Nemo?

What I Liked

The voice acting is incredible.  It’s amazing seeing Ellen DeGeneres’s portrayal of Dory.  Because her memory is so fleeting, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy to her this time out as she struggles to hang on to the glimmers of her family.  It’s quite a nuanced performance.  The new characters like Hank and the seals are fun.  And, because it’s Pixar, the animation is spellbinding.

What I Didn’t Like

From a technical standpoint, the film seemed darker than the first.  The colour palette was darker…Thomas Newman’s score was more melancholy than the first.  Didn’t quite mesh with the film’s tone.

Final Verdict

As Pixar sequels go, this is definitely more on the Toy Story 3 side of the spectrum.  I didn’t think a Finding Nemo sequel was needed, but here it is, and it is good.  The resurgence that began with Inside Out continues!

3.5 Nibs

 

Movie Review – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the ShadowsShadows

Directed by Dave Green

Starring Megan Fox, Will Arnet, Laura Linney, Stephen Amell, Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Alan Ritchson, Brian Tee, Stephen “Shamus” Farrelly, Gary Anthony Williams, and Tyler Perry

Backstory:

Like a lot of TMNT fans, I was not impressed with the last film.  I found it took a few too many liberties with the established franchise, but at least they got the Turtles right.  I was already dimissive of the sequel until I saw that first trailer, and we had a live-action Bebop and Rocksteady.  Something I’d always wanted to see on the big screen since I was 12!  The allure of Bebop and Rocksteady was enough for me to give the franchise a second chance.

Plot:

It’s been one year since the TMNT saved the city from Shredder, and they’re starting to grow frustrated with living in the shadows.  But, adventure once again calls with the Shredder is broken out of prison.  Shredder escaped using Baxter Stockman’s experimental teleportation device, and Shredder wound up taking a detour through Dimension X, where he made an alliance with a warlord named Krang.  Now, Shredder is looking for the artifacts to build a portal big enough to bring Krang and his Technodrome to Earth.  The Turtles spring into action with their new ally, Casey Jones, a prison guard.  Shredder escaped on Jones’s watch, so he’s looking for some payback.  But Shredder’s got some new allies, too, in the form of Bebop and Rocksteady…two of his former cellmates that he mutated with some of Krang’s technology.  Can the Turtles put aside their brotherly squabbles, unite as a team, and stop Shredder and Krang once and for all?

What I Liked

Bebop and Rocksteady steal the show, you guys.  They are every bit as rude and crude as you’d imagine them to be, and they’re also really funny.  And we get a live action Krang.  Really, this film has a lot more Easter eggs in it as it references Turtle lore.  The four Turtles are, again, spot on.  Stephen “Arrow” Amell makes a pretty good Casey Jones.  It’s great finally seeing Shredder as a villain instead of plotting from the shadows, like the last film.

What I Didn’t Like

As much as I love seeing Krang, he is a bit under-utilized.  It’s still a pretty run-of-the-mill superhero adventure.  And the action scenes, well, it gets to be so much CGI chaos going on it’s tough to keep track of the action sometimes.  Yeah, I know, Old Mark is Old.

Final Verdict

This is a lot closer to classic TMNT action than the last film, and a fun outing for the heroes in a half-shell.

3 Nibs