Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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

Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: ApocalypseX-Men: Apocalypse

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Issac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, and Lucas Till

Backstory

And here we are again, with the granddaddy of superhero franchises.  Most film historians will tell you that our current run of superhero films all began with the original X-Men way back in the year 2000.  16 years later, the franchise has spawned 6 films in the main timeline, and three spinoffs (the two Wolverine films and Deadpool).  After all this time, the question really is starting to become if they can keep it fresh.  Well…can they?

Plot

It’s 1983…10 years after the (past) events of Days of Future Past.  Magneto has gone into hiding, and is living a quiet life with a wife and daughter.  Mystique is also in hiding, frightened at how saving the President in the last film has made her a cultural icon in the mutant community.  And Professor Charles Xavier’s dream of mutants and humans living in harmony is making great strides, as his school for the gifted is thriving.  But then, in Egypt, an ancient evil awakens…Apocalypse, whom many regard as the first mutant, born thousands of years ago.  Distressed at the state of the world, Apocalypse sets out to rule once again.  With his four horsemen in tow – Archangel, Storm, Psyloche, and Magneto – Apocalypse begins laying waste to the land.  Before long, the Professor, Mystique and Beast — and some new recruits in the form of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver — are headed for a deadly showdown with Apocalypse.  Will these newly-formed X-Men be able to stop the apocalypse…both the man and the end of the world?

What I Liked

This film reminded me of Skyfall in a few ways.  When the film ends,  you get the feeling that the rebooting and retelling of the origins is complete, and we can get on to some classic X-Men adventures.  That being said, it also reminds me a bit of the third film, X-Men: The Last Stand, in that there’s this attitude of “Let’s throw in all the cool stuff we’ve always wanted to see in an X-Men movie!”  It’s great finally seeing the origins of Cyclops and Jean.  Quicksilver steals the show once again, as we are treated to yet another spectacular showcase of his powers.  Fassbender continue to bring it as Magneto, showing him as a tortured soul and reluctant villain.  And yes, there’s a Wolverine cameo as you’ve seen in the trailers, and it is great.

What I Didn’t Like

The plot is fairly run-of-the-mill at this point.  It doesn’t totally re-invent the X-Men or introduce anything dramatically new.  I think franchise fatigue is starting to set it.

Final Verdict

A very solid entry in the franchise.  It’s not the best, but it’s satisfying.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil WarCaptain America: Civil War

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo

Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Frank Grillo, and Daniel Bruhl.

Backstory

We can’t look at superhero movies as being individual films anymore.  Thanks to how Marvel has developed their cinematic universe over the past 8 years, the entire studio output has to be viewed as a single franchise.  Which is why there is so much hype over Captain America: Civil War.  This isn’t Captain America 3 as much as it’s Marvel 13.  And with such a large cast of heroes…it just looked like the biggest superhero film ever.  So the question is, does it live up to the hype?

Plot

After the all the collateral damage the Avengers have cause in their previous adventures, the UN passes a new set of regulations called the Sokovia Accords.  Under these accords, the Avengers would become a task force held accountable to a UN committee.  Iron Man is in favour of the accords, as he still feels guilt for those whose lives were lost, and this would give the Avengers a degree of accountability.  Steve Rogers, however, is against it, fearing it could turn the Avengers into a tool of political agendas.  Things get more complicated when Rogers’ old friend and sidekick Bucky is implicated in a terrorist attack.  Going rogue from the Accords to find Bucky first, Captain America is branded a criminal, and Iron Man and those Avengers still loyal to him are sent to bring him in.  Throw Black Panther into the mix — his father was killed in Bucky’s alleged attack so he’s out for revenge — and a shadowy villain manipulating both factions to his own ends, and you get one very big superhero adventure.  Will Captain American and Iron Man ever trust each other again?

What I Liked

My problem with huge ensembles is when people get lost in the shuffle.  But here?  No one gets lost.  Everyone has a job to do, a character arc, and a role in the battle.  Easily the biggest and meatiest subplot is Black Panther, who makes a fine introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And speaking of fine introductions…Spider-Man!  He’s not in it that much, but what little is in there is so pitch-perfect Spider-Man.  We’ve finally got Spider-Man and the Avengers together on the big screen, and it is so good.  But the heart is Captain America and Iron Man.  They both make valid points, and at the end, when you see the villain’s endgame and Cap and Iron Man have their final battle, it is heartbreaking.  It is so good.

What I Didn’t Like

Ya know what?  I think a bit of franchise fatigue is starting to set in.  Either that, or I just watched the trailer too many times, as there was an air of “been there, done that” over the proceedings.

Final Verdict

It was so good, you guys.  A delightful time at the movies.

3.5 Nibs

Movie Review – Zootopia

ZootopiaZootopia

Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Starring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, and Shakira

Backstory

Zootopia didn’t quite grab me when the first trailers came along.  It looked cute, but nothing really jumped out at me.  Then it actually did come out, and the reviews for it were phenomenal.  I love Disney, and I still had a gift card left over from Christmas, so I figured why not?  Besides, Disney Animation has been on a pretty good run lately, and the last time I felt indifferent towards a Disney animated film was Wreck-It Ralph, but I checked it out because of the positive reviews and was wonderfully surprised.  So we could go two for two.

Plot

In a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, Judy Hopps is just a small town girl with a big dream:  head to the metropolis of Zootopia and become its first-ever rabbit police officer.  With grit and determination, she graduates from the police academy at the top of her class, and gets her first assignment as a meter maid.  Her path soon crosses that of a fox con artist, Nick Wilde.  Showing a little too much ambition, Judy soon lands the case of finding a missing otter.  Since Nick was the last one to see him, he’s her only lead.  The two then form an unlikely partnership as they go through Zootopia’s criminal underworld, soon uncovering a mysterious conspiracy.  Will they find the true culprit?  And will they be able to battle their own prejudices about the predator/prey relationship?

What I Liked

This film has a very solid message about racism and combating prejudice, as many characters fall back on their stereotypes of certain animals:  sly foxes, savage predators, and such forth.  It’s neat seeing the issue tackled in this way.  The voice cast is top notch, with Ginnifer Goodwin being unbelievably adorable and likable as Judy, with Jason Bateman injected just the right amount of smooth-talk for Nick.  And this is Disney, after all, so of course the animation is gorgeous.  The city of Zootopia is a visual feast, with buildings designed to accommodate the unique physical needs of such a wide cross-section of animals.

What I Didn’t Like

While I did appreciate the message, it does get a little blunt in some places.  The plot is a bit formulaic, as I was hoping for a few more twists and turns.  Can we please retire the “super-nice guy turns out to be the villain” trope, because I called the criminal mastermind the very minute the character was introduced.  And we get it, Disney, Frozen is still a thing.  I counted at least a dozen Frozen Easter eggs and in-jokes, that stood out in the annoying way.

Final Verdict

I have pretty much the same opinion that I had with Frozen.  I enjoyed it, it was a fun afternoon at the movies, but I didn’t quite see it as the game-changer everyone is making it out to be.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of JusticeBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Directed by Zack Snyder

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter and Gal Gadot.

Backstory

So, Man of Steel came along in 2013, and I thought it was an OK update of the Superman mythology, but I did have issues with how they tried to make Superman gritty and realistic.  And then, trying to get some of that Marvel magic, Warner Brothers decided that the sequel would be launching the DC Cinematic Universe, and that BFFs Batman and Superman would be appearing on screen together for the first time.  I was cautiously optimistic.  Was my optimism justified?

Plot

It’s been 18 months since Superman first came on the scene, and destroyed most of Metropolis trying to save the world from General Zod.  Congressional hearings are going as to how Superman should be dealt with in this world, and indeed, Superman himself still has doubts about how best he can help this planet.  But there’s one man who’s made up his mind about Superman:  Bruce Wayne, whose Wayne Enterprises tower in Metropolis was destroyed, and many of his employees killed.  He’s of the mind that Superman does need a deterrent in this world…Batman.  As tensions grown between Batman and Superman (oh, Superman doesn’t agree with Batman’s methods and has been attacking him as Clark Kent through editorials in the Daily Planet), Lex Luthor begins pulling the strings behind the scenes to further his own agenda.  What his agenda?  Will Batman and Superman see through the charade before they come to blows?

What I Liked

Oh, it is so good to finally see Wonder Woman on the big screen.  And she’s got this theme comprised of angry guitars that really announces her presence.  As we saw in 300 and Watchmen, Zack Snyder is really good at replicating comic book panels on the big screen, and there are pages torn out of The Dark Knight Returns that were so good to see on the big screen.  And when Batman and Superman do begin to throw down, it is a visual treat.  And damn that haters, Ben Affleck is a great Batman.  He does the world-weary, battle-hardened version of Batman that Frank Miller gave us quite well.

What I Didn’t Like.

“Hey, you know how everyone loved that confusing dream sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron that did nothing but set up the sequels?  Let’s have MORE of those!”  Lex Luthor.  Jesse Eisenberg gives him so many quirks and ticks that he gets annoying, and you’re never ever really clear as to what his evil plot is.  The film does seem disjointed at times.  There’s a definite Amazing Spider-Man vibe of “Let’s throw everything at the wall and see what forms a franchise.”  And I, too, have always found it to be a remarkable coincidence that Batman and Superman’s mothers both have the same name, but that’s not the payoff for that coincidence that I would have expected.

Final Verdict

I’m conflicted.  Batman and Superman are warring for my heart.  I want to like this film.  I really really do.  But no matter how much I try, the best I can muster is “meh.”

2.5 Nibs

Movie Review – The Revenant

The RevenantThe Revenant Poster

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Arthur Redcloud and Grace Dove

Backstory

Despite my love of film, you can see throughout the many reviews on this site the kinds of films I gravitate towards:  big budget sci-fi and fantasy.  I rarely head out to see any of the Oscar nominees.  So, when my parents invited me along with them to go see The Revenant I was like, “Sure!  Why not?”  I’d already heard about The Revenant and how it’s DiCaprio’s latest shot at an Oscar and how it could only film for 2 hours per day because the director chose only to use natural light, so let’s go see an Oscar nominee for once!

Plot

Based on a true story of the fur trade in the 1820s.  Hugh Glass was part of a trapping party, and as they were about to head back to the fort with their latest bounty of pelts, they’re attacked by Native Americans.  Glass suggests the best way to get back to the fort is to ditch their boat and their pelts and make the journey over land.  The captain agrees, much to the chagrin of Fitzgerald.  When he wanders off to do a little hunting for food, Glass is mauled by a bear and near death.  The captain decides to leave Glass behind with a few volunteers to nurse him back to health — including Fitzgerald and Glass’s son Hawk.  Not really wanting any of this, Fitzgerald attempts to murder Glass, kills Hawk when Hawk tries to stop him, and leaves Glass for dead.  The majority of the film then concerns Glass literally crawling out of the wilderness and back to civilization to get his vengeance on Fitzgerald.

What I Liked

Filmed largely in southern Alberta, the film is gorgeous, and the mountain peaks are maddeningly familiar as I spent a lot of the film trying to place them.  Performances are great all around, especially DiCaprio, who carries the entire film for long stretches.

What I Didn’t Like

Those long stretches are long.  The film did seem to drag on a bit.

Final Verdict

A powerful story about survival in extreme circumstances, but it could have been a little shorter.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – Deadpool

DeadpoolDeadpool

Directed by Tim Miller

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, and Leslie Uggams.

Backstory

In recent years, Deadpool has become one of the more popular characters in the Marvel pantheon.  Maybe it has to do with how superheroes are starting to dominate pop culture, and a lot of Deadpool’s appeal is breaking the fourth wall and mocking everything going on.  Anyway, after a brief — and botched — appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the project fell silent, until some leaked test footage a few years ago got overwhelmingly positive reviews.  And now, Deadpool is in your local cinema.

Plot

Wade Wilson, former special forces operative, but grew a conscience and now works as a mercenary, shaking down thugs.  He meets the love of his life, Vanessa, and things are going good…until the inoperable cancer hits.  Soon, he’s recruited by a shadowy organization in an attempt to give him superpowers that could cure his cancer.  Since the super-soldier process involves months of torture and ultimately leaves Wilson horribly scarred, when his superpowers do kick in, he breaks out and swears vengeance.  Taking the name Deadpool, he begins slaughtering those in charge of the program.  With two X-Men in tow, Deadpool is soon on track for a confrontation with the villainous Ajax, the man behind the program.  Will Deadpool win the day?

What I Liked

The film is just incredibly funny.  Deadpool’s constant wisecracks and comments on the situation just completely set this above the rest.  And then you get Colossus from X-Men, playing the part of the stereotypical “boy scout” superhero, and they make for an interesting dynamic.  The action sequences are good.  And the end product is highly entertaining.

What I Didn’t Like

Still doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pretty routine, by-the-numbers superhero plot.

Final Verdict

An incredibly entertaining superhero outing, thanks to a very entertaining lead.

3.5 Nibs