Category Archives: Movie Reviews

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

Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars: The Force Awakens Poster

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Starring Harrison Ford, Mark  Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Anthony Daniels, and Peter Mayhew.

Backstory

Three short years ago, the Internet exploded with the news that Disney bought Lucasfilm and that Star Wars: Episode VII would be coming in 2015.  When that first trailer broke, we went nuts.  We were following every development online.  But, as excited as I got, there was always that nagging doubt in the back of mind…didn’t I go through all this 15 years ago with the prequels?  I did my best to downgrade my optimism to cautious, but when the day came, I was heading into the theatre.   How would it fare?

Plot

It’s been thirty years since Return of the Jedi.  A new galactic superpower has emerged from the remnants of the Empire, called the First Order.  To oppose them, the Republic has formed an army called the Resistance, and the galaxy has descended into war once again.  Complicating matters is the disappearance of the legendary Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, whose reappearance could turn the tide.  Soon thrust into the middle of things is a desert scavenger named Rey and a defecting Stormtrooper who adopts the name Finn.  They’ve come into possession of a droid called BB-8, who holds the key to finding Luke Skywalker.  Soon, classic heroes are joining our new friends, as the Resistance rallies to battle the First Order’s new super-weapon.  Can the weapon be destroyed?  Will Luke Skywalker be found?  And what’s the true identity of the First Order’s deadly dark Jedi, Kylo Ren?

What I Liked

Wow.  Right away, everything’s better than the prequels.  The acting is so much better…the dialogue is so much better.  It looks grittier than the prequels…more real.  And, like one of my favourite things about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Harrison Ford showed up.  He’s not just Mr. Sleepy-Mumbler…he is Han Solo once again.  I just found the new characters so believable and likable.  The action is great.  The special effects are great…it’s just great.

What I Didn’t Like.

OK, so the plot is highly, highly, HIGHLY reminiscent of Star Wars, or A New Hope, or whatever you call the first one.  So it might be appealing to nostalgia just a little too much.

Final Verdict

Dude, it made me cry.  I did not expect that.  It’s just…that good.

4 Nibs

Movie Review – The Good Dinosaur

The Good DinosaurThe Good Dinosaur Movie Poster

Directed by Peter Sohn

Starring the voices of Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, and Sam Elliot.

Backstory

Yay!  The first time we had two Pixar films in a year!  The Good Dinosaur was supposed to be their animated blockbuster of 2014, but thanks to production delays, story problems, and switch of directors, it got moved to 2015.  Coming hot on the heels of Inside Out, where everyone was going “Pixar is back!” would The Good Dinosaur continue that streak?  Or would the awesomeness of Inside Out block out this second Pixar film?

Plot

In an alternate timeline where dinosaurs and humans co-existed, we’re introduced to a family of farmers…who are apatosauruses.  The youngest, Arlo, is a timid sort, who’s constantly frightened by everything.  While endearing at first, it soon comes to frustrate his family.  While out on a hunting trip to try and help Arlo face his fears, Arlo stumbles into a swift-moving river, and is soon swept fan downstream, far from his family.  Arlo then must conquer his fears to return home.  Accompanying him is a caveboy he names Spot, who acts very much like a dog.  Together, Arlo and Spot must overcome many harrowing obstacles, do battle with some fanatical pterodactyls, and help out some T-Rex ranchers.  Can Arlo make it home and conquer his fears?

What I Liked

This is Pixar’s most photo-realistic film.  I’ve been camping in the mountains ever since I was a kid, and the backgrounds look just the Rockies I know and love.  There are some clever ideas at play — they borrow a lot from the tropes of Westerns, especially with the ranchers…who are T-Rexes.  There’s not much in the way of emotional beats, but what little there are really do hit home.  There’s a clever music score, I enjoyed some of the darker turns.  And probably the first animated film (for kids, at least) that features an acid trip.

What I Didn’t Like

Ya know how Pixar’s marketing these days seems to consist of little vignettes featuring the characters to allow the audience to get to know them?  Now imagine if all they did was take those vignettes and string them together into a film.  The film is very episodic.  The plot is very basic.  Arlo’s character arc is very basic.  It’s all so…basic.

Final Verdict

At the end, I have the same complaint as I did with Brave:  it has a lot of great ideas, but they don’t really gel into a great movie.

3 Nibs

Movie Review – The Peanuts Movie

The Peanuts MovieThe Peanuts Movie Poster

Directed By Steve Martino

Starring the voices of Noah Schnappe, Mariel Sheets, Alex Garfin, Hadley Belle Miller, Venus Omega Schultheis, Francesca Angelucci Capaldi, Bill Melendez, Kristin Chenowith, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Backstory

I’ve always been fascinated by Charlie Brown in animation.  Who hasn’t seen A Charlie Brown Christmas at the holidays?  I remember a friend of mine had A Boy Named Charlie Brown on VHS when I was a kid, and I watched it a lot at his house.  So the thought of a 21st century, CGI Charlie Brown movie had me a little bit nervous.  Could the charm of the original Peanuts animation be retained when Charles Schutlz passed away 15 years ago?

Plot

It is winter, and things are going as they typically do for Charlie Brown.  His clever plot to finally successfully fly a kite in winter, when the Kite Eating Tree is hibernating, backfires.  But then, a new, little red-haired girl moves into the neighbourhood, and Charlie Brown is instantly smitten.  Charlie Brown then launches on a series of mis-adventures to try to get the Little Red Haired Girl’s attention.  Complicating (or easing?) matters is the fact that Charlie Brown just got a perfect score on the standardized tests, making him a school celebrity.  Meanwhile, Snoopy has his vivid fantasies as a World War I flying ace.  Will Charlie Brown finally catch the eye of the Little Red Haired Girl?  Will Snoopy finally shoot down the Red Baron?

What I Liked

Holy crap.  This is incredibly faithful to the original comic strips.  It would have been far too easy to make it a gritty origin story and answer how Charlie Brown and Snoopy first met or why Charlie Brown is bald, but no.  This is just like opening up the Sunday comics and reading Charlie Brown.   The characters are exactly like we know them.  And, as always, Snoopy’s fantasies are a remarkable diversion.

What  I Didn’t Like

Well, as I feared when I first saw the trailers, the pop songs seems a little out of place.  And, because it is so faithful, things do get a tad predictable.

Final Verdict

This movie made me cry.  It’s just such a perfect Charlie Brown film.

4 Nibs