Thor: Ragnarok

Okay, Thor: The Dark World was sort of bad. I was caught up in Marvel hype at the time, but I still stand by my original Thor rating.

I love the god of Thunder, and I want Chris Hemsworth to be in many more movies, so I just ooze out happiness towards him, hoping everything is great and falling in love. Except for Blackhat. And The Huntsman: Winter’s War. And Ghostbusters. Okay, so lately Thor is all he has going for him outside of Rush (is it the four letter word theme?!).

But that is not why I am excited about Thor: Ragnarok. I am floor to the wall excited thanks to Taika Waititi.

Who? The indie film New Zealand director who gave us What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (one of my top films last year). This man is so good at his craft, bringing natural humor and an adventure out of little. The fact that he was given a Marvel film to helm, to put his own spin on things, blows my minds, and honestly, I just could not fucking wait.

lightning
Basically, Thor is now full on Rayden.

Ragnarok takes place sometimes after the events of other movies. Thor (Hemsworth) is roaming the stars, leaving Midgard (Earth) behind for a bit in their squabbles, as he makes sure life around the Realms is swell. He is having nightmares about Asgard falling in flames, and he would rather not have that happen to his home.

After dealing with threats, he returns to Asgard and finds it complacent in the suffering of the realm. Heimdall (Idris Elba) is missing. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is clearly Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise, not actually dead like everyone assumed. But that is only the beginning of the issues.

It turns out that Thor has an older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who has been imprisoned by Odin for some time. She is set to return, to return Asgard to a machine of death and destruction to conquer the cosmos. The Asgard of the past was a scary place, everyone would prefer peace time now, but it is hard for that to occur when she shows up on their doorstep, stronger than the other Asgardians and willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.

Thor and Odin are expelled from their realm, with mixed results. Odin would like to survive and run, while Thor would prefer to get out of his new reality, defeat his sister and finally claim the throne he has denied in the past. I mean, he has to, or else everyone will die or something.

We get a few new characters into the story, including the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldbloom), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Skurge (Karl Urban).

Also featuring the Warriors Three (sort of) (Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano), the voice of Clancy Brown, Rachel House, Taika Waititi (he is in his own movie, yes), Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a few cameos to keep on your toes.

War
This is probably what I would wear if I got into LARPing.

Thor is such an odd character to make films about. The goal is to make sure the films have their own unique feel to them and are not a generic action superhero film. This means that Thor gets to go to other planets and realms, but not like the Guardians of the Galaxy, as his is more solo based and war based. GotG is more bad dudes all around.

Years ago this was being noted of being a sort of Road Trip Marvel film, which is not a very apt description. We get to see different areas, different people, at various amounts, while Thor deals with his friends and family tearing itself apart. Unfortunately like a lot of those films, some areas spend too much time, seemingly drag on, when the viewer might just wish it to move its ass along eventually. Namely, the trash planet with the gladiators. Sure, some cool stuff happens there. Some sweet characters. But damn it, get going, get out, let´s get this plot going!

And there is a lot of cool stuff in this film! Thor at the end of the movie is a complete badass, finally rocking out in such an epic way that it feels like a Thor makeover, and I don´t just mean his hair. Hulk is given a decent amount of screen time and gets to show off. Loki is around, which is okay. Hela likes to throw spikes or whatever, and I guess she is strong doing that. Heimdall finally has a purpose in these movies, but still not a lot of purpose. And cameos!

Then there are questions like: Where is Lady Sif? She is a major part of the Thor crew, but she is basically replaced with Valkyrie and we are supposed to be cool with it? (She could not make the filming time, and they just ignored her existence. The Warriors Three at least had parts though).

The questions brought up at the end of The Dark World with Odin/Loki were really quickly dealt with as well. TDW had a very ominous ending and I have been waiting many years for this to come about and it was a disappointment.

Again, the film has tons of fun moments. It does a lot of things right, and it is quite hilarious and badass at various points. It is just a bit too long, rushes through the better things, drags at others, and ignores characters without a good reason.

3 out of 4.

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

This year was a big year for Wonder Woman. She had her DC film debut, as the first solo female superhero film in some time (Never forget, Catwoman and Elektra). She broke some records in terms of profit, and easily, she is the best of the current DCEU films.

By a long shot. The ending was still poor and CGI crazy, but for the most part it was still a great film.

But this year we are also getting Professor Marston & The Wonder Women, a film about Wonder Woman, however not a film anyone would expect. We get to learn about how Wonder Woman came to be, her eccentric creator and his interesting lifestyle with the women he dubbed to be wonderful.

Walk
And this is when he takes those wonderful woman off to see the wonderful wizard of oz!

William Marston (Luke Evans), as you may have guessed from the title, was a professor! He taught psychology and even taught classes to just women. It was very progressive for the 1920’s and 30’s. He had a DISC theory about humans, which stood for Dominance, Influence, Submissive, and Compliance, but I won’t get into all of that.

His wife, Elizabeth Marston (Rebecca Hall) should have been a professor, but was having issues with her PhD, so she worked closely with her husband in their laboratory. They enjoyed studying the human condition and what makes them tick. On that note, they also hired one of their students to be an office aide, who would work with them over long hours, an Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). She was pretty, young, influential, and William wanted to sex her.

But Elizabeth might have also wanted to sex her.

This is not a love triangle of chasing emotions, this is three consenting adults eventually deciding to enter into free and open relationship with each other, in a world that wouldn’t look too kindly with their situation. And this is just the beginning, because at some point, Wonder Woman gets created out of this. And also the lie detector. Yes, they invent the lie detector.

Also starring Connie Britton, JJ Feild, Oliver Platt, and Chris Conroy.

WW
Oohh, shiny.

Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is a story that happened many decades ago, but could not have been told until very recently. At this point, the world has somewhat caught up to what these three people discovered years ago and can find what they did accepting without a lot of shame.

I am NOT saying that everyone who watches this movie will be comfortable with what occurs, but it treats the subject matter in a fair light, noting the pros and cons of what occurred, along with the fallout. To modify an overused line, this is a better love story than Fifty Shades of Grey (and Twilight, yes).

The acting from the three leads was incredible and believable. This is the best thing Evans has ever done. I previously said that this year with Beauty and the Beast, which was true at the time, but this is Evans finally in a role that shows actual dramatics, without relying on song and CGI. For Heathcote, I don’t know most of her work, but it definitely stands out from some of the shitty movies I have seen her in. Hall is a very accomplished actress, but I would put this near the top of her work as well, definitely showcasing a different sort of range for her.

This movie will make people uncomfortable, but it really feels like a story that needs to be told. It could have gotten to Wonder Woman aspects quicker, to help draw in some of the less patient viewers, but it is a story about unconventional love and how it has changed the world.

4 out of 4.

Battle of the Sexes

The phrase “battle of the sexes” always feels cringey nowadays, and it has for years. There was a board game with that name recently, and it is just one that is based on poor stereotypes and no one should really ever want to play. And yeah, that is the point of the phrase. To talk about the differences between the most common genders and fuel masculine and feminine behaviors.

But the movie Battle of the Sexes is beyond all of that. First of all, the title is given due to the real event that announcers decided to call it at the time. So they are just highlighting history here, not their fault.

And second, it is a sports film that is also about gender equality and sameness, not stereotypical differences. This is the clincher here, this is why I want to see the movie.

Battle
Maybe the actors involved was another important factor, but don’t tell them. They have big egos.

In the early 1970’s, Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) was on top of the female tennis players world. She was the first female player to ever each $100,000 in a year from prizes, and people really made a big deal about it. Things were on the up and up for the women’s movement too! Except when it came time to sign a new contract with her fellow ladies for the main American tournament. The prize support for the women’s players was significantly lower than the men players, despite sharing the same arenas, drawing the same crowds and all of that. So they decided to just up and leave. They started the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), had Virginia Slim cigarettes as their sponsor, and now had funding to play for real money!

This pissed off a lot of people. But King and a lot of her fellow players were riding high. King also started a relationship with her hairdressed (Andrea Riseborough) while on tour with a husband (Austin Stowell) at home!

This story is also about Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), an older retired tennis pro who used to be number 1. He is a bit of a dick and likes to parade around like a fool to earn money. And he is a gambler. At the lowest points of his life, he decides to challenge Margarat Court (Jessica McNamee) to a tennis match, really playing up the male chauvinist angle. It seems like he is around just to ruin the modern women’s rights movement! The prize amount gets even bigger when he is finally able to challenge King, and it becomes one of the biggest spectacles of the decade, where apparently the question would be settled by the end of who is greater, man or woman.

Also starring Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Martha MacIsaac, and John C. McGinley.

Love
Courting in this film holds two different definitions.

Battle of the Sexes is one of those movie trailers you will see and you just know you will have a good time during the film. It is a period piece, so we get to see people we recognize fondly looking, from our current standards, ridiculous. Always a plus.

Stone and Carell have been in films together before, namely Crazy, Stupid, Love, where they played daughter and father, and now they get to play pseudo rivals! Because the reality of this situation is they are not, at all, in any way, real rivals. They would never play each other in a tournament, they both were not at their primes at the same time, they only played the one game together. But their lives are now forever entwined in history due to this moment, this festival, this, well, publicity stunt.

Because in all reality, it seems like it was just all about the money. King may have had other reasons for agreeing to the game (women’s rights in sports and all), but all the people pulling the strings from behind the scenes just wanted to get rich. The events of this film are almost unbelievable, this is a time when reality if it was written as a screenplay would be lauded as ridiculous. But hey, what’s the point of life if not to get really ridiculous every once in awhile?

I like that this story told much more than the game. A lot of the film is NOT tennis, but about tennis players. Finding out about King’s husband and other relationships felt realistic and sad. Riggs himself was in a sad state in his life and he wasn’t even a bad guy, he just played it up for publicity. And in all honesty, I didn’t know who won going into the movie, so I am glad I never looked it up. It is interesting that the game was held in Houston though, in the now defunct Astrodome.

That last sentence is meant to appeal to the locals.

3 out of 4

The Big Sick

Earlier this summer, if you have friends in the 20’s, you probably know of someone who was talking about The Big Sick. They would have recommended that you see it RIGHT AWAY in theaters, because hey, it is an indie movie and they need to make their money back to produce more good films!

I know I was hounded, but that is because people know I watch movies and made sure I went out and saw this one.

And then I decided to wait a few months before dropping this review, just to see how many more times would people tell me to watch and review The Big Sick. The total count was 7, quite a large number, larger than any other film that has ever been requested. You know, because most of the times I just go and review the movie and not wait on it.

I just think it is interesting that basically everyone who saw it, made sure other people would go and see it too. It is like it was a guerrilla marketing ad campaign or something.

Store
“Oh you are buying pasta? Will you eat it after you go see The Big Sick?”

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani, yes playing himself), is a stand up comic living in the Windy City and generally he is poor and happy. His best friends are all stand up comics (Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant), and he lives with another one (Kurt Braunohler), but he isn’t as funny. Kumail is also an Uber driver! Good times for mad cash.

At some point after a show, he meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) in the bar. He tries to flirt with her, it goes okay, and they have a one night fling. But it is nothing serious. Won’t continue. Until it does! It keeps happening, despite her busy graduate school schedule, they just cannot stop doing the sexy and the dating.

Kumail has commitment issues though. You see, his parents (Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff) are traditional, and want to set him up with a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. He doesn’t want it, but he plays along, because he loves his family, and if he dates a white woman he will be ostracized. So he is afraid of getting too close to Emily. So he doesn’t want to even meet her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) when they are in town!

This leads to issues. This leads to fights! But most importantly is the title of this movie. The Big Sick. Because throughout all of this, Emily gets sick. Really sick. A sickness that no one understands and is life threatening. The type of thing that can really bring people closer together. Well, not the sick person, but everyone around the sick person.

Also starring Adeel Akhtar!

Table
If I had to have celebrities play my parents, this would be an ideal pairing.

This is a very personal story for Nanjiani, which shows. He clearly has passion in this movie and he wants people to know about the struggles that his wife went through and what began their relationship. After all, the best comedians drawn upon their own lives to help relate their work to other people, building a connection and having a good old laugh about it all. Even though it can be scary, even though it can be intense.

Romano and Hunter were FANTASTIC as the parents of Emily. They, too, felt wonderfully real and open about everything. I imagined them as a real couple quite easily, wearing the fear of concern on their face, while dealing with the awkward situation of a pseudo-boyfriend. It was great acting from those three.

What I really didn’t connect with at all was Kazan as Emily. After the fact, I realized that I recognized Kazan from other films (like the wonderful Ruby Sparks!) but forgot about them all in this movie. I just naturally assumed that maybe she wasn’t an actress and was also playing herself, as the love interest of Nanjiani. That makes sense. If he casts himself, he would cast the other main character of the story.

But it wasn’t. And the only reason I assumed this is because I did not think she did a great job in the first half of the film at all. It seemed like someone uncomfortable with acting. It is hard to explain, but she just didn’t work for me at all.

The movie is charming, it feels realistic, and it is overall wonderful. But at times it really did just feel like a regular RomCom and not something that elevated the genre. It was definitely a good entry in the genre, just not one I loved a lot. Although the 9/11 joke had me rolling, which is why I was sad to see it as part of the main advertising after the fact.

3 out of 4.

Patti Cake$

I have been to New Jersey, I have seen people free style, but I have never, ever, been in a drive by.

There is my bad intro joke to talk about Patti Cake$. After I saw the trailer for this film, I assumed it would be culturally insensitive. I figured it would be a cliche coming of age story or a film about a group of misfits succeeding against all odds.

And yeah, it is definitely a little bit of both. Whoops.

Gangsta
Oh shit, did we get an Ali G cameo?!

Patti aka Patti Cakes$ aka Killa P aka…a lot of other nicknames (Danielle Macdonald), is a woman living with her mom (Bridget Everett) and her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) in a small, poor community in Jersey. She has small part time jobs, but a lot of her money goes to paying bills for her family and medicine for her nana.

Patti’s mom was going to be a big singer in the 1980’s, everyone loved her, but then she got pregnant. Now she is basically nothing, getting wasted on karaoke night, spending more time in the bathroom than on the stand. And Patti? Well, she is a big rapper.

I mean physically, because she certainly isn’t famous. She can freestyle, she can spit the lyrics out, but she is still a bit afraid to perform, and no one takes her seriously, because she is fat and white. The only person who believes in her is Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), a pharmacist, who wants to be a producer. They are often looking for ways to break out, and Patti thinks there future lies in Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), an anarchist who lives in the woods alone and who, yes, can also create some sick tunes.

Also starring McCaul Lombardi and Patrick Brana.

Mix Tape
Oh yeah, the last missing piece of their group was Nana.

Dealing with the cultural insensitivity of this film is a hard one. A lot of people don’t take Patti seriously, because she is a white girl trying to rap, and it is not in her culture to do so. Yes she is poor, living in a very small house that is abusive, where music is a big part of her upbringing, and she has way too many responsibilities for her age, but she is still a white chick. Stories where a white person tries something that is technically part of a desensitized race in America, and then flourishes? Yeah, that is all sorts of fucked up. A character uses the term Culture Vulture in this film to describe her, which paints a perfect picture of how it looks to the outside world.

The good news is that she doesn’t bust into the rap game and change the world. She is given a lot of shit and rightfully so. She has had a shit life, but it doesn’t mean she should automatically go and win all the prizes and take what was not originally hers. I enjoyed that it wasn’t a standard film in that regard.

The music of course I have no interest in hearing, but the relationships between the characters is where it mattered most. This ends up being a story about a girl and her mom, their inability to see eye to eye about anything. The relationship between her and her best friend didn’t feel natural. The relationship between her and Basterd was very interesting, but again, something that just seemed forced.

Patti Cake$ has some interesting moments throughout it, but a laughable premise with quite a bit unexplained reasons for why she and her friends can stand each other. However, I saw this movie over a month ago, and I can still remember parts of their main song. So if anything, it has a catchy hook to it.

2 out of 4.

Fist Fight

Fist Fight is an interesting term, because well, most people when they think of the word “fight” they assume fists were already involved. Fists are the default in a fight. That is why we have to specify other types of fights, like gun fights, sword fights, or cat fights. So fist fight doesn’t even need to exist as a term, a little bit of an unnecessary word play here.

Although, at the same time, would you watch a movie called just Fight? Would you assume a movie called Fight is actually a comedy film? No way a film just called Fight could work. After all, we already had the movie Fighting and it didn’t work either.

Either way, in this movie we get two main things. We get Charlie Day getting some leading man role time, which just…never happens. And we have Ice Cube, trying to get rid of the family friendly nature that has come upon him and turn himself more into a badass again.

Point
Oh shit, did Cube turn his fist into a gun? What kind of fight is this again? Man, what a badass.

Mr. Campbell (Day) is an English teacher at a school in Los Angeles and the students are pretty damn wild. He teaches seniors, it is the last day, and no fucks are given. The kids rarely respect their teachers in this school, especially not today. The only teacher they sort of respect is Mr. Strickland (Cube), but because they are afraid of him. But even today some kids want to mess with him.

While Campbell is in his classroom to fix an issue, Strickland ends up threatening a student with an Ax, destroying his desk, due to his prank. That is a big deal, even at this school. Turns out the school is also looking to take cuts out of every department due to low scores. Campbell has a wife and kid (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Alexa Nisenson), and the wife is pregnant with number two. Even if his job sucks, he cannot lose it right now. So when pressured by the principal (Dean Norris), Campbell caves and admits that Strickland did the deed. This angers Strickland. So Strickland says he is going to kick Campbell’s ass. He is going to challenge him to a fight after school that day, and they are going to throw down. He spreads the word. He is pissed at the world and he doesn’t care about his actions.

Now Campbell has to spend the rest of his day worried. He was already panicking over his wife close to birth, and the possibility of losing his job. Now he also might get his ass kicked? I guess he has to try and fix all these issues during the course of a school day, or else he might die of a heart attack before it is through.

Also starring Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Kumail Nanjiani, and Dennis Haysbert.

Bat
Shit. Now there is a bat involved. Just what kind of fight is this!?

Fist Fight is one of those films that doesn’t make sense to have been made in this day and age. It is just so slapstick in a bad way, negative, and bland it is a wonder it got made. Well, it is obvious how it got made. It would have been cheap as fuck to make, outside of actor salaries. Probably didn’t even take many days to shoot.

A quick no risk comedy film, that can earn its money back at least through the DVD sales.

The whole time I am wondering “Well, will this film end in a fight?” Because if it just ends in a fight, then it just feels childish. I hate that with animated or kids films, and there really isn’t a reason for this film not really in the action genre. But on the other hand, what if there is no fist fight? Then this movie is titled poorly and it would anger people.

So there has to be a fight, but a movie psyched up over a fictional brawl in a parking lot? Hard pass. It isn’t funny, it isn’t original, and it isn’t worthy of your time.

0 out of 4.

My Little Pony: The Movie

Over four years ago, I reviewed a film on a whim. I had to drive almost an hour to get to the theater (which meant something pre-Houston days), for the only screen time it was showing. Something like 12:30 pm on a Saturday. A very limited release, I guess you could say.

That movie was My Little Pony: Equestria Girls. It was my first foray into the subject. Oh, I heard about it before on the internet, and heard about bronies, but I never thought about watching the show before. I just went to see the movie because, damn it, I watch everything, so why not that as well? I went in blind. I didn’t have any background on the show.

Now sure, after it I watched a few episodes and thought it was okay. Nothing I would binge watch, but something I could watch occasionally. And now, years later, I have seen tons of episodes over seasons. I understand the characters now. I have made art with the characters. But I am still not up to some obsessed level with the show, because I haven’t seen most of it. Just parts of episodes here and there. The kids have seen a lot more than me.

But I feel qualified (As fuck!) to review My Little Pony: The Movie. New art style, same ponies, music, and fun. I was excited for this. I took my whole family to this. My youngest daughter, who is two? This is now her first movie ever seen in a movie theater.

I was excited and ready to go.

Friendship
I just really wanted to find out if Friendship was still magic.

The story starts us off with Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and Spike (Cathy Weseluck), properly freaking out because there is about to be a Friendship Festival, with all the kingdoms and princess and even goddamn derpy all excited. They need to highlight friendship, so that everyone can be so fucking magical. For whatever reason, the highlight of the festival is a pony, Songbird Serenade (Sia) singing. She feels stressed, but it is okay, because she has her FRIENDS to help her. They got this. Rarity (Tabitha St. German), Applejack, Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball), Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman).

Well, turns out friendship can’t do everything, all the time, right away. Because a few storm clouds start to gather, even though Twilight asked for good weather. Maybe she didn’t friend enough of the people?! Inside the storm clouds are some sweet airships, apparently led by Commander Tempest Shadow (Emily Blunt)! With a name like that, of course she is fucking evil. She is a unicorn, with a broken horn. The saddest. With a head minion Grubber (Michael Pena), they work for The Storm King (Liev Shreiber), and Tempest goes and freezes 3 of the princesses! I don’t even have to tell you which one is able to escape.

The last words they heard were to find the Queen of the Hippos. Huh. Okay. Well, if that is the way to save everyone, then that is what they will do. And on the way, they will find a singing cat (Taye Diggs), some bird sky pirates led (Zoe Saldana), some water horse thing (Kristin Chenoweth) and her mom (Uzo Aduba).

Friends
Guys. I think friendship is back on the table.

Like the subtitle suggests, this certainly is a whole movie. 100 minutes long, big adventure, tons of fun, a beautiful heart, that is faithful and strong with…um, kindness. That last bit will only make sense to some of you.

They have about five or six songs, the best one from Rainbow dash about being awesome. A couple of decent ones, and a few forgettable, including Sia’s songs. Which on that note, Sia is my first real dislike of the film. Oh cool, they made a pony that looks like…Sia as a horse. Why couldn’t they have just made a singing pony by Sia be a pony? Kind of just feels shoe horned.

The story and plot is actually pretty good while also still being easy to follow. It isn’t entirely original, but it does some good things. The biggest problem with the story comes from Twilight Sparkle, our main character. The writers just totally seem to disregard her. She acts totally out of character from my point of view. Why? to advance the plot. And that sort of thing can really anger someone.

In a movie one can easily argue about how a character would act. But with 7 seasons behind us, it is easy to figure out what Twilight would do. They could have set it up better to better explain her actions, but she comes across as stupid, shallow, and certainly not the PRINCESS. OF. FRIENDSHIP.

My other biggest gripe? A totally huge disparity when it comes to pony importance. Of course Twilight is the most important, sure. But not too far after her is Pinkie Pie in terms of lines, jokes, and plot advancement. Then not far after, Rainbow Dash. But after that? Much further down, very far down, come our other three ponies. They basically exist as extremely minor characters with an occasional joke or reference. It was odd. Balance the main characters before you add an equal number of characters for celebrity sake.

Fans of the show should still enjoy it, minus the straight up murder of Twlight’s actions. I’m sure I will end up watching it again.

2 out of 4.