Miss Bala

January being known as a dumping ground for films, so does that include February 1st? I mean, that is barely out of the month, most of the previous week is there!

Miss Bala is actually not an original film, but a remake of a 2011 film of the same name from Mexico. It looks like from casting and rough plot that they aren’t trying to change much, given the lead. This is what I would say is potentially a good example of a time to remake a foreign film. Why? Because I had not heard of the original.

Not that I, Gorgon Reviews, is the final say of what can be made in movies, but remaking something that was met with a lot of critical acclaim and famous is silly. If it is already great and well known, why bother? The things we should be remaking are the films that didn’t do well, or didn’t have a strong word of mouth. Because that means something may have actually gone wrong, and it could be improved on with a new version.

It is a smart way to not worry about comparisons. But for some reason, companies rarely do this, as they’d rather just rely on name recognition to make that money, good or bad. Oh well.

Also, the original Miss Bala did actually reach critical acclaim, but it just wasn’t seen by most of the world.

Pose
This doesn’t look like its in the middle of action, it looks incredibly posed.

This is not a movie about a girl named Bala, but instead a girl named Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), just like that other movie, Gloria. She works in LA as a make up artist, for models and sometimes celebrities, so she is pretty good. And she uses her talents for her friends, like her friend Suzu ( Cristina Rodlo). Suzu lives in Tijuana, which Gloria used to live in for a bit, but always feels a bit weird there. Judged for being an American and not perfect at Spanish.

Suzu is going into a pageant show for Miss Baja California (I have to assume Mexico pronounces it as Bala… and that is where the title comes from. Or its a Spanish pun that doesn’t translate to this film, who the hell knows), and Gloria is going to make her look good.

Unfortunately, the night before auditions really begin, they go to a nightclub to try to get an in with the owner and some dudes with guns bust in looking to kill. Gloria loses sight of her friend when running to safety, and has to spend the night worrying about her safety, since she cant seem to find her any hospitals. And when Gloria goes for help, she ends up getting kidnapped by the gun men who did the shooting, putting her life, her body, and her friend potentially at risk. But…are they really the bad guys?

Also starring Damián Alcázar, Ricardo Abarca, Ismael Cruz Cordova, and Anthony Mackie.

Money
They are trying to sell this movie on sex and dollars, yo.

Miss Bala is a film with a lot of twists and decisions for the main character. Sometimes too many twists can make a film feel annoying, because at a certain point, you don’t believe the twists any more and you just want it to get to the end to be done. One way to combat the twist fatigue is to have only two outcomes overall, so each twist just makes the viewer change sides. That way you cannot get overwhelmed, which seems to be the strategy with this movie. However, the twists feel extra pointless, because with only two sides, the stakes are low and it is still relatively easy to guess how the whole thing ends up.

If I had to say something nice, I liked that it featured a setting not traditionally given to women led films. It was definitely HER movie and her making a lot of decisions. Now, from these decisions, the audience can get quite annoyed with them and maybe even think they are poor, but they do seem to match the character and make sense for her. For the most part. It also didn’t solve all of its problems with violence. There was some smart moves in there, and a lot of panicked thinking. But this is not a gun toting heroine who is going to rid Tijuana of the cartel influence.

Despite all of that, this film doesn’t go too many new places. All of the side characters are still cardboard cutouts for the eventual resolution of the plot to unfold.

The ending itself is pretty silly and seemingly tries to set up something that no one would want, in a situation that would not happen. Overall, Miss Bala will probably easily find an American audience that loves it, but it still feels rather January.

2 out of 4.

Movie Roundup – Animated 2018

Welcome to a Movie Roundup! A movie roundup features a few films that I didn’t feel like making full reviews for, but needed to get basic reviews out there for completionist reasons. It also helps me deal with my backlog. It may have a theme, and today’s theme is Animated 2018! Basically, all of the animated movies of 2018 that didn’t get their own review.

Being on a movie round up doesn’t mean a movie is inherently bad, or good, or meh. I can feature any rating on here! So don’t assume the worst! I will also just post the reviews in alphabetical order.


Animated 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

First up is the only third film in a franchise in the group, but there are a few unnecessary sequels as well. And in terms of unnecessary things, this is near the top. This film doesn’t relaly have any redeeming qualities. It is very clear right from the get go what a twist would be, so instead of milking it, they give it away early as well.

The real twist is tricking you to give money for this terrible, terrible movie. The ending features a several minute long dance battle, from various artists, and then an even longer Macarena dance party. Yes, that Macarena. Were they paid to have it featured so prominently, has it been too long outside of our pop culture sphere? It seriously had to milk this scene so hard, as each main character needed to be shown doing the dance, and then group shots, and then tons of tourists, and every person everywhere, with extreme body movements to highlight their awkward appearances. It was one of the worst endings of a movie this year, so well done Hotel Transylvania 3. Please stop now.

0 out of 4.

Group

If only Van Helsing was successful hundreds of years ago, none of this would be here today.

Incredibles 2

Next up is a sequel people have actually been wanting forever, and Brad Bird said only when he had a worthy script, and apparently that meant 14 years later. Real time, not the movie time, as it takes place right after the first movie. And I honestly thought he should have waited longer. This film just feels so uninspired by me. I really didn’t need to see moments after they finished the first film, leaving me at the same exact point except we have a baby with changing every power nonsense. I could have used years later, more developed.

This plot feels too similar to the first. Still people are afraid of supers, but instead of the man going out to fight, its now the lady. The plot twist was once again obvious, so it didn’t do much for me. In 2004, Superhero movies were shit, so The Incredibles stood out as a beacon of hope for things to come. Now Superhero films have been able to elevate their game, bring a whole lot more exciting things, and this film more or less stayed the same. My mind checked out by the end, and it felt like too little too late.

2 out of 4.

group

Babies are hard to care for. Hialrious!

Ralph Breaks The Internet

This sequel is a lot sooner after the first film, to maximize off of its success. However, this felt like a rushed piece of movie that relied on current style jokes only to work, which is going to doom it in the long run. This movie is by Disney, who wanted to flex their expansive collection and throw in all of the princesses and more in an internet hub world to make people giddy, almost as counter to Ready Player One , another nostalgia heavy film. Except this one combines nostolgia with extremely current, so we get memes, we get current popular websites, and it is going to do what many modern comedies do: fade into obscurity in a few years.

It is still nice to look at, and the ending is totally weird, but honestly, they made Ralph into such a shit in this movie. In the first film, he was tired of being a bad guy, who tried to do the right thing, but from his good intentions some bad still happened. In this film, he becomes selfish and straight up almost gaslighting Penelope into staying, and going out of his way to be a dick, whcih causes the problems. He felt like an extreme nice guy. “I did all of this for you, and now you want to leave!? Love me!” These are not the traits to be highlighting in our animated heroes, even if he learns his lesson. He still needed to not be such a dick.

2 out of 4.

group

Ha ha ha ha screaming goats ha ha manipulation ha ha ha free will.

Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero

This movie is an awkward one, as it had a small release, not a big studio, and looked like absolute shit. Letting us know it is based on a true dog from World War I doesn’t make this feel any less uncomfortable the whole time. In highlighting what a dog did, with most likely extreme examples that might not have happened, we downplay the hell out of actual soldiers in the war who died. I don’t know if anyone is still alive from that war, but I know they would definitely not like this movie iteration.

It was a terrible war, and not saying we can’t make kid versions about the war. But it didn’t do a good job of really informing the details of the war, so it isn’t really educational. Instead, it is a super pup movie, who has a soldier friend, who saves everybody. It is so soft and basic it just feels like a waste of time. Cool, at least one dog in a war was given the title of sergeant. Please don’t trivialize the war at the same time.

1 out of 4.

group

Yo dawg, just no.

Sherlock Gnomes

For those of you who did not see Gnomeo and Juliet (which I will assume is everybody), it was lawn gnomes, but the Romeo and Juliet story line. And for whatever reason, they got Elton John on board with it, and a lot of his hits were either background, or the tune of his songs with different lyrics. It was uncomfortable. So yeah, let’s do a sequel. But a different story. Completely unrelated, except also being British in nature.

Now, if you are like me, you assumed okay, new story, new hero and will just be gnomes. But no, they think we really like the pair from the previous movie and it is still really about them, with also a mystery and extra characters. And despite the first being a big movie about their romance and getting together, this one is also about how Gnomeo is a shitbag who won’t let his woman do her own things, so he has to be insecure and they should not be a couple. More bad things for kids, really. Also, what the fuck is this Shelock plot line. I haven’t seen Homes & Watson yet, but this has got to be the worst year for that poor detective in hundreds of years. Straight up I will let you know, at some point, Watson is found to be part of the bad guy plot as well, because they want something new. Get out of here.

Oh yeah, and still, Elton John music.

0 out of 4.

group

Here are four characters no one ever has, or will, care about.

Smallfoot

This is one of those movies I had completely dismissed before watching it. It looked like an Illumination movie, and they are generally godawful always. But it isn’t that! It is Warner Bros, who is known for Lego Movies and Storks (and that’s it right now). Knowing Storks, I wasn’t excited either. But strangely enough, Smallfoot had a lot going on for it. It had pretty good lead acting and some fun characters. It dealt with a serious topic about dealing with religious doctrination, from many angles. It didn’t say blindly follow, or screw all of it and get rid of it. There were layers to the plot.

I didn’t know it had songs in it either, so when they started I was a bit turned off, but for the most part they are really great. Even when one had to take the riff from Under Pressure, it completely ran with the premise and made it into something wonderful. Shit, the music was dope. I laughed. Now the ending did have a lot of problems, it got clunky and a bit off. But for the most part, Smallfoot is a solid film and better than most of the animated films this year. I’m looking at you, Disney and Pixar.

3 out of 4.

group

Who really has the small feet in this situation, WB, Disney, or Pixar?

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies

And finally, we have a movie that came in a summer and I actually heard a lot of good things about. I heard it was hilarious. I heard I didn’t need to watch the show to like. I watched the first Teen Titans a few times, and it seemed quality. The Go version looked like, and maybe even smelled like trash. And it turns out, their movie seems to go with my preconceptions of the show.

Let’s make this clear. I didn’t laugh once. It had a few fart and potty jokes in it. It had a group of five people but it could not at all let them all be the stars, despite it being a team film. Clearly, a movie about Robin wanting a movie about himself will be more about him. Fine. But the other four are barely used. Cyborg is used a lot more, then Beast Boy, and our girls are rarely mentioned or get a line it seems. It is also a surprise musical, with some tunes being nice.

But what makes this movie insufferable is its over reliance on meta humor and current meme standards. We get it. Its a movie about making a super hero movies. We got superheroes in it, and they are hilarious. It just went all these terrible directions and never felt like something I would ever want to watch. It is like an idea someone made on an internet message board, and for whatever reason, a studio executive was drunk and actually listened to it. Yeah, a movie about making movies. But fart humor. And not showcasing all of the members of the team. And repeated jokes. Yes. God awful.

0 out of 4.

group

God awful.

Overall, I am not surprised that three of these films got the lowest rating. I am surprised at how much I disliked Teen Titans though, could never imagine that poor of a film. I figured Sgt. Stubb would have been worse. I am surprised at the mediocrity from our big studios and how good Smallfoot ended up being.

Some of these films will make the worst of the year list, none will make the best. If you wanted quality animated films from this year, from America, check out Isle of Dogs and Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse.

Annihilation

Fuck.

I missed the Annihilation pre-screening, and I felt bad, because I want to support independent science fiction films. Then I found out about all the drama with it and Netflix. Netflix had streaming rights for every country except for the USA and China. You see, Paramount wanted to sort of dump it because they didn’t think it would be successful. So you know, they didn’t put it in any theaters and couldn’t be successful.

The deal with Netflix would be that it had to wait 17 days after being in theater in those two countries before it could be on the program.

Fine, I would just watch it before then and review that bad boy up. And I did!

I just forgot about the review thing. And it isn’t that I forgot to review it. I knowingly just kept pushing it back and back and back, for reasons I will explain at the end. Needless to say, here is a review, two months after I planned to release it.

Dream Team
Blame it on the patriarchy.

For a few years, a shimmering glowing force has appeared in a remote part of the world. It is hard to fathom just what is going on in that area, but it definitely is growing over time. In fact, it has been there for three years, and everyone basically has no fucking clue what is going on. Because no one has ever returned.

Well, one guy did. Kane (Oscar Isaac). He is a special forces member of the Army. He is pretty messed up. He has returned home to his wife, Lena (Natalie Portman), who the story is actually about. You see Lena is also a soldier, or at least she used to be. She is now mostly a professor of cellular biology. Smart and strong.

After some plot reasons, she is brought to one of their bases around this field area, where she meets others who are planning to go in. For whatever reason, communication always shuts off, and they don’t really understand what is going on inside this aura.

But Lena ends up joining a team of all women to go in and hopefully, this time, report back with what is going on. And this vague synopsis is both meant to keep it spoiler free, and also try to recall everything that happened.

Also starring Benedict Wong, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sonoya Mizuno, Tessa Thompson, and Tuva Novotny.

Crocoshark
She is thinking of getting into animal dentistry as well.

Annihilation, by any standard, is not a dumb movie. Which is one way of calling it a smart movie, but I am not fully committed to that line. It is above average, and after watching it I did have to speculate about it for awhile. So it is a thinker film.

A thinker film with scares, sci-fi weirdness, and pretty darn good acting. It also has a few flashbacks, questions about humanity, questions about evolution, and this one fucking ape scene that is like, omg.

Either way, I started thinking too much about the thinking movie, so I pushed back my planned review. Then I stopped thinking about it, and figured I couldn’t write it at that point because I forgot some information, and that is why we are two months late at this point.

I believe my conclusion to this movie is that I liked it, and disliked it. The ending was interesting, but not at all what I craved. This is a film that really begs for multiple watches, and the theater experience will really add with the sounds this film gives.

This is not mindless entertainment. This is entertainment that can drive your mind to uselessness and eventually forgetfulness. What a strange review ending this has become.

2 out of 4.

The Star

As of writing this introduction to The Star, there is only one mainstream / mainstream movie I have yet to see for the year, and at this point I can say that 2017 just overall sucked.

So many sequels of films that didn’t need them, offering nothing new. We have stories that are based on books and don’t rise up to their level. We have original works that don’t focus on the smaller elements. We have two fucking LEGO movies.

And then we have The Star. The cherry on top of the year. I haven’t released all the reviews I just mentioned, because at least one or two films were actually good, but I will let them happen eventually through the rest of this month and January. But it should be obvious I was not looking forward to The Star in any level.

Donkey
No film has starred a donkey successfully since Shrek.

The film starts off at “9 months B.C” because they need to make it obvious. This angel talks to Mary (Gina Rodriguez) that God is about to give her that baby, and she is like yes!

Now, months later we can focus on the real hero, Bo (Steven Yeun)! Bo is a donkey, a mill donkey, who spends most of his day walking in a circle, moving the mill. Hard labor. He has big dreams though. He wants to get out of the mill and carry around important people, like royalty, like the horses. Oh yeah, that would be the life. Eventually he does get to break out and finds himself in the barn of Mary and Joseph (Zachary Levi). You see, they just got married, and Joseph is of course worried about her baby bump. But she says it is from God, and he prayed so it must be okay.

What is not okay is some animals have spread the story of the angel and the future king, which has gotten to the ears of the current King. The new King doesn’t like that and sends people out to look for and kill this dude. Also, they are having a Census, so everyone has to travel to Bethlehem, or else! I don’t know what the or else is, but no matter the condition they must go.

So Mary and Joseph are traveling when she is about to pop, with a Donkey and a bird (Keegan-Michael Key) and a lamb (Aidy Bryant), and along the way they get into many shenanigans.

Either way, this story is pretty common, so you know where we are going with it and the whole thing is basically spoiled.

There are so many goddamn people who they grabbed to get presumably tiny quick paychecks. Because the more famous people you cram into a film, the more people will come to see it. Just ask Movie 43. We have as animals or the occasional other human: Christopher Plummer, Ving Rhames, Gabriel Iglesias, Kelly Clarkson, Anthony Anderson, Patricia Heaton, Kris Kristofferson, Kristin Chenoweth, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Tracy Morgan, Delilah (from the Radio), Joel McCrary, Phil Morris, and Joel Fuck The Poor Osteen.

Camel
Winfrey, Jordan, and Perry are camels. Seems…racist.

Just like I have mentioned in previous films about mythology, I don’t care if they change aspects from the original stories, because who cares, they are made up stories as well. I didn’t care with The Rock’s Hercules, I didn’t care with Percy Jackson, and I don’t care with the Star.

But if I was Christian, I would be insulted by this film. To take one of the hallmarks of your religion and turn it into a big awkward joke. To have Mary and Joseph worry so much about the donkey and bird hanging out with them, making light of some king dude, and basically implying everything worked out well due to some animals.

Shit, the manger scene before it was set up had the horses basically making meta jokes about how convient it was for there to be this space, this manger, and a big awkward shining light on it that had been bugging them for weeks.

However even worse, I am going to quote the end of the film. This is Oprah as a camel, talking about the ending (spoilers?). Seriously, real words here, it took me awhile to get it all down: “You know, I think people are gonna remember this night. What happened here around this manger will be celebrated for thousands of years. Families will come together and exchange presents and sing carols, all to remember the grace of this moment that we are witnessing right now.”

That isn’t even funny at this point, as they basically stare at the camera to update us on what sometimes happens around Christmas.

The plot is full of mostly filler material, a lot of non exciting chase scenes, a very gullible husband, a very confident wife, and a shit ton of actors earning some money. But hey, at least the colors of Mary/Joseph were attempted to be correct.

0 out of 4.

Ferdinand

When I was in the first grade back in 1945, I distinctly remember seeing Ferdinand with its really dark red cover, bull, and designs on it. It stood out amongst the children’s books merely for its boldness and not pastel everything color scheme.

So I definitely remember reading it, feeling proud at having read it. It was one of the first books I can recall reading that weren’t super basic.

This means I was a bit excited that eventually a movie was going to come out about it. It was coming out around Christmas time with no other animated film competition. Maybe it would be amazing! That would be great, given my disappointments this year on the entire genre.

But also, I didn’t remember the story, so I wouldn’t care about the plot of the film versus the plot of the book, which is something I definitely always strive for.

Goat
“There was no goat in the book, 0 out of 100!!!” – Book elitist.

When Ferdinand (John Cena) was just a kid, he lived on a ranch and was in training to be a man fighter. I guess that is what you call the bulls in bull fighting matches. But Ferdinand didn’t want to train and butt heads with the other bulls, he wanted to care for flowers and just enjoy the fucking sunshine. One day, his dad was chosen as an honor to head to Madrid and become a man fighter, Ferdinand waited for days hoping his father would return victorious, but alas, he did not.

So Ferdinand escaped. There was nothing left for him at his home except for sadness, angst, and bullying. Because of bulls. He escape and, luckily, found himself at a peaceful farm where they actually grew flowers for a living! And there was a little girl there, Lily (Lily Day), who loved Ferdinand and raised him as a pet. He wasn’t mean, he just loved flowers and was a big goof ball.

But when Ferdinand got older, he was extremely large, larger than most bulls. Ferdinand was a gentle giant, who accidentally caused a lot of trouble one day thanks to not listening and due to a bee sting. This put Ferdinand back into captivity, back at the place he escaped long ago, with a Matador fight looming that he knew he would not come back from alive.

Also starring Anthony Anderson, Peyton Manning, David Tennant, and Tim Nordquist as additional bulls, Gina Rodriguez, Daveed Diggs, and Gabriel Iglesias as hedgehogs, and Flula Borg, Sally Phillips, and Boris Kodjoe as German show ponies.

Oh and Kate McKinnon as a goat, Bobby Cannavale as a rival bull, Miguel Ángel Silvestre as a famous bull fighter, and Jeremy Sisto as Ferdinand’s dad.

Drive
Oh. Animals driving trucks during the ending conflict. Lovely.

The book Ferdinand story was big huge bull, didn’t want to fight, liked flowers, got taken away when he accidentally messed up a village after a bee sting, went to fight a Matador, refused to fight and was saved. Simple book, and hey, that is the basic point of this movie too.

We also just get some extra kid backstory, rival characters, several groups of side characters, extra human characters, and more. There are so many goddamn animals in this one. Not just the bull friends, but we have some extra 1 of animals only, then a group of hedgehogs, a group of horses. It just seems like I was drowning in side animals, most of which were unnecessary and one dimensional. Although the hedgehogs made me laugh occasionally.

Thanks to all these characters, we got one of the worst scenes I have seen in an animated film since the entirety of Norm of the North, when there was a “dance off” between the bulls and the horses. It was bad, it didn’t match the characters, it went on too long and just was aggravating.

As for the rest of the film, the beginning was very boring, the voice acting was weak, and the film seemingly killed off characters willy-nilly without any big amount of remorse. Or at least it seemed that way, but actually the extremely efficient slaughterhouse has no actual employees. Seriously, they show up instantly to take away a bull not good enough, but when the bulls head to the place to save them, we have no employees, no people attempting to stop them, just an extremely elaborate and nonsensical “ground beef” making machine.

Add in the ending where we have our animals driving vehicles, because every goddamn animal movie needs that now, a way too long chase scene through Madrid, and an ending where, sure, Ferdinand and his friends make it but without any long term changes made.

We all know bull fighting is terrible at this point. It is a relic of the Roman Colosseum, killing animals in front of crowds for sport. It is awkward that basically every bull is super stoked about the idea of being chosen for most of the film, until they realize how bad it is. It is even more ridiculous when you’d think the goal would be to end all bull fighting to save the bulls, but apparently just their group of six is good enough.

Ferdinand had a treasured book to work with, and they used that material. Unfortunately, the people who gave us the bad franchises of Ice Age and Rio have seemingly, once again, failed to produce a quality product. Not surprising I guess.

1 out of 4.

Deepwater Horizon

I am so disappointed in myself for taking so long to see Deepwater Horizon. I am a goddamn geophysicist. And teacher. And movie reviewer. But geophysicist first.

And you know what? The BP oil spill in the Gulf was bad, it was terrible, but at the same time, certain aspects were completely overblown, public opinion was driven from emotions and not from science, and blame was thrown around all over the place.

But reality isn’t simple, a lot of people were involved, and a lot of processes and safe guards went wrong or were ignored to allow it to happen. And yeah, it sucked. But still, it happened only six years ago and doesn’t seem like the type of film to warrant a movie at all. Some shit went wrong, and some environment got fucked up.

Are they going to celebrate it? Fear monger it? What is the message? These are the questions I will ask myself and why I want to even see the movie.

Drill
I can confirm from my many years as an alive person that this is indeed a drill.

The day began like every other day for Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). Hours of passionate love making with his wife (Kate Hudson) and sausages for breakfast.

Just kidding, he woke up, talked to his kid, heard a report on oil drilling, then left to go to his job for the next three weeks. He is on a crew on the Deepwater Horizon which is working on a borehole in the Gulf of Mexico. His boss is Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), head of safety supervisor guy, and he is angry when they land, as the Schlumberger crew is apparently heading home early. They didn’t do all the safety tests!

Apparently because they are behind schedule, BP is getting impatient, and the people they sent to check things out (John Malkovich and James DuMont) are getting antsy. Needless to say, things get rushed, bad things happen, and a few people die in the process.

Also featuring Jason Pine, Jason Kirkpatrick, Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, David Maldonado, Dylan O’Brien, Douglas M. Griffin, and Brad Leland.

Anger
Not to mention they get about 10% more dirty than normal.

It turns out that this movie had a few things they wanted to cover. That people died during this accident, and to honor them with this film. Also that the main crews who were working were not to blame and the entire thing is BP’s fault.

And there is where some of the major fault for this film lands. It is hard to not have biases against films based on real life, and this one decides to run with the bias that the average American has taken. It is not using the film to right wrongs or tell actual true events. It is just telling us events based on what people want to hear.

Unfortunately, those biases cannot get out of my head and the film ends up taking a ding for that.

On its own, the first half of the film is interesting enough. The beginning is a bit corny, but the lead up to the events, the characters, they felt like a bunch of real people not just potential victims. They had their own voices. It is what really helps sell the whole film.

Things start to fall apart in the film when things start to fall apart. The explosions, the saving, the pain, the people jumping into the sea and the rescue? They all just felt like noise, like filler. Given how recent the events were it felt like the film was almost celebrating the disaster by making it take half of the film.

Deepwater Horizon is a strange event to make a movie about, has its moments, but also has its biases and excessive flair.

2 out of 4.