Avengers: Infinity War

I really don’t have to spend a lot of information on this intro, do I?

Avengers: Infinity War (originally called Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, but people were nervous about half movies, and now the next one’s title is a secret because of spoilers or something.

I was an ecstatic little girl when the first Avengers film came out, waiting for it as soon as the first Iron Man film finished. Since then, things have been a bit more middling. My reviews have generally always been positive, none of them ever received under a 2 out of 4, and some of which are maybe too highly rated. Not everything I am extremely excited for, but most I definitely have a higher interest.

Last year, no superhero movies made my top of the year list (although one of them was about a super hero, sort of). This year, I already had Black Panther as a 4. And yet this film, this one right here, has me just as giddy as the first one for so many reasons.

So let’s just get into it.

Group 2
Oh yeah, look at these folks. Maybe this is just Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

At the end of Thor: Ragnarok, we had a surprise for Thor and his crew. This film takes place right after that point. Bad news for the Asgardians, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is here. At this point he has one of the infinity stones, out of six total. His goal? To wipe out half of the life in the universe.

Now presumably this just means sentient life forms who walk around and have languages. I don’t think he has anything against puppies. Or plants. He isn’t doing it out of spite, he is calling it mercy. It is sort of his thing. He has been doing it manually with his own crew for a while, but he wants the stones to do it instantly, so that the survivors can flourish. You know, by having more resources, more space, less crime, whatever. He is a benevolent God.

It turns out some people have some issues with him wanting to do this though. And with two of the stones (that we know of) being on Earth, he is going to have to come crashing down, where a few people down there are decently strong and going to have to put up a little fight.

Starring every goddamn person ever. You know, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana, Tom Hiddleston, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Chris Pratt, and Benicio Del Toro.

Also featuring some newbies, like Peter Dinklage and Carrie Coon! Two whole people! Wow! And some technically regular people like Gwyneth Paltrow and William Hurt. Damn, did I get them all?

Group
What is this a crossover episode?

What’s to say that isn’t already all over the internet?

Avengers: Infinity War is a fan pleasing romp across the universe, adding most of the cast we have come to love into a few surprising show downs, where the stakes have never been higher. It is certainly one of the darker and serious Marvel films at this point. People are going to get hurt, people are going to be sad, and people are going to cry. Well, maybe. I know I cried near the end, and almost another time before then.

Acting wise, a lot of the stars gave their A-game. Shout out to Cumberbatch who really felt like a leader of this group, despite being one of the most recent additions. Holland was brought in for his acting ability, and it really showed by the end. A lot of pain was on Evans’ face throughout the film. Hemsworth is so goddamn Thor-y, its fantastic, and I am glad we got so much of him in the last few movies. And finally, Saldana, who is normally a low point from the acting carried a lot.

Of course I also have to talk about Brolin as Thanos, a role we have been waiting for for years and it really paid off well. This is a goddamn villain right here. It is really great writing when you sympathize with someone who is trying to kill half of the universe.

I don´t entirely know where Marvel is going with its ending, but I do have a feeling I will be incredibly annoyed by it in the next film. I think they are going to take what they did great here and ruin it with the second part, but that is just a gut feeling.

Avengers: Infinity Wars has some of the best fight scenes and team ups yet, and is just pure fan service through and through while giving an incredible story as well. I wish this film was longer.

I don´t have to tell you to go see this one, I know you will, and I can´t see anyone who likes the series to be disappointed with this milestone achievement.

If there is anything to be disappointed in, it is Marvel´s poor decisions to not include their other people. I haven´t seen Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in forever, but it seemed to react to the movies but never impact them, but someone from there might have been involved. And the Netflix shows? Come on, there was stuff happening in New York. If the Netflix shows ignore this event (which they didn´t ignore the first Avengers movie…) then they are just making poor decisions.

Group
You’d think with three group shots I’d have gotten all the heroes. But nope.

4 out of 4.

The Dark Tower

Outside of the realm of superheros and already established franchises, The Dark Tower film was probably one of the most hyped and anticipated films to come out for some time.

I first heard about the book series in high school, but it existed long before I was at that level. I never touched it because hey, Steven King does scary things, and I didn’t do scary things. But in recent years I thought about adding it to my list of books to hit in the next few years, as I do love long franchises, especially if they are done, not leaving the reader wondering if the final books will ever happen.

The Dark Tower had years of development hell if I recall, for maybe a decade. Different directors, scripts, actors, whatever. But having it come out finally with two top notch actors at the lead sounded great!

It just started to sound a lot worse when people learned that it was meant as a follow up of the successful franchise, and not the successful franchise itself.

Guns
Initial thoughts? This needs way more guns!

In this section I’d love to tell you about, the film and everything it is about. But it is really hard for me to to describe a plot when the plot itself feels so incomprehensible for most of the film.

I know it starts with a boy, Jake (Tom Taylor), who is young and having weird recurring dreams that make him piss his pants. Not literally. All the people around him say that it is trauma from the death of his dad a year or so ago, but they are consistent, similar, and freaking him out.

They have some dude wearing black (Matthew McConaughey) really wanting to destroy some tower somewhere, and a Gunslinger guy (Idris Elba) not wanting him to do that thing.

And in the simplest way, that is the plot. But it involves a parallel universe or shadow realm, magic stuff, disaster stuff and monster things. And some how the kid is key to it all, because YOLO.

Also starring Ben Gavin, Claudia Kim, and Jackie Earle Haley. Other people too, but I think they’d rather I didn’t lump them in this review as well.

Black
Final thoughts: This still didn’t live up to my gun potential.

What a fucking mess. Or a goddamn mess. I am not sure what kind of mess this film ended up being.

If I had read seven or whatever books in this series before watching this movie, would it have been better? I don’t even know. I can’t actually imagine a big budgeted film coming out that requires that much investment in books to understand it. The movie definitely attempted to explain some things. Why else have some kid thrown into the story if not an exposition device for the viewers?

But I still have no earthly idea what I watched. Once it started doing its silly other world stuff, the film just jumped off the rails and my mind was gone. Extremely poor plot and writing aside, it also was very unattractive to look at. The CGI was awful. The movie was loud and tried to fill itself with cool sequences instead of just good movie.

I mean. I am trying really hard to remember cool or especially bad moments in the film. Something that stands out. But when your movie is 100% trash, well, then it just looks like trash.

0 out of 4.

Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin Sorkin sorkin. If you would have told me he never directed a movie before I would have raised my finger in the air and declared “Oh no! He must have!” Sure he is known for being a writer and a great writer. But I just can’t imagine him never directing anything. Especially given the number of TV shows he has worked on.

But alas. The truth is sometimes hard to swallow, and usually that phrase is for much bigger events than this one.

Despite the fact that this is an original Sorkin directed film and of course, writer, it is unfortunately based on a true story. A true story that was written about in a book with the same name, Molly’s Game. And so even though he wrote the screenplay, he based it off of someone else’s words, and maybe the dialogue would be affected in some regards.

Cleavage
Or even worse, maybe Sorkin will get distracted by other things while having to direct as well.

Molly (Jessica Chastain) was very close to heading to the US Olympics as a downhill skier, doing the moguls. Her father (Kevin Costner) was an intense man, who wanted his kids to be athletes and great at school, constantly pushing them to achieve greatness at all costs. He was a bit of a dick. But Molly didn’t qualify due to a freak unlikely accident, and he life was forever changed.

Instead of the Olympics, Molly found herself putting off law school, living off of her friend’s couch until she found some job and some life experience. It led her to becoming the personal assistant of Dean King (Jeremy Strong), an asshole, a piece of shit, but she got money so whatever. This led her to running a weekly poker game he was hosting, which featured big celebrities, CEOs, high money people. It gave her a lot more in tips, so Molly began to learn the art of poker, about being a host, so that eventually she could do this on her own.

Thanks to the help of a mysterious celebrity (Michael Cera), eventually she got her foot in the door, ran a bigger game, with higher stakes, more tipping, and all legal. And yet, years later, she is arrested despite no games in a long time, with connections to mobsters, and she needs legal help to get her out of the jam (Idris Elba). Basically, a lot of shit is going down, we got flashbacks, we got a slight mystery, and we got sexy card game shenanigans and stories and gossip.

Also starring a ton of people, some playing unnamed celebrities, some CEOs, some attractive people in general. This includes Natalie Krill, Stephanie Herfield, Bill Camp, Madison McKinley, Justin Kirk, J.C. MacKenzie, Graham Greene, Chris O’Dowd, Angela Gots, and Brian d’Arcy James.

eYES
I’d let Idris Elba represent me in court, even if in real life he doesn’t know a damn thing.

Damn it, and now another recent movie has made me want to read the book. First Wonder, then The Disaster Artist, and now Molly’s Game. Although a little bit less interested in this book, as I feel like the movie must have done a great job of explaining the topic of the book. And I have fear that the narration of Molly’s Game, which is assumed to be book quotes, has been made better by Sorkin instead of left alone.

Not to mention I know that reading this book will not secretly identify any actors or celebrities who were parts of these games. These things were combed over by insiders already, and since I know jack shit outside of just movie gossip, I got absolutely nothing. Especially since this happened over a decade ago or whatever.

In terms of acting, Chastain does a really good job. She is powerful, assertive, and confident for the most part, a strong leading lady. Her cleavage plays a large role in this film as well, definitely important to the plot. Cleavage hasn’t been this important to a plot since Erin Brockovich, and this one is definitely more important. It deserves its own tag credit.

Elba is fine as the lawyer, given a lot more of the fun moments early on, and gets at least two great speeches near the end. The ending is where we get a lot more Sorkin level dialogue between the characters, especially between Chastain and Costner (who has done his best work in several years with this role).

Honestly, a fun story, it is gripping at times, it was very popular half a decade ago, yet still not quite big news. The only issues I probably have with it involve the direction. After the intro, which was wonderful, the story felt really weird. We had a lot of strange camera choices, fade overs, switching of timelines. It eventually started to come together, but it didn’t feel very coherent and great until after the poker games were already going.

Sorkin’s next film is called The Politician, also a true story. Huh, stories about the law and politics, this is strange new territory for Sorkin.

3 out of 4.

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.

100 Streets

I think 100 Streets was made completely as a joke. At some point in the review, I will get into why the whole concept is pointless, or at least it is in regards to the titles.

But if you have Idris Elba in a movie, you are totally not allowed to talk about streets.

Quite famously, one of the more recent authors of the 007 books, Anthony Horowitz, said that Elba was “Too Street” to play James Bond in a movie, giving the world confusion, rage, and quite apparent calls of racism.

So that is reason one why this movie is probably a joke, and one I am just starting to get.

Elba Streets
Elba is so street, he is on a balcony above the street. With a gun of course. Typical, streety, Elba.

The plot of 100 streets is about the lives of three households, all within 100 streets of each other in London. Let’s start with the bigger stars. Max (Idris Elba) is a retired Rugby player, captain of a team, very famous in London and rich. He has a wife, Emily (Gemma Arterton), and two kids, but they are currently separated. So he lives alone. He has a drug problem and is focused too much on things outside of the family. So she is seeing someone else and annoyed at his existence.

We also have George (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing), who are struggling. They are poor, kind of. George is a nice guy, he sings, he drives a cab, he coaches. They are looking to add a kid into his life, but some stuff in George’s pass come up, and also he accidentally kills someone.

And finally, we have Kingsley (Franz Drameh), a drug dealer who has been arrested. He has a pregnant girlfriend and lives with his mom, but he is trying to better his life and considers himself an urban poet.

And this is their story, with parts interconnected, including other people who connect their lives. People like Ken Stott, Ryan Gage, Tom Cullen, and Ashley Thomas.

SEXY
This would be sexier if she was with her husband, Elba, known gangster and criminal.

How big is London? I know it is a giant city, tons of people, one of the biggest business areas in the world. But if I had to define it by its number of streets in one direction, is it ever more than 100? I don’t know, I can’t tell. I know NYC probably isn’t bigger than 100 streets in a direction. Something like Houston would be, but it is sprawling outwards and giant.

Either way, 100 streets is a giant amount of distance, so it might as well be about three random groups of people who occasionally run into each other. A normal multi plot film. If it was 15 streets, maybe they’d have something, but I still think that is a big chunk in a residential area.

As for the movie, it is overly dramatic and incredibly uninteresting. There can be sad moments, slightly chaotic moments, but it is just so hard to care about any of these people. We can care a bit about Kingsley and his plot line, as he is the guy super down in the dumps, basically living on the streets and screwed. And as soon as he finds a way to better his life, his own karma comes up and bites him in his ass.

The plot lines never really feel like they conclude. They are just moments in a few lives, and they aren’t great moments. A lot of drama, some okay moments, and a lot of “Who gives a fuck?”

1 out of 4.

Star Trek Beyond

I am sad. People die all the time, but now this is my third review post Anton Yelchin death, watching a movie with him in it. And sure, in this one he isn’t the lead. He is a major player, but a relatively minor part with only a few scenes to probably excel in.

Still though, he isn’t the captain.

But going into Star Trek Beyond, I am going in very weary. The last one was interesting, some cool scenes, but overall fell flat as a film. Star Trek Into Darkness was not trying hard enough to be its own movie, relying too heavily on being am unannounced remake.

So I am sad that the Star Trek movies are beginning to feel generic. Sad that Yelchin won’t be in future movies after this one. And sad that this one has unnecessary controversy relating to what George Takei does or does not give his blessing for.

Dance
Although if the film gives me a dance number, I might reconsider the generic comment.

Hey look! The USS Enterprise is still in action, still doing their normal things. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is still captain-y, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is still Vulcan-y, Scotty (Simon Pegg), Checkov (Yelchin), Sulu (John Cho), Bones (Karl Urban), and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) are all their names-y. Especially Bones.

Except there are some boredom pains. Kirk is worried he no longer cares about exploring and is just running with the motions. He is thinking bout switching up to a higher position and getting off the ship. Spock is also worried about his future. He just figured out that Future Spock has died (Fuck, I also forgot Leonard Nemoy had died since the last movie. Fuck fuck fuck). With the Vulcans a dying race, he feels he should get off the ship, help be an ambassador and start a purely Vulcan family.

But first, let’s do one more mission. They have to go into a Nebula to look for a missing space craft because only the Enterprise is built well enough to handle it. Everything is going okay, and hey, a surprise attack! Now the Enterprise is crashed on a planet, the crew separated, and a scary race of aliens who want to take down the Federation for some reason.

One last mission always does this, doesn’t it? Starring Idris Elba as the bad guy, Joe Taslim as the bad guy in second command, and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, mysterious awesome alien lady.

NCA
And Jaylah is like Jesus, in that she is a savior of the film.

My main thought during the film and after it was over was how much better the title Into Darkness would have fit for this film than the previous film. It was definitely a darker in tone film. The crew was split up, the Enterprise fucked up, many people captured and some red shirts killed. They went into a very dark and scary Nebula to get to the plot. They went INTO DARKNESS.

But sure, a lot of the film is on a bright planet during the day, but still, that title change would be great.

The film itself is silly and full of meh moments. I honestly found myself shaking my head. Elements that were going to explain everything felt short. Action scenes might not have made a lot of sense. There was a very clusterfucky scene involving the enterprise mostly empty on the planet in the middle of the night, was written for explosions and not for anything else to make sense.

Without a few characters I would have been bored out of my mind and given this a pretty failing grade. But Urban as Bones was really on his game in this film and always brought a smile to my face. Boutella as Jaylah was a breath of fresh air, in terms of humor, action, and the whole package. Jaylah rocks, we need more Jaylah.

In fact, that is the only reason I want more Star Trek movies. Let Jaylah star in all of these movies and not get reduced down to a small bit character and I got something interesting to finally watch.

Yelchin has better movies out this year, go watch them instead. There are better action and Sci-Fi movies this year, and obviously better comedies. But if you just want filler, then there are worse ways to go.

2 out of 4.

Finding Dory

Dory, Dory, where do we begin?

I am not the biggest fan of Finding Nemo. Now, I was a pretty nerdy student in high school, who obviously liked movies, but I hated watching movies in school. It felt lazy to me and I wanted to learn things! So I was annoyed having to watch Finding Nemo, for the first time, in my 10th Grade Biology class. And then also for my 10th grade Coastal Marine Biology class. I also was annoyed at it, because now when people say Nemo, they think of that movie and not the great classic Little Nemo!

So yeah, my reasons are bad. In time I have come to see how good the animation is and like the humor and story, but it never was my fondest Pixar movie.

And now we have Finding Dory. It unfortunately is the first of many Pixar sequels over the upcoming years, including the dreadfully approaching Cars 3, another strike against it.

Also a couple years ago, after Blackfish came out, a very biased documentary that kind of irked me, but gained praise everywhere else, they announced they would be making changes to the films plot. For reasons. As to what the movie was like before the changes, no one will really know. But if they went from showcasing sea parks from good to bad, then that is super kind of awkward.

Oh well, let’s just keep reviewing, just keep reviewing.

Septo!
Oh shit, is that an Octopus? I love octopuses in film!

In this film, we get to find out about Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) when she was a cute little baby Dory (Sloane Murray), with big eyes and kid voice. This is where we meet her parents, Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy), who have made it their goal to teach Dory about her short term memory loss, the dangers of the sea, and what to do if she ever gets lost. And I think you can tell what happens. A few minutes of some of the saddest shit I have ever seen in a Pixar movie, especially as a new parents.

Anyways, a long time later, she meets Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The majority of the film takes place a year after Finding Nemo, where Dory is kind of a pain on Marlin and Nemo’s lives, but they love her anyways. Things happen and she remembers that she has parents, she lost them, and a rough name of where they live, off the coast of California!

Hells to the yeah! California with a couple of Clownfish, across the entire Pacific! And the journey isn’t the issue. What they find when they get there is that Dory used to live in a Sea Park! Not one that super exploits animals. But one that takes in sick animals, helps make them better, and eventually releases them back into the wild.

And inside, Dory meets Hank (Ed O’Neill), a septopus (because he is missing a leg) who doesn’t want to return to the ocean. And Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) an old friend and a nearsighted whale shark. Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who has no echolocation. And and and Idris Elba and Dominic West voicing a couple of sick sea lions. And Sigourney Weaver as a mysterious role!

We also have Crush (Andrew Stanton, also the director) and Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) returning, because why not.

Sea Lions
Yep, this is the closest thing you will get to a The Wire reunion in a long time.

Oh, let me also mention Piper. It was the animated short. It had crazy amazing graphics, was very cute, about birds on a beach, but it had a problem with a shit ending. Mostly, that it didn’t know how to end.

As for Finding Dory, being a feature length film, the animation is not the same hyper realistic quality of Piper, but similar to Nemo in style (which makes sense). We aren’t given a lot of new cool environments like Nemo though. We have a small dark crash site, a kelp forest, and a lot of rooms and tanks in a Sea Park. So in terms of visual pleasantries, Finding Dory feels mostly darker and bleaker in terms of scenery.

Unfortunately, Dory also feels really repetitive. In Nemo, her memory for the most part was a big joke and led to a lot of laughs. But given the cry inducing intro (damn birthing hormones) and the constant problems, this joke was turned into a very sad issue. A crippling problem for Dory that prevented her from trying new things knowing she would get distracted before she finishes. It was a good thing to acknowledge her issue and ramp up its seriousness, but it takes away a lot of joy for a problem that just, well, keeps being a problem.

The ending also feels like a complete jumbled mess, with a no way at all realistic final few scenes that turn our once scientifically accurate fish series into a Looney Tunes cartoon. I hated the ending and it dragged as the issues were never solved in an easy manner, leading to more and more issues that made me indifferent to what would actually finally happen.

Gay
Ignore the controversy. This couple have 2 seconds of screen time and are not a reason to hate/support a movie.

Despite all of this, I didn’t hate the movie. I was just mostly disappointed, expecting a certain level of plot greatness from Pixar. I loved most of the new characters, mainly the septopus, the sea lions, and the Clam whose name they didn’t say and I can’t find in the IMDB credits. (They also didn’t say the sea lion names in the movie, quite annoying when you think about that). Beluga whale started out fine, but they made him real annoying by the end.

And you know what? The message of the film is a good one. Disabilities change your life. They can make life scary, they are serious, and they affect more than just a single person. But fish (/PEOPLE) with disabilities aren’t useless creatures. Practically every new character, along with Dory, has a problem and they are able to overcome their problem, or learn to live efficiently with it. Hell, there was even a weird plot about a frazzled bird and Marlin learning to trust her to do things correctly. It is about acceptance and friendship.

It is also just a film that has weird issues about sea parks, a lot less humor and not a lot of originality. On an unrelated note, I was also annoyed that despite taking place a year later, all of the fish kids are still fish kids. Come on Pixar, grow those bad boys up.

2 out of 4.

The Jungle Book

This is Disney doing a live action remake of one of their old animated films. Nothing new about that of course. The Jungle Book has already had a live action remake once (it’s bad), and it is based on an older story, so they wanted to get theirs out there quickly.

But did you know about the other Jungle Book movie, Jungle Book: Origins? The one directed by Andy Serkis to showcase new motion cap technology? I had thought that one was supposed to come out this year, to get all doppleganger film-y and all. But nope, its release date was October of 2017. And just because this one is getting such good ratings, they pushed it back to October of 2018.

Sucks for that Jungle Book. Especially since I am pretty sure it was announced first and it is already in post production now, we just have to wait 2.5 years.

Unless it gets pushed back again. Because this film, the Disney Jungle Book, already has announced a sequel. It is like Disney is just trying to screw over poor Andy.

[Editor’s note: Since writing this but before publishing, Serkis’ movie has now been renamed to just Jungle Book, probably increasing future confusion. But at least it won’t sound like a prequel anymore.]

Bear
Oh well Andy. Hakuna Matata or whatever it is that bears say.

Mowgli (Neel Sethi), the poor little man-cub, was abandoned in the Jungle when he was but a toddler. The noble Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), a black panther, discovered him and felt pity. Even though Man is a danger to the jungle, he was but just a cub and would die on his own and he needed a family of his own. So he brought Mowgli to the wolf pack. There he could learn to be a wolf and there would be a shit ton of wolves to help protect them.

The wolf pack leader, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) agreed to take him in, but really he was raised by Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) as one of her cubs.

But eventually the ferocious tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) finds out about Mowgli’s existence. He hates Man and knows what they can do, so he needs to be killed before he destroys them all. He threatens the wolf pack and eventually it is decided that Mowgli needs to be taken to the closest man village to protect him. So Bagheera agrees to take him there.

Of course that doesn’t work. A nice tiger attack separates the two of them, and Mowgli has to live on his own in the Jungle. Mowgli now has to survive on his own, when big ass boa constrictors (Scarlett Johansson) are trying to eat him, even more big ass Orangutans (Christopher Walken) are capturing him, and bears (Bill Murray) are trying to befriend him for food help. Oh that last one isn’t too bad.

Also Sam Raimi and Jon Favreau voice a couple animals, how neat.

Snake
Trusssssssssst meeeeeeee, it is very neeeeeeeeat.

The Jungle Book is another modern movie where literally every main character is voiced by a very famous person not known for their voice work. There are some cubs and minor animals with who the hell knows voice people, but for the most part we are squandered in celebrities. And not every celebrity with a unique voice makes them great at voice work. Robin Williams has an obvious voice, but each character was unique and special. Not every character felt unique and special.

Let’s start with the good voice actors. I really liked Elba, Nyong’o, Johansson and Kingsley. At least Johansson is known for one voice work (Her), but everyone else seemed to bring some passion and heart into their voice. I hated Kingsley’s Bagheera at first, but I grew into it and it felt natural. Elba was the real powerhouse here as Shere Khan and was a voice to be reckoned with.

On the other hand, Baloo the bear just sounded like a lazy Murray in a bear suit. And of course King Louie as Walken was just all over the place. It turned what should have been a scarier scene into a joke, because it is Walken’s voice and he didn’t change anything about it.

Speaking of voices, I was worried from the trailers that everyone would sound like they were just in a recording studio as they did their lines, but the post-production guys did a good job of making everything natural.

As for one final complaint about voices, this film suffers from animal talking inconsistencies. They are in a Jungle and everyone can talk and understand each other? Cool. It isn’t just Mammals either, because we have the snake joining in the fun. But you know who cannot talk? Elephants for some reason. They only make Elephant noises. Bees only buzz, and about 800 monkeys just squeak and shrill, despite the orangutan singing and yelling. This might seem like a minor complaint, but that is the sort of lack of forethought that just creates a technically confusing universe. Give me all, or give me none, but don’t give me arbitrary rules that make certain animals just into animals.

The visuals and animation for the animals were extremely top notch. Everything for the most part felt realistic, outside of one stampede scene, and I have no complaints from that. The jungle itself was also a diverse and beautiful setting and it made viewing the film a great experience.

And sure, I liked that they included a few of the original songs. They did feel out of place and didn’t sound as great as the cartoon, but still keeping them was a nice touch.

The Jungle Book is a great adaptation, but it could have been the BEST adaptation if they went for top tier talent and consistency.

3 out of 4.

Zootopia

2016 has a sizable collection of animated movies coming out this year. I’d list them, but that makes for a boring read.

A common theme I see is the classic “Animals doing human people things.” We technically had it with Kung Fu Panda 3, but it was at least set in the past. This year there are at least three major films with this theme in modern times. Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, and Sing. It seems excessive, so it probably is.

Needless to say, this made me worried for Zootopia. I had only seen the first teaser trailer, and a lot of posters. It looks un-original. It looked like last year’s The Good Dinosaur. Something they slapped together after a few years, but instead they are anticipating their other film to win awards. That one being Moana.

But then again, Walt Disney Studios hasn’t let me down since The Princess and the Frog. Clearly I should just shut up and watch the movie.

Sloth
Obligatory Non-Animated Sloth Related Clip.

Despite most of the advertisements I have seen, our main character is not the fox, but actually a bunny! A female bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), with big dreams and aspirations. She wants to leave her farm and small village and become a cop! She wants to work in Zootopia, the main mammalian metropolis where so many life forms come together to live and work together to build something great. Of course there has never been a bunny cop before and her parents (Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake) will miss her a lot, but she wants to help other animals!

You see, in this world, humans never happened, all the mammals evolved to be human-esque and resist those primal urges to kill or be killed. Somehow still, despite the hundreds of years, stereotypes still exist for predators and animals. Go figure.

Well she makes it, but Chief Bogo (Idris Elba, an Ox) doesn’t care and makes her a meter maid. After getting herself into trouble and being extremely pushy, she is eventually able to join the big case. Quite a few animals, all predators have gone missing and no one has any leads on any of them. So Judy has only 48 hours to try and find Emmett Otterton, or she will resign from the job. Sucks.

To help her, she blackmails a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to help her follow up on some leads. And of course, they become a completely opposite duo that is able to miraculously solve the case and do what no one imagined they could do.

And of course this is a big cast. So let’s not ruin it by talking about who does what and just give the list of names: J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Kristen Bell, Raymond S. Persi, Maurice LaMarche, Nate Torrence, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Shakira, and of course Alan Tudyk,

Jag
And this guy is our new Olaf/Baymax/Horse from Tangled.

Somewhere, a little cartoon mouse with ears as as big as his head is slowly lighting a cigar, laughing to himself. Walt Disney Animation studios has been in the game for eons at this point and they know what they are doing. Sometimes their advertising may be suspect, but their current main line of films since the CGI era has not had a bust yet, and it was apparently wrong for me to think otherwise.

Zootopia for the most part was a very well done and enjoyable film. Scenes were incredibly detailed, especially during a night time rain storm in the jungle. There was incredible detail put into the streets of the main city and from what it looks like, they may have gotten an accurate scale of all the animals big and small. That is a huge undertaking in a film, instead of everyone just being of similar height ranges to human, a rhino or ox or giraffe appear much larger than our normal bunny point of view. In fact, I first thought something was wrong and things were being exaggerated by the animators because the reality is quite jarring.

Better yet, Judy Hopps is an awesome character. She is inspiring, she is funny, she does more than what anyone expects of her. And hey, Nick Wilde ends up being a complete character as well. A great dynamic duo, both with their own dreams and goals and neither being a cheap stereotype (although, yes, a lot of characters are cheap stereotypes).

MM
Your mom’s a cheap stereotype.

And the movie is funny as well, it had jokes for everyone. Meta Disney jokes were there, especially when it came to Alan Tudyk’s character, movie/TV references (Breaking Bad!) and clever puns. I was almost dying during the Sloth scene, but apparently they turned 80% of that entire bit into a trailer. I’d suggest not watching that and letting it happen naturally during the movie.

It also happens to be about racism/prejudice or even a poor/rich sort of dynamic. It handles the topic with care and kids will be able to understand what is going on and the consequences of these sorts of actions.

Despite how much better it was than my imagination, it did still have some annoyances. The Gazelle played by Shakira, named Gazelle, felt incredibly cheap every time she was on screen or playing the new song just for this movie. More of a money grab than the Trolls from Frozen, but they were mostly just boring. The twists in the plot are relatively easy to catch far in advance. Not the minute small details, but figuring out who is behind the disappearing animals. A disappointing amount of time is spent pre-reveal, when an earlier reveal would have done wonders for building up the bad animal.

CGI movies take a long time to make and come out. But I don’t want to wait a long time to see more of these characters. They should turn this into a TV show, but not a cheaply done one. And fast. It easily works as a police procedural, and they’d have great content for years. Zootopia on its own is definitely recommended, and gives me a small amount of hope that maybe some of the other animated films this year won’t suck too much.

3 out of 4.

Beasts Of No Nation

Oh no, they’ve gone and done it. Netflix has bought the movie, Beasts of No Nation, from the film festivals and decided to release it. Fuck the big studios. They want to get in on that game too. They paid 12 million to distribute the film, and since it is Netflix, most of you can see it. Hell, if you prefer films in theaters, you can go see it on the big screen instead. It has a limited release, because none of the big chains would show it. They demand at least 90 days before the film gets released online, or they won’t show it. Because theaters are dying and all that jazz.

But yeah! They wanted a good film to try and win awards to help legitimize their business. Making their own TV shows is cool and all, but releasing their own movies is another. Note, they did not make this film. They just paid to distribute it. The next film that Netflix will release at the same time as theaters is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend. So regardless of quality, BoNN is in some good company. Hopefully. I guess The Green Legend can also suck.

Needless to say, this film probably won’t win any Oscars. Those are run by the Academy, and so many of them are stuck in their ways, they are probably firmly against things like Netflix trying to join their game and hurt the money studios can make in theater ticket sales. Since ticket sales are the end all be all in movies making money, outside of the few that can go cult status and coast on DVD/Blu-Ray sales for decades.

There is a joke there, implying DVDs or Blu-Rays will still be a thing decades from now.

IOhno
Maybe they will be things in other parts of the world. But I doubt they make much in the African DVD Sales Department.

Agu (Abraham Attah) is just your typical boy living in a typical civil war torn African country. This one is unnamed, because it is a fictional story, but hey, you can probably imagine it all. He likes to sing and dance with his friends. He hangs out on the streets, because the schools were closed due to wars. Oh well, at least the local police force from Nigeria is keeping things calm in their village.

You know, until it doesn’t. Next thing they know, danger is everywhere, and it is hard for them to get their loved ones to safety. Try as he might, Agu’s dad is only able to get his wife to safety as he is unable to find a car for his boys. And sure enough, when the “government army” comes rolling in, they assume the villagers are actually working with the rebels and get shot. But Agu was told one thing. To run into the bush and to survive.

And that is when Agu meets the Commandant (Idris Elba). Turns out he has his own army as part of the rebel force. He is always recruiting too, especially if they are younger. In fact, there are quite a large number of children in this army, so it is easier for Agu to really get involved when the officer directly above him is only a year older than him. And hey, if they are staying in line and being obedient, he should too. They have food, shelter, camaraderie. AND YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE? The government killed his family, damn it. Why shouldn’t he join the rebels? Where he is loved and can continue to be loved if he just, you knows, shoots the innocent villager or two.

Other main-ish child soldiers are played by Annointed Wesseh, Kurt Egyiawan, and Emmanuel Nii Adorn Quaye.

Look at me
Look at me. Look at me. I am your daddy now.

Running at around 147 minutes, Beasts of No Nation is basically your typical war film. Those are always long fuckers.

However everything else about it is pretty different from your standard war drama. Usually in those films when they talk about people just being kids, it is due to the dead bodies of a village they find, or an eighteen year old recruit heading overseas to kill the bad guys. BoNN dealing with actual child soldiers reflecting an actual reality of some African countries adds a constant level of fright into the whole equation.

At the same time, because of this being in the news (hah, not TV news of course. But internet news and stuff) so much and for so long, it also feels like a lot of the surprise is and shock factor is already gone. Do you remember Kony 2012? I fucking do. I got caught up in the hype and ordered one of those paint the town red packages. A week later I realized that it was a terrible program and was able to fight tooth and nail to cancel it and get my money back. But still. That was a super big thing for like, a whole month almost.

I wish now more than anything that it could have never happened. Because once people realize that yes, it is shitty there, but three dudes form San Fransisco are not the best holders of our money to do it, people kind of got fed up with the child soldier thing and then promptly ignored the real problems that are still occuring. If that had never happened and then BoNN came out, it could lead to a lot better and positive PR in order to help stop the civil wars over there. Then again, blah blah, USA needs to stop interfering with countries trying to do their own thing because we cannot police the world.

What I am getting at is the situation is hard in real life for the rest of the world, and it is much harder for those living in those areas, which the movie does an incredible job of showcasing.

Attah and Elba do a good job at the helm of the film, and their relationship is convincing and a bit scary. Elba is such a smooth talker that I almost wanted to shoot some fictional villagers for him. But make no mistake, despite the bigger headline, this is Attah’s film and story and it is a great one. Due to the subject matter, it was a lot harder for me to find myself completely emotionally invested in the situation, and from some sudden changes in the plot’s direction, I did find it harder to understand just what was happening in the story. But on future re-watches* I’d probably be able to relate and understand it all a lot better.

* – Hah. I won’t rewatch this. War stories take too much out of me and time. Still haven’t seen Saving Private Ryan since I was like 10.

3 out of 4.

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