Fighting With My Family

Fighting With My Family is a topic that combines a few things: real life story, wrestling, and British people doing silly things. We haven’t had a title like this in awhile.

Directed by Stephen Merchant, who I had the pleasure of interviewing after the movie and you can read the interview here, it is the story of wrestler Paige. How she grew up in bumfuck England and somehow made it to the WWE, despite not being their typical female wrestler.

I can’t imagine if we had any actual bio films actually based on wrestlers. Documentaries, sure, but like a young Hulk Hogan movie? A young Rock? A young Macho Man Randy Savage? It is relatively interesting that the first one to get one is a woman wrestler named Paige, who is probably only big in the wrestling circuits.

Dreams
This is what dreams are made of.

Saraya Knight (Florence Pugh) did not have dreams of growing up to be a wrestling super star, she was indifferent to it. Sure she trained for it like every regular kid. Wait, what?

Oh, her parents are “professional” wrestlers. Her dad (Nick Frost) and mom (Lena Headey) run a very small wrestling company in their small community. Helps them stay clean off of drugs and violence. They train people, they put on shows, they have a good time. Saraya’s older brother, Zak (Jack Lowden), did have the dream his whole life. And thanks to a video, they both are going to have a chance to audition for the WWE!

And then they are going to have to deal with the fact that Saraya, who is going by Paige, made it to the next round of training, and Zak is still stuck at home. She took his dream. And the dream and training in America is going to be tough, lonely and destroy their whole dynamic.

But can she make it? (she can, we know that). And if she can make it, can she be a star? (also yes.) But what does she have to accomplish first? (okay good question).

Also starring Dwayne Johnson and Vince Vaughn.

ring
“First we kick each others ass, then we kick all of the other asses.”

Fighting With The Family is an enjoyable film but very much by the numbers. A long shot trains, gets betters, and does the unthinkable, and people love her. Along the way were hardships, that made her want to change, quit, and more, but she conquered them. Hooray!

So you aren’t getting anything new from the plot, just the setting. Wrestlers, British trailer trash, and Vince Vaughn playing himself as a talent coordinator.

However, it is clear the actors are really going all in for it. No one is trying to half ass this movie, there is high energy, especially from Headey/Frost. It is great to see The Rock be the Rock again and go all Rocky with it.

Pugh carries a lot of the film as well, and does a really good job for a young actress.

I think this film suffers a bit from trying to put too much story into a short amount of time. Things are rushed, and her struggles don’t seem super apparent. A lot of problems are more obvious communication issues so the audience just has to struggle until she gets her shit together.

But overall, not the worst movie about a WWE star that I have never heard about before.

2 out of 4.

Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV

SquareEnix has made questionable decisions regarding the Final Fantasy series since SquareEnix became SquareEnix. Square Soft was good, SquareEnix is bad. Having a Final Fantasy X-2, prequel games, MMOs (which have been at least somewhat successful), and turning their games into something that is no longer enjoyable. Final Fantasy XIII wasn’t a good game and was a bad Final Fantasy game. Having two sequels was even more confusing.

This leads us to Final Fantasy XV, which I am pretty sure was supposed to be a game called Final Fantasy Versus, which I first heard was supposed to be like Kingdom Hearts, but without Disney. Fantastic. Anyways, lot of delays, and we have the game now. But for some reason, they wanted to go all out with this release. They have a prequel, special demos, a VR game, and more. But also a goddamn movie. A movie! A movie that takes place at the same time as the game, about different events, with real Hollywood actors getting released in theaters.

I was shocked when I heard about Kingsglaive. I figured I would just not bother with Final Fantasy XV at all, too many parts, too complicated. And surprisingly they thought their movie was good enough to give to critics. Huh. I did not see that coming. Look, I love Advent Children, but most of that comes from FF7 Nostalgia and without it one might not like it. So, I am skeptical going in, but impressed with their confidence.

King Me
And of course impressed with their level of CGI detail.

This film takes on the planet of Eos which has a lot of nations that each used to have a powerful crystal, but now only one remains. The kingdom of Lucis has a crystal and they have used it to create a powerful barrier to protect the city and citizens. Another kingdom, Niflheim, has been warring the countryside and attempting to take down Lucas to get the crystal and become the top kingdom.

Final Fantasy XV is about a Prince of Lucis named Noctis, who is not in this movie. He apparently leaves the kingdom to do a video game’s worth of quests. Instead, Kingsglaive is about the King Regis Lucis Caelum (Sean Bean), and his personal body guard of soldiers. These soldiers are all outsiders not from the kingdom and have been granted magical powers to help defend the crystal and yes, they are called the Kingsglaive.

The best soldier is Nyx Ulric (Aaron Paul), a guy who protects his teammates and defies orders to do what is right. He is awesome at killing the Niflheimers (might not be the right term) and the monsters that also attack the city. But because they are still losing, the King is going to sign a peace treaty and give up some territory to protect the main city. But, but but…that territory is where these soldiers come from! Ugh!

Also involved is a princess, Lunafreya (Lena Headey), from Niflheim, who is meant to marry Noctis as part of the peace agreement. Of course, Noctis isn’t here, so she does other things in the movie. Anyways, war, fighting, death, more death, and politics. Featuring the voice work also of Liam Mulvey, Andrea Tivadar, Greg Blackford, Edward Saxby, and Adrian Bouchet.

Girl me
It was surprisingly hard to find good fight scene pictures, so here is a boring one of the princess sitting down.

After playing the special FFXV demo, I sort of lost interest in playing the game. It wasn’t fun, it was weird, and it didn’t feel like Final Fantasy. With Kingsglaive, we get a movie set in a beautiful, but extremely unappealing world. The mix of fantasy and technology in here is dreadfully boring and unoriginal. It feels like just a futuristic society that anyone can think of, with like, 5% fantasy elements. It is extraordinarily unimaginative and it lacks excitement. Add in the extremely realistic modern day cars and one wonders what the hell were these world designers thinking.

The CGI is wonderful, sure. The motion capture was well done. The action scenes were a delight to see, very entertaining, and for some reason the images they released to highlight the film are mostly just close ups of characters.

This film is extremely WEAK in plot. First you have to be able to figure out what the hell is going on. With such elaborate character names, similar looking characters, and a lot of backstory thrown at you in the intro, it is easy to get lost and stay lost. Reading the plot outlines on wikipedia and a final fantasy pedia after the fact still really didn’t do me a lot of help.

The creators of course say that this movie can be enjoyed without the game and vice versa, but holy shit, I really have no idea what I watched. For the average movie goer, they will be scratching their head in confusion throughout. Sure, it looks well made, but it is unintelligible. Sure, the CGI is great, but the world isn’t even pretty or full of magic and wonder.

SquareEnix still has no idea what they are doing. Their games get less and less fantasy and this movie is a colossal waste of time. I mean, unless I have played the game, then it might seem better.

1 out of 4.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

For the most part, I try to avoid reading a book if I know it is going to turn into a movie. Or even worse, just try to read a book right before watching the movie. I can’t stand it, I will go into the movie with biases, and the movie won’t be able to surprise me.

I don’t know if I would have been able to cry during The Fault In Our Stars had I read the book! And those were some good tears.

But I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I think I read it in 2010, before I started writing reviews, with the actual book coming out in 2009. I read the entire book the whole way though, and then quickly got rid of it. I paid full price for it and gave it away for free. It was dreadful trash and I couldn’t stand it. I only finished it because I assumed it had to get better, there had to be reason for the success.

The book was about 80% original Pride and Prejudice and about 20% the author changing some scenes and throwing in zombie fights. Every time the author switched it was so jarring, going from well written to complete trash. All it made me do was appreciate Pride and Prejudice more and vow to not read any of the other mashups that would exist, no matter how popular.

Needless to say, I am going into this movie incredibly biased. And also I am in general surprised that it took 7 years for this film to get made.

Slaughter
Well, you know what they say. You cannot spell Slaughter without Laughter.

Oh that zany 19th century England. Full of lords, ladies, romance, guns, and zombies.

What is a patriarch (Charles Dance) and matriarch (Sally Phillips) gotta do when they have five daughters, all of viable marriage age, needing husbands to take care of them?

Their oldest daughter is Jane (Bella Heathcote), but everyone knows their best daughter is Elizabeth (Lily James), despite her strong wills. The other three daughters, Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady), and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), are around but not super important.

Jane falling for one Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth) is important though, as he falls for her as well. Now the parents can meddle and force a marriage. When they meet Bingley, they also meet Colonel Darcy (Sam Riley), whom is seen as a pompous and arrogant person, but also wealthy as fuck. And you know, he can kill a zombie like no other it is said.

Can headstrong Liz learn to love another, more than her love of zombie killing? Can headstrong Liz keep her head strong enough to avoid zombie bites? Find out…well, in this movie.

Also starring Jack Huston as Wickham, Lena Headey as Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Emma Greenwell as Carolien Bingley, and Matt Smith as Parson Collins.

Kicks
Kicks to the chest also can be quite deadly, apparently.

Fuck. Just fuck. I feel like this movie was actually worse than I imagined. I imagined it would have bad acting, sure. I imagined it would shit on something I find enjoyable, yeah. I imagined the CGI wouldn’t be top notch and a lot of corners would be cut when it comes to fight choreography, of course. But on top of everything, I also didn’t think it would be Boring. As. Fuck.

Say what I will about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (and of course I did), but at least there was an inherent entertainment level there. At least I could sit in the theater and laugh at some of the more ridiculous scenes. But with watching this film on DVD, I found myself constantly wanting to pause to get a drink, go to the bathroom, spin in my chair. I wish my laptop worked so I could have laid down in my comfortable bed and fallen asleep to the movie, instead of actually watching all 90ish minutes.

I think it is notable to mention when you fall asleep in a film, which usually happens only in theaters for me. But I know I would have passed out for a lot of this movie if I was watching it while feeling any bit comfortable.

Everything about it is magnified so much, because of how interesting the story becomes. I get annoyed at the bad fight scenes. Annoyed at the acting. Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy? They picked a guy, who decided to give a raspy voice performance and absolutely no sex appeal in a role that is still very much technically in the romance genre? Riley is not my Darcy. The cast for most of the parts in this film is just the final nail in the coffin.

But let’s end this on a fun fact. Emma Greenwell plays one of the three younger sisters. I already forgot who. But she also was in the movie Love & Friendship, also out this year, and also based on a Jane Austen novella. How cute.

0 out of 4.

300: Rise of an Empire

Let’s talk about History. You know I like history, and studied Ancient History. We’ve been through that many times. I remember seeing the first 300 in theaters and being amazed by what I saw. I was so surprised and excited and at the edge of my seat. Later viewings, the excitement died a bit down, and I didn’t really like the movie as much. That is sad.

So why not a sequel, what, 8 years later? Based on the sequel graphic novel, Xerxes, that isn’t even out yet. 300: Rise of an Empire is also based on history I guess. You see, when the Spartans were forcing Xerxes’ forces to a bottle neck point, the Athenians and other Greece fighters were doing the same sort of strategy but with boats. Overall, both sides stalled enough time to eventually defeat Xerxes’ army!

Spoilers? No, fuck you, that’s history. So let’s get our boat on, and hopefully this movie doesn’t suck. After all, it doesn’t have what I will now call the “Gerard Butler Star Power” aspect that the first one had.

Guy
This man is not Gerard Butler.

Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) is a great Athenian, bu he wants to be a great Greek. He wants to unite the country, all of the city states (including Sparta) under one banner. He has wanted this for years, and it doesn’t help (or does it?) that Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is at their doorstep.

But Greece doesn’t want to do it. They have democracy now, so he can’t force them. He instead will go out with the small force and try and stall until a martyr can be formed, hopefully uniting the country and helping them win the war. He also has to deal with Artemisia (Eva Green), a Greek traitor who has risen through the ranks in Persia, leading his entire navy and wanting to see Athens burn.

But this isn’t just any sequel to 300. No, we also get material that happens before the invasion. We get the Battle of Marathon, ten years prior! We get to see how lowly Prince Xerxes became Xerxes the GodKing. And of course, we also get to see that after effects to the 300 getting slaughtered.

Lena Headey reprises her role as Queen Gorgo, and Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, and Jack O’Connell are the other soldiers who get speaking lines in the Athens boat force.

Chick
This shit is real too. A Greek woman commanded the Persian fleet. How progressive!

I am conflicted writing this review, just because I know I initially liked 300, and then started to kind of hate it. So, if I initially like this version too, will I hate it in a year?

I…don’t…think…so…?

I liked this one. Shit, thinking back on how much I liked 300, I think this one is actually a superior film. The problem with 300 really is that it got boring to me in later viewings. The beginning takes forever, and the fights feel repetitive once they start. It didn’t have lasting appeal. This movie balances all of that a lot more. We have a fight to begin, then some back story where cool shit happens. Then we have more fights, and then some fights, then some story, then more and more fights. Hell, we also have probably the most ridiculous sex scene I have ever seen in a film.

But I liked it.

That might have sound creepier than I intended. I liked all of the description above, not just the last sentence of the paragraph.

Mr. Not Gerard Butler? He was pretty charismatic. I really wanted to go up and help him unite Greece and defeat the Persians. Sullivan Stapleton, listen to me right now. Do NOT start starring in RomComs after this movie. None of those roles for Butler are good.

The ending could have ended on a more complete note. I am pretty sure they aren’t setting it up for another eventual film, because the last fight is the Battle Of Salamis, which basically ended the invasion into Greece. So, if they had them posing for victory, or Xerxes running, it would have told the whole ending. This part was left a bit too open ended for my sake.

Did I mention all the cool shit that they did? Man, boat battles sure are fun. No wonder why Rome flooded the Colosseum every once in awhile to hold them for audiences.

3 out of 4.

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is the next book series turned film franchise to attempt to sweep us off our feet and make that preteen money. Twilight let everyone know that supernatural teen romance/action books could be popular.

Of course, I have never read this series. It is currently up to five books, with a sixth one on the way. What I do realize is that this title is far too long. It really should just be called City of Bones. I try to save time by watching movies, I don’t want the title to be as long as book!

Club
If you look closely, you might be able to see that she is actually a moose.

Thankfully, TMI:CoB is set in modern times, in New York City. Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is your average almost adult girl and she lives at home with her single mother (Lena Headey). She is getting pretty angsty, because it is near her birthday, and she is obsessively drawing strange symbols around her house.

Her best friend is Simon (Robert Sheehan), and for whatever reason she doesn’t understand that she is totally leading him on. They go out to a club and she witnesses a murder that no one else can see. Yep, she is going insane. Then she realizes the boy she saw, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) is following her. Creeper alert.

What she doesn’t realize is that she is going to discover a world, hidden in our own. A world of shadow hunters, demons, angels, witches, and more, and it is her destiny to help and try to save the day. Or at least just find her mom, who has been kidnapped.

Kevin Zegers and Jemima West play Jace’s adopted family, Godfrey Gao a warlock, CCH Pounder a witch, Jonathan Rhys Meyers the evil guy, Aidan Turner the good friend Luke, and Kevin Durand as a regular bad guy.

Fight fight
Here are the other main members of the cast, also in the same club. Yay dancing.

I think The Mortal Instruments would have worked better as a TV series, a la The Vampire Diaries, and not a full fledged movie franchise. Like it or not the sequel, City of Ashes, is due for a release late next year, so they are really hoping this series takes off. Not all franchises are destined for greatness however. The Golden Compass at least had the brains to wait to see if the first one could make any movie before announcing the sequels would happen.

Unfortunately for them, it looks like TMI:CoB is destined for failure.

A lot happens in this movie, which is good news since it has a 130 minute run time. Outside of the things I listed before we are also given werewolves and vampires! Roughly all fantasy elements seem to be in this hidden universe, which gives them plenty of time for more shenanigans and future plot lines. It is almost as if they were just throwing different elements at the screen, to see what would stick with the viewers.

Outside of that, the film had to explain a lot about this new world. Despite trying to go over the new terms, I can honestly say I left the theater perplexed. I was left trying to figure out what was happening over and over again throughout the film. At the same time it was also full of every teenage fantasy cliche, so I was able to predict the minor events, and not understand most of the major ones.

Here are some things I am left wondering (Potential spoilers):

  • Why is the big bad guy so big and bad? In the film he really only kidnaps someone, but apparently he is way worse and way evil? I can’t tell what his end game was. Something about bloodlines.
  • There is a “twist” about certain characters being siblings…maybe. I am not sure because that scene seemed to imply truth and lies.
  • A character gets turned into a vampire during the movie, and then that fact gets ignored and/or forgotten about. The fuck?

There ending was a complete mess and they seemed to be making it up as they go. Characters die during it, mostly due to bad tactics. You froze a bunch of demons. Great! Now why do you just sit around until they unfreeze, then decide to try and kill them? Are you daft?

There was a big demon summoning beacon too, that for whatever reason had two separate off switches attached to it, against any sort of logic.

This movie is the type that will only make a lot of sense if you have already read the books. I have been told from my friends that this movie spoils the first three books of the series though. So watch out.

It is a real shame too, because this film could have been better. There was a lot of action and I never really felt bored. It just didn’t make any narrative sense and was an overcrowded mess.

1 out of 4.

The Purge

Originally, I felt that the ad campaign for The Purge came a bit later than most movies. I didn’t hear about it or see the trailer until Evil Dead, which was in March!

But they really ramped up the ad campaign in the last few weeks, almost to annoyance. Needless to say (because I am a coward), the trailer frightened me, and gave me great hope that this movie would provide scares along with philosophical debates about ethics, morals, and the human spirit.

Hawke
The year is 2022 and America is a peaceful country! Unemployment is less than 1%, and there is basically no crime. Why? Because we have changed the way America works! Every year, for 12 hours, everything is legal in the United States. Murder, theft, you name it. No police or firefighters will be on duty, everything is fair game. It lets people vent out their frustrations, and become wild animals if they so choose.

A lot of rich people choose to stay inside with fancy security systems. Like James Sandin (Ethan Hawke), a fancy security systems salesman. He has the fanciest securest house on the block, because of his profitable year, so his wife (Lena Headey) and two kids (Max BurkholderAdelaide Kane) are set!

But once The Purge begins, the son sees a homeless man (Edwin Hodge) running down the street. He noobs it up, opens the door, and lets the homeless man in. This opens an unfortunate can of worms when an unruly mob of masked college students clamor outside of their villa, wanting to get their purge on. The polite leader (Rhys Wakefield) gives them the chance to turn the homeless man in, and they won’t attack the family. But if they wait too long, they will tear down their walls and kill everyone inside. Oh snap.

Looks like we have quite an ethical conundrum on our hands. Can they willingly send out a homeless man to his death? Can James willingly let a man die, if the life of his family is potentially on the line?

Face Off
I mean, he looks trustworthy, that polite leader.
The first thing I noticed about The Purge is that it is almost painfully short. 85 minutes in length! That is usually a warning sign. That means the plot doesn’t last long enough to fill a full movie. Or they realize the idea gets old really quick.

But the length was really appropriate for the plot, and I never felt like it dragged too much. There was some long scenes that were just heavy in suspense, but when you are wandering around your house in the dark, looking for strangers, you aren’t just going to run around every corner.

It was somewhat predictable, with the plotlines, yet equally surprising. I loved watching Ethan Hawke go on a kill streak to save his house. I would have stood up and cheered, if I didn’t respect normal movie watching practices.

It could have delved more into the ethical nature of the entire Purge, but I liked that it used subtle features to tell us the backgrounds of various characters, without outright saying them to our face. I do think they harped on the idea of murder too much, when other laws, like downloading music and stealing a car are just as legal. Time to get the misses some new bling, I say.

The movie is full of jump scares with only a few scenes that made me leave my seat, but I think it still is an interesting addition to the horror genre.

3 out of 4.

Dredd 3D

Originally I was going to just ignore Dredd 3D. Hopefully it would go to the cheap theater at some point and I’d watch it then, but $10? It’s probably going to suck. But then something happened. People I knew were liking it. It was weird. The internet liked it. What? Don’t people hate remakes?

I never got to see Judge Dredd, I was like six at that time and it is violent. Hell, I still haven’t seen it. But what I do know about it is the pop culture references, of course. Basically it can be summed up in these 10 seconds for all I care. LAWWWGGHHH!

LAWWGHH
Yeah, well if anything, this new guy looks like the law.

Dredd 3D is set in…the future! Giant ass cities, so many people. Lot of them live in these big tower things. The police force are now called Judges, because they will find criminals and carry out the sentencing on the spot, and all of it gets recorded. It is just what has to be done with this many people. Too bad only some small percent of reported murders even get investigated by the Judges, they are so busy.

Who is the judgiest judge of them all? Judge Dredd (Karl Urban. Who is also a Doctor, sometimes). He knows all the rules, all the tactics, and is a bad ass motherfucker, more or less. He has no remorse, and will sentence without a care. Definitely won’t ever remove his helmet. But he is asked to train a rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirby) who is also a psychic. Yeah, one of those mutants, who lucked out and got a useful transformation instead of an extra hand out of her stomach.

So yeah, she suggests a place to go. These three guys got skinned and fell about 30 stories. Could have been worse, could have been from the top, 200 stories up! They investigate, turn it into a drug bust. New “Gang” is in the area, lead by a Ma-ma (Lena Headey), who took over the entire complex. Hell, turns out they have a new drug that is hitting the market strong. Basically it makes your body feel like life is in slow motion. Kind of awesome. But one of the people she takes from the bust, Kay (Wood Harris), she can tell killed the people directly. He might even know the entire working operation of the drug place, meaning if he gets interrogated, he might spill the beans. Can’t have that happen.

So Ma-Ma does what everyone does. Gets the weird Technie (Domhnall Gleeson) to lock down the building completely, and shut off communication, and tell the residents to kill the Judges. Can they get out alive, and you know, actually still obey the law?

rape?
She has no helmet eh? Well that makes things easier. You know, shooting her in the head.

Wait a second. People trapped in a living complex, and wanting to take down the leader with the whole building trying to kill him? That unfortunately sounds familiar. If you read my reviews a month ago, it would sound like The Raid: Redemption. That really is unfortunate!

These movies were probably being made around the same time, so the similar plots were not intentional. Just ruined the awesomeness of this one.

Karl Urban? Wow, what a Judge Dredd. Obviously the best I have seen, but he kicked a lot of ass, and I was cheering him on. Never removed his hat, so really couldn’t tell it was him, but he made that character awesome.

How about the 3D? Well, I can say don’t watch this movie in 2D. I think the reason for the drugs was just to see that shit in 3D and make some super slow motion deaths. But it worked. It was killing porn, basically, and looked amazing. Plot not the best, but the twists and turns were fun to watch. Definitely see this bad boy either in theaters, or your 50 inch blu ray 3D TV.

3 out of 4.