Ant-Man and the Wasp

The first question you have to ask yourself, does anyone care about Ant-Man? Does anyone care about the Wasp? Does anyone care about Ant-Man and The Wasp?

So soon does this film come out, when just two months ago we had Avengers: Infinity War, a film that made some people cry. Now these titular characters were missing from Avengers of course. Does this happen before IW? After? During? That has to be the majority reason why anyone is watching this film. To see how, if at all, it connects to Avengers. People care about the larger story, not these minor characters.

And this is coming from someone who really enjoyed Ant-Man. I thought the villain was great, and it had the best superhero teaser for a film, that they sadly didn’t recreate for this film.

Either way, if this film ends up being completely stand alone, then a lot of people will be disappointed.

Amatw
Hey look! The titular characters! Together!

This film takes place pre-Avengers: Infinity War, so don’t expect it to start with chaos. Scott (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for two years following the events in Captain America: Civil War, before he has probation. All of this is explained neatly by the FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) early on, don’t worry. It is boring, he has no contact with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) or Dr. Pym (Michael Douglas), but his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) still visits frequently and his ex wife and her husband (Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale).

But hey, he lives with his ex convict buddies still (Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, T.I.), and they started a security business themselves.

AND THEN THANOS ATTACKS. Wait, no not yet. Things start to change however, when Scott has a vision of himself inside the Quantum Realm again, including a vision of Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the lost Wasp. This sucks him back into the technology rich, very steal heavy world of Ant-Man, despite only having days left on his house arrest.

Now they are in a race against time to finish developing a safer way into the Quantum Realm to find their wife, mom, and lady they don’t actually know, depending on what character you ask. We also have a skeevy business man who wants in on the potential profis (Walton Goggins), a girl phasing in and out of the physical realm (Hannah John-Kamen), and an old S.H.I.E.L.D. research buddy (Laurence Fishburne) also going in and out of their plans.

Ghost
Hey look! Ghost is joining their dance party!

I almost gave this film a 1 out of 4.

Figure that is a good starting place for this review. Sure, it is entertaining. It is funny. The cast has good chemistry. A specific Rudd scene where he has to act like an entirely different person is nailed perfectly and doesn’t feel wrong. The crew has less screen time, T.I. almost feels nonexistant, but they still have their moments. And Ghost fights were relatively cool to watch, as was the Wasp kitchen fight scene.

And yet I almost gave it a 1 out of 4. Technically, the reason I gave it the 2 instead is because of Peña’s character. I was worried they wouldn’t continue a joke from the first film and declared it to be an okay movie if they continued it on. Eventually? They continued it on, and sure, an average review.

Because lets face it, you aren’t getting your Avengers tie in until the credit scenes. This movie overall feels like a filler film. We don’t have any real villains, we just have things that consistently make the plot longer. There isn’t a lot of fighting, it is more just car chases and shrinking and growing. It isn’t a film that can feel smart, because all of the science behind it is fake anyways, so when scientific breakthroughs happen, it happens because the characters say it work, not that the audience could figure it out on our own.

Overall, it sets up a little bit in the universe. But it feels too clunk with no real established threat besides time itself. Ghost isn’t even a villain, just another damaged person, which they make sure we understand very early on.

If the MCU was Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead, this movie would fit in the middle of season one, instead of how most other films are clearly in the 2-7 territory.

2 out of 4.

A Wrinkle In Time

A Wrinkle In Time is a very famous Science Fiction book, written in the 1960’s. It was a historic achievement when it comes to the genre, because it was written by a woman, and it was even about a girl.

Not many books in the genre, especially at that time, catered to women at any level. It would take decades for them to get any sort of real success in that area.

Now, so many decades later, it is being haled as a film celebrating those beginnings by trying to do the same thing for the genre. Avu DuVernay, famed director of Selma (who many feel should have been nominated for Best Director for that film) and 13th, is getting her hands on a big budget fantasy/sci-fi romp. And she is going to make sure it has people in it that will speak to people of all ages, of all colors and creeds. She is getting diversity across all the levels, and it is honestly a great move on her part.

No matter how good or bad the film is, the movie is an experiment gone right when it comes to casting. She wants to make sure girls out there have more diverse people to look up to, because everyone has the right to see themselves in the media they consume.

Family
And look! A character for those gingers out there as well.

Meg (Storm Reid) was a happy go lucky girl, good at math and science, lover of life. Her dad (Chris Pine) worked for Nasa and mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) also was a scientist. They were smart, and happy, and about to adopt another child, Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe). Things were great.

And then her dad disappeared, without a trace. The parents had pretty strong scientific opinions on space travel and time travel, but most people did not take them seriously. Either way, with her dad gone, Meg has gone on hating her life, becoming a shell of her former self.

But things are about to change. Life is about to get a bit weirder, thanks to her younger brother. He is very trusting and wise beyond his years. And he starts to introduce Meg to the “Misses”, including Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey). They are denizens of the universe, much like Meg, but more in tune with its frequencies and have heard a cry of help from her father.

So these ladies are going to take Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin (Levi Miller), a nice friend of Meg, on a journey across space and time, to see just where her father went.

Also starring Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, and the voice of David Oyelowo.

Daddy
Ah, here he was, the last place I would expect. A very orange room. Yuck!

A Wrinkle In Time is supposed to be a fantastic book, part of a pretty good series, and tells a story across space and time. And based on who I have talked to, that is believable. This movie is unfortunately not the book.

This movie is surprisingly under two hours, but it has a lot of hardcore concepts it wants to talk about and use in the movie. Instead of explaining them in a nice wrapped box, the movie just runs with these ideas, you either understand or you don’t, and blasts off into its plot. It is so fast and high energy early on that it is hard to keep up and understand where it is going.

The only part of the film that takes its time is the ending, which is a bad move for a few reasons. At this point, a regular member of the audience who didn’t read the book is so lost and confused that having a more explained ending won’t fix that. A lot of people watching will have already lost interest, and then get annoyed when the pace finally slows the fuck down.

We have some scary stuff by the end too. Stuff that should have large impacts on the audience based on who is involved and how drastic the changes feel. But without the proper build up, it feels very wasted.

At the end of the movie, I cried. There are still emotional points. I get the final purpose of the film, what it says about growing up and the pains associated with it. But I felt like I was just along for a ride that didn’t care if I needed to stop to pee or eat along the way.

There are so many concepts that you are just forced to accept. Hell, we have a character who is brought along they say for diplomacy reasons, and then fail to include any sort of diplomacy scene. A Wrinkle In Time is probably a good film if you include what was cut out in the editing room. But this is the type of movie that might only be understood if you have read the material before hand, which is unacceptable, especially with a budget and scope of this size.

It is a shame, because this film won’t do great, and the execs might blame it on diversity reasons, instead of the more obvious confusing as heck plot lines. It is still a very pretty movie, with some fun characters. I am just left struggling to really explain what the heck I watched.

1 out of 4.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

I had absolutely no intentions of watching The LEGO Ninjago Movie earlier in the year. When this and The LEGO Batman Movie were announced, I honestly wasn’t too fond of either idea, but this idea less so because I don’t know what the fuck a Ninjago is. It is one of their brands, but never anything I touched, so who cares.

I just wanted a real sequel to The LEGO Movie more than anything, so these off shoot films were very “whatever” on my radar.

And then I ended up being so disappointed in the Batman film and animated films in general that I needed to give Ninjago a chance. I needed to check every crook and nanny to see if all the animated films were bad. And you know what? I think this one was hated right out of the gate, with people who had very similar thoughts to mind.

No one wanted to give Ninjago a chance, which is why there hasn’t been a lot of hype for the film. And yet it, in my mind, is the better LEGO film of 2017.

Group\
Featuring so many members of Silicon Valley also had to be intentional.

In the city of Ninjago, normal city things occur, bakers, bread buyers, bread eaters, you name it. There is a giant volcano near by across the bay, and in it lives Garmadon (Justin Theroux), a four armed evil ninja mad man who wants to take over the city, become its mayor, and rule it with his man evil fists. He is a big pain, always destroying things, bu he never wins thanks to a group of young teenagers with attitude.

You see, there is a protective ninja force in town! They have Mechs that can help them stop Garmadon every time. They all have cool elements too: The Fire Ninja (Michael Peña), The Lightning Ninja (Kumail Nanjiani), The Water Ninja (Abbi Jacobson), The Ice Ninja (Zach Woods), The Earth Ninja (Fred Armisen), and The Green Ninja (Dave Franco). Yes, the power of Green. Sucks even more for The Green Ninja, besides his lame element, because his dad actually is Garmadon.

Despite Garmadon being out of his and his mom’s (Olivia Munn) life since he was a baby, everyone knows he is the son of Garmadon and teases him non stop, because his Ninja identity is a secret. This enrages him of course, along with his anger at his dad and the fact that they never truly win. Despite the warnings of their master (Jackie Chan), the Green Ninja tries to use the ultimate weapon against Garmadon, which ends up putting the city at an even bigger risk without hurting Garmadon.

Fuck.

Now the Ninjas are going to have to find the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon, and discover how to be real ninjas without relying on Mech technology, in order to save the city, defeat Garmadon, and you know, be better people.

Bad
The story about his extra pair of arms is actually a funny one, you see….

Does the Ninjago movie have a lot of ninja stereotypes? You betcha. Does it focus on only one main plot point of the lost father/son relationship? Of course. Does it rely heavily on jokes about this relationship, bringing them up again and again? That’s another affirmative.

I believe those would be the reasons it is getting some pretty sad reviews overall. And yes, relying on one line of jokes through the majority of the film is a problem. But the good news is, it is more than just that line of jokes, they are just mostly pushed to the side or hidden in the background. In all of these LEGO movies there is a shit ton going on at all times, including quips from various characters, some without real names. And they carried the film for me.

I could have done without what felt like a long montage about learning how to throw. But the conversation about not knowing how to throw early on was amazing. And so on and so on. I found a lot of the characters to be quite amusing and thought they did well as a martial arts parody film.

But more importantly, the size and scale of this movie was appreciated. This movie is probably better to me because of comparing it to Batman. But Batman was too big. It had its own world that was unfortunately overstuffed, intentionally, so much that the had to bring in 20 or more characters to make the joke. But in Ninjago we have a handful of important characters dealing with issues in their city and not relying on outside pop culture references to tell this story.

In fact, this is one of the few reviews where I didn’t have to end my middle section with “Also starring!” and a huge list of people I couldn’t easily fit in to the plot description. It is a nice, self contained story, that amused me over the small run time. And that is why I can put it above so many other animated films this year.

3 out of 4.

My Little Pony: The Movie

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

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

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

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

I was excited and ready to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 out of 4.

Collateral Beauty

Have you seen the trailer to Collateral Beauty? Well, please do so. Here is one and here is another. They are both great. I saw it first a few months ago and knew I had to see that movie, right away preferably.

It has actors I like in it, the story looks neat, and looks like a perfect holiday film, without being cheesy Christmas. And it looks like it would make me cry.

But man, it turns out this movie is incredibly fucked up and inappropriate.

Love
Ah love, Knightley knows all about that one.

Like I said, please watch the trailer. Now here is the real plot.

Yes, Howard (Will Smith) used to be good at his job. He ran an advertising firm, preached that every ad should speak to three absolutes: Love, Time or Death, and people loved him. And then, he had his daughter die. Now, the majority of the film takes place TWO YEARS LATER. And now, he is still dealing with his grief. He is barely audible, he spends most of the time just making dominoes just to knock them down, not even looking at them as they fall.

And this leaves most of the company to his three main friends/colleagues. Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña). Whit is recently divorced and his pre-teen daughter hates him. Claire wants to maybe get a surrogate baby. And Simon, well, Simon might be dying.

All of them have their own issues, but they are still doing their jobs, and right now their company is failing. They have an offer to sell their company though, for $17 a share, which is more than what they really are worth! They just need Howard’s approval, but he refuses to do anything. So they think, sure, maybe they can just show he isn’t right in the head to make decisions without him.

So they develop a scheme, hire a P.I. (Ann Dowd), and she finds out that he has sent letters to Love, Death, and Time. Whit decides that the best option now is to hire actors to be these three entities, make him look crazy in public, record the display, digitally remove the actors, and bam, they can sell the company and do good things.

Yay morals. Featuring Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Jacob Latimore as the actors, and Naomie Harris as a grief counselor.

Suit
Two of these characters are considered more of a main character than Will Smith.

My eyes could not believe what I was seeing. I had to both shake my head and put it in my palms at various points in the film. What trailer did I see and why did it lie so hardcore to get viewers?

Oh yeah. Money.

I haven’t seen a trailer so deceptive of a movie since Hercules, but in that case it was a nice surprise. It didn’t change the plot of the film. In this case, people go in expecting a heart warming tale and get a story about very dickish people and they don’t get punishment. Seriously. There may still be heart warming elements, but they come to people who are not worthy of our sympathy.

Here is a fact. Yes. I teared up a bit in the film. But making me cry does not a good movie make. It is frankly really easy to do nowadays, especially if part of the plot involves a dead daughter. But I cried during Jem and the Holograms and could still see its shitty elements.

Look, trailer lies aside, the main ending after all of it is pretty easy to figure out. Except for one element and that is because it doesn’t make any sense. It could have maybe been considered an okay film, but I have to shake my head about the last final reveal. It seems tacked on and never explained, and makes me question how it even got to that point. Almost as bad as the reveal at the end of Now You See Me.

There are a lot of big names in this film and I was really excited to see it after I saw the trailer. But it is easy work for basically everyone involved. Smith feels like a supporting character until the end of the movie. No one is giving I their all and everyone seems to be collecting an quick paycheck.

Collateral Beauty is emotionally manipulative while being morally terrible. That is not a good combination anywhere. And especially not around the holidays.

1 out of 4.

Vacation

Oh hey, Vacation. A comedy series a lot of people look back with fond memories. Because it told the truth. Family vacations are terrible, but we all grin and bear it because that is just what you gotta do.

It is a concept most people can related to, and with nostalgia being the strong bitch that it is, it makes sense for there to eventually be more Vacation movies. Movies that capture the true American spirit: cramped in a car with people you already hang out with too much. At the same time, people assume that if you make a new version of something old, the old one gets tarnished or something.

Those people are dumb.

Which is why I do declare I will not make comparisons to the first Vacation movie. I will judge this on its own merits as a new comedy, that may have references to a previous movie.

Car Ride
And my noble steed on this ride will be a small car.

Vacation is not a reboot or a remake, it is a sequel.

Rusty Griswald (Ed Helms) is now grown up and has a family of his own! He is a pretty good pilot, but works for a shitty airline that only does short domestic flights, so he can spend time with his family. His wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate) is a stay at home mom, raising the two boys. The older one, James (Skyler Gisondo) is almost done with high school, very sensitive, plays the guitar. He constantly gets picked on by his much smaller younger brother, Kevin (Steele Stebbins), who is a dick and is into wrestling.

Well, they normally go out every year to a cabin in the woods, but Rusty realizes that everyone finds it boring. So he decides to change it up. A cross country road trip from Chicago to California to go to Walley World! Yeah! Rusty had fond memories of the park as a kid, despite that one film where a bunch of bad things happened. This time it is going to go right and they are going to ride the best roller coaster in the country. Damn it.

Of course shit goes bad. Their car is weird and European, white water rafting, bad hot springs, crazy truckers, thieves, and more. They also make a pit stop to visit Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann), who finds the idea of a trip ridiculous. She is also super wealthy for marrying Stone Crandall (Chris Hemsworth), who is a super attractive weather man. The only other real plot line is James constantly running into Adena (Catherine Missal), a girl on another road trip.

Vacation also offers a lot of cameos. Of course we have Chevy Chase, but we also have Ron Livingston, Michael Pena, Kaitlin Olson, Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Colin Hanks (Apparently), Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, and Charlie Day.

Sorority
Most of my vacations ended up at a college strip fest as well.

Vacation ends up being different than its predecessor in many ways. For one, it is a modern comedy. So there is an industry regulated volume of a dick jokes that it needs to have in its film to make it to the big screen. This sort of thing isn’t always noticeable, because if they have a lot of varied other jokes, you usually don’t even notice all the dick jokes that are secretly hiding in the back ground. Unfortunately, if a movie is 95% dick jokes, they stand out like a sore…thumb. (You thought I’d say penis, heh heh heh).

So yes, it feels like Vacation is a one trick pony, where that trick is jumping over a bar that is floating about an inch over the ground. It would have been nice if they decided to raise that bar instead and make longer smarter jokes, but those are hard and require patience I guess.

Ed Helms just wasn’t interesting. A typical character in his wheelbarrow and it didn’t seem to offer anything new. There was some good interactions between the kids, and Applegate did a fine job.

Honestly, the reason I am giving this a passing rating is for two scenes. One, Four Corners monument scene was surprising and strangely funny. But more importantly, Charlie Fucking Day. This movie is borderline watchable for his scenes alone. Hysterical. High energy. Wet. Fantastic. Technically soon you can probably find the whole scene on Youtube, but I feel like the film should get some credit for featuring something so marvelous in its data innards.

Yep. Without Charlie Day this movie would have just been downright terrible. You don’t hear that phrased that often.

2 out of 4.

The Martian

Everyone knows that James Cameron really loves the ocean. He is stupid rich and just wants to conquer it.

In some ways, I am starting to think that Matt Damon is like a James Cameron-lite. He doesn’t like water, but he is starting to love the shit out of outer space. Three films in three years have featured a Mr. Damon spending time away from Earth. First in Elysium, he went from the slums to the orbit. But you know, he was just there for a little bit. In Interstellar, he was in space for a long..long time. And he was alone!

Think of it like a Three Bears situation. In Elysium he was in space for a small amount of time, in Interstellar it was too long. But maybe in The Martian, Damon will find his “just right” amount of space time. You know, then he can go back to Earth and start doing political things again. Or Boston things. Or maybe, just maybe, fingers crossed, he can go back to voicing Bill the Krill.

Alone
Damon had a lot of time alone to reflect on his career while pretending to be on Mars.

Set somewhere in the future, NASA has successfully put people on Mars! Yay! We rock! Speaking of Rocks, there are a lot of them on Mars. And sometimes there are dangerous rock storms. When a particularly powerful storm begins to develop, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) decides that they need to evacuate the planet. There is a chance their escape rocket could tip over and then they’d be stranded! During the storm though, Matt Watney (Damon), a space botanist, gets hit by some debris and goes flying. All of their suit flashy devices say that his suit has opened and he has to be dead.

So Lewis and the rest of the crew (Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie) escape Mars to begin their flight home a few weeks ahead of schedule.

But it turns out, against extreme odds, that Matt is actually alive. However, he is now stranded. The mission only was supposed to last about 30 days, and they had made it to 17, so his rations aren’t that plentiful. He has a huge checklist of responsibilities suddenly that are all vital to his survival. He has to figure out how to grow his own food on a desert planet. He has to make sure his equipment doesn’t break, so he doesn’t run out of water or oxygen. He has to figure out a way to communicate with NASA. And of course, he has to figure out how to get himself home. Even though Matt wants to survive, he openly acknowledges his impending doom and realizes that almost everything he does is just prolonging his most likely catastrophic death.

Eventually, obviously, he isn’t 100% alone. Or else it would be an impossibility. Back on Earth, thanks to satellites, they are able to eventually note the differences of the site and realize he must be alive and kicking. This is where I can sneak in all the rest of the actors.

Who is involved in the mission to get him back? Well, of course, the Head of NASA (Jeff Daniels), a different head of NASA type guy (Chiwetel Ejiofor), head of the Mars program (Sean Bean), head…engineer…of the shuttle? (Benedict Wong), an Astrodynamics guy (Donald Glover), head of NASA PR (Kristen Wiig), and Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) who controls a satellite. Or something.

Storm
This unfortunate scene reminded me too much of Fantastic Four and now I am undergoing PTSD.

Ridley Scott has been not putting his best foot forward recently. Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Counselor were terrible, and Prometheus had a lot of issues. So I have to go into every new movie of his with a bit of a hesitation.

Thankfully, Scott did not disappoint this time and knocked The Martian out of the park.

The absolute best part of the film is its attention to detail and scientific accuracy. I don’t know how hardcore they went into it, but I will be checking Neil Gegrasse Tyson’s twitter to see if the stars on mars were at least accurate. But everything else is so damn sound and smart. I almost stood up in the middle of the movie to chant U-S-A and show off my Science Boner. That is a bit graphic, but the metaphor is necessary to emphasis how sexy it all was. It isn’t dumbed down and they just go full on smart people talk on the viewer.

After the science, we have to talk about the Damon. Damon plays what has to be the greatest Botanist ever on the silver screen. I don’t know how praise worthy that statement actually is. The writers made him smart, charming, witty and a guy with a morbid sense of humor. He tells jokes to logs where he notes everything he is doing, with the caveat that it probably won’t matter since he will most likely die. And he even got to say “Fuck” twice in the film, despite the PG-13 Rating!

Basically everyone in the cast was great in their roles. Even Stan, Mara, and Hennie, the crew members who people don’t care much about. I want to give special shout outs to Glover, who had a small role but was extremely convincing, and Wong, who was an important side character who for some reason didn’t even make the IMDB credit list.

The film is of course also visually wonderful. Mars, the future Houston space center, outer space, all of it is great. I don’t think 3D added much to the film, and it should be a good experience without it. It isn’t as necessary as Gravity.

Despite how much I liked the film, it only has one issue. There is a sort of epilogue after the events, so you can find out what happened to characters. It seemed off to me. It was also a bit sudden of a tone shift. The previous scene I was almost at the point of tears (You don’t get to know if from happiness or sadness, sorry), but they ended it too quickly for all the emotions to rile up in me. And the last few minutes were just…meh.

Oh well, 99% of a film is still pretty damn awesome.

4 out of 4.

Ant-Man

If you want a movie in production hell, then you want Ant-Man. Sure, Iron Man was technically in development since the 1990s, but those were with different studios before Marvel got it back in 2006. If you didn’t notice, they then pushed out the movie just two years alter.

Ant-Man, however, was also in development since 2006 and took just nine years to finally get released. That is a long time of trying to make a movie work and never giving up. Well, they technically gave up a little bit. Edgar Wright who was signed on to be the director since the beginning was fired early 2014 from the project which scared a lot of movie fans. Wright is well liked and has an awesome style. And the movie was roughly a year away! How could they do this? And with script re-writes as well!

I will admit that I too overreacted, expecting that Ant-Man would unfortunately be Marvel’s first real disaster of a movie in a long time, possibly meaning bad news for the other new franchises coming down the time lines. But as a not so secretive fanboy, I was also of course hoping for the best.

Yes
Thumbs up, seven new franchises up!

The movie starts in Taylor Swift’s favorite year, 1989, where some dude named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is upset over S.H.I.E.L.D. turning his science into weapons! He made a Pym Particle, but he refuses to let them have it for warfare, so he quits and starts his own company. It should be noted we get to see Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell), an older Howard Stark (John Slattery), and a random tool, Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan).

Now, in the present day, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is just getting out of prison. He stole from his corrupt company who took millions from customers and gave it all back. He has a masters in Electrical Engineering, but he is also a pretty great thief it turns out. He has tried getting a regular job, but his crime history makes it hard. No job means no money, which means he can’t pay child support to his ex (Judy Greer), and thus he can’t really see his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson). To make things worse, the ex is now dating a cop (Bobby Cannavale) which is all sorts of awkward.

So Scott gets with his friend, Luis (Michael Peña), who has a heist for them. With a few friends (David Dastmalchian, T.I.), they are going to rob Pym’s house who has the biggest safe ever. Unfortunately, the only thing in it is an awkward suit.

Turns out it was all a test. (I swear I am not spoiling the whole film). Pym’s company is no longer in his hands, and his protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is about to discover the shrinking secret. Once he gets the formula right, he is going to sell the Yellow Jacket suits to the highest bidder, making an unstoppable army at whomever’s disposal. Their only person on the inside is Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

So it is simple. Break into an extremely secure facility, destroy the science and the suits, save the day. A nice heist. Perfect for someone who can shrink and control ants, right? Also Wood Harris! Fuck, I couldn’t fit him in naturally!

PENA
Super powers are overrated, you da real MVP!

Again, it looks like I told too much, but I think I told the basic motivations of our main characters and also threw in most of the side players as well. You got to see the two good guys, where they are coming from, and of course the bad guy.

And I fucking loved it.

Ant-Man had everything I wanted in a Marvel super hero film. It wasn’t ever super drama serious, but it had its touching moments. It was funny, and then it was also hilarious. Many characters brought the charm in. And the action was exciting. The CGI ants I thought would be cheesy, but they worked really well in the context of the rest of the film. Going back and forth between small and large to fight everyone was very slick. There was a wonderful montage and we even got a pretty significant Avenger cameo.

I really need to acknowledge Michael Peña, who was the best part of this movie and for all I know, not based on any comic book character. He was hilarious and I hope he gets to be in future Marvel films.

There was a weak part though. The relationship between Pym and Hope was supposed to be strained, but the actors didn’t act it well and it instead kind of just sucked. I am more incline to place the blame onto Lilly, but it could be that she was just given a weaker character with terrible lines and development.

Ant-Man has it all. It even has a villain who seems realistic and isn’t just a dark brooding figure. He has his own real motivations and a backstory and his arc makes a little bit of sense. Their fight scenes were wonderful. And on paper he may seem like a minor bad guy, but I think he is the best villain since Bucky and Loki.

Bring me more Ant-Man.

4 out of 4.

Fury

Fury. Finally. I have said a few times I wanted more TV shows and movies based around basic human emotions. We had Glee, and we had Rage? What about Fear? What about Sorrow? And so now we get Fury.

In all honesty, I feel like it has been a good while since I have seen a really good war movie. Too many things focused on Iraq and Afghanistan that are all over the place in terms of quality. I guess I enjoyed Lone Survivor, but that wasn’t a super long epic war movie, a la Saving Private Ryan.

I mean, the last thing we got was The Monuments Men, and everyone know how great that ended up being. Just saying, a lot of pressure on Fury, and they have to start with an uphill battle, because they put Shia LaBeouf in it.

Crew
There he is, hiding in the back, behind that mustache.

War is hard. Just ask the former assistant driver of the Fury tank. Well, you’d be able to if his face wasn’t blown off. That sucks. They liked him. He has been with them for years. Sergeant Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier (Brad Pitt) promised his team that he would always keep them safe and he has finally broken his word. It was only a matter of time. Sure, it is now April fucking 1945, the war almost over. But the Germans keep fighting back, despite the allied forces on their doorstep in their country.

So now they are a man down, but only temporarily. Their replacement is the young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Eight weeks into the army, hardly a man, he is going to have to learn to grow up and quick. Especially with a bunch of Germans surrounding them, and four pissed off Americans sharing a cramped space with him. Like other assistant driver/gunner Gordo (Michael Pena), main gun shooter guy Bible (LaBeouf), and big missile loader crazy man Coon-Ass (Jon Bernthal).

Oh and hey. The Germans have better tanks. Better defended, better missiles. And they aren’t as spread out. And their equipment isn’t outdated. So yeah. The tank, Fury, has a lot going against it. And now they got a kid who hasn’t even killed a man. Basically a death wish keeping him around.

But war is hard and surviving it is even harder.

And don’t worry, there are other tanks. And other soldiers. Some of which are acted by Jim Parrack, Kevin Vance, and Brad William Henke. For diversity sake.

Pew Pew Pew
But Americans have some lasers on their tanks, so it should all even out in the long run.

Not many war films glorify war, and this one is not an exception. In fact, so few war films glorify war that it seems silly that I even have to mention that. Should only mention it when a film actually does glorify war at this point.

But this one has exceptional acting talent behind it as well. From the bottom up. LaBeouf? Eh. He is better at pieces set in the past. I didn’t hate him by the end. Bernthal? Probably his best work. Pena? It is surprising how well of an actor he has been over the last few years, given his start. No difference here. Lerman? Not just a Percy Jackson looking kid anymore. He conveyed a huge range of emotions. Pitt? I’d watch Pitt watch paint dry for 2 hours and probably give that film 2 thumbs up. I’d watch him make tea and then refuse to drink it for five hours. Does he make bad movies? I mean, even Mr. and Mrs. Smith has some redeeming qualities.

This is an extremely violent film, as you would imagine based on title and plot. I personally only thought “Boom! Headshot!” once or twice throughout the whole film, despite the large number of them. They were just so shocking and gross.

The film isn’t just war torn countryside and fighting. There are periods of downtime, including one extremely long scene in a conquered German city. The type of scene that reminded me of something Quentin Tarantino would do. That could just be because of Pitt/Inglourious Basterds though.

I honestly went in expecting a movie that might have gotten a bit too anti-war preachy. One that didn’t give me the best acting. I don’t know what I was smoking. Fury is now one of my new homeboys.

4 out of 4.

Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez is one of those indie movies that kind of just never came out near where I lived, so I never really got a chance to watch it. It came out on DVD a few weeks ago (or if I delay this review by a few weeks, a month or more ago!) so at that point it just came down to finding a time to throw it up on my website. Only doing five reviews a week has its perks and its disadvantages. It is good that all of my free time isn’t looking for movies or writing reviews, yes. But those two reviews a week less than I am used to means a lot of indie or weird movies that my website is none for is pushed to the side if a week has a lot of big titles coming out.

Oh well. Cesar Chavez. A biographical movie with some subtitles and a comedic actor playing a serious role. My body is ready.

Nazi?
And I am sure they will do everything in their power to make sure they don’t make him look like Hitler.

Cesar Chavez (Michael Pena) is already a polarizing figure in the US. A farm worker in California, during the 1950s to the 1970s he became political, organizing the farm workers of California into labor groups to fight for better rates and conditions.

At this point, most of the farm workers were braceros, temporary workers from Mexico permitted to live in the US to work on these farms. Should they ever stop, they’d be forced back to Mexico. But the conditions were terrible and wages low, so it felt like a form of slavery.

With the help of others, Cesar organized boycotts, marches, and created a labor union, while also encouraging Mexican Americans to register and vote on elections to help swing results towards their side.

And uh, you know, I guess that is all the movie is really about? America Ferrera plays Mrs. Chavez, and Rosario Dawson and Yancey Arias are also on their side. In terms of white people to get in the way / help, we have John Malkovich, Michael Cudlitz, Wes Bentley, and Gabriel Mann.

Corn FIeld
You can tell he is an activist based on the number of scarves he is wearing.

After watching this pseudo-biopic, I don’t think I have a lot to say about Cesar or the film itself. From what I remember, he went in a hunger strike that lasted a long time, did some marching, and did a nice boycott.

And well, that was it? The movie was kind of short for bio standards, only dealt with a few events and didn’t seem to show many sides to the character. I am sure Cesar was a complicated individual, since everyone is complicated. I just didn’t get any sense of that.

Besides the potential bias issue, I found the movie kind of…boring. I could never really get into it, despite any parallels that may exist in our own time. It lacked an entertainment quality that I would hope to see in a film about an activist. There were a few tense moments only in dealings with anti-protesters.

On top of that? Acting was only okay. Nothing great. One cool scene sticks out from America Ferrera, and the rest is forgettable.

1 out of 4.

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