Warcraft Review

warcraft5Anyone knows me knows I am not a video game player. I have a lazy eye and so video games have always been tough for me to play and so I’ve never had any interest in them. However, I’ve seen a good movie based on a board game in Clue. I’ve seen a good movie based on an amusement park ride in the first Pirates movie. Anything can produce a story worth telling on the big screen.

I wasn’t planning on seeing Warcraft with everything going on getting ready for my trip but I ended up with a free evening so I figured- why not give it a shot? I went into the theater with an open mind hoping to at least have dumb fun and I came out baffled. I think I’m a pretty smart person but I can’t think of when I’ve been more confused over a film’s narrative in my life. I couldn’t even tell you a name of a single character.

The thing about a movie like Lord of the Rings is it seems complicated but in reality it is very simple. There is good vs evil and a powerful ring that needs to be destroyed.  That’s it. Everything else is either an obstacle or assistance to that objective.

We also build characters slowly. We start with 2- Frodo and Gandalf and then add Mary, Pippen, Sam, Aragon, Legolas etc.

warcraft4

The problem with Warcraft is it splits its time between 2 groups- humans and orcs. It’s never clear who is the good guy and who is bad. There are many characters within each realm and each has a backstory and motivations. Without a lead narrator to focus on like say Willow in Willow it felt impossible to remember all of this. I guess that’s where being a fan helps because you already know who all these characters are.

Then there is magic called the fel and a portal but I didn’t really understand what that magic did or how it was used. The rules of the portal were very murky.

And some scenes just didn’t make sense. Like towards the end the characters are battling and then Travis Fimmel’s Lothar is knocked down to the ground. The screen goes black and he wakes up. All the orcs are watching him and then he takes on the leader orc. Why are they all watching him? What has changed from when they were just battling with each other? I have no idea.

warcraft6There is also a pool with special fel powers that seemed to be both good and bad. Ben Foster plays Medivh who is a wizard I think but he’s no Ian McKellen. That’s for sure.  Most of the time he seems good but then he is bad and I didn’t know why he was bad.

warcraftmoviebonePaula Patton is one of the most beautiful women in the world and she looks like a bad Princess Fiona at Comicon. She is half orc-half human but her relationship with Lothar and Dominic Cooper’s character is confusing.  She’s so wooden in the part I think she will be nominated for a razzie.

warcraft4Toby Kebbell is the best part as Duratan but the movie goes away from him for long sections and I felt like he should have been more of a narrator. It was confusing why the bad orc Gul’dan didn’t just take Duratan out when he had the chance. Why did the orcs put up with Gul’dan was never clear when Duratan seemed like the natural leader? There was the fel but I didn’t get it.

warcraft3Honestly I fell asleep twice for a minute or two. I guess it looked ok but other than that I found Warcraft to be a boring mess. I’m told fans of the game love it, so that’s cool. I can only speak for myself and say it didn’t work for me.

The acting was also really poor from everyone.  Glen Close does appear and that scene made no sense to me (sensing a trend here…). But Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Paula Paton, Ben Foster, Travis Fimmel, Daniel Wu have all done good stuff but here they all felt flat and wooden.

My advice to future fantasy directors- KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid.  Fantasy that works like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings are at their core simple stories of good vs evil and a heroes journey. All the cool special effects and world building mean nothing if the story doesn’t work for this kind of movie. KISS! KISS!

Overall Grade- D

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Opinion Battles Round 12 – Favourite Chris Evans Role

I got to participate in this bloggers roundtable of the best Chris Evans performance. Me thinks that a certain Captain will be mentioned. I just wish Snowpiercer had been picked by someone

Movie Reviews 101

Opinion Battles Round 12

Favourite Chris Evans Role

Chris Evans is your current Captain America, he has been involved in 7 comic book adaptations in his career to date but between these roles he has also taken his chances at a range of different genres. Today we will be picking our favourite roles but which one do you think it the best?

If you want to take part in later rounds on Opinion Battles the next round will be ALIEN BASED FILM so any film with an alien in a major involvement in the story. the entries will be needed by 26th June 2016 and email your choices to moviereviews101@yahoo.co.uk.

Darren – Movie Reviews 101

Mace – Sunshinemace

Mace is on the crew of the Icarus II with the last of Earth resources to reignite the dying sun. Mace is the engineer who brings his military side opinions…

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Moana Teaser Trailer Review

Aloha! Let’s all be honest- today has been pretty sad. I think we all needed the Moana teaser to cheer us up just a little it. For some strange reason Disney took it down but here it is if you haven’t seen it yet:

You will probably recall a few days ago I wasn’t that bowled over by the Beauty and the Beast teaser everyone went nuts over.  To me it was shots of the sets with music. I still don’t get the big hubbub on that one.

Moana, on the other hand, is a trailer I can get behind! It starts out with our introduction to Maui who is a demigod with a magic hook that can take down the moon and raise islands from the sea!

moana trailer1Then we meet Maui voiced by Dwayne, The Rock, Johnson, and boy does he seem like a cheerful dude! And what I loved is his tattoos move and he talks to them!

maona trailer2Then he does a traditional Polynesian yell and some of the pounding type dancing they do there.

maona trailer3We then get Maui looking straight into the camera. It made me wonder if we will get some 4th wall breaking because going into it I was thinking Maui would be like Gusteau in Ratatouille but it looks like he will be narrating to us, the audience, as well.

moana trailer4Then we get the hilarious deadpan reaction from Moana and her pig. I think this says a lot about her personality. I bet she will be kind of sarcastic and funny. Plus, she is beautiful and that pig is so cute!

moana trailer5Next we get a little bit of the music and it feels like a neat riff on Polynesian melodies. I really like the song! And then we see Moana with the ocean behind her- gorgeous! I love that she looks a little bit more natural in size and appearance than some other Disney princesses.

moana trailer6And then we see Moana throwing a spear at something, so clearly she won’t be a shrinking violet. Love that!

moana trailer7Next we see Moana’s power over the ocean and how it moves away from her. I find this power intriguing but also the ocean beautiful and green.

moana trailer8Then there are large waves and a houseboat full of people crashes over them. According to one of my friends on twitter this is a traditional boat used in that part of the world.

moana trailer10And then we see dolphins! So pretty!

moana trailer11And finally we are back to Maui and we see him turn into a bird.

moana trailer12Now that’s how you do a teaser! We saw a lot of Moana and Maui. We got to see real visuals to give an idea of the story and style. We got to hear the great music and see a tease at both the sweetness and action of the film.

I’m thrilled with this teaser and my anticipation for Moana is now through the roof but it was already my most anticipated of the year!

What about you? What did you think of the teaser and are you excited for Moana?

Best Indie Films of 2016

Hey guys! Lately I’ve felt a little bit burned out on blockbusters. It just feels like everything has become so polarized, even toxic when it comes to these big movies. Plus, we’ve had a lot of mediocre ones in 2016. So, it was with glee that I spoke with my friend Mark and we decided to do a podcast on independent films!

This has been so great because it encouraged me to see a bunch of independent films I might not have otherwise seen and I am the better for it. We each came with our top 10 lists and discussed them. We had a lot in common but some differences as well. I would love if you gave this podcast a listen and let me know what you think.

What indie films have you seen this year? I don’t want to give away our order but some of the films we mention are Sing Street, Love and Friendship, Everybody Wants Some!, The Witch, April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday, The Invitation, etc.

I think with these independent films you can get back to the true passion behind filmmaking that sometimes gets lost in the big budget properties.  A movie like April and the Extraordinary World for instance can take some risk that Moana isn’t going to be able to take. That makes them really fun to watch.

Check out Mark’s blog at https://fastfilmreviews.com/

And this has turned out to the be the week of podcasts. Yesterday I spoke with my friend Tom about Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan. I would love if you checked that one out.

Also this Saturday I am going to meeting with Abby, Jeremy and Richard about the Prisoner of Azkaban!

I love talking about these films with my friends. If any of you have ideas for podcasts let me know! I’m always up for it.

Is Film More Art or Literature?

filmI’ve been thinking about something today and I wanted to throw it out to you guys for discussion. Lately I’ve seen a lot of bad movies and it’s got me asking  question-

Is film more art or literature? With some of these bad movies it’s tough to make the case they are either (I’m talking to you Adam Sandler!), but some like Alice Through the Looking Glass have decent artistry but are still failures. So it got me thinking…

Let me lay out the arguments on both sides.

The Case for Art

There’s obviously a visual component to film which places it in the art category. Photography is clearly art and film is basically moving photographs. However, there are very few films that can exist on the strength of the art itself. Don’t you think art needs to be somewhat self-sustaining?  Like when I go to a museum and see a statue I don’t need lots of text about said statue to appreciate the art. It’s a beautiful statue. I look at it and know that to be a fact.

However, with film that is usually not the case. With the exception of a Fantasia or a Terrence Malick film, a movie must be more than just pretty images to be appreciated and enjoyed. You could have the most beautiful imagery ever put to film and if the story is weak the art is a failure. I can’t think of any other artistic medium where that would be the case.

Perhaps you could make an argument that ballet is a visual art that requires context but even then I think the individual dancers mastery can be appreciated in a ballet. I certainly appreciate Gene Kelly’s artistry in his ballet in Singin’ in the Rain that has nothing to do with the plot.

All that said, when I think of my favorite movies the artistry is so obviously there- especially in animation. A film like the Little Mermaid had a million bubbles drawn by hand. How can that not be art? But then again I certainly have favorites like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail which aren’t significant art films.

But I look at something like this it is so clear- film is art:

The Case for Literature-

Let’s be honest how often do we get a Tree of Life, a film which is so clearly art?  Most of the time it is much more muddled and commercial. There is a strong case that film is much more literature than art.

If you think about it the basis of most movies is literature- a script or screenplay that tells a story. Most people don’t consider a play art and yet how is that different from a movie? Sure the sets might be considered art in a play but not the play itself.

Most movies require dialogue and a story to be effective. You can have the most beautiful imagery and if the story isn’t good most of the time the imagery won’t be appreciated.

Many people would consider one of the great American movies to be Paul  Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood. While there are many striking moments in the movie most of the gripping scenes involve the dialogue and the insane performance from Daniel Day Lewis. Look at this scene. It’s just 2 men talking in a simple room:

Combo Films

Of course you have those films that are so clearly a merging of both art and literature.  I think that is why so many people loved Birdman. It satisfied the artistic impulse with the long tracking shots and visual style while having a story that many could relate to with its critique of superhero fandoms and celebrity. (I am not a Birdman fan but I did like this aspect of it).

But I think most of us lean more to one side or another- we see movies as art or we see them as storytelling. This impacts our enjoyment of certain films that lean more heavily to one side or another. I personally tend to see it more as art, so a movie like Boyhood doesn’t have a complex narrative it doesn’t bother me. I focus on the small moments and the way the images are teaching me about life rather than fixating on the everyday story.

I certainly can appreciate a dialogue heavy film but if I had to pick one side I’d go with art. Of my favorite movies (Up, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Little Mermaid are my top 3) they aren’t the most amazing stories in the world but the characters and artistry I love.

You might not think it matters but I think it does. It impacts what films we are likely to see and appreciate. Again Boyhood is an example. Last year’s Carol or The Revenant also come to mind being artistically bold but not the greatest stories I’ve ever heard. Even a movie like Avatar, those who see film as art are more likely to appreciate it than those on the literature side. Wall-e is another film that those with more artistic interests tend to appreciate more than plot-driven moviegoers.

We could even make that argument with this year’s superhero  movies. Those who see film as art more likely to go with Batman v Superman. In contrast, those that see film as literature more likely to go with Captain America: Civil War with it’s witty dialogue.

What do you think? Is film art or literature? What side do you land on?

DONT SEE ME BEFORE YOU or in other words a Review

Spoilers! I put in the title my feelings on the film and I strongly encourage you to not support Me Before You.  But I will be talking spoilers in this review if you do decide to see it. You’ve been warned.
me before you6I wasn’t going to see Me Before You because I hated the book.  We read it for book club last October and I found it extremely manipulative and disturbing. My goodreads review is here but I will share with you some highlights:

“I’m sorry but I thought this book was terrible. It was like a Nicholas Sparks novel but more incompetently written”

“The dialogue was cringe worthy.The story was something you’d see on a bad soap opera but without the campy fun those can have”

and finally

“The ending was unpardonable…I am strongly against assisted suicide but usually when it is argued it is people who have a terminal illness. Not a man who has special needs but openly admits to being able to live a perfectly happy life. That’s called regular suicide”

Yep, it sucked as a book, so how is it as a movie?

It does some things better. Author and now screenwriter Jojo Moyes does a better job with the dialogue in the film than in the book. It’s still trite and obvious but there were a few laughs, a few genuine moments.

Also she makes the supporting characters, particularly Lou’s family  and sister and Will’s family much better characters. In the book Lou’s family are judgemental and awful and Will’s family are kind of dumb.

I also thought the chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin was decent and I don’t mind that the building romance between them is predictable.

BUT THAT’S WHERE MY PRAISE STOPS

I would like to quote Dr Shane Clifton a quadriplegic who wrote an essay entitled ‘Why I Hate JoJo Moye’s Me Before You“:

“Actually, the book is about a quadriplegic who wants to die, and at the end of the book chooses to do so – despite the fact that he found love and had a loving and supporting family, and so had an amazing opportunity to live a full and flourishing life. He was, after all, as rich as is a bottle of fine whiskey, and could have afforded any number of compensations to manage life with a disability– unlike most quadriplegics who are poor, but still choose to live.

So let’s not beat around the bush. This is a book celebrating suicide. Worse, it’s a book that presumes that suicide is the only rational response to the experience of living with quadriplegia”

The lead character in the novel and film, Will Traynor, used to be a big athletic stud and in an accident is now a quadriplegic. He is depressed about his new body and tells his parents he is going to undergo “assisted suicide” if you can call it that in 6 months.

The parents hire local manic pixie dream girl Lou to cheer him up and of course she’s nutty and wears cooky clothes. And of course he hates her at first but darn if she isn’t just so charming.

Eventually she makes his life worth living but that’s not enough for him. He still decides to go through with the suicide because she would eventually grow to regret him. And then he gives her his inheritance so she can go “live well” without him!

I’m sorry but I find that extremely offensive.

Again I quote from Mr Clifton:

“Now, before you get on your high horse and remind me that some people do choose to die, and that’s their right, let me say that I understand that quadriplegia is downright hard to live with, and many people have it much harder than I do. And the person that chooses suicide has my compassion and support.

But I’m not going to celebrate that choice.”

My best friend has been horribly impacted by suicide and it is not the dramatic moving finale to a love story. I’m sorry. When it is chosen as an end to pain and suffering it is typically by someone who has a terminal illness. Not someone who is seen enjoying time at the beach days before the deed is done.

The book is even worse because Lou’s mother states her natural objections to the plan and she is treated like a complete jerk. Here that is only briefly mentioned.  There is no room within the story to disagree with the choices. That’s what makes it especially manipulative.

What I find amazing is never once is Will shown what good he can do with his life, especially with how rich he is. He could be such an inspiration to those with disabilities. He could start a foundation and share his experiences with the world. No, he’s just taken to a classical music concert and told that should make him want to live! He’s given no objectives or life goals so of course he feels that life without all the ‘fun’ he used to have is meaningless.

Also, why does he have to stay away from work? That is made a big deal of in the movie. His coworkers are getting married and talking about their fancy careers.  He couldn’t sit behind a desk and make calls at least part time? I mean the situation they set him in seems ridiculous when you really think about it. He’s more bored than anything else.

They throw in that he keeps getting pneumonia and has pain but again is suicide really the answer? Even those who aren’t religious I can’t understand endorsing suicide as a valid option for Will.

It’s just an example of how little questions this film asks. It states a situation- Will wants to die because he is a quadriplegic but they dont properly debate all angles of that situation. In the world of this movie suicide is a valid, even moving life choice that Will should be allowed to make as a gift to his family. It’s awful stuff

They even passed out little packages of tissues at my screening. No thank you! I would have rather had a megaphone so I could yell at the screen!

It’s downright dangerous this film and I really was offended by it. Sure it looks glossy and has pretty people in it but the message is horrible.

I would not have gone to see Me Before You if it hadn’t been a free screening. Please don’t support this film. It’s offensive to those with disabilities and it should be offensive to us able-bodied folks too. Life is precious and just because you have great challenges doesn’t mean your story is over. Why not celebrate the unique opportunities available to the disabled and the new purpose it can give you?

In addition, it’s just not that good of a movie. It’s a dopey romance at best with like I said the classic manic pixie dream girl character.

I’ll end with Dr Clifton’s final words:

I hope that you notice that it reinforces the stereotype that women need a man to tell them what to do, and that you understand that our playboy hero is really a privileged white guy who just can’t come to terms with the fact that life is fragile and difficult but that if you fight the good fight and persevere it’s worth it in the end.

I give Me Before You a D- because I think it did improve upon the book a little bit but it’s awful. DON’T SEE IT!!!

My youtube review