Tomb Raider Review

After the disaster that was Warcraft you can imagine my hesitation in going to see another action video game-based film but I wanted to support a female-led action film so I went to see the latest Tomb Raider movie. This is directed by Roar Uthaug who undeniably has the coolest name in movies today, and overall its an ok film.

I must admit that I struggled with Tomb Raider for the first act. There was a ton of set up before she gets to the island and aside from a fun bicycle chase it was not engaging me. I even fell asleep and my friend had to elbow me to wake me up…Yikes.

But when she got to the island things got much better, and I particularly enjoyed when they actually got into a tomb and did some raiding! There were some horror elements, and I liked the various booby traps and puzzles. There is a sequence with a key to a door that is particularly entertaining. These scenes are the kind of fun B movie material I expect in a movie called Tomb Raider.

On the other hand, a lot of the movie could have used more silliness. It is way more violent than it needs to be with people getting shot at close range and other pretty brutal moments. All the characters are taking the movie very seriously even down to nobody questioning the validity of a cursed tomb. You think there would be one person saying ‘you are all nuts to believe this hokum’?

Even the bad Indiana Jones movies are pretty sarcastic and funny, and I wish there had been more of that spirit in Tomb Raider. I realize not everything can be Indiana Jones but even more of National Treasure I would have appreciated. I guess that is more my style for this kind of movie.

That said, my friend did say that it emulated the game very well so I’m sure fans will appreciate those details. And it is an overall entertaining film. It will probably have a low rottentomatoes score, but I bet if you read the reviews they will be on the edge of fresh. It felt similar to last year’s Power Rangers Movie in that regard (I prefer Power Rangers because it had a lot of heart but I think review-wise they will be similar). I would find it hard to believe anyone saying it is Warcraft level bad. It’s solid, watchable adventure movie. I just would have made it a little more fun but that’s me.

The cast also helps elevate it. I really enjoyed Alicia Vikander as Lara. She is a kick butt character but she is also vulnerable and gets beat a lot. I also liked that she has a moment of shock when she realizes she killed a man. It’s in self defense of course, but still I appreciated they had her acknowledge what she had done. You don’t see that in many action movies. Walton Goggins is scary as the bad guy (like I said. He’s pretty brutal) and Daniel Wu is great as Lara’s friend. If they had thrown in one character for comic relief or to be the skeptic (ala Simon Pegg in Mission Impossible) that would have been perfect but it was still good.

Overall, if you saw the trailer for Tomb Raider and it looked like a good time I think you will enjoy it. It’s not perfect but there is enough entertainment there to justify a matinee ticket price. I hope it does decently because now they have set up the world and her skills, I think Lara’s next adventure will be much better.

Fate of the Furious Review

In Furious 7 there is a scene where Hobbs announces he is leaving the hospital and he focuses on his broken arm until the cast falls off in pieces. There was never a moment that campy and fun in Fate of the Furious.

In Furious 7 there is a moment where we see Brian and he waves and drives into the distance. There was never a moment with such heart in Fate of the Furious.

You get the idea. This film was a significant step down from the previous 3 films.

It’s not like I am expecting Shakespeare in Fast and the Furious. I know it will be stupid stunts and lots of talk about family. My main problem with this movie is it wasn’t enough stupid stunts or talking about family.

The first big mistake they make is splitting off Dom from the family. He is manipulated by Charlize Theron’s character and it did not work having Dom as this quasi-villain for most of the film. Dom is the core of the team. He brings everyone together and reminds them of what is important. Without him I didn’t care as much about the characters. And I thought Charlize Theron was a complete miss as a villain- extremely flat and boring.

The second big mistake is way too much talking and staring at screens. There were so many scenes of characters scheming and planning and staring at screens. I have no idea why action movies think this is a good idea. We saw it last year with Jason Bourne which was even worse. In a Mission Impossible movie or good James Bond we don’t see him staring at screens talking about hacking and plans for long stretches. We seem very little planning and lots of butt kicking. That’s what we want!

One of the big action scenes is mostly people staring at screens because it involves unmanned cars. At one point it is literally raining cars, which with no people is  boring. I honestly got kind of drowsy during sections of this movie- something I never thought I would say about a Fast and Furious movie. Even Tokyo Drift wasn’t exactly boring.

The ending starts to get wacky and fun with them chasing a submarine but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it would have been if the entire movie had been that kinetic fun tone. Instead, it felt like a reminder of the kind of movie I wish I had gotten all along.

My favorite scene in the movie was when Jason Statham’s character has to protect a baby. This was funny and tense, which is just what I want from this franchise. He also has some funny dialogue with Helen Mirren (who is underused but funny in few scenes she’s in).

In the future it seems like we may want to get back to the drawing board of what made 5, 6 and 7 so much fun. This entry unfortunately wasn’t.

Overall Grade- C-

Kong: Skull Island Review

*Mild Spoiler Warning but nothing not in trailers

I feel I should say before writing this review that I am not a movie snob. I can enjoy a stupid monster movie just as much as the next girl. In fact, I recently defended The Great Wall as just that kind of film. However, the thing about The Great Wall is it was visually inventive and consistent, which kept me entertained throughout. I went into Kong Skull Island expecting a similar experience and left feeling disappointed. Kong Skull Island has positives but in the end I don’t think it is successful.

This version of Kong is set in the 1970s which was pretty creative, but like everything these days it is meant to fit into a cinematic universe with Godzilla and other famous monsters.

The conceit is the Vietnam War is ending and John Goodman’s character named Bill gathers a group of soldiers, trackers, scientists and a photographer to explore Skull Island. Once they arrive they face the giant ape King Kong and a variety of other creatures as well as meet a man marooned there in 1944 played by John C Reily.

The special effects with Kong are first-rate and very entertaining. The problem is these special effects are not consistent throughout the movie. The 1933 film, hokey as it may now seem, had a consistent look to all the creature designs. In this film there are these lizard creatures that Kong fights which I thought looked really bad. They seemed like something out of a movie from the early 2000s not 2017. This was a real problem because there are multiple scenes with just the lizards including one with some of the most ridiculous slow motion I’ve seen in a long time.

The writing was also pretty inconsistent. Again, I don’t expect great writing in a film like this but it needs to be consistent. Many of the characters felt like they were in different movies, seeing different realities. Tom Hiddleston is bland as the tracker who one moment leaves a boat and yet needs his super duper tracking skills to find the river? Brie Larson is there as a photographer but her relationship with Kong feels so tagged on and underdeveloped. In the 1933 version Ann Darrow and Kong have a relationship that develops over time leading to Kong being encaged and put on display. It makes sense he would feel for her. Not here. The real victim to underwritten characters is Samuel L Jackson’s Lieutenant Packard. He basically acts like an insane man from another movie. His actions make no sense for an army man (or sane human for that matter) and all of the sudden the movie becomes a revenge piece that doesn’t work at all. They even repeat his iconic line from Jurassic Park, which I thought was a very odd choice. A character I did like was John C. Reily’s marooned 1944’s soldier. He was consistently written throughout the film. His choices made sense and he was entertaining in the way you want a B movie performance to be. Along with Kong, he was my favorite thing in the movie.

Even Kong is underwritten in this film. In the 1933 film you see him grow as a character. He has emotion and heart as he is hunted and then chained to show off to the crowd. Here they try to get some of that emotion but it doesn’t work and his choices towards the end don’t make any sense. It became a bunch of lizard battles when what I wanted was a Kong movie.

The soundtrack was really good! Full of 70s hits, so there’s that but I was disappointed by Kong Skull Island. There are moments of fun but it just wasn’t consistent enough for me to endorse.

Overall Grade- C-

Spectre Review

spectreSpectre is an interesting film to review because it succeeds at being what most of the 24 Bond films are but it fails at being what in my opinion the two best Bonds films , Casino Royale and Skyfall were- emotionally compelling.  It’s a solid Bond movie but it just doesn’t have that layer of complexity the earlier films in the Daniel Craig Bond films did. To me at least those films succeeded because Bond felt like a real person with emotions and feelings, which made the action much more engrossing because it was happening to someone I actually cared about.

Most Bond movies aren’t so rich but are silly action movies with quippy one liners, cool gadgets, ridiculous stunts and beautiful women.  You get all of that in Spectre but I was a little let down by Sam Mendes’ latest offering because I wanted more than that.  The previous movies spoiled me!  (In fact, I picked Casino Royale as my action movie choice to introduce someone to film in this fun post here)

spectre5In Spectre we even get the martini shaken not stirred line when in Casino Royale he is asked that and says ‘Do I look like I give a d…”  I prefer the previous but I guess it makes sense when Casino Royale was supposed to be a prequel or an origin story for Bond.  I suppose he has been growing into the agent we saw in earlier incarnations of the character.  Too bad…

But that said, let’s talk about the movie we did get, not the movie I wanted.  The plot to Spectre is very similar to Mission Impossible 5.  The movie starts out with a dynamite sequence in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration.  The action is terrific with sweeping pan shots and a helicopter fight scene that blew my mind.

spectre2James Bond is hunting down a secret organization called Spectre from a clue that he found from the M played by Judi Dench in previous films.  When he returns to London the 00 organization is being merged wtih MI6 and the new M played by Ralph Fiennes is having to deal with C played by Andrew Scott who Sherlock fans will recognize. I liked them both in their roles

spectre7 spectre9James is supposed to stay in London but through the help of Q and his cars and gadgets (more of that kind of thing in this than the previous films) he makes it to Europe and then South Africa to investigate the Spectre.

Q played by Ben Whishaw

Along the way James meets a woman named Lucia played by Monica Bellucci and  then the main Bond girl Dr Madeleine Swann played by Lea Seydoux.  They are all fine but again the typical old school Bond girl, nothing more. There’s nobody even close to Rebeca Ferguson in MI-5.

spectre4The villains are a big disappointment.  So far I have yet to see a great Christoph Waltz performance (his Tarantino films are too violent for me) but it really isn’t his fault here.  He is off screen for most of the movie and when he was there it was a standard campy Bond villain with elaborate ways to kill people instead of just shooting them.  There’s also one of those old school Die Hard style bombs with the digital read out.  Are those ever going to go away?  spectre6Dave Bautista literally says one word and is the more predominant force trying to stop Bond.  They do have an amazing fight sequence on a train so that was entertaining but hard to feel bonded to a villain who doesn’t talk.

There were times when I got a little bit bored and like in MI-5 there are a lot of plotholes and moments where you scratch your head wondering ‘how did they get here? How did they know to go here? How did they survive that?”  Perhaps that wouldn’t bother me if this hadn’t been the 7th movie this year asking me to take such silly action leaps and again the previous films were so good! Sigh…

Anyway, Spectre is what it is.  It’s an old school Bond movie with some good action, some silly banter and beautiful women.  If that’s your thing than you’ll probably like it.  If you are hoping for a little more depth than you might be disappointed.

As far as content there is some sensuality in two scenes and a lot of over the top action and fighting.  Minimal profanity so base your viewing of the film on how offensive you find the Pierce Brosnan or Timothy Dalton Bond films.

Also the score by Thomas Newman felt very old school Bond as well.

Overall Grade- C+ (which I remind you a C+ means I thought it was slightly above average)

Mission Impossible Rogue Nation Review

mi-2

Growing up my family and I really enjoyed watching the old Mission Impossible TV show.  They were so clever with the cases and we loved the team dynamic to their problem solving.  When the first Mission Impossible movie came out I was kind of let down because although it looked nice I didn’t think it had that team feel.  It was just the Tom Cruise show.   Fortunately since the 3rd in the series the team dynamic has returned and the series has gotten better with 3 and 4.  I don’t think the new entry Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is quite as good as Ghost Protocol (MI4) but it is an entertaining time at the movies.

I ran out of time today so here is the rest of my thoughts on the movie on my youtube video.  I think you guys will really enjoy this film.

My Favorite Superhero Movies

Hey guys!

Now that I’ve been thoroughly depressed by the Oscars let’s talk about movies that will never get a live action Oscar- superhero movies.  I have actually not been a huge superhero movie fan.  In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post on my other blog called ‘Thumbs Down to Summer Movies’.  I had recently seen Green Lantern and it was the tipping point. Here’s what I said

“It’s at this point I must make a confession- I don’t like super hero movies.   It’s hard to explain why but I have never liked them. With the exception of Harry Potter, I can’t think of a super hero/fantasy franchise I’m  a fan of (I’m a marginal fan of Lord of the Rings).  I also like the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but they have been sullied by mediocre follow-ups in recent years.

Despite all the special effects I find most super hero movies boring and I don’t like 3D”

So, yes  I had sworn off superhero movies and all their progeny but then Avengers happened and I smiled at these likable fun characters with witty dialogue. And we got 2014 and I saw Captain America 2 which was actually a spy movie, Xmen Days of Future Past which is actually a time travel story, Guardians of the Galaxy which is actually a space opera, and Big Hero 6 which is a movie about loss and grief in the guise of a superhero movie.

It was then I had a revelation ‘I like superhero movies when they aren’t superhero movies’.  Ding, ding, ding! Fortunately for me Hollywood has figured this out and aside from the odious Man of Steel and the cluttered Amazing Spiderman 2 they have had a remarkable track record of late to the point where I’m actually looking forward to superhero movies now (although highly skeptical about Batman v Superman but we will see).  Marvel at least has made me a believer.

I feel like I also have to give a caveat that I am actually not a big Dark Knight fan.  It’s super well made and acted but it was just too violent for me and I found it cynical, dark and Batman is such a bore.  I wanted him to lose the whole way through.  You can all hate me now but it’s really how I felt….

So with all that what are my favorite superhero movies?  Here goes.

superman10. Superman- Christopher Reeves is so charming as Superman and he makes an ok Clark Kent.  It doesn’t get bogged down in exposition but is light and fun with great music and decent if hokey special effects. Gene Hackman is good as Lex Luther . Superman is kind of a boring superhero because he’s so perfect but this film finds the balance of embracing the silly while not being too silly (aka Superman 3 and 4…).  We also don’t get too much of the Savior metaphors like we do with Man of Steel or Superman Returns that take themselves way too seriously.

batman mask9. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Yep friends this is my favorite Batman movie.  Maybe that won’t be a surprise because I love animation but I honestly think this is the best movie depiction of Batman.  He’s not just a bore but he gets jealous, frustrated, happy, a mixture of emotions.  Kevin Conroy is great as Batman and perhaps it is only in animation that you can pull off the mixture of Bruce Wayne and Batman because you can draw whatever you want it to be where an actor may just be better at one side than the other (same problem so far with Peter Parker).  Mark Hamil is wonderful as Joker. It’s a well written script with a bit of a mystery involved but it isn’t too grim or violent. Now I just wonder when the heck it will come out on blu-ray!

rocketeer-reboot8. The Rocketeer- A movie too often forgotten but a very sweet homage to 40’s action movies. It stars Billy Campbell as a stuntman who finds a rocketpack that was designed by Howard Hughes.  Jennifer Connely plays his girlfriend and the rest of the cast is stellar with Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton as our Nazi bad guy, Terry O’Quin and more.  I defy you to not be charmed by it.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-Poster7. X-men: Days of Future Past- Of the big franchises Xmen has always been my favorite.  Even when I had sworn off the genre I still kind of liked the X-men movies.  Maybe partly because they are the only franchise to pull of interesting female characters and they almost always deal with something thoughtful and complex without getting mean spirited and who doesn’t like Hugh Jackman?  I think the recent X-men Days of Future Past is the best of the 7 (including the Wolverine movies) to have come out.  It has it all- amazing ensemble (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McEvoy I could go on. Almost every member of the cast has an Oscar nomination or win. Not bad for a superhero movie).

But its also the Inception of Superhero movies.  The time travel element creates layers of a puzzle to figure out and Quicksilver is an amazing villain with special effects.  It’s great!

spider-man-26. Spider-man 2- For my money it is the only good Spider-man movie that has come out so far.  The others have good elements but this is the only one that fires on all four cylinders. The special effects still hold up, the large set pieces like the train fight is gripping, Tobey McGuire is charming enough to get me to ignore Kirsten Dunst and James Franco and him have good rivalry. But really the reason the movie is special is Dr Octopus who is such a great, engaging villain. He has really positive motivations through a lot of the movie but he has no self control . It makes him very interesting and fun to watch.

capt 25. Captain America 2: Winter Soldier- A great superhero movie because it’s not really a superhero movie.  It’s a spy flick like Mission Impossible with an amazing villain for Winter Soldier, great action fight sequences, a car crash sequence which felt so real, Robert Redford is great (that’s the quality of actors we are getting now!).  The Nick Furry twist was very clever and it is so well paced.  It never lost my interest or got boring.  They build the case with very minimal exposition typically housed within a trip to the museum or some other outing so it doesn’t feel like exposition.  Captain America is likable and Chris Evans keeps the character innocent like a man from the 40s might be while still being tough.

BigHero6Team4. Big Hero 6- I just got Big Hero 6 on blu-ray and watched it and loved it all over again.  It is a superhero movie with real heart.  I loved the connection of the two brothers through Baymax.  It reminds us that those we love never really leave us because the love continues on.  I also loved the diversity of the Big Hero 6 and I thought the motivation of the villain was really clever and surprised me.  Also Sanfransokyo was gorgeously drawn and a fun new setting.  Overall a huge win for Disney.

guardians of the galaxy3. Guardians of the Galaxy- Don’t worry this is my last from last year. Guardians has everything I want in my superhero movie.  It is a likable band of misfits that are gathered together to fight a bad guy. I love the friendship between Groot and Rocket.  Chris Pratt is great as Starlord.  It’s fun, keeps you guessing and has the best soundtrack I’ve heard in years. It really reminded me a lot of Star Wars with a much weaker villain, and that’s really its only mark against it.  I think they actually picked the wrong villain.  Nebula is much more complex than Ronan.  Still I loved it!

incredibles2. Incredibles- Even when I had sworn off Superhero movies I still loved The Incredibles.  What’s so great about this movie is it includes so many of my favorite genres all in one.  It’s a family movie with a stay at home Mom and her 3 kids who all have their struggles, it’s a movie about work and how when we aren’t doing what we are made to do we aren’t happy, and its gorgeous animation.  Every choice they made works.  The villain is very scary with a believable and brief backstory.  Edna is hilarious (no capes!), and the ending is  perfect with everyone learning just the right lesson.  Also love Samuel L Jackson as Frozone! It’s actually the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church and it was a great choice to get reintroduced to cinema.

avengers1. Avengers- This actually came out when I was in my ‘I hate superhero movies’ phase but it was the biggest movie ever so of course I ended up seeing it and to my surprise I loved it.  What I liked most is it didn’t take itself too seriously.  It was fun without being stupid. I hadn’t seen most of the precursor films leading up to Avengers except Ironman but I don’t think you need to enjoy the movie.  Joss Whedon is such a great writer creating likable characters that we can root for and a team dynamic that is unpredictable.

I like that the destruction isn’t too bad and its not really trying to teach us anything.  Just give us a team we can root behind and see them seriously challenged by a formidable villain in Loki, who I love.  Tom Hiddleston is my favorite performance in the movie.  He has motivation behind what he is doing and he never gets mean or too violent like the Joker can.  He’s probably my favorite comic book villain, maybe because he doesn’t really see himself as a villain.  In the end the script is well written and funny with good action.  That’s enough to get 1 on my list.

So there you go!  What do you think of my list? I know all of you would put the Dark Knight so maybe give me some other one’s besides Dark Knight you would have included?  I’d love to hear.

What are the worst superhero movies?  Well, I haven’t seen all of the worst but I’d probably say (does Howard the Duck count as superhero movie? If so than he’d be 1):

1. Catwoman

2. Batman and Robin

3. Superman 4

4. Green Lantern

5. Man of Steel