Girls, They Want To Have Fun

Girls Trip

 

A girl’s trip. A novelty idea that starts out so innocent, but can turn down the wilder side.  Rough Night already attempted to depict this concept earlier this summer, but it didn’t quite deliver the punch it wanted.  So, this weekend, another (almost identical) movie tries the concept again, and we can only hope it’s more successful.  Robbie K reporting again on another movie review to give you the 411 on films.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Good Pace:  Many raunchy comedies, and let’s face it there are plenty of them, often have either too quick a pace, or drag out exponentially. Girls Trip gets the pace right though, keeping things fun and entertaining, without getting stuck on a scene or sequence for too long.  I found myself engaged in the movie and thoroughly enjoyed the fun at hand in the Flossy Posse adventure.  It’s nice to see things progress at an adequate rate and breathe some life into a plot that was dead of originality. And speaking of plot…

 

Story:  Believe it or not, comedies can still have a story and make you laugh.  Despite what the trailers promised, Girls Trip has a plot that creates a foundation for the laughs to spring off of and keep it grounded with a relevant purpose. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there are times they go all out for comedy, however much of it goes with the flow of the story and is relevant to the plot.  Past the comedy though, the story is another heartfelt romp about friendship and love, going down the usual avenues that we’ve seen a hundred times.  One unique feature though is how all of the girls’ problems interconnect and cause drama to offset the mischief at hand.  The result is a dynamic relationship between the ladies, and the extras surrounding them, that feels relevant, relatable, and realistic on many levels.  So, nice to see this in a comedy again.

 

Acting:  Characters are good, but they require acting to come to life.  Rough Night failed to emphasize the acting and traded their talent for quick laughs.  This film learned from that mistake and encouraged them to act like characters with more depth.  Regina Hall has the drama acting down pat, being emotional while also steering from the overacting. Queen Latifah brings her sass back to the mix, a little edgier, but nonetheless the same style that works for these roles. Tiffany Haddish is like the Rebel Wilson in this film. She works well for comedic relief, and her loyal, unfiltered edge is executed well at most parts.  My favorite is Jada Pinkett Smith who presents the most balanced character of the bunch and played the broadest spectrum of the bunchTheir chemistry mixes well and really represents a girl squad who has drama, but has each other’s’ back.

 

Comedy:  A small, but important note, is that the comedy is well executed and quite balanced for this reviewer.  Sure, much of the theme is sexual natured, but fortunately the crassness of the jokes varies depending on the character.  There are some other comedic devices presented that are fun, but what’s nice is that comedy is balanced and not the center piece.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Language:  Yeah, no surprise, I don’t like strong focus on cursing.  Girls Trip sadly falls victim to using the F bomb, alongside a few other derogatory devices, for much of their conversation.  While not the worst I’ve seen, the writing could have used a few rewrites to add some class and more memorable lines to the mix.  But Lazy writing still brought a lot of laughs to the group so it’s probably not the biggest factor for most.

 

The Uncensored moments:  Despite the change up of delivery, and the dynamic nature of the women…much of the comedy is focused on sex. While this comedy is not my particular style, it can be entertaining, when executed at the right times.  There are points where Girls Trip gets really nasty though and drops the class for cheap laughs and gimmicks.  In particular, Haddish’s character gets old at times and her raunchy moments got old at times (though not as much as seeing near naked men and their organs).

 

Endgame/Lack of Originality: With all the good pacing and delivery of this movie, you would think there would be a strong endgame.  Unfortunately, Girls Trip kind of dropped the ball in the last twenty minutes when they threw a big wrench into the gears.  At this point a lot of tension is introduced, only to have it immediately resolved in a rather lackluster manner.  The final resolution has emotional power behind it, but it was very unoriginal and lacking the cleanup I expected from our ladies.  Not the consistency I had hoped for, but still not the worse conclusion I’ve seen this weekend.

 

The Verdict:

 

Despite my low expectations, Girl’s Trip is surprisingly very entertaining.  A well-paced, story-focused comedy is in store for those who come to see this film in the theater.  The cast keeps the movie fun, and the story is both emotional and entertaining to watch, especially with the comedy that goes in tangent with it.  However, despite the entertainment value in it, Girl’s Trip still has some areas to improve upon including comedy diversity, classing up the lines/censorship, and maybe working on an endgame.  Regardless, this movie hits its target audience well and is a fun adventure that I hope will stand at just one movie (no sequel needed).  Worth the trip to the theater?  In terms of comedy this summer, yes this is one of the ones to see.  Yet, there is nothing theater worthy to call for the expensive tickets. 

 

My Scores: 

 

Comedy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

Valerian: Movie of a Thousand Visuals

Valerian

 

Comic books, a loveable source of entertainment in many forms.  While superheroes from the DC and Marvel universe shows take the cake, there are a few unique nuggets hidden in the colorful pages.  Valerian is one such series, a sci-fi adventure that held a bounty of potential comic gold that would certainly make for a good movie.  Turns out, Hollywood did its research and this weekend, the cinematic rendition of this tale hits theaters.  With all the hype, I hope this film will be the movie of the summer!  What is my verdict? Let’s get started with another Robbie’s movie review.

 

LIKES:

 

Part of the story:  Science Fiction stories with fantasy can go either way in quality as seen in a wide variety of movies. Part of Valerian’s story captures a sincere element that tugs at the heart strings concerning one of the races.  While not the most complex of stories, this subplot has a nice dynamic to it as you learn of the race and their fight for survival.  A few other tangent tales are decent as well, primarily one concerning Rihanna  character Bubble the exotic shape shifter.  This tale had a little heart to it, it just needed more to be complete.

 

The Graphics:  The trailers weren’t kidding when they hyped up the graphics of this movie.  Valerian’s strongest selling point is the beautiful visuals contained in its computer-generated setting.  It starts with the creatures that inhabited the galaxy and expands beyond that to bring out some truly imaginative world building that this day and age can perfect.  The cities themselves are polished with each level having its own sense of style, “class” and personality that was captured in the high definition graphics.  One will certainly see the budget went into the design of this movie, and many of the scenes are certainly geared towards the 3-D ride they want to take you on, especially in those chase scenes.  Is it as good as Avatar’s visuals?  While certainly imaginative, Valerian has some polishing to do to match the realism in that film.  However, the creatures are certainly more diverse than those found in its blue cousin’s world.   Of note:  I would have loved to see more costumes and makeup to offset the technology and add a little more realism to the mix.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Story Overall:  While there is one component that touched my heart, Valerian has issues in the story department overall.  Much of the tale is a rather rushed mess, devoid of any sustenance that the trailers promised.  The dark looming threat that threatened to collapse the artificial city is nothing what I expected. Truth be told, the big revelation was kind of lame and expected (I was able to decipher much of the mystery within the first hour.) There was little suspense in the tale, and the execution didn’t add much “flare” to it.  In regards to character development, that was also lacking, the two leads barely evolving past their superficial soldier roles from the beginning.  The result were boring characters that I had difficulty attaching to.  I can’t say the acting or chemistry between the two was not the strongest, which did not help their case any further.

 

Action:  Or should I say lack of action.  Despite the promises by the trailers, Valerian is rather lax in regards to stunning action sequences.  The blaster scenes hold some potential, but are rather bland and short-lived to get hyped up for.  A few chase scenes manage to inject a little speed into the pace of this movie, but unfortunately you have seen the entire scene in the trailer, leaving little more to get hyped about.  The close combat scenes weren’t much improved, with many of them being overacted, forced, and somewhat sluggish. While certainly not absent, Valerian’s visual style should have had more exciting action to compliment it, but sadly that was not the case.

 

Under use of creatures:  With all the world building and alien design, you would think they would utilize it more. Unfortunately, much of the creatures and behemoths are shown off only in passing and have little relevance to the story.  Ironically, most of the extras are just humans dressed in interesting outfits, while the rest of the CGi creatures remain isolated from our heroes.  The lack of integration made for an underutilized cast, and the loss of creativity was difficult to see. Hopefully this will be rectified in future installments.

 

Editing:  Perhaps the biggest dislike for me was some of the poor editing in this movie. Valerian has two sequences that were weak integrations into the plot, feeling irrelevant in the grand scheme.  One of these scenes adds nearly 30 minutes to the movie, and if deleted would do little damage other than dropping one celebrity exotic dance. Why this was the start of the rescue…I don’t know, but it weakened the film by kinking up the pace of the film.

 

The Verdict:

 

It’s true that Valerian has stunning looks, animation, and world building, but outside of that there isn’t much to say wow too.  I haven’t read the comic book, but this movie did not feel as if it brought the story to life, nor the action the novel most likely held.  Without these components, or better editing for that matter, the 137-minute run time is a bit of a snooze fest in regards to sci-fi operas.  Still, the visual effects are certainly theater worthy, but I still heed caution in seeing this one on the silver screen.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  6.0

Movie Overall:  5.0

I Wish For Better Execution

Wish

 

I wish I may, I wish I might, make a demand that might cost someone’s life?  That’s not the way the rhyme goes, but this parody is pretty representative of the theme of my latest review.  Robbie K here, this time covering Wish Upon the latest horror genre flick to flood the silver screens across the country.  The “disturbing” trailers paint the picture of the next spine tingling film, but the PG-13 rating suggests it could be a little timid.  What’s the verdict?  Hopefully I can fill in some answers to help answer that question. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Shorter Run Time:  I know what you’re thinking, not good if this is a like, but it’s nice to see a movie stick around the 90-minute run time when there isn’t sustenance to keep it running longer.  Wish Upon fills its short run-time purpose with the thrills you want, and keeps it concise, a sign of good directing and editing in an era what that so suffers.

 

Joey King: Singling out the actors in this rather new actor cast, Joey King reprises her horror acting in a “two thumbs up” manner.  King plays the role of a distressed teenager with class, bringing a delicate balance of drama, screaming, and shallow happiness to the character.  In many PG-13 or teenager focused films, the lead character often suffers from overacting or extreme tangents in directing.  For me, King was able to keep things in good proportions and didn’t have me rolling my eyes (a first in a long time.) While certainly not an award-winning performance, King gets props for carrying the load of the movie.

 

A Nice tangent:  Despite the common trend of demons, spirits, and ghosts… Wish Upon at least brings a slight twist to the themes of horror movies. The wishing factor is a nice gimmick to get sold onto and see what desires will tempt her to risk lives.  It set a nice pace for the movie to build upon, and made it a little dynamic in regards to whom would pay the blood price for Clare’s (King) decisions and selfishness. The wish factor also presented some character development, shallower but existing, that really worked in their favor.

 

Not overly graphic:  A PG-13 horror movie is often a lot lax in their grim depictions of death.  Wish Upon continues that trend, forgoing gross, exaggerated, drawn out torturous deaths in favor of ridiculous, and still horrible, deaths that are quickly executed. One can think of this as Final Destination meets Unfriended, which boils down to coincidental deaths with a filter.  Unfortunately, it means you have seen a majority of the executions via the commercials, but you will get a few sequences that have escaped the public eye up until now.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Very simplistic:  Despite the deaths being filtered and less intense, they were also very simplistic and not as impressive.  Yes, they were still awful (as death is), but the hype up of the trailers was sadly dropped with the simplicity of the deaths.  There was no extra edge factor to them, and the lack of suspense, which left the ridiculous nature of the deaths the eye-rolling component of the film.  If you want the mindless, over the top deaths without the blood… well your wish has been granted I guess.

Story:  Wish Upon’s tale has some decent character development in it to highlight the underlying theme of the horror movie.  It was great seeing Clare’s transitions and her attempt to find the solution to the curse kept in the box. However, outside of that, the story tanks.  It’s the same predictable mess that most of this genre is, with little sustenance so that they could cram more deaths into the movie.  The cool wish concept brought about a lot of potential to interact with the entity, as well as opportunities for a more suspenseful uncovering of the source of the evil.  I would have liked to see what the creature looked like, or at least more interaction with the invisible evil that dwelled within.  Other plot elements could have been a little more detailed in the delivery as well, to add the emotional impact I think they wanted.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Wish Upon isn’t the worst movie to grace the theaters.  This PG-13 movie brings a unique angle to a stale concept that is concise, decently acted, and not overly graphic. Unfortunately, the execution is still in need of work on a variety of areas.  A lackluster story that was underdeveloped and the lack of suspense are two key areas the potential sequel can bring to the table.  As for this film though, if you aren’t looking for a filtered death movie, you might skip this until haunts Netflix.  For those looking for a simplistic horror film though… you’ve got a ringer in the theaters this summer.  One thing is certain though…be careful what you wish for.

 

My scores:

 

Fantasy/Horror/Thriller:  6.0

Movie Overall: 4.0

War or Survival of the Apes: Still Apemazing

Apes

Planet of the Apes, a series that has had ups and downs over the decades it’s been in existence.  The recent remakes have breathed life into the series and delivered some fantastic films that scream science fiction as they explain the events leading to the “classic” story. After a grand slam, middle movie that started the war, the third installment promised to bring that battle to full swing (according to the trailers).  Robbie K here with another review to fill the details and help guide your viewing choices.  War…what is it good for?  Let’s see if we can answer that question.

 

LIKES:

 

The Graphics:  The new series forewent the costumes, makeup, and looks of the classic series and instead focused on CGI graphics to bring the apes to life.  Once more, this series gets the animation perfect in all the high definition detail that modern technology bringsAndy Serkis (or Smeagle from LOTR for most of you) flexes his motion capture muscles in a stunning performance as Caesar the lead ape.  The movements are fluid, the facial gestures on point, and despite being painted as a chimpanzee, manages to brilliantly bring out a human like protagonist you can’t help but love.  When the more exciting moments are brought in, the border between reality (pyrotechnics) and virtual display is blurred even further in a balanced execution that keeps things in check.  Overall, the visual presentation is stunning.

 

The Story:  When you are doing prequels, it can be difficult to answer questions, but still craft an original story that is good (see the countless Star Wars prequel discussions).  War for the Planet of the Apes manages to achieve this balance of answering questions, while still bringing a story of its own.  This film manages to further develop Caesar’s life, while integrating key relationships that establish a firm foundation needed for these movies.  Much of the film is packed with this deep dive into the character psyche, while trying to infuse tension and suspense at the fates of the other apes. A good story indeed.

 

The Emotion:  And what makes the story so good, it’s the emotion captured in much of the scenes and sequences in the film.  Caesar himself is a complicated mess of feelings, motivations, and morale decisions, which is all brought out in the motion capture animation of Serkis’ work.  Watching his reactions, as well as the visualization of the war are brilliantly displayed with fantastic cinematography and supporting audio that maximizes the punches/kicks of the moment.  Animal activists will get double the slaps, but such emotion kept me engaged in the movie and suspenseful as what would happen next.  This may be the best component of the movie for me.

 

DISLIKES:

 

The Length:  Another example of editing, War for the Planet of the Apes could have cut some time off the movie.  This could have been achieved by shortening some of the suffering scenes, or dropping another sequence itself, though this might have weakened the story at points.  For this reviewer, there were components that felt a little long winded and unnecessary, which kind of bored me give the title of the movie (more on this later).

 

The Torture:  If seeing characters tortured is your idea of entertainment, then get stoked because this is your movie.  War for the Planet of the Apes has many dark moments that show the horrors that war can truly be.  The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) is a stereotypical, military antagonist and this movie is not afraid to show off his cruelty in that overinflated manner Hollywood makes famous.  Many scenes may be disturbing to those with sensitive constitutions or again animal activist passion.  I found myself quite irritated, annoyed, and ticked off at times at seeing these scenes over and over again.  While I admit a few of these scenes were needed, there is too much of a “good” thing that can lead to it being overdone.

 

The Lack of Action:  For a movie called War for the Planet of the Apes, I was expecting more combat to be packed in.  The trailers promised scenes of battle between man and ape, with military tactics going up against technologically advanced soldiers.  Sadly, this was not the case as this film had only two battle sequences to throw some excitement into the mix. These scenes were cool, but a little anti-climactic and didn’t show the bravado I really wanted to see to deliver that exciting bang I craved.  Sure, War is not just about the exciting battles made famous in cinema and video games, and this film shows another side to War.  If that is going to be the case, don’t edit the trailers to promise that.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            War for the Planet of the Apes might have been better named survival of the Planet of the Apes.  While not the most exciting of the movies and a little darker in regards to portrayal of the Apes’ journey, it definitely has the emotional punch of the other installments.  It’s a beautiful tale that brings the prequels to full closure, while still opening up another movie or two to continue bridging the gap between classic and new.  I do agree that it is one of the better movies of the summer, still it needs a little tweaking in the editing and action department to bring it to full life.  Worth a trip to the theater?  The answer is yes!

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Drama:  8.0

Movie Overall: 8.0

Web-Slinging Sensation: Comedy Returns To Spiderman

Spiderman

 

He can do whatever a spider can!  He is super brainy and has the ability to fight crime against a number of villains with interesting powers.  And he has had two reboots in the last two decades.  Yes, I’m talking about Spiderman, the young high school student who wears the coolest pajamas ever and has some pretty wicked powers.  This weekend, Disney studios gets their hands on the series, in hopes of breathing life back into the series and expanding their already vast repertoire of films.  Can Disney repeat its magic?  Robbie K here to give you the updates, and as always, I appreciate your reading and fun.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

Not another origin story:  With all the reboots, cartoon series, and comics (if you still read), we know how the web slinger obtained his powers via radioactive arachnid science projects.  As such, the storyboard writers decided to scrap doing another reboot of this and dived right into the fun at hand.  Thank the lord!  Spiderman homecoming skips the boring, lacking power component, so that you get the most bang for your buck in regards to super power heroics and Spiderman clichés.  The presentation of this film is rather creative, using a selfie video to give a unique perspective on everything this Spiderman has gone through so far.

 

Fun and Funny:  Spiderman Homecoming takes a different approach from most of the other superhero films in that it feels like a high school student life only with…powers.  The result is a film that is fun, simplistic, and as me and my friend agree comedic.  This tale is all about making you laugh with a fantastic dialog, great delivery, and a cast that only amplifies it.  It’s not easy making a high school film that isn’t an afterschool special, drama filled, soap opera and still make it entertaining to watch.  But Disney was able to do it again.  While the production team has a lot to do with this, most audience members are going to give props to the acting.  Tom Holland again rocks the role, taking his cameo from Civil War and running… I mean slinging with it.  He is the first actor in this modern age to capture both the nerdy peter parker and the smart mouthed Spiderman, giving you the character you wanted made for some time.  Now throw in Michael Keaton portraying a villain who didn’t make you cringe, yawn, or sympathize for the performance they were asked to play.  The dynamic between them works and to take a lamer villain like the Vulture and make him respectable gets thumbs up from me.  And they utilized their entire cast very well, keeping their big-name contenders involved without robbing the main actor his time to shine.

 

Ned:  But my friend and I agreed that the best part of the film was Peter’s sidekick Ned played by Jacob Batalon. This character had me in enough stiches to require Spiderman to web it up.  Batalon delivers his lines perfectly, and makes the already comedic gold shine where others would fail.  He feels like a devoted fan boy and it works to keep things entertaining.  The cast did a great job sharing Peter’s secret with him and having him as the devoted friend wanting to do whatever he can to live as a super sidekick.  This character’s work is dynamic, it’s fun, and shows not all cleverness has been lost to cheap slapstick ploys.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Special effects are so so:  I don’t know if it’s the costume, the approach, or what, but the special effects didn’t impress me as much as they usually do. Spiderman’s movements looked fake at times, and the weapons (outside of Vulture’s costume) were a bit hokie looking.  Not the biggest dislike, but worth noting.

 

Migraine inducing flashes:  Not really a dislike, but a forewarning is a few scenes involving some flashes, explosions, or morphing that may give one a giant headache or induce a migraine.  Three people in my showing, complained of auras from the film, so those with these type of migraines, or even worse seizures, may want to have caution and be prepared.

 

Editing/Lack of Action:  Biggest dislike for me is more so the lack of action.  No surprise, Robbie wants his superheroes to have at least one engaging fight, but that wasn’t the case for me in this film.  While Homecoming was funny and entertaining, it still lacked the bite that superhero films have had.  The fights were short lived, didn’t involve too many spectacular moves, and the villains didn’t have any impressive moves.  We know Spidey’s universe have some of the most unique powers of the bunch, so why in the world didn’t they show that off more.  Of note, the battles do keep in theme with the movie, and are emotional in regards to character development, that is a plus.  Yet a 134-minute run time needed a few more suspenseful moments to get the full effect.  Either that or cut out the extra laugh, unnecessary moments to shorten the run time.  Sorry guys, but editing is still in need of work.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Spiderman Homecoming is certainly one of the better installments of the modern Spiderman age.  It certainly is one of the more enjoyable comedies I’ve seen in a while, and takes some of the darker edge that has been building over the last few installments.  A great use of cast, good writing, and many other fun gimmicks works on so many levels and will entertain many.  Yet it isn’t the most exciting film of this universe, nor did it need to be over 2 hours long. Still, it’s a great addition to the library and one I look forward to seeing continued and integrated into the rest of the films.  Worth a trip to the theater?  Oh yeah (as if I can stop you), it is worth it.

 

My scores:

Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi:  8.0

Movie Overall:  7.5

 

Femme Fatales of Film

With all the movies coming out in this modern day, there certainly are a lot of heroes that have emerged from literature and onto the silver screen.  Over the decades, we know that many movies do tend to have a male superhero (Iron Man, Captain America, John Wayne and the various cowboy flicks) to save the day.  In this modern era though, things are changing and with it comes a new wave of heroes, or should I say heroines who are stepping up to the plate to battle evil.  With Wonder Woman tearing her way through theaters in all her majestic glory, a friend of mine asked to comment on some of the leading ladies that have shown up on the big screen. In this comparison, we’ll talk about what they represent, some limitations, and compare the movies they have been in.  Note: This is meant to be more constructive conversation about the MOVIE counterparts and no insults, just me doing my normal reviews.

 

 

Wonder Woman:

 

Wonder woman 2

 

Let’s start with the champion herself.  The Amazonian princess is the heroine that many femme fatales are compared to.  Diana is the representation of strength, justice, discipline, and standing up for all who are in need.  Such qualities are sure to motivate the masses to take action and fight for what is right in their lives, yielding to almost no one.  Wonder Woman’s skills are incredible starting with her combat skills and the mastery of the art of weaponry.  Her skills during Batman vs. Superman gave us a taste of super abilities as she leapt into the fray between Doomsday, the man of steel, and the dark knight.  Fending off the two warriors with her shield and mystical sword, Diana’s martial arts were impressive.  Yet her solo film only further amplified her abilities, throwing the lasso, gauntlets, and fists as she pounds the German army into dust.  Wonder Woman’s abilities are certainly empowering to any woman of any age, having them cheer and perhaps motivating them to stand up to the bullies in their lives.

 

Yet Wonder Woman’s butt kicking abilities aren’t the only thing that speaks to the audience.  “With great power, comes great responsibility” to quote Uncle Ben, and no hero in the cinematic universe portrays this more than Diana.  She doesn’t boast her strength and destroy anybody she sees, but rather finds the areas to where her abilities are needs and put them into the mix.  Much of the movie involves utilizing her powers to protect than to destroy, preferring to focus her strength into only those she seeks to dethrone. What’s fortunate for her, is a sense of justice that many heroes fail to have, reading situations to determine whom she can help.  No scene is a better portrayal of this than her stepping out into no man’s land, treading the wasteland of doom to face an onslaught an entire army could not even distract let alone defeat.  Diana’s goals of understanding humans, showing empathy for her fellow warriors, and goal of bringing peace are all qualities to admire in a heroine.  And even better is her ability to use the love of humans and peace to fuel her motivation even more. 

 

Yet there is a weakness to her.  As no hero is perfect, Wonder Woman’s main flaw is letting her pride get in the way of logical thinking…sometimes.  In the film, you see that her determination, while noble, sometimes leaves her single minded, unable to deter from her goal and analyze the strategy at hand.  She wants to get things done fast and efficiently, but her initial plan to achieve that goal is often not the appropriate means to accomplish it.  This is evidenced by her wanting to go to the frontline immediately instead of working with a group who knew the world better.  Such blinded devotion allowed her pride to get in the way, not allowing others to assist her and potentially teach her the tricks of the trade.  I guess if it wasn’t an amazon, it wasn’t a proper teacher, and there were times in the movie she failed to understand the qualms her fellow soldiers had to face, (see the scene with Charlie not shooting).  And as we saw, there were a few times this led to some mistakes happening, leading her to suffer under the weight of being wrong.

 

Character aside, let’s talk about the movie.  For more info read my review, but Wonder Woman is certainly one of the best DC movies to hit the silver screen.  Action wise it’s impressive, with two of three fights beautifully choreographed to show off the might of the amazons.  While the slow slashing effect is a little over done, the scenes are incredible displays of CGI meeting live action and an impressive dance of the “wonder’ful woman paving the way to victory.  Throughout the entire movie, you grow with Wonder Woman, feeling the emotional turmoil and curiosity building as war unveils more of the splendid things life has to offer.  To have such strong character development, with a moving pace and action to match up with it, is a skill many directors fail to accomplish.  And with a few fun jokes thrown into the mix, one can’t help but feel enjoyment with this movie. 

 

In regards to the weaknesses of the film, a band of soldiers who didn’t have much to contribute outside a few spiritual discoveries was my main flaw with this movie.  Why even try to build up a team of heroes if you aren’t going to do much with them?  That was the question I still have.  An additional qualm is again some of the overdramatic special effect use and some loose ends that were left unanswered, or at least left for the sequel.  Despite these qualms though, Wonder Woman is certainly one of the stronger superhero movies to be seen in a while.

 

 

Rey (Star Wars Episode VII)

star-wars-rey-bb-8-sixth-scale-set-hot-toys-silo-902612

With the release of the new Star Wars franchise, one can’t help but think of the leading lady Rey! The definition of woman facing the elements, Rey had to face undesirable conditions in the deserts of Jakku and the unruly bunch who dwell there.  Yet unlike others who choose to hide from the challenge, Rey takes to all obstacles with a dedication to survive and prove herself.  That only becomes more evident when the First Order attempts to destroy she and her friends and she takes the Falcon by the control stick and heads face first into laser infused battles at hand.  Soon the mystical abilities of the Force awaken and Rey’s skills grow exponentially to shape her into the makings of a great warrior.  Rey is strong, smart, and fearless, qualities we all know make for an entertaining heroine.  And her crafty skills of engineering and piloting are something often missed in many of the heroes today.

 

Her main weakness is her rash abilities to rush into things.  Many times, Rey chooses to act first and contemplate later, often getting herself into situations she didn’t quite want to be in.  While this certainly brings entertainment in regards to the movie, this personality quark is not something to leave untampered for fear of what it might lead to.  Her stubbornness can also be considered a weakness, for her sheer will to stay on her “home” planet Jakku and not receive help because she can do it better are not qualities one would like in a heroine.  This control level is not my favorite component of her, but hey we all have our weaknesses.  Regardless of the limitations, Rey is a great opener to the Disney franchise and one that a few of my friends have tagged on to as the leader of the new series.

 

In regards to the movie, well Force Awakens was a great opener in the Star Wars Renaissance that accomplished the goal of roping us back into the series.  With decent action, nostalgia, and some decent storytelling, the stage has been set for what will hopefully be a dynamite second installment to the franchise.  While I like Rey a lot, one character/story limitation is how powerful she is at the beginning.  Placing girl power aside, we’ve not seen any Jedi at the start (with no training) be able to accomplish the things she was able to do.  To unleash this massive control of the force as well as fight a person trained years ahead of her and win was a bit of a stretch for me.  Even more frustrating is the lack of explanation as to purpose, which will hopefully (and with class) be explained in the coming installment.  Still, to start so powerful sets the bar high, to which they may not be able to deliver.

 

 

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)

Katniss

Whew sacred ground when talking about this one, but let’s go ahead and talk about the champion of district 12.  Katniss is perhaps one of the most respectable and ragingly annoying heroes in a series.  She’s a survivor that is for sure, taking care of her family by hunting and trading with the on-edge frontier town.  Her self-sacrificing nature is admirable and her skills with a bow even more so, as she fights the odds thrown at her in the Hunger Games.  As her rebellious side grows and she starts defying the Capital with more angst leading to a rebellion that begins to strike back. The girl’s bravery and courage is incredible, fueling her to do the things we only dream of doing.  I mean had it not been for her…that rebellion would barely have gotten off the ground.

 

Katniss weaknesses’ start with her reluctance to be helped by most people.  The independence thing is awesome, but once she starts to get allies who have proven themselves to her, her reluctance to let them help is frustrating.  So much unnecessary conflict arose from this ability to admit help was needed became annoying as it dragged it out.  Sure, it’s okay she was untrusting, I mean look at her entire life journey, but come on… how much do we have to put up with when we know she will break down.  Yet her even bigger weakness is her unrelenting anger towards well almost everyone.  Like a burning fire, Katniss has rage deep within that is caged and ready to burst out.  While it certainly fuels her desire to survive, it also blinds her to many things that are actually beneficial.  Such uncontrolled anger more than once dropped her into traps, and left her vulnerable to the political manipulations of the egotistical politicians using her as a pawn.  Unlike the Hulk who becomes indestructible, Katniss’ anger only leads her to screaming more and firing more arrows.  Not the best quality in my book.

 

In regards to the movie, Jennifer Lawrence has many personalities that match the protagonist of the series. In all honesty, she models the very character that I read about in the books all those years ago.  The cinematography in particular brings Katniss out in the epic light we always pictured, and the action scenes to boot mirror much of excitement in the book.  In regards to the movies themselves… they are pretty good for the most part.  Movie one captured the essence of the film, albeit really gipped us on some of the cooler aspects Suzanne Collins lavished on in the first book.  Once the second movie came in though, the studio had gotten their act together and crafted a film that was a perfect match to the book across all accounts, including clearing up that confusion at the end.  Movie three did a nice job of spicing up a rather boring part of the book trilogy and added some finesse to what was a rather long drawl. Unfortunately, movie four couldn’t keep up with that magic for me, and left me disappointed at what was supposed to be the most intense moment of the movie.  They got a few parts well, but shaky cinematography, a rushed budget, and trying to cram too much into one movie diluted some of the more graceful and admirable parts of Katniss’ legacy. 

 

Consistently across the board, is how Katniss’ anger sometimes comes off bratty and arrogant.  That anger is well placed, don’t get me wrong, but the constant bitter sting, scowl and hate with every line got old for me.  It diluted her awesomeness, and what she stood for, leaving me feeling somewhat sorry for the people who had to put up with her juvenile behavior and constant complaining.  Still, the movies did get a lot of what we love about Katniss and allows her to flex her proverbial muscles as she fights a corrupt regime.

 

Alice (Resident Evil)

Alice

Perhaps the most dynamic of our group is the fiery agent known as Alice from Resident Evil. Starting out as merely a special ops soldier, Alice it transformed into a genetically augmented weapon capable of fighting hordes of infected zombie extras and government agents.  Her martial arts prowess marries well with her military mind to culminate in a heroine you can’t help but root for as her traps unfold and decimate Umbrella Corporation.  Skills aside, Alice represents the quality of loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Alice’s journey involves lots of teamwork and protection of innocent life, fighting that primordial destruction buried in the coding of the virus that plagues the world.  Seeing the decisions, she has had to make for the benefit of others is certainly tough, but continues to illustrate just how epic a heroine she is.  Most of the people I mention on this list haven’t had to make quite the life altering decisions that Alice has, and may not have the guts this video game turned cinema could.

 

But despite that vigor, Alice does have a weakness herself and that is her gullible/naivety. Despite all the skepticism of new people and all the times she has been backstabbed, Alice somehow always has a naïve component that leads her to be deceived by her known enemies repetitively.  She always underestimates the abilities of the Corporation, and as a result suffers some major blows that often costs her dearly. Perhaps her reliance on those abilities of hers leads to some overconfidence that thinks she can punch, shoot, and fight her way out of any situation.  While this is true most times, there are a few accounts to show that a little more paranoia behind the operation could have made things a little easier in this complex universe of Resident Evil.

 

In regards to the movies, well they are certainly popcorn munching action flicks that are full of that adrenaline pumping special effects.  Resident Evil’s opening number did a nice job of bringing video games to real life (with better graphics than the PS One) and keep to the horror element of the movies. Even the second film did a nice job of bringing that horror aspect again, just with less intensity and finesse.  After words, the movie took a dramatic turn towards the action and stunts, gearing towards special effects and stunts than actual plot.  Resident Evil’s story quickly plunged into the crappy zone and became mindless killing up until the final chapter that actually worked to fill in the numerous gaps left behind by the previous installments.  And while they don’t bring the most intelligence to her sometimes, they certainly paint her to be the model warrior for many to root for.

 

 

Selene (Underworld)

Selen

Mercenary of the vampires, slayer of werewolves, and lover of…humans?  Yeah confusing as it sounds, Selene of the Underworld series is a definition of femme fatale in this list.  In her skin-tight jumpsuit, Selene blends sex appeal with lethality using the various weapons at her disposal to defeat her enemies.  Like many of our heroines, she is certainly trained to fight, but her victims are the demons lurking in the shadows of the dark. The difference for her though, is that her enemies are often much more vicious, evil, or bulkier than most of our other cast. As such, Selene has a strong sense of courage that many heroes cannot mimic.  Facing off against strong Lycans and the merciless aristocrats of the vampires requires one to have some guts, and Selene stands up to the various warriors with that cold edge steel needed for such a purpose. What requires even more courage is dropping her aristocratic privileges for love.  Selene’s superiors wield some pretty high power and they aren’t afraid to make immoral choices to destroy any who get in their way.  For our protagonist to know this and still stand up to them… I think you can agree with me that she has to have proverbial male genitalia.  As the stories continue to progress, Selene continues to fight to maintain order not so much for killing vampires, but more so for protecting the humans and though she loves from their war.

 

In terms of weakness, ironically it is love that her enemies use against her. Selene’s desire to protect those she loves (which she makes for public display) gives her enemies leverage to use against her.  The aristocrats prove themselves merciless in their approach to get what they desire and are not shy of using others as pawns.  Selene’s love of the human Michael, among other people, results in numerous hostage situations, torturous beatings, and even massacres all for the sake of love.  Love is certainly a strength, but for all of Selene’s skills, planning, and fortitude…you would think she would be more prepared or secretive to not have that used against her.  And for much of the last film, that love resulted in her getting owned a number of times, until some weird ritual magic thing occurred that gave her super powers beyond compare.  Once this happen she became cooler, yet less believable, which is saying something in this horror occult thriller.

In regards to movies, Underworld has had its up and downs in terms of quality.  The first two were incredible for me as I was introduced into Selene’s war against both races.  It was exciting, dark, and filled with that edge and story classic of the early 2000s, that actually made sense.  An action focused plot filled with exciting scenes made for an entertaining tale, but also focused on Selene’s growth and compassion towards the human race.  While not my favorite, Rise of the Lycans still catered towards a character development side that helped set up the relationships of other supporting characters.  Too bad they could not hold the action together, but it was still entertaining.

 

Then came the modernization of the series, and new directors took over.  Gone was the art of storytelling, and instead it was all about cheesy stunts and visuals to boast the special effects of the studio.  Awakening and Blood Wars became a hastily done plot that tried to introduce new concepts and relationships that were shallow and lacking the magic of the first films.  Even more, they started evolving their foes to ridiculous proportions that either didn’t work for me or they did little with.  And in regards to the last film, the plot was so hashed together and rushed it felt like reading the initial draft of a script or a Wikipedia summary.  Selene’s new power is awesome, but perhaps a little too powerful and unexplained, robbing the suspense of the movie due to her mortality.

 

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)

Hermione

Ahh the loveable Hermione Granger, there is so much to say about this little wizard to be.  She wields the most powerful tool available to all heroes, the mind.  Hermione is perhaps the smartest heroine of this group as she learns the art of mastering multiple types of magic and subject matter of her world.  Fighting monsters, transportation magic, and the responsible use of magical trinkets are just some of the things she is capable of understanding and applying.  Hermione proves that you can learn anything and be able to apply it better than any male hero can, given enough time, patience and practice.  In addition, she displays discipline, inner strength, and classiness that we all only hope to have should we become as competent in our trades as she was.  Such great qualities are all wrapped in a beautiful package of visual loveliness, once again proving that you can be beautiful and talented at the same time. Hermione’s determination to save her friends and family is a consistent throughout the series, and her desire to do the right thing is displayed numerous times through the series by speaking out against her classmates’ rambunctious antics.  A symbol of following the rules that make sense and changing the rules that don’t, she certainly gets my vote for a role model.

 

In regards to her weaknesses, Hermione has several to talk about. Her biggest vulnerability for much of the series is her pride.  The young wizard likes being the best and goes to great extremes to secure her place at the top of the class.  At first this pride leads her to be arrogant, snobbishly correcting her classmates and taking her down the know it all pathway.  As her friends prove to be loyal to her, that arrogance begins to temper, but her obsessions to be the best remain as strong as ever.  Hermione’s goals lead her to stress herself to sickness in the third book when she literally has to bend time to allow her to take extra classes, some of which she fails.  That obsession leads her to be reckless sometimes and lose track of the qualities I admire, and leaves her prone to snubbing her friends.  Once the new dark age begins though, Hermione’s weakness turns to love, in particular for a small band of people who travel the dangerous road.  Fans know that fear tends to paralyze her from acting, and sometimes results in her losing her abilities due to panic.

 

When discussing the movies, I dare not insult the films because of the fan base that follows this series.  The movies are good on many levels, bringing J.K. Rowling’s world to life in beautiful graphics, sets, and costumes.  Seeing all the magic in the movie is something we can only dream about, and the emotions of the journey are all contained within.  The first few movies are all about the set up and wonder of the magical universe and the second half is all about casting the dark cloud over the light and challenging the heroes at hand.  Unfortunately, where the movies start to go wrong is when they deviate from the books at hand.  Harry Potter books are sacred tomes that you don’t want to adulterate and for the most part the movies respect that ground.  Unfortunately, key aspects were left out of the book and the studios made their own decisions that grossly resulted in some shortcomings and lack of bite the books have.  The burning of the Weasley cottage, the battle at the ministry, and much of the second half of book 7 were not impressive to me.  Had they realized that most would sit through a five-hour film (LOTR anyone) they could have made the movies exponentially better in these regards. 

 

Whatever movie you watch though, you can be sure that Hermione is well-represented.  Emma Watson’s portrayal is fantastic on any account as she grows alongside the character and brings the maturity with it.  Hermione’s character remains a little too pretty (according to one of my friends) in regards to the fashion component, but hey who doesn’t like a little sprucing up via Hollywood makeup.  Makeup aside, Hermione’s aptitude for magic and knowledge is captured in the movies, as are the morals, honor and love contained within.  Nice job my friends. Nice job.

 

Jenn Orso (Star War Rogue One)

Jenn

Last on our list is the latest Star Wars maiden to grace the universe.  Rogue One’s protagonist is all about the edge, a loner with the goal of survival and making a living, she was forced into a rough life at the young age of 9. Jenn’s parents were forcefully taken from her, resulting in her being raised by a mercenary in the prime of life.  Fortunately, the mercenary parted a wicked set of skills that raise her odds for surviving in the vast galaxy.  The tyrannical rule of the empire pulls her into the developing rebellion and leads to a journey where that strength to live carries on in full force.  Jenn’s strengths are determination, rationality, hope, and leadership as evidenced by her numerous actions during the 2.5 hours of the film.  She is able to unite a ragtag group of rebels together to attempt a mission best described as suicide to many.  And in doing so, she was able to accomplish goals that would set the stage for ages to come.  Jenn has many qualities and skills to which we hope to inspire others to mimic and she is also quite the warrior to fight for people everywhere.

 

As for her weaknesses, Jenn’s first is her lack of trust and teamwork.  In the beginning of the movie she tries to do everything by herself, resulting in her getting into trouble and often failing miserably.  While it is certainly important to have the confidence to accomplish a goal, it’s also important to recognize when a team is needed, which involves trust.  Jenn will not give her team the trust to begin with and as such limits her mission considerably in the beginning.  In addition, Jenn is a little reckless at times, tending to rush into things rather than coordinate.  I don’t know if it’s the skeptical component or if she doesn’t have strategy making 101 down, but Jenn surprisingly has little in terms of planning under her belt (rewatch the movie again and you will see it is her male counterpart who comes up with the plans).  Her ability to hold a grudge is quite a limiting step as well.  That opening act shows a lot of bitterness towards, well everyone in the galaxy at the hurt she has within.  Much of her hatred is cast towards her father and the abandonment she felt.  By doing this, she brought about ignorance to her life and added extra complications to delay her mission that had she accepted ma have resulted in better outcomes.  Still when all is said and done, that ending at the end shows she can overcome these limitations and become quite the champion to say the least.

 

Movie wise, Rogue One is one my favorite of the Star Wars Universe.  It’s different, it’s gritty, it shows the horrors of war instead of just the glamorous side we got in the first seven installments.  At first the opening is choppy and a little hodge-podge in terms of editing, but that set up serves it purpose of getting us to the grand finale of the movie.  That exciting ending is more than epic conclusion, filled with the nostalgia and action we waited for so long with the Star Wars revival.  A great cast of characters, a very gut wrenching story, and a new female protagonist to leave a legacy are all wonderful qualities of this movie.  Rogue One does need some improvements itself though including better balance of characters, a tighter opening that doesn’t feel as discombobulated and remembering to actually use their actors they pulled into the project (like Forrest Whittaker).  Outside of that though… a solid movie.

 

So, there you have it.  Just a few women of the silver screen that I wanted to talk about.  These are just some of my observations on the femme fatales of modern film, and for the most part, I hope you find my analysis in good favor.  Like all good characters there are strengths and weaknesses and one can only hope that the characters whose stories aren’t closed yet will get the epic tale they deserve.  We will see what Wonder Woman brings in the next movie in September and from there one can only guess what is next in the world of Hollywood.  I’m Robbie K, thanking you for another read and inviting any constructive discussion you might wish to share.

 

 

Take A Drive With Baby Driver

Baby Driver

 

Baby Driver!  When I saw this trailer months ago I had no idea what to think about it just from the title alone.  Yet seeing a star studded cast that included Jon Hamm, Lily James, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, I had hopes for a good movie.  So, with it rushing into a midweek premiere I managed to finally check it out this weekend.  What’s the verdict on the action/crime movie to hit the screen.  Robbie K here always appreciating your views on his blog.  Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

 

The Acting:  I don’t say this too much, but this cast was aces across the board. Let’s start with the lead Ansel Elgort who plays Baby.  At first I was only impressed with his ability to be the awkward silent type, but as the movie progresses Elgort is able to bring a little more to the screen to round out Baby.  His range broadens as more characters are introduced into the film and he has to balance between the two worlds that he lives in.  As kind of his looming shadow, the master villain Kevin Spacey continues to play that cool, calculating, manipulative role that he made famous in House of Cards.  Not too much to be annoying, but not too little to be cheated Spacey really brings depth to a cliché role and keeps things heated up.  As for Foxx, well his acting continues to improve me in spectrum he can cover.  Taking more of the jaded thug approach, Foxx adds the comedic heat to the film with the darker theme taking hold.  I could spend the whole review on the chemistry of everyone, but Baby Driver’s cast is stellar.

 

The Action:  For a crime thriller toting about the stunts and guns, the movie certainly delivers.  Baby Driver shifts the gear into R for reality and manages to deliver sequences that are exciting chases through obstacle laden courses with all the bells and whistles.  Unlike the Fast and The Furious, this movie keeps things on a believable level, requiring actual stunt driving instead of high tech gadgets.  Even the gunplay is exciting, finally adopting the crime motif we had in the mafia movie days instead of the explosion loaded productions famous of modern cinema.  The action is well directed, and used as a supporting tool to keep the film exciting and fast paced without being the only aspect of the movie.

 

The Story:  Most crime stories bore me these days because they get too caught up in either sex or malicious violence.  While Baby Driver is certainly darker in its own accord, it has a story that doesn’t dance in one area.  A combination of love, action, and crime drama, the storyboard writers get props from me for crafting a decently balanced story.  Baby’s character is complicated (though the trailers might mislead you), and they managed to gradually peel this character apart and help him transform into someone completely new.  To do this all while bringing forth a story that doesn’t put me to sleep but keep me on edge is certainly worthy of two thumbs up.

 

The Music:  The theme of Baby Driver is music (he is always wearing headphones if you haven’t seen the trailers), and that means you need a strong soundtrack.  Mission successful on this part too.  While I’m not quite familiar with some of these classics (yes boo me), they music directors selected a fantastic spread to entertain us with.  Across many genres and decades, your ears will be swallowed by a deluge of classics, each fitting with the tone of the movie and providing great sound support to the impressive visuals.  And if you don’t know these tunes, well the internet is still a wonderful thing when used appropriately.

DISLIKES:

 

No unifying crime plot:  In many crime movies, there is a big score, a key target, or some unifying goal.  Baby Driver though doesn’t have that big, impending doom I often like to see, choosing instead to focus more on Baby himself.  While certainly a small dislike, I felt the unifying theme or grand plan could have provided a little more oomph to the story and a way to integrate Spacey’s character even more.

 

Romance Aspect:  I’m not saying this is bad, and again I’m grasping at most straws, but Baby Driver’s romance component needs a little work.  Lily James and Elgort have some decent chemistry and work well together in the scenes where they are paired.  However, I feel that this component was a little glazed over up until the climax where the crap starts to hit the fan.  Expanding this role again would have tied some things together and integrated the cast a little better to complete the story.

 

Part of the Ending:  This dislike is again complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain.  Baby Driver’s ending is certainly unique and took many directions I liked in the form of being non-cliché, artistic, and exciting on many levels.  Yet about fifteen minutes of the ending was dragged out entirely too long and started hitting that ridiculous level Hollywood often hits.  The vicious parts were a little overdramatic and the predictable twists just led to more run time that wasn’t really needed. Still it wrapped up nicely and had a self-gratifying finish, it just didn’t need to be that complicated.  

 

The Verdict:

 

I agree with many that Baby Driver is one awesome film.  Despite the weird title (which yes is a song title), it works on many levels primarily in regards to a suspenseful action tale with strong story elements.  Baby Driver is an example of what movies can be if done right and I for one recommend hitting this movie in theaters. Of note, use caution when taking younger audience members due to the violence please.

 

My scores:

 

Action/Crime/Music:  9.0

Movie Overall: 8.0