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The Punisher (2017)
One Batch, Two Batch . . .
I don't think Netflix has really delivered a Marvel series this well-defined and consistent since the first season of Daredevil. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage had their moments, but Iron Fist and The Defenders were terrible and slogs to get through. So it makes complete sense that the best thing about Daredevil season 2 delivers in its own 13 episode series, but it definitely wasn't a guarantee.
There are rabbit-holes that this show could have fallen into that it deftly avoids for the most part. This could have been as over the top as Punisher: War Zone, it could have been as boring as the Thomas Jane Punisher, and it could have been as forgettable as the Lundgren Punisher, and fortunately it's not any of those things.
Berenthal is the perfect actor of the current era to have pulled off this character. Most comic characters could have a revolving door of actors bringing their own personalities to the character, but with his rock-solid performance Berenthal joins the ranks of Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr. as irreplaceable.
As I mentioned earlier, for the most part the story rises to his level. There's a plot that in this show that is meant to be a conversation starter, and add depth the show that without it would be a straight revenge/thriller plot, and while this plot does provide the series it's most interesting episode, it does go nowhere,and ends with a bang when it should've ended with a whimper.
There will be no escaping the larger conversations of gun-violence, PTSD, and mental health, and at times it seems like the show addresses these topics to show us it is aware of the conversation, but does nothing to further the conversation. All the cool, badass characters use and love guns, and the one voice for gun-control is a cowardly, opportunistic politician. Not very even.
All the actors play their parts well. Amber Rose Revah and Ebon Moss-Bachrach are the standouts outside Berenthal and Ben Barnes gives a performance that leaves the audience wanting more in the next season. Paul Schulze and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio are great in their roles as well. My only other quibble is very minor and didn't affect my opinion of the show itself, but I wish the opening titles were a little more engaging. This was the first time on a new show that I had to use the Skip Intro option. (In contrast I liked the Iron Fist title sequence more than anything else in that show, so maybe intro isn't the end-all be-all).
This is a solid show, with minor flaws that doesn't require any background information to enjoy it. I would recommend watching Berenthal's scenes from Daredevil season 2 because it helps navigate the motivations of everyone a little bit more and, hey, Berenthal is fantastic there too.
8/10, look forward to more from this team.
"What is honour? A word. What is in that word honour? What is that honour? Air."
Up front I think it's fair to admit that I have not read the plays Shakespeare wrote that provide the basis of this film and it's screenplay.
I've read Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Julius Ceaser and I'm blessed that my public education provided me that much. But when it comes to Henry the IV, V, or VI I'm pretty much in the dark.
Chimes of Midnight did not leave me in the dark however. Orson Welles, I think, did a wonderful job of translating Shakespeaian dialogue into action that could be understood, jokes that could be understood, dramatic tension that could be understood.
Not only do i realize I am 400 years removed from Shakespeare but I am also 53 years removed from whatever audience Orson Welles intended this for in in 1965.
But I don't feel removed from the artistry that it took to make this film.
I could follow the plot, I knew where characters were emotionally, and even better, I understood the jokes. Which, for me, was a huge windfall and a source of amazement.
Orson Welles was dead before I was even born and I find him totally captivating and engaging in this film. He's lovable, he's a rapscallion, he's larger than life and he breaks your heart when he's denied by the newly crowned king.
I'm coming to this as an outsider. I loved Citizen Kane and Touch of Evil, I immensely enjoyed F is for Fake, and I've been looking to engage in more films starring or directed by Orson Welles, and I walked away from this film feeling like it filled a gap.
Here was his passion for gorgeous cinematography, here was his love of the stage, here was his brilliance at translating plays, here was his love for acting here was his passion for entertainment.
At no point did this film drag for me, and even now, in 2017 did the battle scene not only engage, but surprise me. This IS masterclass film making and this film deserved a wider audience back in 1965 and it deserves it still today.
Absolutely riveting and amazing work.
The Dark Tower (2017)
As much as the film's creators, actors, and studio probably wanted to elicit comparisons to the Lord of The Rings, as I watched this film I could only conjure fleeting feelings I had when I watched 2017's The Mummy.
Both are bland, without soul, and in the ultimate sense, they failed in the simple concept of allowing the audience to hope for a sequel or a continuation in the film's universe. But where The Mummy tried to do too much and suffered for it, The Dark Tower tried to, or so it seems, not do enough and failed just as hard.
There's no real need to give a plot synopsis, because what little plot there is isn't even entertaining enough to regurgitate. Suffice to say that when adapting a series of novels, (or doing a "sequel" to the novels as this film claims to be) and there's hardly any story to actually follow, something went wrong on the way from page to screen. Somehow, this film ends up being full of itself and completely empty. The villains are paper thin, the heroes are not engaging and the action sequences that do their duty and show up on screen are so profoundly lame that the film seems dated and not able to even scratch the surface of other modern action movies that operate with a much smaller budget. I had to keep in mind that a film like The Matrix is almost TWO DECADES old at this point and compared to this still seems revolutionary.
When a film has a character that goes by the moniker, "The Gunslinger" and is this universe's Jedi Knight and he's the last and apparently the most well adept at gun-slinging, you'd expect that the sequences when he uses his (skills? Powers? Training? Inherited gift?) to be fantastic. However, this film proves you wrong whenever it can. The gun battles are full of unconvincing CGI and they makes one wish that someone along the way had watched "John Wick" and taken even the smallest amount of influence.
This movie fails. Each and every time it could be something good, it fails.
Our main character, such as he is, cannot emote in this film, and even though he has "The Shine" he fails to elicit even 25% of the awe and horror of that than Danny Lloyd who was at least half his age when he made "The Shinning". Idris Elba thinks he's doing a serious drama and only works when he's being used a comedic fish out of water, and even when he's full of sound and fury, you guessed it, it means nothing. McConaughey is full of sleazy charm, but if we don't know what he's doing or why he's doing it can it be said that he's even doing anything at all? He's more interesting when he's hocking Lincolns than in this film.
And just a side note about this film's cast, there's a young man cast as a neighbor, who has ABSOLUTELY no affect on the plot whatsoever, yet the camera hangs on him like he's a main part of the cast and every time he "acts" it elicited an audible groan. The character serves no purpose, doesn't move plot or character further in any way and is one of those things that when added to the larger problems of the film helps you realize that no one knew what movie they were making.
Is this LOTR meets Spaghetti Western? Is this high fantasy meets gritty action movie? Is it camp? Is it serious? Is it anything?
It's not good, that's for sure. It's not even entertaining in the way a bad movie can be. It's mediocre and that stings so much worse when the promise of the film is so much more.
I wasted my time on this because I thought that 95 minutes couldn't seem so long and I came to find out that, either in the world or in Mid-World that 95 minutes can seem to be a brain-sucking lifetime.
Dark Night (2016)
Mass shooting told via ASMR
I mean I guess this is what this movie was about? It really had ZERO momentum and every character lived in a sound proof room with almost zero dialogue to explain who they are, what they're doing, or anything.
This is the quietest, least driven and most boring movie I've ever attempted to get through. And that's what the experience is; you TRY to get through it.
It takes an interesting subject matter: a mass shooting, it tries to tie it in with a real event: the Aurora, Colorado Dark Knight Rises theater shooting, it changes the location for seemingly NO REASON, it gives us next to no information about any character the camera chooses to focus on and then ends without resolution, without drama, without consequence, without meaning.
This movie was and is pointless.
I wish I could say it was neither warm or cold, but it's not even lukewarm, worthy to be spewed from the mouth, its air in the nostrils that comes out with a derisive snort, or wind that passes through indifferent ass-cheeks.
This is not a movie. This isn't even close to being reality. It is nothing. It offers nothing, and it takes enormous amounts of patience and time from anyone who tries to be entertained by it.
As someone who has worked at a movie theater that had a shooting take place within it, nothing rings of truth, or hyperbole, but instead is the worst parts of independent film into one long, boring ASMR slog, that punishes anyone foolish enough to give it a chance.
DO NOT GIVE THIS MOVIE A CHANCE.
I too read IMDb reviews and pushed forward figuring it couldn't possibly be that bad. It's not. It's worse.
DO NOT GIVE THIS MOVIE A CHANCE.
If your looking for anything remotely deep, or truthful, or artistic you'd have better luck watching a Transformers movie than this. This is not entertainment or Intellectual nourishment. It is masturbatory in the dullest, blandest, quietest, most soul-sucking way possible.
AVOID AT ALL COST.
Fincher but not FINCHER
I was sold hook and sinker on this series the minute I read about it and when the first trailer came out I couldn't have been more excited. Fincher's Zodiac is one of my favorite movies and what could be better than a 10 hour version of that? It turns out that too much can be a bad thing. This show is slow. They aren't tracking a serial killer, they're not trying to stop a serial killer they are literally just gathering information.
But it's not gathering specific information. That's my biggest critique of this show. As much as they introduce characters who have information to give (i.e. real life killers), they never go back and reveal the carnage or the depravity or the reality of those crimes. We hear about them. We see someone's disgust, but we never experience that as an audience.
The show IS well made. It is beautiful in a depressing way, and it is captivating. There is a reason why I watched it all in practically one sitting. But it was not as captivating as Fincher's films or even House of Cards.
This series could use one more season to cap things off, but I don't expect it to last more than that.
**** BTW. So, like S2 of Breaking Bad a few episodes begin with a non-connective story element that you assume connects in some vital way. It does not. I had to Wikipedia what this all meant and I never did find out why this connected to this season of this show. It's a hanging participle that never gets resolved and is just left dangling there at the season's end. We don't even have enough information to know its nefarious, or dangerous, its just vignettes of a man doing random tasks. It's a sloppy way to grab your attention before a new episode and it works maybe two times, but after that you get impatient, wondering what the hell this has to do with anything, and then that question never goes answered. Very frustrating, but not in a fun way.
What's confusing about this documentary is not what they decided to show, but what they decided to leave out. Maybe its too early for a full retrospective as the subject is still alive and working and creating, but then what exactly is the point of this documentary, other than it comes out on the 40th anniversary year of "Close Encounters"? After Spielberg shuffles off this mortal coil the interviews gained in the process of making this film will serve admirably in the making of what will probably have to be a series of documentary films that follow Steven Spielberg's life and career, but as it stands this seems like a Blu-Ray special feature. There are many years and films that are completely skipped or glossed over, there is barely a mention of all the success he's had as a producer, and there's no real build up or glory to his triumphs or his failures. It's surface-level and polite. it doesn't pose tough questions or try to answer anything either. I get that this is a puff piece, that in no way would anyone sign off on a documentary that paints them in a bad light, but this doesn't even make Spielberg *complicated*, even his relationship with his father is immediately forgiven and then brushed aside. What would be more interesting, and perhaps more revealing, would be Behind the Scenes documentaries that we already have that feature Spielberg, strung together with new interviews, and footage that presents context, and present his life this way. As it stands what this Doc offers is a quick overview and celebrity cameos that isn't all together uninteresting if only hindered by it's inability to commit to deep dives of the subject's career.
Hamilton, One shot to boredom
My criticisms seem to be other reviewer's praises so, I'll try to be succinct in this review. "Hamilton, One Shot to Broadway", plays like an overly long Sunday morning news broadcast. It's non confrontational, it offers no new insight, and covers no new ground. There are no new interviews with anyone involved with Hamilton, only old footage of interviews and of those they are scant and mostly surface-level. The subjects that are interviewed are critics and historians, and guess what, yeah they love it too. Big revelation. The pacing in this doc is jarring as it seems like it wants to end every twenty minutes or so, with no flow from one idea or aspect of the production to the next. It feels like it was made for television, and just something to have on in the background as you eat breakfast or do the crossword. As fascinating as the material is and the people who created it are, this documentary falls flat and totally wastes its shot.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Best viewed with an open mind
I feel like a little understanding can help amend some viewer's questions about the film and I think a wider scope of influence can inform the audience about what is really being done and being said in the film.
I won't attempt to answer all the questions for you, because that's half the fun, but to look at Alien: Covenant solely on its surface is a poor way to view and critique this film.
Where to begin though?
I guess I'd begin with Prometheus. Prometheus was an epic-scaled science fiction blockbuster that was Ridley Scott's (trumpets blare) return to sci-fi. And it left a lot of people disappointed. I loved Prometheus so we won't debate that movie here, but you can't look at these movies as analogies to the original Alien film or its sequel. They're a whole 'nother beast.
Prometheus asked a question and answered it. Who created us, and what do they think of their creation? That answer may have confused and turned-off some portion of the audience, but let's face it, a film asking these questions, and setting it in a universe with acid-blood aliens is not going to offer a very peaceful or answer to ANY question. This is a horror franchise, set in a scientific world. The monsters, the Gods, the creators, are enigmas and they are without mercy. A:C asks where are we going and what awaits us?
And Ridley Scott informs us, just like in the fabulous The Martian, that space is cruel and unpredictable. It's not sabotage or a creature from the unknown that causes the initial problems of the Covenant it's simply unpredictability that leads them to make a choice out of fear and curiosity that sets the films events into place.
So, Alien: Covenant.
My first critique is after the initial prologue, I felt the movie moved simultaneously too quick and too slow.
An online promo video introduces us to the Covenant crew, but if you haven't seen that you have no idea who anyone is, their relationships, the fact that they're ALL couples, or why they're on this mission, and even if you have seen it, that Last Supper scene is sorely missed from the finished product.
Keeping this film a tight two hours is a good idea, but I don't think the cuts should have come from the first 15 minutes of the film. I do agree that the foggy relationships between characters could have been prevented very simply and very quickly right up front in the film,
The rest of the movie moves like a freight train, which may have turned some viewers off, but it's another way to keep you on your toes. Nothing is concentrated on for too long, nothing overstays its welcome and the quick pace forces an anxiety and tension that a slow plodding plot couldn't have withstood.
Let's face it, in horror movies a majority of the cast is monster bait. I come from a generation after Sigourney Weaver was already a star, and the original Alien doesn't surprise me with her survival, so the fact that I see this cast as full of unknowns now, reminds me that the first time I watched Alien I didn't know who Tom Skerritt was, or Ian Holm, or John Hurt, or Henry Dean Stanton -- they were all monster bait. It is weird that the first victim in A:C and the second in Prometheus are smoking weed, but maybe either Ridley is a fan or isn't a fan, I can't really tell.
The rest of the criticisms I see are that "oh, they go down there without protective gear", well they're on a futuristic space ship that can probably read the atmosphere and THEY KNOW a human sent a transmission from there at some point so, probably pretty safe. Or: They fail to kill the Alien early on you know, like in all Alien or monster movies. So yeah.
And some have claimed that the David and Walter scene was scarring, or homoerotic or ruined their ability to appreciate the Xenomorph and to that I have to call out bull***t. Just F***ing B******t.
One, Fassbender and the film crew put in an incredible amount of work to show the dichotomy of two characters that were both built by the same corporation yet have completely different programming, and two, the effect of having them interact with each other and their dialogue is superb and provides an awesome insight into both characters and plants a seed for the ending.
Again I'm not saying there isn't a flaw in the movie, but people are way too quick to react negatively.
You wanted claustrophobic horror? Check the cave sequences or the running through the ship sequence at the end.
You wanted military shoot-em-ups like in ALIENS: see the field sequence or the Oram / Tunnel sequence.
If you liked Alien 3 there's something there for you too.
I've said it plenty throughout this review, this film has flaws. Almost all movies do. There are very few perfect films. I consider Alien to be near-perfect, but it isn't perfect. Some reviewers on the internet believe that every film has an obligation to deliver them what they like, how they like it, and surprise them in ways they like. If a film doesn't meet that criteria in spectacular fashion they deem it as a failure and a pock on the face of a movie they enjoyed when they were 12, sitting in a dark room late at night and not know what to expect, and that's no way to experience an interesting, action-packed horror, science-fiction Alien movie that has plenty of cool gore, action, suspense and ideas to make Alien: Covenant a joyful experience, so enjoy it for what it is.
Some Good, A Lot of Bad, And Very Ugly.
There will be a lot of reviews for this film. Some will defend it to the death, others will claim they were disgusted and appalled.
It's a divisive movie. Not just because it's a DC film, (though many will say that those who hate are Marvel to the bone and can't/couldn't appreciate it) but because it's a bad film that is intriguing.
The good of this film comes from it's initial premise. Batman wants to find a way to fight back against an alien being so powerful that given a whim the planet could be destroyed and brought underneath his rule. Interesting concept, poor execution.
This will be another point of contention: Batman kills. Batman straight up murders a dozen or more henchmen, and his goal when it comes to Superman is not beat him so badly that Superman willingly leaves Earth, no, it's to murder him with a Kryptonite spear.
Gone are the days of Batman, sending men to jail, and although no mention of Commissioner Gordon is in this film, you have to wonder if in this universe, if these executions are state approved, or is Batman now a vigilante with the tech and resources of Iron Man, and the moral compass of The Punisher? There's also a shocking lack of focus on the details. You see the Batmobile and Batwing, not in the cave first as a moment of glory, or a treat for the audience to soak it in, no, it's boom straight into action, and you're left to piece it together as the action unfolds. Never getting a true look and Batman's tech is a folly that not even Schumacher or Burton dared to make.
There's not much to say about Superman unfortunately. He believes he has a no kill code now, but someone needs to let him know that human spines and skulls don't fare well when hurled through layers of concrete and rock.
Lex Luthor is a mess as well. I'm a fan of Eisenberg usually, but this iteration of Lex was poorly written and acted with the jittery energy one would be more comfortable associating with a Joker or Riddler character.
The Senate hearing which occupy a large chunk of the film's run time, eventually lead to nowhere. Holly Hunter was misused, as was Lois Lane, Martha Kent, and Wonder Woman.
There are plot holes aplenty, and after viewing the film you'll know what they are and why the last third, and the set up for the continuing DCEU makes no sense.
The plot grinds to a halt to introduce us to the next Justice League members, and Wonder Woman is in the film to flirt a little with Bruce Wayne, allude to a back story that is yet to be explored, and then do some generic action stuff at the end.
A lot of people complain about Doomsday, and most of those are valid, he was spotting in the cgi department, he was shoe horned in, and again, in terms of Luthor's ultimate plan, didn't make a whole lot of sense. What's the point of an unstoppable murder machine if you can't stop it? I personally was very bored by and found Batman's visions/dreams to be complete filler. They take up a good amount or screen time, and they lead to nothing other than easter eggs for comic fans and to tell everyone what we already know, Batman doesn't trust Superman, we get it. But wait, now Superman will have a vision too! It was completely over done, and ultimately pointless.
Then there's the reason why Batman and Superman stop fighting. It's very hackneyed and foreshadowed so much it felt like being hit over the head with hammer while the writers and director shout, "GET IT!? DO YOU GET IT YET!?" I didn't know what to expect, but this was a poor effort from the DC team, and it does not make me excited for the journey to continue. Lighter tone, darker tone, it doesn't matter, just make a better movie.