The Punisher “Trilogy” (Mighty Marvel Movie Month)

“Grrr…. I’m brooding!”

Okay, so I’m in the middle of watching all these goddamn comic book movies, and I’m still going to review them all, but there are just a ton of these films, and I only have so much time. So, in the interest of actually getting my opinion on these movies out before May 1, I’ve decided to review any movies from the same series in one post. Reboots will usually constitute their own entry (For example, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies will have a separate entry from the Marc Webb movies).

Is this a cop-out? Absolutely.

However, even though all the Punisher movies are technically reboots, I’m still going to do an all-in one review. If you’ve seen these movies, you would know why I would want to dedicate as little time to these movies as possible.

That may actually be a little bit harsh. While these films aren’t exactly high art, they’re not as awful as some people say they are. None of them are good, don’t get me wrong, but none of them are atrocious, either. It’s just that I don’t think that the character of the Punisher lends himself particularly well to movies.

But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. Who is this “Punisher” schmuck, anyways? Well, in the early 70’s, the famously campy, albeit influential Silver Age of Comics was coming to an abrupt end, with Gwen Stacy’s death in Amazing Spider-Man #121 (31-year old Spoiler alert.). Marvel Comics was starting to veer towards darker, more adult storylines and one of the results of this slight change in direction was a character named the Punisher making his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (February 1974).

The Punisher’s real name is Frank Castle (Born Castiglione, but changed, because god forbid a superhero be Italian, or anything). Comic backstories are prone to frequent alterations, but Castle has more or less remained constant throughout the lore. Long story short, he was a war veteran who was in Central Park, enjoying a beautiful summer day with his wife and children when a turf war between two crime syndicates broke out and, in the crossfire, his family is gunned down.

Frank finds that hobbies are a good way to keep his mind preoccupied. However, instead of, say, stamp collecting, he decides to engage in the slightly less popular hobby of engaging in a one-man war against crime. Unafraid to torture, maim and frequently kill his victims without hesitation, his uncompromisingly black and white worldview was somewhat unusual for his time, and the character grew in popularity, appearing alongside, and frequently in conflict with, Spider-Man, Daredevil and Captain America. Eventually, he got his own ongoing solo comic, and he’s considered a mainstay of the Marvel Universe.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Punisher, per se, but he’s a pretty cool character, if not a particularly interesting one. Why this guy warranted three movies (Two of them reboots) is beyond me, but I’m not here to speculate, I’m here to annihilate (I’m both disgusted and feeling extremely self-congratulatory about that rhyme). So, what are the movies like?

Well, they’re all very much products of their respective times. For example, the first Punisher movie (The second film based on a Marvel comic) was released in 1989 and starred Dolph Lundgren, and it was very much like any other 80’s action movie starring Dolph Lundgren. It’s cheesy, it’s over the top (Albeit in a very gritty, brooding way) and the story takes a backseat to the action, and to Dolph Lundgren looking cool riding a motorcycle whilst dressed all in black.

This isn’t a bad thing at all, if you’re into that sort of deal. I was  born in ’96 so, uh, I’m not so much. That doesn’t mean I hate this movie, though, I just don’t see a lot of value to it.

Dolph Lundgren doesn’t contribute anything to the character aside from, again, looking cool dressed in black and shooting mobsters. As an action star, sure, he’s fine, but other than that, he’s pretty nondescript.

In fact, this whole movie is pretty nondescript, aside from a couple things. Specifically, Louis Gossett Jr’s solid performance as Punisher’s ex-partner, and Barry Otto as Punisher’s homeless sidekick, which is the most annoying thing I’ve seen since Tim Robbins in Howard the Duck.

Distinguished company, for sure.

Also, the main villain in this movie is a Yakuza boss played by Kim Miyori and she’s alright in the role, I guess, but the movie really leans on the whole “Japanese” aspect of her character. Seriously, during the climax of the movie, there’s an entire scene where she dresses up like a geisha and does a dance. Uh…Okay… What was the point of that?

You know, besides morally reprehensible racial profiling.

Dolph Lundgren also has a couple of almost-nude scenes, so, uh, take that how you will.

Also, no skull logo? Fucking bullshit.

Punisher’s second attempt at movie fame and fortune had to wait for fifteen years, when The Punisher was released in 2004, was directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, starred Thomas Jane as the titular character, and John Travolta as the main villain. It’s the only origin story of the three movies, and is also the least violent.

It’s also, weirdly enough, my favourite of the three movies, but. again, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie. As adverse as I am to the term “guilty pleasure”, this movie is pretty much the exact definition of that.

To this movie’s credit, the portrayal of the Punisher is much improved over Lundgren’s. Tom Jane may not be as well known, but he’s generally seen as one of the few positives of this movie. He was even well received by the fanboys, reprising the role in the great 2012 Adi Shankar-produced fan film known as The Punisher: Dirty Laundry. Out of all the Punishers, he’s probably the best, and is the most interesting part of this movie. But, therein lies the main problem of The Punisher. Too much of the film is focused on boring, unfocused characters like John Travolta and his family.

My god, are these villains fucking boring. If Travolta had gone super over-the-top, it might have salvaged the mob-centric moments, but no, he phones it in, and the rest of his underlings are bland, generic mob villains.

While that does take away from the movie to an unacceptable extent, it can only do so much to diminish the awesomeness of lines like these:

Candelaria: Vaya con Dios, Castle. Go with God.

Punisher: God’s going to sit this one out.

Punisher: Those who do evil o others- the killers, therapists, psychos, sadists- you will come to know me well.

Punisher: I have work to do. Read your newspaper every day and you’ll understand.

Rebeccar Romijn: Which section?

Punisher: The obituaries.

Goddammit, I could predict all of these lines halfway through, and they’re still fucking awesome!!!

Going back to my point of these movies being products of their times, if you’ve ever seen early 2000’s superhero movies, there was a trend to make them more serious, in order to show that comic book movies could be taken seriously. Sometimes it worked (X-Men, Blade) and sometimes, it was pretty fucking bad (Daredevil, Hulk). Punisher definitely leans towards the latter, but it’s not leaning that way horribly enough to ruin the movie.

Punisher: War Zone, on the other hand.

JESUS H. FUCK!!!!!!!

If the brutal violence of Sin City had a drunken hookup with the colour palette from The Matrix, their love child would still be about ten times more pleasant to watch than this movie. I mean, obviously, I don’t give a shit about brutal violence (A picture from Kill Bill is my Twitter profile, fer chrissakes) and dark, dreary environments can add a lot to a movie (See: Every non-Schumacher Batman movie). War Zone takes it waaaaayyyy past the point of enjoyment. People get bumped off left and right, not a smile is cracked throughout the whole movie, and the villains aren’t just violently over the top or appealingly psychotic- they’re fucking unpleasant and depressing.

And yeah, I get it, a Punisher movie isn’t going to be all sunshine and blowjobs, but this definitely wasn’t the way to go. I’m  sorry to say so, but if, in order to make a movie faithful to the source material, you have to make the movie a fucking drag of an experience, then guess what? You don’t make the fucking movie!!!! I really shouldn’t have to say this, but just because a movie is dark, does not make the movie any better.

To hell with apologists. This movie’s a fucking turd.

War Zone isn’t all bad, though. I really like Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle, and the action scenes are very, very well done. Other than that… Shit, I dunno, one of the guys from Arrow is here, he’s pretty good.

Overall: They’re all guilty pleasure movies, at best, but aside from the last one, they’re not awful, and you could do a lot worse. However, as we’ll learn next time, you could also do a hell of a lot better.

The Punisher (1989): 5/10

The Punisher (2004): 6/10

Punisher: War Zone: 4/10

Mass murder has never looked so damn sexy.

Birdman (Movie Review)

Pffft. Whatever man. This is Tuesday for me.

If you read my review of Boyhood, the presumptive favourite for the Best Picture award at the next Academy Awards, you know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie (It’s great, just not the best movie of the year, in my opinion). Knowing this, you may be itching to think what movies I think are good enough to displace what some are calling the best movie of this current decade?

I’d say Birdman is a pretty solid bet (And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America…).

Oh fuck, it’s Mothman!!!

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Produced by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher,  Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone,  Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Genre: Black comedy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Music by: Antonio Sánchez

Plot: Birdman revolves around a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is being written and directed by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is also starring in the lead role. Riggan used to be one of the biggest actors on the planet, back when he was the star of the crowd-pleasing Birdman franchise, which he left after the third movie, languishing in obscurity ever since. His bid for newfound relevance is being threatened by prima donna actors (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts), his temperamental daughter (Emma Stone) and his own overblown ego.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a name for himself in Hollywood, directing weird, dark foreign movies that are nonetheless accessible for mainstream audiences, such as Amores Perros and 21 GramsBirdman is Gonzalez’s first entirely English-language movie, and has gained quite a bit of publicity since debuting at the Venice International Film Festival in August. In many ways, this is a turn towards more conventional storytelling for the director, as he sacrifices his trademark epic, non-linear. intertwining  storylines for what is essentially a frequently darkly comic character study of Michael Keaton (Kinda).

That doesn’t mean Gonzalez doesn’t try to put his own personal fingerprint on this movie, because it has his heavily stylized fingerprint all over it. The usual orchestral score music one would find in most award-bait movies is replaced by some maniac frantically playing the shit out of his drums, even making several appearances throughout the movie itself. Instead of conventional film editing, that is, carefully selecting shots and arranging them into sequences to create a finished movie (Like a loser) Gonzalez decided to go the really strange route of, through extremely clever editing, making the entire movie look like it was filmed in one continuous take, with no noticeable separation between scenes. It’s weird. It’s unconventional. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.

I FUCKING LOVE IT. 

The preceding sentence should always be read like Christian Bale’s Batman, for full effect.

The frantic pace of the music, editing (And the movie as a whole, really) really compliments the rest of the, relatively short, film perfectly. It’s very rare that the fact that a movie felt longer than its runtime is a compliment to the movie, but in this case, it absolutely is. This movie throws SO much stuff at you in its two hour runtime, which would get boring and/or exhausting if every. Single. Goddamn. Thing that happened on screen wasn’t so visually captivating, or if damn near every line of dialogue spouted by the fascinating characters wasn’t so interesting and/or intellectually stimulating.

I do mean that last sentence, by the way. As I was leaving the theatre, so many themes from the movie were swirling through my mind, and none of those themes felt tacked-on for dramatic effect. The dilemma of fame is brought up. The idea of staying relevant and the human desire for immortality is referenced abundantly. Blockbuster movies versus “high art” mediums too. Hell, even the usual theme of a parent-child relationship gone sour is fitted in among all this other stuff. And you know what? It’s all done fucking beautifully. As much as I loved 12 Years a Slave last year, and it was my favourite movie of 2013, and as much interesting things it had to say about the human condition, I can watch it maybe once every six months or so without getting horribly depressed and angry at humanity in general. What I’m getting at is: As great as 12 Years a Slave is, it doesn’t have very much immediate replay value. In fact, more often than not, I just want to put it out of my mind after watching it.

Right after watching the matinee showing of Birdman, I was fully prepared to pay full price for an evening ticket, just so I could analyze the movie’s themes again. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fact that I had already spent all my money on comic books by the time evening rolled around.

I guess what i’m trying to say is that I think that a movie about the harrowing conditions that slaves faced in the United States before the civil war wasn’t as interesting to me as a movie where this happens:

I think I’ll just go ahead and let the majesty of this image sink in.

Admit it, you can’t take your eyes off of Edward Norton’s bulge either. It’s okay, none of us can.

Good storytelling can go to shit without good characters, though. Thankfully, this movie delivers on that front as well. All of these main characters are written so well that by the end of the movie, I genuinely like each of them, and want to see everything go well for them, even when they’re being the biggest collection of dickbags on the planet (Which is often). Zach Galifianakis erases my memory of his crappy turn in Are You Here with a great performance as Riggan’s lawyer and best friend, while Naomi Watts is also great as a first-time Broadway actress trying desperately to make something of herself.

The three performances that seem to be attracting the most Oscar buzz, however, are those of Keaton as Riggan Thomson, Norton as a superbly talented, yet pompous asshole of a method actor who could make or break the play and Emma Stone. As much as I hate mindlessly conforming the the general consensus, I’ve gotta say that I agree with everybody else. They’re all fantastic, and I would be more than happy to see them nominated come January.

However, while Norton and Stone seem to be facing some very stiff competition from their peers, Michael Keaton is straight up eating the competition alive. It’s great to see Keaton back doing prominent work again (Not that he was dead in the water or anything, it’s just he wasn’t as big of a name as he was back when he was doing Batman), and even better to see him totally owning a role that is pretty obviously meant to be portrayed by him, even if it’s not always a portrayal that most would consider flattering. Needless to say, he absolutely kills it in this movie. Even if I do joke that it’s basically Michael Keaton playing Michael Keaton, he still disappears into the role and breathes life into what could have easily been a pretty phoned in performance. The only real competition that I’ve seen so far that can really stand toe-to-toe with him is Eddie Redmayne, but more on him later.

Overall: Watch this movie. Do it. Drop whatever you’re doing, drive to whatever independent theatre is showing it in your hometown, pay full price, and plunk your ass down in the theatre seat to watch it. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Rating: 10/10

The Norton-Bulge commands it!!!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 (Movie Review)

“You say you want a revolutiooon, wehell, ya know…”

So, after my announcement a few days ago of the initiation of my new Deathmatch series, in which fictional characters get ripped from their comfort zones and are forced by me to engage in an ultraviolent fight to the death, it seems only fitting that this would shortly precede my review of the third movie in a franchise in which characters get ripped from their comfort zones and forced by their despotic puppet masters to engage in an ultraviolent fight to the death.

Except, y’know, they’re children, so I have that over Suzanne Collins, morally. For now, at least.

 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Produced by: Nina Jacobson, Jon Kilik

Written by: Danny Strong, Peter Craig

Based on: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Genres: Science-fiction, war drama,

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Willow Shields, Mahershala Ali

Music by: James Newton Howard

Plot: After the events of Catching Fire, Hunger Games veteran Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is whisked away to District 13, which, contrary to popular knowledge, was not wiped out by the tyrannical regime in the Capitol, and now houses the rebel movement fighting against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and the jackbooted thugs named”Peacekeepers”.  Katniss, along with fellow victor Finnick Odair, her childhood friend, Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth), her trainer, Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson) her family and former Gamesmaster Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) may have been spirited away to the rebellion, but her on-again, off-again sort-of boyfriend Peeta Mellark has been captured by the Capitol, and is being used, seemingly willingly in propaganda videos against the rebellion. With the knowledge that Peeta is in danger, Katniss is torn between her desire to save him, and the duty imposed upon her by the Rebellion of being the Mockingjay, a symbol of hope for the oppressed people of Panem.

So, in the pursuit of making all the money, Lionsgate decided to not only adapt the Hunger Games trilogy to film, but also to divide the final installment, Mockingjay, into two parts, following the trend set by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit. While it’s obviously a sound financial plan, the prior two movies, while none of them bad, per se, did suffer from the undesirable problem of trying to spread too little an amount of subject matter into two hours, or, in the case of The Hobbit, three years. To Mockingjay‘s credit, I didn’t feel like too little material was spread over too much time…Much. There is a scene in the middle of the movie where Gale and Katniss go hunting that looks like it’s building up to something, but doesn’t really go anywhere. Problem is, the movie’s actually too damn short. It’s around twenty minutes shorter than Catching Fire, and cuts off very abruptly, leaving the audience kinda surprised when “Yellow Flicker Beat” starts playing over the end credits. It kind of makes me wonder why they didn’t do something radical like just make one longer third movie. I mean, the people going into it should be expecting a truly epic conclusion to the series, so would it really be that much of a sin to extend it a little?

Whatever. Silly me for wanting trilogies to be actual trilogies, I guess.

By the way, in case you haven’t paid attention during the trailers, don’t expect too much similarities between the newest movie and the previous two in terms of action. While the other two movies were at least moderately action-packed, taking place in an arena full of teenagers murdering each other. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of exciting, brutal violence.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. Make your snarky Battle Royale references now, hipsters.

This movie, however, relies much more on subdued political drama than the first two. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like the political elements were non-existent, but they definitely put more of an emphasis on the politics of revolution-mongering than, you know, kids breaking each other’s necks.  I thought it was a welcome change, as it moved the plot along and was intense in it’s own way. The lack of action seems to be a major criticism of the movie, but if you don’t mind watching a lot of “moves and countermoves” then I don’t see why you wouldn’t let at least that aspect of the movie suck you into the story. Those of you not conditioned thanks to, say, Game of Thrones, might be a little less receptive, but know that you’re gonna sound really weird when you say that you favoured the jarring shaky-cam in the first Hunger Games over watching Jennifer Lawrence spar verbally with Donald Sutherland and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Of course, to really enjoy the drama, the actors have to show up, and fear not,  because, as was the case in the first two movies, the performances are great in Mockingjay. I’ll get to Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in a bit, but the other actors are definitely worth a mention. Philip Seymour Hoffman is, for the second-last time unfortunately, great, and injects some much needed humour into this very dark, grim movie. Yeah, as progressively dark as the movies in this series have gotten (Because, again, child murder) this movie actually might be the funniest of the three. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a funny movie as a whole. Not even close. But having Hoffman and Lawrence, as well as Woody Harrelson, who is always good for a few laughs as Haymitch,  spout a couple of funny lines helped bring somewhat of a sense of levity to a series in which his happens:

 

I like how she’s reacting to getting impaled about as strongly as I reacted to a 60 on my minor Physics quiz last week.

Oh, uh, belated spoiler alert, for all three of you who haven’t seen the first Hunger Games yet.

Anyway, Elizabeth Banks is once again fantastic as Effie, newcomers Julianne Moore and Natalie Dormer are both good as the rebel President Coin and propaganda filmmaker Cressida, and the only weak link in the recurring cast until now has, mercifully been eliminated. Yeah, I really hated Willow Shields as Katniss’s younger sister, Prim. I still cringe every time she delivers her lines. This time though, she’s pretty great by child actor standards. She also has some solid chemistry with Jennifer Lawrence.

SEEEEGWAAAAYYYY!!!!

Which brings me to Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Now, I don’t think anybody buys that she’s a teenager anymore, and I doubt that anyone even bought it when the casting was announced before the first movie. That said, I wouldn’t want anyone else playing Katniss. She’s strong, yet frightened and insecure, she’s occasionally kinda funny, and she gets some great chemistry out of her relationships with Gale and Peeta (Two more great performances, by the way). I guess some people would have a point in saying that it’s kind of annoying that it looks like she wants to save Peeta more than reverse the fortunes of Panem through being the Mockingjay. Yeah, there are some moments  that you kinda wanna shake her,  but when are humans ever that simple in real life?

Weak, I know, but it’s the best devil’s advocate response I could come up with.

Overall: It’s definitely a different direction for the series to go in, and I’d be lying if I said I was a fan of the halving of the last book, but Mockingjay is still a great installment into the series, getting by mainly on the strength of its performances, and making the audience forget about the notable lack of action.

Rating: 8.5/10

For fuck’s sake, it shares similarities with Battle Royale, we get it!!!  Can you leave it be, goddammit?!?!

Interstellar (Movie Review)

I can now believe that this movie was filmed here in Alberta.

Christopher Nolan is brilliant. Let’s make that abundantly clear. This review is not meant as a middle finger to the man who made Batman cool again. That said, the combination of pulse-pounding suspense with intellectualism that seemed to be so easily achieved in The Dark KnightInception and Memento is not exactly a given in Nolan movies, apparently.

Mmmm… I can already smell the fanboy hatred brewing.

   Interstellar

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Produced by: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst

Written by: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Based (In part) upon: Kip Thorne’s theories

Genres: Science-fiction, adventure, drama

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael    Caine, Ellen Burstyn, David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, Timothée Chalamet, Matt Damon

Voices of: Bill Irwin, Josh Stewart

Music by: Hans Zimmer

Plot:  As is the case in seemingly every high-concept science fiction movie, it is the near future and the Earth is, slowly but surely, dying out. Due to unspecified issues, the planet is ravaged by dust storms, and the entire planet has reverted to an agrarian society. One of the many farmers whose plots of land litter the devastated American landscape (Which brings to mind the Dust Bowl) belongs to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former engineer and NASA pilot who lives with his father-in-law (John Lithgow), his son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and his eccentric daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy).  When Murphy leads him on a wild goose chase to find her imaginary friend, Cooper stumbles upon a yop-secret NASA base, especially shocking, considering that NASA was thought to have been disbanded years ago.

The NASA facility is led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), a brilliant scientist who, along with the rest of the tattered remains of NASA, is desperately trying to find ways to save humanity. Driven to desperation, Brand’s Hail Mary plan is to send Cooper up to space in a spaceship with a couple scientists (David Gyasi and Wes Bentley), Brand’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a couple of robots ( and shoot ’em up into a recently-discovered wormhole around Saturn, taking them to a whole other galaxy, where humanity could find another place to settle down.

Seriously, before I get into this movie’s problems, I must stress that I did like the movie, despite its’ shortcomings, I enjoyed myself for, oh let’s say, 75% of the movie.  The movie’s almost three hours long, but throughout the first bit, it actually felt like it was breezing along, although not fast enough for me to miss out on the ever so important interactions between the characters. The score is composed by Hans Zimmer, who I have to thank for the soundtrack to The Lion King and Gladiator, meaning that he is one of my favourite human beings of all time. Unsurprisingly, he delivers some beautiful, atmospheric music that may not be hummable upon leaving the theatre, but it sure as hell worked in the context of the movie.

The performances were also great, which is kind of a given with Matthew McConaughey as a lead these days. Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine were both good in their role, as was Jessica Chastain in her role as an aged Murphy, and I never once felt the urge to strangle the child actors in the movie, which is always a positive in my book. Mackenzie Foy, especially, was really terrific as young Murphy, and surprised me by displaying a lot of chemistry with McConaughey. Especially surprising, since her breakout role was in the goddamn Twilight saga.

“Don’t listen to him, guys. I’m sure we won’t be working at a car wash within five years.”

I gotta say, though, the character of Tom, Murphy’s brother (Ably played by Timothée Chalamet and, later, Casey Affleck) seemed completely unnecessary to me. It could just have easily been a household comprised of Cooper, his in-law and his daughter, completely eliminated the character of Tom, and there would have been no less of an emotional impact to the proceedings in the movie. I dunno, I guess it was nice to see Casey Affleck in something.

It also bears mentioning that the movie is really, really gorgeous. From what I’ve heard, they actually had Kip Thorne be a sort of consultant on what things in space would look like (For lack of a better noun), so when you see a black hole, that’s what scientists are pretty sure  an actual black hole looks like. That’s pretty frickin’ rad.

Christopher Nolan has done a pretty solid job at incorporating shorter, emotional scenes in mainly serious movies, but he has set a new bar for himself with Interstellar in terms of emotional punch. I wouldn’t say it emotionally wrecked me, but holy crap does it get intense. Go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph if you really don’t want to know anything about the movie going in, go ahead and skip to the end of this paragraph, but my favourite scene in the entire movie was when, due to the theory of relativity, Cooper discovers that his kids are now older than him. It’s not only a brilliant way to explain relativity to somebody, but also the best scene of the movie thanks to its emotional resonance.

Fuck me, that was the saddest damn thing.

However, it can work to the movie’s detriment too. The movie, for the most part, does a really good job of accurately portraying the science that would go into a space voyage, which makes sense, given that theoretical physicist Kip Thorne served as an executive producer. However, as much as I appreciate the science behind the movie, it loses me a little when it starts emphasizing the main theme in the film, that love transcends space and time, being, essentially, the strongest force in the universe.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against that being a theme in the movie. My problem is when the characters start spewing some bullshit about “quantifiable love”. I’m not going to go much more in depth for fear of venturing into spoiler territory, but seriously? I’m no physics major, that’s for damn sure, but I’m fairly sure that’s not actually a thing. The “power of love” crap may work in a movie such as Harry Potter, when the real-world applicability of the movie is non-existent, but in a movie such as Interstellar that puts such a large influence on the science, while keeping the human element mostly separate, you lose some brownie points from me when you try to spoon feed me with “quantifiable love.” It’s just too much of a stretch for a cynical bastard like me.

“Is…Is this love you’re feeding me? What the fuck is wrong with you!?!?”

Also, the dialogue seemed really clunky at times. I had to restrain myself from exclaiming “what!?” after Cooper explained to Murphy why he named her after Murphy’s Law. Most of the time, it’s a pretty typical, slick Nolan screenplay, but at other times…Ugh.

Another thing that was working against me was the length of the movie. Whenever a movie goes beyond the 160 minute range, it’s already gotten on my bad side. It’s not like I automatically hate it (The Lord of the Rings movies are three of the best movies of all time. Try and dissuade me of that, hipsters. I dare you.), it just has to do a bit more in the way of keeping me interested in the story to keep me distracted from the fact that I just blew three hours of my precious time. This movie did not do that. There were several times during the last 30 minutes of the movie when I felt that it should’ve ended, but it just kept trudging along, and it got to the point when I was just willing the movie to end, which is a pity, because looking back on it, it was a damn smart ending to a pretty damn good movie, but the ending was presented in such a hectic and drawn out way that I just got lost. Maybe I’m just stupid, I dunno.

One cursory look at my physics grade should have probably told me how much I would understand this movie.

Overall: It’s overly long, complicated, and occasionally displays stiff dialogue, but it’s a visual treat and an engrossing experience as well. It may not be for everybody, but it’s worth a watch. Just plan your day around it.

Rating: 7.5/10

John Wick (Movie Review)

Fun fact: Keanu Reeves once played Hamlet on stage. I’m not kidding. Look it up. Apparently He was pretty good!

Keanu Reeves is a Canadian treasure. I will fight anybody who says otherwise.

 John Wick

Directed by: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

Produced by: Basil Iwanyk, Eva Longoria, David Leitch

Written by: Derek Kolstad

Genres: Action, Thriller

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Andy the Dog

Music by: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard

Plot: John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is seemingly an everyman who, sadly, is mourning the death of his wife (Bridget Moynahan), who has succumbed to a terminal illness. While moping around his house, he receives a surprise package from his wife from beyond the grave who had arranged to give him a puppy to cope with his loneliness. John and the puppy immediately hit it off, becoming the cutest movie couple in film history, outdoing Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

Awwwwww……

Unfortunately, while going on his daily routine of, uh, Driving donuts?!?! That’s……Pointless…..

Yeah, this movie doesn’t exactly display a whole bunch of logic, and this scene in particular probably could’ve been cut from the film to the benefit of the picture as a whole. Anyways, while driving around, he runs afoul of a group of hoodlums led by Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen).

Sure, I know Alfie Allen’s character is technically named Iosef Tarasov, but if you’re as big a Game of Thrones fan as I am, you can’t not see him as Theon Greyjoy. Especially this character. Don’t even try to tell me otherwise, he is Theon Greyjoy.

Reek and his shithead buddies follow John home, murder his puppy and steal his Mustang. What he doesn’t know, however is that John is known in the underworld as the deadliest hitman in New York City. And know that he’s got nothing to lose, he’s gunning for Tarasov, his dad, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) and the rest of the Russian Mafia.

The Russian mob: Because the Sicilian mafia is overused, and a Mexican cartel may come off as racist.

The moviegoing community hasn’t seen all that much of Canadian “actor” Keanu Reeves since his appearance in the shit-tastic The Day the Earth Stood Still in 2008. Until his appearance in last year’s 47 Ronin, which we will not discuss ever, he had mostly just appeared in some small scale independent dramas that nobody saw. That’s a damn shame because I’m a big Keanu fan.

Yeah, I get that he’s not a good actor, technically speaking,but there’s something about him that’s so damn appealing. I’m not sure if it’s the fat that he still looks like a 25-year old, or the fact that he really looks like he’s trying to emote up there. And hey, it’s not like he isn’t capable of delivering at least a passable performance. here and then.

So, how does Keanu do as John Wick? Well, you know,  he does what he did in the Matrix: Be a blank slate, enabling the audience to comfortably insert themselves into the action, of which there is a crapload. He’s not about to set the Academy Awards on fire, but he does exactly what a B-movie action star should do. And when he does need to show some emotion, he doesn’t embarrass himself, and can be genuinely touching when he needs to be. Sure, it would’ve been nice to get an all-around better actor, but as comebacks go, you could do worse.

Much, much worse.

The New York City of the world of John Wick is definitely something to behold. It is apparently a mecca for hitmen who do various jobs for the different crime bosses, and who seem to live a life separate from the non-criminal elements of society. The cops don’t particularly care about the in-fighting between the different games, as long as they clean up their messes and leave civilians out of it (There’s a pretty funny interaction between Keanu and a policeman). Hell, the hitmen have an entire damn hotel, maintained by Lance Derrick and Ian McShane, reserved for themselves. These assassins use freaking gold coins as currency for chrissakes! It’s definitely highly illogical, but I don’t really care all that much. I love it when movies try to do world-building  like this movie does. It almost seems like a less-stylized and less extreme in general version of the world of Sin City.

That’s not to say it isn’t stylized or violent though, because it’s both of those things, especially the latter. Holy shit, does John Wick ever rack up a body count. The movie, admittedly, is a little slow for the first ten minutes or so, but the minute that Keanu Reeves starts kicking ass and taking names. Director Chad Stahelski was Keanu’s martial arts coordinator in the sci-fi epicness that was The Matrix, And he definitely brought his talent for making people look like unstoppable badasses to this movie. John Wick is up there with the other unstoppable badasses of film history in terms of sheer body count and pure…Uh…Badassery, I guess. You have not trouble believing that this guy wiped out all of the Russian mafia’s rivals. Seriously. The Punisher wishes he was as badass as John Wick.

Did this help or hinder Punisher’s street cred? I’m going back and forth on that.

 The other actors aside from Keanu were fine too. I especially liked Michael Nyqvist as the big baddie of the movie, although you can tell at times that he and Alfie Allen aren’t Russian when their Swedish and English accents, respectively, bleed through.

The only other real problem I had with the movie is the writing. There isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in this movie (Compared to, say, Sin City), but when it does show up, it is just plain silly. You see this dumb line?”

JOHN WICK: People keep asking if I’m back. Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!!!

Clunky, cheesy and B-movie fodder, right? It’s not even close to being the most awkward line in the movie. That said, I kinda give the movie a pass on that front, because, well, I think that this movie is kind of a throwback to the action movies of the 80’s. Stupid, corny dialogue, sure, but man alive is it ever a good time.

Doesn’t mean that the movie gets a nine. Still a great ride, though.

Overall: A creative world, ultraviolence, silliness and Keanu Reeves. If you are a fan of any of those things, then drop whatever it is you’re doing now and get to your local movie theatre to watch John Wick. What are you gonna watch otherwise? Ouija?

8.0/10

If this makes more money than John Wick, anybody who made that happen will have a gruesomely violent chat with me.

Gone Girl (Movie Review)

That cat has seen some shit.

So, who else  is getting tired of me writing about baseball? I sure as hell am! Let’s just sit back, relax and settle down to watch a nice popcorn flick. Let’s see what’s in theatre right now…

Oh…. This is gonna be weird as fuck, isn’t it?

 Gone Girl

 Directed by: David Fincher

 Produced by: Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon, Ceán Chaffin

 Screenplay by: Gillian Flynn

 Based on: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 Genres: Thriller, Mystery

 Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens, Patrick  Fugit, Casey Wilson, Missi Pyle

 Music by: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

 Plot: In a sleepy town in Missouri known as North Carthage live former writer and current barkeep Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife, Amy Elliott-Dunne (Rosamund Pike), another former writer and, weirdly enough, the inspiration for a series of children’s books known as “Amazing Amy”, written by her parents. They are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, but unfortunately, it isn’t quite being celebrated under the best of circumstances, as they have grown distant from one another, ruining what used to be quite a lovely marriage. On the morning of, Nick returns from the bar he co-owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon), to find that his wife is missing from his house with no prior warning, and there are signs of a struggle in the living room. Understandably, he freaks the fuck out and calls the cops, and the whole community rallies behind him.

However, things are shaken up a bit when Nick’s facade of being the perfect, worried husband starts to slip and what was once perceived as being a shy, awkward, kind person starts to look more and more like an angry, remorseless sociopath. It doesn’t help his case much when evidence gathered by the police starts to shift the blame in his direction, and even less so when the media jumps all over his case, all but screaming for the governor’s office to fry this man for murder. Did Nick Dunne kidnap, or even murder his wife? Or is there another explanation?

Weirdly enough, the first people that I want to praise for this movie are not the actors, director or writer, but the marketing team. Whoever green-lighted the decision to only use scenes from the first third of the movie or so in the trailers for the film. I was completely oblivious to the whopper of a twist that was to come, and for that, I thank them.

Before I get into some of the numerous stuff I really loved from this movie, I’ve gotta get the one thing I didn’t like in the movie out of the way, so here goes: I thought some of the dialogue from when Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike’s characters were meeting for the first time was kind of annoyingly pretentious.

Well, now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for me to voraciously kiss this movie’s ass.

Holy crap, was this movie ever the definition of perfectly cast. I heard that some people, mostly fans of the novel that the movie is based on, were bitching about Ben Affleck being cast in the main role. I, personally, have been a huge Affleck supporter ever since he came back onto he scene in a big way with The Town, and I was one of what seemed to be the few people who weren’t losing their minds over him being cast as you-know-who.

“What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Who the hell do you think I am?”

Well, it puts my ever-worrying mind somewhat at ease to know that Ben Affleck absolutely brings it to this movie. His character is not always shown doing the nicest things on-screen. In fact, I probably should have hated him at one point, but throughout the whole movie, he displays a type of charm that makes Nick Dunne irresistibly likable. He’s a nice guy (Or he seems to be), but he also most certainly is not a perfect person., rather a very complicated human being who’s dealing with a lot of crap, some of it it brought on by himself.

Affleck’s co-star, Rosamund Pike is…Well…..I don’t know if I can say too much about her or her character without spoiling the movie, but I will say that she is fantastic. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that she delivers one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. No joke.

The supporting cast is perfect as well. Carrie Coon (From The Leftovers) is funny at times and has some good lines. Neil Patrick Harris is very good as a slightly unhinged ex-boyfriend of Rosamund Pike’s. Tyler Perry is also in this movie, in his second appearance in a movie not directed by him since his cameo in the 2009 Star Trek movie (His first was 2012’s Alex Cross, and the less said about that, the better). I’ve never been a Tyler Perry fan, not because I don’t like the guy, because he seems nice enough. I just find Madea unfunny,  the Madea character insufferable, and religious movies in general to be incredibly preachy, bad pun intended. Eh, different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

But hey, Tyler Perry was excellent as well as Nick’s somewhat morally ambiguous defense attorney.  The dude can act! Now, Hollywood just needs to get him into some better movies and the world may soon forget…Well, anything that wasn’t Precious, Star Trek and Gone Girl.

We have a lot of forgiving to do, folks. A lot of it.

Much praise is deserved by the director as well. David Fincher, director of such masterpieces as Se7en, Zodiac, Fight Club, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network (As well as the hunk of shit that was Alien 3)  and probably one of the best directors working in Hollywood today, really, creates a very dark, unsettling nature in direct contrast to the idyllic suburban setting of the story. It also helps that he brought his frequent collaborators, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (Who had previously done the soundtracks to The Social Network and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), along to do the music, which is, in a word, eerie. Eerie, eerie eerie. Electronic buzzes and drones aren’t that much fun to listen to on their own, but holy shit, did they ever provide the perfect atmosphere in this movie. If this movie isn’t at least nominated for a “Best Original Score” prize at the Oscars, I will be very, very angry.

Kudos to writer Gillian Flynn as well. It’s not very often you see the author of the source material write the screenplay for the script. The only author I can think of who really makes a point to write the movie adaptations of his work is Frank Miller, and everything he’s done that isn’t 300 or Sin City is utter shit. Flynn, on the other hand, writes a pretty fantastic script, aside from the minor gripes I mentioned in the beginning. She also does a really good job of incorporating elements of black comedy into the movie, which was a pleasing surprise.

Overall: Sure, it’s a long movie, clocking in at over 140 minutes, but it’s such a wild ride that you don’t care. If you don’t have a weak stomach, this is a must-see movie. I sure as hell loved it.

Rating: 9.5/10

“Oh, shit, it was the cat who did it, wasn’t it?!?!”- A thought that I’m ashamed to admit crossed my mind multiple times during the movie.

Ugh…

Well, the geniuses who decide film ratings in Canada decide to give Gone Girl an 18A rating, meaning that I’m unlikely to see it unless I can convince my parents to take me. If I can’t see what looks like the best movie of the year so far, I’ll probably end up seeing The Equalizer. It’s not like I can complain, as I wanted to watch that anyways, but still….Ugh.