Wonder Woman: Whoa, They Did It!

Just like that, the glimmer of hope has grown in the DC Extended Universe, ‘Wonder Woman’ shattered a three-streak of, at best corny super hero movies, and at worst, a total misrepresentation of main characters’ “true” personifications, and the persistent frustration, and the – nope, not today. ‘Wonder Woman’ in a way reminds me of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, in the sense that, anyone can kick ass and it is not a big deal regardless of any tertiary traits that fall upon the characters outside of the narrative structure selected. If the story is tight, and all (or most) of the pieces fit together in the movie then who, the hell, cares?

I mean, the DC Extended Universe has a smoking gun in relation to the lackluster start of the series. ‘Wonder Woman’ has broken the mold; has shown tone and direction that can fit into the mold of the past three movies and be brought over to another member of the future Justice League. Really though, this is the best DC Warner Bros. movie since ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, and should be a kick in the pants to Warner Bros. regarding the future of the universe and whether or not bringing Zack Snyder back would be the best option, which, the obvious answer is no. He had his time making comic book adaptations in the late 2000’s in the form of ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’, two movies that I enjoyed thoroughly, despite the inconsistencies manifested through adapting the mediums of comic books and films. It is time to take the universe in a different direction, and ‘Wonder Woman’ has cleared the way to this new path. Sure, it is too late to cancel ‘Justice League’ without causing a cataclysmic shift and hole in the universe, but, as soon as it is released, make the dynamic shift 20th Century Fox made when they decided to make ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Logan’ hard R rated movies that focused on their individual journeys rather than packaging the rest of the crew in a prolonged series tied into one another; Marvel pretty much has that locked in and perfected to a degree that cannot possibly be replicated without coming off as a duplication or knock-off.

Speaking of taking a cue from Marvel that has not panned out in their favor, the villains in this movie were sad, one-dimensional, and plodding; Ares was abysmal, as well as his cronies. The whole “Grrr, we are evil, let us make a super weapon that will wipe out the entire world because, EVIL!” nonsense was reminiscent of the mad scientist tropes that screams Blofeld from the beginning of the James Bond franchise. And when the recent trend of villains goes from the “ohhh noo I am captured, but am I really???” to “Oho you think I am the villain?? Well wait until midway through the second act and you will see who the REAL villain is” is like trading a wrap for a burrito, both are different but really it is food in a thin, circular piece of bread; and that is what I think of twists like these, paper thin, contrived, and predictable as soon as the floodgates of obviousness open up. The red-herring is not a main dish, but that slight tang of lemon sliver that belongs in a Sazerac, not enough to overpower the rest of the drink but enough to add that little bit of tang with rye, absinthe, and bitters.

In conclusion, for many reasons, ‘Wonder Woman’ is a major step in the right direction; a landmark in terms of superhero movies and a milestone regarding where action movies started and where they will go from today. Superhero movies may be the flavor of the time, but with the previous addition of ‘Fury Road’, the continued success of the ‘Furious’ franchise, and the retro-stylings of ‘John Wick’, we are in a time where action movies can take many different roads in terms of settings, themes, and mixing genres, still kick ass, as long as the process comes off as organic and not forced in a way that comes off as self-aggrandizing, pompous, or cheesy, unless it is ‘Kung Fury’, with a wink in its eye knowing that the tropes are being played as meta. I digress, DCEU has a template for the direction it should go in lest it falls into the trap of hubris.

Advertisements

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

Potty Mouth Perils in Passage

‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2’ was more of an introspective movie than the first one. We get further back story and context in regards to the relationship of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Yondu (Michael Rooker), and Ego the Living Planet (Kurt Russell). This is a majority Peter Quill storyline, a development on his character and backstory residual from the previous movie. Granted, this gives the other characters less time to develop as the movie goes on, but what was lacking in screen time was made up in the amount of levity and emotion concerning the scenes of the other Guardians (although Rocket does get a considerable amount of screen time with Yondu, but more on that later). Also the movie felt less cluttered given the absence of the Federation and space politics that can bog down a movie like this with exposition dumps if used improperly. The one gleaming example of this practice was when Ego was explaining his origins and the overall drive of the narrative, bringing light to what Peter’s true potential holds as a hybrid being. Granted, this was all set up at the end of the first movie with Yondu giving a closing quip regarding Ego, but there had to be a way to present the information outside of an expository dump and a flashback to when Peter’s mom and Ego were driving across Missouri.

Speaking of set ups, there were several instances where characters and groups were introduced and not given the light of day to fully develop. The Sovereign and Stakar (Sylvester Stallone) are too big of entities in this movie to be relegated as plot devices. They come in at the precise points to cause friction for the Guardians and immediately leave when business is done. They will for sure make a return in the third movie, and be a part of the overall plot, but we as the audience are given little regarding their place in the universe outside of the dealings they have had with Yondu and the Guardians. Aside from that it was sweet experiencing the Easter eggs in the background of specific scenes. Examples being Howard the Duck in the space city and Stan Lee conversing with the Watchers, the audience does not need backstory on these instances, they are more like fun surprises that happen to be within the universe and may pop up at any given point during the Guardians’ adventures; like a wandering thread that is omnipresent.

One aspect of the movie that resonated with me was the amount of emotional growth and expansion upon the characters. Drax for example, despite not having as much screen time as the other Guardians might have, made great strides when conversing with Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Rocket and Yondu have moments where they reveal their true nature to one another and bond over the fact that in their lives they were screwed and squandered opportunities which would have led to deeper meaning. Yondu relates to Rocket, he sees the actions and emotions Rocket goes through when confronted on how he holds himself. Gomorrah (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) reach a point of reconciliation regarding their upbringing and the chaos Thanos wrecked upon their lives. Peter comes to his own conclusion in reference to his lineage and not scrapping the entire universe on the whim of Ego, who, in all seriousness will never be satisfied.

Baby Groot, was not as bad and overused as I thought he would be in comparison to other movie franchise characters *cough cough* minions *cough*. Sure, the baby-fication of characters is a cheap ploy to reinvest audience interest in a character or set of characters, however in the narrative thread it makes sense that Groot would go through a death and rebirth stage at some point in time of the Guardians’ adventures. Plus, it is not as if Baby Groot was helpless and super annoying at any specific point in the movie or used to the point where it would have ruined the entire experience.

All in all, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2’ is the quintessential sequel the first movie deserved, it is more of a personal journey for the gang, they tackle one of the biggest entities in the universe whilst discovering where Peter and by proxy the rest of the crew fits in the universe. Plus, we get more potty humor, the scene that had me cracking up the hardest was when Rocket, Yondu, and Baby Groot were going through all the wormholes and getting warped in the best of psychedelic experiences shot on film with Baby Groot puking in a way that reminded me of something out of a Judd Apatow movie. That part in particular built upon the weird of the world that was shown in past movies like ‘Ant Man’ and ‘Dr. Strange’.

You’re Unforgettable.. Wait: Unforgettable (2017)

This review will be spoiled rotten!

Where to begin? First off, I do not have an economics degree and only know what I have read and heard from sources outside of my school studies, but how can someone afford to “semi-retire” as a blogger in San Francisco? At the age of thirty-four on top of all of that. Granted, she is moving in with new boo David to his valley home, and even then he runs a small brewery and cannot afford to pay his lawyer. Unless I missed something regarding that last bit about the lawyer, there is no way a situation like that could work, where is this extra cash coming from? As superfluous as this may be to knit-pick, it was something I caught immediately and had to bring up to my homie.

The story, a by the books erotic thriller which harkens back to ‘Obsessed’ or ‘Fatal Attraction’, had enough going on to play with manipulating the conventional formula, which could have given levity to the scenes that happened between the spicy scenes. The back and forth between Julia and David having sex, and Tessa sex-chatting with Matt was I would say the first intriguing scene in the movie. The manipulation and the naiveté intertwined that reminded me of a tactic straight out of Game of Thrones. Not all battles are fought with words or physical weapons, sex can be a driving force when it comes to manipulating others to benefit the individual. She releases her frustration and fear of being obsolete by fucking a younger guy and throwing him out of the car like it was nothing. It is the first time we see Tessa put out emotions, and drive, that are not relegated to arch intentions, she loses herself within the sabotage.

Either someone is a saint, or someone is an asshole, the lack of nuance and intrigue makes for some arch and predictable antagonists. Of course, Katherine Heigl (Tessa) would be the Machiavellian, vindictive ex-wife whose point of control is usurped by Rosario Dawson (Julia); as Dawson is clearly more flexible and understanding in a period of her life where she has every right to be as cold and manipulative as Heigl. Dawson’s demeanor and sanity is put through the ringer, having been through a traumatic experience only to land in a scenario where the ex-wife is as crazy as the ex-boyfriend. It does not help that Heigl’s mom in the movie referred to as ‘Lovey’ by the daughter, is anything but; hey I see what they did there. The arch on the grandma makes Heigl look infinitely tamer; it comes off as easy brownie points for added drama and backstory inferring that Heigl’s mom has been doing this to her since cognation. The relationship of Lucille Bluth and Lindsay Funke from ‘Arrested Development’ comes to mind as an example of inverting the cringe into a roast battle. The perspective of the situation never reaches David until it is too late; it is like watching ‘The X-Files’ during a scene where Mulder has everything he needs to convince Scully that aliens are in fact real only to discover that everything is exactly the way it was and Scully gives him that look like “really”?

Which kind of describes my reaction and face when this movie ended. I do not have a problem with characters having a distinct arch in their demeanor, speech, and intentions; but when it takes itself unbelievably seriously the flaws show doubly and create chasms in which movie riffing is at its peak ripening. And I understand that there are movies that are made for specific audiences and that there are movies that I genuinely love that some would consider horseshit and rip on what makes the movies I might like terrible. At the end of the day, having the terrible movies illuminate the pristine movies as well as make for some heavy riff time. As for ‘Unforgettable’, I hope that it hasn’t been by the time I post this piece.

Forever Furious: Fast 8

What a ride it has been, what started as a couple of burglars (and a cop) from Los Angeles has morphed into a multinational crew of mercenaries, pulling off the biggest heists with the best vehicles. From Toyotas and Chevys to giant trucks and tanks, the series is bigger, grander, and more, explosive. At this point, every one who sees this should know exactly what to expect. Universal knows the audience well, continuing off what ‘Fast Five’ did for the franchise and cranking the intensity ever so delicately, adding bigger vehicles to the destruction and bringing in more actors to facilitate the evolution of the Furious.

Speaking of new characters, we see the return of Mr. Nobody, played effortlessly by Kurt Russell, as well as Scott Eastwood as the protégé Little Nobody. Honestly, Kurt Russell is the best actor in this movie, never the stranger to cheesy action movies, he plays the role of Mr. Nobody with a wink of his eye and a demeanor that says, “stand back, let me show you how it’s done.” The fact that he is so laid back and cool goes to show he can add a touch of dry wit, lightening the mood and continuing the vibe of joviality lesser franchises lack in favor of edge-overload. Scott Eastwood is without a doubt the replacement Paul Walker, which is fine, his death opened up a roster spot for someone who was not down with the gang’s antics but eventually goes along with the mayhem. The spin on Eastwood is the subversion of the laconic characteristics his dad was known for and instead he looks like a fish out of water, the new guy.

On the topic of new additions, the main antagonist Cipher played by Charlize Theron was, milk-toast. It was an often-Marvel/Suicide Squad villain level of uninteresting. It was not anything Charlize did, it was more of the scenes in the movie where she was supposed to be menacing had to cut to a different shot since it’s PG-13. On the other hand, Jason Statham’s extended appearance gave him ample opportunity to chew scenes with Dwayne Johnson. Their back and forth shenanigans set this movie off in the long line of kooky action movies. Not only that, Deckard (Statham) gets in touch with HIS family as we see mama and brother Shaw round out the plot of ‘Fast and Furious 6’.

One aspect I will give the current run of Furious credit for is the exclusion of the set-up; we do not need to see where the squad came from, or other tertiary scenes of plot that would only bog down the movie with exposition dumps. I noticed this in Fast Five where Brian and Dom roam the streets of Brazil and challenged the other drivers to a race. This allows extended action or, *heartfelt scenes* to continue for as long as needed or desired. A movie like ‘Ghost in the Shell’ spent an obscene amount of time in dialogue with a snippet of action every few minutes, this works within the genre of a character drama, where the action acts as a release to the tension of the scene. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Dredd’, and ‘The Raid’ are perfect examples of action movies that showed exposition during the talky scenes, and pick up the action immediately; even the opening scenes of ‘Dredd’ and ‘Fury Road’ begin with high octane moments of chase.

In conclusion, I smell another change of scenery in the Furious franchise, while the series has had a revolving door of characters, the main core of the squad were always there to bring them all together. Now that Paul Walker is gone and the squad has no where else to go but space, what is the next move? Will it become Dwayne Johnsons franchise? Regardless, I could live without another Wiz Khalifa song inserted in the beginning or end.