Ratatouille (2007)

Ratatouille Movie Poster

This week saw the release in theaters of another Pixar classic, Coco.  It was beautiful and exquisite and reminded us how wonderful Pixar could be.

Internet vlogger and movie commentator John Campea took that opportunity to create a top ten list of his favorite Pixar movies of all time.  Now, I have been doing some Top Ten lists with the Top Ten Show each week and I did not want to break that order.  However, John mentioned a movie in his top ten, #3, if I remember correctly, that I had never seen before.

Ratatouille came out in 2007, before I started seeing movies on such a regular basis, and I have heard many people, including John Campea, say that it is an overlooked gem of the Pixar movies.  Because of that, instead of doing a Top Ten Pixar list at this time (Toy Story 3 would be number one, btw), I decided to search out this movie with the cooking rat and to see if it deserves to be remembered so fondly.

Short answer: it does.

Separated from his family, Remy finds himself in Paris at a restaurant where he could, somehow, show his great skill of cooking.  Meeting with a clumsy and pathetic garbage boy named Linguini (Lou Romano), Remy found his chance.  Playing Linguini like a marionette, Remy was able to create wonderful food and reinvigorate the restaurant.

I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.  The set up was clever.  As in any Pixar movie, the animation was great.  I enjoyed the villains of the piece very much as their motivations made sense, in particular Chef Skinner, voiced by Ian Holm (from The Fifth Element). Patton Oswald as Remy the “Little Chef” was a solid voice performance.  Brad Garrett was great as the “figment of Remy’s imagination” Gasteau.  Peter O’Toole was absolutely terrifying as Anton Ego, the restaurant critic from Hell.

Although I enjoyed the film, there were some problems I had with it.  I must say though that Linguini and his constant screaming voice performance rubbed on my nerves the wrong way and it was a definite negative to the film.  I was also not a big fan of the rest of the rats as the story told with them felt a little cliched.  Honestly, much of the film felt pretty familiar.

None of those drawbacks for me would cause me not to enjoy the film, but I would not put it in my top three Pixar movies of all time.  It might make the top ten (for the time when I actually do that list) and I am glad that I watched it.

 

funtime

 

Ratatouille Movie Poster

The Man Who Invented Christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Poster

A Christmas Carol is one of the most famous and beloved pieces of fiction that had ever been written.  Charles Dickens wrote many amazing novels, but this is arguably his finest and greatest work.  The new film The Man Who Invented Christmas explored how a famous author like Charles Dickens creates such a classic work of fiction.

Playing like a biopic, the film adds an element of magic to the manner in which Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) created the characters of A Christmas Carol and eventually wrote the book.

Dickens had gone through a period of failure, having had three books flop after the massive success of Oliver Twist.  Seeing debt building up, Dickens set out to write a Christmas story with six weeks to go until Christmas.  These are true facts.

The film, however, takes the writing process to a different and remarkably original level.  Dickens would picture a characters, name a character and then they would appear to him.  When Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) showed up, he began to show what a rotten person he was, belittling Dickens as he struggled against the deadline, the writer’s blocks and the seemingly never ending interruptions from his family, staff and friends.

Each of these interruptions were involving some intriguing side characters in Charles Dickens’ life.  His father John (Jonathan Pryce) is a bit of a blowhard and huckster, but he is responsible for some serious baggage for Dickens.  The relationship between Dickens and his father is an important one in the creation of the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.

There is also a great relationship between Dickens and his friend Thackeray (Miles Jupp).  Thackeray was as loyal to Charles as anyone and his friendship and belief in the writer was a solid rock for Dickens.

The movie was remarkably charming. I was fully enthralled in the film as it continues, showing the “real-life’ inspirations Dickens took to create the characters and scenes of A Christmas Carol.  It was fun to hear certain well known lines from the story (ex. “if they are going to die then they should get on with it, and decrease the surplus population”) placed into the script in such a clever way.

Dan Stevens does a great job with his role, showing us a continuously nervous Charles Dickens, whose vivid imagination is amazing, but whose life threatens to drag him down and prevent him from finishing.  The flashbacks used help highlight the horrors of the young Charlie Dickens’ past were effective and brought us back around successfully to what the narrative was wanting us to understand.  Much like Scrooge, the key to Charles Dickens successful future lied in the past and the present and Dan Stevens is so likable that he makes a perfect protagonist here.

There were some secondary characters that are introduced that are not developed very much.  Charles’s wife Kate (Morfydd Clark) has a nice scene near the end of the film, but it seemed to come out of nowhere.  The inclusion of a character named Tara (Anna Murphy) seemed an odd choice and I was not sure why she was meant to be significant but she clearly was.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Man Who Invented Christmas (though that was an odd title, somewhat misleading) and I found it extremely charming.  If you are looking for a good Christmas movie this year, don’t waste your time on Daddy’s Home 2 and instead look this one up.  God bless us.  Everyone.

4 stars

 

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond-Featuring a Very Special Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton

Jim & Andy Movie Poster

In 1999, the movie Man on the Moon came out and told the story of comic Andy Kaufman, being played by Jim Carrey.  By all appearances, this was your standard biopic that we see all the time.

However, Jim Carrey had taken it to another level.

Famously reported during filming was the fact that Jim Carrey had completely encompassed the role of Andy Kaufman to an extent where he was actively, 24/7 being Andy Kaufman.

Jim Carrey took Method acting to a whole new level.

Now, 18 years later, a new documentary appeared on Netflix featuring behind the scenes footage shot for a documentary at the time showing just how lost Jim Carrey had become inside the role of Andy Kaufman… and the very special contractually obligated mention of Tony Clifton, too.  This footage is reportedly hidden away to protect Jim Carrey from himself.

These images of Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman were interspersed with a present day interview with a heavily bearded Jim Carrey, providing contradiction to the antics of the sprite that had apparently possessed the actor during the movie’s filming.

It was a tremendous documentary, with an almost unbelievable pretense.  The shocked expressions of cast mates like Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch down to Andy Kaufman’s real family members told the story of how Jim Carrey was no longer there.  He spoke in third person when referring to Jim Carrey.  He spoke like Andy Kaufman (or Tony Clifton)

Jim Carrey with the beard kept saying that, at the time, he kept asking himself, “how far would Andy go?”

I felt bad for Jerry “The King” Lawler, who seemed to take his share of grief from “Andy” and he reacted,at times, like the professional wrestler that he is.  Lawler spoke of how back when Kaufman and he were doing their wrestling shtick in Memphis how Andy would always be respectful behind the scenes and how they would plan out things together and that aspect seemed to have been pushed aside by Carrey for the sake of realism.  In pro wrestling, it is called kayfabe and Jim Carrey was all about that.

The documentary is well put together and really has a great hook with the missing footage from behind the scenes.  Just looking at the other cast members staring at Jim Carrey in disbelief is worth it, but we get more than just that.  We have a look inside the mind of two of the most fascinating comedic actors/performers of recent memory.

4.5 stars

Lady Bird

Lady Bird Movie Poster

This is not a film about LBJ’s wife, Lady Bird Johnson.

At first, I thought that this was a biopic, but, after seeing a recent trailer, I realized that I was wrong.  Instead, it is a coming of age story about a young girl and her struggles in school, in family and in life.

The film is very well done.  Honestly, there is not a huge plot involved here.  It is basically the senior year in high school for “Lady Bird” Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) and the family struggles that she faced.  Her mother is played by Laurie Metcalf, who is remarkable here.  Metcalf, whether she is in sitcoms like Roseanne or the Big Bang Theory or movies like Toy Story or Meet the Robinsons, is always fantastic.  Here is just more of the same from her.  Great work.

I also enjoyed the work of the actor playing Lady Bird’s father, Tracy Letts.  I recognized him in the film, but I wasn’t able to place him.  He was very solid as the older man who had to struggle with depression and tried to avoid being overwhelmed by the more dominant Metcalf.  He was softer and quieter and very compelling.

There were plenty of typical scenes you would see in a coming of age story revolving around the final year of high school. Lady Bird wanted to escape from Sacramento to the east coast, but her mother was against that.  In fact, her mother found many passive aggressive ways to get a message across to Lady Bird that had the teen ready to get out of the house.  There was the first sexual encounter with the band member.  There is a school play and musical.  There is the friend who turns out gay.  There is a lot of dealing with the differing class structure of the school, with Lady Bird and her family certainly on the lower level of money.

While many of these topics are dealt with in other coming of age stories, they fit together very nicely with the strong performance of Ronan, which makes these topics fresh.  Ronan and Metcalf are excellent together and you can feel the connection between them.  It’s one of those things that make you think these two women are too much alike to really get along with one another.

There is something in this film that everyone will relate to and that is what makes Lady Bird special.  It has a great relationship, albeit negative many times, between Lady Bird and her mother  and the movie rides that relationship throughout.

3.5 stars

Coco

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I was able to keep myself from blubbering out loud and the 3D glasses hid the tears fairly well.

Coco is the newest emotional wallop released by Pixar Studios in the same vein as former films Inside Out and Toy Story 3.

In the new movie, we meet 12-year old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) as his family prepared for the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) by setting up the remembrance photos of family members who had since passed.  The family had been devastated decades ago when Miguel’s great great grandfather left to follow his dream to become a musician, leaving behind his wife and infant daughter.  Because of this betrayal, the family had rejected music in any forms and had become shoemakers.

The problem was that Miguel had music in his soul and would sneak away from his family to play his guitar, and watch movies and tapes of his hero, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).  When Miguel discovered that his great, great grandfather was actually de la Cruz, he planned on entering a talent show on Día de los Muertos, despite the objects of his family.

When she found this out, Miguel’s grandmother Abuelita (Renée Victor) destroyed his guitar and insisted that Miguel give up his dreams of music and that Miguel help fix the pictures for his great grandmother Mamá Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia), who had started to lose her memories and was slipping away from life.

Miguel would not give up his dream, reacting impulsively and running away from his family.  Sneaking in to steal the original guitar of the legendary de la Cruz, Miguel found himself magically transported to the Land of the Dead.  There he came across the skeleton corpses of his deceased family members who want to help Miguel cross back over to the land of the living before the sun came up and turned the boy into a skeleton, trapping him in the Land of the Dead forever.

While in the Land of the Dead,Miguel meets a trickster named Hector (Gael García Bernal) who is afraid of being forgotten in the Land of the Living and agrees to help Miguel find his great great grandfather de la Cruz in exchange for Miguel to return to the Land of the Living with a photo of Hector, to keep him from fading away into forgetfulness.

Coco is a beautiful, heart-warming, heart-wrenching story of family and love and what it means to honor those who have died.  It provides us with amazing culture insights into the Mexican culture and creates a spectacular world of color and joy.

The animation is astounding once again.  Pixar has never had issues with the visual imagery of the animation and Coco is no exception.  It is full of colors, breathtakingly gorgeous and as imaginative as any world you could ever think of.

The story of Miguel is wonderful as well, full of emotion and characterization.  I will state that there is a twist in the film that I picked out, but this did not affect my enjoyment of the film.   There was an audible gasp in my theater when it was revealed so it obviously caught some people off guard.

The music was amazing, with the song “Remember Me” probably going to be remembered again during Oscar time.

The character designs of these skeletons were tremendous, taking what could have been a frightening concept and turning it into a funny, warm, almost-magical appearance.

You become so engaged with these characters, especially Miguel and Hector, that the strife affecting them really hits home hard.  The last 25-30 minutes of Coco is about as emotionally powerful as any Pixar movie had ever been.  Richness of story and theme drove home the impactful message of Coco in a sequence that, simply put, reduced me to tears.  Such a lovely and beautiful segment.

The film was emotional, extremely funny, filled with Mexican culture and enthralling music.  As if there were any doubt about Pixar after this summer’s weaker Cars 3, Coco shows the world that the studio is still capable of creating original movies with powerhouse poignant moments for the whole family.  Unlike many animated movies, Coco is for both the children and the parents.  Young and old.  Everyone can enjoy this film.

Coco is a brilliant film and one of the best films of the year.

5 stars

EYG Top Ten Historical Figures in Film

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“In a world crying out for a Top Ten show…”

I have been loving the Top Ten Show with John Rocha and Matt Knost on the Schmoes Know Network, and I have been trying to follow along each week and make my own list here at EYG.  It has been great fun, and you can listen to the show here.

I made a copy of the title page from YouTube of the Top Ten Show and added EYG to it so there could be a title heading to this weekly column.  I wish I knew who had created the artwork for the Top Ten Show so I could give that person credit for that person’s remarkable creative vision.  I love it so here it is, with the EYG logo added.

This week’s episode included special guest Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing and the three of them went through the list of Top Ten Historical Figures in Film.

I will be honest… I cheated several times on the list.  Rocha, Knost and Cushing thought the list needed to disqualify those movies of “cultural” figures but I am including those, at least a couple of them.  I am missing a chunk of this knowledge as this would not be my best category, so I am including what I want.  One of the rules I did “basically” adhere to was the person in the film should have been known to me prior to the film.  I follow that rule (for the most part).

Image result for gandhi movie#10.  Gandhi.  This one was one that I almost dropped off the list, but it felt like a movie that really fit this category and so I decided to add it.  I have only seen this one time in high school history class (thanks Mr. Hillebrand).  Ben Kinsley was magnificent in the role of the Indian leader.  The film was an Oscar winner and it deserves the praise.

Related image#9.  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the titular roles of the outlaws like no others.  Written by William Goldman (who also wrote my all time favorite movie, The Princess Bride), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid became a cultural iconic film that inspired many future films.  Add to that a great use of “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” and you have got something.

Image result for jim carrey man on the moon#8.  Man on the Moon.  The first of my “cheats” but this one was mentioned in the honorable mention by Matt Knost, and I really liked this film, so I am giving it a slot.  Jim Carrey, who starred as comedian Andy Kaufman, literally became Any Kaufman and drove people crazy.  His commitment to the role was phenomenal, if not insane.  I loved the story of Kaufman and how the film included the world of professional wrestling that Kaufman entered looking for that perfect way to interact with people.  Kaufman, many times, seemed like a comedian who was only trying to do things that HE found funny, and this movie shows that beautifully.

Image result for frost nixon#7.  Frost/Nixon.  This was a tremendous film that showed the relationship between these two men in a dramatic and stunning manner.  Watergate was over and Richard Nixon continues to compulsively require a chance to explain himself.  The film does a great job of looking at the neuroses that drove the former president and what led him to this  interview with David Frost.  The film also examined Frost and how he was believed to be below Nixon in intelligence, only to expertly lead the president into, basically, a confession.  Frank Langella and Martin Sheen give wonderful performances throughout the film.  It is compelling and dramatic and it is the first time that Nixon appears on the list (though not the last time- you may be surprised on the next one).

Image result for bonnie and clyde movie#6.  Bonnie and Clyde.  Another example of  outlaw movies, Bonnie and Clyde focuses on the infamous pair of bank robbers who wound up in a bloody pile on the road.  Such a tragic ending that, in the film, really comes out of nowhere and ends the film suddenly.  I had not expected such a brisk end to the film and in such a violent manner.  I knew that they were killed in a riddle of bullets, but to see it happen in an instant really drove home the way these two lived their lives.  Great performances too from Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman as well.

Image result for lincoln spielberg#5.  Lincoln.  I am with John Rocha on this one.  I probably wouldn’t have put this one on a list of my personal favorites if the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis had not been so eerily perfect.  It really was as if Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, stepped out of our collective consciousness and onto the screen to be directed by  Steven Spielberg.  Daniel Day-Lewis really cemented himself as an acting auteur.  While the film was entertaining, there is simply no denying how much the performance of Day-Lewis dominated everything about it.

Related image#4.  42.  My next “cheat” although I think one could argue that Jackie Robinson could be (or should be) considered a historical figure for what he did for baseball and for the African-American world.  I really enjoyed this movie as a baseball fan and as a Dodger fan.  The amount of brutality and cruelty that Jackie Robinson faced was off the charts and those ball players who refused to accept the man really displayed the ugliest aspect of ourselves.  It was great watching Jackie win them over with his play and his attitude.  Chadwick Boseman is great as Jackie and Harrison Ford is transcendent as Branch Rickey.  I loved this movie.

Image result for braveheart#3.  Braveheart.  This was another one that I thought might be a cheat, and then Matt Knost made it (spoiler) his number one film on his list, so I immediately added it back on mine.  Sure, Mel Gibson is a piece of work (another one of those is coming up at #2) but that does not take away from this triumph of a film.  Sure, it absolutely took historical liberties with the character of William Wallace, but an argument could be made that all of the films on this list may have done the same.  The fight scenes are still unbelievably epic and several of the monologues are iconic. Braveheart is the best Mel Gibson has ever been and certainly was the peak of his career.

Image result for elvis and nixon movie#2.  Elvis & Nixon.  I, like most, am saddened by the news about Kevin Spacey.  I liked to think that the actors I watch on the screen aren’t pieces of scum, but apparently, they are just as likely to be horrible people as any other occupation.  Who’d have guessed.  So, when compiling this list, I thought about this film.  It tells the story of a time when Elvis Presley arrived at the White House to have a meeting with President Nixon.  There is photographic proof that the meeting took place, although much of what was discussed is speculation.  This is a funny and real presentation and I really loved the movie.  Neither Spacey nor Michael Shannon tried to imitate their famous character.  Instead, they took what made them larger than life and added that to their performance.  Shannon, in particular, was perfect.  And the film was deeper than it had any right to be. This was a wonderful hidden gem that I hope people don’t lose track of because Kevin Spacey is a horrible man.

Image result for apollo 13 movie#1.  Apollo 13.  Another Ron Howard film to appear on the list is the final “cheat” of the group.  The historical figure was the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 vessel on the way to the moon only to have technical problems, stranding them in space.  Apollo 13 was an amazing film that brought us into that capsule with Jim Lovell, so wonderfully played by Tom Hanks, and the rest of the crew.  A brilliant cast gave great performances across the board bringing this compelling and fascinating story to life.  Some claimed that this was the greatest moment in NASA history as they are able to save the crew through intelligence and ingenuity.  This film is consistently rewatchable and remarkably entertaining and deserves a spot at the top of this list whether it be a cheat or not.

Honorable mention:  The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Social Network, Theory of Everything, My Week with Marilyn, Selma, Ed Wood.

Wonder

Wonder Movie Poster

Hm.

Wonder was okay.  I did not love it as much as I thought I would.  I am usually a sucker for stories about kids and their lives.  Wonder just did not connect with me the way I anticipated.

Now, I did enjoy the film.  It is good.  I am going to give it a positive review, but I really expected to come out of the film with more enthusiasm.

After being home schooled by his mom Isabel (Julia Roberts), Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) is set to start 5th grade at a real school.  However, Auggie knew that he would be facing major obstacles since he was born with facial differences that had required multiple plastic surgeries.  Auggie struggled with bullies and other children who could not see past his deformity.

We got several other characters in the film that received some focus along the way.  Auggie’s sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) felt overlooked by her parents constant attention to Auggie, and she, for some unknown reason, had her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) stop being her friend after returning from summer camp.  Another fifth grader  Jack Will (Noah Jupe) befriended Auggie only to say something cruel within earshot of his friend.  Another student, adult suck up Julian (Bryce Gheisar) became the bully who targeted Auggie, calling him a freak.

What I liked.  Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson (who played Auggie’s dad, Nate) had a great relationship and were wonderful with their son.  I thought Owen Wilson was awesome here and I found him to the most real of all the characters in the film.  The relationship with Via was not as solid as they seemed to take for granted their daughter.  That story was particularly strong and I appreciated how Via never went full crazed teenager.  She always showed a sweetness to her brother.

There were some very sweet scenes in Wonder.  In fact, some of the scenes may have been too sweet.  I do like how the movie shines a light on a major problem we have at schools today.  The bullying problem is terrible and very few people can be as cruel as kids can be, some times without even meaning to.

I thought Noah Jupe, who had just recently been one few good things in the movie Suburbicon, was very strong as Auggie’s friend with two first names, Jack Will.  Noah carried himself very well and showed quite a range of emotion as he struggled to understand why Auggie had ended their friendship.

I think the problem I had with Wonder was that I just did not buy a lot of what happened.  I work at a school and the thought that the principal Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin) would send a kid like Julian, along with Jack Will and Charlotte (Elle McKinnon with a really odd character), to take Auggie on a tour of the school.  There is no way that someone like Julian, who was so cruel to Auggie, would have fooled everyone as much as he did.  Kids would have ratted this guy out by now.  The whole set up felt forced and manipulated.

There were too many situations like this in Wonder that felt like it was trying to manipulate the emotions of the audience, dealing way too much in melodrama than in real life experiences.

I am also going to say something unpopular here, but I feel as if this was not the greatest of performances from Jacob Tremblay.  I love the young actor and he made me cry with his work in Room and in Book of Henry, but here I found Auggie to be a bit of a screaming brat at times.  I understand why, but I would have liked a little more subtlety in his performance.  Perhaps the prosthetics made it difficult to bring the typically amazing work for the young actor.  I’m sure he did his best, but there was just something that did not work for me.

Yes the movie has a great message of acceptance and kindness in the face of hatred and cruelty, and the film has a definite uplifting feel to it, covered with a gloss of sugar like some kind of breakfast cereal.  I just was waiting for something more impactful than what I got.  I am sure that many people will go to Wonder and enjoy it fully, most likely requiring some tissues (That’s you, Ambarlee).  It is a sweet family film, but you should not expect too much.

3.2 stars

The TV Week That Was

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Wow.  What a week.

Image result for shiva tigerWhere to start?  How about the Walking Dead?  Last week, I wrote that I had been unhappy with the new season of the Walking Dead because the show had become boring.  Just a few hours later, the Walking Dead would have the best episode of the season.  Why? Easy.  They focused on people that we knew– with stakes for them.  King Ezekiel, Jerry, Carol, Rick and Daryl.  Then, they gave us the most emotional scene of the year and it was about the death of Shiva, the CG tiger that had been prowling the Kingdom.  I could not believe that Shiva died, even though it was a heroic death as Shiva saved Ezekiel from the Walkers. I was on the edge of my seat.  More episodes like this one please.

Image result for jon bernthal punisherThe Punisher debuted on Netflix this weekend and… HOLY CRAP.  This series was not what I was expecting.  There was more character development and characterization than any of the Marvel Netflix series.  It had remarkable writing and tremendous dialogue.  I was very engaged by the story, even though some claimed that the early episodes were slow or boring.  I love the character stuff so I was enthralled.  Then, when it came time for the Punisher violence, this show went further than I ever believed it would.  People who complained about Marvel/Disney not doing Deadpool right if FOX sells to Disney should just look here for the example.  There was so much blood and there were several times when I had to look away because it was so graphic.  This was easily the best version of the Punisher ever on film and Jon Bernthal deserves an Emmy nomination for his work as Frank Castle.

annaliseBut the most emotional I was all week was at the end of the Winter finale of How to Get Away with Murder.  All season we had been fed tragic scenes making us wonder what exactly had happened, and tonight we found out.  Laurel passing out in a stuck elevator as she went into labor, giving premature birth.  There was blood everywhere, and it was up to Annalise to try and save the baby… the baby that we knew had disappeared from the scenes all season.  Those desperate cries from Annalise to the 9-1-1 caller and her yelling “live” at the baby was just unbelievable.  Watching her give CPR to that tiny preemie was as emotional as you are going to get.  I have never taken a deeper breath than when we heard the baby cry as the screen went black.  Amazing.

Image result for robert kirkman secret history of comicsWe got a new series on AMC this week that I have enjoyed.  Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics told the story about the unknown back stories of the comic industries.  The first episode talked about Stan Lee and the history of Marvel.  There was a great deal of focus on Jack Kirby as well.  There was a second episode that I saw this week with the story of William Moulton Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman.  I had already seen the film Dr. Marston and the Wonder Women so I had a background on this story already, but it was cool to see it again. 

Image result for ghosted Sam the computerThis week’s episode of Ghosted was fun, but it showed the strengths and weaknesses of the series.  Ghosted has a great cast, with some creative stories… this week dealing with an A.I. named Sam who went evil.  The problem was that the show goes too fast.  The half and hour show always feels that as soon as they get things properly introduced, the plot wraps up because the show’s time was over.  Perhaps if Ghosted was an hour show, or they did two part episodes the show would feel less choppy.  I really enjoy the humor of the show and the interaction with the characters, so I hope they figure out the pacing issues.

Image result for last week with john oliver the trump presidencyLast Week Tonight with John Oliver ended their show for the remainder of the year and they did it with a great episode looking at the Trump presidency.  Oliver showed clips showing how Trump and other Republicans use the techniques of “delegitimizing the media,” “whataboutism” and “trolling” as a way to distract and detour his opponents.  It was a really funny show.

Image result for samm levine schmoedownThe Movie Trivia Schmoedown concluded their team and singles Ultimate Schmoedown tournaments this week and one person stood out as the highlight of the week, “The Inglorious One” Samm Levine.  First, the team tournament finals happened where Above the Line, featuring Samm Levine and Drew McWeeney defeat the heelish Team Action.  Then, later in the week, Levine won the singles tournament as he upended “Little Evil” JTE.  So now, Samm Levine, at the December Schmoedown Spectacular, has two title matches.  Above the Line takes on the team champions The Patriots, and then Levine takes on the Schmoedown Champion Kristian Harloff.  Congrats to Samm Levine on his big week.

Related imageIt seems as if Dirk Gently is having some serious trouble with all the death going on around him.  He has really lost the sparkle in his eye and he has become tired of the mantra that “Everything is connected.”  That is making the stakes on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency all the more tough.  There is a lot of strangeness going on on Dirk Gently and it is awesome fun.  However, please do not let Farrah be dead.

Did Papa Pope kill the very pregnant Quinn?  He supposedly kidnapped her in a way to get his freedom and his dinosaur bones back, but when Olivia did not fold, he shot her…off screen.  Personally, I do not believe for one minute that he did it.  I believe that Quinn and Pope were working together to try to save Olivia’s soul.  However, her soul is very, very dark right now.  Scandal is in its final season and will be off until January 18th.

Image result for future manI also sampled the first few episodes of Hulu’s new show Future Man starring Josh Hutcherson.  After the first three episodes I had not been convinced to watch the remainder.  It was not terrible, but it did not grab my interest as much as it needed to. I may still continue to watch it, but I am not feeling the need to binge it.  Here is hoping that the next Hulu series, The Runaways which starts this week, is more engaging for me.

Survivor Series on WWE Network is happening right now.

Happy Viewing.

 

 

Justice League

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I’ll start with this.  Justice League is good.  Not great, but good.

I certainly enjoyed this more than I did Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad.  However, this still has some serious problems as a film.  It is a step in the right direction, though.  Should we be using that line?  “A step in the right direction” meaning that it is not as bad as you thought so it is good.  I’m not sure that is fair.

Either way, there are things I liked about Justice League.  In fact, most anything that directly involve the League members is pretty good.  I would go as far as to say that the interactions between the characters is the best part of this movie.

Diana (Gal Gadot) is still one of the best characters here, despite being less than she was in her own movie.  The scene near the beginning of the film where she saves a group of people from terrorists intent on blowing up several blocks of a city was tremendous.  I love seeing super heroes being super heroic and Wonder Woman is a perfect example of that.

Ezra Miller, though I doubted that I would like him, was really good as well.  He was the comic relief and most everything humorous about him worked.  I have heard that Flash is a divisive character- that you either love him or hate him.  Put me in the love him category.  This Flash is different enough from Barry Allen from TV to make it worthwhile.  Ray Fisher  as Victor Stone aka Cyborg was someone I did not think I would like either, but I thought his character was really awesome… maybe even the best of the characters in the film.  I did not like the look of Cyborg at all though.  I though his CGI was terrible on him and did not improve until the very end of the movie.

They had some good secondary characters.  Jeremy Irons as Alfred and JK Simmons as Commissioner Gordon were solid and I enjoyed the use of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) as well.  Diane Lane was back as Martha and she had some nice scenes.

This next section is a spoiler….. so SPOILER

The return of Superman(Henry Cavill) is perhaps my favorite part of the film. I would have liked it if there was more of an arc to the story involving Superman, but this was the Superman that should have been here the whole time.  When the newly alive, but not quite right Superman fights the other Justice League members, I was engaged.  Unfortunately, the movie brushes over Clark’s return and makes his comeback less emotional than it should have been.  However, I was really afraid that we were going to get another “Martha” moment, and the film avoided that, so there is that.  In the end, I really liked the Superman we got here.  END OF SPOILERS.

The film had a more fun feel than the other DC movies of late. You can tell that there was some kind of edict that Warner Brothers had given to make their super heroes less dark and gritty.  I am not saying that it is on the level of tone of Marvel, but it is distinctively different than previous DC movies.  Honestly, if they continue this tone, which still had some darkness to it, they might have more success.

Now, there are still lots of issues here.  The story is very thin, and actually seems very much like The Avengers.  There is a disposable feeling to this film.  It is not an epic film that one would think of when they think of a Justice League film.

One of the biggest problems with the Justice League has to do with Superman.  The film wants you to believe that the world is mourning Superman and that they really miss the beacon of hope that he was. The problem?  We had never seen this Superman in the DC Cinematic Universe.  In Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman, we saw a dower and depressed Superman because the world looked upon him as an alien that was a problem, and a danger.  Not the heroic super hero that inspired a generation.  This, I think , is another example of why they needed a Man of Steel 2 before this film so they could have transitioned Superman from the emo Superman into the person beloved by the world.

I did not like the way the character Aquaman (Jason Momoa) was shown here.  I had some high hopes for Aquaman, but I just did not enjoy his character.  I had little reason to cheer for him. The whole section with Mera (Amber Heard) felt like a scene that was wasted.

I thought they went too far to the other side with the character of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck).  They tried to make him quippy, but most of his quips did not work.  This was a solid portrayal of Batman, but I did not like his Bruce Wayne.

However, easily the worst part of this film was Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds).  I hated every moment that character was on the screen.  He was nothing more than a giant CGI character… and a bad looking CGI character.  It was Green Lantern Paradox bad.  He had no characterization, no motive, no traits.  Anyone complaining about Marvel villains should never make that point gain.  Steppenwolf was one step above the Enchantress from Suicide Squad.  As much as I was enjoying the interaction with the Justice League members, the Steppenwolf moments were as bad as anything that we had seen.

I don’t know why DC movies feel the need to have the “everything is red” background in their final CGI fights.  It looks terrible.  B v S did it.  Suicide Squad did it.  Even a good movie like Wonder Woman did it too.  It is like the world has to be an apocalyptic flavor to it for DC to end a movie.  Admittedly, I liked the final act of this movie, but the look of the film was just so reminiscent to the other films.

The story of Justice League has gone through many twists.  Zack Snyder, who is still listed as the director on this, had to leave the project because of a family tragedy, and Joss Whedon, comes in to finish it.  He oversaw many reshoots and rewrites.  They had to cut a chunk of the movie when WB mandated that the film come in under 2 hours and it was reportedly 2 hours and 45 minutes. Every other day there is a story about Ben Affleck wanting to get out of the Batman role.  For the amount of melodrama involved with this film, it is impressive that there are positives to it at all.

And there are many positives to Justice League.  In fact, it is a fun movie that is mostly entertaining.  The missteps do not ruin the movie and the iconic heroes are well done, if not simplified.

3.65 stars

EYG Top Ten DC Movies

This week’s Top Ten Show, in honor of this weekend’s release of Justice League, put together the Top Ten list of best DC movies.  John Rocha and Matt Knost also welcomed Jason Inman to the show.

Now, on my list, I stuck with the rules the Top Ten Show uses– only those films that have a theatrical release will be counted.  That means some of my favorite DC Comics animated films will not be on this list.  Films such as Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker, Batman: Sub Zero,  Flashpoint: Paradox, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Assault on Arkham will not be included even though they are great.

Now, there will also be a lot of Batman on this list.  I would like to have spread it out more, but there just have not been enough good DC films yet.  I hope that they are now on the right track and this list could be very different in a few years.

Image result for batman 1966 movie#10.  Batman (1966).  This is my guilty pleasure that I decided would make this list.  As a kid, Adam West was my Batman and I loved this movie.  When I saw it as a child, I was enthralled with the heroics of the show and as I got older I loved the ridiculousness of the camp.  The Bat Shark repellent is just unbelievably funny.  And I still might find myself using the line, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”  Sure this is not the serious, Dark Knight Batman that has been so popular, but Adam West was special and I loved this film.

Related image#9.  Batman (1989).  This one does not hold up as well, but I found myself placing it above the others from the honorable mention category and I couldn’t put those others ahead of it.  Jack Nicholson was a fantastic Joker, and, honestly, this helped kick the super hero movie genre into high gear.  And yes, this series of movies also nearly killed it with Batman and Robin.  People believed that Michael Keaton was a terrible choice as Batman, and he just became, arguably, the best ever.

Image result for batman begins#8.  Batman Begins.  The first of the Christopher Nolan trilogy is one of the great movie origin story around.  The film took Bruce Wayne and showed the process of him becoming Batman in his training in the Himalayas .  He does it with a great new Batman in Christian Bale and the villainous Ra’s Al Ghoul.  Batman Begin beautifully sets up the fantastic sequel that will follow it.  Batman Begins helped save the character of Batman from the horrific Batman and Robin (the second time I mentioned that terrible film).

Image result for watchman#7.  Watchmen.  Our first non-Batman movie.  I actually enjoyed this more than some people.  Watchmen the mini series is one of the greatest comic series ever (and is in the EYG Hall of Fame) and the film does an admirable job of adapting it.  Rorschach is done as well as it could possibly have been.  Rorschach is like the Wolverine of the film and his fate is amazingly tragic.  Dr. Manhattan is perfectly used in this movie.  The Comedian is portrayed brilliantly by Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  Watchmen might be a bit overlong, but it is a great adaptation.

Related image#6.  Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm.  This is one of the animated films that had been released theatrically, and it is nice to have one of the animated films on the list.  This is connected to the Batman: The Animated Series universe and that is one of the greatest animated series ever.  This is one of the best Batman movies around.  The movie features an original villain in the Phantasm that was created for this, and he fit in with the Batman rogue gallery.  We get the classic voice acting by Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker.

Image result for v for vendetta#5.  V for Vendetta.  To this day, I love to quote “Remember, Remember, the fifth of November” line from this film as our hero, V, wears the iconic Guy Fawkes mask.  And V for Vendetta is a great movie that rages against the corruption of government in ways that we had never seen before.  V’s promo with all the words starting with v is another one of my favorite moments in the film.  Even though Alan Moore, the writer of the original graphic novel, hated the adaption, I loved it.

Image result for lego batman#4.  The Lego Batman Movie.  This felt like it was not going to work because there was just not enough here to make a full movie.  And yet, Lego Batman worked brilliantly and could be considered one of the best Batman movies ever made.  Will Arnett is a surprisingly solid Batman and the film does a real strange thing and made the film feature Robin.  From earlier this year, Lego Batman is one of the best super hero films of the year.  It is hilarious.  It worked as well as you could imagine.

Image result for wonder woman gal gadot#3.  Wonder Woman.  After Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, the DC Universe had its troubles and there were people really worried.  Then, here came Wonder Woman, and the film was tremendous.  Gal Gadot, who was questioned whether she was capable of playing the role, just dominated the role.  She was an inspiration to people everywhere, but really spoke to women.   The sequence of the film at the No Man’s Land in World War I was one of the best scenes in any movie this year.  I was not a huge fan of the CGI ending sequence, but it did not deter from this wonderful movie.  Wonder Woman is an important movie and a true success in the DCEU.

Image result for superman the movie#2.  Superman: The Movie.  You’ll believe a man can fly.  One of the great super hero movies of all time, Superman starred the great EYG Hall of Famer Christopher Reeve as the perfect rendition of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton.  There is a fun relationship between Superman and Lois Lane (played by Margot Kidder) and they had one of the great scenes with Superman catching Lois, saying, “I’ve got you, ma’am.” And Lois Lane says, “You’ve got me?  Who’s got you?”  Sure the reversal of the earth to save Lois’s life is a bit cheesy and not the best use of superpowers, but this film survives the bit.  Superman: The Movie is a magnificent movie.

Related image#1.  The Dark Knight.  The best DC movie of all time is the second film of the Nolan trilogy for several reasons.  First, we see great action with Batman.  Second, the film is really a crime drama with batman involved.  Thirdly, the film took some real chances, including a recast.  Oh… and there is the Joker played by Heath Ledger, who posthumously was awarded an Oscar for this performance.  Some might claim that this is more of the Joker’s movie than Batman’s and that might be a truth, but I don’t see that as a negative.  We have seen Batman many times.  This was a new take on the genre.  And The Dark Knight is arguably perhaps the greatest comic book movie ever.  Do you want to see a magic trick?

Honorable mentions:  Losers, Red, Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders, Superman 2.

The TV Week That Was

spoilers

Good evening, Geek Nation.  Welcome back to the TV Week That Was.  There are some television programming to talk about this week.

Related imageFirst off, what is wrong with the Walking Dead?  This season has been fairly weak so far as they have entered all out war with Negan. You wouldn’t think that this would make things duller, but it seems as if it has.  The show brought back a character from season one at the end of the program one week, Morales, only to kill said character in an anticlimactic manner the very next episode (and only about 15 minutes into it.)  Morgan has seemed to be reverting to his past stage, tossing aside any character development we saw from him over the last two seasons.  They keep killing off characters that we don’t have much attachment to, expecting it to mean something to us.  Worse of all, they allow Gregory back into the Hilltop despite his clearly lack of loyalty.  When he betrays you AGAIN please don’t come crying to me.  It has been several episodes since we have seen Negan.  Season eight has been a mess so far.  Hopefully, things will start to straighten themselves out.

Image result for inhumans finaleSpeaking of a mess, The Inhumans ended its 8-episode run this Friday night with an okay episode.  However, I, for one, found Black Bolt leaving his brother stranded in a bunker on the moon as the city collapsed around him to be a bit less than heroic.  I understand that they did not want to kill of Maximus and he had done some terrible things, but perhaps he could have been stranded accidentally… presumed to be dead… instead of making Black Bolt be the one to carry out the sentence.  Plus, there were several questions that were raised in the series that, I believe, will never be answered since I cannot believe that this series will get a season 2.  Now, the Inhumans have moved to earth, and we know the Asgardians are on their way to earth as well.  Hm… hope there is enough space.  I also want to call out how weak of a death it was for poor Henry Ian Cusick.  He was killed by the reanimated Gorgon, and, honestly, no one even gave a single crap.  Was I wrong, but he was truly an innocent bystander in this, right?  I mean, he was manipulated by Maximus, but he was not evil and I thought he deserved better.

olivia skrullOlivia Pope is officially evil now.  Any semblance to the Olivia Pope from the first several seasons of Scandal is gone now.  It was revealed this week that Olivia was actually behind the plane explosion and the murder of the foreign leader and his daughter.  Then, she spent the whole episode trying to keep the rest of her friends from finding the missing Quinn because she thought Quinn was going to reveal the truth about Olivia.  Turns out, Quinn was truly kidnapped.  I’m sorry, but I think that Olivia Pope died back when she was kidnapped and they replaced her with a Skrull.  That is the only explanation for the character assassination that has gone on with her since that horrible storyline.

Image result for gotham season 4 jim harveyA lot of complaining going on this week.  Let’s hit on some positives.  Gotham continues its hot streak as the James Gordon-Harvey Bullock feud rages on.  This week, Jim has officially replaced Harvey as police captain of the GCPD and Harvey was not too pleased about it.  Some may see this as the first step to creating Commissioner Gordon, however, the fact that Jim is beholden to Sofia Falcone.  This is certainly leading to bad things.

<p>Jack Falahee, <em>How to Get Away with Murder</em> </p> How to Get Away With Murder is in high speed right now, heading dramatically towards its mid-season finale and an explanation of exactly what is happening.  Whatever it is, it is going to be terrible.  It was tough to see Connor get blindsided with the truth.  Especially after he had spent the whole season in the sad world and he had finally found his smile.  I am afraid for his fate in the upcoming episode because that it an awful lot of blood in those flash-forwards and it must belong to someone.

Image result for jughead kisses toniRiverdale seems to be fast forwarding its story as well and it is doing what it can to trash the relationship between Betty and Jughead.  The fans of “Bughead” took it hard as the Black Hood apparently has some kind of Jones for Betty and then proceeds to threaten her family (including her sister) with murder if she did not break up with Jughead.  Then, Jughead kissed the Serpent Toni in some kind of rebound kiss thing.  I am not sure I am too happy with the way the Black Hood has moved forward and it does feel like these characters change to fit whatever the plot of the show needs them to do.  Still, Riverdale is a continually interesting show and a must watch.

Arsenio juggling ‘Mayor’ role, stand-up and a ‘not famous’ girlfriendtv_arsenio1aArsenio juggling ‘Mayor’ role, stand-up and a ‘not famous’ girlfriendArsenio juggling ‘Mayor’ role, stand-up and a ‘not famous’ girlfriendThere was a fun cameo by Arsenio Hall this week on ABC’s The Mayor.  Arsenio played a reverend who was trying to get Courtney’s mother, Dina (Yvette Nicole Brown), to join his church’s choir.  The Mayor has been a fun show each week, but it has never had that really awesome episode that places it on the map.  It is a consistently good show though so maybe if we continue to get some more of Arsenio Hall, who knows where The Mayor may go.

Image result for aj styles vs. jinder mahalTuesday night saw the crowning of a new WWE Champion on Smackdown, and it was awesome!  A.J. Styles defeated “The Modern Day Maharaja” Jinder Mahal for the title. I was so excited when the hand hit the mat for the count of three that I yelled out and applauded.  It has been a long time since I reacted to WWE television in that manner.  I had hoped that this title change would happen for many reasons, chief among them being that I really like AJ Styles’s work.  But even more so was that now, next weekend at Survivor Series, AJ Styles will be in a Champion vs. Champion non-title match against Brock Lesnar.  This could be a match of the year candidate.

Related imageAnd perhaps the most consistently entertaining and weird show on television right now is Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency.  Dirk, whose motto has always been that “everything is connected” and has said that all he has to do is wait until everything come to him, has begun to find the coincidental aspect of his fate annoying, and it is extremely funny.  Seeing Dirk react to the major coincidences as if they are doing it just to spite him is extraordinarily funny.  The show also has great side characters that it spends time developing.  I am very concerned that we just lost Sheriff Sherlock Hobbs this week.  Hobbs has been one of my most favorite additions to season two and I hope that he has not been killed off, as I fear.

This upcoming week will see the Netflix debut of The Punisher!  That should be brutal.  We also see the Winter finales of both How to Get Away with Murder and Skrull Olivia.

olivia skrull

Happy viewing.

 

The Babysitter

Image result for the babysitter movie poster

I finally got around to watching this on Netflix tonight.  The Babysitter has been available on the streaming service since October 13th, and it had been on my queue to watch for several weeks now, but the time just never seemed to work out.  Until now.

And hey… I enjoyed it.

Young Cole (Judah Lewis) is a twelve-year old boy who is apparently afraid of everything.  Bullied and attacked at school, Cole has few people that he cares for.  One of those few people was his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving).  Cole’s growing attraction to the beautiful babysitter leads him to wonder what she would do when he went to sleep, so Cole decided to stay up one night to see exactly what happened past hours.  Little did he know about the horrors he was about to discover.

The Babysitter is a horror/dark comedy/coming of age movie mash up, and all three of the genres shine through.  There are some really funny moments mixed in with some very bloody and shocking moments and all the while you are rooting for the young protagonist who finds himself stuck in the middle.

Admittedly, the film never officially gives you any answers about exactly what was going on, but it was clear that Bee and her clan of hench-people were up to no good.  These others with Bee included the more well known actors Bella Thorne and Robbie Amell.  It was fun to see these two running around, trying to take care of the Cole problem the group suddenly encountered.

There was some funny lines.  Robbie Amell’s character was running around without a shirt on for most of the film, and when Cole asked why he did not have a shirt, Bella Thorne’s character made a reference to his physique.  It was like a soap opera, trying to get the shirt off their hot male leads.

There was actually a real relationship between Cole and Bee, and that made her betrayal all the worse.  The film took some time to show this relationship and that helped us develop both of those characters before all hell broke loose.

One of the strengths of the movie is the fact that it really feels as if it knows exactly what it is and that the film itself is on on the joke.  It is certainly campy, and makes one think of some of those cheesy 1980s slasher films, but with more heart.  There was definitely lots of blood splatter around, but it feels so cartoony with its representation of the gore that it would not be a bother to anyone worried about blood.

Judah Lewis carries this film on his youthful shoulders and he just adds to a list of solid performances by child actors this year.  His relationship with Samara Weaving, who also is excellent in her role, is the center of the movie.  The Babysitter was a good time and would make for an enjoyable weekend night at home.

3.7 stars

 

Daddy’s Home 2

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Poster

When I went to see Daddy’s Home, I hated the first part of the movie.  Maybe even the first two acts.  I sat in my seat thinking to myself not just whether this would make my worst movies of the year list, but exactly what number it would be.  Then, something strange and unexpected happened.  The third act got better, caught my interest and saved the movie.  I still did not give it a great score, but my opinion changed and it avoided the worst movie of the year list.

Cue the trailers for the sequel, Daddy’s Home 2.  I actually found them entertaining.  I laughed several times at them and I, surprisingly, was looking forward to this film.

Brad (Will Farrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) had gotten the co-parenting thing down pat and were preparing to have an all-family Christmas together when it happened.  Dusty’s obnoxious father Kurt (Mel Gibson) decided to invite himself into the mix.  Throw in Brad’s over-emotional father Don (John Lithgow) and you suddenly have a severely combustible situation.

Making it even more uncomfortable, Kurt was continually trying to undermine the fragile relationship between Brad and Dusty, playing the two off each other with snarky comments and sabotage.

I have never liked Will Farrell much.  Every once in a while he does something that I think is good, but the good certainly does not out weigh the bad in my opinion.  This is his typical dumb comedy where, in place of intelligent or well-written dialogue or funny situations, Farrell does a pratfall or slams himself into the ground.  Once you’ve seen that, it really isn’t funny again.  Unfortunately, much of the best comedic parts of Daddy’s Home 2 is found in the trailers.

I do think that Farrell and John Lithgow are interesting together and this relationship could have been something that the film grabbed onto more, but it is really a side note. The storyline with the kids of the families was simply atrocious and promoted the worst examples for kids.  At one point, Dylan (Owen Vaccaro) was asking about advice for girls, and Dusty told him to go shove mistletoe above her, plant his “spaghetti slurpers” on her and then slap her on the butt.  In today’s world of sexual abuse and misconduct in Hollywood, a time where people like Harvey Weinstein, Andy Signore, Kevin Spacey are being brought down because of their inappropriate sexual advances toward others, to encourage that sort of behavior as something that can be funny is at best irresponsible and at worst criminal.

The comedy in this film might appeal to some.  There were people in the theater I saw this film in that seemed to think this was all funny.  I understand humor is subjective, but I found myself wondering exactly why these people find this obnoxious, borderline offense humor funny.  Daddy’s Home 2 takes the lowest level of comedy, mean-spirited and low bow, and presents it as funny.  I might have giggled a couple of times.

Mel Gibson was not funny.  He was too close to real life to be funny.  Plus, the character of Kurt does not earn his ending in the movie.  He never gets his learning moment and the film expects you to just accept that he now wants to improve his relationship with Dusty.  It came out of nowhere after making this guy the most obnoxious and cruel character in the film.

The film tried another third act come from behind here as well with a somewhat funny use of the song by Band Aid, “Do They Know It’s Christmas.”  However, the entire situation is soooooooooooo over the top that it stretches credibility and lost me.  The song itself was enjoyable to listen to and this was as close as I came to caring about anything in the movie.  I wonder how many people actually know that song and does it deserve the main third act focus?

Another problem with the film is that John Cena’s character Roger shows up late in the film.  The John Cena cameo was one of the best parts of the original film, but this one felt like the same old thing.  Then, with the ending segment, it felt as if the film was trying to bring together Dusty and Roger, as if that was the main relationship needing to be fixed.  It made no sense and it really undercut the finale.  Perhaps if this was the main conflict int he whole movie, like the original kind of set up in the closing minutes, but it was not.  It was tacked on to get John Cena into the film.

There are so many dumb scenes strung together ( a hunting scene, a bowling scene, the Nativity scene, a tree shopping scene) and none of the scenes had a through-line.  They were all patched together for the sake of that scene’s bad joke.

There is also a post credit scene that fits perfectly with this film.  It was mean and sad and made you feel depressed for poor John Lithgow.  I love John Lithgow, but this was an insult to him.

Daddy’s Home 2 took all of the worst parts of the first two acts of Daddy’s Home (including, literally some of the same jokes) and crammed them into the full three act structure of this movie.  The writing should have been so tighter and funnier, but there was simply nothing much here to enjoy.  One more film for the bad Will Farrell list.

1.3 stars

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Image result for murder on the orient express movie poster

I had never read the Agatha Christie book, nor had I seen any of the other movie versions that preceded this new film version of Murder on the Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh, so I was entering this film with brand new eyes and an excitement to match.  I also avoided reviews for this film, after a quick, early glance at Rotten Tomatoes.  Decent early score, so I was hopeful.

In the end, I liked the film, but it was not near as great as I had hoped it would be.

The world famous detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) had some free time on his hands, but there was no rest for the little grey cells.  He was called for another case and had to get on a train, the Orient Express.  Suddenly, there was a dead body on the train and a cabin full of suspects.  Could the masterful Poirot solve the murder?

I hope so, because I figured it out pretty early.

There are some really great things about the film, starting with Kenneth Branagh.  His take as Hercule Poirot is wonderful and he does a fantastic job giving life to one of Agatha Christie’s most famous characters.  Poirot is well developed, we have a connection to him and Branagh fills him with some great, subtle character traits that really humanizes the detective.

The film also looks tremendous.  The cinematography is top notch and the surroundings of the Orient Express are breath-taking.  There are great shots inside the train as well, showing that Branagh has quite the grip on the understanding of how to shoot in the tight spaces as well as the snowy exteriors.

There is a wonderfully talented cast in the film.  Unfortunately, it feels as if the film does not do a suitable job of allowing this amazing cast to show what they can do.  With the exception of Branagh (who was tremendous), Josh Gad, who played MacQueen, and Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, the cast was wasted on background characters who seem to be nothing more than window dressing.  Honestly, I did not care for most of these characters.

The murder mystery was pretty disappointing as well.  That was mainly because it was too filled with exposition and it kept bringing new characters and pieces to the puzzle that the audience could not possibly have known.  Part of the fun of the murder mystery is being able to play along with the detective.  That was not done here.  I still guessed the eventual reveal so the film lacked in an enjoyable pay off.

Because of the last few problems, the film did feel as if it dragged on.  It was certainly a slow burn of the film, which I liked at first, but quickly found it turning dull.  Then Poirot seemed to solve the case from out of nowhere and the film took a strange path.

Still, I think the film was a decent watch and there is no doubt that Kenneth Branagh was special as Hercule Poirot.  It is a beautiful film to watch, but the fact is that the story lets the film down and the great cast is wasted.  Still, if you like murder mysteries, or an Agatha Christie story, then this might be a decent time at the theater.

3.3 stars