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Logan: Too Far and Not Far Enough
As a Wolverine fan I can say this movie certainly had its charms and is far better than the rest of the Avengers movies, except James Mangold's own "The Wolverine".
But that really isn't a very high bar.
The 4 main characters, Logan, Charles, Laura, and Caliban and the actors that portrayed them are the only saving grace of this movie. Their journey and the developments in their relationships made this movie compelling.
The rest of movie was disposable, which is sad because if the director had decided to go all in with the themes he presented, this could have been an incredible movie. He went too far with the pointless violence and not far enough in describing what power hungry people who want to be Gods would do to get there.
Here is an example of how Mangold castrated his own themes:
In this movie the body count of corporate henchmen that get sliced to pieces is probably in the 1000's. Many are trying to live capture children. What could possibly entice 1000 men to go to the shredder? They see their comrades getting eviscerated but still they come. Money is no good to you dead. Mangold went too far but not far enough. He should have made them like they would be, junkies trying to get their next fix. The drug would be a biotech product that makes them a junkie and brings them back from the brink of death after the Wolverine chops them up. That is a tool that Dr Rice and his shareholders would use.
Another lost cause is seen with Dr Rice's speech which translates to "We want to control mutation so we can monetize it and put mutagens in soft drinks". The only mutagen "Dr Rice" would put into drinks is one that make you stupid and subservient (we already have that). Mutagens that we would want would make the population harder to control not easier.
And this movie has the same conceit as all the Avengers movies. Caliban tosses grenade at "important" bad guy's feet. Bad guy doesn't die because this death isn't grand enough. I would have much preferred a shot of a dying Pierce with his legs blown off, than what we got.
A Morality Anti-morality Play
This is Rana and Emad's story and frankly I have yet to see a more conflicted movie. Conflicted about family, conflicted about society, conflicted about sex, conflicted about God....... but the confliction is raw, honest and very human.
The claustrophobia of Emad as God tortures or enlightens him. Every time he thinks he get some small release from his cage, he only finds that its setting him up for more moral confinement. He walks the finest of lines and objectively he does it well, but not near well enough.
Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini captured the fragility and brittleness of the house of cards we think of as living. It seems that the Iranian house of cards is no more robust than elsewhere, and people like Rana and Emad are left picking up the pieces.
The parallels between stage life and real life were interesting and well crafted cumulatining in their mutual realization that they were portraying their own plight. Both Willy Loman and Emad have lots of what very very few people actually want. Rana has lots of what many want, but this unwanted burden has unfortunate consequences that may have started many years previous to the movies start.
Perhaps another subtle and perhaps intended crossover of stage and real life happens at the end of the movie when Emad is agonizing over whether to inform the attacker's family. Did the family already roughly know? Were they acting for themselves, each other and for Emad and Rana? Could they even tell the difference?
The movie also takes some lighthearted shots a censorship, but the movie utterly fails to capture the impact of how information flows and doesn't and why. This lack is telling.
The Great Wall (2016)
The Great Wall of China Might be the Longest Cemetery Mankind has Ever Made
Just about all great monuments before the machine age have a huge human cost, but the Great Wall might be the longest cemetery mankind has ever made.
Some highlights from Wiki:
"walls were built of rammed earth, constructed using forced labour"
"while the Sui mobilized over a million men in their wall-building efforts"
"Mobilized" is such and nondescript word. I wonder what word the million workers would have chosen.
There are estimates that suggest 400,000 people died making the Great Wall, but like Canada's treatment of the Chinese during the construction of the trans-Canada railway, no accurate records of Chinese deaths were recorded, and even if they were, how unbiased and accurate would they be? If a mobilized worker died of a disease, would that count as a death?
It seems this movie is much like a parody of the Chinese Revolutionary plays which are quite interesting to watch no matter what your think about their content.
There is no parallel history of China without the Wall so it is hard to tell for sure, but it also seems the Wall didn't function well for its official purpose. When it really mattered invaders simply went around it.
In light of this, this movie might be the most bloated and self important historic revisionist Chinese opera ever made.
Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
Same Demographic Response as Fifty Shades of Grey
The statistics for this movie are fascinating.
If you don't find feet sexy, it is really difficult to wrap your mind around a foot fetish. Movies that are built on a fetish follow bimodal probability, hence you love it or you hate it. The popularity of this movie shows that even after all the changes in gender identity, a good portion of women still have a semi-secret little fetish.
That fetish is to be owned by a rich powerful man who will dominate them and indulge them EXACTLY the way they desire AND give them certainty in an uncertain world.
There are those that may think I am using the word fetish incorrectly as fetish implies objectification ..... but fetish is exactly the right word.
This fantasy is no more real than the men's perceptions regarding the activities and motivations of female porn stars, which hordes of men use as a secret yardstick for their ideal sexual experience.
The sad horrible truth is that for many being tied up, beaten, humiliated and dominated is recreation compared to the physical and psychological torture they have to deal with in real life from their own choices, situation, bosses, spouses, and children. Mr Grey would be a glad sacrifice for a mostly stable mostly comfortable life.
The statistical distribution of ratings of the movie is strongly skewed towards 1 or 10 depending on whether you have the fetish or not and of course towards women. Women seem to dig this movie much more than men according to IMDb.
This is another interesting aspect of this movie. If it is about a rich powerful guy who gets to dominate a lovely young woman, why don't guys buy into this fetish? First it seems that this movie is All about her if you get my meaning. The other answer is that it is so far from reality that even men cannot buy into it. Male sexual desire is more focused on simpler carnal pleasures focused on the physical aspects of what women are. Women are still focused on not what a man is but what he can do, hence the fetish for a rich powerful man with a complementary fetish that makes him easy to control. Women of all ages seem to have this fetish, with a surprising peak popularity in women under 18 and a greatest viewership ages 18-29. Seems that young women, with all the uncertainty that entails still like the idea of being dominated, and perhaps if the movie wasn't R rated would have higher viewership.
Deep, thoughtful and delightful
I usually cringe though animated movies with theatrical style singing pieces. On top of having superb animation, voice acting, story and theme, even the singing worked.
This movie worked on so many levels. Everything just came together and fit perfectly. The story was deeper than it seems and is very human.
The writing and voice acting as well as the personality and style of all the characters was incredible. It probably would have been better if they didn't have English accents but this is Disney.
It was a lovely idealized rendition of a far better world than ours.
The computer modelling in Moana has a lovely style and incredible detail. There is craftsmanship and details even in items like Moana's headdress.
Rogue One (2016)
Sad Glorification of War and it's Future
Strange that in a galaxy far far away, with the exception of the Death Star, the weapons used seem less effective that the ones we have on Earth currently.
But more effective weapons would ruin all the fun of war, and a big happy war game is exactly what this movie is. This is Lucasfilms rendition of an all inclusive war where everyone can play, with the disposable galaxy serving only as a theatre.
There are a few gritty scenes thrown in as tokens to the horror and carnage of war, but have a blast, the light and dark sides of the force are just like a choice between Coke and Pepsi anyway. They are both bad for you.
On a more practical note .... some of the acting and scenes were almost laugh out loud bad, but overall the main leads did a good job with this mess.
Deep and Thoughtful Tale
Just when you think Hollywood is broken beyond repair, a movie like this comes along.
This movie is as much in the deep end as Ex Machina and has the same level of depth, character and storytelling if you have the patience for it.
This movie fit together as well as a jigsaw puzzle. It was internally consistent and told a very beautiful very human story.
The cinematography, effects and music were perfectly understated.
It really captures the feel of the material in a way that I thought not possible and also captured the beauty and nuances of language.
To Denis Villeneuve, Eric Heisserer, Ted Chiang. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing this story to life.....
To Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for bringing this life to this story.....
Doctor Strange (2016)
A Whole Multiverse of Wasted Potential
This is a hard movie to rate because as an Avengers style it has to please everyone and thereby can't please anyone.
I guess there is one scene that pretty much sums up the film which happens immediately after Dr Strange says "I saw it in a gift shop"
At this point Ancient One separates Stephen's astral body from his physical.
The movie could go 2 ways:
1) Let Stephen explore the implications of this, and observe them like a scientist, and then ask a few interesting questions ....
2) Make a new Disney ride
The producers chose 2) and that was the end of all the potential for Dr Strange as a movie.
This movie could has been as much in the deep end as Ex Machina. What we got was shallower than a puddle.
I guess the beginning of the end was when they cast-ed Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton as leads that probably should have been Asian instead, but they were actually great in their roles.
Far Far too much CGI to cover up that there really wasn't much story.
I did find the ending inventive.
I don't think I can stomach another Avenger's movie
Suicide Squad (2016)
All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go
The impression of some movies improve with time. Not this one.... The more I think about it the more horrid the thought of this movie and the inevitable sequels becomes. Still gets one star for Harley.
This movie had some interesting characterization, but did very little with it.
The overarching story just didn't fit with the overall theme of the movie, lacked imagination and made little sense. There was serious inconsistencies with the power of the adversaries of the suicide squad and their weaknesses. The whole story played like a video game, move from point A to B for no apparent reason, and the whole story could fit in a shot glass.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the movie is the training of an entire generation to stay in their place. The suicide squad saved the world and got screwed and betrayed in the end, all with a smile on their face.
Amanda Waller's characterization had some potential but in the end she just came across as a psychotic self serving megalomaniac. This could have worked with more thought put into it. Having one of the suicide squad say "The only difference between you and I is what side of the table we sit on" would have been a start. Having her survive in the end and still have her phone with the"killer app" is one of the worst cases of sequel-itis I have ever seen.
And Deadshot's Enchantress fantasy wish is it kill Batman? Doesn't even remotely fit into the movie. His fantasy would be a secure and happy life for his daughter. This was only forced in for sequel potential.
I won't be seeing the sequel because the story-writing will probably be even worse than this one.
I was going to give it a 3 but Harley Quin was amusing enough to get an extra star.
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
Fast and the Furious in Space
I don't usually bother to review really bad movies as it just isn't worth the trouble.
But this movie was especially awful, considering the considerable talent of the cast. The CGI was also majestic at times
The awfulness of this movie rest squarely on the writers and the director, and frankly it seems it was written and put together with no care and thought whatsoever. If you like the Star Trek franchise you will probably be disappointed with the story-line and huge consistencies that make no sense. Also they even ripped off a Mass Effect character so badly they should have to pay royalties.
Perhaps the most unappetizing aspect is that the director managed to make the evil protagonist look like both a Muslim and a black man at the same time .... that is quite a feat of intolerance and racism. The entire race actually looked like and had the mannerisms of Muslims. The best part was that the evil protagonist only did what he did because he couldn't be with star fleet, and hacked into star fleet headquarters by planting "spies/refugees" there.
This movie should have had Donald Trump in the credits.