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Kiss Me First (2018)
Fascinating world, well acted, writing was hit and miss
It seems the only thing that change between episodes I liked and ones I didn't like so much was the presence of the original writer, Bryan Elsley. The world is a compelling version of the future, both technologically and socially, and the actors give appropriate life to the characters.
Part of what broke the mood for me was the shift in focus to some kind of emotional development. While I get that we're advancing socially, I'm still a bit lost as to why each of the later emotional scenes hit the way they did. Specifically, what turned the encounter in the cabin from "i'm cold, let's have sex" to "you're a rapist and I'll kill you"?
Secondly, our protagonist's ability to manipulate people goes a bit overboard into seeming mind control, and/or all supporting characters are mindless drones. Neither is very plausible. What would be more plausible is when the manipulation fails, blackmail, coercion, and even direct force would be applied to achieve our villain's ultimate end. And that half-ass torture scene with cool CGI? Was she supposed to escape it?
Overall still enjoyed it, just wish the writing hadn't gotten away from itself.
Avengers Assemble (2013)
Just keeps getting better
First season starts a bit rough, but clearly they keep learning and keep improving. I've been a DC fanboy since watching and rewatching Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice, and was thoroughly convinced Marvel couldn't put forth the same caliber of writing. Finally I've been proven wrong, and I couldn't be happier.
The villains aren't exclusively a binary evil, the heroes aren't exclusively a binary good, yet the reversals aren't so overplayed that you lose faith in the traits that define the characters. Add in a love of minor character development and overarching themes, and you've got a series with consistent draw.
Still catching up and am in season 4 presently - one gripe - the episodes are out of order on certain critical occasions. We see a post major conflict resolution team before we see how the conflict was resolved and yes, of course the Avengers pull through, but it'd be nice not to have that assumption called out so blatantly.
Brain on Fire (2016)
Feels like an extended ad for medication
I know the illness is real and the actors put good effort into portraying that, but for those of us without the illness, it doesn't really help us relate, or help us cope with that illness.
There are cinematic cues that something more is coming, yet nothing really happens in the grand cinematic scene. If you're a student studying the illness, this is probably better than whatever you get in class. If you're an average citizen, this movie is a bit of a let-down. Would've been much happier to find this in the documentary/drama section.
Jessica Jones (2015)
Of the "girl power" series I've seen, this is among the best. Solid consideration is evident for the considerations of not only the main characters, but the supporting cast as well. Strong male characters exist, but with readily evident flaws, such that they never really stand a chance of stealing the spotlight.
Some rather brilliant performances but the fundamental ethics of the whole series is rather overwhelming. What really irks me is how fundamental ethical tenants are undermined by touchy-feely lines of reasoning. She's killed people in a rage and seemingly on a whim, but let's have a heart to heart mother-daughter chat that actually means something. That totally makes sense. How about spontaneously sniping someone with a pistol on the ferris wheel? Nevermind the feasibility of the shot, why pull the trigger at all?
So, I get it, we've been without a legitimate female badass for a while, and this scratches the itch, but there's no need to get sloppy with the writing. Do we need to raise a generation of girls that says "eh, murder is ok sometimes"?
The Greatest Showman (2017)
Not my genre, so I was a bit skeptical, but this is truly masterfully done. Many times in the same scene you can see P.T. Barnum as he saw himself, as others saw him, how he saw the world, and how the world saw his business.
For the dance numbers, there were some subtle effects with brilliant timing. At first glance you might think of just the slow motion and real time synced appropriately to the music, but Hugh Jackman worked some magic with some stage props and a talented cast.
They also didn't miss a subtle humanitarian message that the mere creation of the circus addressed in its time. Being as society has largely learned what it can from this phenomenon, this movie also serves as a sort of time capsule to help ensure those lessons aren't lost. I haven't seen a proper circus in decades, and figure the industry is slowly dying.
This is a movie for everyone. Bring a date, bring the family, bring the kids!
No, seriously, "defying expectations" seems to be the only thing they wanted to do in this film, and you can take that in just about any context you like. Serious scenes had gags, lighthearted scenes had serious casualties, "the one thing we need to do" was several "one things" that never happened, the ancient Jedi religion wasn't so important, the entire mission with the new character was a misdirection, Luke was rumored to go bad (and didn't), Rey was supposed to learn the Force and her history (she didn't), the showdown with the Sith was both brutal and slapstick at the same time (and not in a good way like Army of Darkness), and a significant portion of the movie (and the casualties) could've been avoided if the senior Rebel leadership took 20 seconds to explain the plan to key leadership.
I'm still giving it a 6, since it had more substance than Episode 7, and significantly more was done right here than the prequel trilogy. The characters had a purpose in life, the battles were appropriate in scope and brutality, the shots were appropriate and epic, and it was still fun to watch. Kylo Ren was definitely better here, but still not quite the presence of Darth Vader...which they even kinda kept in perspective at the beginning of the movie.
All in all, sequels are considerably better than the prequels, but still not quite the caliber of the originals.
Wonder Woman (2017)
Quite a few decades late
I reviewed this previously and think I was overly harsh. If this movie had been made at the time of the first Superman movie, it'd possibly be amongst my favorite old movies. If this was actually a long unpublished script, it's pretty neat. However, in light of what we've learned in the past several decades, there are significant issues I can't overlook.
The depiction of Themascara is essentially canon, but canon was altered enough in other instances that this could've been upgraded too. The action shots were great, but actually framing why they train, why they fight, what it means to be a general...it was all sort of glossed over in montage. What it means to build an all female society is also rather glossed over, which gives the impression "don't look too closely, it's fragile". Then another montage to set up and kill the Greek gods, save for one (maybe two), and not really define what it means to be a god, or how the world works, or...do I really need to pause the movie to brush up on my Greek mythology?
In classic superhero tales, the villains play a significant part in defining the heroes. Take Batman and the Joker for instance. Both are intensely dissatisfied with the way the world works, have altered their appearances accordingly, have taken drastic elaborate actions to change the world, and behave according to a set of principles. What sets Batman apart is that he wants to correct the system to its ideal state, and the Joker just wants it all to burn. You could make similar analogies for Superman or Spiderman or the Flash or...but when we look at Wonder Woman and Ares, we barely see Ares' personality, and Wonder Woman's actions are only figuratively godlike in most instances. Why build up the wrong bad guy? It's clever to begin with, but the chain isn't really completed, and we don't really have closure at the end.
Then there were micro-annoyances, like how she knew 100 languages, but hadn't studied anything relevant to the small talk of our group of heroes, nor the conduct and procedures of heads of state. For being "so well read", we could've got more than a few cheap allusions. Or how she let a bullet whiz right past her into a fellow Amazon, but in the very next action scene she's instinctively blocking all bullets in 360 degrees with her bracelets. And the lasso shots were great, but really felt like the special effects guy didn't work with the one from Batman vs Superman, where the lasso was used in a more intuitive manner. Also, more proficiency (lasso) without any shown training in her time as an Amazon.
Lastly, why is the chain of dialogue for her personal development centered on the importance of "belief". What are those beliefs and why are we empowering a generation of young girls with such a generic moral imperative? Do we really want the rhetoric of Wonder Woman to be re-purposed by each girl's respective religious leader?
Justice League (2017)
Extremely Well Executed
Long time fan of both Marvel and DC, but will always pick DC if forced. This production was the culmination of many years of development, and the love for every detail showed through in every scene. Although it might be a slight breach of character, you could see the actors and actresses feeding off each other's performances. This is one set I would've killed to be a part of. Thoroughly amazed so much character development could be packed into so few scenes. Mr. Snyder, I'm looking at you.
Batman - I was a skeptic before BvS, but Ben Affleck positively kills it as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Leadership, direction, contingencies...all the hallmark traits of the Batman franchise in so few scenes.
Wonder Woman - Gal Gadot was absolutely the right pick for this role. I was definitely worried with the direction her own movie's writing was going, but Mr. Snyder gave her the script she deserves. The faceoff with Supes was incredibly well played.
Flash - disappointed in the lack of loyalty the franchise has with Grant Gustin (a fantastic Flash), but Ezra Miller does the role great justice. So few scenes and we're still running to catch up.
Aquaman - Jason Momoa makes Aquaman cool for the first time in franchise history. Incredibly stoked for the movies to follow.
Cyborg - If you're a DC franchise fan, you might still not know who Cyborg is, but he's still a critical member of this team. Ray Fisher delivers the most complex Cyborg we've seen yet (pun intended).
Superman - Henry Cavill kills it. Superman has always been the character to rally around through each version of Justice League, and Mr. Cavill brings that directly to the set, firmly establishing the power dynamic of the team.
Only real disappointment, outside the short screen time, was that the villain was entirely uncomplicated. Raw planet-destroying power is a good closer to a franchise, but sets expectations quite high for the sheer gravity of the sequels, and quite low for the hero- villain banter. On the upside, our teaser gives some reassurance we won't skip straight to Darkseid in the next movie, because where would we go from there? Lex Luthor, Grodd, Black Manta, Deathstroke...there's at least a movie or three there. CADMUS could easily be three more.
To the DC Crew, if it wasn't abundantly clear by this point, you're all rock stars. Keep rocking in the free world.
Death Note (2017)
Inferior to the original, but perfect to share with someone with a fear of anime
We watched this because I was curious and my SO doesn't want to try anime yet, so a nice compromise for the night. If the premise is even vaguely interesting, just go watch the original first. If someone in your audience is anti-anime, well, here you go.
They changed up the plot significantly, but it wasn't all bad. Light still had a worldly view, L was played rather fantastically, and there were some great shots.
I was not a fan of the soundtrack, but my anti-anime SO thought it was fantastic, so I'm willing to give it some credit at hitting its target audience.
They did leave a couple cliffhangers, guessing hoping for a sequel. With all the hate from the fans of the original, I'm guessing it won't happen.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
Fun and well paced
Some minor plot holes, but what really shines through is a truly fantastic performance from Charlize Theron. We chose this movie without knowing the synopsis purely because she did an awesome job in Aeon Flux and Mad Max. This was even better. I was even going to compare her moves to the outstanding work Keanu Reeves has done with John Wick, only to see in the trivia here that she did train with him. Charlize Theron is the greatest female action star we have seen to date.
Rather than break up the pace with bad jokes, they interjected an outstanding retro soundtrack that is highly likely to be true to Berlin in 1989. I'm sure they took some historic liberties, but largely this was very well done.
Well cut, well directed, well acted, definitely chasing related works for more of the same.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Well done but premature
As a long-time fan of DC, I thoroughly enjoyed this. However, for as well as they represented the characters, there were still many missed opportunities, most notably placing this film ahead of the necessary live-action films that should predate it, allowing the average fan to learn the characters. I held Assault On Arkham in high esteem, notably for providing closure to character arcs left hanging in the animated series. If you see this movie as a bonus to that, it's enjoyable but a bit disjointed.
Deadshot: Will Smith does a really good job, but he needs at least one prequel movie to help negate his Boy Scout reputation as an actor. This follows with my theme of Suicide Squad providing closure to bad guy character arcs.
Joker: Jared Leto has a solid handle on the character. Would really love seeing him written appropriately (i.e. The Dark Knight) rather than just a random plot device when the Suicide Squad needs some chaos to deal with.
Harley: Well acted but overplayed. After a while it seemed like if they needed some filler, they'd just choose Margot Robbie rather than try to flesh out another character better. Good for her, but bad for the film.
Plot: Overplaying the Enchantress was pretty lame. No real character development or agenda, just a contrived force for the sake of developing the Suicide Squad. We could've used the Justice League, or Lex Luthor, or a host of other interesting options, but instead we got the DC equivalent of Apocalypse from another failed movie.
Bottom line: we shouldn't have seen this movie for a long time. Each of these characters should've been fleshed out in their own movie, so that seeing them come together would provide some form of closure. Instead we got a fairly random movie I keep having to explain details of to my non-hardcore DC fans.
Whether you're a long time fan of DC or just looking for something outside traditional cop drama, this show hits the widest possible fan base, and is brilliantly executed.
First off, Ben McKenzie absolutely kills it. His character is extremely compelling, and his performance has moved me on more than one occasion. I say this is a straight man, he is one sexy animal.
Ordinarily I'd harp on the writers at this point, but they're knocking it out of the park, giving nuance to every fascinating detail of a multitude of personalities. Whoever's running this thing better keep running this thing, because they're pulling the absolute best out of the franchise.
Casting is truly outstanding. I haven't noted a single actor/actress for a single role that didn't live up to the full potential of the character. This is true for the good guys, the bad guys, and especially the child actors. The aggregate talent on this set will be revisited in the coming years.
For everyone I missed, stay DC, and keep rocking in the free world.
Well executed, but the writing was a bit disjointed
The good: the actors, special effects, music, and all around support did an amazing job. Additionally, Rowling has created an extremely intriguing world, which is shown significantly in this film.
The bad: death is not handled appropriately at all, really by any character. Witnessing a death should be horrifying; hearing of one should inspire reverence; killing should take some visible toll; yet all of this is sort of "eh, whatever" throughout the film. Contrast this with the humor (which was well executed), and it all pulls you out of the experience a bit. If they're doing their job, I shouldn't be left thinking "it's just a movie", yet here I am.
All in all I still enjoyed it and hope to see more from the adult wizarding world, just hope the writing improves to the point where gravity and levity are held in the appropriate regard.
Very "main character"-centric writing
First off, Idris Elba kills it. He was outstanding in The Wire, which prompted us to find this show. His character is incredibly compelling and well delivered. That said, this show does very little for the supporting characters or the plot. Each supporting character and each villain is specifically measured for their ability to illuminate the character of Luther. This leads to such stupidity as two trained and armed extras told to run rather than stand their ground against a madman with a shotgun assaulting their position, or just about any decent side character getting killed off either to give Luther more character development on sadness and remorse, or to keep their performance from stealing the spotlight.
Right from the beginning, we're introduced to Alice, who is an interesting character, but they never justified her psychosis when casting her as a "good guy". By Luther's association with her in this light, I can't help put equate him with her level. Even if she's exonerated four seasons later, this dissonance is really rough on the viewer and implies that psychotic violence is only acceptable if you're female.
The Man in the High Castle (2015)
Well done but too slow
From everything I know about the Nazis and the Japanese, this series portrays life with them in an outstanding fashion. The actors are top notch, sets, special effects, everything really.
The problem is that the central mechanic to the show is still not revealed and we can't be totally sure even what it is. There's talk of this "man in the high castle" and what he does, but we don't see him and we still don't have any explanation for how the films exist, or why they depict different timelines. I'm definitely worried that when we finally get any real answers (in season 2 at the earliest), the answers won't be very satisfying.
Certainly some great moments of character development. I was impressed that the Obersgruppenfuhrer's son had a genetic defect that should get him euthanized in Nazi society. Quite possibly the first time he had to challenge his beliefs and I'm looking forward to how that happens. Since our cliffhanger was a magical transportation to a timeline similar to now, we might never get a resolution for the characters' plots developed so far.
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Not as good as the original
Don't go into this expecting too much.
The atmosphere is clearly the cast and crew having fun making a movie.
The most impressive part of the movie was the world creation, but that didn't go too far. Putting people on the moon is cool, but that was about it.
The plot doesn't make sense, even in context of the original.
The previews implied much more CGI than we actually got.
The lines weren't nearly as memorable as the original.
All in all, I'd prefer to have just rewatched the original than paid to see this in theaters.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
For context, First Class and Days Of Future Past were both 9s or 10s. So, I give this one star with a very heavy heart.
I'm not even sure where to begin, but the biggest flaw by far was the writing. What kills me is these were the same writers that did so well in the previous 2 movies. So many things so far out of character, even given the context the characters were introduced in, then trying to mesh the whole thing together with the most overused Hollywood trope of all time: the emotional appeal.
A movie done right should never make you think "it's just a movie" while you're watching it. That should be an afterthought if they did their job correctly. However, the frivolous manner in which they deal with brutal executions is just jarring. If a character is going to be this brutal, no jokes can be made by such character, nor can any witness act with levity. We see this from Storm when she meets Apocalypse, yet somehow she's magically an X-Men at the end with no reason for her 180. We see even worse from Magneto when he justifiably avenges his daughter (and somehow wife?) but then marches with premeditation to commit an atrocity at the steel plant. Then somehow he 180s because Xavier makes an emotional appeal. All is hunky dory at the end.
To be fair, there were things done right: costumes, music, CGI, and even the actors' performances were solid implementations of horrible writing.
Bottom line, if you're reading a review with spoilers, wait for it to come out on Netflix. Don't waste any dollars in any direct fashion on this film.
Amazing Step Forward
Only one negative: too damn short. Seriously, this story arc could easily be at least a season of prequel to Justice League. If you're not a hardcore fan of the franchise, each of these skipped steps could be very frustrating.
Every part of this was masterfully done. Director didn't waste scenes, writers gave characters depth and purpose, leads knocked it out of the park, music score was on point, CG was insanely well done...even the costumes were finally done right. I really couldn't be happier.
If you're a fan of the franchise, before you watch this, go grab "Arkham Asylum" and "Gods and Monsters". Hell, go watch all of Justice League Unlimited and Young Justice. DC has slowly been improving their character development across the board, and these "straight to DVD" releases have been very well done.
Mr. Snyder, my hat goes off to you. I honestly didn't think you could pull it off. $100 says you can't do it again. Prove me wrong.
Masterful character development
Very obvious they knew what made season 1 great, and focused very specifically on that for season 2. The duality of cyborg/girl is more distinctly illustrated, and the antagonists have motivations firmly grounded in the reality of the culture they're from.
Pacing is quite appropriate, and definitely faster than season 1. The monologues in the first episode establish all the backstory you need, should you choose to skip Season 1 (but don't).
While the character development for the antagonists was good in the first season, they learned how to focus more closely in season 2. Pino's backstory is compelling, and makes the viewer question exactly which side they'd be on in real life.
Gunslinger Girl (2003)
Don't miss Il Teatrino
What if little girls defended good men with the same intensity good men currently defend little girls? This series is absolutely fantastic on so many levels: writing, animation, directing, English dubs, supporting cast, antagonists...
The only complaint I've had, showing this to other anime fans, is that it's a bit of a slow start, focusing on relationships. True, but it's worth it. If you still think it's too slow, Il Teatrino is faster and really can stand alone if need be. You could do the original as a prequel after the fact, if you so choose.
For context, my other favorite animes are Darker than Black, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass, and Deathnote. If you like any of those, you should love this.
Every time I watch this, I want to add another star. It's a shame it stops at 10. There's so many layers of genius on this, I don't know where to start. The characters are so varied, yet I can identify with each of them. As different from our world as this one is, it's crazily so similar, and the reasons why are so brilliant and logical. For instance, if we lost our ability to see the stars, how many normal people would actually care? It's cutting, how deep that simple point hits.
The only bad part for this entire series is how quickly it ends. This needs 10 seasons, and it gets 2.5. I just keep rewatching instead of going to something of lesser quality. Help.
Surprisingly well done
First four seasons were a solid 10/10. Not only the leads, but all the supporting cast and extras show a clear love of the material and theater in general. I'll be selecting one of my next series to follow based on other projects these actors are involved in. The characters are rich and the dragon was particularly well tied in. Quite often the dragon said what I was muttering off screen, which was quite refreshing.
Fifth season was about a 7/10. Went through the episodes trying to pin where it went wrong, but the writers are the same and the directors shifted as they always did. So many mistakes I could've understood if it was still season one, but they've done this right four seasons in a row now. Uther was a rich and complex character in the first four seasons, yet our final memory is of him as a one note character, arguably at his worst. The Dragon was barely used when it was appropriate, and the white dragon wasn't developed at all. Morgana played her part well, but she didn't get the supporting cast she deserved, nor was her final confrontation with Merlin anywhere near as interesting as the rest of the series. If we know the series is going to end, this season could've been spent on so many great reveals: either that Merlin is a warlock or that he is a dragonlord. This could've been many episodes of banter between Arthur and Merlin. Instead, we get about half of one.
And why, oh why, does Arthur have to die? We've departed enough from Arthurian legend here, playing this as destiny is just garbage. "The once and future king" means you're going to use this story as canon for a modern day Merlin? Is that what the bus scene meant at the end? You killed a character for an almost insignificant amount of character development for Merlin...
Still a great way to spend evenings on Netflix, but I'd consider not watching Season 5 at all.
Better than the prequel trilogy
- Harrison Ford
- Harrison Ford again
- The writing really felt like Star Wars again, for the most part. The introduction of the Millennium Falcon was a particularly nice segway.
- Rey is less annoying than Luke from Episode IV. Seriously hope she continues to grow as a character.
- Harrison Ford's death scene sucks. It has no real purpose, and really comes off like the death scenes TV actors have to film in case they negotiate for too much money. Bringing him back would be total non-canon and probably garbage, but try it anyway.
- Harrison Ford was being set up as a latent force user, especially with that blind "force shot" with the blaster, and the strength of the force in his son. This foreshadowing of a potential storyline could have been incredibly interesting. Is lost opportunity.
- Kylo Ren appears to be following the Hayden Christensen school of acting/writing. This is not good. The prequel trilogy was horribly written, and following it will only yield bad things. What's most notably bad is the entire franchise seems scared to write a relatable bad guy, starting with the prequel trilogy. In the original trilogy, even a Sith Lord (Vader) who chokes out generals for incompetence has some good in him (saving Luke). Kylo could very easily be one dimensional and trash the entire sequel trilogy, but we haven't seen enough of him to be sure.
The Martian (2015)
Don't miss this movie
The Martian is my second favorite book of all time, so I was very worried Hollywood would find some way to mess this up. While they left out plenty from the book, the character of the book was very faithfully interpreted and the movie actually brought me to tears.
This might be the only time I've ever seen Hollywood reduce the amount of danger, action, and vulgarity to make a movie that appealed to a younger audience. It's really out of character for Hollywood to downplay an explosion, but hey, the movie is already 2 hours and 21 minutes.
Everything about this movie is top notch, from the A-list actors, to the special effects, to the soundtrack, to the directing, to the extras. I'm extremely proud of Matt Damon on this one, since he's been successful enough he could have coasted. Instead, he knocked it out of the park, even becoming visibly emaciated at the appropriate point, which goes to show the level of discipline a true professional really has.
Read the book, but don't miss this movie.
An odd blend of Robocop and Short Circuit and
District 9 and Transcendence. Neither the acting nor the writing deserve more than a 5.0...seriously surprised it was 7.4 before I went to see it.
The whole movie is one giant extended ad for whatever company seeks to sell robotic soldiers to whatever government will purchase them. South Africa is a prime target for both having a significant law enforcement gap while also having a relatively wealthy government.
Primary marketing message: the manner in which the robots will act is nothing to fear. Primarily evidenced by the Scout program with no real explanation of their rules of engagement (or even why lethal weapons are necessary for expendable lifeless titanium soldiers) yet they have no issues that anyone is even remotely concerned about. The fluke of "sentience" results in an utterly mold-able personality which would provide no threat to a potential investor.
The characters have their eccentricities which is fine, but it would certainly be worth watching anything to provide context for such eccentricities. How our bad guys got to where they are for instance. Or our other bad guy with his Moose program. Why does he care so much about verbal permission from one doubter who only serves to delay Chappie's trial until it is convenient for the film? Sigourney Weaver is great and all, but her character makes no sense.
Then there's all the stupid little movieisms that add up to an annoyance. Why of all days does our inventor friend get carjacked on the one day he's stolen the guard key and all the relevant components? Why can't anyone duplicate or hack the guard key? Why does almost no one marvel at the first sentient robot? Why is the rest of the world so unconcerned with robotics advancements in Africa? Are they even further along? How can you "back up" a consciousness that you could only previously move? How does an AI consciousness manifest itself in the anthropomorphical brain position in an identical patter to humans? I could go on and on, but if you enjoyed Robocop and Short Circuit, you don't need to see this at all.