Star Wars: Rouge One review.

Summary: Decent movie. I recommend watching it.

Spoiler scope: Not especially spoilery – does talk about one scene.

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Overall I liked this movie. High quality.

Here’s my nitpicks.

I did feel blue-balled at the fleet battle. The rebel fleet jumps in next to the planetary gate, there’s at least two star destroyers and… the rebels send out xwings to fight this battle.

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You never see the star destroyer fire its big guns, only ever its anti-fighter guns.

There is one sweet scene were a pusher craft pushes one of the disabled star destroyers in to the other. That was cool.

The other minor disappointment is that I would have like to seen another Millennium Falcon class ship (YT-1300) performing its pushing role – but perhaps that class was already obsolete at the time that the movie is set in.

Independence Day: Resurgence – A worthy sequel.

Spoiler Scope: This review talks about the themes of the movie, without giving any major plot points away.

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Plot Summary: Twenty years after the original Independence Day, humans have adopted the  alien technology for their own purposes, and have built impressive defenses including a moon base. This is to no avail, the aliens come back bigger and more dangerous than ever.

I have a good strategy for New Years resolutions. All resolutions I set, are such that I can do them once, and tick them off. That is – I don’t make resolutions to quit smoking, or to go for a run every week. These run the risk of losing motivation, if one isn’t able to keep up with the resolution.

Watching this movie was one of my New Years resolutions, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get to watch it in the cinema. The movie apparently didn’t do particularly well, and it seemed it was gone after two weeks.

However I did watch it in bed, at about 1am on a Saturday night.

For all the negative reviews this movie got (32% on Rotten Tomatoes), I thought this was a good movie.

The bits I would criticise, would be the campy performances by the younger actors, the cliched romance between a couple of the fighter pilots, and general movie cliches and tropes abound, that generally took me out the moment.

But one doesn’t watch a movie like Independence Day for an original and thought provoking plot. One watches it for an impressive and spectacular depiction of an alien invasion.

And that – the movie did do well.

From depictions of alien-human hybrid weaponry, experiencing space debris impacting a craft’s shields, to seeing the deaths of aliens – it was a visceral and well played experience.

Sure, the movie was cheesy, though in fairness, so was the original, and for that it can’t really warrant a 9/10 or more.

But I would venture that this movie sets the standard for depictions of aliens and sci-fi for this decade. I can’t think of any movies that have done it better.

Bottom line: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this movie. I found it intense and engaging.

 

 

 

The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale: An example of unsatisfiable fanboy entitlement.

Spoiler scope: Full season finale spoilers. Don’t read this review if you don’t want to be spoiled.

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The Walking Dead season 6 finale was the most intense TV experience I’ve had to date. Just the week prior I’d been complaining that the show wasn’t gritty enough, when we saw Carol leave an injured man to die, rather than execute him, and risking him come back as a zombie.

This episode, I felt like I spoke too soon. Rick and the crew are lured in the trap where they look outnumbered, though at the start at least with a fighting chance, they discover a chain of zombies who look like their friends, and Carol is shot and her shooter torments her and tells her that he’s going to watch her die slowly.

I was on edge the whole episode, and genuinely scared for each character, thinking that masses of them may be about to meet their end.

The episode ends with the group being lured completely in the trap, utterly defeated. The leader of their captors, Negan isn’t going to let them off lightly (remember Rick and the crew murdered I estimate at least twenty of Negan’s group in the last few episodes), and picks one using ‘Eeny-meeny-miney-mo’ and bashes his head in, but the show doesn’t show us who.

The Walking Dead fanboys were not happy about this, crying ‘The Walking Dead has jumped the shark!’ and ‘AMC is creating a cliffhanger just for the money!’.  In the comic we’re showed who it is at the time.

Having reviewed the comic frames , I’ll agree with the fanboys that the finale could have, and probably should have, included the scene of showing us who dies, and would have had the same shocking effect. In a similar vein, it annoyed me that in the Game of Thrones season 5 finale, it shows one character swing her sword toward a character, but doesn’t show  us whether he’s been killed, or whether she hit the tree behind him instead.

On both of there instances though, perhaps there are production considerations to account for. Perhaps the producers don’t know which character they’re killing. After all, the show doesn’t have to dogmatically follow the source material, and some characters might be better to write out than others.

But even if we agree that leaving it on a ‘who died’ cliffhanger, that doesn’t change that overall the episode was incredibly intense and overall a good episode.

So with that, I just can’t relate to the fanboys who are throwing outright vitriol at the show’s producers, saying that they won’t watch the show anymore, or accusing them of being sellouts. I think it highlights something about some of nerddom – a kind of unpleasant viciousness and entitlement, a willingness to pile on hate for the slightest slight.

In my opinion, the show’s producers have done a very good job of the episode, which they themselves were proud of. It’s disappointing that they didn’t get the reaction from their fanbase that they deserve.

Batman vs Superman: A solid 8/10

Spoiler scope: A couple of spoilers in the review. If you’re really interested in the movie, see the movie first, otherwise they won’t completely give the plot away. One major spoiler at the end, which is marked.

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Movie reviews are a funny thing. I thought Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice was a decent movie, but it has  a 28% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and generally received bad reviews.

Going into the movie, I didn’t have high expectations, and I expected a campy and cliched moralistic crisis performed by Superman.

I’d heard good things about Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Batman, giving a sense that ‘Batman is the only good thing about this movie’.

The movie overall, exceeded my expectations, and in my opinion is a decent superhero movie. We should remember this when  reviewing (or producing for that matter) superhero movies, they’re superhero movies, not ground breaking scientific research or or deeply profound insights into the human condition. We’re there to see a spectacle, be excited, and be immersed in a different universe.

The movie isn’t without it’s faults. For example the set up to have Batman and Superman actually face off is pretty forced. While Batman has a good reason to be suspicious of Superman – he sees Superman (unknown to Batman, accidentally) collapsing a building. On the otherhand, Superman doesn’t have a reason to fight Batman. To make it happen Lex Luthor kidnaps Superman’s mother and tells Superman that he has to fight Batman in order to save her. Not an entirely convincing plot, surely Superman would find a different way to resolve this issue.

Another slightly lame plot point was Batman firstly just leaving a perfectly good kryptonite spear behind, and then Lois Lane for no reason throwing the  in a pool. This then leads to the spear not being immediately accessible when they need it later, and Lois almost drowning and requiring saving from Superman.

So not a perfectly tight superhero movie, but the rest of the movie, the superhero elements were great. Great, spectacular fight scenes.

A particularly enjoyable part was a small scene were Batman views a file containing video footage of other meta-humans – and we get a sneak peek of The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman.

Wonder Woman’s part in the movie wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t particularly good. She more or less turned up just at the end for the boss fight. While that fight was good, I felt that she good have a more interested part in involving her self in the plot.

Major spoilers past this point. 

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The main reason I think it’s difficult to make any movie involving Superman work, is because Superman is so powerful that it’s difficult to justify the involvement of other characters in the movie. Superman can fly, has superstrength, is invincible. Unless there’s an ongoing ready source of kryptonite, there’s no reason for Batman and company to resolve the plot, when Superman can do it himself.

To this end, I like how this movie ended. Superman dies, impaled by the partly Kryptonian monster Doomsday.

Now – possibly he’s coming back for the Justice League movies, but I hope he isn’t. That’s going to make for a far more tension filled plot.

 

 

My New Favourite TV Show

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Stop. Before you proceed with the body of this review – ideally write, but at a minimum think and acknowledge, what’s your thoughts on Sex and the City (the TV show)?

Have you ever watched  it? Did you like it?

If you haven’t seen it, but have you heard about it, what are you impressions?

If you’d asked me before I started watching the show, I would have told you that it’s a lowest common denominator show that uses sex as a drawcard, and superficial and easy clichés to drive the plot.

To be fair to myself, I do have the book I read and reviewed, written by some of the show writers, which did fit that description.

I love this show. I wish I’d watched this show ten years ago.

The show centres around four thirty-something women, and their pursuits of love and sex.

Each episode tackles a different dynamic, from younger men, faking it, discrimination against single people.

The characters are archetypes, and instead of this being a short coming, it has broad appeal – the audience is easily able put themselves in the characters shoes.

The show unashamedly approaches these dynamics – and whatever your viewpoint, the show provides a good starting point to thinking about these dynamics.

I said I wish I’d watched this ten years ago, and be that as it may, the show has a certain appeal that may have become relevant in the last couple of years – I now identify with the women in the show as my peer group, rather than being the generation older to me.

There was one episode that irritated me – it featured one of the girls dating an uncircumcised guy, and her being put off by it. The guy ends up getting a circumcision, and then the twist being that after he did he wanted to play the field more, with his new penis. The episode irritated me because the focus was entirely on women’s preference for circumcised or uncircumcised penises, without regard for the actual and serious impact removing a part their penis has for men.

The same episode also featured one of the women hitting her partner in the eye, and while it flirted with the idea that this was a bad thing, I think it’s fair to level the charge that Sex and the City can be a bit blasé at times.

Nb. I actually stopped watching the show about the time I wrote this review. I got through about two and a bit seasons. I think the first season is definitely worth watching, because it does confront sexuality, but it does quickly lose steam. Perhaps the characters are too rigid, and it becomes difficult for the audience to empathise as they seem to go around in circles.

 

Movie Review: The Dark Horse

Summary: A culturally rich, but not entirely convincing movie.

The Dark Horse is a movie is based on the true story of Genesis Potene, a Maori man with bi-polar disorder who sets up a chess club for kids to avoid having them get involved with gangs and crime in Gisborne, New Zealand.

The movie features many rich cultural tropes we see in other New Zealand movies such as Once Were Warriors, Boy, or Whale Rider, such as a waiata, Maori mythology, gangs and gang violence and meth use.

From a cultural standpoint, this movie can be a good watch to experience this culture that one otherwise wouldn’t see in an American or British movie.

However, as an actual movie, the movie relies plot devices and is never convincing or immersive enough for us to forget that we’re watching a movie or to think that these are real characters.

While violence is a significant feature in the film, its portrayal is, intentionally I imagine, not graphic- using several cut away shots to achieve this.

Overall: A good movie for a cultural experience, but is by no means a remarkably good movie.

Here is a video featuring the real Genesis Potene:

Movie Review: Sicario

Spoiler Scope: The final part of the review discusses some end of movies spoilers. This section is separated by a photo.

Summary: What might have been a generic but well done action thriller, was spoiled by an annoying attempt to be profound.

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This movie annoyed me enough to write a review of it.

The movie is a fairly generic gritty, the-lines-of-morality-are-blurred action thriller. Think the Mexican Drug War version of Training Day.

The movie does a good job of it’s gritty tone. The violence is quick and explicit – enough to be shocking and realistic and factual, but not dwelling on it enough to be gratuitous.

It features images of bodies hanging from over bridges, which is something that happens in real life and the movie is effective in raising awareness of a war on the United States border that kills more than 10,000 people every year.

However, the plot is not particularly believable, and it uses the Mexican Drug War plot more as a vehicle for creating it’s tone, rather than being a serious thought provoking thriller.

While watching this movie, I was thinking that I was happy enough to have watched the movie and not write a review.

However:

Spoilers past this point. 

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The last five minutes spoiled it for me.

After having gotten revenge by murdering the cartel leader and his family, the sympathisable bad guy finds our female protagonist in a motel room and forces her at gun point to sign a document saying that everything was done by the book, meaning he’ll get away with it.

This is one of the obvious plot devices in the film – the idea that this would work is absurd – the signature wouldn’t mean anything if after he left she immediately reported that she’d been coerced.

As he leaves out the parking lot, his back to her, she grabs her gun and points it at him. He turns, stares, she lowers it and he walks away.

The note the movie ends on is that the sole female character in the film is too weak to do the right thing.

The final scene shows a Mexican boy, who’s corrupt cop Mexican father we’ve seen be killed, play soccer with other kids. Some gunfire starts up in the background. They turn, listen for a bit, then resume playing.

These two scenes for me, turned the movie from a ‘don’t take this too seriously’ action thriller to a ‘we’re trying to make a profound point about the bleak and inevitable nature of this conflict and human weakness’. The way it’s done this is heavy handed and clumsy and comes across as forced.

The portrayal of the sole main female character annoyed me. The movie portrays her as a weak person who:

  • Cries after she shoots someone
  • Allows herself to be seduced by a cartel member hired to follow her.
  • Can’t bring herself to apprehend the antagonist at the end of the movie.

I appreciate that having a weak female character in a movie might have its place. In this movie it seemed not to serve any purpose, except for again reenforcing the bleak outlook conclusion they were making.