Category Archives: Sean

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

4129b10ddb987ee9-600x400Shouldn’t a sequel feel twice as big as the first movie?  And shouldn’t the fifth Jurassic Park and the second Jurassic World feel at least five times bigger than a T-Rex and double the size of the giant fish/dino that ate the Indominus Rex? And shouldn’t Chris Pratt have twice as many raptors on his strike force? And shouldn’t Bryce Dallas Howard be running around in even higher heels than last time? Well, yes, all of that should be happening in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but instead, JWFK feels really small.

Part GMO cautionary tale and part dinosaur conservation dissertation, JWFK takes too long to get going and then when it does, there are almost no dinosaurs to be found! Okay, every once in a while a dino pops up and eats one of the bad guys or nearly bites a good guy, but more often then not, the danger facing Howard and Pratt is of the non-dino variety, which as everyone knows is the most boring kind of danger there is.

JWFK is not a terrible movie but it’s also not a good one. It’s more forgettable than anything, fading from memory only an hour or so after I left the theatre, mainly because it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. For my part, all I wanted it to be was a bunch of loosely-connected dinosaur set pieces, and strangely that is something that JWFK didn’t go for.

One thing JWFK does succeed at is in setting up a whole bunch more sequels, so the studio execs are probably happy with the end product.  But for those of us who aren’t getting a cut of the box office, it isn’t nearly as satisfying. Maybe next time.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

SoloThey pulled it off! Despite the director change and the “creative differences” and the reshoots, Solo: A Star Wars Story is not only a coherent film, it’s a film that lives up to the legacy of the best Star Wars character, hands down: that loveable scoundrel, Han Solo.

Solo is a prequel done right. We get to see those legendary events referred to in the original trilogy, which is what you’d expect. But what you can’t count on, and what Solo delivers, it that those moments live up to the hype AND  fit into a grand adventure that doesn’t feel like a dull connect-the-dots exercise the same way Episodes 1-3 did. Clearly, Lawrence Kasdan should have been writing all the Star Wars films. The script for Solo is a masterful work by Kasdan and his son Jon. The elder Kasdan has stated this was his last Star Wars script, which makes me sad mainly because that feels like the final nail in Han’s coffin.

At least we will always have Solo. While Alden Ehrenreich doesn’t exactly channel Harrison Ford, his take on Han is a credible version of the charming smuggler we know and love.  Woody Harrelson is solid (as always) as Han’s mentor, and Emilia Clarke adds a lot as Han’s childhood sweetheart, but it’s Donald Glover who steals the show as a note-perfect Lando Calrissian (and kudos to both Glover and the Kasdans for maintaining Lando’s hard-A spin on Han’s name). Here’s hoping that rumoured Lando spinoff gets greenlit soon. Lando’s so much cooler than the bumbling Boba Fett, whose spinoff is already in production!

Don’t been dissuaded by the (relatively) poor box office results. Solo: A Star Wars Story is a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon and a great way to spend an afternoon at the movies, which is, after all, what the original Star Wars aspired to be.

Total Recall (2012)

hero_EB20120801REVIEWS120739999ARIt’s been a while since I’ve watched the 1990 version of Total Recall, and yet it was still obvious to me that the 2012 version was the same in plot but different in setting. The setting change was particularly jarring. It is bizarre to me that Mars does not enter into the 2012 movie at all – Australia stands in, which is not really an even trade.  No offense, Australia, but a destination (/colony) I can reach by airplane is not nearly as futuristic-feeling as a colony on another planet. Also, is the fact they refer to Australia as “the Colony” in Total Recall a little too close to home?

As with all remakes, I waited for the 2012 Total Recall to justify its existence. And like a lot of remakes, it never did. The Total Recall remake is more serious and more down to earth than the original, and both of those are bad things. The original stands above, not just because it did everything first (including the three boobed prostitute) but because it did everything better (including giving a reason why there would be a three boobed prostitute).

The original is campy and dumb and fun. The remake is muted and sterile and dull. The difference between the two is exactly the difference between 80s Arnold (no last name needed) and Colin Farrell (no time period needed since to say he peaked would wrongly imply he was ever much good). No one with any sense would choose Farrell over 80s Arnold as an action hero, and likewise no one should watch 2012 Total Recall when 1990 Total Recall is either in your basement/garage or the basement/garage of a friend, gathering dust with hundreds of other DVDs.

Deadpool 2

deadpool_2_poster.0There are times when it feels like a movie has lost a sense of direction, and is relying on one-liners to fill in the gaps until it finds a way forward. Deadpool 2 never feels that way, mainly because the whole film is a series of one-liners. That is how Deadpool 2 gets Deadpool right.

Deadpool is supposed to be an immortal wisecracking antihero, and that’s exactly what Deadpool 2 delivers. In fact, movie Deadpool may be even more potent than his comic book counterpart, since we have seemingly hundreds of superhero movies to send up and most are easy targets.  Deadpool makes sure not to miss any by taking seemingly hundreds of shots at them. None are spared, with Ryan Reynolds’ past superhero movies (and Reynolds himself) being hit as much as any other (and maybe more). More than anything, that self-effacing attitude is why Deadpool works.

Deadpool 2 is stupid and it knows it.  It will do anything to make you laugh, and it will succeed. But Deadpool 2 doesn’t stop there. As you get into the film’s rhythm, you realize that in between the jokes, there’s a ton of action, a superteam origin story, the onscreen debuts of two classic X-Men characters, significant character development, and best of all, a much-needed mop-up of some major continuity issues. And with an X-Force movie on the way, Deadpool basically has birthed his own cinematic universe (I’m treating it as a separate universe than the X-Men films since aside from Colossus, there are no other A-list X-Men in sight), so for better or worse, Deadpool is sticking around for the long haul.

Overall I think Deadpool’s success is more better than worse (though Jay would surely disagree).  Deadpool 2 is an entertaining movie that can co-exist with movies like Avengers: Infinity War (and Deadpool is probably the superhero best served by being removed from the Marvel Universe, as evidenced by Fox keeping him separate from the X-universe for all intents and purposes).

The comparison between Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War brings up an interesting contrast.  Since I was frustrated with the lazy writing in Infinity War, I should have been equally frustrated with Deadpool for the same reason.  Lazy writing is lazy writing whether or not a superhero breaks the fourth wall to acknowledge it, right?  Then why did I give Deadpool a pass when I held lazy writing against Avengers?  The answer, I think, is because Marvel is asking me to take seriously that half of the universe was wiped out with a magic glove, whereas Deadpool is up front about how stupid and meaningless this all is, that everything can and will be undone, and figures out a way to have fun with it.  And that is why for as long as they are making superhero movies, there will be a place for movies like Deadpool 2.

 

 

Anon

anon-trailer-clive-owen-amanda-seyfried-0“Done before and done better.” I could probably leave that as my comprehensive review of Anon, last week’s Netflix original movie, but what fun would that be?

Anon’s premise is simple. In the future, the police can rewind and review anyone’s point-of-view, so can instantly solve any crime. Except lately, there is a glitch in the Matrix, because killings are carried out without the police being able to see the murderer. It’s up to grumpy cop Clive Owen (whose child died young) to solve these cases before the killer does him in and figure out how Amanda Seyfried’s mysterious hacker fits into the puzzle.

In case it’s not obvious by now, Anon is Minority Report’s fraternal twin, somehow born 16 years after its much more atractive sister. Incidentally, Minority Report is currently available on Netflix, at least in Canada, which seems cruel.  But you’ve seen that one before, right?

If you liked Minority Report (and you would if you have any sense at all) then Anon is exactly mediocre enough to watch before you watch Minority Report again – good enough that you won’t feel like you totally wasted your screen time, and bad enough that it will make you appreciate Minority Report even more.

That’s the unexpected virtue of “done before and done better”, that’s the niche that Anon has found, and that sums up nearly all of Netflix’s “original” content.  There’s  simply no need to waste time coming up with your own original idea when it’s way cheaper and easier to tweak someone else’s, and to be safe Netflix covers its bet by having the original on standby, either as a replacement or a superior second feature. Well played, Netflix. Well played.

Cornered in Molenbeek

cornered_in_molenbeek_1Few things are more ubiquitous than a group of old men chatting about life in a local barbershop.  Cornered in Molenbeek starts innocently enough as it drops us, seemingly randomly, into one of those barbershops.  Sure, the customers are speaking Arabic, but they are also speaking about things that I might talk about with my barber (sorry, stylist).

The shop closes for the day and then, in an instant, everything changes.  News breaks of a terrorist attack on Paris.  It’s November 13, 2015 and when the dust settles, 130 people are dead and 413 more are injured in a series of coordinated attacks at a number of locations throughout the city.  The investigation quickly determines that the attackers are from Molenbeek, Brussels, the very neighbourhood where this barbershop is located.  Of course, the attack becomes the main topic of conversation here, just like it was everywhere else.

Not surprisingly, this barbershop collective has no real answers as to what made the attackers do what they did.  Because guess what?  I have no real answers either.  The lack of answers here is revealing, though, particularly as the collective’s attempt to find an explanation weaves through a wide variety of possible causes, often looking for someone or something to blame, such as government, poverty, and the attackers themselves, with one notable exception: these people do not try to place blame Muslims as a group for these attacks, because they are Muslims themselves.  Contrary to the torrent of right-wing nationalist propaganda that is so often shouted at me online by a host of faceless idiots (oh, and also by the President of the United States), this group of Muslim acquaintances in this barbershop are just as innocent, just as angry and just as confused about the attacks as the rest of the world, and maybe more so because their religious and geographical association with the attackers draws them personally into the aftermath, exposing them to significant consequences that most people don’t have to worry about.

The phenomenon of terrorism is worthy of examination, and it was a refreshing approach to do so through the familiar lens of this barbershop, which otherwise would be functionally closed to me as a uni-lingual white Canadian (Arabic and French are the only two languages being used in these conversations).  The film’s structure serves to enhance the fly-on-the-wall feeling by letting us experience the barbershop’s normal environment before the attack happens.  The stark contrast in what is being discussed before the attack as opposed to afterward clearly shows that these types of attacks affect everyone regardless of their religion or native language, and really, we all need to be involved in this discussion on terrorism in order to stop it.  Cornered in Molenbeek does its part to start the conversation, and it’s up to us to keep it going.

 

 

 

Marvel’s 10th Anniversary: A Yearbook

I feel a little bit dirty even saying this, but Marvel Studios has recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary, which began with Iron Man back in 2008 and culminated with Avengers: Infinity War only recently. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has comprised 19 films in the past decade, which has made it the highest-grossing film franchise, bar none.

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For those of you who maybe got a little lost along the way:

Phase One – Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Phase Two – Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Phase Three – Captain America: Civil War (2016), Doctor Strange (2016), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Nineteen! Anyway, Marvel thinks 15 billion dollars is worth celebrating, so they’ve gathered all the actors responsible for our comic book fetish into this class picture, which you’ll need a magnifying glass in order to appreciate (luckily, with not one but TWO Sherlock Holmes among the cast [Robert Downey, Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch] those should be easy to get your hands on).

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In order to do a little celebrating of our own, the 3 Assholes got together to vote on yearbook superlatives for our favourite super heroes.

Best Eyes:

besteyesHey, we all picked from the same movie!

 

Best Dressed:
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 Class Clown:
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Most Athletic:
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I wondered who really had the edge here, so I took to Twitter to find out what popular opinion is. Out of 41 people surveyed, an overwhelming 76% agree with Matt. 12% side with Jay. Nobody sided with Sean, as usual. And the rest wrote in Black Widow, Spider-Man & Black Panther.
Quietest:
marvel-guardians-of-the-galaxy-groot-life-size-figure-hot-toys-feature-903025
By unanimous decision, and likely unsurprisingly, we’ve got Groot!
Cutest Couple:
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Most Ambitious:
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We probably should just concede the point to Matt, as Thanos clearly wants to rule the entire universe – but Nebula wants Thanos, so isn’t that one better?
Teacher’s Pet:
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Matt went with the ultimate brown-noser, Sean went with the know-it-all, and I went with the guy who seems like he’s still living in his parents’ basement, working on his 3rd PhD just to avoid the real world for another decade.
Best Smile:
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Honestly Matt, if Googles Images is to be believed, Black Widow has NEVER smiled!
Best person to be stranded with on a desert island:
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Sean says: “Because he’s a magician! He could get me anything i wanted!”
Biggest Gossip:
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Most likely to be found in the library:
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 Biggest Drama King/Queen:
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Who’s the most fun at recess:
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Most likely to have perfect attendance:
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We all know Captain America’s a real goody two-shoes, but I think War Machine is just a little insecure, and he wants it more. Poor Rhodey.
Most likely to get the teacher off topic:

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 Best bromance:
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Worst driver:
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Sean, I have a feeling  you’re being very literal with your pick. Too soon? Matt’s vote is actually for “the driver in the first scene in Iron Man that gets Tony captured.” And I went with Hulk because they don’t let people drive if they have seizures…surely whatever Bruce has is worse.
Most Likely to be catfished:
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Biggest Flirt:
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Most likely to be late to graduation:
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I realize that his chronic lateness is part of Peter’s charm, but may I remind you that a) it takes time to look as good as Valkyrie does and b) she woke up hungover.
Most likely to star on a reality show:
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Life of the party:
party
Ned & his party hat!
Biggest Nerd:
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Most likely to own too many cats:
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He just seems a little lonely to me.
Best Hair:
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Really, guys?
Most changed since freshman year:
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Talk about a glow-up!
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I’m definitely into the haircut. Thanks, Taika!
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I was feeling more inclined to remind us of this.
And finally, which character in the MCU would we personally most like to eat lunch with:
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There’s little doubt you’ll find we go a lot wrong, so be sure to correct us in the comments!

 

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers infinity warAssholes Assemble!

Matt, Jay and I all took in Avengers: Infinity War last night and I expect you can guess how that went.  I loved it, Jay hated it, and Matt liked it but would have preferred to be at a DC movie instead.  Of course, it is clear that Matt backed the wrong horse in the DC/Marvel race, as Marvel continues its streak of good movies.  Marvel’s so hot they even managed to resurrect the Spider-Man franchise for Sony along the way and might soon get the rights to use the X-Men and other characters currently being held hostage by Fox.

Whether adding more characters to this already bloated roster is a good thing is something we can (and will) argue about, but for a Marvel fan like me, the best thing about an Avengers movie is seeing all my favourite characters team up to save the world just like they’ve done in the comics a hundred times previously.  It’s particularly sweet now that Spider-Man is helping Iron Man and Co. on a regular basis (and fantastic that Spidey gets about as much screen time as anyone in Infinity War).

Even better, in Thanos, Marvel has found a threat big enough to require these countless heroes to team up to fight.  Finally, we have an Avengers movie that doesn’t have to use internal conflict as a plot point.  Past grudges are quickly put aside as we jump right into the fight, where literally half the lives in the universe are at stake.  Though the film is two and a half hours long, it didn’t feel like there was ever a lull in the action, not even for a second.

But.

But.

But.

I don’t ever expect Jay to like the superhero movies I drag her to, but she hated this movie much more strongly than I had anticipated.  In hindsight I should have seen this coming and prepared her for it.  Anyone who has read the Infinity Gauntlet crossover event will not be surprised by how the movie plays out, and anyone who has read comics in general knows that rule #1 is no one ever stays dead.  But when anyone can (and almost everyone does) come back to life in the comics, and in this movie, it makes death feel cheap.  Without getting too deep into spoiler territory, let’s just say there is at least one on-screen death that feels like it is going to be undone in the next Avengers movie (and when I say at least one, I really mean every single one).  That resurrection expectation takes away from this movie significantly because it doesn’t mean anything if everything gets reset.

The writers should have found a better way for this film to play out, one that didn’t feel like any hero’s death was just a temporary setback, particularly because the MCU can afford to lose several dozen characters – if it did then we might actually have enough screen time for heroes like Ant-Man and Hawkeye!

I could overlook the inevitable resurrection issue because that’s my expectation of comic books, but it is not going to be so easy for most to deal with.  And really, whether you can get past it is almost secondary, because it would undeniably have been so much better for the MCU to have risen above that trite comic book convention and given our heroes a loss that felt irreversible, instead of one that we feel certain is going to be undone within a year.   Avengers: Infinity War is still an enjoyable, fan-pleasing blockbuster even with this problem, but due to the perceived lack of permanent consequences, Infinity War is missing the dramatic heft that should have followed naturally from a battle over the fate of the universe.

 

Rampage

dimsI didn’t know what to make of this movie after seeing the trailer but I had a bad feeling this would be one of those movies that Jay uses as leverage against me. But I knew I would drag her to anyway. You see, when I was a kid one of my favourite quarter-munching arcade games was Rampage, because it let me be Godzilla, smashing buildings, eating army guys, and grabbing helicopters out of the air. So when I did not realize this movie was based on that videogame until the title popped up at the very end of the trailer, I was more than a little skeptical.

After seeing the movie, I can confim my skepticism was totally warranted. Rampage is just another middling entry in the Rock’s mindless action movie portfolio. It’s not a standout as an action film generally, and not even noteworthy when compared to the Rock’s other action films. At least Rampage knows it’s dumb and has some fun at its own expense (a Rock specialty), and it actually feels quite a lot like the videogame once the action starts.

images (1)Where Rampage fails is that it takes FOREVER for the action to start, which is the worst thing a dumb action movie can do. That plodding pace is particularly egregious when the video game version is as light on exposition as anything ever made, while the movie wants to include a lentghy origin story for the monsters. I didn’t care how the monsters came to be (“radiation” has always been a good enough reason) and I definitely didn’t care to spend time with a sociopathic brother-sister team who made this DNA modifying thingamajig that fell from the sky. Three city-destroying monsters fighting the Rock would have been enough. No more was needed.

So Rampage manages to be too dumb for someone like Jay, who doesn’t like dumb action movies, and not dumb enough for someone like me, who just wanted to see an old mindless videogame become a new mindless blockbuster. If you liked the game you could do worse when Rampage is available on Netflix (but probably also do better), and if you didn’t know Rampage was a game until reading this review then you should probably skip this one altogether.

Indian Horse

imagesThe residential school system is not the only black mark on our country but it has to be the darkest stain. We and our government could not have done worse by our indigenous people if we tried. We should have known from the start that this imperialistic plan would go horribly wrong. After all, we chose to put the Catholic Church in charge of many of these awful residential schools (and not just the Catholic Church, but a bunch of others share the blame, including the Anglican, Presbyterian, and United Churches of Canada), because it wasn’t enough to tear children from their families and literally beat their culture out of them, it seemed appropriate for some reason to facilitate child molestation too, feeding 150,000 potential altar boys and girls to more than a few insatiable priests over the lifetime of the program. 150,000!

Not surprisingly, the end result of this utter disaster was the destruction of generations upon generations of indigenous people, something we cannot ever be ashamed of enough. And this is not something we can blame on our long-dead racist ancestors, since the last residential school did not close until 1996.  1996!

Indian Horse tells the story of one of those unfortunate kids who was sent to residential school, a boy named Saul Indian Horse. Saul happens to be a natural at hockey, quickly becoming the star of the school’s team. But for some reason, despite his hockey-playing prowess, Saul is clearly struggling to find his place. Could the reason for his struggles be that he and everyone he knew were subjected to horrific abuse every single day?

You don’t have to watch Indian Horse to learn that yes, all those years of abuse hurt Saul really, really badly. And you don’t have to watch Indian Horse to grasp that his story is just one of 150,000 about those who were directly and irreparably harmed by residential schools, not to mention the thousands more who were harmed just as badly by the loss of their family members to the schools, and not to mention the subsequent damage caused by attendees of the schools when, surprise, surprise, after being removed from their families and their culture as kids and abused by those who were supposed to take care of them, they were unable to even care for themselves, let alone their children, a cycle that we still haven’t been able to break. But you should watch Indian Horse anyway.

You should watch Indian Horse to remember that to the extent that Saul or any other survivor of residential schools fell short, it’s not for lack of will or effort on their part. It’s because the Canadian government, and by extension the white Canadian majority, failed them monumentally.  Indian Horse demonstrates our country’s massive failure clearly and effectively despite its shoestring budget, while at the same time paying tribute to the inner strength of one survivor who, but for his race, would have been a hockey-loving Canadian kid on his way to stardom.

So here’s to Saul and to each of his friends. I’m so sorry for what you had to suffer through, and I promise not to ever forget it or let anything like this ever happen again.  I know that’s not enough to right these wrongs and nothing ever will be.  But hopefully it is a step in the right direction after hundreds of years of horror. It is truly a shame that the Pope doesn’t feel that way, but hardly surprising the Catholic Church won’t acknowledge any of its wrongdoings – we’ve seen that movie already.