Tag Archives: blockbusters

Alien: Covenant

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You always know better than the idiots in horror movies. Don’t go to an uncharted planet streaming John Denver songs to the universe. Hell, don’t go into space period! When you get to the planet, don’t trust its lone inhabitant who lives in a graveyard and conducts science experiments in a drippy cave. Especially when the results of those science experiments look suspiciously like the creepy little things that just blew up your only ride off the planet. But if not for those dumb decisions, there wouldn’t be much of a movie here, and certainly not one about Aliens with a capital A.

As the SXSW Sneak Peek hinted, the idiots in Alien: Covenant are more tolerable than most, because every bad decision leads us to a place we want to go. Ridley Scott’s playful approach here elevates Alien: Covenant above every entry in this franchise since Aliens. The bad decisions aren’t infuriating, they’re chess moves, most of which lead to another piece getting ripped apart into gooey chunks by space monsters.

Everything in this movie services the Aliens, including the speedy pace at which they burst out of people (taking only as long as needed to cause maximum carnage). Alien: Covenant felt like a Star Wars prequel in that respect, as the technology (in this case, the creatures produced by those previously mentioned science experiments) behind the Aliens seems better in the “past” than in the “future”. I suppose that’s inevitable when prequels are made 30 years later, and I was a lot more forgiving of it here that I was with Star Wars. I think that’s because in Alien: Covenant, the changes from the original rules make the movie more entertaining, while the changes in Star Wars made the movies into a CGI tutorial mixed with a boring political drama.

Above all else, Alien: Covenant is fun, and that’s because Ridley Scott and his cast (led by stellar performances by Michael Fassbender (x2) and Katherine Waterston channeling Ripley and kicking Alien ass just like Sigourney Weaver did) deliver everything this franchise’s fans could possibly have asked for. No unnecessary exposition, no extraneous plot points, just Aliens mowing down idiot after idiot.

For that, Alien: Covenant gets a score of eight chest-bursting xenomorphs out of ten.

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The Fate of the Furious

1488423016_80f557346e9c57a769fa41a2b284345aAs a movie franchise adds new instalments, we expect (and even demand) that the stakes get higher, that the setpieces get bigger, and that the payoff be greater when our heroes win in the end. Normally, the need to maintain some level of realism constrains the film in some way. Not so with the latest entry in the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Fate of the Furious is absolutely ridiculous from start to finish. There is only one law of physics in this world, and it is this: our heroes must succeed.  So if for Vin Diesel to win a race, a car needs to go faster in reverse than in drive after doing a 180, then that’s what is going to happen. That is always part of the pact that action movies (and action sequels in particular) make with their audience: accept the rules being bent now and again and in exchange, receive that elevated payoff I mentioned earlier. By and large, we are willing to accept that sort of thing in service of those higher stakes I mentioned. What sets the Fate of the Furious apart from most movies is that it doesn’t bend the rules at the climax; rather, it breaks them in the opening sequence. Right from the start, we know that absolutely anything goes, and it just gets more ridiculous from there.

If, like me, you can accept that in the service of entertainment  then you will enjoy this movie. On the other hand if, like Jay, you have no tolerance for big, loud, dumb action movies then you will want to choose some other form of entertainment. Because Fate of the Furious is among the biggest, loudest and dumbest movies ever made. It is also among the most gleeful, and I thoroughly enjoyed every over-the-top set piece, each of which is spectacular in its idiocy.

The Fate of the Furious is exactly what it aims to be, no more and no less. It was never going to reach the emotional heights of Furious 7, and it was never going to bring something fresh to the genre. It is a fun experience (especially in 4DX, which made this movie even more of a rollercoaster ride) but ultimately it’s a flashy, forgettable movie. Which may otherwise have been enough if I had not just seen Baby Driver at SXSW and been reminded how great an action movie can be when it is truly innovative instead of a formulaic eighth entry in a franchise that was all style, no substance right from the start.

The Fate of the Furious gets a score of six Lamborghinis on ice out of ten, with the caveat that if you have a time machine then jump to June 28 and see Baby Driver instead.

 

Independence Day: Resurgence

id4Will Smith was right to avoid this one.  Honestly, he must be embarrassed for his likeness to have made a brief appearance in this debacle.  Jeff Goldblum should feel even worse for having taken the money to appear in this thing.  Independence Day: Resurgence is every bit as terrible as you’ve heard.  Now that it’s on Netflix, I felt I had to check it out to be sure.  I am writing this solely to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.

Independence Day: Resurgence starts out terribly and does not improve one bit.  If anything it gets dumber as it goes, by taking us to a moonbase, then having an alien ship that measures 3,000 miles across sneak past all Earth’s defences, and then creating a totally unnecessary back story for the aliens involving a different alien/robot/spaceship.  Well, totally unnecessary except that it conveniently sets up a sequel!  Do me a favour and stay off Kickstarter if you think a third Independence Day sounds like a good idea.

It’s just a mess.  Like peeing your pants, which two of our heroes admit to doing after one of several mediocre action scenes.  Billy Madison made peeing your pants cool, but Liam Hemsworth and Travis Tope prove here they cannot pull off the same thing.  Not that I could pull it off either but at least I know enough not to try.  Despite what my love of comic book movies may suggest, I’m not six years old.

If you are still on fence about this movie then I’ve failed, and in that case I have to wonder whether you were worth saving anyway.   Independence Day: Resurgence gets a score of 3 soiled undies out of ten.

Logan

loganWe reached comic book movie overload several years ago and the number of those movies has only increased since. It seems clear they are not going away anytime soon. At least there are a few I can sell to Jay as having something original to offer. It helps that she has endless patience for the things I enjoy. Based on its trailers and positive reviews, Logan was one of the easier sells in recent memory. And while I doubt it justified the superhero movie genre’s continued prominence for her, I think she may have enjoyed it. Well, once the Deadpool trailer ended – I’m pretty sure she hated that especially since it pretended to be the start of the film.

nepbctpbbkoesw_2_bLogan is an interesting take on a superhero movie. It’s based on Old Man Logan but barely. It includes X-23 and Professor X, but that’s about it for recognizable mutants. It’s not a franchise builder; it’s a coda. And that’s a refreshing change that helps the movie immensely. We’re so used to these movies going bigger and bigger that I found it immensely refreshing that Logan chose to act like a regular, standalone movie, and tell a self-contained story that entertained on its own merits.

I also found it fascinating that this movie is set in a quasi-apocalyptic America, circa 2029, where all the Americans wanted to escape to Canada, and it was an entirely believable situation. ikea-mexico-border-wall-spoof_dezeen_heroThanks to the election of Donald Trump, the collapse of the U.S. in the next 12 years feels like a realistic scenario. So you best be nice to us or we will build our own border wall at your expense. Yeah, it sounds just as stupid when I say it as when Trump does.

Anyway, in conclusion, Logan is awesome and you should go see it. It’s a really good movie that happens to star everyone’s favourite X-Man, a few times over. Farewell, Hugh Jackman. I am comforted somewhat by the fact your Wolverine will continue to exist in the hundred alternate timelines created throughout the course of the past nine X-Men movies. So let’s not say goodbye, let’s just say, “Hugh! Come back!”

The Lego Batman Movie

batcaveIt’s hard to believe it was about three years ago that The Lego Movie amazed me with its ability to entertain adults and children alike with the same silly jokes.   Time goes by so quickly!  The Lego Batman Movie is The Lego Movie’s sequel in spirit but is not tied to the first in any way, except that both feature Will Arnett’s Lego Batman, the ridiculous beat-boxing self-absorbed antihero who always succeeds on the “first try”.  Only this time, Batman has to take Michael Cera’s earnest, optimistic Robin along with him on his adventures.robin

The Lego Batman Movie is every bit as good as the Lego Movie, and that’s high praise.  Surprisingly, it is also a remarkably faithful  continuation of, and homage to, the whole Batman cinematic universe, including the silly 1966 Batman Movie starring Adam West.  If you are a Batman fan you need to see this film.  One of my favourite elements was the inclusion of so many forgotten members of Batman’s rogues gallery.  This movie has so many ridiculous villains that you will think many must have been made up, but as far as I can tell, every single silly one has been Batman’s enemy over the last 80 years, and I googled as many as I coulbatman-villainsd remember just as Zach Galifianakis’ Joker suggested.

In addition to the inclusion of so many laughable villains, there are so many other references and in-jokes that it is impossible to catch them all on a single viewing.   One that stood out for me was the inclusion of the Wonder Twins, if only because they are my most hated “superheroes” of all time, and yet I still thought it was awesome they were given a little place in this movie. I can only guess what I missed, though, and want to watch this one again sometime soon (if I can ever find the time!).

The Lego Batman Movie is another sparkling example of a movie that everyone can enjoy, and another that organically incorporates a positive message within its zaniness.   We are in the midst of a golden age for animated films and the Lego Batman Movie is a classic that I will be watching with my nieces and nephews for years to come.  It gets a score of nine cans of Shark-Repellent Bat-spray out of ten.

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Rogue One

k-2so-in-star-wars-rogue-oneRogue One is the movie the prequels should have been. It is fresh, entertaining, and necessary. Rogue One’s humour works for adults as well as five year olds (though any self-aware Star Wars fan must acknowledge that the gap there for us is not all that wide). Rogue One links to what we’ve seen before in a way that feels natural and rewards fans who are familiar with every scene of the original trilogy, and leads into the known end point of A New Hope without any trouble whatsoever.

Rogue One is also a movie that could never have been made under George Lucas’ watch. I do not even want to imagine how he would have approached this story, but tonally Rogue One is entirely different than all the movies that have come before, and better for it. This is not a classic adventure serial, it is a war movie with high stakes, and we quickly realize that the stakes are appropriately high considering the evil dictatorship that runs the galaxy is constructing a superweapon to crush its opponents once and for all.rogue-one-cast-photo-d23-1536x864-521514304075-1

At the same time, Rogue One gives us the funniest character of any Star Wars movie. Fittingly, it’s a robot. But where R2-D2 and BB-8 were funny in a sweet, childlike way, K2-SO is funny because he is an asshole. It’s fantastic and he is absolutely one of the best parts of this movie.

Felicity Jones is great as well as the leader of the motley crew trying to save the galaxy. Her team (and the movie as a whole) is refreshingly diverse. Though this welcome injection of diversity is, on a meta-level, unintentionally remiciscent of South Park’s Operation Human Shield, since the multi-ethnic team is the one on the suicide mission while the all-white crew from A New Hope is (or soon will be) galavanting around in the fastest, most indestructible ship in the galaxy.

Rogue One has some cheesy parts that took me out of the flow a bit, but Jay rightly pointed out that I should expect nothing different from a Star Wars film. The end result is a movie that orson-krennic_4c6477e2occasionally feels like an awkward mix of serious war movie and hopeful space odyssey, but only rarely did I have that feeling. It definitely did not ruin the movie for me and that Star Wars feel is an overwhelming positive overall (especially an amazing Darth Vader scene during the climax that shows us the power we always knew he had).

My only other complaint is the use of CG to add a few familiar faces to the film. I found it distracting and yet I also thought it was kind of a nice tribute to one of the great characters from A New Hope. Maybe we’re just not quite there on the FX front but we are incredibly close.

This is a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. If you’re at all a fan you should see it, but if you’re at all a fan you probably already have! Rogue One gets a score of eight May the Force be With Yous out of ten.

 

 

The Magnificent Seven

magnificent-seven-2016-castThis is a western where the good guys wear black. Where you cheer for the outlaws, where a woman shoots better than most of the men, and where a black man can be the unquestioned leader of the posse. It is a more multicultural west than we are used to seeing, and it feels natural, like this is how it always should have been.

And why not? If you have Denzel Washington in your western, then he should be in charge.  He’s the lead. He takes command here and it’s clear right from the start that what Denzel says goes. haley-bennett-magnificent-seven-2016All the outlaws he recruits fall into line and work with him and for him, to save a little town that a gold baron has taken
by force.

Chris Pratt is the first to sign up and it’s great to have him along for the ride. His brand of comedy is welcome and he also manages a convincing quick draw.

The other five join up quickly thereafter, from Ethan Hawke’s shellshocked southern sniper, to Byung-hun Lee’s soft-spoken knife expert, to Vincent D’Onofrio’s nigh-unstoppable hick
who’s been in the sun too long.  Manuel Garcia-Rulfo’s Mexican outlaw and Martin Sensmeyer’s kick-ass Comanche warrior sing up as well. I would have liked to see more opportunities for the last two to contribute, as the movie was at its strongest when the entire crew was riffing off one another while preparing for the final showdown against Peter Saarsgard’s gold baron and hundreds of his henchmen. That’s an indication of the strength of the cast, from top to bottom.1461168127-the-magnificent-seven-trailer

We seem to be in the middle of a western revival over the last few years, illustrated by the fact this was not my first western this month. The Magnificent Seven is not an instant classic like Hell or High Water, but Antoine Fuqua delivers an enjoyable popcorn movie that earnestly serves up a high noon showdown. Feeling like a throwback already, catch it as a matinee for extra authenticity.

Naturally, the Magnificent Seven gets a score of seven rootin’ tootin’ gunslingers out of ten.

 

 

Suicide Squad

Anything I say about Suicide Squad needs to be weighed against the possibly discreditingbatman v superman fact that I liked Batman v. Superman. It was a mess, I’ll give you that. And a whole lot of it didn’t make a bit of sense, even by superhero standards. While there were at least a couple dozen things that I wish had been done completely differently, I walked out feeling exhilarated, as if I had just witnessed the start of something huge. And, for all that Marvel has done right, it’s never really produced a film (with the possible exception of Civil War, which hadn’t come out yet) that felt like such an event.

With Batman v. Superman, I was prepared for the worst. Even the trailers couldn’t hide some of the movie’s bigger problems. With Suicide Squad, which many had dared to hope would save the DC Extended Universe and put it back on the right track, the trailers were filled with bizarre and exciting images and I couldn’t wait to see how they fit into the larger story.

suicide squad 2By now you’ve probably read that a lot of people have felt let down by Suicide Squad. I was too. It’s missteps aren’t as embarrassing as BvS’s were but it’s best moments weren’t as impressive either. Actually, while BvS ended with me feeling like I’d seen the biggest movie of the year, Suicide Squad ended with me wondering “Was that it?”.

Like in BvS, Suicide Squad has a lot to get done and a lot of characters to introduce and ten minutes in it becomes pretty clear that they have no idea what order to do it all in and just decided to throw scenes at you at random. This disorganization continues the whole way through.

As Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie steals every scene she’s in. Clearly insane and easy to suicide squad 1love, Quinn is the only character in the whole ensemble whose actions always make sense and Robbie is the only actor of the bunch who never makes a false move.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the rest of the team. They include the ruthless hitman and unspoken group leader Deadshot (well, sort of a hybrid between Deadshot and Will Smith, played of course by Will Smith), Australian boomerang nut and notorious asshole Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), human flamethrower and recent pacifist El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and rope specialist Slipknot (Adam Beach, who as the trailer suggests is barely in the movie). They don’t always come to life like they should but are at their best by far when they interact with each other. That’s the whole fun of the Suicide suicide squad 3Squad. Unfortunately, they don’t get nearly enough chance to just be themselves and play off one another. Like BvS, it’s far too interested in its needlessly complicated plot than it is in its characters.

Jared Leto’s Joker is the biggest disappointment. Not that it’s a bad performance. The Joker is every bit as menacing and captivating as he should be and Leto makes some very interesting choices but he’s barely in the movie and, when he is, his scenes are rarely relevant to the larger story. Leto’s take on the character never really gets a chance to resonate and deserved a film that used him better.

Suicide Squad has some terrific scenes and gets a lot of things right but overall it’s a missed opportunity to get the Extended Universe back on track. What’s worse, it doesn’t give much reason to hope it’ll get any better in future films.

Star Trek Beyond

vag96xveob5rjf34m2mqWe were treated tonight to a marathon of the new trilogy of Star Trek movies, including a screening of Star Trek Beyond. Seeing the first two reminded me how good Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness are, and seeing them all in a row made me all the more sure that Star Trek Beyond is my favourite of the three.

The most difficult part about the movie is how it reminds us that we’ve lost both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin from the Star Trek family. Nimoy was a larger part of the first two than I remembered, and his presence served as a nice reminder that there’s a whole alternate universe of adventures waiting to be rediscovered. He receives a nice tribute in this movie, which I was glad to see.

8_-_nurovgqYelchin, having died so tragically after filming was complete, is a key cast member in all three and is excellent in Star Trek Beyond (as always). But it’s bittersweet to watch, as his posthumous presence is harder to take than his absence would have been. Every one of his scenes serves as a reminder that there will be no more Chekov in the instalments to come.  He will be sincerely missed but it feels right that his role will not be recast. May he rest in peace.

A lesser movie would have been overshadowed by those real-life lossses. Star Trek Beyond is instead comforting and uplifting in their face, providing a classic trip to a strange new world, plenty of humanoid aliens (some good, some bad, almost all English-speaking), and some fantastic interplay between the series’ seven main characters. This time, Bones and Spock are the standouts, getting a ton of one-on-one time and delivering banter that is consistently hilarious and completely fitting for this odd couple. Writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung do a Star-Trek-Beyond-photo-11wonderful job of capturing the sarcastic Bones and the quiet pleasure Spock takes in driving Bones crazy, while letting us see that underneath it all there is nothing but love and respect between them.

That is the way all these beloved characters get treated – with love and respect. I just wish Sulu’s coming-out moment had not been such a source of controversy leading up to the movie’s release, because in the movie it comes off as another nice nod to the original cast that also fits with the diversity that is the series’ staple.

I cannot say enough good things about Star Trek Beyond. It provides a massive amount of fan service while remaining accessible and enjoyable to all. Star Trek Beyond is a welcome and worthy addition to this classic franchise and a fitting sendoff to two absent friends.

 

Sean & Jay enjoyed the Starfleet Academy Experience – hear about it in our podcast:

 

The Vegas Chronicles: Independence Day

Being Canadian, we tend not to celebrate the 4th of July. This 4th, however, we happen to be in Vegas, which tends to celebrate everything. And it just so happens that tonight we’re at the Cosmopolitan hotel for their “dive-in” movie night, where you can watch movies on a giant screen from the comfort of their swimming pool (a necessity when the dry desert heat’s been sweltering around the 115-degree mark).

You probably know that there’s an Independence Day sequel in theatres right now, but tonight we’re kicking it old school and watching the original which independence-daycame out – gulp – 20 years ago. 20 years! To put that in context, filming at LAX was delayed because of a threat from the Unabomber. The Unabomber! And re-shoots were done on the day the OJ Simpson verdict was announced. And it was referenced in Aileen Wuornos’s (Monster) last words, as she was executed.  That’s a long time ago. So long that the movie held two weird records: first, a record for most special effects shots that has since been pulverized a billion times, and second, for most miniature models to appear in one film. That second one really dates it for you, because CGI was so expensive and so primitive that models were still the way to go. A tiny 1\12 White House was built (about 10 feet by 5 feet) just so they could blow it up. And now because of advances in technology, this record will probably stand forever.

The hype for this movie was huge. HUGE. So big it intimidated Steven Spielberg into cancelling his plans to make War of the Worlds (obviously it turned into a 9 year delay rather than an outright cancellation, but still). They spent $24 million dollars on advertising alone, but when it opened it smashed all the records (most of which were held by 1993’s Jurassic Park). It made Will INDEPENDENCE-DAY3-thumb-615x461-92206Smith into a movie star, but he was not the first choice or even the 10th to play the role of Steven Hiller. Smith was a last minute replacement for when Kirk Cameron dropped out. You read that right: Kirk Cameron. Bruce Willis, David Duchovny, Pauley Shore, Mel Gibson, Eddie Murphy, Charlie Sheen, and Yakov Smirnoff all passed on the role. Yakov Smirnoff, guys. Will Smith was lower on the list than Yakov Smirnoff. Although, there’s clearly a screw loose in the casting department – Kevin Spacey was passed over in favour of Bill Pullman since Spacey lacked movie-star potential, they thought.

The new movie has a budget of $200 million, compared to the original’s being “just” $75M. Even with all that money, they still couldn’t afford to get Will Jeff-Goldblum-and-Liam-Hemsworth-in-Independence-Day-ResurgenceSmith back  (he demanded $50M) so the sequel will be Smithless. It’ll also be Mae Whitmanless. She played the president’s daughter in the first and her role has be recast. She’s been largely silent about being replaced but both fans and Mae’s friend Anna Kendrick have been outspoken about her perhaps not being “conventionally pretty” enough for the part. Perhaps she could call up Kevin Spacey for some consolation pie? Or better yet, Susan Sarandon, who was offered a substantial part but turned it down, having found the script to be “incomprehensible.”

Anyway. The Assholes are still in Vegas, and still watching movies, even on vacation. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta live it.

 

 

 

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