The Queen (2006)
PG-13 for cattiness. Man, there's a lot of backbiting and spitefulness in this movie. In terms of content, there's not a lot that is objectionable. There's implications that Princess Diana was a trollop. Both Charles and Diana had affairs, so that's not exactly family friendly. I think there's some mild language. Also, you know, Princess Diana died. That's a thing. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
It feels like the series finale of The Crown. It's actually weird because The Crown somehow feels more cinematic than The Queen. I don't know what got me into this kind of stuff. I mean, I probably would have seen The Queen eventually. It's on a list and I'm a sucker for lists. But now, mainly because I'm constantly in a state of trying to impress my wife. I watch stuff like Downton Abbey and Victoria. (Okay, I haven't seen Victoria. But I'm tempted to start that tonight because we're hanging out with my parents.) I don't know what it is about the royal family that makes us so intrigued. This actually spirals into what the big idea of this movie is all about.
Until watching fictionalized versions of the Royal Family, I never really got what people's obsession with them was. I mean, if you were in England, half of the obsession would make a bit of sense. But The Queen, and this seems like a gross misinterpretation, is also a commentary on celebrity. Part of what Frears seems to be shooting at is that the Crown is not traditional celebrity. Diana played in both of those sandboxes. She was a member of the Royal Family for a bit, but then she hobnobbed with fashion designers and other folks who make media headlines. The whole celebrity thing bums me out. I certainly admire certain artists and would love to rub elbows with them. But I often don't want to subscribe to a political ideology because a celebrity tells me to. I don't need to know who is dating whom, although I'm still heartbroken about Jennifer Garner being a single mom and want Amy Poehler and Will Arnett to give it another shot. The movie almost intentionally doesn't give us a clear cut answer on who is right. Most of the film feels pretty condemning when it comes to looking at the Crown. It has to be a bizarre world, being a member of the Royal Family. Intellectually, you have to be a dynamo. There's all kinds of knowledge you have to have. You have to keep up with current events. But then, there's the constant ceremony and formality. I adore that the Queen drives around in her ancient Range Rover, which she respects because she used to be a mechanic. But then there's the other end of the spectrum where they look like complete jerks because they can't divorce the ceremony with the purpose for the ceremony. Everything is big picture to them. That's interesting, but it is also incredibly frustrating. We get to see all of this from the eyes of newly elected PM Tony Blair. Blair, constantly shown as a working common man, despite his lofty title, can't even fathom the aristocracy (I know, it's not a perfect word in this situation).Blair enters the world of the Queen, which might not be the most apt title for this film, with a sense that the monarchy is outdated. He isn't as cavalier as to say that the monarchy should be done away with, but he does seem to view it as a bunch of pomp and circumstance.
I love the complexity of the result. Blair, throughout the film, is kind of seen as a the good guy from all sides except from the Crown themselves. From the nation's perspective, Blair is doing all he can to maintain a fragile relationship between a country in mourning and an emotionally distant monarchy. He's the hero for the majority of the movie. Even his slimy adviser who acts as a PR guy likes him because he's getting amazing publicity. From an audience perspective, he also seems to be the only one with his head screwed on straight. We never really laugh at Blair's ideas or comments. Rather, we tend to guffaw at things that the nobility say. Blair is used as our grounding rod. He reminds us of the reality. One of the things that happens when we watch our Downton Abbeys and the like is that we start thinking like the aristocracy. Seriously, binge that show and I dare you to not get offended when someone starts dating the driver. When you first start watching the show, you don't know why everyone gets out of shape if some of the downstairs folk wear the wrong tuxedo to dinner. By the end, you are screaming for a need for a second valet for the annual garden show. By showing Blair at home, we remember that we too come from the real world. Blair's house is a mess. Board games (BOARD! GAMES!) festoon Blair's apartment. He's making calls that will affect the planet while doing dishes. That's great. But it creates this wonderful juxtaposition. I mean, Phillip cooks too, but it's over this outdoor grill that he's annoyed by in the middle of what looks like Scotland.
The film is an interesting look at grief and mourning. I suppose that everyone somewhat has a sense of misplaced grief in the movie. I mean, that makes me a horrible person, saying that people who never met Diana can't grieve Diana. I think I get the concept of grieving Diana. She changed the world. But what I'm commenting on is the conceptual mourning and the personal relationships that people think that they have with celebrities. Our sympathy is with the British people. I know that Diana represented a lot. But I'm allowed to mourn important people. I know that I'm a closed-off demon of a human being, but people I really respected died in the past few years. Leonard Nimoy knocked me on my butt, as did Stan Lee. But people were offering me their condolences when these strangers died. I thought those guys were the world, but I also didn't mourn them like I actually knew them. I watched a Star Trek movie for Nimoy. I read some comics per usual for Lee. It was something far more personal. So can I comment on some people's grieving process? I don't know if the wailing can really apply to anyone I don't know. Mind you, I also have a cold relationship with death and grieving. But look at the other end of the spectrum. The Royal Family, who has a strained, but actual relationship with Diana are so distantly removed from her death. Her death is actually a burden on them. Charles, who is at least somehow moved by his ex-wife's death, views it as a political move. That's at least something. Every time that Philip mentions that they should go stalking, there's an uncomfortable guffaw that comes out of me. It's so much. At the end of the film, no one is really right. It's so awkward, and that's '90s me talking.
I think that this movie gets the most attention from Helen Mirren's performance. She's great, but it's odd how this is what gets her attention. A lot of this performance comes from an amazing use of makeup. Elizabeth is very reserved as a human being. That's what I gather from the many performances I've seen of her. Every time we see a performance of Elizabeth, we have to comment how odd it must be to actually be Elizabeth. So many people keep playing her and she's still alive. She can see this. It doesn't seem very flattering, in the least. It's also weird that the guy who plays Charles is both in The Crown and Victoria. He really rides high on being a member of the Royal Family. Does he have a certain look that makes him appear in all of these films? From a performance stance, it is really pretty good. But I have to question why having James Cromwell play Phillip? I mean, I guess I should have discussed this before this moment, but is it really necessary to have Americans play Brits. I know we all get excited when a Brit convincingly plays an American. We all lose our minds. But I don't think that the inverse is necessarily true. I bet they hate that. I know that I would never want to parrot someone's accent back to them. Is it because James Cromwell plays such a good grumpus that no one really questions it? I also love Michael Sheen, but it's such an interesting performance. I think that Michael Sheen, for some reason, is one of those actors who really picks his roles. There's something special about seeing him in a movie, but really it's just that he's not in a ton of things. This movie was so packed with actors that I actually had no idea what the movie was really about. When I discovered that the whole movie was about Diana's funeral, I was taken aback. It just didn't seem like that kind of movie.
The Queen is a good movie. I don't think I'm selling anyone on that one. My wife was disappointed because it almost seems so ordinary with the constant reminder of what the common people were thinking. I think people watch stuff like The Crown to entrench themselves in the world of the monarchy. The Queen isn't necessarily a fancy movie, but it hits a lot of the same buttons. It's so weird because it's on the cover of my 1001 Must-See Movies Before You Die book, so someone must think that it is pretty important. Watch it. It did its job.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
PG-13. A) This movie stars Mr. Knife-Hands. His name is in the title. B) You see his tiny tookus. I don't care if he has knife hands. If we see his tookus, I'm gonna giggle a little bit. But some people might be taken aback by his tookus. It happens. There's language. People get stabbed. There's a decapitation. Ryan Reynolds infamously gets his mouth sewn closed. There's all kinds of stuff. Oh, someone gets his spine snapped by hand. Somehow...still PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Gavin Hood
Congratulations, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. You are no longer the worst movie in the franchise. Dark Phoenix, man...you were terrible. I remember thinking that X-Men Origins was one of the worst movies I had ever seen. I'm going to backtrack that a lot. It still isn't good, but I actually kind of had a good time in the rewatching of it. I honestly thought that this was going to be a one-time watch. This week, I actually psyched myself up to watch this movie. (I'm going to refer to it as Origins to cut back on needless writing.) It's still a bad movie, but I can also see this movie's promise.
The further this movie gets into it, the worse it gets. That sounds super negative. But that also implies that the first half of the movie is actually pretty watchable. I remember thinking that I would watch an entire movie of just the opening credits of this film. It's so good. I thought the same thing about Watchmen. You have this really cool concept of Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting in major wars and their characters evolving into what we know. I kind of want to talk about the missed opportunity, considering that the movie is actually named Origins. This is supposed to be how Logan became Wolverine. To a certain extent, it does achieve that goal. The original X-Men trilogy dealt with the concept that Logan doesn't remember his time before his metal claws. I mean, the movie already drops that ball and implies that he had some time with the metal claws that he remembered (it's complicated). But in an origin story, the real story grows out of character choices. Paul Jenkins's book, that this movie gets its title and opening from, deals with how weak and emaciated James Howlett became Logan. The opening of the film actually shows that. It's really sped up and there's none of the misdirect stuff that the book deals with. But it's in there. And as cool as the opening credits were, those were the moments when James became Logan and how Victor started turning on Logan. The movie starts with Victor promising to be by Jimmy until they die, but the characters devolve because of the war. How is that for telling, not showing? How rad would it be to see a World War I era Logan being disillusioned by humanity seeing all of that destruction? I mean, Wonder Woman wasn't around yet. But Logan could have beat that movie to the punch by a lot.
But even the first half of the movie has promise. It shows Logan trying to find peace without having to give into his animal nature. I'm not sure if it was Frank Miller or Chris Claremont who did the work into building Logan with the Silver Fox story. (In this case, it's Kayla Silverfox.) I somehow love the idea of seeing Logan and Silver Fox together. It seems like what we haven't seen in the other films. I'm sure it gave Hugh Jackman something else to do. That's probably why Logan works so well. It's just something different. Still, what is a bit of a problem with the film is that Wolverine acts very similar to the way he does in the other movies. Logan, for some reason, has to have every tragic thing happen to him. I really have to be mad at this movie for one very shocking reason. This is the only movie that I know that fridges the same character twice. I love a good twist. I think a good twist can take a bad movie and turn it into a good movie. I don't think that Arrival was ever a bad movie. But it turned what would have been a run-of-the-mill sci-fi into something special. But a forced twist is equally devastating. The twist in Origins is terrible. Like, it's really bad. It's fridging, and then giving him have to get even more angry. Let's pretend that I was cool with fridging characters. (I'm not.) The reason why a writer would fridge a character is to give the male protagonist a revenge quest. He has been avoiding the call from the goddess, so he is punished by losing the person he loves. Okay. Logan embraces the call once Silver Fox is killed (I'm going to continue writing "Silver Fox" as two words.) There really is no need to have her betray Logan and having faked her death. It adds nothing. It tries faking us out, thinking that Logan might ignore his quest. But he turns around almost instantaneously. Is it to show that Logan is always a hero, despite the fact that his quest has been resolved? She then dies again...because. It's meant to be sad, but it pushes boundaries beyond what the audience cares about.
When I first watched the movie, something stuck with me. It's not as bad on the second viewing, but it is still an issue. It's the same problem I had with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. (Wow, that's a pull. I've probably made that pull before too.) One of the cool thing about X-Men as a property is that there are SO many mutants. Asking someone who the X-Men are is such a challenge because you have the old favorites, but there's a regular rotating door of people joining and leaving the team. Watching the other films, it's kind of fun to see which mutants made it into the film. Origins goes way too far with this. With a title like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it seems like it should be a smaller movie. It should really just be focused on Wolverine. That makes the most sense. But Origins keeps throwing in mutant cameo after mutant cameo. Some are great. I always thought that Blob was an oversight in the other films. He's a big time X-Men villain. I actually really enjoy Blob in this one. But that brings us to the biggest thing that I've avoided talking about so far: Deadpool. I can't really say effectively what Ryan Reynolds hasn't stopped talking about since this movie came out. The Deadpool films almost live and breathe on how bad the depiction of the character was. I mean, I get it. Sewing Wade's mouth shut was a commentary on the character talking too much. I know that most internet comments focus on "How could they sew his mouth shut?" I mean, that's why. Because you are going to comment on it. I don't think that anyone really got it. Part of it is because the joke isn't that great. Naming a character Deadpool in name only is a mistake that probably should have had some forethought. The weird thing is that they got Ryan Reynolds to play Deadpool. They knew that the character had to be funny, but still made him dark as all getout. Also, making Deadpool so central to the film is such a bizarre choice. It's not something that you can just look away from. What a move. I would comment on Gambit, but he just feels like fan service. He's parallel to the film, but not really in the film, is he?
I have to guess that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the movie of the group that most damages the timeline. I keep mentioning that X-Men has the most convoluted continuity errors. Was everyone aware that this movie was terrible, so they just decided to ignore it? But Origins itself just decided to ignore canon. I have written a lot on this idea, so I recommend you read my other X-Men stuff. But I think that this one is really bad. The other films have made mistakes based on details or throwaway lines. Maybe some ideas didn't come to fruition, so they reworked them later on. But Sabretooth is a major character in this movie. He was a major character in the first movie. In no way can that be the same character. They are completely interpretations of the same character. It was just a stare in the face of what Singer did in his first movie. Yeah, I prefer Liev Schreiber too. But Victor in this is smart and calculating. He has a relationship with Wolverine. But in that, he's a mindless creature. He grunts. That's about it. If you really shut off your brain, you could say that something happened to Victor in the meantime and then someone else decided to play him. But it doesn't work that way. It's bad writing. There's a ton of things that I want to go off on, but I'm running out of time.
Origins is a bad movie, but it's kind of / sort of watchable. I didn't have worst time, but I had the lowest of expectations. It's still a pretty avoidable movie.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
PG-13 mainly for action violence. Analysts really know how to deal damage sometimes. They use guns. Oh, also, he was a marine. I suppose that explains some of the violence. There's a little bit of war violence and gore. Also, Jack apparently isn't waiting for marriage because we see him in bed with his girlfriend. It's overall pretty tame. It's definitely one of the lighter PG-13 Jack Ryan films that I've seen.
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
When the John Krasinski Amazon show was on its way, Bob and I played around with the idea of watching the Jack Ryan films for the podcast. All of them were on some streaming service and I thought that I could knock them out. The only one that wasn't on a streaming service was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. When I saw it at Half-Price books for under $5.00, I rushed to go watch The Hunt for the Red October. The thing is...stuff doesn't stay on streaming for long. All of the Jack Ryan films had disappeared from streaming services and I was stuck with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit for my collection. It's been sitting on my coffee table until I got my other movies. Well, when my father-in-law says that he wants to watch something in the garage (I have a theater in there), guess what popped back on my radar.
I don't know who this movie was made for. I think this movie wanted to be a bit of everything and kind of loses the tone of what a Jack Ryan film should be. I guess when Chris Pine reboots Star Trek, companies think that he can reboot anything. Jack Ryan is such a weird property. I know that this is far and away a generalization that I actually happen to disprove, but Jack Ryan and the Tom Clancy properties is something for the Boomer generation. I know. It's flippant. It's like me throwing around the word "millennial". Yeah, the Amazon show was good. But that Amazon show was good because it marketed on John Krasinski and the obsession with binge-worthy television. Honestly, I kind of feel like the TV show was filling the gap that 24 and Homeland left behind more than it did for a need to revive the Jack Ryan franchise. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit feels kind of corporate and soulless all around. Does this mean that I didn't have fun with it? No, I had a decently good time. It's a functional movie. But having "Jack Ryan" in the title is a desperate attempt. I don't know who owns the rights to Jack Ryan at this point. I could look it up, but I'm going to pretend that it is Paramount. Is there still a Paramount? (Okay, it's a subsidiary of Viacom.) There are two really impressive Jack Ryan related properties: The Hunt for the Red October and Clear and Present Danger. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn't really feel like either of these properties. I don't know what it is. I think part of it comes from Chris Pine's age. I know. It's an origin story. But what made Jack Ryan appealing when Harrison Ford was playing him was a middle aged guy having to fight his way out of situations. There's something almost generic about Chris Pine doing it. Honestly, you could name Chris Pine's character anything and the movie would almost work. There are some landmarks that the movie hits that line up with Jack Ryan. He's an analyst. He's a former marine. He doesn't want to be involved with something over his head. Okay, that's fine. But really, the fundamental thing that draws us into the older Jack Ryan stuff is that he's a stuff shirt. He's a desk jockey who can't imagine getting into fights. It's his patriotism and his military training that drags him out into these situations.
But then I have to look at the film as a whole. As much as I whine about Jack Ryan not being the Jack Ryan of old, Chris Pine is at least compelling. Like his Kirk interpretation, I don't think he's really channelling anything that previous Jack Ryans have done. He's just a guy who makes an interesting action hero. I would never call the Jack Ryan movies "Smart action movies", but they are far smarter than the traditional stuff we get. Jack's main skill is that he thinks strategically and with the big picture. I mean, often, this leaves sections of the movie kind of shop-talky. I can't stand too much shop-talk / jargon in a film. Honestly, there are sections where Jack Ryan stares at screens and measures the market to predict a terrorist attack. That's fine. I think a little bit of that can go a long way. But also realize...I wanted to like this movie. I own it. I had a bunch of people in a room who were enjoying the film. I desperately almost needed to like it. Can I see someone who stumbled into the latest Chris Pine action movie and had to sit through a guy looking at market trends loving this movie? Probably not. But then there's the other end of the scale. The action is pretty darned fun. But this all ties into a story that hides behind its complexities. Kenneth Branagh directed this. I don't think he's a particularly impressive director. He did the first Thor movie and he's fairly functional, considering that he's a pretty respected actor. (By the way, my wife recognized Kenneth Branagh from behind. Just his dyed hair. I thought it might have been Tom Hiddleston.) I know that Branagh didn't write the script. It's not his fault that a lot of this movie is undercooked. But the villain that Branagh plays is boring. He's straight up archetype boring. This might also tie into the fact that Jack Ryan might work better as a TV show. Like many origin stories, a lot of the weight is thrown upon developing the protagonist. I always say (ALWAYS! It's getting annoying!) that you shouldn't be throwing your big bad into an origin movie. You should be saving those characters for future installments. Jack Ryan doesn't really have a big bad. That's why terrorist organizations make a lot of sense in these movies. We understand that terrorists are bad and there's no reason to build it beyond that point. But I don't really get the motivation of Branagh's Cherevin. He's Russian and hates America. He's dying and his son somehow was a casualty of America. But he's such a background character in this movie. There's no real threat to Ryan. The terrorist thing probably would have worked way better. We can take shortcuts narratively when it is extremism. When it is someone with a grudge, I feel like that grudge should be fleshed out.
My wife often comments how she doesn't like a lot of actresses. I don't get it. Keira Knightley seemed to irk everyone in the room. While it's not my favorite part of hers (and she should have maintained her British accent, because that's reasonable for the character), she does a fine job. I don't really put the weight on Knightley's shoulders. Her character, while in real life would be considered sympathetic, has all of these highs and lows that make her a little much to deal with. In movies like this, and I guess I'll use True Lies as an example, the protagonist who is keeping the secret has our sympathies. We understand why he has to lie. It's perhaps a bit backwards and maybe slightly sexist to have this attitude, but we enter the movie on his side. He can't share this secret. It is outside of his control. (BTW, if my wife was in the CIA, I would lose it.) When she finds out the truth, she embraces him and thanks God. This might be my favorite reveal moment in film. That's not a high bar, but I found it a refreshing change-up from the disbelief we typically get. But the next shot shows them full on in an argument about these kinds of things. Part of it was a show for the driver, but the character honestly believed what she was saying. Movies tend to do this. They want the joke and the emotional fallout. That's not really fair for the audience and it makes the character look terrible. That scene, of her accepting the truth with the first moment, was so refreshing. But then we get this betrayal of the character. Do people process things slowly? Yeah, okay. But we never had that moment where we got to enjoy the two of them working together on this. They had to literally work together, but they were on separate pages about how to handle it. I mean, it worked because it paralleled Ryan's character choices. Ryan was posing as a drunk belligerent jerk and Cathy played along. But I would have loved to see the scene where they planned that out together. In True Lies, they had to work up to a place of trust. Shadow Recruit just had them trusting each other but playing like they hate each other. It's such a wasted situation.
Another wasted situation was Kevin Costner's Thomas Harper. I tend to dislike Costner. He's okay in a lot of things. But the things that he stinks in, he really stinks in. He does fine in this. But a lot of that comes from the fact that Harper isn't exactly a great character. Okay, I called it from the beginning that he'd betray Jack and he never did. Does it feel like sour grapes? Kind of. But that is because Harper doesn't really serve much of a role outside of a distant mentor. He's not Obi-Wan Kenobi. He's not a father figure. (Thank God, after Man of Steel.) It's just this big casting choice that ultimately leads nowhere. He's supposed to be something fantastic and he's just kind of a guy. He's not a great CIA spook. In fact, it's really weird that Harper has to meet him in Russia. The original plan did not account for the fact that Jack Ryan had to do some thievery. It actually would make a lot of sense to communicate Jack's findings in the States and then to come up with a plan. I know it was for the sake of storytelling. We couldn't have gotten that rad fight in the hotel room had it not been for this logical leap. (By the way, the wet caulk was a nice touch. We never really see that.) It's just why do this stunt casting if that part ultimately doesn't matter? That's what a lot of what is going on. There aren't any major major risks to the storytelling here. It's a safe film overall that really wanted to reignite a dead property. It does a mediocre job and the movie is very watchable. But do we really grow from watching something like Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit? No. There's a bunch of spy movies and Tom Clancy-esque things out there. Shadow Recruit doesn't really add much to anything.
Green Lantern -Extended Cut (2011)
PG-13 for a couple of reasons. I guess if the bad guy is fear, the point is to make him a little bit scary. This is pre-Man of Steel, so the definition of dark should be put into context. While watching it, I realized that there would have been some pretty messed up stuff that could be seen as pretty scary. But it's also PG-13 because Hal Jordan sleeps around. You also see him in some alien space underwear. Also, while I suppose that this shouldn't be put into this context, his outfit is a mental projection, making it exactly the same size as him. It's more naked than normal clothing, but not really? Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
I'm in a cinematic junk food mood. I love telling my few readers about my process for how I do these reviews. Sometimes, I have a big stack on my coffee table of movies that I own, but haven't seen. That's usually for the six months following my birthday. (I tend to get distracted from this pile. It's not that I get THAT many movies for my birthday or Christmas.) I whittle away from my main pile, and then start cycling through categories. I watch one from DVD.com. I watch a Criterion. I watch a Blu-ray. If I'm being dangerous, I'll throw in a LaserDisc. That's for the self-cred, you see? But my goal is to watch everything that I own. See, there are some movies that I rent or watch in the theater. I love that movie so much, I buy it when it comes out. But I just saw it. Why would I watch it again? Well, those movies get buried. I never thought I would get to the day that I revisited Green Lantern.
I feel like I hit an accidental theme lately of movies that everyone hates, but I kind of like. Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be watching Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds has not made his feelings about Green Lantern a secret. The weird thing is that Green Lantern isn't that bad. It's not great, and I'll be getting into that. But Green Lantern came out, Man of Steel was just starting to shoot. Despite the fact that Man of Steel was the foundational piece of the DCeU, it really was supposed to be Green Lantern. Structurally, Green Lantern kind of reads like Iron Man. It's a second or third tier superhero. People knew the name "Green Lantern" and "Iron Man", but without the films to explain the plot, there was probably very little to explain the nitty gritty details. (Side note: Is it weird that lots of people know who Pepper Potts is. They also know what an arc reactor is.) It made sense to start here. If you were parroting the MCU, what a great place to begin? Green Lantern doesn't have the investment of a Superman or a Batman. He hadn't had a movie before. Yeah, I would have put more eggs in a Wonder Woman basket, but I also know the studio fears. I don't respect those studio fears, but I get them. Also, around the time of the Green Lantern movie, the Green Lantern comic books were crushing it. Geoff Johns was writing probably the best run that Green Lantern had ever seen. It turned non-GL fans into GL fans. Okay, everything except for that last arc. I don't know what the heck happened there. The movie ended up adapting a lot of that stuff. That's absolutely fantastic. They even got Martin Campbell, the guy who did GoldenEye and Casino Royale to direct this movie. Then why did it kind of stink?
It's got a lot going on. If I have twenty things that didn't really work, I want to be able to say it's one thing. (That sentence sucked, but I'm sticking by it.) That thing is a CG mess. I know. It seems petty. There's way more wrong to the movie. But holy moley, the CG gets old. The landscape of Green Lantern is bizarre. There was the natural instinct to make the alien worlds look beyond imagination. The answer to that is to turn to CG to answer those problems. I even remember that they were hesitant to release the Green Lantern suit pictures because it was supposed to look so strange and alien. Then, the pictures came out and everyone wanted to throw up. We were told that the images were not the final product. They were close enough. We knew that this movie was going to be all CG. "Alien" became synonymous with computer generated imagery. The odd thing is that, as space-opera-y as the Green Lantern stories get, they work because Hal Jordan is so human. I think the movie could have really tapped that idea better. We needed more Last Starfighter and less Avatar. 1) The CG doesn't hold up. I can't take him seriously in the suit for the entire film, which is a huge detriment considering that the movie wants us to follow the adventures of the titular character. It's the mask and the feet that really bother me more than anything else. I don't mind the suit made out of green, glowing muscles. It's just that the mask looks...bad? Also, it looks like he's wearing toe shoes. I hate people with toe shoes. I'm sorry if you wear toe shoes. It's not just because I want you to keep reading. It's because you live a life where you think toe shoes somehow improve your life. But this movie is littered with garbage that just asks the audience to not try and relate to the characters. Yeah, there's script problems. But when everything is just a CG mess, why would anyone want to get involved in the story. It kind of is the same issue that Transformers has. I never cared for Transformers when I was a kid. I was in the right place at the right time and I still never got into it. But the Transformers movie, because I had no idea what was going on, completely alienated me with its use of CG. That movie was just metal hitting other metal. I had no idea what was happening in such a simple script.
Guardians of the Galaxy would prove that something as space heavy as Green Lantern could work. But Guardians really holds you hand into the weird stuff. It gets there. It actually ends up getting mildly complicated by our time with the Guardians has reached its conclusion. But Green Lantern, especially the Extended Cut, holds hands in the wrong way. Think about Oa where the majority of it was practical. People in makeup. Do you know which character kind of works the best? Sinestro? He's a dude painted purple with a mustache. We get him really easily. But you know which relationships are kind of abstract? Tomar-Re and Kilowog. They blend into a CG background more than I care to admit. There's something about the uncanny valley that reminds us that this is too bizarre to care about. There's a scene towards the end of the movie, where Hal Jordan is petitioning the Guardians to defend Earth. Ryan Reynolds's head is the only thing in that shot that is not CG. It should be a powerful moment where Hal finally finds his real courage and stands up to remind the most powerful creatures in the galaxy of their duty. Instead, the focus is on how bizarre this world actually is. We have a wide-angle shot with a galaxy in the background. What about looking these characters in the eyes? Why not actually have some physical interaction? Honestly, the scene is the famous Jack Nicholson scene from A Few Good Men (which I'm now aware that I haven't seen). It should be that level of intensity. Instead, we're given a lot of time to look at the background of a galaxy that has nothing to do with the scene we're looking at.
But can I say something crazy? Green Lantern would be one of the better movies in the DCeU. If it was part of it, I would be such a massive improvement over the other films in that series. Man of Steel is a travesty. If I ever hate myself enough to sit through that film again, I'll write about it. I would be in a dark place and you should check on me if you see that review up. Batman v. Superman is bleak and has a couple of moments that are mockery worthy. It's watchable, but a super bummer. Green Lantern has just a kind of general suckiness to it, but very few things that you can put your finger on. Okay, Parallax looks a little dumb. Justice League is a huge step backwards and also has a massive CG problem. It also had to be good and it wasn't. That leaves Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Aquaman. Green Lantern doesn't hold a candle to Wonder Woman, which is a pretty good movie. Shazam is very entertaining, but I don't think that it is an amazing movie. I loathed Aquaman for trying to do way too much. That would make Green Lantern, a movie that the star of the film has made fun of in other films, the second or third best in the franchise. I know. People liked Aquaman. I ask you to read my analysis before attacking me. I don't like that Green Lantern got lambasted for every element of it. People make fun of Hector Hammond looking weird. He's supposed to. His motivation is a little garbage, but I think he makes a functional villain who has a relationship with the hero. I'm okay with that. But I also like that Green Lantern as a film didn't exactly shy from the source material. It's not a copy and paste of the source material. Ryan Reynolds brings his own version of Hal Jordan into the story and that's pretty admirable. Similarly, despite the fact that they drill the origin myth of Hal Jordan into the story with a sledgehammer, it gets it right. (Okay, the kid stuff really needed to be allowed some room to breathe.) However, if you wanted a Green Lantern origin story, it covers all of its bases. Sure, it's done through telling, not showing. But every element of the Green Lantern mythos is there. It's actually pretty impressive.
Similarly, the one thing that I wanted to see was Hal making constructs with his ring. The constructs look absolutely perfect. I spent a lot of this analysis focusing on why CG completely poisons every element of this film and then I say that the CG looks fine. Part of that is that the constructs are a reflection of Hal's imagination. Having it look a little bizarre works more than I thought it would. Also, the constructs being completely green acknowledges that these objects don't have to look real. They are allowed to be an artist's interpretation. That freedom actually provides something rad that, if everything else stayed away from CG. I don't want to be anti-CG. CG has opened the door to a lot of great storytelling. It's just the tendency to use CG as a crutch. That limited element in a grounded world could have done a lot. There's a shot where Parallax confronts a failed Hector Hammond. So much of the screen is about CG. Hector should be able to push things around without an effect happening. It should just happen. Think of the villainy of Doctor Octopus. Things just move. They had puppeteers, so nothing was tempting to go above and beyond. There were no lights coming out of Doctor Octopus's tentacles. It kept it so grounded. Lights and flashiness were meant to distract from weak moments. Instead, they acted like highlighters.
But Green Lantern, despite its issues with CG and waiting a long time to present the title character, could have served as a great foundation for the DCeU. It has a tone that is mostly right for the character. It addresses important themes and motifs for the series. It has a great setup for a sequel. It's just that it didn't really seem to believe in the content to not cover it up with a bunch of gunk. Sometimes adding too much nonsense to the cake makes it taste bad. That's exactly what happened here. Green Lantern, from a context of bad taste left by the DCeU, proves to be a better movie than I remember. It's not great. But it could be accepted given how much trash DC has released lately.
G. If you were animated in the '90s and you weren't Cool World, you were G. It was a simpler time back then. You could have kids movies where the protagonist is almost stabbed to death by an old man with a knife before being dropped into a giant cavern flowing with lava. These are things that were allowed. Also, people turning into giant snakes and weird interpretations of sharia law could be in a G-rated film. Simpler times. Simpler times. G.
DIRECTORS: Ron Clements and John Musker
I'm going to say it. Aladdin might be my favorite Disney MUSICAL. Yeah, we went there. It's never going have the hilarity and hipster cred of an Emperor's New Groove. But without resorting to cheap tricks and actually being a vulnerable film, Aladdin is probably the best animated musical that Disney has come out with. Sure, I was nine when it came out in theaters. Yeah, nostalgia may play a pretty heavy card here. Sure, I didn't love The Lion King. Aladdin hits a lot of sweet spots for me. I know it so well that I'm starting to see the Matrix code behind it.
When I say that I see the Matrix code running behind it, I keep spotting some really weird stuff in the movie. It's still a great movie and I want everyone to agree with me that it is the best movie. In fact, why don't we all just do that right now? Wherever you are, it can be quiet or loud. Just say, "Aladdin is the best Disney musical." You might not believe it now, but when you say it, there's a chance you might like it all the more. I'll wait. You good? I certainly hope you did it because you just did something that made you right. Aladdin is great, but I did say that there are some real weird things going on in Aladdin. Only one thing detracts from the film itself because it honestly rattles me how bad the lyric is. You've probably heard it so many times that it doesn't even affect you. It's just such a forced rhyme. Yeah, if you shut off your brain, it kind of fits. The lyric is, "One skip ahead of my doom. Next time, gonna use a nom de plume." Boo. That lyric is awful. Yeah, I get it. People make aliases to avoid getting in trouble with the police. I don't think that's the problem you were having, Aladdin. It's not like Agrabah has warrants out for your arrest without a photo. "Goes by Aladdin" or something. You stole a loaf of bread. People caught you stealing a loaf of bread. A nom de plume would not help you in this situation. Also, people seem to know your face pretty well. Imagine that Aladdin adopted a false name. Just because it was the first name that popped into my head, let's choose recently controversial Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria. If Aladdin started calling himself "Hank Azaria", his life wouldn't be much different. I think he'd still be a "one-man rise in crime." Aladdin is one of those stories that really perpetuates the noble criminal...and I'm good with that. Very few people can pull off Robin Hood as well as Robin Hood. I think that Aladdin pulls it off quite nicely. Yeah, Robin Hood is flawed, but is flaw is excess pride. Aladdin has a bit more moral complexity, but that's kind of what makes him somewhat interesting.
The biggest issue that I've had with recent viewings of Aladdin (I watched it many times when my oldest was really young because she was obsessed) is the all-over-the-place writing of Jasmine. Jasmine, for her credit, is probably one of the more self-actualized princesses of the pre-Pixar Disney films. She contributes to fights. She thinks on her feet. She's not exactly a pushover. But I can't even say that consistently. There are a bunch of moments where Jasmine completely changes her personality. When Jasmine leaves the palace, she goes wandering around the marketplace. A prince and the pauper situation happens and Jasmine apparently has no idea how money works. She's never had to spend money, so if you don't think about it, it kind of plays out. But this has started bothering me lately. Jasmine steals an apple for a little boy. When she walks away, the man is about to cut off her hand. Note: Aladdin, without the rose-colored glasses of the 1990s, seems a bit culturally insensitive. Robin Williams probably didn't help. Anyway, when the shop owner confronts her, he is about to cut off her hand. She is confused about what is going on. He accuses her of stealing and she protests. She has to know what stealing is. She is able to respond to the accusation. Also, isn't it a bit weird that someone who is completely wealthy lacks any degree of education. I'm not saying that Jasmine's face is on the money, but there's a greater chance that her face is on money than anyone bears to think about. Also, the palace looks down on Agrabah. Does she not notice that everyone else doesn't have a palace? Jasmine, while probably naive to certain cultural norms, was not raised in the room from Room. (You describe that setting better. I dare you.) She should know what money is. Also, she's completely flummoxed by this situation. She's speechless when Aladdin saves her. Then, she turns on her master improv skills. Someone just had to throw out a suggestion and she's completely on board? There are times throughout this movie where Jasmine's awareness and coolness under pressure just turn on and off. I love that Jasmine is powerful. But she needed to be consistently powerful. It's like she only gets her intelligence when Aladdin is around. And I get it, there's a suspension of disbelief. There's the times when she can't see that Prince Ali is Aladdin. Listen, I'm a devoted defender that Clark Kent can't be identified through glasses because his personality is so different from that of Superman's. But Aladdin still kind of acts like Aladdin when he's Prince Ali. I'm also trying to piece together a timeline. It had to be from a day to, at most, a week between Aladdin and Jasmine's adventure in Agrabah. She shouldn't be thinking that he looked familiar. She should be saying that he looked identical. Jasmine's intellect is reflective of what the story needs and it gets under my skin.
The next thing is me making up my own rules about wishes. You can easily fight this. I won't even protest. The end of the movie: Aladdin looks like Aladdin. The big character moment asks whether Aladdin will do the self-sacrificial thing and free the genie or ask the genie to make him a prince again. The genie has already made the moral choice. He has made peace with the fact that he will be held by the bonds of his servitude for the rest of time. He's ready to turn Aladdin back into a prince, but Aladdin makes the sacrifice to free the genie. In terms of character development, perfect. In terms of me being a big nerd, I have to put up my finger, fix my glasses, and call "Wait a minute." Yeah, it's the right thing to do, but when did Aladdin's wish get undone. Can a wish become undone? Jafar, as a sorcerer, reveals to everyone that Aladdin was just a street rat. Great, but the wish wasn't, "I want to look like a prince." The wish was, "I want to be a prince." Let's play devil's advocate because I don't think that this was what the genie was thinking. Was he going to erase everyone's minds? Because that's also a weird moral bridge to cross. But more likely, the genie should have the ability to make Aladdin have all his princely objects and clothing. Aladdin...already made that wish. Genie is held back by certain phrases. He has to say certain things to let it happen. Aladdin tricks him earlier, which makes me wonder about about the flexibility of these situations. But he makes Aladdin say, "I need you to save my life." There are rules. Aladdin made a wish that never came true. Wishes don't just last a second. They have to have some degree of permanence. If the genie wanted to, why doesn't he just help Aladdin? The wish has already been made. There's no self-sacrifice on Aladdin's part because it seems like Aladdin is still a prince. Okay, but going beyond that. The genie, once his freedom has been given, asks Al to make a wish. When it doesn't come true, he realizes that he's gained his freedom. The big problem there is that Aladdin would have used his third wish by this point. It doesn't actually prove his freedom. Hand the lamp to Jasmine. If she can get past the fact that she's terrible at recognizing basic social structures (this bothers me more than I care to let on), she should be able to make a wish.
But who cares about all this stuff? Do you know what other movie I get this worked up about? Back to the Future. When a movie is so tight and so fun, that's when the plotholes get to be fun to pick apart. There's a bunch of them in Aladdin. When I watch Back to the Future, I find the plotholes only to patch them up again. In Aladdin, I kind of just let them go. The thing about Aladdin is that it takes pretty great characters and takes a straightforward way to tell that story. There's no need to really overcomplicate things because the movie works the way it is. Yeah, the Sultan is a dingus. Yeah, it's really weird that Iago has the power to imitate people's voices. (I get it. He's a parrot.) The genie's references are clearly just Robin Williams having fun. But the movie works. It's a great time. The music, shy of one lyric that needs to be buried forever, works. It's such a fun movie. No, I haven't seen the remake. That seems like a Disney+ viewing (That's about the timeline, right?). Regardless, I don't mind when my kids watch it because the music makes me tap my toes.
The Full Monty (1997)
Rated R...mainly because it's about stripping. If you didn't know that, I have now warned you. The term "the full monty" refers to being completely naked. Oddly enough, for a movie called The Full Monty, you don't actually see the full monty. You see a lot of butts. Both genders, butts. There's also a ton of swearing. I think that the most uncomfortable stuff comes from the fact that most of the lewd behavior happens in front of a kid. That's no good. The movie kind of wants to play both sides of both being progressive and regressive at the same time. R.
DIRECTOR: Peter Cattaneo
What? I've never seen it! It was never on my list of must-see movies, but it is in my Fox Searchlight box set. Also, everyone told me that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That's actually pretty accurate. But that's also a little bit dangerous, right? Okay, I suppose this entire analysis is going to devolve (or...evolve?) into moral finger wagging. That sometimes ends up being my bread and butter, but I can kind of guess what direction this essay is going to go.
In terms of quality, I can see that we very quickly left the Slacker era of independent filmmaking. While The Full Monty still has its idiosyncrasies, this is far closer to being a fully realized film, not resting on the restraints of the independent attitudes. There is one thing that I that I think tends to happen in independent cinema, especially when it comes to the more well-established actors. I don't think anyone's performance in this is weak, but it does seem weaker than performances I've seen them do otherwise. I love Tom Wilkinson. He's actually probably one of the better characters in this film. (Tom Wilkinson is not a character, but reworking that sentence will probably do more harm than good.) But I've seen Tom Wilkinson do far better than this. There's something slightly artificial about a lot of the performances. I tend to blame a lot on the '90s and early-2000s. It can't fight back and I'm a bit of a bully. Some of the stiltedness comes from that. But I also really feel that independent directors are afraid to critique major actors and their performances. Yeah, Tom Wilkinson isn't exactly a comic actor, but there are all these moments where the characters in the film are aware that they are in a comedy. I mean, the concept is silly. The movie rides satire pretty hard and doesn't even pretend to be merciful to the people of Sheffield. That's what we have the new Doctor Who for. This is such a lame thing, but I feel that as good as Wilkinson is, he's better than what we got to see.
Okay, now for the high-horse, holier-than-thou moralizing. I took a breather and thought out why The Full Monty kind of irks me. It's not a terrible movie. Overall, I kind of enjoyed it. But The Full Monty is a wildly manipulative movie because of its simplicity. The Full Monty plays on two tropes. The first trope is the father who is losing his son and must do anything to get him back. Over the course of this trope, the dad learns to be a better father and, while he may or may not win back his former spouse, has at least earned her respect. The second trope is abandoning the commonplace to follow one's dream. The protagonist cannot be tied down to a mortal, demeaning job when he has the opportunity to change the world. Mediocrity is the villain in these stories. Those people who have learned to settle down and sacrifice their souls tend to be the bad guys. (By the way, I might have a bigger problem with this trope than I realized until I spelled it out.) The Full Monty plays on both of these tropes, but doesn't allow the characters to actually grow. Let's look at the first trope. Gaz is about to lose his son. His mother hasn't received any money from Gaz for child support and she has married a new gent whom we hate. Okay. But Gaz is actually a bad father. The only point he has on his side is that he loves his kid, but not enough to be self-sacrificing for the kid. Rather, he prides himself on how well he can corrupt his kid. He gets put off when his son asks to go to a match legally instead of sneaking in. His son has a moral compass and that moral compass really skews when he is around his father. Instead, from mom's perspective, she sees her son sad when having to spend time with his dad. When Gaz visits to pick up his son, his son hides, pretending not to hear that his father is there. His mother and stepfather are aware of this and are putting the child's needs first. Yes, Nathe seems to mostly enjoy himself when he is around his father, but he actually vocalizes his frustrations. He's only 12 or so in the movie. It's pretty complex to deal with a father who continually makes poor decisions, especially when it comes to your upbringing. How screwed up is it that Nathe watches grown men, including his father, strip. He is put to work helping these guys put on this show. Similarly, and this bleeds into the next trope, Gaz has the opportunity to take care of Nathe and be involved in his life. The only thing that is stopping him is his pride. His wife has access to a low paying job. However, she says that if he takes that job, he can have Nathe in his life. It's pretty low stakes for Gaz in this situation. Since we're already ankle deep into the second trope, let's follow that line of thinking. The movie touts up the strip show as almost something noble. Because the Chippendale's dancers are out-of-towners, they are seen as evil. We never actually meet these guys. The very concept acts kind of like a Macguffin. Their jobs are this idea that will get everyone rich that is involved. Will it cost them something? Sure. They have to embarrass themselves to make this scheme work. But instead, the performance will be theirs. No one is handing them money. Rather, they have beaten the system that has put them down. That seems like kind of a noble quest, but we have to remember that no one really wants to do this. Gerald, played by Tom Wilkinson, is in a place of desperation. While the scene is pretty funny, Gerald almost has achieved his goal. His goal, from his perspective, is to provide for his family with a good paying job doing something that he is good at. While Gaz sees the job offered to him as insulting (get back to that later), Gerald actually yearns for the job that is taken away from him.
Gaz destroys the lives around him so people worship him. Gaz doesn't want to strip in front of people. What he wants to do is to be better than the Chippendale's dancers and he wants to get rich quick. These are some pretty negative goals. Dave acknowledges that the job offered to him is beneath him. But he also really hates the stripping job. We often see this story with artists and musicians. If Dave was embarrassed to sing in public, but loved music, we could see The Full Monty narrative grafted onto a story about a band. But Dave has this terrible job working as a security guard. The stripping job doesn't make him happy. He actually makes a choice to abandon the stripping job to get the security gig. It's only once he has to save his marriage by being a stripper (yup) is when he realizes that the stripping job has a benefit. Also, this stripping gig proves to be a one night thing. Yeah, it's a get rich quick scheme, but it is very temporary. I actually don't know how a Chippendale's club in Sheffield would actually stay afloat considering how packed it was. Would girls be paying every night to see new shows? Having never been to a strip club (Thank you! I AM a good person!), I highly doubt that the majority of people visiting are regular clientele. It's probably a handful of sad regulars and some bachelorette parties. The thing is...Gaz actually does have one redeeming feature. While he is extremely selfish, he also acknowledges quality of life issues. When Lomper tries to commit suicide, Dave and Gaz instantly befriend him. Yeah, it could be because he is the security guard at the plant they use as a club. Okay, that reads as part of the character. But also, they actually hang out with him. Instead of viewing his suicide as something prevented in the moment, they take care of him. I think that Lomper (I really hope I got the right one) could have been the pivot piece of the entire thing. Following a traditional structure, the boys lose their opportunity to perform and it seems all is lost. They all go their separate ways. I wish it was Lomper who brought them all together. He was suicidal and without friends. If he brought the group back together instead of making it about money, that would have sold the story far stronger. He actually loses his mother, but his character is apparently so well adapted that he doesn't really feel it like we thought. Part of that might come from the fact that he is in a relationship. I don't know. But bringing them together over fame and a sense of being right is a missed opportunity. Lomper is the key to the story. If you look at how The Full Monty kind of perverts good tropes, it's a bit of a bummer that the movie went for laughs instead of addressing more heartfelt issues.
It's also really bizarre from a good v. evil sort of thing. I think you could make a good movie about average joes having to strip. But none of these characters are exactly Fantine. They all seem to have safety nets that they just aren't using. Gaz could work for his ex. Dave could work for the supermarket. Lomper has a job. We don't learn much about Horse (really, in general). Gerald needed to be honest with is wife. There's so many other outs that it doesn't really make them as sympathetic as the movie makes them out to be. It's a scam and a low-stakes scam at best. Does it ruin The Full Monty? Nah. It was fine. I giggled a few times. But it also has the potential to be something bigger. It also really tries getting away with morality murder sometimes. That's always a bit of a bummer.
Collections Update: Star Trek
Please visit our Collections page to read analyses on every Star Trek movie to date.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Beyond
For the Love of Spock
Literally Anything: Episode 27 -Literally Ranking the Star Treks
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
PG-13 for violence and death. Admittedly, one of the deaths is just undone. But there's a lot of violence going on here. With the word "Darkness" in the title, the movie just seems a little more bleak and a little darker. The scary scenes are just a little more scary. But like the previous Star Trek film, it's Hollywood blockbuster action. It's more intense than a lot of the other Star Trek movies, but that's still pretty tame. My kids sat through a chunk of this. Well, until I told them to go away because I remember that Alice Eve got into her underwear for no reason. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
It is June 20, 2019. Today, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be writing a Spider-Man comic. So I can say, from Spider-Man comic book writer, J.J. Abrams. It's for me. Everything I write is for me, even when I don't feel like writing. (That's when I should write the most, right? That sounds really smart and profound, but I don't know if it is true.) I also started watching Green Lantern today, so please understand that I'm not being masochistic. I watched Into Darkness for two reasons. 1) I've been trying to knock out all the Star Trek movies so I can add the movies to the Collections page and 2) because I actually don't hate this movie.
Yeah, I admit to it. I also admit that I should hate this movie. I get why everybody hates it. I'm going to comment on that a lot. But for some reason, the entire logical part of my brain shuts off and just enjoys the film. That very rarely happens. It's not necessarily a Star Trek thing. I don't like Nemesis. I have lots of franchises that I adore and hate individual entries in the series. I think Licence to Kill and Die Another Day are pure and utter trash. Into Darkness almost feels like it was computer generated based on what people liked about sci-fi action. The movie rides high on having charismatic characters doing exciting things, even if those exciting things don't make a lick of sense. I've now seen Into Darkness three times. Some people would claim that I've seen Into Darkness three times too many. You would be witty and handsome if you said that, but I have to disagree with you. The point of mentioning how many times I've seen this movie is to state that I hit a wall every time I get to the same point. You probably guessed at which moment. It's the moment that Benedict Cumberbatch reveals that he is not John Harrison, but in fact, Khan. I want to talk about the reveal and how there is a trend towards lying to audiences, but I need to finish my initial thought first. There is a criminal amount of exposition that is involved in this twist. Cumberbatch has to say a lot and I don't think I can fault him for it coming across kind of stilted. I'm going to ask my limited reading audiences to crowd-source this for me, because I can't make heads or tails of this. The big reveal is that Admiral Marcus (an American and I'll get back to that) woke up the crew of the Botany Bay (never mentioned) for Khan's expert tactical prowess. To keep Khan on a leash, he threatened to kill his crew, forcing Khan to listen to orders while simultaneously planning to betray his masters and free his crew. Okay so far. Got it. But why did Marcus load torpedoes with his crew? Or did Khan do that? Why threaten to shoot these long-range torpedoes at Khan? What...what is the logic there? Why not just...you know...kill them? Making these torpedoes Macguffins is elaborate to say the least. Did Khan put them there? Is he planning on freeing them from...torpedoes? Did Marcus want a whole bunch of genetically enhanced people on Kronos to fuel his war? If so, how does that fuel his war. The reigning theory is that the people inside the torpedoes were used to smuggle them away. But again, they are torpedoes that are remarkably hard to disarm and that blow up real big. Why put them in torpedoes? That seems...remarkably silly. I just can't wrap my head around this plotline. It seems so important to the story and I can't understand the logic. It's not like Khan had the torpedoes. One of three things could have played out. 1) The thing that happened. Kirk ignores his orders and captures Khan instead of using the torpedoes. The odds on this were way too slim. Khan didn't know Kirk was going to be the patsy. 2) The Enterprise uses the torpedoes. 3) The Vengeance would have used the torpedoes. Khan is actually incredibly lucky that Kirk listened to Spock and that Spock is so obsessed with rules. It's infuriating.
Okay, I'm going to gripe. Again, I like this movie because it's fun, but there are such glaring mistakes in this movie. The thing I was talking about earlier really bothered me, though. When Abrams came out and said that they were going to do something with a major character from Star Trek, they cast Benecio del Toro. Yeah, everyone guessed that he would be Khan. del Toro said, "No." So they cast Benedict Cumberbatch. Everyone asked people who worked on this movie if Cumberbatch was playing Khan. Everyone straight up lied and promised that he wasn't Khan. I get it. You built up the movie to have a surprise and you wanted people to enjoy that surprise. But what you should have said...was nothing. See, playing coy means that people keep on guessing. At best, they can say that they guessed right and that's the worst thing. But people don't like being lied to. This has been a trend. We like our twists. But at what point does a twist kind of become insulting? This kind of breaks it down into something else. Should something as big as Khan, the most infamous Star Trek villain...be a twist? I mean, it's not like anyone really cared when he said it. Those few people who went into the movie not knowing that John Harrison was Khan probably, at best, went "Oh. Okay." No one lost their minds from it. What did happen is that a lot of people got alienated from a twist that didn't really matter. Starting off the movie with the knowledge that Khan was Benedict Cumberbatch (I got that in the right order. Shut up.) probably could have allowed for a lot of that information to come out organically. Also, the second the first Star Trek movie happened, everyone knew that Khan was going to show up sometime.
Man, for a guy who kind of enjoys this film, I have a lot of gripes. Because this movie kind of feels like the bad B-side of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek Into Darkness might be the most fan service-y movie of all time. What I adored about Star Trek, the first of the reboot films, was that it wasn't made by a die hard Star Trek fan. It was made by a guy who kind of appreciated it, but never really got into it. That means that nothing was really all that sacred for him. Telling the story of Vulcan exploding was what he wanted to do. As a result, his characters came out of that adventure a bit different than they had in the original universe. But there are SO many moments that hearken back to a much better movie. The sheer amount of references to other Star Trek stuff in this movie becomes almost a burden on the movie. It is so overshadowed by the long history of Star Trek that it almost can't enjoy being a movie in itself. There are choices that just add too many nods to the nerds. The first that bothers me is the addition of Carol Marcus to the crew. I like the idea that Kirk meets Carol Marcus. We never got to experience that relationship in the old show, so a young Kirk falling in love with a young Carol Marcus, spawning David (it sounds gross when I say it) is something that might be fun to explore. But she's not there for that reason. She's there because Khan is there. Carol Marcus was introduced in Star Trek II, so she's going to appear in THIS Star Trek II. It makes Carol a completely different character. Maybe this is nitpicky. Actually, I know that this is nitpicky, but I'm also voicing what a lot of people are thinking. Why is Carol Marcus British? The original Carol Marcus wasn't British. Her father isn't British. Maybe her mother is British. I don't think it matters in the long run. What does matter is that she gets practically naked for no reason. SHE STRAIGHT UP POSES! Ick. Then there's the whole forced "The needs of the many" element. The whole Kirk / Spock death reversal thing. Spock yells "Khan" in a completely different context than in Wrath of Khan. Also, how big is engineering? Why make the warp core alignment an action sequence? It's all goofy. Let the movie be its own thing. They kind of fix that with Beyond, allowing it to be its own movie. Well, except for the destruction of the Enterprise.
I want to believe that Spock and Kirk are friends. I can kind of squint and believe it. But there's a lot of mistakes happening here. But what can I say that does work. The movie is oddly super fun. I know. I'm going against everything I believe. The Enterprise crashing sequence is wildly entertaining. Scotty being aboard the Vengeance is great. Seeing 23rd Century Earth, despite the heavy 9/11 look to the whole thing, is great. J.J. Abrams, for all of his faults, knows how to make a pretty fun movie. I really don't get it. I get mad at myself and I have an easier time explaining why the movie is terrible than saying it's good. I know a lot of it is silly, but the entire opening sequence on the planet is just gorgeous. I love that the crew of the Enterprise gets into trouble. I like that Kirk doesn't like to break the Prime Directive, but will do so when he has a moral imperative to do so. I almost beseech viewers to completely abandon any sense of logic or taste and watch this movie for fun. It's...kind of bad. But I really like it. All three times I saw this, I thought it was fun. I haven't had a bad time with it yet, which might be on me. Sure, there are actually good movies out there that you should be watching. But just don't hate-watch this movie. It's fun and that's not worth your hate.
Berlin, I Love You (2019)
Rated R for incest and sexuality. I mean, I suppose that's a bit redundant. Also, if you don't want to see Mickey Rourke in his tighty whiteys, then this movie not for you. There's language. There's actually one of the sequences involving violence with some folks from Game of Thrones. I saw originally that one of the websites listed this as NC-17, but that's wholly inaccurate. It's a solid to mild R.
DIRECTORS: Diana Agron, Peter Chelsom, Fernando Eimbcke, Justin Frankin, Dennis Gansel, Dani Levy, Daniel Lwowski, Josef Rusnak, Til Schweiger, Massy Tadjedin, Gabriela Tscherniak
It took me too long to transcribe the directors of this movie. How am I possibly going to be positive about this movie knowing that it took me a half an hour to just write the billion directors of this movie. Yeah, it's an anthology that showcases directors. I don't care. The movie has to be great for me to write a positive message after that. It has to be Paris, Je T'aime. This isn't Paris, Je T'aime. This is Berlin, I Love You. My wife, while watching it one romantic evening asked me straight up if I had ever been to Berlin. I told her that I, indeed, had been to Berlin. She told me that she had no interest in visiting Berlin. I said that was fair and this movie kind of confirmed it for her. You have Paris and then you have New York. I think that there are a handful of cities that hit the list before Berlin should really get credit for being a city that gets a retrospective.
A thing you should know: I adore Paris, Je T'aime. I recommend it to everyone. Look at the list of directors that made that movie. I'll wait because I refuse to write that list out. Compare that to the list above. Again, I'm not going to help you out because that list took forever. I probably screwed up some names in the process. I haven't heard of ANY of those directors. I know that's not necessarily a bad thing. But you know what? It also makes it a bit of a harder sell. Berlin, I Love You kind of feels like a short film showcase. If the first film was really a message to a gorgeous city and how it changes people's lives, Berlin, I Love You almost doesn't need to take place in Berlin. There's a lot of those shorts that have very little relationship with the city. The first one does. Romantic Knight Rider, as I like to think of it, actually does tie directly into Berlin. But everything else is just a film that kind of takes place in Berlin. It loses its thesis statement pretty quickly. On top of that, these are meant to be love stories. There's one in here, and I'm going to talk about that one the most because is the most memorable for terrible reasons, that involves incest. If the mission statement is to tell romantic stories about how the city is a city of love, all of these films completely missed the point. I know that the critics savaged Berlin, I Love You. The film is definitely watchable. But man, what went from an experience that I was really looking forward to quickly turned into a chore. I kept looking at the clock, hoping that the movie was almost over. It became a burden really quickly. Part of that comes from the fact that almost every single one of these shorts was wildly undercooked. I read a lot of memoirs about sketch comedy writers. The hardest part about writing a sketch is the fact that it is nearly impossible to find an ending to a sketch that really knocks it out of the ball park. They tend to have arbitrary endings and they just need to end. That kind of applies to the short films of Berlin, I Love You. Often, it seems like the writers and directors have a mood and a couple of loose ideas that they want to cover.
This is pretty prevalent in the short about the laundromat. As the film starts, the movie plays with imagery pretty effectively. A woman ready to ruin a large and gorgeous dress because she was sexually assaulted is a story worth examining. She tells the laundromat owner almost immediately. It's a choice I understand, After all, this is a short film, so there's no real time for the slow reveal after some character development. The owner immediately condemns men for their sexual owner and a famous Hollywood producer connected to the #metoo movement walks in. He is completely a caricature, spouting of cliches and platitudes that don't ingratiate him to the audience. After the women eject him, scores of people come in to have a dance party and sing "Time's Up." This sounds like I'm bashing the #metoo movement. I am not. Quite the opposite. But this film was so lazy and underbaked that it might have actually been kind of counterproductive. Should a film collection speak out about issues? Sure. Should it say something real about it? That's where I have a problem. It should have done something that relates to everyone. Instead of creating this comically simple producer character that is easy to boo, why not do something that makes the audience reflect on themselves. Place the spotlight on the criminals out there. The thing about White Savior films is that they make these villains so easy to identify that anyone can sit back and say, "Well, I'm not bad like that guy." I always have a bit of a problem with the protest-as-party narrative. Real protesters are about sacrifice. They give themselves over to a movement. They know that they are giving something bigger than themselves for future generations. But saying that "Time's Up" is a big dance party dumbs down the movement. How is dancing and cavorting on laundry machines at all reflective of the struggles that women go through. This message is brought to you by a straight white male. Speaking of white saviors...
I don't want to pigeonhole all of the stories in this way, but they all have about the same level of depth. I think the standout piece is the one with Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren. It's mainly because it a set of standout performances and I'm a sucker for immigrants. I do respect the play on the love story. Just because I wanted a romantic film for once doesn't mean that I don't want to see someone subvert the message of the love tale. It is, again, a simple approach to a deeply moving tale. But that story about immigration is more powerful than the laundromat tale because the film doesn't try covering everything with wide swaths. Instead, it talks about one very specific element about immigration and that is comfort. There's a lot going on behind this scene that we may never understand. We see Knightley go out for a date that never really comes to fruition. We'll probably never really find out what happened in that sequence. Instead, it is the frustration that comes from people who see empathy in abstract terms and those who live empathy. Both characters are sympathetic. Mirren's mother character is partially right. Knightley is doing something wildly irresponsible. If people find out that she has technically kidnapped this child, it would be the end of her career. But there is also the human factor. I know that the scenario is not that complex. It actually reads like an Intro to Ethics scenario. But that's okay. This is a short form storytelling. I like that Mirren makes a change in her personality, but it is the first small step to something much larger. In a full length film, Mirren's change would really be the inciting incident leading to a life of empathy. But we don't really need any of that. It is probably the best shot of the group and has the best performances. It doesn't save the anthology as a whole, but it is very watchable.
The worst one is the one I alluded to. I know the messed up behavior is what attacted Mickey Rourke to the material. It doesn't really make a lick of sense in terms of logic. I can imagine the writer sitting down and trying to blow people's minds. But this is something I would have written in my first playwriting class. I would probably want to be edgy or something and really turn some heads. But c'mon. C'mon. Did anyone not see that end coming? There's a lot of things that we have to shut off in our heads to make this scene work. I think I want to mention the A # 1 thing on this list that probably pops into everyone's heads. Why did Heather think that sleeping with her father would be an adequate revenge on him? Sure, it would mess him up. I don't deny that. But the revenge would be, "You slept with your daughter! Look how that messed her up." What kind of insanity is that? There are a million forms of revenge that aren't such examples of Greek tragedy that people would actually do. There's a large assumption that you could convince your father to sleep with you. Also, the moral of the story is what? Anyone could be your daughter so stop sleeping with them? I mean, I like that message, but that doesn't really address not being there as a parent. And again, I can't stress this enough: It also means that you have to sleep with your father and screw yourself up even more. Then there's this weird epilogue where Mickey Rourke tries buying a bunch of cigarettes. Why include this scene? How do we know the character any better? It's just terrible.
The major bummer of this movie is that I adored the concept of it. Yeah, I didn't adore New York, I Love You, but it wasn't terrible. Berlin, I Love You is more bad than good. Nothing is outright offensively bad, but it actually commits the worse crime of being boring. It's free on Netflix. Go in with low expectations and there are nuggets to take away, but that's not a wonderful testimony.
Star Trek (2009)
PG-13, because Captain Kirk's meta reputation followed him into the new reboot. Kirk likes being promiscuous. The new franchise is a bit more extreme. There's an example of genocide. That's something happens in a movie that I watched with my kids. There's violence and blood. A guy dies by getting incinerated. Take the old Star Trek and add a Monster drink. That's my parental advisory. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
When I heard that they were making a new Star Trek movie set in Kirk's timeline starring the crew of the Enterprise, I nearly lost my mind. That initial teaser of the Enterprise being constructed I watched on repeat. For me, Star Trek was gone. It was gone for a lot of fans, so the idea of SOMETHING coming back was worth holding out hope for. I have complex feelings about the Kelvinverse, a term used for the Star Trek reboot movies. When I first saw it, I adored it. I can even safely say that the first Star Trek is consistently entertaining and watchable. But I also have to kind of admit...it really isn't Star Trek.
I mean, it kind of is. There was all this talk, especially after Abrams got Star Wars, that this was all an audition tape for Abrams getting his hands on his Shangri-La. He always admitted that he never really cared for Star Trek. As a devoted Trekkie and a laissez-faire Star Wars fan, that bit of information is always scratching at the back of my head when I watch this movie. Of course, in 2009, I wanted to get my hands on more and more Kelvinverse stuff. It came out at a smart time. We really couldn't gripe because it was just far enough away that it looked like Star Trek was dying. Now we have CBS All Access (that's a whole other Pandora's Box that I'm not ready to open), it's a different landscape. I enjoy Discovery a lot. I'm slightly ashamed to say that because I know that fans of things only like the old things. But it puts the Kelvinverse into perspective. If you read my reviews on the other films in the franchise, I always kind of argue that the films aren't really Star Trek. I don't think that gets any more true than the Kelvinverse. The original films are always on the fringes of the original mission statement. Take Roddenberry's vision of allegory and model behavior and keep that in mind when making an engaging Hollywood blockbuster. They don't always succeed, but that seems to be the thing that's running in the background. Star Trek doesn't really do that. Star Trek does a lot of guilty pleasure stuff that doesn't really remind us why we like Star Trek. Me, I saw these movies as fan service. I don't mind that at all. These characters kinda sorta remind us of the old ones (except for Karl Urban's Leonard McCoy. He can do no wrong) in situations that the characters would never really confront. As much as I say that the old ones were blockbusters, that was always the ambition. This is the full on, energy drink spewing, powered by Axe body spray version of Star Trek that Paramount Pictures probably always wanted to make. Even though the film is fan service, the goal is to get the Next Generation (pun intended) of viewers onto Star Trek.
Because here's the unfortunate truth that Star Trek fans don't want to admit. Despite being on for 50 years, Star Trek is far from a cold fusion, self-sustaining entity. Some things will last forever. I don't want to speculate, but I think that Marvel and DC will exist, in some form, for a long long time. I can't forsee an end to Saturday Night Live. But we all thought Star Trek was in that camp. It really wasn't. Star Trek was really afraid to grow with the times. My case-in-point, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That show got swept under the rug. It tried to change the formula too much. So it died for a while. When we were presented with baby steps, a lot of us turned away. To save Star Trek, we kind of needed the Kelvinverse. Now, I'm a guy who really got mad at the New 52. The DCeU is abhorrent to me. But the Kelvinverse, for all of its flaws, makes the most sense. It was the Frankenstein's monster because Star Trek was dead. It was straight up dead. The general public had grown tired of Roddenberry's vision. The only way to sell that was to give it to the Transformers guys. (I also loathe the Transformers movies.)
As a movie in itself, it is probably more clever than a lot of prequels. We've never really met James Kirk at the Academy, shy of the YA novels co-written by William Shatner. Casino Royale and Batman Begins showed us that reboots can bring in audiences. I think that Star Trek read the room correctly. I don't think a lot of people wanted a Batman Begins or Casino Royale clone. Instead, they tweaked the formula. They made it a semi-reboot. The events of all of Star Trek history had happened. They all existed. Picard, the Squire of Gothos, the Dominion War...all of it. (And now I parodied Abrams's Star Wars movie.) Can I tell you how that little detail makes the movie something special for me? As goofy as the whole movie is, the film actually has the guts to not wipe the slate clean, but build on it. It's still a reboot. People who have seen this movie know what I'm talking about with the alternate timeline kind of stuff. Heck, they even brought in Leonard Nimoy to legitimize the whole thing. That's even better. It is almost giving the film its own blessing to continue. It's something that Nimoy approved of. I mean, even if he didn't, it wouldn't make or break the film. But it does make it feel bigger than it could be. As much as I would prefer having Star Trek television, which I have and will soon have in spades, I am kind of disappointed that they stopped making these movies. This kind of leads to the fact that, despite the long history of Star Trek before this moment that leads into this film, this crew of the Enterprise is its own thing. I don't deny that it has its own challenges that come with that attitude. Bones, Spock, and to a lesser extent, Chekhov are all doing pretty solid jobs channeling their predecessors. Yeah, there's impressions happening. Anton Yelchin is entirely impression because he looks nothing like Walter Koenig / Davy Jones. But I have a really hard time rapping my head around Kirk and Uhura. Like, a really hard time. So I can take this two ways. I can gripe and whine. Kirk, after all, is the center of the classic Star Trek. Chris Pine could do a William Shatner impression. It would have been a poor decision. While there is a lot of evidence that Shatner Shatnered his role a lot, for the majority of the time he was actually pretty functional. But young Kirk was kind of cold. Watch The Original Series. He's not that emotional of a guy. As much as he gets a rep for being hot blooded and emotional, he's mostly in charge of his crew. He's business a lot of the time. The movies gave him that softer side. He became actually really funny in the films. A film starring cold and professional Kirk would kind of be a bummer. So Pine did his own thing. One thing that the film never fully lays out that Kirk's personality would be different given the death of George Kirk. He was raised by what seemed to be a jerk of a stepfather. (I mean, Greg Grunberg got his car stolen. I would be mad too.) He probably disliked Starfleet knowing that it took his father away. Young Jim Kirk in the original timeline was probably the son of a soldier. He grew up with protocol and structure. Having the Kelvinverse Jim Kirk as someone else makes a bit of sense. But the other choices don't. Uhura, as much as I adore Zoe Saldana, has no real reason to be acting differently. Her relationship with Spock doesn't rally tie into the timeline. Yeah, the show featured flirtation. But that's was more window dressing than actual relationship.
So I had a choice. I chose to accept that this was something different. This felt like a love letter written by someone who didn't love the characters, but simply wanted to make a fun film. I love this crew of the Enterprise. Their adventures seem really fun. From an experiment in tone, it gets what we should be getting. I read Abrams as a guy who never really loved Star Trek, but tries to love Star Trek. He doesn't want to destroy it. He just wants to make into something that he would watch. I kind of dig that in a weird way. I compare that Zack Snyder, whose Justice League cut terrifies me more and more that I read about it. Zack Snyder hates Superman. He thinks he's dumb. He made a set of films to remind everyone why Superman is way dumber than Batman. That's not what is happening with Star Trek. This is just someone who wants to be part of the club. I don't think that fandom should be as exclusive as it is. We have so much Star Trek out there that we can have different readings of it. Does the Tarantino film that will probably never happen make me nervous? Sure. But I like Quentin Tarantino and I like Star Trek, so I'll watch it. The same is true with Abrams. Abrams has given me a lot of fun entertainment. He did that again with Star Trek. Heck, he even raised the stakes for what a Star Trek movie could do. He destroyed Vulcan. The crew of the Enterprise lost one of their major planets on their watch. How nuts is that? Kirk doesn't always win because he's Kirk. I'm just realizing that Nero is using Kirk's Kobiyashi Maru scenario against him. He changed the rules. The Romulans kept losing to the Federation time and again, so he got to go back and change the parameters. He got to make a mining ship the most impressive weapon in the galaxy. It also gave this timeline some consequences. We can't depend on everything always working out for the best and I adore that some things might change. I know that the films following kept it pretty safe compared to the destruction of Vulcan, but I don't mind that a bit. (I really like Beyond and secretly kind of like Into Darkness, despite the fact that it's a trainwreck of a film.)
It's unfortunate that we needed something like 2009's Star Trek. In a perfect world, the franchise would have adapted better to small changes so it could grow. But sometimes, it needed a kick in the pants. Maybe, because of the Kelvinverse, we have the show back on the air in the form that it should be seen. Heck, it's probably in some fashion responsible for getting us a Picard TV show. (Although I mostly attribute that to Logan.) But I rewatched these movies with my kids and I had a blast of a time. Yeah, it was like eating candy. But it was really good candy, so I can't gripe that much. Also, put Kirk in a yellow uniform for more than two seconds, franchise. Also, Karl Urban can do no wrong in these films.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.