Monday, August 15, 2016

Suicide Squad

It’s been over a week since I saw Suicide Squad in the theater, and I’ve been mulling it over in my head ever since. There were things I liked about it and things that I didn’t. Some bugged me more than others. But in the end I will say that the film is an entertainingly flawed semi-superhero film.

A group of heinous villains are chosen by the government to become an expendable black ops team in exchange for shortened prison sentences. When a catastrophe caused by one of their own threatens the world they are called in to stop it by any means necessary.
The third film in the DC Cinematic universe certainly continues with what has come before it as the death of Superman weighs heavily here while Batman and Wonder Woman are nowhere to be found (outside of a few flashbacks, one including The Flash) and the formation of the Suicide Squad being a direct result. Seeing the backstories of all the main players explained and shown is a fun treat told over dinner by the amazingly cast Viola Davis as the enigmatic Amanda Waller. In fact, virtually the whole cast is pretty fantastic and is the main reason to watch this flick in the first place.

Will Smith tries and succeeds to get another hit under his belt as the expert marksman Deadshot. He isn’t super jokey and I was thankful for that. Margot Robbie as fan favorite Harley Quinn is a godsend. She completely encapsulates all that makes that character equally fun and disturbing while not going off the overly sexualized/objectified deep end. Joel Kinnaman makes up for his taciturn version of Robocop as Rick Flag, military leader of the squad, and actually gets a few great dramatic moments. Jay Hernandez is awesome as the non-violent El Diablo, the only person who has actual superpowers in the group and has the most tragic past of them all. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is unrecognizable in heavy prosthetics as Killer Croc and barely has any lines, but he owns his role as you can see him in the background totally into his character. Cara Delevingne has a dual role as archaeologist June Moone and the evil Enchantress, her alter ego. While the June character doesn’t have much screen time Cara manages to make Enchantress a freakishly creepy entity. Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang is one of the most useless characters in the group as his only ability is that he’s a master at utilizing his namesake, but he manages to make his character fun and somewhat relatable by his realistic attitudes toward the situation the squad find themselves in. Karen Fukuhara’s Katana joins Croc in the minimal dialogue club, but she makes the most of her screen time and has a nice moment toward the end of the film. The already mentioned Viola Davis just owns this flick even when she’s not on screen.
On the flip side are the two big issues I have with this flick – Adam Beach’s Slipknot and Jared Leto’s version of The Joker. Omitting Slipknot’s origin story from the opening of the film pretty much lets you know that he’s going to die early on. Not surprisingly, he does in a very stupid way while doing something incredibly dumb. Sure his character is kind of lame (he’s a rope expert… what?!), but you could have added in a no-namer character to sacrifice instead of an actual member of the Squad. I feel sorry for Adam Beach as he seems to be stereotyped to play characters like this for the past ten or so years. Dude can’t catch a break.

And the big point of contention when it comes to the Suicide Squad is The Joker. While I definitely appreciate Jared Leto not copying Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight I found his version of the character to be completely underwhelming. Coming off more as a spoiled rich suburb kid who wishes he were Lil’ Wayne than a scary and unpredictable master manipulator, Leto’s Joker is, well, kind of a big joke. He’s shoehorned into the plot in order to cause problems to pad out the runtime and give Harley more of a starring role since she’s so beloved by the geek community. I heard rumors that there was so much Joker/Harley material shot that it could be a movie of its own, but thankfully most of it was left on the cutting room floor because I couldn’t stand this version of the character at all. What we got was more than enough for me.
Director David Ayer is known for helming movies featuring an ensemble cast, and he really excels with this one (more so than with the cast of the overrated Fury). Everyone gets their time to shine and everyone seems to be putting their all into their roles due to his contribution. Even though I didn’t care for this version of The Joker I admire the effort Ayer got Leto to put into bringing the character to life. He’s also stepped up his visuals game a great deal. Along with cinematographer Roman Vasyanov, Ayer makes the world in which the story takes place a drearily colorful wonderland. There are plenty of awesomely framed shots, from Harley falling out of a helicopter to El Diablo taking out a squad of enemies with his flamethrowing powers. Visually the flicks a stunner. The action is fun too, although a little too frantic with the camera being either too zoomed in to make sense of what’s going on or it being way to dark to see it clearly.

In the screenplay department the film isn’t so successful. The reasoning and motivations behind the big bad, or should I say the two big bads, is a little muddled and weird thanks to the script by Ayer and John Ostrander. Why would a sorceress need a machine to take out the world when we have learned that she is more than powerful enough to do it with her abilities alone? What was the point of having The Joker in the story outside of being a nuisance halfway through the film? What was up with Boomerang leaving halfway through the film and showing back up with no reason given? Why are abusive relationships made to look like a nonstop neon drenched party? There’s a lot of headscratcher moments that I suspect were either due to the random reshoots to perk up the humor or some seriously bad editing choices. This could have been a lean and mean 90 minutes, but it’s stretched a little too thin and the end result is a very uneven flick.
There are also a few things that made me laugh unintentionally, such as Enchantress’s pop-and-lock dance moves while casting her spells and the ridiculous treatment of the aforementioned Slipknot. But there are also a lot of really fun easter eggs, like seeing Harley Quinn in her original jester outfit and calling The Joker her “puddin’”. We even get a hint that she was the one who killed Robin. The bits with Batman were cool too.

I also have to mention the use of music in the film. While it does seem to take after Quentin Tarantino’s approach to using licensed songs in his movies, I will say that the old school and modern tunes chosen were absolutely perfect. The same goes for Steven Price’s score which is as percussive as what Hans Zimmer and Tom Holkenborg composed for Batman v Superman and yet more varied when it comes to the somber moments.
Suicide Squad is the most genuinely fun film in the DC Cinematic Universe so far, but I still feel that Batman v Superman was the superior entry. Especially the Extended R-Rated Cut (review to follow). Lots of great humor, action and comic booky goodness is held back by some bad character choices, nonsensical writing and dumb developments. It’s definitely worth seeing in the theater, but it’s certainly not the revelation to the genre we were all hoping it would be.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Batman: The Killing Joke

Being a huge Batman fan I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read a lot of the major stories about the character in comic book form. I own a nice stack of graphic novels but can never find the time to sit down and give them a read. Note to self: Do that soon.

Anyway, whenever there is a new film or television show involving Batman I always jump on it as soon as I can. Warner Bros. Animation has been kicking ass on this front for decades now and their newest release is based on one of the most well known of these comic book stories, Batman: The Killing Joke, and had a limited theatrical release that I was more than happy to take advantage of.
The Joker (voice of Mark Hamill) nearly kills Barbara Gordon/Batgirl (voice of Tara Strong) and Batman (voice of Kevin Conroy) embarks on a personal crusade to stop him once and for all.

“The Killing Joke” is most well known for two things:
1.     Barbara Gordon gets paralyzed by The Joker.
2.     We get a nice bit of backstory on The Joker before he became The Clown Prince of Crime.

And that’s it. I haven't read the graphic novel, but in the film Batgirl and Batman have a nice little sexcapade on a rooftop, there is more than the average amount of violence spread around as well as an implied rape. The story goes to dark places that most comic books usually shy away from. But outside of those two plot points there really isn’t much to the story of “The Killing Joke”. This translates to the film version exponentially as I was alternately bored and underwhelmed by it.
For starters, The Joker seems like an afterthought as are the lame and overly cliché flashbacks to his past. The character is just sort of thrown into the story randomly and there is nothing to trigger his flashbacks like a story parallel in the present day. They are just shoehorned in because, hey, why not. His motivations for why he takes over a carnival and employs the sideshow freaks isn’t made clear outside of his plans to drive Commissioner Gordon mad. It just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about it and comes off as tremendously fan servicey. Why is The Joker even there? Because that’s what people want to see - The Joker.

The first half of the film deals with what I thought was the more interesting story - Barbara Gordon getting a little miffed at how Batman holds her back only to realize the reason he is doing so is because they share feelings for each other. But once The Joker is awkwardly introduced at the midway point her character is just thrown aside. Sure she’s in a hospital recovering, but still. She was the focus of the first half and she’s abandoned for the second.

Sure the animation is awesome (love the design of The Joker) not counting the few times the CG-enhancements were plainly obvious (the carousel). The few action scenes are pretty fun. The voice acting is phenomenal. Tara Strong is one of my all time favorite voice actors (if you’re not following her Vine account you have yet to live) and Mark Hamill came out of “Joker Retirement” to play the character once again as did Kevin Conroy to play Batman. The musical score is phenomenal and only utilizes strings (my favorite orchestral section). Technically this is a great animated film.
It just saddens me that I could not get into the story. It’s fragmented and did nothing for me. Not even the final scene. As I looked around the theater as it played out everyone seemed completely enthralled and I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t as well. It felt completely underwhelming and more than a little bit anticlimactic. The story (what was there anyway) seemed to building up to something big, like some sort of reveal or revelation. Instead The Joker tells Batman a joke (which I will admit was pretty funny), they share a laugh like a couple of bros and then the credits roll. The friend I was with at the screening looked at me and said “That’s it?!”

Yes, that is it. That is an hour of my life I will never get back. I felt infuriated that Batman just stood there knowing what this psycho did to Barbara and goes for the pacifist approach instead of beating his head in. I understand that Batman’s way of dealing with The Joker was trying to prove a certain point, but this was the cheesiest way of going about it. Sorry dear writers and fans. It’s just how I feel.

There are moments here and there that are fun and very well executed, but on the whole I just found the story to be simpley meh. This is one of the more celebrated stories involving these characters and I cannot figure out for the life of me why. “The Dark Knight Returns” undoubtedly deserves that honor. “A Death in the Family” as well. “Knightfall”, sure. “Hush”, oh hellz yes. “The Killing Joke”… why? I really need someone to explain it to me.
Maybe as a comic book this story works. As I’ve never read it I cannot claim that it does. As a film not so much. Some stories just aren’t meant to be translated to the medium as far as I’m concerned. This, sadly, is one of them. Just because Mark Hamill came back to play The Joker one more time shouldn’t get the film an automatic pass (which is all I heard people talking about after the screening). I kind of want a good story to go along with the outstanding voice talent. The former was missing. Sorry.

2 out of 5

P.S. Why was this rated “R” again? Oh yeah. Publicity stunt.

P.P.S. If you look closely at the screens in the Batcave showing the different pictures of The Joker, one is of Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Deadpool

So the film adaptation of Deadpool was released this past weekend to take advantage of those lucrative Valentine’s Day dollars and made an absolute killing at the box office. It made so much cash that the viability of this property as a franchise is secured for many sequels to come. But was the film really all that good? I mean, this is an R-rated comic book film that focuses on a crude, loudmouthed and brutally violent character that would most likely cut off your head and ejaculate into your neck stump. How did it make all that money without the PG-13 teenybopper bucks? 

Because it’s fucking awesome. That’s how. 
Mercenary for hire Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has found the woman of his dreams (Morena Baccarin) as he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Promised a cure that will also give him superpowers by the mysterious Ajax (Ed Skrein), he is deceived and embarks on a violent quest for revenge.

So if you are not fully aware, the Deadpool character is an absolute loon. He’s certifiably crazy. He constantly talks shit, breaks the fourth wall and will kill someone in a heartbeat. Unpredictable. And my greatest fear was that this character would become so gratingly annoying that I wouldn’t want to see it through to the end. I was wrong to assume that. This is one of the most impressively made, well written and genuinely funny films I’ve seen in a while. And being that I’m no fan of Ryan Reynolds, who I usually DO find annoying, that’s really saying something.
Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) really seem to understand this character and how to translate him to screen without compromising what makes him so appealing to comic book fans around the world. They also wrote one of the most accurate adaptations of a comic book series. The jokes are funny and not forced even though some of them do miss the mark, the characters are fleshed out well enough that you actually give a crap if they live or die, the villains are diabolical to a point that you want to see the hero open a can of whoop ass upon them (but their motivations are kind of lame and underwhelming) and the way in which they weave the tale is fun and keeps the story moving at a fast clip regardless of the fact that there really isn’t all that much going on in the action department. And the way the script pokes fun at Reynolds' past brushes with superherodom... priceless.

The aspect of the screenplay that works the best – the love story. Yeah, yeah. I know what you’re saying. “But this is a comic book movie, Chris!” Yes it is, but the reason Wade gets into the pickle he does is because of his love for Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa. We see them fall in love under odd circumstances and get a real feeling that they do love each other. It helps that Reynolds and Baccarin have amazing chemistry so I honestly felt that they did feel all these emotions. Hokey, but true. If this aspect of the film never worked I doubt anything in the movie would have. It gives weight to Wade’s decisions and the payoff of their relationship is amazing in the end.
This is director Tim Miller’s first feature film gig after working in visual FX for a number of years and I have to admit that this is one supremely impressive debut. He certainly has a handle on the comic book visuals (love that slo-mo bullet time shot during the opening credits), knows how to get his well-cast actors to perform admirably and managed to stretch his meager budget to the max (this flick looks like it cost well past the $58m he was given). I hope he sticks around for the inevitable sequels because he brings a fun energy that seemed to rub off on everyone in the cast as they all look like they’re having the time of their lives. The rad non-linear way the story is told is a revelation for this type of film and I have a sneaking suspicion that comic book films will begin to emulate this technique in the years to come.

Ryan Reynolds, who played this character before in the back alley abortion known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, gets a second chance to play Deadpool (the right way this time) and takes full advantage of it. He’s great in the dramatic scenes, hysterically funny (95% of the time) and pulls off his action scenes with aplomb. He was born to play this part and I’m glad that casting agents felt the same way. Morena Baccarin (Serenity) is sexy as always and shows off her silly side more than once as well as some serious acting chops when the need arises. TJ Miller (Cloverfield, Transformers: Age of Extinction) is dryly funny as usual and is a great addition to the cast. I absolutely HEART Stefan Kapicic as Colossus. He’s the perfect straight man. Brianna Hildebrand is also perfectly cast as Negasonic Teenage Warhead (a very minor character who is usually the first one to be taken out during battles in the “X-Men” comics). Her nihilistic attitude to everything is refreshing where most of the actors seem to be turned up to 11. Ed Skrein (The Transporter: Refueled) is a good villain regardless of the fact that Ajax is a little underwritten. But I really, really do not like Gina Carano (Haywire, Fast & Furious 6). I thought she’d have gotten her shit together by now and taken a few acting classes. She’d be perfect as a full on superhero (I suspect we’ll see Ronda Rousey as a major superheroine sooner than her), but she is a fucking horrendous actress. She’s a like a female Howie Long in that her facial expressions never seem to change regardless of what’s going on around her. It’s sad because she has the presence, she just needs the enthusiasm. I have to say that I also immensely enjoyed Leslie Uggams (Nurse Jackie) as Blind Al. She had a great love/hate thing going on with Deadpool that was supremely fun to see in action.
I will say that not everything is awesome. No movie is perfect regardless of how entertaining it may be. The CGI used for Colossus was cartoony and looked like something you’d have seen in a movie circa 1999. I mentioned before that not all the jokes were great and I felt that the constant showing off of Ryan Reynolds face, even when scarred up, was a little overused. If I remember correctly Deadpool rarely ever showed off his ugly mug to anyone in the comics. So this situation must’ve been akin to the Sylvester Stallone debacle in Judge Dredd where the producers felt that if they were paying this megastar $20m they had better show off his face as much as possible. It’s not that big of a deal, but felt it warranted a mention. I also felt that some of the action was a little underwhelming. When you think about it the reason the non-linear storytelling was utilized was so that the movie wouldn’t be completely backloaded with action. All the fights and shootouts happen at the end of the story, so by mixing things up we get to see some of it at the beginning and dispersed throughout the movie. Without this technique this could have been one very tedious movie. Editing win! But what we get to see is cool but also kind of cliché comic book stuff. We see people flipping around and slashing at people all the time. Hopefully in the sequel we’ll see more creativity due to the new characters that will be introduced. For example, Negasonic Teenage Warhead had the best moments because she used her powers not to directly hit people, but launch bulky items around and fling Deadpool through the air. That was rad.

Just know that Deadpool is awesome and is a great example of how to make an adult comic book movie right. I suspect we’ll be seeing a resurgence of violent, edgy and vulgar comic book characters on film soon. Not too different from when Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year-Old Virgin made R-rated comedies a profitable business again. A Blade reboot? A new Punisher film? Who knows. I just know that I absolutely loved (nearly) every second of Deadpool. I’m sure you will too. 

4.5 out of 5

Friday, January 29, 2016

The X-Files: Season 10, Episode 1 - "My Struggle"

I do believe it was around the end of Season 6 that I finally checked out of The X-Files. I enjoyed the first few seasons of the lauded series and LOVED the first film (don’t ask me about the second one or I will unfriend you) but after that it seemed to turn stale. Once David Duchovny left at the end of season 7 I knew I had made the right decision. I mean, if one of the two main stars was bailing on it, why shouldn’t I? Without him it just wouldn’t be the same. 

So here we are. It’s been 14 years since the show ended its run and a limited series revival has begun. Is it good enough to bring me back into the fold?

The new series picks up with a television host (Joel McHale) contacting former FBI agents Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) in regards to an alien conspiracy he has uncovered within the US government and plans to go public with on his show.
I will admit that this new series had me surprisingly invested at the start with its interesting set-up and a very convincing performance from an unorthodox casting choice – Joel McHale (Community, The Soup). The script from writer/director/series creator Chris Carter moves at lightning speed to not only catch us up on what’s been going on with Mulder and Scully in the interim (thankfully this series seems to be ignoring the existence of I Want To Believe) but to re-thrust the characters into the overall mythology as quickly as possible. It works, but I did have some issues with the presentation.

My main beef is that the series expects, no, requires that the viewers know every single detail of the alien colonization plot that was the bread and butter of the original run. Each. And. Every. Detail. It’s been a while since I re-watched the show, but I managed to get by. Newbies on the other hand will be completely lost. I’m sure this series was made for the fans, but there is an untapped audience out there that could become potential viewers should the series continue. I don’t foresee anyone that’s not already an X-Phile sticking with the show past this pilot episode. 
IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE PILOT EPISODE BE WARNED – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD 

Another gripe is with Mulder. In the original show he was prone to believing in whatever situation he and his partner happened to find themselves in without hesitation. Giant flukeworm monster. Yes. A dude can predict the day of his own death and the deaths of others. Of course. Bees are being used to carry a parasitic alien virus that will impregnate the human population with otherworldly beings. Why not. But never in a million years would I buy the fact that one girl would be able to spin a tale so ridiculous to Mulder that he would throw out everything he knows to be true and has experienced personally. It almost felt insulting, as if Carter was trying to purposely move away from the alien colonization storyline once and for all, just as he did during the Duchovny-less years with that super soldier crap, by having one of the main characters spit on his own beliefs. When Mulder started preaching to Scully about how, “We’ve all been lied to!” I inwardly groaned, as did Scully during those scenes. 

END SPOILERS 
Outside of that, I found this to be a somewhat successful return for The X-Files. I really enjoyed the interplay between Mulder and Scully, all the sights we are given access to that revolve around the mythology plotline were cool and fun (loved the UFO hybrid ship that can fold space), and it left me feeling a little excited to see where the show is headed during its limited run.

However, I do feel that series creators need to stop directing their own shows. Vince Gilligan (formerly of The X-Files) directed several key episodes of Breaking Bad. Joss Whedon helmed various episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Agents of SHIELD. And Chris Carter joins the ever-growing list (he also directed I Want to Believe). Some made the transition successfully. Actually everyone I mentioned has… except Chris Carter. I have no problem with him personally, but Carter has absolutely no visual style. This episode is boring to look at despite all the cool events going on and the chemistry of the two main stars. It’s almost like he pulled a George Lucas and just said “Stand there and you know the rest” to his actors. Let the people who actually have experience take the reigns please. With other modern day television shows looking more like big budget Hollywood fare The X-Files feels like a relic of the past in the visual department.
But like I said, I kind of enjoyed the episode as a whole despite its faults. Sure there are things that bugged me. I’m a longtime fan. Of course things will seem out of place and awkward after all this time goes by. It will never be EXACTLY the same as the original. The actors have aged considerably, technology has improved, storytelling techniques for television have evolved and the way people watch television has even changed completely. Just like the original run, I’m sure this will settle into a groove just fine. I’m just glad the show is back where it belongs. But 6 episodes?! 6?! Really? Agent Carter is getting 10 episodes (I’m not digging on the current season so if it ends here I’ll be okay with it), but The X-Files only gets 6. Lamesauce.

But please, Chris Carter, no more movies. I was shocked to see how many millions of people tuned in for this premiere episode despite the quality of The X-Files: I Want to Believe. In fact, I’m surprised I even watched it after that joke of a flick. But will The X-Files return to television again if this run is a huge hit? Only time will tell.

2.5 out of 5

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Revenant

While on vacation in Los Angeles in mid/late December I had the opportunity so see a bunch of new movies. One of which was The Revenant.  At the time I was visiting the film was only playing in theaters in L.A. and New York, so I took advantage of this in full.

All the hype about the level of violence featured in The Revenant before its release really piqued my curiosity. I know that sounds morbid, but I took the comments as a cheap way for the advertising people at 20th Century Fox to get audiences worked up about their big budget art film, because we all crave a good trainwreck once in a while. I wanted to see if the movie really lived up to what the claims were making it out to be.

Boy howdy, is this movie tough to watch. It’s also more than a little amazing.
The Revenant is based on the true story of frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his battle to survive after being left for dead by his crew due to a brutal bear mauling while on a fur trading expedition and his quest for revenge against the man (Tom Hardy) that murdered his son (Forrest Goodluck) in cold blood.

I want to get the violence aspect out of the way first. Yes, this film is horrifically violent. It’s extremely hard to watch in some spots. Specifically the scene involving the horse. However, most of the nastiest bits are left just out of view. Sure the bear mauling is disgusting, but we only really see outright gore once. It’s the sound effects and DiCaprio’s performance that really sells the brutality of the scene. The whole movie is structured like that. Some of the events that these characters partake in are disgusting in various ways, but what our imaginations conjure up in place of what isn’t fully seen is way worse. Genius move. But that horse scene is… oh, man. So gross.
But the main reason to venture out into the cold weather this winter and see this film is the outstanding performances from absolutely everyone in the cast. I feel Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Titanic, The Beach) will finally win that much deserved Oscar for his portrayal as Glass. He gives his part such a quiet intensity since his character doesn’t talk much and has to sell all his pent up rage and sadness through facial expressions and body language. He is phenomenal in the part, and even had to forgo his vegetarianism at one point to eat a fresh bison liver on camera. Because dedication. Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Bronson, Star Trek: Nemesis) is good at playing rotten assholes, and as John Fitzgerald he goes for broke and plays him as the sleaziest, most dislikable and self-centered bastard of all time. You just love to hate him. I also enjoyed Domhnall Gleeson and especially Will Poulter in their parts. Who knew that the kid who was bitten on the nuts by a tarantula in We’re the Millers had dramatic acting chops like this within?!

I really wanted to discuss the look of the film, because I had no idea that it was shot completely with natural light while I was watching it. I thought there was some kind of post-production filter added to give the footage a bleak, cold feeling. Nope. Overcast days in the winter were all they needed to pull that look off and it adds so much to the atmosphere of the piece. All the locations are starkly beautiful and the way Emmanuel Lubezki (Gravity, Children of Men) shoots them with the natural light actually immersed me in the film more than usual. It made it more realistic feeling because that’s what I see day to day during the winter, not some super bright and perfectly lit wonderland. I hope more filmmakers adopt this style of lighting in the future. I’m sure it’s a bitch to work with, as nature usually is, but it's immensely impressive when utilized correctly.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance], 21 Grams) sounds like an absolute madman the more I read about him. Framing his previous movie as one continuous shot (broken up by various undetectable means) is impressive, and there is another excellent example of this during the native's assault on the trading camp at the top of the movie, but wanting to shoot his big budget wilderness film with all natural light during the winter when the days are shorter, then uproot your entire production from Canada because you are behind schedule and summer is approaching all the way to southern Argentina where it is still a winter wonderland is more than a little cray cray. But I suspect there is a method to his madness, because he keeps impressing me with every movie he unleashes upon audiences. He has yet to repeat himself like most directors seem to nowadays (I like Michael Bay and all, but can he please make a movie that isn’t a super contrasty explosionfest for a change?), and seems to want to up his game with each new project. We all know he wrangles fantastic performances out of his actors, but he also knows how to tell stories that are both visually stunning as well as thematically moving. I might not have been a big fan of his in the last decade (I found 21 Grams and Babel to be boring in the extreme), but he’s really hit his stride in the teens. I look forward to what he does next for sure.

The script by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro González Iñárritu, based off Michael Punke’s novel of the same name, changes a lot of the details of the true story of Hugh Glass (i.e. the story took place during the spring and Glass had to contend with his mauled flesh rotting in the sun), but it works spectacularly for the film. We really get to see what makes the two main characters tick, why they are the way they are and what motivates them to do the things they do. We understand why Fitzgerald wants to leave Glass behind, because sitting around waiting for help isn’t going to get him paid. Especially if the natives hot on the party’s trail catch up to them and make them dead. Can you really blame him? How he goes about it ends up being one of the most heinous acts of douchebaggery I’ve seen on film. And he continues to keep digging a deeper grave for himself the further the story progresses due to his self-destructive nature and selfish ways. In the case of Glass, even though he’s on a quest for revenge he still manages to discover how the disrespect of nature will ruin you, like Fitzgerald, and sometimes revenge is the best motivation to persevere and never give up. Not even when you’re knocking on death’s door. And then sometimes you just need to straight up merc the motherfucker who murdered your son. I liked all the parallels drawn between the protagonist and the antagonist, and how each had a completely different outlook on life and how they benefit from it/suffer for it in different ways.
Sure the movie gets a little long in the tooth in the middle with long drawn out shots of DiCaprio staring blankly out into the wilderness. Yeah, I get it. He knows he’s fucked. Stop ramming it down out throats. I also don’t think that Glass’ wounds would heal so fast. In the real story it took Glass months to crawl back to civilization. The film makes it look like a matter of days. And all the stuff that happens to him on the trip back to the fur trader camp would have reopened and reinjured him multiple times over, yet it never seems to happen. Gotta call BS.

Minor issues aside, The Revenant is one of the best movies I saw in 2015. I wasn’t sure if it would be my cup of tea, but sometimes you need a movie that’s as reflective as it is brutal. The Revenant certainly qualifies in that regard. It’s fantastically engaging and I now sing its praises to anyone who will listen. Although I don’t think it’s a movie I will want to watch again any time soon. It’s that heavy.

4.5 out of 5

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Best and Worst Films of 2015


Alright, Ladies and Gents, the Geektastic Film Reviews vacation is officially over. And what is one to do when you run a blog that features reviews of (mainly) movies at the beginning of a new year? You make a top ten list of flicks from the previous year, that’s what. Because tradition. Yup.

I saw some amazing movies and some absolute trash in 2015, but that can summarize the film scene of any year. Regardless, these are my picks and mine alone. If you see a movie you didn’t like in the #1 spot please don’t pitch a hissy. This is only my opinion featured here and not the final word on the subject.

Additionally, I have not seen every movie released this past year (believe me, I tried), and there will be a few flicks listed that I have not reviewed on this blog (yet) that I saw over my vacation.

Also, I rarely base my opinions on how well made or "important" a movie is. I go by how much I was entertained by or moved by a particular film (and for those that know me well, I really just want to be "entertained" by a film). So here we go... 

Geektastic Film Reviews’ Top Ten Films of 2015:
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
9. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
8. The Hateful Eight
7. Predestination
6. Furious 7
5. The Gift
4. Ex Machina
3. The Martian
2. The Revenant
1. Mad Max: Fury Road 


Honorable Mentions: Ant-Man, Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Insidious 3, Terminator: Genisys, Pixels, The Last Witch Hunter, The Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Run All Night 

Geektastic Film Reviews’ Ten Worst Films of 2015:
10. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
9. Hitman: Agent 47
8. Crimson Peak
7. Taken 3
6. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
5. Spy
4. Poltergeist
3. Spectre
2. Freaks of Nature
1. Star Trek: Renegades 


Dishonorable Mentions: Chappie, Jurassic World, Tremors 5: Bloodlines, Fantastic Four, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Ridiculous 6, Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, Vacation, Kung Fury

 Most Anticipated Films of 2016:
10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
9. Hail, Caesar!
8. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
7. Assassin’s Creed
6. Deadpool
5. X-Men: Apocalypse
4. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
3. Doctor Strange
2. Captain America: Civil War
1. Star Trek: Beyond 


Least Anticipated Films of 2016:
10. Ride Along 2
9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
8. Angry Birds: The Movie
7. Alice: Through the Looking Glass
6. Finding Dory
5. Pete’s Dragon
4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
3. London Has Fallen
2. Cabin Fever
1. Ghostbusters


Well, there you have it. It was hard picking some of these movies for each list as there were so many to choose from, but these are my final choices. Feel free to share your favorite/least favorite films of 2015 in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!