Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life – Movie Review: No, This is Not a Venom Prequel Film

There has probably never been a more attractive Astronaut crew on the international space station.

Life: starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, and directed by Daniel Espionosa. Life is about the discovery of an Alien lifeform from Mars. The crew brings the form out of its hibernating or static state from the Red Planet. This then causes the creature to go on a destructive rampage on the International Space Station. You can either view its actions as trying to preserve its own life or maliciously trying to kill all those aboard the station. The movie has a terrifying premise which has been done before, but it’s still done effectively in this film. Life is a fun, tense, and suspenseful ride which is best enjoyed without thinking too hard about some of the leaps in logic it takes towards the end of the film.

The story is simple for the movie. The group of Astronauts on the space station are tasked with retrieving a capsule with soil samples coming back from Mars. An unmanned expedition on the planet found biological material on the surface. The probe picked up the samples and brought it back for the scientist to examine. While researching the cells Bakare’s character, Hugh, gets them to reanimate. Things then go sideways when the life form starts to grow and protect itself. What follows are the dilemmas the Astronauts must face in trying to survive while also protecting Earth from the Martian. The best part of the film’s story is the juxtaposition from hope and wonderment at the start of the movie to sheer terror at the end. The human race found proof of life from another planet, only to then wonder if things may be left better if undiscovered.

The story presents characters who each have different reactions to how they view the Martian based on their job at the station.  All the performances are good with Jake Gyllenhaal a standout as always. If you have seen the trailers for the film you may have some preconceived notions about what is going to happen with him, but the story keeps you guessing, for at least the first part of film. There isn’t much for any character to do in the movie except be terrified of the Alien. I’m surprised they were able to pull in Reynolds and Gyllenhaal together with Ferguson, who is also a star on the rise, for this film. Reynolds plays his usual quippy funny self, and does it well as always. It’s hard not to like the guy. Personally, I would like to see him try a more dramatic role again, like he did in Buried, but these roles seem to be working for him. Ferguson does a good job as well, but again there isn’t much for her character to do other than give some exposition and float away from the creature. She does have some voice over work as well, which might annoy some, but I didn’t think it took away from the story. Bakare’s character, Hugh is probably the most interesting and the one who feels the most for the Martian in the movie. There is a decision he makes towards the end which I don’t think fits the story and it is one of my issues with the latter part of the film.

Enjoyment for Life is going to predicated by how lost you can get in the story. The second half of the film caused issues for me because I didn’t buy into some of the events which happen on the Space Station. Having just a cursory knowledge of NASA or other space agencies processes causes the story falls apart. If you have no knowledge of how things work on the ISS it will help enjoyment for the film. I was taken out of the story by not being able to believe the events unfolding on the station. The actions the characters take towards the last half of the movie also seem unneeded and are used to just propel the narrative instead of making actual sense for true astronauts. Their actions fall into the generic stupid horror movie trope. What makes it worse in this scenario is these people are supposed to be extremely smart scientist who should know better.  Being able to get past these story elements will be the difference in loving the film or just simply liking it.

Overall the film does provide some killer tension and had me on the edge of my seat countless times. Being in the vacuum of space also adds another scary element to the movie, and it is used well. The character design of the Martian is also awesome and as the tension in the story grows so does the scariness of the alien. The deaths in the film are all well done and some truly horrifying. If you get your kicks from watching horror films then Life is a must see. The movie delivers on being a scary suspenseful sci-fi horror, but depending on how much you can get past the logical leaps at the end will affect your overall enjoyment. The film is worth seeing either in the theater or on rental, and I would watch it again if it was on. The horror elements alone would be able to hold my attention for repeat viewings.

Comment and let me know if you have seen Life. If you haven’t let me know your favorite Martian invasion film.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty and The Beast (2017) – Movie Review: The Animated Story Realized ...

I’ve owned three Disney movies in every available format. Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and Beauty and The Beast. You are darn right I saw this on opening night.

Beauty and The Beast; starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Cline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and directed by Bill Condon. Beauty and the Beast is the remake of the classic 1991 Disney animated film. It recaptures all the magic of the previous movie and adds to the overall story. I was blown away with Beauty and the Beast and how the movie translated the animated version into live action. The movie takes CG and live action characters and retells the story to near perfection. If you are a fan of the original, and don’t mind some subtle changes, then there is very little to be disappointed in the live action Beauty and the Beast.

The performances across the board were all great and each actor captured the spirit of the characters found in the animated version of film. Emma Watson was brilliant as Belle and found the perfect amount of quirkiness and determination the role demanded. Watson’s Belle may have been even more fearless than the animated version and the added backstory about her mother was a welcome addition.  She held the entire film together and did a great job of interacting with CG characters for the film. Dan Stevens was great as The Prince/Beast. The added backstory for his character was also welcome. I personally would have welcomed even more about his past and how he ended up the cold heartless prince at the start of the story. The hints were enough to keep the story on pace and more wasn’t needed, but I would have welcomed spending more time in the world. The CG was also well done on The Beast, which I get may not be the most popular opinion, but it worked well for me and sucked me into the movie.

The CG and voice performances for the castle staff was also spot on. The only one I found slightly off was the dresser. A character which I was worried about from the trailers was Lumiere voiced by Ewan McGregor. From the trailers I wasn’t sure his accent was going to be believable in the film, but he was fantastic. He provided some of the funniest lines in the film along with Ian Mckellen’s Cogsworth. Their comedic relief was just as good as the original and in some spots better. The characters were different enough from the originals to stand on their own, while still paying respect to what came before. Which goes for all the cast in the film. Each one can stand on its own and is different enough to separate from the animated classic. Both films are magical and both can be separated on their own with the performances.

The show stealers for the film are Luke Evans and Josh Gad. Every scene they are on screen together as Gaston and Lefou is fantastic. Luke Evans is the perfect real life representation of the animated pompous self-absorbed narcissist. Gad as the trusty sidekick Le fou was hilarious and the added moments of character are a plus to the movie overall. I did think film was going to go in one direction towards the end with Gaston, but it didn’t end up playing out. It probably would have been too big of a departure if they would have gone this way, but I would have enjoyed it. It was a joy to see these characters in live action and I had smile firmly on my face whenever they were on screen. Gaston is the perfect character to hate, and Luke Evans did a great job in getting this across.

I might be looking at Beauty and the Beast with nostalgia filled glasses, but I didn’t find anything glaringly wrong with the movie. There are small things to nitpick; like one of the very last lines of the film seems out of place, or the shot with Belle overlooking the village at the start seems like Sound of Music, but this is about it. I could see some not liking the changes from the original, but for me the added backstory helped flesh out the characters more than the animated version. I’ve heard some grumblings about Watson’s singing and her being autotuned. I’m no signing expert and her performance drew me into the story on all fronts. The pacing of the film was spot on and there wasn’t a lull during any point of the movie. Besides the small nitpicks there isn’t anything I would change for the film.

The live action Beauty and The Beast did exactly what I wanted the movie to do. It stayed true to the original source material, but was different enough in character performances and added backstory to stand on its own. Fans of the original classic will be swept away with the story. The movie is a must see in theaters, and one I will go back to the theater and see again. Beauty and the Beast is a classic, and the live action version still lived up to this name.

What did you think of Beauty and the Beast? Did it meet your expectations or did it disappoint? What live action remake are you most looking forward too or least looking forward too if you don’t like these remakes. Comment and let me know. Like share subscribe and all that fun stuff. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Star Wars Rebels S3E17 Secret Cargo Review (Spoilers): A Rebellion United

Episode seventeen for season three of Star Wars Rebels, Secret Cargo, introduced Mon Mothma to the show. The episode starts with the crew of the ghost waiting to deliver fuel to another transport. The mission is shrouded in secrecy and the crew isn’t sure exactly what they are doing in the system. The crew has to fend off a probe droid which comes into the system, but doesn’t stop the droid before it gets a signal off. The droid we soon find was looking for the ship Mon Mothma was aboard. The Senator delivered a scathing speech on Emperor Palpatine and went on the run. Mothma needed the fuel from the Ghost to try and make it to the secret Rebel Base on Dantooine. After an attack on the convoy Mon Mothma is forced onto the Ghost and the crew is tasked with getting her to safety.

Secret Cargo was another extremely strong episode for this season of Rebels. The entire second half of the season has been some of the strongest of episodes in the entire series. The show might be better served in cutting down the number of episodes to focus more on these types of episodes instead of some of the filler found in the first half of the season. Secret Cargo provided a vital element to the overall canon of the Star Wars universe by showing how Mon Mothma left the senate and united the different Rebel factions under one banner as the Rebel Alliance. This story was an interesting one to see and fit perfectly for an episode of Rebels. The actress who played Mon Mothma in Rogue One reprised her role in the episode and did a great job. She provided the right amount of weight to the performance and was really well served in the episode. Hera was another focal point for the episode and it was interesting to see the dynamic between her and Mon Mothma.

One thing Rebels has always seemed to do extremely well is space action, and this Secret Cargo did not disappoint. There a few space battles littered throughout the short twenty-two-minute episode and each one was well done. The only complaint for the battles was how high powered the show made the Tie Defender. The showrunners might create and issue in cannon by making such a ship so powerful and then it never shows up during Empire or Return of the Jedi. Other than this all of the fights between the Imperials and Rebels were extremely well done and exciting. Having some of the fights take place in the nebula was another great aspect and something never shown before in Star Wars. It was a nice touch to show how Hera used the Nebula twice to outsmart the Imperials.

An issue with throughout all of Rebels is how the Imperials have never been menacing, except for the Vader and the Inquisitors. Kallus in the first season was one example where this wasn’t the case, but all others have been bumbling idiots. This usually means the crews missions have no stakes because they are going to succeed against the inept Empire. This episode was the opposite of this. Thrawn had Hera and the Ghost dead to rights. His plan worked brilliantly, it just was bested by Hera using the Nebula to get away. Their seemed to be stakes in this episode, and only great improvising allowed the Rebels to escape. If Thrawn were at the battle he would have positioned the Star Destroyers differently so the Nebula wouldn’t have had an effect.  Thrawn will more than likely have poor things to say to the governor and admiral who led the attack. Having Thrawn in command of the Imperials makes them more effective and the stakes are increased when they face off, which has been missing from episodes of Rebels in the past.

The only other small nitpick other than the overpowered Tie Defender was the unneeded exposition telling the audience about the nebula twice in a short twenty-minute episode. It wasn’t needed, but since Rebels is supposed to be for kids it wasn’t a horrible. I think kids who watch Rebels wouldn’t have needed the reminder and could have figured out why Hera had the Y-Wing fire at the nebula. Two minor nitpicks in an otherwise fantastic episode which expanded the lore of the Star Wars universe and advanced the overall story for the show. Hopefully the trend of the great second half of the show continues until the season finale. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Logan – Movie Review: Hugh Jackman’s Final Performance as Wolverine Deli...

Takeaway the claws replace and give Logan guns and this becomes a Western.

Logan, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Brody Holbrook, and directed by James Mangold. Logan is Hugh Jackman’s supposed last turn as the iconic Wolverine. The movie takes place in a near future in which most mutants have died and no more have been born. Logan is caring for an aging Professor Xavier when a young girl enters their life and forces them onto the run. The trailers for Logan have given this much story, and if you haven’t seen the film yet experience it before knowing more than this. Logan’s marketing team gave the right amount of tone and story to get people excited for the film without giving anything away for this amazing movie.

There isn’t much wrong with Logan. The story goes places not many comic book films have gone before, and uses every bit of its R rating to good effect. The film is an emotional roller coaster and it plays on the fact many have been fans of Hugh’s performances for the past seventeen years.  He doesn’t disappoint in what might be his last appearance as the character. Logan finally delivers a solo film worthy for Wolverine. It has everything we have come to expect from the character. Logan is the reluctant hero who is troubled by all he has seen and done. He’s afraid to get close or help in fear of losing something again. He still feels a deep connection to Professor X and their relationship is a key component to the entire narrative. It is also Professor X who pushes Logan to look after Laura when she shows up. Xavier knows Logan needs the connection to help him continue to want to live in a world which consistently beats him down.

The story does draw Logan out of his shell to where he does want to engage with Laura and protect her.           Dafne Keen is stunning as the young mutant X-23. She nearly steals the entire film with her performance, in which she doesn’t talk for most of it.  She is able to convey her emotions through action and her eyes and they speak loudly. Dafne’s performance next to Hugh’s is my favorite part of Logan. Her raw emotion during certain scenes was truly remarkable. I don’t know how much she was actually used for her action sequences, but those were stunning as well. Jackman of course delivers in his action scenes, and it was interesting to see an older slower Logan in this film. For most of the movie he struggles to come to grips with this fact. The only throw away character in the film is the villain played by Brody Holbrook. He’s fine and serviceable, but he doesn’t add too much to the movie. The character doesn’t need to add much for the story which is told. He’s there to drive the plot forward, and does a good job in this function. The villains are the weakest element in the story, but their part doesn’t need to be strong for the story to be effective.

There are a few small nitpicks with Logan, but not much to complain about. The pacing of the story does slow down at one point towards the finale. A few scenes in this sequence where both cute and touching, but didn’t add much to the film overall. One or two could have been cut out to pick up the pace and get to the final fight. There is also a minor plot hole towards the last part of the film as well. No spoilers, but it has to do with how the bad guys approach the final fight. They should approach it one way, because of things said in the film, but approach it in another. In the end it is a very minor nitpick for a film and story executed nearly to perfection. Logan is also extremely violent, and because other X-Men films haven’t been this brutal it may be a slight shock to some just how far Mangold takes the violence. It wasn’t something which bothered me, but I could see if you were used to a standard X-Men film how it might have been a shock to the system. It also might be a slightly disturbing to see a young girl perform such brutal acts, but her violence and actions serve an importance to the story. Logan couldn’t save her without Laura helping to save herself.

Needless to say Logan is well worth seeing if you are any kind of comic book fan or have been a fan of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It is worth seeing if you are a fan of old school Western films in general. It very much pays homage to some of those stories. I’ll be seeing Logan again in theaters to take in the story. It is well deserving of a second viewing.
Let me know what you thought of Logan if you have seen it. If you have is it the best Super Hero film to date? I still think I put The Dark Knight above it, but I don’t know what else tops it at this point. If you haven’t seen it will you? Comment and let me know.