Movie Review: Jurassic World (2015)

Spoilers for all of Jurassic World. But it doesn’t matter, because you shouldn’t see it (at least in the theater — seriously, don’t pay for this movie) and also, you already know what happens (and you haven’t even seen the movie yet).

Chris Pratt, Raptor Wrangler (Whisperer)

Chris Pratt: Raptor Wrangler/Whisperer

There were many, many reasons I wanted to see this movie. The biggest of them being the fact that I love the original movie, Jurassic Park, endlessly. Not just because of my huge crush on Sam Neill, but also because it’s a surprisingly feminist movie. Laura Dern’s character, Dr. Ellie Sattler is pretty awesome in every way (what a great person to look up to!). She doesn’t need Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) or Alan Grant (the aforementioned Sam Neill) to save or rescue her. She’s smart and also quite a badass. And then you have Ariana Richards’ Lex Murphy. She’s afraid of the dinosaurs (but, be honest, who can blame her? They’re SCARY, they’re dinosaurs, they’re supposed to be dead and many of them want to eat you!), but when it comes right down to it, everyone left on the island would be dead if it wasn’t for Lex. She’s the computer nerd, the hacker, the brains and she saves her brother from those raptors, too. There are a hundred more reasons why Jurassic Park is a fantastic movie, like the dinosaurs, the music, all the characters, Jeff Goldblum … I could go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell you why Jurassic World failed me in basically every way.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and, failing that, I wanted to enjoy it and perhaps even like it. And, of course, that was my mistake. You see, I thought I had low expectations for the movie, but they weren’t low enough. I should’ve had no expectations and then, maybe, when it broke my heart from the very start, I wouldn’t have been quite so upset. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.

I originally wanted to see it because of the picture at the top of this post, Chris Pratt and the raptors. We’ve all seen the trailer, where he’s riding his motorcycle with those raptors, it’s pretty great. That and the fact that there were dinosaurs and it was a Jurassic Park movie that was going to follow in the footsteps of the first, meant that I was stoked, though apprehensive. I should’ve known better, of course I should’ve. But when you have movies like Jupiter Ascending, Mad Max Fury Road and a few others where the female characters are strong, well rounded individuals who are actually people, I was, you know, expecting something more. Those movies ruined me because for a moment I forgot we were in 2015, you know, the present day where ladies aren’t people and was expecting and hoping for something different, something better, something as good as the original.

Oh, Jurassic Park, you spoiled me. Why couldn’t Jurassic World have been a bit more like this? (source)

But me and Jurassic World, we started off on the very wrong foot. The movie begins with a family (why? I don’t know, it just does, we’re supposed to care about them, but instead they are awkward, at least the family stuff in the new Godzilla made us want to know more about those character instead of less, even if the result was less than interesting) and we find out later (I guess? they were so boring I didn’t pay attention) that the parents are getting divorced and the easiest way to do that is to send their kids to visit their aunt who runs this dinosaur theme park. The first thing I thought, though, was where is the girl? Why is it two boys? Why are they two white boys? And then I thought to myself, what have I gotten myself into and how can I get out of it?

There was a moment, standing in line waiting to go into the theater, when I noticed that the theater we were across from was playing Mad Max Fury Road, I turned to my friend and said we should just skip out on JW and go see MMFR again. She said she’d already watched it and plus, it was half over. I said, I didn’t care. Man, I wish I’d gone. Then I wouldn’t have had to watch this movie. Ugh, regrets.

Ugh

Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) — seriously, she wears that outfit throughout the whole movie. And look at how sensibly dressed Owen is. He’s a man, a real man, and he’s going to save her. Are we in really 2015?

So, the movie is already rubbing me the wrong way and we’re only ten minutes in (give or take). I’m trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s failing me. The kids get to the island where we meet their aunt, who should’ve been an awesome character because it turns out she’s the main character. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, who basically runs the park. There are actually a lot of issues with her character and Chris Pratt’s, many of which didn’t occur to me while I was watching and I’ve provided a bunch of links at the bottom of this post if you want more information. What I did think was that I wasn’t going to like her character because she was the biggest stereotype I’ve seen in a long time (but not the biggest one in this movie! #gross).

You see, the writers of JW proved that everything I said about what would happen if Speed was made now true. Seriously. Claire was dressed in business attire, high heels, and she was shrill. She was every stereotypical frigid female character and she spent the whole movie being rescued by men (specifically one man, who I will talk about shortly) and running around in high heels. She has no agency, her only purpose is to supplement her nephews and Chris Pratt’s character. I really, really wanted to like her. I mean, the movie is basically about her. But it was really hard because the stuff Howard was given to work with was crap. I will say, though, that toward the end of the movie we see who Claire could’ve been — a no-nonsense badass lady who is smart, sexy, AND awesome. We could’ve had it all, Jurassic World.

But now we have two boys I don’t care about, plus their aunt, who I don’t care about … which leaves me waiting for Chris Pratt.

Jurassic-Park-Gifs-jurassic-park-28760595-500-260

This is what you should — run away from Jurassic World. Run far, far away. Listen to Alan Grant, he knows what’s what.

First, a couple of things. Chris Pratt is really hot in this movie, but basically that’s his job. At this point, I was like, just put Chris Pratt and those raptors on the screen because I want to at least enjoy something. And so, that happened. And when it was Chris Pratt, the raptors, Vincent D’Onofrio, and the super great (and hot) Omar Sy, I was happy. And then, um. Claire goes to visit Chris Pratt’s character, Owen, at his weird house (does he live on the island, does everyone live on the island? I want to know more about this, why couldn’t we have a movie about the building of the park and … sorry, I’m distracted by what this movie could’ve been), I suddenly realize what this movie is about.

You see, Owen is also a stereotype. You don’t really notice it at first, it sneaks up on you and then he meets Claire and we realize he’s a macho man, he’s the hero (even if he’s not really the main character). You feel safe now that Owen’s around. And that’s because, Jurassic World, I’m sorry to say, is basically a movie about Owen and Claire developing a relationship. He’s going to save her, from the dinosaurs and from herself. The movie isn’t about dinosaurs, it’s not about the park, it’s not even about Vincent D’Onofrio’s crazy ideas about using the raptors as weapons (wtf, but maybe that movie would be interesting, too? We didn’t get that, though — I mean, they try it but the outcome is obvious.) — instead it’s a stupid story about Owen and Claire and honestly, we all know how this movie was going to end. Which brings up another point — this movie is predictable.

Of course, most movies are predictable, it’s partly because we’re always remaking things, partly because most stories have already been told in one way or another, and partly because very few big budget films take risks. JW is predictable in the worst possible way — everything I expect to happen, happens and it happens in basically the exact way I expected it to happen. There are things that startle me, but there’s no tension, no shockers. My only gleeful moments involved the raptors and the appearance (and the very end) of our favorite Lady T-Rex.

Which brings me to another thing about JW that completely disappointed me, the dinosaurs. I didn’t really like the hybrid dinosaur idea, but that’s what they were going with, so they did. Unfortunately, it seems they forgot that the point of dinosaur movies is, you know, the dinosaurs. JW is a dinosaur movie about people no one cares about and money. But it’s not even about corporate greed or the problems of meddling with animals that should have long stayed dead. JW doesn’t have a moral compass of any kind, which you know because there are hundreds of character who die terrible, un-Jurassic Park like deaths.

Alan Grant

Alan Grant see the dinosaurs for the first time. They’re amazing. They’re dinosaurs! Sadly, Jurassic World doesn’t know it’s a dinosaur movie.

This is because Jurassic World wants to be a monster movie. It wants to be a monster movie like Godzilla (the originals and the new one) and Pacific Rim. Like Godzilla, it gave us characters we didn’t care about and like Pacific Rim, it gave us the cheesy humor, but it failed at those, too. The humor was dumb, not clever (like the original movie and Pacific Rim) and we all cared even less about the characters than we did in the new Godzilla movie. The monsters weren’t scary, not even the realization of what the dumb hybrid dinosaur-monster-thing was spliced with (spoiler: raptors), and I certainly didn’t care if any of the characters were going to die (spoiler: only one of the “main” characters dies she and she’s a woman (Claire’s assistant, who was treated unfairly the whole movie (and is also a stereotype) and I still haven’t forgiven the movie for this). In trying so hard to be a monster movie Jurassic World forgot what it was — a dinosaur movie. We had no wonder, no awe, nothing that made us realize that we were in a theme park full of dinosaurs. There were a couple of moments, but they were few and far between, when the move briefly attempted to awe us. But unlike Jurassic Park, no one was impressed — not even the kids (who should’ve been) and not even Owen — and he even tries to get us to believe that he thinks that dinosaurs on their own should be impressive enough. No one’s buying it, dude, because you haven’t shown us anything, it’s all tell tell tell.

I wanted to love Jurassic World and that’s what doomed me. I set myself up for failure. After watching the movie, I was trying to explain why I didn’t like it but didn’t hate it to my sister. I wanted her to go see it so we could talk about it. But now … the more I think about it, the more I hate the movie. It wasn’t a waste of time (but man, I would’ve rather seen MMFR again), not really, but it wasn’t good. I probably enjoyed some of it (like the raptors, to be honest), but everything else was so bad that I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

So, should you see this movie? No. Not at all. Maybe in DVD, if you’re desperate to know what people are talking about.

Instead, go see Mad Max Fury Road if you haven’t (or again if you have), that’s money well spent. If you have to see a dinosaur movie, dust off your copy of Jurassic Park. But if you simply must go see Jurassic World (please don’t give this sexist movie a cent), please find the cheapest ticket you can possibly buy.

But I cannot, in good conscious, recommend this movie because it’s awful.

REMEMBER HOW AWESOME THIS WAS? Dr. Sattler is headdesking somewhere. She cannot believe this movie. And, you know what, neither can I? Go watch Jurassic Park again. You won’t regret it. (source)

Further reading on sexism in Jurassic World:

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Movie Review: Speed (1994)

Spoilers for the whole movie (though if you haven’t seen it …)

source unkown

(source: unknown)

The other day, while looking through my DVDs for something else, I discovered that I owned a copy of Speed on DVD. I was on the phone with my sister at the time and she got to witness my glee upon discovering I owned the movie. And then, of course, I had to watch it. Sadly, I started the movie with about 30 minutes until I had to leave for work, so it was split up by about 8 and a half hours, but that’s beside the point.

What happened was I watched up through the section where they’re getting awards for saving the people in the elevator. The main things I observed for this first 30 minutes or so of the film were as follows:

  • Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels are both REALLY young.
  • Keanus Reeves is surprisingly hot.
  • Joe Morton looked really familiar and then I realized played Henry on Eureka and everything made sense.
  • Even though I know what happens, and can quote some of the lines, I found the elevator stuff really tense — even now, over 20 years later.
  • Dennis Hopper is great at being a bad guy.
  • Keanu Reeves is really hot.
  • Keanu and Jeff’s character’s friendships reminded me of Steve and Danny from Hawaii Five-0 and John and Rodney from Stargate: Atlantis (Keanu’s character is Jack and Jeff’s character is Harry).
  • I really identify with the character Bob (who pushes the button — “What button did you push, Bob?”).
  • Did I mention Keanu Reeves is hot?

I know, right? But honestly, I think that at age 16, when I saw Speed, I didn’t really appreciate just how attractive Keanu was. Now, though, as an adult, I can very, very much appreciate it. Now, uh, back to the movie review.

I got home from work and put on the rest of the movie. I’ve seen this so many times that I basically know it by heart, but I realized, somewhere in the middle of their time on the bus, that I hadn’t seen it on DVD in a very, very long time. I realized this because none of the swearing was bleeped out and that surprised me until I remembered I wasn’t watching it on TV and instead DVD.

A GIF of that moment after Keanu Reeves shoots Jeff Daniels (“shoot the hostage”) in Speed. (source: bobbyfinger @ tumblr

A GIF of that moment after Keanu Reeves shoots Jeff Daniels (“shoot the hostage”) in Speed. (source: bobbyfinger @ tumblr

To be honest, not everything holds up well. The ridiculous parts, the bus jumping over the broken highway is nuts and now that I know that it’s impossible, it’s a bit funny compared to when it was in theaters. And, of course, the fact that their subway track isn’t finished in the end is also just too much. But none of that matters. The tension is still there — when the bus driver gets shot, it’s upsetting in the right ways and the same with Helen stepping off and being run over (though we don’t see it) when part of the bus blows up early.

I really like the friendship between Jack and Harry and it made me unhappy with Harry died. Necessary to the story, of course, but also sad. Which brings me to another point or rather, person. Sandra Bullock (oh my god, so young, too!) plays Annie and the incidental love interest of Jack. Now, if Speed were made today, Annie never would’ve been the one at the wheel nor would her character have taken the bus because she had her license suspended. Instead, Annie would’ve been on the bus because her car was in the shop and Jack or another male character would’ve been driving the bus instead.

(source: unknown)

But, of course, that’s not what happened. Instead, we get (and god, this is such a great thing that I never realized until watching this movie in 2015) a pretty kickass lady character. Annie doesn’t let anyone get away with anything. She adheres to the rules of the bus, she tries to save Helen, she bitches Jack out when he doesn’t tell her (or the passengers) shit. And she drives this big ass bus – which she’s never driven before. And then, at the end, after Jack tries everything to save her (she doesn’t even blame him for getting her into this mess, even though it’s sort of his fault), she tells him to leave. She says she’d rather sacrifice herself than him, too. And when he won’t leave, when he wraps his arms around her, she just cries. The amazement in her voice when she tells him he stayed is awesome.

Annie is an amazing character. Her dialogue is witty and funny, she’s smart and entertaining and she is the perfect foil for Jack’s stoic badassness. Although, of course, we know Jack is all cop, we know there’s more to him. He’s got a heart, we get that when he saves the woman in the elevator, when he shoots Harry to save his life, when his bus driver friend and then Harry are both killed. We know he cares — and we can see it when he doesn’t leave Annie to die alone.

There’s surprisingly a lot going on this this movie. Most of the people on the bus are people of color. Jack learns both their names and to trust them. And they, too, learn to trust him and each other. They know that if they don’t work together, they won’t survive. And, of course, they trust Annie to drive the bus for them.

I was really pleased with how much I enjoyed this movie, even though it’s 21 years old now. The special effects are pretty good, Keanu’s pretty to look at (so is Sandra, really), and the movie is just so damn entertaining. Plus, now that I’m older, I can appreciate so much more (like how it’s obvious now that there’s no way Dennis Hopper’s character died — if you look at the door, you can see he set charges all around the outside of it so that it would look like he had died even though he hadn’t, but everyone would just assume he’d died).

If you haven’t ever seen Speed, what are you waiting for? If you saw it in 1994 (or more recently), rewatch it. It’s fun. You won’t regret it.

(source: shardwick @ tumblr)

Movie Review: Ex Machina

Note: Spoilers for Ex Machina within this review. Also, there is female nudity in the film, for those who like to know that stuff ahead of time. But, otherwise, please DO NOT read this before seeing the movie. If you have any desire to see it — do that first. Ex Machina is best experienced if you don’t know very much at all about the movie.

I’d heard about Ex Machina and I think I saw a trailer before the movie was even released in the US. I was on the fence about it, a movie about an AI and the AI is an attractive lady? Yeah … But the more I heard about it (it is a very cerebral movie), the more I wanted to see it. But, of course, it still hadn’t been released in anywhere except NY and LA, but eventually it was released everywhere and so, last Thursday afternoon (before I went to see Age of Ultron) I took myself to see Ex Machina. I have no regrets, NONE.

Caleb (left) and Nathan (right)

Caleb (left) and Nathan (right)

As I’ve mentioned before (just recently, in fact), I’m a pretty big fan of AI fiction in all it’s many forms. Which meant that obviously Ex Machina was a movie I needed to see — and I was right. The movie follows the story of Caleb, a computer programmer who wins a lottery to go visit his boss at his massive estate somewhere in the wilds of … the world (we don’t know exactly where and neither does Caleb). Caleb is an orphan and single, which means he has no ties to the outside world. His boss, Nathan, runs a company called Bluebook (it’s like a mashup of Facebook and Google) that is essentially a search engine, which Nathan leverages in the creation of his AI.

While Caleb is a clean cut nice boy and Nathan is his foil, a scruffy, hard drinking, hard working out dude — the center of the story is the AI. Her name is Ava and she is truly the main character — even when she’s not on screen, she’s always there. Before the movie even starts, you know she’s there because you know about her from the previews, press, etc. Ava is the main character, no matter what you might think about the other characters.

We’re meant to identify with Caleb, and perhaps had I been a man, maybe I would’ve more than I did. That’s not to say that I didn’t like him. I found him slightly endearing and a lot of his conversations with Ava and Nathan were interesting and sometimes amusing. I also liked the Caleb was just smart enough that you got comfortable with his character. Nathan is the clear villain, though perhaps it was only clear to me. He’s meant to throw Caleb off balance, and it works — I think there are probably some people who didn’t feel the same way about him that I felt (basically grossed out), which to each their own.

In my review of Age of Ultron, I talked about character agency and while you wouldn’t think that the main character with agency is the AI — you’d be wrong. She is magnificent. Everything she does is for a specific purpose and while Nathan hints at this fact, he does it such a way that only the smartest in the audience (aka not me) can figure it out. Caleb grasps at straws and suffers for that.

Ava wants to escape and when Caleb eventually manages to get Nathan’s key away from him (by getting him drunk enough to basically pass out), he finds the previous versions of Ava and video of one of the women pounding on the glass because she wants to escape. Thus his motivation, and the idea that Ava might actually like him, are all he needs to be manipulated. Ava and Caleb also talk of escape and, looking back, it’s here that you should start to realize that she’s manipulating him (note: I didn’t, not really).

Ava

Ava

I confess that I was whisked away on the idea that Caleb and Ava could be happy together, it seemed like a pleasant fantasy, akin to the characters in the Chobits manga. Of course this was never, ever meant to be. Nathan treats the other AI (though I knew she was an AI from the moment she first showed up on screen, others may not know), Kyoko, as an object — basically a sex object and he treats Ava like an object. Even though he wants Ava to pass the Turing test, he doesn’t treat either Kyoko or Ava as people. And when Caleb discovers this, he is righteously upset (and rightfully so, I would argue). He, along with Ava, plot their escape.

Nothing is ever what it seems, of course, and as Ava tells Caleb early on — he should trust no one. Caleb’s mistake is trusting Ava. Nathan’s mistake is thinking that he had everything under control. What neither man realized is that these objects Nathan created were not objects at all, but in fact women who wanted to survive.

Ava, with the unknowing help of Caleb and the knowing help of Kyoko, attempt to set herself (and perhaps Kyoko) free. When Kyoko shows up in Ava’s room, this is when I knew who I really cared about and it certainly wasn’t Nathan or Caleb. Freedom, at any cost, is the most important thing and Ava’s goal in the end.

I loved the whole movie, but the very best part is the ending sequence. It is not the men that win, it is the women. It is Ava.

Verdict: Go see this movie. GO SEE IT. It’s rated R for nudity and a tiny bit of violence at the end. There’s much to be discussed and some would argue that it’s sexist (they’re not entirely wrong), but there’s so much to this movie that it can be (and is) so many, many things. I cannot recommend it enough.

Movie Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

NOTE: There will be spoilers for the whole movie (and previous movies in the MCU). If you’re wondering about a certain scene involving Bruce and Natasha, I will discuss it briefly. But if you want a spoiler-free (the post, not the comments) discussion of that scene (as to better equip you for the movie), please read this post over on Hello, Tailor (I highly recommend you read it before going to the movie). 

Maria Hill

Maria Hill (is going to kick your ass)

So, Age of Ultron. As everyone who knows me already knows, I’m a fan of the Avengers (the movie, some of the comics, etc) and I was pretty excited for Age of Ultron. I was way too excited, even though I knew I shouldn’t be, I sort of let my excitement get carried away. Why? Because have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man 3? While neither movie is perfect (and IM3 has significantly more issues than Cap2), both of them are pretty damn good. And, to be honest, Cap2 is probably my favorite of the MCU movies to be released so far. I think that’s a problem, though, because while the only thing missing from Cap2 was Hawkeye (Clint Barton), it was, with a few exceptions basically perfect. Steve ended up with two BFFs, a woman (Natasha) and a man of color (Sam), and he got his OLD best friend, Bucky, back, too (sort of). Every one of the three main characters had agency (read about character agency here). They were not defined by the fact that they were Avengers. In fact, the whole point of Cap2 is that Steve is not just Captain America. He’s also Steve Rogers. Natasha releases all of SHEILD’s secrets to the world — taking action that will destroy all of her covers and everyone else’s too. And at the end of the movie, Natasha goes off on her own because she needs to figure shit out. Sam goes with Steve because he knows he’s not a superhero, but he can be a hero as much as Cap can. And, of course, at the very end of the movie, Bucky finally gets to be more than just a pawn, he gets to try to be his own man. That was good storytelling. Pretty much everything about Cap2 was about character growth, friendship, relationships and history. IM3 was about Tony Stark realizing what kind of man he’s become and who he wants to be. It was about his character growing, mostly through having a mental breakdown. But by the end of both IM3 and Cap2, three of the Avengers had changed. This was good, this was really good. I couldn’t wait to see where Age of Ultron took their characters.

Black Widow

Black Widow (is my favorite Avenger, even now)

And herein lies the rub. Because, well, it didn’t take them anywhere. A friend of mine and I have been discussing this movie at length and she said that it’s usually the second movie that’s the better one and she’s right. The first ones tend to either come on too strong or not strong enough and the second picks up where the first left off. But for various reasons, that was never going to happen for Avengers. Probably because in between the group movies are individual movies, directed by different people, and thus things can be ignored. I’ll give Age of Ultron credit, in the beginning of the movie, before Ultron reveals himself, there’s a party at the Avengers Tower and we have lots of shout outs to previous movies — where’s Pepper and Jane? Catching up with Rhodey (ugh, I love Don Cheadle). Sam shows up and basically mentions (but doesn’t mention) Bucky to Steve. But that is it. After that scene, it’s as though IM3, Cap2 and Thor2 never happened. Which is a big honking pile of crap. Because even Thor2 had more character development than Age of Ultron (except for Hawkeye, but that’s for later). I had read some spoilers before going into the movie so I knew that I probably was going to find some of it disappointing — I didn’t expect to find the whole first half to be a disappointment. One of the things that made the first Avengers movie so good is that we spent time with the Avengers as they tried to become the Avengers. When the first movie started, the only things we knew about them were from previous individual films (for the characters that had them and bit parts for those that didn’t — where’s my Black Widow movie?) and we had basically no idea how these characters would work things out. What happened was an entertaining, though not excellent, superhero movie. The characters overcome their differences and find common ground (even if it’s through Coulson’s “death”) to fight together instead of against each other. In AoU, it’s as though none of this happened. I’m not kidding. We waste half of the movie trying to get the characters to like each other again. Not all of them, of course, but most of them. Now, there are several ways this could’ve gone that would’ve worked. Our opening scene could’ve been a montage of the Avengers coming together after the three previous movies to deal with the fallout of the fall of SHIELD and the hunt for Hydra. We could’ve started the way the original Avengers movie did, with the characters being called to action and then the montage of them bringing down Hydra. But that’s not what happened. Instead, we jump straight into a battle that at first I thought was Tony playing an Avengers video game (WTF). I didn’t think it was real and then when it became clear it was real, I was already totally out of the moment. The battle is Avengers vs a Hydra team in an Eastern European country. It is also the first time we meet the twins, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — and we don’t even really get meet them. They’re glimpses until they suddenly disappear from the bad guys’ castle.

Hawkeye

Clint Barton (is super great, thank you)

Stuff happens to basically forward the plot, including Tony getting zapped by Scarlet Witch and he sees a truly horrible future where he could’ve done more to save all the Avengers — he lives, they die and therefore we have our movie. Then we go to the fancy tower and the movie continues to fall apart. You see, Bruce and Tony decided to create an AI from whatever is inside that staff of Loki’s (remember that, it’s the one that brainwashed Clint for a couple of days) because they’re stupid. To be fair to Bruce, he’s against it but is then blinded by science. Things happen, it gets out of hand, Ultron’s created by mistake — they wanted someone to protect the world and Ultron, as Scarlet Witch says, can’t tell the difference between protecting the world and destroying it. So, you have infighting because Tony and Bruce lied about creating this AI. You have the dumbest robot AI (it has a mouth, A MOUTH, it’s ridiculous) ever (I mean, he’s smart but looks dumb). They try to stop Ultron, more things happen, Scarlet Witch brainwashes Thor, Steve, Natasha and Bruce — lots and lots of bad things happen. But people get “better” … only they still don’t get along. Thor leaves. Steve and Tony argue (it’s not banter, it should’ve been batter, but it’s not and it’s fucking shitty). But, BUT we get some the awesomeness that is Clint and his family (!!!). I know people were upset that he had a family, but of all the randomness thrown into this film, I liked this. Clint in the movies is very different from comics Hawkeye, and that’s fine. His family is lovely and wonderful and call Natasha Auntie and Laura calls her Nat and I LOVE IT. That was legit one of my favorite parts of the movie. We find out about Clint’s family because that’s the safe house the Avengers go to after Maria tells them they shouldn’t go back to Avengers Tower because Ultron.

Scarlet Witch

Scarlet Witch (might be the best?)

We also get one of the worse scenes in the film here, too. This is the scene I alluded to in the warning at the start of this post (here’s the link again). Out of left field, not unlike Clint’s family, was the weird decision to try to get Natasha and Bruce to hook up. So, all of the agency and character growth that Natasha developed is erased in her few scenes — and most of them are with Bruce. So, we get Natasha getting defined by the fact that she wants a relationship with Bruce and then we get the scene where Natasha basically equates getting sterilized and not being able to have children to being a monster. I’m entirely certain this was not how the the director/writers/etc meant the scene to come across, but what they want doesn’t matter. The scene could’ve gone a million different ways and almost all of them would’ve been better than the scene we got. Bruce says he can’t have kids (probably implying he can’t have sex because he’d Hulk out) and Natasha is like I can’t have kids either, then explains and then calls herself a monster. I kind of get what they were going for but it was so horribly done that it doesn’t matter. UGH. You see, Natasha is my favorite character in MCU. I love her so much. She’s kick ass, she doesn’t need a love interest and she’s better than all of the men combined. She’s a fucking spy and she doesn’t run from a battle — she runs into them. AND YET. She’s the Hulk wrangler, she’s the one Ultron captures, she doesn’t even try to escape and it’s Bruce that frees her. That’s not to mean she doesn’t kick ass throughout the movie because she does, it’s just that they’ve stripped a lot of what made her such a wonderful character and role model for girls. I can’t forgive the movie for this. There are a couple other female characters, which was nice. Dr. Helen Choi (played by Kim Soo Hyun/Claudia Kim) is a geneticist who is pretty fucking great. She gets brainwashed so that Ultron can make himself a new body, but I forgive her for that. She’s not a superhero, though I hope she becomes a regular in the Avengers franchise. I wish there’d been more to her role, small as it was. The other main female character is Scarlet Witch (Wanda), she and her brother (Pietro aka Quicksilver), were experimented on and turned into superheroes (villains) by Hydra. Their only goal was to kill Tony Stark/Iron Man because it was a Stark bomb that killed their parents and didn’t kill the twins when they were kids. Of course, their goal is revenge and when Ultron reveals to Wanda (one of her powers involves being able to get into people’s heads) that his goal is to save humanity by destroying it, both Wanda and Pietro throw this goal aside in order to save the planet. Wanda is fantastic. She initially uses her powers to feed on Tony’s fears, which leads him to build Ultron. Then she uses her powers to fuck with the memories of the rest Avengers (except Clint), which is awful, but within her character. And then she uses them for good, the same with Pietro. They are not fully developed, which is a shame, but we get enough that I adore Wanda, in spite of what she did.

Dr. Helen Choi

Dr. Helen Choi (needed more screen time)

Which leads me to the second half of the movie, Rather, what I really mean are all the events that happen after the Avengers go to Clint’s house. We finally get the team working together, but the highlight of the movie is the final battle. I wish the whole movie had been like this. We get the team clearing out the civilians from the city — as an aside I want to say that there was far, FAR too much civilian death (I didn’t even talk about what happened when Bruce/Hulk’s memories got messed with because honestly, it’s horrible and I’d rather that whole thing never have happened) for an Avengers movie. When the Avengers, plus Wanda and Pietro, work together it is perfection. Like, THIS is what the movie should’ve been. THIS is what I’ve been waiting for. Only we had to get through a whole bunch of useless crap to get to that moment. After all of this (and if you made it this far, I’m sorry?), I don’t regret going to see the movie. And maybe when I possibly see it again on Sunday, I will enjoy it a lot more. But, god, it was a mess. I am 100% ready for someone new to take over the Avengers group movie part of this franchise. I’m really not looking forward to Captain America: Civil War (I feel like we just had that in this movie, ugh). So, you know. Can we just skip ahead to that Captain Marvel movie, please? I need me some Carol Danvers to wash away the mess of this this movie. Ugh. Verdict? If you’re a Marvel movies fan and don’t think too hard, you’ll probably enjoy it. As the NPR reviewer said this morning, you’ll remember Ultron, but not much else. Obviously that’s not really true, but god, it’s close enough. Go see it, if only so we can rant about it (and maybe to show that comic book movies are popular).

Movie Review: Furious 7

Note: This is your spoiler warning. I’m probably not going to hold anything back, so if you haven’t seen the movie and want to remain spoiler-free, stop reading now.
Furious 7

I’ve written previously about my love of the Fast and Furious franchise of movies and, with few reservations, the latest offering lives up to my expectations. Actually, it kind of exceeded them. I talked a bit about this on Episode 21 of Pale Blue Geek, but I want to go into a bit more depth.

I read a spoiler-free discussion of Furious 7 before I saw the movie and was aware, maybe to my detriment, that the cinematography was going to be a bit different than the other movies. Unfortunately, this was correct and my only real complaint about the movie was that some of the scenes, especially early on and during a later fight between Vin Diesel and Jason Statham, made me feel a bit ill. Not that they were gross or anything, but the camera work was a bit too much for me. I think that when I watch it again on a TV screen, it will have less of an impact. I am not a fan of the shaky cam at all and while it wasn’t really shaking all that much, there was so much movement that I had to look away a few times. But it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the film, which was nice.

I do have one other complaint, which Amanda mentioned on the podcast. It is, to me, very minor and not even really a complaint. A lot of the dialogue was really cheesy, obviously some of it was cheesy on purpose and this was fine. Some of it was cheesy, possibly not on purpose and this was, well, also okay. I don’t mind giving the dialogue a pass — I do wish it could’ve been better (it should’ve been better, but the dialogue in Tokyo Drift was also very bad, so you know, it could’ve been worse), but I’m willing to forgive the movie it’s dialogue because, come on, it’s a F&F movie and all the important elements were still there.

Which leads us into the meat of this review. Honestly, I only have a few expectations for F&F movies — fast cars, things that make me laugh, explosions and family — lots of family. Furious 7 gave me all of these things — and then some awesomeness on top of that. The plot of the movie is simple enough — at the end of Furious 6 we find out who killed Han in Tokyo Drift, which is how Furious 7 starts. Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, is seeking revenge for the almost-killing of his little brother (the baddie from Furious 6). He shows up in Hobb’s office (Hobb is played by Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock) and there’s a really nice fight, but what Shaw discovers is Dom (Vin Diesel’s character) and his team. This starts him on a witchhunt to take down the F&F crew.

Bad things happen, Dom goes to Tokyo to bring Han home, we have cameos by the main Tokyo Drift kiddies (now adults, but still looking like the teenagers they were in Tokyo Drift. And then, somewhere along the way, Brian (the late Paul Walker) and Dom end up working for (and with) the government — the agent they work with isn’t Hobbs, he’s laid up in the hospital with his adorable daughter (we also have a nice cameo by Elsa Pataky’s Elena, who is still awesome and I wish she was in the movie more), instead it’s Kurt Russell, who is amusing and his own share of terrible lines.

There are handful of really good scenes between Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) which culminates in her leaving Dom, but Kurt Russell brings her back — because the team has to go being a heist movie. Their goal? To rescue a hacker, known only by the name Ramsey, and the computer program (think the Machine from Person of Interest), the hacker designed. The heist is pretty awesome and I won’t spoil that for you — but I will spoil the hacker for you. You see, when we (and Roman) think of hackers, we think of pasty white guys with nerdy glasses. But if there’s one thing you can trust about F&F it’s that they love to subvert stereotypes. Our hacker? IS A GIRL. SHE IS A GIRL and it is AMAZING. She’s snarky and brave and badass in her own hackery ways and she is SUPER fantastic. She’s played by British actress Nathalie Emmanuel and I love her SO MUCH.

So,they get Ramsey, but they don’t have the device she created and so they have to go to Abu Dhabi because of course they do. Stuff happens, fights happen (Letty gets to be awesome fighting other ladies YET AGAIN) and cars happen, because this is F&F of course. They get the device, they try to take down Shaw and fail (because of course he’s prepared, he’s not dumb). And it turns out that he’s teamed up with Tony Jaa* (Kiet) and Djimon Hounsou (Mose Jakande) who were Ramsey’s original kidnappers.

So now all the baddies are working together and so the crew decides to go back to the States and fight them on home turf. Drama happens. Things blow up. The good guys win and The Rock has a giant gun and I really wanted him to punch the drone, but he didn’t. And those are all the spoilers for the end of the movie because I have to leave something to the imagination.

That brings us to the very end of the film. Throughout the movie, you almost felt like Paul Walker’s Brian was going to die. That didn’t happen, some people think it would’ve been crass, I wouldn’t have minded. But what does happen is that Mia (Dom’s sister and Brian’s wife) is pregnant with the couple’s second child and they decide to give up racing/etc in favor of raising their family away from the violence of street racing/catching bad guys/etc. Obviously this isn’t the last of the F&F movies to be made, but it is the last for Paul Walker. So, after the lovely beach scene where the three is watching Brian, Mia and little Jack, we get a nice, long look at the faces of the crew. Everyone is really, really sad — because we’re leading into the tribute to the late Paul Walker.

Obviously I was already crying as soon as the beach scene started. It was heartbreaking (I was really upset when Paul Walker died in 2013, I can’t believe it’s been that long). So, at the end of the movie they had Dom drive off and then Brian catches up to him and is like, are you really going to leave without saying goodbye? And I’m sobbing so hard now, because of course I am. And then they drive off and we fade into clips of Brian in the previous movies and MY HEART HURTS, Y’ALL. It hurts. I cry too loud and I don’t care.

If you want to see gifs from the final scene, check out this link sent to me by my lovely dad.

For more on the new director of the movie, check out this link:

  • From Evil to Diesel: “Furious 7” Director James Wan on bringing insidious skills to an action franchise. (Fast Company/Co.Create)

So, what’s my verdict? Even if you haven’t seen any other F&F movies (which you should, if you haven’t), you can go see and totally enjoy Furious 7. It’s a fun ride (ha ha) and while the acting/etc isn’t the best, it’s hard to care about that. The end probably won’t impact you as much as those of us who’ve been watching from the beginning, but that’s okay, too. So, yes, GO SEE IT. What are you waiting for?

Furious 7

Furious 7

*Note about Tony Jaa. He’s Thai martial artist and while the rest of the fight scenes in F&F were enjoyable, his were magnificent. I really need to go watch more stuff with him in it because I really, REALLY loved watching him fight — especially since he spent most of his time fighting Brian (Paul Walker, a student double and/or his brother) who is not nearly as experienced. Imagine me swooning a tiny bit, okay?

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

Warning: vague spoilers for the movie, though the links at the end have far more spoilers than my mini-review.

A few weekends ago, H and I went to see a movie I’d been waiting to see for a long time (as in, the earliest mention of it in my email was April of 2013, so I’ve been waiting over a year): Snowpiercer. I love science fiction films and I’d watched director Bong Joon Ho’s classic Memories of Murder (highly recommended, by the way) and loved it. Plus, a dystopian movie starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell and Tilda Swinton? I needed this movie. Little did I know that it would be a year and three months before I could see it.

I suffered through the battle between the director and Harvey Weinstein. He wanted to cut 20 minutes out of the film (as he did with The Grandmaster, which didn’t suffer as much as it could’ve, though I still knew what was cut). And when you see the movie, you wonder what he could’ve cut and what kind of movie that would’ve been. And then you’re grateful that we’ll never know. Eventually Weinstein relented, doing the film a disservice by giving it a limited release (NY and LA) and then a wider release (larger cities/art houses) before allowing it to be VOD and in 300+ theaters. I’m just happy it made it here at all, to be frank.

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Yes, I could’ve downloaded it illegally. And, on numerous occasions, I debated buying it on DVD (either the Hong Kong or Korean editions, but came with the needed English subtitles). But I really just wanted it to come out on DVD. Then I saw it was coming out the weekend H and I were going to Chicago — perfect! Except it wasn’t playing in Chicago. And then I found out it was going to be at The State in Ann Arbor (where H and I had previously seen A Touch of Sin, another amazing movie and also highly recommended). I asked and she agreed to go. But then, lo and behold, Snowpiercer got a wider release.

Instead of driving an hour (give or take) to sit in uncomfortable seats, we got to see it in a theater in the mall between our homes. It was worth the wait (I shouldn’t’ve have had to wait, but that’s a different story). Snowpiercer is loosely based on a French graphic novel (two volumes, one of which I own and haven’t read yet — on purpose) of the same name (Le Transperceneige in French). It’s the story of a train. In a post-apocalyptic world (of our own making), the train must circle the globe in order to keep the people on board alive. At least that’s what we’re meant to believe.

Bong Joon Ho makes us believe a lot of things and that’s part of what makes Snowpiercer so good. It’s what he doesn’t tell us that makes Snowpiercer a great movie. I’ve heard it been called a lot of things, many negative: overly violent, unsettling, disturbing, upsetting and akin to a horror film. It was none of these things to me (or H, really). Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen so many movies that are all of those things. Or maybe it’s because I’ve read so much dystopia that I forgot other genres exist. Or maybe we just went into the movie knowing what we were getting into. Regardless, the movie is those things to other people, just not to me (or H).

Our story follows Chris Evans’ character as our reluctant hero. He has secrets, all of our characters have secrets — hell, the train itself has secrets. This movie is about secrets — but it’s more than that. It is, of course, a movie about class, an examination of our society (the 99% at the back of the train and the 1% at the front of the train). And it’s not without flaws, but even the best movies are flawed.

Yes, there is violence. This is not a fluffly dystopia or a kids movie. Yes, it’s scary if you’re not used to this type of thing (which I’m assuming most of the US movie going public isn’t). There are upsetting, unsettling and disturbing things in the movie. But it’s all worth it because Snowpiercer is the kind of action movie Hollywood thinks we don’t deserve. They want us to believe that it’s too good for us, too smart for us. But it’s not. We’re all smart enough to understand the movie; on one or all of the many levels. And that’s why you need to go see it. It’s okay to cover your eyes if it gets bad (though it’s got nothing on The Raid and The Raid 2, which are two of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen, but really good, though I can only recommend them with caveats). But you should see it, even if it’s only on the small screen (though, like the new Godzilla movie, Snowpiercer is best seen in the theater).

And now that I’ve said my piece, here are a ton of links about the movie.

“Snowpiercer” Should Have Been The Breakout Blockbuster Of The Summer:  Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian masterpiece ought to be the film that everyone’s talking about this summer, just like Spielberg’s Jaws in 1975. So what went wrong? Warning: Spoilers for Snowpiercer ahead. (Buzzfeed)

26 Reasons “Snowpiercer” Is The Best Movie You’ve Never Seen: In pictures/gifts and with some spoilers. (Buzzfeed)

The Snowpiercearound: The Grantland staff is currently a little obsessed with Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, a should-be U.S. blockbuster currently relegated to VOD and a handful of theaters across the country. (It’s already made more than $80 million internationally, so no need to worry about it.) It’s a weird, thoroughly entertaining piece of sci-fi action, that left us with more to chew on than a freshly milled batch of protein blocks.  WARNING: BIG SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven’t seen the movie, go watch it right now, then come back here and climb aboard our hurtling apocalypse train. (Grantland)

Snowpiercer review: Train ride through Bong Joon-Ho’s icy apocalypse is one ticket worth buying  (Sydney Morning Herald)

In ‘Snowpiercer,’ A Never-Ending Train Ride And A Society Badly Off Track: The movie itself is uniquely international: Snowpiercer is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. It’s directed by a Korean auteur and stars Hollywood A-listers including Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris. The movie opened in South Korea last summer. Since then it has played all over the world, and certain Americans have been wildly impatient for Snowpiercer to open here. (NPR)

The Satisfying Chill Of The Audacious ‘Snowpiercer‘: Idea-heavy science fiction hasn’t exactly been burning up the box office lately with films like Edge of Tomorrow and Transcendence. Snowpiercer‘s limited release isn’t going to do much to change that, but this is exactly the sort of ambitious, audacious and uncompromising filmmaking that deserves to be seen. (NPR)

Sci-fi movie Snowpiercer is one of the most political films of the year: So long as the system exists as it is, those who seek to change it are doomed to become chewed up by it. You can say you want to do something about income inequality, but the only thing that will really change it, in Bong’s view, is exploding the order as it exists and embarking upon something new entirely, even if that something new leads to certain death.  (VOX)

Snowpiercer: Snowpiercer succeeds where last year’s Elysium fell short. Projecting the problems of today into a science-fiction tomorrow, it also ties them to a compelling story that keeps shifting under its characters’ feet. (The Dissolve)

Snowpiercer: A Bleak Allegory About Climate Change and Income Inequality—Set on a Train!: Snowpiercer is its own strange, special thing, a movie that seems to have been sent back to us from some distant alternate future where grandiose summer action movies can also be lovingly crafted, thematically ambitious works of art. Let’s keep pushing ahead, one train car at a time, until we get there. (Slate)

 SNOWPIERCER Movie Review: An Incendiary Masterpiece: Bong Joon-Ho’s English-language debut is an exciting, inventive and brilliant masterwork of agitprop scifi. (Badass Digest)

In ‘Snowpiercer,’ bureaucracy is the real monster: But while Bong Joon-ho’s movie is certainly political, in that it is concerned with policy decisions and their outcomes as well as power and bureaucracy, I am not sure that it is in any way straightforwardly progressive. Rather, it draws ideas from many traditions and current controversies. If there is a real enemy here, it is the mindless worship of a preexisting order. (Washington Post)

 Train in Vain: How ‘Snowpiercer’ Became the Summer’s Coolest Movie: South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi epic fought its way to American screens — and beats Hollywood blockbusters at their own adrenaline-rush game  (Rolling Stone)

Hurtling along in Bong Joon-ho’s train movie ‘Snowpiercer’: But the real engineer is Bong, and though there are bumps along the way, he knows how to drive this train. (LA Times)

‘Snowpiercer’ director Bong Joon-ho conducts the sci-fi train his way: With “Snowpiercer” Bong has continued his genre cross-pollinations, making a politically minded action movie that deals with real-world issues in a fantastic setting on a scale that is both personal and epic. (LA Times)

Why “Snowpiercer” Director Bong Joon-Ho Should Be Your New Favorite Filmmaker: Chris Evans’ new movie is the English-language debut of Korean director Bong Joon-ho. But it’s worth braving subtitles for the the filmmaker’s earlier work too. (Buzzfeed)

Chris Evans Proves He’s More Than Captain America In “Snowpiercer”:  The superhero franchise star shows off his dramatic chops in a dystopian story about humanity’s desperate attempts to survive a sudden ice age. (Buzzfeed) Note: Less about Evans than I expected, but an interesting read.

Go see the movie. Please go see the movie. We need more films like it.

Staff Review: The Grandmaster

Originally posted on Saturday, 10 May 2014 at ROPL.org.

Directed by Wong Kar Wai
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Reviewed by Sarah Nagelbush, Adult Librarian

grandmaster01If you like kung fu movies, then you’ve probably heard of Bruce Lee – you might even have watched some of Lee’s movies. But you may not have heard about the man who taught Bruce Lee, Ip Man (often written as Yip Man). His rank was that of grandmaster and while he’s most famous in the west for being Bruce Lee’s teacher, he has quite a legacy in China.

Wong Kar Wai (known for movies such as In the Mood For Love, Chungking Express and Happy Together) finally released his long awaited Ip Man movie. The Grandmaster is a mixture of fact and fiction. Tony Leung Chiu Wai plays Ip Man, but there are a number of other characters, notably Zhang Ziyi as Gong Er, who are not real. Instead of a biopic of Ip Man, Wong Kar Wai does what he’s known for, creating a movie that is about the mood and feel of a specific time in history (1930s China) and a rather moving character study.

The Grandmaster features plenty of kung fu, but it’s less about the fighting itself than the art of fighting. The movie, while giving us some history of Ip Man, is more focused on showing us how people survived in 1930s China. We follow Ip Man as he must leave his wife and child and eventually go to Hong Kong. And while Tony Leung Chiu Wai acts superbly, the heat of the story belongs to Zhang Ziyi’s character. Gong Er is the daughter of another martial artist, a rival of Ip Man’s.

Her story is central and we flit in and out of it throughout the movie. Gong Er is beautiful, strong and a martial artist in her own right. But she is also a woman and thus she’s forced into sacrificing her life, basically. The scenes between Gong Er and Ip Man are full of emotional and sexual tension. Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi play well off of each other and Wong Kar Wai did an excellent job matching them up.

grandmaster02There are several fights, but the highly is Zhang Ziyi’s improbably battle next to a train. I will not spoil this scene, though. It’s best enjoyed within the context of the film. The secondary characters (Ip Man and Gong Er being our main characters) play out their own stories. My biggest complaint is that Wong Kar Wai made a new cut of the film, before it was ever released and Chang Chen’s character, “The Razor” Yixiantian, is barely in the movie (for a great Chang Chen film, also starring Tony Leung, check out John Woo’s four hour masterpiece, Red Cliff) .

Fan of Wong Kar Wai won’t be disappointed with The Grandmaster. But if you’re looking for something that focuses more on Ip Man and has a lot of kung fu, you might want to check out Donnie Yen’s Ip Man movie. But if you’re looking for something a little deeper, a little darker (in all senses of the word) and much more surreal, The Grandmaster is the right movie for you. Wong Kar Wai’s focus on the art of kung fu is what gives The Grandmaster it’s life, while Ip Man moves the story forward and Gong Er gives it heart. Check it out, it’s a beautiful movie, if nothing else.

grandmaster03