Movie Review – Rogue One


So the short and sweet here: much, much better than The Force Awakens, and easily the best of the bunch since Empire.

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Everyone involved in this movie faced a very difficult task: how do make interesting a story that everyone knows the ending to? We all know that the rebels got the Death Star plans and used them to find a weakness in the design that enabled them to blow it up.We know there’s a backstory there, but is it enough to base a whole movie on?

Well, it is if you do it right, and the people involved here certainly did.

The movie tells the story of a young girl, made effectively orphan when her father, who had a hand in the first designs of the Death Star, is captured by the Imperials and sent to finish the job. The girl eventually gets dragged into the fight against the Empire, meets up with several other people, and goes off to try and find her father.

It’s a pretty basic story, but it works well. It’s nice to have proper Imperial villains to sneer at once more, like Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin (even if the CGI on him isn’t quite there just yet), and it’s fun seeing old heroes, like Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. One gets a whole lot of other wonderful cameos, and little Easter eggs referring to the larger universe.

But at its heart, the movie is about our heroes and their efforts to stop the Death Star, and I have to say that the movie did a great job of making me actually care about all of them, even the droid, and what many people are speculating might be a gay couple.I felt genuinely invested in these characters in a way that I haven’t since the original trilogy.

The movie isn’t perfect. The CGI Tarkin probably should have only been used very sparingly, James Earl Jones sounds a bit “off” as Vader, and the music, except where it harkens back to the original score, was very forgettable. But otherwise, if this is a sign of things to come with the Star Wars universe, than I am very happy indeed. The “main” story may have gone off the rails since 1983, but at least the sub-stories can be great.

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Movie Review – Ghostbusters


Saw the new movie today. I wasn’t very impressed. It was poorly written, to the extent that it was written at all, and while the leads were fairly engaging, nothing about it really popped, it was full of pointless cameos from basically every TV show that NBC airs, and it all felt like it was very much by-the-numbers.

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Numbers like 2 out of 5, for example.

But what I’d like to discuss today is something regarding the movie. Not the quality, but the casting.

I don’t care, honestly, that the leads were all female. Why should I care? It’s 2016. Who gives a fuck?

But I very much cared that the black woman was, in almost every way, shape, and form, just a stereotypical black female character. You know, the kind who will, at some point, say, “Oh, hell no!”

I mean, why? As I said, it’s 2016. Why couldn’t one of the white women play the street-wise, lower-class character, and the black woman be one of the scientists? Melissa McCarthy could have done well playing such a character.

I know, I know. We’re copying the beats from the original movie’s casting, etc. Well, fuck that noise. If you’re going to change-up the movie by casting all women in the lead roles, you can change the color of those women around as well.

This felt, overall, like a terrible missed opportunity.

And on a final note, this movie very much commits one of the greatest sins of any comedy: it isn’t funny. Avoid.

Superb Owl Movie Trailer Round-Up


Begin!

Looks promising.

I’d be more interested if I have any interest at all in the series. Pass.

I quite liked the first one, so, yes, I’m looking forward to this!

Just in general, I’ve been looking forward to this movie. It has quite a bit of potential.

We’ll see. I remain a bit skeptical, but it might be good.

Pass, pass, pass on ever level.

And the Nominees Are…Kind of a Surprise


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The nominees for the 87th Academy Awards were announced today. You can read the full list here. I have a few thoughts about this.

First, I’m quite pleasantly surprised that The Grand Budapest Hotel was given so many nominations. It was a really good movie, which is something I’m surprised to say given that I find Wes Anderson’s style to be generally grating. I’m also pleased that a movie that’s so “old” (having been released early last year), got the nominations it did, and is a front-runner for Best Picture.

As for the rest, Imitation Game was an excellent movie with terrible history. I doubt it’s going to win. The Theory of Everything wasn’t quite as good, but was solid, but, again, won’t win. I haven’t seen any of the other nominees. I’ve seen bits of Selma while working in it, but haven’t seen the full movie. Same with Boyhood, which I do really want to see, and Birdman. I suspect the Oscar race will come down to those two movies, with Grand Budapest as a possible dark horse if the other two split the vote.

I see several nice inclusions on the Best Actor list. Bradley Cooper is the only one that’s been there before, as far as I know. It’s good to see Steve Carell being nominated for his first major “serious” role, but it’s in a movie that most people seem to dislike. He won’t win. Cooper won’t, either, I suspect. I think it’s going to come down to Cumberbatch or Keaton. I also find it odd that Ellar Coltrane, who played the boy in Boyhood, didn’t get nominated, given that from what I understand, the movie’s success is largely due to him.

Over on the women’s side (and why are these still separated by gender?), I’m pleased to see Streep up, yet again, for Best Supporting Actress, and…that’s really the only thought I have about that list. Well, maybe that it’s nice to see the two main actresses from Wild nominated. Again, a film I haven’t seen except while working in it, but it looked quite good, and I do wonder about it being snubbed in the Best Picture category.

Speaking of snubs, shall we discuss the brick in the room? How is it that The Lego Movie failed to be nominated for Best Animated Picture? Big Hero 6 had kind of a mixed reception, and while How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Boxtrolls were better received, none of these were as highly regarded by the public and the critics as The Lego Movie. Very disappointed here. Everything is not awesome, though I do notice a certain song got nominated, so that’s something.

I have no real thoughts about the rest of the list. The sci-fi and fantasy genre is well-represented in the various technical awards, but not anywhere else, which is a shame. I’m also quite taken aback by the fact that Interstellar, a flawed, but visually fascinating, movie was shut out of the Best Cinematography category.

So what’s going to win? Beyond the predictions I’ve vaguely made here, I have no idea. But I do look forward to finding out!

How to Give In to Terrorists


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So various movie theater chains, including the one I work for, have opted to not show The Interview, a movie which doesn’t look all that good anyhow, and that I had never planned to see.

Now if they had run away screaming because it looked terrible and the releasing studio, Sony, had realized that not showing it would be a blow for artistic taste, well, that would be one thing. Instead, the various chains are pulling away from it because of terrorist threats.

Let me be clear. There is not any real reason to avoid screening this movie. There wouldn’t be a single terrorist attack on any theater showing it. On the off chance that North Korea is behind this, something I understand is still in doubt, they wouldn’t be suicidal enough to launch terrorist attacks in the USA over it. We about destroyed Afghanistan when some guys from Saudi Arabia attacked us. Hell, we leveled Iraq despite them not doing anything to us or posing a threat of any kind. North Korea knows full-well what would happen if they did something that monumentally stupid.

My suspicion is that the original hackings, and now these threats, are coming from a small group of people sitting around giggling about how much they’re making the world do what they want it to. These people, whomever they are, have just had several billion dollar corporations bow to their will.

So, yeah, no incentive for them or anyone else to do this sort of thing again.

It’s important to remember this about terrorism, or even the threat of it: the terrorists win as soon as they make you change the way you’re living your life. Possibly we need to stop letting them win.

*** UPDATE ***

The movie’s release has been cancelled. Way to cave, Sony. Now can we at least have a digital release, which, ugh, I might find myself obligated to buy?

*** UPDATE ***

Apparently not.

Movie Review – The Guardians of the Galaxy


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Well, they pulled it off. Marvel managed to launch off into the sci-fi superhero genre in a rather good, impressive little movie that works far better than it should have, and way better than certain recent releases from their Distinguished Competition.

The movie begins with quite possibly one of the most depressing openings I’ve seen since Up, wherein a ten-year-old boy watches his mother die of cancer. So that’s cheerful. He’s promptly kidnapped by aliens, and we then jump forward 26 years and find that boy has grown up to be an outer-space outlaw who wants everyone to call him “Star-Lord”. The levels of success with that plan vary considerably. We then follow Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill, as he meets up with a green-skinned assassin named Gamora, a mercenary raccoon named Rocket, his best friend/houseplant Groot (I’m Groot!), and a scarred and tattooed fellow called Drax. Together they work, after a bit of fighting, to bring down the schemes of Ronan the Accuser and his plans for galactic destruction, etc, etc.

There was much to enjoy here. The movie has a great, fun, manic energy to it that really has been missing from DC’s releases, and that had been in danger of slipping away with the latest Captain America movie. It’s also fairly lovely to look at, has great pacing, and some really good acting, particularly by David Batista, who I am given to understand is normally a wrestler. The movie also has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, and even includes an in-universe reason for that soundtrack.

There are some problems and some logic errors (if Ronan could do that to the Nova grid, why didn’t he do it earlier?), and Thanos is completely wasted in the movie. Seriously, he might have had about as much time in Avengers. And a minor quibble, but the “flipping off” bit was funnier in the trailer. There also was a bit of villain bloat, but it wasn’t too bad. Certainly not up on the levels of something like The Dark Knight Rises.

Overall I had a really good time at this movie, and I very much liked it. I highly recommend it. It’s a great fit to the Marvel cinematic universe, and I’m quite curious to see where it will go in the future, especially with a certain character popping up in the end-credits teaser.

Dear Film Makers…


Please stop perpetrating various myths. You do this constantly, and it’s very annoying. It’s often justified by the words “it looks cool”, and that works to some extent, provided that your audience doesn’t know that what you’re showing is a myth.

For example: when someone gets shot with a gun, especially a pistol, they don’t go flying backwards twenty feet. This doesn’t even happen with a shotgun. This pops up frequently in many movies and TV shows, and it always takes me out of the moment when it does. An especially bad example is the otherwise excellent movie L.A. Confidential. In that movie there’s a pivotal gunfight, during which a man is shot by a shotgun blast and goes flying out a window. No. Just no.

Another great example? Check this trailer.

Let me answer a question the movie asks. “What happens when she reaches 100%?” Then she’ll be like every other person on the planet. Yes, the old “humans only use 10% of their brains” thing is a total myth, and was debunked a very long time ago. We don’t use 100% of our brains at all times every day, because when we do, that’s known as a seizure. But evolution isn’t such a clumsy process as to give us something that big and that energy-intensive without it being very useful.

Oh, and on a side note, good luck learning to write Chinese in an hour no matter what your brain capacity is. Even native Chinese speakers have a tough time reading all the characters, and thus take dictionaries around with them. Remember, “Chinese” refers to a bunch of languages, which are often very different from each other, but which use the same characters. It’s like if the English word “house” and the French word “maison” were both depicted with a picture of a private dwelling.

I find this one way more annoying than the gun thing, but both irritate me. So, please, stop. Thanks!