Deadpool 2 (2018): Deadpool Works Best in a Supporting Role

“Deadpool 2” is a fun action comedy that works in a lot of the same ways as the first film (critiquing Superhero films and pop culture), while trying to find a layer of depth in its characters which it sometimes succeeds at doing. It isn’t as good as the first film as it depends on most of the same jokes but it is still a film I’d recommend, as the new characters are fantastic and the jokes are still funny.

The film was directed by David Leitch and written by Rhet Reese, Paul Wermick and Ryan Reynolds.

The story involves Deadpool seeking a reason to live after criminals kill his wife Vanessa as he joins the X-Men to protect Russel, a boy who will someday become the supervillain Firefirst. Things soon get complicated though as protecting Russel lands both Deadpool and Russel in prison and they find themselves pursued by the cyborg super-soldier from the future, Cable.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Lampooning of “Logan” – The main joke that drives “Deadpool 2” is making fun of “Logan.” There will be spoilers for “Logan” in this, so here it goes…. In “Logan” Wolverine is in charge of protecting a kid from outside forces, and in the end, has to choose not being selfish, sacrificing himself to save her and the next generation of X-Men. Deadpool does all of this and mocks the sacrifice of “Logan” off the bat with a music box depicting a spinning, dead Wolverine on it. This core joke works but comes off as derivative given how much Wolverine and the comics he inhabited were mocked in the first film. 

Colossus – Colossus isn’t the heart of the film like last time, but he is great as Deadpool’s unsuccessful mentor. In the end he comes through to help Deadpool when Deadpool needs him though. I never cared about this character until the “Deadpool” films, and I hope we see more of him. Nothing was done with him in the other X-Men films, but here is a true hero more often than not.

Domino – Domino is the new addition and one of my favorite parts of the film. She is a mutant whose power is luck (Which in the film she can read situations to the point of doing the near impossible). Zazie Beetz does a fantastic job and gives the character an heir of confidence as she is so much better than so many of the idiots around her. We learn her backstory but, sadly, it doesn’t payoff  as she was abused in the same school as the character Russel / Firefist but she doesn’t get any payback. It remains unaddressed, which is a shame, as it gave her a motivation to help Deadpool and join X-Force.

Cable – Josh Brolin is an amazing actor and in this film we see him give a depth of emotion to your standard Terminator-esque cyborg. Through the film we see why he is motivated to kill Russel (in the future, Russel kills his wife and baby girl), and it is only through Deadpool’s actions that he learns compassion, even deciding to stay in the current timeline once he knows his family is safe. I hope we see more of the character as there is still so much that can be done, and I like his contrast with Deadpool’s flippancy, as he is always serious.

Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds truly owns this role and even though this film repeats a lot of the same jokes (Mocking Reynolds and “Logan,” Deadpool referencing pop culture, etc.), it is still an enjoyable film because, as flippant as Deadpool is, Reynolds gives this character heart. This is a character who grows as a person and has to learn to be vulnerable and open up, as in the end, that is the only way to save Russel from becoming a monster of the future. This is the thrust of Deadpool’s arc after criminals kill his wife Vanessa, and it is touching and hilarious seeing how he gets there.

Okay:

X-Force – X-Force is a joke, as they only exist to get killed off. There is a character who is invisible until they die and are revealed, and 3 other characters, one of whom is just a normal guy who just saw the advertisement. They all die when they are attacking the prison truck to save Russel. The only members to survive are Domino and Deadpool, which is the running gag of the group… that they are that worthless as a team. I put them in the okay category because I wanted more development of the team members. This is the running theme for me on why the film wasn’t great as so many ideas were good but they weren’t developed enough to reach greatness.

Negasonic and Yukio – I like that we see the first openly LGBTQ relationship in X-Men. It is overdue and Deadpool is a great way to show it. I hate that we know nothing about Yukio and Negasonic’s relationship. We never see how they work as a couple, they just are. Given how important love and relationship was in this film, it was a missed opportunity to make something that was a good idea truly fantastic.

When Jokes Repeat – Many of the jokes in this film are repetitive… be it Deadpool’s semi-stand up routine, the mocking of “Logan,” Wolverine and Ryan Reynolds and making fun of DC. I’m not putting this as a con, but this film could have been amazing if it’d been more original in the jokes it chose to present.

The Cons:

Russel and the School – Russel is a kid who turns into a villain in X-Men’s dystopian future, a future in which he kills Cable’s wife and daughter and takes the name Firefist. Russel isn’t a good actor. He does an okay job but he just wasn’t compelling enough to be the heart of the film, which he needed to be given it was him healing from his abuse and not becoming a killer that was the core thrust of the story. The owner of the school suffers from this same problem, as he is just a corrupt religious fanatic who gets zero development, only functioning as a way to drive the plot, which at the end of the day was all Russel was too.

If you liked “Deadpool” you will probably enjoy “Deadpool 2.” This was a film that was flawed and repetitive, but introduced a lot more characters and concepts, that I hope get explored in future films be it X-Force, Domino, and Cable, along with the dystopian future that Cable came from. At the end of the day, this was a solid action comedy and I’m glad it exists to make fun of the world where superhero films own the box office.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

“The Orville” Season 1 – A Show That Draws Inspiration From the Best Aspects of “Star Trek”

    “The Orville” is a show that only exists because of how much of a fan Seth MacFarlane is of “Star Trek” and Fox knowing just how great the cultural impact of “Star Trek” has been that a show that pulls full inspiration from it (while having it’s own tone and lore) and not get sued. What do I think of the show? I think the humor doesn’t always work but I love the drama and the characters. Seth MacFarlane put a lot of love into this show and it was perfectly cast in regards to the characters and their roles…and I can’t wait to see where the show is taken next.

The story involves Ed Mercer being given the chance to Captain the Planetary Union ship known as the U.S.S. Orville. He soon learns his ex-wife Commander Kelly Grayson will be his First Officer as they must sort out their issues as the new crew faces the drama of one another and the wider Universe the Planetary Union inhabits in the 25th Century. 

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – The Universe is a lot like “Star Trek” but a bit similar to our reality in that rather than the vague spirituality of Trek, everyone in the future is an atheist if they are part of the Planetary Union or any future person. There are countless aliens, most are humanoid (like “Star Trek”) but the Union is strong but not the strongest. The highly religious and zealotesque Krill are and they are a fantastic enemy in the episodes they come up in. Most of the episodes are solving dilemmas though, whether it is finding ancient ships and a civ. on board, interacting with a bronze age people that advances rapidly, or passing into 2D space. Like “Star Trek” this is a universe rich with possibilities.

The Crew of “The Orville” – The crew is overall amazing. I’m giving certain characters special treatment though, because they stood out to me and will mention some other notable things in this summary. The characters are complicated, you have Doctor Claire Finn who is woman who chose single motherhood because she wanted to be a mom and could have kids without needs a spouse or partner, you have Lt. Commander LaMarr who hid his intelligence because in the colony he came from it was looked down upon, but in turn becomes the Chief Engineer on the ship, you have Bortus who fights for the right of his child to choose his own gender in a species that has only males and a few others who I will go into deeper into the review of the show. The least notable is Lt. Gordon Malloy who is comedic and good at being a pilot and that is the extent. He isn’t complicated.

Alara – Alara is one of my favorite characters. She is the security officer on the ship and comes from a planet where her gravity is heavier so her species is stronger than most. We learn they also as a culture look down on military and similar professions as they see it as below their intellect. She went against her parents to join the Planetary Alliance and because of it holds herself to an impossible standard, and we see it when in an episode she faces her worst fears and the worst fears of her crew members and succeeds. It is a powerful episode and reaffirmed why she is one of my favorite characters on the show.

Isaac – Isaac is from a race of artificial non-biological beings who believe themselves to be the most superior life forms in the galaxy. Isaac joined in order to learn about humankind, and is our Data stand in. His arc is him learning how to care for humans and organics beyond just studying them and it is handled really well. I can’t wait to see where his arc goes.

Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson – The main arc that drives the story is the relationship between Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson. They are divorced after Grayson cheated on Mercer with a blue alien. We later learn the alien can make anyone fall in love with him when it is going through mating and that might have been what happened. There are a few false starts and with each friendship grows between them but Grayson cuts it off in the finale when she realizes that their love is causing Mercer to do things he wouldn’t have usually done as a Captain that put him and others at risk so they cut it off. It is touching and the arc is fun.

The Secular Future – The future is won by science and I loved it. This is a future where humanity has myths still but they mostly come from television shows and past knowledge, as far as we know there isn’t supernatural and there is no religion to speak of beyond the Krill or less advanced species and it usually comes up as a problem. Seth MacFarlane wrote this and it shows, and for what its worth as a secular agnostic humanist, I enjoyed this future greatly. Like “Star Trek” it showed a world not defined by religion but by even deeper ideas of self.

Exploring Dilemmas – One of the great things about “Star Trek” that “The Orville” does well is the exploration of moral dilemmas. Be they dilemmas of culture and technology (justice by “likes” and “dislikes”) the agency of a person within in a nation in regards to their family (an all male species forcing a newborn born female to be turned male and her choice being taken away, and this species if a major player in the Planetary Union) why there are rules for first contact (Kelly sets off a religion on a planet that exists orbiting through universes when she heals a little girl with her technology)  and countless other dilemmas where crew-members have to make choices where there isn’t always a clear answer.

Okay: The Humor – The humor is good at times but falls short on others when it has characters like Lt. Gordon going on away missions, when all he does is jokes, or Lt. LaMarr grinding on a statue on an alien society and no one on the crew being briefed on how the culture they were down studying worked as they searched for scientists who had gone missing…The humor made these stories that were largely solidly written otherwise, to go down in quality. Cheap laughs are not the way to go. When the show nails it, it is amazing, but it wasn’t consistent.

The Series Arc / The Episodic Nature of the Show – The show is largely episodic with the only consistent arc being Ed and Kelly working through what their relationship is now. I would have preferred more of an arc with the Krill, they do still a giant Krill warship in the last episode the Krill are in but it doesn’t go anywhere after that. That was missed potential that made the show not really get the great exit it deserved, since it really did have a great entrance. Solidly good show, but not great.

This is a show that if you are a fan of sci. fi., “Star Trek” or Seth MacFarlane, you will probably enjoy. This is easily the best thing he’s ever done by miles and I’m glad the show was renewed for another season. Where he chooses to take the show remains to be seen, as it could remain like TNG and TOS and largely remain episodic with some powerful episodes along the way, or it could go the way of DS9 and later ENT and give us some powerful arcs that payoff on a personal and galactic scale. I’m all for finding a good medium inbetween as well, arc episodes and bottle episodes together. As someone whose missed “Star Trek” since it went off the air and all we had were movies, this and “Discovery” made this Trekkie happy. If you like “Star Trek,” you should at least give this show a chance.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. Humor often time hurt the drama and lack of an overall arc kept the season from greatness.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): The Greatness of These Characters

 “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is on par with the first film, being it is once again comedic, dramatic and character greatness executed beautifully by James Gunn once again. For my non-spoiler thoughts…this film goes deeper into developing the characters, the action is solid and for once Marvel has a great villain in one of these films! I highly recommend this film and won’t be surprised if it ends up being in my Top 5 Films of 2017.

    The film was written and directed by James Gunn, while being produced by Kevin Feige.

  The story picks up a few months after the first film, with the Guardians protecting the Sovereign’s batteries, which are being targeted by a giant space creature. After the battle they receive Nebula as payment but soon find themselves being pursued by the Sovereign after Rocket steals their batteries after insulting them. After the battle the team is separated as Rocket and Baby Groot deal with the Ravagers, Gamora and Nebula face off and Peter meets his Father.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is wonderful and fascinating once again! We get to see the Ravager homeworld where they take up contracts and have fun, we meet the high strung Sovereign driven by genetic perfection and Ego, a being who is a living planet who wants to consume the Universe and cares about his son Quill. Each of these groups gets exploration that shows part of the reason why this is the best part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The Soundtrack – Tyler Bates did the soundtrack and we once again get some amazing hits that are masterfully woven into the fights, the character interactions and the tone and feeling of different scenes. I think the first film used the songs and feel slightly better, but this was still a blast.

The Action – The action is amazing! In this we see  smaller fights to clever traps laid by Rocket, to a giant faceoff with the Guardians facing Ego and the Sovereign. It is a lot of fun and the action serves a purpose as any time we get it it is advancing the plot.

The Characters and Their Arcs – James Gunn is a great writer and it is fully on display in this film as it is the character and their arcs and relationships that drive the action and story of the film. He is dealing with a lot of different character groups this time, but each of them has a huge emotional payoff in the end.

Drax and Mantis – Drax meets Mantis, who is Ego’s assistant who helps him sleep. She senses emotion and it is in their relationship we see her learn about the complexity of feelings as well as Drax finally opening up as we see his jokes hide how much he misses his wife and daughter. Their friendship is wonderful and platonic and has some of the best jokes.

Nebula and Gamora – Nebula and Gamora’s arc involves them opening up about the trauma Thanos put them through (we learn Nebula was torn apart and had her body replaced by machine parts every time she lost a fight to Gamora). In the end they forgive each other and realize they aren’t the enemy, Thanos is and from that they truly become sisters rather than weapons of Thanos.

Rocket and Yondu – Rocket and Yondu were outcasts who grew up with no one. Yondu was a Kree Slave who was rescued by a Ravager captain and in turn became one as well (until he loses it all over the course of the film) and Rocket is pushing everyone away until Yondu calls him out, letting him know it isn’t worth it and that he gets it too (what he only realizes after he’s lost everything). This arc was powerful as we see how rich their friendship is because of all they’ve lost and their devil may care attitude towards life. These two are my favorite characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Films and possibly the MCU as a whole.

Peter and Ego – Peter really wants a father and learning Ego is his father is what he always wanted…until he realizes that Ego only cares about him as a means to an end. This leads to their fight as Peter gets beyond his need to be loved and accepts the love that he already has from the Guardians and Yondu an rejects the absolute power at that Ego is offering.

Ego – Ego is a Celestial and because of this is eternal and immortal. It is from this mindset that he came to the realization that he matters the most so all should become him. You can see where he comes from as he has outlived countless lives and species, but also how he misses the point that all life matters. He clearly cares for Peter but that is because Peter is a part of him. Like his name Ego never sees beyond his Ego and that is what leads to his destruction. If he valued others he would have lived and most likely become an ally or a powerful neutral force, instead he wanted it all and that was what lead to his destruction. Kurt Russell does an amazing performance, putting Ego as one of the best villains in the MCU.

Yondu and the Ravagers – Yondu’s main arc begins when the other Ravagers reject him for the child trafficking he was doing for Ego. His exile leads to him being taken out by Nebula who helps a rival among Yondu’s crew named Ravager take control of the ship and leads to the capture of Baby Groot and Rocket. In the end Yondu takes responsibility and we see him take the fight to the monster that is Ego and that he stopped trafficking once he realized that Ego was killing them (this is when he takes on Quill). In the end he realizes that he can’t atone for what he’s done and stands with the Guardians Ego, sacrificing himself to save Peter, his son, which leads to the Ravagers giving him a Ravager funeral and accepting him back in and honoring him in his death. Rooker really is fantastic.

Family is Greater Than Blood – Family being greater than blood is the main theme of the film besides letting go of the ego. We see this in how Yondu is the father that Peter’s actual father never was and that the Guardians are family with one another…they fight with each other but in the end they always have each other’s backs.

The Killing of the Ego – This idea functions as both a metaphor (Peter letting go of his need to please his Dad and his forgiving of Yondu) and Yondu losing everything but finding what matters moist…Quill and the Guardians…he finds family after his old family…the Ravager Captains exile him…Though he gets them in the end too as they find him redeemed in his fight where he helped defeat Ego and saved the Guardians. Ego is the antagonist and wants the Universe to be him and for a while this appeals to Quill when he sees eternity, until he realizes that it was Ego’s selfishness that lead to Ego killing his Mother which sets off the fight against him and saving the Universe again.

Okay: Some Actions Sequences Go Too Long – The final fight against Ego could have been cut in half and still had the same power behind it. I didn’t care about the Sovereign arriving and felt that they were unnecessary. The best parts of the fight were the times that Ego was trying to sway Peter, when that wasn’t happening it looked cool, but the action stretched on too long for me to call it a pro.

Slow Down Shots – There a few times in the film where the action slows down to near standstill. I found this super distracting from the flow of the action that blended seamlessly with the music, with the exception of these sequences.

Motivation of the Sovereign – I get that these guys are easily insulted, but I was surprised they didn’t call up the Guardians first and attack only after Rocket would have most likely insulted them again. In this way they were way too reactive. They still worked as secondary antagonists but they weren’t as compelling as the Ravagers because of their motivation.

  This is a film that I highly recommend. This is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe remains fun and for once we get a story that has nothing to do with Infinity Stones, which in turn leads to us getting time to get to know the characters better. We also have a villain with motivations and a connection to our heroes that matters, and he feels like an actual threat as well as loss and character payoff that comes with a rocking soundtrack. As a side note, my friend was in one of the scenes at the end as one of the Ravager Captains bodyguards/lieutenants! I hope they do more with those Captains and their crew in Volume 3! I really enjoyed this film and it is definitely on par with the first “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Which is rare in Marvel Movies as often their sequels aren’t as strong as the originals. So if you haven’t watched this film yet, I highly recommend that you do.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

The Lego Batman Movie (2017): A Wonderful Satire and Celebration of Batman

    “The Lego Batman” movie is hilarious, a great satire and celebration of Batman and a great addition to the Batmanverse if you are any sort of fan of the character. This is a film that finally makes Batman fun again and brings in just how important the Bat Family is, which is something many of the live action films have forgotten. Before I get into story spoilers, I highly recommend this film. Much like the “Lego Movie,” it never stops being fun.

    The film was directed by Chris McKay, written by Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Seth Grahame-Smith, Jared Stern and John Wittington while being produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

   The story involves Batman who after defeating Joker and his Rogues Gallery once again is alone but finds his life changed when Jim Gordon (Hector Elizondo) retires and his daughter Barbara (Rosario Dawson) takes his place and wants to work with Batman (Will Arnett). Dick Grayson (Mchael Cera) is also accidentally adopted by Batman who must now deal with caring for others again as Joker sets a plan in motion to reach the enemies in the Phantom Zone, as he’s hurt that Batman doesn’t see him as his nemesis.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of Batman is fascinating and Lego’s take on it adds a lot of much needed humor as well as a recognition of the campy roots that have always been a part of Batman to some degree. We see a diverse array of Rogues, the Justice League of course the people of Gotham.

The Action – The action is fantastic, with my favorite parts being the opening fight where Batman faces off against his Rogues and the Phantom Zone enemies invading and pretty much destroying Gotham. The action is fluid and quick and remains focused even with so much going on.

The Joker – Zach Galifianakis was brilliant casting as the Joker. He brings so much snide and emotion to the role and I loved how he had a co-dependent relationship with Batman where all he wanted was to be the most hated and Batman’s nemesis aka have a special relationship. His Joker isn’t all bad either as at the end he helps save Gotham and in the Phantom Zone is freaked out by the mentality some of the villains have.

The Bat Family – The Bat Family is wonderful as see Alfred is Bruce’s surrogate father just as he becomes Dick Grayson’s (Michael Cera doing some great comedy) surrogate Dad. Batgirl (Rosario Dawson is once again fantastic) is the one who sees the big picture of them working together and that it is needed and Batman is the inventor whose inventions help save the day. It is Alfred calling Bruce to action that helps him grow (Fiennes does a wonderful job as the character), Robin’s usefulness, innocence and admiration and Batgirl’s accountability that help him complete his arc and finally grow out of the fear that was with him on the day his parent’s died.

Satire of Batman – Batman is trapped as a perpetual child who plays rock and roll is an ungrateful narcissist and this on display, from tantrums (a good satire of Bale and Affleck’s Batman at his most extreme), his strange villains from his early run (Condiment King, etc.) his strange rivalry with Superman (Batman v Superman, Dark Knight Returns) and how a lot of it comes from Batman’s childish need to one up and be extreme, and his isolation and just lonely that really is. The great thing is, a character arc comes out of it!

Batman’s Character Arc – In the end this satire is a celebration of the character because his anger and rage is mocked but it is also explored and it goes somewhere. Batman grows up and realizes he isn’t alone. Besides “Dark Knight Rises” I can’t think of a film that has really done this well (“Batman Returns” did it but not well).

 Okay: Batman’s Rogues – Batman’s rogues don’t much besides being minions of the Joker and function as one entity (which was a shame) some of the references are funny though, from Condiment King (actual rogue) to Bane having Tom Hardy’s Bane’s voice. As jokes and references they are fine but they don’t exist as characters, which would have raised this film higher.

The Phantom Zone Villains – Gremlins, The Eye of Sauron, King Kong and Lord Voldemort are some of the baddies in the Phantom Zone. They also largely exist as references too and as villains so powerful Batman’s Rogues and the Bat Family have to team up to defeat them.

The Cons: The Legoverse – Gotham is built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone has a talking Lego that sounds like a kid. I didn’t like either of these things. I get it is the Legoverse but these things took me out of the great Batman story that was taking place and was the worst part of the film and only real con.

   This was a film that was amazing as a Batman film, but brought down by the ties to the Legoverse. It was that aspect that took me out of the great Batman story that was being told. There is fantastic character arc that takes place with Batman finally growing up, from Gotham being built over dirty laundry and the Phantom Zone talking lego…I still highly recommend this film and consider it a favorite. I’m curious to see what the Lego Team comes up with next and hope that DC can take note of the fact that Batman can’t remain static. The great movies have him grow and change, it is when that is forgotten we are given the dramatic child who Will Arnett satires beautifully.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Get Out (2017): A Brilliant Horror Film That Tackles Racism and Privilege

    “Get Out” is one of my favorite horror movies at this point. This is a film that explores deeper ideas while still giving great moments of tension and horror in turn making it so much more. Whether it is racism, power and privilege, this film has a larger point but also does the tension and horror so well. Non-spoiler thoughts, you really should see this film. If you like horror films are even just smart films, check this one out.

  The film was written, directed and produced by Jordan Peele with the other producers being Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Sean McKittrick.

     The story involves Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) going up to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents in the suburbs. All is not as it appears to be though as the overly nice of the town underlays a dark secret as the only other African-Americans in the town give him hints of the mystery in their odd behavior.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Idea – The idea reminds me a lot of “The Stepford Wives” and as that film tacked feminism in critiquing the 1950’s housewife and showing the literal patriarchy in how the wives were constructed to be servants. This is done similar with how objectification of African-Americans. I’ll get into how with the reveal and the characters.

The Writing – The writing is smart and shows the dimension to our characters as well as the humor (which is mostly through Jeremy and Chris’s sarcasm). I always enjoyed Jordan Peele’s shorts which did a great job satirizing some segment of society or culture. This time he does it on a cinematic movie scale. Not many writers can tackle racism and privilege in a subtle way, but it is done here beautifully.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is fantastic and does a great job and raising the tension throughout the film. Michael Abels did a fantastic job.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part as they are characters and not ideas, they would have become ideas to carry the message in a lesser writer’s hands.

Chris – Chris drives the story and is photographer trying to get into college. He’s clearly happy in the relationship with Rose but is smart as he notices when things are off and even tries to go (when he doesn’t know what is fully going on just that he is under threat). It is rewarding when he gets back at the family who was going to use his body for one of the older people in the town (which is why the town exists). Kaluuya does an amazing job.

Jeremy – Jeremy is the genre savvy friend who knows something is up the moment Chris goes to town as for him the warning was Rose not telling her family she had a black boyfriend and when Chris describes the town’s odd behavior, especially those of the African-Americans, he thinks they are being used as sex slaves. He’s wrong about the reasons they are acting weird but was right about how off the town was, and in the end he saves Chris. Jones is hilarious in this role as Jeremy is the character who provides the most comedy with his genre savvyness.

Rose – Rose is a great villain! Through most of the film she is the caring girlfriend who doesn’t justify her parents racist statements but things come to a head at the end where we learn she’s the lure who finds the people for the townspeople to use. She is a great threat and almost kills Chris. Williams has quite the acting range as we see her kindness as well as when she is the cold hunter, finding more targets.

The Family – The family is brilliantly creepy as they act like they are trying to help Chris while having a sick undercurrent. Whether it is her angry brother who says Chris could get strong like an animal thanks to his racial genes and the mother hypnotizes him and uses his own smoking addiction against him, and the father who is the collector and intellectual who clearly sees Chris as a thing the entire time.

The Reveal – The reveal is that the town is using people who come to the town (who Rose collects) for their bodies so the older members can live forever. The original host is nearly dead except for their brain stem (which the movie presents as them watching their body being controlled from a distance).

Objectification in Racism – The objectification starts with the family in how Chris is never really talked to, he is talked at (which plays into the privilege part) and extends to how the family and town talk about his body or people like him. It is brought to it’s fullest degree in the fact that Chris is only wanted for what he can give (his body) not the person he is. That is part of what makes racism, racism. Whether it is excoticizing his form or seeing him as something to be exploited. In the end he was only a thing to the town, not a person. He was wanted for his race not his personhood.

The Power of Privilege – Privilege is the assumption of power over another and this is the core of the terror in the film. The town assumes they have a right to Chris and any other black person they bring to the town. It is through their privilege that they believe they have the right over his body and the body of others and rationalization is their justification.

Okay: The Townspeople – The town could have been developed more. They do fall into the horror pitfall of being the toxic sweetness in how they treat Chris, but they are all part of the organization that wants to live forever. It would have been great to see their motivations and the reasons they want to live forever.

   Jordan Peele is truly a great writer and director. This was a film that Blumhouse produced and I’ve honestly never seen a good film from their studio, until this film. It is kind of sad how good horror movies are hard to find. They are generally made on the cheap, are exploitative, usually by their nature and rarely have a deeper point that is illustrated well. “Get Out” manages to avoid all of these pitfalls and in doing so is up there with the original “Halloween” as one of my favorite horror films of all time. Seriously, check this film out.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10 The townspeople could have been developed a bit more.

“The Devil is a Part-Timer!” Season 1 – At Times the Comedy and Drama Clash But Overall Consistent Tone and Theme

the-devil-is-a-part-timer

     It has been a while since I reviewed an anime, and “The Devil is a Part-Timer!” was one I had already gotten halfway through so I decided it was time to finish it, to see how it held up against the other animes I enjoy. This was a solid anime but has some of the common tropes I found annoying in that the Devil has a harem making it a harem anime (though thankfully he doesn’t hook up with anyone) and there is a contrast between the drama and the comedy that is jarring at times. To the shows credit on both counts it manages to offset some of it, which I’ll get into deeper into the review.

    The anime was based off a light novel of the same name written by Satoshi Wagahara with the anime being produced by White Fox and directed by Naoto Hosoda.

    The story involves the Demon Lord Satan and his general Alciel escaping their world of Enta Isla is the war they are losing against the Church, into Tokyo. Here they find themselves powered down leading Satan to take up a job at the local MacRonalds so they can afford to live in this realm. The hero Emilia who is hunting them crosses over too and takes up a job at an office as others from their realm pull them into what they behind as they find themselves changed by our world.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is really cool! A powerful being from a fantasy realm forced to live as human and take a mundane job…there is room for so much drama there that sometimes the show does a good job exploring.

The Action – The fight scenes are a lot of fun and pretty epic in their own way as we see powerful angelic and demonic being tear apart the town in their standoffs.

The Characters – The characters are the main reason to watch this show, besides the the premise itself being draw enough. They are fascinating and most of them have arcs.

Chiho – Chiho is a high school student who has a crush on Satan, even after learning who she is. She is the heart of the anime as it is her appeals to goodness that change some characters back as she sees the most how Satan was not who he was before.

Lucifer – Lucifer is the villain in the first part of the anime but ends up being part of the good guys after he is depowered. Though he still manages to cause a lot of trouble when he does a ton of online shopping. His moment of great is when he punches the corrupt Church leader Olba during the final fight and shows that he isn’t about power and likes being human.

Suzuno – Suzuno is an inquisitor sent to kill Satan who changes over the course of the anime as she learns how to feel and sees that Satan is good and that she hates the fact that the Church and Archangel are using her and doing the evil they claimed Satan was. She helps Satan in the final fight after trying to kill him and is one of the core group.

Ashiya – Ashiya is the comedic relief as he is the domestic at the apartment. He is a good character as we see his devotion is what defines him, though he does long for more just not from Enta Isla.

Emilia – Emi is the hero sent back to defeat Satan as Satan’s forced killed her family in Enta Isla. She is obsessed with stopping him until she sees the Church is the one hurting people and forms an alliance with him the process. Their friendship is very combative and reminded me a lot of Ron and Hermione. Sadly she doesn’t get to take part in the final fight though she saves the Demons in the last episode from a scam. I wish they’d done more with her character as she is really cool.

Satan – Satan is the King of Demons and is very human after passing over as he is happy with his job at the MacRonalds and just wants to help people and have a life. In this way he doesn’t change at all and we never get how he changed from the Demon Lord of before. He is a great character though who could do with more exploration as his personalities between the two different worlds are very different.

Okay: The Comedy – The comedy is all over the place, the MacRondalds stuff tends to be funny since Satan is serious about his job but a lot of the humor tied to the girls who like Satan is really hit and miss.

The Ending – Satan stays to be a MacRonalds manager and is friends with the hero and the other friends he made as they stop a con man in town. It feels like a day in the life episode and was a waste as it did nothing to tie to Enta Isla or how they’d all changed. They still felt like the same characters from past changes.

The Cons: Tonal Shifts – The show wants to be a comedy and a drama but doesn’t pull it off nearly as well as “Voltron.” This largely due to having comedy in scenes that should be dramatic and vise versa. It is hard to know when to take anything seriously and that took me out of it. It is somewhat consistent in this in that the shift is happening all the time but I hate that in any kind of show.

The Villains – The villains are a corrupt Church official, Lucifer at one point who becomes a lazy computer guy and a pervy archangel who is just turned into a pervy human. I was really disappointed in the villains in this show.

The Enta Isla Plot – We get really cool glimpses of Enta Isla…from the Inquisition, to Emi’s backstory, etc. But it doesn’t amount to anything. In the end every character who crosses over just becomes part of our world and none of them go back. This was missed opportunity given Enta Isla sounded like a place that needed a lot of help.

     The premise is really cool but the show really feels unfinished at the end, and some of it’s worst tendencies were on display, such as fanservicing the female characters and having everything be about Satan in regards to saving the day, when Emilia was as much a part of the story on fighting corrupt folks tied to the Church as he was. This isn’t a great anime but if you are looking for a quick escape, the season is only 13 episodes long and the characters are great even if the tone can sometimes be all over the place.

Final Score: 7 / 10

War Dogs (2016): A Good Idea Not Fully Explored

war-dogs

      First I have two things I have to admit up front. Great comedies are hard to come by for me, I can’t think of many modern comedies that I’d say are truly amazing, most comedies I have watched in recent time have been overrated and not funny or simply decent. A movie needs more than jokes and setup, it has to have a larger point if the jokes and narrative can’t carry the film. The second is that I haven’t seen any of “The Hangover” films so I don’t know if this direct has other stuff or if his style is to ignore larger points and just got for large character stuff that lacks any sort of point. This movie was still enjoyable, but it was forgettable and it isn’t something I’d watch again for the non-spoiler thoughts before I jump into the review.

      “War Dogs” was directed by Todd Phillips who also was one of the writers and producers with the other writers being Stephen Chin and Jason Smilovic. The story is also based off the book “Arms and the Dudes” by Guy Lawson.

    The story involves David Packouz (Miles Tiller) who is miserable in his life as a massage therapist in Miami until his friend from Middle School Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill) pulls him into the arms business. All is not as it seems though as he begins to live a lie with his wife and finds that Efraim is hiding things from him.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Premise – The premise of two friends getting into the arms business, one of whom is anti-war is such an intriguing premise. There is so much you can do with this…from buyers and ending the war, to the reasons to and not deal with certain groups. None of that is done though…

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack has some great classic songs through the film that have some pretty cool war scenes. It helped make the experience of the film enjoyable.

Henry Girard – Bradley Cooper plays this dealer related to the Albanians who our protagonists deal with. He’s on a terrorist watch list and is in control of everything through most of the film, even though he’s a side character. If the film had been about him I have a feeling the film would be a 7 or 8 at least, Cooper does an amazing job in this role.

The Ending – David is given a choice to go back into the business as he covers for Girard and has the choice to take his money and the connections that come with it after it seems he’s moved on with his life. It’s powerful but the journey to get there takes away from it.

Okay: David – David is bland, you get he’s fed up with his job as a massage therapist and later selling sheets and that he loves his wife Iz…but she only exists as motivation for him and his relationship with Efraim never feels fully formed. We see his rise happen way too quickly and his heal turn is abrupt. It was predictable in the end and his character could have been played by anyone.

Efraim – Jonah Hill is fun but he is in a malformed character who we are supposed to sympathize with but at every opportunity we see he is only a selfish character out for himself. Even Hill’s charisma can’t make this character anything more than passable fun.

The Cons: Iz – She is there to motivate David’s actions and his eventual turn back to good. She has no motivation outside of their kid and David…she isn’t really a character just a plot device.

Morality is never Confronted – They sell weapons when one of them is supposedly anti-war. There is moral dilemma and confrontation right there…but we never get the why and David just goes along with everything.

Lack of Complexity – David is along for the ride of this very weak script, the film wants to be smart and humanize the Middle East but everyone in Albania and the Middle East are like Iz, they are plot devices to advance David and Efraim’s plot and from that what chance there was for complexity and tragedy is forgotten.

Lack of Consequence – Our protagonists don’t really face any consequences. David ends up back with his wife after she leaves him and even though Efraim goes to prison for 7 years, he is shown to be so wealthy and we never see him beat…so chances are he’s fine, 7 months in prison did nothing to David considering Girard’s cash.

What was the Point? – You have a gun about people selling weapons in the middle of a war. How can a film have a chance to explore morality, mortality and choice and forget about all of that…the comedy isn’t enough to make this film good or even great and the drama is predictable…What was the point?

  This is a movie that couldn’t tackle the big question. It never dealt with the wars in the Middle East even though our characters were right in the middle of all of it, David and Efraim face no consequences beyond a light sentence (months in prison for David, only 7 years for Efraim). The jokes didn’t really work either because we were never given reason to like Efraim, the guy is selfish from the beginning and never shows himself to be anything more than a selfish guy only out for himself, so his betrayal and somewhat fall had no feeling behind it. It wasn’t two friends falling out and that is what the film could have been. This lack of purpose and point when dealing with some pretty hardcore moral issues hurt it and the comedy wasn’t strong enough to make up for the lack of point to the drama. Still, this is a fun film if you don’t want to think…those are just the kind of films I don’t see again.

Final Score: 6 / 10

The Nice Guys (2016): A Solid Action Comedy That Celebrates Absurdity

the-nice-guys

   Shane Black is a great director…he is most in his element when he is doing buddy cop type comedies like Tony Stark in “Iron Man 3” being forced not to use his suit as an out, “Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang” had the everyday guy in over his head in a bigger conspiracy and forced to work with someone opposite of him and that film is a classic and one of my all time favorite films…”The Nice Guys” follows that same sort of deal and is one of the greats of this year because of it.

     The film was directed by Shane Black who co-wrote it along with Anthony Bagarozzi and the film was produced by Joel Silver.

    The story takes place in 1970’s Los Angeles and follows hired muscle Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) and corrupt private P.I. Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as they are forced into working together and  following up on a missing person’s case related to the porn industry and a porn film where all the cast members are getting killed.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of the 70’s and how it is presented is wonderfully sleezy and corrupt, which is the perfect character for our main leads to inhabit as they are a part of that same corruption but have enough of a heart to shine a light on it. It’s really beautifully presented.

The Cinematography – Philippe Rousselot does a great job presenting very tightly paced scenes that give tension to even conversations between characters as everyone feels confined, even when they are running. This helps raise the tension which compliments the action.

The Action – The action is fantastic! There are quite a few gun fights and fist fights and each of the fight has stakes. Even Crowe’s Jackson who is an enforcer has a hard time sometimes which shows how strong the government agents are. It isn’t easy for these guys even when they are in their element.

The Writing – The writing is fast, witty and funny and presents the absurdity of our characters’ lives and situations. This is really what makes the story so fun as like “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” we are waiting to see if the characters will win despite their own flaws and everything else and this film presents that beautifully.

The Comedy – The comedy is solid and due to the absurdist nature of so much of what is going on we have jokes that are created out of the strange situations are characters find themselves in and how broken and absurd their lives are.

Holland – Gosling plays this P.I. scumbag who comes around in the end. His core question is “Am I a good guy?” Which his daughter answers with a resounding “no” at the beginning, but by the end he proves he is capable of it. A lot of the empathy for the character comes from Gosling’s strong performance as he’s an overall despicable person through most of the film.

Jackson – Crowe is the enforcer with a heart of gold as we find that his best moment was standing up and protecting people and throughout the film he is given the choice to kill or save and dealing with his core nature of being good or bad as well. Crowe is hilarious in how genuine he is in everything, even though he is a hardened killer.

Holly – Holly is the heart of the film as she is the one who inspires Jackson and Holland to be good. She also helps solve the case too as she is one of the few who knows what is going on a lot of the time or happens to be in the right place at the wrong time.

Okay: Amelia and her Activist Group – We gets bits and pieces about what they are fighting for but we never know the full corruption of what the Car Industry and Government were doing and most of the characters, including Amelia die until we can ever get to know them.

The Cons: The Villains – There aren’t really any good villains. The Doctor is interesting in that he seems to be a serial killer but they never really go into that and Amelia’s mother is just an unknown factor as are her agents. The Porn Enforcers are just sleezbags so at the end of the day the villains really bring the film down. None of them stand out on why they are fighting for what they are fighting for.

   What really brings this film down in the end is we don’t really get to know or come to care about Amelia. We know she is an activist and her bringing down the corrupt relationship between the Government and Car Industry is cool but we never get to know her as a person or get more about her relationship to her mother, who is the big bad. This film is seriously worth checking out though! This is Shane Black in his element and Crowe and Gosling have hilarious chemistry that really carries the film as each of their dysfunctions brings humanity to them. Check this film out.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

Ghostbusters (2016): A Decent Comedy With a Villain and Climax That Don’t Work

Ghostbusters 2016

   For being one of the most politically controversial films this year, “Ghostbusters” was actually enjoyable. I wouldn’t go so far as calling it great as it did have a major villain issue and the finale went on a lot longer than it should have, but it had enough going for it in the main characters and the comedy that I was entertained. This film didn’t have to be made, as goes for most films that have been turned into soft reboots and Franchises and that mentality is one I dislike in Hollywood as I want more original stories. Given all of that though, if you are looking for a decent comedy you will no doubt be entertained by this film.

  The film was directed by Paul Feig who was also one of the writers, with the other writer being Katie Dippold. The producers were Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal.

   The story involves Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) seeking out her friend Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) from her past when Abby publishes their book on the paranormal and ghosts and Erin realizes her tenure at Columbia at risk. When they reunite they find themselves pulled into the paranormal and must stop the villain raising ghosts around town while facing the city of New York who doesn’t believe them.

The Pros: The Comedy – The comedy is a lot of improv but works overall. This is largely due to the chemistry between the leads. I prefer the dry humor of the original but these 4 ladies are fantastic.

Charles Dance – He plays Wiig’s boss at the University and is great at being stuck up and overly conservative. He only has 2 scenes but they are quite funny and that is largely due to Dance’s charisma.

Kevin – Hemsworth is an underrated actor and this movie really showed that he can play both the hero and the dolt as Kevin is a hilarious beefcake model who has to learn basic skills over the course of the film.

The Cameos – Murray as a skeptic, Aykroyd as a Cabbie, Ernie Hudson as Toles’s Uncle and Potts as the Hotel Desk Clerk where the most memorable ones. I would have preferred a sequel and passing of a baton if they were going to make this film but since they didn’t, I’m glad they got to at least show up to remind us of the classic film that started everything.

The Leads – The four leads are the best part of the film. It was very smart casting on Sony’s part as this could have easily been with the Adam Sandler crew (seriously Sony, stop giving him money) or any other comedy group. I liked who they chose since they weren’t going for a 3rd film.

Dr. Erin Gilbert – Wiig is great at being the nervous professor who is always trying to overcompensate. She is someone who is unsure and is the who really helps illustrate the quirks of the others. Her arc is getting confidence and healing her friendship with Abby.

Dr. Abby Yates – It is Melissa McCarthy, she is one of the better comedians when she is in her element and given decent writing. She is here and it is awesome to see her in the Aykroyd role as the believer in the paranormal who is the most competent businesswise because she’s had to live off nothing because of how out there her career is.

Jillian Holtzmann – Jillian is crazy and offputting and was probably my favorite character in the film. She’s very much someone who isn’t quite there and because of that her friendship with Abby made sense. McKinnon is fantastic and I can’t wait to see her in other stuff.

Patty Tolan – Leslie Jones does a great job as the one who knows what is going on and whose fear was the most believable. She sold a lot of the scenes for me because of how in it she was. Her scenes were the most natural it felt like too and it felt like she wasn’t doing as much improv as the others which gave strength to the overall film.

Okay/Con: Been Here Before – The original “Ghostbusters” is a classic for a reason and I have fond memories of it and look forward to reviewing it, “Ghostbusters 2” pretty much re-did the same story over again in a weaker way and plotwise this story suffers from the same problem. I hate that this is common and this was a rightful issue with “The Force Awakens.” If you are going to have original characters, tell an original story. The Four starting a ghost hunting business and having to face their own doubts, the city as an enemy and a supernatural foe is exactly “Ghostbusters 1 and 2.” This main cast deserved better as they had good chemistry.

The Cons: The Villain – I can’t remember his name or anything about him besides the fact that he was someone who hated being bullied so wanted to bully the town. He dies, becomes a ghost, posses Kevin and wants to cause the Fourth Apocalypse. The fact that his name isn’t even memorable and his actions are cliche are a major problem with the film.

The Climax – The fight goes on way too long and just keeps going and going. The animation isn’t all that great for the ghosts either so it stands out as well. I missed how quite and subtle so much of the action was in the original compared to this. This one is going loud and “Marvel” Movie climax and it takes away time from our characters who we really needed more time with to get their motivations more fully.

  This is a film that could have been awful, the trailers certainly made it look like it would be awful…and if the villain had been more front and center as unmemorable as he already was, the climax gone on another 5 minutes…it would have been worse. Luckily the actual film itself was entertaining. The humor worked for the most part, I cared about the leads and if you are looking for a decent comedy this summer, you will probably enjoy this.

Final Score: 7.6 / 10

“The Venture Bros.” Season 1 – Great Characters, Villains and World…I Want to See More

The Venture Bros Episode 2

     I am so glad one of my friends recommended this show. A season done and I can’t wait to see what happens next. This is a show that celebrates and satires Super Hero stories as well as old adventure stories and old adventure television mysteries (think “Scooby-Doo”) suffice to say it has quickly become a favorite show. The greatest part of this show is really the  characters who define the mythos, which I will get into deeper in the review.

    The series was created back Jackson Publick who also wrote a lot of the episodes with Doc Hammer.

     The story involves the misadventures of the Venture Family as they get into a lot of trouble and face their enemies ranging from Baron Underbheit to the Monarch, though their greatest enemy is often themselves.

The Pros: The World – The world of “The Venture Bros.” is awesome! It is a world full of heroes, villains, secret agencies, androids and mysteries. There are super heroes and super villains and each has tons of henchmen to boot. Seriously, it is an awesome world.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack captures the pulpy nature of the show really well. It’s fast and snappy and reminds me of the old Adam West “Batman” and comics from that era….which captures the characters perfectly. J.G. Thirwell is awesome.

The Animation – The animation is awesome. It flows and has a pulpy feel to it that shows us each character and how they tick, from the Venture Bros. running at the beginning to the tall standing Brock to the slouched Dr. Venture. Character mannerisms are captured beautifully in the animation.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part, with the minor one-shot characters being the only time the show really feels weak. The main characters though get some great exploration though.

Jonas Venture Jr. – Jonas Venture Jr. is Dr. Venture’s brother who breaks out of his body (he was eaten in the womb) and wants revenge until Dr. Venture apologizes and gives him half of all he has, showing he is more than just someone out for revenge and is smart and capable of growth.

Hank Venture – Hank is the jock of the Venture Bros. and idealizes Brock even though he is a complete dweeb. He’s usually always fighting his brother Dean. He is obsessed with blaming whatever happens on ghosts and is a lot like Fred from “Scooby-Doo.”

Dean Venture – Dean is the anxious nerd of the brothers who is the first to fall in love (Triana) and is the more sensitive of the two. He is the brother I like more as he has a lot more awareness of his surroundings, though he is just as much a danger to himself as Hank.

Dr. Venture – Dr. Venture is the cynical protagonist who only seems to really care about Brock. We never see him care about his sons except how he can use them to save himself and is a washed up has-been as he even sells a lot of his and his father’s stuff in an episode. He is a character who is apathetic and just doesn’t care. He does have a tender side though, as we see when he is in a relationship with Dr. Girlfriend.

Brock Samson – Brock is my favorite character on the show. The guy is unstable and a walking tank as it takes a lot to bring him down. We see that his one true love is Molotov Cocktease and that he is really doing his own thing most of the time when he isn’t protecting Dr. Venture and the brothers. He also has a good heart too as he helps an ex-military guy and his Bigfoot husband escape.

Old Team Venture – Old Team Venture is pretty great. Gentlman is probably my favorite of them and I can’t wait to see more of how the original Venture interacted with them.

The Villains – The main villains are awesome and each have distinct personalities and motivations, and they go way back, all the way to college in regards to their relationship to Dr. Venture.

Baron Underbheit – Baron Underbheit was a foreign exchange student who was Dr. Venture’s friend. Sadly the friendship when sour after he got his jaw blown off so now he hates him. They still can interact without killing each other though as he goes to Dr. Venture’s yard sale and the funeral of their mutual friend.

Dr. Girlfriend – Dr. Girlfriend is awesome! She was a powerhouse who hooked up with the Monarch and has been the only one holding his operation together. We see her good side countless times though, from her relationship to Dr. Venture to her sadness at the Monarch for when he turns on her. I’m glad she’s sticking around as she is easily the most competent character on the show besides Brock.

the Monarch – the Monarch is an awesome villain! This is a guy who lives by his obsession against Dr. Venture but has everything going against him as he has the maturity of a child and it is that that pushes Dr. Girlfriend away into the Guild of Calamity’s and Phantom Limb’s arms. This is what ends him up in prison with no allies and only his obsession against the Ventures to sustain him. Though he is given depth even then as he likes Hank and Dean and helps them get out of prison (though sadly his minions kill them anyway).

The Satire – The satire is brilliant in this! From the villains and heroes all knowing each other in college, the parent and obsessive issues they all have as well as the Villains have to live by rules laid down by the Guild. Superheroes are satired, mad scientists, villains, pulp and comic stories, etc. Each episode is really worth a second watch and I look forward to Season 2.

   This is a solidly amazing show that knows exactly what it wants to be (a satire and celebration of the pulp genre and the many forms it takes) and an exploration of characters, while always never forgetting the comedy that defines it. If I were to think of any con it would be that some threads get dropped (the Guild and their place in this world, Hank and Dean need more development, etc.). The older characters are fantastic though and even Hank and Dean have their comedic moments leaving only the one shot characters who are joke as the only major con. Regardless, this is an amazing show that I highly recommend.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10