Captain Marvel (2019): A Compelling World and Greater Point

     “Captain Marvel” is a film that is draped in controversy. The more I’ve read about it the more I don’t understand it. Brie Larsen talked about diversity in media (https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/movies/brie-larson-calls-more-diversity-film-criticism-following-usc-study-n88314), which is a pretty basic moral good. Having more perspectives at the table is a positive. There has been a reaction to this that has been pretty toxic, all one has to do is look up Brie Larsen and youtube to see just how bad it became. That is all I’m going to say on this as I came for the story and further exploration of Marvel Cosmic, which this film delivered on. Without going into details, I’m all the more pumped for “Avengers: Endgame.”

     The film was directed by Ana Boden and Ryan Fleck who also wrote the screenplay along with Geneva Roberston-Dworet.

The story follows Vers (Brie Larsen) a Kree Warrior who can’t remember her past but is pulled towards it when she is captured by the Kree’s shape-shifting enemies known as the Skrull. Their infiltration of her mind points her to memories of Earth and when she escapes to while Skrull forces arrive as well, seeking what she knows. From here she must work with Fury to discover her past and the truth of who she is.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Marvel Cosmic Universe – This is a movie that has a lot of lore on both the Kree and Skrull. This is Marvel Cosmic in the same way “Thor” films sometimes too and “Guardians of the Galaxy” always has. This film fits comfortably in those and is definitely better than the first 2 “Thor Films,” though for me the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films keep getting better with each rewatch, so it definitely isn’t that level. In this film you learn about the Supreme Intelligence who rules the Kree (in this film appearing as what person matters most to the individual interacting with it). This was my main reason for coming since as a sci. fi. nerd I love a well developed Cosmic Universe, which the MCU have done a good job of doing.

Fury – Samuel L. Jackson is Agent Fury in this and ends up being Vers’s partner as they seek her past. He starts out antagonistic as he’s had no experience with aliens and it is the events that happen in this film that shape his more cynical world view of the Fury we meet later. In this we see him before he became cynical and I appreciated how warm he was. This was a man who had fought as special forces in countless wars but had found a way to live. I hope we see him get more development in later films as this film still leaves so much open in regards to what he was doing before the first “Iron Man” and what he was doing before this film.

Goose – Goose is Mar-Vell’s Flerken, an alien cat capable of consuming anything. Goose is awesome and when our heroes are facing down enemy forces at the end, Goose eats them, saving both Fury and the refugees they are helping. Fury ends up keeping the Flerken too even though it takes out his eye over the course of the movie. I would not mind seeing this cat again, especially if it is taking out enemy soldiers once more.

The Kree-Skrull War – The main conflict is the Kree-Skrull War. This is war where we don’t know who started it (it implies it was probably the Kree) and now has become a one-sided war. The Skrull have largely gone into hiding with only their strong forces taking on the best of the Kree, which leads to their capture of Vers and where we learn however long the war has been going on, what the Kree are doing has become unjust. They have been doing extermination lead by Ronin by this point in the conflict and it is Mar-Vell who is trying to rescue them and help them find a new world before she is taken out by Kree special forces lead by Yon-Rogg. It is only Carol Danvers (Vers true name) who stops the Kree from getting the super-engine she’s crafted from the Tesseract energy and from here Danvers becomes the hammer of the Kree against the Skrull. By the end of the film Carol Danvers, having come into her full power once more returns to face Kree leadership to end the war and help the Skrull’s find a new home safe from the Kree. Where this war is in the modern timeline is up in the air but there is so much history in this film that I found it all fascinating. Kree distrust of the Skrull’s is so great that on their homeworld they have announcements of days since the last Skrull attack and everyone asks questions of each other to make sure they are Skrull infiltrators. The main leaders in the conflict are Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) who leads the refugee Skrull and leads Skrull Intelligence and the Great Intelligence of the Kree whose commanders are Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

Vers / Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel – Brie Larsen does a great job as Captain Marvel. She doesn’t know who she is so what she can do is limited at first, but once she arrives on Earth and starts putting her past together she really comes into her own. This is a character dealing with being brainwashed and gaslit by the Kree and her freeing herself from that, and in turn freeing the Skrull refugees who the Kree hunt is a powerful story. Throughout the story her commander Yon-Rogg is telling her not to feel and to repress herself, while his people repress her abilities. It is toxic and we see how her abusive father was the same way. Throughout the movie is her dealing with this, as she discovers the truth of what was done to her and from that what she chooses to fight and to stand-up for herself and others.

Talos – This is my favorite Ben Mendelsohn character. Talos leads Skrull Intelligence based off what we see in the beginning as he was the one responsible for planning the trap that captures Vers. We see that his aims are noble though. He is tired of the war and just wants to protect the Skrull refugees and his family. Seeing this reveal as he goes from enemy to friend is powerful and I’m glad he survives the film. This is a character I’d like to see again as he is morally complicated which gives so much potential for what he may choose to do in the future. I also think he is only one of the Skrull leaders and I want to see his relationship to the others.

The Themes – The main themes of the film are those of gaslighting, feminism and the plight of the refugee. Gaslighting is explored in what the Kree are doing to Vers (having her suppress her power, emotion, etc.) and it is only after she stops, fights it and accepts her own power that she flies and is able to defeat the enemy forces. Feminism is a theme in that women fighting for equality is a huge part of the film. Both Carol Danvers and her friend are pilots and the only ones in their unit besides the Scientist on the base. This is also shown in the gender swap of Mar-Vell who is played by Annette Bening. This fit the theme as much of Kree leadership is male as well and Mar-Vell’s push against it mirrors Carol Danvers’s later fight against the Kree. The final theme is the plight of the refugee as in the end Mar-Vell was trying to invent a super engine in order to help the Skrull refugees she was protecting on her secret base. The refugees aren’t the soldiers and we see the vulnerable people who are affected by wars.

Okay:

The Kree Team – Jude Law’s Yon-Rogg is the most compelling member of the team, sadly we don’t get to know the others all that much. Their dynamic with Vers is good in the beginning. I couldn’t really describe who they are to you beyond Korath’s distrust of Vers. I wish we’d gotten more time with them, ideally not in conflict so we can see their dynamic and how they work as a team.

Cameos – Coulsen makes a cameo, Ronan makes a cameo and Korath is on the Kree Team. This was another time where I wish we’d gotten more time with them. These are all intriguing characters but they aren’t given the time to be developed like they deserved.

The Cons:

Amnesia Story – Rather than amnesia I wish Carol being lied to had been primary story. We see how her memory was played with where a Skrull is put in the place of Yon-Rogg killing Mar-Vell but that is all that really pays off at the end. If there had been a running theme of the lying and her still knowing bits of her history we would have had the chance to know her more as a character. She could have been pushing against the Kree and their ways more, knowing she was being lied to. I wanted to see her make more choices as Carol and as Vers. Amnesia stories are hard to tell and this was one time where it did hurt the story. I wanted to know Carol but I felt the only time I truly did was when she came into her own at the end. She was the character with a mission, which was fine but I wanted more. Still a great character but an origin story mixed with an amnesia story is a hard thing for any writer to pull off.

What are Captain Marvel’s Limits aka the Superman Problem – Captain Marvel is destroying Kree Cruisers at the end. She is so incredibly powerful that no one around her has the chance to even injure her. This was empowering but it also leads me to the Superman problem. Why do we need the Avengers if Captain Marvel is powerful enough to solve the problem on her own? This is something the Justice League constantly runs into by having a character as powerful as Superman on the team. Kevin Feige said they’ll be dealing with this in “Endgame,” so I’m curious about what the solution will be.

I really liked this film and I hope that we see a sequel or at least see more of the Kree an Skrull, as so many stories have been born out of their relationship to our heroes. I also want to see more Captain Marvel. I wanted more time with her having all her memories as the amnesia story was definitely the weakest part of the film. This was a film that is a solid origin story that further expands the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel Cosmic. If you have liked the other MCU films, chances are you will really like this too. I’m really curious to see where they take Carol Danvers from here.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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Glass (2019): A Film That Almost Worked

Glass Poster Ahead Of Comic-Con | Cosmic Book News

      “Unbreakable” was the film that put Shyamalan on the map for me. I was not a fan of “Split.” I thought it was a passable horror film that of preyed off people who did suffer from multi-personality and making them villains (which is sadly a common trope of horror of making “The Other” the enemy). It is part of the “Unbreakable Trilogy” and as far as non-spoiler thoughts, “Glass” is the weakest part of the Trilogy. I’d choose flawed “Split” for at least knowing what it was. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times it wasn’t to be a psychological thriller, other times it wants to be a super hero film. Because it can’t settle I feel like it muddles whatever message it was trying to say, which is a big reason this film will never be more than passable entertainment.

The film was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who was also one of the producers.

The story picks up after “Split” with Kevin / “The Horde” (James McAvoy) capturing a few cheerleaders as as David Dunn “The Overseer” (Bruce Willis) seeks out his location in order to rescue them. In the end they are captured and put in an asylum under Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson). Here they find Elijah / Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) is also a member of the asylum and must face the reality of what they are while people connected to them seek answers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Cinematography – This is a beautiful looking movie. Even though it is Blumhouse Studios the use of colors here to represent the different characters look amazing. Mr. Glass with dark purples, Kevin with yellow clothing and the ever present green whenever David Dunn is the “Overseer” or thinking of embracing the roles. This is handled best in Mr. Glass’s plan to free them all and reveal heroes to the world as the color contrasts bring scenes to life during the escape.

What is Real? – The basic premise is pretty good and I wish it had focused on this and not given us an answer. In the asylum we are given plenty of examples of how our main characters aren’t supernatural in any way. Being very strong does not make one Superman and being very smart does not make one Lex Luthor. As Dr. Staple breaks down the barriers of defense our characters have put on their beliefs it gives us some really good slow tension. I wish this had been the film as the ending could still happen without the ending we got, which says “Superheroes are real.” In this way it could have stuck to landing as a more psychological piece.

The Main Characters – The main 3 who the story is built around are the best parts of the film. Seeing Mr. Glass manipulating everything, David Dunn being conflicted over his identity and the many personalities in Kevin / The Horde. They are what keep this movie from sucking and I wish we’d gotten more time with them and didn’t have the minor characters at all.

David Dunn / The Overseer – Bruce Willis is back and we finally get to see some development on who he’s become post “Unbreakable.” In this he has embraced his role as vigilante and is the reason that Kevin and him get captured as it his action that leads to the rescue of the captured cheerleaders but also the arrival of the Police who capture the two of them. He spends the most time questioning his role and nearly decides not to take action at the end because he believes he isn’t a hero. In the end he comes through to begin rescuing people from The Horde, only to be taken down by Dr. Staple’s organization with the other 2.

Kevin / The Horde – The Horde are a wonderfully creepy villain and Kevin being the child who lead to them coming about when he reacted to abuse from his Mother is fascinating. This is explored more in the story as we see the Horde exists to protect the core personality and within the different personalities there isn’t always consensus, which makes the Dr. Staple conversations fascinating. In my opinion he never stops being a villain even though Shyamalan tries his best to give an undeserved redemption story via one of his victims helping Kevin come out (only for Kevin to be killed shortly after in the final fight).

Elijah Price / Mr. Glass – Mr. Glass is only in the movie interacting with people for a short amount of time, and the movie could have used so much more of him. He’s the most interesting out of all of our characters and seeing his mind in action is easily the best part of the film. I wanted more of that. We get a flashback of when his bones break when he was younger, but we don’t get scenes of him as the super villain or him realizing that that is what he wants to become. Him questioning being a “Super” would have been the most profound as well, as he as the strongest believer in the concept dating all the way back to “Unbreakable.”

The Cons:

The Minor Characters – Casey, the surviving victim of the Horde is now drawn to him and feels connected to him because she was abused by her Uncle. Mr. Glass’s Mom is around but seems to be just there to witness things and David Dunn’s son believes his dad is a super hero. The characters when they have anything interesting are awful in how they seem to glorify abuse via Casey and Kevin’s connection (The movie never admits and calls out that Kevin is a serial killer who eats people) and David Dunn’s son has no personality. In the end they reveal the videos of heroes existing, which just struck me as stupid. We follow these characters but none of them work for different reasons. I would have preferred they not be in it all and us left with just with “The Supers.”

Glorifying Abuse – This ties into Kevin being a serial killer never being called out. Again, Casey cares about the serial killer who killed her friends because Kevin was abused to be that way and we learn recently that she’d been abused by her Uncle. This ends up feeling like a tactic glorifying of abuse as in the end Kevin finds human connection with Casey and she ignores all the people he has killed. I’m not sure what point Shyamalan was trying to make with their relationship but it really hurt the story.

The Final Reveals – There are multiple reveals, none of which I felt work. One is that the asylum is a place suppressing that super heroes exist and the other reveal is that the train that killed David Dunn’s wife also killed Kevin’s dad. I hated that reveal so much, it was bad storytelling and there was zero reason for it happen beyond giving The Horde a reason to turn against Mr. Glass, when that didn’t matter because they were all going to be killed by Dr. Staple’s organization anyway. In the end the reveals canceled out any point the story might have had.

For all of the cons that I mentioned, this film could have still worked if it had known what it wanted to be. We spend so much time in the asylum that I wanted that to be the truth. The truth is that they weren’t “Supers” and there isn’t a conspiracy. That could have been a good psychological thriller. Or, don’t have the asylum at all, just give us the heroes facing off against one another as the ending was really strong and worked as that type of film. Be a psychological thriller that makes you question reality or be a super hero film with elements of reality more akin to “The Dark Knight” or “Super.” It is in this that the opening and the escape are the strongest parts of the film, but the lack of focus and the very obvious cons kept it from being good.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Lower than the other 2 in the Trilogy because at least those films knew what they were trying to be.

Afro Samurai: A Beautiful Tale on the Cost of Revenge

“Afro Samurai” is a glorious revenge drama that shows why revenge dramas are empty. Samuel L. Jackson is wonderful as Afro and Ninja Ninja and this is the kind of show that you need to give yourself time with. For what would be a mini-series, this feels long, which is a con. It also is great for what it is. This is the kind of series that does the deep dive into revenge and Afro is explored fully as a character. For the flaws I’ll explore, this is a film that is truly great but the flaws stuck out.

The anime was born out a collaboration between Samuel L. Jackson, Takashi Okazaki and Gonzo, with a music score by hip hop artist The RZA from the rap group the Wu-Tang Clan.

The story follows Afro, seeking the Number 1 headband after Justice kills his father and challenges him to come and get it as anyone who holds the Headband is like a God. We see the consequences of this quest as we flashback to his life as a child coming into his own as Afro with the Number 2 headband and his reuniting with old friends on his path to get revenge against Justice.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – The animation is the style I enjoy. We are talking about long and detailed expressions of the weapons and the wielder. This series caught all of that for me. This is also gory, if I were to make a comparison it feels very Tarantino. This is a revenge film and we see the cost of revenge in blood. For me this worked as this is something that hurts the hero, this should cost their soul, and we see that with Afro. The animation captures that as well as the intelligence and survival of Afro as he fights to be Number 1 and the body count he leaves to get there.

The World – The Headband Wars are fascinating especially as we see a mixture of powerful guns, swords and robots all in the same world. I wanted to spend more time in this world as it looks Apocalyptic but Afro’s quest gives us a limited view of it beyond those defending Justice and those tied to Afro. All of these are overall fascinating characters, which I will get into later. This is one reason I really enjoyed this anime. This is a rich world where I wanted more time with the everyday people living in it. Not just the heroes and villains.

The Characters – The characters aren’t perfect, but the ones I mention get explored to the point that I wanted to see more of where they were and this series delivers on this. The order is going to be a little strange but I did it based on who I found most compelling in the end one of the one characters is directly tied to who another character is. Sadly the women in this series aren’t explored well at all, which for me did hurt the overall experience.

Justice – This is a classic anime villain in that he is seeking Godhood at any price. He is also not traditionally human as he has a third arm that is revealed in the finale battle. I liked him as an antagonist as he reminded me of “The Man in Black” from the Dark Tower series. We have this insidious being who is only seeking domination over others and destroys so many good people Afro knew to get there. The final fight is powerful and the Number 1 headband is something I did not expect Afro to get, given the tone of the anime. I was ready for tragedy, and it still is but not in the world ending “Neon Genesis Evangelion” kind of way. It is tragic in that the price of revenge is you lose yourself and all those you knew and this series does that extremely well.

Kuma – Kuma is Afro’s former friend who joins the organization that is trying to kill Afro. Kuma only has his rage at the loss of the Dojo, his Master (when Afro killed him) and his body as he is now nearly more machine than man. He is compelling character and his pain drives him. He is defeated by Kubo but returns once more, somehow surviving his near death to challenge Afro once more. His story is tragic and he has become who Afro was before, a character who can only find peace in death.

Afro – Afro is the stoic warrior. He only exists to bring justice to Justice and his story in this film is him facing the past and losing what connection he has to his emotions and self as he creates a imaginary friend Ninja Ninja who exists as his true feelings and fears. The character he became after his father’s death doesn’t have room for those emotions so keeps them away. Everything is about revenge and revenge is business. Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t speak much in this role but he plays off the expressiveness of Ninja Ninja (also voiced by Samuel L. Jackson).

Ninja Ninja – Ninja Ninja is all of Afro’s passion and fear and he gives so much to what makes Afro interesting. He is the way that Afro is still child-like as Ninja is all about survival and escape but he still sticks around because he cares about Afro and finds the fights interesting. Their dynamic is fascinating and when Ninja Ninja sacrifices himself to save Afro from Kuma it hurts because you know at that point all Afro has now is the fight and revenge.

The Cons:

At Times Overlong Action – The action is beautifully animated but at times it goes on way too long. This was fine but when nearly every fight starts going on a bit longer than it has to be it becomes a con. This was what happened here. I wanted more character moments versus fights. The dialogue that the series has, and they usually comes with flashbacks enriches the narrative. I wanted more of that because there wasn’t enough exploration of some characters. The series was later adapted into a videogame and given Afro fighting mini-bosses on his way to the final fight with Justice it works, and might work better that way.

The Role of Women – Women in this anime exist as victims and it is more the sexism you tend to see in anime. Afro’s old friend and at this point maybe lover who betrays him when she meets him (Okiku / Otsuru) later just to be killed by the ones using her in the first place is the one woman with a name. The most complex woman in the entire film is the bartender since she isn’t being victimized. I wanted to see more with her and Afro as she clearly knows his game and has seen some fights go down.

This is definitely an amazing anime. I wish that the action had been shorter and more time had been spent to develop Afro’s past friend Kokiku because we never get enough development in contrast to Kuma where we get his hatred and why he wants to end Afro. I would have cut all of the fights in half to have develop Okiku further as well as Afro’s past between his time at the Dojo and becoming an adult. It would have fleshed out the world more and developed Afro and his former friends more as characters. Either way, still a favorite anime if you are down for a classic revenge anime. Definitively a favorite.

Final Score: 9.2 / 10

Kong: Skull Island (2017) – Good Casting Keeps This Film at Level but the Film Never Reaches Great

   This was the first official “King Kong” movie I’ve ever watched. My familiarity with this genre as far a giant ape interacting humans was only the remake of “Mighty Joe Young” that Disney made back in the 90’s, though culturally I’ve always been familiar with the great ape and the tropes that usually surround his genre. Tropes that I find troublesome that this film does a good job at not using (presentation of islanders as Cannibals ready to sacrifice visitors and of course Kong being attracted to a human lady). Avoiding these tropes gave the film strength, though it suffers from other issues that keep it from reaching greatness.

    The film was directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, written by Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly, and produced by Jon Jashni, Alex Garcia, Thomas Tull and Mary Parent.

    The story takes place at the end of the Vietnam War as Bill (John Goodman) wants to get his organization Monarch (organization that researches monsters and was in the last American “Godzilla” movie) to Skull Island while U.S. Forces are still near the Island. He gets the approval is joined by a tracker named James (Tom Hiddleson) an anti-war photographer Mason (Brie Larson) and troops lead by Colonel Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who when they all reach Island realizes what information Bill was holding back and that Kong is not the worst threat on the Island.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is fantastic! It is our world but with untouchable islands, monsters underneath the ground and giant creatures that feel complicated emotions and are more complex than us at times.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and really captures the beauty and danger of “Skull Island.” This movie has a lot of color, which is a nice change of pace from WB’s coloring everything in drab and grey (Hell the DC Cinematic Universe). This helped give the story more life when the dialogue wasn’t cutting it.

Colonel Packard – Samuel L. Jackson’s character is very much a Captain Ahab as he is overwhelmed by what he thinks the war took from him (the U.S. leaving Vietnam he took to be his own failure) and in turn he is itching for a fight. We see him become obsessed with taking out Kong after his men die when they bombing Kong’s Island. It finally ends with one of his men turning on him as his care for them lead to his obsession with killing Kong and that being all that mattered. Jackson truly is remarkable in the world.

Hank Marlow – John C. Reilly plays a half-mad pilot from World War 2 who made friends with the Japanese pilot who crashed on the island with him and with the people in the tribe. He is a fun character and we see him facing his fear of the Skullcrawlers and in the end he gets to meet his wife and son back in America. I enjoyed his arc and really enjoyed how this role showed just how great Reilly’s range is.

Kong – Kong is humanized in this! In the film he protects the tribe from the Skullcrawlers who come from below. Kong is the last of his kind and we see him judge humans based off how they treat him. There is a lot of great emotion shown in his eyes on a few different scenes and it is wonderful when we see him team up with the heroes to take out the gaint Skullcrawler.

Okay: The Characters – This is an ensemble cast and because of it being an ensemble cast I never felt that we got to know anyone outside of 2 characters. Mason and James tell us a lot about themselves, but we never see it. They are ciphers that we can put ourselves into but that doesn’t make good character. Goodman’s character gets some exploration too but he ceases to do anything once he reaches Skull Island. His tory is taken over by Colonel Packard. The other two members of Monarch don’t get any exploration at all and are just kind of there. Most of the characters die randomly as well.

The Tribe – The tribe is non-verbal and worships Kong. I like how they are presented in that they aren’t the usual cannibals that these films sadly take the path of doing and they are still complicated as in you mess up their sacred areas, they will kill you. I didn’t put them as a pro only because they exist as one unit when they should have been more explored as individuals.

The Cons: The Sullcrawlers – Like the villains in the new American “Godzilla,” these guys are kind of lame. They are giant two legged lizards that eat and kill anything. They are monsters but their design isn’t memorable or unique and they never felt like a giant threat. Colonel Packard felt like a larger threat than these guys ever were.

Structure is a Mess – At first it looks like Goodman’s Bill is the main character, than he gets killed off and the film tries to make Mason and James the main characters, but that never works because they aren’t written fully formed so minor characters like Reilly’s Hank or antagonists like Packard take over the weight which leaves the structure imbalanced. The ending is also left open as we see that the U.S. army clearly sees Kong when he screams to them. This was stupid given that the film was over and they should have just returned home. In that way I think Franchise management is a big part of what ruined the structure. We had to know we’d see Kong later (that didn’t need to be shown) and in doing so editing the script or better exploring a main character fell to the wayside.

   In the end I still enjoyed this movie enough to call it a good B movie. It isn’t great by any stretch of the imagination. It is well cast though which fills in some of the lack of character development as both Hiddleson and Larson have great charisma in their roles, which keeps them from becoming a con. I also enjoyed the idea of Kong as a protector and how fantasy the movie felt with all the giant monsters living under the ground (“Pacific Rim” style almost). I’m curious to see what else happens in this universe and after this film, I may have to give the other “King Kong” films a chance.

Final Score: 8 / 10

The “Die Hard” Films – Worst to Best

Die Hard

    Going through the “Die Hard Franchise” was an experience of both the good and bad variety. There are very few Franchises that can boast having 2 of my favorite films in them and also some of the worst films that make the “Star Wars” prequels look good by comparison. When “Die Hard” gets bad it gives us some of the worst films in existence. Maybe they’ll recover after they make the 6th film but given how the last 2 films of the Franchise went I’m not counting on anything. So without further ado, here are the “Die Hard” films from worst to best.

a-good-day-to-die-hard

5th) A Good Day to Die Hard

    Jai Courtney is one of those rare actors who has such a non-presence in most things he’s in that his being there is rarely a pro or con in a film. In this film he’s awful and we get John McClane as a super cop James Bond like character in a story that takes place in Russia (Because his son is a secret agent apparently) where the villain’s plan is so incomprehensible even after reading wikipedia I had no idea what he’d wanted to achieve. McClane isn’t McClane and feels like a cartoon character of what the studious think McClane is and most of the plot is just pointless action, bad CGI and references to the better films in the series which makes this film feel like a scam. There are zero reasons to see this film unless you want to see how not to make an action movie.

0 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/07/a-good-day-to-die-hard-2013-john-mcclane-is-not-james-bond-and-this-film-is-a-cliched-mess/

live-free-or-die-hard

4th) Live Free or Die Hard

    “Live Free or Die Hard” is really where we first have the metaphorical death of John McClane. He no longer feels like a hardened cop in rough situations and begins to feel like a Super Cop James Bond as we see him get out of situations that are impossible on his own and exist only as catch phrases and references to the other better films. There is no longer McClane working with people it is just McClane being macho and having his cool rub off on other people. This film feels like what the Studio thought the other “Die Hard” films were but misses the point of them entirely. We no longer have a mortal hero who is deeply flawed and improvises his way out of situations, we have an unstoppable cop. The villains are lazy hackers who have no real motivation or threat to them and every guy in this is a sleaze besides McClane. This was a hack film and the only reason to see it is it has echoes of “Die Hard” buried underneath all the crap, which kept it from being a 0 like the film that came after this one. This film really dumbed down the entire Franchise and was the beginning of the end.

3 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/live-free-or-die-hard-2007-the-dumbing-down-of-the-die-hard-franchise/

die-hard-2

3rd) Die Hard 2

   “Die Hard 2” is very much a sequel. It takes place on Christmas, McClane has to fight the local police to get anything done and the villains aren’t all that fleshed out. One thing that the film did that it could have done more with is why the U.S. soldiers joined up with the Dictator who they rescued…he has to be pretty amazing for them to be loyal to him and the fact that he was “Good at killing communists,” is a good place to start. This is a film that had the potential to be great and is still very good in it’s own right. The airport being held hostage with the planes above as the ticking clock to stop the villains is wonderful and McClane feels real and is only able to win at the end due to help from the local police in D.C. who’d been fighting against him. I recommend this film for sure. It is a solid action film and a good sequel.

8.2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/05/die-hard-2-1990-a-good-sequel-that-could-have-been-more/

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2nd) Die Hard

    You might be wondering why “Die Hard” isn’t number one on the list given that it is a classic, it started everything and it is one of my all time favorite films. The reason it isn’t higher is so much of what is done is done by McClane alone so we aren’t given the chance to really get to know the people he relates to. Hans Gruber is an amazing villain and I like that he presents himself as a idealist terrorist but is really just a thief. Sadly we don’t get to find out what he wants to do with the money though and that is one of the few issues I have with the film that keep it from being perfect. The focus on McClane works but it also means other characters don’t get explored (like his wife) and Hans’s motivation was a missed opportunity to give an already amazing villain more depth. I still highly recommend this film and it is a favorite and easily one of the best action movies of all time. R.I.P. Alan Rickman, you played one of my favorite characters in cinema.

9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/12/26/die-hard-1988-an-amazing-and-classic-christmas-action-film/

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1st) Die Hard With a Vengeance

    “Die Hard With a Vengeance” is the perfect action film. The villain is amazing in how he’s able to manipulate situations and his motivations are fully explored. He wants money because it gives him sovereignty and power so that he and his men no longer have to answer to anyone. Jeremy Irons owns this role and has created an iconic villain in Simon Peter Gruber, a character just memorable as his brother, Rickman’s Hans Gruber. Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic as Zeus too and helps McClane pull his life together as we see “Die Hard” pull of the Buddy Cop film as well. Every character gets explored and the action and twists are amazing! I seriously recommend this film as it is the perfect action film, it takes everything that worked about the first film and does more as well as doing some things the first film was unable to achieve and gives us a fully developed cast of characters and an unforgettable action story.

10 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/die-hard-with-a-vengeance-1995-the-perfect-die-hard-film/

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Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) The Perfect “Die Hard” Film

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     The first “Die Hard” film is a tough film to beat in the action film genre. It has a complicated villain, great action, characters get great exploration and the stakes continue to rise throughout the film…which when combined with great cinematography and music lead to the creation of an unforgettable classic. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” does all that better and manages to add even more to create the perfect action film concoction.

     The film was directed by John McTiernan, who was also one of the producers and the guy who had directed the first “Die Hard” film, written by Jonathan Hensleigh, produced by Michael Tadross and based off the story “Simon Says” by Jonathan Hensleigh.

     The story involves John McClane (Bruce Willis) who has been suspended from the NYPD but is called back into it when a mysterious terrorist called “Simon” (Jeremy Irons) who is placing bombs around NYC and only McClane doing what he says can prevent them from being set off. After Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) says John in Harlem, he finds himself pulled into the mysterious Simon’s plot as well.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is pretty great! John McClane’s life has fallen apart and someone who is causing chaos and death in NYC has a personal issue with him and wants to make his life and even greater living hell. The whole idea of “Simon Says” is clever too as well as the riddles on where the bombs are placed.

The Ticking Bomb – The ticking bomb is something present throughout the film. Simon has bombs everywhere and it raises the stakes on what our heroes (Zues, John and the NYPD) have to do in order to save lives. The twist with this too is sometimes there are riddles within riddles and some bombs might be fakes. It is brilliant and reminds me of the Joker before the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

The Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful and does a great job of creating tension and making open spaces around NYC feel threatening. Peter Menzies Jr. really does a  fantastic job!

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack like the cinematography is great at raising the tension and has  a great placement of “The Ants Going Marching” while Simon is robbing the New York Federal Reserve of all the money. Michael Kamen really did a good job creating an unforgettable score for the film.

The Action – The action is the best it has ever been. We have a ticking bomb in a school and on a ship that need to get  disarmed at different points, we have a car chase and a huge battle in a truck yard and countless other great action scenes.

The NYPD – The NYPD is more than just caricatures and are actually good at their job. There is Detective Joe Lambert who helps keep the school kids calm when and prepares them to get out, Connie who is the connection between events going through the city and the Police Chief Walter who works with John even though he’s a mess and is on top of every problem as it is happening and does a good job making sure Zeus and John meet what Simon says while and the NYPD work on preventing other problems Simon might be calling. Weiss, the bomb defuser also has his own arc too as we see him face his fears (this being his first time doing this with this high of stakes) in order to save the kids in the school.

Simon’s Crew – Simon’s crew is just as memorable as Hans’s crew. Both of them are a team of mercenaries who are almost like family as they are risking it all for the job and are highly professional. In the case of Simon he also has a relationship his “Dragon” and muscle Katya who kills his handler the Iranians sent to take the money and keeps the NYPD at bay. They are really awesome and it is super cool when it looks like they have won and Simon promises them buying their own nation since they’ve stolen all the world’s money that was in the New York Federal Reserve.

Zeus / The Samaritan – Samuel L. Jackson does a fantastic job as Zeus…a shop owner who saves John McClane in Harlem and finds himself in over his head. He rises to the challenge though and we see that he is a man who deals with his problems, unlike McClane and is actually able to help McClane grow and they even develop a friendship too as Zeus works through his own prejudices in it all. He really is a fantastic character and was much more compelling than McClane at the end of the day. He’s dubbed “The Samaritan” by Simon for saving John in Harlem when Simon’s trap doesn’t work.

John McClane – McClane begins the process of growing up finally! In this film he starts out a mess and is alone and isolated until Zeus helps him deal with his issues and the fact that he doesn’t communicate with people. In this he starts too and actually works with the NYPD rather than against them which ends up saving the day in the end. He learns this from Zeus who is also a bit standoffish and learns a variation on it too. The film ends with him calling his wife who he is separated from and actually talking to her as what lead to them being separated in the first place was his refusal to call her back and deal with his crap.

John and Zeus and an Ensemble Show – Together these two made a buddy cop film which was fantastic as the “Die Hard” Franchise has almost always been about just McClane and his lone wolf cowboy way of getting things done, which just makes those around him look stupid even though plotwise they shouldn’t be. Making this film a buddy cop and him working with Zeus to start with was powerful as we saw John is human and not a cartoon character who does need help. This is completed with the NYC doing their job too and showing they are competent as it takes John, Zeus and the NYPD to save the day in the end.

Simon Peter Gruber – Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber is one of the best villains in cinema. He presents himself as an idealistic terrorist who is just a thief, but does care about people as his crew is one he he is close too. Simon like Hans is a thief but he also has a huge ego and has to play mind games (like the Riddler) but also has a much bigger army who is loyal to him (like Bane) and is willing to do anything to win even if it is killing the men who claims to be close to (like the Joker and Bane) as we see him pause when saluting “Dead friends,” showing those deaths meant nothing to him. Where Hans was just greedy, Simon is a psychopath who also loves as the assassin Katya is his lover and his ambitions are greater than Hans’s too as he wants International Sovereignty through the cash, where with Hans we never found out what he wanted to use the money for beyond getting rich. After everything he puts John and Zeus through it is rewarding to see him defeated, though I was hoping he’d escape. He’s one of the greatest movie villains of all time and Jeremy Irons played him so well that to me, he is the best villain in the Franchise.

    This was the perfect action and was even better than the first “Die Hard” film. The reasons for this were the Ensemble cast who all worked to save the day in the case of the heroes or to complete the mission in the case of Simon and his men, this movie was about more than McClane and was stronger because of it as it made the film more real and made the stakes all the more powerful as John couldn’t just shoot his way out of every situation like he could in the first 2 films. “Die Hard with a Vengeance” is easily one of the best action films ever made and is one of my favorite films of all time. I seriously recommend this film to any fan of this Franchise and action films as a whole.

Final Score: 10 / 10.  The perfect action film.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) – Best of the Prequels But Still an Idea Not Fully Realized

Revenge of the Sith

  “Revenge of the Sith” is the best of the Prequels and this isn’t just because episode I and II are so terrible. “Revenge of the Sith” at least has a focus and mission, which can’t be said for “The Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones,” which were muddled messes each in different ways. “Revenge of the Sith” is also the only film you need to see to understand “The Original Trilogy,” The Clone Wars and Anakin’s fall are the focus of this story and George Lucas actually does an okay job…though the ending is bad, the middle is really strong and for a moment Lucas seems to understand that you show events, don’t tell events. I’ll get into more of what I mean further down.

     The film was directed and written by George Lucas and produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves the end of the Clone Wars as General Grievous does a last ditch effort with Dooku (Christopher Lee) to capture Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Things soon go wrong for them when Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) arrive though all is not as it appears to be as after the battle Anakin finds himself being isolated around him and being offered a path to save the woman he loves through his friend and mentor Palpatine.

The Pros: The Action – The action in this is actually really good. Whether it is the battle to save Chancellor Palpatine or the attack on Grievous’s base we see that George Lucas does know how to shoot an action sequence when he is up for it, even the weaker battles like that between Dooku and Anakin.

Obi-Wan Kenobi – Obi-Wan shows why he was made Jedi Master in this as we see him walk the line between supporting his apprentice and trying to look out for the well being of the galaxy. Ewan McGregor does a wonderful job and I felt for him at the end as the pain in his eyes at leaving his friend who had turned to the dark side felt real and had much more love in the acting than any scene between Anakin and Padme.

Yoda – Yoda has some great Jedi Master moments too as he forces Anakin to give up his attachments or to face losing them (which is the Jedi Way, much like Buddhism) and we see how the deaths around the galaxy touch him. Thankfully he doesn’t fight with a lightsaber that much (he like Sidious should be beyond using swords whether they are lazer swords or not) and him losing was after a tough fight. He was stupid in that he went alone. Palpatine could not have taken on Obi-Wan and Yoda together. I do like that he figured out how to train to immortality too via communion with Qui-Gon, that was a nice touch.

Anakin’s Choice – This is a great scene, the music is beautiful and we see Anakin thinking of Padme and dealing with the fact that Palpatine has been right about the Jedi so far, but how they are also his friends and he knows whatever choice he makes there is no going back. There is no dialogue and the scene is all the more powerful for it.

Anakin’s Fall – Anakin’s fall is a pro as we establish he’s already a bit of a sociopath (hello the Tuscan Raider massacre) and he has major anger and ego problems tied to the fact that I don’t think he loves Padme, not really. She represents his mother as she is safety and freedom which are two things he’s never had his entire life. She is a closeness and familiarity and he chooses that for understandable reasons as he would do anything not to lose her and he is a sociopath, so killing the Jedi though it would be hard. Anakin is already an established fascist so killing those going against the order (Palpatine) he supports is a tough call but in the end one he would make.

Order 66 – This was really well done. From Anakin’s march on the Jedi Temple and slaughtering the Younglings (Jedi Children and going to call them that from now on), which by the way is his second time doing this so he’s been a messed up murdering soldier for sometime. We see the Jedi fall on each of their operations as Palpatine had manipulated the war so well that there were so few to stand against him.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – This guy is wonderfully evil and brilliant in a world where no one asks questions (no one does, not Anakin, the Jedi Order or even the Senate). So given this fact of course he rises to power and in the end helps the Sith reign supreme. The only scenes to watch in the Prequels prior are the Palpatine ones as he never stops being an interesting character and you get an idea of just how powerful of a Sith he is. He is one of the greatest if not thee greatest Sith for a reason and this film is his victory.

The Cons: Padme and the “love” story – The love story didn’t work unless they are both super co-dependent. Hayden and Padme’s acting doesn’t work either and the love story only works as an idea to bring about the fall. It’s more believable in both of the “Clone Wars” shows but for this film the crappy dialogue and sadly horrible acting more so coming from Natalie Portman is what brings it down. Her no longer having a will to live after Anakin turns on her doesn’t help matters either. She just feels more like a plot device meant to be fridged to finished Anakin’s fall.

Tone – There are still moments where slapstick is in with intense war scenes and it took me out of it in those moments. Lucas reeled it in at least and it doesn’t get as bad as past films.

General Grievous – What a joke. This is supposed to be our big bad? He is just bad as he is in the 3D Clone Wars. I never felt threatened by this guy and didn’t understand why anyone would make him a general.

Non-Characters – Dooku’s death felt meaningless and I feel bad for Christopher Lee because of it. Mace Windu also felt invisible. There characters never felt like characters, just ideas and plot devices for Anakin’s fall…like Padme and Anakin’s love in this film which wasn’t real but had to be there due to plot.

Excess – This really comes out in the final fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin…the fight lasts 20 minutes and there is no reason for any one on one fight to go on that long. It took me out of the moment and emotion behind the characters and made only pointless action. The only symbolism we had was the fact that Mustafar looked like hell. The tell not show dialogue didn’t help matters either in these scenes.

The Dialogue – The dialogue is still bad, especially at the end. At least there are moments where Lucas remembers to show and not tell us so that’s a win! Sadly his dialogue he has Vader makes the ending worse.

No!!!!!! – This scene. Vader should not say “Padme” it sounds weird and all it would have taken was a simple “No.” There was no reason to ham it up at all. It made no sense and I don’t understand why it was there. We already know Anakin is broken we don’t need it turned up to 11 to see that.

    I actually listed quite a few pros this time around as this isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t an especially good one. There are moments where Lucas actually knows how to write! Sadly rather than just showing the story he continues to tell us it, especially at the end. After I finish rewatching all the films I’ll do a write-up on the Prequels as a whole and a comparison with the Original Trilogy. Much of this film was made better for me because I got to see a lot of the show in both “Clone Wars” tv shows and that made the story here stronger as characters actually mattered, Jedi weren’t just faceless blank slates who used the force, they were people and monks who had ideals they were fighting for. I would probably have not enjoyed this film as much as I did without that context because it does make scenes stronger.

Final Score: 7.3 / 10