Category Archives: 4.5 Star

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Kingsman: Golden Circle


Is there a difference between an action-comedy and a comedy-action movie?  Last night I watched Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and while I really enjoyed it, it did not live up to the first film.  The first Kingsman movie was more action with comedy mixed in, the second one was a lot heavier on the comedy.  What was formerly tongue in cheek nods became over the top, bordering on silly and juvenile.  Kingsman: The Golden Circle had quite a different tone than Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I previously compared Kingsman to the different eras of the James Bond films and I know the Kingsman films were created initially because the writers and director noticed how serious films in the spy genre had become, so maybe this tonal shift was intentionally done to mimic how the Bond films changed as they transitioned from Connery to the later Moore films.  Octopussy could have been a really good film, but Roger Moore’s Bond ends up running around foiling the bad guys dressed as a clown…


The film starts off pretty much at top speed, with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) involved in a car chase and fight pitting the new Galahad against failed recruit Charlie (Edward Holcroft) from the last film.  Yes, Charlie miraculously survived the mountaintop battle where Merlin activated the chips in all of Valentine’s cronies to save the world, but now he has a cybernetic arm and is working for The Golden Circle, the largest drug cartel in the world.  The Golden Circle is run by Poppy (Julianne Moore) who is tired of living in seclusion away from the prying eyes of the law.  She wants to legalize the drug trade around the world so she can be recognized as the successful, legitimate businesswoman she is. They’ve poisoned their own drug supply creating a plague known as “Blue Rash” and will release the antidote worldwide when the president of the United States legalizes drugs.  The Golden Circle need to eliminate Kingsman (or should that be Kingsmen?) so the plan will succeed.  Unfortunately the president wants all the drug users in the world to die, so he can win the war on drugs, and is just stringing Poppy (and the world along).  With the Kingsman’s headquarters destroyed, and all agents except Galahad and Merlin (Mark Strong) killed, they have to follow their doomsday protocol which leads them to Kentucky, home of Statesman (or is that Statesmen?).  Statesman is the American version of Kingsman, and instead of their codenames being knights, they’re drinks.  Eggsy and Merlin arrive at Statesman and are attacked by “Tequila” (Channing Tatum) who thinks they’re there to rescue the lepidopterist, a man who was clearly an agent for some organization, but has lost his memory after they rescued him from a church riot where he had suffered a gunshot to the head…


I was really glad to see that Colin Firth was back as Harry Hart, and not just in a cameo or flashback, but I really wish they hadn’t shown him in the trailers at all.  It could have been a great surprise, and a great reveal, but apparently someone in marketing doesn’t like giving surprises to the audience.  The two organizations team up and after Harry is found and his memory is restored, they battle Poppy’s bad guys across the globe in search of her headquarters and the antidote.  The action comes fast and furious and the stunts, gun-play and fight sequences seek to top those in the previous film (which were pretty high to begin with).


I will admit that The Golden Circle wasn’t as good as The Secret Service.  The story was strong enough and the action was impressive, and overall the film was very entertaining, but it was not on the same level as the first one.  It had very big shoes to fill and expectations to meet, and it came close, but was not without its flaws.  It seemed like there were a few too many “big names” getting in on the action given the success of the first film.  Jeff Bridges played Champagne, or “Champ”, the “Arthur” of Statesman, Halle Berry as Ginger Ale was their “Merlin” and you had Channing Tatum dropping in to be affected quickly by Poppy’s virus.  Of the big name actors, Halle Berry had the most significant amount of screen time, and her character wasn’t involved in any of the action scenes.  There clearly will be a third Kingsman movie, I just hope they don’t water it down like other franchises have by filling it with cameos and stars in small, filler roles.  All that aside, I did love how they worked Elton John into the story.  Poppy had kidnapped Elton John while Samuel L. Jackson’s Valentine had been kidnapping and recruiting celebrities during the events of the first film.  She figured his kidnappings were the perfect cover for one of her own, and she now had Sir Elton prisoner to perform for her whenever she wanted.  Elton John was hilarious in the film; getting some fight scenes some comedy scenes, the obligatory musical number, and he delivered what is probably one of the best jokes of the entire film.


Because of how much I enjoyed the first film, I wanted to see the sequel as soon as possible and that means a trip to the theatre, and I’m glad that I did.  I went with a friend and it was nice to have someone to discuss it with afterwards and to share the laughs and the whole experience with.  We’re not prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but we did both notice how the language was amped up compared to the first film.  We also noticed that we were the only ones laughing at a lot of things too.  Perhaps our humour is heightened compared to the rest of the audience, or perhaps our senses of humours are just a lot more twisted than the audience.  My friend said she overheard someone muttering something about not getting two and a half hours of their life back as they were leaving, which kind of made us laugh.  The comment seemed to come from a very laugh free area of the theatre.  You know, regardless of what they did, they’d never get those two and a half hours back anyway.  They could have taken a nap, went for dinner, killed a dragon, at the end of it those two and a half hours would still be gone.  I enjoyed the night out, and wouldn’t have wanted to spend those two and a half hours any other way….

Bottom Line: I was a little surprised at how the film wrapped up, I really expected it to end with Harry becoming the new Arthur.

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Spider-Man Homecoming – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Spider-Man Homecoming


The day after I saw Baby Driver, a friend an I went out and saw Spider-Man Homecoming.  Now, I haven’t seen the original Sam Raimi Spider-Man films in quite a while, but I think this could quite possibly be the Spider-Man movie I needed it to be.  I loved it.


At a science exhibition, nerdy high school student Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, granting him incredible powers. When a burglar killed his Uncle Ben, Peter vowed to use those abilities to protect his fellow man, driven by his uncle’s words: With great power comes great responsibility…. but we all knew that, and fortunately Spider-Man Homecoming knew that we knew that, and didn’t bother wasting any time telling it to us again.  We jump right in with Spider-Man shortly after Captain America 3: Civil War, now back in New York City and being monitored by Tony Stark’s driver/chief of staff, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau).  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is not as hands on as you would think he’d be with the young hero, who he’d given the upgraded costume we saw in Civil War he actually kind of ignores him.  This could be because he has seen how dangerous the super-hero life can be first hand, most recently when his best friend Rhodey was seriously injured in Civil War.  He encourages Peter to leave the big and dangerous missions to more experienced heroes, to be a “friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man”.  But when street level thugs start using high-tech weaponry (possibly not of this earth) in his neighbourhood, and Iron Man doesn’t take his calls, Spider-Man has to take action for himself.  Eventually though he gets in over his head and makes a error in judgment that could have killed a lot of innocent people, which forces Stark to take back the suit.  Now limited to his original homemade suit and web-shooters, Spider-Man readies himself for a final showdown with the Vulture.


Can I say that it was “amazing”?  This is Spider-Man in the MCU, and it was amazing.  I loved it, so I’m just going to point out a lot of the things that made me love it:

I loved that they chose to set Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in high-school which gave the film’s title a double meaning.  It was the homecoming dance where Peter has his climactic encounter with the Vulture (Michael Keaton) and the character came “home” to Marvel Studios from Sony Pictures.

I loved the cast of characters that they used in the film and that they somewhat re-imagined.  There was no Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson though Michelle (Zendaya) reveals at the end of the movie that her “friends call her MJ….  Now, let’s be clear, Michelle is NOT Mary Jane, but the character was great, funny, sarcastic, and smart; so she could be a great alternative to the comic book (and movie) MJ as Peter’s new love interest.

It was very “John Hughes-like” in the way it treated the high school aspects of the film and the high school characters.  Homecoming is really just a big  coming-of-age tale (albeit one with superheroes and villains), and Hughes told those better than anyone.

Tom Holland got Peter Parker completely right.  He wasn’t a socially awkward skateboarder who twitched and couldn’t make eye contact, he was shy, and nervous, and he was a nerd (his bedroom was full of Star Wars toys and he and his best friend were planning on putting together the LEGO Death Star!).  He was smart, but he was the underdog, and we loved him for it.  This was an “everyman” Peter Parker I could relate to.

We got a great new rendition of the Spider-Man costume, complete with resizable eyes and the web wings in the armpits!  The eyes were great and gave all the expressiveness that is hard to relate when your character’s face is completely covered by a mask (just like Deadpool’s eyes/mask did in his movie).  We also didn’t have to have the mask coming off all the time to show the character’s expressions.

When they show the Marvel Studios logo at the opening of the film, we get an orchestral version of the Spider-Man cartoon theme song.  That theme song did make an “appearance” in Spider-Man 2 when Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker gave up being Spider-Man for a time and a busker is playing the song in a subway station.

Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) wasn’t a jock, he was on the quiz team, but was the smug rich kid and still a bully.

Ned (Jacob Batalon) was a great “partner” for Spider-Man and a great friend for Peter.  Now, I can’t remember if they said his name was Ned Leeds or not, but that would be very interesting if it was.  Ned Leeds in the comics was one of several men who took the guise of the Hobgoblin, one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies.  Ned Leeds also married Betty Brant who was J. Jonah Jameson’s secretary in the comics (and previous films).  Brant was also in Homecoming as a student news presenter.

The wit was back.  It was nice to see a wisecracking, funny Spider-Man like he was pulled from the comic books.

In the comics, or at least the old ones that I used to read, Spider-Man talked to himself a lot, or at least thought to himself a lot.  He’d ask himself questions, get angry at himself, lament his terrible luck, and we were there for the ride, but that’s kind of hard to do in a movie.  You can’t really see a character’s thoughts, and soliloquies haven’t really been that popular since the days of Shakespeare, so fortunately we had Karen, the Spider suit’s AI (voiced by Jennifer Connelly) for Spidey to talk to.

Peter struggles to balance his double life, and we see once again how important that is to him.

Michael Keaton was great as Adrian Toomes, the Vulture was an excellent choice for the film, and they way they power him up makes sense.  Of course it’s great that Keaton was also just in Birdman where he played an actor who had previously played a superhero on screen….and that he also actually used to play another superhero on screen….(he was Batman!)

We also got two versions of the Shocker (Logan Marshall-Green then Bokeem Woodbine) and the Tinkerer (Michael Chernus) in the film, plus a pre Scorpion Mac Gargan (Michael Mando), hints at the Prowler (Donald Glover), and possibly Miles Morales…

Other great nods to the comics were there too, but the most obvious and my favourite was when Peter was trapped under the rubble of the building while fighting the Vulture and though on the verge of giving up, after crying out for help, how when he sees his mask half in the water and the reflection of his own face in the water, (giving the classic half and half Spider-Man shot) he summons up the strength of character and the physical strength to free himself to continue on, just like the scene in Amazing Spider-Man #33. Panel 1  Panel 2  Panel 3 .

Stan Lee of course has a cameo, and it was pretty good.

I loved the Captain America cameos too, as we see Cap via videotape passing on PSAs to the students of Midtown High in gym class and in detention.

There were two after the credits scenes, the first one is serious and involves some villains coming part way through the credits, and the other is for humour only, and comes at the very end of the film.  I’m glad I had the patience to stick around for that one!


A great story all around, and it captured the heart of one of my favourite superheroes of all time.  I love Doctor Strange, but Spider-Man was probably one of the first superheroes I was ever introduced to, so to see it done right makes my day.


Bottom Line: There was one joke in the movie that made me laugh for a long time.

Stark: You screwed the pooch, but then you did the right thing and took the pooch to the clinic and raised the hybrid puppies … Admittedly not my best analogy.


The part about the hybrid puppies is still making me laugh.

Baby Driver – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Baby Driver


In Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has combined music and action to create one of the most exciting and stylish heist films I’ve seen in a long, long time.  It may have been a little heavier on style than it was on plot, but the mix made it incredibly entertaining.


Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best getaway driver criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) has ever met, but now Baby wants out.  The timing couldn’t be better, he’s paid off the debt he owes Doc, and he’s just met an attractive waitress named Debora (Lily James).  But getting out of a life of crime is never as easy as one would think.  Doc has another robbery planned, which could be the most dangerous yet, not just because of the target, but because of the crew: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx).  Buddy and Darling are a couple and Bats is ….. well it’s probably best to describe him as batty…. or bat-shit crazy.  Baby is a great driver and when he’s behind the wheel he can escape any situation on the road, but once Bats discovers that Baby is trying to leave the crew on the night before their heist, he also discovers who Debora is (and where she works), then the real escape plan begins.  Baby has to find a way to get out of the heist, get Debora and get out completely, all without anyone following him, and without getting hurt.


When you heard talk of Baby Driver you probably heard people talking about the soundtrack, and it was incredible.  A fantastic mix of music that meshed organically and naturally with the action on screen.  It would be a shame if the film is not nominated for a few of the more technical Oscars this year.  I could see it getting nods for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and possibly even for Film Editing.  The thing about Edgar Wright’s films that I love is the amount of detail that goes into the script, the planning and that ends up on the screen.  During the opening credits, Baby is dancing along to the music (Harlem Shuffle) while on a coffee run and several of the lyrics appropriately show up on the screen, hidden in graffiti in the background at just the right time.  As in several other of Wright’s films, key plot points of the film are subtly foreshadowed well ahead of time.  Lines overheard on television end up being lines used by characters, and lines you think are throwaway lines end up coming true.


Solid acting was guaranteed with two Best Actor Oscar winners in the cast in Foxx and Spacey, but James and Elgort gave equally excellent performances as well.  The stunt work was top notch too, especially the driving (obviously).  I even managed to resist the urge to speed on my way home after seeing this in theatres.  Usually after seeing a movie that features a lot of car chases, I want to drive just like the people I saw on screen.  Heist movies are always fun, but Baby Driver managed to be more than just a simple summer popcorn flick.  It balanced the action, music, drama and even humour perfectly, creating a film that will be enjoyed for many years to come.


Bottom Line: I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu-Ray.  Wright usually puts a “trivia” track on the home video releases of his films so we can see exactly what he was thinking when a shot plays out, or we can see the Easter eggs he had hidden throughout the film.  I like to think I pick up on a lot of them, but it will be nice to see how many I miss!

The Founder – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

The Founder45


Oh Ray Kroc, you certainly were a ruthless one weren’t you?  The Founder tells the tale of Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonalds into the international, multi-billion dollar success that it is today.  Ray (Michael Keaton) was a down on his luck travelling salesman until he met two California brothers who had a breakthrough in the fast food hamburger industry.  Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) were happy running their single hamburger stand with their “speedy system” of preparing a meal in 30 seconds, but then they ordered some milkshake machines from Ray who fell in love with their system and their restaurant.  Ray thought big, he wanted to see McDonalds restaurants from coast to coast, but the brothers were reluctant to get on board.  When he endlessly pitched them a franchising idea, eventually they finally relented.  The agreement wasn’t great, as the brothers had ultimate say over a lot of the operation, including how much money the restaurant operators could effectively make without diluting the McDonald’s brand.  Ambitious, persistent, and definitely ruthless; Ray thought big, bigger than the McDonald brothers ever could and ever would.  How he took control, right out from underneath them was both dirty and brilliant, and The Founder shows us how he did it.


The film doesn’t always paint Ray in a good light but there were times I couldn’t help but root for him.  I think that Michael Keaton’s portrayal was probably responsible for that.  His performance was easily equal to what he delivered in Birdman.  I’m not sure if he’d be eligible for a nomination at the upcoming Oscars (I’m not actually sure when the film was officially released or how the nomination process works) but I’d say he deserves one.  Offerman and Lynch delivered equally impressive performances, and the whole ensemble cast really worked together well.  I was growing as frustrated as Keaton’s Ray was as Offerman’s Dick refused to grow the business.  I felt empathy towards Lynch’s Mac who seemed to want to play peacemaker and keep both sides happy.  Laura Dern played Kroc’s first wife Ethel, who was ignored by him as he tried to build the business (and as he found a new romance in Linda Cardellini as Joan, the wife of a franchisee).  I really expected Ethel to leave Kroc, not the other way around.


Kroc, when he was approaching the top of his game, was unstoppable and really took whatever he wanted.  He wanted McDonalds, so he found way to get it.  It may have been a fluke, and he may not have come up with it on his own, but when someone told him that the real money was in the real estate, and taught him to purchase the land that the franchises were built on and to lease that out to the franchisees he had the McDonald boys where he wanted them, he was able to control how the restaurants operated on the land which raised more capital, which bought more land, which built more restaurants, all while getting him out of the constraining contract and standards Dick and Mac had imposed.


Legally purchasing the name, the processes, and everything from them was a smart business move, screwing the McDonald family out of future royalties was a dirty move, but he did it.  And if you think about it, if Ray Kroc hadn’t done all this, all the planning, conniving, and backstabbing, we wouldn’t have the McDonalds we know today.  I would never have had the chance to eat a Big Mac being up here in Canada.  Ronald McDonald House and McHappy Day, which annually supports children’s charities, would not exist.  There likely wouldn’t be any Burger Kings or similar fast food restaurants that copied the McDonalds idea. While it was Kroc’s wife Joan who was largely responsible for the charity work, you have to admit, whether you like Kroc or not, his McDonalds helped shape a lot of the world we live in.


The movie was very entertaining, and very informative with excellent performances, especially by Michael Keaton.  We’ve probably all eaten at McDonalds at some point in our lives, but I know I didn’t know the story behind it all, The Founder was a fascinating biopic that really opened my eyes to that world.


Bottom Line: I’m pretty sure that the “Big Mac” was named that just to rub it in Mac and Dick McDonald’s faces that Ray Kroc owned McDonalds.

A Monster Calls – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

A Monster Calls


It wasn’t exactly what I expected, it turned out to be better.  A Monster Calls is about a young boy who has to find a way to deal with his mother’s impending death from terminal cancer, and how his imagination helps him to cope.  The movie was directed by J.A. Bayona and based on the book by Siobhan Dowd which she began writing while she herself was suffering from cancer, but passed away before she could finish it. The book was finished by Patrick Ness who also wrote the screenplay for the film.

Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is the boy who’s “too old to be a child, and too young to be a man”, but is forced to become one or the other as his mother (Felicity Jones) suffers through a terminal cancer diagnosis.  The disease is rotten and evil, and what better to fight evil than a monster?  Conor doesn’t exactly call the monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) at first, but it appears to him late one night when he should be asleep, and it comes ripping away the wall of his room, telling Conor that it will come to him three times and tell him three truths, and on the monster’s fourth visit Conor must tell him a story and it must be true, or he will be eaten by the towering mass of branches and leaves formed into a human shape.  The stories each parallel what is going on in Conor’s life at the time.  Each night the monster appears at 12:07.

The first story:

An old king who’s lost his entire family save a young grandson remarries a beautiful young woman many claim to be a witch. He dies before the young prince has come of age, leaving the step grandmother as regent. She rules well and fairly, but, not wanting to hand the kingdom over, plots to marry the prince and remain queen.
The prince, who has a lover, runs away with his chosen bride, planning to flee to the neighbouring kingdom. There they will marry and wait out the time until he’s of age to claim the throne. They stop and sleep under the yew tree (the monster), but in the morning, the young woman is dead. Murdered. The shocked young prince covered in blood.
He tells the villagers who find them that the queen, a witch, must have done it out of jealousy and so he would be tried and hanged for murder, allowing her to keep his kingdom. He also tells the yew tree something which calls the monster awake for vengeance.
Enraged, the commoners rally around the prince to storm the castle, and the monster follows. They capture the queen and condemn her to burn at the stake.
The monster arrives to snatch her from the fire, and carry her away to a far off land where she lives out the rest of her life.
While disagreeable and a witch, she was not the one who had killed the girl. The prince had murdered her under the yew tree in order to inspire his people to back him into overthrowing the queen.

The story somewhat relates to Conor’s grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) who seems like a witch to the boy, with her rules and expectations of him, but who hasn’t really done anything wrong to him.

The second story:

A greedy, ill-tempered apothecary who follows the old traditions and beliefs constantly pesters a parson to allow him to cut down the yew tree in the church yard and use it for medicinal ingredients.
The apothecary becomes less and less popular and is nearly ruined, aided by his own foul nature and the parson’s active condemning from the pulpit.
When a sickness sweeps the land and many die, the parson goes to the apothecary and asks him to save the lives of his two ill daughters after all other resources are exhausted.
When the apothecary asks why he should help a man who has turned people away from his skills and denied him the yew tree, his best source of healing ingredients, the parson begs. The parson promises to give him the yew tree, and deliver the parishioners to him as patients. In response to the parson’s promise to revoke his beliefs and give up everything if only his daughters are healed, the apothecary says that he cannot help him and the girls die.
The monster awakens from the yew tree to destroy the parson’s house and raze it to the ground as punishment.
While the apothecary was a nasty, greedy man, he was a healer and would have saved many, including the girls, if the parson had given him the yew tree when first asked. The parson, however, was a man who lived off of belief, but had none of his own and changed beliefs as it suited him and convenience. His disbelief of the apothecary’s skill caused many to die, even his children. The healing traditions followed by the apothecary require belief in order to work; without the parson’s, the apothecary was unable to treat the two girls.

At the conclusion of this story Conor is destroying his grandmother’s sitting room, her keepsakes and her treasured clock.


The third story:

There was a man who was invisible because no one ever saw him. Tired of this, he summoned the monster to ensure no one forgot to see him again. The monster made them see, but there are harder things than being invisible.

As this story ends, Conor has severely beaten the school bully.  I have to admit I loved seeing the bully getting beaten up by Conor, and being chased by Conor/the monster.  I really don’t like bullies.

The final story:

His mother has been pulled from a cliff by a terrifying creature from the darkness below and Conor must hold on to her hand to save her from being dragged down by the creature. Eventually, his grip fails and the creature claims his mother.

The final story is Conor’s truth to the monster, and he relates his nightmare to the monster.  Conor is forced to confess the truth: he loosened his grip and dropped her on purpose.  He could have held on, but he let go in order to stop the pain of having to hold on.  Conor’s desire to let her go and drop her is his secret wish that both his mother’s and his own suffering will end. Ultimately the monster comforts him, revealing that its purpose has been to heal him as his mother dies at 12:07.

First off, there were great performances by everyone involved.  Neeson was great as the voice of the monster, and managed to convey every emotion needed.  Fear, horror, love, compassion.  He was humourous, he was serious, he was perfectly cast.  Felicity Jones is fairly new to me.  I think I’ve only seen her in Rogue One, but she was excellent as well as the dying mother, giving a very powerful but subtle performance.  (I really liked her in Rogue One too, and realize I missed reviewing that a long time ago….) (and I double checked, forgot she was in The Theory of Everything! oops!)  Bringing even more power to the cast was Sigourney Weaver as Conor’s grandmother, but Conor himself, played by Lewis MacDougall really carried the film.  He gave a strong performance that showed a great mix of maturity and innocence, strength and vulnerability.

I loved the animation they used each time the monster told a story.  I’m really enjoying movies like this and like The Little Prince that are employing multiple styles of animation.  Visually the film was fantastic, not just the depiction of the monster, but the lighting of the rooms, the telling of the tales, and really everything else.  A lovely film all around that can be enjoyed by everyone I think.


Bottom Line: I got the story texts from Wikipedia, but am strongly considering picking up the original book now too…

Miss Sloane – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Miss Sloane


Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a powerful, workaholic D.C. lobbyist who uses every trick in the book to achieve her goals.  But her impressive success record, is on the line when she switches sides and leaves one agency to work for another. She fights for the causes she believes in, and the causes she believes she can win for.  Originally she and her team were selected by her boss (Sam Waterston) to fight for gun activists and prevent a bill from being passed, but she is approached by the owner of a smaller, far less prestigious agency (Mark Strong) to fight against her former firm and fight for the gun control bill.  Bringing some of her team with her and joining her new team the lies, deceit, back room dealings and shenanigans of lobbying and political intrigue unfold brilliantly on the screen before us.


Wow, this was an incredible film.  It clearly had a great ensemble cast but Jessica Chastain stood out and was simply fantastic.  She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, but sadly overlooked at the Oscars.  I’d say that her performance here was every bit as good and as worthy as her previous Oscar nominations for The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.  At first I was a little leery of the film’s runtime of 2 hours 10 minutes, but it was paced perfectly and there wasn’t a wasted minute or slow scene on the screen.  There were twists and turns as you would expect, but just when I though I had Miss Sloane figured out, she bobbed and weaved away from my expectations with tremendous results.  The climax of the film was definitely something I did not see coming, and I really do love that about this film, and films in general.  I love to be surprised when I watch movies, which hasn’t happened a whole lot lately, so Miss Sloane was a special treat.


Bottom Line: A very interesting look at the complex system that is lobbying in the United States.  The film isn’t really as pro gun or anti gun as you might think, rather it’s all about the corruption and dishonesty of politics.  The film could have been arguing about the MacGuffin bill or Johnson rods and been just as effective.

Logan – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Logan45


Be warned.  There will be spoilers in this review.  I think it’s the only way I can talk about what I feel about Logan.


It’s common knowledge that Hugh Jackman (who will be 49 years old this year) has said he would be “hanging up the claws”, putting an end to his portrayal of the character known as Logan, James Howlett or Wolverine that he has played nine times since 2000.  Patrick Stewart has also announced that Logan would be the last time he would portray Charles Xavier or Professor X as he’s also been playing the character since 2000.  With that knowledge and with a few hints from the trailers, you can guess what will happen to the characters.  Logan gives us an aged, weakened, sick, and non-healing Logan, not the Wolverine who could recover from beatings and attacks in moments, and whose ferocity allowed him to dominate in fights.  When he is presented with a young mutant child who has similar powers and claws to his own, he and the very old and ailing Xavier have to try and get her safely to the Canadian border while being chased by the same people whose experiments created the girl.


Watching the movie, I fully expected Logan to die at the end, and watching the trailers I fully expected Xavier to die too (as he states in one of the trailers, he is F-ing 90!) but there were things that made me doubt this and that’s what makes for good storytelling in my mind.  I went in fully prepared for something but there were enough hints dropped along the way that made me doubt, or made me hope that something else could happen.  I suppose I like to think of myself as a “smart” comic book fan.  I like to think that I’m fairly knowledgeable in the history of the characters and things like that.  I also think I’m pretty “movie smart”, as I’ve seen a lot of movies over the years and it takes something pretty substantial to surprise me, the fact that Logan did surprise me at several turns was something special and added to my enjoyment of the film.


When the bad guys gave their X-24 experiment a serum to heal faster, my heart jumped.  If Logan got some of this would it cure him of the adamantium poisoning?  Would he heal like he used to? Would he be the Wolverine again?  Could this mean that Logan wouldn’t die and I was wrong about my “predictions”?  Would he lead the mutant children to Canada and lead the next generation of X-Men?  In the comics he did lead the school after one of Professor X’s many deaths, so it was plausible. Also: could there be enough of the juice left in him that he’s not really dead, but will just take a long time to heal?


I saw the film in theatres with some friends.  After an enjoyable dinner and some excellent conversation, we were off to the show.  Logan was a lot of “wish fulfillment” for me.  This movie was really made for the fans and my friends and I looked at each other in surprise after many of  the “wow” moments.  Everything you wanted to see in the other X-Men movies you got in the R-Rated Logan.  There were violent, violent fights and deaths.  The claws were popped (by both Logan and Laura a.k.a. X-23) in gruesome and creative ways; ways that hadn’t seen on film but had only been imagined.  Bad guys got claws through the head, through the eyes, through the throat, through the gut.  Arms were cut off, legs were removed, hands, heads, you name it, there was comic book evisceration like never before.  If you were excited by Wolverine’s attacks in X-Men 2 or in The Wolverine, they dial the intensity right up in Logan. The only thing we didn’t get in Logan was Hugh Jackman ever actually wearing a Wolverine costume.  While I guess it isn’t necessary, it would have been kind of cool to see the costume that was teased at the end of The Wolverine (though only in an “alternate ending”) even if it had only been in a brief flashback.

They also dial up the language throughout the film.  We had a few “f-bombs” in the red band trailers (and even a few in the trailers before the film (more on that below)), so it wasn’t really a surprise that the language was also quite “colourful” in the film.  I think that “The Girl Who Whispered” was a little surprised by that but for the most part I think that the language used did fit the tone of the film and the situations.  That being said, it could have been toned down a bit and the desired mood would still have been achieved.  I usually think that if you always need to use swearing to convey the emotions of your story, you should work on your storytelling, but Logan didn’t really use the language that way.  At one point Logan and Laura (Dafne Keen) are stuck on the side of the road with a broken truck and Logan swears and shouts and beats up the truck.  To me that’s very real, and something that we can all relate to.  Okay, maybe we can’t relate to being mutants with unbreakable bones who are being chased by Reavers (cyborg mutant hunters), but we can probably relate to having a car or computer or battery or some other piece of technology give out on you when you most needed it…


Both Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman gave excellent performances, and there has been talk about both being nominated for Oscars, as well as the film itself.  I think that it may be a bit early for Oscar talk, but you never know.  Clearly both actors really do love the characters they play and you can see that in their performances.  Strong, emotional, heroic, and touching; they wanted to send the fans home with a lasting memory.


So, a few other things you may want to know about Logan: wisely it was set in the future, so there is the possibility (and high probability) that Wolverine will be able to appear in future X-Men (or dare we dream MCU) films.  There was no Stan Lee cameo in the film, but in several versions of the Deadpool 2 Teaser Trailer that aired before the feature there is.  For some reason the theatre I went to didn’t air that version of the trailer, apparently there are two, one with Stan and one without, and I believe they each have different music for some reason (though both have the John Williams Superman theme for obvious reasons).  Lastly there was no “after the credits” scene in Logan so if you have a full bladder you don’t have to wait around.


Bottom Line: Loved it.  I hear that they’re making a black and white version of the film as a special feature for the Blu Ray release, which I think would be pretty cool.  Black and white seems to intensify everything.  I seem to remember seeing one of the first trailers being released in black and white with the Johnny Cash song in it….but I could also be imagining that now that I’ve heard this.

Captain America 3: Civil War – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Captain America 3: Civil War4.5 Stars


This might as well have been Avengers 3, because it had everyone in it.  Steve Rogers’ Captain America (Chris Evans) battles Tony Stark’s Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) as the heroes pick sides after the fallout of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and the events of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier collide.  They may have saved the world (from a menace they had a hand in creating), but many innocent lives were lost.  The governments of the world and the United Nations now want to keep the Avengers in check and hold them accountable.  Cap’s WWII friend Bucky (who had been brainwashed into becoming the cold war assassin the Winter Soldier) has been framed for a new crime by Zemo (Daniel Brühl) and the two teams of Avengers set out to find him.  Captain America’s team (Falcon, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Ant-Man) are trying to save Bucky, while Iron Man’s team (Black Widow, War Machine, Black Panther, Vision and Spider-Man) try to bring Bucky to justice.


The film may have been a bit of fan pandering, but it was still well constructed and entertaining to me.  We got the introduction of a few new key characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther will soon have his own film, as will Tom Holland’s Spider-Man.  Both are important additions to the ever growing MCU, and I like the potential directions that both characters/films/franchises could take.  I will admit that I’m super excited for a “proper” Marvel Spider-Man film.  What I like about the Marvel films (the proper Disney Marvel films that is) is that they really do know how to pace and lay out a story.  The first act of Civil War was the build-up and the increasing tensions between the team, as well as the hunt and mystery over the Winter Soldier.  The second act was the big battle scene that brought all the characters together and the third act resolved it all, with Captain America and Iron Man temporarily setting aside their differences to fight the common enemy that had been pulling their strings for most of the movie.  Essentially the first act was character driven, the second action and then it circled back to a character driven story again.  All of it worked, and balanced the action with drama and humour.  I have heard some people say there was too much humour, but I disagree.  When you’re dealing with gods and monsters and knights and soldiers and heroes, all fantastical things, I prefer to keep it lighter.  I also think there was more than enough action to keep the story flowing so that I didn’t mind or really realize that it was two and a half hours long.


I really enjoyed all the characters.  With a pool of characters as deep as those in the MCU, you like to see the filmmakers play with “all the toys”, or at least all the toys that they’re allowed to use.  It’s really nice to see Spider-Man back where he belongs, alongside the biggest Marvel characters.  There’s no subtlety lost in naming the upcoming film Spider-Man Homecoming.  Getting a small taste of Spider-Man in the big airport fight scene was a treat that many Marvel fans didn’t think they’d ever get, what with the complicated stories behind which studios have the rights to which characters.  That whole airport scene was a lot of fun, even if it did condense a whole “superhero civil war” down to about fifteen minutes.


There were of course comparisons between Civil War and the other big super hero film of the year, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  I haven’t seen BvS yet, so I can’t judge it.  I know critics didn’t like it, and I know there is a HUGE divide among the fans both on that film in particular and on the differences between the Marvel and DC film universes.  Apparently it’s become a rule that Marvel fans can’t like DC films or vice versa.  I read quite a few user reviews on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes where it seemed like DC fans were just bashing Marvel films (and fans) while the Marvel fans seemed pretty even tempered, though to be fair, I was just checking a Marvel film, so they would tend to be kinder on those pages.  It’s entirely possible on pages for DC films that Marvel fans are bashing those too.  I guess I can’t help but wonder why the two fandoms can’t just get along?  It seems like there are a lot of negative reviews out there just for the sake of negatively reviewing something!  I like reviews to be constructive and helpful.  If you liked previous Marvel films, I think you’ll most likely enjoy Captain America 3: Civil War.  Is it better than DC, and everything Batman v Superman wasn’t?  I don’t know, that’s not something I can say without having seen both films, that would be up to you to decide if you have watched them both.


Bottom Line: This was one of the few MCU films I missed seeing in theatres.  I think the only other one was Iron Man 3….

Eye in the Sky – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Eye in the Sky4.5 Stars


“They kill 80 people we win the propaganda war, we kill one kid, they win it….”


Wow, Eye in the Sky was an incredible ride, for a suspenseful movie where you’re waiting for politics and red tape and bureaucracy and diplomatic things to get approval, it sure was exciting!  Helen Mirren plays Colonel Katherine Powell, situated in England and in charge of a remote mission in Kenya where local officials are set to apprehend a team of terror suspects.  Alan Rickman plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson who is briefing  a team of diplomats in Downing Street on the same mission.  Aaron Paul and Phoebe Fox are the American personnel who are operating the drones used in the strike from the United States.  On the ground in Kenya is Barkhad Abdi  as Jama Farah acting as the real-time eyes and ears for the operation.  What goes from a simple capture operation escalates to a kill operation when Farah covertly observes the terrorists preparing a pair of suicide bombers.  And then the story becomes entrenched in moral conflict.  The red tape abounds as no one wants to be responsible for any collateral damage the strike may cause.  As politicians pass the buck, and calls get put on hold, the tension increases exponentially when a young girl selling bread is spotted on the edge of the terrorists hideout.  A young girl who would certainly be killed if they take action to stop the terrorists.


Eye in the Sky contrasts the necessity of military efforts to contain and reduce terrorism in the world against the freedoms and the vulnerabilities and innocence of the people who are living in that area.  The little girl is a manifestation and perfect symbol of that.  The whole film is about the moral conflict between those two things, and the audience gets to see it from everyone’s point of view.  It poses the question of how many innocent people are you willing to endanger to stop the bigger bad?  5, 10, 1?


Everybody felt like the star of the film when they were on the screen.  When Mirren was there, it was her film; when in Whitehall, it was an Alan Rickman film; in Nevada it was an Aaron Paul film, and when they were in Kenya, it was Barkhad Abdi’s film.  Abdi really did a fantastic job carrying his pieces, especially because his parts transformed this intense political-suspense-thriller into an action movie of sorts.  Eye in the Sky also did a very good job of not making Rickman or Mirren’s characters the bad guys or even unlikable.  The Nevada crew seemed more sympathetic to the situation (that being the danger to the young girl), which could have made Powell and Benson seem like monsters with their perception and decisions on the situation and seem cold, heartless and simply militaristic. The film however does not let you feel the same emotion for very long.  I think that switching locations and points of view as they did helped to keep the viewer from being able to from that opinion because in each scene each character was doing the “right” thing.  It was also a clever way to balance a large, ensemble cast.  I usually find that the “too many cooks” rule applies when you have too many big stars in a film, and that the story gets watered down so each gets enough screen time.  Ironically in this case, none of the major cast members really shared “scenes” together.  All were in separate locations and only communicated with each other by phone or video, but never in person.  The actors probably didn’t even meet on set, as they could have just acted opposite someone reading the other characters’ lines a lot of the time.


Now, with all the suspense and all the thrills, with things blowing up, and children in danger, a thought struck me as I was watching the film, and I’ll try to phrase this without giving away any spoilers.  In a critical scene of the film, Farah buys all of the young girl’s bread so she would go home and be away from the danger zone, but after buying the bread, he is chased away by soldiers and drops it.  The girl picks the bread up, dusts it off and goes back to her table, right in harm’s way and proceeds to try and sell the bread again.  Was this greed?  Or was it just a child in a terrible spot trying to make as much money as she could for her family?  Did the child’s actions (call it greed or whatever) actually put her life in peril?  Since she decided to sell the bread twice, could she now die when we know she could have been safe?  Could her choice have put other innocent people in peril?  If her presence was the only reason that the strike hadn’t been carried out yet could the terrorists have gotten away?  Those scenes really had me thinking, and playing a lot of “what ifs” in my mind, which I think really made me enjoy the film even more.  A good story should make you think and should involve you emotionally and Eye in the Sky certainly did both.


Bottom Line: I haven’t been this close to the edge of my seat while watching a film in a long time.  Superbly done and sadly the final time we got to see Alan Rickman on the silver screen.

Peanuts Movie – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review

Peanuts Movie4.5 Stars


Well, now that my Oscar type reviews are out of the way, I can get to catching up on reviewing the movies I chose to watch strictly for entertainment purposes, starting with tonight’s review of The Peanuts Movie.  I really do love cartoons, and they are definitely not just for kids anymore.  Some of my favourite movies in the past few years have been cartoons, and The Peanuts Movie has added itself to that list.


The story was a typical Peanuts tale as the gang was all there watching good ol’ Charlie Brown muddle through his school aged life.  Always the affable loser, nothing seems to go right in the young man’s life.  That football is always pulled away before he can kick it; his baseball team is yet to win a game (well, they’ve won a few times since the comic strip began in 1950, like here); he’s never successfully flown a kite, and will he ever be able to talk to that little red haired girl who moved in across the street?  But now, somehow, Charlie Brown has become the hero of the school by acing a standardized test!  Is the old blockhead really the smartest kid in the class?  Are things starting to look up for him?  Well, no actually.  Charlie Brown’s days in the sun are quickly blocked out by the dark clouds that are his sixty-plus years of history, but even that won’t keep him down for long.


Technically the film worked very well for me, as it successfully brought the two dimensional drawings of Charles Schulz to a three dimensional style of animation.  The way the animators achieved this was to essentially only show the characters in the front-on and profile views that we’d become accustomed to.  Showing the character as they would turn their head didn’t work, because they stopped looking like a Peanuts character halfway through the motion.


The Peanuts movie was charming and a I think did a great service to the fans of the original comic strip and it’s characters.  As I said, the whole Peanuts gang is involved, and even manages to include a separate Snoopy story into the film, as he envisions himself the WWI flying ace pitted against the Red Baron in a tale that somewhat parallel’s Charlie Brown’s own highs and lows of the film.  At the end of the day however the film is really about friendship and throughout the film Snoopy remains loyal to Charlie Brown; supporting him, caring for him, helping him and watching out for him, even when some of the other kids abandon him.  The ultimate underdog story, the ultimate story about a boy and his dog, and a great, feel good story.

Bottom Line: To me the whole film and tone of The Peanuts since their inception can be summed up by this picture:

PeanutsMovieThanks

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