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Wonder Woman – ★ ★ ★ ★ Theatrical Review

Wonder Woman40

So if you’re a Marvel fanboy (or fangirl) you’re not allowed to like DC stuff right?  And vice-versa?  This is the law that was handed down, right?  So if you can only like one comic book company’s movies, and I just enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, how is it even possible that I really enjoyed Wonder Woman?  Because, I really did enjoy Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman was my second trip to the theatre in less than a week, and this time there were more than just two of us in the theatre.  I think it was the second weekend possibly?  A good friend is a big fan of Wonder Woman, and since the release pretty much coincided with her birthday, the outing was made.

Now, I haven’t seen Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I haven’t seen Suicide Squad, and I haven’t even seen the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  I did watch the Wonder Woman TV series from the ’70s though and did enjoy them.  As well, I think I had only seen one trailer for Wonder Woman beforehand, so I was going into the movie with very little advanced knowledge, and really no expectations.  Obviously I know who Wonder Woman is, and I know what the character’s powers are, but I don’t know really anything about her introduction to the DCEU.  I do know that you don’t usually hear a lot of good things about the films of the DCEU.  Also, why are the DC movies called the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel movies called the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Wonder Woman was the origin story for the character that fans didn’t get when she was introduced in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it wasn’t really burdened down by that.  From what I’ve heard, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman was the highlight of that film, and this followup was greatly anticipated.   Raised on the island of Themyscira as an Amazon princess, Diana is the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nelson) and Zeus who brought the clay statue of a daughter that Queen Hippolyta made to life.  Remember, this is an island of all women, so reproduction is a bit of a tricky subject…  Their island is hidden from the outside world (i.e. the world of man), but Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American airman crashes through their protective shield as he is chased by a German squadron at the height of World War I bringing the realities of the outside world with him.  Convinced that Ares, the God of War is behind this “war to end all wars”, Diana leaves her home with Trevor to fight alongside man, and embrace her destiny by defeating Ares and ending the threat.

As I said, I really enjoyed this film.  It had a lot of fun moments in it, lots of action, some great characters and it wasn’t slow or brooding.  There was a nice mix of humour, as we did get a little bit of a “fish out of water” story when Diana encounters our modern world for the first times.  Trying on clothes suitable for a woman in 1917, trying ice cream for the first time, walking down London streets with a sword and shield, all served to lighten the mood enough to make us love the character.  When haven’t we all felt like a fish out of water?  Once Diana and Trevor make it to the front lines, the action steps up but so does the heart of the movie.  It’s funny when you get emotionally involved with a movie that portrays recorded history.  We know that the Germans lose and the Allies win WWI, but seeing Diana emerge from the trench and attack the Germans in that No Man’s Land sequence was epic.  I had goosebumps.  Incredibly scripted, incredibly acted, and incredibly shot.  That scene, and the celebration afterwards was the entire film (and character) in a nutshell.  I like to think I’m an intelligent film watcher, and sometimes that comes back to haunt me.  I have seen far too many movies where I’ve correctly predicted a cheesy line or outcome due to what I think is obvious foreshadowing.  In the movie Diana is unfamiliar with trench warfare and is shocked when it is explained to her that they’ve been fighting there for months and have possibly only advanced a few feet further into No Man’s Land.  I fully expected an “I’m no man” line to come before Diana charged into the battle, and I even mentioned this to The Girl Who Whispered.  I was very glad that I was wrong and that it didn’t happen.  Kudos to director Patty Jenkins for not having that in her film!  Also, I may be mistaken but I don’t actually remember anyone calling her “Wonder Woman” in the film, just Diana.

At the end of the film I was pleasantly entertained by everyone connected to it.  Gal Gadot seems born to play Wonder Woman, and handled all aspects of the character well, from the naive and curious princess to the intelligent and confidant military commander.  Chris Pine is proving to be quite a good actor and has not been pigeon holed into a single role after playing Captain Kirk in the three rebooted Star Trek films.  Patty Jenkins did an excellent job directing the film.  I’ve heard people say the Zack Snyder directed films have been a bit of a tonal mess at times, and that the films are poorly lit and devoid of colour.  Wonder Woman was not a mess, was not dark, and in fact I thought it used colour and lighting quite well.

Patty Jenkins was the first woman to direct a major super hero film, and I’m a little surprised that she got the opportunity because she doesn’t appear to have directed that much.  I haven’t seen Monster, but it did win Charlize Theron a Best Actress Oscar, beyond that she has only directed a handful of episodes for various TV series and a few short films.  Directing someone to a Leading Actress Oscar is always an accomplishment, but to do it in your first film is really something so no one should be surprised that Jenkins is a talented director. I’m a little surprised though that DC chose someone with so few feature films to their credit to direct a very important piece of the DCEU.  I suppose that really doesn’t matter now, because the film has become a great financial success, and a great critical success as well.  Maybe part of DC’s problem in the past was choosing directors who weren’t fresh and were stuck in their ways?  Who knows.  I’m glad this film did well and that it all worked out for everyone involved.  To touch on my opening point about only following one company’s films, shouldn’t we as the fans of these films and as the audience want all comic book movies to do well?  The better everyone’s movies are, the more comic book movies we’ll get the opportunity to enjoy.

Bottom Line: The Marvel fanboy in me would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many similarities between Wonder Woman and Captain America: The First Avenger…  Both used shields a lot, both were set in World Wars.  Both heroes have idealistic reasons for wanting to fight in their respective wars, but have superiors who want to keep them away form the combat.  Both had mentors characters, both have love interests that are already involved in the wars, and both get a team of supporting characters (Howling Commandos and Diana’s own band of multicultural comrades). And SPOILER: At the end of the film, a heroic character named Steve (portrayed by an actor named Chris), sacrifices himself by destroying a plane that was about to destroy a major Allied city. 😉


Hell or High Water – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

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Another of the films that was up for Best Picture this year, Hell or High Water tells the story of two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who set out to rob some banks, but are being tracked by soon to be retired Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges.  Tanner (Foster) is a career criminal, and recently released from prison.  Toby (Pine) is the “good” brother but he teams up with Tanner to rob a series of banks to pay off the various liens against their family farm, monies owed to the very same bank chain they are robbing.  On the side of the law is Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) a cranky, old Texas Ranger who delights in the chase almost as much as he does insulting his half-Comanche, half-Mexican partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) with as many racial stereotypes and slurs as he can think of.  Despite this, Hamilton is a good cop and good at his job, soon he and Alberto are on the trail of a pair of mysterious bank robbers.  The bank robbing brothers are also good at their job, laundering their money in a casino across state lines but each robbery gets more and more dangerous as the take, the stakes and the violence all increase.

This was a very good heist movie (which I always enjoy) and it had a good dramatic core story.  Hell or High Water was very well acted, and Jeff Bridges was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  His character was humourous, intelligent,  and a great foil to the violent, and erratic Tanner.  Toby was also a great character, and also a clever opposite to his brother.  Though their reasons are leaning towards noble, the brothers’ methods certainly are not, but it does make the whole film a little grey, at times I didn’t really know who to root for.  At times I wanted the brothers to get caught (they were the “bad guys” after all) and at others I really wanted to see them get away with their scheme, and beat the bank.  The film did a really good job showing the poverty and the emptiness in those small Texas towns, which also kind of helped feed the conflicted feelings I had towards the robbers and the banks.

Full of action, full of drama, brimming with interesting characters, dark humour, and an engaging purpose behind the plot.  I really had a good time with this film!

Bottom Line: Remember how I questioned how Michelle Williams could be nominated for Best Supporting Actress with minimal screen time?  Jeff Bridges’ nomination made perfect sense to me, because he was in roughly half the film.

Review of Star Trek: Into Darkness or just me ranting and raving…

Product Details4 Stars

Before the summer blockbusters came out, I compiled a list of the ones I wanted to see, that list has now evolved from a “to see” list to a “missed it” list, but now I’m crossing off number two, with the J.J. Abrams Star Trek sequel Into Darkness.  It was enjoyable enough but difficult to review without spoilers, so be warned, I’ll try to be careful, but there are a few things I need to talk about.

First, there thankfully seemed to be less lens flare than the first one.  Second, there is something about these Abrams’ Star Trek films that just doesn’t seem Star Trek to me.  Not all the time, but sometimes things slip in, and I just have to sigh a little bit.  There doesn’t seem to be the big message of exploration, discovery, acceptance and social and moral responsibilities that the Roddenberry Trek had.  They are there, but just not addressed enough to make it Star Trek enough to me…I know that some fans will grow up only knowing these newer Star Trek movies, just like there are children who will grow up thinking Jar Jar is representative of Star Wars.

I was talking to a co-worker tonight about Into Darkness, and learned that he hadn’t seen Wrath of Khan.  I don’t think you can appreciate either of these new Trek films without having seen TWOK, since both borrow so much from it.  Remember the Kobayashi Maru test in the last one?  Where do you think it came from?  TWOK.  The Into Darkness villain?  Khan, and the worst kept secret of the summer.  I do like what Abrams and company tried to do by keeping the villain’s identity a secret but in this day of blogs, Twitter, the IMDb and the antiquated print media known as magazines, this secret was spilled long ago.  It’s also spelled out in the first line on the back of the DVD box so I guess Paramount gave up on maintaining the suspense too.  Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) was revealed to be playing Khan Noonien Singh, the villain from the classic series episode Space Seed and of course Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, played both times by the legendary Ricardo Montalban.  I’ll give Abrams and his crew some more credit: they do seem to do their homework, as parts of both the TOS episode and the film were adapted for Into Darkness.

This will be the spoiler paragraph, so skip this if you don’t want to know details, or HIGHLIGHT to read what’s blanked out. Okay, I liked how things were reversed yet still mirrored TWOK, even the way the lines were swapped about worked for me.  This time Kirk is trapped in the radiation flooded compartment, not Spock.  This time Kirk “dies” but the resolution to that was so blatantly obvious.  They almost spelled it out half an hour earlier in big neon letters!  “Look what I discovered this will do to this dead tribble Jim!”  Though the way they went about it didn’t make much sense to me…. HIGHLIGHT TO SEE: They need Khan’s blood to resurrect Kirk, fine.  I’ll even accept they need him alive for the blood to work for some reason…but how about those 72 other genetic super beings frozen in the cryotubes, couldn’t they just use some of their blood?  They’re frozen so you don’t really need to chase them down….

My biggest complaints about the new Star Treks are that they don’t really seem to use the “trinity” that existed in the original Star Trek properly.  There was very little Kirk-Spock-McCoy, which made up the core of The Original Series; Spock being the mind, McCoy the heart and Kirk the balance.  Now, Kirk is not yet a balancing factor and McCoy has been replaced by Uhura, which I suppose is a big step up from answering the phone on TOS, but for an old fan like me, it’s just not the same….  I’m still a little unclear why Spock needs a love interest, but as she has this role, Uhura does fit nicely as the new “heart” of the franchise.  I would have liked to have seen more of Karl Urban, seeing his McCoy truly acting as the heart would have been very satisfying.  After his excellent performance in Dredd 3D I wanted to see more of his acting range.  They seem to have made Scotty a bit too much of a comic relief character, perhaps because they Simon Pegg.  I suppose if you’ve got a fairly well known comic actor, you might as well use him for the comedic parts, but they can’t forget Scotty’s “genius” just for the sake of humour.  I suppose these changes also come from having a primary crew of seven (or eight) characters and casting “name” actors for each.  You have to make sure that every actor gets their screen time, but too many cooks spoil the broth.  I’ve got to say that I have really enjoyed all the casting decisions for the rebooted Treks, and hope that if they continue, Alice Eve returns as Dr. Carol Marcus.  After each scene, I wanted to see more of both the character and the actress.

My bottom line on Star Trek: Into Darkness is that it was fun, the action was good, but the sci-fi or Star Trek elements were a little down played for my liking.  I would have to say this was a must see for Star Trek fans, though maybe not Star Trek enough for die hard purists.  If you’re a newer fan, you definitely need to watch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, though I’m not sure if you would benefit more by seeing it before or after Into Darkness.  I know that after watching it I wanted to pop TWOK in right away but think I’ll save that for the weekend, and watch it with my kids, who have never seen it, but did see Into Darkness before I did.

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