Murder on the Orient Express Review: A Fun Remake of the Classic Story

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Leslie Odom Jr. Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Penélope Cruz

Release date: Nov 10, 2017

Watch the Trailer HERE

With recently returning from my wedding and honeymoon, the approaching holidays, and other movies like Thor and Justice League higher on my must see list, it took me a couple of weeks to find time to see Murder on the Orient Express. Having never read the popular Agatha Christie novel, nor seen the 1974 movie adaptation, I went into the theater with almost zero expectations.

Director Kenneth Branagh also stars as the legendary detective Hercule Poirot. Set in 1934, Hercule is reminiscent of an obsessive compulsive Sherlock Holmes, who finds himself hoping for a few days rest as he travels by train to his next case. Of course, there would be no story if he was able to actually rest, and he finds himself in the middle of troubling murder mystery: the culprit being one of the passengers on the train.

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Branagh does an exceptional job making Hercule fun to watch. The detective’ s peculiar personality makes for some humorous moments. While he isn’t wrong, he is extremely arrogant in his ability. He tells everyone more than once that he is the best detective in the world. Hercule’s mustache also has to be one of the best in the world. It’s definitely on the top ten list of epic movie facial hair. The only problem is it is noticeably fake as the gray and white coloring shifts throughout the movie. In a movie of stellar casting, Branagh’s character is the most fun to watch.

Speaking of the cast, Barnagh has indeed assembled a fantastic cast. Each get a fair amount of time to shine, as they are interrogated one by one as suspects. It’s a great way to learn their back-stories and possible motivations for the murder; succeeding at fitting in everything you need to know in the time allotted. It’s difficult to pinpoint performances that stand out from the rest, as they are all great for the most part. Rather, it’s easier to notice the ones that aren’t given much to do, such as the retired military commander played by Derek Jacobi and Judy Dench’s assistant played by Olivia Coleman.

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Coming into the movie, not knowing the story or how it ends, it was refreshing to not have everything figured out until the end. It is a great story with twists that go the opposite way you expect. This is a different type of movie than modern movie goers are used to. It’s a trip down cinema history to a time where movies focused primarily on character dialogue and development rather than tons of action and explosions. As a result, the movie may feel slow at times for some moviegoers. However, it’s a story that’s worth taking the time to sit through.

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The cinematography is gorgeous. No matter whether its picturesque views of the train traveling through snow-covered mountains to its destination, or watching the characters interact inside the compartments of the Orient Express itself, every shot is unique and fantastic.

Murder on the Orient Express is a fantastic mystery that will make you laugh as much as it will make you think. By the end, you’ll want to see the humorous yet masterful Hercule Poirot solve another case in the sequel that is teased.

Final Verdict: 

9 epic mustaches out of 10.

Geek to the PAST Review: Batman v Superman

In preparation for Justice League, I decided to re-watch 2016’s controversial Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. It holds a dismal 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. With early reviews for Justice League looking much more positive, let’s take another look at its predecessor before opening day. There are spoilers throughout this article, so if for some unacceptable reason you haven’t seen BvS; turn back now.

First, let me say that I am a fan of the movie and think it deserves more credit than it has received. I really enjoyed it in the theater and contrary to most, think that the tone was perfect. Not all superhero movies need to be as light as the Marvel formula to be fun. The tone needed to be darker to have the necessary impact. That being said, the movie is definitely not without its flaws.

I would argue that the movie’s biggest problem is not the lack of humor or lighthearted moments. Instead, it just has too much going on. Take away all of the unnecessary characters, story layers, and numerous references to various comic stories and I think the overall movie would have hit closer to the mark. Part of the excess came from an over-passionate director, the other was DC rushing to try to catch up with Marvel.

However, that’s only one of the movie’s flaws. Let’s take a look at everything that didn’t work and then what did.

What didn’t work

An overcrowded script.

One of the things that should be a credit to Zach Snyder directing BvS is that he is a huge comic fan. However, instead of using that knowledge to craft one fantastic story about two heroes going toe to toe, he acted like a child who was allowed to play with all of the toys in the toy box. Snyder literally tried to shove as many comic book arcs, references, and themes as he possibly could into one movie: Doomsday and the Death of Superman, Dark Knight Returns, A Death in the Family, Injustice, the role of Superman and his place in the world, Batman’s morality, and the introduction of the Justice League. I’m sure there are a couple more I’m forgetting. It’s just too much.

On top of all that, there are too many unnessesary characters and sub plots such as the amputee guy, the Russian guy, the senator, and CIA Jimmy Olsen just to name a few. There is no way to do everything justice (no pun intended) in 2 1/2 hours. Even with the extra scenes in the “Ultimate Edition,” which is honestly the better, more cohesive version, it still ends up feeling rushed and over complicated.

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Snyder’s storytelling style is unique, but not for everyone.

Snyder is a visual storyteller. Instead of telling the viewer what is going own, he prefers to show it through his cinematography. It makes for a cerebral movie; one where the viewer is required to decipher what is being shown. As a result, the movie almost certainly requires multiple viewings to catch everything. The problem is most moviegoers, many who only have a limited knowledge of comic history, are not interested in investing that level of analysis into a superhero flick. This is the polar opposite approach of Marvel, who has mastered making comic book movies that require no prior experience with comics.

The perfect example of this visual storytelling is the Martha scene… Ah that infamous scene that has sparked a firestorm of online meme’s. This scene will either resonate or will seem completely absurd. It’s meant to be Bruce’s great epiphany: when he realizes that this alien from another planet he’s been so obsessed with killing isn’t an uncaring god. He’s not the enemy. He’s just as human, maybe even more human than we are. And the only thing that is strong enough to break through Bruce’s stubborn hate and recklessness, allowing him to come to the realization? The love he has for his mother. The problem is, none of that is verbally stated or explained. So if the scene is taken only at face value with only the info specifically given then Superman and Batman put aside their differences because both of their mom’s are named “Martha.”

Batman breaks his one rule…

This Batman gets so many things right about the character. However, there is one thing that is difficult for people to forgive. Batman breaks his one rule. The cardinal rule that makes the modern Batman who he is: no killing. Batman doesn’t just kill in this movie, he straight up slaughters some folk. This was a huge issue for many fans and could not overlook it.

Lex Luthor

This version of Lex is very different than what we are used to seeing. He isn’t charming or classy…he is straight up insane. He also isn’t the same Lex. He’s actually Lex’s son, Alexander. Again, this was a decision that fans either liked or hated. There was no middle ground. Snyder probably should have played it safe and gone with a more traditional version of the character, instead of someone that reminded people more of the Joker.

What did work.

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot was easily one of the best elements of the movie. While she received mixed reception before BvS released, she overwhelmingly proved herself as the perfect choice for the role. She brings a great balance of strength and beauty to Diana. Hearing her tell Bruce that he has never known a woman like her still brings a smile to my face.

DC’s trinity together on the big screen

No matter how much you disliked the movie, the moment Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman line up together to fight Doomsday is something special. It’s the money shot of the film, similar to the same moment in Avengers, when the camera circles around the full group for the first time. I’m hopeful for a similar moment in Justice League.

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Affleck’s Batman got more right than wrong.

Despite him murdering people, this is by far the most comic-accurate Batman we have seen in a movie. The grey and black suit, complete with a Frank Miller inspired Bat emblem is spot on, Not only that, but the gadgets, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and Bruce’s paranoia that Superman could one day become the world’s greatest threat…it’s perfect.

One final element of Batman’s character that is accurately displayed is his fighting ability. The warehouse fight scene was epic, and showcased just how brutal he can be in close combat. Proving again that Snyder does know his source material, the scene is instantly reminiscent of the hit Arkham game series. I think I’ve watched this scene more times than the movie as a whole.

The visuals

As I already stated, the movie is gorgeous. The cinematography and imagery is incredible, even if it is confusing at times. Snyder is a master of imagery and knows how to put a scene together to give the biggest impact. The two best examples of this are the Wayne family’s death at the beginning of the movie and Superman’ s funeral montage at the end.

Final Verdict:

BvS looks great visually and has a lot to offer, but is overcrowded by so many story layers and references that only certain comic fans will enjoy the chore of watching more than once.

The last thing DC wants to do is repeat the same mistakes with Justice League. The future of the DCEU is literally riding on this movie. I can’t wait to see what direction they take the story after the events of BVS.

What are your thoughts about the movie? Let me know!

Review of Thor: Ragnarok aka Asgardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Irdris Elba, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum

Trailer: Click Here

Marvel has clearly dominated the superhero movie genre for almost a decade now. Looking back on all their successes over the last 9 years, the Thor movies have collectively been the least profitable for the almost 20 movie franchise. So naturally as any business would, Marvel decided they needed to take things in a different direction to try to add a little electricity to the god of thunder’s box office numbers. What we were given with Thor: Ragnarok is undoubtedly a fun ride, but something akin to the Transformers movies: There’s a ton of laughs and action, but it’s not really that cohessive of a movie.

On the plus side, it is great to see a Thor movie that almost entirely takes place away from earth, and is definitely a step in the right direction. What Thor brings to the Marvel table is a world that is steeped in the sci-fi fantasy genre. The previous movies tried to center their plots around Earth (most likely to try to make Thor more relateable) however both ended up suffering because of it. Ragnarok has a fantastic foundation: giving us a Thor story that takes place on his own turf so to speak…and then ruins it with the movie’s biggest issue: excessive, forced comedy.

Tessa Tompson likes to drink more than Thor as Valkyrie

There is a dangerous trend right now in superhero films that in order to be “good” it has to be funny. With the success of movies like Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy it’s understandable how we’ve arrived to this thinking…but that doesn’t make it true. While Deadpool and the Guardians movies are hilariously good movies, it is detrimental to think that all movies have to fit into that same mold.

It feels out of character for Thor and Hulk/Banner to be making jokes or to do “funny” things constantly. That’s not how they are in the comics, and more importantly that’s not how they’ve been in previous Marvel movies. It is so very obvious that their personalities have been changed to resemble those found in the Guardians movies (because they made a lot more money) and as a result, what makes both characters interesting and unique in the Marvel universe is quite literally “dumbed” down in Ragnarok. What we are left with are not Thor and Hulk, but goofy caricatures of what they should be, reminiscent of the Adam West version of Batman.

The other issue with the excessive comedy is that the tone of the movie is all over the place, and as a result, many scenes that are supposed to carry more weight, don’t. This movie is centered around stopping Ragnarok, which is essentially the end of the world. Sounds like pretty dark stuff, right? Well it never feels like it. We are constantly hit with story beats that are suppose to be dramatic and intense, and before we have time to process whats going on…it’s back to cracking jokes. Many of the dramatic scenes even have multiple jokes running through them. It’s just too much. There are events that happen that should shake Thor to his core, but instead he responds by joking around with his best friend Hulk or constantly talking about being a hero. The urgency and intensity just gets lost in the laughs.

The old saying “everything in moderation” comes to mind. While many people thought Batman v Superman was too dark, it is still possible to go too light. Comedy is not the only thing that makes a movie good, however that is what Marvel thinks now looking at the box office numbers.

Thor: Ragnarok is not a bad movie. It has some fantastic characters and an interesting story. (Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum are both perfect for their roles). However, the excessive and out of place comedy takes you out of the movie and negates any weight the movie tries to impose on the viewer. Nothing matters except having a good time. If this is Marvel’s direction now with all of it’s movies then I am extremely nervous about how the upcoming Infinity Wars movie will be handled. It is meant to be a much darker story, and if they try to turn it into a comedy because they think they will make more money, it is going to be a disaster. I don’t want all of my movies to have the exact same tone. Variety is the spice of life.

Final Verdict:

6.5 forced jokes out of 10.

Marvel’s latest Thor movie has a solid foundation, but is held back by excessive, forced comedy.

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

Side note: I ended up seeing this in 3D because there wasn’t a price difference and the theater was less full. There is literally no reason to see this in 3D.

Director: Jon Watts

Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Michael Keaton

Trailer: Click Here!

Spider-Man Homecoming is the third version of the wall crawler to hit the big screen. Even though Tom did a solid job in Civil War, there was a legitimate fear of Spider-Man fatigue and that the movie would bomb, becoming the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) first failure since the beginning of it’s run back in 2008 with Ironman. However, not only is Homecoming on track to do well over $200 million opening weekend; it’s arguable the best Spider-Man film in years, if not ever.

Tom Holland nails both Peter Parker and Spider-Man: the sarcastic and humorous quips, the teenage awkwardness, it’s all there in the perfect amount. I don’t think there was ever a moment when I wasn’t laughing or at least had a smile on my face. The movie is hilarious from start to finish, but a better description is full of joy. It fills the movie and is infectious. You can tell that Tom loves playing Peter and Peter loves being Spider-Man. The movie opens with Peter coming down off the high of fighting alongside (and against) the Avengers during the events of Civil War. All he can think about is getting the next call to help out his mentor, Tony, again.

Above anything else, Spider-Man is a teenager who has to balance having superpowers with the stresses of being a teenager in high school. That is this movie in a nutshell. There isn’t a threat of some world ending destruction. The movie takes things a couple notches down to focus on Peter and his development into a hero. It’s a nice change of pace from the gravity of the last several Marvel films. There is an excellent villain, however he’s a small timer compared to the likes of Ulton, Dormammu, or Loki. As Tony puts it, Peter is still just a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.

The Rest of The Cast

Robert Downey Jr is used sparingly in the movie, which was a good choice. There was a concern for awhile that he would overshadow the film in an effort to draw movie goers. This did not happen, I’m glad to say. Pretty much what you’ve seen in the trailers already is about it. Happy Hogan, played by Jon Favreau is actually in the movie more than Tony. He’s basically in charge of making sure Peter doesn’t get into too much trouble…and doesn’t bother Tony. Both a great for the amount they are in the movie.

Michael Keaton played a fantastic villain as Adrian Toomes aka the Vulture. He’s a lower level villain who isn’t on the radar of the Avengers. Perhaps one of the most believable marvel villains so far; he’s a blue collar worker, striving to provide for his family the best he can. He sees Spider-Man as a direct threat to his family and will do anything to protect them. He’s a villain you can relate to. I won’t spoil anything, but the way his character is written is genius and fits perfectly with the name “Vulture.” Keaton brings a lot of depth the character and it is fun watching him work.

Ned, played by Jacob Batalon, is Peter’s best friend. He is hilarious and brings a lot of laughs to the movie. It’s questionable whether he is actually a good friend to Peter sometimes; he’s very selfish in a couple scenes. Overall, he was a good change a pace from having yet another Harry Osborne show up just yet, and will hopefully be in the next film as well.

Zendaya who, I’m not going to even lie: I’ve never heard of until this movie (apparently she’s a thing) played Michelle. A fun character to watch, and although she doesn’t really have any friends, she enjoys to pick on Peter and Ned for being nerdy and awkward, even though she is guilty of the same. There’s a reveal at the end of the movie which raises some questions for future movies. It remains to be seen if it will be a smart move and I’m not sure if I’m on board with it yet.

Marisa Tomei continues her role as Aunt May. It was a little weird to think about Aunt May as being younger and hot, but it fits with this version and makes for some great jokes throughout the movie. Also a bit of a departure from the norm, she’s more of a “cool” parental figure to Peter. However, there are still moments where she stresses over what Pete is up to in his spare time.

Tony Revolori plays the bully Flash Thompson. In another change up that worked well, Flash isn’t a jock this time around, he’s actually someone that runs in the same social circles as Peter. Flash is also usually white, and it was nice to see some more ethnic diversity in the casting than there usually is: not just with Flash but with the rest of the cast as well.

Laura Harrier plays Peter’s love interest, Liz. She does a decent job, but is the least interesting out of the main group of supporting cast.

Spidey Joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Another aspect the movie hits out of the park is it’s placement in the MCU. It feels so organic, like Peter has been there the whole time. He’s been living his life watching the events of MCU unfold in the world around him. Homecoming is a fantastic look at the Avengers from the viewpoint of supporting characters. Even Toomes: his whole motivation centers around being the “little guy” and Tony or the rest of the Avengers really not caring how their actions affect him and his family. It’s just such a smart angle to take that adds yet another layer to the MCU.

There are so many easter eggs and references in this movie it’s ridiculous. Little nods here and there that really help to tie the MCU together and make it feel real. The MCU is getting close to 20 movies and is starting to hit it’s stride with world building and complexity. Each new movie doesn’t feel like a separate story; more like a continuation of the same overall story from a different character’s point of view.

Ironman “Lite”

While it is a brilliant move to use Tony as the spring board for introducing Spidey into the MCU, there is a small gripe, but worth noting. It’s not a deal breaker by any means; it just doesn’t feel like it fits. I’m talking about the Spidey suit; it has way too many features, especially the computer AI. Obviously, since we know that in this version Tony has made the suit for him, it’s only natural that it would bear some similarity to how the Iron-man suits function. But Peter is a genius and coming into his own as a hero by the end of the movie so hopefully he’ll realize he doesn’t need the fancy Jarvis-like AI and design his own suit. What I would love to see in future movies is maybe his spidey-sense starts to develop and it clashes with what “Karen” tries to tell him. That could be an easy transition.

Spider-Teen

The only other negative I can possibly find for this movie is that because it’s still ultimately an origin story, we don’t start to see a full fledged Spider-MAN until the end of the movie. You leave the movie hungry for what he’ll be able to do in the next movie. It may be annoying to some, and it was to me at first until I started to think about it more. Once you embrace it, it’s honestly one of the movie’s strengths. Part of the charm of Spider-Man is that he’s a kid, he’s an everyday, average person. He doesn’t always have it together or have all the answers. He’s awkward. He makes mistakes. That’s basically what this movie gives us. Very few superhero movies give us this perspective of what it’s like to be an average person and then suddenly have powers. It’s a fresh change of pace. At one point Peter is told, “You really need to get better at this part of the job.”

Final Verdict:

8.5 Hot Aunt May’s out of 10.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fantastic edition to the MCU and has a ton of heart and humor. Some are calling it a superhero version of The Breakfast Club, and that is a fitting description. It was a brilliant choice to scale back the stakes and focus on the development of it’s newest hero-in-training. There are a couple surprises with the story and a few great cameos. As always, there are after-credit scenes. The second scene is without a doubt one of the best end credit scenes ever in a Marvel movie.

At the end of the day, Tom Holland has solidified his place, not only in the MCU, but as THE Spider-Man for the next several years.

The Mummy (2017) Movie Review

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“Tom Cruise is the worst thing about this Dark Universe kick starter.”

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis

Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.

Trailer: Click Here!

I finally got around to seeing the Mummy reboot, and while critics are right about some things, this movie does not deserve the level of hate it has received. Most of the movie is enjoyable. The Mummy has only made $57 million in the US, but an additional $230 million at international theaters. So even though it tanked in the US, the overseas sales will undoubtedly keep the Dark Universe franchise afloat. Why so much hate from us Americans? I think most of it can be traced to two main reasons: the lack of the movie being a full fledged horror movie and movie goers not really understanding what Universal Pictures was going for with this movie.

First, it is vital that you understand what the movie studio is going for before seeing this movie or you will be confused beyond belief. Forget the last set of mummy movies. If you haven’t heard, this reboot is all about kicking off Universal’s Dark Universe cinematic franchise. They are essentially copying the Marvel Cinematic Universe except instead of superheroes, this universe will center around all of Universal’s old monster movie characters. So far Dracula, the Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera, along with a few others have been announced as being in the works. Johnny Depp has been announced as The Invisible Man, while Javiar Bardem will be Frankenstein’s monster. The Mummy is the introduction to this larger franchise.

This is such a fantastic concept that could make for some entertaining movies. It’s not an entirely new concept, however as a few of the monsters have already been in movies together in the past. I’m curious to see if the monster’s will fight each other or if they’ll come together similar to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Not a bad movie in it’s own right which is based on a graphic novel. If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out). I can’t wait to see this Universe branch out to see what shape it will take.

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The infamous Dr. Jekeyl, played by Russell Crowe, has been redesigned as the “Nick Fury” of this world, which is all I’ll spoil about his role. I’m fascinated with how they used the character and looking forward to how he’ll be used in movies to come. I enjoyed Crowe’s interpretation of the character as well, however would have preferred a more “monstrous” looking Hyde. The dual accents he used for each personality was a nice touch.

Sofia Boutella was stunning as this movie’s mummy. She was a perfect casting choice, the only issue being not having more to do in the movie. Annabelle Wallis played Cruise’s forced love interest. She really didn’t add anything to the movie other than being another pretty face. Jake Johnson (Nick from New Girl) adds some comedy to the movie in a weird way that is actually a borrowed idea from An American Werewolf in London.

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The other issue from critics is the lack of true horror. While there are some horror like qualities to The Mummy, it is not a horror movie. At least not by today’s definition. It’s more of an action movie with suspenseful moments. That’s either going to be fine or horrible, depending on what you want out of the movie. To be honest I thought the tone and level of darkness was fine for the most part. If you compare this movie to the classic monster movies, it’s an smart step in its evolution. However there are moments where the movie does fail to be as dark as it wants to be, and that is primarily Cruise’s fault. More on that in a moment.

Speaking of Cruise, Tom Cruise should not be in this movie. While he is a fantastic action star in his own right, he only serves to hinder what the movie is trying to accomplish. For one, this movie is supposed to be focused on monsters, specifically the mummy, and instead there is way too much emphasis placed on Cruise. This is validated by reports that Tom has a large amount of “Cruise control” on every movie he’s a part of: from having a say on approving aspects of the script to even how the marketing of the film is handled. Universal was trying to attach a “big name” to the movie to draw people in, but they should have gone with someone less well known.

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The Mummy parts of the story are interesting; Princess Ahmanet has a different motivation from the previous mummy movies…sort of. While fun, there are a couple elements here and there that are borrowed from the Brendan Fraser movies, the original movies from the 1930’s, as well as other horror movies. The movie ends in an interesting way. When I started to realize the direction the movie was heading I was impressed. However, Tom Cruise dramatically dulls the punch the ending is supposed to have. You can tell that the movie is supposed to end on a cliff hanger, however given the fact that Tom ALWAYS plays the same type of character, you leave the movie already knowing how the next one will most likely go.

Final Verdict:

6.5 sexy mummies out of 10.

The Mummy falls short in equal amounts that it succeeds. If you can go into it with little to no expectations, it can be a very enjoyable ride that leaves you interested to see where the franchise will go next. I think it would actually benefit Universal to recast Cruise with someone who’s not overly concerned with always playing the same type of action hero. The next movie scheduled for release in the Dark Universe is Bride of Frankenstein in 2018.

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Movie Review: Wonder Woman

“A WONDERful movie, and refreshing change of pace for the genre.”

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine

Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content

Trailer: Click Here!

Wonder Woman is finally out and has been receiving virtually universal praise. It’s for good reason as having seen the movie, it is excellent. This is good news for DC, as there’s a lot riding on this movie for several reasons. Not only is this the first time the Amazon princess has had her own standalone movie, but the DC movie universe (DCEU) needed to do something to get back into movie goers good graces as the last few films have been polarizing.

There’s also been a ton of girl power buzz for this movie. It is undeniable that the vast majority of superheroes that make it to the big screen are men and there hasn’t been a female superhero movie that I can remember…ever. (well technically there’s been a few, but they were all horrible). Not only do we get an incredible leading female hero here, but one of the villains is female as well: Dr. Poison. In addition to the female cast, Patty Jenkins, the director, is also in a field that is dominated primarily by men. Jenkins excels in only her second big screen movie and does an excellent job giving us a great story with strong female characters without making the male characters appear completely helpless in exchange.

Danny Huston and Elena Anaya as Genral Ludendorff and Dr. Poision.

Gal Gadot is perfect as Diana. She is gorgeous but comes across as classy and not an over sexualized wonder woman that is sometimes depicted. She’s a good balance. Gal also looks capable in the fight scenes, and like she would have no problem kicking anyone’s butt. And while she does great in the action scenes, some of the most enjoyable sections of the movie involve Diana discovering the world outside of her island for the first time. She has a great arc through the movie, as you see her grow from an innocent and naïve warrior, into the strong female hero we first saw in Batman v. Superman.

Chris Pine was a good choice for the american spy Steve Trevor. He and Gal have great on-screen chemistry that works well for the story. The core, multicultural group that ends up joining Diana and Steve on their mission were decent, but at times almost felt like caricatures of their specific ethnic backgrounds…especially the Scottish guy. He was too “cartoony” feeling at times, but fortunately wasn’t bad enough that it hurt the movie.

Group shot! The only two you’ll care about are Diana and Steve.

All of the locations in the movie are brought to life in great detail and there is a noticeable color difference between the green and blue island of Themyscira and the darker greys and browns of London. This was a smart way to emphasis Diana’s journey from her “perfect” world where right and wrong is very clearly laid out, to the world of men, where things are more bleak and the lines of morality are blurred.

In addition to the color differences, it’s also interesting to see the social extremes of both Thymescira and WWI era London contrasted with each other; which are essentially two sides of the same coin. On Thymescira, men are shunned and held in much lower regard, while in London we see the same thing happening to women. There’s one scene in particular where Steve is trying to get his superiors to listen to what he is telling him, but all they can focus on is why Diana is even in the same room. The movie isn’t one sided, and cleverly shows the foolishness of holding either sex in higher regard than the other.

This is our first time seeing Themyscira in the DCEU.  Seeing a magical hidden city on screen has become common place these days but the movie does a great job making it look unique and also believable. All of the amazons looked tough and ready for any battle…I was honestly half expecting Xena to show up somewhere!

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Paradise Island

The first half of the movie is essentially Wonder Woman’s origin story, and while it may sound tiring to watch yet another origin story play out in a movie, it’s done in a way that’s refreshing and fun to watch. Seeing Diana grow up and discover the full extent of her abilities is a treat. And even though the first half of the movie is mostly exposition, there are still a couple great action scenes that help to keep things moving along. Once Diana walks out onto the battlefield for the first time, it’s game on from there on out.

Wonder Woman successful steps away from the common tropes of the superhero genre. The villians are more complex than the one dimensional “mustache twirling” fiends that are so common. There are deep philosophical themes that analyzed such as the nature of evil and whether or not mankind deserves to be saved. In the real world there isn’t just one sinister villian at work; people overall arent completely innocent. Watching Diana wrestle with these dilemas give the movie a sophistication that a lot of superhero movies are missing. Of course it wouldn’t be a superhero flick without that final knock down, drag out boss fight, and Wonder Woman is no exception.

The fight scenes are very well done for the most part and fun to watch. The way Diana uses her lasso in battle is very creative and one of my favorite elements of her fight scenes. There are a ton of slow motion shots, and they reminded me of movies like 300 and The Matrix…or even like the finishers in the Arkham video game series (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve played any of those games). It looks awesome, but it’s used a little too much. When the CGI is good, the slow motion looks fantastic, but there’s a couple times when the effects are a little less than stellar and the slow motion only serves to make that stand out like a sore thumb.

Uh oh. You’ve made her angry. You’re screwed.

Wonder Woman is essentially the female equivalent to Superman, and, I’m glad the snuck in some great subtle nods to that similarity. There’s a scene with Diana talking to her mother before leaving the island that gives off some vibes of similar conversations Superman has had with his father, Jor-El. Also, there’s a scene where Steve is trying to help Diana blend in while in London, and she puts on a pair of glasses.

No one will recognize you with these…

A heavy criticism thrown at the DCEU up until this point is that the movies are for the most part “joyless”. While I disagree with that claim to an extent (I’ll save that argument for another post), they are truthfully extremely heavy. Wonder Woman does a much better job at being more tonally balanced. Patty Jenkins has done what Zack Snyder has been unable to do so far in that she’s figured out the right formula for making a movie with darker themes, but also with the right mixture of laughs, fun, and hope that movie goers are looking for. Diana is extremely hopeful throughout the movie, even in the darkest moments. Maybe some of that will rub off on Superman in the future…

Final Verdict:

10 Gal Gadot smiles out of 10!

Wonder Woman is everything you would expect and more, and succeeds in putting the DCEU back on track for many fans. It will be interesting to see which direction Justice League takes later this year.

Movie Review: Baywatch

“Funny (mostly) but forgettable. A good Redbox choice.”

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Rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity

Run time: 1hr. 59min.

Trailer: Click Here!

Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon and starring Dawayne Johnson, Zac Effron, and Alexandra Daddrio is a caricature of the original 90s show and for the most part knows it. This actually works to the movies favor as it’s hard to bash a movie for being bad, when that’s the goal. It’s essentially a guilty pleasure movie. There’s a lot of laughs to be had, but ultimately, unless you’re a fan of dumb, vulgar humor, you’re best waiting for Redbox.

There are parts of this movie that are hilariously funny. There are also parts that try way too hard to push jokes that aren’t funny at all. The humor that works is almost entirely derived from the relationship between the Rock’s Mitch Buchannan and Efron’s Matt Brody. They spend the entire movie competing against each other’s “macho-ness” and these are the parts of the movie you’ll remember. While we’re on the subject, it was hard not to stare at Efron’s abs. Everyone expects Johnson’s physique at this point, but Efron looks so chiseled it almost looks CG. Seriously. That dude either spends every waking moment in the gym or is on some killer steroids…or maybe both.

 

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Roid Rage?

 

I really liked Alexandra Daddario in San Andreas, but comedy doesn’t seem to be her strong suit here…that is unless she’s making jokes about her boobs; and there are plenty of those. Even then she comes across bland and not really funny, but at least it creates opportunities for her to bounce up and down in her swimsuit, which is honestly why she’s in the movie.

Kelly Rohrbach was a good pick for CJ, originally played by Pamela Anderson on the show. Rohrbach did a great job of capturing the sweet but somewhat ditzy personality of the character, and arguably had much more personality in the role than Anderson ever did. Jon Bass plays the comedy sidekick /”tech guy,” and has some funny but forgettable moments. Also, while it’s interesting to see a female villain, Priyanka Chopra’s character is as predictable as she is attractive. She’s one of the few character’s the plot tries to take seriously and it just falls flat.

 

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This scene is the reason Alexandra Daddario is in the movie…

 

The movie surprisingly slows down frequently; bogged down by trying too hard to have a plot. Baywatch’s biggest problem is that it keeps switching between dumb comedy flick and wanting to be taken seriously. When the movie stops trying and accepts itself for what it is and just has fun, is when it shines the brightest.

While the movie’s plot is extremely predictable, it’s also a typical Baywatch story; a new drug starts showing up on the beach, as well as some dead bodies and it’s up to the Baywatch team to solve the crime. Unlike the TV show though, the movie humorously asks the obvious question serval times “Shouldn’t they just call the cops instead of solving the crime themselves?” Mitch explains this away at one point by giving a big speech about dedication to the job and that if you only do the minimum, people die. This is actually a clever way for the writers to explain the exploits in both the original show and the movie.

The action is, to be expected, over the top which fits well with the style of the movie. However there is a little too much “shaky cam” at times and the CGI is pretty noticeable.

Final Verdict:

5 bouncing swimsuits out of 10

All in all, Baywatch can be a fun time if you can accept it for the mindless comedy that it is. Despite all of his humor and action, you’ll forget about it almost as soon as it ends. As I already said, this is a guilty pleasure movie at best. It’s the perfect movie to Redbox on a Thursday night, watch with a group of friends who remember the TV show, or to pull out and watch once every few years for some laughs when you don’t have anything else to watch.