Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Dr. Malcolm Returns to the Park!

As I may have hinted before several times, Jurassic Park is a big deal in our house. As in, The Cynic is working on stuff right now because it's the 20th anniversary of The Lost World this year kind of important. So naturally it didn't take us long to hear word going around last night that Jeff Goldblum, aka Dr. Ian Malcolm, was set to return to the franchise. Given the nature of the Internet, we waited to see some further confirmation of this before reporting. And....

Okay, if you saw the title you'd see that it was in fact confirmed that Jeff Goldblum has joined the cast of Jurassic Park V/ Jurassic World II or whatever they decide to call it. No details at this time, obviously, but lots of speculation on the manner in which he appears and how much screen time he'll have.

Oh, and he also showed up in Sydney, Australia with a food truck to give out free sausages. Everything about that sentence is awesome.

So what do you guys think of this news? Excited? Skeptical? Not bothered one way or another? Either way, I'm still excited to see him (and Sam Neill!) in Thor: Ragnarok in November.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Look at this poster! Look at how awesome it is!

First Thor, now Star Wars! What a week! With Star Wars Celebrations on right now, there was a rumor/hope/thought that perhaps we'd see our first footage for the upcoming Last Jedi. And we got confirmation of that this morning:

Needless to say, we were waiting in anticipation but now, here it is!:

Okay so just a few thoughts from me before I leave you to bask in the Star Wars awesomeness. No spoilers, just musings (I'm obviously not at Star Wars Celebrations and have no inside knowledge):

1) It doesn't give away too much. I loved the marketing for The Force Awakens in that you knew almost nothing about what was going to happen but got lots of gorgeous visuals. I'd like to see that continue. 

2) Kylo Ren's (?) smashed helmet, surrounded by glass. What does that mean? Is he doing away with that persona, re-crafting himself into something else? Will he take on a Darth title after he finishes training, or did that practice die with Vader? You also don't get to see if he has a gnarly face scar or not from that blow he took at the end of Force Awakens.

3) That mysterious location that looks like tree roots or a crazy rock formation. That intrigues me. What intrigues me more is a book, with the Jedi symbol on it. How old is that? No one uses actual paper books in the Star Wars universe. I want to know more about that.

4) You get bits of the other story as well- the continued fight of the Resistance against the First Order. There's some really cool clips of bits and pieces from space battles, you get to see Finn and Poe briefly, etc.

5) Finding out about Luke's other students. There's a big shot that is clearly part of the story/flashback of what happened to them and should add more to his and Ren's characters.

6) Luke's words at the end are very interesting and could be taken more than one way. Should the Jedi end altogether, or merely the way the Jedi were organized and run prior to Order 66? Does he think that Light-side users should do something different than the way he was taught? Or is he just sick of it all?

7) Okay, last one. The music. It starts off so Star Wars. But by the end there's such a powerful darkness to it. We all know the main theme: it's grand but light in tone. It's bright and triumphant. This isn't. What does that mean for the movie? If anything? It's amazing though, and makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

So there's my rambling first thoughts. What do you guys think? Did any of that make sense? What did you take from the trailer? Anyways, we'll see you all next time!  

End note- Last Jedi is out in December. Dark Tower is out in July and we still haven't gotten a trailer. That both aggravates me and makes me nervous.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Assassin's Creed Spoiler Free Review

Hey everyone, back again with another review. Now you all remember how I talked about this film back before it opened in December and that I really wanted to see it? Well, we weren’t able to make it to the theater for this one, but it’s recently come out on Blu-Ray/DVD (am I the only one who still says ‘out on video’ when talking about new releases?) so we gave it a rent. So let’s talk about how it went. As usual, no spoilers here.

So in the lead-up to this film’s release, it really looked like we were finally going to get that video-game adaptation film that would elevate the genre out of the muck it seems to mired in. It was going to be that truly great film that would give us what we wanted from the game itself, but also be a good film as well. Warcraft hadn’t been able to win over audiences (in North America, at least), but we had hope that Assassin’s Creed was the The One.

insert obligatory Matrix joke here

For that, it aggrieves me to say that the result was more in the vein of this:

Let me elaborate. I’m not jumping on a hate-bandwagon here and trashing this movie just because other reviewers and critics have done the same. I wanted to like it, hell, I wanted to love this movie. I was excited for it and the only reason I didn’t see it on the big screen was we couldn’t fit it in around the Christmas holiday. It also wasn’t in our local theater for very long. Suffice to say, this isn’t the review I wanted to be writing right now. But here we are.

I should have known from the beginning. One of the opening shots is a long tracking shot and it looks… well it looks bad. There’s a problem of dodgy-to-outright-subpar CG in several spots throughout the film, even with it’s around $125 million budget. Not all of it was bad, there were some really nice shots, but when it was bad it was pretty noticeable. The ‘prologue’ scene right after that shot is really cool. It was very video game-like and had a great look and tone. I really liked that part, even if I didn’t get as much out of it as a fan of the series probably did. It was kind of like the Joining scene when you play Dragon Age: Origins; a little mysterious and ominous and intriguing all at once. That brings me to one quick point: I know I probably missed a ton of references and nods to the games. A few of the bigger ones I got, but I know a fan would probably be able to tell you a lot more than me about all those fun little easter eggs than I can.

I can tell you the action scenes were pretty good. Kind of. The parkour Assassin stuff was pretty fun to watch but the movie had this really annoying habit of anytime exciting stuff started to happen, so did the cuts. We counted six cuts for the character to jump from a roof to the ground and take out an enemy in the process.

six cuts?!

The number of cuts in the action sequences was egregious, to the point where it actually lessened the excitement of the scene because it was so noticeable and distracting. My kingdom for just one long take during a fight scene!

If this film had anything going for it, it was its cast. On paper, it seemed perfect. Popular, well-loved franchise with an Oscar caliber cast. And it’s not as if the cast was bad, per se. Michael Fassbender is obviously the one giving it his all here, given that this was a passion project for him. Jeremy Irons was doing his slimy, bad-guy thing with odd hints of Scar showing up every now and again but it wasn’t exactly revelatory. Brendan Gleeson does a decent job in a role where his biggest scene is mostly exposition, but it’s Marion Cotillard’s Sofia that I really want to talk about here. First off, I might just have a bad ear for accents, but it felt like hers was inconsistent but again that could just be me. Secondly, I felt like her character could have been done better. Considering her arc and how she was treated by a lot of the other characters, I thought she was going to go in a different direction than she did at the end. I think it would have been a nice twist if she had. Considering how important she was to the story, she just seemed really impotent through most of it and I would have liked to see her take some control. What I thought would be a revelation-type moment for her actually went the opposite of how I thought it would, considering all of this. Of course, that was the second such scene I was wrong about. Fassbender’s Callum Lynch had a scene like that of his own, and while it did go the way I thought it would, the catalyst scene actually came later than the one I'd thought was the turning point.

In terms of the story, the plot wasn’t terribly different from the first game and part of the second (from the synopses I read) just with different characters and a few changed details. It is also very faithful to the games in one way, and it’s the one way that turned me off the series in the first place. I could not care less about any of the plot or any of the characters or anything that happens in the present. I know it’s part of the game mechanic and whatnot, but when I tried the very first game and started off with some numpty in the present, I was a bit disappointed. And to be honest, the characters in the present just aren’t that interesting. This mechanic works less well in a movie, where you are limited by a runtime far, far shorter than most games.

There are exceptions to every rule

 Neither set of characters, neither past nor present, got any ample time for development. That awesome female Assassin you see in the trailers? Minor spoiler, I have no idea what her name is. I don’t think they actually say it in the film. The other assassins in the present? Except for one, maybe two, same deal. You really don’t know much of anything about anyone. There’s enough story and development to keep the plot moving forward, but not enough to invest or make you care about anyone that’s there. Callum’s in the GLaDOS-like Animus (which was pretty cool, to be honest) by the 20 minute mark, so there isn’t even that much setup for him before he’s heading back into the past. There isn’t really anything to make you root for any of these characters or make you care about whether or not they live or die or if their respective missions succeed or fail. Because of this, and the way they filmed the action, it makes set pieces and stunts that are supposed to be awe-inspiring, like the Leap of Faith, lose a lot of their power. This is the biggest sin of the movie, you don’t get invested in any of it and it becomes just kind of dull. If you don’t care about anyone on the screen, there’s no reason to care about anything they’re doing. I just couldn’t get excited by the stuff the movie was trying to push on me as exciting because I didn’t care. The whole thing was also oddly colorless, especially in the present. Not in the DCEU-dark-filter way, I mean everything’s physical color. The building, the clothes, 90% of the stuff in the Abstergo building was a similar grey that all just blended together.

To sum up, this is not the movie that will redeem the genre. It’s not the worst video game movie I’ve ever seen, it’s not even the worst video game movie of 2016. You can tell that there was legitimate effort put into this movie to make it good and make it faithful, but the more I look at it, the more I see there just isn’t enough time in a two-hour movie to make that happen (at least not to the extent they were attempting here). At least in Warcraft, you may not have cared about the humans, but the Orcs were well-done and compelling characters. Warcraft also has the one up on visuals as well, the cinematography and the motion-capture was incredible. I wanted Assassin’s Creed to at least give me that, or if nothing else, just be a good time. I tried guys, I really did, but even Michael Fassbender couldn’t save this one. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t particularly good either, and that makes me sad. If you’re a fan and you want to check it out, by all means. You might have a better time with it and get all those references I didn’t. If you aren’t a fan, you probably won’t lose out on anything by skipping it.


Sunday, 2 April 2017

Trailers of the Week + Bonus Movie Review!

Hey everybody, how’s it going? We’re doing trailers again this week with a quick movie review at the end to round things out. These are in no particular order but I want to talk about ones I haven’t touched on as much first, with others that don’t need much discussion afterwards. We’ve got lots to talk about today, so let’s get started.

The Mummy

Well, I’m going to be honest, this is hilariously bad looking. Much like the first trailer, it has such a Mission Impossible feel to it that you almost expect that theme to start playing. That’s pretty much the tone of the trailer with paranormal elements thrown in the mix. I’m also going to admit that the song choice is a little weird. The first time watching this trailer I had to stop it and ask aloud ‘Why Paint It Black?’ and never really got an answer to that. The next thing that strikes me is the assertion that whatever they’ve found has been there for two thousand years. Two thousand years ago (from today, and the movie is set in modern times) is after the death of Cleopatra and in the Roman period of Egypt, which is clearly not what they’re going for based on the shots of Ahmanet before she was a mummy.  They should have tacked on another thousand or so and that honestly kind of bugs me. A lot. The rest of the trailer is more of the same and I’m starting to think this might be a hate-watch.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

So, Orlando Bloom is back. Really, this one could go either way. It looks very much like a Pirates film and seems to have a lot of the same tone. Some of the CG still looks dodgy but I’ll reserve judgment on that aspect until I see the final product. The trailer itself is fine, I’m personally just having a hard time getting excited about another entry into the franchise. This really doesn’t have anything that really grabbed me and made it a must-see.


Ah yes, the Stephen King adaptation. We’re getting two of those this year, between this and The Dark Tower. This movie, however, has actually released a trailer. And it’s actually a pretty good one. It starts off with the familiar scene with the boat in the sewer and Pennywise showing up and builds up quite nicely. It doesn’t really give much away either, even if it’s a familiar story. It definitely looks like they’re going full-on scary and none of the cheesy charm that the last attempt at this property had. There’s going to be some of those horror tropes, you can see that already, but it overall looks pretty solid.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I’d heard about this one, but the first time I actually saw something for it was the trailer that ran before Power Rangers. My reaction to that was basically ‘well, that’s a Guy Ritchie movie right there’ and that was about it. So now this trailer drops and I kinda feel the same way. It looks like it’ll be about as historically accurate as 300, but also that it could be a lot of fun the way that movie was. It’s going to be visually stunning, and Guy Ritchie’s trademark style is all over it. This could be a lot of fun. I’m not sure whether I’ll see it in theatres, but I’d certainly be up for seeing it in some capacity. And unlike The Mummy’s trailer, the inclusion of Led Zeppelin’s Babe, I’m Going to Leave You actually fits the tone and works really well for the trailer.

War for the Planet of the Apes

This is one of those trailers where nothing needs to be said. I’m eagerly awaiting July 14th.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This trailer didn’t really add anything especially new. As I’ve said before, I didn’t know anything about this or the comics it’s based on beforehand, so it kinda just looks like Mass Effect meets Guardians of the Galaxy to me. I’ll give it a rental because if nothing else, it’ll probably be really cool visually.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Another trailer with nothing else that needs to be said. Just sit back and enjoy.

Moana Quick Review

Finally, we finally got around to seeing Moana and I just wanted to give my quick thoughts. I didn’t take any notes for this one, this is just off-the-cuff. The short version: this is a great movie and everyone should see it. The music is fantastic, the animation is beautiful, and the characters are super engaging. All the voice work is top-notch, even Dwayne Johnson’s singing is really not as bad as others have said. There were parts that had the four of us howling with laughter, and others that were really heartfelt. It has a certain self-awareness of the tropes of the ‘Disney Princess Movie’ while also kind of following a lot of them. As far as the Disney Princesses go, Moana is a damn good one and I’d say up there with some of my favorites. Go check it out, it’s well, well worth it.

Well, that's it for me. I'll see you next time!