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Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the latest installment in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
Alien life forms are sometimes very dangerous. Who'da guessed??
Dear reader(s), in the interest of full and fair disclosure, I'll confide that I don't like the Alien movies...ANY of them. I keep giving them chances because people who like the things that I do seem to love and even revere at least some of them but...welp...let's just say this latest installment finally may have cured me of my need to figure out what I'm missing.
If I heeded that old adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," this review would be a blank page; however, since I paid the cost of admission expressly for the privilege of writing about the movie, I shall briefly disregard that sage advice to tell you Alien: Covenant sucks so hard. I might say it was worse than Prometheus, except I didn't fall asleep in this one. Maybe I just wasn't tired yesterday, but I'm gonna be generous and concede that point. Katherine Waterston is terrible, all teary eyes and quavering voice; in fact, for a team of scientists and explorers, the minute something goes a little sideways these people lose their s**t faster than the slutty girl in those teen horror flicks. Many of the choices they make are about as stupid, too. Cardinal rules: When in doubt, don't split up and don't have sex. Pretty simple, right? This crew is so dumb it's hard to invest in any of them...more fun to try guessing in what order they'll (deservedly) be picked off. The writing is so predictable I was finishing lines in my head like a movie I'd seen a hundred times. Covenant features some lovely locations and decent effects, but the "horror" is limited to gore and cheap jump scares that you'll see coming a mile out. There's a minor, but weird and unnecessary, reference to a character thinking he's considered untrustworthy for being "a person of faith." That probably got under my skin more than it should have, but it stuck out as one of the most offensively pointless spots on an almost-entirely pointless movie landscape.
Alien: Covenant clocks in at 122 minutes and is rated R for "sci-fi violence, bloody images, language, and some sexuality/nudity."
With a top-notch cast, mammoth effects, and spectacular sets, it's clear the makers of Alien: Covenant weren't shy about throwing money at the screen; however, in the immortal words of Butthead: "You can't polish a turd, Beavis." Or, as the lady behind me stage-whispered about the halfway point: "This movie stinks." Of a possible nine Weasleys, Alien: Covenant gets one.
Fangirl points: Billy Crudup! Country Roads! Dariusz Wolski!
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the latest proof that Hollywood is out of new ideas: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you haven't seen in the trailers.
A young King Arthur is forced to reclaim his birthright from his traitorous uncle.
As I'm sure you've heard (and heard and heard), King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has many problems. In the interest of finishing strong, we'll get those out of the way first. The movie's biggest issue is that it isn't comfortable in its own skin. It desperately wants you to take it seriously, but offers you no real reason to do so. Modern language, clothing, and haircuts constantly belie its medieval setting...never mind some astonishingly white teeth! Charlie Hunnam--bless his beautiful, beautiful self--is just not that great a dramatic actor. Don't misunderstand me, dear reader(s), I love this guy and have seen and will continue to see everything he does, but he'd be better served by taking more interesting roles in smaller movies than by attempting to carry huge expectations on his strong, broad shoulders. Wait...what? Sorry, I was distracted by the thought of Charlie's shoulders. The supporting cast is reasonably solid, but only Jude Law seems to grasp the silliness of this retelling of the classic tale, delivering a baddie who's a mere moustache-twirl shy of cartoonish. That's the bad news, and I'm surprised and delighted to report none of it is fatal.
On the plus side, Legend of the Sword features some pretty nice creature and battle effects. A couple quick-cut narrative bits are hilarious--the movie's best parts, really--though they seem out of place with the intended tone. The film runs a hair long for what it is, but it never seems too long...which regular readers will know is quite a compliment coming from me! Daniel Pemberton's score is utterly magical. Do get out and buy or download or stream it or whatever you kids do with your music these days. Finally, SPOILER ALERT: Charlie Hunnam is shirtless. More than once. Feel like that's worth the price of admission any ol' day.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword clocks in at 126 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content, and brief strong language."
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is less authentic legend than it is garden-variety action fantasy, but it's a surprisingly good time with some lovely eye candy. Of a possible nine Weasleys, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword gets six.
Fangirl points: Aidan Gillen (*swoon*)! Freddie Fox! Annabelle Wallis!
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Today it was off to Marquee Cinemas for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
Star Lord and company are back for more intergalactic action.
Dear reader(s), there's not much bad news about GOTG2, so we'll get what little there is out of the way first, beginning with the obvious: At the first film's release, GOTG was a mostly-unknown quantity that became a very pleasant surprise for genre and non-genre fans alike. Many hundreds of millions of dollars later, that missing element of surprise is bound to make the sequel feel less special than its predecessor; somehow "everything you expect" becomes both a blessing and a curse. Also, echoing a familiar complaint, the movie is too long for what it is. Not the popular opinion, but Marvel to me are the Masters of Bloat, and a 20-minute trim would have done GOTG2 a big favor. That out of the way, there's a lot to love here.
GOTG2 retains the humor of the original, though it's less consistently sharp. You won't laugh any less on the first go-round, but it's not going to hold up as well over time. The likable cast is expectedly reliable with the action and comedy bits, and, as with the first GOTG, Bradley Cooper's voice work on Rocket is really something special. It's important not to miss that amidst all the choreographed chaos and huge effects, which are end-to-end and admittedly stunning. Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is just as great as Awesome Mix Vol. 1; you'll be downloading it before you're even in the car. Finally, though Baby Groot is the film's highlight, much like the Minions before him, a more judicious use of his cuteness wouldn't be a bad idea. Definitely preferable to leave people wanting more, rather than risking "cute" becoming "annoying."
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 runs 136 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content."
While some of the shine may have worn off Guardians of the Galaxy, you'd still be hard pressed to find more fun at the movies. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 gets seven and a half.
Fangirl points: Tommy Freaking Flanagan! George Harrison is on Awesome Mix Vol. II!!
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas to join The Circle.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
A young woman takes a position with a tech juggernaut that appears to be a dream employer...but all is not as it seems at The Circle.
It was always fair to assume The Circle wouldn't be as smart as it thinks it is, but, from the trailers, it appeared it'd at least be a solid way to pass a couple hours. Sadly, appearances can be deceiving.
The Circle is a criminal waste of a really good cast, and it's important to note that the movie's failings are not on the actors. Tom Hanks and John Boyega are sadly underused, but Emma Watson does as well as can be expected carrying such sub-par material. Karen Gillan is also quite good, and, with limited screen time in what appears to be his final big-screen appearance, Bill Paxton turns in a nice performance. The Circle poses timely questions: How connected is too connected? How open is too open? In better hands, the movie might have been a chilling cautionary tale or an interesting take on personal freedom/privacy vs. the greater good. Instead, it's a plodding affair burdened with paper-doll characters, excruciating dialogue, and a "reveal" that's so ambiguous as to be pointless...a painful experience from start to finish.
The Circle clocks in at an interminable 110 minutes and is rated PG13 for "a sexual situation, brief strong language, and some thematic elements including drug use."
The Circle is a fitting closer for an underwhelming month at the movies, but, hey, at least we've got Guardians of the Galaxy next week! Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Circle gets two.
This blog is dedicated to my friend and fellow movie buff Melissa Bradley, who today lost a long and hard-fought battle with cancer. Rest well, Melissa.
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: After a two-week hiatus, yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas to watch some of my favorite folks drive fast cars, shoot big guns, and blow stuff up in the Fate of the Furious.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
This being the eighth installment in the Fast and Furious franchise, one has to ask: Did they miss an opportunity in not writing it "The F8 of the Furious?" Because I don't see it like that on any of the marketing (despite the official hashtag being #F8) and it's bummin' me out. Secondly: Is the series running out of gas? (Har. Har. Har.) I mean, literally, I think you HAVE to ask that, because every single headline I've seen so far has done so. But I digress...
The Fast and Furious franchise has buttered its bread by making each installment bigger and crazier, and this most recent outing is no exception. I didn't feel there was any one huge showpiece (like dropping the cars from an airplane last time), but the whole had higher stakes, better surprises, and more sustained lunacy. Vin Diesel is again front and center, as F8 sees Dominic Toretto turning on his team to work with an evil madwoman, portrayed with gleeful relish by the brilliant Charlize Theron. I was very pleasantly surprised by a couple much-loved faces turning up in the supporting cast, though I'd fervently hoped for one and the Internet tells me I should have known about the other. (Not spoiling here in case anyone else wishes to remain in the dark.) Dwayne Johnson is his usual charming self, and I say with only the tiniest bit of bias that the movie is a good deal better when Jason Statham is onscreen than when he isn't. Despite the world's fate hanging in the balance, F8 has plenty of lighter moments, and the humor, though juvenile and predictable, usually hits the mark. The film throws down massive stunts, explosive action, and, of course, some pretty sweet rides. Negatives are relatively few, but, as usual, the ending comes with extra cheese. Michelle Rodriguez is bad enough that I wondered how I ever thought she wasn't, and the movie could have used at least a 30-minute trim.
The Fate of the Furious runs 136 minutes and is rated PG13 for "prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language."
The Fast and Furious franchise gets full marks for giving its audience exactly what it wants, without ever taking that audience for granted. Of a possible nine Weasleys, the Fate of the Furious gets seven.
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas with the throngs who apparently haven't left their homes since Christmas. Ahhhh...springtime. On the docket: Life and Power Rangers.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing plot-related that you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First up: sci-fi thriller Life.
Deadpool, Donnie Darko, and the chick from the last Mission Impossible discover an alien life form. Humanity weeps.
As I was suffering through Life, I was prepared to declare it the worst thing I've ever seen. In hindsight, there's no way it's that (screams Ghost Ship from my DVD collection), but it IS a gruesome, derivative waste of a pretty solid cast. The dialogue ranges from trite to cringe-worthy, and the tired old story drags on like a drum solo at an 80s arena-rock show, cut-rate sci-fi that occasionally knocks you over the head with clumsy attempts at poignancy. Sadly, even the creature effects are lame. Then, after two hours of taking itself way too seriously, the end credits kick off with a perky rendition of Spirit in the Sky. Whatever the filmmakers thought they were doing with that, it was a less-fitting finish than La La Land (which is saying something). The one thing Life has going for it is a terrific score by Jon Ekstrand, but, even in tandem with my best boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, it can't save the day.
Life clocks in at an interminable 103 minutes and is rated R for "language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror."
Life is dead on arrival. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Life gets one.
Next up, the most recent take on Saban's Power Rangers.
Five ordinary high-schoolers are chosen to be the next Power Rangers, and are tasked with saving the world from the evil Rita Repulsa.
Well, dear reader(s), in the interest of full and fair disclosure, I'll admit that Power Rangers would have had to work very hard to earn a thumbs-down from this blog, but I'm pleased to report it's even better than I'd hoped. This new crew of Rangers is a diverse, likable, good-looking bunch that seems a solid fit, both as a group and individually. Special shoutout (with just a wee bit of personal bias) to Ludi Lin, who does a great job as Zack, the Black Ranger. RJ Cyler is also terrific, portraying Billy, the Blue Ranger, as a young man on the autism spectrum. There's plenty of well-paced action, but it doesn't drag on or overwhelm the whole. Effects are just as huge as you'd expect. Suits and Zords have been updated for a new age, looking slick and impressive. The film's humor is hardly cutting edge, but the movie's funny when it means to be, and the dialogue among the kids feels natural and not over-scripted. Elizabeth Banks gleefully chews the scenery as Rita Replusa, not my favorite take on the character, but definitely entertaining. Power Rangers have always been corny, and this outing is no exception. The movie runs a little long, and Bill Hader is supremely annoying as the voice of Alpha 5, but, overall, Power Rangers is good fun, and my theater gave it the loudest, longest ovation I've ever experienced at the movies. Stick around for a mid-credits scene. It's no great revelation, but it'll still be welcome "news" for most fans.
Power Rangers runs 124 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi action, violence, and destruction, language, and for some crude humor."
2017's Power Rangers pointedly takes aim at a new generation, but still manages to indulge old fans' nostalgia. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Power Rangers gets seven and a half.
Fangirl points: There is a Social Distortion song in this movie. I repeat: There is a Social Distortion song in this movie. This is not a drill.
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Today it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the live-action remake of Disney's classic, Beauty and the Beast.
Spoiler level here will be...oh, who am I kidding? Everybody knows how this turns out.
A selfish prince is turned into a hideous beast by a curse that can only be lifted by his learning to love and be loved.
Dear Reader(s), other than Pirates of the Caribbean and that awesome old Robin Hood cartoon, I'm not really a Disney super-fan. If you want to know how the current imagining of Beauty and the Beast stacks up against the much-loved animated version (which I failed to revisit, despite my best intentions), you're going to have to look elsewhere. That out of the way...
The new Beauty and the Beast gets just about everything right. Emma Watson is a delight in the lead. She hasn't got the strongest singing voice, but she's gifted with numbers that aren't much beyond your average shower performer, getting by on her natural charm, beauty, and ever-growing acting chops. As for the Beast, well, casting a handsome devil like Dan Stevens in a role where you hardly see his face has to be a black mark on a film's permanent record, but Stevens' charisma is never hidden by his beastly facade. The cast's true gems are in its supporting players. Luke Evans, Josh Gad, and the divine Audra McDonald use their musical theatre cred to steal the show, and the number "Gaston" (featuring Evans and Gad) is easily the highlight of the picture. Some interior scenes are a bit too dark (by-product of the 3D, no doubt), but the movie's glorious sets are otherwise on full, stunning display. Costumes are also top notch. (Seeing Emma in that iconic yellow dress tugged at even my Grinch-sized heart.) For my money, the movie's only serious flaws are bland tunes (daresay most don't share that opinion) and the fact it could use about a 20-minute trim, but a good--if predictable--story, fun action, and solid humor more than compensate for these minor quibbles.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast runs 129 minutes and is rated PG for "some action violence, peril, and frightening images."
The live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is magic for old and new fans alike. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Beauty and the Beast gets seven and a half.
Fangirl points: The Goddess Audra! My beloved Luke Evans!
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Yesterday I took a trip through uncharted territory (well...Marquee Cinemas) to Kong: Skull Island.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
A team of scientists and its military escort investigate a mysterious island in the Pacific.
Ladies and gentlemen: the third month of 2017 has presented us with what might end up being its best summer-style blockbuster.
The success of any movie featuring a character as iconic and oft-portrayed as Kong depends a great deal on how well it handles its icon. I am more than a little pleased to report that Skull Island's Kong is every bit as majestic and intimidating as he should be. See this movie in 3D on the biggest screen you can find; you'll deliver yourself straight into the jaws of the great gorilla himself. The other creature effects are pretty terrific, but, when it's down to nuts and bolts, Kong is definitely king. Skull Island's human cast--including Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and John C. Reilly--is an impressively-decorated lot, elevating the outlandish premise and predictable dialogue. Skull Island boasts awesome locations and sets, terrifying battles, and fantastic disaster effects. It's funny when it wants to be, pointed when it needs to be, and thrilling from beginning to end. A rousing score by Henry Jackman, peppered with some great 70s tunes, perfectly underscores the movie's tone, and a fun post-credits scene makes sitting through 15 minutes of compositors' names worthwhile.
Kong: Skull Island clocks in at an even 120 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language."
Kong: Skull Island is a terrific popcorn feature, about as much fun as two hours at the cinema could be. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Kong: Skull Island gets eight.
Fangirl points: Toby Kebbell! Shea Whigham!! (A man who improves any project fortunate enough to have him.)
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for Hugh Jackman's final turn with the super sideburns, Logan.
Spoiler level here will be mild, mostly nothing you wouldn't get from trailers and clips.
A jaded, aging Logan is drawn from hiding to help a young mutant being pursued by some nasty characters.
Logan is a somber affair whose tone reflects its tired hero. This Logan isn't interested in saving the world, he's just trying to get by and get out. Action is plentiful, well-choreographed, and brutal, with decapitations and dismemberments aplenty. Do take that "R" rating seriously and leave the kids at home; graphic violence and bad language are pervasive. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen turn in lovely performances that would not seem out of place on 2017's awards circuit, though timing and genre will probably leave them forgotten. The film suffers from its bloated runtime and tends to drag here and there. I have to think a trim would have worked in its favor, but otherwise, Logan is a superhero movie that's more than good enough to get away with taking itself so seriously.
Logan clocks in at 137 minutes and is rated R for "strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity."
It's not quite The Dark Knight or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but Logan is definitely one for the ages. Of a possible nine Weasleys, Logan gets eight.
Fangirl points: Stephen Merchant! Richard E. Grant!
Until next time...
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Dearest Blog: Today it was off to Marquee Cinemas for oddball blockbuster The Great Wall.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
A pair of mercenaries is conscripted into battle to save a Chinese city from hordes of terrifying creatures.
Dear reader(s): Thanks to a painful trailer, my best hope for The Great Wall was that it would be hilariously bad and not just bad. I am pleased to report that, while it's not winning any awards anytime soon, The Great Wall IS actually a pretty enjoyable way to pass a couple hours.
Liberally seasoned from the cliche jar, the Great Wall is deeply, deeply idiotic. Jarringly modern phrasing and Matt Damon's weirdly stilted diction are no help with the clunky script. The most pointed attempts at humor often miss the mark, but a light tone works strongly in the movie's favor. The Great Wall boasts some lovely scenery, spectacular costumes, excellent precision battle choreography, and solid creature effects. I didn't see the movie in 3D, but there are a few dizzying scenes that I expect would make it worth the upcharge and glasses headache. Wall-to-wall (see what I did there?) action never comes at the story's expense, and is perfectly accompanied by Ramin Djawadi's rousing score.
The Great Wall clocks in at 103 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of fantasy action violence."
The story and the acting are nothing to write home about, but The Great Wall is a fun outing that's more than worth seeing on the big screen for it's extraordinary production values. Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Great Wall gets five.
Until next time...
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