RSS
Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Mission: Impossible 2" iTunes 4K Review


Note: In the run-up to Mission: Impossible - Fallout, I'm revisiting the entire series in spiffy 4K HDR. Reviews for MI1, MI2, MI3, MI-Ghost Protocol and MI-Rogue Nation at respective links.

In all rankings of the Mission: Impossible movie series, 2000's second installment - surprisingly named Mission: Impossible 2 - is known as "the bad one." How bad is it? The only things people really remember about it are Anthony Hopkins' pithy retort to Tom Cruise's objection that Thandie Newton lacked training to help them, "To sleep with a man? To lie? She's a woman. She's had all the training she needs," and this zinger:



Har-har. Earn that paycheck, Sir Anthony! It's also best remembered as the movie that made Hugh Jackman's career despite his not even appearing in it. (More on this later.)

It's hard to know where to begin with M:I2 because there's so little to discuss plot-wise. In the cold open, Dougray Scott, masquerading as Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt, tricks a scientist who trusts Hunt into giving him samples of a genetically-engineered supervirus called Chimera and its cure before killing him and crashing the airliner to cover his tracks. Then we're treated to some impressive footage of Cruise free-climbing, his being given his mission and then over a half-hour of Cruise recruiting (by shagging her) Newton in order to have her get back in bed with her ex-boyfriend Scott to find out what his plans for the disease are. There's masks, diving while firing two guns, lots of kung fu, flying birds (pigeons, not doves) and hijinks and it's all dull and noisy.

I'm not susceptible to the things that trigger the easily-triggered outrage mobs, but egads the plot is skeevy and gross. Newton is introduced as a capable thief (a weird touch), but then is immediately reduced to being a sexual prop. Scott is on to her; Cruise is supposedly in love with her despite her crashing into his Porsche in the dumbest flirting scene ever filmed; it's all just dopey despite Newton being quite cute.

But really loading things down is Scott's creepy and unimpressive turn as the villain. His motivations are thin beyond "get all back up in the ex's guts" and making money selling bottled plague - this was written by Chinatown's Robert Towne from a story by Star Trek TV series guys Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga?! - but it's Scott's glowering mien that really kills things. He's awful and it's mind-boggling to realize that he was originally cast as Wolverine for the original X-Men only losing the role when a serious injury sustained while filming MI2 forced producers to scramble for a replacement. (They "settled" for a lanky Broadway musical performer named Hugh Jackman who had only two virtually unseen Australian films made a year before on his resume. If you look closely, you'll notice Jackman isn't as jacked in some scenes as he is during the cage fight where Logan is introduced. This was due to his needing to bulk up while shooting and the makers put the fight scene at the end of the shooting schedule so he could have time to get swole.)

Legendary Hong Kong action director John Woo had already had a couple of American hits in the 1990s with Broken Arrow and the truly bugnuts Face/Off and many of his trademark stylistic flourishes are present and accounted for, but the contribute to the flabby feel of the film, like he's trying to pad out Towne's thin script.

As before, it's hard to really judge audio quality on the Apple TV 4K, but the Dolby Vision image is sharp and richly-colored, though skin tones look a tad hot (reddish). The HDR effects really pop in nighttime scenes as the deep contrast lends a lush patina to the image.

It would be six years before J.J. Abrams would step in and radically revamp the Mission: Impossible series, setting it on the path it would follow to greater artistic and commercial successes.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Mission: Impossible" iTunes 4K Review


In the run-up to the release of Mission: Impossible - Fallout - the sixth installment in the Tom Cruise-led series which has been running for 22 years(!) now - the previous five movies have been re-re-released on UHD/4K Blu-ray and digital formats. While I already own them all on regular Blu-ray, I was able to rebuy the whole series for $15 by buying cheap iTunes codes and the first one directly from iTunes for $5 (meaning, if you can do the math, I overpaid for this one).

Other than watching chunks of the last two installments while playing with home theater stuff, I haven't seen any of the movies all the way through since they were in theaters. Hearing that Fallout called back to the previous chapters, I'm going to try and watch all of them before see the new one and that means starting at the beginning with the 1996 Brian De Palma-directed Mission: Impossible.

The TV series' lead character, Jim Phelps, originally played by Peter Graves is portrayed by Jon Voight meaning Cruise is the newly-minted Ethan Hunt, part of Phelps squad which also includes Emilio Estevez. (I'd completely forgotten he was in it, albeit briefly. Other than the then-controversial twist which )

In Prague to intercept the McGuffin, a list of the cover identities of covert operatives, things go incredibly sideways leaving everyone but Hunt on the team dead and his bosses at the IMF suspecting he is the traitorous mole, forcing him to go on the run to root out the mole. Along the way he discovers not everyone previously thought dead is dead and the who-do-you-trust factor ramps up quickly.

For a series which is now know for the insane stunts Cruise performs himself like swinging off the world's tallest building or hanging off the side of an airplane in flight without bluescreen trickery, it's remarkable how small the scale of the first M:I film was. Other than the final set piece with the Chunnel bullet train and a helicopter tethered to it (which really suffers from dated VFX) and a great practical aquarium explosion, the most involved sequence is the much-parodied infiltration of CIA HQ which is nothing more than expert framing and editing, you know, the way movies used to thrill us before pixels by the megaton got cheap.

De Palma is in his usual Hitchcock-channeling form, giving David Koepp's and Robert Towne's pulpy genre script flair, especially when Phelps' wife (Emmanuelle Béart) seems to be moving instantly past her widowhood to seemingly flirting with Hunt. The cinematography De Palma regular Stephen H. Burum and editing by ace cutter Paul Hirsch (who amazingly only has TWO Oscar nominations and one win, for Star Wars) is lush and crisp. Cruise's Hunt is clearly greener than later chapters have portrayed and flashing back to a time when he was closer to Maverick than what he's doing now makes her performance seem a little cocky, but fine.

Currently the Apple TV 4K doesn't do high-quality audio well, but the Dolby Vision transfer looks good, albeit with some warmer skin tones than we're used to. Many movies nowadays desaturate colors in their grading to the point that anything with some primary color heft seems artificial, but even allowing for the throwback style De Palma was going for - seriously, this is one of her more "I WANT TO BE ALFRED HITCHCOCK!" movies on a CV filled with them - reds seem a tad hot. Checking reviews of the disc versions, I found middling scores, mostly for image softness which is misplaced because that's the look of anamorphic lenses and film, kids.

For a series that has grossed nearly $2.8B worldwide, it's interesting to revisit the Mission: Impossible series' somewhat modest beginnings when it has grown so much larger; perhaps not as far from its roots as the Fast & Furious franchise has (remember when that was about street racing?), but certainly in a higher-rent district.

Score: 7/10. Buy it for $5.

"Skyscraper" Review



Die Hard - Bruce Willis + The Rock - good villain + The Towering Inferno + great VFX = Skyscraper.

Any questions?

It's really that simple. 30 years after the seminal action classic that made Bruce Willis a star and spawned countless "Die Hard on a [fill in blank]" imitators set on a bus (Speed) or a plane (Passenger 57) or a battleship (Under Siege), the premise of a guy facing down an overwhelming threat gets rehashed with the Biggest Movie Star in the World (literally and figuratively) fighting to save his family in the world's tallest CGI building in Hong Kong (because China is where Hollyweird panders to these days) that's on fire!

Rock "The John" Dwayneson stars as security analyst hired to independently evaluate the safety and security of The Pearl, a 3500-foot-tall, 220-story megatower featuring state-of-the-art everything, self-powered by wind turbines, an indoor park and waterfall and a crazy virtual reality top level which makes no practical sense, but is obviously there for a climax ripped off from Orson Welle's The Lady from Shanghai. (It's not a spoiler when it's so clearly telegraphed by everything in the setup.) 

Things are looking fine except for the offsite control center inspection (because they didn't have room in a 220-story building for a control room?) and Rock and his former squadmate who set him up with the job are in transit when they're mugged in an attempt to steal the plot's biggest stupid thing, a tablet with Ultimate Total Control Over Everything in the building - let's call it the "iMcGuffinPad" - which will allow the bad guys to shut off the fire suppression systems and allow them to set the 96th floor on fire. Unfortunately, Rock's family (wife Neve Campbell, daughter McKenna Roberts, and son Noah Cottrell) are staying in a suite on the 98th floor and are trapped when the place goes up. Hijinks ensue.

Since it's clearly ripping off paying homage to Die Hard, you can't help but match up the categories to see how Skyscraper fundamentally doesn't get what made the former a classic. The biggest difference is in the respective stars: Willis was a schluby Everyman, a NYPD cop caught literally barefoot and outgunned who ended up a sweaty, dirty, bloody pulp by movie's end. The Rock is, well, The Rock, and he looks like an invulnerable superhero already, so they give him a salt-and-pepper beard and a missing leg to try and even the odds, but all the lumbering and getting beaten don't seem to hurt him much.

As for other comparisons, the villains suck even by lame action movie standards. Granted, Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber is one of the all-time great movie baddies, but several of the other gang members were also memorable like Alexander Gudanov's enraged blonde with the dope assault rifle and wise-cracking nerd Theo cackling, "And the quarterback is toast!" Skyscaper's hodge podge of villains aren't interesting or compelling, boiling down to the most generic descriptors like "Euro Baddie" and "Asian Ruby Rose" and the other McGuffin is so lame as to make the whole endeavor ludicrous.

Finally, despite being written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber - best known for comedies like Dodgeball and We're The Millers - it is weirdly lacking in sorely needed self-aware humor. Other than one moment when Rock is about to embark on a crazy set piece and mutters, "This is stupid," the script barely has anything which would elevate the material above rote meathead actioner level. Die Hard had John McClane constantly commenting on what was happening, speaking for the audience. For some reason Skyscraper decided that a missing leg was all the humanizing the Rock needed, wasting his ace comedic chops. Seriously, Dwayne Johnson is a greatly underestimated actor due to his massive physique, but look over his IMDB and the range of roles and note how he always seems to know what kind of movie he's making and delivers a precisely calibrated performance.

But while being derivative as all get out and inferior in almost every way, Skyscraper is still a decent popcorn muncher flick suitable for getting out of a hot summer day into an air-conditioned theater. The VFX of the tower and fire are quite convincing and the action set pieces, even when they're simply ridiculous and cribbed from other movies - the wind turbine scene is Galaxy Quest meets Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - are clearly and effectively staged. They're fun enough, but it's disappointing that they couldn't spice up the script with a little fire, too.

Score: 7/10. Catch a matinee.

"Incredibles 2" Review



Pixar's sixth release, 2004's The Incredibles, was their last unqualified great movie. They followed it with the massive stumble that was Cars and their subsequent output has wildly varied in quality from uneven (Up, Ratatouille, WALL-E), overrated (Inside Out, Toy Story 3) to downright mediocre, unnecessary and awful (Cars sequels, Finding Dory, The Good Dinosaur, Monsters University). For some reason Pixar has lost its way in telling focused, coherent stories - I blame the tragic passing of story guy Joe Ranft in 2005 (note the date) which gutted their story sense - and this inability to focus ultimately turns Incredibles 2 into a case of "We waited 14 years for this?"

Picking up literally where the first movie ended with the Underminer's appearance, we witness the Parr family unsuccessfully attempt to thwart his bank heist and minimize destruction. While things would've been much worse without their intervention, it only reinforces the opinions that led to Supers being outlawed in the first place. Even worse, the debacle leads to the government department of Super Relocation to be shut down, meaning the Parrs, whose house was destroyed in the climax of the first film, only have two weeks left in the motel before they're on the street.

Fortunately, benefactors appear in the form of Winston and Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk in full Saul Goodman mode and Catherine Keener), siblings whose DEVTECH company they inherited from their deceased parents. She's the Steve Wozniak tech genius and he's the Steve Jobs salesman who has a scheme to bring Supers back to respectability by putting Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) out front in a campaign to restore respectability. This bruises Mr. Incredible's (Craig T. Nelson) macho ego, but he's got too long a track record of collateral damage in his heroics, so he's benched with Mr. Mom duty, watching the kids, including the multi-powered Jack-Jack, in a big Sixties Space Age-styled mansion loaned by the Deavors.

With Helen out of town on her mission tracking a villain named the Screenslaver, who can hypnotize people with a pattern on any display screen, the movie wanders from Bob bumbling as a caretaker (because men, amirite?), daughter Violet's (Sarah Vowell) boy troubles caused by her date's mind being erased Men In Black style, Dash's (Huck Milner) problems with new math, Jack-Jack's random power set, a new bunch of Supers recruited by the Deavors, and so forth.

Though only a few minutes longer than its predecessor, Incredibles 2 feels simultaneously padded out and overstuffed. I saw a review that described it as feeling like a compilation of plots from an Incredibles TV series and that's spot on. The disjointed story problems appear from the very first moment as we're introduced to the mind-wiped boy scene, then jumping back to the Underminer battle followed by the family being cut loose by the government and Bob's mentioning he may've seen Violet unmasked. Why not just have the mind-wipe scene after the boy is mentioned? It wouldn't change how subsequent details play out. When the inevitable twist appears, it's such a non-surprise as to be surprising how weak the reveal is and how little sense the Screenslaver's plan makes.

Equally problematic is the decision to make Bob a passive bystander to what's happening. In the first movie, he and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) were sneaking out and listening to the police scanner for action. When recruited by Syndrome's assistant, he snuck off behind Helen's back to get a new supersuit and to get back into shape. Even though the events of this movie are only days after the first one's, he's got none of the old mojo and rapidly devolves into a sleep-deprived, emasculated mess. Frozone barely factors much either.

Brad Bird's track record took a savage bruising with the shockingly cynical flop Tomorrowland and one can't help wonder if the damage of that experience combined with being forced to slink back to sequelize so long afterwards - though it was 11, 12 and 13 years respectively between Monsters, Toy Story and Finding Nemo sequels - on top of Bird being 46 then and 60 now has led to the lackluster consistency of Incredibles 2.

On the plus side, the rendering of CGI has made the requisite leaps forward, the action scenes are all crisp and dynamic with great uses of power and the Jack-Jack stuff is a hoot, particularly his initial faceoff with a raccoon (really!), though anyone who saw the Jack-Jack Attack short on the first Incredibles DVD will experience deja vu.

Despite suspicions, I don't think the disappointing Incredibles 2 is as much a matter of Disney's alleged demands for social justice agendas to be inserted, but more like Bird's uninspired storytelling, muddled themes, and Pixar's general slumping into a lazy sequel factory. Joe Ranft, oh how we miss you!

Score: 6/10. Rent the Blu-ray.

"Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story" Review



Most people these days only know Hedy Lamarr from the running gag involving Harvey Korman's Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. I knew her because a stunning vector drawing of her graced the cover of my CorelDraw 8 package in the late-1990s:



As a nerd, I was also aware of an even less-known fact about her: She was an inventor who came up with the underlying technology upon which most of modern wireless stuff like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi rests.

Her career as a Hollywood starlet, her tinkering endeavors, and generally sad life (she married six times, never seemingly happy) is recapped in Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, currently on Netflix. It traces her life as a precocious teenager born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria - the scandalous film Ecstasy, which featured her nude, followed her everywhere - to her coming to America ahead of WWII, her struggles being taken seriously due to being a stunning beauty (she's hot by modern standards) and eventually her invention during the war effort for which she was denied a fortune in royalties and struggled for money in her later years.

Interviews with her children and film historians are augmented by a 1990 phone interview she'd done at age 75 that had been forgotten for a quarter century. Remarkably candid, she doesn't blame anyone in particular for how her life went and it's to the filmmakers credit that they don't focus on the obvious sexism which probably lurked behind her inventions not being taken seriously. (Admit it, though: If someone like Nina Dobrev showed up today at the Pentagon with some radical weapon idea she'd invented with an avant garde musician - as Lamarr had - no one would take her seriously either.)

While it feels a bit elongated and sketchy at 90 minutes - it should've been a tight 60 minutes - it's still an interesting portrait of a woman whose legacy in science turned out to be more enduring than her time on the screen.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable. (Netflix has it now.)

"Ocean's 8" Review



An overheated topic in movies these days is the gender flip - retelling old stories with female casts (never replacing women with men, mind you) - which has piled culture war drama on top of the underlying creative laziness of Hollywood. While trying to appeal to the female audience with traditional boys movies has a reasonable business rationale, it has come with some nasty militant feminists undertones of "men need to learn that they are inferior and to be erased" and reflexive attacks upon anyone not toeing the PC line that these flipped movies are just wonderful, ascribing sexist and racist attitudes to the critics in the attempt to inoculate bad movies from criticism.

2016's Lady Ghostbusters debacle was a prime example as the film's trailers hinted at the impending disaster to come and rather than power through, the filmmakers and media enablers decided to attack the audience as sexist trolls who hate women and are just toxic masculinity patriarchy manbabies blah-blah-woof-woof. It's not that previously successful and talented actors and filmmakers made a bad movie; no, the audience was WRONG and must be punished for their refusal to appreciate the Empress's new dresses. The past months' rage over Star Wars: The Last Jedi where Star Wars fans have been deemed "toxic" and in need of purging have only further poisoned the atmosphere.

So into this fraught environment comes Ocean's 8, an all-female spinoff of the George Clooney-topped Ocean's 11-13 series helmed by Steven Soderbergh which came out in 2001, 2004, and 2007, respectively. Considering the movie started shooting in late-2016, it's been in the works long before the culture war was joined in earnest, so it's safer to presume that this was just a chance to see if gathering a bunch of likeable stars to engage in breezy capering and for the most part it delivers just enough on basic expectations to make it worthwhile.

Sandra Bullock stars as Debbie Ocean, Danny's sister, who opens the film being paroled from prison after nearly a six year stint after pledging to the parole board that she just wants to have a quiet normal life, work a job, pay her taxes. Right. In actuality she has been plotting a massive jewel heist in the form of a Cartier necklace with $150 million and in order to pull off her ridiculously convoluted plan, she has to recruit some old pals: Cate Blanchett (the sidekick/talent wrangler), Sarah Paulson (the fence whose suburban family thinks she's eBaying all the stuff in the garage), Mindy Kaling (jewlry expert), Rihanna (stoner hacker), Awkwafina (pickpocket), Helena Bonham Carter (washed-up fashion designer) tasked with dressing the mule and inadvertent #8 in the scheme, Anne Hathaway as a ditzy actress.

If there is a basic problem with Ocean's 8 it's that everything goes too smoothly and there is no obvious nemesis like Andy Garcia and Al Pacino served as in the Clooney-Pitt-Damon movies. A fellow with whom Bullock has a legitimate beef with is a secondary target in her scheme, but his being looped in requires the same stratospheric suspension of disbelief every other detail in the plot requires, if not more. EVERYTHING goes according to plan with every single player able to get to the precise position they need to be. There is a clairvoyant ability to know exactly where and how people will react and the few minor hiccups that occur are resolved in a manner that's super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Everyone performs well enough considering their sketchy characters, though Bullock seems too restrained and dour. Blanchett is clearly having a blast as she did in Thor Ragnarok, but the MVP is Hathaway who deftly does ditzy though ultimately turns out not as dumb as expected. Hey, if Clooney et al can get paid for sliding through a heist film, why not let the ladies have some?

There's a weirdly tacked-on feeling third (or fourth) act which I suppose was supposed to add some tension, but turns out to be almost another part of the plan based on the investigator's (James Corden) past encounters with the Ocean family, but by then we're in the outro portion of the film and who cares?

While inconsequential to the max and too slick for its own good at times, Ocean's 8 delivers fully on its modest expectations as long as you don't think too hard about it. If you like the cast, you'll like the movie, but it won't change your life.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"Death Wish (2018)" Review



High on the list of examples of remakes/reboots/reimaginings no one really needed is this remake of the notorious 1974 Charles Bronson vehicle Death Wish. The original tapped into the very real nightmare of Seventies New York City - Taxi Driver is almost a documentary of what the city was like before Giuliani cleaned up the place -  and vigilantism seemed almost necessary to fight back the tide of crime and predators. But that was then and this is not then and 2018's Death Wish relocates the story from Manhattan to the Murder Capital of America, but does so in an uncompelling and illogical manner.

Bruce Willis stars as a Chicago ER surgeon married to Elisabeth Shue with a spunky daughter (Camila Morrone). Life is wonderful until a valet decides to snap a photo of their SUV's GPS system to get their home address because reasons, namely to send three masked thugs to the home to rob the place while wife and kid are there alone. Mom ends up dead and daughter ends up in a coma. Frustrated by the lack of progress in the case, Willis picks up a gun that conveniently falls out of a patient's clothes in the ER, trains himself to shoot, and then becomes the "Grim Reaper", a vigilante that captures the public's imagination. As the trailer and obviousness give away, he eventually hunts down the killers. The end.

While I loves me some good man-on-a-mission-to-kill-everyone-between-him-and-someone revenge flicks like the John Wick series and Denzel Washington's Man On Fire (haven't seen the new Equalizer movies yet), Death Wish simply doesn't have any energy to it, primarily due to yet another lazy, smirky performance from the clearly-hating-his-job-and-needing-to-retire Willis. He simply doesn't deliver the angst and rage someone in his position would be feeling. I couldn't help but look at Vincent D'onofrio, playing his slightly loserish brother, and imagine how he'd spark up the role properly.

I normally hate when critics review the movie they wish they'd seen instead of what was on the screen, but I'm making the exception to call out the basic setup of this movie. It just strains credibility that burglars would be conducting a home invasion and despite one goon creeping on the daughter, not explicitly sexually assaulting her. With the Chicago setting, wouldn't a more relevant version have focused on a lower or middle-class black family beset upon by the very real predators that have made the Windy City the current Murder City and the father's quest for justice in an environment where "no snitching" enables the criminals who terrorize everyone? (While Denzel is busy with his own murderthon franchise, there are plenty of other compelling options like Sterling K. Brown.)


Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Thoroughbreds" Review



To get a feel for why a lot of people disbelieve movie critics, take a look at the quotes in the poster above. I know Heathers and American Psycho quite well and I also know wickedly funny and Thoroughbreds is none of the above. Oh, the trailer below is typical false advertising as well, implying a much more crackling movie.

Former besties Amanda (Olivia Cooke, she was Artemus in Ready Player One) and Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy, she was the final girl in Split) are reunited under odd circumstances when the latter is hired to tutor the former in the mansion Lily lives in with her mother and a-hole stepfather. It takes some time to get enough crumbs to start assembling the cookie of these girls' pasts, but we eventually learn that Amanda is an emotionless sociopath who killed her horse in a botched attempt of euthanization and Lily was expelled from her previous elite private school for plagiarism.

As they drift along in what the movie imagines to be artsy hip storytelling, the focus settles on Lily's desire to kill her a-hole stepdad who, other than being a pretentious self-centered jerk, doesn't seem to be in dire need of offing. He's not physically beating her mother or putting the creepy moves on his cherry bomb step-daughter. His capital crime seems to be using the rowing machine too often. Yes, the travails of upper-crust youth these days.

They attempt to contract out the hit to a small-time drug dealer (Anton Yelchin in his final performance; he died two weeks after the film wrapped), but stuff nonsense hijinks TWISTY ENDING yawn.

The original stage play intentions of writer-director Cory Finley's thin script come through despite the slick ivory cinematography of Lyle Vincent. There is nothing relatable about the leads despite OK performances. They're a pair of pampered teens with rich white people problems which aren't really problems. (That they don't even bother mixing in boy troubles or some obligatory teen lesbian hints really shows how empty things are.)

I don't know where the ludicrous idea entered the heads of the critics who gave Thoroughbreds an 86% RT score came from - probably next door to where It Follows 95% score came from - but perhaps they should be put down for being lame as well.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

Oscars 2018 Livesnark


Another year, another wasted Sunday night as the Virtual Signalling Olympics for movie stars were a thing and I was on the case via my @DirkBelig Twitter account. Now for your dining and dancing pleasure here's what I had to say:
  • Sigh....here we go. Another year of the circle-jerking, virtue-signaling, Festival of Hypocrisy bka the as gazillionaires lecture us about income inequality and demand serf disarmament, then wanting us to see Murderdeathkill 3 at theaters this weekend.
  • First orange flag (signifying Hollyweird's desire that be repealed for the Normals, while they have private armed security because shut up) spotted on Lin-Manuel Miranda, famous for his musical about a Founding Father who wanted the People armed against his ilk.
  • Only took a whole two minutes for the first of surely many, many cheap shots at Trump at the . So edgy. Really going on on a limb, Jimmy.

    Looks like they're broadcasting from inside of Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry box.
  • 63 million people are being punched in the face repeatedly by Jimmy Kimmel's monologue. Show business is the only business that believes insulting the PAYING customers to preen for their elite pals has no downside. Idiots.

    Helen Mirren as Price Is Right model.  :)
  • Best Supporting Actor goes to Sam Rockwell. I would've voted for Richard Jenkins, but this is fine. (That Armie Hammer wasn't nominated is nuts.) Fun speech.
  • MOI (about Gal Gadot): That's a nice dress.

    MISSUS: She could wear a paper bag and look good.

    MOI: This is true.

    MISSUS: So could [Armie Hammer] for that matter.
  • Whomever is cutting these montages deserves some acclaim. The stage is pretty classy, too.

    Best Sound Editing goes to Dunkirk. [shrug]
  •  The Dee Rees (who should've been nominated instead of Greta Gerwig for Best Director) Walmart- advert was cute and an instant "give her a comic book movie" moment, but note the lack of a father because SocJus demands men be erased.
  • Irony is sending out two actors who LEGALLY immigrated to America to lecture the Normals watching the that they need to STFU about the invaders among them.

    Best Production Design is The Shape of Water. Acceptable choice.

    What is up with that guy's sleeves?
  • Was there a sale at Too Small Velvet Jacket Warehouse? Must have been judging from the suits the menfolk are wearing.

    Best Supporting Actress goes to Allison Janney to the surprise of no one. (I would've voted for her, too.) Nice speech opener and long w/o notes.
  • St. Vincent = HAWT!
  • Best Editing goes to Dunkirk. Spare me. The movie was pure confusion narratively. Baby Driver would've been my vote. Not sure why The Florida Project wasn't nominated here.
  • t would be wonderful if the audience they're about to surprise on the was filled with people who just got out of prison a few days ago.

    Note that most of the stars participating are those in blockbuster movies who know hating the fans is bad business.
  •  Just realized that the black envelopes with YUGE gold type are probably to make it really, really, REALLY difficult to hand the presenters the wrong category undetected since they're visible from the lobby. Or orbit.
  • Common - who won an Oscar for the dastardly "hands up, don't shoot" lie - is back with more agitprop. At least this year he's highly unlikely to be rewarded for these antics. Oh, look, all the white liberals are standing up as ordered at the
  • Unlike the Golden Globes, the are paying some lip service to all the raping that went on with the silence and complicity of half of that crowd. No sign of Rose McGowan, though. No love for #rosearmy
  • Best Adapted Screenplay goes to to Call Me By Your Name checking off the pink box with a career win for a long-lived veteran. (I would've voted for Mudbound, then The Disaster Artist.)

    Best Original goes to Get Out, which was my vote. Watch it twice to appreciate the skill.
  • FINALLY!!! Roger Deakins wins Best Cinematography! Darkest Hour, Mudbound and The Shape of Water were all very nice, but Blade Runner 2049 was good and this bloke has been overlooked by the for too long. Huzzah!
  • And for the 38th straight year the Academy fails to use Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" for the people who died segment. FAIL!!! So who will be the biggest snubs/overlooks this year?
  •  Best Director goes to Guillermo del Toro for Grinding Nemo, which I'd be cool with if it hadn't been damaged by his usual slide into graphic violence & sex when it's simply not necessary. His movies are always lovely, but never quite gel. Would've voted for Jordan Peele.
  • Best Actor goes to Gary Oldman. When I saw the first trailer for Darkest Hour, I said it should've been title "Gary Oldman's Getting An Oscar This Year, Dammit!" and it is well-deserved.

    From Sid Vicious to Zorg to Churchill. All together now: EVERYONE!!!!
  • Best Actress goes to Frances McDormand to the surprise of no one. Didn't care for Three Billboards because it rang false over and over as there were no repercussions, but she was good and I support this win. Terrible dress. Obnoxious speech. Finance quality.
  • Best Picture is Grinding Nemo, aka Amélie F*cks The Creature From The Black Lagoon. BZZZZTT!!! The correct answer was Get Out or Darkest Hour.

    Quick, name GdT's last film? Nope, not Pacific Rim, it was Crimson Peak. Really.

    I didn't care for most of this year's films.

"Black Panther" Review



Marvel continues its just-can't lose streak to 18-0 (I don't count the weaker entries like The Incredible Hulk or the first two Thor movies as losses; just not home runs) with Black Panther, a quite good movie which unfortunately has been hijacked by SJWs seeking to politicize everything.

Introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Chadwick Boseman continues his journey as T'Challa, who became King of the fictional African nation of Wakanda after his father, T'Chaka, was assassinated, also inheriting the mantle of the Black Panther, protector of the nation, clad in a vibranium - the mythical metal that makes Captain America's shield - cat suit. As explained in a prologue reminiscent of the storybook expository scene in Wonder Woman, a vibranium meteor landed on Africa and the metal's properties fueled Wankanda's rise as a technologically-advanced Utopia, which they have hidden from the outside worth with a shielding dome, cut off from the outside world.

The debate of Wakanda's place in the world and how it could help poorer African nations is forced when an American ex-SEAL, Erik Killmonger (a malevolent Michael B. Jordan), arrives and challenges T'Challa's claim to the throne. He wants to use Wakanda's tech and weapons to basically topple all the nations he feels are holding the African diaspora down and if you think that sounds a little (OK, a LOT) like a race war, I'm touching my nose. But we'll deal with the politics in a moment.

What's remarkable about Black Panther is how little like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie it is. Other than Martin Freeman's CIA agent character also introduced in Civil War and Andy Serkis' Ulysses Klaue first/last seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron getting his arm cut off (the replacement is literally a blast, along with Serkis' no-CGI-covering-him performance), there are no hints of the Avengers, no drop-bys from Tony Stark. Instead it feels like a Shakespearean family tragedy with the ancient, deeply African tribalism and customs rubbing against the questions of how should a 22nd Century superpower masquerading as a poor 19th Century agrarian land interact with the 21st Century world.

With the usually overqualified casting (two Oscar winners, two Oscar nominees, and everyone else is excellent) that typifies Marvel's serious approach to funny book flicks, there is a weight to Black Panther that seems more like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight movies than the recent laugh-a-minute Thor Ragnarok. Not that there aren't laughs or it's grimdark like the DC Murderverse slogs, but it's got a lot on it's mind, though more is implied than explicated; it really would've benefited from a tad more breathing room to debate its concept instead of just getting to the final climatic boss battles.

It's not a flawless masterpiece, however. Some of the CGI is surprising subpar and rubbery physics make fights look more like videogames or the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. The performance are so solid (though Jordan's street-level American jars compared to the mellifluous African patois of the others) that you don't realize until later we could've stood for more details, especially about Lupita Nyong'o's spy life and Danai Gurira's badass general. Letitia Wright's Shuri, T'Challa's super-brainiac little sister, feels too young for her precociousness - and are there no other scientists or doctors working with her? - and she gets a couple of ignorant racist comments stuffed in her mouth.

Which leads to the part we really shouldn't have to discuss, the inevitable co-option and politicization of yet another piece of entertainment by forces seeking to keep resentment, grievance, division and polarization whipped up in order to advance their agendas. Just a couple months after Star Wars: The Last Jedi was buried in vapid "think pieces" bashing the male characters, screeching "girl power" and proclaiming "diversity" (read: "less white men, yay!"), we're now assaulted by Time magazine covers and a tsunami of commentary about how landmark it is for a black-led superhero movie is in the Era of Trump as if the Blade movies didn't happen 20 years ago and Will Smith wasn't the Biggest Movie Star In The World before passing his crown to Dwayne Johnson.

It's depressing to see a narrative of "black people are finally getting something in AmeriKKKa" being fomented when if that was the case, no one would be making a reportedly $200M budget film with a 98% black cast, black writers, designers and director, female cinematographer (who's white, but she's a lesbian, so her victim class card is punched, twice) which is on track to make over $200M in its opening weekend. Focusing on the skin color, genitalia and sexual behavior of the filmmakers is insulting, not empowering. Unless they're studying the IMDB, audiences doesn't know or care whether the crew behind the camera are black, white, straight, gay, male, female or a left-handed Amish panda with a limp, just whether the movie is good or bad. That the faces are different is just a footnote to anyone not obsessed with scorekeeping.

Black Panther's existence and success moots the premise of those seeking division over what should be another opportunity for ALL people to commune with escapist entertainment which also has thematic gravitas. What's ultimately ironic about the grievance mongers who share Killmonger's rage is that they seem to miss the fact he's the villain and his internalizing of victimhood is what leads to his inevitable downfall. It's T'Challa's pragmatic peace-seeking that is considered the ideal which leads to victory and peace.

So try and tune out the noise and just enjoy another excellent offering from Marvel. As an added bonus, we're not going to have to wait 2-3 years for more of the Wakanda folks; they're going to be back in Avengers: Infinity War in just three months. Can't wait.

Score: 8.75/10. Catch a matinee.

 
DirkFlix. Copyright 2010-2015 Dirk Omnimedia Inc. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy