Trailer of the Week!

Yes its back, because finally we have something worth it (and I see you all rolling your eyes because yes I know the amazing infinity war trailer came out, but come on we knew it was coming).

Alita Battle Angel

Now this one might be a bit polarising, but I think thats going to be a good thing, and actually help the buss behind this movie. So Alita Battle Angel is the latest from director Robert Rodriguez and is based on a popular manga series titled Battle Angel (western name), and sees Rosa Salazar in the title role…kind of.

The first thing most people will notice about this movie, is the look of its protagonist, and she is a motion capture role, and even though this is a live action movie, she in particular will be noticeably CGI because of some very distinct design choices made here. I am of course talking about her anime inspired eyes, that make her look and feel like a doll come to life, for better or worse. Its one of those things where I can really only say that she was CGI because of the eyes, I even thought maybe it was just her eyes, but I’m not sure how main stream audiences will react to something like that.

This movie also boasts a really strong supporting cast, with the likes of Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali to name a few. Will this combination of talent both in front and behind the camera, when paired with material that has already has its own fan base finally see one of these kinds of movies succeed? Or will this be another Ghost in the Shell situation, and probably heap even more pressure onto the shoulder of the Akira live action project.

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Wrap Up : The Punisher

When you think about The Punisher, you probably think about a gun toting, skull vest wearing, everyone killing, shootemup action type movie or series….what we got however, is so much more. We have now gotten the full compliment of Marvel Netflix character series, and the one thing they all have in common, is that when they work best, they work because they go the route of character study. And thats what The Punisher is, its a 13 episode character study, on Frank Castle, and what it takes to forge such a man. This series accomplishes this, by giving us multiple characters that are pulled from the same crucible, and giving them time and space to see how each reacts, and why. If what you wanted from The Punisher was 13 hours of full auto weapons and head shots, go watch Punisher War Zone like 6 times in a row. If you just like really good content, keep reading.

The Punisher is a real thoughtful series (never thought I’d say that), and its one of the series I think actually benefitted from the 13 episode run, unlike some that should have been cut to 8 or 10. This full 13 hours also gives the time these characters need to become fully developed, and thats really the thing that makes this so good. Both Frank, and other characters like Micro are given time to develop, but more importantly, the villains (yes plural) are given just as much time to be fully fleshed out and allow them to have meaningful motivation and an actually dangerous skillset. All of this means we really care about what happens to who and when. There are some characters here that I don’t really care for, but the show did definitely do a great job of having those characters grow on me, so even if I still didn’t like them by the end, I at least had some more respect for them and their motivations.

There is action here though, I mean there had to be, and its the kind of real and gritty, hands in the mud kind of action I wanted and expected. Frank is just a man of course, and its nice that even though he might be better than his foes, he still is only capable of the things a human can do, and he’s made to bleed. There are some scenes further down the series that I can describe only as “graphic”, so if thats an issue, just be on the look out. This series also does really really well to give the punisher his own little world, and the rules of that world make sense and things happen as a result of other things in a way that also makes sense. That does make the punisher feel at least like the most insulated of the Marvel Netflix shows, and we do get some cross over character work, but really only because of previous character building from Daredevil season 2. Its nice that they didn’t force more cross over, but it would have been nice to have some more nods maybe to the larger Netlfix universe this series finds itself in.

The Punisher is definitely not what I expected it to be. To get all these themes that come with war and being a soldier and ptsd and the works, wrapped so nicely and intricately around a comic book character is really a nice surprise. Jon Bernthal gives us such a layered, damaged and complex character that he will definitely become the embodiment of what people expect from this character going forward. His supporting cast does a great job here also, and I’m sure much praise has to go the writing of this show, for giving these characters so much room to grow, and the time to do it. I think I would rank The Punisher currently as my second favourite of all the Marvel Netflix shows, and I can’t wait to hear about season 2.

Review : Coco

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“Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.”

Coco is the latest in the long and storied history of Pixar the animation studio, and like most everything they lay their hands on, it turns to gold. Coco, named for one of the main characters in the movie, takes us on a cultural, gripping, emotional and entertaining story about family. This movie really does play like a valentine to Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican celebration of the day of the dead. It represents the day on which families give thanks and remembrance to their ancestors who have gone before them. Coco also does a fantastic job in teaching anyone who isn’t aware of the celebration and what that all entails, in a manner that comes across as sincere, and never felt like it was watering or dumbing down the material for a wider audience. It pulls you into the world of Miguel and his family, and then takes you on a journey with him, from this world to another, with some really great twists and turns that are earned and genuinely well done. The animation is gorgeous, and they take full advantage of the added visual style that the day of the dead inspires and allows. The added lore also creates a great bed to lay this story on, especially because this celebration is based around family, and at its core, thats what this movie is really about. It is about music, it is about being an artist, and what it truly takes to be an artist in this world, but everything is swirling around this core of family, and what family means. And it all feels so authentic, and it is. The voice talent here is all on point, and they all do really well with their singing, as well as they do sound like a real family, and one that really cares for each member. The only thing keeping this movie from reaching the peak though are the songs. Not the music, the guitar work here is really amazing, but the original songs are good, but there isn’t that stand out, or song that will really break through, and I really wish it did, to give is this movie the extra exposure it deserves. All in all, Coco is a fantastic movie for any member or the whole family, and is worth seeing on the big screen with some popcorn.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

Review : Justice League

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“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.”

So, this movie, and its production has gone through a lot. Family tragedy that caused director Zack Snyder to have to take a leave from the production, the entry of Joss Whedon to finish the film, a cgi top lip fiasco, studio interference in many ways and much more. I say all that because going into this movie, I had the mindset of, if this movie is good I’d be genuinely impressed that they were able to pull all of this together. And there is a lot that they were able to pull off, and some they weren’t. To start, this movie doesn’t feel like its directed by two directors, but it does feel like it was edited by committee, and thats a bit of an issue. Joss Whedon has a writing credit on this movie, so he definitely had to have re-written at least a third of the movie, and it shows in the dialogue that sticks out, and more things at the end of the movie, where I think most of the re-shoot changes really occur. Man of Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, you can say what you want about these movies, one thing you can’t say, is that they’re not bold, because they are, and this movie loses that boldness in favour of a more “tame” version of what we’ve gotten before. Now thats definitely going to add a lot of mass appeal to the movie, but it might lose it much of its deeper credibility. All of that is not to say that this movie isn’t entertaining, it certainly is, and there are so many surprise and stand out moments that leap straight off the page and give you that incredible I never thought I’d see that in a movie feeling, but I still would have liked to have seen those moments through the bold lens of the movies before it. They are some plot holes for sure, and there is another villain who’s motivations are sort of lost on us, there’s the lip, but despite all of that, there is so much here that we know and love from these characters, and that’s where the movie shines brightest. You can say what you want about Zack Snyder, but the man has style, and he definitely has an eye for casting, and this team is casted very well. The surprise stand out of these is actually Cyborg, his portrayal of the character and his exploration into being part man and part machine was fantastic. The movie does run at a bit of a break neck pace, but it was literally mandated to be under two hours (its like one minute less), and the solution they went with was clearly to cut some of the more subtle character building moments, especially some of which were teased in trailers. Also I must say, the score for this movie is done by Danny Elfman, and he’s certainly a great composer, but his work seems so Saturday morning cartoonish when compared to what we got before from the likes of Junkie XL, that it really fell flat for me. They also made some kind of different version of the Wonder Woman theme (Is she with you? from BvS), and that was a real bummer for me as I was just waiting for it to come blasting on in her opening action scene. His score does definitely bring up some good ole nostalgia, but do we really need to keep going back to certain wells? All in all it might seem like I’m being really down on this movie, and I’m really not. Just like I had said in review for Thor Ragnorok, the movie sacrifices some substance for style (in this case that boldness and real grit of the previous movies), but I can’t for one second say that I wasn’t entertained, or that the things that were done right, weren’t really exciting to see. Justice League feels like a step in a different direction than maybe I personally wished they had gone with the franchise as a whole, but the movie does deliver a lot of the things I wanted from a movie like this. And maybe one day I’ll get to see all those cut scenes. (Also just as a side note, I’m not a huge fan of the new super suit, liked the darker one more).

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Also I feel like I have to address it, this movie does make some less than progressive choices with female characters. They don’t come off so egregious as you might think, but they are definitely there, and they are definitely distinct choices. I know many people are trying to blame Snyder for this, and he probably has to take the blame for the more glammed up look of the Amazons, when compared to the Wonder Woman movie, but the impactful moments of this I thought were in moments of dialogue and character decisions, all of which I’m willing to bet were down the re-writes and re-shoots from Whedon. I wish Zack was able to give us his unblemished version of this movie, and we might never know what and who changed what, but I think its at least comforting to know that a lot of those issues that arose, were fought against by the cast and crew, and maybe going forward these kinds of issues can become less and less, as we can not have to talk about them at all one day.

Review : Murder on the Orient Express

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“A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man’s race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.”

Murder on the Orient Express is based on the famous book of the same title and is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the title role here along side a laundry list of who’s who of great actors. The movie starts off by setting up our lead character of Hercule Poirot, and why he’s possibly the greatest detective in the world. We then are set off on a journey with only one ending for one of the trains passengers…murder. Branagh does play a very good Poirot here in all his moustached glory, there are some issues however, with the rest of the cast. My real issue with all of them, and its pretty much all of them, is that they’re all more caricatures than characters. Now, they do as caricatures kind of fit and work in the world that was created here because certain things are kind of over the top and they do work very well in that regard, but they never seem as deep and flushed out as Poirot. And thats probably the real story of this entire movie, in that it all seems like everything was created, done, and existed for sole purpose of making Poirot probably the greatest detective in the world. I can’t speak for the solving of the actual crime, compared to how its done in the book and the motivations and all that, but here there was an interesting twist with it, but one that made it much less impactful and much less satisfying to me, and possible to other people who aren’t super familiar with the material. Sidenote, this movie is definitely very very nice to look at, and they do set up some amazing set pieces as backdrops.

Review Score : 6.5 out of 10

Review : Thor Ragnarok


“Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok, the destruction of his homeworld and the end of Asgardian civilization, at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela.”

First of all, I must say how continually impressed I am with Marvels ability to keep a lot of the reveals in their movies a secret, and just how much money they are clearly willing to spend to keep them secret. I won’t spoil any of them here, but let’s just say, they paid probably millions of dollars to allow things to be in the trailer, but not in their final forms. The second thing I want to address is the MCU debut of Taika Waititi, who comes in bringing his personal brand and style of movie making, that both fit and doesn’t fit in the MCU. Prior to Ragnarok, Thor had been, and had been used as the MCU’s Shakespearean elements. This iteration of the character however, is so much more comedic and light hearted, that even thought a lot of previous incidental humor is used here, the characters themselves take themselves so much less seriously. This movie is a blast though, and from its opening, which might be one of the best opening scenes in any comic book movie, to its rip roaring end, Ragnarok is an action adventure roller coaster of laughs. They’re so many new characters here, and there’s also a bit of character house cleaning, that would streamline the Thor household going forward. The biggest stand out of all of these though, is Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, and her final outfit is honestly some of the most stunning costuming I’ve ever seen. Her character ads both depth to the Thor mythos, while also adding a strong female of colour that we don’t get too much off in these kinds of movies. She also allows for one of the best scenes in the entire movie, and I’d probably cosplay as her if I wouldn’t have to shave my beard off. The new look, new attitude Thor here is also really good, as Chris Hemsworth as an actor has great comedic timing, and being able to flex those muscles a bit was very entertaining. Like most all MCU movies, this one also has some villain problems, and while Cate Blanchett brings an amazing presence and gravitas to Hela, the conseit of making her character the way it was, meant there couldn’t truly be a satisfying conclusion for her storyline. The movie itself does sacrifice some of the substance of other MCU movies, but it definitely sacrificed it for entertainment, and a mass appeal this franchise never was able to attain. Scoring this movie by itself , and as a part of the MCU, are two different things, and that’s maybe the only plaice this movie truly falls down. All in all, Thor Ragnarok is the most fun you’re going to have in a cinema for a while, it just doesn’t reach as deep down as some of the movies we praise as the absolute best of the MCU.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10

Wrap Up : Stranger Things 2

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Success sometimes, isn’t the best thing for movies and TV shows. Especially when that success, comes out of nowhere, and becomes huge, massive success. Thats what happened to season one of Stranger Things. That success means a few different things. One, it makes the expectations of season two that much more inflated. Two, many times more success means more people who want to able to claim some of that success and quality which adds more cooks to the kitchen. Three, everyone expects any sequel to be bigger and better than before. And four, you usually don’t have as much time to create as you did before. Most if not all of these things I’m sure were a part of the creation of Stranger Things season two, that  being said though, this season of Stranger Things definitely comes out swinging a nail filled bat of quality.

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Everything about ST2 that needed to be bumped up, has been, and everywhere that should have been kept smaller and more tight knit, has also been. Thats the real success of season two. Things pick up right where they left off, even though this takes places about year after the events of season one, it honestly feels like we never left these characters. The entire gangs back, plus some new faces that are expertly woven into this sci-fi, adventure tapestry. The story picks up like I said one year after season one, and meets our party trying to live a normal life after the life changing events of a year before. And at first, all does seem well, and we don’t have to wait long before we get our first look at fan favorite 11, as many fans were worried we might have to wait a long time to see her return.

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Then things start to get, well, strange. New comers Dacre Montgomery, Paul Reiser, Sean Astin, and Sadie Sink are all welcomed to the cast, and they all have sizable roles. Then just like season one, ST2 does an amazing job of setting up its narrative, and setting all of its characters on a collision course to its ultimate end. This all isn’t to say also that this season is safe, as it does make some bold decisions, and sticks to them for better or worse. One of the things that worked best about season one, was the team, and when the team was together on screen. ST2 takes a typical trope of team up movies, and breaks up the team for the majority of the narrative, only to bring them back for the finale. It actually takes many common tropes of the genre ( sci-fi, adventure, 80s, horror), and twists them around on themselves to allow for much more character development than would usually come from said tropes. Some of the best characters on the show are actually the ones that start out as much less likable, but that allows for them to have the most growth.

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ST2 also benefits from a clearly, and sizably increased budget, and it definitely shows on screen. From episode one straight on, we get to reap the fruits of that increased budget, and it just allows for the elevation of the material. I do have some minor gripes as with most things, but they really are mostly just personal issues, and they don’t at all pull down the material, or the show itself. After season one I had really high expectations for this season, and of the creators, the Duffer brothers, who write and direct most all of season one and two. I also was, and am continually impressed with the level acting from the entire cast here, especially the younger actors who prove again they are no one hit wonders. All in all, Stranger Things season 2 is a wonderful return to form for the Duffer brothers, the cast, the crew, and everyone involved. I think it reaches most of the heights of the season one, and it most definitely eclipses season one in terms of the spectacle here, and the quality of acting and directing doesn’t let off ever. It might not have made me cry like season one, but it had me on the edge of seat for sure, and its worth the watch and the binge (just clear 9 hours and get it out in a one).