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.

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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).

Review : Geostorm


“When the network of satellites designed to control the global climate starts to attack Earth, it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.”

Just like that poster, this movie is full of lies. Gerard Butler is never staring down a tidal wave, his daughter his never in any danger, he, for most of this movie is in space. Geostorm is one of those movies, that makes some cheques that it cannot cash. This movie is another in a long line of disaster movies, only this one doesn’t have that much disaster in it really. Pretty much all of the disaster is seen in the trailer, just in shorter scenes, and since there is only one instance where they are any of the main characters in danger from any of it, you never really care. So what is this movie really? Well it’s half disaster movie, half mystery/drama. The cast here isn’t bad, and there are some stand outs, but much of there time is spent hamming it up and being way too dramatic, without the film backing up that drama. It is nice to see such a large and diverse cast, but they don’t have much to do, and they can even come off as kind of incompetent at times. The plot of this movie also comes off as kind of ridiculous, and nothing feels like it has any real weight or stakes to it. So what we end up left with here, are what feel like two different movies, each with their problems, and neither with much satisfaction to be had from them. All in all, Geostorm takes what should be a fun action adventure, disaster movie, and makes it a bigger disaster than anything we ever see in the movie. I mean when would a computer ever be like Geostorm in 1 hour 30 minutes,that’s just lazy.

Review Score : 4 out of 10

Review : The Snowman


“Detective Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.”

The Snowman is a strange movie. It’s directed by Tomas Alfredson, and stars Michael Fassbender as an alcoholic detective, who gets drawn into a murderuous, conspiracy plot. This movie has a surprisingly big name cast, but other than Rebecca Ferguson, none of those actors have much of a role here really. It’s listed under 5 genres, and it really does run the gamut here from crime, to mystery, and even horror and thriller. The real problem with this movie however, is that instead of happening to be all those things, it tries to be at least a little of each across the movies 2 hour run time. And that leads to a few different issues. For one, this movie dangles a few too many threads for us to pull on, because it never gets the opportunity to address all, or wrap up all, so many of them just come of as conspiracy fodder, and wasted sub plots. At least one third of this movie, consists of an entire kind of high power prostitution ring sub plot, that both went no where, and save for one tiny connector, would have been totally irrelevant to the movie on a whole. And that trend carries over in the movies pace and tone. It’s constantly up and down, and constantly trying to be a horror one minute, a thriller the next, a crime drama the next, and it just doesn’t work. Even the main plot here, comes across as convoluted, and like it constantly was trying to throw the viewer, but doing so with little regard to make sure it still made sense in the end. I mean Fassbender and Ferguson are fine here, I didnt really expect anything either ground breaking or terrible from them, and their supporting cast is also fine in the limited role they do have. All in all, The Snowman feels like a lot of wasted potential, much of which I think came down to the directing, and the adaptation of this film from its novel inspiration.

Review Score : 5 out of 10

Review : Mother!


“A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.”

So you might read that, and think you know what you’re getting yourself into, but boy would you be wrong. Mother is a metaphor, and I mean that in the most literal way possible, this movie is literally a metaphor, wrapped up in another metaphor, and a simile, and everything else literary and none literal. It stars Jennifer Lawrence as “Mother”, and Javier Bardem as her spouse, and in that, that’s as straight forward as this movie ever is or gets. Darren Aronofsky is known by now for his dream like storytelling and visuals, that he combines with very specific themes, that he almost always plays metaphorically, and leaves much to the audience to dissect and understand. This movie is no different, and is probably his most Aronofsky movie ever. To be fair, this movie isn’t for everyone, hell its probably not for most people, and it’s portrayal of certain ideas and concepts might really rub a lot of people the wrong way. This movie can come across as very voyeuristic, and almost pornographic in its presentation, and given the relationship between director and lead actress here, I think that makes sense. Mother requires a lot from Lawrence, and she gives it her all, and she is excellent in her role. A role however, that I think took a lot of trust and confidence in her director, and I think their personal relationship helped that. There is so much I can say about this movie, in breaking it down, dissecting and discussing it, but I’m never been one for spoilers, and I think a big part of this movie is seeing it, and being confronted by it, and then having to deal with that experience, and formulate an opinion from that. It also feels impossible to score this film, as for all of those that won’t appreciate what was attempted here, would probably laugh this movie off, so I feel like I have to score it based on those who are actually willing enough to try it. If all of this sounds a bit too out there for you, then maybe Mother isn’t for you, but if you like experimental, artistic, inventive, and out there stories and story telling, then give Mother a look.

Review Score : 8.5 out of 10