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 : 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 : 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

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 : Pendulum 


“When Luther, the CEO of a major software company, realizes he has a stalker intent on doing him harm, he calls in Ryan, an old friend and former soldier. Ryan, who is battling with post-traumatic stress disorder, tracks down the stalker and is forced to kill him, but in so doing, makes a shocking discovery.”

Pendulum is a Trinidad made film, staring Jovon Browne, Stephen Hadeed Jr., and Anokha Baptiste. It’s directed by Michael Rochford, and was fully filmed in Trinidad and Tobago. If I had to describe this movie in one word, to quote a friend of mine from his wedding speech, “Problems!”. Visually and stylistically, Pendulum swings back and forth from well done, good looking shots, to really uninspired, seemingly lazy film making. There are even times when I would notice some pretty visible clipping of footage, or some mistakes that should have been noticed like a scene where one character is holding an empty beer of one brand, and when someone walks across the frame, he then has a full beer of a different brand in his hand. That seeming lack of attention to details plagues this entire film. Hadeed Jr. and De Lancey are good when they’re given enough to work with, but Browne who plays the title role here really lacks the on screen charisma, to make you connect with his character. And as we’re on the topic of problems, there are many, but I’m going to talk in-depth about the worst one. Now I’ve had this issue with local films before, the sound, sound editing, sound mixing, and to a lesser extent the score, are serious issues here. The entire movie seemed to have had its dialogue ADRed, but it’s done so poorly that it constantly is out of time with characters lips, there is no spatial awareness to it, it’s all flat, it comes and goes at points, there are even time where people say things, and you hear nothing. The rest of the audio here is also like this. Sound effects come and go, they don’t match up with to what we see on screen, they’re too loud or too soft, or they just don’t match with at they’re attached to. At more than one point in this movie, the audio simply cuts out, and abruptly pops back up a few seconds later. I don’t have any issues with the score musically, it just seemed underwhelming, which could be due to it’s often understated levels. The title sequence at the start of this movie is good, but it’s preceded by a random sequence of credits that are subsequently rendered useless by the actual title credits. The fight scenes are sloppy, the effects are barebones, and when the cinematography goes off, it goes way off. The story only becomes coherent (but never believable) when characters literally spell out everything that actually happened, in a narrative that tries to be too ckever for its own good. All in all, what Pendulum feels like, is a student movie that was meant to be done by a certain time, wasn’t, but had to be handed in anyway. I never want to be so negative on films from my home, but I feel like I have to hold them to the same standard I hold all movies.

Review Score : 2 out of 10

Review : Blade Runner 2049


“A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who’s been missing for thirty years.”

1982 gave us one the most influential science fiction movies of all time in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. 35 years later, we have the combined vision of Scott, but this time helmed by Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve, with story by Hampton Fancher. It picks up 30 years after the events of the first movie, this time lead by Ryan Gosling as a LAPD Blade Runner charged with retiring older lost models of replicants. There is a lot more story here, but honestly, this movie is filled with so many unspoiled surprises, that I can’t really talk about much of it without giving a lot away. What I can say however, is that this movie is possibly the prettiest, most beautifully shot movie I maybe have ever seen, and that’s a real impressive feat given the general bleakness of this future landscape. That bleakness however, does allow the movie a kind of minimalist aesthetic that pairs brilliantly with the analog future design of everything here. It’s like they took what was done in the first movie, and instead of just going more into the future, they went into the future of what they had already created which allows 2049 to match perfectly with the original, but still feel new. That visual base is then stacked even higher by the acting here. Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, and the rest of the cast here are all spectacular. No one does understated like Gosling, and he plays this complex role to a Tee. He also cuts a great silhouette, and fits perfectly into this world. Even the more cameo roles here are so organic that you just believe these characters have been living and breathing in this world for years. Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies, that might not be fully appreciated till years from now, for its contribution to the genre and film making. As slow of a burn as it is, it’s combination of cinematography, score, and subtle acting means you’re never wanting for more over this 2 + hour journey. Any fan of the original should be more than happy with this long awaited second outing, and even those who have never seen the original, should find a lot to like here.

Review Score : 9.5 out of 10

Review : American Made

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“A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.”

This is one of those movies, where at best, its a Wolf of Wall Street, and at worst they just come off as unauthentic, cheesy, and boring. This movie is pretty much in the middle. It stats Tom Cruise, who as always, is totally committed to his role and plays it very well, the movie on a whole however, is what maybe holds it all back. Its not to say that this movie isn’t good, or isn’t entertaining. Its certainly funny enough, dramatic enough, the acting is good enough, its all enough yes, but the real issue is that its just enough. Nothing here is special, nothing here takes this movie into a category above, where movies like the Wold of Wall Street live. It gets kind of bogged down in mediocrity that make it great probably for an at home stream, but nothing about it says come see me in the cinema. Also, a lot happens here, and it all needs to happen, but it can almost feel a bit overwhelming sometimes, as the movie often needs to keep up a bit of a break neck pace to get from where the story starts, to where the movie ends it. All in all though, this movie is two things combined. Its Tom Cruise being the consummate professional he always is (the man is never bad EVER), mixed with a rest of movie thats good but not great, and I feel like with this story and talent, it could have been GREAT.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10