‘Alita: Battle Angel’ would be critical darling if she were obese
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‘Logan’ review: Hugh Jackman goes out on top in final turn as Wolverine
The world finally has an R-rated version of Wolverine that does everything right.
If you love Wolverine, then you should run out to see Hugh Jackman’s final turn with the character in Logan. It’s a smart film that doesn’t skimp on action, it’s filled with heart, and the performances by Mr. Jackman and Patrick Stewart as Professor X are top notch.
There is much to say about this movie, but instead of doing up two different reviews I think I’ll just share a portion of what I wrote for Conservative Book Club and then ask you to kindly check them out for the full version.
I wrote shortly after the film’s release:
The world has seen Hugh Jackman play the Marvel superhero Wolverine for 17 years, but it appears as though the actor saved his best performance for last. Director James Mangold’s R-rated Logan hauled in $247.3 globally its opening weekend, and for good reason — it’s a superhero movie that transcends the genre.
What is perhaps the most fascinating about Logan is that while it is chalk full violent deaths, underneath the blood and gore is a film that promotes selfless sacrifice, unconditional love, loyalty, family, and the possibility of redemption for all men — no matter how fallible they may be. Bad characters die, but the film’s message on many levels can be considered “pro-life.” Good samaritans risk everything for children who are treated as expendable tools, while the life an elderly and infirm man is fiercely protected by the protagonist.
Logan (story by Mangold, screenplay by Scott Frank) takes place in a future where all of the X-Men in the 20th Century Fox franchise are dead — wiped out in large part due to the decaying mind of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Wolverine and an ally named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) have been driven underground along the U.S. border with Mexico, although the hero is able make enough cash to get Charles seizure medication by working nights as a limo driver.
Everything changes for the trio when a nurse smuggles a genetically engineered child known as X-23 (Dafne Keen) out of captivity before she can be killed by the villain Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Her goal is to transport the girl a rally point in North Dakota where children with similar capabilities will attempt to cross the border into Canada. Logan, with his failing immune system and broken body, is coerced into the quest by Charles and the surviving shards of virtue buried deep within his own adamantium bones.
“You know, Logan, this is what life looks like: a home, people who love each other, a safe place. You should take a moment and feel it,” Xavier says when they are eventually given food and shelter by a family of farmers.
“Yeah, it’s great,” the reluctant hero sarcastically replies.
“Logan! You still have time,” Xavier implores.
Check out the rest over at CBC.
‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ offers more cool cars, gun-fu and Keanu
It was three years ago that I saw an ad for a Keanu Reeves movie called John Wick pop up on my Spotify account. It had been awhile since I had seen something of his that I liked (i.e., 2005’s Constantine), but I said to myself, “This looks cool. I’m there opening weekend.”
Fast-forward t0 2017. We now have John Wick 2, thanks to good word-of-mouth that made the original hit. The first film pulled in $89 million globally on a $20 million budget, and John Wick: Chapter 2 has already amassed $90 million in two weeks. That’s because Reeves, director Chad Stahelski, and writer Derek Kolstad have offered fans a little bit more of everything the liked the first time around — cool cars, cool guns, and cool fights — while still managing to expand the universe in fun ways.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so all I will say is that this film mainly serves as a bridge to what I’m assuming will be a finale of epic proportions. The last film sent a message that we cannot escape the repercussions of our past sins while JW: Chapter 2 emphasizes that attempting to solve violence through violence usually exacerbates the problem. The main character desperately wants to leave the lifestyle of evil behind, but that is next to impossible since he spent years building up a reputation as “Death’s emissary.”
Long story short, if you enjoyed the first movie then you probably should do yourself a favor and check out this one. Laurence Fishburne reunites with Reeves in grand fashion, Common does an excellent job as “Cassian,” and the ending has a well-done homage to Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon.
If you’re an action-movie fan who still needs more convincing, then head on over to Conservative Book Club for a more extensive review that I wrote up last week.
‘John Wick’: Keanu Reeves delivers solid action, shows us that the price of sin is pain and death
Martin Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ a masterpiece, must-see for Catholics
One would think that a Martin Scorsese film with a ready-made audience of 1.1 billion Catholics would be a no-brainer in terms of marketing. Strangely, the money men behind the director’s latest masterpiece, Silence, decided to go with an “art house” angle instead of any serious outreach to those who could make it a smash hit. The decision will cost the film millions during its theatrical run, but that still does not change the fact that it is a must-see effort by the man who brought the world Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and a slew of other great projects.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plot of the movie, which is based on a Shûsaku Endô’s 1966 novel, it involves two 17th century Jesuit missionaries who must look for their mentor in Japan. As an “army of two” they must find out if there is truth to the claim that their mentor rejected the faith after years of torment by officials.
Mr. Scorsese recently said that “three or four great actors” turned down roles for Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver). After watching the film (How much do you want to bet that one of those actors was Leonardo DiCaprio?), it is safe to say that it was probably a blessing in disguise. Everyone involved delivers, particularly Mr. Garfield.
In short, see the movie if you are a fan of cinema — real cinema. Those with an attention span shaped by years of time on Twitter will be nowhere to be found, and you will exit the theater better for the experience.
“Doug, Doug, Doug, you need to give me more than that,” you say? Yes, I understand. That is a reasonable request, and since I do not want to spoil too much of the film I will just say that the central question is one that I have covered before on this blog: Why does God seem absent at times?
When we go through trials and tribulations and pray, silence can be incredibly frustrating. People want God to be the cartoonish figure with a big white beard — they want Him to be a material being — and the absence of an on-call Divine Psychiatrist causes many men to believe they are alone in the world.
As Hubert Van Zeller has said, “We always imagine that if we felt strong, we would not mind having to carry the Cross. But the whole point is that we should not feel strong.”
Silence, perhaps to the chagrin of many priests, will cause people to question their own faith — but that is a good thing because the Truth can and should be able to stand up to any scrutiny. The faith that has gone through an intellectual blast furnace and survived comes out on the other side a spiritual steel, which is exactly what is needed in the modern world. Catholics need to intimately understand the value of pain and why such ordeals allowed by our Creator are always a blessing (as tough as that may be to comprehend).
As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain:
“Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object — we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer. Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering.
As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.
If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” — C.S. Lewis.
Silence is not for the faint of heart, but at the end of the day it forces religious viewers to objectively examine the strength of their own faith.
Would you drown before renouncing God? Would you burn? Would you die any number of gruesome deaths? If not, then why?
Very few men or women ever die a saint, but that reality does not free us from the obligation to try. Mr. Scorsese may have a complicated history with his Catholic upbringing (he is certainly not alone), but there should be no doubt about the quality of Silence. Hollywood producers discouraged him from making the film for decades, but he persevered. For that, moviegoers owe him a debt of gratitude.
Magnificent Seven: Fuqua brings in Washington, Pratt and crew for awesome Western
Westerns have been box office poison for quite some time, but for whatever reason the powers that be allowed director Antoine Fuqua to have a go at a “Magnificent Seven” remake. The film, which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, came in first place its opening weekend for good reason — it’s awesome.
Anyone who is familiar with the Western genre doesn’t need to work too hard to guess how the story goes:
- Bad dude controls a town and kills good people.
- Stranger is enlisted to take out bad dude.
- Showdown eventually happens and bad dude is removed from the equation.
Where is the fun in the movie if we already know how it goes, you ask? In this case, everywhere.
Denzel Washington plays post-Cvil War bounty hunter Chisolm, Chris Pratt plays a troubled gambler with a heart of gold, and the two of them eventually put together a motley crew that will oust the evil Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) from a mining town. Their success will also avenge the death of a frontierswoman Emma Cullen’s (Haley Bennett) husband.
There are elements of the movie that could be spoiled in an extensive review, so in this case I’ll stick to saying that everyone in this movie looks like they’re having a great time. The scenery is beautiful. Every single actor has his or her moment to shine. The gunfights are top-notch, and there are even a few surprises towards the end that had the audience gasping during my showing.
In short, this is the movie that Sony’s team on Ghostbusters should have seen before making this summer’s box office bomb. Mr. Fuqua pays homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954), John Sturges Magnificent Seven (1960), and other Westerns while also creating something distinctly his own.
This is not a Western for Baby Boomers, nor it does it try to be. It tips its hat to the past, but it cinematically moves forward. In a year of lackluster movies, this is a fun film that is worth seeing before it leaves theaters. See it in IMAX if you get a chance. This blogger did not, and I’ve been kicking myself for the decision for the past week.
Spider-Man movies called ‘white-boy fantasy’: The Root writer says Zendaya casting not ‘progress’
The Root bills itself as an “opinion and culture site for African-American influencers,” which works out nicely because I was recently looking to see what such self-proclaimed individuals were saying about Zendaya’s role as MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It turns out that Spider-Man is a “white-boy fantasy” and nothing you ever do is good enough for “influencers” like Jason Johnson.
Mr. Johnson wrote on Aug. 23 for The Root’s “No, Zendaya in Spider-Man: Homecoming Is Not the Progress We’re Looking For”:
Consequently, the announcement that she’s been cast as Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s long-term love interest, Mary Jane, in Spider-Man: Homecoming next year has given many people all sorts of excitement and feels. I am not one of them. Casting Zendaya as Mary Jane is another example of Hollywood expecting black dollars at the box office, but disrespecting black consumers and fans on the big screen. …
Zendaya’s casting is yet another sign that makers of Hollywood sci-fi fantasy action films will “racebend” a character (change a character’s race from what it was in a book, film or cartoon), slap themselves on the back for being progressive and expect black fans to be satisfied, while pretty much maintaining the status quo. Racebending is fine so long as it’s for girlfriends and sidekicks, but the movies are still white-boy fantasy adventures in which the lead remains a straight white male no matter what. And that unfortunate fact can’t be separated from the choice to cast Zendaya as Mary Jane.
There was never a doubt or even a conversation about casting anyone other than a white man as Iron Man, Thor, Captain America or the Incredible Hulk. Even though Iron Man was black in the early 1980s, the first Captain America was a black man, and Thor as a Norse God could be anybody.
Are you a young comic book fan who is on the ideological fence? If so, then consider the psychology on display with Zendaya’s casting:
- If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like Dan Slott will imply that you are a racist.
- If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like director James Gunn will say that you have “too good of a life.”
- If you think movie producers should try to adhere as closely as possible to the source material, then liberal guys like Devin Faraci of the website Birth. Movies. Death. will call you a “racist fanboy.”
- Conservative guys like me will shrug their shoulders and say, “Yeah, but Zendaya may still be pretty good. As long as she tints her hair red then we should just give the girl a chance.”
- Meanwhile, liberals like Jason Johnson will mock you for your “white-boy fantasy” even if you do give Zendaya’s casting three cheers for diversity. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Welcome to a life of Kobayashi Maru-type scenarios if you board the USS Social Justice.
As your friendly neighborhood blogger has said on numerous occasions, social-justice obsessives are never satisfied. Any attempt to placate them will only result in additional admonitions that require an apology, new demands to meet without question, and more rules that undoubtedly conflict with a sub-group of professional victims someplace else.
Between now and the July release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, I implore anyone who is still trying to define their ideological identity to conduct a test: Come to this blog and disagree with me just to see how I react. Then, do the same with liberal writers like Dan Slott or Nick Spencer. By the time your favorite wall-crawler returns to theaters, I am confident that you will no longer be on the fence.
Suicide Squad: David Ayer’s film a labor of love — but still a mess
There are two things to know before walking into the theater to see David Ayer’s Suicide Squad:
- The movie has more love and care put into its first 30 minutes than Ghostbusters had in its entirety, yet critics rewarded Paul Feig with 73 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 27 percent for Ayer.
- Suicide Squad is a frustrating mess — particularly its last 30 minutes.
For those who have been living under a rock for the past year, the story goes as follows:
- Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is tasked by the U.S. government to put together a team of really nasty people — some who are “meta-humans” — who are willing to confront comparably twisted threats.
- Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc) and Slipknot (Adam Beach) are “recruited” (i.e., captured) for the job. Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Col. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) take part in their big mission to keep them honest.
- Waller’s key asset, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), goes off the reservation, and before long a Ghostbusters-esque scene clears out an entire city.
- The Joker (Jared Leto) is on a mission to rescue Quinn from Waller’s clutches.
This sounds like a solid movie, right? It is — at times — and the soundtrack is amazing. The problem for Suicide Squad, however, is that at some point it becomes obvious that the train is going to derail.
Perhaps the best example of how much Suicide Squad unravels over two hours comes with the supposed death of a key character. This person, for all intents and purposes, is seen during the climatic battle in very, very, very bad shape. After the crew saves the world, however, this person magically appears without a scratch — not one hair out of place — while wearing a spotless set of clothes.
“How are you not dead?” Deadshot asks.
The audience receives no answer.
Note to David Ayer: Just because you acknowledge a giant plot hole, it doesn’t make the hole go away.
Oddly enough, the one thing that probably could have made Suicide Squad a better movie would have been to leave the Joker out of it and save him for a showdown with Ben Affleck’s Batman. Jared Leto did not have the screen time needed to shine and his mission to save Harley had no impact on the plot.
Mr. Ayer should have used the Joker’s creative real estate to tighten up his script because the finished product is another mixed bag for Warner Bros. at a time when it needs an undeniable classic.
I suggest seeing Suicide Squad, but you do not want to pay full price. If you see it on an early Saturday or Sunday morning, then you won’t feel as though you wasted money.
Editor’s Note: No one working for Warner Bros. should be yelling “F**k Marvel,” and they really shouldn’t be copping an attitude until their superhero track record improves. It becomes difficult to show any sympathy for Mr. Ayer when this is the way he behaves on the big stage.
Ghostbusters: Why Sony’s ‘Slime the Critics’ strategy is important
Ghostbusters as a film is mostly forgettable, but the politics that have surrounded Sony’s project for months are something that should stay at the forefront of fans’ minds for a long time. Paul Feig and those connected with the project determined that a “Slime the Critics” strategy would pay off when it was clear that a $150 million investment was in big trouble — and it paid off. Reviewers were clearly afraid of being labeled sexists, and evidence of that is available on Rotten Tomatoes, YouTube, and across the internet.
Although I reviewed the movie opening weekend, my newest YouTube video discusses Sony’s small victory in terms of securing good reviews from political allies and moving the need in its direction with nice guys who have no desire to wade into gender politics.
Ghostbusters: Kate McKinnon and crew can’t save Paul Feig’s shoddy screenplay
The new Ghostbusters is finally in theaters, and the good news is that its first trailer (the most hated YouTube video of all time) was not an accurate predictor of the movie’s overall quality. The bad news is that Ghostbusters, like Batman v Superman, is a film that is done in by a shoddy screenplay. The cast does the best it can with writer-director Paul Fieg’s story (co-written by Katie Dippold), but no amount of improvisation can lift the product above “mildly amusing” status.
First off, anyone who has seen the original Ghostbusters will know how the story goes:
- Female versions of Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz,
Dr. Egon Spengler, Winston Zeddmore form a band of misfit do-gooders who believe the city faces a spiritual threat of gargantuan proportions.
- City officials treat them like second-class citizens.
- The Ghostbusters piece together a mystery and stop a paranormal apocalypse by closing a portal to the netherworld.
With that being said, I think it is important to review Mr. Fieg’s movie by pretending the original film never existed. If the world were never introduced to Bill Murray’s Dr. Peter Venkman, then how would critics rate this movie?
They would say the following:
- Kate McKinnon is a firecracker. Whether one likes or dislikes her weird tics throughout the movie, there is an energy and “it” factor to “Holtzmann” that a franchise can be built on.
- The villain, Rowan (played by Neil Casey), is hardly defined — and that is putting it nicely. His motivations are not shown — viewers are told he was “bullied” when he was younger — and his actions during the movie’s climax make no sense. He literally controls a sea of cops and military personnel, but then chooses not to do the same to the four people who clearly pose a threat to his plans.
- Chris Hemsworth’s character, Kevin, is so stupid that he is borderline retarded. Even if he is a parody of the “bimbo secretary,” I cannot remember a single female in similar roles who came across as Dumb and Dumber-stupid. Even desperate employers would not hire the man, no matter how handsome he may be.
- There was obviously a Michael Jackson-inspired “Thriller” scene planned for the film that was cut from the finished product and wedged into the end credits. The problem is that aspects of the scene do show up in the film, which makes the audience go, “Huh? Why are the cops and the soldiers frozen in ‘Thriller’ poses? What the heck?”
- Tension does not exist in this film because at no point does anyone feel as though the Ghostbusters might be in real danger. They become masters of new and experimental technology fairly quickly, and the one time they appear to be in trouble the camera angle shows them with the kind of smashed faces one might see in a Ghostbusters cartoon.
Ghostbusters is a movie that is worth checking out on Netflix if there is nothing else to do on a Friday night, but it is not worth full price at the movie theater. It is a movie that fails not because its cast is filled with women, but because its screenplay is sloppy.
Finally, it must be mentioned that Bill Murray’s cameo will be painful to watch for anyone who enjoyed the original films. It is hard to believe the man agreed to the part unless he has serious issues with Ivan Reitman. If Mr. Fieg or anyone else associated with this re-imagining thinks they were giving the 1984 Ghostbusters a respectful tip of the hat with Mr. Murray’s cameo, then the property is in worse hands than previously thought.
If you have a little kid who really wants to see ghosts busted, then you probably should buy a cheap ticket on an early Sunday. If you don’t have kids, then my suggestion is to wait until you can check it out for little to no cost. That isn’t an “I have a thing against women” thing, it’s an “I have a thing against paying full price for muddled writing” thing.
Did you see Ghostbusters this weekend? Did you refuse to see it? Either way, let me know what you think of Sony’s tentpole film in the comments section below.
Update: Here is my latest YouTube video on Ghostbusters and why the “Slime the Critics” strategy is important.