Aquaman Review: King of the Seven Seas

Hey Everybody! Welcome to another review from Flickmuncher.com where we entertain food for thought. My name is Ben and I’m the Flickmuncher. We’ve got quite the line up these next few weeks and I’m excited to share the next several reviews with you as well as show off the new collaborative reviews that I’ll be doing for episodes of the 2017 Ducktales TV series with our new contributor Mimi the Flickmunchkin, which should be starting in March. However, until then, let’s take a look at the recent DC movie release, Aquaman.

 

So let’s get right into it. What’s the story? Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) was a boy born cursed. The son of a Lighthouse Keeper (Temuera Morrison) and the runaway Queen of the underwater Kingdom of Atlantis (Nicole Kidman), he was blessed with amazing abilities beyond that of normal people. Yet he is constantly split between the surface world that he calls home, and the realm of the sea that calls him to lead it. Uninterested in becoming Atlantis’ king since the death of his mother, Arthur spends his time using his abilities to do good deeds where he can. All this changes however, when his younger half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) starts to gather the kingdoms of the seven seas to attack the surface world. With the help of his mother’s old friend Volka (Willem Defoe) and the sea witch, Mera (Amber Heard), Arthur must become the Aquaman to defeat Orm and bring peace to Atlantis and the Surface.

In a switch on how I usually present my reviews, I’m going to cover the negatives first and get to the positives later.
To start things off, let’s look at the villains. First, our main villain, Prince Orm. As superhero villains go, Orm is actually not that bad. He has a connection to the hero, and a personal reason to hate him thanks to their mother’s death—she was executed for her relationship with Arthur’s father and having Arthur. Such brotherly conflict is often rich with drama and works well enough between these two characters. You might be thinking: well that doesn’t sound like a negative to me. And you’d be right. The negative with Orm is that he tends to fall back on the whole “rule the world” cliché and the brotherly conflict isn’t used as fully is it is like with Thor and Loki. This weakness is made more acute by the fact that Orm’s reasons for wanting to attack the surface are rather general and vague, owing to a generic “polluting the oceans” message. Alternatively, he could have blamed the death of his mother on the Surface and used that as his motivation, which would have served his character far better given his attitude toward Arthur and his mother, Queen Atlanna.


Then we have Black Manta, widely regarded by fans as Aquaman’s greatest enemy, who is given a terrific motivation when Arthur chooses not to save his father (a pirate but still a human being) from drowning. But then he basically gets relegated to the position of “hired thug” and gets one quick action scene before getting taken out and promised a sequel by the producers (depending on the box office, of course). If you’re wondering again why this is a bad thing, there’s a reason you don’t have a main bad guy get beaten in his first confrontation with the hero, let alone the second time. It makes that bad guy seem less of a threat to the hero. If he’s already gotten his head handed to him before, why should we as the audience believe that the next time will turn out any differently? We know he won’t have any lasting victory anyway so there’s less of a doubt in our minds about the hero’s chances.

Besides this are a number of smaller things that bugged me. First, the musical score in the film is appropriately epic and sweeping for the majority of the runtime. Which is why it feels so jarring when they play a piece of pop music or rap like “Ocean to Ocean” by Pitbull. It just sounds out of place.
Second, while the drama is good for the most part, there are several moments that felt rushed in order to move the plot forward to fit the runtime (which is already a colossal two hours and twenty-three minutes). For instance, a moment between Arthur and his Mom gets cut extremely short to make way for exposition that leads to the next major plot point. I feel like other scenes that dragged on a little too long, like Manta tinkering with Atlantean tech, could have been trimmed to make more time for scenes like this. It’s not a huge thing, but emotional scenes should always be given time to breathe against scenes that are window dressing, or just there for the sake of being cool.
Lastly, a lot of the jokes that I think were intended to make the movie feel more “marvel-esque” were either mistimed or just fell flat to me, and there were several points in the movie where the CGI—however stylish it was intended to be—just looks a little too plastic and fake, particularly during some of the action sequences.

 

However, with all of that said, there are a lot of positives about this movie that I did like, starting with the visuals. I’ve made no secret in the past of my dislike for films that needlessly desaturate the color from the picture to make things feel more “dark and edgy”. Color is a wonderful thing when you consider how much richer and more interesting it can make an image that would otherwise seem rather mundane. Other movies from the DC franchise have had an issue with colors in the past to an almost absurd degree. Happily though, Aquaman does not have a problem with color. In fact, it’s one of the most colorful films I’ve seen in awhile particularly during the underwater scenes which take up a lot of the movie. The glowing phosphorescence and wide variety of shades involved helps to make for some truly beautiful images. It also helps the various undersea environments feel like a truly alien environment, which is another strength of this film. It takes advantage of the natural strangeness and mystery of the oceans to make Atlantis feel like an actual underwater city with history. It has different levels with shell based high-rises, a customs and import system, catacombs and ruins beneath it that all combine to feel like an actual underwater city.

This would probably be enough if Atlantis was all we got to see. The filmmakers however, went one step beyond and made several different undersea kingdoms with their own inhabitants and cultures. None of them are as multi-layered or detailed as Atlantis itself, but it shows how much thought the creators put into making this world and that’s something I can appreciate.

Besides this the story is delightfully simple and easy to follow, yet it also has a good familial conflict that makes it a bit more personal. I know this might seem boring and unoriginal to some but there’s a reason that siblings fighting over power, one to preserve, the other to destroy, is such a regularly used trope dating back to ancient times. Because it works and works well. We’ve all had fights with our family. Those fights are often very emotional and very personal and in spite of what Hollywood would like us to believe, our families are not something we can simply choose to ignore. They are a very personal thing for each of us no matter how we feel about them. That’s why stories about them are so powerful for us. Aquaman may not use it as well as some other movies I’ve seen but it’s still done well so I have to applaud the effort if not the result.

Lastly, we have the action which takes advantage of the underwater environment to create some of the more unique looking set pieces that I’ve seen in a movie in quite awhile. Since the characters are buoyant and don’t often walk on the sea floor the battles are very—for lack of a better word—fluid; constantly in motion. Now, if this was lazy motion where the speed was always the same, it would probably get boring. But the movie varies the speed of combat enough to not get stagnant and in the one on one fights Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson are physical enough actors to be convincing. Overall, the battle sequences are a lot of fun to watch.

 

CONCLUSION: By this point most people know that the DC movies (or the DCEU as they’re known by fans have not had the best track record for making quality films. In fact, one of my personal least favorite films of all time was 2016’s Batman v Superman, which was a commercial success but a critical flop. I’ve always supported the idea that blockbusters shouldn’t be critically condemned for being blockbusters but that they should also try to be more than just cash grabs for the studios. Whether that’s being a deeper more critically acceptable film, or one that is just plain fun to watch, it should at least try. Aquaman is a film that tries. It may not always succeed when it tries but at least it tries and tries hard. That is one of the best compliments I can give to a film like this, especially given my history with DC movies of the past. I can’t say whether this is the beginning of a new era of DC films with higher quality. But I know that this was a film I was prepared not to like, yet I enjoyed it anyway and look forward to seeing it again sometime.

What did you think of the review? Did you like this film? What parts of it stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on the Flickmuncher Facebook page or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

The Kid who would be King Review: “Kidz Rule…at the kids table”

Hi Everybody! Welcome to another review from Flickmuncher.com where we entertain food for thought. I promised I’d start getting these out more regularly and I am still planning on beginning a retrospective review of TV shows starting in March with the pilot episode of Ducktales (2017). Until then, here’s my review for a film that just premiered in the US, The Kid who would be King.

 

So what’s the story? Alexander Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is a twelve-year-old British schoolboy with a love of stories and mythology. And since Hollywood loves badly doing already overdone clichés, Alex and his equally nerdy friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) are constantly bullied at school, primarily by classmates Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kay (Rhianna Doris). However, while being chased home by the two bullies one night Alex wanders into an old construction site and discovers a sword sticking out of a cement block. To his amazement Alex discovers that he is able to draw the sword from the stone and believes that it is the mythical blade Excalibur. This coincides with arrival of a strange student calling himself “Mertin” (Patrick Stewart and Angus Imrie) who reveals that Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson from Mission Impossible), the ancient foe of King Arthur, is returning and while bring destruction and enslavement to all of England. Alexander must gather allies and enemies alike to go on a quest that will bring about the evil witch’s end once and for all. Will he succeed? And yes, that is a rhetorical question.

 

Sssooo, let’s start with the good parts. In show-business it’s a well-known fact that working with child actors is significantly more difficult than dealing with adults. They are much more limited in their understanding of their own expressions and emotions and so have less control over those expressions.

Why am I putting this in with the good bits? Well because, for the most part at least, the young cast does a surprisingly good job with the material they’re given. The actor who plays Alex, Louis Ashbourne Serkis (son of famous mo-cap actor Andy Serkis), in particular has to deal with carrying the lion’s share of emotions on his shoulders. And he does a laudable job of it throughout the film.

Also, the presence of Patrick Stewart as Merlin is wonderful. He lends an authenticity and a gravitas to the film whenever he appears, which isn’t often enough.

Another thing I liked about this movie was the attention to detail when it came to the mythology of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It would have been easy enough for the filmmakers to just reference the basic elements of the mythology and the audience wouldn’t have questioned it. But they go beyond that and discuss locations across Britain that—whether or not they are actually part of the myths—made me feel good that the writers cared enough to add them. I suppose it’s partially due to how British the whole thing feels and it is a little thing next to others I’ll talk about later but details like that only add to a film’s tone and atmosphere. It shows the filmmakers were going the extra mile and I respect them for that.

With all of that said, this movie has some severe problems going on with it.

I credited the movie’s child actors with how good of a job they did. The same sadly, cannot be said for the adults. Patrick Stewart is a shining jewel amidst a pile of burning hammyness and disinterest. This is a shame because Rebecca Ferguson is a genuinely good actor. I’ve enjoyed her work in the Mission Impossible films and in a little known work called the Red Tent so it’s rather disappointing to me to see how bored and phoned-in her performance is here.

The one time she seems genuinely interested is in a scene when Old Merlin (Patrick Stewart) confronts Morgana. The scene itself isn’t that well written but the two actors in it succeeded in drawing me in more than I had been for most of the movie up to that point. It’s a testament to how good acting can take cheesy lines that no one could say and makes us take it seriously.

Unfortunately, that brings me to Angus Imgrie who plays Young Merlin. I cannot sufficiently put into words how much I hated this character. I have nothing against Imgrie. I’m sure he’s a fine person and a perfectly decent actor, and I don’t begrudge him having to play a younger version of a character also being played by Patrick Stewart. But his whole performance in this movie just felt wrong. Wrong in tone, wrong in delivery, wrong in character. Merlin is supposed to be a wise sage who guides the heroes on their quest and teaches them to become better people. But Imgrie plays him like an eccentric, goofy, half-written Harry Potter character. He is hamming it up so badly here that it becomes incredibly annoying.

And this wouldn’t be so bad if that was how the character was intended by the writers, but because Patrick Stewart plays it like the wise-old sage, it makes Imgrie’s version feel like an entirely different character from an entirely different movie.

Which leads me to the last and arguably biggest problem with this movie: its identity. British pop-culture, as far as entertainment goes, has lived in the shadow of two giants: Harry Potter and Doctor Who. What do both those things have in common? Well, they are both, in a word…quirky. They both have characters that do odd things in odd ways for odd reasons, and it feels like everything that British entertainment has produced since then has looked to cash in on those traits whether it makes sense or not.

I think this movie suffers a lot from standing in those shadows. It tries to add elements from those franchises into a story where they don’t fit. The story of King Arthur may be a fairy tail but it’s a very serious one that involved bloodshed, death, adultery, and betrayal. Obviously those things wouldn’t work very well for a movie with a PG rating—though how it managed that I’ll never understand. The Skeleton Knights alone should have bumped it up to PG-13—but the story doesn’t make one think of the word “quirky” or “whimsy” when describing it. So the resulting movie feels very confused and at odds with itself, leaving the audience (the adults anyway) equally uncertain how to feel about it.

 

 

CONCLUSION: Most of us have memories from when we were kids when we’d play dress up and pretend to be fearless knights facing down cardboard dragons or lovely princesses ruling benevolently over a land of Barbie dolls. We’d conjure stories where we the kids were the heroes and grown-ups didn’t exist except to reward us for how amazing we were.

That is this movie in a nutshell. And I’m sure kids will love it. Heck, the theater I went to see this in was packed with kids and they all loved it. So if you just want something to keep your kids attention for a couple hours, this is perfectly serviceable.

However. If you’re looking for something more meaningful either for yourself, or for your child to watch, I cannot really recommend this. When the idea of King Arthur and his Knights is mentioned, I think of epic battles and struggles against great evil that affects everyone in our heroes’ world, in addition to the heroes themselves. So why does this movie feel so small? Why does it feel at the end, like nothing really changed beyond our heroes learning a lesson about honor and friendship? Shouldn’t the change at the end be greater?

Questions like these are what separate films meant to keep kids quiet for two hours from movies that stick with them when they’re adults.

 

What movies do you remember best as a kid? And what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts of the movie stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on the Flickmuncher Facebook page or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl: “Yo-ho, Yo-ho. A pirates life for me!”

Hey Everybody! Welcome to another review from Flickmuncher.com. Sorry it’s been so long since my last review. Between work and the madness of the holidays there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for me to get these reviews out. However, I am excited for the next few upcoming months as I will be doing a series of retrospectives on some of my favorite movies and episodes of anime and TV shows so I hope you’ll tune in for those when they come out.

Today we’ll be taking a look back at a movie from the early 2000s in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It’s rather strange for me to review a movie that I saw as a kid as a “Golden Oldy”. Kind of reminds me how old I am now I guess. But here’s a bit of backstory on this movie: The year is 2003. Hollywood has just started to recover from the dark reign of disaster epics like Independence Day, Deep Impact, and Twister. Movies are starting to feel fun again with the appearance of fantasy epics like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchises, and are starting to see hopeful characters in the form of Spiderman and the X-Men movies.
It is a time when ideas that Hollywood execs would have laughed out of the building on principle five years before are becoming the golden children of the cinema. Yet despite that, the idea that inspired this movie was so corny that even I would have had doubts about allowing it to be made. I mean really, a movie about pirates based off of an amusement park ride? Are you serious? To make matters worse, the pirate genre as a whole had not performed well up to that point. The most recent wide releases of the genre—1999s Treasure Island by Peter Rowe and Disney’s Treasure Planet, also 1999—did not perform well at the box office and the last one that did decently was 1996s Muppet Treasure Island (hardly a serious pirate movie). So it was generally assumed that this Disney movie based on a (rather boring if we’re being honest) amusement park ride, would be a flop just like all the others.

Yet somehow, amid all the naysaying, it managed to become the fourth highest grossing movie of the year in a year that included blockbusters like Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Finding Nemo. And its success wasn’t just commercial but critical as well. Johnny Depp even received an Oscar nomination for his iconic performance as Captain Jack Sparrow.  How was this possible? Had popular culture just lost their collective minds to temporary insanity or was this film truly that good? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

So what’s the plot? Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is a drunken wandering buccaneer who winds up in the coastal settlement of Port Royal while looking for his ship. In the process of searching for a vessel to stea- er…commandeer, he ends up saving the lovely daughter of Port Royal’s governor, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightly), from drowning. Unfortunately, the locals don’t take kindly to pirates wandering around their town and in spite of his good deed Jack is arrested and sentenced to hang. Fortunately for him, the town is attacked shortly thereafter by a group of much less friendly marauders from the mythical and eponymous Black Pearl. The pirates, led by the savvy Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), kidnap Elizabeth who is in possession of a gold piece that seems to be particularly valuable to them. Jack pursues the seafaring raiders with the aid of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), a childhood friend of Elizabeth’s, leading them across the sea in an adventure with swords, guns, and an undead curse for good measure.

There’s a common misconception in Hollywood and among storytellers in general, that if you make a story more complicated then it magically becomes a better story because they think they’re adding complexity. But the reality is that complicated and complex stories are two different things.  Imagine if you were packing up a box with ping pong balls until you completely covered the bottom of the box. But rather than fill up the entire box, you went to get another box and only filled the bottom of that box as well. That’s making things more complicated.

Curse of the Black Pearl is an example of the opposite case. It takes a relatively simple premise—cursed pirates wish to lift said curse—and takes full advantage of it by giving the different characters personality and conflicting motives. Jack’s desire to reclaim the Black Pearl at any costs butts up against Will’s simple desire to rescue Elizabeth and return home and Barbossa’s desire to be rid of the curse that has plagued him for ten years. Any competent storyteller will tell you that the core of drama is conflict. The more conflict there is between the characters, the more drama is derived. Of course, as is the case with later entries in the Pirates franchise, this principle can be used too much or used poorly. However, Black Pearl succeeds at hitting the right balance of drama between the characters and their personalities that made us all fall in love with the franchise when it first appeared.

And speaking of characters, this movie revels in creating fun characters with great personality. Some of them can be pretty rote—such as Will and an annoyingly stern Commodore Norrington (Jack Davenport)—but their dryness is more than made up for by the other pirates. Standouts include Mr. Gibbs (Kevin McNally) the classic yarn-spinning seafarer, and Pintel and Ragetti (Lee Arenberg and Mackenzie Crook respectively) a sort of pirate version of Laurel and Hardy. The other pirates don’t get as much screen-time but are equally memorable if only by virtue of their designs.

The real jewels of this cast though are obviously Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush’s turn as Barbossa. Seriously, these characters are so well written and acted that they own every scene they’re in. Much has been written and said about Jack Sparrow and Johnny Depp’s rather unique take on the typical pirate Captain, and there’s little I think I can add to that conversation so I won’t belabor the point. However, if a hero is only as good as his villain then Jack Sparrow was well served to have Barbossa as his antagonist. I’m personally of the opinion that Geoffrey Rush is one of the most underrated actors of his generation and Barbossa is a major reason why. He helps turn what could have been a rather cartoonish bad-guy (cough Lone Ranger cough) into a menacing, unyielding, yet strangely sympathetic villain who wants to feel the joys of life again. Also, he manages to say the classic pirate “Aaaarrrgghh” line and have neither himself nor the audience crack up at it. That takes some good acting to pull off.

Beyond this though, the movie is possessing of some really fun action, with swashbuckling sword fights that are very well choreographed and a ship to ship battle the scale of which is reminiscent of pirate films of yesteryear like Seahawk and Captain Blood. I especially love the attention to detail during these scenes. For instance, if you’re paying attention, you can see the trails of musket shot and cannon balls rocketing over the characters heads. Details like this help lend the entire film an atmosphere of excitement and thrills that is hard to find in movies today.

That said it’s not a perfect movie. For one thing, the character of Commodore Norrington isn’t interesting in the slightest. Granted it’d be tough for him to measure up against the likes of Jack and Barbossa but as a secondary antagonist he falls prey to severe blandness until the last five minutes and is a pretty stereotypical British (rolling the “r” there) Colonial type that Hollywood loves to portray as having zero emotions because he’s so “civil”. That kind of portrayal being a personal pet peeve of mine I didn’t care for him at all despite the potential he had to be an interesting character in his own right. He would get more interesting as a character in later movies but as far as this one is concerned he just fell flat.

A similar situation could be said for Will Turner, who definitely has a more interesting character arc through the movie but also starts out rather boring, and ultimately makes some really stupid decisions for the sake of advancing the plot, which Jack even points out as being stupid decisions at various points in the film. And just to be clear, when a film admits that something about itself is stupid or incompetent does not make it any less stupid or incompetent. Admitting it means the filmmakers knew it was stupid or incompetent and did it anyway! I don’t hold that against this film but it is an observation of films in general these days that I have no doubt I’ll be discussing again at some point.

Besides that I will admit that while the action sequences are still a ton of fun to watch, the CGI for Black Pearl has not aged well. With the technology we see in movies today, it’s hard not to look at this and see the proverbial strings. Still it was made at a time when the technology we see today was still evolving and to its credit the skeleton pirates in Black Pearl were probably instrumental as a stepping stone to such spectacles as Avatar and the Transformers movies. But it still looks like something you’d see in a PS2 video game cutscene at certain points.

 

Conclusion: I first watched this movie when I was about twelve years old and at the time my two favorite movies were Hook and The Lord of the Rings so I was the perfect audience for this film. When the end credits came on and the amazing theme song (an impossibly underrated score in my opinion) started playing, the first thing I wanted to do was run outside to the playset in the backyard and duel with my brother on the imaginary spars of a Spanish Galleon, I was so excited.

Fast forward fifteen years and watching it again with the cynicism of adulthood, I definitely see more flaws but the movie that gave me that sense of adventure and excitement is still there and in some ways I enjoy it more now that I am older. And that’s what great adventure movies are supposed to do. They carry you away on that adventure to a place and time where, for a little while at least, your own day-to-day problems don’t matter so much. At one point Jack says that what the Black Pearl means to him is freedom. Freedom to see what lies beyond the horizon that always seems to taunt us with our own curiosity.

For that, I’ll happily board the Black Pearl any day.

 

So, what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on Facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

Problem Children: Episode 2

Hi Everyone, It’s Flickmunchkin back with the next episode review of Problem Children Coming from Another World.

This episode was definitely informative. It seemed to be more of Kasukabe’s episode, which I was glad for because I didn’t get to hear much at all from her in the 1st episodes, but before we get to her Black Rabbit has some explaining to do. In this episode Sakamki confronts Black Rabbit about why she really wants the three of them, Sakamki, Asuka, and Kasukabe that is, turns out some Communities need some help, which is why Black Rabbit wanted to get to the three first.

Back to Kasukabe, she definitely asserts herself when a character called Galdo Gasper tries to cat fish her and Kudo into his community, then she proved to herself and others that she is stronger then she looks, I can not wait to see how much more we get to know about her..

There is a scene that I absolutely love in this episode, it gives me chills, is the scene where Kasukabe is flying on the Griffin, the art is just amazing and the transitions between present time and flashbacks are great.

I’m afraid there isn’t so much to analyze as there is to relay. The series is just evolving at a good pace for the observer and bringing more magic to each episode, powers and motives are slowly being told, and the characters are on journey to which they seem to be completely fine with(falling into a random world that is).

So, what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Aren’t They: Ep 1

Hi Everybody, I’m Flickmunchkin your resident Anime expert. . .Okay, so not expert but I’m close. I’ll be doing episode reviews for two different series alternating between the two, I’ll try to get one out every week, but it could vary.

Problem Children are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They: Episode 1 definitely had me intrigued. The premise of it was these three unordinary teenagers receive a letter sending them to another world known as the Little Garden, where blessed humans frolic and tables drop from the sky, unordinary people with Gifts come together there. The world, I think could best be described as a island in the clouds as one of the shots shows a waterfall into clouds, gee I wonder.

The people that are brought into the world are ones who are not quite human, their “Gifts” are powers that they have and with those Gifts they play the Gift Games, where you use your gifts to defeat your opponent, you can bet on your game as well using chips, Gifts, or even people; which makes it somewhat of a casino in areas.

The three teenagers; Izayoi Sakamki, Asuka Kudo, and Yo Kasukabe,  are the main characters along with Black Rabbit, a sort of servant created at the same time as Little Garden. In the Little Garden there are Communities, everyone must be a part of one, as it would be difficult for the person to survive if on their own, when Black Rabbit is introduced she is trying to induct the three teenagers into her community. As soon as the three hear about the games the immediately want to play, from what I observe they don’t hide their gifts in our world but they don’t pronounce them either, well Sakamki might but that’s another thing.

As far as we know most things in the Little Garden is happy-go-lucky, but there is a dark underlying clause of coming to the Little Garden that Black Rabbit hasn’t told the three.

The episode was a bit difficult to catch on to at first, and things moved very fast so I had to check it a couple times to get everything clear as mud. I actually had to watch it two times to get the facts straight in my head. I’d be careful and watch slowly when you watch the first episode.

So far I can see what is to be a action-packed Anime, dressed with hilarity and interesting characters, this will be a fun ride, stick it out.

So, what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

 

 

 

 

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: “Say goodbye…to Jurassic Park”

 

Hey Everybody! Flickmuncher here. Wow, it’s been a long time since my last review (well over a year now) and a lot has happened.  Justice League bombed, the Avengers died, the Patriots lost a superbowl to a team not called the NY Giants, we’ve had two Star Wars movies; all sorts of things. But now that its summer 2018 and things seem to have (finally) calmed down—relatively speaking—I thought it was high time I provided you all with another article from the Flickmuncher. And hoooo booooy, do we have a fun one to look at today. So without further ado, I give you Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

So, what’s this movie about, you might ask—assuming you weren’t one of the three gajillion people who went to see it on its opening weekend. Well, three years after the events of Jurassic World, Isla Nubla, home of Jurassic Park has been quarantined by humanity and is now home to a volcano that’s about to erupt. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are called in by a mysterious figure named Benjamin Lockwood who helped create the original park thirty years ago, and are tasked by him and his manager Eli Mills (Rafe Spalls) to recover as many dinosaurs as they can before the volcano explodes and wipes them all out. What Owen and Claire don’t know though, is that Lockwood is hiding a dark secret that could change life on Earth for good.

I’m going to get this right out of the way; this movie is not good. It’s really not good at all. It is without a doubt one of the stupidest movies I have seen in a long time and I recently watched a movie where people in colorful costumes were trying to stop a purple guy with six chins from putting all the buttons back on his Powerglove—by the way, props to anyone who knows what that is, and googling it doesn’t count. Anyway, the funny thing about Fallen Kingdom’s stupidity is that there are so many levels of stupid going on in the film. Granted, the Jurassic Park movies have always been subject to that but the fact that this movie remains so blissfully oblivious to its own stupidity actually makes it rather fascinating to watch. But what do I mean by that? Well, as always let’s start with the pros.

First, the music is wonderful to listen to. Michael Giacchino, who did music for such movies as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and The Incredibles, wrote the score for this movie. John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is certainly iconic but there’s a feeling of grandeur that Giacchino manages to capture in several parts that definitely had the same touch that the classic theme did.

Also, the acting by Chris Pratt and Isabella Sermon, who plays Benjamin Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie, is pretty good. Pratt is his usual charming-action-hero self that he’s come to be known for since Guardians of the Galaxy but this is a special compliment to Sermon as acting for kids is not as easy as for adults, since they often haven’t figured out all the subtleties of expression with both body language and speech. So kudos to her for managing that.

Third, the first third of the movie where the volcano erupts is as much a spectacle as the trailers would suggest, becoming very reminiscent of disaster movies from the 1990s like Dante’s Peak.

Then we have the cinematography and shot composition, which are also rather well done. For those of you who might be wondering why this is important enough to note, cinematography is what allows you to understand what is going in the movie; what is important in the shot and what the filmmaker is trying to communicate.

To give an example of bad cinematography, just look at most videos taken by someone on their smartphone while on a boating trip. They show what’s happening on the boat, the scenery around the boat, maybe even record part of a conversation. But there isn’t any focus on one person or object, it all appears seemingly at random, and we don’t feel anything as a result. And that’s fine since most videos like that are just for the person recording it and doesn’t need any context added. However, with a feature film, which is trying to tell a coherent narrative, if it looked like that boating video, none of us would be able to tell what’s happening and we’d lose interest. Even “found footage” movies like The Blair Witch Project, which are supposed to be like that boating video, always have a single subject that each shot focuses on so that the audience understands what is happening. A film that has poor cinematography will always have trouble connecting to its audience. And fortunately, that is not one of Jurassic World 2’s problems.

On that note, here are the problems that it does have.

Since the pros started with Michael Giacchino’s score it seems only fitting that the cons should too. I know, I know. I just praised the score for how good it was. However, as good as any score is, it has to be used in the right places in order to be the most effective. In this case, the music has its grand moments with the chorus all over the film, including times when the movie wants us to feel scared. That’s not to say a chorus should never be used in scary scenes; far from it. But when everything in the scene visually implies tense silence, having a chorus shouting loudly in the background is really distracting.  That’s not on the composer either. While he chooses how the music sounds it’s the director who tells him what the tone of the music should be for a particular scene.

This brings me to the next problem: poor dialogue and directing. Directing a movie is an interesting job because the director is responsible for deciding what the movie is going to be about and how that will be communicated to the audience in a clear way. The director of this movie, J. A. Bayona, has done several dramatic and horror-themed movies in the past so you would think a movie about dinosaurs running amok and eating people would be right up his alley. But strangely, there isn’t a definite tone that the movie wants to follow. The whole theme behind the Jurassic Park franchise has been the notion of man tampering with nature and creating destructive monsters that kill people. The lesson being that man shouldn’t tamper with nature…obviously. But Bayona can’t seem to decide if he wants us (the audience) to be afraid of the dinosaurs—again, monsters created by science—or sympathize with them. It’s a weird imbalance that makes the writing and decisions of the characters that much more baffling. Things aren’t helped by the fact that Bayona keeps telegraphing all his moves even in the scenes that are supposed to be the most intense and frightening. He’s like that little kid who pulls off a magic trick at school and is so proud of himself that he has to brag about how he did it.

Then we have the biggest problem with this film, the writing. I have always been of the mind that average to mediocre acting, directing, and technical work in a movie can still make for a great movie if the story is good—or even just okay. But great acting and directing cannot do the same for a bad script. This. This is a bad script. Not just because of how the dialogue sounds but because the characters who are saying it are just not interesting. In fact, two of the side characters are so painfully annoying that (in the middle of a crowded theater) I was verbally begging the movie to kill them off. And Claire and Owen, the two main characters, don’t fare much better. Claire has become a dinosaur-rights activist—despite the previous movie showing she had zero interest in protecting the dinosaurs and viewing them purely as company assets—and Owen has become an outdoorsman who isn’t doing anything except drinking beer and building his cabin in northern California…with a hammer. One. Hammer.

I haven’t mentioned the villains either because the villains aren’t really worth mentioning. They’re just the same military complex bad guys from the last movie. And Lost World. And just about every 90s movie you can think of that involved animals of any kind. It’s worth considering how well written your villain is when the thing people remember most about him is how he died.

But I should start wrapping this up. To give a bit of context to my thoughts, Jurassic Park is a touchstone to many who lived through the 90s as the first movie to effectively use computer graphics on such a grand scale. As such, the name derives a nostalgic feeling for many who saw it in theaters back then. However, I didn’t see the original until I was much older (probably around 15 or 16) and by then I’d already seen CGI marvels like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, so there wasn’t that same magic for me. For those who did though, I can’t help but feel that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a movie that needs them more than they need it. Yet it insists the opposite. It is so convinced that what it is saying is important yet at the end of the day, what has it said? That dinosaurs are bad? That people are bad? That some people are bad and some people are good?

The answer is that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say, and so says nothing. It is a dumb movie, in the most literal sense. And that’s a sad thing indeed.

Final Score: Watch Jurassic Park instead!

So, what did you think of the review? Did you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick be with You!

Rogue One Review: “Don’t…choke…on your aspirations.”

Hey, Everybody! Welcome to another review from Flickmuncher.com and Happy May the Fourth! I know it’s been awhile since my last review but once again life has been particularly maddening lately and so I haven’t been able to get too many written out lately. However, this week I’m working on three new pieces in honor May the Fourth and of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story being released on blu-ray and dvd. This’ll be the first one, followed soon by Logan and then an editorial on Star Wars. But for now, here’s the review:

 

So the likelihood is that you’ve seen this movie already. And unlike a lot of my other reviews which have been right after seeing the movie in theaters, I’ve had a bit more time to form my thoughts. With that in mind, and those who haven’t seen this movie, here’s the story:

Former scientist, Galen Erso, lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter, Jyn. Their peaceful existence comes crashing down when Imperial Director Orson Krennic takes him away from his beloved family. Many years later, Galen is now the Empire’s lead engineer for the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, the Death Star. Knowing that her father holds the key to its destruction, a vengeful Jyn joins forces with a spy and a hearty band of resistance fighters to steal the plans for this horrifying space station and bring hope to the galaxy.

 

As always let’s start with the pros. The world shown in Rogue One is amazingly detailed and feels like a living breathing place that people actually live in and it helps bring a depth to the Galaxy Far Far Away that we haven’t seen beyond the usual cantina scene which I’ve always thought was a great weakness in the Original Trilogy, as sacrilegious as that might sound to die-hard Star Wars fans. The prequels, as maligned as they are, provided a showcase for what strange and exotic worlds the galaxy had to offer beyond the mundane desert planet, ice planet, jungle planet, etc. Rogue One does this expertly, especially in the case of a castle belonging to a certain Dark Lord of the Sith. Honestly, I’d love to see that location show up in future installments just to see more of it.

Rogue One builds on those ideas and uses them to logically and “realistically” flesh out the Star Wars galaxy in a way that we’ve never seen before and that is completely to its credit. The sets are grimy and lived in which we’ve come to expect from recent Star Wars movies but the people and aliens that are presented in those environments feel like they’re a legitimate part of the world being created rather than just a small sideshow attraction like they have in previous installments.

This helps make the Galactic Civil War and the Empire’s tyranny feel more present in the conflict because we see the effect that tyranny is having on ordinary people and how it’s making them harsher and more cynical even as they try to overthrow that tyranny. It also emphasizes how desperate the situation is for the rebellion before A New Hope occurs.

The movie also presents some interesting character returns in the form of Mon Mothma, overall leader of the rebellion, and Bail Organa, Princess Leia’s adopted father, played by Jimmy Smits who also played Bail in the prequels.

And lastly, I have to give props to this movie for its action. We haven’t seen action this good looking in a Star Wars movie in a long time and the sheer spectacle of the battles, both on the ground and in space is jaw dropping. One moment in particular that stands out is when the rebels literally push one Star Destroyer into another. The battles also showcase the might of the Empire by showing not just the Star Destroyers but the veritable clouds of TIE fighters that the Rebels have to hold out against making it clear how dangerous their foe is (even if they can’t shoot straight 90 percent of the time). And yes, there is one moment that some of you may be wanting me to talk about but I’ll get to that in a minute.

So those are all the things I loved about this movie. If that’s what you wanted to hear then there you go. Let me know what you liked about the film below and have a great day. Because, brother, you’re not ‘gonna like this next bit at all.

Rogue One is an expertly made film and Director Gareth Edwards has demonstrated his ability once again to give amazing action sequences in elaborate sets and environments. Visually his films are fantastic. However…

I have noticed that Edwards tends to favor grand action and gritty environments over storytelling and character. And I’m sorry but there has to be more to a movie than just the action. If there’s not an interesting story with compelling characters then the action is pointless.

This happened with Edwards’ most recent production, 2014’s Godzilla, wherein the action with the titular monster is amazing, but it isn’t very long and much of the film deals with a human character who we never really get to know other than he’s trying to get back to his wife and son. Seeing the monsters is cool but we’re seeing it through the eyes of someone who we don’t care if he lives or dies because we don’t know him from Adam.

The same thing is true of the Transformers movies and the recent Batman vs. Superman. Rogue One is certainly better in most respects than those movies-it actually has a story and one or two memorable characters-but it still falls prey to the same pitfalls. The main characters who we’re supposed to be rooting for are either bland or unlikable and it sabotages the film’s efforts to make us care about their struggles.

Ask yourself this, who is Jyn Erso? Who is Cassian? Who are Baze and Chirrut? If you’re wondering who I’m talking about let me rephrase, ahem: Who is the leader girl? The tall leader guy? The guy with the staff and the guy with the big guns? Who were they?

Do you see what I’m talking about? We remember good characters because of who they are as people, NOT because of what weapon they carry or what role they fill. Luke Skywalker is an optimistic young farm-boy who dreams of greater things. Han Solo is the mercenary smuggler with a heart of gold. Princess Leia is an idealistic warrior-princess who desires freedom for her people. Granted these are characters that we as the audience know so well because of their longevity but they had longevity for a reason.

The characters of Rogue One don’t have the personality that they need in order to make us care about them, and (in case you’re wondering) I’m not talking about backstory. Backstory doesn’t give a character personality; it gives a backdrop for them to display their personality because of how they react to it. The closest this movie comes is K-2SO and that’s largely because he’s played by Alan Tudyk, a national treasure. Also, he’s what C-3PO would be like if he actually, you know, had a spine.

This brings me to another problem with this movie…its way too fan-servicey. This movie is billed as being “A Star Wars Story”, meaning that it’s supposed to be its own thing separate from the Skywalker Saga films. The problem is that this movie couldn’t exist without the Saga films and does everything it can to remind you that it takes place right before the events of the original Star Wars.

Do you remember the Death Star? Well we’re gonna take every chance to show it to you even if it makes no sense in the context of the original.

Do you remember Red Leader and those guys from the Cantina who beat up Luke? Well, it turns out they bumped into the Rogue crew the day before.

Hey, what about Tarkin and Princess Leia? They were in Star Wars weren’t they?

Here they are in all their CGI uncanny valley glory!

To be clear, I’m not against fan-service. It’s a great way to engage the audience, especially those who have followed a franchise for a long time. But it HAS TO BE…SUBTLE! If the audience is beaten over the head with fan-service then the hardcore fans start to wonder why they’re being so obvious and pandering, and people who aren’t hardcore fans won’t care!

The most egregious instance of this is the moment toward the end of the movie, when Darth Vader invades a Rebel cruiser, igniting his crimson saber, slicing down Rebels left and right as seen here:

Yes, I’m sure you remember it. Many hold it up as the epitome of Star Wars awesomeness and…they’re right. It is amazingly awesome to see Darth Vader in his prime, the force of destruction (no pun intended) that we as kids always imagined him to be, but were never able to see just because the technology of the time didn’t allow for it. It’s a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. Here’s my problem though, what did Vader accomplish?

He enters the Rebel cruiser, kills all kinds of rebel foot-soldiers (and looks awesome doing it) but they still get away with the plans even though he could probably use the Force to easily grab the disk away. They get the disk to Princess Leia who escapes with it, leaving Vader to watch and shake his metaphorical fist as her ship escapes.

Fanboy Side-note: Since Princess Leia’s ship was at the scene where the plans were stolen and Vader watched her leave, why did she even bother claiming she was on a diplomatic mission? That’s like watching your friends rob a bank, them putting the cash in your trunk, you making a getaway, and then claiming you were late for a dentist appointment. Who in their right mind would believe that?

But do you see what I’m getting at? As awesome as Vader is in his fight sequence, he doesn’t change anything in the story and so his fight sequence is completely pointless, especially since all the Rebels he kills are a bunch of no-name red shirts. Wouldn’t it have been so much better to have Vader be on the beach during the finale with our heroes, or them on the Rebel cruiser desperately trying hold him off long enough to give the plans to Leia, knowing that he’s going to kill them all? How much more powerful would that have been?

Yet they held back and reserved Vader for a moment that was just to show how awesome he is. It almost feels like the filmmakers were so afraid to overuse him that they overcompensated, and deprived us of something much better than what we actually got.

 

Conclusion:

 

Whew, glad I got that rant off of my chest. Rogue One is not a bad movie. Far from it, it’s probably one of the better made movies of 2016. From a technical filmmaking perspective it’s magnificent to look at and really captures both the grittiness and majesty of a world where space wizards wield laser swords and spaceships can fly faster than light. Rogue One introduces us to a Galaxy Far Far Away that is much more gritty and realistic and the conflicts it tries to portray reflect conflicts that we can all understand and relate to. That can be a very interesting story to tell. The sad thing is that in its efforts to capture that realism, Rogue One seems to remove some of the joy and freedom that made Star Wars so beloved in the first place. In addition it does so with bland and uninteresting characters and unneeded amounts of fan service. If you like Star Wars there’s plenty to love about this movie and even if you’re not a hardcore fan you’ll probably still find things to like.

But my question is, if we love this world so much (and even if we don’t) and want to keep coming back, shouldn’t we expect more from the people who maintain it?

 

Rating:

2/5 Movie Nights

 

So what did you guys think of this review? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? What parts stuck out to you? Let me know all about it on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below. Thanks and as always, May the Flick (and the Force) be with You! Always!