Thangs I Looked At: Movie Mini Reviews

Here are three films I watched in February. For the record, although I had some mild criticisms, I generally liked them, and  I especially enjoyed the Terminator film, which I wasn’t entirely certain I would, since no one was talking about it.

Terminator: Dark Fate

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I was initially very excited when I saw the trailer for this movie, but ultimately didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters. After that, I didn’t hear much about it. I dont normally get too worked up about films, that I think are going to be popular, bombing at the box office, because there are at least half a dozen reasons I won’t   see it, no mater how excited I am about it. I figured that’s probably much the case with a lot of films that bomb. In other words, films bomb for a whole variety of reasons, that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the film’s quality.

And the quality of this latest entry in the Terminator franchise is very excellent. You should really check it out when you get a chance. I liked it every bit as much as I thought I would, ,and you will remember I was very excited about the trailer. It even did a couple of things I wasn’t expecting as far as plot and characters.

The basic plot sort of parallels the Sarah Connor plot from the first movie, but is much more personal. Dani isn’t the savior of the world, she is the savior of one person in particular, and Sarah comes along for the ride. The Terminator is very interesting, combining both elements of the original T-800, and the Liquid version from T2.

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What was surprising about the movie is how female-centric it was, while touching on a lot of themes. Nearly all the characters are women, and they control the plot points in this movie. Sarah’s character reminded me  of Laurie Strode, from the most recent Halloween movie, in that she is a broken and horribly traumatized woman. I always find it interesting when female characters are deliberately written to be unlikable, and that is  the case here. Sarah is kind of an asshole, who butts heads with everyone. She is mean, and bitter, the sneer never leaves her face, and this is acceptable to the viewer, because she is  definitely hurting, and broken, because of an event that happened after she and John saved the world’s future. The movie is as much about her trauma as it is about saving Dani. It is a heavy movie, with the only comic relief provided by an old school Terminator, played by Schwarzeneggar, as a drapery salesman named Carl, who is married to a woman he doesn’t have sex with, and doesn’t know what he is! Once you  wrap your head around all that, the movie is an action fest every bit as good as Fury Road, only  less zany.

The movie takes place largely in Mexico, and at one point, Dani, and the others must sneak into the US, but get locked up in one of the Border camps, so the movie went there, which was interesting, because I didn’t think it would. While no one says anything outright, the framing of those scenes show strong disapproval of what’s happening there, as the Terminator bursts in and slaughters half the border guards, and steals a helicopter.

The Terminator is played by one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Luna, who I got a kick out of watching in the SHIELD series, as the Ghost Rider. His technology isn’t just a blend of the two styles of Terminator we’ve seen, but so is his demeanor, which is especially chilling, because he seems very, innocuous, normal, and friendly, right up until you die.

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The stand out character for me though was Grace, who is awesome. I’m saving a special place in my personal pantheon for Grace, (as not too many white women, Ellen Ripley and Furiosa being the only two,  manage to get into it), who can definitely carry an action scene. The last time I saw that particular actress, she was playing a replicant, in Bladerunner 2049, and here she is playing another half human character. Grace is much like her name, moving and fighting in exactly the manner you’d expect of a technologically enhanced human being, and some of the most exhilarating scenes, are watching her go toe to toe with the Terminator, and matching him hit for hit. She doesn’t actually defeat him, but she is his equal.

The ending of the movie is bittersweet, but I liked it. I liked the entire film. There are no slow moments. Nothing is wasted, and I liked the love/hate dynamics between the female characters, which felt organic, and not just thrown in for drama’s sake. If you haven’t seen this movie, you should check it out, just to watch Schwarzeneggar’s role as Carl, and here him complain about people’s bad taste in draperies, in his usual  monotone.

 

 

 

Spider-Man: Far From Home

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Despite a couple of hiccups, I genuinely liked this movie. I don’t think it’s as good as the first film, but that one had some  novelty behind it in being Tom Hollands first full length term as Spiderman. This one is okay. Its not great. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near Maguire’s Spiderman 2, but its fun and watchable. The teenagers act like teens ,and the love story between Pete and MJ is really cute. This is funnier than the first film, and a  genuine comedy, until it gets near the end, when things get a bit more serious. As with most comedies your mileage may vary. I thought a few of the jokes landed badly, but mostly of them hit their mark, at least for me.

The most annoying part of the movie however,  is the continuing attachment of Tony Stark to Peter’s storyline. He’s still cleaning up Stark’s messes, even after he’s dead. I suspect that will be going on in the MCU for some time, since one of Tony’s major superpowers was  pissing off powerful creatures and/or people. Probably half the villains in the MCU can be traced back to something Tony said or did to some hapless supplicant, and that is the origin story behind Mysterio.

I also found it annoying that everyone assumes Peter wants to take up Tony Stark’s mantle, and do what he did, only as Spiderman. Just let the child be himself ffs! Why does anyone have to step into Tony’s shoes? On the other hand, the movie does mention (rather roughly) some of the issues that happened in the aftermath of  the Snap and the Return, (in this movie its called the Blip), and how much society was upheaved by both those events. I thought it was an intriguing idea  that the world was just as upset by everyone’s return, after five years, as it was by the trauma of their disappearance.

Well, anyway the movie is still fun, and full of lots of humorous moments, regardless of Tony’s ghost hanging around this movie, and I have watched it a couple of times, since its release. Like the first movie, it doesn’t have a whole lot of depth, until the end, when Peter directly goes up against Mysterio.

I liked this just fine. Its not great. Its not even as good as Homecoming, but it’s a well spent Saturday afternoon or evening.

 

 

 

John Wick 3: Parabellum

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Wow! This movie was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t even know where to begin, I want to call this a hot ass mess, but that would imply I didn’t like it. In fact, I loved it! But yes, it is a hot ass, but very enjoyable, cray-cray mess. its like a Jason Statham, Fast and Furious movie, only with a real budget, if you catch my meaning.

Like the last movie, it picks up where it left off, with Wick being hunted by the Assassin’s guild which he used to be a member of. He’s got to find some old colleagues to help him stay alive, and they of curse come immediately into danger. One of those old friends, Sofia,  is played by Halle Berry, who owns a couple of  Belgian Mallinois, that she has specifically trained to kick ass, on her command, and that part of the movie is lots of fun to watch. I don’t get to watch Halle kick ass too often, so watching this fifty plus year old Black woman throwing  hands was a real treat.

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Another treat was watching Mark Dacascos chew the scenery, and get some genuinely funny lines, as a major villain who just wants to take John down, and supplant him as the boogeyman of assassins. I hadn’t seen Mark in a while, so it was fun to watch this professional ass-kicker throw down, even if the bald head was kind of jarring.

In the meantime, while John is trying to get his shit together there’s an actual assassins cabal, that oversees the assassin’s guild. Since John was “excommunicated”, he’s gotten help from a few friends, including Lawrence Fishburne, as the King of New York, and all their lives are put in danger, because one of the rules is that if you are a member of the guild in good standing, you have to turn in those who are excommunicated.

So the plot becomes a lot more complex, along with all the stuntwork. The John Wick movies are not especially deep, but they are great fun, even though they’re incredibly violent. Part of the reason people don’t mind the violence, quite so much, is that it’s de-mystified by the extras and behind the scenes videos, that show how are the stuntwork gets done, and watching the behind the scenes videos are just as much fun as watching

New And Exciting Trailers (May 23rd)

Terminator: Dark Fate

This movie actually looks very exciting, although I don’t know how it fits in with the rest of the franchise. I think Miles Dyson’s son Danny is in this one, there are several different timelines, of which this is but one of them, and Sarah Connor survived in this one. Remember, she didn’t survive in Terminator 3, and the World War happened in that one. The “terminators” look pretty cool too. I guess we have to keep upgrading in every film.  James Cameron is a complete, whole ass, but the man does know how to make an action movie, and the Terminator films (that he actually worked on), are some of his best work.

It’s nice to see Linda Hamilton kicking ass again, even if she is looking a little worn. Saving the world, time and again, will do that to a person, I guess.. I’ve never  been a really huge Schwarzeneggar fan, although I like him okay. I’m still I’m not greatly impressed by his presence here, (although he has been doing some  superb dramatic work in the last ten years. Check out the movie, Maggie. Its awesome, and he’s great in it.) I have had a huge crush on  Gabriel Luna, ever since Agents of Shield,  and I hope one day we get to see that Ghost Rider movie, with him as the star, although I just heard there will definitely be a TV show, on Hulu,  about Ghost Rider and Damon Hellstrom, starring Luna as The Rider. I like him as a terminator. He’s not as pantsshittingly scary as Robert Patrick, but he’s alright.

 

 

Star Trek: Picard: (CBS)

I’m cautiously excited about this show. I was a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I liked Picard, although I thought sometimes that he was a bit of a stick.But I am a big Patrick Stewart fan,and he always brings his Shakespearean A- game to everything he does.

This show takes place in the 18 years after Star Trek Nemesis, after Picard has seemingly retired from Starfleet, and is said to be less action oriented, with more drama. The trailer looks a little melancholy, though. I wonder if it will tackle some of the themes from the movie Logan, and how much diversity there will be, because the new Trek Discovery is tearing it up in that department.

I also like the idea of the individual stories of different characters in Star Trek. I’d watch a show about Worf’s early life, or Data’s life before he joined Starfleet. Picard will be airing on CBS All Access sometime later this year, and I will consider signing up for it again.

 

 

Downton Abbey

My best friend at work is a huge Downton Abbey fan. I’m a fan too, but I don’t know if I wanna watch a two hour movie about it. Anyway, she’s trying to get me to see it at the theater with her, and I’m considering it. She and I rarely get to watch movies together because we have such widely different tastes in what we consider entertaining. I’ve told her  many times that if no one is being horribly killed, eaten, or having their ass thoroughly kicked in the movie, I’m probably not going ot see it in the theater.

But I really do like the show, the trailer is alright, and it’ll be one of the few opportunities for the two of us to hang out at the movies together.

 

 

Crawl

This is the movie my Mom is trying to get us to go see next. I have no objection to watching this in the theater. This is what I call a safe scare, in that its fairly predictable. People gonna do stupid shit, and die, and some of ’em gon’ get ate. Those are the kinds of things that happens\ in giant killer animal movies ,and I’m cool with that. Its a nice, easy, popcorn movie, that’s not too intellectually taxing.

 

 

IT: Chapter II

I have no particular investment in this movie, but I know some of you guys are big fans. I was unimpressed by the book, and the original made for television movie ,and I wasn’t too keen on the first Chapter of this remake, which kind of bored me. But, this is a Stephen King movie, so I hope it does really well. I always hope his movies do well in the theater, because that means we’ll get more Stephen King movies.

 

 

Judy

Wow! I don’t think you guys understand just how much this movie means to so many people. I’ve loved Judy Garland since I was a little girl, when I first saw her in The Wizard of Oz. Over the years, I’ve watched her in a lot of movies (most of them starring Mickey Rooney), with one of my favorites being Easter Parade. 

This is a grand trifecta of “I’m gonna need a box of tissues-itis”, because I love the song Somewhere Over the Rainbow,  I’m a big fan of movie musicals, and ITS RENEE ZELLWEGER AS JUDY- FUCKING-GARLAND!!!

 

 

Batwoman (CW)

Batwoman is probably one of the worst trailers ever released by the CW, but I’m gonna give most people’s opinions on this show the side eye because Youtube says this about every single trailer about any show with a woman at its helm, and comic book fanboys, who have never read any of the books, are known to be complete hysterics. This is the CW. Its not a show aimed at guys (not that they can’t enjoy it) but squarely aimed at the kind of women who watch Supergirl, a show I find deeply annoying.

That said, I’m also giving the trailer the side eye, not just because it is distinctly cringeworthy, (Yeah, it stinks), but  unlike a lot of people, I understand that most trailers are not created by the same people who created the source material, and quite a number of them have been designed to make a person not want to see the film or show. I’m long used to parsing what bits and pieces I can from trailers, to determine whether or not I want to watch a thing, and I’m actually excited about this show. I’ve loved a lot of shows, and movies, that had shitty trailers, so a shitty trailer doesn’t necessarily mean anything to me. This trailer is just the latest thing for people to be outraged about. All I know is that I have every intention of seeing the show and will probably like it. Maybe.

I actually have read the comic books though,  and I really enjoyed them. I got no problem with the feminism angle, as the feminism shown on the CW has always been very White, ham-fisted, and more than a little cringey. For me, this trailer is just more of the same. I also really, really, like that actress, and this show is groundbreaking in ways the MCU has not even tried to be. It is the only superhero show on TV where the title character is gay! There are other gay characters in superhero shows, but none of them are the  leads, so this is a first, and I suspect a lot of people (especially the ones who are unsatisfied with gay representation in the MCU) are going to tune in for the  premiere, just for that reason.

Also this character isn’t new to me. I’ve seen her in Legends of Tomorrow, which is another cheeesy superhero show, that I happen to actually like, and I was impressed by the character.

 

 

His Dark Materials (HBO)

I’ve not been a big fan of the series this is based on,  by Richard Pullman. I can’t say much about it, other than it looks faithful to the movie, The Golden Compass, which came out a few years ago, so if you remember that, then this is a TV series based on that movie, and you may like it. In this universe, people have familiar-like companions that accompany them everywhere and look like different animals. This is HBO hoping to hit it out of the park again, with a follow-up to Game of Thrones. Hopefully, there will be fewer rape scenes, in this show.

I had not the intention of watching this, because I’m really not a fanatic about Fantasy series and movies, although one might get the impression that I was, based on the things I’ve reviewed on this blog. In fact, my taste in Fantasy shows is entirely arbitrary, depending on a number of unexplainable factors. What is more likely to happen is that I’ll skip the first couple of years, pick it up somewhere in its third or fourth year, and then really enjoy it.

But who knows?

 

 

The Dark Crystal

I saw the original movie when I was a kid, and I remember being terrified of the Skeksis, and enchanted by all the other creatures in the movie. If you haven’t watched the original film, please find a way to stream it, or get the DVD. It really should be as much of a classic as Labyrinth. In fact, if you liked Labyrinth, you will probably like this too.

 

 

Border

I started watching this on Hulu, and will probably not finish it any time soon, but I thought I’d mention it here, because its a very odd and beautiful movie, which  heavily reminded me of  Thelma, which I also watched on Hulu. I like odd and melancholy romances, and this one has been classified as one of the weirdest movies of the year.

Favorite Movies of My Life Pt. 2 (1981 – 1990)

The eighties is when I did the bulk of my movie watching, so its going to get harder,  as I go,  to just choose one movie, and in some cases, some  movies are going to have to share the spotlight with others.

The eighties also saw the invention of the VCR, for wide spread home use, and my family got our first one  in 1983 or 1984. Yes, I saw more than a few of these movies with my Mom, but there’s less of a nostalgia factor involved, and more of an appreciation for good filmmaking in my choices.  This is sometimes less about which movies influenced me, and more about which ones I could appreciate as a noobie film-wonk.

At about the mid-eighties, I started babysitting my nieces and nephews, and some of my Aunts had cable. So I watched a lot of these movies on HBO, (along with lots of MTV). I watched a helluva lot of Horror movies, in the eighties too, so this list is going to contain quite a few of those. I think my Mom and I tried to see every Horror movie made between 1980 and 1988, at which time I headed off to college, and  wilder film adventures.

 

1981 – American Werewolf in London/The Howling

 

I couldn’t choose between the two hallmark werewolf movies of the 80s. At the time American Werewolf was released, it was considered the total shit, but I didn’t care because I was stuck on The Howling, and as far as I was concerned, nothing surpassed it. Until I realized what everyone was talking about. An American Werewolf in London is, indeed, a most excellent movie.

I love both movies for different reasons, though. By any measure, American Werewolf is the deeper film, with its themes of survivor’s guilt, and cultural displacement. That, along with the special effects, make it worth the hype.  The Howling is pure, grade B horror film-making, with its cheap melodrama, and mordant sense of humor, and something in my fourteen year old soul (my age when I saw it) just loved it.

1982 – Bladerunner/ The Thing

When I first saw the trailer for Bladerunner at age 12, I knew that was my movie, and we were destined to be together. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it until several years after its release, and only on TV. I’ve been  a Ridley Scott fan ever since. I am obviously going to have to do a review of this movie, and share my love, even if there’s nothing new to be said about it.

I distinctly remember watching this trailer on TV, and thinking I wanted to see this movie.

I could not choose between Bladerunner and what is quite possibly one of the most perfect horror movies ever made, The Thing. This is how you do a remake. I’d argue that the eighties was the decade of the great  remake. Starting in the late 70s with Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, the 80s saw the remakes of The Fly,  Scarface, The Blob, The Thing, The Little Shop of Horrors, and Cat People.

Most people looking back on this particular year, often choose E.T.  because it was the most popular. Well, I’m not an E.T. fan. I don’t care about it, have no warm feelings for it, and almost never think of it, and at twelve years old, I’d be the perfect age to love it. I didn’t.

The Thing is another movie I didn’t see at  its release. In fact, this didn’t register on my radar until several years after, when people began praising it in various magazines. I have no memory of watching the trailers for it, although I must have seen them. I really didn’t know anything about it until a few years after its release.

There was also a movie released this year called Xtro, which was one of the grossest scifi/horror mashups I’d ever seen, and  was surpassed only by another horror movie, released in 1987, called Street Trash.

1983 -The Right Stuff

I have been a total NASA stan, ever since I fell in love with Star Trek as a child, so for me this movie felt like a behind the scenes look at one of my favorite organizations. This was the first time I’d ever watched Ed Harris in anything and I totally fell in love with him, and Scott Glenn, but I was also  in love with everybody when I was fifteen, apparently.

Yeah, okay, I’m still in love with Ed Harris, solely on the basis of him starring in this movie.

1984 – The Terminator

I didn’t see this movie until 1986. I remember this so well, because at the time it was released I had longed to see it, but didn’t have any money to go to the theater. I saw it in 1986, on tape, at my neighbor’s house. I remember because our neighbors, two brothers who lived across the street from us, had just bought a new VCR, and invited our family over for movies and popcorn.

I remember their house was a total mess and I was more than a little dubious about staying, but after a while I was so engrossed in the movie, I completely forgot my surroundings. It was the first time I’d ever seen a James Cameron movie, and my introduction to Bill Paxton and Arnold Schwarzeneggar. This is another of those movies where I just wandered off, home, while slowly trying to readjust to reality.

1985 – Fright Night

See my review:

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=fright+night

Return of the Living Dead gets an honorable mention:

https://wordpress.com/post/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/3756

1986 – 3 Films

I could not pick just one movie for this year. Three of my top favorite films were released this year: Aliens, The Fly, and Children of a Lesser God. Each of these movies is the perfect example of its genre for this year. But, if I absolutely had to pick one of them, to watch on a desert island, or something, I’d pick Aliens, since I never get tired of watching it.

1987 – 4 Films

This is another year where too many of my favorite films were released, so I can’t pick just one of them.

I saw both Evil Dead 2, and Robocop on a double bill at the local theater. To this day, I can count this as the best spent three hours of my entire  life. Just me, some popcorn, and a quiet movie theater, all to myself.

Lost Boys is on this list because I distinctly remember gushing about this movie to one of my classmates about how the guys in the movie were so cute. So, this makes the list more out of nostalgia, than that its a great movie, although, its still pretty good, by today’s standards.

I didn’t see Near Dark until many years after its release, but I do hereby acknowledge it as one of the best, most underrated,  vampire movies of the 80s.

My review:

https://wordpress.com/posts/my/tvgeekingout.wordpress.com?s=near+dark

1988 – Akira

Dangerous Liaisons, Beetlejuice, and Young Guns, were all released this  year, but really there was no other choice for me to make. This year belongs to Akira, although I didn’t watch it until 1992, while I was in college.

Not only is it the best movie made that year, its one of my all-time favorite Anime. Its also the very first time, I’d ever seen Anime on the big screen. When I walked into that theater, I had no idea what I was in for, since my roommate refused to tell me anything about it. She just kept saying I would like it. There are a handful of movies, that have such an effect on you, that you have to seriously readjust to being back in the world, when you walk out of the theater, and end up contemplating them for months after you see them. Akira is one of these films.

Incidentally, I had a bad falling out with the roommate who introduced me to this movie, a few years later, and while I have mixed feelings about her, I have never faulted her taste in movies. Whenever she said I would like something, she was NEVER wrong. Raising Arizona, Tremors, Near Dark, Seven Samurai, and Akira are movies I probably would never have watched without her influence.

1989 – The Little Mermaid

Batman, The Abyss, and Casualties of War, were also released in 1989, but I have to pick The Little Mermaid as my favorite. Ursula’s song, Poor Unfortunate Souls, is the meanest, snarkiest shit I ‘d ever heard in a Disney film, and I absolutely love that character. Of course now I know, she was modeled after the Drag Queen, Divine.

This was one of the first Disney films that ever made me cry, and I’ve been crying at these movies ever since.

1990 – Goodfellas

Tremors and Dances with Wolves was released in 1990, and I saw all three of these movies in the theater, where they probably should first be seen. I wasn’t unaffected  by those movies, but Goodfellas is a movie made by a director, Scorcese,  who was at the top of his game at the time, and he has never made a better movie since, in my opinion.

This one of my favorite scenes in a wealth of favorite scenes. Personally, though I don’t find the “Do you think I’m funny?” scene, to be especially funny. Yeah, its iconic, but its not my favorite.

The 1990s, though,  was when I really started, not just to develop my own tastes, but began to pin down just what attracted me to certain films. I began to really think critically about what I was watching, and Why I was watching it. I began reading the opinions of others about the films I liked, and this taught me how to approach film criticism. I started to trust certain critics over others, began reading books on film theory, and audience theory, and reading the filmmakers ideas about what they were trying to accomplish.

So, as the 90s progress, you’ll start to see a change in the kinds of films I enjoy, although SciFi and Fantasy will still make up the bulk of my viewing habits.