Category Archives: Movies

Ready Player One

rp1covOK, you got me. I’m gonna adress this elephant in the room, right here, right now.

I haven’t read Ready Player One.

I wasn’t even aware of the novel by Ernest Cline (whom my brain stubbornly insist on calling Ernest Borgnine. Why? I don’t know! There isn’t a single black combat helicopter in the damn book!). I only found out about it when El Spielbergo started production on the movie of the book. Then I found out that I should’ve been aware of it, seeing as it’s brimming with pop culture references from things close to my nostalgia-filled core.

And then I forgot about it.

The thing with nostalgia-filled cores is that they tend to have memory problems. Every single bit of free space being filled with nostalgia and all that.
Yeah.
But fret not, dear readers, as I now hold the movie in my hand! And I plan on watching it, right now!

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For those of you who, like me, have been living under a nostalgia-heavy rock (enough with the nostalgia already! –ed.) the plot is fairly straightforward. The year is 2045. The world has gone to crap, but everyone is playing a real cool immersive VR game called OASIS. In it, you can be and do anything you want. The game’s eccentric creator, James Halliday, died years ago and revealed he’d hidden a special easter egg in OASIS. Anyone who finds the egg, gets Halliday’s stock in the company, making the winner the sole owner of OASIS. Enter teen Wade Watts. He happens to find the first clue and in doing so, sets off a massive race to the easter egg. Joined by his friends, he’ll have to do anything to keep the easter egg from falling into the hands of rival company IOI.

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There. Standard plot, set up, characters. In the hands of the right director, this could be an enjoyable actionflick. In the hands of the Spielmeister it becomes so much more. Spielberg manages to add that spielbergian touch to the film that makes it transcend its generic story. The millions of easter eggs, nods, visual references and callbacks to popular franchises from other films are enjoyable on their own, but when they’re added with such a loving touch…  Example: earlier in the film, it is mentioned that Halliday’s favourite music video is Aha’s Take On Me. “Great,” you think, “another reference to a song from the eighties! Nice one.” But is goes so much further than that. When Wade and his love interest have to escape some nasty IOI goons, Spielberg lets them do so in a way that mirrors the bit in the Aha video where the girl and the pencildrawn dude escape some goons. Blink and you’ll miss it, but when you see it…

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So there’s a cool story, with added spielbergian touches and millions of easter eggs. But does the movie deliver beyond these three given things? I think it does. We get decent acting (Ben Mendelsohn is terrific), believeable CGI and a fantastic score made up of original music (with occasional musical cue references of its own) and songs from the eighties. Honestly, I wasn’t bored a single minute of the movie’s lengthy 2 hours and 20 minutes runtime, and I’m ready for a second viewing to catch the hundreds of easter eggs I missed on the first go.

So yeah, I’m convinced. Great movie. Consider my nostalgia-levels replenished. What? Have I read the book yet? What book?

Jan

Tomb Raider

trcoGaming-franchises-turned-movie usually have me on edge. Most of the times, I’m super excited about them while at the same time being a bit reluctant, because moviefication sometimes doesn’t work well…
At all.
Remember Street Fighter? Mortal Kombat? And I’m still trying to rinse away that foultasting Mario Bros movie.
So it’s with a trembling hand that I insert the latest Tomb Raider movie into the bluray-player.

I’ve always been a fan of the busty heroine. Ever since the humble beginnings, to the recent reboot. There’s something about tombraiding that’s really alluring. Wether it’s the treasure hunting, the fighting or the nimble gymnastics required to reach deeper parts of tombs and evade traps… I just don’t know. I like Lara, let’s just leave it at that.

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In this new version (forget all about La Jolie tombraidering) we meet Lara Croft (perfectly cast Alicia Vikander) as a London-based bike courier. She’s to be the sole heir of the Croft fortune, but only if she signs the papers declaring her father legally dead. Richard Croft has been missing since Lara was a child while searching for Himiko, queen of the dead and presumed keeper of supernatural secrets. When Lara finally decides to sign, she receives a pivotal clue that could lead her to her father. On a whim, she decides to follow the trail and bring home dad.

The plot is loosely based on that of the first of the rebooted games. In it, the MacGuffin is also Himiko, and her presumed supernatural command over the dead. While most of the similarities end here, there’s enough easter eggs and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them moments that reference the game to keep fans entertained.

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And while I had fun pointing out all those references to my uninterested audience, mrs. NxG and Her Majesty Dame Lemmy Von Motörhead (our cat), I also found myself enjoying the movie. I loved the action, I dug the plot, I laughed at the jokes and I tensed during cliffhangers. This is one thrill-ride of a movie!

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And I’ll go you one further: had this movie been released without any ties to the Tomb Raider franchise, were it stripped of all its Croftiness so to speak, it would still be the same hugely enjoyable movie. The point I’m trying to make here (badly) is that Tomb Raider is not simply riding the coattails of its game-relative. Love and care was put into the movie to make it feel and look great.

Mission accomplished, I’d say.

Jan

Justice League

jlcoverOh boy. I actually had high hopes for this movie. High hopes, that I foolishly clung to, even when people around me started putting the movie down. “Everything will be ok,” I said to myself. “It has Batman in it. It can’t be all bad.” So, when the flu struck me this weekend, I finally had the time to sit down and watch it. And, like I said: Oh boy. No fever could prepare me for the feast of crap I was about to dine on…

Readers with an elephant-like memory might recall I actually liked Batman v Superman. The movie that started all the backlash against Snyder and Batfleck. The one movie seemingly no-one liked.
I liked that.
Me.
But this one… Wow. Totally different league.

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That story, for instance. Steppenwolf coming to earth to claim the motherboxes for himself after a previous alliance of Atlanteans, Man and Amazons robbed him of them?

“That sounds truly epic, go on!”
What do you mean, go on?
“Go on, what terrible things will he do with the motherboxes? Bring on an invading army from beyond the galaxy? Summon Darkseid?”
Nope, none of that. Apparently, all he wants the boxes for is to reshape earth in the image of his homeworld.
“Cool! With flames and stuff?”
Nope. With pink plant tentacles.

And I’m not kidding. That’s really all there is plotwise. Steppenwolf proves to be a giant badass, but is more concerned with bringing pink plantlife to Earth. Yawn.

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The heroes then? Surely they can’t be all that bad? I really like Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot seems a perfect fit for the role, and handles herself with grace. Same goes for Cavill as Superman and Mamoa as Aquaman. Really liked those three. It’s the other three that kinda grinded my gears. Where Batfleck had first won me over in Batman v Superman, here Ben Affleck is doing everything in his power to sway me over to the other side. Lackluster acting, wooden delivery… It’s as if he’s already tired of Batman and threw in the towel even before filming started. I love what they did with the character visually, but Ben, come on man. Put your back into it! And the Flash… I get they wanted to write him as this inexperienced young guy/comic relief, but everyone of his damn lines is a gag! Talk about overstating/overusing something. And the exact opposite award goes to Cyborg. The man/machine with a million uses under the hood, but he’s only using like three of his abilities in this film. Also, CG was just wonky on this one.

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So yes… Giant stinker. Only thing I liked was its running time. Clocking just under 119 minutes, It’s the shortest DC film to boot. And that’s a good thing.

Jan

Batman and Harley Quinn

bmanh“What? Another Batman animated movie?”

Yes, another Batman animated movie. A very good one. One that has virtually everything: violence, humour, Harley Quinn in a lead role, Nightwing, song and dance (the Batuzi!), Swamp Thing, blood, sex, fart jokes,… Batman and Harley Quinn is one of the best in not the best Batman animated feature I’ve reviewed to date!

Extradimensional dryad Jason Woodrue partners with Poison Ivy. The green team plans on releasing a virus on the world that would turn all animal and human life into plants. Believing it’s the only way to save the earth from destruction, they go on a trek to find Swamp Things original bayou, as water from there will perfect the virus. Batman and Nightwing are desperate for help and enlist Ivy’s former partner and best friend Harley Quinn. Now a reformed citizen, Harley works shifts at the Superbabes restaurant, but is silently itching for action.

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While the green warriors crusade to protect the earth is a somewhat clichéd given for them, the idea of a reformed Harley Quinn now helping the Caped Crusader is one I hadn’t seen before. And oddly enough, it works. While I thought Harley needed the Joker to be a character that works, she does pretty well on her own.

Storywise, I can’t say I was blown away by the main premise. As I said above, Woodrue’s and Ivy’s plan seems like a thing they always do. Babble about earth and nature’s dying, blame humans and then having some sort of ultimate solution for it all. Mostly a virus, or a pathogen of some sort.
Yawn.
What does work however, is the dynamic between Batman and Harley. Both are believeable as characters and are written really well.

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What also works is the return to the Bruce Timm style of animation. Something I’ve always longed for. While not as dark as the original Timm cartoons, Batman and Harley Quinn really copies well. It even adds blood and some fatalities to the mix, so you might consider it a tad darker in tone.

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So yes. I’m a fan. And I hope Batman and Harley Quinn is the precursor to a whole lot of animated Batmen in this style!

Jan

Resident Evil: The Last Chapter

recoverI love Resident Evil.
I’ve played the games, I watched the films, I’ve shat my pants at some point during each and every one of them…

Now that you’ve got that image stuck in your head, let’s review Resident Evil: The Final Chapter!

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is marketed as just that: the last Resident Evil in the series. In it, Alice is the sole survivor of a trap laid out by Umbrella. She’s contacted by the Red Queen, who’s turned against Umbrella. The childlike AI tells Alice there is a cure for the virus, but it is hidden inside the remains of the Hive. Alice will have to retrieve it in time to save the last human settlements left.

It’s a thin plot, that much is true. But who needs plot when you’ve got Milla Jovovich kicking undead butt? I you don’t mind the corny acting, look past the sometimes overly obvious CGI, ignore some plotholes and can stomach Jovovich playing an older version of herself in extremely awful “old person makeup”, then you’re in for a treat. Because that’s what you get for almost the entire movie. Alice and co fighting off baddies and looking extremely badass (and hot in Milla’s case) whilst doing so. I got the impression I was watching a collection of cutscenes from the games.

Which is not a bad thing, actually. Stay with me here: this is the umpteenth movie, right? So what’s left to keep the basic premise fresh? There’s the undead, there’s undead dogs, the same bossbaddies, same protagonist,… Heck they even return to the same location the first film took place in. So instead of “refreshing” the franchise, they did the one thing fans were sure to love: more of the same.

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And from that point on, when I realized “Hey, this is just the same, but more of it!”, I stopped paying attention to the plot. I knew the good guys were going to win. I knew when jump scares were going to happen. I could pinpoint exactly who was going to die.
I started watching merely for the aesthetics and the coolness factor.
And for Milla Jovovich of course. I’ve been a fan ever since she graced my screen in the Fifth Element.

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Which brings me to my point: this is not a brilliant piece of cinema. But that doesn’t make it unenjoyable. Fans of the franchise and of cheesy gorefest zombie horror movies should definitely give this a go. Those who were expecting intricate plots, excellent method acting and Academy Award-level film-making: what were you doing watching a zombieflick based on videogame in the first place anyway?

Jan

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

tjcc“Another DC universe animated movie?” you ask. Why yes, it seems the folks at WB animation are producing these flicks almost as fast as I can review them. But, truth be told, I’m not complaining.

In The Judas Contract, the Teen Titans are investigating a dangerous cult, led by brother Blood. A returned Nightwing takes up co-leadership of the Titans with Starfire and co-habitation. Blue Beetle still struggles with the Bug, Robin struggles with everybody, Raven still has difficulty fitting in and Beast Boy is… more than a handful.  Amidst all this turmoil and teenage angst, the Titans have to deal with a newcomer to the team: Terra.tjc3

Terra has control over earth. Not Earth, but earth. Like… dirt. It sounds like the world’s lamest power, but believe me, it makes for some serious action. Terra kicks butt, throwing rocks, moving mountains, creating sandpits. What seems lame on paper is actually pretty cool on the big screen.

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Story-wise, The Judas Contract hits all the right spots. A cool new villain (that bathes in the blood of his enemies!), suspense, intrigue, humour, action…  It’s all just really well-written. The writers seem to understand or have first-hand experience of teenagers being angsty.

In terms of animation, everything is just dandy. Not the greatest animation I’ve seen on a WB animated feature, but it does the trick. There’s some hints of anime in there, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, since all the animation seems to have been outsourced to the Asian market.

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I really liked the Judas Contract, even though I’m not that huge a Teen Titans fan. Nice little movie and a good addition to the WB animated universe, but a must-see?
I’m gonna go with “maybe”…

Jan

Tusken Tuesday: Rogue One

It’s late but I’m wide awake.

Tomorrow is another one of those days you see. A day that features the release of something I’ve been looking forward to for the better part of a year.

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Yep, Rogue one is nearly here!

That’s the sole reason why I’m up, clutching tickets for the 9.45 am showing in my hand with a rigor smile on my lips. Just waiting for my dad to arrive. I’m ready. Put me in the car, drive me to the theater, place me in the correct seat and drop me off at work afterwards. I’m so ready!

On second thought: better go put on some pants before the dad gets here.

Jan

Suicide Squad

squadWell now…  Suicide squad.  Where do I start?

When this movie was first announced, the interwebz almost immediately got divided into two parts. One part of hopefuls, who wanted this movie to rock so badly. The other part consisted of naysayers who instantly damned the movie and its odd casting choices. And then there was me. Oddly left in the middle. Digging the premise, but not understanding Will Smith as Deadshot. Loving Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, but hating the new and “edgy” Joker with his many tattoos and silver teeth grille. Overjoyed at the inclusion of Batman, infuriated by his part being so small.

So I waited. I waited and I skipped the theatrical release. And then I waited some more, and read that director David Ayer hated the studio’s cut and that Jared Leto was furious over them cutting so much Joker footage. And then the definitive edition dropped on my desk for review.

Cautiously, I slid the disc into my designated bluray device. And watched. For 2 hours and sixteen minutes.

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And here I am now. Still oddly left in the middle. I can name so many things I liked, but I can name just as many (if not a little bit more) things I absolutely hated. So without further ado, I give you my concise list of good and bad points (spoiler warning!).

The good

The story
I like how the Suicide Squad actually made sense. As if it’s a squad that could be set up in the real world. Villains, each with their own unique set of skills, brought together for a special mission. They get their hands dirty in exchange for reduced sentences, and if all goes to hell, the authorities can throw them under the bus.

Margot Robbie
I think this is pretty much a given. The girl rocked that Harley Quinn outfit! And was pretty damn funny as well.

SUICIDE SQUAD

Will Smith as Deadshot
The fresh prince brings some actual emotionality to the assassin that never misses. And serious cool. Seventies pimp-style!

Batman and Captain Boomerang
Need I say more?  Batman and captain Boomerang are in this movie! One of all-time favourite heroes and one of the most underappreciated villains! Come on!

The Joker’s gang
These guys kick ass.  They’re only in two major scenes, but they shine brightly in both of them. That fast-paced action! Those masks! Giant Eyeball guy, Batman-novelty-dollarstore-mask guy, wolfman-man!

The Bad

The story
More specifically: the way it was edited. This is my major gripe. This is just one big heap of… mess! Sure, there’s plot, but it’s cut and spread out over the entire duration of the movie. It’s undercut with bits of subplot that feel like major plot points. And there’s a lot of it missing. The whole time I felt like I missed parts of the movie. You know, like when you fall asleep during a movie, wake up and suddenly there’s a ton of stuff that happened? Just like that, but without falling asleep. Very odd feeling. The whole movie feels like a someone tried fixing a fix of a recut of someone’s second cut of the original material.

Jared Leto as Joker
I don’t get this one. Why on earth does Joker need to be more gangsta and less clinically insane? What’s with the abundance of tattoos? Why the lack of eyebrows? Why the pimp outfit and car? And that laugh…  Dear jebas, that laugh. Throaty and from the stomach at the same time. Unsettling: yes. Fitting for the Joker: not so much.

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Slipknot
The supervillain, not the band. Gets killed off within his first minutes of screen time.

“Oh hey, Slipknot.” BOOM “He dead.”

Really? I get how the squad needed to see that Amanda Waller was not kidding about that killswitch, but showing them like this just feels like lazy writing.

Batman and Captain Boomerang
Why is there so little of them? I need more!

Conclusion

I’m still on the fence here. Although I suspect the bits that I liked just don’t wash away the bad taste of that awful editing job. So…  One and a half thumbs down? Half a thumb up for effort? Yeah, that should work.

Jan

The Flash Season 2

flash2coverThe Flash Season 2 boxset is here!  Packed with extras, gag reel, deleted scenes and documentaries, this is the set to own if you’re a fan of the series. And like I already mentioned in my review of season 1: I am a fan!

And who wouldn’t be? Any fan of comics owes it to himself to at least try this one out. It’s one of the better acted, more believable comic book series out there.  Believable you say? A show about a guy that can run at mach 3? Where timetravel is used more times than you can say Back to the Future? Set in a city where talking gorillas and crazed metahumans roam the streets? Believable you say?

Why yes! That is the sheer brilliance of the show. Whatever oddball villain they throw at you, whichever crazy “scientific” plot device gets thrown into the mix: it’s always handled so well, you just roll with the punches. Talking gorilla? Sure why not? We’re already in a universe where nobody thinks twice about metahumans anyway.

And just when you’re used to all the craziness that seems so mundane, in come the writers with a new plot: Zoom enters from Earth 2. Bringing with him a bunch of supervillains and, as if things weren’t complicated enough already: the alternate version of dr. Wells. Crazy hijinks ensue, trips to the alternate reality of Earth 2 are taken and crazy alternate versions of the main characters are encountered. And still I wasn’t weirded out. I just rolled with the punches, enjoyed the wild ride all the way through.

I cannot recommend The Flash enough. this may well be my favourite series reviewed so far! What? Gotham you say? Erm….

Jan