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Daniel Boyd (1022 KP) rated Glass (2019) in Movies

Feb 1, 2019 (Updated Feb 1, 2019)  
Glass (2019)
Glass (2019)
2019 | Drama, Thriller
First 2 acts are interesting (1 more)
MacAvoy is great
Does not stick the landing (0 more)
A Textbook Example On How Not To End A Trilogy
Contains spoilers, click to show
Glass is the 3rd movie in M. Night Shyamalan's pseudo superhero trilogy following Unbreakable and Split. Unfortunately it is probably the worst movie out of the three and doesn't live up to the twenty years of build-up it has had going into it. Full spoilers will be present through this review as it's kind of hard to discuss the film without spoiling anything.

The movie opens with what is essentially a condensed version of both Unbreakable and Split. We see Bruce Willis' Dennis Dunn stalking criminals in his poncho and we see James MacAvoy's Kevin Wendell Crumb keeping four young girls captured in an abandoned warehouse. The old 'unstoppable force meets immovable object,' trope plays out and the two of them wind up getting caught by Sarah Paulson and her team, who apparently specialise in investigating those who have delusions about having superhuman powers.

She brings the two of them to a mental hospital where she is keeping Samuel L Jackson's Mr Glass. Sarah Paulson's character then spends the next chunk of the movie trying to convince the three that the powers that they believe they possess is actually in their heads and there is a real-world, logical explanation to everything that they can do. This part of the film is actually pretty interesting in the ideas that it poses and I liked where the film was going at this point.

Then the third act happens and we are reminded why Shyamalan so desperately needs an editor to keep his ideas in check. There is this huge build up that takes place teasing an epic fight between Dunn and The Beast at the top of some huge brand new building in the middle of the city. Unfortunately we never get there and instead we just get some mediocre action choreography in a medium sized car park between the two. The whole thing ends with the fairly contrived retcon twist that Kevin's dad was in the same train crash that Dunn survived and Mr Glass caused, thus making Mr Glass the 'creator,' of both superheroes. Then the three characters die in an extremely anticlimactic fashion. The Beast breaks a couple of Mr Glass' bones and he falls out of his wheelchair and dies, (even though this is something that we have seen happen to him in Unbreakable and he survived it.) Then a sniper randomly shoots Kevin even though the beast is tamed by the appearance of Anya Taylor-Joy's character, Casey from Split. He just gets shot once and dies with hardly any fanfare. Then David Dunn is drowned in a puddle as Sarah Paulson explains that she is part of a secret organisation that hunts people who believe that they are superheroes, determines whether or not they really are superheroes through a pretty drawn-out process and then proceeds to kill them if they do in fact possess superpowers. We also see that for some reason this group apparently only meets in crowded public restaurants in the middle of the city centre in broad daylight and have to wait until any non members of this super secret club, (that just killed 3 people in a public car park in broad daylight in front of cops and family members,) have left the restaurant before they can discuss business. Then it turns out that Mr Glass leaked the footage from the hospital security cameras online so that people would see that superheroes really do exist.

If you are someone that hasn't seen the movie and doesn't care about spoilers so you just read this review anyway; your brain is probably falling out of your ear after reading my description of the third act and that's because on paper this whole sequence of events is absolutely ludicrous and the fact that no one pointed this out during the movie's production is mind-boggling.

What a waste after two solid movies and a decent two first acts worth of build up...

There are some positives I took away though. It is as much of an absolute joy to watch James MacAvoy play so many totally different characters convincingly in one scene as it was in Split, maybe even more so here as we get to see even more personalities emerge and in even quicker succession. He is an utterly phenomenal actor. It is also cool to see Mr Glass and David Dunn after twenty years to see where they are at in their lives and how they have been spending their time since the events of Unbreakable. There are also some nice shots and camera angles in the film, (more so in the first two acts of the story,) and some nice colour scheme aesthetics going on in certain compositions that made some shots more interesting to look at.

Overall, this movie could have been so much more and in the end it throws away some really potentially interesting plot threads in favour for a few tacked on twists and gives us nothing more than a half arsed conclusion to an otherwise solid trilogy.
  
Hellboy (2019)
Hellboy (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Entertaining Hell Yes, Great Hell No
Hellboy is a 2019 supernatural superhero movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character created by Mike Mignola. It is the third film in the franchise and is also a reboot of the series. It is directed by Neil Marshall with screenplay by Andrew Cosby and distributed by Lionsgate. The film stars David Harbour, Millar Jovovich, Ian McShane and Daniel Dae Kim.


In the Dark Ages, Nimue, the Blood Queen, nearly destroyed humanity with a deadly plague. Immortal, she was only defeated by King Arthur with the help of Merlin and the magical blade Excalibur. She was beheaded, dismembered, and her remains scattered over Europe. In present day Tijuana, Hellboy (David Harbour), searches for a missing B.P.R.D. agent, Ruiz. Hellboy discovers Ruiz has been turned into a vampire and while trying to reason with him, Hellboy is forced into a confrontation which ultimately leads to the death of the agent. Meanwhile a mysterious person speaks with Baba Yaga, a witch-like creature, seeking revenge on Hellboy, and is told to locate the remains of Nimue and resurrect her.


This has been a really hard movie for me to review. I genuinely enjoyed it while watching it in theaters. That being said, this movie is a train wreck and I can't recommend for people to spend money to see it unless you wait for it to be at the dollar movies or Redbox. There were just so many things that I guess I was blind to while watching it, that i just shrugged off or didn't pay much attention to. Like all my reviews this will be as spoiler free as possible but i have to acknowledge major flaws that other critics and reviewers brought up. And there were a lot, I mean right now the critics are tearing this movie a new one. First, I thought David Harbour did as good a job as anyone could do replacing Ron Pearlman as Hellboy in this film. But replacing such a beloved and likeable character with a funny and charismatic personality which Pearlman made his own, he had his work cut out for him. I don't think he's ever acted with all the makeup and prosthetics and it showed because I don't think he was as expressive as he could have been. Plus this movie was also made with a different director and not Guillermo Del Toro, so it was already going to have a way different feel to it. To me though, those weren't the things that contributed the most to the failure of this movie, it's more of the other things I'm still getting to. This was a reboot of the series and they decided to go with a different group of supporting characters, and to also make the plot or story more closely related or similar to the comics (the source material). Now usually sticking with what the comics have for the story is always better than changing it in my opinion but it seems for this film that they chose to incorporate several different storylines and characters and felt like it was too much crammed into too little. Also this movie was all over the place, story wise and literally. It seemed the characters kept having to travel unnecessarily. It felt like the supporting characters were just thrown into the story and it didn't bother to introduce them to the audience correctly. Everyone just got a flashback and or had themselves or their origin "expositioned" into the movie. I liked a lot of the character designs and thought a lot of the CGI was well done, in places, however it seems like they had different animators or studios work on different scenes or characters and some of it was horrible. The dialogue was really bad too. There were a lot of jokes and one liners that just fell flat and nobody laughed, plus like i said way too much exposition. There was a character who wears a headdress that was so big it looked ridiculous, which I wonder if it was done on purpose. And there was a character whose clothes tear when they transform and they automatically have pants when they transform back, which makes no sense. The plot too was not very sound and full of plot holes and things that didn't make sense, were just added in, or were part of scenes that got cut along the way. It hurts me to give this movie a score so low but I give this movie a 5/10.


Now I'm not saying don't watch it. I just can't recommend you drop as much cash as you usually do to see it in theaters. I personally still really enjoyed it and was genuinely entertained. It was awesome to see the blood and gore in a darker Hellboy movie and the action was great even if the CGI always wasn't. The music even if it didn't fit the tone or every scene was great. If your expecting the Hellboy from the Guillermo Del Toro films you might just hate this movie. But if you're just looking for "Big Red" to beat up on some baddies then I think you might get a kick out of this movie. Hey, some critics are saying that it's so bad it's good.
  
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
2020 | Action, Adventure, Crime
Margot Robbie and her return to Harley Quinn (2 more)
Badass fight choreography
Some really cool action sequences
I wasn't a fan of the self narration the entire film. (2 more)
I also didn't like the Tarantino-ish way of chopping up the story and going back and forth the way they did.
I feel like every character in this movie was underutilized and could have been done better or had better character development.
Birds of a Feather Can't Stick Their Landing On This One
Contains spoilers, click to show
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a 2020 action super hero film. Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, it is a follow-up to Suicide Squad (2016). The movie was directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, and it stars Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor.


Four years after the defeat of the Enchantress, the Joker throws Harley Quinn out on the Gotham City streets when they break up. The already extremely volatile and unhinged, Harley (Margot Robbie) finds herself all alone with a huge target on her back. Without the Joker in the picture, the city is turned upside down as criminals that have a beef with Harley hunt her down. Gotham's most narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), and his right-hand man, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), have Harley and a precious diamond in their sights. Now Harley, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Detective Renee Montoya's (Rosie Perez) paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.


First off let me say that I love Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. I've always been a big Harley fan since before she was mainstream cool and a big part of that would have to be the Batman Animated Series and how it portrayed her. I liked Margot Robbie's performance in Suicide Squad and thought she did an excellent job of bringing that character to "life". I didn't have high expectations for this movie going in and sometimes that can be a good thing because it leaves you more open to the film being better than you thought it was going to be. Right away I didn't like the whole, Harley narrating the movie in the beginning and kind of throughout the movie. I don't know if they were trying to go for a "funny" Deadpool breaking the "4th" wall type thing but for me it just kind of made the movie less fun. I also have to say that I wasn't a big fan of the pacing and the whole going back and forth through time in the events of the movie. I think it might have been better on paper than how it actually came out in the movie. Kind of Tarantino-ish but just kind of overdone because of the info-dumping narration. There were some awesome fight sequences and there was plenty of over the top violence and action but a lot could have been done better. For me the plot was what felt like it made the movie feel a little lackluster. I really felt like they failed to flesh out Black Canary's character and Huntress felt extremely unpolished as well. A lot of the character's were underutilized except in gratuitous fight scenes and the audience is not shown their motivations a lot of the time but instead told them. I have to say some parts did make me laugh and the music wasn't terrible. The acting was extremely bad sometimes though. I don't know what they were going for with Huntress/Mary Elizabeth Winstead but she comes off as a badass but then really awkward or nerdy and then for a little bit she was a raging psychopath killer. I don't think they knew what direction to take the character and her performance definitely suffered. Black Canary/Jurnee Smollett-Bell was a character that was really cool but without knowing her motivations it really took alot out by never uncovering more about her character until later. A lot of things didn't make sense too. I can't believe that anyone would want to mess with Harley even if she wasn't with Joker. I however could have seen anyone and I mean anyone go after her for a big reward like they placed on the kid. Also a big reward like that on a no name kid who is just a low level pick pocket wouldn't have brought in that much results. Plus the diamond that she has is something you wouldn't want anybody else finding out about so why bring so much attention to it. Harley Quinn and all the other female actors in this movie have "plot armor" and never get hurt even when being blown up or shot at. All-in-all, it was an enjoyable movie but I wouldn't say it was anything special. This was a big-budget superhero film that comes off more run of the mill and fails to bring anything "wow" except some pretty kick ass action sequences and Margot Robbie and her return to Harley Quinn. I give it a 5/10.


  
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Lee (2173 KP) rated Titans - Season 1 in TV

Feb 4, 2019  
Titans - Season 1
Titans - Season 1
2018 | Action, Crime, Drama
Outstanding. This is DC done right
As the DC movie universe continues to struggle with consistency and quality, it is so refreshing to finally come across a DC TV show as entertaining and as epic as this one. A show which, in my opinion, manages to get the tone and style just right, restrained at times, but constantly teasing much bigger and much more exciting possibilities. I struggle with most superhero TV shows, failing to get more than a season into shows like The Flash, or more than just a handful of episodes into shows like Daredevil or Luke Cage, but this one just got me hooked. It kept me engaged and enthralled through every single episode, and managed to tweak every geeky bone in my body during its final episode. It had a decent cliffhanger finale, an interesting post-credits scene, and I absolutely loved it. What Titans manages to do extremely well is with the introduction of its main characters. It does this slowly, but enjoyably, leaving much of their character traits and abilities to be discovered throughout the season. It takes a while for them all to come together as a team, but even when they do it's more about them discovering who they all are individually and how to deal with the dangerous situations they find themselves in than just kicking bad guy ass (although they manage to do plenty of that too!). Occasionally, an episode will end on a real cliffhanger, only for the next episode to go off on a tangent, exploring another character and their past. But it just works, developing and enriching the story rather than acting as unnecessary or frustrating season filler.

We kick things off by meeting Dick Grayson, or Batman sidekick Robin as he's more usually known. He's currently working as a detective in Detroit having left Gotham City about a year ago. When asked about his reasons for leaving Gotham, he puts it down to problems with a difficult partner, but he still likes to wear the Robin suit occasionally - picking up leads as part of his day job, then dealing out swift vigilante justice as Robin by night. The criminals can't quite take him seriously though - scouring the skies, wondering whether the more terrifying Batman is going to show up to help out his little sidekick. Robin can more than handle his own though, brutally taking care of business before growling "F*** Batman". Yep, if you hadn't already gathered, Titans is a much grittier show than animated show Teen Titans! This version is much darker - we get blood, we get violence, our heroes have sex and they also have potty mouths!

Next up is Rachel Roth, a teenager with purple hair who sleeps in a locked room with crucifixes affixed to the door, fearful of a dark entity living within her. She has a vision of Dick Grayson, who she has never met, witnessing the moment from his childhood when his parents died during their acrobat act, the Flying Graysons. Rachel is being pursued by a number of individuals for reasons that are unclear for much of the season and, following the murder of her guardian, heads to Detroit where she crosses paths with Dick. Meanwhile, a fiery redhead named Koriand'r awakens in a crashed car in Austria, with no memory of who she is. She learns that she has some pretty good combat skills and some cool superhuman abilities. She also discovers that she is on the hunt for Rachel Roth, but she has no idea why. There is also a teenage boy called Gar, who is able to shape shift into a green tinged tiger, but only when he's naked!

Along the way, as these core characters all come together, we're introduced to a variety of other weird and wonderful characters from comic book history. Some, such as Hawk and Dove, have a recurring and increasingly important role, earning one of the more enjoyable episodes later on in the season when we delve into their backstory. Other characters, such as Doom Patrol and The Nuclear Family are briefly introduced, only to disappear for now - although I'm sure we'll be seeing them all again in future seasons (hopefully). But it's when new Robin Jason Todd appeared on the scene, and then Wonder Woman sidekick Wonder Girl, that I really started geeking out. New Robin is younger and much more sadistic than his predecessor (Robin 2.0 as he puts it), while Wonder Girl now leads a much quieter life. Her and Dick also share a past, with both of them being sidekicks, and we get a brief glimpse of her abilities a couple of times throughout the season. Hopefully with a lot more to come next season.

And then we come to the finale, with things coming to a head and with a serious threat to our planet looming. Dick heads back to Gotham where Commissioner Gordon has been murdered, the streets are rife with crime and Batman has gone off the rails - on a mission to kill The Joker and all of his enemies in Arkham Asylum. I loved this episode. The Joker, Batman, Wayne Manor, the Batcave - all of these things we're so used to seeing in countless movies and TV shows over the years, but in this context and as part of this world, this huge story that's been unfolding over 11 episodes, there was something about it that just blew me away. As mentioned before, the show also ends on a fantastic cliffhanger and teases some interesting additions post credits. I cannot wait for more of this!
  
X-Men: First Class (2011)
X-Men: First Class (2011)
2011 | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
When the “X-Men:The Last Stand” failed to score big with critics and audiences in 2006, many fans began to wonder if they would ever see their favorite mutant superhero team on screen anytime soon. Despite mixed reviews, 2009’s standalone film “Wolverine“, did sufficient box office numbers to warrant a sequel which is currently in development, indicating that the likely future of the series was with standalone character films.

Then 20th Century Fox decided to tell a team-based origin story that focuses on the early days of the X-Men and how they became the team that they are today. This is a bit of a controversial move as it involves recasting several roles to play younger versions of beloved characters.

The result is X-Men: First Class which stars Scottish actor James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, a brilliant young academic who hides his unique and amazing telepathic gifts from the world. When a chance encounter proves to Charles that there are others in the world who share his gifts he dedicates his studies to unlocking the mysteries of genetic mutations and their possibilities.

At the same time a young man named Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), has embarked on a path of destruction and revenge against those who wronged and tormented him and his family during the Nazi occupation of their native Poland. Eric’s main target is man who now calls himself Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who has surrounded himself with a team of skilled mutants and is manipulating US and Russia to the brink of nuclear war, for his own evil purposes.

When CIA Agent MacTaggart (Rose Byrne), learns of Shaw’s plans, she recruits Xavier, not knowing that he and his friend Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) are mutants themselves, with the hopes of understanding their new enemy and mounting a proper defense.

When the truth of his true nature is revealed, Charles teems with MacTaggart and scientist Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), to locate and recruit other gifted individuals to their cause. Fate steps in when Erik and Charles meet and eventually become friends over there mutual pursuit of Shaw. Despite a great deal of understanding between the two individuals, Eric is intent upon killing Shaw. He warns his new friend not to trust humans, as his time under Nazi control taught him that it’s only a matter of time until he and his fellow mutants are targeted for extinction by the world. Despite this the Eric and Charles recruit and train a team to prepare to face Shaw and his followers, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The film starts off well and it was very enjoyable to see a deeper side of the characters. From young Charles hitting on women in bars and making jokes about losing his full head of hair to the deadly side of Eric and his abilities as well as the early relationship between the iconic characters. Somewhere along the way the film loses its initial momentum as the plot of the film takes a while to get going. As good as the cast is, they need something to do and after numerous debates and a few training and recruitment segments the film became somewhat boring. There simply was not a lot of action to sustain the plot.

Kevin Bacon was an interesting choice for the villain. He did a good job, although watching him strut around I kept expecting him to break into dance at any moment. Another issue I had was that some of the supporting characters were basically throwaway as I cared little about their stories and outcomes. Only the characters of Raven, Eric, and Charles held any real interest for me and watching their interplay with one another was one of the strong points of the film.

As the film move toward the finale there were several things about it that did not work for me starting with the makeup for The Beast. Complete with spectacles it was almost a laughable look that brought to mind Jason Bateman in “Teen Wolf 2“. The fact that the character was annoying as well did very little to help.

The biggest issue I had with the film was that after all this buildup the finale was actually very ho-hum and while it did contain some visually nice moments, I do not feel the action balanced with the storytelling, certainly not to the extent that audiences expect from nor require of a summer blockbuster.

There are a couple of moments in the film that will certainly be questioned by fans of the series as well as scenes which conflict with information from the earlier films in the series. It seems certain elements of continuity have been omitted for creative license. I will not spoil those here but suffice it to say that if my wife, who is a casual fan of the series, was able to note conflicts and discrepancies between this film and a previous film, then certainly hard-core fans may have some real issues.

The film does a good job with explaining the origin and nature of the characters, but fails to provide an adventure worthy of the effort and instead plays out in a very underwhelming fashion. Director Matthew Vaughn proved himself highly adept with adventure films when he produced “Kick Ass“, and other action-oriented films. He is clearly a fan of comics and action and I would love to have seen what could’ve resulted had he been given carte blanche with the film.

In the end, “X-Men: First Class“, for me was more entertaining than the previous ensemble films, but fails to live up to its potential and severely lacks enough action to sustain the early momentum of the film.
  
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight (2008)
2008 | Action, Crime
Riding a wave a fan expectations and anticipation as well as surrounding by the tragic death of Heath Ledger, the latest installment in Writer/Director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Series, “The Dark Knight”, has arrived. Christian Bale once again stars in the dual role of troubled billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the masked avenger Batman, as he attempts to bring order to Gotham City.
The film picks up shortly after the events of “Batman Begins” and finds Bruce and his trusty sidekick Alfred (Michael Caine), splitting their time between a lofty penthouse and a secret lair while Wayne Manor is being rebuilt. The streets of Gotham have become safer as thanks to Batman many of the bad elements of the city have either been arrested or driven off.
Batman has a new ally in his fight, as new District Attorney Harvey Dent, (Aaron Eckhart), is waging a personal war on crime, and has vowed to stop at nothing to bring the remaining crime bosses and their associates to justice. Bruce is unsure what to make of Dent, and is further troubled by the growing relationship between Dent and his longtime flame Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal).
Unknown to Batman and Dent, the biggest threat ever to face Gotham City is about to move into the limelight, as a mysterious figure known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), has risen from the ranks of violent bank robber to psychopathic mastermind, attempting to get the remaining crime lords to join him in an scheme to kill Batman and prominent heads of the city to bring utter chaos.
As the Joker’s wave of violence, death, and destruction unfolds, Batman is drawn deeper into turmoil, as he is conflicted by his desire to abandon his Batman alter-ego and leave cleaning up the city to Dent and his trusted ally James Gordon (Gary Oldman). Bruce knows that he cannot be with Rachel as long as Batman is a part of his life, and he wishes he can abandon the fight to live a more normal existence.
As the crime wave escalates and the body count starts to mount, Bruce is driven to the edge as he matches wits with his toughest foe yet, a man who seems capable of matching his every move, and seems to be always one step ahead.
What follows is a truly gripping and enjoyably dark tale of murder, deception, action, and intrigue in what is not only the best Batman film ever but simply the best superhero film ever. This is strong praise considering the solid screen versions of “Spider-Man”, “Iron-Man” and the previous “Batman Beyond”, but Nolan has crafted a true cinematic masterpiece.
The key to the film is not only the solid cast but a serious and intelligent script that allows the actors to truly shine. This is not a thinly veiled comic story where plot and character are secondary to visuals and actions; instead it is a brilliant physiological study of madness, human nature, unchecked ambition, and morality, wrapped in a truly epic story.
Nolan deftly juggles the characters and action and never allows one to overshadow the other. He does not lose sight of the fact that despite the amazing and intense actions and visuals, this is a character driven story.
Many times during the press showing of the film I marveled at the high quality of the story and solid acting in the film. The impressive cast is anchored by a truly incredible performance by Ledger as he portrays the Joker as a deeply disturbed individual who mixes genius with absolute ruthless cunning. The mannerisms of the character are such that Ledger simply becomes the demented killer and at no time appears to be an actor portraying a character, but rather the personification of the character brought to reality.
His scenes with Bale are truly memorable and underscore the vast history between the two characters that has been established over the decades, and emphasizes the fact that, in some ways, Batman and the Joker are similar beings, both troubled souls who deal with their pain in different ways.
Bale is very good at portraying the torment his character lives with day in and day out, as well as the dark and seething rage that threatens to overtake him and his constant struggle to keep it under the control. Lesser actors would be lost against the amazing performance of Ledger, but Bale more than holds his own, and provides gripping cinema at its best during his scenes with Ledger and the talented cast.
Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine bring solid support to the film as their characters provide wisdom, morality, and direction for characters that walk the thin line between good and evil. The only real disappointment in the film for me was that Maggie Gyllenhaal is not given enough to do. She ably takes over the role originated by Katie Holmes, but she is not given any chance to stand out and her moments with Bale do not allow her to further her relationship with Bruce Wayne.
Eckhart gives a solid performance as Harvey Dent and his alter ego Two Face, taking great advantage of the time he was allowed to develop Dent. My only wish would have been for Two Face to have more time to develop as his arrival seems more of an add-on than a point of plot emphasis.
That being said, the film is a true masterpiece that proves you do not have to sacrifice character development and story to deliver a solid action film. The story sets up very well for future installments and I am sure I am not alone in wanting another outing for Nolan and Bale.
  
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Christopher Kirk (1081 KP) rated Roma (2018) in Movies

Mar 2, 2020 (Updated Mar 3, 2020)  
Roma (2018)
Roma (2018)
2018 | Drama
The photography (0 more)
Nothing (0 more)
I watched Roma exactly a week ago today. And although I knew 20 minutes in that I loved it, and at the end that I really loved it, I have taken that time to let it settle within me in before coming to write about it. Some films are so good that you have to do that: let it sink into you fully, before doing anything so trivial as judging and comparing them. Roma is incomparable! I have never seen anything like it, or felt as deeply moved by a film in a long time.

Not that it didn’t get attention at the time of its release, it did, receiving 10 Oscar nominations and winning 3, for best foreign language film, director and cinematography, but it certainly wasn’t seen by as many people as it should have been, despite its presence on Netflix from the start. Having digested it now, and spending some time reading about how and why it was made, I feel a slight mission to recommend it to as many people as I can.

Based on Alfonso Cuarón’s own childhood in Mexico City, and his memories of his family and especially their housemaid, Liboria (Libo) Rodriguez, to whom the film is dedicated, it is a masterpiece labour of love that few directors ever achieve or even attempt to make. After a strong career of exceptional films, including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men and Gravity, it was the box office and critical success of the latter that gave Cuarón carte blanche to go and make whatever project he chose. Where many might have been tempted by the big money of superhero or fantasy movies (for which he had some experience with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) he went back to his roots and shot a very personal non-English film, in black and white, where no music exists except that which occurs naturally, and on the surface not much happens.

At least it feels like not much is happening, such is the naturalistic, almost improvised (although it wasn’t) style and pace; shot with a lens capturing detail and nuance with some of the most beautiful photography I have ever had the privilege to see. Truly, an awful lot is happening, but you have to feel and experience it, not simply be told it by the narrative. It takes a while for our Hollywood conditioned brains to accept this at first, and many might come to it and give up half an hour in because of that challenge. I can promise, however, there is not a single thing boring about this film, unless humanity is boring.

Oscar nominated lead Yalitza Aparicio as the shy, loving maid, Cleo, was not an actor before this film. She auditioned and was hand picked by Cuarón from hundreds of young women, without knowing who he was or what the film was about. Apparently, the film was shot in sequence so as not to confuse her emotionally on her extraordinary journey. She is so unassuming and natural that part of you falls in love with her immediately. In time, we almost come to forget we are watching an act at all, and almost become her, such is the empathy she evokes.

Which isn’t an easy ride, as we watch her be gently and then cruelly ignored, mistreated and used; climaxing in one of the most astonishingly painful and jaw-dropping scenes imaginable, and then a scene of such powerful redemption and humanity it instantly breaks the heart and lifts the soul. All the while she never asks for attention or love, but is just herself: a young woman living a difficult but beautiful life in a country and time full of turmoil, prejudice and social change.

The recreation of Mexico in 1970 is so breathtaking, it is hard to imagine at times we are not watching a documentary from that era. But, it is the detail the lens chooses to capture that reminds you this is a visual poem and a love-letter to a time, a place and a family far away in history and the memory of one man (represented by ten year old Carlos Peralta as Paco). At times it evokes the work of the very greatest film artists of all time: Bergman, Fellini, Hitchcock etc. Not one image is wasted or insignificant, from the reflection of the sky in water, to the dog-shit constantly lining the driveway. Everything is chosen and meaningful in the full context of the work.

There is no awkward exposition, no dramatic moments milked for all they are worth, no sequences of heightened excitement that manipulate us; simply truthful moments that hang in the air for what they are, leaving us to decide how we relate to them without ever preaching or teaching us how. In that way, it is a work of such maturity that I doubt many living directors could emulate it at all. The closest comparison I can think of is the personal passion Spielberg put into Shindler’s List, but really it is a moot comparison, and in fact owes much more to films like Haneke’s The White Ribbon.

Can it be faulted? Well, yes, certainly. But, honestly, I don’t see the point in trying. It is as close to perfection a small story of this kind can be. Importantly, I think it is an open film, that allows us to take from it whatever we like, relating to our own experiences and cares. For me, it said that any pain and hardship can be overcome, as long as there is love and beauty walking by its side. A message of no small importance. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. If you have, then please keep spreading the word. I believe it to be a genuine classic that will endure the criticism of many decades to come. Without a doubt in my mind something very special indeed.
  
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
It took me over a month to get around to seeing this last night at the cinema. Not because I didn’t want to see the end of the new trilogy and say goodbye to it in style, but because I feared it just wouldn’t be very good. Put simply, it isn’t very good. Some parts, in fact, are downright awful. But it isn’t terrible either. I can’t say I hated it – I had fun; I enjoyed it for what it was, and some small moments in isolation were very well done indeed. However…

The first thing that struck me was the pace and editing style, which seemed at last to fully embrace a Disney theme park ethos of let’s get to it and keep it moving. No notion of setting mood and re-establishing character, but rather a sense of we have a lot to fit in here so let’s get it out of the way as quickly as possible. It didn’t feel to me like it was allowed to sit at any point and just be brooding, or meaningful in any way. Which may work for the short attention spans of your average 9 year old, but for older fans who have literally waited 42 years to see an ending, it felt rushed, trivial and far too flippant.

The spectacle was very much there still. The landscape of alien worlds, creatures, droids and other necessary weirdness is all there in spades! It just feels like you would need to go back and press the pause button to see it all. And before we know what is happening (or why), Palpatine is back in business and everyone is looking for some lame GPS green triangle thingy. Forget almost everything in the story that has led to this point, this is an adventure that exists in a vacuum of space, and you either shrug and go with it, or get very annoyed. I chose the shrug.

Before we really settle into what is going on, we start to see the power of The Force flowing through Rey in ways it has never done before… she can heal, she virtually flies, and she can even teleport objects to a different physical place at will. She has become more like Neo from The Matrix than anything Skywalker. More like a Marvel superhero than anything grounded in an ancient mysticism that acts subtly at moments of great need. What that does is immediately lower the stakes, because if anything is possible, and therefore probable, there is no threat of failure. And if this movie lacks anything essential it is threat.

That said, the reanimation of Emperor Palpatine was nicely creepy, at least in a visual and vocal sense. And the journey of the excellent Adam Driver as Ben Solo / Kylo Ren remained the most interesting and satisfying thing about the whole reboot. I found myself just wanting to focus on him more and more, and felt frustrated when, typically, his key progression moments were over too soon or given away too cheaply from a dramatic context.

I have mixed feelings also about the level of mirroring and call-backs to moments from previous films. Some really worked, but many fell flat. It began to feel like a greatest hits checklist, which, of course, was a criticism of JJ Abrams’ directing style in The Force Awakens, too. He has been so much more concerned with giving fans sugary little treats, as opposed to cooking up a satisfying meal that nourishes in it’s own right – indicative of a 21st century audience that often demands its pudding before it has finished its greens.

Look, I enjoy a nostalgia trip as much as the next uber-geek, but I do also like my fantasy sci-fi to be based on an idea of weight and gravitas. Eschew that aspect and the climax is going to fall a little flat… which, I think it did. Our empathy for Rey, and in fact all of the new gang, is simply not as strong as it should have been. Daisy Ridley does a decent job, and I don’t blame her at all – I have no problem with any of the supporting cast either, but what a shame too many of them almost fade away into mere scene dressing by the end.

Very telling then, that my favourite bit by far was a 15 minute giggling fit brought on by that one, already infamous detail, when tiny weirdo Babu Frik completely misses the mood of the room and screeches his “Hey Heeeeeey!” Only to pop up again later with an equally hilarious repeat. Probably the funniest moment in any Star Wars film, bar none. Worth the ticket price alone, and I am still having regular flashbacks that leave me in fits of laughter!

So, that’s it is it? Over and done with? Well, they certainly wrapped it up in a bow, coming full circle in fairly satisfying style. With just a cheeky hint that the roots of a continuation at some point are buried within shallow reach. No doubt, amateur writers everywhere have already had a pop at what happens next. The Force is balanced, the prophecy fulfilled, but it wouldn’t take much to tip the galaxy back into turmoil, as soon as Disney fancies another few billion in ticket sales.

Personally, I don’t want to be cynical about a franchise that has been a part of me since I was 3 years old, and been such a good friend. However, I am perfectly fine with having it remain as a source for backstories and origin tales. The main saga is over, so let’s leave it alone. Episodes IV – VI will always remain the best; they won’t go anywhere. So any shortcomings can be easily solved… just watch The Empire Strikes Back again, not worrying about anything else, but revelling in just how perfect it is, and how lucky we are that it is there for us.
  
Lair
Lair
2019 | Card Game, City Building, Racing, Spies / Espionage
Raise your hand if you’ve ever dreamed of being a superhero – fighting crime and saving lives. Great! This game is not about that. Instead, embrace your inner villain as you work to create the greatest evil lair in the world! Dig deep and put your villainy to the test as you command Henchmen to build nefarious rooms and outmaneuver the other villains vying for power in this evil organization.

Lair is a worker placement game in which players are racing to complete the construction of a secret lair for their evil boss, Mr. White. Played over a series of rounds, players select turn order and command henchmen to construct new rooms, collect supplies, interfere with your competitors’ plans, or dig deeper into the volcano in which this lair is housed. The first player to reach the core of the volcano, thus completing the lair, is the winner!

Disclaimer: We were provided a copy of Lair for the purposes of this review. I do not intend to rehash the entire rulebook, but rather provide an overview of the rules and comment on the gameplay. For a more in-depth look at the rules, find the game at your FLGS or directly from the publisher! -L

To setup, place the foundation cards at the top of the table and then place 4 elevator cards in a single line underneath the center-most foundation card, and put the Core card at the bottom of the line. Flip the top elevator card, give each player their components (Player Card, Boss token, and 2 Henchmen tokens), create a room card pool, and you are ready to go! Choose the first player as described in the rule book. To start each round, players will choose turn order. All spaces in the turn order track offer different resources/rewards (collect Work Tokens, claim room cards, etc), so going first each turn might not necessarily be best for your strategy. Once turn order is established, players take turns moving 1 worker (either a Henchmen or Boss), and possibly performing the action of the room card to which they moved. Each move costs 1 Work Token, and is paid to the “bank.” In order to perform a room’s action, you must play your Boss token to that card, and there must be a Henchmen token already in the room. Here’s the catch – if the Henchmen token belongs to an opponent, you pay THEM 1 Work Token (instead of the bank) for having moved into a room that they have claimed. Do you want to use a room action enough to justify giving an opponent another Work Token to be used against you? Or can you rework your strategy to avoid using that action? Play continues in the round as long as players have Work Tokens to spend. Once you run out of actions, or choose to stop, you ‘retire’ and pass until the next round begins. There is an incentive to retiring early, though – the first player to retire in a round is the first player to choose their turn order in the next round. Play continues until one player has reached the final spot on the elevator track, the Core. The game immediately ends, and that player is the victor!

So how does Lair play? In my opinion, it’s a great little game. There is so much strategy involved for such a small game, and that is really what takes it to the next level for me. Let’s start with selecting turn order. In most games, this means vying for first dibs in the next round. In this game, however, each different turn order slot provides different resources/rewards. Depending on your strategy, you may really need that 3rd slot, or even the last one! So going first is not necessarily always the best thing in this game. You have to balance the risk of going later in the round with the reward of your chosen resources. The next strategic part of this game has to do with Henchmen placement. As I stated earlier, in order to use a room’s action, you must move your Boss to that card, and there must already be a Henchmen present. If the Henchmen belongs to an opponent, you pay them instead of the bank. This is vital because Work Tokens are what allow you to take turns, so paying an opponent means giving them a chance for another turn next round. Is it worth rewarding an opponent for use of a room action? On the flip side – can you strategically place your Henchmen to ensure that opponents have to pay you to complete their goals? The Boss may be in charge, but the Henchmen are the underdogs in this game for sure.

Components. The components are pretty good quality in this game. The cards are nice and thick, the art is thematic, and the wooden and cardboard tokens are sturdy. No complaints there. The only qualm that we had with Lair has to do with iconography. Every possible action has a corresponding symbol, and that is what is shown on the card. The downside is that there are so many symbols and icons, so there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to playing Lair for the first time. To alleviate some of the confusion, the game comes with some nice reference cards, and the symbols do get easier to recognize with more plays. But just be warned: at first you may be a little confused with all of the symbology.

As you can see by our ratings, we kind of had mixed feelings about this one. For a game that seems so small and light, it actually has a lot of bulk to it. Between strategic choices and learning symbology, this might not be a game we can just pull out for a quick filler, but I think that it’s good enough to stand on its own. Sometimes physically smaller games can be overlooked, but don’t let the size fool you – Lair packs a punch. Purple Phoenix Games gives Lair a nefarious 12 / 18.
  
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Daniel Boyd (1022 KP) rated Hellboy (2019) in Movies

Apr 17, 2019 (Updated Apr 17, 2019)  
Hellboy (2019)
Hellboy (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
The script (4 more)
The CGI
The editing
The performances
Everything else
Actual Hell
If the Hellboy 2019 movie has one thing going for it, it's that it's impressive. It is impressive in the sense that it actually made me question the futility of time and why I was wasting my short time on this earth watching this atrocious piece of trash. There were several times when I was watching the film that I actually couldn't bring myself to believe how bad what I was witnessing onscreen really was. This might be the worst film I have ever seen.

It has without a doubt taken the crown of the worst superhero movie ever made from Fan4stic and is downright insulting. I cannot believe that they chose to make this dogshit over another one with Ron Perlman and Del Toro. Almost every single aspect of this movie is garbage and there are hardly any redeeming features.

Let's talk about the main character, this movie's version of Hellboy. We all knew going in that David Harbour had some pretty big shoes to fill left by Perlman and in Harbour's defence, pretty much the only slightly positive aspect of this thing is the fact that you can tell that Harbour is doing the very best with the piss poor material he has been given to work with. Most of his lines are awful and the way that his character is written as a moaning, whiny bitch is actually insulting to the character. Also, the excessive makeup he is wearing means that he is hardly able to emote with his mouth. When he is talking, his mouth simply opens and closes like a puppet and it is painfully obvious that the dialogue has been dubbed in later and it's not even been done very well. The other slight positive in this movie is seeing Hellboy in his full demonic getup with long horns and donning the flaming crown and sword was pretty cool, unfortunately this is only a fleeting glimpse of coolness before we get right back to the crap.

The other memorable part of the Del Toro Hellboy movies was the endearing supporting cast, unfortunately they have been substituted with an insufferable lot of replacements. The actress playing Alice may give the worst performance that I have ever seen in a comic book movie, (and I saw Polar!) Every single line that she uttered was extremely cringe-worthy and poorly delivered. Daniel Dae Kim was almost as bad as Hellboy's other sidekick. Again, a lot of his lines were ADR'd in later and it is really shoddily done. Ian McShane plays Broom, the scientist that found Hellboy and adopted him and he is sleepwalking his way through this role for the sake of an easy paycheck. As is Milla Jovovich, she plays a stereotypical villainous witch and she does nothing here that we haven't seen her do before in other movies.

Over my years of watching almost every comic book movie that releases, I have seen my fair share of cheap, cartoony looking CGI, but this takes the cake. Almost every scene in the movie features some kind of CGI creature and they are all on a similar level of quality to an unfinished student project. One of the moments it really stood out was the giant fight, where we were subjected to not only one bad CGI giant, but three of them. The scene is also shot in broad daylight, which really does the bad CGI no favours. Not once, did anything in this movie look better than anything in the Del Toro movies which came out 10+ years ago.

I'm going to spoil something here, because seriously who gives a fuck at this point? The absolute worst part of CGI though in the entire movie, is undoubtedly during one of the final scenes in the movie where Ian McShane comes back to speak to Hellboy as a ghost. The CG in this scene is genuinely on par with the Rock's CG in in the Scorpion King. Yes, it really is that bad.

The soundtrack is so misused here also. The songs themselves that are featured are all half decent songs, but they do not work in the context of this film and they add absolutely nothing to the scenes that they are used in. The editing is also horrible, there were several times that I was reminded of the cheap editing in shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The last thing that I want to talk about is the tone and humour, (or lack of,) present throughout the film. The movie opens with a flashback scene showing King Arthur chopping up the witch. The scene is being narrated by Ian McShane and it is chock-full of diabolically awful dialogue and insufferably cheesy line delivery. Whilst watching it I thought, "Oh they are really hamming it up here and going for a really corny tone for these flashback scenes." I then swiftly came to the soul-crushing conclusion that no, this was how the next 2 hours of this movie was going to go. The awful sense of humour is actually comparable to that in a poor quality kids film, with gross out burp and kiss jokes to boot. What happened to the darker, more horror orientated tone that we were teased with when the movie was in pre-production? Any semblance of that is sorely lacking here and it is a shame because I would have quite liked to have seen that movie and there is a good chance that it would have been a lot better than this dumpster fire.

Overall, please don't see this unless you hate yourself. It is two hours of your life that would be better spent doing literally anything else. At the end it has the audacity to tease a sequel which, (if there is a God,) will never happen.