I Can’t Believe We’re Still Talking About the Snyder Cut

In today’s edition of “Things I’d Rather Not Continue Talking About,” more DCEU actors are coming forth asking to #ReleasetheSnyderCut two whole years after Justice League released.

To clarify, yes, I would’ve liked to see Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League instead of the bare-bones recut of the film we ended up getting. All that out of the way, it’s the same reason we didn’t see a director’s cut of Avengers: Age of Ultron when that was rumored.

But now, with Damon Lindelof teasing to his Instagram followers that he probably hadn’t seen it, but if he had, he would support releasing it. Calm down, Lindelof.

Along with that news comes tweets of support from Gal Gadot and Ben Affleck even, someone who hasn’t spoken much of his time in the DCEU, so this is gaining steam.

Okay, let’s be a realist on this one. There are two potential problems with releasing the Snyder Cut of the film at this stage. First of all, it’s been two years, and in that time, the studio has rearranged their plans for the DCEU in order to keep the franchise alive and successful into the future. Since Justice League‘s release, we’ve had Aquaman. We’ve had Shazam! We will soon have Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984. Not to mention films like The Suicide Squad, The Batman, and Black Adam in the works. These films have all relied on what was created as far as mythology goes in the Justice League film. We’ve heard rumors of things like an appearance from Martian Manhunter who’s been hiding in plain sight for several movies and a completely different take on the ending, and all that stuff would change canon.

That’s right. Canon.

Canon is incredibly important to a franchise and cinematic universe. Building a canon can make or break a universe, and by releasing the Snyder Cut, you are ripping up the canon, something that WB should absolutely not do.

The other reason is simpler. Money.

That’s right. Money. More important than Canon to the studio. Why would WB release the Snyder Cut, knowing they would have to spend millions to even complete the damn movie. We know that a version of the Snyder Cut exists, but it wouldn’t have any CGI or effects completed in the film. That’s not how filmmaking works. They don’t finish the CG without at least having something edited together first. The Snyder Cut would be an absolute mess, and releasing it like that would be unacceptable and rather foolish. So they’d have to finish the movie, while doesn’t seem feasible. Who’s going to front the bill to complete post-production on a film that will not make enough money back to support the extra work. Is this a charity?

So there you have it. I don’t believe all this squabbling over a Snyder Cut is worth it, and I wish we’d all just move on. If we, as fans of the DCEU keep looking to the past, we’ll miss what’s possible in the future. So stop it.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[SPOILER CHAT!] Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Hey Hey!

We are here to talk a few of the Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you came here by accident, click here to see my Spider-Man: Far From Home non-spoiler review.

Okay, you’ve been warned.

SPOILERS BELOW!

 

IRON MAN DEEP CUT

It’s great to see Peter Billingsley (of A Christmas Story) pop up again after appearing in an incredibly-small capacity in the first Iron Man. What I enjoy is how they were able to use a pre-existing character in a way that forever changes the way we will watch Iron Man, and that’s pretty damn cool.

 

BARF

So BARF was featured in Civil War as a system designed to use drone technology to create visual planes that one could interact with. I’m excited to rewatch Civil War to see how it plays into Quentin Beck’s master plan, which was a great reveal. I would have liked to have seen an interaction between Stark and Beck, but I get it. I love when films do this, using created lore to build upon. It seems that many of Spider-Man’s villains are tied to Tony Stark, furthering the mentor motif with the sins of the Father being visited upon by the Son.

 

AVENGERS TOWER

So there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot of Avengers Tower, which has apparently been sold, seen at the end of the film that has a sign on it saying “We Can’t Wait to Show You What Comes Next” with the numbers “1-2-3-?” on it. Many have speculated at the fun of this nod to Phase 4, but part of me questions if Phase 4 is all that they’ve been hinting at here. Who bought the building? There’s two ideas that come to mind.

I don’t recall seeing any reference to OsCorp yet in this Spider-Man iteration, so could it have been Norman Osborn. Let’s question why we haven’t seen Harry Osborn yet. Was he not Blipped and aged 5 years right into Peter’s class and we just haven’t been introduced to him yet?

On the other hand, what if it becomes The Baxter Building, thus introducing us to the Fantastic 4. I know that Kevin Feige has said we won’t see them in the MCU for some time, but what if this was thrown in real quick as a sly introduction. “1-2-3-?” could be referencing them. Even if it takes years to see them introduced, this would be a fun little send-up.

Whoever bought Avengers Tower would have to have a lot of money at their disposal, and it was purchased years before we saw it in Far From Home, so anything could be possible.

 

NO STAN

I figured we would get some Stan Lee overt reference, but no such luck. I’ve been claiming for a while that they would find a way to insert some Stan Lee material in each future MCU film, even as simple as a picture in the background, and maybe no one caught it, but I didn’t see anything either. That’s too bad, and hopefully they find a way to correct that in future films.

 

MID-CREDITS SCENE

Alright, so the mid-credits scene is literally the end of the movie, and it’s a pretty important ending that forever changes the way that Spider-Man’s story will be told.

So essentially, MJ and Peter and finishing their web-slinging date, and then, a news report comes on from none other than The Daily Bugle, in the MCU a podcast/internet radio show similar to Alex Jones apparently. J. Jonah Jameson appears, played once again by the legendary J.K. Simmons. There really is no one else to play him. He announces that Spider-Man is a killer and he has proof from Mysterio’s video feed. He also lets the video feed announce to the world that Spider-Man is PETER PARKER!

It’s an insane reveal that trumps the Aunt May reveal from Homecoming in every way. I’m not even sure how they will pick up the pieces of this moment going into Phase 4.

What’s crazy about this whole thing, too, is that J.K. Simmons is playing Jameson again. That’s the first time that has happened in the MCU, so it’s a big deal. What worries me is that it seemingly was done at the last second, so hopefully there’s more to the Jameson reveal than just the shock of it.

 

POST-CREDITS SCENE

The post-credits scene is probably the most shocking reveal of the whole movie and may confirm some of the theories about Avengers: Endgame, or it may not.

So, the scene begins with Nick Fury and Maria Hill discussing the events they’ve just been through, and then, all of a sudden, they both morph back into Talos and Soren from Captain Marvel. They’ve been Skrulls for who knows how long.

Fury is then revealed to be on a ship somewhere out in the galaxy, working with the Skrulls.

Now, let’s take this a piece at a time. In Captain Marvel, Fury is quoted as saying he doesn’t cut his sandwiches diagonally, something he later ends up doing in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Now, this could be a little continuity error, but why would anyone bring up sandwiches twice with a character like Fury. How often would Nick Fury eating a sandwich just happen to come up? That’s what makes it so interesting. I’m assuming that Talos has been Fury at least that far back.

Now, in Avengers: Endgame, many fans claimed to have seen Talos posing as a teacher in the background at the end of the film when Peter goes back to school. Now, I’ve looked at this footage in slow-mo, and I don’t think that’s Ben Mendelsohn. To back it up, IMDb has confirmed on their site of his appearance in Far From Home, even uncredited, but they have not done the same for Endgame. That doesn’t mean too much, but it is curious.

Going back to Infinity War, when Fury and Hill were dusted, does that mean it was Talos and Soren that got dusted? If so, did the real Fury and Hill survive The Blip, and will we see any of that time if they did?

During Far From Home, Fury/Talos is involved in a conversation concerning Kree sleeper cells on Earth, so does that have anything to do with why Talos is posing as Fury? There’s not much more to go on at this point, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Now, going to the second part of this reveal, where is Fury? It appears to be a ship or installation out in space working with the Skrulls. The question here is what would give Fury the ability to help the Skrulls and Talos the ability to help the humans. Outside of being cool, why wouldn’t Talos and Soren be on the ship and Fury be on Earth? What are they gaining by swapping?

Now, I’ve read some online about the installation being S.W.O.R.D., a command post operated as a space-version of S.H.I.E.L.D., which sounds cool, but forgive me if I have no idea what I’m talking about.

That sounds cool, and it kind of reaffirms the general belief that Phase 4 is going cosmic. If Fury is already out there, then it would stand that’s what is happening. Looking at the Avengers as they stand right now, there is Ant-Man, a character who can go subatomic, Doctor Strange, who can get all trippy, the Guardians, who exist out in space, Thor, who is out there with them presumably, and Captain Marvel, who is essentially a space cop. We also have Black Panther and Spider-Man, who I would assume would lead Earth-led stories, but who knows, and then there’s all the new characters we could potentially see. If makes a lot of sense.

 

These are my thoughts on Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you want my full review, just click here!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Director: Michael Chaves

Cast: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Vasquez

Screenplay: Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis

93 mins. Rated R for violence and terror.

 

I had one major question about the marketing for this movie before I went in, and I left with that same question: why the hell did they not market this film as a part of The Conjuring Universe? It states on most of the material that the film has the same producers and studio as The Conjuring, but not once in the marketing is expressly stated. I just don’t get it. This film is not like Captain Marvel or Aquaman where you have the understanding going in that it naturally connects to a shared universe, so why the hell not use that angle in your marketing?

The Curse of La Llorona, based on Mexican folklore, follows Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini, Avengers: Age of Ultron, A Simple Favor), a widowed social worker and mother of two who is searching for foul play in a tragedy involving a case she has worked for some time. As she probes for information about the tragic events, her family begins to see supernatural horrors in the form of a weeping woman called La Llorona who has now targeted her kids. When the church is unable to help her, Anna turns to Rafael (Raymond Cruz, Alien: Resurrection, TV’s Major Crimes), a mystical former priest who believes he can stop La Llorona before the weeping woman claims Anna’s kids for herself.

The Conjuring franchise has struggled with quality in their spin-off films, and The Curse of La Llorona is no exception. I applaud it for choosing to hit its horror very early but that leads to a sacrifice in character development. We don’t get to know much about Anna’s kids and so our only fear from them comes from the fact that they are children and because the audience understands Anna’s love for them. Outside of that, though, they are tremendously underdeveloped.

Raymond Cruz gives great work here but I didn’t like that screenplay from Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Five Feet Apart) gave his character so much comic relief. After a bulk of the film contains virtually no comic relief, getting it at the end from a character the audience is supposed to look to for safety is an odd choice.

The Conjuring Universe has been trying this interconnected thing and it’s probably the second-best cinematic universe right now outside of the MCU juggernaut, but I haven’t been a fan of their forceful shoehorning of references in their films. In this film, there is stock footage of Annabelle to show how Tony Amendola’s character connects these two stories and it couldn’t have felt more forced if the director had paused the narrative and stepped out in front of the film to proclaim, “Here! Look here! This is how they connect!” The film doesn’t need that to thrive. Just have Father Perez reference the Annabelle doll like he did and let that be it. It will not alienate people who did not see the first Annabelle film and for those that get it, it will be all the more fun.

I feel like we should talk about the actual horror in the film. This is an angry spirit who, for the most part, has two major elements to her scares: her voice and her shock value. The voice is a really strong part of her character. There’s one scene in particular that works really well in the film where we don’t even see La Llorona but we hear her crying and then her scream just filled the atmosphere, putting all the candles out in the dimly lit home. It’s a great moment that we don’t get enough of. The other scare, though, is done all too often. This film is full of jump scares. La Llorona barely has buildup when she appears outside of the sound of her weeping. Most of the time, though, director Michael Chaves (The Maiden, TV’s Chase Champion) doesn’t let his film breathe enough to develop the scares. It’s something I really hope he learns to do before he gets behind the camera for The Conjuring III.

Overall, The Curse of La Llorona is very similar to The Nun. Both films have strength in their spiritual mythologies, but they both struggle with building their horror and rely all too often on jump scares. I think this will appeal to fans of The Conjuring Universe, and it’s a breath of fresh air for a series that has relied so heavily on the Warrens and the main Conjuring film mythology. I surely had a lot of fun in this theater experience, so if you see it, do so on opening weekend with a good-sized crowd.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Corin Hardy’s The Nun, click here.

For my review of David F. Sandberg’s Annabelle: Creation, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s The Conjuring 2, click here.

For my review of Michael Chaves’s The Maiden, click here.

Justice League (2017)

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon

120 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

 

It took me over a year to finally watch Justice League. I picked up the film last year, and I just didn’t have the nerve to see it. After all the craziness going on behind the scenes, it felt as though this film just got destroyed by problem after problem. I read some reports from early set visits on Justice League, and the overall mood was quite good. Then, the problems began. Not all of these can be blamed on any one particular person. Director Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) had to step away from the film after the sudden death of a family member, a move I will never blame him for. So as far as the finished film goes, how does Justice League fair?

It’s been some time since the death of Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible – Fallout) at the hands of Doomsday, and the world has mostly moved on. But Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, The Accountant) cannot. He is haunted by the power he witnessed by the enemy due to a dream he witness of winged creatures and an Armageddon in the potentially near-future. His mission is to build a team of protectors. With Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, Furious 7, Ralph Breaks the Internet) already joined up, they focus on recruiting Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa, Conan the Barbarian, Braven), Barry Allen (Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher, TV’s True Detective) to the cause. Bruce and Diana find their mission ever more difficult with the arrival of Steppenwolf, a military officer from Apokolips, in search of the mythical Mother Boxes, three cubes capable of immense power.

I’m not usually a guy for high expectations with blockbuster fare. I personally find that smaller films can have just as much impact as larger ones in the blockbuster landscape. For example, Ant-Man is a fairly low-stakes superhero film when compared to something like Avengers: Infinity War (sorry for making my point with MCU films here). The one area where this thinking doesn’t count is the team-up films. When you have a film like Justice League, it needs to be big. It needs to have those memorable set pieces. Justice League’s biggest problem is that it’s forgettable. I just watched a night or two ago and I have trouble placing most of the action. Not much of the set pieces register in my mind. That’s a problem. This should be the one that reminds fans that the DCEU has stumbled in the past but they’re making up for it here and into the future. Snyder’s departure from the film didn’t cause this problem. Warner Bros did.

In response to criticism, Warner Bros stated that Justice League would have a shorter run time. At least, that’s the statement. At no point in any of the DCEU films, outside of Man of Steel, was the run time every really an issue for me. They are lengthy films but the DCEU always kind of branded itself with an epic quality maybe even more so than the MCU was. Warner Bros responded to criticism that wasn’t really there and shorted the run time, allowing for more butts in seats to see this movie. They responded to criticism that the films are too dark. Again, not an issue that I encountered outside of the brooding Man of Steel, but I just think they respond to any criticism big or small and it damages their plan.

I found Justice League, at the time I watched it, to be more enjoyable than anticipated. I feel like it sets up the team dynamic pretty nicely, and I like where it set the trajectory of future installments of the DCEU, but as a film, it also suffers some of the problems of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where it completes some arcs we’ve seen started and starts some new arcs but the meat of the film is missing. This is especially apparent with the portrayal of Steppenwolf, performed through Mo-Cap by Ciaran Hinds, a tremendously gifted actor. Steppenwolf’s scenes were altered and sliced up, turning a potentially frightening villain into a flat, one-dimensional CG target. It kind of makes Justice League seem like another example of Suicide Squad, a film with great heroes on a flimsy mission.

I really enjoyed the few moments of interaction between members of the Justice League themselves. I just wish we had more of them. For example, Superman is on the front cover and appeared in the trailers, so it’s safe to say he’s in the movie. He’s been through a lot in this cinematic universe, and I feel like he needs screentime to really showcase it. I would liken his struggle closer to Tony Stark’s from Iron Man 3. He’s been through some shit, but he never gets the time for us to connect with him. They could have utilized Lois Lane (Amy Adams, Arrival, Enchanted) to connect us to this higher being, but they choose not to.

Ben Affleck is yet again at the top of his game here with Bruce Wayne and Batman. I’ve been saying for a long time now that he’s the best part of the DCEU and I stand by that claim. It’s a shame he’s been brunted with all these problems that have soured his experience because he’s a damn capable actor/director/writer who really could have spear-headed this whole world, but alas, that’s the way it goes.

Gal Gadot is also quite well-suited for her character. She plays Diana with a sense for saving and protecting, and it doesn’t come off all that cliché or silly. She gets more to do here than she did in Batman v Superman coming off her solo film with such high praise.

The real standout for me was Jason Momoa’s turn as Arthur Curry. He played Aquaman in such a different way than I had planned given what little the audience has to go on so far. I didn’t expect to see such a pessimistic asshole interpretation, but it’s all done in jest with an understanding of his place within the team, and I loved every scene with him as they all brimmed with fun.

I think the plotting of Justice League wasn’t wrong from the beginning, though. I remember hearing word from some of the involved crew that the film was initially to open with the large-scale battle for the Mother Boxes and a Lord of the Rings-style opening narration to set up the mysticism around these items. That intrigued me, the idea that DC was perhaps treating this film like an epic in the style of Lord of the Rings was very exciting. The finished film opens with a live-video of Superman that really just doesn’t sit well.

Justice League stumbles a lot throughout, and it had a rocky road leading to its release (can you say Mustache-gate?), but it isn’t the worst thing to come from the DCEU, and maybe that’s its biggest sin. This should have been IT. This should have been the one to really knock it out of the park. Instead, it’s mildly forgettable and very simplistic. It makes me sad because, while I still enjoyed it, there’s issues abound and I really want the DCEU to survive and thrive. This just isn’t doing it.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, click here.

For my review of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, click here.

For my review of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, click here.

For my review of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Connie Nielsen Set to Appear in Justice League

Not a particularly surprising piece of news today as the ever-expanding cast of Justice League gets one more tapped in. Connie Nielsen, who played Queen Hippolyta in this year’s Wonder Woman, will is set to reprise the role in Justice League, alongside Robin Wright who played her sister, General Antiope.

I feel like I either already read this somewhere months ago or that I just kind of figured it would happen. Nielsen’s portrayal of the queen was a big win in the excellent Wonder Woman, and given the rave reviews as the first DCEU film to be Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, it stands to reason that Wonder Woman‘s supporting players are more likely to pop up. If there was ever a chance of Hippolyta being cut from the film, it certainly is doubtful now.

I like that the DCEU appears to be embracing all their wins for the upcoming Justice League film. One can only hope that the franchise and the company behind it, Warner Bros., is capable of learning from past mistakes in order to move forward with this cinematic universe. I also hope that Justice League is a contained culmination less focused on leaving threads for future films than, say, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Justice League? Which secondary character are you most excited to see? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

Justice League unites in theaters November 17th.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Justin Theroux

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

Remember way back when the MCU just had a few films and we were shocked to find that there was already a sequel? Oh wait, we were still shocked that there was a cinematic universe…

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Iron Man 2 picks up six months after the first film (running somewhat concurrently to The Incredible Hulk) as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) opens the Stark Expo to continue his father’s legacy to create new technology to change the world, but he is facing an internal problem: the palladium core in Tony’s arc reactor is slowly killing him. As Stark places Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en, Mortdecai) in the role of CEO for Stark Industries, he is also faced with vengeance from a new villain: Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), the son of a man wronged by Howard Stark, who has taken on the moniker Whiplash, to punish Tony for the sins of his father. To put it short, Tony Stark is having a rough time.

Iron Man 2 gets a lot of flack for being a lesser film than its predecessor, but I prefer it. Tony Stark is faced with a lot of conflicts in the film and it gives him the opportunity to be a good person, something he wasn’t given the ability to do in Iron Man. I enjoyed the villains in the film (again, something that others didn’t care for), and I really liked how it set up the rest of Phase 1 of the MCU. It’s strange, that same tactic was unimpressive in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but here it really worked for me.

Iron Man 2 adds so much to the mythology with new heroes Rhodey (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) becoming War Machine and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Hail, Caesar!) showing up as Natalie Rushman. There’s the building up of SHIELD and the references to upcoming installments Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

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Iron Man 2 has detractors (the film hasn’t aged well), but overall its a pretty damn fun time, and while it was mostly a transitional film for the MCU as it found its footing. I liked it a lot, but I can kind of see what others don’t like.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

 

Daddy’s Home (2015)

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Director: Sean Anders

Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini

Screenplay: Brian Burns, Sean Anders

96 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language.

 

Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, Zoolander 2) is a polarizing comic actor. To most, he creates comedy gold, but his comedy makes no apologies and doesn’t try to win over his detractors. I, personally, enjoy Ferrell more than chastise him, so what did I think of his newest flick with Mark Wahlberg (Boogies Nights, Entourage)?

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Brad Whitaker (Ferrell) is happy to be a father. Well, er, stepfather. His beautiful wife Sara (Linda Cardellini, TV’s ER, Avengers: Age of Ultron) has two children, and since Brad can’t father his own, he is more than happy to be a surrogate parent to them, but just as Brad is beginning to win them over, the family receives a call from actual father Dusty (Wahlberg), who is coming to town. Afraid to lose his family, Brad attempts to stand his ground with Dusty, but can Brad be the tough guy that Dusty? Can he be the real daddy?

Daddy’s Home is a simple premise, one that is fairly relatable. The problem is that it can’t decide what type of comedy it wants to be. When a film runs on for some time before making me laugh, I had a tendency to count the number of times I actually chuckle. Four. Four times. The movie just isn’t funny. I admire the comedic elements of the script, but they just don’t work for Ferrell’s comedy chops, and Wahlberg falls flat on every joke. There isn’t a ton to like here.

Linda Cardellini is a funny actress, but she has nowhere to play here, and the cast is joined by Thomas Haden Church who appears to pick up his cell and is actually phoning in a performance (okay, not really, but did he even learn his scenes?).

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Daddy’s Home has elements that work; there are just too many other elements that don’t. I want to like it, but the sad truth: director Sean Anders (Horrible Bosses 2, That’s My Boy) just can’t seem to find a funny bone, and the film suffers from it.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[#2016oscardeathrace] Cinderella (2015)

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Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Stellan Skarsgard, Holliday Grainger, Derek Jacobi, Helena Bonham Carter

Screenplay: Chris Weitz

105 mins. Rated PG for mild thematic elements.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Costume Design

 

Disney has always been hit-or-miss on their live-action adaptations of their animated classics. I was less-than-enthused about 2014’s Maleficent, but with Cinderella, and a solid director in Shakespearian artist Kenneth Branagh (Frankenstein, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), it seemed like they had a real chance.

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The new iteration of the classic tale presents more backstory on Ella (Lily James, Wrath of the Titans, Burnt), her wicked Stepmother (Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Carol), and the Prince (Richard Madden, TV’s Game of Thrones, A Promise) she falls for. With the help of her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club, Suffragette), Ella becomes a beautiful princess for a night of magic and dancing with the Prince in his kingdom. When the night ends, the Prince must do anything to find the mysterious beauty he has fallen for.

From a storytelling perspective, the film reminded me a lot of the Halloween remake from some years back (I know, strange comparison), which chose to flesh out backstory to bulk up the characters and story. Both films do succeed in this dangerous endeavor, though Cinderella definitely doesn’t need all the build-up. Screenwriter Chris Weitz (About a Boy, The Golden Compass) elected to grab from other versions of the tale to add new layers to the film, and it works.

Lily James and Cate Blanchett absolutely own their performances here, fitting right into the narrative nicely, and they are aided by Madden and thespians like Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Derek Jacobi (Gladiator, Anonymous).

Often, Branagh uses his superior storytelling tactics from his time studying the plays of William Shakespeare to influence his filmmaking style. It worked well in Thor, and it continues to elevate his craft here.

I must point out the masterful costume design, though likely not to win the Oscar this year, still looks astounding, especially in the ball sequence. The set design aids it well.

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Cinderella is one of the better Disney live-action adaptations, and while the film’s pacing comes into question more than once (too much exposition boggs down the film quite a bit), it succeeds in a lot of other ways and is worthy of a viewing.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein, click here.

For my review of Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, click here.

[#2016oscardeathrace] Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

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Director: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow

Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

135 mins. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Editing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Mixing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Sound Editing [PENDING]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects [PENDING]

IMDb Top 250: #74 (as of 1/24/2016)

 

I’m still a little shocked that I’m sitting in my chair writing a review for a NEW Star Wars film, here in 2015. It’s a strange feeling knowing that the stories that inspired me to tell stories are back and big and (hopefully) glorious. Well, I won’t waste time covering all that I love about this franchise, and I’ll leave that to the previous reviews that you can check out below. Instead, let’s just focus on the elephant in the room: Is The Force Awakens any good?

Happily, yes.

It’s been thirty years since the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the villainous Emperor and his disciple Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness, Kingsman: The Secret Service), the face of the rebellion, is missing. In his absence, the Empire has reformed into the First Order, and new evils Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Avengers: Age of Ultron), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson, About Time, The Revenant), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, TV’s Girls, Frances Ha) have brought their special form of tyranny to the galaxy. Leia (Carrie Fisher, Maps to the Stars, Sorority Row) has dispatched rebel pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis, Ex Machina) to find her missing brother. As Poe finds new allies in ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block) and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), they begin to uncover the mystery of Luke Skywalker’s location.

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I’m going to leave the plot details to this, which is probably too much already, but you probably should’ve seen the film by now. Where have you been?

So let’s look to our director, J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness). While the film has been criticized as being too similar to parts of the Original Trilogy, I found it to be more of an homage of where we’ve come in this franchise and where we are going. The Force Awakens is a transitionary film, and a lot of that can be credited to Abrams, plus most people forget about all the new elements to this film.

The film relies a lot less on the seasoned performers than I’d thought. Instead, we meet so many colorful characters to liven up the franchise and move it forward. Daisy Ridley is the most impressive to me as Jakku scavenger Rey, who finds herself in a much lonelier place that Luke Skywalker did at the beginning of A New Hope. She lives a solitary life on the planet of Jakku, where she steals from the relics of the previous Empire and uses it to survive on the desolate desert planet. Her emotional resonance as a forced heroine is astounding and impactful and her character is the strongest female we’ve seen in this franchise so far.

Also throw in John Boyega, who provides a nice amount of true terror and comic relief without becoming a stock character. Finn has to deal with a life he learns he doesn’t want, and while I feel like the start of the film doesn’t do him justice, he grows to be lovable by the film’s climax.

Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver aren’t novice performers even if they aren’t exactly household names, and both turn out incredible performances as Poe and Kylo, two opposite ends of a spectrum. Poe could be a repeat of Luke but becomes something entirely different. Kylo Ren could just be Darth Vader 2.0, but the film is as much his origin story as it is Rey’s, and Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader. He is angry, spiteful, emotionally unstable, and mentally broken, which makes his character’s evolution something very interesting to see in the film.

Now, our returning actors are top notch as well, and of them, this is Han Solo’s (Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Age of Adaline) film. It’s nice to see Ford really giving it all to this franchise again, and even his relationship with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew, Killer Ink, Dragon Ball GT: A Hero’s Journey) has grown and changed in the past three decades. On that note, Chewie gets a lot more development in this film than I expected.

Abrams isn’t afraid to bring something new to this franchise (and I don’t mean lens flares, though there are a few), and that can be seen from his choice in cinematography and editing. Though this feels like a Star Wars movie, it has a lot of updated choices to its camera movement and pacing that add to the excitement.

John Williams returns to the franchise, too, and his score, which has been nominated for an Oscar, is astounding. I was taken aback by the sheer amount of new music Williams created for the film, which has its cues in the themes we’ve had before, but so much more, and it makes him deserving of the gold statue.

From a production standpoint, it’s easy to see the attention and care given here by the use of practical effects, which also elevate the visual effects and style of the movie throughout.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an awakening to the entire franchise, bringing us back to that childhood wonder of the original film while scoring a path to future adventures. It angers me that I find myself more excited for the next installment because of how much I enjoyed this one. Now, the film is imperfect in a few ways. I didn’t feel like every new character landed the way they were intended to, and some of the film’s most climactic moments (in the spoilery territory) faltered and their impact lessened. That being said, I found myself nitpicking Episode VII because of how much fun the movie was. Why haven’t you seen it yet? If you have, why haven’t you seen it again? Go. Go now!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, click here.

For my review of George Lucas’ Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, click here.

For my review of Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, click here.

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