Wonder Woman (2017)

Director: Patty Jenkins

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya

Screenplay: Allan Heinberg

141 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.

 

Well, DC did it, everyone. They finally won one. In the race to create the first good female superhero film, DC just crossed the finish line before Marvel. Kudos all around. But is it actually good?

On the mystical island of Themyscira, Diana (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6, Criminal) has grown up surrounded by strong and powerful Amazonians, but when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Star Trek, Hell or High Water), an outsider, washes up on the island, Diana finds a call to action as the rest of the world need her help. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen, Gladiator, 3 Days to Kill) forbids her from leaving but Diana believes it her duty to help Steve end The War to End All Wars. Once she arrives in London, Diana is met with an entirely alien culture and new adversaries in German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Big Eyes) and Spanish chemist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya, The Skin I Live In, The Infiltrator), and it will take all Diana’s might to defeat them and bring peace back to the world.

Finally. Finally, we have an excellent super heroine film. Wonder Woman is damn good, everyone. Hearkening back to the spectacular Superman: The Movie of 1978, Wonder Woman is a fairly straight-forward telling of Diana’s backstory. It is very close plot-wise to the pilot of the Lynda Carter Woman Woman series from the 70s, but it is more successful in its adaptation of the source material.

Director Patty Jenkins (Monster, Exposed) directed the hell out of this movie, focusing on Diana’s character traits and flipping the traditional idea of the hero and the damsel. Screenwriter Allan Heinberg (TV’s The Catch) plays Diana as the hero and Steve Trevor as the damsel in distress, and Jenkins pushes it as far as she can.

Gal Gadot gives serviceable work here as Diana. She probably isn’t the best actress for the role, but she is showing signs of improvement with each installment of the DCEU. Chris Pine helps by giving fully to his performance and director Jenkins knows how to get the best from her leading lady. It also helps to have a well-balanced supporting cast of players like Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, TV’s House of Cards), Danny Huston, David Thewlis (Naked, TV’s Fargo), and Connie Nielsen. Surround yourself with greats and you will be great, and Gadot is extremely entertaining and charismatic to watch.

Now, the final act of the film falls apart quite a bit, but it is the character piece that Jenkins has presented that makes Wonder Woman such a treat to see, and being the first well-reviewed of DCEU’s slate, this bodes well for the future of the franchise and its star performer.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

What did you think of Wonder Woman? Has all the world been waiting for her? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

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.

 

 

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[Early Review] Life (2017)

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

103 mins. Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and horror.

 

Yeah, I’ve seen Life. I saw it last night, and I really want to talk about it, but don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it, and count yourself lucky for that.

Life has a similar premise to many before it. A group of astronauts aboard the International Space Station come across irrefutable proof of existence beyond Earth when they discover a microscopic being on a Mars probe. The crew mistakes the lifeform of being friendly when they soon discover it will do anything to survive and grow.

Let’s talk about all the good in this movie because the good outweighs the bad. First of all, hats off to the marketing department for not ruining all the exciting twists and turns of the film in the marketing and trailers. I still saw some of it coming a mile away, but it helped to not have it flat-out ruined for me.

Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Nocturnal Animals) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Criminal) absolutely steal the show in this ensemble piece but all the performances are above par here. I particularly found myself intrigued by Ariyon Bakare (TV’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Hugh, a paraplegic charged with studying the lifeform, coyly nicknamed Calvin.

Props to director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Child 44) for the pacing and getting as much as possible from the premise and the set. He allows the confined set to breathe and flourish. There’s some gorgeous camerawork similar to 2013’s Gravity, but it is impressive nonetheless.

And I would be disappointed in myself for not recognizing the excellent score from Jon Ekstrand. His music jumps between grandiose space epic and claustrophobic horror film, and it works really well.

Okay, so let’s talk negatives, because there are two. The biggest, and most disappointing, is the screenplay. I can’t even believe I’m saying this, because I love the writing of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), but the screenplay hopped between exciting and completely stupid. There are things that characters, and we’re talking NASA-trained astronauts, do in this film that are so shockingly stupid that it’s hard to ignore. Then, there are moments that are meant to come across as genuine and heartfelt that would be difficult for anyone to glean. For example, Gyllenhaal’s David Jordan reads from Goodnight Moon, and it doesn’t work at all. I can’t blame for Gyllenhaal for trying, because the scene just doesn’t work. And the ending. The ending is just plain wrong. A big copout poorly written that comes off as expected and uninteresting.

The other issue with the film is the release date. This film is coming out too close to Alien: Covenant in a world where we’ve already seen Prometheus and Gravity, and Life comes off as a carbon copy because of it. Simple mistakes like the way the title is displayed hearken back to Alien, and it makes Life look bad by comparison. It’s just bad timing.

Life has more wins than losses, but it just doesn’t excel where better films have. Still, 2017 hasn’t had the best start, so it’s one of the better films I’ve seen this year. This movie is worth checking out in theaters, preferably as soon as possible to avoid spoilers for the most shocking moments.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Life? What did you think? And what’s your favorite first contact moment from film? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

 

Yes, we survived 2016. We made it! And as painful as 2016 was, there was a lot of great films released.

There were also a lot of stinkers. Here, today, I’ve compiled my list for the Top Ten Worst Films released in 2016. Keep in mind:

  • This list could and should be longer. There was a lot of crap to wade through in 2016, and…
  • I didn’t see every bad movie in 2016. This is a list of the worst films I saw. I didn’t see Gods of Egypt, so you won’t see it here.

Alright, let’s not wait any longer. Here we go:

 

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  1. Race

Race is a movie that shouldn’t be on this list. But it is. Why? It’s boring, it’s cliché, it’s predictable, and worst of all, it shows signs that it could’ve been terrific. What do I mean? The scenes depicting the actual sport of track and field were great, and they pulled me in. Then, the rest of it pulled me right back out. The performances were disappointing because the script was all over the place, and it just didn’t work.

 

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  1. Zoolander No. 2

Zoolander isn’t a great movie as it is, but it was still leagues ahead of this bloated sluggish sequel which pits Derek Zoolander and Hansel against a strange and sinister conspiracy to kill the most beautiful people. There was one scene that made me chuckle involving Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the stuff with Kiefer Sutherland and Sting was great, but there are all these moving parts that just stunk, worst of all is a stupid side-plot involving Derek’s son played by Cyrus Arnold. Zoolander No. 2 is a sequel that proves that maybe we should just let things lie and stop requesting sequels to comedies that are past their prime.

 

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  1. Batman: The Killing Joke

How do you mess this one up? To this point? The Killing Joke is a great graphic novel, and the adaptation for it is not so much. First of all, I found the prologue featuring Batgirl to be filler. I agree that in adapting the novel to the screen, you can do extra scenes that pump up the story, but nothing in that first twenty minutes or so really mattered. It was awful. Once the film started, things improved, but not by much as it squandered its production of a poorly paced film that kind of just falls apart. I wanted more from this, and I thought we’d get it. Sadly, The Killing Joke is not what it should be.

 

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  1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Martin Freeman is great in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The rest of the movie is sloggish and unwaveringly disappointing. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, I didn’t care about their journeys. I didn’t really find investment anywhere, and that just ruined any chance of enjoying the film which runs on far too long without finding a purpose for its existence. Extremely disappointing.

 

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  1. The Huntsman: Winter’s War

I didn’t love Snow White and the Huntsman, but I saw potential in it. When I heard a pre/sequel of sorts was being crafted with Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption fame, I was overjoyed and curious. Then, he left the project, and the screenplay was “retouched” and some random director was found to fill the shoes, and the movie…sucked! It was so terrible. I tried several times to force myself into it, but there is nothing of value in this film. It adds nothing to the mythos and instead comes off as terribly assembled. Heck, it wastes Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. There is nothing of merit here.

 

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  1. Criminal

I should’ve known Criminal was going to be bad. It’s poster and trailers did nothing to excite me. Kevin Costner isn’t really trying anymore.  But there is such an interesting cast put to this film that I gave it a try anyway. That was a poor decision. Criminal is convoluted and contrived, but none of that matters as much as how absolutely boring it is. I couldn’t wait for the runtime to end so I could get up and run from my seat.

 

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  1. Marauders

Marauders, like Criminal, is just flat-out boring. Even Bruce Willis looks bored (granted, he usually does). Marauders plays itself for its twist, and the twist isn’t even good. Beyond Christopher Meloni, who I usually enjoy, the best performance comes from Dave Bautista (no rudeness to Bautista, but he seems the only performer committed to trying here). Marauders had a limited release and for a good reason. It is truly…awful.

 

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  1. The Boss

After Tammy, someone should tell Melissa McCarthy that we’re kind of done now. The Boss, directed by McCarthy’s husband, is boring, bland, stupid, and unlikable. McCarthy again plays the same character we’ve come to know and disdain, but somehow finds a way to make us truly hate her. The Boss is by and far the worst comedy of 2016.

 

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  1. Miracles from Heaven

Don’t tell me that I don’t like religious movies. I don’t like garbage movies. Miracles from Heaven is a garbage movie, pandering to the worst of film. Films can inspire and give hope, but not from excessively depressing plots and horrible writing. Miracles from Heaven is just lucky that it will fade into obscurity and end up the last feature on a 10-movie set you’ll find in the bargain bins of your local Wal-Mart.

 

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  1. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, delivers some dread in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, but it becomes very apparent within minutes, the film doesn’t have a story or a compelling character to walk us through it. There is nothing truly frightening about this film, and the worst part of it all…it is so unrelentingly boring. I shudder only at the thought of this film being suggested to me on Netflix for the rest of my life. That’s the real horror here.

 

So there you have it. The worst of the worst of 2016. Thank God that’s over with.

Is there something missing? Let me know. What did you think was the worst film of 2016?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

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Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, Gal Gadot

Screenplay: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer

151 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality.

 

So, after countless years of waiting for DC to officially make a move at creating a cinematic universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has arrived. Now comes the real question: Can DC create a universe from some of the most popular characters in comic book history? And what exactly is this film?

Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck, Argo, Gone Girl) has been obsessed with one thing over the past eighteen months: Superman (Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Cold Light of Day). After witnessing the damage done to the city of Metropolis due to Superman’s fight with General Zod, and seeing one of his own buildings filled with his employees come down in the battle, Bruce does not believe that Superman should be allowed to do as he pleases, and he’s not alone. Senator Finch (Holly Hunter, The Incredibles, Manglehorn) and billionaire playboy Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network, American Ultra) completely agree. Bruce’s caretaker Alfred (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King, Race) becomes increasingly more concerned about Wayne’s mental state as the obsession grows. Meanwhile, Clark Kent’s life is moving in the right direction: He is in love with Lois Lane (Amy Adams, American Hustle, Big Eyes), he has a great job at the Daily Planet, but there is a problem. He too has become worried about a masked vigilante frequently called The Bat, but Clark finds that the world seems to be more concerned with Superman’s doings than this Bat character. When Lex Luthor sees an opening, he begins planting the seeds to bring these two heroic titans to blows, and hopefully take them both down at once.

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Well, we have a lot to discuss, so let’s start at the beginning. The title of the film is very strange. The decision to excise the “vs” in favor of a “v” implies a court case, which confuses me as I don’t understand why you want a superhero movie to be a court case, but I’ve already started to digress.

This movie’s plot seems to want to go everywhere but doesn’t actually get anywhere. It seems like two screenplays jammed together: one is a Batman v Superman movie, the other a Dawn of Justice movie. The problem here is that the glue used to stick these movies together is weak and flimsy. The Batman stuff is great, particularly their dealing with the origin, which is fleshed over the opening credits like how The Incredible Hulk treated theirs. Since this is the second Batman of this decade and the third iteration of an origin, I’m glad they decided to go this route, citing that Batman Begins did it the best it could ever be done. And what a Batman they picked! Ben Affleck owned this role. I learned from my initial criticism of Heath Ledger’s casting for The Dark Knight when Ben Affleck was selected to don the cowl for the nest Batman. I pulled back and thought, let’s just wait and see. And I was right, folks! Affleck’s performance was real and yet unlike anything we’ve seen from the Caped Crusader.

How’s the Superman stuff? Eh, not all that great. Henry Cavill doesn’t have the acting chops to do much, and his character is wasted on a convoluted plotline anda misunderstanding of the Man of Steel. I read countless times that this isn’t so much of a Man of Steel sequel but rather a backdoor pilot for the Justice League, which isn’t true. This is in fact a direct sequel as it fits every plot point of the previous film into this one, even the finished plot threads, and the movie bloats because of it.

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Now onto the Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, Fast & Furious 6, Criminal) of it all. Wonder Woman is great. With only 16 lines of dialogue, Gal Gadot does her best to leave a presence here, and she does. It’s a great introduction to this character and truly excited me for the next installment featuring her.

Among the film’s principal faults lie Jesse Eisenberg, who plays a very new and very different incarnation of Lex Luthor. He did one incredible feat in this film. He made me hate Lex Luthor, but not in a way that works. Eisenberg skewers every scene is in by playing some goofy and unhinged extremes. For a character who was apparently written with such realism, none of that comes to play here. I was arguing with someone who claimed to understand (but not like) Eisenberg’s portrayal of the greatest criminal mastermind of our time. He told me that I didn’t like the performance because I wanted Gene Hackman back. I answered back that I didn’t like the performance because it was a poor performance. There were multiple moments in the film that feature Luthor in public essentially having a mental break. I was sitting in the theater and wanted to see someone just look at him and think that this guy is absolutely insane. The worst of it was all this press that came out later and announced that Bryan Cranston had been looked at, as had Tom Hanks (based on his incredible work on the underrated Cloud Atlas), and yet Eisenberg had been selected in order to reinvent the character. WHAT?!?

Let’s talk some on the Dawn of Justice portion of the film, which does get us into some spoilery territory, so be warned. Batman v Superman is seen as almost a Justice League origin story in a lot of ways. It sets up Batman, Wonder Woman, and even introduces us to several other members of the team. A major problem here is that the audience is spoon-fed the Justice League. The references and setups are literally beaten over the heads of viewers. There are better ways about this. The introduction of the Justice League was terrible sans The Flash, who got a quick moment of reveal that actually worked for me. As for Aquaman and Cyborg…yuck. Cyborg even wasted the origin story on a poor expository flitter of a moment with no style whatsoever. Absolutely stupid. Now, the film does have some subtlety here when they dance around some of the dark past of Bruce Wayne, but it doesn’t do this enough. You could even have thrown some of this into a post-credits scene to get it out of the main narrative.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is, to me, a more enjoyable experience than Man of Steel, but as far as a cohesive story, it is not. This is a collection of some really cool moments squeezed into a movie that’s bursting at the seams. Ben Affleck gets great redemption from his previous Daredevil failure (in a world where Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans are also getting second chances) and is easily the best part of this film (Scott Adkins blames the Oscars for why Ben Affleck was cast, but doesn’t understand that Scott Adkins was not cast because he was Scott Adkins). I’m excited to see where this franchise is going (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) but I’m nervous that the DCEU is not getting off to a great start and can’t really afford to fumble anymore. Overall, the film is divisive and has some great elements, but there is just too much that is found guilty in this court case.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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

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

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