They May Not Like It, But Literally Everyone Watched Game of Thrones

As expected, the much anticipated and much scrutinized final episode of Game of Thrones aired on Sunday night, and the reports have come out with its impressive viewership.

The episode’s viewership numbered 19.3 million across the various HBO platforms, including the television channel, HBO Go, and HBO NOW. The previous episode, The Bells, had held the record for a week with 18.4 million. The telecast also broke HBO records, with 13.6 million. The previous record-holder was The Sopranos with its Season 4 premiere at 13.4 million.

As divisive as the fanbase has been over this final season of the hit HBO fantasy series, everyone still turned out to see if showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were going to stick the landing.

This writer and fan believes they did.

I was truly engaged with the series and happened to find a lot to love in the final season. Really, my two biggest problems were the pacing (a necessary aspect due to the production budget and scheduling that I just had to accept) and the treatment of Bronn. While the latter is perfectly tied up, it worked well enough for me to give is a pass. I also have things I didn’t agree with in the finale, but I’m not the storyteller here and, even though none of my predictions came to fruition, I didn’t really care. I would rather be surprised with a plot point than have everything I want at the end. It was still a very satisfying ending to a very satisfyingly frustrating show.

Not everyone agrees with me, though, and critical reviews of the last half of Season 8 will drag the entire season into the lowest-rated season of the series.

So where were you when Game of Thrones ended? Did you view the telecast or catch it the next day? Did you watch it at all?  Let me know/Drop a comment below.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The New Batman is Here, and He is Sparkly

Okay, okay, okay…

So we finally have an announcement as to who is taking up the mantle for the next entry in the Batman series, currently titled The Batman. The film, to be written and directed by Matt Reeves, is scheduled to begin production later this year for a September 2021 release.

The new Batman is Robert Pattinson.

The internet took it pretty well actually. No wait, I didn’t say that right. Let me correct…The internet lost its collective shit because the internet hates everything, and as I said about Game of Thrones recently, no one hates Batman casting picks as much as Batman fans do.

Early reports claimed that Reeves was searching for a younger Batman, and upon reading everything I’ve read about the film, I still believe it will be tangentially related to the larger DCEU, set some time before Batman looked like Ben Affleck. There will likely not be any reference to the larger DCEU, but that would be a smarter thing than forcing it in or confusing the general movie-going audience by adding another separate Batman franchise next to the standalone Joker movie and the DCEU proper. It’s just messy.

As far as Battinson (see what I did there?) goes, I’m rather excited. No, he wasn’t a very good sparkly vampire, but his work in the Twilight franchise was a decade ago, and he was working from a not-great screenplay and source material. Compare the Twilight books to the larger Batman comic books. If you agree that Batman’s source material is better, then you have to assume that a better screenplay and director at the helm can only help.

If you’ve seen Battinson in films like The Rover or Good Time, then you’ve seen a range that will separate him from his Twilight days quite effectively. Hell, he wasn’t half-bad in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

To put it simply, and to paraphrase Spongebob Squarepants’s thoughts on Krabby Patties, the only people who don’t like Battinson have never tried him.

I think I’ve made my point.

 

UPDATE: Just as this was set to be published, as with all news stories from DC, it appears there is more to this than previously thought. It would seem that Nicholas Hoult, known for his work as Beast in the X-Men films and also playing J.R.R. Tolkien in the new biopic, is also in the mix for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Now, I don’t have any funny nicknames for Hoult as with Battinson, so that’s one strike.

On the other hand, though, Hoult has proven himself time after time to be an excellent actor with a wide range similar to that of a Michael Keaton. Keaton was a controversial choice back in the 80s to play the Caped Crusader, but with turns from Beetlejuice to things like Mr. Mom, he proved he had the right mixture of professional acting and insanity, something I would argue Hoult also has. Don’t believe me? Check Mad Max: Fury Road to see that level of Let’s-Get-Nuts that a Keaton would have. There are indeed similarities.

So what it boils down to is that both of these choices would be inspired, and in Matt Reeves I trust, so whatever he decides, I’m down for the ride.

So what do you think? Who should play Bruce Wayne/Batman? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[EDITORIAL] Game of Thrones Fans Now Hate Game of Thrones

SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON 8, EPISODE 5: THE BELLS

I’ve been enjoying Game of Thrones for a large portion of its 8th and final season. I’ve had a few issues overall, most notably for me is seemingly the misuse of Bronn. He’s had two scenes in the last run of episodes and I didn’t really believe that Cersei would trust him with the mission of killing her brothers. Hopefully there will be something redeemable in the last episode with him.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. Today, I’d like to address the complete turning of GoT’s fanbase in the course of five episodes. We are going to go through this a piece at a time, so bear with me while we discuss.

*Something I wanted to add before we get all spoilery with GoT talk is that I am completely fine with fans and viewers being frustrated that the show didn’t go in the direction they expected/wanted, but my argument has to do with those who flat-out condemned the series in Season 8 without having the full vision of the season. That being said…

 

Episode 801: Winterfell & Episode 802: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Really, the fan frustration for these two episodes is rather silly and stupid, but it needs addressing. Fans complained nonstop about the lack of episodes in Season 8 before the premiere even aired, and they were especially mad that the first two episodes of Season 8 were the normal run time while the last four episodes would be Super-Sized episodes. Then, upon the airing of each of these dialogue and character-driven episodes, fans voiced anger at the fact that no major action or battles took place. I guess this was something I kind of expected, but I was shocked to find so many people lashing out at lack of action in a show that is mostly talking and politics.

 

Episode 803: The Long Night

When the third episode of Season 8, The Long Night, was about to air, I voiced my excitement. This was, after all, what the fans had been longing for all season, and it was a potential culmination (in a post Avengers: Endgame world, what does culmination even mean anymore?) of 8 seasons of the Night King’s slow-spreading disease of an invasion. Here it was for all of us in all its glory. But then everyone hated it.

The hate erupted from a variety of different issues, but the main one was the lighting of the episode. Most of The Long Night was, well, dark. Too dark for some. I was watching on a Standard Definition broadcast, and I can tell you that I didn’t really have a problem with the lighting. I found the episode to be dark, but also, I found it to be one of the most stressful television experiences I have ever had. 80-some minutes of non-stop carnage with many of my favorite characters right in harm’s way for a bulk of the time. It was difficult to watch, but at no point did I miss any of the main character deaths. There were times when I turned to the others in my room and ask who that was that died, but I think that added to the experience. Yes, we had to turn out all the lights in the room and draw the shades, that much is true, but I felt like was part of the experience.

There were other problems, too, many of which I just didn’t have a problem with and some I was able to find a good explanation for even if I would have done it differently. Viewers were angry that Ghost didn’t get much attention in the episode, and he seemingly disappeared early on in the battle, leaving his fate unknown until the following week. I understand that CGI is expensive on network TV and if less Ghost means more dragons, then I’m all for it (although I would have just killed Ghost off seasons ago if I knew that to be an issue).

Some had a problem with Arya Stark killing the Night King. I didn’t understand the problem and was surprised that she did it. I had expected it to be Jon Snow and was quite happy to be wrong. There were some who called out how crazy it is that she was able to get to the Night King at all with his many followers in tow, but I recall Arya sneaking her way into the godswood previously in the storyline, and it’s a setup that works just fine for me. There was also the question of how easily the army of the dead was dispatched, but knowing that the Night King is the only one in need of dispatching in order to stop the whole army, I expected a somewhat out-of-nowhere ending to the saga of the dead (and again, I would have never let the Night King anywhere near Winterfell if he’s the only one you need to kill).

Episode 804: The Last of the Starks

Okay, so I had a few problems with The Last of the Starks, but I should stress that none of them took my enjoyment from me.

As it came down to it, I really wanted Jon and Dany to get together officially. Yeah, they are related, but that didn’t seem to be too much of a problem in GoT, right? This episode actually served to fracture that relationship further, and it did so quite well, putting the problem that faces Jon before him and having him struggle with it because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the North. A brilliant way of complicating matters, one I hadn’t really thought of.

There was the issue of the death of Rhaegal, the second of Dany’s dragons. People didn’t like that no one could see the fleet of Greyjoy vessels hiding out and waiting, but I would invite you to watch the scene again. There’s enough suspension of disbelief here.

Then again, I agree that many of our leads have been making somewhat foolish decisions this last season. They are underestimating Cersei as a villain, a very bad idea, or so I thought. My issue is from the idea that Cersei proves to be a faulty strategist this season. She sent Bronn to kill Jaime and Tyrion, two men who have been friends with the sellsword, knowing his allegiance was to whoever offered more. This led to the most underwhelming sequence in the season, or perhaps series.

There’s the issue of the death of Missandei, and again, I only really take issue with the question of how everyone learned she had been taken by Euron’s fleet. If Grey Worm doesn’t know what happened, who would? Many critics of the episode pointed out that Missandei’s whole role here is to support other character arcs. I would argue that Missandei had a pretty nice little arc across her time in the series, and I feel like that arc was pretty close to completion. There’s also the saying that Characters Serve Story, and Missandei was meant to fuel us toward Dany’s eventual choice that we would come to see in the following episode.

 

Episode 805: The Bells

Okay, so here we are. The most recent episode seems to be the most hotly-debated and criticized. I will count myself as someone, going into the episode, have just rewatched the previous two, who believed that Dany would make the right call. I knew the decision would be upon her, and I felt like she would make the right call for decency. This is a choice, after all, that she has been given before. But after the “twist,” as some have called it, in which Dany decides to burn King’s Landing to ash and all those within its walls, I began to rethink myself, and though I wish this decision was given more time to fester and play out, I got it. I saw the many times in Dany’s arc on the show where she was given the option for mercy and decided against it. Add to that her most trusted allies leaving her one by one. Jon rejects her, unable to cope with that whole Targaryen incest thing. Jorah and Missandei are killed, as are two of her dragons. Tyrion fails her. Varys plots behind her back. Dany sees herself as alone. Just her and Drogon against the world.

But if you look back, you will see that this Mad Queen scenario is earned several times. When Dany loses her brother Viserys, she does not mourn him. Yes, he is a monster, but he is also her brother, a man she always thought to be her eventual husband (due to that nasty inbreeding thing). She often threatens to burn opposing cities to the ground in pursuit of the iron throne, and she regularly uses her dragons in a showcase of power.

The only issue with this whole season has been the pacing (and also Bronn, I mean, c’mon!), the way events feel so rushed, but we are down to the endgame here and small character building moments earlier have paved the way for the rushing now, and many of these moments were earned.

 

Look, I’m not trying to tell you that your opinion isn’t valid. If you haven’t enjoyed this season of Game of Thrones, I understand, but don’t go attacking the writers or the producers or HBO for it. Take second to really think about where the series is headed, and do some looking back for these setups.

I personally believe that, upon the series completion, with a complete rewatch knowing the beginning, middle, and end will do wonders for anyone doubting the show. At the very least, see how it all plays out before you jump to any conclusions about the quality of the season.

And if you are being a toxic fan, fucking stop it.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Ben Mendelsohn to Lead The Outsider for HBO

HBO has officially ordered a series adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Outsider. Ben Mendelsohn (Ready Player One) has been tapped to the lead the series for the network.

The novel features an investigation around the murder of a local boy which turns into something far more shocking and supernatural.

The show’s first two episodes will be directed by actor/director Jason Bateman, who will also executive produce the series with Mendelsohn.

As a regular self-proclaimed fan of King, this is an exciting project coming together for HBO. The network is likely looking down several avenues to replace Game of Thrones when it wraps in 2019, one of them being a Game of Thrones prequel series. There’s also a Watchmen adaptation in the works. It’s a pretty exciting upcoming slate for HBO.

The news of Mendelsohn joining is also really exciting to me. Mendelsohn is a terrific actor in a number of different capacities, but most recently he’s been featured heavily in villainous roles, so seeing him as a lead will be a welcome sight.

To my knowledge, there is no release date for the series yet, but I’m very excited with all the news I’ve gotten so far.

What do you think? Are you excited for a Ben Mendelsohn-led Stephen King series? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Screenplay: Rian Johnson

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

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

 

I guess it’s true. No one hates Star Wars more than Star Wars fans. This movie was divided as hell, but does The Last Jedi deserve the hate or is it missing the praise?

Picking up moments after the events of The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express, Only Yesterday) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, Brigsby Bear, Bunyan and Babe) on Ahch-To to discover that he has abandoned the Jedi code to live out his days in quiet solitude. Meanwhile, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, Maps to the Stars, TV’s Family Guy) leads the resistance forces away from D’Qar as a First Order fleet arrives to take them. Now, they are on the run from First Order forces. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina, Suburbicon) makes a costly mistake in the defense of the convoy and falls into a path of mistrust when Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern, Wild, TV’s Big Little Lies) assumes command of the Resistance forces. Now, as the First Order closes in, Finn and Poe attempt to save the convoy, Rey finds herself drawn ever closer to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Paterson, TV’s Girls) and the truth about her past.

Okay, so I’m not a Star Wars apologist. I find the prequels to be extremely middling in quality, and even though I love all the Star Wars films, I’m not above finding glaring issues that stick out. That being said…

I loved The Last Jedi. It completely changed the game and added so much to the mythology by driving the film forward rather than looking to the past. This is an incredible addition to the Star Wars Saga. Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom) came to the table and took what J.J. Abrams created with The Force Awakens and pushed it further. It’s definitely not like its predecessor in that it isn’t how I expected it. In fact, that’s what I love most about the film. I walked into it with all these preconceived ideas about how the movie has to go, and I would say just about all of them were wrong. I love The Last Jedi because I was shocked and surprised when I watched it, and that hasn’t happened since The Empire Strikes Back.

The film’s performances and cast are top-notch yet again, particularly leads Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, this being her final Star Wars outing. Hamill could easily have been nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars with his most subtle and tortured performance in his entire career. Skywalker is broken by his failure to save Ben Solo.

There’s also some really great work from Ridley and Driver, especially in their shared scenes. We see some darkness in Rey and some potential good in Kylo. It’s clear that these two have not fallen into their roles as enemies yet. There are some nice flaws showcased on both sides here.

I also have to say some about Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes, The Adventures of Tintin) as Supreme Leader Snoke. He doesn’t get as much to do in this new installment, much like The Force Awakens, but the way he is utilized in this film is far superior to Episode VII. Unfortunately, Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Queen of Katwe) and Gwendoline Christie (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, TV’s Game of Thrones) feel shoehorned in as Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma, respectively.

But the film was always going to be divisive. I just wasn’t prepared for how divisive it would be. Even Mark Hamill expressed concerns to Johnson about the direction of the film, but after seeing the finished product, it sounds like he has since been won over.

And there are things I take issue with in the film, but they are merely nitpicky things like a particular Leia scene that comes across a little silly. There’s a moment early on with Luke that could have emotional impact but instead falls to cheap comedy. These are mere nitpicks and, in the scope of the film, this being the darkest film in the saga, I can understand the reliance on some levity.

The Last Jedi honors what has come before while also paving the way to what’s yet to come. It’s a unique Star Wars film, and it’s the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back. Rian Johnson’s attention to detail and the film’s connective tissue with the rest of the sage, including Rogue One, is just another reason that this film works as well as it does. With this film, Anthony Daniels (The Lego Movie, The Lord of the Rings) becomes the only actor to appear in all the Star Wars live-action releases. I unabashedly loved the theater experience of seeing The Last Jedi, so much so that I saw it an additional two times. See this movie. Three Times.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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

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

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

For my review of George Lucas’s 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.

For my review of Richard Marquand’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, click here.

For my review of J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, click here.

 

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[#2018oscardeathrace] Darkest Hour (2017)

Director: Joe Wright

Cast: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

Screenplay: Anthony McCarten

125 mins. Rated PG-13 for some thematic material.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Picture [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actor [Gary Oldman] [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Production Design [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Makeup and Hairstyling [Pending]
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Costume Design [Pending]

 

I had been under the belief that Darkest Hour would not score a Best Picture nomination. While it seemed to be trending for it late last year, that steam was lost by 2018’s start. I don’t think there were any doubts of its nominations for Best Actor in Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard) and Makeup/Hairstyling, but the question looms: is Darkest Hour worthy of Best Picture?

Darkest Hour recounts a small but important slice in the life of Winston Churchill (Oldman), specifically his appointment to Prime Minister to his fateful speech at Parliament. His strained working relationships with secretary Elizabeth (Lily James, Cinderella, Baby Driver) and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, TV’s Bloodlines) are particularly highlighted, as is the disdain felt by his predecessor Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time) and Edward Wood, Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane, The Hours, TV’s Game of Thrones).

Darkest Hour is a damn fine character piece. The work given by Gary Oldman here is exemplary, and I dare say it like we always do, it may be his best work to date. That’s truly saying something about the prolific actor who seems to get better and better with each outing. He deserves the Oscar. I’m calling it.

That isn’t to take away from the amazing work from the entire cast. Lily James shines in her scenes, Dillane and Mendelsohn are fully fleshed out adversaries, and Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Only God Forgives) is terrific as Clementine Churchill. It only breaks my heart that we didn’t get to see the late great John Hurt as Neville Chamberlain. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about Pickup’s performance, but I feel like Hurt was perfect for the role and the film’s dedication to him proves how missed he is as a screen presence.

Director Joe Wright’s film is an ambling presentation of the stellar work of its cast. The faults come with the pacing of the film. The movie loses its focus as it inches closer to its finale, and I feel like the film was nominated purely because of Oldman stellar achievement. The pacing doesn’t kill the film, but I think it does lose its Best Picture quality with it.

Overall, I won’t fault this tremendous achievement. Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is a great movie, and it works even better if you double-feature it with Dunkirk or, hell, put The Imitation Game in there too for a WWII marathon. While the film gets a little too meandering at times, this is high-quality film-making from Wright. This timely film is definitely worth your’s.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Director: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Screenplay: Martin McDonagh

115 mins. Rated R for violence, language throughout, and some sexual references.

 

Writer/Director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) definitely has a flavor to his work. His is a violent, darkly comedic world, one this writer wouldn’t want to live in. But I’ll definitely watch others live in it.

McDonagh’s newest film, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, introduces us to Mildred (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Hail, Caesar!), a grieving mother who decides to question local law enforcement’s handling of her daughter’s murder case when she rents and erects three billboards in a quiet part of town, asking if the cops have done enough in their search for the killer. This brings her to a head with Sheriff Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, Lost in London, TV’s True Detective) and hotheaded officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell, Moon, Poltergeist). As the public takes sides in the matter, arguments and violence ramp up and Mildred and Dixon are forced to confront their anger and their past in order to move forward.

Martin McDonagh is a very accomplished character storyteller. His characters live by the principle that a character doesn’t have to be likable as long as she is interesting. Mildred isn’t very likable. Willoughby isn’t very likable. Dixon definitely isn’t likable. Dammit, though, they are interesting, as are the supporting players, particularly Peter Dinklage (Rememory, TV’s Game of Thrones) as a man who takes a liking to Mildred but can’t quite match her level of motivation.

McDonagh uses his characters and his hyper-violence to tell a deeply personal story, more so than either of his previous features. Mildred has deep personal pain and her motives are admirable, There’s a lot that makes sense in the confines of the story, with the exception of one thing.

If there is an issue with the film, it’s the ending. McDonagh chooses an ambiguous ending to his story, one that leaves character plot threads unresolved. In some cases, this can work, but after spending two hours with these people, the question he is asking is a no-brainer. The film ends with two possible paths, but one path would completely betray the character arc, so it doesn’t make sense to leave it open.

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is another fascinating character piece from writer/director Martin MacDonagh. This film should be praised for its performances, particularly McDormand and Rockwell, but it is the brilliantly written screenplay that gives them so much to work with. This is a story for anyone who has ever done something crazy out of grief, and its deeply moving and yet somehow completely unhinged, and I highly recommend it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

Have you seen Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri? What did you think? What’s your favorite performance from Frances McDormand? Let me know/drop a comment below!

 

 

For my review of Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, click here.

 

 

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Ed Skrein Joins Hellboy Reboot

Hey everyone,

Just a little news to report today as Ed Skrein from Deadpool (and also the first iteration of Dario from Game of Thrones) has joined the cast of the Hellboy reboot. The film, directed by Neil Marshall, has already assembled a pretty stellar cast in Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich, and David K. Harbour. Skrein will play Major Ben Daimio, a fan favorite character introduced thirteen years ago when the first Hellboy film was coming together. Daimio has never been put to film.

I didn’t read a lot of the B.P.R.D. and Hellboy comics but it appears that Daimio is a soldier who was killed but brought back to life as a were-jaguar. In any other character breakdown, that might be strange, but it seems par for the course here. It sounds like Daimio is an Asian-American, though, so I worry about cries of whitewashing hurting this casting.

I personally believe an actor should play a role because he can perform it, but I also think this possible controversy is going to hurt the film. I love Skrein in Deadpool even though I felt he was miscast in Game of Thrones and was happy he left the project.

All in all, I’m starting to get excited for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen, even though I’m very sad to see Guillermo del Toro’s vision for a Hellboy III completely disappear because of it. I get it, it was probably never going to happen, but it still breaks my heart. However, the reboot is chugging along rather nicely, and as more of the pieces fall into place, I’m finding myself more and more interesting in how this whole thing will come together, and Skrein is a definite win for the film.

What do you think? Are you excited for Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen? Do you like the addition of Ed Skrein to the cast? If not, who would you put in the role of Ben Daimio? Let me know/drop a comment below!

Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen is aiming for a 2018 release date.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

kuboandthetwostrings2016b

Director: Travis Knight

Cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Screenplay: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler

Runtime: NA. Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images, action and peril.

 

Well, I just got out of an advance screening for the upcoming Laika film Kubo and the Two Strings. Now Kubo has been hotly anticipated as a unique and original film for the stop-motion crew at Laika and the trailers have only furthered the excitement. So how does it stack up and should you see it on August 19th?

kuboandthetwostrings2016c

Kubo (Art Parkinson, TV’s Game of Thrones, Dracula Untold) is a young boy who lives on an island with his mother. Their lives are secluded and peaceful, until the vengeful Moon King (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Hail Caesar!), who stole Kubo’s eye as a baby, finds him once again. Kubo’s mother sends him away to find three pieces of mystical armor to defeat the Moon King and his daughters, The Sisters (both played by Rooney Mara, The Social Network, Pan). Along Kubo’s journey, he comes across companions like Monkey (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and Beetle (Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar, Free State of Jones) who aid him in the perilous and difficult path that lies before him. But can he defeat the Moon King, the evil force who killed his father?

Kubo and the Two Strings is the fourth film from Laika, and it may just be the best work yet. This is a gorgeously animated and stunningly told story steeped in classic Japanese folklore. Each of the environments actually breathe on their own, and function as a beautifully laid out tapestry of incredible visuals.

Kubo’s story directly takes from the Hero’s Journey, and he is given an interesting and action-packed set of tests to stop him from gaining the armor in time. Thankfully, it is the chemistry between Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle that make this movie a must-see. There is heart and soul, enough to compete with the lovely imagery.

The voice work is solid from Parkinson, and he is aided nicely by Theron and McConaughey. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot to turn one away from the film.

Now, Kubo can be seen as an animated film more so than a family or kid’s movie. There are some frightening images and sequences, but I’m not trying to tell you that younger children should avoid it.

My faults with the film? Really only one. There are a few story beats near the end of the film that I didn’t see the point in. But that didn’t take the enjoyment out of the experience.

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You need to see Kubo and the Two Strings. It is breathtaking in its sights, but also wonderful in its sounds. Make sure to stay through the entire end credits. These animators put in hard work, and you get a chance to see how much. There’s also an amazing rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Regina Spektor. When Kubo hits your theater, take the whole family on an adventure that is original and spectacular, aided by a striking attack on the senses. Seriously, you should be standing in line for it right now.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till

Screenplay: Simon Kinberg

144 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse is proof that the internet will freak out about anything. When footage first debuted of Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) in costume as the villain En Sabah Nur, or Apocalypse, everyone started losing their minds over the look of the mutant, comparing him to Ivan Ooze of The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie fame. In the finished product, he looks and feels fine. The internet went crazy over nothing. They should have been worried about other problems that the film would actually have…

It’s been ten years since X-Men: Days of Future Past, and now, in 1983, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Wanted, Victor Frankenstein) has been running his school for gifted youngsters smoothly for years. With the assistance of Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road, Kill Your Friends), Charles has taken in countless young mutants like the brilliantly gifted Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, TV’s Game of Thrones, Barely Lethal). But when an ancient evil, En Sabah Nur (Isaac), rises in Egypt and threatens to cleanse the Earth and rebuild a better one, the young students of the school must band together to protect themselves and the world from total annihilation.

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Let’s start with what really works in Apocalypse. Once again, McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Prometheus) play perfect foils to each other as Xavier and Erik Lensherr, respectively. It is Fassbender that truly shines as the sins of his past come back to haunt him and he is forced to confront his anger over the loss of his parents once and for all. I also really liked Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. I think when seen in context, he does what he can with what he has to mold his performance. That isn’t to say that the villain is great, but that Isaac capably plays to what he can. I also liked the reemergence of Jean Grey, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan, Mud, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).

I, of course, have to call out the incredible one-upmanship from the previous film in the form of another terrific Quiksilver sequence featuring Evan Peters. This time around, the soundtrack updates and the effects come flying into the 1980s for an absolutely fascinating and fun action scene that steals the whole movie.

Since the shared universe hit a reboot with Days of Future Past, it’ll be interesting to see how certain events play out. Apocalypse hit on a few squandered moments from earlier in the franchise in a fairly stylish way, paying homage to the original comic books. It doesn’t always succeed in its attempt to right the wrongs, as the film creates a convoluted mess of some of the renewed elements. For example, it makes no mention of the ending to DOFP where we discover that Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games, Joy) is mimicking Stryker. Then, we get a new version of several characters who are strikingly different ages than they were in the previous timeline. Granted, this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it only seeks to the concerning question of whether this franchise has learned from its mistakes.

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Then there’s the big conundrum of setting this film in the 1980s. In doing so, I didn’t feel a lot of tension for the Earth-shattering destruction as I was fully aware that we saw present day at the end of DOFP and in this year’s Deadpool, both of which exist in the new timeline. Again, small complaints perhaps, but bothersome nonetheless.

But what I really didn’t like about the film was that in creating a new unique villain, director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Jack the Giant Slayer) didn’t really give us one worth fearing. I mentioned earlier that I liked Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur, but he is given virtually no character building other than dialogue in the film. Singer removed the space entity treatment of the character to focus on the religious connotations, but he ended up creating a flat villain to place the burden of the film on. I would have liked to have known what Apocalypse was capable of. He mostly just threw stuff around the screen and created lovely debris tornados. His horseman are further treated with no imagination. Magneto and perhaps Storm are the only one pitched with any realy interest. Angel and Psylocke (Olivia Munn, Magic Mike, Zoolander 2) were virtually wasted, Munn being perfectly miscast and her character extremely mishandled. If Psylocke was meant to usher in an X-Force film down the line, I’m more than a little concerned.

I won’t even really go into detail on the dismal work of Jennifer Lawrence because I feel like so many others have already mentioned her lack of trying. It appears like Lawrence is having blockbuster fatigue after finishing The Hunger Games last year. She spends no time in her costume, presumably from something in her contract, which ultimately leaves Mystique in a rather uninteresting situation.

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There’s a throwaway reference in the film when the young mutants are exiting a showing of Return of the Jedi. They remark how the second film is often the best and the third is often the worst. It is seen as a reference to the disappointing reviews from critics and viewers of X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006, a film Singer left to pursue Superman Returns. It seems like a bad idea to put a joke like that in a film that is essentially the final piece of a trilogy started with First Class and DOFP, especially when considering that next year the Wolverine trilogy is also coming to an end. Apocalypse clearly proves the joke to be true here, and fans can only hope that the minds behind this uneven franchise can learn and right the ship in time for Hugh Jackman’s last outing in the series in next year’s Wolverine 3.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

So have you seen X-Men: Apocalypse? What did you think? And we have seen four of the six big superhero releases of the year (the other three being Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain America: Civil War). Which one is your favorite? Let me know!

 

 

For my review of Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United, click here.

For my review of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand, click here.

For my review of James Mangold’s The Wolverine, click here.

For my review of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, click here.

For my review of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, click here.

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