Wonder Woman

one cigar   After all the hype, I finally sat down to watch this film. My expectations were not high but I was not expecting it to be this bad. Batman vs. Superman has to be one of the worst films ever, but this takes a close second.

The story is weak, the characters are comical (pun intended), and the special effects are ludicrous. The film spends too much time at the beginning setting up just who WW is and then descends into a thin story line.

This was two hours and twenty one minutes I could have spent playing golf or reading a good book. Reluctantly, I am giving this one cigar.

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Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman_v_superman_poster

 

Better title – Old Man vs.Bad Actor: Yawn of Wake Me When It’s Over

 

There is so much wrong with this film, I am not sure where to start. I guess at the beginning.

Bruce Wayne speeding through Metropolis to reach the Wayne building is one of the worst “car chases” I have ever seen. The phony visual effects are laughable. This is the first look at Ben Affleck and is his hair naturally streaked with gray or was that just to make him look old?

Henry Cavill as Superman looks the part, but his acting was single note. He can scowl fairly well though. I really like Amy Adams as an actress but in this film she needed more of the hard case character she played in “American Hustle”, to pull off being the tough Lois Lane.

The most insulting part of this film for any true Superman fan, is having Lex Luther played by an actor that looked and acted as if he was about 12. No offense to Jesse Eisenberg, but he was the wrong person for the part.

The technical errors are too many to list but I will hit the biggest one. If you haven’t seen the film this is a spoiler.

The premise of the film is that Bruce Wayne decides the world would be better off without Superman. So, as Batman, he plans to fight and kill Superman. As ridiculous as this sounds, Wayne does get his hands on kryptonite to level the playing field. He makes a spear out of it which will surely kill Superman.  Before he can use it Lex Luther creates a “monster” that Batman and Superman must fight together. Without going into the whole story, Lois throws the spear in a pool of deep water. Superman needs to use it to kill the monster and dives in for it. Now here is where things fall apart. When he gets close to it, he is so weak he comes floating to the surface nearly unconscious. But then he recovers and picking it up, flies at the monster so he can ram it into the heart of this creature.

Now follow the lack of logic here. Superman when close to the spear can barely move, yet he picks it up and flies. Sorry, but that was beyond my ability to suspend belief.

This is a film that should have never been made. Bad acting, disjointed story line, laughable special effects, all causing me to not even give this a cigar, maybe just the match to light it on fire!

lit_match_by_blackhive

The Hateful Eight

five cigars

 

What can you say about a Quentin Tarantino movie, except that it is a Quentin Tarantino movie? In this, his thirteenth film, he reminds us not only of how movies should be made, but how much fun watching a film should be.

Beginning with the filming. Tarantino filmed this in 65mm and projects in 70mm. This, as the bonus material on the DVD explains, makes for a spectacular visual experience. I am old enough to have seen movies like Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, and Sound of Music when they first came out, these were filmed with the same technique and I remember how spectacular they were visually.  Sadly, I watched Hateful Eight on DVD and although it is still grand, not as much so as if I had seen it in the theater.

The best parts of this film are the dialogue and the range of topics.  Tarantino hits all the buttons of racism, bigotry, ignorance, loyalty, women’s rights, and betrayal. The characters are never who they say they are and like a good Agatha Christie story, the viewer is never sure of exactly what is happening.

Samuel Jackson, Tim Roth, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern deliver performances worthy of the talent we expect. Michael Madsen acts as though he just came over from filming Kill Bill, which is not a bad thing.  Walter Goggins is excellent. The last time I had seen him was as Shane in The Shield.  Jennifer Jason Leigh is outstanding as the main female in the film.

At two hours and 48 minutes this is a long film, but it does not get boring. Once it starts it doesn’t let you go. As the film comes to a close, there are questions left unanswered and one is left to imagine the next few scenes.

This film combines all the elements that make Westerns like The Magnificent Seven, Bad Day At Black Rock, Rio Bravo, and The Wild Bunch great.

Yes, this has Tarantino’s trademark of excessive blood and guts, and his overuse of the F word, and some may be offended by the multiple times the N word appears. This movie has so much more to offer once you set these aside.

This one gets five cigars and is worth watching a few more times.

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

four cigars

Four Cigars

 

When this movie started, I felt like it was going to be a cheesy version of the Star Wars franchise.  It builds slowly, the acting is mediocre, and there is a comic book feel. Then Han Solo and Chewbacca appear and in the words of Harrison Ford, I felt like I was home again.

From this point on the movie picked up its pace and I began to feel the tension I remember from the Star Wars film of 1977. By the end, this film had redeemed itself in my eyes, and the last scene with Mark Hamill was perfect.

While this is one of the best episodes since the first film, it did have its weak points. The character of Kylo Ren felt like a cheap version of Darth Vader. His helmet was not menacing, I wasn’t sure if he was going to reach for a light sabre or a welding torch.

The scene where Rey is fighting Kylo and tunes into The Force, had a Disney feel to it. As a matter of fact, in one of the scenes where the Resistance fighters are getting ready, one of the characters that goes by looked just like Happy, one of the seven dwarfs.

Another funny flaw was when Rey lands for the first time at the base, two pilots go running by as if heading for a fighter. But as the camera pulls back they run past the last plane and it looks like they are just going to run off into the sunset.

In spite of all that, this film was able to take me back in time and make me feel like it was 1977 once again.

This one gets four cigars!

Ex Machina

Ex Machina

 

What no Transformers or light sabres? 

 

It has been a long time since I have seen a Sci-Fi film that was as cerebral as Ex Machina2001 A Space Odyssey being the last one, without monsters, space chases, and exploding planets. Okay, so maybe Interstellar qualifies.

The irony of the quality of this film, is that the trailer makes you think it is going to be about a robot run amok. My guess is the marketing department used the scenes hinting to that theme just to get some people in the door.

The acting is superb, the story line holds up, and the direction is well done. The ending is exactly what it needed to be and any other finish would have ruined the film.

Alicia Vikander, who plays Ava, is incredible. While we mainly see her face, she communicates so much with just facial expressions that it is mesmerizing.  Domhnell Gleeson plays Caleb with the perfect amount of naivete as the one who is asked to determine if Ava is actually artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac plays the eccentric Nathan who hires Caleb to test Ava. While his acting is good, he doesn’t fit the image of what I think of when I hear “eccentric”.

This film grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go even in the end. As the credits rolled, my first thought was, “Wow, this needs a sequel”.

This one gets five cigars and a lighter   five cigars

Still Alice

five cigars

Five cigars

 

This was not meant to be a scary movie, but the thought of having Alzheimer’s and losing oneself is definitely frightening. Julianne Moore was incredible, a fact proven by her Oscar win for this film.

To see the progression of memory loss was hard to watch, but at the same time was a wake up call to enjoy every moment of life.  This is a film that makes you reflect and think, a rare thing in films these days.

My only negative comment on this movie is the selection of Alec Baldwin as the husband.  He cannot act and it was a distraction to an otherwise great film whenever he appeared. His one crying scene was laughable.

Sadly, this is a true story and it is hard to imagine this happening to anyone, yet it did, and does.

This one gets five cigars!

 

Wild

four cigars

Four cigars

 

They say the third time is the charm!  This review is based on my third viewing of the movie.  It is the first viewing with sound.  The two prior were on my round trip to Australia where on both routes the person in front of me was watching Wild on their small screen, I could see but not hear.  Choosing to wait to see the movie once home turned out to be fortuitous as at the time I did not realize it had been edited for viewing on the plane.  There were a couple of important scenes that had been dropped.

Having that said, this was a surprisingly good film.  The premise did not have me excited and actually sounded boring, a woman walking the Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. (Yes, I would have thought it boring had it been a man.)  But with the insertion of flashbacks, the story does not drag and has some poignant moments.

Any film that has a known actor who can make you forget you are watching that actor is a good film,  Reese Witherspoon does exactly that, I forgot I was watching her act.  Her performance was outstanding, deserving of her Oscar nomination.

This one gets four cigars!