Spiderman: Homecoming

Spiderman

This is another superhero movie I was not looking forward to seeing. I saw all the Toby McGuire ones and then both Andrew Garfield ones (which I liked) so having to get into a new Spiderman again was not something I was pumped up to do.

What a surprise when the movie was an absolute delight. I was giggling most of the way through. Jacob Batalon steals the show as Peter’s best friend Ned, and the entire movie read so well with Peter as a high school kid and not a grown man pining over a girl. I also liked the “admiring from afar” kind of romance story instead of the typical OMG PETER PARKER AND MARY JANE. And I was on the Academic Decathlon team in high school! I remember practicing and being an alternate and then on the team – what a neat inclusion for the plot.

There wasn’t much I didn’t like about this movie, and with the addition of Michael Keaton as Vulture the cast was just about perfect. The origin of Vulture’s motivation and methods is super clear and I love his sense of fairness and duty. This was a villain that you can feel sympathy for, a la Mr. Freeze. The story was also pretty airtight, I didn’t have a lot of complaints about plot holes, and the ending(s) feel real, appropriate, and not convenient (you guys know how I hate things that just “come together”).

The next Spiderman comes out after the Infinity War movies, so it’s going to be a while, but I look forward to seeing the next villain and the development of his relationship with MJ (Zendaya was very enjoyable in this role). Since it’s part of this long-term Marvel Universe, you should go check out this new Spiderman. I don’t think we’ll be changing again any time soon.

 

 

Baby Driver

baby Driver

The trailers for this movie looked a little sparse on story, but other that than terrible cat movie that he did, I go where Kevin Spacey goes, so we went yesterday. The basics of this story are:

  1. Kid’s parents die in car accident: kid has tinnitus so listens to music all the time, has also become an excellent stunt driver.
  2. Baby does something to big bad guy, has been working off a debt by being a getaway car driver for heists. We witness the last two jobs for him to complete to be square.
  3. Big bad guy decides Baby is so good he can’t let him go, threatens him and his foster dad, Baby agrees to keep driving – there are consequences.

I’m going to start with the criticism and move on to the pros.

My only real criticism is that it was all style and not a lot of substance. There was enough there that you understood the role that everyone was playing, but there was no investment in character development. For example, when Kevin Spacey’s character is swayed to help Baby by Deborah’s presence at the end, we have no basis for why; it’s completely a shock because we don’t have his background, he just says “I was in love once” and that’s all we get. This was a story that could have stood to have had a little more flashbacks maybe? I’m not sure.

Despite that, this movie had everything. It had amazing car chases, a bit of runaway romance, Jon Hamm looking sexy, Kevin Spacey being cross, and a storyline that has a good person caught up in circumstances that they think they’ve escaped, but are now trapped in and have to survive. The strongest part was Baby’s story, his relationship with his deaf foster dad, and the reason why he listens to music all the time. You will find yourself rooting for him, because he was truly just handed a shit hand from the jump.

There was a surprise about the editing of the movie that, as a former/recovering musician/music teacher, was very pleasing to me. Most scenes were synchronized from the spoken dialogue to the slamming of car trunks to the walking pace – it all was to the same tempo and rhythm as the background music and the action in the moment. It was flawless, perfectly timed, and that precision often added to the drama or the suspense. I think this would be a fantastic movie to add to either a music appreciation or film class for high schoolers or college level students for discussion and analysis of that very aspect.

Not every movie has to be a deep emotional experience, and like I said at the beginning this movie provided just enough backstory so that you understood the flow and I think that’s what this movie was for – a quick, fun, occasionally suspenseful romp with a great soundtrack. You should go see Baby Driver.

The House – The Movie

The_House_(2017_film)

We all have our heroes. When Parks and Recreation was on TV, I loved watching Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson. I’m Ron on the outside, Leslie on the inside. As the show progressed I learned more about Amy Poehler as a person and was continually impressed. From Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls to SNL to her partner work with Tina Fey, she has been a powerhouse for a good long time, and a feminist icon to boot. I got her memoir “Yes Please” on a Kindle sale and now that I have the next month and a half off, I will finally have a chance to read it!

All of this makes my disappointment in her newest movie The House that much sharper. When I saw the initial teaser trailer it immediately put a bad taste in my mouth. Family in the suburbs with a daughter who gets into a top university, then upon discovering they don’t have enough in savings to send her to that college (like you didn’t realize that when she started applying? This isn’t something you looked into before her acceptance letter arrived?) they decide to open an illegal casino to make enough money to send her to college. In subsequent trailers they seem to “break bad” as they sink deeper into the casino and begin to enjoy running it.

I want to see this as a high satirical statement about the ridiculousness of the cost of higher education in this country – that families must go to great lengths to get their children the education they need to get good jobs, or rather the chance at good jobs. I am intelligent enough and well informed enough to see that this could be more than just a silly Will Ferrell movie.

All I feel is a very deep insult.

The idea that parents have enough money saved up to pay for their children to go to college is laughable. Scholarships, state reward programs, grants, and other non-debt options are in high demand and are not available to all. Private student loans have unbelievable interest rates and are not held to the same standards as federally funded Stafford or Direct loans, which offer more protection and more deferral options (note: for now). But the truth of the matter is that when parents can’t afford 100% of the cost of tuition, there are options for students to pay for higher education.

My parents couldn’t afford to send me to any college. Not even close. Not even a sparkle in their eyes. When they helped me get loans, they said specifically that while legally they were co-signing and could be compelled to pay the loans, I had better always pay them because they would not (really “could not”) help any more than just offering their names and credit histories. Bachelor’s, Master’s, and 2 years of a Doctoral degree later, I am very educated and have a lot of good experience, but I have looooooaaaaaaannnnssss for days. And I’m all alone. No one can help me if I can’t pay them. I can’t discharge them in bankruptcy (fuck you Congress), and my chances of making every payment on time for ten straight years as is required for FULL loan forgiveness is…hahahahahah….I’m sorry wait… I’m ROFL….*deep breath* okay I’ve got it under control.

So the fact that this movie makes a joke about the fact that these parents would do crazy illegal things rather than have their daughter take loans is offensive to me. Federal loans are available to children from families of all incomes. They are a last resort but they are an option. This movie shames me. This movie makes me feel dirty, poor, and furious. Every time these trailers come on I get angry. And I’m not just angry, I’m disappointed.

I’m disappointed in a role model. Amy Poehler really let me down by being a part of this movie, and I haven’t even seen it yet. Student loan debt is a huge problem in this country, higher education costs are an important issue, and this movie just seems to throw a giant pie in the face of both concerns. More broadly poor people in this country endure enough ridicule, enough shame, enough hoops to jump through to get the same help and opportunities as those with more money and connections to work with. More than a pie in the face, this movie feels like a slap in the face.

Wonder Woman

wonder woman

I was not looking forward to this movie. DC and I have been in a “fool me twice shame on me” kind of situation and I was hesitant to touch the hot stove again. You can’t give me Green Lantern like that and not expect me to have trust issues. But then the reviews began to roll in and I let myself get excited. This was DC’s saving grace, supposedly, and so I thought, “okay, I will give it a chance.” If this sucked, I was NOT going to see the Justice League movies, I don’t care how amazing Jason Momoa looks as Aquaman.

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The movie didn’t blow my socks off but it was definitely an improvement on the other DC stories (I’m looking at you, Green Lantern). Diana’s history on Themyscira is a cute story, and the interaction between Antiope and Hippolyta concerning her future is so nice. Destiny plays a huge role in this story, and discovering Diana’s is one that takes the entire movie to reveal, with a cute little twist you may or may not see coming. I only did because as I’ve written about before, my brain seems to seek out where people or things might be trying to trick it with a vengeance.

There are spoilers after this so stop here if you don’t want them.

I have a few squabbles about the movie. First, Diana is SUUUUUper wide-eyed about the real world, like she’s never worn a dress before? Granted she is very sheltered and has never left the island, so I guess I have to give this issue a pass, but I wish she had been more in control in the movie instead of being portrayed as a bumbling, ignorant, naive child.

Ares. We need to have a short talk about the god of war. I get that we needed a British actor and Benedict Cumberbatch is taken by Marvel but did we really need to pick the super lovable werewolf from Harry Potter? The story was good, but I was distracted because I was looking at Lupin and not a god. David Thewlis is not really god of war material. So, casting has some ‘splainin’ to do on that one.

There was so much I liked though. The story was very solid. The doctor that made all the poisons was 100% terrifying. And Chris Pine can just keep on keeping on playing the plucky, arrogant, determined hero in as many movies as possible.

chris pine

Someone told me once that when you shop for an engagement ring, the salesmen are trained to sell you using the Goldilocks technique. They will show you something AMAZINGLY EXPENSIVE then something way under your price range, then something a teeeeensy bit above your price range and guess which one you’ll accept? This was a good movie, but with Marvel showing out and DC giving us scraps, this is a movie that we are excited about for many reasons, one of which is probably that it wasn’t horrible. Luckily it was also good on its own. I look forward to seeing more from Gal Godot and the Justice League.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

pirates

Arrrr, there be spoilers ahead. No way around it, missy.

Pirates is always a fun movie to watch. Jack seems to be out of his depth or has no clue what is going on, and then somehow everything works out okay in the end and it turns out that he knew what was going on all along. This movie doesn’t stray too far from that formula with a few exceptions.

First, instead of Will Turner (who is now the captain of the Dutchman in place of Davey Jones), we have his son Henry Turner who is determined to free is father of the curse that is upon him. This alone is a weird thing, because I thought that someone had to captain the Dutchman to lead souls to the afterlife. If I remember correctly it wasn’t a curse, just a job, and Jack did it to save his life. Initially Jack was going to stab the heart and live forever but because Will was so badly wounded and wouldn’t survive, he took his hand with a knife and stabbed the heart instead. So curse? Not really. It’s an ancient agreement – that was my first big problem with the storyline.

Second was this situation with Barbossa’s daughter. UGH. U. G. H. So she holds the secret to some secret island that will reveal the location of the trident of Poseidon which, when broken, would also break all curses that have ever been cast by or apply to the sea. Ooooooookay. *rolls eyes* Now, I ~heart eyes~ Geoffrey Rush, so seeing him sacrifice himself for her was really sad, but then I was like, “No, you don’t get to pull in a daughter I have never heard of and try to twist my emotions, that’s bullshit.”

Lastly, the story follows Jack but he’s not even really the main character. He doesn’t really do anything in this movie, which is a sharp departure from the past movies. Javier Bardem is chasing him, similar to how Jack was being hunted by Davey Jones, but I just didn’t care about that so much because it felt so much like a rerun. Also why was Javier Bardem’s character cursed instead of just dead? To many new characters and backstories needed, and not enough time to help us understand.

This movie was fun, but it was also like watching a franchise die a very sad death, gasping for one last breath, one last money grab before we should probably put it out of its misery.

This movie gets 2 stars and 5 giant shrugs from me. But Disney got my money so everybody wins, I guess.

Baywatch: The Movie (Remake)

BAYWATCH

Infected with a head cold that my husband brought home on his literal last day of teaching for the year, armed with tissues, Aleve Cold and Sinus, and a hunger for french fries, I set out on Saturday for the Cinebistro to take in what I was hoping would be a completely fun movie.

I was not disappointed. The cute Ronnie going mute and dumb around his crush CJ, the will they/won’t they between Mitch and Stephanie, and the “hate turns to love” relationship between Summer and Brody hits all the romantic/general comedy tropes that you love.

Pros

  1. The Rock just ceaselessly rags on Zac Efron. It is amazing. I kept waiting for when the “new kid” would get one over on him but he never does and it’s exactly right. The Rock is flawless in this movie. I love him so much, he’s so funny.
  2. Not all the lifeguards are ripped. The addition of Ronnie (Jon Bass) onto the squad after his third time trying out was a real heart warmer for me. I liked that nod to the idea that you don’t necessarily have to LOOK like you’re in shape or healthy to be able to do that job. A++ casting and writing people, good on you.
  3. Priyanka Chopra is so fucking hot. As the villain in this movie (and btw I love a lady villain, again great work writing staff) she’s just completely obvious but so terrifying. She snidely responds to one of the lifeguards asking “what are you, a Bond villain?” with “no…well, not yet *smiles*” OMG I think I have the vapors.
  4. There are no twists. I mean, there is one but if you’re looking for it you’ll see it coming from a mile away. Two miles even. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about analyzing the story. I could just enjoy it for what it was, which was a fun movie.

Cons (maybe spoilers?)

  1. I get that Baywatch has to be sexy for the menfolk. As I mentioned above the movie hits a high note with its villain, Victoria Leeds (Chopra). Unfortunately it hits a low note with its blonde lifeguard CJ, played by Kelly Rohrbach. There are ways for her tits to be out without them literally being out, people realize this right? Her bathing suit has a zipper that is constantly almost completely open (and having zippered bathing suits on the lady lifeguards is another issue altogether). The small pro here is that she’s not a complete ditz and is kind and observant, especially of Ronnie’s affections for her, but still it was really unfortunate that this was a distraction for me. Especially when…
  2. …the men are just in swim trunks and t-shirts. TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRTS SO I CAN SEE YOUR ABS AND PECS PLEASE. That small moment when Brody (Efron) does the wrong obstacle course at the beginning I think I blacked out from the 24 pack he was flouncing about, but that’s the point to this kind of movie. So I guess I can forgive the bathing suit thing from #1 a little bit, if the boys were in a state of undress almost consistently too.
  3. The Cameos. No I did not need the ghost of old David Hasselhoff to show up to lend this movie credibility. It made me cringe, it made me kind of mad. This was not like that moment in the new Star Trek movie where alternate timeline old and young Spocks meet and it makes sense and pays homage to the original Spock (because Leonard Nemoy, duh – RIP). It took me out of the story and I was actually kind of mad about it. I was further angered by the gratuitous appearance of Ms. Pamela Anderson at the end (who played the original CJ), and her being there made no sense. If you’re going to reboot something and use the exact same names for the people, you can’t have the other people there too. If you’re going to imply that this is a new generation that the older Baywatch generation passed the torch to, then give the characters different names than the original cast.
  4. Ilfenesh Hadera plays Stephanie Holden (far right in the picture) and she is unfortunately the most forgettable character. She has very few lines, but if you’re paying attention, you notice that she is as knowledgeable and capable as Mitch. They even might have some romantic tension, but it’s not explored enough and her character is not bright or featured enough to give her a moment in this movie. I wanted more of her, the strong lady in charge on the side of good, but I was let down. In fact, this very thing was the first thing I knew I wanted to write for this review, because of the 6 lifeguards, she seemed to just fade into the background, and I think the movie was the lesser for it.

Overall though it had me laughing throughout and the story was fun. Sometimes I think that we get so wrapped up in deep, Oscar-worthy, indie film types that we forget to go to the movies to enjoy ourselves. Baywatch isn’t going to win an Oscar, but it won over this cold, dead heart. Why don’t you go and enjoy yourself too. Have a great week!

Angry Green Gables

anne

There are many books from my childhood that TV and Hollywood have attempted to lure me in with through visual wizardry, and I have resisted. Books like The BFG and The Giver were so good when I read them that I didn’t want to sully the movie in my imagination with the movie in real life. I’ve written about this before.

When I heard that Netflix was coming out with a new series based on the Anne of Green Gables books I was curious. I loved the original one with Megan Follows so much that seeing another more modern version might be fun. The books are fun for those of us who love to read and are a little off the beaten path upstairs, and this might be okay too.

I’m not okay, guys.

The first episode was promising. I was a little worried about their portrayal of Matthew Cuthbert, but by the end of the episode his and Anne’s relationship was as it should be. The quiet softy and the gregarious spitfire, I couldn’t love it more. But it is here, dear friends, where the similarities that matter end.

This series is DARK and not like ironic/punk dark, it’s like PTSD/mental health issues dark. Instead of being portrayed as hopeful, precocious, and imaginative, this Anne is played as erratic, a little insane, and abused. I mean there are like 2 or 3 times per episode where she kind of blacks out because something triggers a terrible memory and pulls her into the past. Like when Josh in The West Wing heard cello music or whatever.

At first I was like, okay maybe this is how we move from darkness to light, maybe once she feels secure in her home and new life it will be like the sun coming up and it will be Anne charming everyone. I am writing this after watching 4 of the 6 episodes and I can inform you that it does not get better. And better in terms of the lightheartedness. I mean, I guess I can compare this to how I feel about the Jim Carrey Grinch movie. *spits* For some kids, that is their first exposure to the Grinch story, I guess because their parents hate them. In the same way, if Anne With An “E” is people’s first exposure to Anne of Green Gables on the small screen, maybe they won’t think it’s bad. The unfortunate thing is that most of us have had the TV Special Grinch and Jim Carrey’s physical comedy shitting all over our childhood is simply insulting and infuriating.

Anne of Green Gables is inspiring, she is a torch in the darkness, she is a fast friend and full of hope. She loves to learn and takes on every challenge with gusto. She is honest. This Anne is those things, but if you locked the original Anne in a closet full of spiders for two days and then asked her to come out and still be Anne. You get the sense that if it were an option, this Anne would be a self-mutilator because it helps keep the bad memories at bay. And I say that not to cast judgment, only to say that that isn’t the spirit of what Anne of Green Gables is. The focus is not on the past or darkness, it is on the future, light, and hopefulness in new beginnings.

I will finish the episodes that are there, and chastise myself for giving in when I already knew I had what I liked. Sometimes new and shiny isn’t better. Sometimes you just don’t have to put your hand on the burner to remind yourself that it hurts. This Anne of Green Gables hurts guys. It hurts to watch this. The writing is fine, the acting is fine, it’s just a haunted house/horror show version of something we already have set in our hearts, and that fucking hurts to watch.

Pros: Matthew/Anne dynamic, Diana/Anne dynamic

Cons: Everything else