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.

aquaman.gif

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

 

Tale as Old as Time

I’m not using any pics on this because Disney would basically ruin me, so I apologize for the lack of visual involvement. I promise to be brief.

Since I’m not done with Empress of a Thousand Skies yet, mostly because work and school together are making my brain melt a la Raiders of the Lost Ark, I did want to come by and let you know that I went to see the live action Beauty and the Beast. “But Amanda, why weren’t you reading?” “I WAS, I BROUGHT SCARLET TO READ BEFORE THE PREVIEWS YOU JUDGMENTAL MONSTERS.” PS I love you keep coming back to judge me and go follow Angry Angel Books on Facebook and Twitter.

Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite movies when I was young. A lot of Disney movies came out while I was a kid in those puffy VHS covers. So of course I went to the Cinebistro prepared to tear shit up because HOW COULD THIS BE BETTER WHO IS FUCKING WITH MY CHILDHOOD?

It was okay. I still maintain that it is unnecessary, just re-release the cartoon on special edition DVD or something, but since it’s here let’s talk about it.

THE GOOD
1. It was really pretty. Thanks CGI!
2. Some story additions were nice – Beast has daddy/mommy issues, Belle’s mom died and she doesn’t know how. The part of the original B&B where dad steals a rose and gets locked up is there. Belle knowing that they are all under a curse really dealt with all the haters that are like SHE’S IN LOVE WITH A BUFFALO – no she’s not, she understands that there is a man under there.
3. The voices were well chosen – Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth was A++ and I have so much love for Emma Thompson; she rocked Mrs. Potts.
4. GASTON – WHO DID THIS CASTING IT WAS FUCKING PERFECT
5. LAFOU – JOSH GAD IS A GOD HOLY COW WHO DID THIS SEND THEM AN EDIBLE ARRANGEMENT

THE BAD
1. The CGI was so crazy that sometimes it was painfully obvious that Emma Watson was looking at an empty table trying to appear amused at nothing.
2. Emma Watson’s singing was totally fine – on pitch, etc – but it was not enough. It reminded me of how I felt when Russell Crowe played Javert in Les Mis – he sang fine but it just wasn’t enough for Javert. Belle has this longing for more, and most of the time Emma Watson was like I WILL SING THIS SONG RIGHT and all the acting kind of stopped.
3. The timeline: Go see this movie and see if you can tell me how long Belle is at the palace. In the cartoon there is ~passage of time~ and we understand that they are interacting for probably a month? This movie lines it up so that at most she’s there for 48 hours. I’m sorry, that’s not enough time for (a) the Beast to stop being a dick and (b) Belle to fall in love with his softer side.

I also have to say that the way they did the ending made me cry. Mostly because the dog footstool basically dies with all feet in the air. IT WAS THE DOG FOOTSTOOL, not any of the human knick knacks – THE DOG DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS. But don’t worry everything is okay in the end. It’s Beauty and the Beast, so see it or don’t, whatever. I mainly saw it to judge and see if it was as good. It wasn’t, but it was enough to make it worth my while.

Movie in my Mind: Why the Book Was Better

It is the argument that people love to have: whether the book or the movie was better. Movie people roll their eyes at the book people who insist that the movie could never touch it, such nerds can’t they just relax and enjoy the effects? The book people are outraged at the movie people for being lazy and letting others do the work for them instead of reading the source material! That wasn’t in the book! They left out the best part! Instead of a firm dichotomy I believe that this is more of a spectrum on which we can all exist depending on our own experience. While that makes me sound irritatingly agnostic, please allow me to explain as I have walked the rainbow and played among the lilies.

I am not a firm “read the book before you see the movie” person, so when my friends suggested seeing Gone Girl I was very excited. It was receiving rave reviews and since I had not read the book I figured I would be able to enjoy the surprises that the movie had to offer. People that know my love of books know that I enjoy a twist but that I do not enjoy a mind fuck, which should be all you need to know about how I felt about this movie. When I left I knew I had seen a good movie but I was so furious about the plot and the ending that I was not willing to admit that to anyone. And I was damn sure not going through that again just for the pleasure of reading the book. Also, this put me off reading any Gillian Flynn, at least for a while, for fear her other books are in the same vein.

I do not have a clear memory of whether I read all the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies when they originally came out. I remember reading the books, but if I saw the movies it must not have been in the theaters. In the summer of 2015 I decided to alternate between reading the book and watching the partner movie because I was totally responsible and waited for the box set to come out instead of buying the movies individually. This experience was really fun and it was interesting to see what was left out of the movies as I progressed. My husband at one point said “so is this just a tour of what was left out for my benefit?” The movies and books were equally satisfying in their own way, and the two sides would be hard pressed to say one experience is more enjoyable than the other. They are different but equal.

One of my favorite books from my childhood is The Giver. This is a book I reread multiple times, asked for as a gift for Christmas, and I still have that gifted copy on my shelf today. An early dystopian future described first in drab greys and then expanding to vivid histories, colors, and emotion, the book is a journey through the flowering of understanding, an exploration of the consequences of control and sterility, and the despair of the lack of individuality and hope. Sitting at my computer now I can close my eyes and play the book for myself in my mind, not with words but with pictures and colors and characters. I had already seen the movie because I had already produced it in my memories. So when the movie version of the book started being teased in 2013 and 2014 I wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing they could create on the screen could match what I viewed as the perfect version my imagination had created, and it wasn’t anyone’s job to tell me what that book was supposed to look like.

Some movies are good on their own and you can read the book or not. Some movies and books are made for each other and enhance the experience of the other. And some books are such close friends that any intrusion on our experience is almost an insult to the effort we put in reading and rereading to understand the universe we were visiting. Mix the movie/book recipe using the approach that feels most comfortable for you, and don’t let anyone yuck your yum. I will say this though, while a movie may not motivate you to read the book, some movies truly owe their success to the literary world.

Doctor Strange

drstrange

Oh man do I love me some Bandybars Candycorn. From Star Trek to Sherlock I will go watch just about everything he is in. He’s multifaceted, he’s brilliant, and watching him act is watching a work of art come to life right in front of you. I wish we could have seen him live while we were in London, but his Hamlet had already left the theaters.

I also enjoy the Marvel movies. Wait…let me qualify: I like the initial Marvel movies, the first ones of each series. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Avengers – all the non sequels are excellent. I was nervous about this movie though, because Doctor Strange is a little off the beaten path for most fans, but he’s necessary to the Infinity Gauntlet storyline leading up to the Infinity War movies so, here we go.

gauntlet

Once you get past Butterball Clickerflick being a rich egomaniac who drives distracted and basically ruins his career, we see him get to become a real boy with empathy under the tutelage of Tilda Swinton, who is actually pretty hilarious for being a terrifying white lady. He learns to use magic through two finger brass knuckles and uses his amazing intelligence to read all the things and almost mess up some stuff by sniffing too far into things that have created the nemesis they are fighting.

read-all-the-things
Shout out to Hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

It’s basically a movie about a magical Iron Man: the intelligence and cockiness without the high tech inventor skills, but also finding a way to hold onto his attitude while using it for good instead of assholery. Even the cape offers some levity, I think I laughed harder at the cape than anything else in the movie.

The ending is good, and there are two credits scenes, one at the beginning and one at the end. It was an enjoyable movie, but I left at the end feeling the weariness that comes from seeing the same formula, the same story, the same shit over and over.  How many Spidermen are we going to have to sit through before they get it right? Do we really need more Thor movies? What happens when this is all over? What will be the next money grab, the next multiverse of movies and sequels? J.K. Rowling is already trying to get that cash with this new Fantastic Beasts thing (5 more of them? FIVE?) and I’m just not about that life.

Despite all that it was a fun movie, and I was glad I went to see it. This Thanksgiving season when you need to get out of the house, let Benedict Cumberbatch entertain you for a couple of hours. We have tough times ahead, take your joy where you can find it.

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel truly has the superhero market cornered. From the Avengers, to Deadpool, to the tv series Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and the upcoming Punisher series enjoyment can be found at every turn. So when the next release date approached, I was very excited to experience the next thrill ride that Stan Lee had prepared for me.

I have to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed, which is understandable because this is one of those pesky “leading up to the next one” movies. Exciting, but not too exciting because we have things to introduce you to that you need to remember for later. This includes T’Challa/Black Panther. *praise hands*

T'Challa
YES GAWD I WILL REMEMBER

I honestly didn’t realize that Tony Stark had so many parent issues. The number of decisions he makes on pure reaction instead of calculation in this movie gave me whiplash. And no one ever took enough time to explain to anyone why Bucky Barnes’ situation was less than clear. It seemed like it would be pretty easy to provide evidence about the brainwashing (no real spoiler there…this story isn’t super spoiler filled).

Perhaps the most welcome and fun surprise was the sunshine brought in by the casting for Spiderman. The voice, the persona, the fact that we don’t need his origin story AGAIN (ugh), and the fact that Aunt May is like an aunt as opposed to a grandmother, all makes this fresh and new without getting bogged down in the mud. His innocence also makes him a target for manipulation by Stark, which I think he will learn and grow from in the future.

Also bringing in comedic relief was Paul Rudd, who just rocks the Ant Man character. When you go, bring orange slices. You’re going to need them. 🙂

All in all, this was another enjoyable Marvel romp, however it was slightly disconnected due to the Iron Man emotional issue catastrophe decisions, so by the end you don’t really feel any kind of resolution. That’s okay though, because this movie isn’t about resolution, it’s about leading us to the impending Infinity War. My body is ready.