‘It Chapter Two’ Review

Director: Andy Muschietti

Writer: Gary Dauberman

Cast: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgard, Jaden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Andy Bean, Sophia Lillis and Finn Wolfhard

Synopsis: Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

It’s – no pun intended – finally here! The much anticipated ending to the horror hit based on the classic and acclaimed novel by Stephen King, It. While the 2017 split some fans of the original TV movie with Tim Curry playing the famed Pennywise, the dancing clown, director Andy Muschietti (Mama) had some more room to play with. For one, this was not a TV movie, and it was rated-R, so blood, gore and foul language was on the table. Plus, if you stop anyone on the street and ask them about Pennywise or It, they would most likely know what you’re talking about.

I, for one, really enjoyed and liked Chapter One. The young cast was amazing and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise was frightening on every single level he had to be. So needless to the say, I was looking forward to Chapter Two, especially with its adult cast being pretty damn impressive, and the promise it was going to up the ante. So, does It Chapter Two live up to the hype? Or does it sink deep into the sewers?

It Chapter Two starts out pretty rough with a scene that is in the book, but still doesn’t make it easy to watch play out. It also shows us that Pennywise is still truly alive ready to rein terror again in Derry. Pennywise’s return sparks Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who never left Derry, to call the Losers Club to return to Derry to defeat Pennywise for good, just like the promised at the end of the last film. Each of the Losers have gone on and made a good to great life for themselves. Bill (James McAvoy) is a well-known writer, whose last book is getting made into a movie, Richie (Bill Hader) is a famous stand-up comic, Ben (Jay Ryan) has become some successful businessman, and is now skinny, Eddie (James Ransone) is a risk analyst, Stanley (Andy Bean) is happily married and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) is a wealthy, but also still can’t escape an abusive man in her life.

When they finally get together, they catch up on their lives and the memories of their time in Derry start to come back, and then they all admit when they got the call from Mike, they felt fear. That fear is because they remember the man that gave them that fear, Pennywise. What starts is a series of horrifying events that target the Losers Club, and what leads to an epic final fight against Pennywise.

Of course, the big thing everyone is talking about is the runtime of It Chapter Two. The film runs at a lengthy two-hours and forty-nine minutes, and thankfully, for the most part you don’t really feel it too much, at least I didn’t. The beginning of the film is a little slow to start, but once the Losers get together, the movie moves to its epic finale, which admittedly, drags on just a bit, and is a bit too CG. Regardless of how you feel about the length, you have to give it to director Andy Muschietti and returning screenwriter Gary Dauberman (the Annabelle movies, The Nun) for stuffing the movie with more mythology on Pennywise, content and some ambitious moves. Unfortunately, the scope of It Chapter Two is just a bit too big and does lead to some unevenness throughout.

Given those problems, it’s made up through the cast. The adult cast are all great, and they really do feel like the adult versions of their younger counterparts. McAvoy’s Bill is still haunted by Georgie’s death, Chastain’s Beverly has a more nuanced and quieter performance, Mustafa’s Mike is a bit cagey since he’s never left Derry, Ryan’s Ben still pines over Beverly, and then you have the highlights of the cast in Hader and Ransone. Hader’s Richie is getting more of the love online, and it’s deserved, but for me Ransone deserves the same amount of praise, maybe even a little more.

Obviously, with Hader being attached, the humor/comedy was bound to be high, and that’s exactly what it was. Hader’s Richie is pretty much always on, which may or may not get a little tiring every now and then, but Ransone also gets his time to shine on the humor. After seeing the film, I honestly want to see Hader and Ransone reunite somewhere down the road. That said, Hader’s Richie has a subplot here that is nicely done and not heavy-handed.

Undoubtedly, the thing everyone probably wants to know is if It Chapter Two is scary. For the most part, I think so. It’s more or less of the same scares we got in It, with some jump scares and some well-time moments with Pennywise or other ghoulish beings. There also a pitch-perfect homage to another classic horror film that had me grinning from ear-to-ear while watching. That said, the movie is also pretty emotional. No seriously, I was at one point at the verge of tears, which is something I was not ready for watching a horror movie.

All in all, It Chapter Two is a worthy enough sequel, and while the sequel does get a bit too ambitious for its own good, the adult cast really holds the film together. The scares are upped, and Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is certified to be a new horror staple. I can’t really say that It Chapter Two is better than It, but if you were a fan of the first film, you should enjoy or like Chapter Two.

Also, keep an eye out for some great Easter Eggs and cameos!

It Chapter Two

4 out of 5

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Summer Movie Season 2019 Review

The 2019 Summer Movie Season is over!

Once again, many have said this year’s Summer Movie Season was a disappointment, lacked any real substance, or was filled with too many sequels, reboots/remakes and what-have-you. Whether you want to listen to all that or not is up to you. Personally, I don’t listen to the noise, but I did feel like the latter half of the Summer Movie Season lacked any real, “I need to see this movie NOW.” Regardless of that, this summer had some pretty descent movies, and some great enjoyable movies. So here’s my roundup of the Summer Movie Season 2019 (movies are not in a particular order).

 

The “I Have No Idea What to Think”

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Based on the acclaimed book series written by Alvin Schwartz, produced by Guillermo del Toro – who had always had plans on directing originally – and directed by Andre Ovredal (the fantastic The Autopsy of Jane Doe), Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was bound to be a hit, or at the least halfway descent. I know I felt the movie was good, but it was always going to have an uphill battle trying to make the series of short stories into a feature-length film. Personally, I think they found a pretty descent way to bring these stories together – they ended up using one of the stories as a building block to create the Sarah Bellows character, and then have short stories be “nightmares” or stories the character have had/heard be the ones that come to life.

Again, I liked Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but there was something about it that I felt it need more.

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Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film was one of the most divisive films of the summer, and probably will be for the rest of the year. Tarantino’s fairy tale-esque story of the final years of the Golden Age of Hollywood followed Leonardo DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton, an aging star, trying to find his way in a changing Hollywood with his stunt-man and best friend Cliff Booth, played amazingly by Brad Pitt. The film also starred Margot Robbie as the late Sharon Tate, and also included the Mason family.

I won’t go into the massive think and opinion pieces that the film spawned, but the film definitely had us talking more than I thought it would. No matter where you fell in the spectrum, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood did its job of getting us to talk about it on more than one level – good or bad.

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Should Have Been Better (But I’d Still Recommend)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Its giant monsters fighting each other, so yeah, I enjoyed it. It was everything in-between that kind of slowed the movie down.

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Brightburn

Brightburn, basically the Superman story but if he’d had been evil the whole time, would also go under the frustrating category for me because the movie doesn’t really fully execute what it was trying to do, or at least didn’t fully go where it should have.

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Stuber

Stuber is one of those movies that isn’t completely original – story-wise – but the concept of a cop, played by the always reliable Dave Bautista, who can barely see, who basically kidnaps his Uber driver, Stu, played by the also always reliable Kumail Nanjiani, to help him take down a criminal who killed his partner works here. Genuine laughs and some great chemistry between Bautista and Nanjiani made Stuber worthwhile.

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Real Surprises of the Summer

Aladdin

Say what you want about the Disney live-action adaptations, I’m personally in the whatever camp as long as they’re good. When it comes to Aladdin though, I was never personally a huge fan of the old cartoon, so my connection to it wasn’t as strong as others. I went in expecting a lukewarm movie, but instead I was drawn in by the big, bright musical numbers, and while the movie had some pitfalls, I was genuinely surprised I walked out of Aladdin as an enjoyable movie.

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Crawl

I completely counted out Crawl from the very beginning. The movie followed Haley (Kaya Scodelario), who during a hurricane, goes to check on her father (Barry Pepper) who turns out to be injured, and the two have to not only brave the hurricane, but also a group of alligators. Yeah, the concept is a little whacky, and the trailers didn’t sell it too well, but man did I enjoy the hell out of Crawl. The movie is a solid horror thriller that got me a couple times with some solid jump scares, and Scodelario and Pepper sell the hell out of it. Seriously, Crawl is going down as one of my biggest surprises of the year.

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Least-Liked/Disappointments

Dark Phoenix

20th Century Fox once again whiffed the famous Dark Phoenix comic story on the big screen, and it’s all the more frustrating again, because like the old X-Men movies, the build-up to this version of the story wasn’t all that bad. Apocalypse teased out story, but Dark Phoenix simply chose to ignore that tease in favor of just retelling the story all over again.

The movie also had some behind-the-scenes shenanigans, like a last-minute third act reshoot, Fox being bought by Disney, Jennifer Lawrence clearly not wanting to be there and, despite his best effort, long-time producer of the franchise Simon Kinberg making his directorial effort.

On top of all that, the movie feels just pretty bland. Speaking of bland…

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Men in Black: International

How do you not capitalize on the fantastic chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok? I don’t know, but somehow they didn’t, and we suffered from it. Men in Black: International’s biggest problem is that’s really bland, and while things happen, it’s really not that all exciting. The movie also apparently had some behind-the-scenes troubles like the script constantly changing, an stars Hemsworth and Thompson rewriting their own lines. Never a good sign.

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Child’s Play

I was willing to give Child’s Play a chance, and while Brian Tyree Henry’s supporting cop character was probably the only real saving grace of the movie, and Mark Hamill voicing Chucky was a bold move, but the writing didn’t do him any favors, Child’s Play just didn’t do it for me. Some aspects of the movie were okay, but at the end of the day, Child’s Play is going to be remembered for being denounced by original creator Don Mancini.

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Shaft

Look, I love Samuel L. Jackson as much as the next person, but this new Shaft takes the wrong approach to old school/old mindset vs. new school. A lot of the jokes that Jackson’s Shaft comes off as a tad bit too misogynistic for their good, and despite the father-son dynamic between him and Jessie T. Usher’s Junior working near the end, Shaft had too many missteps and non-working parts to really have me rooting entirely for Jackson.

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Honorable Mention

Toy Story 4

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Spider-Man: Far from Home

The Peanut Butter Falcon

 

My Favorite Movies of the Summer

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Let’s face it, John Wick is the best American action series we’ve had for some time. The series has a great team behind it with former stuntman turned director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves getting us to root for people to get jacked up in the best way possible. Parabellum is more or less of the same from the previous films, but damn we I love seeing Reeves kick ass.

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Detective Pikachu

Growing up with Pokemon, I was always going to watch this. Granted, I was skeptical at first because I didn’t know how they would be able to pull it off without the CG looking goofy. Boy, was I wrong! The Pokemon looked great, and Ryan Reynolds brought Pikachu to life in a way I never thought was possible. Was it a little wonky, sure, but come on live-action Pokemon on the big screen!

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Booksmart

The directorial debut of Olivia Wilde sure made waves this summer, at least with the people that saw it in theaters. Booksmart told the coming-of-age story of best friends Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), who on the night before their graduation realized they haven’t partied enough – because they wanted to get into good colleges – and try to right the wrong, of course, comedic hijinks ensue. Booksmart might be one of those movies that people catch on streaming, and say “why didn’t I watch this in theaters!?”

Dever and Feldstein had tremendous chemistry together, and the movie gets pretty wild – no pun intended – and the movie could have gone the raunchy route, the movie took the innocent – well, somewhat innocent – route.

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Midsommar

Ari Aster did it again. Midsommar was on a lot of people highly anticipated list, mainly because we wanted to see what Aster had up his sleeve after Hereditary. We got our answer, and I don’t think we were entirely ready for it. The film followed a couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) who along with two more friends go to Sweden and visit a small village to see their summer festival. Of course, things go very, very wrong…and weird.

Whereas Hereditary was about what’s in that dark corner, Midsommar made all the horror hit you in broad daylight. It’s a vicious, slow-burn of a movie that makes you anxious and with an ending that left many questioning what the hell? Because yeah, Midsommar was probably one of the most “what the hell?” movies of the year.

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The Farewell

Based on an actual lie of Lulu Wang’s life, The Farwell follows Billi, played incredibly by Awkwafina, who finds out her grandmother in China has cancer. Her family, finding it better not to tell her, fake a wedding to get the whole family together to see one last time. I really loved this movie. Not only is it extremely touching, the performance by Awkwafina was, to me, extremely surprising. I think most of us know Awkwafina from her comedic work, so seeing her in a dramatic role like this was also welcoming. While the story is mostly around this Chinese family, I think we can all connect to the story in some form.

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Ready or Not

Ready or Not will probably go down as one of the movies of the summer that everyone missed out on. It follows Samara Weaving’s Grace, who gets married into the Le Domas family, but realizes that the family has a dangerous deal with a mysterious figure that requires a sacrifice in the form of a game – Hide and Seek. That’s basically the bare bones of the movie, but there is a lot more to unpack and watch to enjoy. Ready or Not knows what it is, so it doesn’t try to give you an dishonest movie or even try to make it more serious than it’s suppose to be.

Weaving, once again, is reliable as ever and the family is the perfect foil to her character who’s just trying to survive anyway possible. Ready or Not will definitely be popping up again at my end of the year list. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and go watch this in theaters with as little information that you possibly can.

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So that’s my list. I’m more interested in what your Summer Movie Season roundup is like. Let me know!

‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eiza Gonzalez, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis, Lori Pelenise Tuisano and Helen Mirren

Synopsis: Lawman Luke Hobbs and outcast Deckard Shaw form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain threatens the future of humanity.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are multiple post-credit scenes.*

 

A spinoff movie from the Fast & Furious franchise was always going to happen, it was just a question of when. Back when Fast Five came out, rumblings began to give new addition of the franchise, Dwayne Johnson’s DSS agent Luke Hobbs one, but Universal Pictures never pulled the trigger – admittedly, Johnson became a very busy man afterwards. Fast forward to the drama behind The Fate of the Furious, Universal finally gave Hobbs his movie…and they brought along Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw along too – due to the studio liking the chemistry between the two on set.

So now we have two of the biggest action stars in Hollywood in a spinoff of one of the biggest and profitable franchises today, and how do you top that? Get the guy that directed the first John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, David Leitch. Then make it a buddy action comedy, with some sci-fi elements, some laughable insults and, since this is still a movie in the Fast & Furious universe, family.

Hobbs & Shaw has a pretty basic setup, Deckard’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, and her team try to retrieve a deadly virus codename “Snowflake,” but run into a huge problem in Brixton (Idris Elba), a technology-enhanced agent (read: Black Superman) for a shadow organization that want the virus for nefarious reasons. Hattie ends up injecting herself to get the virus away from Brixton. In the process, she is then labeled a traitor and has to go on the run.

We then jumped forward to seeing Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) finding out about the virus going missing, and the two eventually find out they have to work together – something neither of them want to do. However, they have to put their difference aside, somewhat, when Deckard finds out that Hattie is involved, and that the virus will kill her in three days. It becomes a race to the clock to find a way to get the virus out of Hattie, while also on the run from Brixton.

 

Hobbs & Shaw really is its own thing. There is really no mention to the main series, so you don’t necessarily have to have previous knowledge of the main series, but it would help just a tad. The main focus of the movie is to bring out Hobbs and Shaw’s backstory. Obviously on Shaw’s side, we are introduced to Kirby’s Hattie, who is more than capable of taking care of herself, and yes, Helen Mirren’s mother – named Queenie – returns for about five minutes of screen time.

As for Johnson’s Hobbs, he gets to go home, as the trailers point out. We’re introduced to the Hobbs family, which isn’t the best kind of a relationship, and Hobbs’ daughter Sam returns (played by a different actress in Eliana Sua). The dynamic of the Hobbs family adds another layer to Hobbs, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to how the potential franchise of Hobbs & Shaw goes – Johnson isn’t coming back for Fast & Furious 9 – and if they propel that dynamic in the future.

 

But of course people are going to see Hobbs & Shaw for the action, and oh boy, is there a lot of action in this. While the Fast & Furious movies do go a little over-the-top with the stunts – okay, a lot, whatever – Hobbs & Shaw continues that trend, but now with a sci-fi-ish twist with Brixton (he literally has a bike that COMES TO HIM!). The action also has a nice added touch since you got Leitch behind the camera. Is it the best action in the series? Not really, but it’s damn enjoyable to watch happen when it does.

If the action doesn’t do it for you, then maybe the great chemistry between Johnson and Statham will do it for you. It’s mostly the two throwing jabs at each other, and while some don’t land completely, others should get a genuine laugh out of you, or at least make you laugh cringe. Either way, anytime the two are on screen together, and throwing barbs, you’re in for a good time. That said, I would love to see Johnson and Statham team up again, outside the Fast & Furious franchise.

The rest of the cast have their moments. I mentioned Kirby holds her own as Hattie Shaw, and Mirren is only in it for a bit, but she clearly having fun with the role. So let’s talk about Idris Elba as Brixton. Elba is also clearly having fun playing the villain with superhuman strength and some other technological enhancements. While the whole thing is kind of, admittedly, goofy, Hobbs & Shaw knows what it is, so it fits the world we’re watching. Eiza Gonzalez pops in as Madame M, but she doesn’t really add anything despite how they introduce her, Eddie Marsan has a small role as the scientist that created the “Snowflake” virus, Lori Pelenise Tulsano plays Sefina, Hobbs’ mother who could be a scene stealer for some, and Cliff Curtis plays Jonah, who I wish had some more to do.

While I thoroughly enjoyed Hobbs & Shaw, I’ll admit the movie is just a tad bit too long for its own good. Some of it comes from the surprise cameos the movie was able to pull off, and while the cameos are cool and pretty funny, they kind of overstay their welcome and drag the scenes out.  There is also an element that the movie really should have capitalized on, which is when Hobbs and Shaw basically become wanted men, but the movie pretty much ignores all that which is kind of a shame.

All in all, Hobbs & Shaw is a lot of fun, whether you’re going for the action or for the chemistry/insult-fest between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, or even for “Black Superman” himself Idris Elba, the movie has a little something for everyone.

 

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

3.5 out of 5

‘Spider-Man: Far from Home’ Review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Cobie Smulders and Marisa Tomei

Synopsis: Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are TWO post-credit scenes.*

 

How do you follow one of the most comic book-y movies of all time that spanned over a decade and over twenty movies? That was the challenge Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures had in front of them when putting together Spider-Man: Far from Home. Not only did they have to follow Avengers: Endgame, but also make a proper sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming that wasn’t just Spider-Man/Peter Parker having to move on from saving the entire universe with The Avengers and his now deceased mentor/father-figure Tony Stark. So did they pull it off? Yes. Yes they did.

Set months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is eager to take a break from the superhero gig, and go on his European school vacation with his friends and tell MJ (Zendaya) how he feels about her. Of course, being a superhero and an Avenger now, that isn’t easy. Unbeknownst to Peter and the public, elemental monsters – The Elementials – start to wreck havoc across the globe, which leads him to be recruited by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to help fight the threat alongside Quentin Beck (Jake Gyllenhaal), a hero who claims he’s from another dimension, and has first hand experiencing fighting these monsters. Peter now has to handle fighting giant monsters while on vacation and having the responsibility of being the potential new Tony Stark/Iron Man.

One of the troubles of reviewing Far from Home is a good chunk of the great scenes and moments are all spoilers, so I’ll tread lightly going forward. That said, one of the best story elements about these new Spider-Man movies is director Jon Watts and writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers really have a firm grasp about what makes Peter Parker just that Peter Parker. Peter is still a teenager, and despite being a teenager with superhero abilities, he wants to be that, but is constantly told he needs to step up and be a superhero/Avenger. It’s not that Peter is being ungrateful or that he is ungrateful, he loves being Spider-Man, and wants to help people, but he is still a teenager and wants to hang out with his friends, tell the girl he likes that he likes her and just be normal for five minutes.

The other great thing about the sequel is that it keeps its charm, humor and heart from Homecoming. Holland and Zendaya, who has a lot more to do this time around, have great chemistry together, and pretty perfectly recreate that awkwardness you’d have when you’re around your crush. It’s also nice to see the balance between the more serious moments, like Peter questioning himself, and humorous moments, mostly between Peter and his classmates, are mostly tight enough.

The rest of the cast have their moments, but one of the big highlights is Jake Gyllenhaal’s Quentin Beck aka Mysterio. Gyllenhaal is obviously having a lot of fun with the role, and whether or not you know anything about the character from the comics, you’ll enjoy what they do with Mysterio here.

All in all, Spider-Man: Far from Home is a ton of fun, and does a lot with what they have. It thankfully doesn’t feel bloated or overstuff, and while it does have its lull moments, the cast and balance of tones keep the film together. Finally, in true Marvel fashion, the post-credit scenes change the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. It will be interesting to see Marvel goes forward with it, and also how it changes the story of Spider-Man. Either way, Far from Home is highly enjoyable and should be watched on the biggest screen you can find it.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

4.5 out of 5

‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ Review

Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty & Zach Shields

Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Stratharin and Charles Dance

Synopsis: The crypto-zoological agency Monarch faces off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collies with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

The Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla in 2014 divided many fans over how it handled our beloved giant monster. While many wanted more kaiju action, the slow-build worked for me. So when it was promised that the sequel King of the Monsters would have more giant monster fighting, fans were eager to watch. Then it was announced that we’d be getting three of the most well-known kaiju’s in film history – Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah. Needless to say, fans flipped and wanted to see all four of these behemoths go at it on the big screen once more. So, does the massive sequel live up to the hype, or does it trip over its gigantic feet?

Picking up years after the first film, “titans” are on the rise and the organization Monarch is on a tight leash with the government, who wants to kills all the titans, where as Monarch thinks that humans and titans can co-exist. This introduces Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), a scientist for Monarch, who has built a device called the ORCA to communicate with the titans somehow. However, after Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance), along with the device, Monarch brings in Emma’s estranged husband Mark (Kyle Chandler), who also has experience with the machine, to track everyone down. This puts everyone on track to go face-to-face with the new taints, Rodan, Mothra and the new three-head beast, King Ghidorah, and the only hope for everyone is Godzilla.

Like I mentioned, King of the Monsters gives fans that were not pleased with the 2014 Godzilla – giants monsters beating the crap out of each other. While the sequel does take its time to show off Godzilla himself, once it does, it doesn’t keep him hidden. It shows him in all his glory as he goes toe-to-toe with Ghidorah on multiple occasions. Mothra and Rodan also have their moments, but talking more about them would get into spoiler territory. Needless to say, seeing all of these three together on the big screen with big-budget effects is truly a sight to see – especially if you see it in IMAX like I did.

It’s when we get to the human characters were things get a little iffy. We get our returning characters like Ken Watanabe’s Dr. Ishiro Serizawa and Sally Hawkins’ Dr. Vivienne Graham (who thankfully gets a little more to do this time around), who help drive the grand scale of everything that is going on, along with new Monarch characters played by Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch and Ziyi Zhang. We also got our military characters in Aisha Hinds and O’Shea Jackson Jr. who provide some help, but they don’t really have anything real substantial to add other than some quips.

The main human story revolves around the Russell family. Although I won’t get too into it, but the reasoning behind some of their actions don’t make too much sense and kind of goes a bit too far. It’s not against the actors, but more of what was given to them. There are also probably too many characters in the movie for its own good, and even though almost all of them have their moments to shine, their moments come right after a monster battle, so the air kind of gets sucked out of the room a bit. There’s also one character that gets quickly introduced that feels more important than it should, but it’s kind of glossed over that I sat there confused for a second that it took me completely out of the movie.

All in all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters delivers on the monster mayhem that fans will love. While the human characters story muddles and slows things down a bit – and some are not used properly – director Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus) keeps everything tight enough for audiences to enjoy. The ending also opens up this universe a lot that should be really interesting if done right.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

3.5 out of 5

‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’ Review

Director: Rob Letterman

Writers: Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Derek Connolly and Rob Letterman

Cast: Ryan Reynolds (voice), Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Chris Geere, Rita Ora, Ken Watanabe and Bill Nighy

Synopsis: In a world where people collect Pokemon to do battle, a boy comes across an intelligent talking Pikachu who seeks to be a detective.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I, like many my age – no matter how bad you want to deny it – grew up watching and playing Pokemon. It’s something that, somehow, has remained in nerd culture through new generations and fans still bringing it up. If it wasn’t apparent, when Pokemon GO came out, the thing spread like wildfire and was a craze that I think people wouldn’t happened (do people still play it? Serious question, not bashing). It was because of the GO craze, Warner Bros. and Legendary decided to jump on it and announce they were developing a Pokemon movie, and they were choosing to do the Detective Pikachu route.

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t fully onboard with the idea at first. I thought Hollywood would bastardize one of my childhood favorites with another crappy CGI/live-action hybrid movie that would probably water down what made the property so good and memorable. Then the trailers came out and I was fully onboard. So, did Pokemon Detective Pikachu live up to the expectations the studio put out? Or does the video game curse continue?

Pokemon Detective Pikachu follows Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a once aspiring Pokemon trainer, who suddenly gets a call informing him that his estranged detective father has been killed in a car crash. While going through his father’s apartment, he runs into a talking Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who claims to be his father’s Pokemon partner, but can’t remember anything since he has amnesia, expect one thing – Tim’s father isn’t dead, but only missing.

The two decide to embark on a journey to find out what happened to Tim’s father, who was on the verge of breaking something huge. Along the way, they helped by Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton), an intern at the big news corporation, who has a nose for a good story, who also has her Pokemon, Psyduck, with her at all times. What follows is Pokemon shenanigans, world building, and a mystery buddy-cop film.

Detective Pikachu’s staying power is going to be interesting to see. On one hand, the movie is jam packed with Easter Eggs for the hardcore fans, to the point that you may need to watch it twice to catch some of them. On the other, non-fans will maybe have at least a little bit of a hard time with the world they are thrown into. Because, director Rob Letterman wastes no time filling the screen with Pokemon. Once we get pass the cold opening and Tim’s introduction, which shows him trying to catch a Cubone after being forced by a friend, we go straight into Ryme City.

Ryme City is the creation of Bill Nighy’s Howard Clifford, a city where Pokemon and humans coexist together. The Pokemon fill the city streets and hold jobs like everyone else. It’s here where most of the Pokemon are shown, and I’m sure fans will have a field day trying to name them all. It’s also not filled with generation one Pokemon, there were Pokemon there I didn’t even know or recognize. Dare I say, it’s almost Who Framed Roger Rabbit-esque in its story and format, and Blade Runner in terms of visual look for the first half of the movie.

All that said, Detective Pikachu can’t just thrive on the Pokemon, it is trying to tell a story. Smith’s Tim is charismatic enough to push the story along and his chemistry with Reynolds’ voiced Pikachu keeps the movie going until the credits roll. Newton’s Lucy is a hard buy at first, as her character seems to be pulled from the old noir films – which the film does try to be for the most part – but then becomes the ambitious news reporter, even though she’s really an unpaid intern, by trying to break the case along with Tim, Pikachu and her Psyduck.

Of course, the highlight of the cast and the movie is Ryan Reynolds as the talking Pikachu. Reynolds is always reliable for witty, crisp delivered one-liners, and he brings that with Pikachu, and while he’s not foul-mouthed like Deadpool – although Reynolds said there are R-rated outtakes enough a movie – Reynolds’ Pikachu genuinely funny. Plus, the chemistry he has time Smith, despite the live-action and human interaction differences, is fantastic.

All the fun aside, Detective Pikachu does have some faults that keep it from being a good movie to a great movie. The movie’s story gets a little too ridiculous for its own good in the third act, and despite some cool Pokemon action, it doesn’t really justify the direction of the story, although you might be able to guess where it was headed at some point. Of course, there is the big one – do you need to know anything about Pokemon to enjoy the movie? Sort of. Knowing little things about the world could be helpful in some moments and situations while watching the events unfold, but not knowing them should affect your enjoyment.

Then there are the tonal shifts. The first ten, fifteen minutes of the movie is pretty much a drama with Tim dealing with the loss of his father, but then Pikachu is introduced and the movie becomes a comedy. But then Tim’s story comes back and the movie stops everything to have a drama beat, and then go right back to comedy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the movie missteps on balancing the two sometimes. To get a little nit-picky, despite the amazing designs of the all the Pokemon, and how amazingly truthful they are, there some times with they look just a tad bit wonky, again, nit-picky.

All in all, Pokemon Detective Pikachu is a fun entertaining movie that you’ll enjoy whether or not you know anything about the Pokemon lore or franchise. The story is a little flimsy by the end, but it’s the core cast of Justice Smith’s Tim, Kathryn Newton’s Lucy and Ryan Reynolds’ Pikachu that will keep you invested from beginning to end. Pika Pika.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu

4 out of 5

‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Review/Thoughts

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Cast: Everybody…I’m not writing them all out.

Synopsis: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War, the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

*Reviewer Note: This post WILL HAVE SPOILERS. It won’t be a full-blown review, but will have review elements. This is more of a free-flown thought post about everything. If it feels disjointed, I’m sorry.*

 

11 years and twenty-two movies has all led to this. Marvel and the Russo brothers have impressively weaved everything together for their endgame. From the moment we saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury coming out of the shadows to tell Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark that he’s now part of a bigger world, fans have been eager to see where all this was going to lead. Whether you were a comic book fan or not, Marvel and everyone involved behind-the-scenes made sure to make you, and keep you, invested in these characters, and make you care for these characters from beginning to end. In this case, keep you and make you invested in their final journey – well, at least for a few of them.

Avengers: Endgame will probably surprise some people. Because despite being a “comic book movie,” the first act of the movie – after the first ten minutes – is more of a drama, and one that focus of loss. We’re not use to seeing heroes lose, and even if they do, their turnaround happens later on. Instead, Antony and Joe Russo have the characters dealing with their losses and trying to on, but as Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers says, “most people move, but we don’t.” It’s not just a line, we see it on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha as she’s trying to make sure the world doesn’t go completely lawless, and looks like she’s become a Nick Fury-esque leader, but the weight of it has gotten to her, especially when she hears about Jeremy Renner’s Clint has been doing since “The Snap” (I know it’s called something else, but we’re calling it The Snap).

Speaking of Clint, the movie opens with him dealing with The Snap all by himself, and it  almost makes sense why he would go down the road he’s chosen – for the comic book fans, they never all him Ronin. Then he has to deal with losing Natasha to get the Soul Stone – which I’ll get to in a little bit. Clint takes the punches and keeps going, and while it’s easy to hate or rag on the character, Clint is a valuable member of The Avengers, and it’s shown here as he’s basically the test dummy for going into the Quantum Realm, and getting the new Gauntlet into the playing field at the end.

Others who have great drama moments is Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, who escapes the Quantum Realm when the machine – I forgot the name – is turned on (by the rat?) and he comes out in a post-Snap world. He walks the streets of San Francisco seeing the aftermath and the slow realization of what happened, and the horror of seeing him searching for his daughter Cassie’s name, only to see his own name. Plus, yes, the reunion of him and Cassie is, probably, the first tear-jearking scene of the movie – for me.

Then there’s Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, oh I’m sorry, I mean FAT Thor. The effects of losing everything, and thinking it was his fault, because he didn’t aim for the head, is played throughout the film and it makes sense. Everything Thor has been through in the franchise has lead to him being one of the strongest Avengers, even if it’s said for laughs half the time, so having him be that close to end all of it and failing all the same is going to take its toll. Although, playing what essentially is PTSD a little bit jokey is questionable, it make sense that Thor would be the way he is. That said, I also love this scenes with Rene Russo’s returning Frigga.

Finally, we have Tony and Steve. The two still have some heat at the beginning due to the events of Civil War, but when the chips are down they know they need each other. Tony, and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, being rescued from space by Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel was expected, but seeing Tony with muscle loss and calling out Steve at the beginning is hard to watch. We’ve seen Tony in situations that he can get out of or even manage to barely get out of, but seeing Tony like this – a broken man – is something we’ve never really seen before, and it’s so effective, which makes his arc by the end

As for Steve, his ending just makes sense. Steve going back to the past to return the Infinity Stones, and then staying there to become old with Haley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is the ending that almost every fan wanted. Steve was always a man out of time, and the constant reminders of Peggy throughout the whole Captain America series, and here in Endgame it made sense he would stay and live his life with the love of his life. It also puts Chris Evans out of his contract, and a fitting end at that.

Now, let’s get to some of the grips. Because despite what some non-comic book fans think, we fans can be critical of the movies – well some of us. One of the main things everyone was talking about was the length of the movie. In many ways, it didn’t matter in the end because the movie doesn’t really feel long at all. The pacing, for the most part, is great. Endgame does slow down a bit when it comes to small scenes like when Thanos finds out about Nebula, and some of the double Nebula and Gamora scenes kind of slow things down, but other than, the pacing is fine.

Arguably, you can say Endgame returns to Marvel’s villain “problem.” Josh Brolin’s Thanos screen time is reduced tremendously from Infinity War, resulting in him not even appearing until about halfway, maybe even little more than halfway, through the movie. Granted, Infinity War was really a Thanos story, and Endgame was more about our heroes dealing with he’s done and trying to reverse it with their “Time Heist” it still would have been nice to get a little more Thanos – even if it was the past Thanos.

Now, let’s talk about fan service. Some will probably see Avengers: Endgame as huge fan service, and you know what, in some regard, yes Avengers: Endgame has a lot of fan service. But, the way I see the fan service in the film is that it’s done right. It’s not too heavy handed, which is saying something since the final battle scene is basically the most comic booky thing you can ever see or imagine a comic book movie doing. That said, the final battle scene is everything these movies have been building up to if you really think about it, so I can’t really blame the movie or call it real fan service if this was the direction they were going to go with.

Yes, the final battle scene, even leading up to it, had moments fans have been waiting for. Captain America lifting Mjolnir and using it, every major hero you can think of showing up for the battle – even having all the women team up – and Captain America finally saying “Avengers Assemble.” That said, is that a bad thing? Does it take away from your enjoyment of the film? To go extreme, should it not have been in the movie at all? Sometimes fandoms can be a fickle thing.

Finally, the time travel. Look, time travel in movies is always a tricky thing, and once you start explaining it, someone else is going to come in and tell you how you’re wrong. Does the changes they made affect the timeline? Yeah, probably. Does it matter for your enjoyment of the future films? Probably not, unless they bring it up. It’s not really a pass we should give the film, but I think for this, I’m going to let it pass because “Back to the Future is bullshit.”

All in all, Avengers: Endgame was, to me, a perfect sendoff and end to a franchise that’s been going strong – with a few stumbles sure – for over eleven years and twenty-plus films. Character arcs were wrapped up, hints of future in the franchise and emotional moments all over the place.

Avengers: Endgame

4 out of 5