Mini-Reviews – Justice League, Lady Bird, Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I’ve been slacking on my movie reviews, so please forgive me for that, I have been watching movies but I haven’t had a real chance to sit down and write full reviews. So this is going to make up for it, with some of the big movies I’ve watched. Movies not included are Daddy’s Home 2, Roman J. Israel Esq., Murder on the Orient Express.

 

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so please, bare with me. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Writer: Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Odeya Rush, Timothee Chalamet, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott and Tracy Letts.

Synopsis: In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California.

 

Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial effort, Lady Bird is a great coming-of-age story following Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), who wants out of her town but is not financially able to go to a big college. It also doesn’t help that her mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is working non-stop and thinks she should think more logically about college. During all of this, we follow Lady Bird, which is what she wants to be called, go through her final year at school, love and thinking what her future holds for her.

I had heard a lot about Lady Bird during its film festival run, and when I finally got the chance to see it, I can see why people really loved it. Gerwig’s writing was fantastical, nothing ever felt forced and Ronan is simply amazing as Lady Bird. The main thing for me about the movie is, despite the movie being set in 2002, it doesn’t really feel that way. Sure we have flip-phones and the whole, “the government is going to put trackers on us” mentally by one of the characters Lady Bird interacts with, and the news of attacks overseas by our government, but the time period isn’t really that important – at least from my point of view of watching.

The thing that makes Lady Bird work for me is the chemistry between Ronan and Metcalf. Any time they are on the screen together it makes the film pop, and it’s both fun and hard to watch as you see them argue and fight one minute and then suddenly have a heart-to-heart the next. It would be really hard to imagine if none of these ladies including Gerwig, are not nominated for the major award shows.

All in all, Lady Bird is a greatly acted film with top notch writing and humor that feels real. While I did feel it loses only a slightly bit of steam near the end, the cast and the script really make Lady Bird worth the while.

Lady Bird

4 out of 5

 

 

Justice League

Director: Zack Snyder

Writers: Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon

Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Joe Morton, Connie Nielsen, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane, Henry Cavill and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.

 

Justice League has had a long and hard road to get to the big screen. From the scarped George Miller-directed movie, to the DCEU’s battle to get fans and critics to go all in for their movies, the movie has finally arrived and it’s just okay. If you didn’t know, Zack Snyder directed the movie at first, but had to step down for the reshoots because of the death of a loved, and Joss Whedon – who had done some script work – came in to take over.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of hopes for this. I still had the bad taste of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with me, but I was willing to really give Justice League a chance. Unfortunately, Justice League was a huge misstep for me. The CGI was really off in places – I’m looking at you Henry Cavill mustache removal!

Justice League has a rather simple plot; Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) gathers together the team of the Amazon, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the speedster Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), the loner Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Jason Momoa) and the cybernetically enhanced Victor Stone/Cyborg (Ray Fisher) to stop the threat of Steppenwolf (voiced by Ciaran Hinds), an intergalactic threat that comes to Earth to find the Mother Boxes, cubes with massive power. It’s up to them to stop him and save the world.

The problem with Justice League is, besides some of the terrible CGI, is it doesn’t really take the time to get to know the new characters. We know Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman, but we get the cliff notes of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg, which doesn’t help considering we’re suppose to care for these characters, and they’re the new big characters we’re going to follow. Miller’s Barry is too jokey; Stone’s Cyborg is a bit too stoic – although he does loosen up at the end – and Momoa’s Curry/Aquaman is a bit too “bro” for me, which is fine for a new approach, but I didn’t really get into it.

All in all, despite all that, yes, Justice League does have some fun and cool moments, but a lot of the negatives and drawbacks of the movie – some I didn’t even mention – really make it hard to enjoy the moments entirely. Justice League does take the DCEU into the right direction of more hopeful and fun, instead dark gritty. Hopefully, the DCEU continues down this route, otherwise the franchise is in a lot of trouble.

Justice League

2.5 out of 5

 

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Cast: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, John Hawkes, Amanda Warren, Samara Weaving, Kerry Condon, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Clarke Peters, Sandy Martin, Zeljko Ivanek, Abbie Cornish, and Peter Dinklage

Synopsis: In this darkly comic drama, a mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder, when they fail to catch the culprit.

 

Martin McDonagh, who directed In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, is a director that I will also keep a look out for now. When I found out about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and the cast, it immediately jumped into my “Must Watch” list, and I’m glad I did, because this was a film that really stuck with me.

The film follows Mildred (Frances McDormand), who has recently lost her daughter in a brutal way, and after the police have seemed to give up on the case, she decides to buy three billboards that target the police for not doing their jobs. The billboards get the attention of the police, more specifically Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and Officer Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), and the townspeople who are heavily against them. The film then follows Mildred as she deals with everyone seemingly against her, and Dixon and Willoughby trying to finally figure out the case.

There is a lot more going on in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri that I won’t even hint at here, mainly because this film really does lend itself on knowing the least amount of information possible to thoroughly enjoy it and really get into the world that this movie takes place in. I will say it’s a dark comedy, so prepare yourself for that, and if you seen McDonagh’s other films, then you’d know what to expect.

I will say Frances McDormand is great as always, but I’d argue that this movie belongs to Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely fantastic in this, and dare I say, this is one of his best performances he’s ever done.

All in all, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a wonderfully entertaining dark comedy with great performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. Seriously do yourself a favor and try to avoid anything about the movie, and go watch it.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4.5 out of 5

 

 

Coco

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Writers: Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich

Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos and Benjamin Bratt

Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

 

I am willing to admit that I had serious doubts about Coco. I knew that Pixar had been working on a Dia de los Muertos movie for a while now, but I was a huge fan of another Dia de los Muertos film called The Book of Life. However, Coco completely blew me away. The movie follows Miguel, who is banned from playing, listening or even thinking about music, but like all kids, he doesn’t follow his family’s rule. Miguel is inspired by a deceased musician from the town, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), and through magic, enters the Land of the Dead on The Day of the Dead to find de la Cruz and find his place in the world.

Along his journey there, he meets his deceased family and a con man named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal). But, Miguel finds out that he has to get back to the living world before he’s stuck in the Land in the Dead forever.

Like any Pixar movie, the movie has a great story, great characters and amazing visuals. The beautiful and bright colors of The Land of the Dead really pop and I kind of wish we could see more of it as a whole, and not just sections. I also liked that they really dug into the actual culture of everything, and it’s cool to see that represented in a movie like this.

More importantly, and the thing that will put any movie on my list of anything, this tugged on every emotional string that I had. I’ll admit, I was on the verge of tears A LOT. The characters actions and even some of the music, more specifically “Remember Me” started up the waterworks.

All in all, Coco is a great film with eye-popping visuals and an amazing soundtrack. I will admit, something in the final act was a little jarring, especially for a kids and Pixar movie but I guess it worked out at the end of it all.

Coco

4.5 out of 5

 

New Podcast: Mini-Review of Doctor Strange, The Flash Loses Another Director, Ciaran Hinds Joins Justice League and Ton More

The Movie Pit Podcast is up!

It’s later than I would have liked because I miscalculated my editing time with the addition of my Doctor Strange mini-review (full written review of Doctor Strange will be posted this weekend). Enjoy everyone.

‘Hitman: Agent 47’ Review

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Dir: Aleksander Bach

Writer(s): Skip Woods and Michael Finch

Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann, and Ciaran Hinds

Synopsis: An assassin teams up with a woman to help her find her father and uncover the mysteries of her ancestry.

 

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

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

 

Video game movie adaptations have a rough hill to climb. For one, they take away the interactive aspect of it all, and forces you to watch –essentially– an entire cut-scene. The other – which is the main reason – is that they aren’t always very good, in fact, a lot of the time they are downright terrible. The problem with Hollywood is that forget most video games are fun to play and they take away that fun and make the films just a tad more serious than they probably should be. In other cases, it’s the studio or creative team thinking they can create something on their own and use the basic skeleton of the video games, which is often the reason the films fail. In the case of Hitman: Agent 47, the reboot tries to inject some more aspects of the video game, but still fails to bring a descent adaptation, despite two solid leads.

 

Hitman: Agent 47 starts off by telling us what and when the “Agent” program started. The program was to create Agents, genetically modified assassins, but was eventually shut down. However, a corporation called Syndicate International, lead by Le Clerq (Kretschamann), is looking to restart the program and to do so they need the lead scientist of the program, Litvenko (Hinds). They believe they can find him through his daughter, Katia (Ware), who is also looking for him for personal reasons. So they send John Smith (Quinto) to find her and bring her in, but Agent 47 (Friend) is after them as well with his own agenda.

 

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I did enjoy, for the most part, 2007’s Hitman with Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, but with this being a complete reboot, Showtime’s Homeland’s Rupert Friend takes over the role and I have to say, he’s a little bit better in the role. Agent 47 is a bit of a tough character to crack in the sense that he’s a genetically modified assassin that had all his feelings stripped away from him. It is really all about the actor playing him and the charisma he brings along with his body language and style. You want to feel this guy is going to kill you and isn’t going to stop until that happens. Friend does bring most of that to the table, and for the most part. Friend brings that Terminator-esque vibe at the beginning as he calmly walks toward Katia and John Smith in a train station. However, I should say, in case you didn’t know, Paul Walker was originally intended to star before he sadly passed away.

 

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Probably one of the best cast members is newcomer Hannah Ware. Katia acts in some ways as the surrogate to the audience and the world of Agents. She plays a rather important part to everything going on, and if you have avoid the trailer – since one of them actually gives it away – I won’t spoil it here. But, it’s a pretty nice addition to the potential series, if they continue making them. Her character at one point feels like she’s going through a “tutorial level” with Agent 47 telling her how she has to deal with her surroundings. Ware does thankfully hold her own and gets involved as much as possible in the action.

 

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The villain side unfortunately doesn’t hold up too much. Thomas Kretschmann’s Le Clerq feels like he’s suppose to be main villain, but sends most of his screentime inside his specially designed safety office. That said, Zachary Quinto, who is really a henchman for Le Clerq becomes the primary villain for us. Quinto, who is usually reliable, doesn’t really deliver as the villain here. He doesn’t really do too much, sure he has some pretty intense fight scenes with Friend’s Agent 47, and he has an interesting character trait, but his character just lacks a bit. Ciaran Hinds, who isn’t a villain, gets a small but descent role as Katia’s father and creator for Agent program. Hinds is reliable as always and it’s kind of a shame he didn’t get more screen time since he brings the heart to the movie.

 

So despite the two solid leads in Friend and Ware, Hitman: Agent 47 does have its faults, and unfortunately those faults do take you out of the movie a bit. For one, a lot of the CGI takes you out of it. Some it works, but a lot of the time it just doesn’t look good at all. Sure the movie is low budget, but it shouldn’t have affected the CGI too much. Even some of the action sequences – which were put together by John Wick directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – are great to watch, especially the beginning set-piece, but director Aleksander Bach makes some weird editing choices that don’t help the scenes out in any way and even makes them a bit hard to watch.

 

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One little tidbit that I thought could have added to the movie is having more world building. It looked like Fox was setting up for a franchise and there were some great opportunities for Fox to build that up a little more. They tried with a character named Diana (Angelababy), who looks to be Agent 47’s contact, but it was the scene at the end that really tries to build up the world, but by then it is too late.

 

All in all, Hitman: Agent 47 has some problems that take away from the movie a bit, but with its leads in Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware you can overlook them (for the most part). While it’s not the best video game movie adaptation – there’s also some nice nods to the games – it certainly isn’t the worse.

 

Hitman: Agent 47

3 out of 5

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