Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Back in 2004 I took a two and a half hour bus trip to the cinema to watch a movie called ‘2046’, a film by Wong Kar Wai and starring Tony Leung. The cinema in my hometown was limited to just 3 screens and English only movies and a few years before that to see foreign films at all was limited to the Television. I wouldn’t make a long bus trip for every foreign film but the combination of one of the world’s best Directors and one of the world’s best Actors was pretty much a guarantee that I was going to see it. So 17 years later I am surrounded by movie theaters, the closest one to me is about a 10 minute walk. Marvel movies are played on numerous screens of each theater throughout the day. It should be no problem to get tickets to see it. Right? Nah! I checked for tickets last night and it was sold out, sold out, sold out. I literally spent an hour visiting different theater websites looking for tickets and the best I could find were front row seats, you know those ones that give you a crick in your neck? They should be abolished, especially with the advent of IMAX. They are the worst seats. I feel constantly annoyed by theaters that use this crappy location for wheelchair seating. A lot of wheel chairs don’t have head rests yet wheelchair users are expected to hold their neck up to the screen for 2 hours or more. So, I didn’t buy those tickets. Instead, I got on a train for an hour and twenty minutes to go to a cinema that did have seats. In short, this is a really popular movie. Even with cinemas here only at half capacity it’s pretty impressive. Even with less than half of the nation vaccinated, people still really really wanted to see this.

The film opens with the main man himself, Tony Leung and the story of Wenwu. Throughout the film the story cuts back from time to time and as we learn more about the main plot of the movie. We learn more about Father Wenwu, Son Shang-Chi and Daughter Xialing in flash backs from their own perspectives. Wenwu and Shang-Chi get the most development in these flash backs and I think this movie is just as much about the master of the ten rings, Wenwu, as it is Shang-chi. In modern day, Shang-chi lives in the USA having not seen his father for 10 years after running away. He lives a normal, yet fun life and shows no hint of his mastery of Kung Fu which he trained in since he was a young boy.

The first half of the movie feels like a grounded Kung Fu action film, the fight choreography is fast and impressive. Awkwafina plays Katy, Shang-chi’s closest friend and perhaps the most lovable character in the whole film. She provides a lot of the lightheartedness in the film and give us a very down to earth perspective of the events she gets caught up in.

When Wenwu shows up in the movie to reunite with his son after 10 years it shifts from a grounded Kung Fu movie into a more fantastical one. I kinda missed the more grounded stuff as the latter half of the film presents characters flying through the air, flying dragons and soul eating bats. While the CGI is great the fights are depending more on CGI effects than the actor’s physical talent. The film also gets a little cutesy with the re-introduction of a certain character from marvel’s past along with their furry little friend. While I was excited to see the return of this character I think the cute furry CGI creature that’s used for comedy in the movie didn’t really work for me and felt a bit aimed at kids. The end battle and fights are pretty bonkers and throw every mystical Asian creature onto the screen.

But at the heart of the film is the story of Shang-chi and Wenwu. Take away the action, the CGI and you’re left with two very human characters. Shang-Chi, who runs away from his Father to escape becoming like him, resents him and resents what he sees of his Father in himself. Wenwu, a man, a warlord who has lived for over a thousand years but is tamed by his family only to have his world turned upside down. He would do anything to get back that which he lost. Neither character is purely good or purely evil. They do lean towards different spectrums but when face to face all their flaws are exposed.

Tony Leung is my favorite actor and like my other favorite actors I will watch any movie he is in. When it was announced two years ago that Tony would be making his American debt in a Marvel movie playing one of Iron Man’s most famous villains I just about screamed with delight.

With all that said I think the performance by Tony Leung was absolutely fantastic. He doesn’t leave anything off the table. I don’t see Wenwu as a villain. He’s very nuanced. I think Tony is actually perfect casting for the role as you can actually sympathize with his character, the sadness in his eyes over what he has lost, the moments with his son when they talk about family. It almost had me in tears. It’s relatable to all of us and it’s elevates this marvel movie to something more than just a comic book movie. The story of Wenwu and his character arc is just as compelling as Shang-Chi’s.

Favorite Quote: “Your family needs you.” – Shang-Chi

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Mr. Inbetween

Ray Shoesmith is going to go down as one of Television’s most memorable characters with the likes of Walter White, Doctor House, Sherlock, Tony Soprano etc

Who is Ray Shoesmith? He’s the last guy in the world you’d ever want to f*ck with. You’d have a better chance of escaping from the Terminator than this guy and unlike the Terminator who’ll just kill you, Ray is going to make your death slow and painful. Tell him where your money is buried if he promises not to kill you and he’ll take the money and still kill you. This man has pushed people through windows for as little as a toy Unicorn.

The basic premise for the show is that Ray is a hitman for hire but is a man who also has a life outside that with a young daughter, a brother, a best friend that represent the more normal aspects of his life. Ray is a dangerous man and because of who he is he has a tendency to strike back viciously when wronged. At times Mr. Inbetween is family drama, criminal underworld doings and at times it’s a dark comedy.

So is Ray a bad guy? Is it even a question that needs to be asked? Well…maybe. You see, Ray is a Father, a man who will do anything for his friends and family and is at times forgiving to people who’ve tried to kill him if it’s “just business”. Confused? You’d be right to because for a series based around that character there is a sense that even to understand his motivations is not enough to understand the man. I believe that is on purpose. Ray is the guy we sometimes pass by on the street, we know instantly that this person has done things that are not part of our world, so how could we expect to ever truly understand this man that goes against our morals and ethics?

The beauty of the show is it’s simplicity. There are 3 seasons totaling 26 episodes. Each episode is under 30 minutes long. Unlike most modern TV shows these days it doesn’t feel it has to be anything else other than what it is. There is sometimes action but not every episode. It’s not pandering to any algorithm based on TV ratings that dictates it needs to have 7 minutes of action and 10 minutes of drama, 5 minutes of sex etc. It just is what it is. So, the show can’t really do wrong, it’s because it’s not a show intending to go where a TV audience, with it’s various demographics would expect it to go, there is no studio mandate, there is no expectation, other than to get in the back seat of the car and wonder where the driver, Ray Shoesmith, will take you.

Why I want to recommend this is because it’s a fantastic show but doesn’t seem to be that well known. The creator of the character and the man who plays him, Scott Ryan, hasn’t featured in anything much beyond this show. Even checking Scott Ryan’s Instagram I see he has less than 10,000 followers and I can’t fathom how this guy and his show aren’t the hottest thing on Television. My feeling is that this show will one day explode when people find it.

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Superman Returns…again?

This Summer marks not only the 15th anniversary of Superman Returns but also when I started writing this blog because the first post I made was a review of ‘Superman Returns’. Since 2006 there have been 3 further movies featuring Superman although none of them have been connected to ‘ Superman Returns’.

So what happened?

A Superman movie had been in development since the early 90s and there were various Directors and actors attached to the project. The budget for Superman Returns was $204 Million dollars and factoring in the development from the 90s that brought it to over $260 Million, adding in marketing and promotion the total cost of the film stands at around $360 Million. It made a worldwide gross of $391 Million. It’s a profit but for these kinds of movies the studios expect to make double what they paid for it. But take a look at the worldwide gross of ‘Batman Begins’, $371 Million. But the budget for that movie was $150 Million. ‘Batman Begins’ was the 7th highest grossing movie in the USA in 2005. ‘Superman Returns’ was the 5th highest grossing movie in 2006. Despite all of that ‘Superman Returns’ was considered as having under performed and that’s mainly down to budget. The film received positive reviews from critics although audiences were perhaps wanting more action from the movie. Even Quentin Tarantino has said he wrote a 20 page review of why he loves the movie so much (although not available to read as of yet).

A sequel was planned for 2009. Filming was due to start in 2007 but the Director of Superman Returns delayed filming to work on ‘Valkyrie’ starring Tom Cruise. Even in 2008 there were still expectations for a Superman movie to start filming in 2009. Unfortunately things fizzled out and Warner Brothers decided to reboot the character which lead to 2013’s ‘Man of Steel’. The sequels to ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ both went on to make over $1 Billion each worldwide. If WB had stuck to their guns I think a sequel to ‘Superman Returns’ could have made a pretty penny for them. Superman is a property they just seem impatient with, they can’t stick with one vision and develop it to it’s full potential. 15 years later and they still don’t know how to handle the character.

While the rebooted Superman movie ‘Man of Steel‘ did better at the box office audiences felt turned off by the darker, conflicted, almost scary version of Superman. I personally prefer the Superman in Returns. Just compare two scenes from both movies, the first in ‘Superman Returns’. Lex Luthor creates a new continental landmass in the ocean which threatens to rise sea levels dramatically and causes a large earthquake in the city of Metropolis. This is followed by a large action sequence of Superman saving people across the city in various ways and using his powers to full effect. He catches a person falling from a building crane, he uses his heat vision to burn away falling glass from buildings, catches a building sign from crushing cars below etc. Compare that to ‘Man of Steel’, Superman and Zod battle in the city completely wrecking it but one moment in particular was telling of Superman’s character in MOS. Zod kicks an oil truck at Superman who jumps over it and lets it smash into the building behind him which completely collapses. I think it’s a car park but still, he has no regard for anything or anyone around him, all his powers of super strength, vision, hearing and he doesn’t use it to protect people around him.

I felt sorry for Brandon Routh who seemed perfect for the role. He’s still my second favorite Superman after Christopher Reeve. In 2019 Bandon returned to the role in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths. The first thing I noticed when he returned to the role was the commanding screen presence he has as Superman. He really is suited to the role. Unfortunately his appearance on Crisis was all too short. In his return we learn that an attack on the daily planet by a psychopath from Gotham took those closest to Superman. Superman now wears a suit like that of the Kingdom Come comics with the ‘S’ shield in a black background and Superman’s hair slightly grayed. At the end of Crisis we learn that the multi verse has been rebooted and we see Brandon’s Superman once again but this time with a yellow ‘S’ shield as he flies off smiling. I would imagine that this means events in his life may have changed and leaves open many possibilities…

So what was the plan for the 2009 sequel originally? The film had the potential title ‘Man of Steal’ and revolved around the Kryptonite Island Superman had pushed into space. The Island would attract the attention of Brainiac an artificial intelligence from Krypton that destroyed Superman’s world. Brainiac takes over the body of Superman’s son Jason growing to adult side and Superman must now fight his son leading to a tragic sacrifice in order to defeat Brainiac and save the world. Where this would have left a potential 3rd sequel is anyone’s guess. But it would have given us a more actiony film with a Wrath of Khan level ending.

So why did I put a question mark at the end of the title for this blog post? Well, since Routh’s brief return in Crisis there have been rumors that there might be a mini series on HBO Max with Routh returning to the role as Superman. It’s still a rumor for now but I sure as heck would love that and I am sure Routh himself would too. I think there is a sense of unfinished business for himself and fans.

Favorite Quote:Even in the darkest times, hope cuts through.” – Superman

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Godzilla Vs. Kong

Back when I was a child I had a toy of Godzilla and a toy of King Kong. I often used to play with them and imagine how cool it would be to see them fight it out. This movie is pretty much that. Toys fighting each other. That’s not a critic but it’s basically what you’re paying for here. I grew up watching Godzilla movies and King Kong movies. There’s nothing to dislike about them. They are fun movies. Even when they aren’t good movies there’s that playing with toys feel to them and the sky’s the limit when it comes to how imaginative they get.

Of the previous ‘Monsterverse’ movies that started with ‘Godzilla’ in 2014 they’ve been more miss than hit in my book. The 2014 film didn’t impress me because it lacked Godzilla and a real story, they also killed off the most interesting character early on in the film. It seemed to try to play to the expectations of all audience goers by giving us a dark, destructive monster movie like the original 1954 movie but also making Godzilla a character who is actually a nice guy deep down like the brighter incarnations that followed the 1954 movie. ‘Kong Skull Island’ equally didn’t impress me and felt more like a vanilla lite best of 70’s war movies and Samuel L Jackson character lines. ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’ actually did impress me because I wasn’t planning on watching it and went into it expecting more of the same of the 2014 movie. But instead they just decided to go full on with the fun aspects of the Godzilla series and use that mythology built up over 50 years. While I had hoped back in 2014 we would have a serious, realistic monster series I did enjoy ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’ because it was so much fun and nostalgia filled.

Finally, we get to ‘Godzilla Vs. Kong’. A movie they have been trying to make for decades since the original ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ back in 1962. With this 2021 version they go full on crazy with the concept and throw any idea they can think of at it. For that reason there doesn’t feel to be any real stakes to this and the only aspects that really deserves attention are the monster fights. I left the cinema feeling satisfied with the spectacle of it all but there’s little else there beyond that to digest. Like I said, playing with toys. When it’s dinner time you put your toys down and there’s nothing else of consequence. Even with ‘Godzilla: King of Monsters’ there was a little more substance with the story and characters and there was weight to how events played out. Godzilla Vs. Kong is very much your fast food meal without any salad.

Do I recommend it? If you like playing with toys but feel too embarrassed to do so then yeah, watch it. Even if just for the monster fight alone between these too iconic monsters, it almost feels like you have to see it on the big screen. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it and got a laugh when Godzilla and Kong teamed up and drove another monster face first through a building. How the hell can you not giggle at that?

The story is that Kong (aka John McClane) is living on Skull island in political exile after been defeated by Godzilla centuries ago. But scientists who are making an evil weapon want to use Kong to find a secret power source that may be at the center of the earth. They put Kong on a boat for the arctic where they will enter the hole to the center of the earth but when Godzilla finds out that Kong is on the move without a passport the two come to major blows. (that passport bit was a joke by the way).

Notes: I watched this on Laser IMAX in 3D. My first Laser IMAX movie. Cost about $26 in US, £19 UK, 22 (Europe), ¥2,900 (Japan). It’s probably the most expensive movie ticket I have ever bought. With that said the picture was crystal clear and beautiful, it’s worth it for a big movie like this, I wouldn’t spend it every time though. The 3D was a complete waste, especially that we are still in a mask wearing era and wearing a mask is going to fog up your 3D glasses. Pretty stupid to add 3D to this and in reality there’s not much 3D to this film. Just another way to pinch pennies from the movie going public.

Favorite Quote: “Home” – Kong

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King Kong Vs. Frankenstein

Conceived originally as a sequel to the 1933 film ‘King Kong’, ‘King Kong Vs. Frankenstein’ was thought up of by Willis O’Brien, stop motion animator on the original film who came up with the idea to get his career back on his feet, much like Carl Denham, by bringing back the Mighty Kong to the big screen. The plot roughly went like this…

The Monster of Frankenstein is created somewhere in South Africa by Frankenstein’s Grandson. His body is made from parts of animals, his skin that of an elephant etc. Two groups of explorers set out in a race to bring back the world’s greatest monsters. One group heads to South Africa to Hunt down Frankenstein’s Monster. The other group, led by Cael Denham Jr, sets out to get King Kong (I’m not sure which King Kong they refer to, the original and his son were both killed. Perhaps grandson? After some research it’s apparently the original that survived the fall from the Empire State Building). Both Monsters are brought back to San Francisco, they escape and have an epic battle destroying much of the city before both being destroyed at the Golden Gate Bridge. Jasus!

O’Brien brought the idea to Producer John Beck who quietly stole it and sold it Toho Studios under the title ‘King Kong Vs. Prometheus’. Toho studios had been interested in making a Frankenstein movie for a few years and would eventually do so in future in ‘Frankenstein Conquers the World’.

Toho eventually dropped Frankenstein from the plot and replaced him with Godzilla and thus ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ was born. A film which would see a very shabby looking King Kong taking on Godzilla who would have to use all his tactics to fight King Kong. These tactics included Karate Kicks…. Kong’s weakness would be his messy hair that Godzilla sets on Fire with his atomic breath.

My idea has always been that Godzilla represents the Atomic bomb. He is born from atomic testing, he has atomic breath and he brings terrible devastation to Japan. I have said in my previous reviews including Space Battleship Yamato that Japan is one of those countries that takes a terrible event and turns into into something powerful and positive. Godzilla eventually becomes a Hero rather than staying a Villain in Japan. In the Book ‘Monsters in the Movies’ by John Landis he theorizes that Godzilla represents Japan’s relations with the United States and the growing warmer relations between the two is represented through Godzilla who starts out as a terrible monster destroying cities to becoming Japan’s protector. His face even changes to take on more human tendencies and cartoony eyes almost like that of Micky mouse. I like Landis’ examination of the character and he might be right. At the time ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ was made a security treaty had been signed between Japan and the U.S.

‘Frankenstein Vs. Godzilla’ was intended to be a sequel to this movie but the idea was eventually dropped. There was also once an idea for ‘Batman Vs. Godzilla’. Lets not go there…
Interestingly enough King Kong had appeared in Japanese cinemas before 1962. ‘Wasei Kingu Kongu’ a 1933 silent film which is unfortunately lost along with about 90% of Japanese silent cinema. There was also ‘King Kong appears in Edo’ 1938 which has also been lost. It is unfortunate as these films predate the Godzilla movies and show Japan’s earliest foray into the Monster movie franchise.  Fuminori Ohashi who created the monster suit for the Japanese King Kong in 1938 would later go on to create the very first Godzilla monster suit.

As much fun as ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ is (or isn’t depending on how you view it) I would have really loved to have seen a black and white movie of a stop motion Kong go at it with Frankenstein. Could you imagine a movie that combined the continuity of the 1930’s King Kong and Frankenstein movies? That would have been a classic film. If they ever make the movie in future I want it made exactly the way they would have made it in at the time. Sometimes putting guys in suits just seems a bit easy. Not that there isn’t an art to that way of making monster movies. Probably the majority of the world would prefer a King Kong Vs. Godzilla movie over a Vs. Frankenstein movie. I remember getting King Kong and Godzilla toys in my Christmas stocking on separate years and having them stand on my shelf locked in battle. Maybe these ideas will come to fruition in future.

Now, supposedly there is an actual script for this movie and Toho studios have it. I would love to read it. I wonder how much of it was cannibalized between ‘King Kong Vs. Godzilla’ 1962 (in which Kong has powers of electricity), ‘ Frankenstein Conquers the World’ in which the heart of Frankenstein’s monster is grown into a Giant Monster version and ‘War of the Gargantuas’, a quasi sequel to ‘ Frankenstein Conquers the World’ where we would see the monster face off against his evil offspring.

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League

So if you are reading this you’ve probably already seen ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’. In 2017 I reviewed ‘Justice League’ which was a lukewarm review in which I didn’t really have much to say. Basically I said it was an OK film, not great but fun in parts, it was no challenger to anything Marvel was doing with their movies. When I read last year that the Snyder cut of Justice League would be released I decided to go back and rewatch ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Batman V Superman‘ and the 2017 version of ‘Justice League’. Watching these movies so close together I realized that the 2017 ‘Justice League’ was tonally way off the movies leading into it, it felt very off in terms of characters and the artistic representation of Zack’s that we can all agree is his strong point. The 2017 cut felt perfunctory. Rewatching it then for the second time I realized how big a change the movie had made and how jarring it was.

Now in 2021, three years and a half years later, I get to watch the original vision of what the movie was supposed to be. My opinion. It’s better but it still wouldn’t have been the success the studio hoped it would be. Why? Firstly, this movie is over 4 hours long. I didn’t get bored and wasn’t bothered by that at all but if this had come out in 2017 it wouldn’t have been 4 hours. It would have been under 2 and a half hours. The 2017 version was 2 hours long. Obviously that’s what the studio wanted, they didn’t feel they had a strong hand. A 2 hour movie can get more people in and out quicker. I can’t imagine watching this 2021 version cut into less than 2 hours 30 minutes. I don’t blame Zack for that. Having to introduce so many characters, give them a back story while servicing the main story of a film which was envisioned as a trilogy that the studio pushed down to two and then after the release of ‘Batman V Superman’ to one movie with a possible sequel, was an impossible task. There in lies the real problem with how they started these DC movies. We had lots of Marvel movies to get to know their heroes, grow with them, care about them and fall in love with them as we got to ‘Avengers’ and beyond. The Warner Brother’s approach was a shotgun wedding. Start with a movie that introduced all these new characters and give them spin off movies later. You start with a movie like ‘Justice League’ that brings all these heroes together for an epic world saving battle and you want the audience to invest themselves and shed a tear over characters they’ve barely been introduced to? The audience needs a little courting.

So would this movie have succeeded where the original failed considering that it would never have been released as a 4 hour movie? No. Does it succeed now? Yes. But only as a 4 hour movie. We have 3 new characters, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash to introduce and develop in this movie, along with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and the main Villain and laying the seeds for an epic story in future sequels. In fact, this version of ‘Justice League’ feels very much about the Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman. I was surprised how little Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are a part of this. Superman is hardly in it, Wonder Woman serves the expository role for much of the film, Batman serves as the hero bringing everyone together but there is little to his story other than serving this purpose. Superman’s role is basically the muscle of the group.

Is this an ‘Avengers’ level beating movie? I think no. It definitely isn’t on par with ‘Infinity War’ or ‘Endgame’ in any way but again those were movies with characters we had spent 10 years (and 22 movies) watching. ‘Justice League’ was a movie we had spent 2 hours watching. A year if you count Batman V Superman and 4 years (4 movies in total) if you count ‘Man of Steel’ in which we were introduced to Superman, a hero who destroyed a City full of people to defeat a bad guy. There’s not much love there yet. ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ actually makes me care about these characters, and again, I don’t think I could have developed an attachment to them if the movie was not 4 hours. That brings me to my next point. This ‘Justice League’ still feels like a course correction. Superman and Batman are toned down, they murder a lot less people, their personalities aren’t as dark or as brooding and they are kinda likeable this time. They aren’t egomaniacs. But don’t worry if you like that sort of thing because Wonder Woman kills a ton of people at the beginning of this movie. If you are pro capital punishment you’ll love these heroes, these guys don’t believe in jail! With that said there isn’t anything I really disliked about this movie, I wasn’t shaking my head or rolling my eyes. In fact, I thought Wonder Woman was awesome in this movie and I love how Snyder portrayed the character and showed her powers to full effect.

What I liked least was probably the epilogue or better put, the material shot for this movie that was not originally part of the 2017 version Snyder had hoped to release. Specifically I’m talked about the nightmare sequence and the interaction with Martian Manhunter. I felt the nightmare sequence wasn’t necessary. The dialogue between the Joker and Batman felt clunky and rushed and what was the ultimate point of it? This extra material sets up a sequel but how likely are we to get a sequel?

There are a lot of pieces involved to get a sequel to this made. Finishing the effects of a movie already shot is one thing but filming an entirely new movie and bringing back the cast is a whole other endeavor. Obviously I think they should make at least A sequel to round off the story. If the studio would go as far as to shoot the first movie twice and splash down $70 million three years later to complete a movie they abandoned then surely they have the money in the piggy bank to do another movie for the Justice League. I mean, why not? You have the first Wonder Woman and Aquaman movies making over $1 billion each at the box office. Henry Cavill seems like he is contracted for at least one other appearance as Superman in a DC movie, whether that is ‘Black Adam’ or ‘Shazam’ or this. His star power is rising in Hollywood with movies like ‘ Mission Impossible’ and ‘The Witcher’ series on netflix. Ben Affleck was universally liked by everyone who watched ‘Batman V Superman’ and is already returning for The Flash movie. WB won’t be making any other ‘Justice League’ movies. Not for a long long long time, so why not?

The one thing that has surprised me in all of this is how positive the reviews are from mainstream media. I think there is generally a lot of goodwill towards this cut and finally seeing “the Director’s vision”. I personally think it’s the best of Zack’s DC work. It’s the one I feel most comfortable with. I think in terms of the other DC movies in this era that ‘Aquaman ‘ and ‘Wonder Woman 84’ are more fun. They are movies that I would feel comfortable taking kids to watch. ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Batman V Superman’ and Justice League 2021 are movies that are dark, adult, violent and distant from the more colorful images we have when we think of some of our DC heroes. They aren’t for everyone. But that’s OK. There is room for all kinds of interpretations and opinions will vary. What I can say is that if they don’t continue this particular vision laid out by Snyder then we are probably very unlikely to ever see something like this again.

Favorite Quote: “She’s 5,000 years old, Barry. Every guy’s a younger guy.” – Cyborg

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Sadako

Sadako is the latest film in the Ring franchise to be released in Japan. Released in 2019 and Directed by Hideo Nakata who was Director on Ring (1998), Ring 2 (1999), The Ring TwO (2005) and ‘Dark Water’ (2002). Unfortunately the film is just another in a series of missed opportunities to reinvigorate the franchise and adds to the diminishing returns of these boring sequels.

The biggest problem with the film is that it’s just average. Beyond the very average acting and cheap TV frame rate cinematography it’s a movie where not much happens. Considering that it’s been 20 years since Nakata last directed a Ring movie in Japan one might have thought he had time to mule over a story or take some inspiration from the books considering that2 more had been released during his time away from the franchise.

The film explores similar themes as the other Ring films have. There is a clear theme of Motherhood and protecting one’s daughter in these films Vs. abandonment and abuse on the other side, leading to ghostly revenge. Again, it’s been done. There is no real mystery here. The scares are all too far and few between also. Gone is the suffocating atmosphere of dread that Nakata had so brilliantly created in his original Ring films.

It’s not all bad though. The moments where it shines are when it references the original 1998 movie and characters. It’s Shakespeare compared to the previous 3 films released in Japan, ‘Sadako 3D‘, the geniusly titled ‘Sadako 3D 2‘ and ‘Sadako Vs. Kayako‘. It’s a step in the right direct but from the man who gave us ‘Ring’ it’s a very lackluster offering. The film in no way attempts to reboot the franchise or tell a different story of which there is plenty of material from the books it could take inspiration from. I’m specifically talking about ‘Loop’ and the otherworldly setting that it presents.

Do I recommend it? It’s not the worst Ring film you’ll see. I noticed that it has a unfair rating on IMDB (around 4/10 at the time of writing) which I think is due to a copy of the film floating around with dire english subtitles. At worst it’s a movie that doesn’t go anywhere, at it’s best it’s not anything like the garbage sequels that came before.

Posted in J-Horror, Ring, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Rise of Skywalker’s response to The Last Jedi

Two years ago I had a list of grievances with ‘The Last Jedi‘ in my review of it. Here today is how ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ responded to the things TLJ did. In bold is what I wrote two years ago and below is what they did in TROS.

At the beginning of ‘The Last Jedi’ Luke takes his Father’s lightsaber, the one passed down to him by Obi Wan Kenobi and throws it over his shoulder. This is basically the symbolic moment of what this film does.

This time Rey throws the lightsaber away into a burning wreck of Kylo Ren’s Tie fighter. Luke’s force ghost catches it and says, “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect.”

Rey’s parents: Nobodies. So much for making such a big deal about it in the last movie.
Not exactly nobodies, the Father was the son of Emperor Palpatine, making Rey the grand daughter of one of the most evil men in the Galaxy.

Snoke: Who is he? What happened to his face? What does he represent? What’s his deal? He’s killed without a single hint as to who, why or where he came from.
He’s a clone, a puppet of Palpatine.

The Knights of Ren:
No real answer to this but at least they are in the movie and dealt with in some fashion. (there is actually a comic series called ‘The Rise of Kylo Ren’ that will go into depth about them). When I originally watched TLJ I thought that Snoke’s guards may have been them.

Luke’s light saber gets snapped in half. – The lightsaber that was given the mythical quality of Excalibur in ‘The Force Awakens’ is broken here.
It’s fixed and works again. Buried in the desert for the next Generation.

Fin: His first question is “where’s Rey?”. The girl he cared so much about in the previous movie. He doesn’t even speak to her in this film.
He speaks to Rey in this movie but never actually gets to tell her what he was planning to say.  (i love you? / i’m force sensitive?/I’m getting my own movie?)

Fin: The movie actually doesn’t seem to know what to do with his character.
Can’t say he was used as well here as he could be but it does pick up some threads from the Force awakens. I like the idea of Fin being force sensitive.

Kylo Ren’s Mask: Smash it, that stuff is for kids.
They fixed it!

Luke: The frickin hero of the original Trilogy actually ignited his light saber over the head of his Nephew, the son of one of his closest friends and his sister. After facing down his father and taking the higher road he would actually have a moment where he would do that? The man who wouldn’t give up on Anakin Skywalker after all the shit he did?
Well, they couldn’t really do anything about that scene here. All Luke could say about his actions in the last movie is “I was wrong“. Maybe we can say Palpatine was influencing events from afar?

Yoda actually has to tell Luke that the jedi books aren’t important, that after 40 years the last jedi master who defeated Vader and the Emperor has to be told what is really important and what really matters?

Here Luke is the wise one (back to his senses as a ghost) telling Rey she has everything she needs.

Lightsabers battles: The first movie without a lightsaber battle.
We get lots and lots of lightsaber fighting here. None of it all that satisfying.

Captain Phasma: So much for seeing more of your character developed…
Yep, so much for seeing more of you.

Benicio Del Toro: Why were you in this movie?
He’s not in this one.

No final shot of the main characters in the movie. This is a bit of a no no. Breaks tradition and again.
We get a final shot which is a bit of a rip off of “Episode III” ending. Not the most original and can’t really see it as a bookend. Directors are in love with those twin suns too much. But better than a boy and a broom stick.

So all in all JJ Abrams did a lot as you can see above. Unfortunately he raises quite a few questions in The Rise of Skywalker. But I leave that for another Saga. I would guess though that Naomi Ackie might show up somewhere in future based on the “let’s find out” where you are from line from Lando. The history of Luke’s hand and lightsaber attached might show up in a comic book story or maybe in ‘The Mandalorian’?

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Star Wars : The Rise of Skywalker

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You know that old trope where if you catch a kid smoking you just force him to smoke the entire packet to make him sick of it? Well, that’s basically what Hollywood does with Nostalgia these days. They are going to turn our childhood memories into dust.  Not because they made sequels to movies we love but they made BAD sequels to things we love. I think that’s why I’m so done with blogging, besides having no time, I’m kind of tired talking about how crap all these sequels are (maybe a podcast?). I was so bored by fantastic beasts part 2 that I could not mustard an ounce of enthusiasm to share my opinion on it, same goes for Winnie the Pooh, The Lion King and the godawful Terminator Dark Fate sequel.

But you know, I don’t believe it’s impossible to make a good movie, it’s just that movie making has become such a corporate machine that it sells nostalgia to an older generation while secretly making a movie for a younger generation. I don’t want to see my favorite character playing as a secondary character to an unknown new cast of actors I have no investment in but who were put in the film to make it bankable for future sequels and squeeze as much money as possible out of a franchise for a new generation.

‘The Rise of Skywalker’ is a mess of the movie. Why it’s a mess can be boiled down to a few simple factors. First and foremost, Disney. Why could they not plan out a trilogy? A simple beginning, middle and end, a rough outline for directors to follow so they don’t find themselves up sh*t creek without a paddle like they did here. Criticize George Lucas all you want but at least he had a plan, he HAD outlines for the 3 movies -7,8,9. Second, Rian Johnson, who made a pretty good movie with ‘The Last Jedi‘. Mr. Biffo of Digitiser put it best when he said the Rian Johnson had held a party and played the music he wanted to listen to while not thinking of his guest’s tastes. I put it less eloquently in my own review of TLJ but also desired to express the same opinion that these were Star Wars movies and not just a movie to play around with, there is a legacy, a expectation, a line of thought that runs through these films. While TLJ serves Rey and Kylo Ren very well in terms of their story it throws our beloved original trilogy character under a bus. Third, JJ Abrams. I feel that while the man obviously loves his craft he can’t let go of macguffins, he can’t take a film from point A to B without a leap in logic. There are many times in the film where your brain is going “hey.. wait a minute… that’s doesn’t make sense” but the action and story is flying in your face so fast that you’re trying to make the last scene work in your head when you get bombarded with the next leap in logic. This was one of my biggest problems with his Star Trek films and why I just cant take them as seriously as the ones that came before. With that said I have to say that I respect the work he has done, he makes very beautiful movies to look at in the cinema and when he had Lawrence Kasdan writing with him on episode 7what he made was magic. Unfortunately this time the writers he had with him was one of the guys from the… ‘Batman V Superman’ film? WTF?

The Rise of Skywalker probably feels the least Star Warsy movie out of the 9. It feels like more of an Indian Jones movie, mixed in with Harry Potter. I dunno, it’s just getting further away from the brand with these movies, unlike say ‘Rogue One’ and ‘The Mandalorian aka Baby Yoda’ taking Star Wars back to it’s roots.

The film moves at such a fast pace that I finally understand why R2-D2 gets left behind in these films. He is too slow for 21st Century movies. It would be nice if we had fewer set pieces and time spent longer with the characters figuring themselves out. For all the flaws of TLJ at least it did that. The Rise of Skywalker has so many planets and actions scenes and moments of Ren and Rey touching lightsabers that I felt when they actually got to a final battle of sabers between Ren and Rey the anticipation had already been wasted. I actually found the lightsaber battle in this to be boring.

I could go on forever pickings things apart but lets leave it here. The Force Awakens left me in a warm bath of nostalgia with high expectations, The Last Jedi killed those expectations leaving me frustrated and very conflicted with the characterization of a much loved character despite thinking it was a well made film with moments of triumph it left me angry with the treatment of Star Wars. The Rise of Skywalker just felt like damage control. Ultimately I was left unsatisfied, I didn’t find the film funny, I wasn’t blown away by the action or return of original trilogy characters. What I feel is this. Snoke was supposed to be the main villain of this trilogy and that idea got screwed so they had to bring back Palpatine. Rey was supposed to be a Skywalker, either Luke’s daughter or Han and Leia’s but that idea got screwed so instead we get Rey as a Skywalker in name only. It’s just guessing but there was a direction TFA set these films on the TLJkilled and TROS tried to fix. Ultimately, trying to fix all the leaks in the sinking ship was a bit too obvious for me. Do I recommend it? Yeah, sure. But right now I consider it to be down the grid, below Revenge of the Sith, above The Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones.

Can’t wait to see the Obi Wan series.

Questions:

What did Fin want to tell Rey? Why the hell did they introduce this as a question and never answer it?

Wasn’t there supposed to be a love Triangle between Rey, Fin, Poe with Rose thrown in somewhere?

Why didn’t Fin and Poe kiss? Can we all agree this is the relationship we want to see?

Where did those Star destroyers and crew come from? Why didn’t anyone notice people being recruited and ships being built on a secret Sith planet that would have required the man power of tens of thousands for the ten thousand ships?

Why was Palpatine keeping quiet so long? 30 years hanging from those wires and orchestrating his return? really? and why come back now?

Where did they find Luke’s old Lightsaber? I asked question this four f***ing years ago also.

How many more magical powers are they going to invent for the Jedi?

Did R2 have bank ups of CP30s memory from the Prequel trilogy too?

 

As Mark Hamill says on his instagram page “one last time…” because you know George Lucas said that he had planned 9 films in the series, so this is really it, JJ Abrams said so too, the disney press release also said this was the end of the “skywalker story/saga”. Except, 14 years ago when the trailers came out for ‘The Revenge of the Sith’ the trailer said “the saga is complete” and if you go back as far as 1980 you’ll find interviews from George Lucas talking about a 12 movie saga. So basically we got 3 more films to look forward to in future and nothing really ends. See you for ‘Episode X’ in 2029 folks when we get to see Rey Skywalker train new Jedi, let’s hope they make a better plan for the trilogy next time.

Favorite Quote: Sigh….. – Me

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Solo

Solo is not a bad movie but it’s not a great movie. It’s an OK movie which seems to be the opinion of just about everyone who saw it. We could say the same or worse about a movie like ‘The Phantom Menace’ or ‘The Last Jedi’ but ‘Solo’ doesn’t even excite people enough to take a stronger view on it.

It’s a bit difficult to pin down the main factors for why it went wrong for other movies have succeeded where it failed. People might ask did we really need a origin/prequel story about Han Solo? Well, did we really need one for Batman? Or Superman? I don’t think making it a prequel was a bad point but for me a lot of what happened before Solo got on the Millennium Falcon wasn’t that interesting. I started to sit up a bit more when Chewy and Han are where they are supposed to be.
I think one of the problems with the movie is that it doesn’t have a strong story to hold the film together. It’s basically stringing together bits and pieces of Hans life that he has mentioned in the original Trilogy. It’s supposed to be a heist movie but it isn’t even a good heist movie. It doesn’t even try to be a clever one and pay homage to great heist movies the way Rogue One did with War movies such as the Dirty Dozen.

Han Solo the character isn’t really enough to hold up the film on it’s own. That’s not the fault of Alden Ehrenreich, he does a fine job of playing Han Solo but there is not much done about the character himself. The film is more about how he got to where he was in ‘A New Hope’ rather than how he became Han Solo. Actually, the film does explain how he became “Solo”, he is named by an imperial guard as Solo since he is traveling Solo. This to me shows that those involved in the movie didn’t really put enough effort into it. It could have been more than it was but they seemed to think things like that were “clever” and “character development” in some way…. Instead of showing us a Han in Pilot school or learning his trade on the streets we are givin this information in the opening lines of the film. The rest of the film consists largely of set pieces which don’t add anything to the character.

The most exciting things in the film were the mention of Beckett having killed Aura Sing (a Jedi bounty hunter) and the appearance of Maul, both characters from the prequel trilogy. As for Maul I don’t care if they follow the animated continuity or not in his future films. I think not sticking to the animated series allows for a thrilling confrontation in an Obi Wan movie.

It seems like there won’t be more Solo movies after this one but with disney trying to develop this era of the franchise more where could they go? There are hints of solo movies for Kenobi, Bobba Fett and Vader. Why not do a movie with all of them together? Kenobi, Maul, Vader, Bobba Fett and Han Solo. Where can you go wrong?

Favorite Quote:I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” – Han

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