Wonder Woman Review

To put it mildly the DC Cinematic Universe has had a rough start. With the mixed bag of Man of Steel to the outright disappointment in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. There’s a lot riding on the new addition to the DCU, the first live action film of Wonder Woman. Does this movie give the most popular female superhero justice, could it save the DCU?

Likes:

Luke

  1. One of the biggest complaints of the DCU is that the films doesn’t depict the characters truthfully, which I agree in the case of Superman (a future article may come about this). One of the advantages of being the first movie for a character is that this movie isn’t going to be compared to other films. So the movie wasn’t compelled to reinvent the character, but rather was able to depict Wonder Woman in the same way as the current comics and animations do. So to answer the question earlier, yes, this movie does the character justice. This isn’t a super broody or edgy version from the 90’s comics, but rather the beginning of a naive but never-the-less heroic character learning about the world of man. It is refreshing to see a superhero movie look back to what made superheroes powerful story devices in the first place. In short, they got the archetypes right.
  2. One of the concerns I had with this movie was that it was going to be full of post-modern feminist crap. I don’t mean the egalitarian feminists but the misandry-fueled feminism. I was fully expecting very male character to be depicted as idiotic, cowardly, hate-filled brutes. However, they depicted the men in the film in a very human way, where indeed there was corruption but also valor. They also made Wonder Woman heroic by doing heroic things and not just by the virtue of being a woman. This is a clear example of how to do female superheroes, which is to treat them as heroes going through the heroes journey and getting the archetypes right.
  3. The actions scenes were incredible. There was something really refreshing about it and had an energy that isn’t seen much in modern action movies. I think there are two reasons for this, firstly is the context of the action. The best action movies are always character-driven. You actually care about the action because we care about the characters, which is why the action scenes in the original star wars trilogy were more memorable than the prequels. Secondly is that they actually took the time to properly choreograph and block the action scenes to make the action scenes easy to understand, get the action grounded and not rely on shaky-cam or overloading the shot with too many moving parts.
  4. The color grading was good, I was a bit worried since the war scenes looked nearly black and white, but there is color where it makes sense. The beginning on Paradise is very vivid but becomes muted when they get to the war. It made sense why they did it and I thought it looked great.

Adam

  1. One of the problems that I have had with the DCU is that it is just to serious and dark. There has been so little humor (Batman vs Superman) that I get exhausted. Wonder Woman has remedied this. There was a fair bit of humor and it is all played out very well. There isn’t humor for the sake of humor but is is all there for a reason. There is a lot of laughs that accompany Diana learn about the world of men. It was not ever played to make her look dumb or inferior, but to show her innocents and naivety.
  2. Diana’s growth was very interesting to watch. You learn that she is very smart, and has a lot of knowledge that many others don’t. But as she starts to interact with Chris Pine’s character and ends up in the world of men you see how they she didn’t have a lot of our problems to deal with. As the movie goes on you see how she starts to adapt and learn how to survive, blend in and live in our world.
  3. The action scenes where amazingly done. I don’t think that I have seen this type of style before, it was very clean and easy to follow. However it kept me on the edge of my seat and looked amazing.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1.  I can’t think of anything that I really disliked about this movie. Maybe the London scenes might be a bit dull but I think it played an important part in teaching Diane about the world of man, her relation to it and what she needs to do to fit into that world. So nothing major here.

Adam

  1. The only things I had a little problem with was exactly what Luke said. The contrast from Paradise to London was so extreme that it was jarring. It was for a purpose however so it was forgivable.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 3/5

Luke: There is a lot of attractive woman in tunics during the beginning. But nothing that’s intentionally provocative. In fact, there is a scene where there is more nudity of Chris Pine than the ladies (which is zoomed out and covered). There is talk about sex in one scene but nothing too graphic. The violence actually has weight to it but it isn’t bloody or excessive. The language is minor.

Overall:

Luke: Just when I thought I was getting superhero fatigue after watching Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, it was actually the DCU movie that pulled me out of it. And the reason it did was that it went back to basics. The director Patty Jenkins said that she wanted to go back to character over spectacle with this movie and it clearly shows. As far as origins stories go, I hold this as high as the first Iron Man movie. Maybe not as high as Batman Begins, which I do have a soft spot for as it’s one of my favorites, but it is easily the best DCU movie to come out so far. Patty Jenkins needs to direct more big Hollywood movies, not because she’s a female filmmaker but she’s a good filmmaker that happens to be female. I now have hopes that the DCU can be saved, at least there is now one solid movie from it.

Adam: I was hoping that Wonder Woman was going to break DC’s current streak and it did. The tone of this one was so much better and more natural. There is always humor in life even if it is in the little things. This film was still more serious than many of the Marvel movies but it still had it’s light hearted parts and laughs naturally placed through out. The journey and self discovery that Diana goes through was enjoyable and very well executed. This is by far the best DCU film thus far. If DC continues down this path then we have a lot of good films to look forward to.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Unlike the title of the fifth pirates movie, seemingly dead franchises still have tales to tell. It’s been 6 years since the last pirates movie and 10 years since the ending of the Will Turner trilogy. This movie takes place 19-20 years after At World’s End. So was the brief hiatus what the series needed to turn out a sequel that wasn’t lackluster? Does it stack up with the first pirates movie (the only good one)? Let’s find out, eh shavvy?

Likes:

Luke

  1. The story is not a standalone Jack Sparrow adventure like the previous movie, but actually continues off the original trilogy where Will Turner is the captain of the flying dutchman, still cursed to ferry the dead at sea (an ending that I absolutely hated). The story continues with his son, Henry Turner, seeking the Trident of Poseidon, that has the power to break his father’s curse.  I love that the film is basically seeking to fix the ending that I hated so much.
  2. The new villain played by the brilliant Javier Bardem, is truly a foe worthy of his infamy among pirates. The problem that many of the previous pirate movies had (except the first one) was the insistent of adding antagonists to the point where it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s motivations. This movie starts off as having a secondary antagonist but half way through the movie is taken out of the picture. I was relieved to say at least the plot wasn’t a muddy mess that the previous movies were. By the end of the movie, it was very clear who the protagonists and the antagonists were.
  3. The action scenes were dynamic and unique. Some were really outlandish but I had to remind myself that this was a movie about ghost pirates seeking a mythical trident. If you loved the silly action set pieces from the previous movies, then you’ll be right at home with this one.

Adam

  1. Captain Hector Barbossa was magnificently played by Geoffrey Rush. The amount of acting that he could do with just his facial expressions and how much he could convey was simply amazing. He went through the whole range of emotions and I love the arc that he has made through the series. Any time that he is on screen is great.
  2. The effects for this movie were top notch. The way Captain Salazar and his crew looked and what they were able to do was just amazing. The overall look of the movie was beautiful.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. While the new characters aren’t as boring as the previous movie, the next generation probably won’t have the lasting effect as the original characters. Carina, the new female lead was pretty good as the scientist astronomer which is different for the series. Henry Turner was just a less interesting Will Turner though. Jack Sparrow is beginning to lack his charm. They set up Jack to be a washed up has-been who is a dying breed of pirate which would have been interesting had they not promptly dropped it once the adventure started and he went about doing his usual thing. They really need to find a new angle for him, or maybe give him an arc for once, like the first movie.
  2. I don’t like the implications that the post credits scene made. The ending of this movie was quite satisfying and they’re trying to muddy it up with sequel bait.

Adam

  1. I was very disappointed with Jack in this film. In all of the other films he is almost always in control of the situation and if something doesn’t quite go his way he has back up plans. In this film he very rarely seemed to have a plan and when the plans he did have went wrong he didn’t have backup plans. I agree with Luke, he lost some of his charm and also some of his wit.
  2. The post credit scene was completely sequel bait and, I feel, didn’t make any sense based on how the movie ended. They are making and exception to the films resolution just for the sake of a sequel.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 2/5

Luke: There is some suggestive humor in it that will likely go over the kid’s heads. Pirates drinking rum is a mainstay of the series. Some parts might be too scary for the little ones. It’s your typical PG-13 movie.

Overall:

Luke: It’s safe to say that this movie is the second best pirates movie to date. Not hard to do as the last three were pretty lackluster. There are a lot of things this movie does right that the previous movies failed to do but it still doesn’t live up to the charm of the original pirates movie. If you were disappointed in the ending of At World’s End, you will want to see this movie as it delivers a much more satisfying conclusion for all your favorite characters from the first pirate films. So while this movie wasn’t great like the first movie, it was at the very least good.

Adam:  This was a good movie and a good attempt to return to what the was so good about the first film. It didn’t quite make it there but there was still a lot of good in it. There was several touching moments that were lacking from many of the other films and several character arc were excellent. The ending of the movie was extremely satisfying and clean. If you are a fan of Curse of the Black Pearl then go see this one in theaters.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was one of those great surprises that Marvel pulled out. Many people didn’t know about them and the hype wasn’t as big surrounding it. No one knew what to expect. It quickly turned into a favorite for many fans and introduced some very untraditional and very funny heroes. As we move on to Vol. 2 how will it compare with the first and fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Likes:

Adam

  1. The comedy. This is really one of, if not the funniest Marvel movie to date. I laughed so much during this movie. Drax is always getting a laugh for his social ineptitude. Quill for his ill timed boasting and his love of retro things. Rocket and Groot are always such a good funny team.
  2. The Relationships. In this movie they explored and deepened the relationships between many characters. Now they didn’t go super deep but I was amazed at how many characters we gained a greater understanding about, and how much relationships grew between the characters.

Luke

  1. I’m happy that they actually brought color into a Marvel movie. While the first Guardians movie had color, they turned up the saturation quite a bit. Ironically many excuse DC of lacking color in their movies, but the fact is that the Marvel movies are really flat when it comes to color grading. This is not the case with this movie where there are dark tones, bright tones and an entire spectrum of color. This is easily the best looking Marvel movie to date.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. Space Jumps. In this movie they use a technology previously unseen, space jumps. The design of them is cool looking, but was confusing to me. It looked to me like they were breaking through a holographic wall and there was no sense speed or how far they were going. It also leads to a very goofy scene with Rocket part way through the movie that I didn’t care for.

Luke

  1. I don’t know why Disney has the need to introduce the antagonist late in the plot. It’s usually for some shock twist in the form of betrayals or motivation reveals. The main antagonist reveal is so obvious that the twist doesn’t feel earned. There also seems to be too many different sub-antagonists in the film that it starts to give me flashbacks to the pirates sequels.
  2. The ending is drawn out way too long. It was one of the few sober scenes and even then they tried to push too much comedy into it. The comedy for the large bulk of the movie was quite great actually, but the ending it just seemed inappropriate for the scene’s tone.
  3. There wasn’t much tension for the third act, as we go in knowing the a third movie has been approved and that the guardians are going to show up in the third Avengers movie. This is a problem with superhero movies as the planet destroying (in the case of this movie, galaxy destroying) super villain plot can’t happen for the sake of future movies. There could have been a more personal conflict to end the movie (like Civil War for example) where failure is actually possible (setting a more dire situation for the next film). Then the ending could be a lot more suspenseful.

Like & Dislike:

Adam

  1. I like how this movie shows just how powerful the guardians are. We see to a greater extent what they are capable of and they can do some really cool stuff. They show off their skills and it is awesome when they do. However there is a scene with Drax that I feel was just too over the top with how much punishment he can take with out a scratch.

Luke

  1. The post credit scenes are a bit overkill. There are a bunch of them and most of them are references to obscure comic series. There are two that I do like though, the first one then the middle one. Those are pretty funny.

Awkward Walk-in Meter: 2/5

Adam: There was a scene with what was implied as a android brothel but with nothing really shown except for a character finishing buttoning up his pants. The whole scene was very brief. There was also a little more language than normal and some talk of male genitals.

Overall:

Adam: This movie was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. I was laughing for so much of this movie and like how they did stick to using old songs for the sound track like the first one did. There was a lot of good character growth but every one keeps their personality and I was able to gain a better understanding of many of the characters traits. Make sure to stay to the very end because there are 5 post movie scenes sprinkled through out the credits. Is it as good as the first one? I haven’t decided yet and will need to go back and see it again to decide.

Luke: I agree with Adam where the movie, much like the first one, is a fun and entertaining movie. However the first one was different enough to be fresh, this one kind of felt like a bunch of other movies I’ve seen before. While it is the most visually stunning of the Marvel films, it lacked the deeper subtext, emotional core or ingenuity that has made other movies stand out in the superhero genre (i.e. Logan, The Dark Knight, Civil War). But it is still a fun popcorn movie that you can have a good and fun 2 hours.

What does Luke’s statement in the The Last Jedi Teaser mean?

Personally I find it rather futile to guess and speculate the meaning behind a 1 minute teaser designed to market a movie. Ironically I find people who really hate spoilers are also ones trying to piece together a story out of the limited footage revealed in a trailer. I say, just wait for the movie to come out and you’ll find out. However, as the hypocrite that I am, I’m going to speculate on the new teaser for The Last Jedi with this article including a click-baity title. Why? Because this website needs more views and I’m going to indulge your need to speculate to get views. Firstly, if you haven’t seen the trailer already go watch it here:

I don’t know why these Star Wars teasers require a jump-scare at the very beginning. Anyways, the big thing that people are going on about is the statement Luke makes at the end of the teaser.

I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.

People have been freaking out over the meaning of this statement. Did Luke turn to the dark side?! Has he become so defeated from the betrayal of Ben Solo that he’s giving everything up?! Is he Rey’s father?!

Well, lets take a step back and look at the Star Wars series as a whole. Some facts to be aware of before I give my educated guess as to the meaning of Luke’s statement. George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell when creating the Star Wars universe. Joseph Campbell is an anthropologist who studied mythology from all around the world. His studies were not to discover the differences between them but rather the values, meanings and purpose behind these myths that is shared by the whole world. He wrote several books but the one most important to this discussion is his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In this book, Campbell discovered a structure that is shared by mythology all over the world. This is known by many as The Hero’s Journey or The Monomyth. This structure has been influential to storytellers all over the world and is used heavily by films, books, television and video games. A textbook example of the Hero’s Journey is actually the first Star Wars film. George Lucas was in fact one of Campbell’s students in school and was very familiar with the themes, meanings and structure found in mythology as outlined in Campbell’s book. Here’s s basic outline of the Hero’s Journey:

http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/Workshop-stuff/Joseph-Campbell-Hero-Journey.htm

Several lectures can go into each step so I won’t attempt to go through the whole thing in detail. For the purposes of our discussion though, I wish to focus attention on Apotheosis (it’s misspelled on the diagram). Apotheosis is the process of a man (meaning the overall broad sense of humanity) becoming a God. In the context of the screen-writing, it’s a transformation that is made that allows him/her to reach beyond a stage of ignorance into a stage of knowledge, giving them power to achieve a goal that the hero has set out to do in the story.

So how does this have anything to do with the The Last Jedi teaser? Reading deeper into Campbell’s work helps you to understand the mythic context behind Apotheosis. A large portion of the text talks about the concept of the unity of opposites which can be summarized in the concept of the Yin Yang. If you don’t know, Yin Yang is a symbol of a eastern philosophy that two seemingly contradictory elements are actually two sides of one great whole. According to Campbell, apotheosis is a stage where both opposites come together to form a God using the example of the Male-Female Gods of mythology. God in many religions represent many contradictory sides, a God of creation and destruction, of time and eternity, light and darkness, justice and mercy and so forth.

So let’s bring it back to Star Wars, where the central conflict with the series has always been the light side versus the dark side of the force. In the prequel trilogy, the Jedi council speak about a chosen one destined to bring about the “balance of the force.” Because the prequel trilogy was poorly written, they do not explain what that actually means. Many in the series interpret that to mean the destruction of the dark side. But how does that bring balance?

Let’s go back earlier in the teaser when Rey talks about seeing the light and dark, the balance. Luke tells her that there’s more to it than that. Here’s where I start speculating on how Luke has changed over the years in exile. I believe he discovered that which one who was raised by the Jedi could not understand. That the force is not divided into light and darkness but is both all in one. Where Anakin failed to bring balance to the force, the reincarnation of the chosen one seen in Rey (they both are expert mechanics, pilots and force users) may in fact bring balance to the force. But in order to do that, the Jedi, who represents the light side of the force, can no longer exist. It doesn’t mean that Good needs to give into Evil, but rather the Jedi need to transcend the exclusive use and study of the light side and become one with the force as a whole, both light and dark. This would also mean the end of the Sith has to happen. Perhaps Anakin did fulfill his role as chosen one by ending the Sith by killing his master and himself. Leaving the end of the Jedi to his son and his reincarnation, Rey.

So worry not Skywalker fans, I do not believe that he has turned to the dark side. Rather I think he discovered a secret to the force that the Jedi and Sith have ignored for centuries. In fact, according to non-canon Star Wars history, both groups came from one group of force users who practiced in both light and dark sides of the force and sought true balance with the force named the Je’daii. So perhaps Rey will do what Anakin could not, which is to fully bring balance to the force and end the conflict between the light and dark sides for good.

Again, this is all speculation. But there is strong evidence that this is the direction they will be going. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until December to find out for sure.

Racial Identity in Ghost In The Shell (2017) **Contains Spoilers**

44% on Rotten Tomatoes and $18.6 Million on the opening weekend. With these numbers it is safe to say that the adaptation of Ghost In The Shell is an utter failure, both financially and critically. So why did I love this movie so much? Am I stupid for loving this racially-insensitive Hollywood cash-in or am I seeing something that everyone has missed or ignored? As amusing as it would be to make an article of me facing my own cognitive dissonance to realign my thinking to popular views, I think I’m going to do the dangerous thing: Have my own unpopular opinion and defend it. So here’s why Ghost In The Shell (2017) was great and why everyone missed the point of the movie.

Let’s start with the problem that many people have with these movie: the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi, a Japanese cyborg counter-terrorist. Hollywood has had a lot of issues of racially insensitive casting for movies throughout its whole history. Blackface, yellowface, and redface were all common place for decades where white actors were put under make-up to play roles that are for other races. This allowed for the spreading of negative racial stereotypes that still continue to this day. While many improvements have been made in our current media, there are still examples of Hollywood whitewashing traditionally ethnic characters like in the live action The Last Airbender and The Lone Ranger. This article is not to defend such practices by any means. Minorities are extremely under-represented in popular culture, even today. However, in the context of the themes, story and world of Ghost In The Shell the casting of Scarlett Johansson was not only justified, it allowed the movie to take a self aware look into how capitalist-driven corporations seek to change our identity for profit.

So in the movie, the plot is primarily driven by Major’s desire to find out who she is. The dilemma of that is faced with being a human-like cyborg but not completely human. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, many people have cybernetic implants. Some like the Major, have a completely synthetic body. So the way that many people retain their humanity is by having a “ghost.” A ghost is the mind, so the identity of a person is linked to the mind or their “ghost.” Both the new and the original movies show the problem with this as memories are hacked and altered by both cyber-terrorists like the Puppet Master or mega corporations like Hanka Robotics. In both films, Major struggles with their own identity as she’s unsure if her memories are her own or is artificial like her body is. The animated film doesn’t seek to answer questions as to the truth of Major’s identity, rather it ends with her finding her humanity by ironically evolving into a higher and completely technological being by merging with The Puppet Master. This is where the live action version differs.

In the live-action version, the central focus is on finding out Major’s identity. In the film, she is introduced as a (presumably American) refugee that survived a terrorist attack, thus giving her the motivation to hunt down terrorists in the anti-terrorism unit Section 9. However, after meeting with hacker Kuze, her identity is put into question and she seeks answers. She finds out that not only is the terrorist attack that killed her parents a fake memory implanted by Hanka, but her real identity (or ghost) is a Japanese runaway named Motoko Kusanagi (surprise!). So yes, The Major in the live-action movie is in fact Japanese, or specifically she is a Japanese Ghost in the American Shell.

So does this justify white-washing Major’s character in the first place? Or, as some of the critics claim, a sloppy means for the filmmakers the hop around a sensitive issue? First of all, the story antagonizes the corporation that kidnaps children, brain washes them with a new identity and then gives them a new body as a means to get profit. I don’t think the film is trying to say that changing a person’s race and identity for your own gain is okay. I’m happy that the filmmakers were ballsy enough to even attempt to be a mirror at Hollywood’s own race problem. Do you know how many actors and actresses needed to change their name to make them sound less ethnic? Charlie Sheen was born Carlos Irwin Estevez, his father’s name is Ramon Antonio Gerard Estevez, you know him as Martin Sheen. That is an example of only one actor out of many that had to change their name. The closure for The Major in the live action movie comes from discovering her real name: Motoko Kusanagi. Only then is she able to connect to the world around her, using not her American shell but through her Japanese ghost.

By the way, I asked two friends of mine, both of whom are Asian American, how they felt about the movie. Both of them enjoyed the movie and weren’t bothered by the casting. One of them even said that Scarlett Johansson did the character justice. The anime doesn’t even address her ethnicity so her race doesn’t effect her characterization at all. Ironically the one time it does is the American adaptation because it’s part of her character arc. The big irony in all this though is how everyone is upset that Hollywood changed the identity of the protagonist, and the movie agrees with you wholeheartedly.

If the plot itself isn’t enough to convince you, then I will start talking about the themes of the original animated classic and the cyberpunk genre as a whole. The opening text in the Ghost in the Shell (1995) says that “The advancement of computerization, however, has not yet wiped out nations and ethnic groups.” The keyword in that statement is ‘yet’. The implications are important to understanding the multicultural themes in both cyberpunk and Ghost in the Shell. The original movie, Major does in fact transcend race and nation by merging with The Puppet Master and evolving into a computerized ghost without age, gender or ethnicity. The world of cyberpunk is filled with multiculturalism. Blade Runner is a world full of different ethnicities (primarily Chinese) even though it takes places in a future Los Angles. Ghost in the Shell is a Japan full of multiculturalism as well. Here’s an excellent video essay by The Nerdwriter about how Ghost in the Shell does this.

One of the themes in Ghost in the Shell is developing a world that is truly uni-cultural by the use of technology. When all differences are removed by uniting the world on a global network and controlling our appearance via synthetic bodies. However this may present a problematic dilemma in the current discussion on race. Does this uni-culturalism mean that we should be color blind? What I mean by that is, does the mixture and evolution of multiple cultures mean we must lose our past in order to make a future where no race exists? I think the movie makes that clear when The Puppet Master says this:

“All things change in a dynamic environment. Your efforts to remain what you are is what limits you.”

The difference between the original animated film is that the live action film is about embracing your cultural identity. The ending is Major accepting her past and reuniting with her mother. This is ultimately what I loved about the live-action version is that is it not the same as the original. It is not a remake but an adaptation, which I think it did well for the current discussions on race which promotes the acceptance of one’s heritage, promote diversity and the tolerance toward other’s ethnicity.

So it would make sense for the cast of the new Ghost in the Shell to be multicultural. Many of it’s supporting characters are Chinese, Japanese, Black, and White. It reflects the multiculturalism found in America and (increasingly) in other countries around the world. It may not focus attention on the ethnic characters as much as I’d like but none of them I would say are stereotypical. I mentioned in my review that “Chief” Aramaki, a Japanese character played by a Japanese actor (the great Beat Takeshi Kitano) that speaks Japanese throughout the whole movie, is one of my favorites (pictured below). I think the movie did try to show a world of people of different colors to work together in a much more optimistic way than your typical cyberpunk movie.

The new Ghost in the Shell is not here to mimic what made the original anime great. Instead it took the source material and adapted to a more international and contemporary audience. It’s okay with me if the new Ghost in the Shell didn’t work for you. But I feel like I have to explain myself why I seem to be a minority in how I feel about this movie. I just feel that people are watching the film without reading what it’s trying to say, or worse, not watching it and judging it based off the opinion of others. It isn’t a perfect movie, but it at least got me to not only think about the depiction of race in pop culture but also be a fun and visually stunning movie to watch. I have to give credit to a movie that does that for me.

Ghost In The Shell (2017) Movie Review

Here’s some context for this movie. It’s based off the classic anime film in 1995 with the same name. It’s a landmark anime classic that became cyberpunk stable. The deep philosophical themes elevated it past a cartoon and into one of the most beloved sci-fi animated films ever made. I recently watched it for the first time several weeks ago to prepare for this movie. I can say that I became a fan and watched the second movie and a few episodes of Stand Alone Complex, the TV anime series. So how does Hollywood’s adaptation compare to one of the most important anime ever made?

Likes:

  1. Let’s first address the elephant in the room concerning this movie. It’s been given a lot of backlash from fans of the anime for its controversial casting of Scarlet Johansson as The Major, a Japanese character being played by a white actor. I can understand why many people are upset by this. It follows a trend in Hollywood movies that white actors are needed to promote a film and casting minorities into major roles is financial suicide. Even though there are several examples where this isn’t the case, it has been an issue in American films since forever. If you are a fan planning on boycotting this movie because of the casting, I will ask you to reconsider. Without getting into spoilers, this is actually addressed in the film and I personally think they handled it brilliantly. I really want to watch this movie again with some Asian friends of mine and have a discussion about how this film dealt with the white-washing and get their opinions on it. I plan on writing about this further in detail with spoilers included next week when I get to have this discussion. I don’t wish to have this get political but our mission here at GMF is to promote inclusiveness across the spectrum of Geek culture. I think racial inclusivity is very much a part of that. I think this discussion will be both interesting and important. So yes I recommend seeing this movie so you can prepare for that discussion as well.
  2. That said, I think Scarlett Johansson’s performance of the Major was very well done. She had the confidence in her abilities and intellect that made her a badass. At the same time she showed the lack of confidence in her humanity that drove her to get answers about her identity and purpose in life. Both features that are shown in the anime.
  3. The main reason why I went to see this movie is because of the production design and it does not disappoint. This is the anime in live action, the sets are both beautiful and disturbing as any good cyberpunk should be where ads are littered everywhere but sitting behind the flashy holograms is a society that is dirty.
  4. The supporting cast I believe were all true to the characters in the original anime as well espeically Batou and Aramaki (The Chief). Aramaki by the way is played by Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano, speaks japanese throughout the whole movie and like the anime, is a badass that doesn’t take crap from anyone. I loved that character and how he was played in this.
  5. The pacing on this movie was good, I was engaged throughout the whole movie.

Dislikes:

  1. This movie had a few things that didn’t make sense like why they designed an interrogation collar that made it possible to bring one’s own neck. Then there was a character action or something that didn’t make sense that I can’t remember. But overall its pretty nit-picky things.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 3/5

While the nudity was turned down considerably from the original to get the PG-13 rating, there are still plenty of spots where there is synthetic skin showing. Granted having an android body doesn’t include nipples, so it didn’t really count I guess? The cloaking suit The Major wears is skin tight but is covered. Overall it is actually tastefully done though. The violence is a bit harder than your typical PG-13 superhero movie but the blood which was in the trailer was cut out of the film. I would be interested to see if they release an R or Unrated Version down the line.

Overall:

The worst thing this movie could have been is boring, predictable and untrue to the source material. Fortunately none of these things are the case. As you can tell I actually loved this movie. I can’t say that it’s better than the original but it succeeded as an adaptation. I think a lot of critics are seeing this movie as a remake which is unfortunate. The philosophical themes of this movie on identity are different and unique to this version (which I will write about next week). So it doesn’t seek to imitate or replace the original but be its own unique version of the setting and characters of the beloved anime with an international lens. If you go into this movie with that mind set you will probably enjoy it. Again, if you are a fan that is boycotting for the whitewashing, do reconsider and check it out. You may be surprised with how smart this Hollywood blockbuster actually is.

Power Rangers Movie Review

Better late than never? It’s been a busy weekend for all of us and we were finally able to get around to seeing Power Rangers. As a disclaimer, everyone here at Geek Mind Fusion were at the right age for the power rangers craze during the 90’s. So we naturally loved the show as kids, but how does the movie hold up? It is good, bad or are we blinded by nostalgia?

Likes:

Luke

  1. The bulk of the movie is about the kids becoming the power rangers. Normally I would rail on it by being filled with tropes and recycled story elements from movies like The Avengers and even The Breakfast Club. But for some reason it worked for me. Others I talked to about the movie felt that the first two acts were superior to the final act. Which you wouldn’t think is the case as the final act has all the action in it. But when your mom is able to remember the character’s names after the movie, you know you did the characterization right in this movie. Not at all what I was expecting from this movie.
  2. This isn’t saying much but this is definitely the best power rangers movie made yet.
  3. Suplexes and slapping.

Adam

  1. I liked how character development was the main focus of most of the movie. I had recently gone back and watched the first episode of the 1993 tv series and the story elements, and characters, were highly laking. I liked how we met these characters and got to the point where we were invested in them.
  2. The production value was pretty good especially when compared to the 1993 series and even the newer 2016 version. The suits and zords looked far more realistic than the toys they used for the tv series. The fighting at the end was so much better choreographed and there was more tension and peril.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. While I was oddly engaged with the character development during the first and second act, the third act was fun but I think only for nostalgia. The tonal shift between the ending and the rest of the movie can be jarring. It’s like watching The Breakfast Club then having it turn into a Transformers movie during the last 30 minutes. While the ending is campy and true to the original show, the action is kinda boring except for the two moves listed in my number three likes. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, but I can’t stop and think of other movies that did the same thing better. The ending was just stopping the bad guy from getting the McGuffin at the product placement by using the power of teamwork and friendship. The Avengers did this better, and Pacific Rim had far-superior giant robot fights.
  2. (Spoilers) Krispy Kreme is the center of all life on Earth (this is figuratively true in this movie).

Adam

  1. Rita. Her premise at the beginning of the movie was ok  but she, overall was off. She was too much of a wild beast in the beginning and was fairly unpalatable.
  2. The bully who picked on Billy. I have had my share of bullies in the past but this guy was way to over the edge. I did enjoy what happened to him in the process of picking on Billy though.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 2/5

Luke: Most of the movie is your standard-fare superhero movie stuff, with bloodless action and peril. However there are a few off-hand jokes involving masturbation and jerking off a bull. It’ll probably go over the kids’ heads, but for those of us who get it, it’ll come off as juvenile.

Adam: I agree

Overall:

Luke

I went in expecting this movie to be terrible, with them trying to force in a serious and grounded origin to the campy power rangers. But that ended up being the best part of the movie. The action itself is boring and cliche. I can’t say that I loved or hated this movie, there were both good and bad found in this movie. I guess if you grew up on Power Rangers I would recommend it. I just found it strange that I came to watch the power rangers but I ended up staying for Jason, Billy, Zach, Kim and Trini.

Adam

I went to this movie after just watching the first episode of the 1993 tv series, which increased my appreciation of the movie. I did, however, destroy my nostalgia. I liked the movie overall, enjoyed the characters and their arcs. The production value was pretty good and had it’s funny moments. It doesn’t warrant a second theater viewing but was worth going to see at least once.

Beauty and the Beast Review

Back in November of 1991 Disney released their animated version of Beauty and the Beast which won Oscars for best original score and best original song. It was also the very first full length animated feature film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Nearly 25 1/2 years later Disney has brought this classic film to life in a live action version of the film. Will this movie live up to one of the most beloved movies of all time? Let’s take a look.

Likes

Adam

  1. The music. All of the classic songs are included and relatively unchanged but there are a few places where the beats are slightly different which adds a bit of freshness to these wonderful songs. There are also several new songs that go well with the rest of the movie.
  2. Emma Watson. The new Belle knocked it out of the park. She was the strong, smart, independent, warm woman that we expect Belle to be. Plus her singing voice was spot on as well. I think that Disney made the right casting choice.
  3. The changes. This movie is a little longer than its predecessor so there is some extra content. Some of it is taken up with the extra songs but there is also some extra story in between the musical numbers. Overall I liked most of the changes because the motives were made clear for many of the characters. Many of these scenes added a little more depth to the characters.

Luke

  1. I was worried that the singing would be not up to par, because big actors/actresses doesn’t guarantee good singing voices (Les Miserables anyone?) but that was not the case. Everyone had a great singing voice and the songs were equal and perhaps even better than the animated classic in some cases.
  2. While the story is more or less the same as the animated version, they did add some plot details that helped explain some plot holes that was there previously. While it only really bothered people who over analyzes cartoons (like me), it was nice that they did address some of plot holes from the original. Some of the additions didn’t work for me but I’ll get to it later.

Jacob

  1. One of the most beautiful Disney films ever made. The art direction was top notch with the set design being well crafted and thought out to create the feeling of the film.
  2. The changes made to Maurice helped him to be a more relatable character, less nutty professor and more Geppetto. The more fleshed out relationship between him and Belle was a nice addition as well.

Dislikes:

Adam

  1. The Beast was good for the most part and looked good when he moved like an animal. However, when he moves in more human ways, he seems clunky and awkward. The CG for that movement wasn’t on par with the rest of the movie. Beast also mumbled a lot of lines which was a little annoying.
  2. During Gaston’s song I felt like Gaston and LeFou were constantly being drowned out but the music and background singing which made it harder to understand the lyrics.

Luke

  1. (Kinda Spoilers) The back-story of Beast’s childhood was phoned in and didn’t really play a big enough part for it to make any big difference. It felt like they tried to explain Beast’s inner demons by simply saying, “oh its daddy issues.” It needed to either be a bigger part of the story or just removed entirely.
  2. The CG furniture characters were too complex in their design. While it looks more realistic the way they did it, there is a charm to the simple designs of the animated characters that was lost in this version. Their emotions didn’t come across as easily as their 2d-animated counterparts. Some might even find them more creepy than enduring.

Jacob

  1. They didn’t give Beast a name so everyone including Belle calls him a Beast through out the whole movie. Even though Beast’s arc was proving to everyone that he wasn’t a beast. The horse even had a name (Phillip if you need to know).

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 1/5

Adam: The awkward moments are the three “Gay” moments that the Director mentioned in an interview. These moments are all harmless and most likely will be missed unless you are really looking for them. Even then they are very quick not offensive.

Overall:

Adam: I really enjoyed this movie. I feel like it was a great adaptation of the most beloved animated film ever. I was satisfied with it but I know that it will always suffer from being compared to the animated version. However, it is totally worth going to see in the theater and enjoying with the whole family.

Luke: I enjoyed the movie overall as well. It’s a faithful adaptation to the animated classic with some plot additions that seemed to be made for the purpose of addressing the cinema sins review of the original. However it’s hard to say if this movie really stands on its own as it’s more-or-less the same movie and story. I call to question if a live action remake was even necessary as the original still stands on its own as one of the best Disney films ever made. If your a fan of the original you probably already saw it and I’m sure you loved it. If your not a fan, I don’t know if this version would really win you over.

Jacob: I also enjoyed the movie, and the wonderful production design should be nominated next year for an oscar.

The Lego Batman Movie Review

This review is a bit late I’ll admit but I just saw it again for the second time and wanted to talk about it. There are a few pieces of evidence that suggest this movie takes place after and is tied to The Lego Movie, but it is mainly it’s own stand alone movie. Now we have the task of seeing how it holds up as a lego movie and also a Batman movie. Lets see how it does.

Likes:

  1. I enjoyed the humor a lot. This, like The Lego Movie, did not take it self seriously at all. The movie sets it self up with humor right in the beginning which sets your expectations right at the start. They refer to older Batman movies throughout and also reference many other pop culture figures. Plus the more you know about the various other characters in the movie the more funny references there are to catch.
  2. This is a great family movie. I love that my kids can come with me to this movie, laugh and have a enjoyable time, and I do the exact same thing. This movie was made well enough that while it is a kids movie there was still plenty to entertain me as well.
  3. It is neat how they are able to keep the world fairly true to how legos work. Aside from the characters who have some more freedom in their arms, every thing else works how legos would work. Certain things that would be a lot more dramatic in real life are less dramatic because the legos just click together.

Dislikes:

  1. My only real complaint is that the story is fairly predictable. I guessed the overall plot well ahead of time, I was not surprised by the twists, and foresaw the character arcs a very short time into the movie. Though considering this is a kids movie this is more forgivable.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 1/5

This is a kids movie so there is really nothing to worry about unless you have an older person walk in that never played with Legos. Then it is a little awkward just due to having to explain what legos are.

Overall:

I really enjoyed this movie because I went in to with the expectation to laugh and have fun. This is not a serious movie so it shouldn’t be looked at through serious lens. This is a different style of Batman which makes him interesting, unique, and great to watch.This is a movie to go to with your family and have a fun time together. Bring the kids in your life and have a good time.   

Kong: Skull Island Review *Updated*

March is a heavy month for movies, so expect reviews weekly. It’ll die down in April as there isn’t much in the way of movies. So while we tend to focus on geeky movies on this site, it is very appropriate to have King Kong here. The original King Kong was a hallmark film that inspired countless filmmakers including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. You have Kong to thank for the movies such as Lord of the Rings and Jurassic Park. So how does this film hold up?

Likes:

Luke

  1. If you want a movie to turn the brain off to and let it entertain you, this movie will fit the bill. It’s a popcorn movie that will keep you entertained and excited for 2 hours. The action is exciting and at times, gloriously over-the-top. I was laughing during many off the action scenes just because of the utter shock of what I was watching. If you don’t take the movie seriously you’ll find yourself having fun.
  2. Samuel L. Jackson ironically was one of the most nuanced and deep characters in the movie (not hard in this movie but we’ll get to that in a moment). Playing a war hero from Vietnam who’s so devoted to military life works well for him. There were some interesting pieces of dialogue that were kinda easy to miss but where his motivation was revealed. I understood why he was doing what he was doing.
  3. The CG was good in this film, where if you like to see spectacle you will get it. I don’t think the art direction was on par with Jackson’s King Kong, but it was still very gorgeous to watch on IMAX 3D.
  4. Movie is at a comfortable 2 hour length, not 3 hours like the Jackson version.
  5. Japanese Katana because why not?

Adam

  1. I agree with Luke in that it is a great popcorn movie to just relax and enjoy. It can make you feel compassion for several of the characters but it doesn’t send you into a rage or sob fest.
  2. I like the way they conveyed that Kong wasn’t  just a wild mindless beast but had intelligence and feelings. He wasn’t as flushed out Peter Jackson’s King Kong but they did at least begin to show that he was a bit of a character instead of an unfeeling force of nature.
  3. Tom Hiddleston was fun to watch. This role is a bit different than his role as Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it was enjoyable to see some of his diversity. His character was not as flushed out as I would have like but overall was good in this movie.
  4. Again going to have to agree with Luke. Japanese Katana. It had some amazing scenes.

Dislikes:

Luke

  1. As it is with all popcorn movies, this movie excels at what it’s made to do but leaves some shortcomings in some story elements. The biggest one being the characters. All but two don’t feel like characters but rather stereotypes made to serve as plot elements. No one is really the driving force for the plot, but rather vice versa, where the plot is dictating what the characters do. There’s only really two characters that I liked, first was Samuel L Jackson who I mentioned in my likes and John Reilly’s character. Who I’ll talk about in detail later.
  2. There was a lot of exposition made in the movie that was clearly made for a future movie in mind. Because few of it really paid off in the movie we were actually seeing. I try to keep this reviews spoiler-free so I won’t mention any specific things.
  3. Kong didn’t feel like a character as much as Jackson portrays in his film. Granted this movie is considerably shorter, there aren’t many scenes that Kong can come off as more than a force of nature. There were scenes where they tried but still feels a bit flat.
  4. This one might need explaining. So the current climate of film economics has moved to an international market. By this I mean China is now one of the biggest consumers of films in the world. Hollywood being a business, wants in on the Chinese market. China has strict guidelines and limitations toward its imports including movies. To get around this, Hollywood co-produces with Chinese Film Production companies. On top of this, they add Chinese characters (who are big Chinese stars) to appeal to the Chinese market. This isn’t a big deal but it isn’t handled well in this film. The obligated Chinese character in this film does nothing. It doesn’t make sense for her to be in this movie other than to be one of the scientists (which you could easily combine two of them and nothing would change). If you have to put her in, at least make her do something! I’d be interested to know if she plays a much bigger role in an edited version of the film played in China.

Adam

  1. There were a few character arcs that were not my favorite. Like Luke mentioned, Samuel L. Jackson’s acting was great and he was one of the best developed characters, however I didn’t care for where he ended up at the end of the movie. John Goodman’s character was another one of those arcs that easily could have been so much better.
  2. I like to take my kids to as my movies with me as I can but from a father’s perspective this movie is not one I would take my kids to. There are a lot of jump scare and enough frightening images that I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing my kids who are both under 8 to this movie.

Like and Dislike:

Luke

  1. John Reilly is really the only one that shows much emotion or has a sympathetic reasoning behind his actions. I like this character but he is absent for nearly a third of the movie. Telling his story about living on the island for over 20 years would have made a more interesting movie than the one we saw.

Adam

  1. I second that.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 1/5

Luke: Near the beginning there’s a short scene inside a brothel/bar but nothing is explicatively shown. The rest is harmless enough, it’s your typical action violence from a PG-13 rating. Oh and there’s one F-Bomb, and it’s oddly not from Samuel L. Jackson.

Adam: On top of what Luke mentioned I’d say the violence is a little more than say your average Marvel movie. The violence is mainly creature violence and because of that there was more blood and some visible lose of limb and one impaling.

Overall:

Luke: It’s no surprise that this is a typical action blockbuster. No one is going into this movie to watch a character-driven drama (go watch Logan if you want that). So if you want a popcorn movie, then that is what you will get, it is an entertaining 2 hour adventure. Granted there have been blockbusters that are not only fun but have good characters too. So it is a bit disappointing for Hollywood to easily abandon character and plot for action and spectacle when you can have both. One such movie was actually Peter Jackson’s King Kong. Which by the way is superior in every way, except for the length. It isn’t a bad-bad movie though, but I guess a good-bad movie, where if you don’t take it seriously, you will have fun.

Adam: Like we have mentioned above it is a great popcorn movie and is a lot of fun to watch. The plot isn’t complex and the characters aren’t super deep but it is still an enjoyable watch and a great escape from everyday life. There is an extra little scene after the credits that goes into something not too well developed in the movie so it worth staying for.