Luke’s Top 10 Films of 2017 (#10-6)

As promised I’ll have these up here before Facebook. #5-1 will be posted next week. Happy Holidays Everyone!

Ghost in the Shell

#10 – Ghost in the Shell

Let’s start off with the most controversial film of the list. Yes, I know this was universally hated for even daring to attempt an adaptation of the beloved Anime classic. I know about the white-washing, which I wrote an article why I think that reasoning is weak to boycott the film. But if you follow my reviews at all you knew that I actually really enjoyed this film. Yes, I’ve seen the original so I do have some comparison going on. Yet, I still enjoyed the film as one of the best looking films of the year and ended up being an above average action thriller. Is there things it did wrong? Absolutely, the heavy reliance on imagery from the anime was unnecessary, and its use of too many action movie cliches are the two major ones that I can think of. But what it lacked in philosophically loaded exposition like the original did it get in some nuance that most people chose to ignore. It did some amazing effect shots that were done practically (the birthing scene with the robotic skeleton was practical) and it was entertaining to watch. You might hate it, but it’s my list so I will put it down.

Justice League

#9 – Justice League

Another movie that people seem to hate a lot more than I feel is fair. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, the plot is predictable and has a weak antagonist. But I still saw it 3 times this year and didn’t mind one bit. Call this my “guilty pleasure” movie of the year. Not to say there were things that movie didn’t get right: the plot, while predictable, was at least well paced. The action scenes were easy to follow and exciting. But most of all, I am excited to finally see the DC heroes on screen together. I am a big DC comics fan and having the gang together was a treat for me. All of them were well acted and worked well together with a chemistry that felt natural and balanced. It may not have been the Avengers buster people were hoping for but it did make me more interested in the future solo movies to come.

Dunkirk

#8 – Dunkirk

Anytime a Nolan movie comes out, you bet I’m going to be excited for it. I was also fortunate enough to watch it in IMAX, which was what I would call an “experience movie”. This film was made for large-format theaters with some of the most immersive experiences at the movies. The soundtrack made me feel like I was in a war zone, which added to the sense of danger and suspense that loomed over the movie. The images were beautifully shot and edited together in another non-linear way of telling a story that Nolan is famous for. The only reason why this film didn’t score higher was because I haven’t really given much thought to the film since watching it. Also the impact it has will be lessened as it goes to home video. Even a 7.1 surround home theater won’t do the film justice. This film was made for the theater.

Spider-man: Homecoming

#7 – Spiderman: Homecoming

Marvel Studios wasn’t a complete disappointment this year. From the movie that had a lot of doubts for it too. The original Spiderman films are considered classics (the first two at least) and the last couple movies were disappointing to put it mildly. This film has reversed the trend with the best Spiderman film since Spiderman 2. Tom Holland is without a doubt the best Spiderman on screen, Michael Keaton returns to comics as a relatable yet menacing version of a B list villain and having it take place in the Marvel Universe was a nice bonus. Most of all, it was a maturation story that worked perfectly for this version of Spiderman. Also it had the best end-credit bonus scene from Marvel yet.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

#6 – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

This film ranking as low as it is, I’m sure surprises a lot of people. I’ve seen this movie called both the best Star Wars ever and the worst one since Attack of the Clones. Needless to say this film has been very divisive for fans. I find myself in the middle of it all. I liked the movie and felt it did a lot of things right but there were some really annoying story decisions that stopped it short of being a great movie. That said, it did have a bunch of surprises which was refreshing since Episode 7 was too similar to the original. Plus I have a soft spot for Luke Skywalker and seeing him again was fun. The second act was bumpy but the ending was satisfying. Overall, this movie isn’t the best film since Empire Strikes Back and it’s not as bad as Attack of the Clones.

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.

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.

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.

Movie Review – Logan (2017) *Spoiler Free*

Welcome to the GMF movie reviews! Here we’ll go and do some reviews for the geeky movies to come out during the year. Since we’re not registered film critics, we won’t be able to go to pre-screenings and get these reviews out the day it’s released. So you may have a wait a few days or so since we’re watching the movies the same time you are. So we’re going to try and do reviews a bit differently than others may do it. It’ll be in a list form for the likes and dislikes, sometimes it’ll be me solo and sometimes the others will chime in. Lastly I would like to make a meter for “awkward walk-ins moments.” What I mean by that is the moments when your S.O., parent, kids, grandma, etc walks into a movie at the most awkward time. Not only for inappropriate content but also for just other bizarre stuff you may find in a movie. I think some people might find that useful when planning to see a movie. So let’s get into the review!

Likes:

  1. This movie is very emotionally charged. It’s rare for a movie like this to be as engaging on an emotional level like this. It’s a similar feeling after watching a deep character-driven drama (makes sense after figuring out that the director also made the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line). While this isn’t what you want for all movies, this was a breath of fresh air for the superhero genre. The Dark Knight was one of the only superhero movies that had a ending that was both inspirational and a bit depressing like Logan did. If you’re coming to watch a typical X-men movie, you will probably be disappointed.
  2. The acting was fantastic. Hugh Jackman truly nails the character of Wolverine in this movie. The creative freedom they had in this movie allowed Jackman to go to places emotionally that he wasn’t able to before. Patrick Stewart also does a great performance as Professor Xavier, which was very different from his other performances with the same character, but for the context of the story it made sense. You see them both given it their all for this movie.
  3. I could feel that the filmmakers and actors actually cared about making the best movie they could. I already mentioned the acting but even the director James Mangold had some energy put into the movie that was absent in The Wolverine. This maybe because Mangold had a lot more creative freedom than in The Wolverine which was an ok movie at best.
  4. While both previous Wolverine films had some major pacing issues, the pacing in this movie is spot on. It’ll give you breathing room when you need it but will crack up afterwards and keep your attention throughout the whole movie.
  5. This is a grounded superhero movie done right. Other X-men films struggled tonally cutting from flashbacks of Auschwitz to melodramatic comic book slock. This is not the case for this movie. It knows it’s a serious film, and it stays serious throughout.

Dislikes (or rather what others might dislike):

  1. There isn’t much exposition to explain why the world is the way that it is. Some of it is explained but it isn’t spelled out for you. So some of the backstory might be hard to follow. Also it does rely a bit on you understanding the X-men world. So if you’re brand new to X-men you may want to watch the original X-men movie first.
  2. The violence is up to 11 on this movie. THIS MOVIE IS RATED R FOR A REASON. The claws are used and depicted realistically in this film. Don’t pull a Deadpool and take your kids to this. This movie is not for them. There are plenty of ‘F’ bombs and ‘S’ bombs here too.
  3. My friends that came with me were emotionally overwhelmed after seeing this movie. It isn’t a fun movie to watch. This didn’t bother me as I was happy to actually feel something after a movie for a change, even if it’s not really a positive emotion. If you go in expecting an emotional and darker movie, that is what you will get.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 4/5

While the movie lacks sexual content and suggestive costumes like the other X-Men movies, this movie is full of profanity, bloody gore and action. This is a hard R and is not for kids.
Overall:

Logan is a rare film, it’s a film where the studio took a chance and let the filmmakers make the movie they wanted to make. It’s hard to tell if it’ll pay off like Deadpool did but it did expand what can be done in the superhero genre. There have been dark superhero movies before but not to the level of being considered a heavy drama like Logan was. If you grew up with the X-men movies like I did, I think you can go in and appreciate the arc that was made for Wolverine. His solo movies have been duds up until now. Not only is this by far the best Wolverine movie, but it might be one of the best X-men movies yet.