Luke’s Top 10 Movies of 2018

It’s the start of a new year! Last year was not as strong as 2017, with Logan and Blade Runner 2049 not only making the top of the 2017 but on the top of my all time favorites. This year didn’t have anything as strong as those movies were. However there are a couple of contenders last year that are worth watching none-the-less.

This should go without saying but there are several movies that I’m sure are good that I wasn’t able to watch. Last year as a busy one for me and that affected my theater attendance as well. So Bumblebee, Wreck-It Ralph 2, The Grinch and several others won’t make the list. If there are movies that aren’t on the list that you want to recommend, tweet me @DarthLaric and I’ll try to catch them. Here it goes!

10: Avengers: Infinity War

I had a hard time figuring out my number ten, partly because there were a bunch of movies that were ok but not top ten material. This movie is on the border for me. It was certainly entertaining with the production value you’d expect from the tentpole movie of the year. But I have a hard time loving the Avengers sequels. They tend to get too bloated and ambitious. The first one was novel as it was the first of its kind, but they all lack the strong characterization you get from the standalone films. While I do admit that I am very fond of Civil War, which is Avengers 2.5, that film did have a lot of things going for it other than spectacle. Infinity War is nothing but spectacle.

I will give credit where it’s due though, this movie should have been a much bigger mess than it was. It was messy but I wasn’t as bad as it should have been. The reason why I have this on number ten is the reaction the audience gave to the ending. I haven’t seen anything like it. For that, it does get respect from me. It’s a decent movie, but only lands on number 10 for me.

9. Solo: A Star Wars Story

I’m willing to admit my fatigue for Star Wars right now. The Last Jedi was a major disappointment to say the least. But what happened to Solo wasn’t deserved. It is one the best Disney Star Wars films. I went in expecting it to be a disaster but it kind of won me over. It’s not without its flaws, the cinematography is pretty ugly at parts and the stupid Darth Maul cameo was so jarring and out of place. Only people who have watched The Clone Wars and Rebels will have any understanding as to why he’s in there. Still the characters were well played and Han and Chewy make a great duo.

8. Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Go back to my mini review for my primary thoughts on this movie. It may not be a Miyazaki film, but it is the closest thing we have gotten since The Wind Rises. Gorgeous film with a bit of heart.

7. Aquaman

Yeah, yeah, of course the DC fanboy gives love to the Justice League’s running gag. Still, this movie has the lowest second weekend drop out of all the DC extended universe films (even Wonder Woman), is approaching a billion dollars worldwide and is performing very well despite competition with heavy hitters like Mary Poppins Returns and Bubblebee. This movie is not the failure people have come to expect from the DC films. In fact, I am quite fond of this movie. I’ve been thinking and studying heavily on archetypes, and this movie did those archetypes quite well. But the movie isn’t without its flaws, I pointed them out in my mini reviews. Still, it’s safe to say that this is the second best DC movie to come out next to Wonder Woman. It’s certainly better than Thor (shots have been fired).

6. Black Panther

What can I say? Black Panther is a cool hero with a good story and an excellent villain. But since everyone saw this movie, I don’t think I need to say more than that.

5. Mary Poppins Returns

It’s kinda nice that musicals are making a comeback. It seems like since Les Miserables, there has been a musical film out every year during the Holidays. I don’t mind this new trend, as La La Land was quite a charming movie. Mary Poppins Returns is also a very charming film with excellent set pieces and songs. Emily Blunt does a very solid Mary Poppins as well.

4. Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

Another Sony surprise (they also co-produced Blade Runner 2049), this animated take on Marvel’s favorite hero has been said to be the best rendition of the web slinger on the big screen. I don’t know if I can say that as Homecoming as also a very solid movie. Still, a unique take on Spiderman with the humor. charm and action you expect from a Spiderman film.

3. Incredibles 2

Just barely beating out Spiderman as my top computer-animated movie, this one only gets higher because its a bit more philosophically sophisticated than Spiderman was. This one deals on the surface about the responsibility of fatherhood, but deeper it goes into the power of media on influencing others. Something I’m obviously very interested in.

2. Isle of Dogs

Ok here’s the top animated movie of the year. I have a soft spot for stop-motion animation, because one there’s a certain organic feel that you don’t get with computer animated films, and secondly it’s super hard and time consuming. Add to the fact that this is Wes Anderson’s love letter to Japanese cinema, you can bet that I’m totally in.

1. The Death of Stalin

Why do we go to see movies? When we go to the theater to see a movie, what is the expectation? Many of you might say that it depends on the movie. That is certainly true, but I would have to say that we go to the films to feel something. What that feeling is depends on the type of movie it is. We want to feel thrills, we go to action films. If we want to feel intimacy, we see a romance. We want to laugh, we go to a comedy.

The Death of Stalin is one of the funniest movies I have ever watched. I must preface that the humor in this film isn’t for everyone. I admittedly can have a very dark sense of humor. If, like me, you like dark humor and irony, this is the movie for you. So this film made me laugh, that fulfills it’s purpose as a comedy, but what elevates this movie (and other great films) further is that it adds something more.

With this film, it was exploring the minds of the leadership of the most brutal and oppressive government of the twentieth century, and exposing the source of its corruption. That source was the fact that everyone lied. The psychological exploration feed into the ironic humor seamlessly as the humor came from people acting contradictory to what they believed. This is also keeping with the observations made by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the great soviet writer and Gulag survivor. To recapitulate, this movie is both hilarious, smart and my favorite movie of the year.

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 5)

Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

I had a couple of doubts going into this movie. The art style looked too extreme, the frame-rate looked terrible and wasn’t sure how well Sony could handle a solo Spiderman venture. My doubts were not an issue at all. The film was terrific. The art style brought out a unique comic book look, the animation was top notch and the story didn’t suck! Sony was able to make a good Spiderman movie, thank goodness! It’s too soon to tell exactly where it falls in relation to other Spiderman films, but it is one of the best ones easily.

Aquaman

The reviews for Aquaman has been fairly mixed. Many agree that it was one of the better DC movies as of late but not quite to the level of Wonder Woman. I agree to that point but I must say that I rather liked this movie. The special effects were top notch, and the story although not super original, did tell the reluctant king story better than many other movies, including Thor. The archetypes were correctly implemented in this story and because of that, it ringed true to me. Not a perfect movie though, Ocean Master was a rather bland villain (Black Manta was much more interesting). Still, much better of a movie than anyone would expect from Aquaman.

Mary Poppins Returns

I must admit that it’s been a very long time since watching the original. The original wasn’t ever my favorite growing up, something about it didn’t click with me. That might change with a viewing with modern eyes, I can say that the new Mary Poppins was “practically perfect in every way.” While that might be said with some hyperbole, this movie knew of the legacy it followed and kept true to the spirit of the original. This is full-on musical and it was a good one too. The songs were catchy and meaningful, the set pieces were creative and expertly executed and the story was heart-warming. The actors sung very well, with Emily Blunt as a convincing Mary Poppins. Nothing really negative about this one, come watch it to help you feel like a child again.

Crazy Rich Asians

Another movie I saw outside the theater. It seems to be a huge hit for many people. I liked it for the most part, with some interesting characters, emotion and a glamorous look at the life of upper-class Singapore. I generally don’t care for romantic comedies, but it has the same charm that was shown in a movie like My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Those are the movies that I got to watch this year. I don’t know if I can get another one in today but this is it for now. I do plan on posting my top 10 sometime soon. See you then and Happy New Year!

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 4)

Venom

Venom feels like a movie that was released in the 2000’s, pre-Batman Begins. It was tonally all over the place with a dark carnivorous parasite that takes over hosts that would crack corny one-liners in a brutal fight scene. I can’t really say that this is a good movie, but it is an anomaly from a bygone era when superhero movies weren’t taken seriously. There’s a certain charm about that. Tom Hardy knew the time of movie he was in and acted accordingly. This isn’t the edgey hard R Venom movie that people were expecting, it feels like an reboot to Spiderman 3’s least interesting villain, and more in the same vein as Sam Raimi’s movie than anything else that has come out. Overall it is a dumb bromantic comedy that does a better good bad movie than Jurassic World 2 did.

Peter Rabbit

I didn’t see this in theaters, my niece made me watch this. But was a charming little movie. I got invested into the story, the animal animation was solid and has a couple good laughs. It’s a good family comedy devoid of cynicism and forced pop-culture jokes. For that reason, it has a much better chance of becoming timeless than other kid movie offerings.

Fantastic Beasts 2

I’m sorry I’m not going to type out the whole title. I can’t say that I loved the Fantastic beast movie like I did the Harry Potter movies, but it was still pretty good with some legitimate plot twists that made the film more than just a cash grab. The pulled off the plot twist perfectly in the first one as after being revealed, the plot made more sense and it was more illuminating than confusing. I can’t say the same for the Fantastic Beasts, the plot twist in there just left us all with more questions. I like the fact that the first one didn’t have to rely on a cliff hanger but rather a loose end that could evolve to something big. Still I didn’t hate this movie, it was exciting at times, and had some really dark moments that took a lot of guts to put into a Potterverse blockbuster.

2018 Year in Reviews (Part 3)

Incredibles 2

The long awaited sequel to one of the best Pixar films to date has a high bar to climb. Is it a worthy sequel? I think it is, I can’t say it’ll have the same impact that the first one had, but the movie was fun, funny and has some depth to it. The antagonist in this movie is one that I love, because one: I’m a video technician and second, how media influences our psychology is something I want to study in the future. Plus the monologue sounded like Baudrillard which is also a big plus for me.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I had my issues with the first one but even I admit that it was a fun and entertaining movie (the ending alone is worth it). With Jurassic World being the biggest movie of 2015 (until Star Wars VII), there was some high expectations for the follow up. Did it pull a Lost World? Yes it did, the story beats and structure were very similar for one, but overall the movie lacked the charm and magic the first movie had. The movie eventually devolves into a Resident Evil story with the cheese included. While it could be considered a “good bad” movie for it’s cheesy moments, it’s more boring than fun overall. They should call the next one Dino Crisis.

Mission Impossible: Fallout

The mission impossible movies have been a solid franchise that has lasted longer than it should. Fallout has kept the standards of the franchise with solid action and set pieces, rubber masks surprise reveals and ticking time bombs. However, this one felt samey to the last one, with the same director and much of the same cast as the last one. They all have a shared continuity, but each movie has a different flavor that made each movie unique. This one felt the most like a direct sequel. However, I think this one is more memorable and fun than the last one was, so it may be sequel but it is a good sequel at least.


2018 Year in Reviews (Part 2)

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

When animation master Hayao Miyasaki “””””””officially”””””” (enough air quotes?) retired after The Wind Rises (Air quotes because he’s developing another movie right now), the future of Studio Ghibli dramatically shifted. I’m unsure about Miyasaki’s next movie, but the decision was made to stop animating original movies in house. Instead Ghibli would be a producer and distributor of other animated films like last years excellent The Red Turtle. So now you have a bunch of the best animators in Japan without a studio. So they created their own, Studio Ponoc, and this is their first feature film. As you can imagine, the animation on this movie is spectacular. It definitely is imaginative but I don’t think the story is as strong as Mayazaki’s works. Still that’s a fairly high benchmark to make, and it’s a charming and beautiful movie nonetheless. If you need a Ghibli fix, Studio Ponoc’s movie is the best thing you can find right now.

Death of Stalin

This movie isn’t for everyone. It is really dark, violent, and yet was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever watched. The movie takes place at the end of Stalin’s reign in Soviet Russia and the succession crisis that preceded his death. Something like this would normally be done in a serious oscar-bait drama. But instead, they turned the death of one of the most ruthless and evil dictators of the 20th century into a comedic farce. This adds a sweetness to the otherwise acerbic subject matter. I cannot recommend it to everyone, but anyone who enjoys dark humor, witty dialogue and irony should really check it out.

Deadpool 2

I didn’t catch the PG-13 re-release so this is based off of the R version. The production value went way up for this one and played out more like a typical superhero movie. For better or for worse, this one feels much more mainstream and dare I say less raunchy than the last one. But there are plenty of gorey bits and F-bombs to maintain an adult rating. I didn’t have any many issues with this one but I didn’t laugh as much with this movie than the last one. It has a much better story than the first one but the first one felt more rebellious and underground. Deadpool was a major risk and that’s what I respected about it, this one felt more safe. Again not a bad movie, but may not have the lasting impact that the first one does.


2018 Year in Reviews (Part 1)

So I’m going to post up a couple of mini reviews in chunks. That way I don’t have you reading a novel all in one day but enjoy a small bite size review every couple of days. I’ll start with early 2018 movies first, I don’t promise that they are in chronological order though (or for the rest of the reviews for that matter). Also, I will probably have to wait until the beginning of next year to do a top ten list since there are 3 big movies coming out all on Friday. And I am still very much behind on everything.

Black Panther

Adam already did a review on this movie, but here’s my thoughts on the movie. I liked it, and set the precedent for great Marvel movie villains. In fact, it’s one of two Marvel movies that has a great antagonist (usually a weaker point for Marvel). The thing that I think will bog down this movie is the politics that people have tried to push on it. Take that away, this movie is one of the best that Marvel has put out.

Pacific Rim: Uprising

The first movie was what a dumb giant robot/monster movie would be like if made by a good director. It doesn’t take itself seriously but it has more depth than your average popcorn movie. But overall it was just a lot of fun, the main characters were fairly bland but more than makes up for it for excellent giant robot fights. This movie is what it would have been if Del Toro didn’t make it. This time though it’s the reverse with John Boyega being the more charismatic with the support characters being completely boring and forgettable. The fight scenes are alright I guess, I just don’t remember too much from this movie.

Isle of Dogs

Finally a movie that I don’t feel “meh” about. I’m not a huge Wes Anderson fan, I know him more for the stop motion he made like Fantastic Mr Fox and Isle of Dogs. This movie is his love letter to Japanese cinema, and added to the fact that I love Japanese cinema, I was completely on board with this. The movie is charming, inventive and has a stellar voice cast of top Hollywood actors as the dogs and Japanese actors by the humans. One of the best films of the year!


The Silence Breaks

Hi everyone! I know there has been radio silence for the past 5 or so months. We’ve been taking a much-needed hiatus from podcasts and movie reviews. I’ve just submitted my application to Graduate School and Adam has a new baby around. So we’ve been super busy taking care of personal things during our time off. I am not at liberty to talk about when Season 2 of the podcast will drop but we’ll be making plans for that soon. But it was time for the silence to break.

The main reason for posting this is to announce since I’ve been slacking on movie reviews this year, I’m going to be doing them all at the end of the year. This will be mini reviews so not super structured or anything and because they decided to dump a bunch of movies at the very end of the year, I won’t be able to do a top 10 list like I normally do. That will probably have to wait until next year. Also the reviews will be exclusive for this website. I’ve been cutting out Facebook so I’m not going to be posting on there anymore. So return here during the next couple weeks and we’ll probably have some new stuff for you!

I also wanted to take some time and talk about what I plan on doing next year. I’m not going back for another semester next year as I only went back to help with my application and want to save money. So I’ll have a lot more free time to write articles and reviews. But I want to do more than just reviews. Going back to school has reminded me how much I enjoy learning and writing. So even though I’m not in school, I want to use to this space to explore the research and other learning I plan on doing next year to prepare for Graduate School (acceptance pending). So I’m going to be posting on psychology, pop culture, film and video games. Figure this isn’t a stretch for a website whose logo is literally a brain with nerd goggles. 

Happy Holidays everyone, and stay tuned for movie reviews!

Power Rangers Movie Review

Power Rangers

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.

Horizon Zero Dawn Review

Come for the Game Play, Stay for the Story

Humanity has reverted back into a primitive, tribal way of life. Lush vegetation has conquered tattered ruins of what was once our thriving cities. Mechanical beasts that resemble creatures of prehistoric times roam the lands. This is Earth now and we follow Aloy, a charmingly strong-willed redhead, on her journey to understanding her existence and how she fits the mold of this world, with the many faces she’ll meet along the way. Some less memorable than others. But I’m more forgiving in this regard as your main focus is the development of Aloy. The ones that truly matter and affects her the most are well done. I’d be more disappointed if none of the characters you meet added the least bit of color to your adventures. To date, I don’t know of any console game that is as visually stunning as Horizon Zero Dawn especially if you have a system that can run it in its rendered 4k.

The Story

     The story may be at first, slow, but the aesthetics of the environment that the game walks you through is distracting enough that you really won’t notice. After about 2 or so hours in, the story picks up, piling on more questions to the questions you already have to grip your curiosity. It is an open world and, as such, offers many distractions. The game, however, delivers enough sense of urgency that you are compelled to stay focused and not wildly distracted like you would be in oh–Skyrim, for instance. Depending on one’s efficiency, that main quest line can be finished in 30-40 or so hours.

     Of course, there are dangers lurking beyond that hill cresting the sunset; most of which will be machines. Perhaps some bandits roaming the trails looking for their next meal. Fear not, Aloy is trained in range combat with various bows, slings, traps, wires, and ropes along with a spear should the fight come close. A wide enough array of strategies can be employed against different types of enemies. What worked for your current adversary may not dent your next challenge. You can approach situations stealthily if a more frontal assault is not to your style. There are plenty of patches of tall grass to ambush unsuspecting robotic lizards from. It is refreshing and keeps the game from going stale too soon out of sheer repetitiveness–something that plagues a lot of action RPG’s of late. You can even arm yourself with weapons torn off from certain enemies.

    The System

     Usually, games with aesthetics of this caliber, fall short on either combat system or storytelling. Guerrilla games exceeded expectations, if not lived up to the hype, with this game; especially for their first title that is not their usual genre. But it’s not all praises and accolades for Horizon Zero dawn. The game offers little to no incentive at all in terms of replayability. Everything can be achieved in this game, from the plethora collections of data logs entry to enrich oneself in deeper lore of this world, to sidequests, ultimate equipment, and trophies in the first playthrough. Unless you want to just have another go at the storyline to see how NPC’s would react through different dialogue options but that is really nothing a quick “save and reload” trick couldn’t remedy. That is not to say, you can’t continue your adventure after the main storyline. By all means, go out and hunt more challenges. Parkour your way above mesas and cliff tops and take a moment to enjoy and immerse yourself in Horizon Zero Dawn’s breathtaking vistas, if nothing else.

     So, buy or rent? This one really boils down to personal choice. I’ve come to love collecting the games I play. This may have been influenced by the fact that I work a lot and my time is stretched thin between that, family, and life in general. I like the convenience of having my copy, digital or otherwise, ready to pop in for some play whenever I get a bit of free time. As I’ve mentioned before, the main storyline itself can be done in 30-40 something hours. If you have a long 3-4 day weekend saved up, you can easily binged play through this. But with quality this good, best to make room for it on your shelf.

 

The Lego Batman Movie Review

The lego batman movie

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. 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. Batman is a different style than others 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.