Shazam! (2019)

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Deep in a magic dimension few know,
A once mighty wizard in weakness resides,
Guarding great evil since eons ago,
And keeping it sealed, he yet watches and hides.
With the rise of a hero, his fall coincides.

Somewhere it’s certain this champion waits
To prove himself worthy and purest of heart,
But waiting has led to the direst of straits,
And now the old wizard has need to impart
His power to one perhaps not quite as smart
Or noble or unselfish as he prefers,
But beggars aren’t choosers for superpowers.
Perhaps in this boy, a new champion stirs.
_____________________

MPAA rating:  PG-13

It’s amazing that, within months of each other, both Marvel and DC put out films about their respective characters named Captain Marvel. DC’s version predates Marvel’s but is now known as Shazam, a word that was apparently just his catchphrase for transforming into a muscle-bound hero. This superhero-now-known-as-Shazam may date back to 1939 and have two TV series from the 1970s/80s to his name, but I was unfamiliar with the character and greatly enjoyed this introduction to him.

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As expected from the trailers, Shazam is basically Big with superpowers, but it does quite a bit right in taking the same concept of a boy in an adult’s body and running with it in unexpected and largely fun directions. After being separated from his mother, young Billy Batson (Asher Angel) grows up as a foster kid desperate to find her and always landing in trouble. Eventually, he’s taken in by the generous Vasquezes (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans) and their gaggle of fellow foster kids, including superhero-fan Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer). Soon, Billy is unexpectedly summoned by a weakening wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) and gifted with the body and abilities of a superhero, in order to stop a raging villain (Mark Strong) with the power of the seven deadly sins.

Like I said, I wasn’t aware of Shazam’s existence, much less the fact that his name is an acronym, representing his gifts of the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, the Stamina of Atlas, the Power of Zeus, the Courage of Achilles, and the Speed of Mercury. (I suppose I’ll ignore the historical/Biblical figure of Solomon being lumped in with Greek and Roman myths.) Yet not knowing about the character helped me appreciate the story without any preconceived opinions about how it should be, as would be the case with Superman or Batman. It was interesting then to research afterward and realize how much of the plot had its roots in the comics. (I’m just nerdy like that; I always study a movie’s backstory before or after seeing it.)

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The kid actors are delightful, and Zachary Levi is perfectly cast as Billy’s adult form, nailing the juvenile mentality and wide-eyed wonder of a boy turned into a man and discovering what superpowers he has. It’s goofy and frequently hilarious, which is quite the contrast to Strong’s scenes as the magic-obsessed Doctor Sivana. The shifts in tone can be quite jarring at times, with Sivana’s Sins manifesting in one surprisingly violent scene that could have been toned down. Nevertheless, I appreciated how Billy’s sense of feeling unworthy reflected Sivana’s, like the latter was a dark reflection of the former, making Sivana prime archenemy material.

Shazam might just be my favorite installment yet of the DC Extended Universe, a fun exercise in wish fulfillment that is deepened by a heartwarming message of adoptive family. For anyone who enjoyed the familial themes of Meet the Robinsons or Spy Kids, Shazam is similarly gratifying. As an origin story, this is the rare DC property that can hold its own next to Marvel, and I, for one, look forward to more superhero movies like it.

 

Rank: List-Worthy (tied with Captain Marvel, because I can)

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
634 Followers and Counting

 

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2019 Blindspot Pick #5: Best in Show (2000)

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Behold, the yearly dog parade,
A purebred canine cavalcade,
Where dogs and humans side by side
Will strut their stuff with puppy pride.

Akitas, corgis, Komondors,
So many march upon all fours,
From toys that bring to mind a rat
To mastiffs who could eat a cat.

There goes the Rottweiler and hound,
Content to prance around and round.
And there’s the Yorkshire terrier
Who broke the cuteness barrier.

There’s Marmaduke and Lassie here,
And dear Old Yeller (sheds a tear),
And Hachi, Benji, Beethoven,
With Scooby Doo and Rin Tin Tin.
(I’d say their breeds, but for the young,
Their screen names just roll off the tongue.)

There goes a walking mop on paws,
And poodles barbered…well, because,
And pugs and shar peis that are set
With ugly charm I don’t quite get.

And by each furry quadrupedal
Rival vying for a medal
Walk the humans with concern,
Who reap rewards their pooches earn.
_____________________

MPAA rating:  PG-13

I can’t recall exactly what prompted me to add Best in Show to my list of Blindspots this year, but I’d gotten the general impression that it was a great classic comedy that I’d somehow missed out on until now. Directed and co-written by Christopher Guest, clearly inspired by his time starring in This Is Spinal Tap, this mockumentary about the weird world of dog shows isn’t quite worthy of the blue ribbon I was expecting.

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These mockumentary films seem to me an acquired taste, so dependent on improv and awkwardness, and with this film and This Is Spinal Tap being the only two I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve acquired it yet. My family watches the National Dog Show every Thanksgiving, so I was interested in seeing a comedy built around the backstage drama of quirky competitors. And quirky they are, including an obsessively competitive couple (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock), a suburban schmoe (Eugene Levy) and his formerly promiscuous wife (Catherine O’Hara), a pair of gay Shih Tzu lovers (Michael McKean and John Michael Higgins), a backwoods fisherman (Guest), and a trophy wife (Jennifer Coolidge) and her stressed trainer (Jane Lynch).

Through their interactions and direct interviews, we see all of their insecurities, secrets, checkered pasts, and eccentricities firsthand, and while there’s no denying the talent of the cast, the material never rises above mere amusement. Some of the shenanigans, such as Posey and Hitchcock’s fanaticism over their dog’s toy, are actually more sad than funny, and Fred Willard’s role as the dog show’s absent-minded commentator struggles so hard to be constantly funny that he’s sort of annoying instead. (Interestingly, John Michael Higgins would go on to play a similar but IMO funnier announcer in the Pitch Perfect films.)

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Yet, even if it could use more belly laughs, Best in Show was still amusing, and, based on my own dog preferences, I was pleased with the eventual winner of the competition. Plus, I did enjoy the large and recognizable cast, which also included Ed Begley, Jr. and Bob Balaban. Best in Show might not have been as funny as I’d hoped, but it did reaffirm something about myself: I’m much more of a cat person.

Best line: (Sherri Ann Cabot, about her decrepit rich husband) “We have so much in common; we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.”

 

Rank: Honorable Mention

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
634 Followers and Counting

 

2019 Blindspot Pick #4: The Longest Day (1962)

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“Damn the torpedoes.” “Remember the Maine!”
“Remember the Alamo!” was the refrain
Of the boys and the men
Who fought time and again,
Who offered their country their blood and their pain.

And on June the sixth of 1944,
Such men charged the beaches of Normandy’s shore.
They leaped from the sky
Knowing well they could die,
And waded through carnage that had been their corps.

The weather unfriendly, the Germans less so,
The struggle brought many a foe and friend low.
The Allies that day
Put their grit on display,
And paid a debt we who are living still owe.
_____________________

MPAA rating: G (should be at least PG)

About two years ago, I reviewed Saving Private Ryan, one of that year’s Blindspots, so it seemed only fitting to review another Blindspot pick about D-Day on June 6, the day the world was saved by the Allied forces. The Longest Day may be an older film, but its re-creation of the struggle on the beaches of Normandy is more expansive than Spielberg’s and well worthy of being ranked among the great war movies of all time.

While Saving Private Ryan had a focused plot with developed characters, The Longest Day is much more concerned with the broader history of the D-Day landings: the cautious planning, the German belief that no invasion would come that June, the watching of weather reports, the confusion of battle, and the plethora of individual stories, most of which have a basis in truth. At nearly three hours long, it might have been called The Longest Movie, yet it’s rarely boring. It may take two thirds of its runtime to reach the point that Saving Private Ryan begins, but it offers much more insight into the strategy and planning that went into the assault and the various efforts of the Americans, British, French, paratroopers, and French civilians, as well as the German side, all presented realistically with dialogue in their native tongue.

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Saving Private Ryan may be known for its battle scenes, but The Longest Day is no slouch either, depicting the invasion on an impressively epic scale. After the ships hit the beaches, there are a number of jaw-dropping aerial tracking shots that offer an incredible view of the battlefield, and without CGI, I can only imagine the work that went into creating such carefully orchestrated scenes. The fact that many of the cast and crew actually saw action on D-Day and contributed their first-hand accounts, along with many of those who are actually depicted in the film, only adds to the authenticity of the production, something no film in the future could hope to match.

The one thing The Longest Day doesn’t have is clearly defined characters, despite a cast jam-packed with stars of the day. It may have won deserving Oscars for its cinematography and special effects, but there’s a reason it didn’t get any acting nominations, simply because there’s not enough for any one actor to do.  John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Robert Mitchum are probably the biggest stars, but you’ll likely recognize the names or faces of Red Buttons, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Rod Steiger, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, and Peter Lawford, to name only a few. With such a who’s who of talent, it was just a tad disappointing that we spend so little time with any of them, sometimes only a single scene, and don’t always find out what became of them. Yet this is a film about the events rather than the people (the name and rank labels are more for context than for actually keeping track of the characters), and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially with so many triumphant, sad, or ironic episodes throughout that are worth telling but don’t necessarily warrant a movie of their own.

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My own grandfather was among the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, and films like Saving Private Ryan and The Longest Day really help me as a detached viewer to appreciate the sacrifices of what was truly the Greatest Generation. As for which film is better, I’m torn. Saving Private Ryan held much more visceral emotion but largely through extreme violence I usually steer clear of; for normal viewing, I think I prefer The Longest Day’s presentation of bloodless action that still denotes the grand and hellish reality of war. Both have their place, one raw and poignant, the other detailed and comprehensive, and I’m grateful to have finally seen both through this Blindspot series. One ship commander tells his men, “You remember it. Remember every bit of it, ’cause we are on the eve of a day that people are going to talk about long after we are dead and gone.” Thanks in part to films like this, he’s absolutely right.

Best line: (said by both an American and a German, an insightful contrast) “Sometimes I wonder which side God is on.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (tied with Saving Private Ryan)

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
633 Followers and Counting

 

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

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They say that you cannot return to the days
When the world held the awe it no longer displays.
The people and scenes are no more in their prime,
And you aren’t the you that you were at the time.
The flavors and sounds may be echoing still,
But the farther you get, the more gone is the thrill.

The memory seals them away as in glass,
Preserving their pricelessness as the years pass.
And even as foolish modernity tries
Revisiting heirlooms to revitalize,
Nostalgia may warrant a smile and sigh
At the echoes that fade but are sure not to die.
_______________________

MPAA rating: PG

There are some movies that shouldn’t be touched by Hollywood’s incessant need to remake its old classics, not necessarily because the originals are better by default, but because there’s no way they can compete with a film that was, is, and always will be a classic. I thought for sure that Mary Poppins was one of those movies, but Disney had other ideas. What they delivered in Mary Poppins Returns is as close as the modern day can come to the old-school style that created its predecessor, but try as it might, there’s just something missing.

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Julie Andrews is irreplaceable, but when I heard Emily Blunt was to play Poppins, I figured she had the best chance of anyone to fill her shoes. And in many ways, she does, right from the moment she floats in on the end of a kite flown by one of Michael Banks’s children. Michael (Ben Whishaw) is all grown up now, a widower still reeling from the loss of his wife and struggling to hold onto the family home. Despite his and Jane’s (Emily Mortimer) best efforts, Michael’s three largely responsible kids are in need of some comfort and whimsy, and thus Mary Poppins steps in, perhaps a bit more smile-prone than before but close to the way they/we all remember her.

Mary Poppins Returns is a lot like Star Wars: The Force Awakens in its faithful adherence to the original (some might say too faithful). It follows the general plot of its forerunner to a tee, the same character types, the same sequence of events. Instead of jumping into a chalk drawing, they spin into a cracked ceramic bowl for another semi-animated holiday; instead of floating with Mary’s Uncle Albert, they turn upside-down with her cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep). In place of Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert, there’s Lin-Manuel Miranda as lamplighter Jack, doing an excellent job at being casually charming. There are differences, of course, such as the presence of a genuine villain in Colin Firth’s bank president, but sticking so close to the original formula just begs for direct comparison, and Mary Poppins Returns just doesn’t quite match the first.

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Yet it’s so close to the spirit of the original that I can’t help but wonder how much the original relies on nostalgia. Mary Poppins is an incomparable, wholesome family movie, but I am surprised at times to think that Julie Andrews won her Oscar for it rather than The Sound of Music. Its plot is loose and episodic, so I can’t criticize the sequel for being the same. I knew my VC, as a staunch fan of the first film, would have the hardest time accepting Mary Poppins Returns, and while she gave it a good try and liked the beginning, she essentially checked out when it no longer conformed to her idea of what Mary Poppins should be.

At one point in the entertaining segment with animation, Mary gets up on stage to perform with Jack and sings some slightly risqué lyrics. My VC immediately thought, “Mary Poppins would never do that,” and the facsimiled magic was broken. That’s why revisiting such classics is so potentially treacherous; while original content is subject to the creator’s whims, sequels and remakes depend on the audience’s. The same happened with The Last Jedi and the whole “not my Luke” debacle; I loved the film but couldn’t deny all of its criticisms. As with Mary Poppins Returns, it’s simply a matter of whether it bothers you or not.

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It probably sounds like I didn’t like Mary Poppins Returns, but I did, just not as much as its classic forebear. The music and choreography aren’t as memorable, and by the two-thirds mark, it was bordering on boring, making me think it could have benefited from a shorter runtime than 130 minutes. Yet it has an old-school charm, evident in both the vintage streets of live-action London and the small but welcome return of some 2D Disney animation. In many ways, I’m just glad that movies like this can still be made today and perhaps capture the hearts and future nostalgia of another generation. It at least does no harm to the legacy and spirit of the original and, especially toward the end, comes closer than I ever thought a modern-made Mary Poppins sequel could come.

Best line: (Mary Poppins, singing) “Nothing’s gone forever, only out of place.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
633 Followers and Counting

 

VC Pick: Patton (1970)

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What wins wars?
It’s a question hard to answer
That no army can refuse.
For if every side could answer it,
No side would ever lose.

What wins wars?
Some would say that it’s commitment
Or resolve to reach the goal.
But commitment breeds fanaticism
If it lacks control.

What wins wars?
Some would point to their resources,
Which are squandered easily.
Some would point to perseverance
Or to strength or bravery.

What wins wars?
All of these are necessary,
But they’re not the final trade.
There’s a risk to every battle;
There’s a price that must be paid.

What wins wars?
‘Tis the soldiers wielding courage
And the strength to persevere,
Those committed to their country,
Without whom we’d not be here.
__________________

MPAA rating:  GP/PG (more of a PG-13 for language)

My VC has been urging me to review Patton for some time now, and I figured Memorial Day was the perfect time for this World War II biopic. Patton benefits from an Oscar-winning performance from George C. Scott and the Oscar-winning screenplay from none other than Francis Ford Coppola, who interestingly credits this film’s success with his being allowed to direct The Godfather.

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While other actors are good, including Karl Malden as General Omar Bradley, this movie lives and dies by the effectiveness of Scott in the title role, and from the first iconic speech he delivers in the film’s opening, speaking to the troops in front of an enormous American flag, he embodies General George S. Patton’s patriotic resolve and uncompromising will. The score is similarly iconic, providing perfect accompaniment to Patton’s military ambitions, and certain scenes are distinctly memorable, like Patton’s slapping of a shell-shocked soldier or his shoot-off with a swooping enemy plane.

All that said, war movies from the ‘70s aren’t what they are today. While I’m grateful for the lack of extreme content, there’s not much action, with the focus instead on Patton as a character. That’s hardly a bad thing, but at nearly three hours, the plot loses steam at times and didn’t need to be that long. I also found it odd that the film stopped short of Patton’s unexpected death in a car accident, not even mentioning it in an ending footnote.

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As a fan of history, though, I found Patton a great character study of one of America’s greatest generals, providing insight into his lesser known activities as well, such as his passive role in the D-Day invasion and his many difficulties with censoring himself in interviews. He was a monstrous warmonger to some and a nationalist hero to others, a dichotomy of characterizations that the film embraces in equal measure. Considering its balanced treatment and biographical importance, I can see why it won Best Picture that year, in addition to Best Director, Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound, Art Direction, and Actor (which Scott famously refused). It also reminded me that Patton himself was a poet, so I ought to add this film to my list of poems used in movies. It’s a bit too long and slow to watch often, but it definitely ranks among the greatest war biopics.

Best line: (Patton) “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
632 Followers and Counting

 

Pulp Fiction (1994)

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It’s a dark and sordid world we dwell in,
Home to many a thug and felon,
Home to murderers and liars,
Thieves and daily hell suppliers,
Wickedness and base desires.

I don’t deny such things exist.
I’ve heard the tales; I get the gist.
Too much can hurt the human heart,
But watching it’s the easy part.
It’s realistic, life as art.

The darkness, yes, can entertain,
But how untouched do we remain?
Such things we cannot just ignore,
But when we laugh or cheer at gore,
I fear for what is at our core.
________________

MPAA rating:  a hard R

Unlike so many other cinephiles out there, I am not a fan of Quentin Tarantino. And I can say that even without having seen any of his movies…well, except for this one. His reputation precedes him, you might say, and I’ve never been eager to seek out the work of a director known for the severity of his R ratings. Nevertheless, Pulp Fiction has become such a mainstay of cinema that I felt I had to check it out, especially when it aired on TV, minus its 265 F-words (according to IMDb).

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It’s too absolute to say I didn’t like Pulp Fiction because there’s quite a lot to appreciate about it. That is to say, I liked its style but not its content. It’s chock full of colorful characters, including two bantering hit men (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson), a mob boss (Ving Rhames) and his girlfriend (Uma Thurman), a boxer on the run (Bruce Willis), and a seemingly unrelated pair of lovers/thieves (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer). The nonlinear story is especially well-executed, with characters’ stories jumping back and forth in time; though I could see that becoming confusing for some, it all fits together like a puzzle, cleverly offering backstory or glimpses of what’s to come. In addition, stripping away all the profanity, I can see why Tarantino has been praised for his dialogue, crafting banter that feels like a natural conversation yet provides some eloquent insight into how his characters view the world.

So yes, on some level, I enjoyed Pulp Fiction’s style, but its substance is clearly not for me. Even without the language, its dive into the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles isn’t as much fun as the film’s soundtrack tries to make it, nor does the flippancy with which it treats an accidental murder and its cleanup make it any less disturbing. The film is sorely lacking a character to root for, because although there are plenty of motley personalities, there’s not a moral compass to be found among them. You might root for Bruce Willis, but his reaction to inadvertently killing somebody doesn’t paint him as much better than the rest. The one gleam of hope is Samuel L. Jackson’s intense turn as Jules Winfield, who does at least question his life of violence, culminating in an admittedly brilliant stand-off at the end.

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From Marcellus Wallace’s glowing briefcase to John Travolta’s dance with Uma Thurman (love that Fall Out Boy song!), I can appreciate Pulp Fiction for its influence on pop culture and how it has inspired other works, particularly the anime Baccano, another non-linear, unnecessarily violent story that I enjoyed far more than this one. Yet I doubt I’ll ever have the desire to watch this iconic movie again. I loved the story structure, but not the rampant murder, drug abuse, and rape. It’s a cultural touchstone I’ll only touch once.

Best line: (Harvey Keitel’s The Wolf, summing up so much of this movie) “Just because you are a character doesn’t mean that you have character.”

 

Rank: Dishonorable Mention

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
632 Followers and Counting

 

Mortal Engines (2018)

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We all survive in different ways
When struggles line our path.
We cry, we grieve, we carry on
And curse the aftermath.

There’s healthy ways to deal with loss,
Like, say, the world’s demise.
Yet most dystopias suggest
That man won’t be so wise.

Authoritarian regimes
Are now a stock motif.
But giant cities set on wheels?
That takes some disbelief!

Yet who can say what man might do?
His foolishness is nothing new.
_________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

I’m clearly more forgiving than most critics when it comes to the fantasy and sci-fi genres. In fact, I could probably compile a list of sci-fi films that critics have savaged and I’ve still enjoyed (note to self: make such a list for later). I was eagerly awaiting the release of the Peter Jackson-produced Mortal Engines, which promised a young-adult Mad Max: Fury Road on an even bigger scale, but then it tanked at the box office and earned a mere 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. That made me question my prior expectations, but now that I’ve seen it, it definitely fits into the category of movies that are better than their reviews indicate.

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Based on the first of a quartet of novels and directed by Christian Rivers, who has worked on the effects of many Jackson films, Mortal Engines is one of those far-flung, highly unlikely post-apocalyptic futures where the world has radically changed and forgotten its past, as evidenced by the amusingly misinterpreted “relics” of our present day. In this world, a terrible war has led to a system of “municipal Darwinism” in which cities have become mobile, mounted upon enormous tank tracks so they can hunt smaller towns for their resources, with London being the strongest. A scarred girl named Hester (Hera Hilmar) seeks revenge on London’s Deputy Lord Mayor Valentine (Hugo Weaving in familiar villain mode) for the death of her mother, and when a museum worker named Tom (Robert Sheehan) learns the truth, he is thrust into a journey with Hester to stop Valentine’s plans for world domination.

Mortal Engines has its imperfections, particularly in the way it blatantly echoes many better movies, such as Star Wars and Howl’s Moving Castle. (Really, Star Wars is a huge influence.) Yet there’s nothing that would warrant the film’s poor box office, unless people just don’t connect with the story’s post-apocalyptic quest and relatively unmemorable characters. The actors do their best, though, and I thought the film more than made up for its weaknesses with its epic steampunk visuals and fast-paced storyline.

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There are many references to unfamiliar places and events that are unique to the film’s internal history, and while this might make it hard to follow at times, I love this kind of world-building, making the story’s universe feel bigger than what we see onscreen. The moving cities crafted by Weta Digital reflect the same level of commitment and detail that the company brought to Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth films. And while the plot can feel derivative at times, one subplot featuring Stephen Lang as an undead cyborg adds great tension and a surprisingly emotional payoff. Mortal Engines may not be the blockbuster I thought it could be and certainly isn’t on par with The Lord of the Rings, but for fans of the genre, it’s a large-scale, effects-heavy adventure that deserved much better.

Best line: (Katherine Valentine) “How can a society so advanced, so scientific, be so stupid?”   (Tom) “Well, no more stupid than people today.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
632 Followers and Counting

 

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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You failed to do your duty.
You failed the foe to thwart.
Are heroes those who do their best
And still come up too short?

The world could not be rescued.
Accepting that is key,
But afterwards, a hero asks
What forward path they see.

Perhaps the end is final;
Perhaps the race is run,
But if there still remains a chance,
The fight is not yet done.
___________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for, the big payoff for the monumental cliffhanger that was the end of Avengers: Infinity War, the movie that twenty-one other films have been building up to over eleven years. To avoid unnecessary buildup on my part, I’ll just say it: Avengers: Endgame is awesome! The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had its ups and downs over the years, but Endgame is the culmination for which ardent fans like myself have been wishing.

I had to see Endgame on opening weekend (and then again the next day), but I’ll be sensitive to those who may not have gotten around to seeing it yet. I won’t mention how that one character ***************, or how awesome it was for ***************, or that heartbreaking moment where *******************. Nope, I’ll avoid major spoilers, but just know that I’m still buzzing over Endgame’s best elements.

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Given that spoiler caveat, I’m obviously limited in how much I can say about Endgame, but for anyone wondering if it delivers the proper payoff for Infinity War, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”  The intergalactic warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin) left a lot of damage in his wake, snapping half of the universe out of existence and leaving those who weren’t dusted with much to avenge. The likes of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) all deal with the grief of the situation in different ways, with Hawkeye’s loss in particular sending him down a dark road of vengeance, but hope is renewed when Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns with a pitch for saving everyone with a not uncomplicated time travel mission.

Yes, there’s time travel, which makes me a happy fan. The opportunities this plot device allows are numerous, with many references to Back to the Future and many scenes revisiting past moments of the MCU, not unlike Back to the Future Part II. It’s a nerd’s delight, but these reminiscences are dwarfed by the all-out action spectacular at the film’s finale. It is hands down the most bombastic, exquisitely awesome sequence the MCU has fashioned to date, with huge stakes and Marvel fan service galore, which some have criticized but please, these movies were made for the fans and we/I loved it! Watching it again also allowed me to pick up on a host of tiny but smile-inducing references to past films, some obvious, some subtle. A small one that I noticed but haven’t seen anyone else mention involves one character simply calling another by name, where one stated in a previous movie that he didn’t care to be acquainted. The acting is beyond fault as well, and it was neat to have a double Lost alert with both Evangeline Lilly and Hiroyuki Sanada.

Of course, it’s not perfect, and I can’t completely disagree with some of the negatives I’ve heard. My VC loved it but wished certain plot directions hadn’t been abandoned, like the budding romance between Black Widow and Bruce Banner. Other opinions have found fault with the action-light slowness of the beginning, but this at least gives room for the characters to react realistically as the weight of the situation sinks in, and there’s still that trademark Marvel humor to keep things from getting too heavy. I do sort of wish they had offered some religious dimension to the loss, and I could have done without the somewhat more frequent profanity, even from the once clean-mouthed Captain America. And of course, as with any time travel story, there are plot holes, tons and tons of plot holes, some of which open up the potential for a multiverse of alternate time lines, some that feel like the characters didn’t think things through, and some that are likely meant to fuel fan theories and made me say, “Now, this only works if such and such actually happened.” (Oh, I wish I didn’t have to hold back, but maybe that’s for another post. Though, there are plenty of YouTube videos with such theories too.)

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Even with these negatives, even if one of my friends referred to it as “a big glorious mess,” Avengers: Endgame is everything you could want in a big superhero finale, allowing for future storylines but tying up others in a climactic and usually satisfying way. It’s already broken box office records left and right, and after it recently passed Titanic for overall gross, I’m rooting for it to surpass Avatar too. This deserves to be the highest-grossing film of all time, and if Avatar and Black Panther can do it, I’d like to see it earn a Best Picture nomination too. Perhaps it will be a Return of the King situation where the finale gets the real reward. Even if it doesn’t, though, I can tell that Endgame was made by Marvel fans and for Marvel fans; the worst part is that it’s hard to imagine Marvel’s future offerings ever matching the new high bar it has set.

Best funny line: (Tony Stark, to Rocket Raccoon) “Honestly, at this exact second, I thought you were a Build-a-Bear.”   (Rocket) “Maybe I am.”

Best serious line:  (Tony) “No amount of money ever bought a second of time.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining Infinity War)

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
630 Followers and Counting

 

NaPoWriMo 2019 Recap

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Well, April is over, and National Poetry Writing Month is done with it. It was once again a fun challenge writing a poem and review every day of the month, and NaPoWriMo went by way faster than I thought it would. I was prepared to possibly miss a day, and now I’m looking back and wondering how I kept up!

A big thank you to everyone who read, liked, commented, and encouraged me along the way! You all made it that much more enjoyable!  Below is a recap of all the films reviewed throughout last month, in case anyone missed a day. Back now to business as usual, until next May rolls around!

 

April 1 – Please Stand By (2018)  –  List-Worthy

April 2 – Duel (1971)  –  Honorable Mention

April 3 – Bel Canto (2018)  –  Honorable Mention

April 4 – Beautiful Boy (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 5 – Into the Woods (2014)  –  Dishonorable Mention

April 6 – Snowpiercer (2013)  –  Honorable Mention

April 7 – Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)  –  Honorable Mention

April 8 – The Commuter (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 9 – Dancer in the Dark (2000)  –  List-Worthy

April 10 – Leave No Trace (2018)  –  Honorable Mention

April 11 – The Endless (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 12 – Psycho 2 (1983)  –  Honorable Mention

April 13 – Annihilation (2018)  –  Dishonorable Mention

April 14 – Isle of Dogs (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 15 – A Few Good Men (1992)  –  List-Worthy

April 16 – Game Night (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 17 – I Am Dragon (2015)  –  List Runner-Up

April 18 – Chicken with Plums (2011)  –  Honorable Mention  (personal best poem written)

April 19 – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 20 – Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)  –  Honorable Mention

April 21 – Unplanned (2019)  –  List Runner-Up

April 22 – The Magnificent Seven Comparison (1960, 2016)  –  List-Worthy

April 23 – Pitch Black (2000)  –  List Runner-Up

April 24 – I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story (2019)  –  List Runner-Up

April 25 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)  –  List Runner-Up

April 26 – Murder on the Orient Express (2017)  –  List Runner-Up

April 27 – Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)  –  List-Worthy  (favorite movie watched this month)

April 28 – Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (2018)  –  List Runner-Up

April 29 – Alita: Battle Angel (2019) / Gunnm (1993) Comparison  –  List Runner-Up

April 30 – Odd Thomas (2013)  –  List Runner-Up  (most popular/liked post)

Odd Thomas (2013)

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(Today’s final NaPoWriMo prompt was for a minimalist poem, and since I can’t quite understand how one word could be a poem, I’ll at least end the month with a short couplet.)

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Perish the thought
That the perished are naught.
__________________

MPAA rating: apparently Not Rated? (should be PG-13)

Odd Thomas is one of those movies that makes me wonder why it’s not more popular. A starring vehicle for Anton Yelchin three years before his untimely death, this horror-comedy-mystery hybrid is an overall fun watch that made me want to check out the Dean Koontz novels on which it is based.

Odd (Yelchin, and yes, that is his first name) is what I would imagine Haley Joel Osment’s psychic character from The Sixth Sense might grow up into, an everyday fry cook and oddball whose ability to see dead people aids in bringing justice to killers and peace to their victims. Further supported by a trusting detective (Willem Dafoe) and Odd’s devoted girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin), he also can see vicious spirits called bodachs who are attracted to evil, and when an especially large number appear in town, he knows some great calamity is close at hand.

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This is yet another movie that floors me with how low its Rotten Tomatoes score is (a mere 36%) when I’d place it solidly in the 70s or 80s. I’ve read that some were annoyed by the lovey-dovey dialogue between Odd and Stormy, but they really make a cute couple so I don’t begrudge the film its bit of romance.

As for the horror-comedy side, those who enjoyed the mix in The Mummy will likely enjoy this one too, since Stephen Sommers directed and wrote both. The mystery is actually quite riveting, by the end especially, and finds a good balance between human evil and its supernatural side that only Odd can see. With its tepid reviews and the loss of its lead actor, it’s a shame that Odd Thomas will probably never get the sequel it deserves. It’s the kind of film I can see putting on every time it’s on TV, and I gladly will.

Best line: (Odd) “I see dead people, but then, by God, I do something about it.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
628 Followers and Counting