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Thor: Ragnarok

A good action romp
The third outing for the Thunder God, Chris Hemsworth and Tim Middleston put in fantastic performances as Thor and Loki, stranded on a gladiatorial planet.Lots of solid performances from the supporting cast, including cameos from Doctor Strange and the Hulk.

So does it stand up? Reasonably well. Is it a particularly deep movie? Not really.

Points for use of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.

Reign of the Supermen

Too many plot lines...
The DC animated universe is better done than the live action versions, but this one, not so much. There were too many plot lines, too much going on, and i guess it was a sequel to the a movie that redid the "Death of Superman" comic from the 1990's.

Annnnnd... I'm not sure there's a lot more to say. This mirrors the awful Justice League movie, and not well. Too much going on, and not much of it we care about because the DC animated universe has done this story before and it wasn't interesting then.

The Black Cauldron

Almost killed the Disney Animation Department
And rightfully so... The movie was dull, meandering and unfocused.

Another poster said that this was based on a series of books that I am not familiar with, but given that Disney is well known for taking "Creative liberties" with material, I'm probably just as well off having not read them...

Has some familiar voice talent, John Hurt wasn't easily recognizable, but he had yet to acquire that gravelly tone to this voice in his career. John Huston did narration and it was immediately obvious it was him.

So the plot is that a young boy who dreams of adventure who was totally not Luke Skywalker finds a magic sword. He is in a race to find a magic cauldron before totally not Darth Vader (voiced by Hurt) finds it and creates an Army of the Dead. so there are a lot of disconnected scenes where it almost feels like the animators were working on different movies and they just slapped it all together in post. I think there was something about a pig that got forgotten halfway through the movie.

The animation was poor, not as good as classic Disney and not yet up to the Neo-Disney quality that started with the Little Mermaid.

The Terror

The Polar Bear Ruined it
I would have given this more stars if they didn't have this silly ongoing subplot with a magic polar bear who kept showing up at key plot points.

Now, obviously, I realize that since the Franklin expedition left few records, and all we know for sure is that they all died, the writers could take some liberties and did. But why did it need this supernatural element? Well, I guess because you can't do ten episodes of people slowly starving/freezing to death and make it interesting.

Not only was the polar bear plot silly, but it was badly rendered CGI.

Okay, for the stuff I actually DID like. I really did like the character interactions. I did like the historical accuracy, where you got a feeling of what life on these ships must have been like. I like how in the early episodes, you kind of despise Crozier, but by the end of the series, you sympathize with him. What a great character arc.

And then they messed it all up by throwing that stupid CGI bear in there!

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

Steampunk Batman
So this is an "Elseworld Story", which means they can mess with the characters in a way they couldn't normally. All the principles of the Batman Family are here, and they kill about half of them off.

Bruce Wayne becomes Batman in either the 19th century, or a world where technology hasn't gotten to the point of the internal combustion engine being a thing yet. ANd of course, Jack the Ripper is there because frankly, he was the only criminal in the late Victorian Era.

They spend a lot of time implying that Harvey Dent (AKA Two Face in normal DCU continuity) is the Ripper, because hey, it almost made sense. I was halfway expecting them to shoehorn the Joker into the role. So what they did do was kind of interesting.

Oh, it wouldn't be a story set in the 19th century without reminding us how patriarchal everything was back there by having female characters point out to us what louts we are being.

so worth a watch? FOr the hard core Batman fan, sure. For the animation fan, maybe. It looks like the same people who put this together did the Batman series in the early Oughts.

Mussolini: The Untold Story

Good Cast in a bad project
Some real top notch talent in this film, including George C. Scott, Robert Downey Jr. and Raul Julia, playing members of Mussolini's inner circle. The problem with this movie is that it downplays Mussolini being one of history's most truly evil characters. He invented Fascism, for crying out loud.

Some of the liberties they took, from having Mussolini bravely meeting his death (he didn't!) or the made up scene of him raping a reporter (he didn't), are dramatic license, but the biggest problem is downplaying how he became Hitler's partner in crime. Hitler is a minor character in this film.

I guess the biggest problem is that it makes Mussolini sympathetic, when the man deserved no sympathy. He was at best a guy who facilitated evil and at worst, an active participant.

Ghost Story

The good old days of movies
Before CGI and when you could do full frontal nudity in a major film.

The story is that a mysterious woman is haunting the families of four men who accidently killed her back in the 1930's. It's not jump scare or gross out horror like you would see later when Hollywood just ran out of idea. It's very moody and atmospheric.

IT was also interesting to see some older actors getting key roles in this film, such as Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks.

Where the movie falls down is Alice Krige, who shows about as much acting range as she did when she played the Borg Queen on Star Trek. Her acting is truly robotic and wooden. Her male co-star isn't much better.

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars

Casper van Dein enters the Uncanny valley
This is the second animated feature based on Paul Vorhoeven's adaptation of Robert Heinlein's work. To give it credit, it's vision of the Mobile Infantry is actually a lot closer to Heinlein's original vision, where the MI wears battle armor capable of inflicting lots of destruction on the animated insects.

The plot line is that the new Sky Marshall allowed the bugs to invade Mars so she'd have an excuse to destroy the planet to any other colony that would want independence from the Federation.

The animation still looks creepy as heck, even though some of the close-ups of faces are pretty detailed. The action scenes are dull, nothing we haven't seen in three previous movies.

Rogue One

Episode III-1/2 The story you never wanted to see, for a reason.
Spoiler alert... they get the plans!

If this was a story where they took out all the Star Wars elements and just made them generic Sci-Fi items, you wouldn't care. You might even feel a bit disappointed.

And can we talk about "Uncanny Valley Tarkin"? They used CGI to reproduce the late, great Peter Cushing from the first Star Wars movie, and he just looks creepy. (They also do a similar effect at the end with Carrie Fisher, which is equally creepy and not just because she died around the time this film was released.)

So a character we don't care about gets involved in a plot to steal the Death Star plans, and the heck with continuity from the original Trilogy. Except the Death Star is already flying around blowing stuff up.

Also, they make this movie a lot grittier and more violent, and yes, all the characters die at the end, even the ones introduced to make the movie more popular in China. Heck, I'm taking off another star for that one.

Now, because Disney sees these movies as a way to rake in cash, we are going to get these "Stand Alone" stories between chapters of the new trilogy for years, I guess. But they really shouldn't.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

Better than the Last one
I really enjoyed this movie, and I didn't care for "The Force Awakens" at all.

The stuff with Rae and Luke Skywalker was great. Mark Hamill nails it and they give Luke's character a complete arc. Here he is a Jedi who has realized that the Force isn't something anyone should have been messing with to start with.

Kylo Ren is more defined as a character. He's not the annoying "Darth Emo" was as in the last movie.

Po Dameron had more to do in this movie, and he'll probably have to step up in the next one as Carrie Fisher won't be back.

Speaking of Carrie, she was pretty good in this one. This is going to be her last showing, so the only original characters we are going to have in the next one are Chewbacca and the Droids.

Yoda's force Ghost is back, and he's back to being portrayed by a puppet, and not the awful CGI we saw in "Clones" and "Sith".

The stuff I didn't care for.

Supreme Plot Device Snoke. Were you wondering what this guy did to found the First Order? Well keep wondering, this guy is a low-rent Palpatine imitator with no purpose.

The whole Finn/Rose subplot. Not even entirely sure why it was there, it didn't go anywhere or advance the story or characters. It seemed to fall into "they needed something to do".

Definitely worth watching.

Batman vs. Two-Face

Campy Tribute to the 1960's series
If you like your modern animated Batman as portrayed by Kevin Conroy or the live action Christian Bale version, you are probably not going to like this.

The Classic Batman was great fun for kids and could be enjoyed by older people in a truly campy way. This animated film and the last one captured the spirit of the old series pretty well, with some campy in jokes like 'Any Minute Now" signs in a factory on fire, or "Sisters of Perpetual Irony" hospital.

The movie casts the only classic Batman villain who didn't appear in the TV show, Two-Face (AKA Harvey Dent) because a mentally ill DA scarred by acid would be too gruesome for a kids show. He's played with Campy Charm by William Shatner, and drawn like Shatner looked in his Star Trek days.

So Dr. Hugo Strange and Harley Quinn devise a machine to suck all the evil out of the supervillains of Gotham and put it in liquid form, only to have poor Harvey splashed by it and turning into Two- Face. There's some silly stuff with Batman's relationships with Catwoman, Robin and Dent here.

Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hare are portrayed as boobs, which is a real discredit to the characters as they were played in the 1960's series.

I think that a lot of reviewers are giving this extra stars because this will be the last thing we will ever see Adam West do. And yes, if you grew up with this series like I did, it's a sad passing.

Death Race 2050

Was this trip necessary? Maybe
I'm not a fan of remakes. If something was good to start with, you don't need to remake it. If it wasn't, you shouldn't try again. This is technically the second remake of Death Race 2000, the first one was a soulless endeavor that missed the point of the original movie.

This one gets a lot closer to the spirit of the original, updated with Virtual Reality and Social Media. So they have a set of alternative racers to try to beat Frankenstein, reflecting modern fears.

Some points- The resistance terrorists in this film aren't as effective as they were in the original, where they did manage to kill several racers. IN this, they manage to kill each other.

Some of the commentary is fun, with Malcolm McDowell playing a Trump-like president and the US being converted into a corporate state.

Where the movie falls down is with Manu Bennett, who has a very limited acting range, which goes between "Brooding" and "Extra- Brooding". Most of the supporting characters are equally weak.

so worth watching? Not so sure. I didn't hate it, but I didn't enjoy it like I enjoyed the original.

The Omen

Holds up relatively well
So there was this time when Satan was more popular in Hollywood than Harvey Weinstein and only slightly less evil. One of the results of this was the Omen Trilogy, of which this was the only good movie.

An American Ambassador son dies on June 6, at 6 AM (6-6-6, get it?) and they give him a replacement baby. Later on, Doctor Who tells him that he needs to embrace Jesus! Then he gets impaled on a spike and doesn't regenerate.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador teams up with David Warner where they discover the extent of the Satanist plot to put the Anti-Christ in a position to take over the world. It finishes with a confrontation at the end where the Anti-Christ lives to be in two more movies.

On a related note, one of the major characters talks about having an abortion. Something a major character in a movie would never talk about today.

the movie is quite good and atmospheric, with Jerry Goldsmith's score making things scary without a huge special effects budget. They managed the atmospherics very well.

Blade Runner 2049

Boring, missing the point of the original
In the ongoing tradition of Harrison Ford's Action heroes of the 1980's turning out to be really terrible dads, we have Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to 1982's Blade Runner.

We meet a replicant cop named K who is of a new variety that doesn't rebel unlike those bad ones in the movies. So he tracks down a Runaway Nexus 8, even though in the original movie, we were assured that Nexus 8's only had 4 year lifespans. During the course of this, they discover the bones of Sean Young's character from the original movie, along with the realization she had given birth.

Our hero also has a relationship with a Hologram Girl for some reason. I guess so he is sad when she gets deleted later in the movie.

If you are watching this movie to see Harrison Ford reprise his role as Deckard, you don't get to see him walking around like someone's confused grandpa until 2 hours into an interminably long movie. (Seriously, I feel bad for Ford. Why does he do this to himself?)

So they want to find the child of Deckard and Rachel because this is a replicant that can reproduce, which is supposedly more efficient than just growing them, for some reason. They say they need more replicants to colonize the outer colonies, but of course, there are plenty of people living in squalor, including a child labor sweatshop.

I can't emphasize enough how long, boring, uninteresting this movie was. It's like they watched the original and still had no idea what made it a good movie.

The Mummy

An awful undead thing... and a Mummy, too!
Yes, when you have to digitally enhance your 55 year old star so his body doesn't look old, that's gratuitous use of CGI.

So the plot is that 5000 years ago, the Princess Plot Device made a deal with the evil god Set to gain eternal life and magic powers. Then she is found by archaeologists, including Tom Cruise, who plays a Sergeant in the army who has a side business looting antiquities. But there is a secret society who fights monsters led by Fat Russell Crowe.

Why do we have this secret society? so that we can work in all the other Universal Monsters!

So we have more CGI, more shifts in tone between drama and comedy. More things they don't explain. Tom Cruise phoning it in.

The Orville

I take back a lot of what I said previously
I thought we were going to be in trouble when I found out that Brannon Braga and other people involved in Star Trek Voyager and Star Trek Enterprise were involved.

After years of making Star Trek Farces, they are making a Star Trek parody.

The problem, of course, is that the show isn't funny. It isn't even remotely funny. If you saw the previews, you saw all the parts that were kind of funny, but actually became less funny in context.

so the running gag is that the Captain character has his ex-wife as his first officer, and they bicker about why their marriage broke up when fighting the aliens. or something.

Watching the other 11 episodes of the season, its' not as bad as I initially thought it was. I would describe the characters as Fake Data (Isak), Fake Worf (Bortas) and Fake Geordi (name of his character escapes me, so I'll just call him fake Geordi). They change the backstories up so it doesn't look like plagiarism.

Some of the stories are fun, but the comedy elements are weak. Or maybe Seth is just a big Sci-Fi geek and wanted to do a Sci-Fi show.

Batman and Harley Quinn

A movie more schizo than Harley!
The problem with this movie is tone. Some scenes are serious with the villains slaughtering people.

And other scenes are goofball comedy.

they don't fit together.

This movie also had Batman ratcheting the jerkiness factor up, to the point where you don't really like him all that much. And I like most other work Kevin Conroy has done as Batman in the DC Animated Universe.

So the plot is that Poison Ivy teams up with the Floronic man to reproduce the Swamp Thing's accident and turn everyone into plants. Except they don't know what they are doing and they might kill all life on Earth. And no, the rest of the Justice League is too busy, so why are we taking time to establish there is a Justice League?

too many in-jokes, including sexual innuendo.

So they have the funny scene in the Henchmen Bar... which again, doesn't fit with the rest of the movie and a race against time to stop the end of the world.

Seriously, someone should have gone over the script before they started drawing animation cells...

Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster

Ed Wood wasn't the only one making "Ed Wood" movies
Considering how cheaply this movie was made, it's not bad for what it is.

The plot line is that an android made with transistor radio parts is shot into space only to be shot down by some bizarre looking aliens, who've come to Earth because they've run out of women, except for their princess played by a playboy model.

So with lots of budget constraints and stock footage to fill out the rest, we have this film. It drags in a lot of places, but you do get to see those awesome 1960's bikinis on women who were amazingly sanguine about the whole alien abduction thing.

Pretty much everything is from the Ed Wood Playbook of how to make films with no budget. Stock footage, only do one take, don't bother getting people who can act.

Ghost in the Shell

I think there was a story in there somewhere
This was based on some Japanese Manga that I haven't read, but it's mostly a lot of action schlock.

Scarlet and a bunch of actors you don't care about go from one action scene to another. Somewhere in the process she discovers that she used to be a Japanese homeless girl whose brain was put in a hot white killer android.

so beyond that, we have enough plot to hang the action scenes. Much like too many movies, they crowd the whole movie with so much CGI garbage, that it actually becomes distracting.

I've giving it one star for the action stuff, and two stars for Scarlet's skin tight suit. Some day she might even learn how to act.


British Version of a Rubber Monster Movie
While Japan has led in this genre, and America has done a few good things in it, this is the British take.

Which means everyone is totally calm no matter what is happening and no one gets terribly excited.

I give it credit in that its monster has a wants its baby back. As opposed to your average Japanese Kaiju who just attacks because, you know, Japan.

The special effects aren't horrible, and Gorgo is a little more plausible than most of his Japanese kindred- he doesn't have lasers or fire breathe or something equally implausible. It's just big and it stomps things.

Emerald City

Note to Hollywood- Not everything needs a Gritty Reboot!
I'm telling you this as a friend, Hollywood, before one of you decides we need a "My Little Pony" gritty reboot. I think you've destroyed enough happy childhood memories with your gritty reboots.

So in this gritty reboot, Toto is a German Shepherd, the Scarecrow is a homicidal maniac who beats people to death, The Wicked Witch of the West is a drug addicted madam of a bordello, and the Wizard is a fat Vincent D'onofrio. Oh, yeah, and Dorothy is hot! And shows lots of cleavage. And packs a gun! (We haven't seen the Tin Man and Lion yet, but I'm sure they won't be pretty, either.)

You know, because we are all gritty and edgy and let's take a dump on the source material.

Seriously, who is the audience for this, exactly?

Superman II

Meh, the Theatrical Version was better
Keeping in mind they cobbled this off the cutting room floor, it's really the same movie. certain scenes are changed, and it's more closely linked to the first movie.

Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman refused to come back and reshoot their scenes, so this is closer to the original vision of Richard Donner. Missing are some of the more comical scenes. How Lois figures out Clark is Superman is different (but dumber).

Obviously, they didn't retouch this in post, so some of the makeup jobs look pastier.

Okay- the ending. At the end, Superman does the whole "Fly around the Earth and Reverses time" bit so Lois forgets he's Superman and none of the events of the movie happen at all. Except the rude trucker in the dinner. He gets beaten up for something he may or may not remember? It feels like a cheat.

Nope, have to stick with my assessment, the version that came out in 1982 was much better.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

Ugh - Campy is not quality
So they took the few cast members from the 1960's Batman series who aren't dead and did an animated version of the series.

And it kind of stunk. Because that Batman isn't compelling as a character, he's just silly. His villains are silly. They also did a few things to add to the silliness, like Aunt Harriet thinks Bruce and Dick are gay. Ha Ha. Less funny when you remember this Robin is a teenager.

Now, it had a few cute moments. Like when Catwoman suggests that she and Batman go to Europe and drink tea, Robin comments about how that would be an unsatisfying ending. (Get it? That was the ending to "The Dark Knight Rises") Or when Batman gets hit on the head and see Three "Catwomen" (A nod to Lee Meriwether and Eartha Kitt, who also played the character in the 1960's)

But you see all the silly gadgets and death traps that were the staples of 1950's- 1960's Batman comics.

The thing is, we've had 40 years since then of comics and movies and animation turning Batman into a serious character. This is like someone finding your Frat pictures after you've become a serious CEO.

Cool Air

A Lovecraft Story that didn't need to be adapted
Lovecraft's original story is only about nine pages.

This movie pads it out into a hour and half of boredom, unnecessary characters and a gender switch of the protagonist. (Lovecraft had almost no female characters in his stories.)

It looks like everyone involved in this film was related, and it kind of looks like one of those awful fan films you see on YouTube without the good CGI.

Of course, the movie is made a bit worse by the fact that we know now that "Science doesn't work like that", and they try to add a supernatural element that Lovecraft didn't bother with. (Supernatural elements and C'Thulhu being in his future.) We also see creepy scenes of a narrator hitting on an an autistic girl.

The dialog is just dreadful when they try to add onto Lovecraft's original narrative.


Trying too hard
This movie tries to be an edgy Cyber-punk movie about the dangers of technology. It has too much stuff going on, where you just can't follow the plot.

So you have a situation where they've developed Star Trek style Replicators and someone wants to make organic material out of it. Two companies race to the goal, and during the course of some sabotage, one of the designers is copied, but his copy is evil. Because copies are always evil in movies like this.

The dialog is clunky, and there's an outsized role for Ned Beatty, probably because he was the only actor involved anyone has heard of in mainstream movies. That and the girl playing the mannish VR stripper. Not sure why her character was even in there, other than when she was younger, she was big in blue films.

I think another two or three rewrites by people who knew what they were doing could have made this a better movie. And it did have some interesting concepts of what a horrible time 2014 is going to be.

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