Movie reviews - August 2018

8 minute read

I’ve heard there’re people waiting for me to write more reviews, so I guess I better get moving.

Reminder, here’s the post where I explain how my rating system.

Let’s go!

In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.

Logan 8/10 - I’m a fan of both Old Man Logan and X-23 / new Wolverine from the comics, so odds are good I will like a movie with both. The balance of action and drama was good, and I liked that a lot of the drama time was spent on character development. Hugh Jackman was quite good, finally really seeming comfortable as Logan, making the character believable instead of just animating a comic. But Dafne Keen stole this show, she was awesome, I’m looking forward to more of her work. I wasn’t really wild about the last act and ending, but it’s certainly better than the endings of most X-Men movies, and even most recent MCU movies. Interested to see how the new Disney integrates X-Men, not sure if I want yet another reboot.

Kong: Skull Island
Explore the mysterious and dangerous home of the king of the apes as a team of explorers ventures deep inside the treacherous, primordial island.

Kong: Skull Island 5/10 - This movie looks good, and has some interesting ideas. It also has lots of bad acting by good actors, crazy plot holes, and a mediocre plot arc. I had low expectations, and it was pretty much as expected - a meh action movie that has great visuals, featuring a giant ape and things for it to fight. Could very easily have been much, much better.

Ghost in the Shell
In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human saved from a terrible crash, then cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Ghost in the Shell 5/10 - I’m a fan of the Ghost in the Shell anime movies, I gave the original movie 8/10, and have even read a bit of the manga (translated, of course). This is a pale (heh) Hollywood reflection of those stories. The main character, Major Kusanagi, played by Scarlett Johannson, is supposed to be a badass career soldier whose body is now literally a cyborg death machine. You can tell Johannson is trying, but she has too much dance and not enough tactical muscle memory, it’s obvious they gave her direction to walk slowly and heavily, and her distant affect quickly becomes boring instead of intriguing. No soldier would follow this Major. Other characters are more interesting, but never really move out of the background. And yes, let me be the last in a long line to repeat, there’s absolutely no reason this movie needed a White woman in the lead instead of an Asian woman.

Transformers: The Last Knight
Autobots and Decepticons are at war, with humans on the sidelines. Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

Transformers: The Last Knight 3/10 - I think I tuned out of this movie part way through, but I vaguely remember a bunch of King Arthur bits mixed in with Transformers and various other weird things. The effects were pretty good, but they’ve gotten so complex it’s difficult to even know what you’re seeing anymore, all the little bits whirring around. I really hope someone someday reboots Transformers movies to be as interesting as any of the animated series. And Mark Wahlberg is entering Tom Cruise levels of indicator of a bad movie.

The Dark Tower
A boy haunted by visions of a parallel world aids its disillusioned guardian in preventing the destruction of the nexus of universes known as the Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower 3/10 - I’m very sad about this one. I really liked the world and characters when reading the original Stephen King stories, but lost interest when they just went on forever and eventually all blended together for me. This movie is chaotic and disconcerting – there’s little explanation of any of the deeper ideas, and anyone who hasn’t read any of the books I’d expect will be completely lost. I’m also a big Idris Elba fan, and he is badly used here. Of course he is cool and does cool things, but ultimately his progression through the story is predictable and boring. This movie could do with a lot less Hollywood style and a lot more Stephen King story, and the plots could easily have spanned two or three movies and been told in a much more coherent and compelling way.

In the near future, when communications go offline at a remote nuclear power plant isolated in the desert, a young safety inspector, Abby Dixon, is forced to fly out to bring them back online. Once inside the facility, mysterious clues and strange behaviors cause Abby to have doubts about the sanity…

Atomica 9/10 - This is a fairly low budget sci fi movie with simple sets and very few visual effects, which may bother some people, but I really liked it. It’s a slow burn psychological thriller, which is not usually my thing, but the futuristic setting pulled me out of the present enough to enjoy it. The entire cast is only 8 people, and it’s only three characters for most of the screen time. Probably the thing I appreciated most is that the protagonist is a young, attractive, smart woman, alone with strange and possibly deranged men, who figures things out on her own – and there is nothing even approaching sexual violence. I kept dreading it coming, and it never did, and I was very relieved and pleased – I wish I could expect this more. The acting and characters were all well done, and all their motivations matched their actions. So… if you want big fancy special effects sci fi, not so much; if you want an interesting movie about actual people in a futuristic setting, this could be for you.

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

Ghostbusters 8/10 - Being a person of middling age, I am of course a fan of the original Ghostbusters - and can even say I was a fan of much of the cast before that, from other movies and SCTV. But I’m not rabid about my fandom, and I really enjoyed this reboot – both in what it took from the original and all the new things it brought in. The cast was great. I laughed a lot while watching it, I may watch it again, and if ever there’s a sequel I’ll watch that too. People who dislike this movie on principle are probably not people I want to spend time with.

Atomic Blonde
An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

Atomic Blonde 8/10 - An action movie’s action movie. If you want to see Charlize Theron really energetically kick the crap out of people for most of two hours, and in between be a super cool spy, you should definitely watch this movie. Extra kudos for flawed characters that seem fairly human (aside from the protagonist’s superhuman stamina) and only somewhat caricatures (it is a spy movie after all), and action that mostly obeys the laws of physics. I quite enjoyed it, and I’ll probably watch it again because I’m sure I missed some things as they flew by.

Kung Fu Yoga
Two professors team up to locate a lost treasure and embark on an adventure that takes them from a Tibetan ice cave to Dubai, and to a mountain temple in India.

Kung Fu Yoga 7/10 - This movie is extremely silly. It’s Jackie Chan goes to India. Or, perhaps more accurately, Jackie Chan goes Bollywood comedy. I am admittedly not very familiar with Indian cinema, so I’m not sure if this is a good or bad movie in that context. I am quite familiar with Jackie Chan movies, and he’s in pretty great comedic form here. I laughed a lot, groaned a few times, and nearly died during the “lion in the vehicle” scene. Seriously, I almost couldn’t breathe from laughing at the insanity, and it just kept going. So, for that alone I would recommend it. But generally it seems an interesting attempt to bridge Asian comedy types – it may miss a lot of beats, and it’s very silly, but I found it cute and a lot of it quite funny.

I, Frankenstein
200 years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein’s creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind.

I, Frankenstein 6/10 - I wouldn’t say this is really a good movie. It’s an action movie about Frankenstein’s monster picking sides in a war between demons and angels (personified as gargoyles for some reason), so the movie’s fighting an uphill battle to from the get go to not just outright suck. It’s generally competently executed, but I think the reason I’m giving this just over a 5 instead of just under is similar to why I did with Dracula Untold back in March – it knows what kind of movie it is and the story it wants to tell, and it commits and doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s consistent through to the end, and everything makes sense in the context and logic of the movie’s story. Not a total waste of time, but I’m not going to watch it again.

While making this list I realized I need to watch more movies, a few more posts and I’ll have run out of ratings on IMDB. Though I suppose I could switch to writing reviews of TV shows… :D