Movie Reviews - December 2019

9 minute read

It’s been so long since my last review post, I think I originally started writing this one in May and just kept pushing it out. Hopefully I can do at least one more over the end of year holidays, but we’ll see how that goes.

I have at least been able to wach more movies over is year and build up my backlog a bit, so not in danger of running out anytime soon, even if I do manage to pick up the pace.

Evidently this time I have lots of movies on the list starting with B, who knew.

Link to my review methodology here.

In an alternate present-day where magical creatures live among us, two L.A. cops become embroiled in a prophesied turf battle.

Bright (3/10) - This movie has a lot going for it – it’s an interesting new world, there’s good opportunity for action, and the cast have done great work before – but this is not a good movie. There’s a lot of opportunity for saying something (anything) meaningful about racism or social status or police corruption; it’s all lost in the mish-mash of meandering plot, confusing characters with broken motivation, and studio committee driven story arc. By the end I was laughing at the ridiculousness of what was going on. Gets a few points for the interesting world building and a few good scenes early on, but goes downhill real fast. Apparently they’re making a sequel, really hope they rethink the approach and don’t just continue this path.

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero
A thousand years ago, one boy with a dream of becoming a great warrior is abducted with his sister and taken to a land far away from home. Thrown into a world where greed and injustice rule all, Bilal finds the courage to raise his voice and make a change. Inspired by true events, this is a story of…

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero (7/10) - I realized this was a foreign-produced film before watching, but was not aware that it was the story of a key figure of the Islamic faith until the end. I have no interest in the religious condemnation or zeal that seem to fill most other reviews, and I rather enjoyed it as a story and production. It’s definitely not a Western story, and was entirely new to me, which is always refreshing. The animation was very good, as was the voice acting. I enjoyed the story arc, though it did wrap up a bit abruptly, and did in a few places seem to expect me to know things not explained in the movie. But overall enjoyable, and if there are similar movies I’d like to watch them.

Deadpool 2
Wisecracking mercenary Deadpool battles the evil and powerful Cable and other bad guys to save a boy’s life.

Deadpool 2 (8/10) - I’m still a fan of Deadpool from the comics, so I may be biased, but this is a worthy sequel to the first movie and mostly faithful to the comics. There’s some character development and moving along of the larger Deadpool arc, and since I’m also an X-Men fan it’s great to see some of them on screen again, and especially in a more comedic light. Of course it’s over the top and at points goes farther than I’d like to get a really high rating – Deadpool as a character not only kills the horse and beats the dead horse, but then blows up the dead horse and makes you watch the horse bits fall around you while he’s making bad puns about it… – but it’s a fun romp.

Dark Journey
Madeline Goddard, is a British double agent who meets and falls in love with a German spy Baron Karl Von Marwitz during World War I. This tale of espionage blends high adventure and romance making perfect order from wartime chaos and growing in faith from despair.

Dark Journey (7/10) - Given the dismal quality of most movies these days (super high production values on garbage plots – shiny turds, you might say), I’ve been more interested in looking back at movies from the early part of the 20th century, especially before the social upheaval during and after WWII. This movie was made in Europe in 1937, and is pretty good spy story set during WWI. It’s extremely interesting to experience a story and the associated visuals made only a couple of decades after The Great War compared to movies made about it during my lifetime. The cast does well, women characters have much more agency than a modern audience might expect, and the costumes and sets are great. It does suffer some from common tropes and character stereotypes of the time, and there aren’t many surprises, but I enjoyed it.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
The life and career of the hailed Hollywood movie star and underappreciated genius inventor, Hedy Lamarr.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (7/10) - Hedy Lamarr was a fascinating woman, an early Hollywood superstar who also invented and patented the technique underlying modern wireless technology. I greatly enjoyed the You Must Remember This Podcast episode about her, and I was excited to see a documentary. It was quite good, worth the watch, but I found it focused more on how she impacted the people around her as it was largely interviews, and towards the end tended more towards a sad memorial than a celebration of her life and legacy.

Batman Ninja
Batman, along with many of his allies and adversaries, finds himself transported to feudal Japan by Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine.

Batman Ninja (2/10) - This is a really bad movie – I’m really not sure what DC was thinking. I’m not even sure why I gave it a 2. The concept is that Batman, a few allies, and a bunch of his villain foes are thrown back in time to feudal Japan, where they take over various groups and then have a giant battle at the end, before all being thrown back to the present. There are a lot of anime-ish battle scenes, including some involving buildings that somehow turn into giant robots – not entirely sure how this is possible even in a comic book universe, but also the progress of time in the movie is not clear so it seems like they’ve been there a week and then suddenly have built decades of technology? It’s nonsense, was at times even too far past laughable to laugh, and the anime-esque bits feel like appropriation. May be enjoyable if you’re very inebreated.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Three years after the demise of Jurassic World, a volcanic eruption threatens the remaining dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. So, Claire Dearing recruits Owen Grady to help prevent the extinction of the dinosaurs once again.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (4/10) - Well, they keep making these Jurassic Park movies, so I keep watching them. They’re not getting any better. There were some good scenes, mostly the action bits, but the throwback to the original during the computer sequence was fun. I don’t particularly like either of the lead characters and really would enjoy them being at least maimed by a dinosaur. It’s silly fun, but not very good, and I certainly won’t be watching it again. But of course I will watch the sequel…

Escape Plan 2: Hades
Ray Breslin manages an elite team of security specialists trained in the art of breaking people out of the world’s most impenetrable prisons. When his most trusted operative, Shu Ren, is kidnapped and disappears inside the most elaborate prison ever built, Ray must track him down with the help of so…

Escape Plan 2: Hades (2/10) - Another very bad movie. Various action stars play security experts trying to escape from a super-prison. The whole concept makes no sense. Why are there super prisons? Why are security experts being imprisoned and trying to escape? How can they possibly do the things they do to escape within the tiny amount of time they have? It’s all foolishness, and should they make a third sequel I will not watch it, even if Dave Bautista is in it, which I think is the only reason this got a 2.

Beyond Skyline
Detective Mark Corley storms his way onto an alien spaceship to rescue his estranged son. When the ship crashes in Southeast Asia, he forges an alliance with a band of survivors to take back the planet once and for all.

Beyond Skyline (6/10) - I didn’t realize until just now while looking at IMDB that this was a sequel, so obviously I didn’t watch the first one. I’ll just talk about this as a stand-alone movie, though in retrospect as part of a trilogy some things might fit better. It’s a pretty standard sci-fi action movie in the “aliens invade and a small plucky group of people fight back” genre. Quite good special effects, and reasonably good acting. The characters are, generally speaking, consistent with their actions and have more complexity than I expected. Given the world built, most things make sense. There’s a lot of standard tropes and some stereotypical responses, but overall it’s pretty good. I’ll watch the sequel.

Bāhubali: The Beginning
The young Shivudu is left as a foundling in a small village by his mother. By the time he’s grown up, it has become apparent that he possesses exceptional gifts. He meets the beautiful warrior princess Avanthika and learns that her queen has been held captive for the last 25 years. Shividu sets off…

Baahubali (7/10) - This is, from my Western perspective, a very Indian movie. That’s definitely is not a drawback, I’m always interested in watching movies from other countries and cultures, it’s a refreshing change from Hollywood drek. This movie is an entirely ficticious historical fantasy, with tons of fantasical and superhuman action, though just people (and a few horses and elephants) doing extraordinary things. The scope and production has been favourably compared to Lord of the Rings, though the style of the film is quite different. I suspect that I am missing many things by not being as steeped in Indian culture as the target audience, and that I should be cautious in thinking I understand anything more about Indian culture because I’ve watched this movie. And there are certainly some problematic areas – the only disabled person is evil, there are very few women characters in a huge cast, and the saviour protagonist can do no wrong. But it’s super fun to watch, as is the sequel which builds really well on the foundation of this first movie – it’s hard to think of them separately after watching both.

That’s all I’ve got this time, hopefully another post before end of the year!