Wednesday, August 16, 2017

First Time Watches: July 2017

It’s that time of the month again.  This is the monthly post about my first time watches that I attempt to get done near the beginning of the next month.  It never seems to go up before on time.  Like always, I’m going to try to be on time this round.  Who knows what will come up though?  Life always likes to throw lemons at you.  That’s the saying, yeah?

Anyway, July was a month where I watched some movies.  A lot of them were first time watches and that’s what I’m here to write about.  Jon Hamm made multiple appearances, as did Joe Estevez.  There were multiple movies involving zombies, and multiple retellings of stories that have already been told.  There were thieves and cyclists and spies too.  A distressed father seeking revenge also popped up.  It was a month filled with many things, and I’ll be diving into them.

If you’re new to these posts, they’re just my brief thoughts on the movies that I watched.  It’s my way of knowing where I stand with them.  Sometimes it’s not until I’ve written a bit about movies that I know what I thought.  Another reason for these posts is to let anyone who reads them know what I think.  I don’t expect people to take my opinions seriously, since my tastes tend to be a little on the strange or, to some, bad side of the quality scale.  If you think you’d like what I like, go ahead and listen to me.  I’m going to write about them anyway, so they’re going to be here regardless of if anyone reads them or not.  Let’s get this thing started.

Keeping Up with the Joneses
A dull couple found a way to reignite their passion when new neighbours moved in.  The neighbours ended up being super spies.  It was an action comedy that worked in some places but fell flat in others.  The casting was great.  All four of the leads (Galifianakis, Fisher, Hamm, and Gadot) worked well together, making their new friendship believable.  The action was fun and the comedy was entertaining.  It just never fully blended together in a way to move this into classic territory.  There should definitely be another movie with these four actors together.  This was just slightly off the mark.

Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance
I wrote about this one for the Sunday “Bad” Movies and went over some of my issues with it.  Most of the problems came down to the main character, who went from being an excellent cop in the first movie to being a sort of law enforcement superhero come the sequel.  His partner was still in the movie but they worked together much less.  The buddy quality was missing and it was more of a revenge action film.  Plus, it had that problem that many sequels to bad movies have.  The original gained an audience based on how ridiculous it was from the writing to the acting to the visuals.  The sequel tried to recapture that.  It lost the sincerity.  It was intentionally bad.  Samurai Cop never felt like that was the intention.  The magic was gone.  It’s an okay sequel.  It’s nothing special.

Baby Driver
This had been one of the most anticipated movies of the year for the vast majority of film fans that I talk to.  There was reason.  Edgar Wright, the director, is one of the most popular directors in geek film.  Though I was disappointed the last time he stepped away from Simon Pegg, this outing was spectacular.  The timing of the music with each of the action scenes was masterfully done, with the high point being a police shootout set to the melody of Hocus Pocus by the band Focus.  I could watch this movie over and over again and enjoy it just as much every time.  Loved it.

Bonnie and Clyde
There are still many movies that I need to see.  Classics, like Bonnie and Clyde.  Movies that I’ve simply never watched in my twenty-seven years on this planet we call Earth.  Mark this one as another off of the blindspot list.  I knew the story of Bonnie and Clyde going into the movie.  It’s hard not to.  It was based on real life.  The performances were great.  With every Warren Beatty performance, I enjoy watching him more.  I especially liked his work at the Academy Awards.  His work in Bonnie and Clyde was easily some of the best I’ve seen.  Faye Dunaway was also very good as Bonnie.  The ending was sudden and perfect in all the right ways.  It put a cap on a great film that wasn’t among my favourites of the month.  I still respect it.  I respect it loads.  Great movie.

Cannibal Girls
After sitting on this one for a month trying to figure out what I watched, I’m still unsure.  To say what movie I want to compare it to would spoil the ending of both movies.  Basically, a couple went on a trip in Canada and ended up with a broken down car.  They went to a house for help and met up with cannibals.  The woman escaped only to wake up in her room and relive a day very similar to what she had before, once again leading to the house with the cannibals.  It was directed by Ivan Reitman and featured Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin.  I’m honestly not sure what it was.  It was a movie.

Officer Downe
All I hear is how bad this movie is.  It’s not that bad.  It’s okay.  Shawn Crahan directed it in the style of a Neveldine/Taylor movie.  It was like a lesser version of one of their movies, but was still entertaining enough.  There were bad jokes, for sure (the orgasm counter?).  There was a solid story though, with a new police officer discovering how to be a good cop through learning about Officer Downe being a zombie.  Sort of.  Officer Downe died many years before the movie began and was frequently resurrected so that he could keep fighting the good fight.  The action was fun and Kim Coates is always great to watch.  Yet it could have been more.  There is the potential for Crahan to direct something better in the future.  This one’s not going to put him on the map anytime soon.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
They did it!  Marvel and Sony came together to make a movie!  Who would have ever expected that?  This isn’t the best of the MCU.  It’s not even the best that the universe has had this year.  It’s still entertaining.  It was nice to see Peter Parker struggling with some of the mundane aspects of his superhero life.  He’s a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and we got to see him helping people in the neighbourhood.  We also got to see times when he couldn’t do his job properly.  Whether it was improperly judging angles for swinging, or not having anything at all to swing from, we saw the simple struggles.  The only thing keeping the movie from being as good as it could have been was that when a joke landed, there was always a second joke that tried to play on top of it.  Most of the second jokes fell flat.  Spider-Man trying to swing but shooting a long web and crashing into the ground because of the length is funny.  The five seconds after where he said “I’m alright guys.  Everything’s good” took away from it.  That’s my only complaint.  They tried too hard with the jokes sometimes.

The Wiz
Broadway has a way of taking recognizable properties and putting a new spin on them.  The Wiz was based on a Broadway retelling of The Wizard of Oz, which was more influenced by Motown than white culture.  The movie had Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Russell singing their way through the land of Oz to find Richard Pryor.  The set design was magnificent, the music was fun, and the setpieces were interesting.  Everything about the movie hit me right.  I might prefer this version of the story to the Judy Garland one that everyone recognizes.

Cassidy Way
Horror movies with messages can sometimes lead to interesting things.  Cassidy Way took the idea of fracking being bad and used it to make a madman who was out for revenge because his son had been killed by a fracking company.  The only thing was that the people he was exacting revenge on weren’t from the company.  The fracking had contaminated the water supply of the town and that contamination made him paranoid.  The movie was interesting enough, and was an investigation gone wrong type of thing.  The performances were okay and the writing was okay.  There wasn’t necessarily anything all that bad about it.  It just was.

Train to Busan
I’ve come to realize that I enjoy movies that are built like this one.  Snowpiercer, The Raid, Dredd, Train to Busan… They all share that video game sort of thing.  The plot is a simple escalation of difficulty for the main characters as they go from one level to the next so that they can get to the end.  This movie had the people getting to safety in Busan.  They had to fight through exceedingly more difficult groups of zombies, almost all in the confines of a train.  Each car that they passed through was tougher to get through than the last.  Those other movies share that type of story, and they’re all as fun as this one.  Toss in the emotional story of a father learning how to be a good person before sacrificing himself to save everyone else and you’ve got one of the most solid zombie movies of recent times.

The Visit
M. Night Shyamalan began his comeback with this movie, the first that people seemed to like since… Signs, maybe?  It’s nothing special, really.  Outside of it being watchable, that is.  It’s a found footage movie about kids visiting their grandparents only to find that things aren’t what they seem.  The performances were good.  The story was okay.  The ending was predictable.  And the kids only got annoying when the brother rapped.  There’s nothing special about it, though.

Tour De Pharmacy
From the team that made 7 Days in Hell came this sports mockumentary about a Tour De France competition that was infamous for doping and drug use.  The cast was a wide collection of people from the comedy world, people from Broadway, and people from dramatic work.  Truly shining was Daveed Diggs.  It was a funny ride through France as the competition was narrowed down due to cheating until only five racers were left.  If you enjoyed 7 Days in Hell, you’re sure to enjoy Tour De Pharmacy.  It’s a close spiritual sequel that’s almost as entertaining.

GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords
Not a fan.  This film continuation of the Hanna Barbera series left me bored for long stretches of its runtime.  The movie was meant as a commercial for toys.  A new line of GoBots called The Rock Lords was set to be released and this was their introduction to children.  If the children saw the movie, they would hopefully buy the toys.  Money would come in as a result, and it didn’t hurt that the movie was also bring in some cash.  What hurt the situation was how dull the movie’s story was.  The characters were bland, which left the conflict without a caring audience.  I’m sure the GoBots toys were fun to play with.  The movie wasn’t fun to watch.

5 Years After the Fall
Siege movies can be fun.  They’re all about the characters surviving a situation of someone or something trying to get into a place where the people are trying to stay alive.  5 Years After the Fall combined a standard siege story with a world in which the rich had inadvertently turned the poor into monsters by shutting them out.  That wasn’t enough to keep the movie together, though.  It was a poorly constructed movie from the acting, visuals, and direction.  It’s a shame because there was promise with the world building.

Up in Smoke
I had never seen a Cheech and Chong movie until this one.  Sure, I had seen each member of the pair in other stuff.  I’d never seen one of the movies where they were together.  This seemed like a good place to start.  Their personalities came through, making the comedy work almost flawlessly.  It was stoner humour at its best.  The movie had me from the opening credits as Cheech danced around his car.  It won’t go down as one of my favourite movies of all time, but it definitely made me laugh and was an entertaining time.

Atomic Blonde
This had been my most anticipated movie since I saw the trailer for it months ago.  The action looked great in the trailer and ended up being great in the movie.  The music worked in the trailer and worked just as well in the movie.  It was as good as I expected and quickly went to the top of my favourite movies from this year.  The Cold War Berlin setting gave it a cold feel that worked as the perfect antithesis to most of the warmer spy fare out there.  Even when James Bond goes to cold locations, it still feels clean and warm.  This felt dirty and cold.  The punches hurt the characters.  Their bodies slowly fell apart as the movie wore on.  It was nothing short of greatness.

Before Midnight
Richard Linklater directs dialogue better than most.  Some people can write good dialogue, but it takes a great director to make a movie that is purely dialogue into something interesting.  The whole idea behind the Before trilogy was to do character work solely on a day’s worth of conversation.  They aren’t action movies.  There isn’t a whole lot of action in them, if there’s any at all.  The movies are about two people talking to each other, with a few other people sometimes joining in the conversation.  Before Midnight might be my least favourite in the trilogy.  It’s still a fantastic film that makes dialogue more than it usually is.

The son of Steve McQueen and the brother of Patrick Swayze teamed up to bring a movie about spending someone’s money and running away when the person wanted it back.  Chad McQueen and Don Swayze were two friends who were given a stolen suitcase filled with 300 thousand dollars.  The movie was a mess, following the person who stole the money for twenty minutes before changing the main character to Chad and Don’s characters.  The story wasn’t interesting as they spent what seemed like more than 300 thousand dollars on cars, women, and a waterfront house.  The action was not good either, when it kicked in near the end of the movie.  I’m interested in seeing more movies from this strange era (famous actors’ less famous family members doing lower budget stuff), but this one was not good at all.

And that’s how I closed out my July of first time watches.  I saw some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff, but overall, I’d say it was a damn fine month of movie watching.  More of it skewed onto the good side of things, so I ended up enjoying the things I saw.  That’s better than some of the months I’ve covered with these posts.  If I can keep that up going forward, there will be some great things ahead.

Speaking of moving forward, August is shaping up to be another fun month of first time watches.  I’ve already watched a few movies that I’ve enjoyed.  Multiplicity, Passengers, and Remote Control are only a few of the first time watches that I’ll be letting you know about in a month’s time.  If you like reading my brief thoughts on the things I watch, be sure to come back next time when I cover all of the stuff that I’ll be seeing throughout August.

Now it’s time for a few plugs before I head out of here.  These posts aren’t the only things I write.  I have a series of blog posts about my journey through the Power Rangers franchise.  I also write about bad movies on a weekly basis in my Sunday “Bad” Movies blog.  My boy Jaime Burchardt got back into his Netflix Weekly column on CinePunx with his piece about Okja.  Finally, there are a lot of great people doing great work over at Talk Film Society, so check out all of the stuff they’ve been putting up.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 2, Episode 51: Wild West Rangers, Part II

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers left off on a cliffhanger where Kimberly was stuck in 1880 Angel Grove without her friends and with a bunch of Lord Zedd’s putties.  Goldar and a cactus monster were there as well.  The rest of her friends were in the present day trying to figure out how to save her and Angel Grove.  It’s a gripping spot to leave off, as the Power Rangers are about to get western on our asses.

This episode, the conclusion to the two part story, will see things get interesting in the past.  The ancestors of the current Power Rangers will reveal themselves to be heroes and Kimberly will team up with them to take down Lord Zedd’s forces.  How will Kimberly get back to the present day, though?  I don’t know.  I’m going to find out soon.  I’m about to watch the episode.

Season 2, Episode 51: Wild West Rangers, Part II
Back in 1880 Angel Grove, Kimberly sent her new friends away so that they wouldn’t be hurt by Goldar and his team of monster and putties.  She wouldn’t be able to defeat the team by herself.  The Command Centre was still a thing in 1880 so she found her way there and got the Power Coins from Zordon.  Kimberly distributed the Power Coins to the ancestors of her friends and now had a Power Rangers team to fight alongside.  They ended up hitting the bad guys so hard that the bad guys flew back to the time they came from.

In the present day, Billy was leading the charge to find his lost friend.  He couldn’t clearly see Kimberly without the use of chronitons.  Using these particles allowed him to easily zero in on Kimberly’s location in time and space, which made things easier for when she was brought back to the present.

Lord Zedd grew his monster before the teens could save Kimberly and it attacked Angel Grove.  In the quickest Zord battle that ever happened, the Power Rangers made the MegaTigerZord and one shot killed the giant cactus monster.

Back in the Command Centre, Billy rigged up a machine with some of the communicators.  The machine gave them one chance to bring Kimberly back to the present.  It worked.  They had their friend back.  She had saved Angel Grove in 1880.  It was as happy an ending as there could be.

There have been some interesting time travel stories in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers since the concept was introduced to the series.  The Power Rangers have been turned into children, which put them at a disadvantage against Lord Zedd’s minions.  Then there was the time that they were sent back to the colonial era and couldn’t use their powers to fight off giant rats.  That was another interesting storyline.  This one saw Kimberly go back in time to a world of cowboys and bandits.  When will they go to next?  I don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon.

A couple of things stood out about the 1880 setting of Wild West Rangers.  For some reason, Kimberly’s Power Coin worked in 1880 but it didn’t work in the colonial era.  That might be attributed to the Command Centre, which she was able to find in 1880.  Nobody attempted to find it when they were back in colonial times, so there’s no proof that it was there.  It was there in 1880, though, and Kimberly was able to get her friends’ ancestors some Power Coins of their own.  What these Power Coins did was another of the strange things.  During season 3 of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (which I’ll be getting into soon), the Power Rangers get new costumes.  Then every season after that, they get new costumes.  This fits with the Sentai shows where every season is a different story with different characters in different costumes.  The costumes of the 1880 Power Rangers team were very much the same as those of the 1995 Mighty Morphin team that Kimberly was a part of.  There were only three noticeable differences.  There were fringes on the arms, the boots were cowboy boots, and the power blasters were revolvers.  Other than that, they were the same costumes.  They were the same design.  That’s a long time to be using the same costumes.

The only other major notable story thing was that the 1880 Angel Grove teens brought together the ancestors of everyone from current Angel Grove.  I believe I mentioned in the previous episode’s post that William (Billy), Alicia (Aisha), Rocko (Rocky), Abraham (Adam), and the White Stranger (Tommy) were there.  At the end of the episode, after Kimberly had returned to the present, her unnamed ancestor arrived in town.  There were no counterparts for Jason, Zack, or Trini in the past.  There were the ancestors of the three Stone Canyon teens that joined the Mighty Morphin team in season 2, but no ancestors of the original teens who left for the World Peace Conference.  That’s a little bit strange.

With that episode ending, we are left with the final episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season 2.  That’s right.  The next episode will be the season 2 finale.  It looks like it will be a big one with one of the Power Rangers turning on the team.  There should be some fun with that as we bring a solid season of growth to a close and move onto another era of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  I’ll see you soon for the ending.