Pacific Rim: Uprising

Canadian Thanksgiving wrapped up over the weekend, hence my delayed reaction to this trailer and The Last Jedi.

Pacific Rim drew a lot of comparisons to properties like Transformers and Power Rangers, further demonstrating people’s narrow frames of reference. The mecha and kaiju (strange beast) genre is an old one, and director Guillermo Del Toro cited Tetsujin 28 (1956) as one of his greatest inspirations for Pacific Rim. Transformers and Power Rangers take inspiration from the mecha and kaiju genre, the same way Stranger Things was inspired by IT (and other Stephen King works) and not the other way around.

Even as someone who isn’t well versed in older entries in the mecha genre, the first Pacific Rim trailer reminded me more of Gundam Wing, a show I was obsessed with at one point. I didn’t think Pacific Rim was ripping off Gundam Wing, I recognized it as another entry in the genre. You wouldn’t say that Spider-Man is a rip off Superman simply because they are both superheroes right?

Moving on from the uninformed…

Pacific Rim didn’t sport many great performances or amazing writing, but I can’t deny that it was an entertaining film with great action and plenty of eye candy. It gave me live-action battles between giant robots and giant monsters, and the fanboy in me was willing to settle for that. Then again, I still avoided Power Rangers like the plague because the acting, writing and special effects all looked horrible, so I guess I still have some ability to judge a film critically, even if it triggers nostalgia.

There was talk of a sequel for a while and some of the first substantial news I heard about it was that John Boyega would be co-producing through his production company, Upperroom Entertainment Ltd. Say what you want about his role in the film, producing a big blockbuster this early on is a great step in his career. This development did bring up more concerns about the film’s potential box office success. Pacific Rim had a disappointing run domestically, but was able to recoup with its stronger international showing. International audiences offer a larger number of viewers but this can often be counteracted by the fact that studios get a smaller cut of international earnings.

Pacific Rim had decent word of mouth so I am hoping that can contribute to more success for the sequel. However, online comments are already swarmed with the aforementioned comments about this film ripping off Transformers or Power Rangers. That will likely hurt Uprising’s box office earnings, just like similar talk probably detracted from the first film’s earning. On the other hand, those who saw and liked the first will likely be interested in checking out the second. Hopefully their word of mouth can help to combat the uninformed hordes.

We knew going into the first trailer that we likely wouldn’t see any of the cast from the previous film. Boyega is playing Stacker Pentecost’s son, Jake, but that appears to be the only direct connection revealed so far. A plot summary reveals that Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) will be present as well, serving as Jake’s adoptive sister. The trailer looks like it may feature a slight redesign of Gypsy Danger, or perhaps a brand new Jaeger that is similar.

Along with Gypsy Danger we see three new Jaegers and new Kaiju. I am looking forward to seeing the Jaegers working together as a team since we didn’t get much of it in the first film. The only team fight scene ended with most of the Jaegers and their pilots being killed to make way for Gypsy Danger and Striker Eureka. This time we might truly get to see different weapons and fighting styles get their chance to shine. We also see Jaegers that are faster and more agile than the ones in the previous film, demonstrating either a disregard for the previous film or the evolution of the Jaeger technology.

 

At one point Jake and his co-pilot are battling another Jaeger and I’m curious to find out why. Perhaps there is some sort of safety measure the government enacts, such as a quarantine, which Jake contests. Or perhaps some other political battle pits the humans against each other. Ultimately, each Jaeger is associated with a specific country or region, and perhaps some countries have different ideas about the best way to protect their borders.

The special effects were amazing in the first film, but they look more cartoonish in a lot of the shots here. Below is one of the better ones.

Let’s hope post-production helps to clean up some of the effects. The next issue is that Guillermo Del Toro is only serving as a producer this time, which can mean a myriad of different things for his creative involvement. Let’s hope he was still actively involved in this film’s conception.

This first trailer doesn’t reveal too much about the characters or the plot, which is fine with me. The film doesn’t come out till March 2018 and there will likely be another trailer released before then. The plot summary says this film takes place ten years after the first film, and doesn’t tell us much aside from that. We know Kaijus are still around. As the first film implied, the Kaijus continue to evolve as they combat humans. This is most evident with the kaiju we see at the end of the film, that appears to have some of Wolverine’s DNA and healed from an attack almost instantly.

The music in the trailer appears to have some mixed reviews, but I personally liked it. It got me pumped up, despite seeing my two most hated characters on screen again. Charlie Day and Burn Gorman ‘s characters added a level of campiness that Pacific Rim didn’t need. Yes, the film is about giant monsters fighting giant robots, but do we need the overacting scientists to drive that point home? More than anything, Pacific Rim taught me that I can’t stand the sound of Charlie Day’s voice. I can only hope his role is smaller this time around, but I doubt that. If Kaijus are continuously evolving, then the scientists will be on deck to analyze it. Of all the characters returning, I was hoping these two wouldn’t be among them. We couldn’t get any other scientists?

Your thoughts on Uprising?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With Halloween season upon us, I have been trying to see more horror films and dedicate most of my blog and @moviegrapevine Instagram account to horror related material. However, I have to make an exception for some of the new trailers we received recently. There was a false alarm concerning the Infinity War trailer but we still got new footage for Pacific Rim: Uprising and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

I will give Pacific Rim its due, but this blog post will be devoted to The Last Jedi. You can check out some of my other posts for my expanded thoughts on Episode VII. As a quick recap, I will say that I enjoyed the film but was bothered by the fact that it was a rehash of Episode IV. Finn was marketed as the next Jedi character and instead he ends up mostly being comic relief. I liked Rey and actually didn’t heed the complaints about her being a Mary Sue as much as most people did. If people actually compared this film to the original trilogy, they would realize that Luke had similar skills at the beginning of his arch. He was a pilot, mechanic and was also a protégé when it came to his use of the force. Then again, this is the age where the inclusion of minority and/or female characters is always criticized because it’s part of a liberal “agenda”, while the disproportionate dominance of white males on screen is perfectly natural.

Let’s start the discussion of this trailer with another one of the most divisive elements from Episode VII. Kylo Ren was a character that many people either loved or hated. To some he was a conflicted character with an inner battle between dark and light, to others he was just a lame, geeky-looking, emo, Darth Vader wannabe. I was one of the former, so I am excited to see how his character grows.

The previous trailer showed us a shattered Kylo Ren mask and this trailer shows Ren smashing it, seemingly leaving that persona behind. However, Ben isn’t done with the dark side yet. He started his quest to kill his past when he killed Han Solo and it looks like he decided to go full circle and take out Princess Leia as well. Like before, Ben appears conflicted, but we know that inner turmoil won’t be enough to stop him from doing what he deems necessary to join the dark side. In many ways, he is a wannabe. Someone who isn’t truly as menacing or evil as he wants to be, but I think it actually makes his character more interesting. Vader was a tragic character as well, someone whose emotional pain led him down a path of darkness, before he redeemed himself and rejoined the light.

After Carrie Fisher’s passing it was made clear that Leia would not be present in Episode IX. We know her character is coming to an end in this film but she may not die by Kylo Ren’s hands. Seeing Princess Leia on screen for the last time will be a bittersweet moment but let’s hope her end is just as momentous as her beginning.

Moving on from one of the franchise’s most famous characters, let’s talk about Finn. John Boyega has previously stated that Finn will have a more substantive role in the The Last Jedi, basically saying that a character who starts off as a consummate badass is a boring one. I guess Rey haters will agree. We’re definitely seeing more badass this time around, starting with the suit. Then there’s the fight with Phasma, the woman who controlled him when he was just FN-2187.

Apparently Boyega has stated that Finn isn’t 100% on the side of the resistance, which brings up some questions about his role in this film. In one shot of the trailer we see other people with his suit among the Stormtroopers, maybe he is undercover? In The Force Awakens Finn was close to abandoning the resistance, maybe he decides to do so again and something pulls him back.

Rey played a part in bringing Finn back last time, and maybe she’ll do so now. What I loved most about this trailer is that it brings up one of the biggest issues that many fans had with A Force Awakens. Rey’s raw power in the first film bothered plenty of people and here we see that her power links her to Kylo Ren. It’s implied Luke abandons her as a teacher due to his fear of her power, which was only mirrored by one other student, likely Kylo Ren.

People will still hate Rey for her power but I think this presents an interesting dynamic that gives a more logical reason for her to reach out to Ben. The revered figure who was supposed to guide her (apparently) abandoned her and one of her few friends appears to be separated from her. Will Rey bring Ben closer to the light or will he lead her closer to darkness? In the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens fan theories were replete with dark side Rey and Jedi Kylo Ren, maybe the fans were actually onto something.

Although we get more of Luke in this trailer, his character is still hidden compared to the others. The two trailers make it clear he’s attacked at one point. He’s kneeling in front of a burning building in one shot in the first trailer, and climbing out of wreckage from a burning building in this trailer. Maybe this attack is what forces him out of isolation, since someone apparently finds out where he is. Could it be that Rey either betrays him or ends up leading someone else to him? Or these shots could be backstory showing the destruction of the Jedi Temple, which was alluded to in previous films.

In short, this was one of my favourite trailers of 2017 and I am hoping the film lives up to the hype. I am worried that the trailer possibly spoiled too much but that is my only gripe. We got more of the action, more of the characters and AT-M6s (different from the AT-AT’s in Empire). Or you can just call them Robot Camels.

What Horror Movie Scared You The Most?

I don’t think my costume will be as awesome as @prince.deguzman’s but I’ll try.

Halloween season is upon us, and I have already embraced it. I watched Sinister yesterday, a film with great performances and a lot of creepy scenes. Spoilers Below.

Interestingly, the creepiest scenes in this film don’t directly come from the supernatural villain, Bughuul or Mr. Boogie. What is terrifying is what he makes his child surrogates do to their families.

These tapes are by far the most terrifying thing about the film, although Bughuul’s mask is definitely creepy. The ending to the film is perfect and since the sequel wasn’t as well received, I’ll avoid it and leave the first film untainted in my mind.

I have never been a huge horror fan, mostly because I probably scare more easy than the true fanatics, but It may have rekindled my interest in them. It was my first time seeing a horror film in theaters and the atmosphere in the theatre added another dimension to the experience. With that in mind, I wanted to reflect on the film that scared me the most when I was a child: Darkness Falls (2003).

As one reviewer put it, “The movie’s cleverest notion is its demonization of a benign childhood phantom.” In this film, the Tooth Fairy is not a ghost who simply takes a child’s tooth when they lose it. She is a vengeful spirit who will kill any child who sees her when they visit her. The reason for her hate? She was hanged by the townspeople of the eponymous town when they believed she kidnapped two children. She was already known by the Tooth Fairy at this time since she would give gold coins to children who lost their teeth. After Matilda is hanged, the two children are found and the townspeople bury her body and wash their hands of their crime.

After a house fire, Matilda’s face was disfigured and she would wear a white porcelain mask to hide it. Hence her supernatural form also sports a creepy porcelain mask.

Having to go to Google Images to get these pictures brings up a heap of night-light accompanied bedtimes. Since I was afraid of the dark I probably shouldn’t have watched this movie, but I wanted to show my step-dad I could handle it. I could not. It also didn’t help that he ran out of the bathroom with a white rag over his head right after we see this movie…douche.

Anyways, The Tooth Fairy’s only weakness is light, meaning she is omnipotent when in darkness. Hence, why I shouldn’t have seen this film if I was afraid of the dark. Darkness Falls is pretty much universally panned by critics but it is the concept itself that still sticks with me. To think that you are sleeping in the dark and hear something in your room, and to think that if you look at it it will kill you. Also to know that it will stalk you for the rest of your life, hence our protagonist who rarely leaves his house and always travels with flashlights.

It took a while for me to outgrow my fear of the film and looking up these images also brings those fear-stricken days back in all their glory.

What film scared you the most?

Binge Missions

As I start my weekend I was sitting in front of my tv, with Netflix up, wondering what show to watch. In a way, I felt like Don Jon: so many choices making it hard or near impossible to pick something.

Pictured above: Me, but with clothes, I guess.

I have been meaning to finish season seven of Suits for months now, along with season five of Bates Motel. Then I got sidetracked by season (or series) 3 of Luther, which I finished watching this week. Now the question is do I move onto four or try to find more time for all the other shows I have already started, such as season 2 of Attack on Titan.

Not to mention the ones I have been meaning to start for a while now, such as Rick and Morty, because all my friends talk about it. Or Hemlock Grove because of Bill Skarsgard, who nailed his role as Pennywise the Clown in It. 

Let’s not forget all the movies I want to watch as well. My appetite for horror has increased after It and I now want to see Sinister and The Strangers.

All of these shows and movies only scratch the surface. I accept that this is a first world problem at it’s finest. I also accept that I simply can’t, or shouldn’t, make enough time to see all of them.

Taking a Knee

This is an issue that I have wanted to talk about since I first heard about it, but hesitated to, since I did not know where to start. Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest back in 2016 attracted a great deal of attention, mostly hate from the alt-right and the horde of Americans living in the mirage of a post-racial America who ignore all signs to the contrary. The ones who argue that discussing racism is racist, but also go out of their way to defend racism from figures like President Trump.

Ben Shapiro is apparently one of the favoured mascots for racists nowadays. He is the perfect example of the new racism. Someone who is intelligent and articulate, not the typical redneck that far too many people think of when they envision a racist. He remains calm when he attacks “the left” and “liberals” (his words) and presents facts in such a way that someone who is already on his side, or on the fence, will eat them up. I decided to look up one of his videos since I wanted to hear thoughts from the other side.

Let’s look at one of the points he makes in this video. The title of this video makes it clear that the poster and most of the people who flock to it to comment, are already on Shapiro’s side. The like to dislike ratio of 36-3 also makes that clear.This is the selective exposure thesis at work, where the customizability of the Internet allows people to search for info that already appeals to their views.

5:34- 760 shootings by police this year according to the Washington Post, 9 of them of black people. In Shapiro’s words there is such as thing as police brutality that has nothing to do with race. Absolutely, I can agree.

Black people are about 13% of the population, so obviously it would be tough for as many of them to die when compared to white people. The issue is the percentage or chance of them getting killed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/

Now, these reports can be flawed because they require local law enforcement to voluntarily divulge this info. As this link shows, there is no government agency keeping track of these numbers. Local law enforcement must divulge it willingly, and only about half of the agencies do. So, the stats that Shapiro presents are skewed.

Let’s look at The Washington Post’s estimates for shootings of black people by cops from 2015 to present: 381 according to this same article.

Now if we go back to the studies Shapiro cited, the totals for 2015 to the present (for all shootings) equals 2688.

So according to the Washington Post’s stats 7% of the shootings were of unarmed black people. Let’s keep in mind that the estimate of 381 does not reflect any killings from 2017 so far.

Let’s also ignore the strong possibility that the numbers are underrepresented, for blacks and as a whole. Okay, Mr. Shapiro let’s just say you win this argument. I’ll ignore any other statistics that argue blacks have a higher rate (not quantity) of deaths by police and go along with your argument.

Now let’s go to an issue that is even more central to the support and criticism of the new wave of kneeling protests in the NFL: Free speech.

 

This is the tool that is used to defend white supremacist websites and white supremacist rallies like the ones in Charlottesville. Yes, protesters carrying swastika and confederate flags are considered white supremacists. If you can’t wrap your head around that, then no amount of statistics or reasoned arguments I present will ever change your mind.

So a statue of a Confederate general is going to be torn down, and people use their free speech to protest. They protest against the removal of the statue of a figure who fought against his president and against the consolidation of a union. Sounds like a pretty divisive figure to me. Seems pretty disrespectful to the American flag since he rallied behind a different one. This general also seems pretty disrespectful to the veterans since his war with the President killed so many and rallied others behind the cause of continued slavery.

When it comes to Kaepernick’s successors, you would think Trump and his base would rush to support free speech. Maybe Trump will say that “many sides” are wrong. Instead, Trump said that football players who kneel should be fired. In Shapiro’s defense, he also denounced this statement as one that a government official should not make. However, Shapiro refuses to acknowledge that racism is a part of Trump’s repertoire or his appeal to his base.

To that point, let’s go back to this video from February 2016.

Jake Tapper initially asks Trump if he denounced the endorsement of David Duke and the KKK. Trump first says he knows nothing about David Duke and the KKK, he can’t denounce a group he doesn’t know. Fair enough.

Tapper then elaborates that he is talking about David Duke, former Grandwizard of the Klu Klux Klan.  Trump says he doesn’t know who David Duke is…right after getting the explanation. Tapper explains again and Trump repeats that he doesn’t know who David Duke is.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of American history will know what the Klu Klux Klan is, and if you hear someone was a former ____ of it, that implies they were a member. Tapper could not have been more clear with Trump, and it could not be more obvious that Trump just didn’t want to lose voters. Yet you can still find comments on this video defending Trump. It seems like nothing will stop racists from supporting someone who defends their views, but don’t you dare call them “racist”. Then you’re just being a social justice warrior.

How is this video not proof that Trump implicitly supports racists. How about all his comments about Muslims and Mexicans? Why is it so hard for the supposed intellectual conservatives to recognize that the world might not be post-racial when it comes to how minorities are treated?

As an epilogue, David Duke is no longer with the Klu Klux Klan but he is still active in their community. Read his response to Trump’s belated criticism of the alt-right protest in Charlottesville.

When I see white and black players and owners kneeling or locking arms together, I see the same unity that the right supposedly wants. The mindset of pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t solve anything. Athletes should be allowed to use their platform to protest, just like the alt-right can. They took a few minutes before a game to make a statement, much less time than the alt-right protest in Charlottesville did. Don’t act like your game or sport has to be ruined because you saw a sign of solidarity against racism. If that is enough to ruin your enjoyment of football, maybe the problem is you.

It Sequel

Regardless of your opinion about It, it’s box office success undeniably makes it a box office success. More than that, its box office success makes it the highest grossing R-Rated horror film (unadjusted for inflation) and is on track to become the biggest September/October release ever.

The sequel, which fans of the book knew was coming, is now set for an official release date of September 2019. The Losers Club will return as adults, 27 years after their first encounter with Pennywise. Check out the video below to hear the cast give their own fan castings for the adult versions of their characters.

This sort of box office success is something that can’t always be predicted. Some people are saying that the success of Stranger Things might have made people more interested in a 80s themed horror film centered around children. Maybe they are right, but let’s get this straight: It is not influenced by Stranger Things.

Stephen King is a popular author so I think some credit has to go to him, but I don’t know if this level of success can be solely attributed to his name. After all, how well did The Dark Tower do? Either way, It is now the biggest King horror film ever, even adjusted for inflation.

It’s release date was one that was devoid of too many other big name entries, staying clear of the summer season and avoiding the Christmas period as well.

Good word of mouth gave It legs, avoiding some of the big drops from weekend to weekend that help to sustain its numbers.

The question that looms over my mind is if the sequel can replicate or even surpass this success. Like Kingsman a certain idea might manage to capture people’s attention a certain way, making the first time a special one that any successor can’t live up to. Of course, we know a second movie is needed to tell the story. Fans of the book will be there for the second. From what I have read online, people who have read the book are more accepting of the new It than the people who only know this property from the 1990 miniseries.

With that said, I hope that this sequel gets a bigger budget. Some subpar CGI tainted some of the better moments in this film and hopefully the studio has more faith in the project, and hopefully that increased faith is rewarded with more box office success.

Tomb Raider Trailer

I got my Xbox One earlier this year, and one of the free games I was able to download for it was Rise of the Tomb Raider. I remember the old video games, which I played with friends a lot as a child but this was the first Tomb Raider game I played in the post PS2 era. The story was somewhat generic but actually offered some interesting developments and the gameplay was great, making the game a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the gameplay experience was somewhat ruined by a known glitch trapping me in one stage of the game, leaving the options of quitting or starting over. I refused to start over. Although my memories of the game are somewhat tainted it still managed to make me more excited for this film.

If the general buzz proves anything, it is that Tomb Raider fans are just as attached to Angelina Jolie as Croft as horror fans are attached to Tim Curry as Pennywise. Yes, Vikander’s boobs are smaller and she has a slimmer figure. Why? Because this version of Croft is based on the recent video game, not the old games with plentiful polygon boobs.

Boobs do not define the character. I can’t believe I have to say that.

We know Croft’s father disappeared and that she has now found his clues that lead to an ancient city. Actually an ancient city is not specifically referenced in the trailer, but if the movie is following the game roughly then an ancient city might be the goal. An organization called Trinity seeks to beat Croft to her goal. Now, I definitely can’t say that any criticism of this trailer is unjustified.

A lot of the plot elements seem cliched so far, and I don’t remember them being AS generic in the video game. As I remember there was no location called the “Devil’s Sea”. Dialogue like “The fate of humanity is now in your hands” definitely doesn’t help. We have slo-mo shots and weak CGI in a lot of places. I always hope the CGI will look better by the time a film is released, but I have hoped in vain many times. Let’s not forget the slo-mo jump across a long gap, which no longer dazzles like it used to. Since this is just a trailer, I am hoping some of the more interesting plot elements from the game still make their way in, such as Croft’s allegiance with a Native community that Trinity invades.

I almost forgot about the stigma of video game films, which is why I avoided listening to other people’s thoughts before writing my own. I didn’t want to let the “Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander” title impress me, since plenty of great actors end up taking roles in horrible films or even television shows. Remember Forest Whitaker’s short lived stint with Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour? However, I have to say that the rest of the cast does interest me. Walton Goggins is a stand out in just about any movie or tv show he touches, with roles ranging from Sheriff Chris Mannix in Hateful Eight to Venus Van Dam in Sons of Anarchy. We have Daniel Wu, who is a BAMF in Into the Badlands, along with his fellow co-star Nick Frost.

Pictured above: Daniel Wu being a BAMF.

The cast itself actually excited me more than any of the intended eye candy. As fans, we always hope that the cast is a sign of something: material that was too great to be rejected. However, we’re not that naive anymore. Actors will take big roles in bad movies for the paycheque or the exposure. I’m not sure if I will see this film in theatres but I will definitely see it for the cast it offers. We have yet to get a great video game movie, but I hope that this can be a decent one.

What are your thoughts on the new Tomb Raider adaptation?

The Punisher

Daredevil’s second season was met with a more mixed reception than the first. There was criticism levied at the plot, which brought in more of the mystical elements from the comics, in contrast to a first season that was more realistic (realistic is relative with comic book adaptations). I personally detested the love story between Karen and Matt, which there was absolutely no indication of in the first season. One thing that many people loved, and probably wanted more of, was The Punisher.

The anti-hero featured heavily in the marketing and Jon Bernthal nailed his performance, before becoming more scarce in the latter half of the season. With the success (ratings wise) of DD season 2 and the reception for The Punisher it was obvious that he would likely get his own spinoff.

Today we got our first trailer for the show, a short but sweet teaser of what is to come. In short, I can’t wait for this show to come out and I am somewhat annoyed that Netflix has yet to reveal the exact release date. Fortunately, there isn’t that much time left in 2017 so it is coming out sooner, rather than later.

Firstly, this trailer doesn’t give away too much of the plot. DD season 2 introduced us to the conspiracy that Frank is a part of, a plan by government agencies to kill him so that certain secrets remain buried. As much as I am looking forward to Frank taking on the government, like some of the arcs in Punisher Max, I have to say this conspiracy is the one part of the Netflix punisher mythos I didn’t like. In the series, District Attorney Reyes admits that they were conducting a sting on a gang meeting in Central Park. Reyes chose not to clear the area in order to avoid tipping off criminals and this ultimately impacted Castle when the gangs caught on to the ruse.

The comics I’ve read so far that detail Frank’s origin, from Year One to the Max series (2004 and 2010), depict his family’s death as a simple issue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family stumbles across a mob hit and the mob decides to eliminate witnesses. This sense of randomness and chaos is what made his family’s death so tragic. I think Frank’s vendetta against criminals as a whole makes more sense if he lost his family to something much more senseless than a sting gone wrong. However, Frank’s battles against other government agencies (from the looks of this trailer) could lead to some interesting overlap from the Punisher Max (2004) comics, which are gems for Punisher comics and comics as a whole.

With that said, the costume is actually my only other negative on display in this trailer. It doesn’t look terrible, and still gets the skull right, but I feel like the suit would look better with a different design for the vest itself. However, this is a relatively minor complaint since the show will hopefully have more to offer than a great wardrobe.

While Kevin Feige says the MCU films will never be dark, the Netflix shows have been a different story. The Punisher looks to continue that trend with the brutal headshots crammed into the two minutes of footage. I found some of the hand-to-hand fight scenes lacking in Iron Fist and Defenders, even for the characters who are supposed to be skilled martial artists. The choreography was weak and I’m hoping Frank’s style of combat will lend itself to some entertaining shootouts and some hand-to-hand fights as well. He is not as skilled a fighter as Daredevil but his fists are still deadly.

This trailer shows us a glimpse of Karen Page, who I feel has way more chemistry with Frank than she has with Daredevil.

Some of the most interesting subplots in the Punisher Max (2004) series was how the police reacted to Frank’s Killings. It is implied local police implicitly supported his actions, by never making serious moves to bring him in. Although they detested what he did on principle, they knew he was an unmatched deterrent against crime. The last scenes in the trailer, focusing on a group of detectives, makes me wonder if this series will also explore Frank’s actions from the other side.

Overall, this series is my most anticipated for the rest of the year and I have high hopes that it will deliver and possibly surpass Daredevil Season 1 as my favourite Marvel Netflix show.

Kingsman, Justice League and The Last Jedi

Now that I have seen It, these films are my most anticipated blockbusters for the rest of the year.  I thought I would take this post to discuss some of my hopes (and worries) for each film. The films are listed in the order of their release dates, not by anticipation. The Last Jedi is my most anticipated, with Kingsman second and Justice League third.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service

I thought the first Kingsman looked somewhat generic when I saw the first trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a witty, well-paced, action-packed deconstruction and parody of the Bond films and spy films as a whole. Taron Egerton gave us an amazing performance as “Eggsy” and Colin Firth had a believable turn as an action hero with plenty of gravitas. Whenever I watch Liam Neeson’s jilted choreography in Taken 2 my mind comes back to this film as an example of how to execute an action scene with an older actor.

Between the action, the performances, the attacks on spy cliches etc., Kingsman was a film that felt like a rare treasure. That is why I was not excited to hear about a sequel. I was worried that the sequel would not be able to capture the magic of the first. The trailers have given me some hope but I can’t completely ignore the voice in my head that tells me this film might feel like a cheap cash grab.

It will be good to see Colin Firth on screen again but I can’t help but feel like his character’s reappearance cheapens his death in the first film. I am excited to see Pedro Pascal, who is probably best known as Prince Oberyn on Game of Thrones. While I don’t usually like Channing Tatum, I find that he does well in comedic or semi-comedic roles like the one he will likely have here as Agent Tequila. To his credit, Tatum also had a surprisingly good serious turn in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

The action we’ve seen so far looks like it is doing its best to top the first, but I hope that the action isn’t the only thing that is better.

2. Justice League

Now, to say that the DCEU has had mixed reviews would be an understatement. Man of Steel got so much hate that even the editor of Rotten Tomatoes wondered why its rating was so low.  BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad both followed that up with even worse reviews, and then Wonder Woman mercifully gave the DCEU its first fresh film. I don’t judge a film purely by what others think but it is a fact that bad word of mouth can negatively affect a film’s earnings.  A slate of films deemed weak by the general public would definitely hamper Justice League.

One thing that has bothered me since I saw the Comic-Con teaser for this film was the seemingly drastic shift in tone. One-liners abound from every character, including a Barry Allen whose personality seems transplanted from Wally West (his nephew-in-law who also becomes The Flash). I don’t agree that Man of Steel or BvS were “dark and gritty” like a lot of people say. Like I’ve previously discussed the films are dark in comparison to the stable of light fair Marvel has pumped out since 2008 (with the exception of their Netflix shows). A comic book film that doesn’t have one-liners every five minutes becomes “depressing”, it lacks “fun”. This is regardless of whether fun fits the character or storyline. People might say this Marvel v DC is a conspiracy but answer me why the darker Marvel Netflix shows don’t get swarmed by the same comments complaining about their lack of “fun”. The Defenders is the lightest one so far and even that is still miles darker than anything the MCU has put on the silver screen.

All of this to say that I was worried the Justice League was being made with a conscious effort to throw in as many one-liners as possible and make it fun. Let’s not forget, Suicide Squad is more “fun” than BatmanvSuperman and it has a slightly lower RT score at the moment (25% to Bvs’s 27%).  Throwing in more music in post-production and writing plenty of jokes didn’t help it overcome its other issues. “Fun” isn’t enough to make a film good and a “dark” tone isn’t enough to make it bad.

Moving on.

I have no problem with special effects themselves but there are a lot of weak looking shots in the marketing so far. There are scenes where it is far too obvious that everything but the actors are computer generated. The floor, the backgrounds, the sky all look fake. Cyborg in particular looks terrible when he is directly beside any of the other members of the league. I don’t mean that they are just stylized a la 300, I mean they are just poorly rendered. I am hoping that the film looks better by the time it’s in theatres.

My hopes were high hearing about the Justice League finally making it to the big screen. I have rewatched the animated series numerous times and have unashamedly daydreamed of finally seeing this film. I can’t help but think that it would have been better to see some more solo films prior to this team-up, but I have to admit that this approach could have some benefits. Characters that were either not well known or respected before, such as Aquaman can shine in a team setting first, which will help to boost sales of their solo film. However, Marvel has to get credit for being able to build a great brand on the backs of characters that were relatively unpopular. Some people probably never though Iron Man or Captain America would be on Spider-Man’s level in terms of box office receipts but Marvel pulled that off.

Additionally, while I have a man crush on Jason Momoa I am worried that his acting will be a painful weak link in this film. If some of his other performances are any indication, we could be in for a painful two hours, especially if his character gets a lot of lines.

3. The Last Jedi

Last, but not least.

The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, but it did bring some new things to the table. Namely a continuation of our beloved characters from the original trilogy, along with Rey and Finn.

One of the things that bothered me most about TFA was the almost cruel bait and switch for Finn’s progression. He was marketed as another Jedi, and then ends up being comic relief that is incapacitated by the end of the film. John Boyega has said that Finn’s character will shine more in the sequel and I hope that’s true.

In true nerd fashion, Daisy Ridley quickly became my biggest celebrity crush. Fanboying aside, her performance was great and I was also able to ignore most of the Mary Sue complaints since her character progression almost mirrored Luke’s. However, her progression did draw more attention to the paltry one Finn received.

Rogue One actually helped to increase my anticipation for this film, giving us an exciting and different Star Wars story that could have become a cheap cash-in or a rehash.

With a different director on board for this film, and the successful box office run of TFA, I hope The Last Jedi will give us something new as well.

Luke Skywalker is back and although I found Mark Hamill’s acting somewhat weak in the original trilogy, he has developed greatly as a voice actor and film actor since his last outing in the Star Wars universe. Coincidentally, his most recent performance I can recall is in Kingsman.

It will be bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on screen for the last time, presumably with Princess Leia being killed off out of respect for the actor. I remember that one of my aunts passed away around the same time, and that I couldn’t help but think that it was a powerful testament to how death links us all. Let’s allow entertainment to link us as well.

It (2017) Review

Next to “The Shining”, “IT” is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I was probably one of the few people that was actually excited with the initial announcement of a remake. The book follows a group of eleven year olds, “The Losers Club”, battling the shape-shifting entity “IT’ in Derry, Maine. IT has the ability to transform into their greatest fears but it’s most popular form is that of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. In the book, the Losers Club battle It in 1958, and then again 27 years later as adults. This film places the kids in 1989, and part II will follow them 27 years later.

The 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry as the titular IT is a childhood memento for many people, who refused (and still refuse) to see anyone else in the role. I watched the miniseries when I was about twenty, and although some scenes were definitely creepy I found the overall film somewhat campy.

Devoid of childhood attachment, I was able to accept that a new actor would be portraying Pennywise. Since I didn’t hold the miniseries near and dear to my heart I was also curious to see what another director could do with the source material. “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga was originally slated to direct, and although his departure was unfortunate I had faith that Andres Muschietti (Mama) could also deliver. Mama had its flaws but was a great horror film for the most part.

Due to all the comparisons to Tim Curry and the persisting attachment to the mini-series, I can’t do a proper review without comparing the two interpretations. Firstly, 2017’s “IT” actually looks more like the version described in the book, in terms of his clothing. King never described Pennywise’s facial details in detail, but he described the silver suit, the orange pom-poms, the white hair and reddish-orangish hair. Due to people’s poor reasoning skills or inability to read the “From Stephen King” banners that accompany every trailer, many people forget that this film is not just a remake of the miniseries. It is a different adaptation of older source material.

There were plenty of people who immediately rejected the new Pennywise, saying it was trying to hard to look creepy, too different etc. This brings up one point I have to make. To this day, you can find people who think Jack Nicholson was a better joker than Heath Ledger, simply because they saw him first and got attached. If you are attached to Tim Curry, there is pretty much nothing that can make you accept a new take. The same people who complained about the new Pennywise looking too serious and not as jovial as Curry’s, are probably the same people saying the 2017 Pennywise was too goofy after they saw the movie (if they bothered seeing the movie at all). There is no point trying to convince these people that the new adaptation also does the character justice.

Skarsgard had big shoes to fill, and he shines while doing it. The mannerisms, the voice all make you forget about the actor underneath. Skarsgard truly inhabits the character and the writing gives us something inhuman and creepy. Pennywise has his own sense of humour, and for the most part, I think the humour doesn’t bring the character into the campy realm. There are some jokes added in that weren’t in the book, some work better than others but overall Pennywise strikes a great balance between utter terror and black humour.

What ultimately diminishes Pennywise, and the movie the most, is the use of weak CGI. Practical effects are used for some shots, but there is also considerable CGI for Pennywise’s face and the various forms he takes. When Muscietti was attached to the project, I expressed worries that the biggest weakness in Mama, the poor rendering of the title monster, would carry over to this film and  bring IT down. It looks like I was right. Even some of the practical effects look poorly done, with make-up that seems cheap and dulled the tension of key scenes since I couldn’t help but critique some of the effects when I was supposed to be scared of them.

Every horror film attracts hordes of people who brag about how funny the movie was and how little they were scared. I definitely don’t claim to be one of those people but I have to say that some of the scares would have been more effective with better visual effects. The infamous (if you’ve read the book) opening scene springs to mind as one that was tense and frightening, but also hampered due to the CGI. Then again, the budget was $35 million so I guess Muschietti once again made due with what he had.

Some of the trailers left me worried the film would rely too heavily on jump scares. Jump scares are my least favourite since their impact dies once you have seen the film once. There may have been one or two many, but there is also one jump scare that stands out as one of the film’s best scenes. Fortunately, It doesn’t rely on jump scares and my mind keeps going back to scenes where my heart rate quickened because of the atmosphere and imagery that the director subjected me to.

Thankfully the performances are solid for the most part. Finn Wolfhard, of “Stranger Things”, is a stand out as Richie Tozier but It boasts a stable of talented young actors. Jaden Lieberher is also amazing as Bill Denborough, along with Sophia Lills as Beverly Marsh and Jack Grazer as Eddie Kasprak. I mention these actorss first because they were amazing, but also because their characters get the most development. Balancing seven character intros and backstories was a tall feat for a book, which is why the book was over 1000 pages. Trying to condense all that history into a two hour film is a tough task, and it resulted in casualties. Mike Hanlon probably suffers the most in relation to his book counterpart, and then Ben Hanscom. I felt like Stanley Uris was the least developed in the book but Mike has that status here, while Stan has the weakest actor in my opinion.

Some characters get less backstory, which also means some of their fears get glossed over in the film. In the book, we understand what the characters fear before they are exposed to it. Ben, who is a central member of The Losers Club is confronted by Pennywise before we see what he is afraid of. This also serves to dull the impact of the scene since one of the most interesting things about Pennywise is how he feeds of their childhood fears. An extra fifteen minutes could have helped to spread the love in terms of backstory and development for Mike and Ben.

There are some scenes that I am very glad the director cut, such as the scene where a young Beverly Marsh has sex with all of the members of the Losers Club, one by one. Yes, really. I was reading that scene on the bus while the girl beside me peered over. That was a very awkward bus ride.

One thing I did love about the film was that it did not shy away from the themes and violence in the book. IT is ultimately about friendship and the loss of innocence, while Beverly’s story offers the clearest indication of this message, we don’t need a child orgy to get that message. The main character, Bill loses his little brother to IT and that loss becomes the domino that unites the club. The characters face their fears and face challenges that adults are unable to help them with. They become independent in a sense and learn to find their own place in a world that is often hostile to them. Although the Losers Club has some members that weren’t developed as well, I loved the chemistry between the actors and the bond that they were able to portray on screen. This bond is the glue of the film and the book, and I think it is what allows me to say I liked the film, despite my seemingly numerous critiques.

As I have also said in my previous post, this film does not borrow anything from Stranger Things, except one actor. All of the accusations that It is inspired byStranger Things” reek of idiocy. The time period has been changed to the 1980s, but that is only to modernize the next film, which will take place in the present day. King wrote It in 1986, so he set the kids earlier in 1957/58 and set the adults in the 1980s. Either way, one of these films will take place in the 1980s.

Also, It started filming prior to “Stranger Things” being released on Netflix. Why would filmmakers decide to copy a Netflix show that hasn’t been released yet. What else reminds you of “Stranger Things”? Kids fighting a monster? That goes back to the 1986 book. A group of kids who are considered losers fighting a monster? That goes back to the 1986 book.

I digress, IT is a new adaptation of King’s work that breathes life into the terror from the book, while also offering a story of friendship that makes the film greater than the sum of its parts.