Monday, June 26, 2017

The Breakdown of the Best of the 2017 So Far Podcast


School is coming to an end. Movie theatres are filled with sequels and would-be franchises. The grass threatens to be a jungle if not mowed weekly. And I keep wishing society would just condone me being naked so I don't sweat through all my clothes. So, we must be half way through the year already. This means it is time for The Breakdown of the Best of the 2017 So Far show. This is a fun show as it allows us to spotlight several movies that may not be remembered by the time we get to the end of year. We have several categories where we will award our favourites, including Best Performance, Most Delightful Surprise, and Best Underrated/Unknown Movie. As well, we both reveal our Top Five movies of 2017 so far. As always, if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie fans or those who like to have background noise while they drive to work.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Cars 3', 'Rough Night', 'Oh, Hello on Broadway', 'Counterpunch' and Remembering John G. Avildsen


The Breakdown has four big movie reviews this week including the latest Pixar adventure, Cars 3 and the latest raunchy female-led comedy, Rough Night. We also pay tribute to the filmmaker who gave us Rocky and The Karate Kid, John G. Avildsen. As always if you love the show then please spread the word.

You can check out my written review of Rough Night here.


Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Breakdown Outline:

1:52 Oh, Hello on Broadway review
16:57 Cars 3 review
27:30 Rough Night review
39:06 Counterpunch review
56:44 Remembering John G. Avildsen
1:05:54 Box Office Analysis
1:13:01 Trailer Review: Happy Death Day, Daddy's Home 2, Flatliners, Olaf's Frozen Adventure, Brigsby Bear
1:24:48 Review Rundown

Rating Rundown:

Oh, Hello on Broadway ***½ (CS & SM)
Cars 3 *** (CS)
Rough Night *½ (CS)
Counterpunch *** (CS & SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge:

Christopher's Picks:

1. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2$145 049 000 
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Wonder Woman $100, 505 000
4. Transformers: The First Knight
5. War of the Planet of the Apes  
6. Baywatch: $18 100 000
7. The Mummy: $32 246 120
8. The House
9. Atomic Blonde
10. Captain Underpants $23 500 000
Total: $319 400 120 

Scott's Picks:

1. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: $62 179 000
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Alien: Covenant $36 000 000
4. Cars 3 $53 547 000
5. Dunkirk
6. Annabelle: Creation
7. Snatched $17 500 000
8. All Eyez on Me $27 050 000
9. The Emoji Movie
10. The Hitman's Bodyguard
Total: $196 276 000

Friday, June 16, 2017

'Rough Night' Review: Eye-Rolling Stupidity Isn't All That Funny


Rating: 
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Zoe Kravitz
Director: Lucia Aniello
Screenplay: Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs
Music by: Dominic Lewis
Cinematographer: Sean Porter
Editor: Craig Alpert
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Genre: Comedy
Rated: 14A (Canada)/R (US) - Crude sexual content, coarse language, substance abuse, brief bloody images
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Run Time: 101 minutes

Rough Night is that age old story about how long-time friends patch up long simmering issues and strengthen their bond after they accidentally kill a stripper. We've all been there and there is no disputing the healing power that come from trying to hide a chiseled corpse after an awry lap dance. Rough Night also breeds familiarity by borrowing heavy from beloved buddy comedies like The Hangover and Bridesmaids, and even from much less loved (and not very good) flicks like Weekend at Bernie's and Very Bad Things.

The reason The Hangover or Bridesmaids were successes (and very good movies) was that even though the characters do very ludicrous things, they are still relatable and there are crucial scenes that let us connect. Rough Night's group of ladies are the type of characters who can are defined by a maximum of three words, Scarlett Johansson's Jess is an engaged politician,  Jillian Bell's Alice is a needy teacher, Ilana Glazer's Frankie is a lesbian activist, Zoe Kravitz's Blair is a divorced businesswoman, and Kate McKinnon's Pippa is Australian.

Maybe I am not entirely being fair, because another layer of their character's personalities is they're all idiots and incredibly unlikable. Maybe we are supposed to root for them, because they aren't as detestable as the supporting characters like the sex-obsessed neighbours in a very forced performance by Ty Burrell and Demi Moore or the neurotic, wimpy fiancé who drives to Miami wearing adult diapers while hopped up on medication because he is panicking his future bride is calling off the wedding.

What is supposed to be relatable about a career-obsessed campaigning to be Senator who is easily peer pressured into doing mounds of cocaine? Of course, Director Lucia Aniello and co-writer Paul W. Downs (who also plays the wimpy fiancé) need them coked out of their minds so they have a reason to not call the cops when they accidentally kill the stripper. You need the dead stripper, because that is where the 'hilarity' ensues as they stuff the body on a "sex swing", or drive down the street with the penis sunglasses wearing corpse sticks out the sunroof, or Blair agrees to a three way with those crazy neighbours to get a security tape that incriminates them. The movie progresses with the characters making broader and stupider decisions that leave you wondering how they held on to respectable jobs or even made it to their 30s.

The picture suffers from the Adam Sandler syndrome, where the filmmakers are unaware that their main characters are mentally ill and need serious medical help. Jess has a problem of being drawn to very clingy and obsessive individuals that she needs to work out with a psychiatrists. Alice is stalkerish in her protection and hovering over Jess. Frankie seems to be an addict and fugitive, and everyone is crazy for not thinking that is an issue worth addressing.

All of them think that the best time to deal with decade long-simmering relationship issues is right after committing unintended manslaughter. These aren't real people, but rather pawns constructed for gags or attempts at emotional catharsis. The confrontations between friends are supposed to pack the emotion and heart, but it ends up being the eye-rolling sentimentality that gets tacked on to these raunchy comedies in an attempt to override the cynicism that drives most of the narrative.

Then there is the supposed action-climax that is designed to be the redemptive moment for the protagonists. It is actually the movie losing its guts and trying to convince use these fools are actually heroes.  It is hard to care when most of the movie you're rooting for them to get locked away for life.

When it isn't resorting to making the characters look like morons or patching together scenes from better comedies, there are glimmers of what should have been a very funny movie. McKinnon has a bizarre and captivating charisma with some bizarre facials that add personality to her character and several funny improve-like asides about American or Australian culture. Bell and Johansson have a playful chemistry despite working against a stifling script. The movie is at its best when the women are able to play off each other rather than act out contrived gags. These are funny and talented people, but the current standard raunchy comedy formula suffocates most of the laughs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Movie News Corral: 'American Made' Trailer, Neil Blomkamp's New Studio, and the Rage of Dan Aykroyd


Note from the present: I had been contemplating doing a movie news round-up columns for months now.  Last week I finally decided to try it out, and after a few minutes, I realized I found the rapid fire thoughts of several items was tedious, so I then found something to distract me. Then I decided I should try to at least finish it, then Danika kept trying to feed me plastic fruit and my progress of words slowed down. As the hours passed, the news started piling on and I thought it was best to just abandon it. Except I have a long history of scrapping half-finished articles and reviews, and I would like to have something to show for that time spent. So, everything below is rather musty and dated, and I didn't even get to half of the news that I wanted to talk about. It is a thing that I wrote, so I'll post it unfinished. If time is on my side, then I may do a trailer round-up later with thoughts on Coco, Black Panther, Olaf's Snow Adventure and Flatliners.

For now, here is a many days late and not quite complete movie news column.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here is a new several times a week columns that I am going to try-out or potentially drop after this one time. I want to try to expand the type of writing I do on here, especially after my "Nine Years" personal piece surprisingly skyrocketed to my fifth most viewed piece of all-time. The deal is the Movie News Corral won't have all the latest movie news, it won't even have the best movie news, it may not even be very 'newsy', but I guarantee whatever it is, my opinion will be lathered all over it.

1. Jaume Collet-Serra a well-established thriller director (that made the terrific The Shallows last year) is teaming up with Annapura studios (that is ready to make a big break as a studio and distributor with this August's Detroit) to make historical drama, Waco. This is a salivating worthy team-up since Annapura looks set to make films geared towards adults that still pack some thrills and Collet-Serra will be directing off a script by Mark Boal (Zero Dark Thirty, Hurt Locker) and Marc Halmes (Kubo and the Two Strings), which means this movie has potential to pack some deep digging drama. Waco event is one of those intriguing stories that I'm surprised hasn't been tackled yet, based off the famous stand-off between FBI and Texas law enforcement against the David Koresh led cult the Branch Davidians. This will be Collet-Serra most ambitious and biggest in scope movie yet, and it is exciting that he is going out of his usual closed space action-thriller to a drama that will have many moving parts.

2. Neill Blomkamp is the director that I keep on rooting for even if District 9 is his only film that I enjoyed. It was such an innovative and technically meticulous sci-fi thriller that he has earned unlimited second chances. I am on Team Excited for his new Oats Studios that will be releasing a series of short films on YouTube and Steam. The vision is for the shorts to try out different technology but also tell stories where he has complete creative control. There is also the strong chance if one or two short movies become hits, then be turned into a full-length features. I look forward to when he drops the first set and it looks like it isn't afraid to be bizarre.



3.  


American Made is the biopic of pilot turned drug smuggler Barry Seal, and you cannot escape the feeling of director Doug Liman doing Martin Scorsese, especially movies like Goodfellas and The Wolf of Wall Street. I trust Liman to balance the wacky hijinks with character-driven drama a lot better than Michael Bay did with his Scorsese movie, Pain & Gain. The challenge with these pictures is always the lead is not very likable and often bottom of the barrel scum, but the hardest working actor in Hollywood, Tom Cruise, does have the goods to pull this off. He is charming enough you are willing to stick it through with him for redemption (though if they follow the real life story, he never does). It is exciting to see him tackling something a bit more dramatic after over a decades as an action star. The story is intriguing, the visuals look great, and it isn't afraid to be edgy, so there is a lot of potential for this to be one of the stand outs of the fall.

4. It doesn't look like Dan Aykroyd will be inviting Paul Feig over for any BBQs this summer. His whining about Feig's job on last year's Ghostbusters means that Aykroyd may be the only person in the world still talking about last year's unfortunate (hey, I liked it!) box office flop, Ghostbusters. I get that Ghostbusters is his baby and one of his greatest claims to fame, and his dream of a Ghostbusters shared universe is spiraling down the toilet. He is slagging and giving condescending advice to a director that gave us Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy this past decade, while Aykroyd's most recent feature film screen writing credits are Blue Brothers 2000 and Coneheads, and his lone directing effort is the 8% Rotten Tomatoes scoring Nothing But Trouble.

My Anniversary Equals High Viewing Stats

While this blog is my place of freedom where I can write about whatever I want, for the most part the majority of the writing over the last few years has the objective of growing an audience with hopes to eventually monetize this site and The Breakdown. This would allow me to cut down on the amount of work that I need to do for clients, so I could focus on my projects on the site and podcast. But sometimes, I write something on here that is completely personal and "just for me" without any concern for growing my readership.

My "Nine Years" piece was one of those times where I just assumed I'd maybe attract an audience of some family and friends and wife, but not much more than that. I just wanted to write something nice about my nine years of marriage that my wife could read, but avoid doing the typical flowery fluff piece. I wanted something that could have value for someone that couldn't care less about how long that I had been married, but read the post anyway, because Twitter was down.

There must have been major issues in the Twitterverse, because in less than a day, that little "throwaway" piece of sap became my fifth highest read article ever on this site. While I am no Juggernaut on the Internet, I have some articles that have spread through the web and garnered a respectable audience. I was humbled and shocked that something as personal as my thoughts on my marriage garnered an audience that was maybe hundreds times larger than all the people that I know. So, somehow I struck something with complete strangers.

With it becoming the fifth highest read piece in less than 24 hours, it also becomes the second fastest growing pieces that I've ever written (with only my Macho Man tribute putting it to shame, which is several tens of  thousands of views more than anything else on the site due to being linked and promoted on very major websites). I always assumed that it would be one of my major movie analysis pieces or some rant against Trump that would get that type of audience (yes, my lone Trump piece was also very well-read, but yet, I still don't really have the energy to talk about him more). I never thought my own life would mean anything to almost anyone.

It gives me a little warm fuzzy to be proven wrong. Gosh darn it, you guys must really like me.

If I had to guess, the reason it was so widely viewed was due to my opening line about how Emily almost never says "I love you." Controversy attracts attentions and opening an anniversary piece that is supposed to be sappy and gushy with a revelation that I don't often hear those three words is pretty scandalous. I am sure it was unexpected and people dug in to get some juicy gossip and to discover if I was moving out to train meerkats to be suit wearing waiters at fine French restaurants. Then they realized that I was not, but by that point, there were already so many paragraphs in that they decided to stick it out. Or maybe they didn't stick it out, but I still got those view stats pumped up (though the time spent stats points to the fact that the majority of the article was read by most).

I also like to think that maybe I somehow stumbled upon a piece that provided some meaning and value to people. Maybe my situation and thoughts resonated, or there are some other couples that can at least relate to our situation. Or people were just drawn to my honesty and decision to not go the generic "I love marriage" route.

Even without the stats, I did get several personal messages from people thanking me for the piece and thinking it was really well-written. Even though I've been doing this for several years now, those type of comments are still fuel for me. I really appreciate them, and I am still shocked that this article became so popular. Though to be honest, I am happiest that my wife loved it and that it made her day, because in the end, it was really for her.

In news that is related to my anniversary, I landed a pretty sweet joint anniversary and Father's Day gift in the form of a riding lawnmower. This means that it will no longer take five days to cut the grass of our property with my electric push mower, and I can actually have a nicely cut lawn in under two hours. I don't know what I will do with all this free time. 

For those that care, it isn't a John Deere, because my wife, was well aware that I could care less about the name of my riding lawn mower. I care so little that I had to Google if I spelt that company's name right (I did). Though I think the name of my new toy is much cooler, Cub Cadet. I imagine that on its days off it trains a team of baby bears to solve crimes. Crime solving lawn care machines are the coolest.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Megan Leavey', 'Shimmer Lake', 'Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit' and Remembering Adam West


It was a rough week as we lost both Peter Sallis and Adam West this week. We honor Sallis by reviewing the animated feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, where he voices the lead, as well we discuss the career of Adam West. We also have two other movie reviews including the indy biopic, Megan Leavey. From there we discuss the future of the Dark Universe and if Rotten Tomatoes are having a huge effect on box office like studios think. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:

01:20 Megan Leavey review
20:20 Shimmer Lake review
34:20 Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit review
46:34 Remembering Adam West
53:29 Do Rotten Tomatoes affect the box office for teenagers and young adults?
1:02:08 Are we being snobs being against the Dark Universe?
1:10:18 Trailer Reviews: Black Panther, American Made, Coco, Kidnap, Killing Ground
1:22:16 Box Office Analysis
1:30:38 Review Rundown

Rating Rundown:

Megan Leavey ***½ (CS)
Shimmer Lake ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ***½ (CS & SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge:

Christopher's Picks:

1. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2$145 049 000 
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Wonder Woman $100, 505 000
4. Transformers: The First Knight
5. War of the Planet of the Apes  
6. Baywatch: $18 100 000
7. The Mummy: $32 246 120
8. The House
9. Atomic Blonde
10. Captain Underpants $23 500 000
Total: $319 400 120 

Scott's Picks:

1. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: $62 179 000
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Alien: Covenant $36 000 000
4. Cars 3
5. Dunkirk
6. Annabelle: Creation
7. Snatched $17 500 000
8. All Eyez on Me
9. The Emoji Movie
10. The Hitman's Bodyguard
Total: $115 679 000

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Nine Years


Emily does not say "I love you" very often to me. It could be weeks or maybe even more than a month before I hear those three words directed towards me, though she says it daily to our kids. I say the words several times a day. When I say them to Everett or Danika, I get an enthusiastic "I love you" in return. After I say it to Emily, she usually asks why I put a small ceramic bowl where the plastic cups were supposed to be put in the dishwasher. 

I have read several articles about many decades married couples who say "I love you" several times a day and make sure to state it even when they are angry or tired. The articles tend to allude that saying those words are a major part in keeping things in perspective and a small (but integral) way for the partner to remind the other their value and importance. I tried showing the pieces to Emily a few times but then she tries to pluck my nose hair so I run away. 

There are a few of you reading this that are surprised. You probably can't imagine a spouse that doesn't return a "I love you" when it has been delivered. But that is probably because you have it ingrained in your head how a marriage is supposed to work because of the several books and shows and talks about it. I am going to let you in on a little secret, there isn't one magical way for a marriage to work and make it to nine years.

It makes me think about another thing I've been doing now for five years, parenting. Before Everett, I read some parenting advice books and I got all the tips that I could get from several other parents. Then it quickly became clear that Everett did not fit the mold of all those other kids. Then Danika came along, and she was the exact opposite of Everett. Now, when I see new parents start panicking about the rules of parenting or if they are messing up their kids, I ask if their kids are healthy, happy, and safe. If they are, then they are doing it right. They probably are not doing it the way that Emily and I do it, but surprise, surprise, that is because that are not Christopher and Emily nor are their kids Everett and Danika.

Emily isn't the stereotypical wife. The reality, nobody is the stereotypical wife. She excels at going against expectations. Emily likes power tools and knows how to use them. She also can bake and is an amazing cook. She has played Australian rules football for five years, which means on a weekly basis she is sporting bruises and dislocated fingers. She doesn't really enjoy romantic movies and is more likely to watch a Liam Neeson action flick. If she has an injury or a pain, she isn't going to tell you but would rather just try to glue back on her amputated limb. She takes great pride in being perceived as tough, but if she sees a man cry, she will bawl. Despite all that I just described, she is incredibly sensitive, kind, and compassionate. She just may not show it in traditional ways.

That is why I adore, admire, and love my wife. She is her own strong, independent, and beautiful woman. She is unique and doesn't fit into some ridiculous box. She surprises me and pushes me on a daily basis. 

She may not say the words "I loves you" often, but she shows them every single day. She keeps our family in order, is the first to create remedies for the sick, and stays on top of everything to keep life smooth. She is an introverted person not always comfortable sharing her feelings, but opens up to me about her dreams and fears. She is passionate and passes it on to me. She arranges weekend events because time spent is her treasure, and loves adventures with her family. She pushes me to be a better person and doesn't accept silly excuses. She believes in me and my writing, and that means more to me than words that are so easy to say. She is my inspiration, mother of my children, and the love of my life. She is one of a kind, and I am so happy she has been my wife for these last nine years. I am excited about the next nine and the nine after that and the proceeding nine and so on.

I love you Emily and happy anniversary.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Not Really a Trailer But Still Offers Insight into 'War for the Planet of the Apes'


The latest War for the Planet of the Apes trailer is less actual trailer (we already got what was hyped as the final trailer a few weeks ago) and more a piece of PR marketing to announce a partnership between 20th Century Fox and the Jane Goodall Institute. The marketing shows clips from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes along with brand new footage from the upcoming picture. There is a strong chance the scene selection was more just a way to show "compassion" and humans in harmony with apes. But my movie writer senses are tingling, and I have some feeling that this may be some foreshadowing to bigger story elements for Fox's summer tentpole. It definitely reaffirms the little girl is going to be a major part of the movie and will drive the narrative. She also should be connective tissue to the 1968 original (this is supposed to be a prequel to that, right?).

A part of me thinks there was a strategic reason for showing Woody Harrelson staring at a photo, the girl caring for Ceasar, and the Dawn leads of Keri Russell, Jason Clarke, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. It looks like it is alluding to a connection between all those individuals. Maybe the girl is the daughter of Harrelson's mad general, while Harrelson is McPhee all grown up. It would be interesting for a character who was compassionate and an ally of Caesar to grow up bitter due to losing parents or some other similar tragedy. I know this movie is set many years later, so definitely enough time for McPhee's character to grow up, and I don't see why everyone from the past film has to be dead.

I also dig the compassion theme of the trailer and hope that is a reflection of the movie. Something about how bridging understanding between the two groups is important, and how this battle is a great tragedy. A little bit of hope and reaching for love amongst the violence and chaos. It doesn't need to be preachy, and the previous two were very solid at having a message but still doling out the blockbuster everyone came to see. You can have fun and smarts, and usually, a smart movie is far more fun.

DC Comics Breaks Ground with 'Wonder Woman" Even if it is Two Decades Late


Wonder Woman is a big deal. The first female led superhero comic book movie in over a decade. The first big budget comic book spectacle to be directed by a female. This weekend the movie garnered massive critical acclaim (currently stand 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and earned the highest grossing opening weekend for a female directed movie ever($100 505 000.00). As ground-breaking as this movie is, as I said in this morning's Breakdown, it is really sad that it took until 2017 for this to happen. Josh Spiegel writes a really solid article about this very issue over at The Hollywood Reporter.

The hope is that this success will make studios less apprehensive about putting females in the lead of big blockbusters and even more important, allow more female filmmaker to helm a picture. As the article points out, it isn't like there hasn't been evidence in the past that there is a large crowd clamouring for big budget event movies focused on female protagonists such as Star Wars: Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Hunger Games, Beauty and the Beast (still highest grossing movie this year), Maleficent, Lucy, and Pitch Perfect. We may also have to accept this isn't the giant shift in studios' mentality quite yet. There is hope with the fantastic Ava DuVernay set to direct a $100 million plus budget event movie in A Wrinkle in Time and Gina Prince-Bythewood set to be the first black female to direct a superhero picture in the Spider-Man Universe set, Silver & Black.

As much as DC Studios has taken a beating by serving up sub-par movies and building their own cinematic universe in a very rushed and backwards way, they now have one huge victory against Marvel Studios. Marvel is now 15 movies deep without a single female led or directed movie, and after only the fourth movie into the new DC Universe the studio accomplished both. As much as it annoys me to have to say this is a historic feat in 2017, this is a major victory for DC Universe and shows there are willing to be more progressive and take bigger "risks" than Marvel (though evidence points to diversity not being the risk studio heads believe).

Director Patty Jenkins also proves something that was clear with her 2003 Monsters, she is an incredibly talented filmmaker that deserved to direct a big budget tentpole. The other big victory she delivered for Warner Brothers and DC Comics was craft a movie that is better than almost all Marvel Studio flicks except for their very top notch like Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: Winter Soldier. Outside the Disney owned Marvel movies, the only recent movies I'd put above it would be Logan and Deadpool. It is in pretty special company.

Wonder Woman has all the special effects action, origin story beats and big chaotic finale that seems mandatory for first instalment superhero picture. Jenkins adds a kindness and optimism that is absent in so many of the other movies. Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman has a smile on her face for most of the movie, and while she is a definite bad-ass, her focus is protecting and loving a mankind that she has no  obligation as they are complete strangers. Gadot creates a sincere and compassionate superhero that looks for the positives amongst all the dark. So, even though we have villains using a poison designed to wipe out much of humanity and the movie is very violent, there is a sense of optimism throughout while also remaining uplifting throughout. This is a huge change from most big budget movies today that believe things need to be dark and gritty. Even the movies that are more bright and colourful, the hero still tend to be cynical and sarcastic. Wonder Woman is counter to all that, which is what created such an invigorating experience in the theatre.

Even though it is more than a decade late, hopefully studios are willing to take some major lessons away from Wonder Woman and we move forward with more diverse big budget tentpoles.

The Breakdown of 'Wonder Woman', 'Captain Underpants: A First Epic Movie', 'Lucid Dream'. 'Handsome: A Netflix Mystery' and Spoiler-Filled Review of 'Get Out'


The Breakdown review five movies this week. The big one is the latest super hero spectacular in Wonder Woman. As well, we revisit Get Out with a spoiler-filled discussion. We also have some Netflix Originals with the thriller Lucid Dream and the murder mystery Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie. We also look at the latest animated movie in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. As always, if you enjoy the show then please spread the word,

You can also check out my written reviews for Wonder Woman and Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.



Breakdown Outline:

1:06 Spoiler-filled Get Out review
30:37 Wonder Woman review
50:12 Lucid Dream review
1:01:40 Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie review
1:11:35 Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie review
1:24:26 Trailer Review: Logan Lucky, Murder on the Orient ExpressPaddington 2, The Mountain Between Us, Victoria & Abdul

Rating Rundown:

Get Out ***½ (CS & SM)
Wonder Woman ***½ (CS)
Lucid Dream *** (CS & SM)
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie *** (CS)
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie ** (CS & SM)

Summer Box Office Challenge:

Christopher's Picks:

1. Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2$145 049 000 
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Wonder Woman $100, 505 000
4. Transformers: The First Knight
5. War of the Planet of the Apes  
6. Baywatch: $18 100 000
7. The Mummy
8. The House
9. Atomic Blonde
10. Captain Underpants $23 500 000
Total: $287 154 000 

Scott's Picks:

1. The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: $62 179 000
2. Despicable Me 3
3. Alien: Covenant $36 000 000
4. Cars 3
5. Dunkirk
6. Annabelle: Creation
7. Snatched $17 500 000
8. All Eyez on Me
9. The Emoji Movie
10. The Hitman's Bodyguard
Total: $115 679 000

Friday, June 02, 2017

Wonder Woman Review: A Heartfelt Adventure That Stands Out This Summer Blockbuster Season


Four Star Rating: ***½
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya
Director: Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg
Story by: Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg, Jason Fuchs
Based On: Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematographer: Matthew Jenson
Editor: Martin Walsh
Distributed by: Warner Brothers Pictures
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Rated: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (US) - Violence, Frightening Scenes, Mild Suggestive Content, Not Recommended for Young Children
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Run Time: 141 minutes

It would be easy to assume that what makes Wonder Woman different than all other superhero movies dominating the multiplexes over the last decade is that both its director and star are female. While that is a huge deal and if this movie becomes a massive box office success may change some major studios' perceptions of what draws, it is unfair to say that is what makes it stand out from so many other movies. This is a big budget, special-effects laden spectacle that is also thoughtful, philosophical and kind-hearted much like its protagonist.

Director Patty Jenkins, best known for the terrific female serial killer biopic Monster, deftly manages to create a fanciful and myth-heavy world with all the comic book action fixings that then explores questions about what drives global conflict and seeing if humans are intrinsically good. Jenkins doesn't shy away from the campier elements of the character's origin story but grounds it by creating relatable characters that lead us into a more realistic world. It is the optimism and compassion of Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) that keeps the movie hopeful despite some darker subject matter. Jenkins transports a brightly colored superhero into an old school war picture.

The movie briefly starts out in present time where there is a forced scene of Diana staring at a photo of her old World War I buddies, which then segues to her childhood on the island of Themyscira. The contrived opening is less a reflection on the movie and more on DC's awkward shoehorning of the character into Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice that forced Jenkins and screenwriter Allan Heinberg to connect the character we know to her origin story.

We get backstory exposition with creative scenes that are like moving paintings, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) tells her daughter, Diana, how Zeus created the Amazonians as protectors of mankind, but then the god of war, Ares, corrupted mankind by causing them to war and kill each other. Ares then went on a rampage killing all the other gods except Zeus who was able to defeat him. Zeus took a nasty beating and with his last ounce of strength created a "Godkiller" weapon that the Amazonians could use to defeat Ares if he ever returned. This explains why warrior women spend all their time training in preparation for a possible Ares return. The story also is the motivation for Diana wanting to become a warrior. Unfortunately, her mother forbids her to be trained and also in something that feels more designed to provide a late movie twist rather than a solid parental decision, refuses Diana from discovering her true origins and purpose. You tell your kid they can't be an Amazonian warrior, it just makes them desire it more, so Diana is secretly trained by her aunt Antiope (in a brief but fun performance by the great Robin Wright).

The idyllic life on the island changes when American spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane nearby and Diana rescues him from drowning. It also happens that he has a book with the recipe to create a toxic gas that kills all in its path that he stole from the Germans. The Germans are keen to get it back and so they arrive on the island too, which leads to the first big action sequence. Jenkins proves she knows how to unleash special effect spectacle and cool action sequences, but she frames it in a way that keeps a personality and tells key stories rather than just being dazzle. The moment has real consequences and is effective in further developing the characters.

Shortly after, Diana learns from Steve there is a Great War going on and thousands of lives are being lost. This is the moment Diana learns how sheltered she has become and is frustrated that the Amazonians are no longer trying to protect mankind. She believes the war is being manipulated by Ares and that if she can defeat him, the conflict will end. She takes the "Godkiller" sword and her iconic uniform, with the intention to go back to the "Man's World" with Steve. This is against the wishes of her mother, and leads to one of the first big dramatic moments as she wrestles over if she follows her heart of protecting people she doesn't even know but abandoning the only life and family she has ever had. It demonstrates a big part of the character who is compassionate and more focused on caring for others than herself.

The island of Themyscira is gorgeously shot by cinematographer Matthew Jensen, and it is full of rich, bright, eye-catching colours. It is paradise that is brimming with magic and one that I wanted to explore for much longer. It works well as a great contrast when they arrive to a war beaten London that is grimy, grey and bleak, and shows a world that would be so unfamiliar to Diana. It sets the tone for a populace that is being beaten down by World War I, but also alerts use that things will be very different here. Diana left a place of feminine power and now is surrounded by men who look down upon women and don't respect what she has to offer.  At times Diana being in this world is played for laughs as she has to adjust to a different lifestyle but it also serves well as commentary of daily misogyny that gets uncovered when a women refuses to be subservient.

At its core, Wonder Woman is a love story. Diana's love for mankind and her commitment to "saving" them. Also about the slow building romance between Diana and Steve that starts out playful, grows through respect and admiration, and then becomes intimate. Pine and Gadot have an authentic chemistry as you feel their attraction but also is helped by a movie that lets it build naturally. Pine also brings a lot of wit and charm to his character, and has a bouncy energy as he plays off Diana as she tries to navigate through this weird male dominated world.

Steve wants to travel to the front lines to stop the mad German General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his scientist Doctor Isabel Maru or also known as Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) from unleashing their deadly mustard gas concoction. Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) publicly denies the request due to the belief they are about to reach an armistice with Germany, but then off the record encourages Steve and Diana to do an undercover mission. Steve puts together a crew and the strength of the screenplay and Jenkins's direction is shown as in only a few short scenes we instantly feel the personality and motivations of each member. Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is a fast-talking, suave spy with skills to quickly disguise himself. Charlie (Ewen Bremner) is a sharpshooter who has now turned to heavy drinking due to his post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered from a previous tour of duty. The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a man who claims no loyalty in the war but just to the highest bidder, but it becomes clear he really is one of the good guys. The movie does enough to make us care about each one, but still keeps the main focus on Diana and Steve.

This also seems to be the right time to mention the comic relief and also the character designed to show where women really stood at the time, Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) who is Steve's personal secretary. Davis would be best known for her role in original British The Office, but she is almost unrecognizable here as she transforms herself for this role. Her comic timing is fantastic, but she also provides some decent heart with the growing friendship with Diana. It is a hard balance playing a role that is largely for laughs but then is expected to add some depth, Davis deserves great credit for pulling it off.

The villains, unfortunately, suffer the usual comic book movie crime of being broad and having no clear motivation. They want everyone to die and they are nasty, but there is never that moment where they really have much personality. As we hit the climax, the strong performance by Gadot makes the final confrontation matter and the conflict creates some intriguing internal drama.

The action finale is the typical bloated superhero movie fireworks show that jars the senses. But for much of the movie, Jenkins does an expert job of providing personality to the action. Most of the battles are done in slo-mo style, but rather than it feeling like a copy of The Matrix, it is shown to exemplify the skills of Wonder Woman and show how much more powerful and quicker she is than everyone else.

The big moments are elevated by a catchy and almost classic blended with modern score by Rupert Gregson-Williams. Each action sequences is meticulously constructed and adds to the story rather than just looking cool. While it does go overboard in the finale, there are some real stakes and powerful dramatic moments that are unveiled amidst the explosions. Wonder Women's belief humans are truly good and all the bad is on Ares gets challenged, which provides some deeper philosophical questions. It also reveals the true nature of Wonder Woman, a figure with so much powers that is committed to help and love mankind. Clearly, there are some Christ-like allegories at work here, and the handling of an almost immortal being trying to find her place among humans is handled better than 2013's Man of Steel.

The real gem and revelation is Gal Gadot who embodies Wonder Woman. It is her incredible performance that brings the heart, sincerity and emotion to the picture. She radiates a sincere, compassionate and warm hero. Jenkins smartly makes several tight shot on a face that is almost always beaming with a smile. It is invigorating and inspiring to see a performer making kindness and warmth a central characteristic when most super hero comic movies want toughness and snark.

This does not mean that Wonder Women lacks the ass-kicking. There was a scene early on when they finally reveal her in full garb and she is strutting on the battle scene that sent a chill down my spine and I knew immediately she was the embodiment of bad-ass.  Gadot creates a complicated and balanced character that works as an action hero but also strives for so much more. In this case, the movie reflects its hero perfectly.