Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This is a great spin-off. Fantastic Beasts builds on the Harry Potter world, but doesn't rely on it. That is, we are fully in the world of wizards and muggles (or Nomags, as the Americans refer to them) but if you have not even heard of the Harry Potter series, but are just a fan of fantasy this film makes sense. Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, one of those european wizards who is on his first visit to the US. As he enters New York, he stumbles upon some wizarding troubles, and exposes the true purpose of his visit, while making friends with likeminded odd wizards and muggles. Redmayne is excellent as the diminutive, scholarly wizard who just loves his creatures and, like many good wizards, diminutive generally means deceptively powerful and sneaky. There are some great actions scenes and some laughter, but not much thinking. I suppose you can decide if that makes for a good fantasy film or an excellent one. I will rank this good.
4 stars (out of 5)

Run Fatboy Run

Pleasant Simon Pegg romantic comedy. Pegg left his pregnant fiancé at the altar 5 years ago. Today he regrets the decision, and needs to come to terms with this every time he goes to pick up his son. It doesn't help that the new boyfriend is a total ass. In some testosterone battle, Pegg decides that running a marathon will show he has changed, and is a better man. So of course, this plot line is ridiculous. It is a set up for soundbite jokes and gags. But when watching a cheesy romantic comedy, who really cares. I did laugh at the jokes and gags, and I did find myself repeating lines in my head as they were quite funny. Not quite good enough for me to remember any of them out of context. But enjoyable none-the-less.
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Wire (Serial)

Season 2

This second season sets up with the task force reassigned all over the place in some pretty petty positions (evidence locker, foot beat, harbor patrol). When a body is fished out of the harbor and it turns out to be tied to a group of 13 other women who died in a container ship, the wheels are set in motion to get the team together again. However, this season takes 5 or 6 episodes to set the stage. I feel like the writers did not take advantage of the prior season, and while yes, they did have to introduce an entire new community in the dock workers, they did nearly lose me in the process. But once the team is together, and chasing money and phones, they again make connections that lead to arrests. And I think that they get the agreement to make the task force permanent as a major crimes detail. Stay tuned.
4 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dr Strange

Another marvel superhero. I didn't have any background on this guy, so it was very similar to Deadpool, or the first Iron Man. The hero in this case is a super arrogant neurosurgeon who sees himself as God's gift to humanity. When his arrogance threatens his career, he seeks out help from a group of (what we learn later to be) sorcerers. He gets in touch with his ability to draw energy from parallel universes, and of course, since he is so smart and so good at everything, he is also very good at this. Dr Strange becomes the guy who is smart and good enough to save the world from annihilation. Relatively fun, with some inception like CG and some crazy self-actualization a la Wanted. But I must say that being able to tap into energy from a parallel universe and being able to reverse time to fix anything that you missed the first time puts you in a different league than all the other guys. As a stand alone movie, pretty good. As part of a larger universe, is there room for anyone else?
3 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Luke Cage (Serial)

I guess largely forgettable. I like the idea of Luke Cage, a kind of everyman hero. But then this everyman personality is matched against oversized neighborhood villains. So I am not quite sure how to suspend disbelief here. The premise is that Cage is a regular guy who had some sort of experiment done on him (a la Captain America, Deadpool, etc) in which his skin turns super dense and impenetrable (by normal bullets and knives anyway). He originally showed up as a walk-on in the Daredevil series and was helped by Nurse Claire (who plays a recurring role here too). Ultimately, however, the same problem besets all of these Marvel heroes: are they vigilantes? and is that OK? Marvel tries to have the characters struggle with this issue, and tries to justify their actions. However, I wonder if the only way to really struggle with this honestly will be when one of them makes a mistake. Takes out a bad guy who later is determined to be innocent. If there are enough events, ultimately a mistake will be made. And what then is the justification for vigilante justice...
3 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Never go Back

Another Jack Reacher film. I have been reading these books and had read this one quite awhile ago, meaning I didn't really remember the plot. Which is good since I realize that the film needs to take some liberties. Reacher, as a former MP, in this installment works with the CO of his old unit to uncover some drug and gun smuggling by private military contractors. Overall, this is an average entry into the action hero genre. What I expected. Nothing more. Nothing less.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Accountant

Ben Affleck plays the title character. Just so happens that his job is a cover for his other job, assassin. And he is very good at both. He is also on the autism spectrum, so his ability to see patterns and numbers, and his ability to pay attention to important details seems to be enhanced by that. And his ability to act without emotional investment is key to his personality and success. The film was well constructed and well acted. And it did make me think. How is this character different than Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher. Those are also effective action heroes, very good at their job of noticing details and killing without emotion. But this accountant character has his strength seeded in his autism. And it feels different. So it made me think about stereotypes, rationalization of violence and justification of actions. I don't know where this thinking goes, but it is rattling around my head. It is also all this thinking that promotes this from 'movie' status to 'film'.
4 stars (out of 5)