Saturday, June 1, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Since it has been 5 years since the first Godzilla, and this movie picks up with characters and story that the previous left off with, I was definitely missing context. [Aside: I do think it is the responsibility of filmmakers to assess how popular the original in a series is, and how long ago it is likely to have been seen, and how much a typical audience member will remember. A good filmmaker will provide the context and history of the first film in a new way, but sufficient to allow the film to stand alone. End Aside] Maybe that is the intent of the filmmaker, so that I will go back now and watch the original. In this version, there is an entirely new cast (only Watanabe returns). The Titans are basically dormant, but an eco-terrorist wakes them up (including Godzilla's primary foe from ancient times). The goal is to yank the apex-predator title from humanity in an effort to right the natural balance of life on earth (see Kingsman, Avengers, The Happening, etc.). But the good guys are able to help Godzilla help himself and take his rightful place back at the top of the pile, thereby demanding subservience of the other Titans. Woo-hoo, humanity survives, even if Boston and D.C. don't. Pretty good 'big animal fight scenes' without losing the action in the blur. Pretty bad wave physics and explosion physics. And by 'pretty bad', I mean non-existent. But for a summer movie, it was a good excuse to go get some popcorn.
3 stars (out of 5

Friday, May 31, 2019

Slingshot

Everyone has heard of the Segway. No one has heard of Dean Kaman, the inventor of the Segway. But this documentary about him is astounding. This guy is a prolific inventor and problem solver. He is an inspiration for thinking about problems differently, for solving the root of the problem instead of developing solutions for symptoms. He is an odd guy, but look at his list: portable dialysis, insulin pump, segway, stair climbing wheelchair, FIRST robotics, water purification, Coke dispenser. The doc also does a pretty good job of showing the difficulties and complexities of product development. Well worth it.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Rim of the World

Four mis-fit kids are at a summer camp at Rim of the World, in the mountains east of LA. A alien attack force lands and begins to destroy LA. An astronaut crash lands in their camp with the coordinates in space for the alien mother ship. The kids must make their way to JPL, deliver the coordinates, and help destroy the threat. This plays like a variant of the Jumanji, "strange scenario buddy trauma" drama. The characters are caricatures. The plot is a formula. Nothing new or interesting here.
2 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Chapter 3 picks up where Chapter 2 dropped. Reeves as Wick has been kicked out of the assassin club and has one hour until his life is forfeit. His friends who helped him also are being punished by "The High Table", a secret group who run the assassin club. Wick's plan is to go find the guy who is in charge and find out directly from him how to survive. The thinking is that if he shows the strength and will to get to the boss, he will show that it is worth leaving him alone and live in peace. Of course, it doesn't work out that way and in the end, Wick is right back where he started, but with a couple of more disgraced friends. This movie is exactly in line with the others in the series: brutal, bloody, constant. In this installment, it was so over the top that most people sat in the theater stunned. I noticed only 3 or 4 times where there was a collective chuckle or Oooh! Otherwise, it was a bludgeoning. My experience here was more Harlem Globetrotters. The action was so choreographed, that Wick clearly paused/moved in sync with his attackers to let them have the unnecessary upper hand in order to set up the next hit. The bad guys were the Washington Generals. They were the only guys in the world who thought that when Wick let them have a hit, that they had earned it. The problem is that as a viewer, I was an adult watching the Globetrotters/Generals and I could see behind the screen. The choreography is super effective for a first time viewer or kid. But it was either not slick enough, or was too slick, and I found myself watching mediocre dance instead of action.
2 stars (out of 5)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu is a great visual presentation of the pocket monster world if you are 10, you love seeing the live action (i.e. CGI) version of characters you have been imagining for the past several years with distinct species personalities, and you don't mind nonsensical scenes inserted into a storyline for the sole purpose of showing said characters. If you are not this target audience, spend your afternoon doing something else.
2 stars (out of 5)

Avengers: Endgame

Endgame reminded me of the series finale of Seinfeld. An overly long homage. Don't get me wrong, as an homage, this is an outstanding presentation. We are taken down memory lane, reminded of why over the past decade we have grown to like these characters as they make us laugh and at times cringe. We are reminded of those who sacrificed and of those we thought lost. This pushes us down an emotional road intended to think better of humanity, to think that we could all strive for the greater good. It is a film of hope. But take out the homage, the necessary wrap-up of a myriad of storylines, and the skeleton beneath is weak. Perhaps the former is enough, but I wanted more. I wanted that feeling and memory AND great story. Maybe that's just not possible. But is it wrong for me to hope?
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Long Shot

Charlize Theron is the U.S. Secretary of State about to run for president. Seth Rogan is the schlub from her past who pushes her down the path of her destiny by reminding her that she actually cares about things and people, not just about getting elected. These two have great chemistry on screen and the story is charming while reminding us of the crazy political/media driven world we live in. In fact, this reminder, comedic but poignant, is what makes this film more than a standard rom-com. We are able to laugh at them and ourselves and walk out thinking "oh, that is more real than we want to admit".
4 stars (out of 5)