Sure, whatever, I guess

Okay, it’s true that my track record on judging movies based on their teaser trailers isn’t great. But … if there wasn’t a Marvel Studios logo on this one it wouldn’t have made any impact on me at all, and right now I feel like seeing it is a chore I have to endure rather than something I actually want to do. I can’t tell you a single thing about a single one of these characters, I don’t know who any of them are, and with the single exception of Darkseid I really don’t have any affection for any of Jack Kirby’s characters when he was trying to Go Mythical. The New Gods bore the shit out of me too, frankly.

I think Black Widow comes out soon? Perhaps shockingly soon? Truth be told I don’t care much about that either, nor about the new Loki show that I think is debuting pretty soon. I liked things about both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but ultimately both of them left me cold.

It really is amazing how thoroughly Endgame killed my interest in the MCU, and one of these days I’m going to write a post about why, and it’s going to be 20,000 words long, so I probably ought to do my level best to avoid doing it.

One more day. One more day. One more day. One more day.

I can do this.

#REVIEW: Army of the Dead

I have a weird relationship with Zack Snyder. Typically, if I don’t like a director, it’s because I’ve seen several of their movies and decided, for whatever reason, that their movies aren’t for me. Sometimes it’s because of the way they direct, like, say, Michael Bay, and sometimes it’s because they consistently pick stories that don’t work out for me. Like that one dude, who made that one movie whose name I won’t say any more.

Zack Snyder is the only director I can think of who I am, effectively, boycotting. I haven’t disliked his movies so much as judged them illegitimate from the start. I have had a chip on my shoulder about DC’s film output for, oh, nearly my entire life; look at the reviews that will no doubt crop up in links below for additional details if you like. If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you already know the gist; this man does not understand or care about the superheroes he makes movies about in any way and I refuse to spend money to find out I was right about something sucking.

That said: while I haven’t rewatched it in probably fifteen years, I enjoyed his remake of Dawn of the Dead, from way back in 2004 or so, which was before I knew who Zack Snyder even was, and my wife really wanted to watch Army of the Dead, and even a shitty zombie movie is still a zombie movie, and if you’d shown me the trailer without the words “Zack Snyder” appearing on them I’d have shrugged and handed over my no money, because this was showing up on Netflix and I pay for Netflix (actually, my wife does, so this isn’t even my no money) anyway.

So yeah tl;dr this is a really shitty movie. And I mean that it’s a shitty movie when judged on a “zombie movies” scale, and it’s shitty in a way that can be laid directly at the feet of the director, and it honestly kind of makes me mad that I disliked it as much as I did.

Spoilers an’ shit.

That said, let’s start with what I liked, which is the first 20 minutes or so: this movie starts off in a hurry, and gets the initial setup out of the way quickly– there’s a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, triggered by some Military Thing that isn’t explored because it really doesn’t have to be, and several of the characters get brief introductory vignettes as they’re killing zombies and rescuing people and seeing family members or friends killed, and by the end of the credits (which are playing over the introduction) Vegas is surrounded by a wall made of shipping crates, which sounds like it shouldn’t be all that secure but whatever, and the government is discussing simply nuking the place. Then there’s another 20 minutes or so of setting up the big heist that’s central to the plot and putting the team together and everyone’s stake in the mission being for progressively smaller amounts of money (which is understated and honestly kind of hilarious) and we’re off to the races.

There’s a zombie tiger and a zombie horse, but apparently there were no other nonhuman mammals anywhere in Vegas during the zombie apocalypse. The zombie tiger is kinda cool. And most of the time when shooting zombies is happening, it’s pretty cool.

That’s … about it, as far as stuff that I liked.

My first problem, and this one can be laid directly at Snyder’s feet: this entire damn movie looks like it was shot on an iPhone with portrait mode turned on. At any given time half of the screen is wildly out of focus– not just at a “look at this part of the screen” sort of way, but wildly and ridiculously out of focus, and Snyder is constantly trying to raise tension by keeping even the thing the camera is pointed at blurry as shit until he wants to reveal it. It’s obnoxious as hell and it never stops. There’s basically a bokeh effect laid over the entire damn movie, and it sucks. It absolutely sucks. So right away Snyder is guilty of making directorial choices that come very close to making every frame of the film annoying.

One of the more unique details about the way this movie handles its zombies is that it breaks them into, basically, two separate races. The king zombie (whose name is apparently, I shit thee not, Zeus, a word that is never spoken in the film, which is good because it’s dumb) is presented as practically invulnerable in the initial parts of the film (and will later don a metal, completely bulletproof helmet) (and more on this later) and is fast and reasonably smart, although he can’t talk. He has a queen zombie. Any zombies he creates personally are also faster and smarter although they appear to die just as easily as anyone else, and it’s implied that any zombies those zombies, called Alphas, create is your typical undead shambler.

Queen Zombie gets her head cut off partway through the movie and her death is used as a motivation for King Zombie, as is the death of her– wait for it– unborn zombie child, who he actually claws out of her womb. Let that one roll around in your head a bit. When you toss in the fact that Dave Bautista’s character is also motivated by having had to kill his zombified wife this means that two different women got fridged to motivate the men.

So, yeah, long story short: Dave Bautista is the emotional center of the film.

Dave fucking Bautista is the emotional center of the film.

Just, again, let that roll around.

(Wait. Shit. This happens three times, because there is a scene toward the end where one of the women members of the team Declares her Love for Dave Bautista, and When We Get Out of This Let’s Make Babies, and then immediately afterwards King Zombie shows up and breaks her neck. Immediately afterwards. So there are three women in this movie who are killed as character development for the men.)

(Wait! No! It’s even worse than that! Later, two other women will basically kill themselves— one right after the other— so that Dave Bautista can live. So that’s five. Holy shit, movie!)

There was apparently a controversy where one of the actors in the movie was revealed to be a rapey dickhead, and he was basically edited out of the movie and digitally replaced by a whole different actress? And my wife told me about this going in, so I’m not sure how distracting this would have been or if I’d have noticed it if I hadn’t known that, but once you realize that there are no other actors in probably 90% of the shots with the replacement actress in them, it becomes hilarious very quickly.

There’s this whole subplot where there are zombie refugee camps, which are … something about quarantine, and lots of temperature checks, but any time anybody turns it happens immediately, so this is kind of incoherent– but anyway, this woman leaves her kids behind to go … explore the ruins of Vegas, to try and steal shit, and she gets led in by someone they honest-to-God call a Coyote, and then abandoned in there? And Dave Bautista’s estranged daughter insists on going in there to find her, because Dave Bautista’s daughter is so unable to face the idea of having to either abandon or raise this woman’s apparently really shitty kids that she insists on risking her own life to find her. She actually emotionally blackmails her dad into bringing her (untrained, useless) ass along so that she can risk everyone else’s lives by insisting on finding this one person in this entire enormous city full of hotels so that she doesn’t have to deal with her kids.

At the end of the movie, they find the woman alive, because of course they do, and Bautista and his daughter and this woman board a helicopter to evacuate the city before the nuke hits, and other than two brief shots of her looking out of the window this lady is never mentioned again and never gets a word of dialogue. The helicopter crashes, because that’s what happens when you detonate a nuke near a helicopter, and apparently she dies in the crash, because Bautista’s daughter is utterly unconcerned about finding her afterwards and we never see a body. It’s as if the screenwriters completely forgot about her.

This also means that the daughter’s insane rescue plan (“I’ll make my dad take me into the super dangerous place to find the needle in the haystack, then run away, and then we’ll all die!”) was not only for nothing, because this woman died, which would have happened anyway, but the movie didn’t think it was important enough to make it explicit what happened to her, or ever mention her apparently-terrible kids again.

King Zombie is invulnerable at the beginning of the film, shrugging off an awful lot of close-range machine-gunnery. At the end of the film, when it is necessary for him to die so the movie can end, he is dispatched with a single pistol shot.

You find out there’s a double-cross at the end of the movie, and instead of wanting 200 million dollars the Mysterious Rich Benefactor actually wanted this other thing, but the problem with that is there wasn’t any need to lie about it. If you think you can make unlimited money from This Thing and you’re a Mysterious Rich Benefactor, then just offer a million bucks per Thing You Want and set the team loose, maybe also pointing out that hey, there’s $200 million in this vault if you want to try and get that too, and then it’s the same movie but it’s less dumb.

And I can hear some of y’all, and your point that hey, it’s a zombie movie, it doesn’t have to be smart is heard and understood, but you also don’t have to make movies deliberately stupid! Sometimes I reflect on how much movies cost and how many people are needed to work on them, and the fact that we still have movies this stupid is kind of amazing. Most of the time, making a movie smart instead of stupid isn’t even more expensive! Just, like, think about your plot for a second during the early stages, and … like, adjust things, to be less dumb.

I promise this is possible. I promise it. But making a stupid movie is a choice– no movie is accidentally stupid– and that choice means I get to criticize you for it, especially when being less stupid wouldn’t have been harder.

(EDIT: Well, that’s hilarious. WordPress’ link robots appear to have decided this post is about feminism.)

#REVIEW: Mortal Kombat (2021)

This is another one of those movies where reviews are probably entirely unnecessary, but whatever. Our most current re-up of HBO Max was basically done for this movie and for Godzilla Vs. Kong, and we haven’t watched Godzilla: King of the Monsters yet, so we’ll probably get that one done before I cancel it again. I was kind of surprised at how much I’ve been looking forward to seeing this; I’m not the biggest Mortal Kombat fan out there by any stretch of the imagination, although I have lots of good memories of the first two games. Scorpion was my main in the first game, as he had the easiest special moves to pull off, and I was all about Baraka in the second game, although I could play anybody in a pinch. The first movie was on IU’s movie channel all the time so I watched the hell out of it, and I don’t think I’ve seen whatever sequels there were for it– I think there was at least one, and there might have been a couple.

Anyway, this movie needed to do two things: it needed to look good, and there needed to be good fight choreography. That’s basically it! I get those two things out of a movie called Mortal Kombat, and I’m gonna be happy with it. And I was! There was something weird going on with the backgrounds in some of the scenes, as if the green screening came in a little bit too fuzzy or something, and there was almost a soap opera thing going on at the beginning that makes me wonder what the frame rate was, but in general the effects were good, especially when some of the more outlandish characters like Goro showed up.

And the fight choreography? Chef’s kiss. I have no complaints at all. It’s well-shot, even the fights in darkest areas you can always see who everyone is and what they’re doing, and the movie has a great sense of space and pacing whenever two people are fighting. The two standout fights are not surprising: between Goro and Lewis Tan’s Cole, a character who hasn’t actually appeared in any of the games, and between Sub-Zero and Scorpion. But it’s all solid, and the nods here and there to actual game moves and lines are cheesy but it works. The acting in this movie only had to not be ridiculous; the story, seeing as how it’s kinda stuck with the idea of Mortal Kombat, is only as ridiculous as it has to be and not a whole lot more. I mean, the story and the lore of this series has kind of disappeared up its own ass over the years, and you need to remember that the entire central conflict of the whole umpteen-game series stems from the decision to palette-swap one of the original characters. Everything in Mortal Kombat had to be kool (shut up, I kan’t not do that) before it had to make sense, and the movie more or less feels the same way.

The acting and the plot isn’t getting in the way of the fighting and the costumes and the monsters, is what I’m saying here. And Kano is an absolute Goddamn delight. I want a Kano movie. And I want to go back in time and refilm the entirety of Iron Fist with Lewis Tan as Danny Rand. I wouldn’t risk covid to see this in a theater under any circumstances, but this is pretty much exactly why streaming media exists.

#REVIEW: Godzilla Vs. Kong

Let’s be real, here: this movie is as review-proof as a movie can be. You already knew when you saw the words Godzilla Vs. Kong whether this was going to be a movie you were going to want to see, and no amount of bad reviews can talk someone who wants to see a movie called Godzilla Vs. Kong out of seeing a movie called Godzilla Vs. Kong.

The only meaningful criticisms that can be made of a giant monster punching other giant monster movie is to compare it to other giant monster punching other giant monster movies. You gotta compare it to its competition, y’know? So, for what it’s worth: I’ve seen Pacific Rim and Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island. although Godzilla: King of the Monsters or whatever it was called has thus far escaped my attention. I disliked Pacific Rim quite a bit and enjoyed Godzilla and Skull Island, although I don’t seem to have reviewed the latter. Godzilla vs. Kong is not as good as either of the two previous entries, unfortunately, although the jury’s still out on whether it’s better than Pacific Rim.

And the funny thing is that where GvK falls down is more or less exactly the same place where Pacific Rim falls down: that this movie has injected additional stupid where stupid was not necessary. Stupid is a choice, people! Every single second and every single object on-screen in a movie like this was on purpose; they did not have to do a single thing, so anytime something is blatantly stupid it’s either because they decided they wanted it that way or they didn’t notice, which is worse. Now, it’s possible that a big chunk of the stupid in GvK is King of the Monsters‘ fault, but all that does is push the dumb back a generation; it doesn’t excuse it. Whoever was responsible for the phrase gravitational inversion being in this movie should be flogged. I can ignore the fact that scientifically speaking both Godzilla and Kong are literally too big to exist on land because giant monsters are cool. They add something to the movie. You could snip the entire idiotic hollow Earth plot completely out of this movie and absolutely nothing of value would be lost except for runtime. It was only included to make the movie longer and stupider and, I suppose, to give Kong his magic axe.

King fucking Kong does not need a magic goddamned axe. You know what would be cooler than King Kong carrying a magic axe? King Kong snapping a skyscraper off at the base and whacking Godzilla in the face with it. Would it be scientifically accurate? Of course not. Would it be cool? Yes. And the axe is kind of cool but it is the only thing about the detour into the hollow Earth that eats up the entire first 2/3 of the movie that actually, like, matters. Other than that it’s all wasted time, and worse, wasted time that adds extra stupid and extra questions– like, for example, exactly how did you get the 60,000-ton gorilla onto that aircraft carrier? You sedated him, you say? With fucking what? And after he wakes up and has a deeply unfair battle with Godzilla where Godzilla is breaking other aircraft carriers like they’re made of popsicle sticks but somehow neglects to break Kong‘s aircraft carrier like it’s made of popsicle sticks, how did you manage to re-sedate him to get him into that net that you carry him — I am not joking– to Antarctica in?

The movie spends thirty minutes on gravitational inversion, a concept so stupid that I refuse to get into the details of its role in the movie because it hurts me, but does not explain how they got a 350-foot-tall unconscious gorilla into a net. Nor does it explain how they rendered said 350-foot-tall gorilla unconscious in the first place. Or the second.

And there is just not enough punching to make up for all of these decisions to add stupid into the movie. They could have written around all of this stuff. None of it had to be there. But dozens of people woke up every day while they were working on this and chose stupid over exciting, and I have to report it that way.

(You may be wondering who won. Don’t worry, this is not a spoiler review, but let me simply say that one entity definitely loses. Other aspects may be up for debate. That’s all I’m saying.)

#REVIEW: Wonder Woman 1984

I LiveTweeted my way through this last night– I’m going to say a lot of the same things in the review so I’m not going to include them, but feel free to go look— and it takes a certain type of movie for me to do that for: the movie must be either entertaining and kind of dumb, or I have to hate it. And Wonder Woman 1984 has been receiving some seriously mixed reviews, so I had a little bit of worry going into this– the original Wonder Woman is still easily my favorite DC movie since Christopher Reeve was playing Superman, and I was worried they’d fucked it all up.

Spoiler alert: they did not, in fact, fuck it all up.

I mean, there’s some fuckery afoot, don’t get me wrong. But they did not fuck it all up.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here: while Wonder Woman 1984 never gets close to the heights of gloriously dumb that Aquaman reached, there is nonetheless quite a bit of glorious dumb in this movie, and really it has a lot more tonally in common with Aquaman than it does with the first Wonder Woman movie. That said, heart goes a long way with me, and this movie has heart to spare, and I am officially elevating Patty Jenkins to the best superhero-movie director working today, because once again she has demonstrated that she remembers her main character is a superhero and there are a number of places in this movie where crazy shit like saving people and– wait for it, this will startle you– stopping crime is Wonder Woman’s priority.

This is, in a lot of ways, a yeah, but type of movie, where everything that is wrong with it also leads to at least one thing that is good about it, and so ultimately your takeaway from it will depend on whether the bad things annoy you more than the good things made you happy. Some examples? Sure!

Steve Trevor did not belong in this movie! Yeah, but that scene with the flying, and the other scene with the flying, and the way he leaves the movie?

Pedro Pascal is about twelve times as much actor as this role needed, and spent most of the film blissfully gobbling up scenery! Yeah, but he sells the hell out of the last fifteen minutes of the movie, and when was the last time you saw a movie where the villain was defeated by reminding him that he loves his son?

Hey, did you hear that this movie was set in 1984? Because it’s totally set in 1984! Yeah, but … okay, they leaned into that one a little harder than they really needed to.

I don’t understand why movie people can write a film set in the 1930s or for that matter the freaking 840s without pounding you over the head that their movie is a period piece, but every movie set in a decade I remember has to constantly beat you over the head with time period references.

There’s a couple of exceptions, of course: Kristen Wiig didn’t really have a lot to do, and should have had her own movie. There are bits and pieces of her performance that I really liked, but her character bounces off of Steve Trevor in a really weird way (it is obvious, to the point where it could not have been an accident, that Barbara Minerva and Diana Prince have a hell of a lot of chemistry together, in a way that Diana and Trevor really don’t) and I felt like she deserved a stronger arc than she got, particularly at the end of the movie. And a lot of people really seem to have enjoyed the bit at the beginning of the film set on Themiscyra; I am not among them. They should have used that time to give us more of an indication of what Diana has actually been doing with herself other than spending 70 years pining over the first dude she’d ever met, who she knew for a week.

(I knew intellectually that there was no way they’d do this, but there was a bit in the film where I felt like Steve Trevor was about to remind Diana that they’d only known each other for a week, and whoa, lady, let’s pump the brakes here on the eternal love thing just a lil’ bit.)

(Trevor’s entire thing in this movie, from start to finish, is kind of a problem, but it’s a problem that’s mostly outside the movie, if that makes any sense.)

So, yeah: I have some gripes. I loved Wonder Woman, and I wanted to love this movie, and I didn’t. But it’s not a bad movie; it’s a solid B or B+ type of film, for me, mostly on the strength of Gadot’s performance and Jenkins’ story decisions. The DC Murderverse films’ biggest flaw is that they forget who their characters are, and they have a thing called the Justice League that has no concern with “justice” as a concept whatsoever and that the characters they’ve written would never have named their organization in the first place. Wonder Woman 1984 remains defiantly outside the Murderverse, out there with Shazam! and Aquaman and making fun of the Supr Srs murples and throwing popcorn at them. Go ahead and pay the $14.95 to join HBO Max for a month; you’d have paid more than that to see this in theaters anyway and it’s well worth that amount of money and an evening of your time.