It wasn’t my idea to rent The Secret Life of Pets.
My wife, on a whim, brought it home from a Redbox — she had a coupon for a free movie — and since we don’t watch too many movies together anymore because of our busy schedules, I made it a priority to sit down and be in front of the television while it played.
The trailers for the movie seemed uninspired, filled with tired jokes and boring sight gags. The premise — going behind the veil to see what our pets really do when we’re away — only a hair or two from Toy Story. I planned on doing other things while the movie played.
But let me tell you, I was in for a treat — The Secret Life of Pets isn’t half-bad or slightly bad. It’s actually pretty good — especially if you’re owned by a pet or two.
Everything that is wrong with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be summed up in one thing.
Well, there are a lot of things wrong with Rogue One: paper-thin characters, a middling pace, a largely forgettable (and, within the mythos, unnecessary) plot.
But the tank – the TX-225w “Occupier” combat assault tank, as Wookiepedia tells me – is the perfect vehicle to address Rogue One’s fundamental problem: a superficial guise and muddled tone.
Because while the film purports to be a gritty war drama – tanks! firefights! no Jedi! – it never fully divorces itself from the character of the rest of the series.
And that has serious repercussions.
Star Wars – despite a misleading title – has never really been about warfare. In the series, wars merely act as backdrop and motivation for the melodramatic blood feuds of space wizards: a former slave is seduced by dark magic and rebels against his mentor (the Prequels); a farmboy learns magic to defeat his fallen father (the Original Trilogy); an orphan scavenger discovers magic and proceeds to beat up some goth kid (The Force Awakens).
The climax of these films usually feature a battle of some kind, yes, but it is the emotionally-charged contest between individuals that form their central focus: Luke vs. Vader (the battle of Yavin), Luke vs. Vader (the occupation of Bespin), Luke vs. Vader vs. Palpatine (the battle of Endor), etc.
Before Disney felt it needed to add A Star Wars Story to the title — you know, for all the uninitiated viewers who needed a green light to go buy a ticket — it was just Rogue One, the first of what could be an avalanche of anthology movies set to release as Disney begins its plans to release at least one SW movie per year from here on out.
Apart from the three new episodes, these standalone movies — the next one is a young Han Solo movie for 2018 starring Alden Ehrenreich as Han and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian — can be viewed either as boons or boondoggles. They are at once many things and nothing — a wasteful cashgrab to extreme purists, an insult to committed followers of the expanded universe, and/or a welcome addition to the family by pretty much everybody else with an open mind.
For the casual fan wondering what the fuss is, Rogue One isn’t a major episode, and Luke Skywalker is nowhere to be found. It does have Darth Vader, and several other cameos, but the focus is on a set of characters who have never been mentioned by name before, and — for all intents and purposes — may never be mentioned in any new movie ever. (Notice I put down “new.”)
So if you have no desire to watch this, but you’re still excited about the Force Awakens and the next two episodes, you won’t miss out on anything critical — though it will ease some of your doubts about the convenient way the plot sort of connects itself. And if you’re partial to the prequels — meesa thinking some of you are — it won’t really change how you feel about those movies.
It will, however, have a profound effect on fans of the original Star Wars movie, the one simply titled Star Wars at its release — it didn’t get the Episode IV or A New Hope subtitle until 1978 or 1981, depending on which source you trust.
At last, the release of Suicide Squad — the movie at the top of my must-see list for 2016.
The first trailer previewed a rogues gallery of misfits — awesome and not — who become forced into some good ol’ fashioned do-goodery. The preview had a bit of humor, our first look at Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and a shot of Batman hanging from the roof of a speeding getaway car.
The latest trailers gave us more of the same, but it was the delivery — they played like the best fan-made music videos. A helicopter launching flares as Brian May goes into full swing for his guitar solo in Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or Sweet’s high-charged Ballroom Blitz in step with shots of pure kinetic energy.
Unfortunately, we’ve come into a golden age of trailers, where companies can cherry pick the best visuals, break open the plot, and piece together a TLDR version that can make a bad movie look good.
Somehow, people were tricked into seeing Fantastic Four — and half of the scenes in the trailer weren’t even in the movie!
On the strength of its casting, premise and top notch trailers — rumor has it, the final cut of the movie was completed by Trailer Park, the company that created the previews — Suicide Squad topped even Rogue One on the “Want to See” list, but no amount of editing could save a movie with a circular kind of logic that is a means and end to itself in all of the worst ways.
After Days of Future Past effectively rebooted the entire series by rewriting the future, the series comes full circle by bringing back a bunch of familiar superpowers in teenage form — Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Storm.
X-Men: Apocalypse trailers begged answers for the questions: Who will join the mutant megalomaniac En Sabah Nur? Who will fight to stop him?
After seeing the movie, I’m prepared to answer those questions with another: Who cares?
X-Men: Apocalypse contains everything terrible about the X-Men movies, turns all of the good into a routine exercise, and spins its way to an anti-climactic finish for the second worst entry in the entire franchise.
Talk about being a shell of its former self — you would think Bryan Singer had hit his stride after releasing back to back critical darlings X-Men: First Class and the aforementioned DoFP.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was supposed to compete directly with Captain America: Civil War by releasing on the same day, but Warner Bros. decided — wisely — that more money was to be made without forcing audiences to choose between two huge tentpoles.
But both studios knew their movies would be compared ad nauseum — each containing a similar premise where its lead titans would wage war against each other. DC, owning the most famous and more established comic book properties in Superman and Batman, still had a bit more of an uphill climb gearing up for its cinematic universe while Marvel looked forward to continuing its runoff to a climactic Infinity War one-two punch that begins in 2018 — ten years after Iron Man kicked off Phase One.
And it’s clear, after having seen Civil War, that my preference is Marvel’s movie. Not that I have to choose — one can be a fan of both comic movies and companies just like one can be a fan of Warner Bros., Universal Studios, and 20th Century Fox. I love both Guardians of the Galaxy and The Dark Knight without feeling the need to draw lines from one to the other.
Batman and Superman go toe to toe in an epic match-up that Marvel wished they had the property rights to.
Superman — the all-American superhero who stands for truth, justice, and the American way. The adopted son from Krypton, raised in Kansas, working under the alias of Clark Kent for the fourth estate. So noble.
And the Bat of Gotham — years removed from his best days. Down a sidekick and more cruel than his butler Alfred could even imagine, the Bat has lost a step because he can only manage to hide awkwardly in corners instead of disappear abruptly in the middle of conversations whenever someone turns their back. When he’s not torturing and branding criminals with a bat symbol that’s a death sentence to those who enter prison, Batman chains cars to his Batmobile and goes cruising.
I’ve wrestled with doing a review all day, and I only now could get myself to do one now that I have finally admitted to myself that Batman v Superman is a flawed movie. A terribly flawed movie.
I had some snarky title ideas in case Deadpool was terrible.
Dead Weight. Hur hur. Dead On Arrival. Dead In the Water. Brain Dead.
None of those apply, fortunately. Though a bit rough on the edges, Deadpool still has a lot of bite and a whole lot of bark.
If you’ve seen the commercials as many times I have, you basically have the gist of the entire movie. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) finds out he has cancer and signs up for an experimental treatment that will not only heal him — it will give him superpowers.
That might sound like something too good to be true, and it is — while the treatment does involve a bit of torture to force Wilson’s mutant genes to activate, it leaves him looking hideous. To make matters even worse, the shady basement clinic plans to enslave Wilson and sell him to the highest bidder in need of a superpowered soldier.
Wilson escapes and exacts revenge with the help of two X-Men, his blind roommate, and his bartender best friend. Wanting to be cured of his grotesque visage, Deadpool hunts the mad scientist responsible.
Mad Max: Fury Road is about as literal a title as you can get.
The movie’s high-octane pace races angrily through the barren wasteland of a post-apocalyptic future with a sort of visceral and kinetic energy that will leave you either breathless or hyped up like you’re on an energy drink laced with gasoline.
It takes an inspired — maniacal, even — effort to make a movie this brazen with raw emotion, and it makes you wonder why movie theaters don’t have space up front for a mosh pit.