Quick Hit: SO MANY FISH PEOPLE.
I was extremely wary of this film. Despite loving the majority of James Wan’s work, taking Aquaman and making him BA and also making him “Bro-man” was a bit of a risk. I wasn’t sure that all of it would pay off, but as Patrick Wilson, Willem Dafoe and others continued to get involved, I couldn’t help but be a bit anxious that it had a chance to actually…be… good. And you know what? It was! Aquaman was wildly entertaining, led first and foremost by Jason Momoa. But it’s Wan’s strong directing that brings it forward as we ping-pong throughout the film and the stakes and the set-pieces get larger and larger and larger.
And I’m absolutely not kidding. There’s so much going on. Fish people (literally, not just humans that breath underwater), crab people, giant mythological creatures, and a sequence that could literally be out of one of Wan’s horror films that features creatures that remind me a bit of something I would see in The Upside down in Stranger Things. The design of these creatures is fantastic and is at times gives feelings reminiscent of watching Lord of the Rings for the first time when you got to see the Orcs and the Uruk Hai. And of course, there are people riding freaking sharks and seahorses and other things.
That’s one of the first points that I want to make about Aquaman. If it’s not clear, this movie is a bit like a fantasy epic. There’s a quest for a mythical item that will help the hero succeed in his quest, but throughout the whole film, he is learning that he is good enough despite being a child of two races. He has a strained relationship with his brother due to his half-blood nature, and he is eventually confronted by a beast that is straight out of mythology in the Kraken. If you dive into the film and look at what’s in it, it could essentially be a retelling of a Tolkien story or a Greek or Roman myth. To do that in a modern blockbuster and still make it feel new is impressive.
I’m also totally in and sold on Bromoa and the whole surrounding cast. I thought the weakest part (as in most films about super-powered beings) was the villain development. I think the development of Manta was a bit slow (I understand he was being set-up primarily for sequels, but why have him be such a big part in this one then?), and Orm/Ocean Master is one of those that without Patrick Wilson’s ALL-IN dedication, he would have just been a cliché. As it is, Wilson totally sells it, and if you haven’t watched a clip of him yelling repeatedly, I’d highly recommend it.
I also thought they did a great job at selling the slow reluctant love story between Mera (Amber Heard) and Arthur. Amber Heard is enough that she totally put Bromoa in her place several times, and the whole thing definitely reminding me of Khaleesi in Game of Thrones. She’s a strong woman, and Wan gives her plenty to do – she’s not just a red-headed arm piece. Indeed, without her, Arthur never would have been able to complete his quest. The chemistry between Heard and Momoa wavers at times, but never gets distracting. As the film goes, they get stronger, but they never approach the easy going chemistry that Nicole Kidman and Temuera Morrison manage to have from the get-go. Their love story is truly one of the best, even if it is also very reminiscent of something you’d see in, say Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
Speaking of Kidman – she’s a boss in this as well – and she gets to have a freaking Center of the Earth type sequence. She doesn’t get quite enough to do in the latter half of the film, but she’s great anytime she’s there.
I could type on this film however long I want – if anyone wants more information on my thoughts, let me know. Until then, I’m going to end it with this – Aquaman is fiercely entertaining in all the best ways. I’m going to give this absolutely bonkers fest a “B+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: This Die Hard knock-off isn’t worth the dad jokes and love obsession with Duct Tape.
I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea of this movie when I heard it was coming out, and I wasn’t thrilled when I sat down to watch it either. However, I will admit that Dwayne Johnson remains infinitely watchable in about every role that he is in (and there’s a lot of them). Unlike something like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle though, there just isn’t a lot around him to make the movie worthwhile.
After a cold open that finds Johnson experiencing a trauma that loses him his leg, we flash forward to when he is finalizing a deal with a firm as their security consultant. It’s a big gig for him, and he’s nervous, but his family has come with him to help keep him calm. Unfortunately, they end up staying in the tower and SURPRISE! There’s terrorists that have a vague subplot that involves incriminating information that is only in a rich guy’s vault (said rich guy owns the tower). This means that Dwayne has to leap (literally) into action in order to save his family.
There are few times where the movie strives for any type of originality. It feels as generic of an action film as is possible, with almost nothing to distinguish it from movies like The Towering Inferno and Die Hard that came before it. In fact, the plot feels so similar to Die Hard that at times I wonder if they just took away one of Johnson’s legs in order to differentiate the movies. I will say this – that movie is better in almost every way.
One of the ways that Skyscraper does succeed is with its vertical shots. There’s a LOT of them, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber makes the most of them. Some of the shots are absolutely dizzying, and induce fierce vertigo in others. It’s therefore a bit sad when he starts to rely on some standard fun house mirrors in order to have a finale. I would have much preferred the movie to continue to focus on Johnson’s wife, who is played by the terrific Neve Campbell. She doesn’t disappoint, going much further than her initial moments in the movie set her up for. Nothing against Johnson’s performance (which was his standard fare – with a bit more seriousness than we’ve had recently from him outside of maybe Rampage) but Campbell made this easier to stomach.
In total, I really don’t have a lot to say about this. It could definitely have been better and more original. I’m giving it a “D+”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
Quick Hit: Paint by numbers, but the charismatic cast still makes it fun.
The original Oceans were films crafted to reflect the charisma of George Clooney and others of his gang. But Steven Soderbergh gave life to the films by allowing everything to zip. He made an exciting set of heists that used all the stars to their greatest effect, and gave us quick reflections on what the characters were like. But the heists were also extremely exciting affairs where you learned all manner of things that needed to happen as the heist was occurring.
The best thing I can say about Ocean’s Eight is that it valiantly tries to copy this formula, and for the most part succeeds. However, it’s a bit like looking in your reflection in a pond – you’re there, but there’s quite a few ripples to change your appearance.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) has just been released from jail. She’s done nothing but think up a new plan and think about framing the man who got her into jail for five years. Once out, she immediately meets up with Lou, her fiercely banged friend (Cate Blanchett) and discusses her plan – she wants to steal the Toussaint – a 150 million dollar necklace. And she wants to take it right off the neck of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) – socialite of the moment. How does she plan to do that? Well first she needs to fill out her crew, and then the game is afoot and you’ll find out!
The movie is pretty standard, and there is absolutely no suspense involved. You know what’s happening almost from the start, and there is no way these ladies will fail their mission. And in some sense, that’s ok – I enjoy a good popcorn thriller every once in a while. But when you’re used to seeing Bullock and Blanchett take on some much heavier roles, it’s a bit of a disappointment to see them not get to really use it. Even their comedy skills, well-developed, not really get a chance to shine outside of the opening minutes of the film.
If there is a star that shines brightest here, it’s Hathaway as Kluger. It’s a fallback role to some of her younger roles like Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries, and it’s so much fun to watch her sink into Kluger as a disgustingly perfect and yet flawed person. It’s a really fun role, and she consistently steals the screen away from her contemporaries – as would Ms. Kluger, I imagine.
However, the movie is very entertaining. Each woman finds her niche and sticks to it. Even if they don’t have much personality – a lot of the characters in the original movies were only defined by their roles, so those expecting something different here should be ashamed. In some ways, the women mesh much more than the men ever did, and the release of the film coinciding with the #MeToo movement means that there’s so much behind this movie that you can’t see. I applaud the women for doing the film.
I enjoyed it, but it’s not going to be winning any awards. I’m giving this one a “B-“.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"