Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman

“Permission to come aboard?”

For the most part, the casting choices in the DCU films have been good (even Ben Affleck as Batman was not a total loss). That is still the case for Jason Mamoa as Aquaman, which is really the only true positive thing to say about the movie. He does make a splash, but the script is down right soggy.

The film does open with an origin story (which is fair, since it is not as well-known as those of Batman or Superman). We see how Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), a lighthouse worker, finds a wounded woman named Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) on the shores. He heals her, they fall in love, and have Arthur. Eventually, Atlanna must return to Atlantis to stop the onslaught on Tom and Arthur after having run away from her marriage to King Nereus (Dolph Lundgren).

Fast forward to present day, and we see a grown up Arthur being visited by Mera (Amber Heard). Turns out that the new heir is Arthur’s half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson), who wants to rage war on humans above (you know, for all the stuff we have done to the ocean in the past). One of the kingdom’s long time subjects (and Arthur’s former teacher) Vulko (a nicely cast Willem Dafoe) works behind Orm’s back to prevent such a war from occurring. For Arthur to succeed, he must find the long-lost trident that would prove his worth. There is also the subplot of Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), out for revenge on Aquaman after an event at the start of the film.

There are some rather wonderful underground imagery here, but it would be even better if the script had not been so ridiculously predictable. The movie is basically if Thor (or even Black Panther) had lived underwater (claiming a birthright, evil family member villain, etc) . All the fights were nice to look at, but no points in knowing the outcome: you can see it the moment they announce it. By the end, we do get another CGI battle that seems almost off the shelf.

It should also come as no surprise that superhero flicks need a good villain, and the DCU has not been the best at that (though Michael Shannon was good as General Zod and Margot Robbie was really effective as Harley Quinn). Sadly, Patrick Wilson does not measure up, and his villain is nothing short of forgettable.

Parents, the movie should be fine for kids (some swearing and action/violence, but nothing they have not seen in superhero flick before). Middle School and up.

In a year that gave us Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the best was clearly not saved for last (despite some moments I liked, especially where Arthur got his idea of how to use a whale for escape). Still, rather than giving us a breath of fresh air, Aquaman leaves us gasping for it.

 

Overall: Two Stars **

Teen Titans GO! To the Movies (2018)

Teen Titans Go to the movies

The Teen Titans won’t be the only ones surprised at their first movie…

There are a lot of fans of the original Teen Titans TV show that are adamant haters of the show Teen Titans GO. I mean true haters. The first show came on the air just a few years after I was done with cartoons, but managed to see a few shows thanks to my little brother. When Teen Titans Go came out, the legion of die-hard fans became die hard haters. The show did not give life lessons as before, but it did give lots of humor for adults as well as kids. Enter Teen Titans Go! To the Movie, one of the years most surprising (and hilarious) films.

Sick of not being noticed, the Titan’s leader Robin (voice of Scott Menville) is determined to have a movie made about him (with or without the titans). It is this conundrum that is the basis of the film, but the side adventures of Robin, Cyborg (Khary Payton), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), and Raven (Tara Strong) that bring the best parts out, very few of which I will mention (even poking fun at Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice). All that is to say is that kids may be confused why their parents are laughing harder than they are at times.

Others who lend their vocal talents include Will Arnett (also one of the producers) as the team’s nemesis Slade (“SLAAAADE!”), Kristen Bell as film director Jade Wilson, Nicholas Cage as Superman, and great minor comic roles for (minor spoiler) Michael Bolton and Stan Lee.

Parents, there are some movies that you drop your kids off at the theater and pick them up at later. Don’t do it here. See it with them. It will be worth it (and yes, all ages are okay).

There are times when the action (which does look good for the type of animation  being used) does go on a bit too long, and the last act does drag on a bit. Still, this is one of those comedies that will require multiple viewings in order to find all the jokes and “Easter eggs”.

Meaning I have at least ten or more viewings to attend, which I would gladly do.

Overall: Four Stars

****

Justice League (2017)

Justice League

Dude, let’s get the band back together!

I had many a doubt going into Justice League.

After all, it is the last superhero movie of 2017, a year that had not really disappointed at all in the genre. It also did not help to see the bad score the film has going for it on rotten tomatoes.

In the end, I liked the film, but barely.

We begin right after the death of Henry Cavill’s Superman (who, lets face it, we know is in this movie, because it would be pointless to not have the world’s numero uno superhero present). Batman (Ben Affleck, who still does a good job in the role) is recruiting certain people with “special abilities”. His first is Diana (aka Wonder Woman, though she is still never called that), still played to perfection by Gal Gadot. From there they try to convince The Flash (a very well cast Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa, who I admit took a little time to get used to), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher).

The threat comes in the form of Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), a God-like being set to collect three cubes that will help him destroy the world. They are spread out: one with the Amazons, one in Atlantis, and the other on Earth. It is not too hard to follow the plot, but here is where I should mention the film’s biggest flaw by far: Steppenwolf. He is one of the least memorable, most boring, and blandest villains we have had in a superhero movie (at least compared to those of the last decade). I understand any villain would have to battle against some of the biggest names in comics in this film, but can he (or she) be at least a little interesting? He is like Ultron (from the second Avengers film), but without any humor, charm, character, or a sense of threat.

Parents, if your kids have seen any film from the DC universe, they are fine here. There is action, mild violence, and some swearing. Ten and above would be fine.

Is this film better than Batman v. Superman? Heck yes. Wonder Woman? Heck no. Still, I am getting a sense that DC is starting to get their footing right when it comes to making movies. They still have a way to go (and are still behind Marvel, in my  opinion), but at least they are on the right track.

Boo-yah.

 

Overall: Three Stars ***

Wonder Woman (2017)

Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot stars as Wonder Woman, sweeping in to save not only the day, but the DC universe as well..

Perhaps the best way to describe Wonder Woman is to remember her grand entrance toward the end of last year’s disappointing Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Superman (Henry Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck) had finished fighting each other, and were about to be obliterated by Doomsday until Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) swoops in to save the day. Like that scene, the film Wonder Woman has finally given a good movie to let the DC Universe brag about.

Taking place long before the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman tells the story of Diana (Gal Gadot, who proves she is right for the part and not just because she looks like the character). She is raised by the Amazons, a group of women sworn to protect mankind. Her mother , the Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) does not wish to have her train like the others, but her Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) sees it differently and trains Diana. One day there is a stray pilot who crashes in the water and is saved by Diana. This is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, who is able to play second fiddle to Gadot and does a rather great job). He is a british spy who stole plans from the Germans as they are facing the end of the first World War. Diana is convinced it is the return of Ares, the God of War.

The average audience member goes to a superhero flick for the action sequences, and Wonder Woman does not disappoint on that front. Directed by Patty Jenkins (who helped get Charlize Theron an Oscar for her brilliant portrayal in 2003’s Monster), she does not rely on the fact that Wonder Woman is finally on-screen, but that there is a story behind it (and one that is, thankfully, not too hard to follow). Gadot lets us feel every inch of the situations her Diana is in (even if it involves trying on new clothes), and has great chemistry with Chris Pine (who, of course, is no stranger to action pics).

As for the villain, I will not reveal who it is, as it will ruin the surprise (though one of the evil German scientists is very menacingly played by Elena Anaya). I will say that when you find out about the main villain, it was something I personally did not see coming at all.

Parents, despite Wonder Woman wearing kind of revealing clothing (as well as the other Amazons), the only other form of sexual content is a scene where Steve and Diana are talking about the knowledge of sex (which does produce much humor). There is also a brief moment (again, played for laughs) where a male character is naked, covering his crotch. The violence is surprisingly light (I did not see any blood), and I am more than sure there was not a single curse word. Basically, Middle School and above (or if your kids saw any other DC or Marvel movie, they are ok).

The movie is not all great: there are times where the action scenes did drag on a bit (especially at the end). Still, it is very refreshing to know that DC has finally given the world a movie that can rank up with a lot of Marvel’s movies (and is better than a good amount of them).

When Diana is told that the world does not deserve her, I thought “Maybe not, but I am still glad she finally got the screen treatment. It is so worth it”.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad”

It took me a lot of thinking as to how I wanted to respond to Suicide Squad. Like most people, I am rather disappointed it did not live up to the hype. However, I did still find some good things in it as well.

For those who don’t know, Suicide Squad tells the story (not long after this year’s earlier disappointment that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) of a politician (of some kind) named Amanda Waller (the always talented Viola Davis). There is a situation that is far too complicated to explain, and would also be far to boring for you to read. All I will say is that it involves Enchantress, who takes over the body of June Moone (both played by Cara Delevingne).

Waller’s plan: gather up the worst bad guys and have them take care of the situation in exchange for shorter prison sentences. Roll Call: There is Deadshot (Will Smith, who, of course, is one of the last actors anyone would expect to play a bad guy), who never misses a shot. Harley Quinn (a wonderful Margot Robbie), who is only the second craziest character in the film, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who is, you know, a crocodile. Boomerang (Jai Courtney, who gives a performance not entirely unseen in other movies). Slipknot (Adam Beach, in one of the worst roles you could ask for), who is able to escape easily. Finally, there is Diablo (Jay Hernandez), with pyro power (and regret for previous actions). The first 10-20 minutes of the film provides you with more information than I have already said (and maybe more than we needed to know in the first place).

They are under the control of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who is also dating June Moone. Protecting him is Katana (Karen Fukuhara), whose Katana sword contains the souls of those it has vanquished.

I save the one character everyone was eager to see for last. That, of course, is The Joker, played by Oscar winner Jared Leto. Bottom line, while he does do a good job, he is not better than Heath Ledger’s immortal performance in The Dark Knight. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that Leto does not get as much screen time as we would like. I mean, in my opinion (and I doubt I am alone), when you have the greatest villian in comic book history, wouldn’t you want to see more of him?

It also does not help that the action is more of the same we have seen in other comic book films (slow motion action is really getting old to me).

Parents: The PG-13 rating is justified. There is swearing, some violence, action, and innuendo (Harley Quinn does wear some rather revealing clothing, and there is one scene in a night club. No stripping, however). High School and above.

All others in the movie do what they can. My favorite in the movie would go to Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, because she looks like she is undoubtably having the most fun. Will Smith (who at least did this and not Independence Day: Resurgence) is still possibly the most charming actor in movies today, so while he does a good job, it is still so hard to believe that he is playing a bad guy (though movie does try to remind us he has a heart because of his 11 year old daughter).

Still, as Hitchcock once said:

“To make a great film, you need three things-the script, the script, and the script.”

Overall: Two and a Half Stars ** 1/2