Here’s Jack Blogathon 2017: A Few Good Men

Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, is a huge fan of Jack Nicholson. To celebrate, she has invited bloggers to review as many Nicholson films as possible. A Few Good Men is my entry into her three-day celebration. Click on the banner below to head over to her site to see the rest of the blogathon entries for today.

A Few Good Men movie posterHere's Jack Blogathon 2017 BannerSynopsis
Navy defense attorney Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise), along with JoAnne Galloway (Demi Moore) and Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack), are assigned to prove that Harold Dawson (Wolfgang Bodison) and Louden Downey (James Marshall), two marines accused of murder, are innocent and were merely acting under orders.

Review
I will begin by saying courtroom dramas aren’t really my type of movie. I don’t find them very exciting and think more often than not they are fairly predicable. A Few Good Men is a perfect example of this. Story-wise, I didn’t feel invested in the case that the three attorneys were working on. And honestly, I didn’t care for Tom Cruise’s character, Daniel Kaffee. He is the skilled-but-arrogant character that Cruise played often earlier in his career but it doesn’t feel like he grows very much by the end of the film. His biggest step is actually taking the case instead of trying to make a deal and that happens fairly early. Which brings me to my next point: this movie feels too long. Although, that might be because I just wanted to get through the movie quicker since I wasn’t very interested.

The only thing that really kept me invested in this film was the cast. The main three, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and Kevin Pollak, had such great chemistry. Despite my lack of interest in Cruise’s character, I enjoyed his performance. He brought a lot of energy and emotion to the part. The same goes for Moore. Her performance was so emotionally driven that she made for a good counterpart to Cruise. The dialogue between Cruise, Moore, and Pollak felt very real and genuine. Kudos to Aaron Sorkin for writing such believable, and not too ridiculous banter, between the leads. Despite not being in the film for much time, Jack Nicholson is the standout of this movie. The final scene with Nicholson and Cruise battling it out in the courtroom was absolutely riveting and almost made up for the dullness of the rest of the film.

I thought A Few Good Men was OK 😐 My lack of interest in courtroom dramas aside, I found this to be somewhat enjoyable. Although I didn’t much care for Cruise’s character and felt it ran a little longer than necessary, the performances from all of the actors, especially from the main three and Jack Nicholson, kept my attention long enough to finish watching.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rob Reiner – Director
Aaron Sorkin – Writer
Marc Shaiman – Composer

Tom Cruise – Lt. Daniel Kaffee
Demi Moore – Lt. Cdr. JoAnne Galloway
Kevin Pollak – Lt. (J.G.) Sam Weinberg
Kevin Bacon – Capt. Jack Ross
Jack Nicholson – Col. Nathan R. Jessup
Kiefer Sutherland – 2nd Lt. Jonathan Kendrick
JT Walsh – Lt. Col. Matthew Andrew Markinson
Wolfgang Bodison – Lance Cpl. Harold W. Dawson
James Marshall – Pfc. Louden Downey
JA Preston – Judge Julius Alexander Randolph

Lightning Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Ghost in the Shell movie posterSynopsis
Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A perfect human / machine hybrid. However, she has no recollection of her past before becoming the weapon she is today. When she confronts a mysterious terrorist known as Kuze (Michael Carmen Pitt), she soon begins looking for answers about the truth of who she really is.

Review
Ghost in the Shell had the difficult task of luring in fans of both the original 1995 animated film and proceeding anime of the same name, as well as a new audience. Because I have yet to see the original film, I fall into the latter, but found myself right away getting drawn into the movie’s world. What hooked me in the beginning was its fantastic science-fiction neo-noir version of Tokyo. The bright colors from the advertisements, signs, cars, and lights create a stark contrast against the more muted-colored buildings. When it comes to sci-fi films, I like to be sold on the world it is looking to create. Almost every character has some sort of cybernetic enhancement and this movie shows how integral these enhancements have become in this world. Say what you will about Scarlett Johansson being cast as Major, she did a great job in the role. She made her movements rigid and less fluid than what you are used to seeing. This motion sold that she had a robotic body despite her appearance as flesh and blood.

As philosophical as this movie wanted to be, it never fully examined the themes it was trying to bring across. They were touched on and hinted at several times through the film but it still felt like the message or commentary it was trying to provide was not delved into as deeply as this movie thought it was. I think it is funny that this is the case because a lot of time was spent on exposition. However, it never seemed to move past a superficial level or into any deep exploration of its themes. This also made the movie feel like it was often not going anywhere because there wasn’t enough action to make up for the lack of depth. It’s a shame these ideas never found much ground because the concepts of artificial intelligence and identity are very interesting to me.

I thought Ghost in the Shell was OK 😐 Its futuristic neo-noir world is extremely well realized and Scarlett Johansson was great casting as Major but despite much of its run time is spent on exposition, the themes and commentary it was trying to bring across aren’t explored past high-level concepts. This movie isn’t bad by any means, but there are flickers of good ideas that never came to fruition to make it something special.

Trivia
Several original voice actors from the 1995 animated Ghost in the Shell reprise their roles for the Japanese dubbed version of this film. Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, and Koichi Yamadera voice their parts as Major, Batou, and Togusa respectively.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Rupert Sanders – Director
Jamie Moss – Screenplay
William Wheeler – Screenplay
Ehren Kruger – Screenplay
Lorne Balfe – Composer
Clint Mansell – Composer

Scarlett Johansson – Major
Pilou Asbaek – Batou
Takeshi Kitano – Aramaki
Juliette Binoche – Dr. Ouelet
Michael Carmen Pitt – Kuze
Chin Han – Togusa
Danusia Samal – Ladriya
Lasarus Ratuere – Ishikawa
Yutaka Izumihara – Saito
Tawanda Manyimo – Borma
Peter Ferdinando – Cutter
Anamaria Marinca – Dr. Dahlin

Your Name Review

Your Name movie posterSynopsis
Taki (Ryûnosuke Kamiki (voice)) and Mitsuha (Mone Kamishiraishi (voice)) find themselves mysteriously switching bodies at random. Eventually, they create a system to communicate with each other and be a part of each other’s lives. When they go in search of each other, they discover that they are separated by more than distance.

Review
I wasn’t expecting to go see Your Name during its limited US theatrical release but one of my best friends, and frequent movie buddy, had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted to go. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was going to be in theaters until he invited me along, nor was I familiar with Makoto Shinkai and his work. I’m really glad I had the chance to go watch Your Name in the theater because this has quickly become one of my favorite animes.

The first thing you’re sure to notice is the beautiful animation. And I mean absolutely stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Traditional 2D animation seems to be becoming less and less popular these days. However, films like Your Name show that there is still life in the medium. Every frame is drop-dead gorgeous and you can feel the commitment and love that went into making this movie look the way it does.

For some films, it can be difficult to balance drama with a sense of humor. Director and writer Makoto Shinkai makes it look easy. One pitfall of films that try to incorporate both drama and humor is that it becomes overly serious and the shift between the two can be jarring. It will be light and funny one moment then dark and sobering the next. Your Name, first and foremost, is a love story about Taki and Mitsuha but it never becomes melodramatic. Humor fits into the story without taking away from the core lover’s tale, nor does it feel forced or out of place.

What I really liked about Your Name‘s story was that as the audience, we don’t learn the full scope of the story until about halfway through the film. Bits and pieces are learned about Taki and Mitsuha and their interwoven fates but why it is difficult for them to meet up is not learned for some time into the movie. I think this works so well because it leaves some mystery about the two main characters despite learning so much about them through watching them interact with each other’s friends and family. I won’t give the why away but I will say that once you learn it, you will root that much more that they will find some way to connect with each other.

More than the animation, Your Name‘s biggest strength is its characters. As I said, for the first half of the film, a lot is learned about Taki and Mitsuha just by watching them inhabit each other’s bodies. The further in the movie went, the more I cared about them and wanted to see them get their happy ending. Like any love story, there are wrinkles but those difficulties just added to my fondness for the two. I can’t recall the last romantic movie, either animated or live action, that made me feel so strongly towards its lead couple.

I thought Your Name was GREAT 😀 From the get-go, it will grab your attention with its beautiful animation and lightheartedness. But as the story progresses, it will tug at year heartstrings with its intricate and alluring narrative. Makoto Shinkai has truely outdone himself and I will be sure to look out for his films in the future.

Trivia
Taki’s school teacher is the same character from Makoto Shinkai’s film The Garden of Words named Yukari Yukino.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Makoto Shinkai – Director / Writer
Composer – Radwimps

Taki Tachibana – Ryûnosuke Kamiki (voice)
Mitsuha Miyamizu – Mone Kamishiraishi (voice)
Katsuhiko Teshigawara – Ryô Narita (voice)
Sayaka Natori – Aoi Yuki (voice)
Tsukasa Fujii – Nobunaga Shimazaki (voice)
Shinta Takagi – Kaito Ishikawa (voice)
Yotsuha Miyamizu – Kanon Tani (voice)
Toshiki Miyamizu – Masaki Terasoma (voice)
Futaha Miyamizu – Sayaka Ohara (voice)
Taki’s Father – Kazuhiko Inoue (voice)
Teshigawara’s Father – Chafûrin (voice)
Teacher – Kana Hanazawa (voice)

Power Rangers Review

Power Rangers movie posterSynopsis
When five teenagers find mysterious coins that grant them superhuman strength, they learn about about a powerful evil that will consume the world. They must figure out how to work together as a team or risk the destruction of the Earth.

Review
Growing up as a young boy in the 90s, The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were huge for me. On the playground, it was always a debate on who got to play the Red Ranger, and later the Green Ranger, during recess. My best friend and I would fight hordes of imaginary Putties (the generic villainous foot soldiers) for hours on end. You might say that the biggest reason I went to see this movie was to relive that piece of my childhood. Out of all the old franchises that are once again seeing the light of day, leaving the theater after watching Power Rangers left me with the largest nostalgia high I’ve had in a very long time.

Say what you will about the television version of the Power Rangers, one thing it has always been extremely good at is having a diverse cast. This latest movie version maintains that diversity and even expands to be more than ethnic diversity, with an autistic and a lesbian rangers. I’m glad to see that a franchise that is all about teamwork and friendship, and is geared more towards a younger audiences embraces such inclusion.

To be honest, I never considered Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to be about superheroes. This mostly because that the first thing that comes to mind are characters like Spider-Man, Wolverine, or Batman. For all intents and purposes, the Power Rangers are superheroes, and this film treats them as such. The Rangers don’t fully utilize their abilities until the final battle with Rita. But more than that, it takes its time to develop the characters. Power Rangers does a good job of building each of the five main characters. By the time they finally come together as a team, you have a good grasp of who the characters are yourself.

The television version of Power Rangers is considerably campy. Luckily, this movie never goes quite that absurd. Several years ago, there was an exceedingly gritty version of the Power Rangers on YouTube that was very much R-rated. This movie never gets anywhere near that extreme. This film is a middle between the two of them, maybe leaning a little bit closer to the television version. It does have hints of the silliness of the television show but it almost feel like it is there as a callback to the show since that’s just how the show is.

Going into the film, I wasn’t sure about how I felt about Elizabeth Banks as Rita. I’ve never much pictured her as the cackling-villain type. However, she wasn’t half-bad at the part. Banks totally embraced the character of Rita Repulsa and gave a performance that was part terrifying and part reminiscent of the 90s version of the villain. Her unique take on Rita fit well into the movie’s universe and I can’t wait to see if she gets to revisit the character.

I thought Power Rangers was GREAT 😀 The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was such a big part of my childhood that I would not miss this film in theaters. I’ll admit that it wasn’t perfect but it also had no right being as entertaining as it was. Some people might find it uneven in places (which it was) or not care much for the characters. As for me, I had two hours of pure fun and joy and a smile on my face almost the entire time and dammit if that isn’t enough for me!

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Dean Israelite – Director
John Gatins – Screenplay
Matt Sazama – Story
Burk Sharpless – Story
Michele Mulroney – Story
Kieran Mulroney – Story
Brian Tyler – Composer

Dacre Montgomery – Jason (Red Ranger)
Naomi Scott – Kimberly (Pink Ranger)
RJ Cyler – Billy (Blue Ranger)
Ludi Lin – Zack (Black Ranger)
Becky G. – Trini (Yellow Ranger)
Elizabeth Banks – Rita Repulsa
Bryan Cranston – Zordon
Bill Hader – Alpha 5 (voice)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
Disney is currently going through a phase of remaking its animated films as live action films.  There have been a few of their lesser (although no less loved) classics already made and now they are stepping up to remake one of their most popular films, one that even holds the honor of being the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Disney’s previous live action remakes have gone in several different directions.  Maleficent retold Sleeping Beauty’s tale from the titular fairy’s point of view, whereas last year’s The Jungle Book, told a similar story to their 1967 classic while incorporating more of the original book’s source material, making it feel new yet familiar.  Where does Beauty and The Beast stand? Well, knowing that their Disney Renaissance film is such a well known and well loved film, it follows very closely to the original. Maybe a little too close.

Beauty and the Beast‘s biggest strength comes from its cast.  Emma Watson, to no surprise, is an absolute gem.  Her Belle is every bit as gentle yet strong as her animated predecessor.  Watson mentioned many times in interviews that Belle means a lot to her on a personal level and that love for the character really shines through.  Not only that, she has great chemistry with Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, which seems like a silly thing to say since Beast is a CGI character. However, Stevens’ emotion is still felt through the computer animation, leading to several touching moments throughout the film.

Besides Watson as Belle and Stevens as Beast, I thought the other characters were well cast also.  Luke Evans’ experience in theater made him a perfect fit as Gaston.  He brings the same charisma we’ve come to expect from his animated counterpart.  Josh Gad’s short and stout stature fit the character of LeFou perfectly, and I’m sure his experience as Frozen’s Olaf helped with the musical numbers as well. Kevin Kline was a more composed, less village-crazy-man incarnation of Maurice, Belle’s father, than the 1991 version.  Ian McKellen embodied the character of Cogsworth flawlessly. While Ewan McGregor’s French accent is a little dodgy, it never bothered me too much and he was still fun.

What surprised me the most about this film was how humorous it was! The original had plenty of laughs, sure, but I don’t remember it for its comedy.  This time, however, there were multiple times the entire theater would burst out laughing.  It definitely kept the mood light.

The set and costume design for this movie undeniably gorgeous. The majority of this film takes place within Beast’s castle and the ornate designs and decorations give it a breathtaking appearance. Everything is extremely detailed and well thought out and designed. It all deserves some recognition, from the castle’s furniture and stone towers, to the characters’ 18th century outfits, even character designs for the living objects, such as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.

My biggest flaw with Beauty and the Beast is that it doesn’t expand on, or do anything new with, the 1991 classic. Instead, what it does do is fill in and clean up the story.  For example, Gaston is painted in more of a villainous light, Belle’s family is given more of a background, the movie’s timeline is tightened, and more is revealed about the Enchantress’ spell. Disney’s other live-action remakes they have done so far have each told their own story using characters we were acquainted with, albeit with varying success.  This film, on the other hand, hits the exact same beats and the characters go through the same motions as before.  In essence, all this film is what the 1991 Beauty and the Beast would look like with live actors.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GOOD 🙂 If you are a fan of the Disney Renaissance classic, you will more than likely enjoy this remake since it follows it very closely.  However, that is also its biggest weakness, in that it simply fills in some story points but never does anything wholly original.  It does make up for it though, with fantastic casting all around and great chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bill Condon – Director
Stephen Chbosky – Screenplay
Evan Spiliotopoulos – Screenplay
Alan Menkin – Composer

Emma Watson – Belle
Dan Stevens – Beast
Luke Evans – Gaston
Josh Gad – LeFou
Kevin Kline – Maurice
Ewan McGregor – Lumiere
Ian McKellen – Cogsworth
Emma Thompson – Mrs. Potts
Nathan Mack – Chip
Audra McDonald – Madame Garderobe
Stanley Tucci – Maestro Cadenza
Gugu Mbatha- Raw – Plumette
Rita Davies – Old Woman
Hattie Morahan – Agathe / Enchantress

Logan Review

Logan movie posterSynopsis
In 2029, mutant-kind is on the brink of extinction.  An aged Logan (Hugh Jackman) is hiding in Mexico with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant).  When a woman finds Logan and asks for his help to transport her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), to a supposed mutant haven known as Eden, Logan and Charles set out for the US-Canada border while protecting Laura from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers.

Review
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-Men is one of those castings that was perfect.  Over the years, he has put his heart and soul into the role and has come to embody the character. It’s one of those actor/role combinations that I can’t imagine any other way.  Now, after 17 years and nine films, Jackman retracts the claws for good and hangs up the cowl, but not before giving the best performance of the character yet.

The X-Men movies have all fallen victim to having too many characters to juggle.  Some have adapted and made it work well (X-2: X-Men United), others have not (X-Men: Apocalypse). Even the other Wolverine movies have felt bloating with the amount of support characters they have tried to include.  Logan, on the other hand, keeps the focus very much on Logan, Charles, and Laura. There is a reason it is called “Logan” and not something like Wolverine 3.  The character moments are what drive the story forward.  The little interactions between Logan and Charles, who has become somewhat of a father-figure to Logan, and Logan and Laura, who in essence has become his daughter, feel intimate and authentic.  There are other characters as well but they are antagonists whose purpose is to move the story forward.

Logan is the most mature and darkest of not just any X-Man movie but superhero movies in general.  I don’t just mean “mature” with the violence but how it approaches the characters as well.  As I mentioned before, this story is all about Logan, Charles, and Laura as a bizarre, mutant family.  Most superhero movies tell a story around the characters’ superpowers. This movie, on the other hand, tell a story about characters who happen to have superpowers.  This makes it unlike any superhero that has come before.

After the success of Deadpool, Fox decided to go with an R-rating for Logan, which is something the character has been missing all these years. Wolverine has always been an aggressive, violent character and his cinematic version has always felt to me that he has been held back by the PG-13 rating.  Now, the character can really let loose.  Logan takes full advantage of the R-rating, showing even that an aged Logan is something to be feared.  This film would not have worked if it was restrained by a lower rating.  Laura is a younger, more rough-around-the-edges Wolverine, whose pure savageness needed to be unfiltered.

This film is a lot longer than it feels.  With a runtime of over two and a half hours, it just flew by.  I felt invested in the characters and the story.  It had its action moments and its character moments. It was never moving too fast nor did it ever feel like it was dragging.  There was a perfect balance between the loud action sequences and the quieter character moments.

I thought Logan was GREAT 😀 You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has come to embody a character the way Hugh Jackman has become Wolverine.  As a farewell performance for the character, Jackman gives the best performance of the character to date.  A tight familial dynamic between Logan, Charles, and Laura and intense and exciting action scenes make Logan not just good Wolverine movie but a great movie in general.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
James Mangold – Director / Story / Screenplay
Scott Frank – Screenplay
Michael Green – Screenplay
Marco Beltrami – Composer

Hugh Jackman – Logan
Patrick Stewart – Charles Xavier
Dafne Keen – Laura Keen
Boyd Holbrook – Donald Pierce
Stephen Merchant – Caliban
Elizabeth Rodriguez – Gabriela
Richard E. Grant – Dr. Zander Rice
Eriq La Salle – Will Munson
Elise Neal – Kathryn Munson
Quincy Fouse – Nate Munson