Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

★★★

I felt disappointed after getting out of Thor: Ragnarok. I at least thought, that this one would be different from the other, more forgettable entries in the Thor series. With Taika Waititi directing, there were examples of his cool art direction, with the 80s infused setting (and awesome synth-y soundtrack) of the planet Sakaar. There was a lot to love in that aspect. What I found to be underwhelming mainly, was the waste of Hela (Cate Blanchett) as the villain and the wasted potential of exploring Sakaar.

Oh no! Asgard is going to get destroyed! Wait a minute, haven’t we already done this before? Because it sure seems like it. Now this time, Hela the Goddess of Death is the person threatening the people of Asgard. Sadly, Blanchett was wasted in the role. Just like mostly all of the Marvel baddies she is equally as forgettable. Her mere existence as a character is what takes away from the enjoyable parts of the movie. Since Thor is banished to Sakaar, whilst attempting to race back to Asgard before the Goddess of Death threatens other realms. My main issue and question with the story is: Why didn’t the whole movie just take place on Sakaar? Instead of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) having to race back home to fight a generic villain having him arrive back to Asgard would have been substantial. Especially with a gladiator arena thrown into the mix.

Hulk and Thor do in fact, fight in the gladiator arena and it is probably the best part of the film. One of the things I was most excited for was how the relationship between Thor and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was going to be handled and portrayed. There were some terrific character building moments, such as when Hulk and Thor are talking to each other for the first time in years. However, I left Thor: Ragnarok wanting more out of the chemistry between the two characters. For other characters, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster of Sakaar was great casting. Goldblum’s odd delivery of the lines provides some great comedy. Just as equally funny with his delivery was director Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Korg, the gentle rock-giant.

Even though the design of Sakaar was pretty great, I found the CGI to be lacking in some areas. I can sense it becoming dated soon. There were some points where it looked almost like it was done by a film student, rather than a professional that works in the film industry. Such as when walls and floors were smashed. It is unfortunate to see, since these movies are being produced at a rapid speed, they have to fill the scenes with CGI instead of at least some set pieces and miniatures that would help ground the film and not make it look as artificial as it does at some points in the movie.

My overall disappointment with Thor: Ragnarok could have something to do with the past two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies setting the bar so high. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)  had fun at changing up the standard Marvel formula. Offering solid villains and good pacing. Ragnarok on the other hand, is much more generic by MCU standards. It is, by no means a bad movie, but a passable one. It did not fully embrace the weirdness of the premise and setting which is why I found it to be lacking. It is still the best Thor movie however, which is not really saying much.

 

Lady Bird (2017)

★★★★★

I find it difficult to think that I will discover a film this year that I will love more than Lady Bird. How it came at the right time in my life, wanting to break away from my home after college; applying to universities in cities that just really want to live in. It was almost as if Greta Gerwig was tapping into my own psyche while writing this movie.

Other than just the more personal connection I felt to the story. You don’t have to be a senior in High School worrying about your future to enjoy this movie. If you like coming-of-age movies and comedies, Lady Bird will not disappoint. The opening scene immediately grabs you in (not spoiling anything though), making you pay attention and laugh at the fiery and rebellious nature that Cynthia “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) emits. Her journey through the last year of high school is one trek that most of us will or have made at some point in our lives.

As far as Gerwig’s direction went, at some points of the movie I was getting a bit of a Wes Anderson vibe from certain shots. Which is not an insult but, I found it as an interesting stylistic decision on her part. I think Noah Baumbach, gave her helpful lessons on directing and she utilized them in a movie that shot-wise has no problems.

Lady Bird is one of the strongest directorial debuts I have seen in this decade. It makes me look forward to what Gerwig’s directing future will have to offer. With her Husband, Noah Baumbach being a great director as well, I look forward to seeing how they will both inspire each other through their separate directing careers.

 

House (1977)

★★★★

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s House does haunted house movies right. In this mix of comedy and horror, nothing is too far-fetched. It is a tough film to write about because it is difficult to all take in. In one scene a skeleton is dancing then in another scene, a man transforms into bananas. What can be said but, House is one hell of a ride and one up’s itself with every scene.

Some of the effects in House look intentionally cheesy. The intention by Obayashi was to make the film’s effects look almost childish. This adds to the effect and tone of the movie. As this is not fully horror, but a farce as well. This film definitely has surrealist comedy elements. As shown through the bizarre practical effects and the various scenes in the haunted house.

Where the film is lacking is in the acting department. Many of the actresses had never had acting experience before, so it is excusable to an extent and the characters are playing exaggerated versions of various character archetypes so it does not get in they way all too much. I think the tongue-in-cheek way the seven girls’ names (Melody, Kung Fu, Gorgeous etc.) also defined their characterization was quite humorous.

House, is a fabulously unique take on the haunted house. There is never a dull moment in this 88-minute film as everything builds up to its grand finale of chaos.

Hoop-Tober Film #3 of 35

The Big Sick (2017)

★★★★½

Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick is funny, sad, and another addition to the long line of things Judd Apatow has produced. The film is also based on the true story of how star Kumail Nanjiani (played by himself) and Emily V. Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan) met in real life. (It was also written by the two). That information would not matter if the story was not very good, but luckily, this movie is in fact, very good.

What I found interesting with The Big Sick. was the film’s structure. You would think that it would be more of a story about the two lovers overcoming cultural differences as Kumail is Pakinstani while Emily is American. Which is the direction that it takes itself in the first half, which then is curtailed by the very much clichéd break-up scene used in countless romantic-comedies. But they take this tired cliché and make it so the two characters don’t immediately get back together, and almost not at all. Then, Emily becomes sick and Kumail has to go to the hospital to sign off on a procedure so they can operate on her. He then has to call her parents and the film then, focus on Kumail’s relationship with Emily’s Parents (played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter) and how the three connect over Emily’s sickness. It is nice to see a love story told in such an unconventional way.

Cultural differences also take center-stage in the film. As Kumail struggles between the love of his family and his love for Emily to not disappoint either one of them. As his parents have expectations that do not involve him dating a white girl or dating at all. Kumail’s parents still wish to live like they are still in Pakistan but Kumail doesn’t want that for himself. He also does not want to become a lawyer or doctor but a comedian to his parents disappointment. Kumail also has awkward discussions with Emily’s parents about his “opinion on 9/11” and a stereotypical-looking frat boy  heckles him from during his stand-up routine with “Go back to ISIS”. These lead to some hilarious and as well as sad moments in the film.

Who doesn’t like a good love story? The Big Sick is just that, it is an Apatow dramedy with the wit of Michael Showalter to guide it so it doesn’t get too depressing for it’s own good. And it is nice to see a well deserved happy ending to Emily and Kumail’s story.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

★★★★

It’s pretty hard to believe that in a span of just ten years, we have had three different actors playing the role of Peter Parker. But where Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man movies did a lot of repeating what was done in the Sam Rami films, Spider-Man: Homecoming does pretty much none of that. Sure, characters like Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Mary Jane (Zendaya) are in the movie, but we no longer need to see the origin of Peter’s powers as well as the death of Uncle Ben. Instead, we are taken right into the events following Captain America: Civil War as we follow 15 year-old Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as he tries to prove what he has to not be treated like a kid by his mentor, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

The big difference between this and the other Spider-Man movies (other than what was listed in the paragraph above) is that this one is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Possibly the best instance of this, are the cameos with Captain America (Chris Evans) and just the way that Peter’s friends talk about the Avengers and know that superheros exist.

The best part of Spider-Man: Homecoming, is the characters. From Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned (Jacob Batalon) to Michael Keaton’s portrayal of classic Spider-Man villain, the Vulture, to even minor characters such as Hannibal Buress as Peter’s PE teacher Coach Wilson, they all add to what makes this movie work so well and makes it so funny. The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s (2014) Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson creates less of a stereotypical jock, but instead more of rival to Peter that is intelligent as well as arrogant. And of course, what would a Spider-Man movie be without a good portrayal of Spider-Man? Well, I can assuredly say that Tom Holland does a good job at portraying a teenager and while he may not look 15, he definitely sounds it. My only criticism was that I felt like the movie may have needed a bit more Tony Stark. This is because Peter Parker and Tony Stark have such great chemistry and I wanted more of it.

Thematically, Homecoming is reminiscent of the coming-of-age films from the 80s, mainly John Hughes films. The idea of the perfect girl, the homecoming dance all just screams this style. It also differentiates the movie from other superhero movies, showing that a superhero film doesn’t need to be cookie-cutter but can be a fusion of different genres.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is another addition to Marvel’s ever-growing portfolio of films and one of the best so far. I really enjoyed this movie and I think pretty much anyone can. This is a funny as well as character-driven movie that is also relateable (about growing up not becoming Spider-Man). And it was written by six people! Breaking the record held by The Mummy (2017) for the most screenwriters I’ve ever seen attached to one script. Except this one is actually…good.

Rough Night (2017)

★★½

Is a comedy film any good when only about a dozen jokes make you laugh? This odd Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) and The Hangover (2008) hybrid starts out slow and barely is even worth a chuckle and by the end becomes an ordinary and mediocre comedy.

Rough Night takes the dark comedic premise of killing a stripper at a bachelorette party but provides main characters that are not very funny or interesting. Jess (Scarlett Johansson), is played as the straight character but you could argue that Blair (Zoë Kravitz), also could fit that bill. Alice (Jillian Bell) is the planner of Jess’ Bachelorette party and a stereotype of age-old tropes of the crazy best-friend of the main character. Frankie (Ilana Glazer) plays a far-left hippie activist who has her moments but still remains quite static as a character. Then we have Pippa (Kate McKinnon), who fits the quirky foreign-friend archetype (this time Australian) and her shtick gets old as soon as she is introduced.  The parts of Rough Night that actually were funny, mostly had to do with the supporting cast. Jess’ fiance in the film, Peter (Paul W. Downs who also co-wrote the film) had a very funny plot-line more interesting than the central story. Peter is also joined by his friends at a wine and cheese tasting bachelor party in the first act, which include characters played by Eric Andre and Bo Burnham. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore are also the film’s other saving grace, playing next-door swingers to Jess and her friends at their Miami beach-house. So, in other words, everything (at least character-wise) is great about this movie except the main cast.

Rough Night is a film that will not be that memorable past this summer. Despite having a funny supporting cast, it still manages to fall into screenwriting clichés such as characters fighting then making up as a way to provide an illusion of a character arc. I would only recommend seeing Rough Night if you are a very big fan of writer’s Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs work on their TV show Broad City and are in dire need of something to watch before the season four premiere in August.

Author’s Note: If you do see Rough Night, try to spot the actor who played Buzz from Home Alone. He shows up in a funny minor role.

 

Baywatch (2017)

★½

Some words to describe Baywatch would be: lazy, uninspired, crude, unfunny, and harmless. This film is not the atrocity that many are making it out to be, but it still does not go beyond something to view while flipping channels on a boring afternoon.

Dwayne Johnson is likable as Mitch Buchannon because, Johnson just has that natural charisma that makes him such a popular star today. The other actors like Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddadrio do passable jobs in the acting department, with the exception of the stereotypical nerd character, Ronnie (Jon Bass). Bass’ performance is annoying and the shtick is unfunny. Who comes off as a poor-man’s Josh Gad (which is a phrase I thought I would have never said).

The plot in Baywatch is purposefully foolish, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is riddled with clichés. If something is self-aware of itself it has to be more than self-aware to pass as actual good entertainment. Comedian Hannibal Buress shows up for a bit, for no reason and then just disappears adding little to nothing to the story, which is odd. For a comedy there is also very little of anything that is funny long stretches go on throughout Baywatch where the bland plot takes center stage and the comedy is suppressed. Which is not how a comedy should be.

As far as cinematography goes, the shots are all very boring and predictable. There seemed to be no direction for the camerawork and instead, it is mainly just medium shots. Even the special effects felt cheap as a green screen was used in many of the action sequences, which is disappointing for a big studio film.

Paramount thought they had a 21 Jump Street (2012) on their hands by adapting popular 90s TV show Baywatch into a R-rated comedy. But the film version of Baywatch lacks the creative team and effort put into it that made 21 Jump Street such a popular and acclaimed comedy. And insteadBaywatch becomes a forgettable experience.