Archives for posts with tag: sci-fi

Grade B

 

The second of the Thor movies, “Thor: The Dark World” has the Universe threatened by an evil, elf ruler who wants to use something called the Aether (a powerful, energy source).  As Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) goes from one world to the next to quell wars, as well as sulk because he misses his girlfriend (Natalie Portman), the evil guy and his evil henchmen are on the march to retrieve the Aether and bring destruction to every world he can reach.   Why?  Because he’s evil.

Hemsworth has a plan to destroy the evil elf dude, but it goes against his father’s wishes.   Hemsworth decides to do it anyway with the help of his “brother” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a few Earthlings who are in way over their heads.  The plan is risky, and failure means the deaths of gazillions of creatures in many worlds.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Thor: The Dark World” is the scene when ** SPOILER ALERT ** Hiddleston is told that his adopted mother has been killed in combat by the evil elf ruler.   Quiet and calm at first, Hiddleston suddenly destroys his room with his magic.  Earlier in the movie, Hiddleston uttered harsh words toward his adopted mother.

“Thor: The Dark World” was more fun than I thought it would be.  The action sequences were very good, as expected; but the dialogue and how the main characters interacted with each other were done very well, which has become the trademark of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  Despite the alluring special effects and thrilling action scenes, the characters are the ones we truly connect to.

— M

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Grade B-

 

Stephen King’s novella of the same title gets a decent adaptation in “The Mist.”  After a strong storm, a large mist quickly surrounds a town, trapping dozens of people in a supermarket.  Terrifying creatures roam within the mist, hunting and killing anyone who ventures outside.  But danger also lurks within the refuge of the supermarket.  As the hours slowly tick by, the people form opinions on what is happening and how to survive it.  Three separate groups start to form, and one will overpower the others, ushering in a new level of violence and bloodshed that will rival the horrors within the mist.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Mist” is the scene when 5 survivors trapped in a vehicle make a shocking decision.  More on this below.

I have read the novella and thought it a brilliant piece of writing.  But the movie version is…far from brilliant.  Two things prevented it from being great.  First: Thomas Jane is completely wrong for the part of the main character.  His superhero looks had no place in this story.  The main character was a regular person forced to do extraordinary things under a tremendous amount of pressure and fear.  Jane was completely out of his element as he wasn’t believable at all when he tried to look afraid.  I was expecting him to suddenly walk around with his Punisher shirt on, blasting the creatures with a large, automatic rifle and saving the whole world.  Second: the ending.   I understand some of the logic that went to the decision that was made in the vehicle; but there was another option.  And the aftermath of that decision?  Depending on your values and point of view, you will either be horrified and stunned, or start to laugh.   And the fact that the ending can produce laughter tells me that it was the wrong ending to put in this movie.

The creatures were great though.

— M

Grade B-

Knowing that more metahumans and assorted superpowered creatures will be coming to Earth with a bad attitude, Batman (played by Ben Affleck), recruits other metahumans (Gal Gadot as Wonderwoman, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as the Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg) to form a league to combat all the incoming super bad dudes out there.  Affleck’s problem is that some of the metahumans in his wish list don’t want to join, and they all still have to learn how to fight as a unit.

And then comes Steppenwolf, a super bad guy who has been alive way before the invention of toilet paper, always in a pissy mood and wants to control everything he sees.  He is in search of three special boxes that will give him more power to accomplish his goals.  But the “Justice League” is there to do their best to put a wrench in Steppenwolf’s hostile takeover machine.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Justice League” is the scene when Momoa didn’t know he was sitting on Gadot’s truth lasso, and he just started spewing funny and insulting comments about his League members.   The best joke was on Affleck.

Grade B-…not bad for a movie, right?  Well, for a $300 million movie (plus the costs of advertising and distribution) it’s a failure.  For one thing, there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  With two directors working on this movie at different times, you just know certain things aren’t going to mix well.   Then there was the mandate that the movie should be about two hours long.  Hmmm…a movie that has to tell the origins of Steppenwolf, plus Aquaman, plus Cyborg, plus The Flash, plus show how Affleck gets all his people together, plus that whole thing with raising Superman from the dead and how he was going to deal with it and how the world and the League will deal with him…all that in two hours?   Studio executives…please stop taking cocaine/Vicodin/alcohol when you make decisions about a movie.  Two hours were definitely not enough to tell this story well, and it shows.

Then there are the shenanigans, such as Wonder Woman being fast enough to deflect bullets from an automatic weapon, yet where the hell was all that speed when she fought Steppenwolf?  Then you have The Flash who is supposed to be extremely fast (some sources say about the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second); but he is getting his ass handed to him a few times by the bad guys who have normal speed.  The same with Superman (played by Henry Cavill): he is now extremely fast and should be able to kill Steppenwolf’s minions by the thousands in a few seconds, but can’t.   Suspension of disbelief doesn’t mean the audience will forgive poor screenwriting and numerous logical flaws in the story.

Problems, problems; but $300 million does buy a lot of eye candy.  For those who want to be dazzled and entertained, this movie may do it for you.  Just don’t expect too much substance, or sense.

— M

Grade B+

 

Hundreds of years into the future, a transport ship crashes into a desolate planet with no means to send a distress signal.  A captured convict (played by Vin Diesel) on his way back to prison, a bounty hunter (played by an icy Cole Hauser), a co-pilot (played by Radha Mitchell) who is focused on saving her life at the cost of others, and a handful of assorted voyagers are the unlucky ones.

At first, Diesel is considered the biggest threat to the survivors because he is a convicted killer of many and an escape artist; but a quick exploration of the planet with three suns reveals terrifying creatures that lurk underground in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to go above ground…and that moment will come soon when a lengthy eclipse takes place.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Pitch Black” is the scene when Diesel kills a large monster easily, then says “Did not know who he was fucking with.”  Maybe Diesel is the biggest threat on the planet.

“Pitch Black” is a low-budget, sci-fi/horror movie that definitely delivers.   The story, direction, acting, pacing, and special effects are solid.  The three main characters — of Diesel, Mitchell, and Hauser — have enough depth to them to add extra layers of complexity to the story.  There is one bit of shenanigan that I will address: the numerous creatures are starving, and there aren’t enough people to feed on, so they start feeding on each other, and one is so crazed by hunger it doesn’t fly away when light — which hurts the creatures — is shined on its body as it attacks a survivor.   Why didn’t this happen more, especially when the light source of the survivors were weak and few?

— M

Grade B+

 

Gal Gadot plays the title role in this retelling of the super hero’s origins and first encounters with humans.  Raised to be a super warrior on an island of Amazons, fearless Gadot trains with the expectation of one day fighting the god Ares, who is thought by the Amazons to come back one day and kill all the humans and Amazons on the planet.  When a soldier (played by Chris Pine) crashes his plane near the Amazons’ island, his story of a great and terrible war happening all over Earth is interpreted by Gadot that this is the doing of Ares.  Gadot follows Pine into the world of humans where her kind heart will be overwhelmed with the duality of humans (their savage and loving nature).

At first, Pine helps Gadot blend in with the crowd, trying to ease her away from what he considers her insane mission of going to the front line to seek Ares and kill the god of war.  But no one can tame her spirit; and when the innocent are suffering, Gadot’s disguise comes off and Wonder Woman comes out in all her glory.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Wonder Woman” is the scene when Gadot is in the trenches with the soldiers.  Upon hearing of civilians trapped behind enemy lines, she shrugs off her coat and goes into No Man’s Land alone, fully dressed in her Wonder Woman armor.  Beautiful, exciting, and dramatic, she charges forward ready to kick some serious enemy ass.

Stripped down to its basic essence, this is a love story between two very likeable characters.  The awesome special effects and thrilling, action set pieces are just icing to a substantial cake.

— M

Grade C-

An inferior remake of the original, “Planet Of The Apes” (2001) has Mark Wahlberg playing an astronaut who gets sucked into a time warp thingy in space and crash lands on a planet where apes rule and enslave primitive humans.   Luckily for Wahlberg, a female ape (played by Helena Bonham Carter) has the hots for him (!) and sets him free.  With the help of a couple of apes and a band of humans Wahlberg has set loose, they search for his ship that contains a device that can send an S.O.S. to Wahlberg’s mother ship.  Closing in behind Wahlberg’s group is a large, ape army all stirred up to kill Wahlberg and any human who dares defy the dominance of apes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Planet Of The Apes” is the final scene, which is a surprise, twist ending.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense.  I suspect idiot, studio executives were to blame, probably counting their chickens before they hatched (or should I say counting their monkeys before they were born), looking for a way to introduce a possible sequel and didn’t care that it made no sense.  Damn you, idiot, studio execs!   Damn you all to hell!

In a nutshell, this remake of “Planet Of The Apes” is a rock covered in a fancy wrapper.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the wrapper is…what you have is still a rock.

— M

Grade A

Based on the novel by Stephen King, “It” is a story of seven children who are considered outcasts in school, their everyday fears overshadowed by a creature that has awakened, taking the form of a clown (played by Bill Skarsgard).  Summer is supposed to be a time of fun for children.  Not so for the seven outcasts — calling themselves the Losers — who have to fight a war on two fronts: the terrors that most children face; and the supernatural entity that threatens to kill them one at a time unless the Losers Club bands together and takes the fight to the creature.

My most memorable, movie moment of “It” is the scene when the girl member of the Losers is attacked by her father who has been molesting her.  This scene alone makes the movie unfit for young children, and disturbing for most people to watch.

“It” should bring back many childhood memories of those who watch it.  The best of times (summer days of playing, hanging out with friends and teasing each other, first crush on a girl) and the troubling times (being a loner, feeling like a loser, the start of a girl’s period, being bullied, the mental/verbal/sexual abuse that some parents inflict on their children) are vividly and sometimes graphically exposed in “It.”  Although most of the lead actors are children, “It” is meant for adults, and adults will have a great time watching this movie that is horrifying, funny, and very, very well made.

— M

 

 

Grade B

Set in 1973, a “monster hunter” played by John Goodman scams the U.S. Government into funding an expedition into an island to supposedly look for valuable resources; but what Goodman really seeks is validation into his theory that monsters live within the earth, and at some point they will all come out and eat us like chicken nuggets.  With a tracker (played by Tom Hiddleston) by his side and a unit of the Army’s Assault Helicopter Company led by Samuel L. Jackson as an escort, Goodman and his fellow scientists begin their exploration of the island in a violent way…and they are all met with violence by the island’s largest and most fearsome monster, King Kong.

Their helicopters destroyed, the human survivors have a small chance of escaping the island and getting back to their ship.  But Kong and the island monsters aren’t the only ones the humans must fear.  Jackson, in his quest to avenge his men who were killed by Kong, turns into Capt. Ahab and risks everything and everyone to exact his pound of gorilla flesh.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Kong: Skull Island” is the scene when King Kong fights the big, underground lizard thing.   King monster against king monster; and a monsterfest is what this movie is all about.

“Kong: Skull Island” suffers from numerous shenanigans, such as Vietnam veteran helicopter pilots staying too close to Kong, with the result of being swatted and crushed by the giant ape.   Then there’s Hiddleston’s character who never loses his cool no matter how many giant, ugly creatures are trying to eat him — I’ve seen people show more emotion while playing video games.  Enough of the negatives.  What this movie has going for it are: 1) a fast paced, dynamic direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, giving this flick a tremendous amount of fun energy; and 2) monsters, monsters, and more monsters.  I’ve been a fan of Japanese monster movies from the 1950s/1960s…they are silly, and generally make no sense; but they are fun to watch.  Well, “Kong: Skull Island” is like that.

— M

Grade B +

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a successful, fresh start to one of the most loved, Marvel Comics character.  Playing a 15-year-old Peter Parker/Spidey is Tom Holland, who is perfect for the role, and better at it than any other actor who played the webslinger in previous movies and tv specials (yes, there were live-action, Spider-Man tv specials a long time ago).  After coming home from his epic battle in Europe (“Captain America: Civil War”), Holland is back in Queens, NYC, itching for a new mission from his mentor, Tony Stark/Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.).  But his dream of another epic fight doesn’t come, and Holland is forced to do street level superhero stuff while juggling the cruelties and confusion of High School.

Then one day, Holland comes upon a weapons deal that leads him to a gang of criminals who deal in modified, alien tech.  A gang that is led by The Vulture.   A gang that will test the teen-aged superhero in every way. With his pleas for assistance from Downey Jr. seemingly going unanswered, Holland takes it upon himself to stop The Vulture from stealing more alien tech that will kill many more lives.  But the cost of saving lives may cost Holland his own.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the final scene of the movie.  I won’t spoil it, but I will say it was shocking and very funny.

Let me address a big problem many fans/moviegoers had with this movie: Spider-Man’s lack of his “spider senses,” which warn him of dangers.  I do believe he does have his spidey senses; but it is done in a very subtle way.  In the comics and cartoons, Spidey says things like “My spider senses are tingling…”  Well, we can’t have that in the movie, because it’ll just sound retarded.  When Spidey is dodging bullets or items being thrown at him, we just have to assume part of him doing that is because of his spidey senses.  And yes, I know Spider-Man gets hit quite often in this movie…that’s not proof of his lack of spidey senses.  In the comics and cartoons, Spider-Man takes hits also, despite having spider senses that warn him of immediate danger.  He’s not perfect, once in a while he gets hit.  Also, remember that in this movie, Spider-Man is 15-years-old, and still adapting to his newly-found powers, powers that sometimes overwhelm his senses.  His suit addresses that sensory overload, but not completely.  So, bottom line, this isn’t an issue for me.  Moving on…

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a very good movie that I think will satisfy most fans of this character.  Tom Holland once again kills it with his portrayal of a teen version of Spider-Man, as does Downey Jr. with his flawless take on Tony Stark.  Add to this lots of huge, action sequences, numerous funny moments, an interesting villain, great special effects…it all adds up to a very memorable, Spider-Man movie.

I do have to mention a huge shenanigan though: a plane full of extremely valuable/dangerous items is flying solo, no guards inside, no automated Iron Man soldiers, no military escorts?  It just relies on a stealth tech, and it has a “blind spot” that The Vulture takes advantage of?  Get the hell out!  But for this huge, glaring shenanigan, I would have given this movie an “A” grade.   It doesn’t ruin the movie, of course; but it does take quite a bit of the shine off.

— M

Grade B

Ten years after “Prometheus,” the crew of the colony ship, Covenant, experiences a serious malfunction of their ship.  Forced out of their expected 7 year cryo-sleep to make repairs, the crew’s focus switches from their destined planet to one that is much closer and supposedly more suited for humans.  Only Katherine Waterston, who plays the second in command, is hesitant to alter the plans; but the acting captain (played by Billy Crudup) and the rest of the crew are insistent on checking out the newly discovered planet, and off they go.

An exploratory team lands on the planet that turns out to be beautiful and teeming with plant life — but no animals or even insects can be seen or heard.  Despite this oddity, some of the crew are already planning on starting their new colony here…until two crewmen suddenly become sick and the horrifying, true nature of the planet is revealed.

Alien spore infestations/gestation/gory emergence, frenetic bursts of intense fights against aliens, impeccable cinematography, good and evil synthetic people (both played amazingly by Michael Fassbender), the mystery of what happened to the last two crew members of Prometheus, and claustrophobic bug hunts are all here.   There are moments where you — the “Alien” movies aficionado — will tell yourself “Oh, I’ve seen this before in previous ‘Alien’ movies,” but it shouldn’t be looked at negatively.  It’s simply director Ridley Scott giving fans what they want to see.  What should be treated negatively are the two, huge shenanigans in “Alien: Covenant” that, had they not been there, would have earned this movie a grade A.

Shenanigan #1: **SPOILER ALERT** Fassbender, as David, easily places his stolen spaceship above the city of “Engineers” and drops a crapload of bio-weapons on the Engineers below.  So these Engineers, with their highly advanced tech capability, had no way of knowing who was piloting their ship, and just let one of their own spacecraft hover above their city without any sort of vetting on who was actually inside the ship?  And where were the other space vessels of the Engineers throughout the city?  This highly advanced race looked like they forgot to pay the bills and all the good stuff were repossessed.  Shenanigan #2: Crudup, despite seeing the evil nature of Fassbender/David, lets himself fall into a trap that even a stoner whose brain is half-baked would’ve seen coming.

The fact that I gave this movie a B despite those two giant shenanigans tells you that I really enjoyed watching this.  Yes, I am a serious fan of “Alien” movies; but beyond that, “Alien: Covenant” is a good movie that combines old school elements with the new, and it definitely deserves to be part of the “Alien” lore.

And now, for my most memorable, movie moment of “Alien: Covenant”: the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Fassbender/David fights Fassbender/Walter.  For a brief moment, this sci/fi flick becomes a kung-fu flick.  It was surprising and entertaining.

— M

Grade C +

In this live action re-make of the classic 1995 anime, Scarlett Johansson plays a highly advanced cyborg who has a human brain (which contains her human essence, or ghost) that is placed into a tough, weapons grade body (the shell).   She and her team of government agents are tasked with finding a hacker who is killing top executives of a robotics company.

Through the crowded streets of Japan littered with giant, holographic advertisements, Johansson’s perspective on who she is, what she is fighting for, and who the real enemy is will change the closer she gets to the truth about the hacker.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) is the scene when Johansson fights a Spider-Tank using inadequate weapons, forcing her to use her body to save another being that is similar to herself.

This iteration of “G.I.T.S.” dumbs down the complex storylines of the 1995 movie, making the 2017 version easier to understand but less satisfying.   It’s like driving a Dodge Viper ACR with the engine swapped out for one that belongs in a Toyota Camry to please those with inferior driving skills.  “G.I.T.S.” (2017) misses the whole point of a computer program becoming a sentient life form that seeks to evolve, and the arguments of what life is.  As disappointed as I was, this version is somewhat entertaining, and it was fun to see many scenes that were virtually identical to the original movie.  Still, this is a classic example of Hollywood focusing on style instead of substance.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: One of the best animated movies of the 1990s, “Ghost In The Shell” has secret agent/cyborg Motoko searching for a hacker nicknamed Puppet Master who can hack into a cyborg’s “ghost,” or human essence.  Her investigation — often culminating in violence — will have her looking into her own government and make her ask questions about the definition of life and the basic principles of what makes a creature a human being.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (1995) is the scene when Motoko, armed with a submachine-gun and a few grenades, takes on a tank as she pursues the Puppet Master.  Every anime fan is aware of this movie and loves it; and that love is well deserved.  Watch the movie and you’ll see and hear for yourself.

— M

Grade C

Manny’s Movie Musings: astronauts do the dumbest things and start messing with an alien lifeform that is evolving at a fast rate; and when things start to go bad they just forget basic safety precautions and containment procedures.  The victims’ deaths are somewhat interesting; the evolution of the alien is somewhat interesting.   “Somewhat interesting” should not be the result of a $58 million movie.  Adding more misery to “Life” is the inevitable comparison to “Alien,” a masterpiece of a movie.   Whoever greenlit “Life” for production probably has no life left in his career in the movie business.

— M

Grade B

Twelve alien spacecraft hover over various parts of Earth, their intentions unknown, their language unknown.  An expert on language (played by Amy Adams) and a physicist (played by Jeremy Renner) are tasked by the U.S. military to interpret what the aliens inside one spacecraft are saying.  It is a monumental task, but it has to be done as fast as possible because the entire world is on edge.  Fear is quickly taking hold of many people, some of whom have the power to start a war with the alien visitors.  If the “Arrival” of the aliens is meant to bring peace and friendship to humans, then it must be quickly confirmed before itchy trigger fingers causes an intergalactic war.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Arrival” is the scene when the aliens are introduced.  Let’s just say if I was there, I’d either run screaming like a Wayans brother or start crying like Matt Damon.

“Arrival” moves slowly, methodically, allowing the audience to soak in everything they hear and see.  Although many characters are in this movie, almost all of the focus is on Adams and Renner, making “Arrival” feel more personal.  The flashback sequences of Adams and her daughter adds a dreamy but highly relevant layer to the story which gives a nice surprise twist near the end of  the movie.

— M

B –

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Firestarter” adapts Stephen King’s book of the same name, and stars Drew Barrymore playing the title role and David Keith as her protective father.  Both father and daughter have super powers (Barrymore can set almost anything on fire) due to a government experiment, and now they are hunted down for more experimentation and ultimate disposal.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Firestarter” is the scene when Barrymore walks out of a burning barn, ready to kill and burn everything and everyone she sees — a little girl with an adorable face but with the power of the devil.  Although “Firestarter” has the feel of a movie of the week and has several shenanigans (e.g., the bad guys make the laughably bad assumption that Keith has lost his powers and therefore doesn’t need that much supervision), overall it is very entertaining (mostly due to Barrymore’s adorable portrayal of her character), and the part when Barrymore goes off on the bad guys is very satisfying.

— M

B+

A terrific start to a fresh take on the “Planet Of The Apes” movies.  Andy Serkis plays the role of Caesar, a chimpanzee with heightened intelligence due to an experimental drug that was developed by his owner (played by James Franco).  Living in the house of Franco, Serkis grows strong and freakishly intelligent.  But he is still basically a chimpanzee; and that inner, savage nature takes the best of him when he escapes from the house to protect a loved one.

Serkis is placed in a “sanctuary” for great apes, which is basically a prison.   Serkis must learn to carefully navigate this madhouse, avoiding the vicious alpha male of the group, and cultivating friends as he plots an escape.  But where can he and his kind escape to?  He doesn’t belong to the human world, and he certainly doesn’t belong in a zoo nor a “sanctuary.”

As Caesar tries to make sense of his situation, Franco creates a stronger version of the virus that made Serkis super intelligent, hoping for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.   But viruses being what they are, Franco risks unleashing a curse instead of a cure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” is the scene when Serkis speaks for the first time when he is being mistreated by a human.  He utters one word, a simple word that bullies, tyrants, and dictators fear.  A word that can spark a revolution.

— M

Grade A –

Mostly taking place days before “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” puts us at the tip of the spear of the Rebel Alliance.  Said tip is headed by two rebels (played by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna) who volunteer to infiltrate a heavily defended, Imperial base to steal the plans to the Empire’s dreaded, new weapon, the Death Star.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the scene when Darth Vader boards a Rebel ship.  Invisible within the dark hallway, his breathing can be heard…then the red light saber ignites.  Vader straight up murders dozens of rebel soldiers within a span twenty seconds, an unstoppable, evil force moving forward as he kills.  It is Darth Vader’s most terrifying moment in all of the “Star Wars” movies.

What makes “Rogue One” more satisfying than the last four “Star Wars” movies (Episodes I, II, III, and VII) is mostly due to a tight screenplay that does not contain many head-scratching moments that put off “SW” fans; and a more brutal depiction of combat where characters that you grow to like may not survive.  The “dogfights” are also faster paced, have better dialogue, and have great choreography.  And last but definitely not least: the numerous characters from Episode IV that are brought back, either through CGI or from unused film footage from the 1977 movie.

My ticket to “Rogue One” was money well spent, and this title will be part of my Blu-Ray library in the near future.

— M

B+

From the mind of J.K. Rowling comes “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them,” an amazing tale of the adventures of a young wizard (perfectly played by Eddie Redmayne) who goes to NYC in the 1920s in order to retrieve and find homes for fantastic, magical beasts that would otherwise be destroyed by the wizarding community.

Redmayne will face many serious hurdles during his mission: not knowing how to navigate NYC (specifically Manhattan); being unfamiliar with the rules of the wizard community in NY; both wizards and non-wizards fearing the fantastic beasts and wanting them destroyed; and the wizarding community not sanctioning his search, capture, and release (into safe zones) of the beasts.

A larger threat is a powerful force that wreaks destruction and death in NYC, threatening to unveil the wizarding world to the normal humans.  A fantastic, magical beast is blamed; and Redmayne has little time left to prove to the wizards that the cause of the mayhem is some other, supernatural force.  If Redmayne fails at what he must do, a war between normal humans and wizards may erupt; and all the fantastic beasts in Redmayne’s care will be destroyed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Redmayne and his wizard friend/love interest are sentenced to death, and we see the manner in which the execution is carried out.  The executioners mention that it won’t hurt, but I think it will!

“FBAWTFT” was much better than I anticipated, and it is a very good companion piece to the “Harry Potter” movies.  But it does suffer from two huge plot holes — or shenanigans, as I like to call it — that cannot be easily dismissed.  The wizards have the power to reverse any damage to property, and remove memories of magical experiences by normal humans.  In addition, the wizards can wreak such havoc upon the world and there is very little that the normal humans can do about it.  One wizard can probably destroy a small country in a day.  So why do the wizards fear having their existence revealed, and some possible war against the normal humans happening?

— M

Grade C+

After the mysterious and gruesome death of his beloved grandfather, Asa Butterfield (playing the lead role) discovers that his grandfather’s tales of children with super powers and the monsters that seek to kill them are all true.

What begins as spiritual healing for Butterfield ends as a wondrous adventure that is also terrifying as he is introduced to Eva Green (who plays the title role) and her home for peculiar children.  Each visit strengthens his bond with Green and her charges, especially for a floating, teen girl.  Happiness that has eluded Butterfield in his own world is finally found in “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” but one mistake will jeopardize not only his own life, but the lives of all his new friends and love interest.  Butterfield and the peculiar children must learn to be brave and fight the monsters that have come to kill them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “M.P.H.F.P.C.” is the scene that shows how the monsters came to be, and why they need to kill peculiar children.  It may be a bit too much for little kiddies, so parents beware.

“M.P.H.F.P.C.” gets a mediocre grade because it has too many shenanigans.  Some of the peculiar children have powers that can devastate an enemy quickly, yet they don’t take advantage of them or they wait until the last minute to use them.  Granted, some are little kids and have never been in combat, but the older children could have easily instructed the little ones on how and when to use their deadly powers.  **SPOILER ALERT** One older child (I’m being nice here, because she looks like she is 25-years-old) has the power to generate so much oxygen from her body that she can float a sunken ship, yet she can only put out about 20 seconds of air to pin the lead monster against a wall, after which the monster is free to do more damage?  Get the hell out.

I found the first two acts of this movie to be entertaining, but the last act — where most of the shenanigans take place — left me questioning what the hell the filmmakers were thinking.

— M

Grade B –

It is the 1980s.  The uneasy peace between mutants and humans will be threatened when a powerful mutant named “Apocalypse” (played by Oscar Isaac) is freed from his prison.  Having the power to amplify the powers of other mutants, Apocalypse recruits and empowers four mutants to protect him (the four horsemen of the Apocalypse — yeah, I know, it’s kind of corny) as he implements his plan to destroy humans and create a new world for mutants.  Standing in the way of Isaac’s nightmarish dream are James McAvoy (who plays mutant Professor X) and his mutant students called X-Men.  It will take all their combined efforts — and maybe a bit of outside help — to defeat Isaac and his four minions.

My most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men: Apocalypse” is **SPOILER ALERT** the sequence that had mutant Quicksilver save all the X-Men in the Westchester mansion from an enormous explosion.  This outstanding display of Quicksilver’s powers makes one wonder how he could not destroy Isaac and his four horsemen by himself.  I find this to be a huge shenanigan that forced me to take a lot of points away from this movie.

Although “X-Men: Apocalypse” is one of the better X-Men movies (the sheer number of mutants going toe to toe is a comic book lover’s dream), it suffers from two huge plot holes (one already mentioned in the previous paragraph).  The second plot hole is this: why doesn’t Isaac just make a general call for any disgruntled mutants to join him from the beginning?  Take over a tv station and make his offer to the world.  With so many mutants being abused throughout the planet, Isaac would have amassed an army of hundreds, if not thousands, of mutants; and he would have been unstoppable.  So why didn’t the movie have this take place?  Probably because the writers were like “Uhhh…we’re not going to deal with that, and hope no one notices.”  Well, we noticed.

— M

Grade B –

With more metahumans coming out of the woodwork, the U.S. government creates a secret, task force made up of metahumans to fight other metahumans who do not have the world’s best interests at heart.  Viola Davis, playing a top government agent who creates this metahuman squad, unwisely chooses villains to fill out the group.  Yes, at first this seems like a ludicrous idea…after all, how can you trust these villains to do your bidding?  And the character of Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie…how can this psychopath be expected to follow orders, even under the threat of having her head blown off by implanted, miniature explosives?  The idea of this “Suicide Squad” is so far-fetched, how can the audience blindly accept it and sit back and have fun with the movie?  Well…let me tell you…

The U.S. putting madmen and psychos under payroll and setting them up to acquire a tremendous amount of power is very real, and very common.  Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Osama Bin-Laden, and Saddam Hussein are a few examples.  Soooo…the idea of the U.S. government hiring maniacs to fight other maniacs isn’t that far-fetched after all.

Soon after Davis sets up her squad under threats and/or promises of freedom and extra goodies, a metahuman threat arises.  Ironically, it is a threat that is borne from a squad member!  Will Smith (playing Deadshot) leads the “Suicide Squad” into the fight, and as expected, things do not go smoothly.  How can it?  The squad has never fought as a group before; one is psychotic; another made a promise to himself to not use his powers anymore; two of them just want to escape; and the squad wasn’t given the full story of who they are fighting and how this threat came to be.   Working together and defeating a powerful enemy will take a miracle, and they need that miracle to happen fast because the entire world is about to end.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Suicide Squad” is the scene when Robbie finally puts on her outfit.  ‘Nuff said.

“Suicide Squad” is a reasonably entertaining, somewhat mindless action flick that has two memorable characters: Deadshot and Harley Quinn.   While Robbie killed it as Quinn, Smith seemed miscast for his role as Deadshot.  Add to this a script that needed more polish and focus, and what could have been a great movie is reduced to one that is just okay.

— M

Grade D +

Manny’s Movie Musings: It should be called “Independence Day: Regurgitation.”  The same director; the same logical flaws; the same unfunny jokes; the same main actors; the same aliens…I’d be okay with the same of many things except all the logical flaws of the story.  Okay, first the plot: it’s been 20 years since the original invasion, and humans have merged alien tech with human tech, and we now have super duper military hardware.  People think they have what it takes to defend against another attack, but they are mistaken.  From the aliens’ home world comes a ship that is 3,000 miles wide, ready to destroy us pesky humans.  But the aliens didn’t count on one thing: a screenplay so full of plot holes that the aliens are sure to be defeated in the most stupid and ridiculous ways.  “Independence Day: Resurgence” is just one big shenanigan of a movie.  For example: the mother ship, at 3,000 miles wide, has its own gravitational pull.  It destroys anything that it flies over…sooooo…why not just do a fly-by over the entire surface of Earth and wipe out the humans?  Hey, don’t look at me…ask the 5 screenwriters — which includes the director — whose combined talent (or lack thereof) couldn’t see that most of this movie made no sense.  I have to admit though: “ID: R” was somewhat amusing.  Not exactly a glowing recommendation for a $165 million dollar project (plus the cost of distribution).  My most memorable, movie moment of “ID: R” would be the final seconds of the movie when it is clear Roland Emmerich is thinking about another “ID” movie.  If there is anyone deserving of a painful, alien, anal probe, it is Emmerich.

— M

Grade A

Manny’s Movie Musings: the theatrical cut has already been reviewed by me, so this is just a supplementary.  The Ultimate Edition of “B v S” adds over 30 minutes of footage to the theatrical cut, giving the movie more depth and answering some questions which many viewers had the first time around.  Questions such as why did the black villager blame Superman for the dozens of deaths in her village in Africa; and why Superman couldn’t see the bomb that was hidden in the motorized wheelchair.  Bottom line, a movie which I thought was good has become better with Snyder’s cut; and it’s good enough for me to buy it on Blu-ray disc when the price is right.

— M

Grade A

Outrageous!  Ridiculous!  Hilarious!  Highly entertaining!

Ryan Reynolds stars as a hired thug with a heart of gold.  His life of being a poor man’s “Equalizer” is turned upside down (for the better) when he falls in love with a woman (played by Morena Baccarin) who is in every way his soulmate.  Of course, life hits Reynolds in the groin when he is at his happiest moment: he is diagnosed with cancer.

The normally fast-talking, smart-ass Reynolds is devastated, mostly because of his fear of losing Baccarin and what his condition will do to her.  Then one night, a creepy looking man tells Reynolds that he can be part of an experimental program that will cure his cancer.  Desperate, Reynolds agrees.  Taken to a dungeon-like environment and strapped down, Reynolds understands too late what he is in for.  He is injected with chemicals that will try to unlock his latent mutant genes — assuming he has any — and then he’ll be subjected to non-stop torture in order for the stress to trigger his mutation.

The long, painful experiment is a success…so to speak.  Reynolds does become a mutant with powers to regenerate damaged tissue; but his skin has turned into something that resembles third degree burns. He is also a prisoner, and is threatened with having his mind altered so he can be controlled and sold as a slave to the highest bidder.

Torture and slavery not being part of his life goals, Reynolds escapes, puts on a suit to hide his identity and hideous face, takes on the name of “Deadpool,” and goes on a savage hunt to find those responsible for his freakish transformation.  But his ultimate goal is to force the bad guys to turn him back into a regular human so he can continue his life with Baccarin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Deadpool” is the scene when Reynolds fights Colossus, an X-Men member with the power to turn his body into metal.  Reynolds hits Colossus with one hand and he breaks his hand!  He hits Colossus with his other hand and breaks that too!  Then Reynolds kicks Colossus and…yup, you guessed it: he breaks his foot!  Hopping around in pain with both hands and one foot broken, Reynolds kicks Colossus with his good foot and breaks that one too!  As I was trying to catch my breath while laughing my ass off, I wondered what the hell was wrong with Reynolds!  Then I figured it out: Reynolds just does not give up.

Parents: be warned, “Deadpool” deserves its R rating.  There is a lot of cursing and sex in this movie.  Oh, and lots of bloody violence.  Keep the kiddies away from this one.  For the adults: if you enjoyed “Ant-Man” and “Zack And Miri Make A Porno,” you’ll love “Deadpool” as it has many elements of those two movies.  The writers of “Deadpool” took a big chance on having Reynolds talk to the audience and make lots of movie references and insider jokes about filmmaking and celebrity; but the gamble paid off.  Instead of taking me out of the movie, I got more involved with it (I’m old enough to know all of Reynolds’ movie reference jokes) and it endeared me toward the Deadpool character — I wanted this guy to win; and judging by the box office receipts, so did many people.

Yes, Maximus, I was very much entertained.  I will see this movie again; but not yet…not yet.

— M

Grade A

When the Avengers accidentally kill civilians during one of their battles in Africa, the U.N. puts limitations on the superheroes’ actions, dictating when, where and how they are to fight the enemy.   One half of the Avengers are on Team Captain America (played by Chris Evans), believing that they should not surrender their autonomy to the committees of the United Nations.  The other half of the Avengers are on Team Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), believing that even superheroes should be held accountable, and it’s better to accept the U.N.’s rules now, rather than be forced into it at a future date when more draconian measures may be used against the Avengers.

Further complicating matters is a terrorist attack that is being blamed on The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan).  Stan, a former spy/assassin/brainwashed, all around bad guy with superpowers, is on the run from every law enforcement group, including Downey and his group of Avengers.  Evans, best friend of Stan, will do everything in his power to find Stan first and shield him from those who would want to kill him and/or put him in prison for life.

Downey warns Evans and his group to stand down, and if Evans does not comply, Evans will be seen as a criminal and will be treated as such.  And thus, the civil war between the Avengers starts.  On this corner, we have Captain America, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Winter Soldier, and Ant-Man!  On that corner, we have Iron Man, War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther and…Spider-Man!  May the best team win!

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we first meet a very young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (amazingly played by Tom Holland).  I thought Andrew Garfield was great at playing Peter Parker; but Holland kills it, playing the role so perfectly that he stole the whole show.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain America: Civil War” of course goes to the battle sequence between Team Evans against Team Downey.  This is absolute heaven to every reader of Marvel comic books.  It’s like eating the most indulgent dessert wrapped up in layers of more dessert, and then getting seconds and thirds!

“…Civil War” isn’t just a feast for the eyes and ears, it’s also a commentary on the legalities, complication, and ramifications of certain countries doing military ops in other countries, whether sanctioned or not.  Read between the lines and one can see a critique of America’s military actions on foreign soil.  For those who are just looking for entertainment, this third Captain America delivers, and then some.  The things we love in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are found here: action, adventure, witty banter, strong social commentary, buff guys and gals in tight outfits, heart, soul, and first rate special effects.

— M

B+

A sci-fi/suspense/thriller that has so many twists and turns, it’ll keep you guessing at the truth all the way to the end.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a woman who wakes up after a car accident only to find herself chained and cuffed to a pipe in a sparse room.  Her captor, creepily played by John Goodman, tells her that there was some kind of attack against the U.S., possibly by Russians, maybe terrorists, maybe Martians.  The air supposedly has been poisoned, and they would need to stay in his doomsday bunker for maybe a year or two for the poisons to dissipate.

Not being a moron, Winstead doubts what she is being told, and her face shows that she thinks she’s going to be a sex slave to this crazed, fat man, or worse, maybe she’s going to be in some type of “Saw” situation.  But then she meets another man — played by John Gallagher Jr. — who is also in the bunker.  Gallagher confirms to Winstead that he saw some type of flash in the air, and then he rushed to Goodman’s bunker and fought his way in so that he could survive.  But Winstead still has her doubts.  She has no idea who these two country boys are, and Goodman’s disturbing behavior — such as flipping out over the slightest thing — makes Winstead even more guarded.

Was there an attack that wiped out a good chunk of the U.S. and left the air poisoned?  Is Goodman lying so he can have a pretty woman stay in his bunker with his fat, creepy self?  Is Gallagher lying also, and possibly partners with Goodman to keep Winstead from leaving the bunker?

One thing Winstead will be sure of as time goes by: the threat inside the bunker is as dangerous as the real or imaginary threat outside.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Winstead and Gallagher look at a photo of a girl who is supposed to be Goodman’s daughter.  I’ll leave it at that.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Cloverfield Lane” is the scene at the end when Winstead sees absolute proof of what is really going on.  Again, I’ll leave it at that.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a much better movie than I had hoped for.  It has a heroine who is not your typical, damsel in distress — Winstead’s character is mentally tough and very resourceful.  The movie is unpredictable, the tension remains high for the majority of the story, and the acting is top notch.

Yes, Maximus, I was surprised to be so entertained by this movie.

— M

Grade B +

After finding the scepter of Loki, The Avengers decide to give Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo (playing Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, respectively) a few days to analyze the object.  The two Avengers’ meddling leads to the release of an artificial intelligence named Ultron who wants to destroy the planet.  With the ability to hack into mainframes, Ultron creates a robot body for himself that can match Downey’s Iron Man suit; and by stealing money from various accounts, Ultron gains the resources to create an army of robots that will help him kill all the Avengers and the entire human race.

“Avengers: Age Of Ultron” ushers in two superhuman siblings called Quicksilver and The Scarlett Witch who ally themselves with Ultron in order to get revenge against The Avengers.  Time is running out quickly for Earth’s superheroes, who have been dealt a near-crippling defeat by their new foes.  Ultron grows stronger each hour, and The Avengers must find a way to stay united if they are to have any hope of saving the planet.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” takes place during the opening battle sequence.  There is a slow-motion shot that shows all six Avengers (The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) on screen attacking the enemy.  It is something that will never be forgotten by all Marvel Comics fans.   My compliments to director Joss Whedon.

At second place for my memorable moment of this movie is the scene when the commander of the HYDRA base that is under attack by The Avengers asks his men if the superheroes can be held back.  One soldier meekly says, “They’re The Avengers.”

One small weakness of “Age Of Ultron” is that there is too much comedy in it.  Even Ultron cracks one-liners almost every time he is onscreen.  It also doesn’t help that half of the jokes don’t really work.  Despite this flaw, this Avengers movie is highly entertaining, more so for comic book fans.  The action sequences are amazing and the pacing is mostly fast, making the 2 hour 21 minute running time of the movie feel shorter than it is.

Forget Ultron, this is the age of comic book geeks like me who are gorging on one superhero movie after another.

— M

Grade B

In the realm of comic book characters, no match-up is more famous and argued over than Batman versus Superman.  Director Zack Snyder’s interpretation of this fight between two of the most famous comic book heroes is…good.  That’s a compliment, right?  Sort of.  For a movie that costs about $250 million (plus the cost of film prints and the shipping of these prints, and advertising expenses), this had better be a great movie.  So in one sense, it is a success because it made a lot of money — and will continue to do so — but in another sense it is a failure because it didn’t live up to its hype nor potential.

With a running time of about 2 1/2 hours, much is crammed into this movie — way too much, actually.  I’ll give you a quick rundown on this bloated movie.  The “introduction” of Superman (played by Henry Cavill) is a rehash of the ending of “Man Of Steel,” where Metropolis undergoes a severe renovation thanks to Cavill’s fight with General Zod and his henchmen and one henchwoman.  Of course, mere mortals die by the thousands.  Ben Affleck, who plays Batman, sees the destruction and deaths firsthand; and from that moment on, he sees Cavill as an alien who is too powerful and cannot be trusted to use his powers always for good.   Thus starts Affleck’s plan to fight and kill Cavill before Cavill has the chance to destroy Earth should he have a bad day.  Oh, and there’s the story about Wonderwoman, a weird version of Lex Luthor which was like a mix of The Joker/The Riddler, a mutant abomination called Doomsday, etc., etc.  As I said, bloated.

But “Batman v Superman” does deliver on the goods, which is the fight between these heroes.  Loosely adapted from the mini-series comic books “The Dark Knight Returns,” the fight between Affleck and Cavill is amazing, and will surely have every comic book fan of Batman and Superman salivating and grinning.  It’s the rest of the movie that has audiences sharply divided: half say it was boring and nonsensical, the other half say it was good, albeit far from perfect.

What do I say?  Yes, many parts of this movie was slow, but I never found it boring.  They were needed to tell the story, to build up the characters and their motivations.  In fact, scenes that showed Affleck’s and Cavill’s human side (the best and worst parts of us) were some of my favorite scenes.  It’s how “B v S” made me feel that was the most important to me; and this movie made me feel the anger, sadness, jealousy, rage, confusion, fear, love, friendship, trust, and hope that the characters in “B v S” felt.  This is the true appeal of this movie, because without it, we just have two guys hitting each other while wearing outfits that would look fabulous in a gay pride parade.

Third place for my memorable moments category of this movie is the scene when Wonderwoman (played by Gal Gadot) looks at files of “metahumans” and sees Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg.  Justice League, here we come!

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Cavill and Affleck finally start their fight with each other.  Unfortunately, it starts off comically as Cavill taps Affleck and Affleck gets thrown like a beetle getting flicked by someone’s finger.

First place for my memorable, movie moments of “Batman v Superman” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Batman is about to kill Superman with a kryptonite pointed spear.  Superman, barely able to talk, begs Batman to save Martha, Martha being Superman’s mother.  Batman thinks Superman is referring to Martha Wayne, who is Batman’s dead mother.  When Batman finally realizes whom Superman is speaking of, he sees the human side of Superman.  Instead of viewing him as a dangerous alien, Batman now sees Superman as a good son desperate to save his mom, the way Batman always wished he could save his mom — and dad — from that tragic night when he was a boy.  And just like that, the Dawn of Justice begins.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has its flaws, yes; but the emotional points of the movie hit hard and true.  And the fight between Batman and Superman…that glorious fight that comic book fans have only seen in cartoons and comics…it is a dream come true.

— M

Grade D+

Ten stories in one movie that takes place in one neighborhood during Halloween!  Wow, sounds like a great deal, right?  Wrong!  With a running time of about 90 minutes, including credits, that’s about 8 minutes per story.  There is just no time to set up the stories so that the audience will care for what happens to the characters.  “Tales Of Halloween” is just an orgy of gory deaths that sometimes has a surprise ending that is amusing.  And the special effects isn’t much better than what was seen in the “Tales From The Darkside” t.v. show decades ago.  Almost every story has so many shenanigans that they cannot be taken seriously, further disengaging the audience from the movie.  This is not horror, but comedy; and even as such, it is a failure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Tales Of Halloween” is the scene when a little alien with a little bag for his Halloween candy keeps saying, “twick or tweet!”  It was a cute, little critter and it made me laugh.

This movie is to be avoided by horror fans, unless you want something silly and gory to watch with your friends as you get drunk and catch up on your lives.

No, Maximus, I was not entertained!

— M

Grade A

When I first heard about the movie “Ant-Man,” I thought “You got to be kidding.  Ant-Man!  Of all the Marvel superheroes to make a movie about, you do Ant-Man!”  Well, I’m glad Hollywood made this movie, because it’s one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Paul Rudd plays an ex-con who is trying to live a straight life and provide for his daughter, who is living with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.   Redemption comes in the form of Michael Douglas, who plays a former superhero and creator of the Ant-Man suit that allows the wearer to shrink to the size of an ant.   Douglas tasks Rudd with donning the Ant-Man suit so that he could infiltrate a highly secured building and steal a weapon prototype so that it could not be sold to the bad guys.  Rudd has but a few days to train, and his chances of coming out of this mission alive is slim…but he has high hopes!

One of my memorable moments of this flick is the scene when Ant-Man is fighting Yellowjacket — both hero and villain are in their tiny mode — within a toy, train set.  From the perspective of Yellowjacket, we see this enormous, noisy train bearing down on him, an impact sure to cause major catastrophe.  In the next shot, from the perspective of humans, we see the toy train simply and quietly fall off the tracks.  It was hilarious!  This is genius filmmaking!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ant-Man” is the scene when Rudd accepts Douglas’ offer of redemption.  Rudd tells Douglas that he wants to do what’s right, and he has given up his criminal ways of breaking into places and stealing s@#t.   He asks what Douglas wants him to do.  Douglas says he wants Rudd to break into a place and steal s@#t.  Ha ha!

“Ant-Man” is a well-written (it better be with four screenwriters!) action/comedy that is matched with talented actors and a very good director.  Rudd plays an extremely likeable character that the audience will root for from the first minute that we see him.  There are many funny moments and the jokes are delivered with expert timing.  If you loved “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” you’ll love “Ant-Man.”

Yes, Maximus, I was very entertained to the point that I didn’t mind you throwing your swords at me.

— M

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