In Case You Didn’t See It: Aquaman

This edition of In Case You Didn’t See It is a tie-braker review. I recently had lunch with two friends who have seen DC’s Aquaman. One friend loved it, while the other friend didn’t. I was literally sitting in the middle when it was suggested for me to watch this movie and break the tie. In a word, my review is: yech!

In many words, Aquaman is a movie that succeeds in a couple of areas but fails in a bunch of others. The origin story of how Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) becomes Aquaman: King of Atlantis comes to the screen in a colorful process but the story is told in a weak manner. NOTE: Spoilers ahead.

One success element of the movie is that it’s a love story. Arthur is the product of the union between his human father and lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) and his Atlantis Queen mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman). This is where the appeal of the movie begins and ends. It’s clear that DC intended this movie to be a grand spectacle. Good special effects and well choreographed fight scenes are points toward the movie’s goal, but they don’t come close to making up for a weak story-line that depends too much on the Excalibur legend. Other flaws include weak character motivation (NO ONE important dies!), outdated CGI (not even as good as Avatar in 2009), useless characters (Manta comes to mind), and a two dimensional villain in King Orm (Patrick Wilson).

We don’t have enough time or bandwidth to go over all the short comings but suffice to say that this movie is not worthy of the acting talent in it. C’mon you’ve got Willem Dafoe in this for goodness sake! If you’re at home alone on a rainy Saturday afternoon and there’s NOTHING good on TV, mop your kitchen floor before you waste time watching this movie. Two stars out of five (sorry Charles, I agree with David on this one!)

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In Case You Haven’t Seen It: Russian Doll

Hi everybody!

I know it’s been a while but I’M BACK! The laziness and apathy demons have been slain and regular reviews will be written.

This month we take a look at Russian Doll, a made for Netflix series staring Natasha Lyonne (Nicky of Orange is the New Black). IMDB has this offering listed as a “comedy, drama, mystery” to which I say “Yeah, it’s all those things”.

As always, this review contains mild SPOILERS.

Natasha plays Nadia Vulvokov, a software designer living in New York. We soon find out that Nadia is foul-mouthed, highly intelligent, promiscuous and very much a loner. As a result, she is the toxic element in her small number of personal relationships. The story opens with Nadia alone, staring in the bathroom mirror of her friend Maxine (Greta Lee). Maxine is throwing a party celebrating Nadia’s 36th birthday.

Nadia being Nadia leaves the party with a hook-up, takes him to her place, and after the fun and games are over, leaves him in her apartment to promptly get hit by a car and killed. But instead of rolling the credits, the story puts Nadia back in front of the bathroom mirror “Groundhog Day” style.

Yeah, it’s a time loop show. Nadia dies a bunch of times with full memory of the fact that she was killed. As you might have guessed, Nadia is a broken, flawed character. In fact, she more broken than most of us. Each death becomes an opportunity for her to fix a major defect in her past. The show takes us through Nadia’s journey as she discovers the nature of the loop, what is her defect and how to fix it. Along the way, she goes through a lot of self-discovery and helps quite a few people.

For me, this show took some time to get some traction. Things didn’t get interesting until episode four (there are eight total). However, once Nadia’s time loop partner Alan shows up (Charlie Barnett) the show gains a quality that makes you eager to find out what happens next. Also by this time you actually care about Nadia as a character and start rooting for her.

If you can get by blue language (F-bombs galore) and understand the underlying theory of relative time vs linear time (they do a fairly good job of explaining it) this show could be worth watching if you’re a patient viewer. I plan to give season two a chance, at least three episodes. (3 1/2 stars out of 5)

Published! (and not self-published)

Hi guys!

Ever heard of Mused, BellaOnline Literary Review? Well, neither had I until I submitted a story to them for publication. They decided to publish my story Charlotte and Beau in their 2017 Winter Solstice edition. Check it out HERE
I must admit, it’s a thrill to have someone out there think my writing is good enough to post on their web site. While you’re there, you might as well check out the rest of the magazine. In addition to short fiction, Mused showcases poetry, non-fiction and visual art. Enjoy!

In Case You Haven’t Seen It Vol 4

Hi everybody!

Time for another installment of “In Case”. This time I’m reviewing a powerful female-centric movie. This film raises the bar of storytelling by having a woman protagonist of heroic dignity. And on top of everything else…

It’s a true story.

You thought I was gonna talk about Wonder Woman didn’t ya? I did enjoy the DC hit and I might review it later but this time I’m reviewing an even better movie: Hidden Figures from Fox 2000 Pictures. As always watch out from some spoilers below:

It’s 1961 Virginia and the space race is on. In the wake of the Russians launching of Sputnik I, heavy pressure is put on NASA for results. That’s where our heroines come in.

Three story lines center around real life NASA employees Katherine G. Johnson (portrayed by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (portrayed by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (portrayed by Janelle Monáe). These African-American women overcome double prejudice against their race and sex to become principal contributors to the American space program as a mathematician, a computer programming supervisor and an engineer respectively. Continue reading In Case You Haven’t Seen It Vol 4

In Case You Haven’t Seen It Vol. 3

Hey everybody!

For this edition of “In Case You Haven’t Seen It” I’m going to give you my review of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Actually I’m giving two reviews, one short, the other long:

Short – Dude! This movie is great, go see it!

Long – Now for a little more detail. <<SPOILERS BELOW!!>>

James Gunn is at it again. Marvel Studios and the writer/director of the first Guardians flick have another hit on their hands. Right out the gate, Vol2 rolls with action, action, action, but what makes this a quality film is how a good story is told through entertaining character development.

Peter Quill, aka Star Lord (played by Chris Platt) leads the Guardians as they take on interstellar freelance jobs worthy of their unique skill set. On one particular job, the heroic team of Drax (Dave Bautista), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper, voice), and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel, voice) backup Star Lord in protecting highly powerful batteries from a starship-sized monster that’s mostly tentacles and teeth.

At the end of an action-packed scene, the monster is dead and the batteries are safe. Ayesha, The leader of a golden-skinned race of people called the Sovereign is grateful to the Guardians for their work.  She hands over the promised payment, Gamora’s estranged and hateful sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). The plan is to collect the bounty on Nebula but that goes south when it’s discovered that Rocket has helped himself to some of the batteries they were hired to protect. The once grateful Ayesha, sends a few hundred fighter ships to get her property back. This action results in a space battle with thousands of laser blasts exchanged, and a crash-landing of the Guardians’ ship. A mystery man prevents the team’s total destruction by personally vaporizing the fighter ships. The story gets traction when the mystery man named Ego (Kurt Russell) walks up to Peter Quill and says “Hey, I’m your long lost daddy!” That’s not an exact quote.

But it is the beginning of a chain of character development events in this movie. A number of relationships are expertly crafted for the sake of story: Peter and Ego, Peter and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, even Peter and Rocket. During the process of moving these character connections forward, we see family working together and family at each other’s throats. One unexpected relationship exploration is the one between Peter Quill and Yondu (Michael Rooker). We get a real explanation as to why Yondu gives Peter so much slack. We also get a great death scene.

All of the relationship elements, the introduction of new characters like Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and the perfect mix of humor combine to create a high-energy film with spectacular action and meaningful story-telling. The one and only negative thing I can say about this movie is that I was hoping it would advance the Infinity War storyline and it doesn’t. Nevertheless this movie gets 4 out of 5 stars.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is a Marvel Studios film starring Chris Platt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista. Written and Directed by James Gunn.

In Case You Haven’t Seen It Vol 2

Hi boys and girls! Time for another movie review.

This time the movie comes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you haven’t seen Logan, I strongly  suggest you do.

Here are the caveats:

  1. You have to love a gritty storyline.
  2. You have to be able to handle gory fight scenes and foul language.

If you’re good with 1 and 2, they made Logan just for you.

BEWARE: SPOILERS BELOW!!

The setup and major players: It’s 2029 and thanks to the government, mutants are an endangered species. Logan has set aside his Wolverine persona in an attempt to live out a quiet anonymous existence as a limo driver in Texas.  He and Caliban, a mutant whose power is tracking other mutants, are caretakers for an aging Charles Xavier. Like all mutants, they’re on the run from the government. They live in an abandoned industrial facility and Charles’ Alzheimer’s has turned his powerful mind into a paralyzing unpredictable weapon when he has a seizure. Life is not good.

Enter Gabriela Lopez and a little girl named Laura. Gabriela recognizes Logan for who he is and offers him big money to take them to the Canadian boarder. Logan reluctantly accepts the job but when he stops by the hotel to pick them up, Laura is gone and Gabriela is dead.

Logan heads home with Laura as an unknown stowaway in the trunk of the limo. After Logan discovers his special passenger, A cyberneticaly-enhanced and heavily-armed security squad called The Reavers show up to claim her. It turns out Laura has Wolverine claws and a Wolverine attitude. That’s when the fun begins!

This movie is all about redemption. Redemption for Charles but mostly redemption for Logan. He’s given one last opportunity to be a hero and comes through. This film is rated R for a reason. There’s lots of violent action and blood, blood, blood. The story is sometimes as brutal as the fight scenes but it’s told pretty well. The writing is decent although I would have liked more substance in this area.

Overall this movie is a very good redemption story. All the right people make the right sacrifices to do the right thing. In addition, Boyd Holbrook is a standout as Donald Pierce, leader of the Reavers. Logan is definitely worth the price of admission.

Logan stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen and Boyd Holbrook. Directed by James Mangold. Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green. Rated R