Since 2015, we have been waiting to see the culmination of Marvel’s Netflix Series that started with Daredevil. The Defenders brings together the Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist series in a crossover event with decent success. Serving mainly as a follow-up to Iron Fist, the first season of the crossover series was short in length, but I thought that was a good thing. It would be harder to drag a series like this out over 13 episodes. To start with the positives, I enjoyed the way the camera filters changed between the characters. We get the reds for Matt Murdock/Daredevil, the yellows for Luke Cage, the blues for Jessica Jones, and the greens for Danny Rand/Iron Fist. This also extends to the secondary characters from their respective shows and the clothing that they all wear. There was one scene that we thought would focus on Jessica Jones, but everything around her was red. Then we see Daredevil show up to help her out. This was a cue to let the audience know that she was not going to be the focus of the scene. The show also does a great job integrating the main and supporting characters from the other shows into this one. The first meeting of Danny and Luke is hilarious, but one must wonder why it took Danny so long to activate his Iron Fist ability. The other introductions are more fluid, and it made sense how they would bump into each other. The character growth was good and noticeable. Each of the important characters have learned from their past experiences, but some things that still haunt them. Becoming a team helps them going forward, similar to how forming the Avengers helped Tony Stark/Iron Man. The acting was great, overall, and I was surprised by how well done the fight choreography was. Especially, from Finn Jones, since this was lacking in Iron Fist. Now, to move on to the negatives, the show has a few issues. I mentioned that the shorter season was a good choice. However, I do wish the episodes were longer. An additional 20 minutes each would have been great. This would have allowed for them to get through the set up quicker and get into the action. In addition, the fact that they don’t mention the greater Marvel universe is a mistake, a mistake that has plagued all the Marvel Netflix series from the beginning. The Defenders has the least mentions of any of the other shows before it. There is one mention of the “incident” but nothing else. It is unclear how much time has passed since Avengers. People are shocked to hear about superheroes in a world where aliens attacked New York and an army of robots destroyed Sokovia! My point is that they either need to state that this is an elseworlds universe or start making more firm connections with a better sense of timeline in reference to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Finding out more about The Hand was great. Seeing all the leaders unveiled and learning their backstory was interesting. However, overall, this was a lackluster group of villains for this show. I was very skeptical when Sigourney Weaver was cast as the main villain for the show because I didn’t think she would bring the right amount of evil to the role of Alexandra. Unfortunately, I was right. We see Elektra in the trailers and her parts in the show are fantastic. Élodie Yung brings back the same conflict and viciousness Elektra had in season two of Daredevil. She should have been the main focus of the show, and The Hand should have been left in the background. I give The Defenders season one a Good 4/5. They left many questions open for future exploration. I hope things are better by the time the studio makes season two.
Sometimes you leave a comedy having laughed uncontrollably throughout the film. Other times you leave realizing that the funniest parts of the film were already shown to you during the trailer. Sadly, the latter experience is what I had after watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard. That in no way means that I thought this was a terrible film. It hit the marks it needed to, when it needed to, for the most part. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson had fantastic chemistry on-screen as Michael Bryce and Darius Kincaid respectively. The rest of the film however was your typical “paint by numbers” action-comedy. The basic plot of the film is that two enemies are forced to team up to escape a dire situation. For such a basic plot I expected there to be a lot more comedy involved to get us through the rest of the film. Instead we got the same flat jokes over and over again. Most of the film’s comedy actually came from Samuel L. Jackson’s character. I was expecting him to be funny, but I was expecting more from Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds is known for his comedic roles in film and could have elevated this film so much if he was given better material to work with. The writers maybe should have given more of the comedic lines to him and left Jackson’s character a tad more serious. Élodie Yung did an okay job as Amelia Roussel, but her role was not substantial enough for me to buy into her connection to Michael Bryce. Salma Hayek was hilarious as Darius’ wife Sonia, but her role in the film was also limited and left one wanting a little more. Gary Oldman on the other hand should have been in the film even less than he was. His Russian accent was terrible and I felt like he was mailing it in the entire time. On a positive note the film has some great action and chase sequences. The director Patrick Hughes clearly learned a lot from filming The Expendables 3 and transferred it to this film. The fight sequences with Reynolds were very well choreographed. With some better writing this film could have easily been the best comedy of the year. The studio did a great job marketing the film and it has very little competition to go up against for the rest of August. Therefore it should make a decent chunk of change and make back its low budget. I give The Hitman’s Bodyguard a Normal 6.8/10. I’d be willing to see Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson work together on a sequel as long as it has better writing and the box office of this film warrants it. Also not once was “I Will Always Love You” played during the film. That was a big missed opportunity.
What do you get when you combine Guardians of the Galaxy and Saw with Rick and Morty? “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” is what you get. This episode was not what I expected and that’s a good thing. It starts out one way, changes halfway through, and ends with something totally unexpected. Morty is excited when he and Rick get a call to join the Vindicators on a mission. Rick quickly declines, but Morty invokes his right to choose one in every ten of their adventures. Something Rick agreed to in the season one episode “Meeseeks and Destroy”. The title of the episode comes from the fact that this is the third big Vindicators mission. Morty thinks it is the second, but soon finds out that they were passed over for the second mission due to Rick’s overwhelming personality. The great part about this episode is how it constantly spoofs the superhero movies, more specifically the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Rick alludes to the surprising success of the first film and how a sequel was not necessary. Then, later in the episode, he talks about how much lamer the Vindicators are the second time around. This is a nod to some critics thinking Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being not as good as the first film. As the episode goes on we learn that Rick, while a member of the Vindicators, does not like them very much. He even has his own superhero name that perfectly matches his skillset. He wishes that his grandson looked up to him as he looks up to the other Vindicators. I love how this episode also sets up the fact that Rick and Morty actually go on numerous adventures and the episodes we see are only are only just a few of them. Morty pretty much knows Rick to a fault at this point and kind of saves the day just by knowing how messed up his grandfather’s thought process is. Apparently Rick has gotten Morty in many similar situations during his drunken blackouts. Sadly, during the course of the episode, Morty has to watch as his childhood heroes are broken down in front of him. Proving that he placed them on a pedestal when they aren’t all that special. It was almost if Rick was the Joker and the rest of the Vindicators were Harvey Dent. With just a little push he brought them down to his level of insanity. In the end, Rick’s numerous points are made and Morty becomes a little more depressed about the universe. I give “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” a Good 4.6/5. There were a good few laughs to be had during this episode, especially when Rick breaks down how stupid each Vindicator’s names and powers are. Also it was nice seeing Revolio Clockberg Jr. aka Gearhead again as I thought he was dead.
The Dark Tower is a sci-fi western film based off of Stephen King’s eight book series. The film actually serves as a sequel to the events of the seventh book The Dark Tower series. The story of the film is very straightforward. Basically what you see in the trailers is the plot of the film. The boy, Jake Chambers, has visions of the Man in Black and the Gunslinger. He finds a portal to Mid-World where he luckily runs into the Gunslinger and they team up to stop the Man in Black from destroying all worlds via destroying the Dark Tower. We are given a little exposition on what the purpose of the tower is in a scene that is reminiscent to Thor explaining the nine realms to Jane in the first Thor film. Going into this film I did not read any of the books as I expected that I would be brought up to speed on the details that happened within their pages. However, the film did not go into much detail on any of the characters, let alone provide any backstory for them. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are fantastic actors and they do their best with the roles of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger, and Walter Padick, the Man in Black. Their characters have an interesting dynamic that would have played better if they had more screen time together. Newcomer, Tom Taylor, did a fine job as Jake Chambers. He had great chemistry with Idris Elba and most of the scenes they had together worked well. A few of the jokes the writers tried did not translate well on-screen, but that can happen in any film. The mythology that the film sets up is pretty great and they leave the ending open for more sequels. I did have a good time watching it, but I would not have minded if it were 30 minutes to an hour longer. A film of this nature should be longer, especially if they intend to use it to set up a franchise. I feel some of the issues with this film sit with the director. He is not as seasoned as some other filmmakers and probably was not ready for a film of this caliber. Originally, J. J. Abrams was attached to direct when the film was first being produced back in 2007, but ultimately those plans fell through. I could only imagine how great this film could have turned out in the hands of a director like Nolan or Abrams, because they understand sci-fi so well. I give The Dark Tower a Normal 6.5/10. I’m interested in seeing more from this universe, so hopefully it makes enough money to warrant a sequel, prequel, or even a Netflix continuation.
Wow, this is the episode of Rick and Morty we have been waiting for. Ever since season 3 started back in April we’ve all been waiting to see “Pickle” Rick on screen. Now that I have seen the episode I can say that it did not disappoint! “Pickle Rick” shows us the Smith family, minus Jerry, going to therapy to find out the root of all of their issues. Rick gets out of the session by turning himself into a pickle. He set it up so that he could change back into a human as soon as the family left, but of course his plan is changed when Beth takes his serum with her to the therapy session. “Pickle Rick” was an overall great episode filled with action and comedy. Once again Rick proves how intelligent he is by surviving the day as an immobile pickle. While it is not explicitly stated, we are also enlightened to the fact that Rick needs adventure like its a drug. The writer of the episode, Jessica Gao, doesn’t go into detail exactly how he created all the things he did, but we get enough tidbits so that we can just go along on the adventure with him. We also get to learn more about Rick and Beth’s psyche through their interactions with their therapist and each other. This episode contains one of the few times we hear Rick praying to God to save his life. Yet, in the after credits stinger — which is a must watch — he once again goes back on his belief. This is a very interesting aspect of Rick’s character, as we really don’t know what he truly believes in. We are also reminded how little Rick cares about Beth, since he has infinite Beths to choose from. This ties back to Rick telling Morty in “Rickmancing the Stone” about how they have infinite Summers to choose from. This means technically everyone has infinite relatives in different dimensions. A fact that Rick accidentally let slip to his new friend Jaguar, who is voiced by the ever so cool Danny Trejo, and immediately retracted. Going back to Beth, we see how her relationship with her Rick affects her and her children. She knows that Rick doesn’t actually need her in his life, but hungers so much for his approval and respect. This clearly stems from him not being apart of her childhood. This may actually be true for every Beth in every timeline/dimension. She clearly needs therapy, but my not continue going. Morty and Summer understand this fact, but can’t do anything to change it. I give “Pickle Rick” a Superb 5/5. This episode was funny from start to finish. Clearly mimicking action movies such as Die Hard and Rambo.
There is certain subject matter that is hard to transfer into film. Police brutality, police misconduct, and racism are a harsh reality that many people still deal with today. Detroit is a film that covers this subject matter during the events of the 1967 Detroit riot. More specifically, the Algiers Motel incident that took place during the night of July 25–26. Going into this film, I did not do any research about the film’s plot. I assumed that it was a purely fictional story set around the police brutality of Black people during the Detroit riots. The director, Kathryn Bigelow, does a great job at making you feel like you were in the situation with the characters. The film’s story was not one sided in showing that all cops are bad. It showed that cops are people just like us. Yes, we saw a lot of bad cops in this film, but we also saw some who just wanted to help, some who did not wanted to be involved, and some who were just confused. We also got to see how the riots made some of the Black characters feel. Some Black people were just angry at the system that they lived in, some wanted to make sure that other Black people survived and did not do anything stupid, and some were just caught in the middle while trying to live their lives. I felt just as scared as the characters while sitting and watching the events unfold on the screen. I believe this was because Kathryn Bigelow knew exactly which camera angles to use to make the space feel tight, bringing on a feeling of claustrophobia for me as a viewer. This was very similar to the direction she used in her previous films, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. The story of Detroit started out a little slow, but picked up as the film progressed. I had to remind myself that this is a crime drama and not an action film as much of the “action” was driven by the situation and the dialogue. Each of the actors involved did a great job portraying their characters. This film is packed with great actors. There even a few cameos that I was not expecting. The standout of the film for me was Will Poulter. He disappeared into his role of the racist cop, Philip Krauss. He has come a long way from We’re the Millers and should continue to take more roles like this, as it can only benefit his career. John Boyega did great portraying Melvin Dismukes as well. For most of the film I felt his character was unnecessary and shoehorned into the plot for the sake of adding star power. However, as the film progressed, I found out exactly why he was necessary to the plot. This wasn’t the starring role for Boyega that the trailers led me to believe, but he was still good inclusion to the film. Additionally, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, and Jacob Latimore had great performances as Robert Greene, Larry Reed, and Fred Temple. Detroit is a film that can be hard to watch at times, but you have to power through. There were times where I felt sick to my stomach seeing what was being done to the characters while being interrogated by the cops. It wasn’t just the police brutality that made me feel this way. It was also the officer’s lack of compassion and irresponsibility of the justice system during that time period. Not knowing what would happen to characters by the end of the story had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation. I give Detroit a Decent 8.7/10. This film is a must watch as it reminds us that the issues of police brutality and racism we faced in the past are still present today. It is great to remind ourselves of how far we have come as a country and how much more we can do to continue to improve. Only together can we move forward as a nation!
Wow, four months later and we finally got to see what Rick, Morty, and Summer have been up to. “Rickmancing the Stone” picks up shortly after “The Rickshank Rickdemption” with Rick, Morty, and Summer returning immediately from one adventure to go on another. This episode is a clear spoof of the Mad Max franchise and Romancing the Stone, with the gang journeying to a dimension populated by murderous, cannibalistic, biker gangs. Spoofs are not new to the series, as they have spoofed movies before, including: Jurassic Park, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Inception. The show itself is a lose spoof of Back to the Future. The “Mad Max” world however was drawn with greater imagination than the others as each of the background characters look different and unique. I enjoyed the straightforward storyline of this episode and how it dealt with how each member of the Smith family tries to move forward. This allows us to relate more to the characters before the season goes off on a tangent, as they usually do. While in this “Mad Max” dimension we get to see how the divorce of Beth and Jerry affects the rest of the family. While Morty is very upset and angry about the divorce, Summer is unfeeling, repressing any emotion about the matter. Rick is clearly happy to have Jerry gone, but Beth isn’t sure she made the right decision. Unfortunately, Jerry got the short end of the stick this episode, as we did not see much of him, but when we did I couldn’t help but laugh at his misery. The episode did not veer off to far from the usual craziness of the show, but was clearly milder than others. In a sense, it was a satire of how families deal with divorce in today’s society and will probably be the underlying story for most of this season. The main focus of the episode was Summer as she is officially a part of the “Rick and Morty” group now. I have a feeling this trend of her inclusion on adventures will continue throughout the rest of the season as well. I did notice at one point in this episode that Rick still cares for Morty more than Summer, as he is willing to leave Summer behind in one instance, reminding Morty that he has infinite Summers to chose from. Given that the name of the show hasn’t changed to “Rick, Morty, and Summer”, this makes perfect sense for the series to remind us of that fact. I only wish we got to see more of Beth, Jerry, and the robots Rick left behind to impersonate him and the kids. Hopefully we get to see them again before the season ends. I give “Rickmancing the Stone” an Average 3.8/5. Also wait to watch the stinger after the credits. In my opinion it is one of the funniest scenes in the entire episode.
I am a big fan of Christopher Nolan. The films that he writes and directs are usually different and amazing. When I found out he wanted to make his passion project, Dunkirk, I was excited. We had never seen him do a war film before and I wanted to know what kind of expertise and gravitas he would bring to a film of this nature. After seeing the first trailer, I was not very impressed, but hoped the film would be more interesting. I have now seen the film, and while it’s not a terrible film, I do not think it is up to par with Christopher Nolan’s previous films. Nor do I think it is the greatest war film of all time. The film is about the evacuation of the Allied soldiers that were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France during World War II. The film is also told from three perspectives and in a non-linear fashion. From the land we follow a young British private named Tommy as he tries to escape the beaches of Dunkirk. From the air we follow two RAF pilots, Farrier and Collins, as they take down enemy planes. And from the sea we follow Mr. Dawson, his son Peter, and Peter’s friend George as they sail to Dunkirk to ferry soldiers home to safety. The non-linear aspect of this film was a tad confusing as you are not told when you are switching from one perspective to the next. Therefore it is hard to grasp a sense of time. I feel if it were clearer when we were switching perspectives, or if each perspective were told separately, the film would have made more sense throughout. The cinematography and use of practical effects did add a realism to this film that most war films lack. The acting was fine and there were great moments of suspense, however there was little dialogue. I understand that aspect of the film was by design, as Nolan wanted fans to focus on the situations that the characters were in, instead of what they were saying. Yet, I felt that it backfired as I hardly cared about the characters in the film, because I didn’t really get to know any of them. Towards the end some light gets shed on the motivations of a few of the characters, but nothing more. Christopher Nolan cast great actors such as Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Cillian Murphy to play the roles in this film. Yet, every actor I recognized felt like a glorified cameo. Another setback for me was the film’s score. I was expecting an exciting sound from the composer, Hans Zimmer, but the music was rather dull and bleak. It did appropriately reflect the situation the soldiers were in, but it didn’t really change during the heroic moments. I give Dunkirk a Normal 6/10. I’m happy Christopher Nolan tried something different, but now its time for him to get back into filming something exhilarating and fun. Perhaps something like Bond 25.
I am not a fan of 3D films. Whether it’s converted in post production or filmed with 3D cameras, I would rather not see it. For my early screening of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, I was forced to see it in 3D. However, I will not let that hamper my review of the film, for it was not terrible. Now, take that with a grain of salt because this was not a fantastic film either. Based on the very popular French science fiction comics series, Valérian and Laureline, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets tells the story of Major Valerian and Sergeant Laureline as they try to complete a mission for the World State Federation. The opening of the film was great. It showed how Alpha, the titular “City of a Thousand Planets”, came together while the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played in the background. Next, we are treated to the beautiful scene of an alien world before we are introduced to the main characters: Valerian and Laureline. While I think Dane DeHaan is a fantastic actor, I’m not sure that this was the right role for him. I didn’t buy him as the ladies’ man that Valerian is supposed to be, nor did I buy his apparent affection for his partner, Laureline. Their romance seemed to be forced throughout the entire film. It would have been better if they played the characters as platonic partners. Cara Delevingne was fine as Laureline, but she wasn’t given much to do. She is a much more impressive actress than her last few roles have shown. Much of the dialogue in the film was stiff and almost comical. There are even a few lines lifted straight out of Taken, but I’ll let you wait to see when that happens in the film. Other parts of the plot did not make sense and there was almost a rush at the end to explain everything. I do have to admit that Luc Besson knows how to make both a beautiful looking and great sounding film. The creatures and worlds you see on-screen are great, and somewhat believable. With a little better writing this could have been another The Fifth Element. The best way to describe this film is that it is a good “background film.” Those are basically films that you have playing in the background while you are doing other things. It is something that you want to watch, but don’t care if you miss a few seconds here and there. Apparently, Luc is now writing a Valerian trilogy of films, so I would be interested to see where he takes these characters. However, I would not be upset if it never came to fruition. Overall, I give Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets a Normal 6.5/10. I feel Luc Besson works better when given smaller budgets, so studios should remember that when he pitches them his next film.
Let me start by saying no apes were harmed during the making of this film. Remember that when you go see it, because even though the apes in this film look and sound real, they are, in fact, CGI. War for the Planet of the Apes is the culmination of Caesar’s story that began in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. While I enjoyed seeing how this character’s story unfolded in the film, I have to say the film, as a whole, was a bit of a disappointment. I am not saying that it was a bad film. I just feel that I built it up in my head a little too much, and it did not meet all of my expectations. So, let’s start with the positives. The CGI has never been better. Every hair, every wrinkle, and every expression on the apes’ faces looked real. Once again, Andy Serkis did great as Caesar, and for the first time, I could actually see his face in Caesar’s face. This was not as evident with the motion capture in the previous two films. Secondly, I felt that Steve Zahn stole the show as Bad Ape. He was kind, charismatic, and funny without trying too hard. He was a great addition to the cast, and I would love to see how his character interacts with Caesar’s group moving forward, should the series continue. Third, the film’s story paralleled the Hebrews escape from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land in multiple ways. Writers, Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback, without a doubt, intentionally placed this imagery in the script as there are other biblical ideology and motifs scattered throughout the film. Moving on to the negatives: the film was slow, really slow. I felt like I waited forever for the film to pick up and it really didn’t. We didn’t get much action from the apes in comparison to the previous film. Second, I found it weird that few of the apes really spoke. We saw in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that the apes were using sign language in conjunction with human speech. In this film, however, they seem to have reverted back to mostly using sign language and rarely forming words or sentences. Caesar is basically the only ape who speaks in the film. Thirdly, Woody Harrelson played an okay villain as The Colonel. Sadly, he left much to be desired and did not live up to what Gary Oldman brought to the previous film. I am excited about where this franchise could go next because the ending left many possibilities open. Overall, I’m going to give War for the Planet of the Apes a Decent 7/10. Hopefully, next time the director will decide to pick up the pace and will give us the ape action film that was presented in the trailers.