My dad was talking about a movie on Amazon Prime titled Predestination and said it was pretty good so I watched it. It’s several years old, but I figure I’ll make some notes on it anyway. The basic information about the film that can be found online states that it’s a film starring Ethan Hawke as a temporal agent tasked with stopping crimes committed by future killers and that his final task is to stop someone known as the “fizzle bomber”.

Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what this movie is about. But, to state what the movie is about would basically spoil the movie, so I see why that’s the description. Also, the first billed actor of this film should not be Hawke, it should be Sarah Snook, who plays “The Unmarried Mother”. Snook is fantastic in this film, has the most screen time, and it’s a shame she wasn’t given more credit.

As for the film itself, I have a number of issues with it including the fact that the first half of the movie is almost entirely exposition from a first-person voiceover, a narrative technique that I do not enjoy. But it’s all Snook doing it in this case and she was great.

Then there’s the fact that trying to apprehend the fizzle bomber is hardly in the movie. About a third of the way through the film is when it becomes obvious that the movie is not about apprehending the fizzle bomber and that a number of obvious plot twists are coming up. But, there were even more plot twists than anticipated, so some of them were interesting, whereas others were not.

I would give the film a C because of its slowness and some of the aforementioned predictable plot twists, but the movie is actually refreshingly original and Snook’s performance allows for a higher grade.

Grade: B

 

SPOILERS

As the title suggests, everything in the movie has been predetermined to happen, so there isn’t a satisfying conclusion of Hawke’s character stopping the fizzle bomber. This is because the movie takes place entirely in a completely closed temporal loop where the temporal agent is all three – The Unmarried Mother (Jane), John, and the fizzle bomber.

The twist where John meets Jane accidentally, falls in love with him/herself, then impregnates him/herself, then gives birth to him/herself is interesting, but as is the case with many time loop movies, it raises more questions than answers. Most notably, how did this closed time loop get created in the first place to make this possible?

The storytelling here is also a little awkward because the fact that John is Jane gets revealed in the middle of the movie, then it’s acted as though it’s a big reveal a little later and then two more times near the end of the movie. Or maybe I’m more adept at picking this stuff up than the average filmgoer? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure.

But, the movie does make you think, despite its shortcomings. Not surprisingly, there’s a few posts on the internet explaining temporal loops, how the loop interacts in the movie, the types of paradoxes, etc. A good one is here, another one is here.

Some of the chatter in these articles and the comments touch on my biggest issue with the film (no explanation for the creation of the closed loop). Some say Robertson must have created it since he said multiple times how important it was to stick to the mission. This is what I believe the movie was trying to say. But why did Robertson want to create the closed loop? My guess is that it’s for the fizzle bomber to be somehow contained in the loop while time carries on outside of the loop without the bomber. The only reason I say this is because there obviously was no major bombing of New York in 1975 in our timeline (us, the viewers) even though it’s clear at the end of the movie that event will indeed still happen. Keeping the bombing and the political aftermath of it inside the closed loop would be beneficial to society.

Or it could be the result of the supposed invention of time travel in 1981 in the film with something having gone wrong and time twisting back on itself. It’s unfortunate the film gives no real clues.

Back in 2007, I bought the Blade Runner: Final Cut Blu-ray. After viewing it, I asked the question “Is Blade Runner: Final Cut the best movie ever made?” on myspace. I personally found it to be a flawless movie and while I’m not going to disagree with certain criticisms of the movie, I will disagree with a reviewer if it is not at least on their best science fiction films list.

So, I was excited to see Blade Runner: 2049 last weekend. As mentioned here, that didn’t happen, thanks again to AMC Theatres. This weekend my son was going to a birthday party at the cheap movie theatre, so my daughter wanted to go and see The Emoji Movie. So, we went and after viewing it, I have to ask the question “Is The Emoji Movie the Worst Movie Ever Made?”

It’s really that bad.

I had extremely low expectations going into the movie thanks to following Chris Stuckmann’s reviews and seeing a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes earlier in the year (the current 10% fresh rating has to be from fake reviews), but those extremely low expectations still weren’t met. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality of the movie. The plot was lame, the characters were lame, the animation was lame and the jokes weren’t even jokes. Here’s an actual joke from the movie:

The high five emoji bumps into the coffee emoji and says “Oh hi tea.”

The coffee emoji then says “I’m not tea, I’m coffee.”

Quality stuff and I’m sorry I spoiled that punchline for you. My daughter laughed once during the whole movie. I don’t remember what she laughed at, but it wasn’t at this “joke”. There was also a big “reveal” or “plot twist” that was attempted and fell remarkably flat. There was also a shot at men from the primary female character at one point, which is obligatory for everything on the big or small screen in the past two decades, but I found it kind of odd since I thought we were past that since everyone has been deemed one single sex and gender now by the very same people who take shots at men. There were also awkward edits and transitions in the first half of the movie.

But none of this is what makes it eligible for “worst movie ever” status. What makes it eligible is that the movie’s plot is simply there to take the viewer from one commercial to the next. No, seriously, that’s all the movie is – it’s one sequence of commercials. If you would like to have the experience of watching The Emoji Movie, here’s how to do it in the comfort of your home. Take a ten dollar bill out of your wallet, burn it, then go online and watch extended commercials for WeChat, Candy Crush, Just Dance, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram and Dropbox. In fact, doing this would probably be far more entertaining.

The Just Dance commercial, oops, I mean segment of the movie is particularly egregious as is the Candy Crush commercial, which is simply a tutorial of how to play the game. About half way through the movie, I wondered where the inside jokes were for adults that were having to watch the movie, but I quickly remembered there weren’t even any jokes for the kids, so it didn’t matter. But then, towards the end of the movie when it got to Dropbox, I realized the Dropbox commercial showing off its supposedly powerful security features was there for the adults because what kid is going to be interested in Dropbox?

The day after I watched the movie, I happened across The Film Theorists on youtube and they had just released a video talking about this exact thing. They make a strong argument that what The Emoji Movie did should be highly illegal:

But the fact that it’s one big sequence of commercials is actually not the most egregious thing about the movie. That accolade goes to the fact that they somehow got legendary Sir Patrick Stewart to voice the poop emoji in this movie. I guess everyone has their price.

I’ll have to revisit my “worst movies ever” list to give it some thought on where this one will be placed on it. Sure, there are plenty of “worse” movies, but it’s a very short list for ones from major studios (in this case, Sony) or movies that take themselves seriously. In the mean time, I have to give a couple of notes on the movie-going experience. It was at the cheap theatre, which I hadn’t been to in over a decade and couldn’t even remember. So I didn’t know what I was getting into, but my expectations were pretty low for the theatre experience too.

Some family towards the front of the theatre had brought in a ~2 year old child who was either crying or shouting for the first third of the movie before the mom and toddler had to leave. This is par for the course for any movie for kids, so it didn’t annoy me. About ten minutes after they left, a loud sound like a wild boar snorting started up and continuously made noise. At first, I thought it was some part of the movie, but it continued and as I looked around, I found that it was a man two rows ahead of us making the sound. I then came to the realization that the entire row of ~8 people two rows ahead of us were all mentally disabled people.

Wild boar man made his sound for about five minutes straight before stopping and started up two more times before the movie ended while others intermittently clapped or made noise. I didn’t have a problem with it either and what I’m trying to say is the theatre experience was the same, if not better, than the AMC White Marsh 16 Theatres, which I haven’t been able to go to two times in a row now. The screen and sound were both acceptable at the cheap theatre and I think I’ll go back.

Spoilers

Sometimes when re-watching movies later in life, the movie is better on the second viewing. Other times it seems worse, or at least dated. When I re-watched The Sixth Sense for the first time in 18 years, I found it to be exactly the way I remembered it to be, which was very good. It’s got the star power of Bruce Willis, a rare great child performance courtesy of a then entirely-unknown Haley Joel Osment and an academy award winning performance from a then-relatively-unknown Toni Collette. It’s too bad Olivia Williams character couldn’t be in it more, because she was great as well.

My biggest problem with this movie at the time was the twist ending. I didn’t buy it at all at the time, but I was one of the rare people who thought the movie was great despite not buying the ending. Of course, when re-watching it, I was on the lookout for clues to the twist, and found some that I didn’t see at the time, including some references from Cole (Osment), which seemed to indicate he was aware Dr. Crowe (Willis) was a ghost the entire time. But, I still feel Dr. Crowe getting shot towards the beginning of the film followed by a cut to a scene that begins with “The Next Fall” showing him seemingly alive and well was cheap and ruined the twist, something I said at the time following the movie. “The Next Fall” established that a significant amount of time had passed and seemed like a lame trick to play on the audience when coupled with him looking up items in his office at home, among other things. Was it foreshadowing when Shyamalan had Dr. Crowe do his lame trick with the penny, something another kid later said was flat-out stupid?

I also noted that about 50 minutes elapsed before Cole specifically states he sees “dead people” with a lot of character development and slow-burn buildup before the real scares get started. And the real scares are actual scares because there haven’t been any really cheap jump scare items before that point. While it’s not “the scariest movie of all time”, as the marketing put it, it is an effectively scary movie thanks to the character development, slow burn of the first half, and excellent direction from M. Night Shyamalan.

As for Shyamalan, this movie made him a household name with audiences expecting a similarly great movie with a twist from each subsequent movie from him. His subsequent movies then divided audiences, likely because of this expectation. I felt Unbreakable was rather boring, while it spoke directly to some people’s hearts – those people will love the fact that Shyamalan is making a sequel to it titled Glass. I enjoyed Signs, although I felt the same as many others at the time when it was revealed that the aliens had invaded a planet made of 70% water while being aquaphobic. Later, very solid-sounding theories seemed to indicate that they were demons, not aliens and that the water left around the house by the smallest child was actually holy water.

I felt The Village and Lady in the Water were weak and generally tuned out of Shyamalan movies after The Happening, which was an interesting premise, but poorly executed. I later saw Devil, which was written by Shyamalan, but not directed, and felt it was halfway decent. I would like to see Split, but haven’t yet. The Sixth Sense remains the best of his films that I’ve seen. Since I’m hearing good things about Split, hopefully Glass turns out to be a good one. I may have to re-watch Unbreakable and see if my opinion changes with that one. I hardly remember it, so it should be interesting viewing.

Grade: A-

Not as good as what reviewers stated it is. While all the acting was good and the characters fleshed out, it got way too slow in both the second and third acts. I know this is total blasphemy to say, but both my wife and I agreed that 2002’s Spider-Man and 2004’s Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire were overall better movies. I skipped the Andrew Garfield reboots, so I can’t comment on or compare it to them.

There were a couple of very funny moments in the movie and there was a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Batman with Michael Keaton’s Vulture character. I’m glad I didn’t blink. Stan Lee got his obligatory cameo in early. There were a couple of good action scenes, but the ferry scene was too reminiscent of Tobey Maguire’s train scene in Spider-Man 2.

While die hard fans of the Avengers will certainly like this film and I’m sure have already seen it in the theater, others may want to wait until streaming.

Grade: B-

 

War for the Planet of the Apes is brilliant in its story, characters and technical execution. While I still noted some slight jerkiness in the CGI in a couple of scenes, the combination of motion capture and CGI is finally at the technical level to conclude that there is no practical difference between traditional (or practical) effects and the technology used to create the apes. And there are a lot of apes. There is no moment in the film like The Matrix Reloaded’s Agent Smith(s) scene where the CGI degraded badly due to the amount of it moving on the screen.

Andy Serkis as Caesar is awesome, as is Woody Harrelson as the Colonel in a subtle and scary performance as the villain. Other actors and actresses of ape characters, like Karin Karnaval as Maurice, were terrific as well. The movie also took two big risks, one with a character named “Bad Ape” and another one with a child. The Bad Ape character was used a bit for comic relief and could have gone sideways quick, as movies often have scenes ruined by characters like this at a minimum, and entire movies are sometimes ruined by them at a maximum. But not in this case. The same is true for children in movies, but this child was used at a minimum and the results of both of these risks was a movie for the better with them, rather than for the worse.

There are people out there saying this movie elevates this prequel trilogy to greatest of all time status, at least in argument. While I agree that this is probably the best concluding movie to a trilogy that I have ever seen, I disagree that it makes the trilogy the GOAT. While the first two movies were good, they weren’t great enough to elevate the trilogy as a whole in my mind. Also, this movie can stand on its own as a film without necessarily having to see the other two.

About midway through the movie when I realized just how good this movie was probably going to turn out to be, I couldn’t help but start trying to compare it to the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, it’s totally like comparing apples to oranges and the two can’t be legitimately compared. Both of these movies are classics in their own right.

Grade: A+

***

I have to make a brief note about the theater I saw the movie in. I saw it in a theater that had a “Dolby Completely Captivating” system in it. I didn’t pay attention to what this was before going in the theater, I just chose it because it was the earliest showing and wasn’t 3D. While the digital screen and sound system was very nice, the chairs left a lot to be desired. They were the same recliners as the other screens have now at this AMC theater, but apparently are integrated with motion or vibration technology so that the recliner shakes when there’s loud noises (like explosions) coming from the movie. Basically, it’s a poor man’s attempt at a 4D movie theater experience without 3D and was something I didn’t want or need.

The opening preview for this technology, prior to the start of the movie, shook the chair a lot and the nicest, bestest adjective I can come up with to describe it is “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development”. I’m prone to headaches, have had a long running one this weekend, and it didn’t help it. Fortunately, it wasn’t used as extensively in the movie as it was in the preview for Dolby, otherwise I may have had to walk out.

The description of the film To the Bone, which stars Lily Collins as Ellen, is that Ellen is an anorexic who crosses path with an “unconventional” doctor played by Keanu Reeves. Reeves is the first-billed actor and he’s hardly in the movie and the most “unconventional” thing he does as the doctor in the film is to tell Ellen to tell the voice in her head to “fuck off”. I say fuck off a minimum of a dozen times a day, so I must be pretty fucking unconventional if you follow that logic.

Despite the false advertising, the movie is still a watchable one, albeit with problems. I had heard about the movie and had opted not to watch it, but an A- review by Chris Stuckmann got me wanting to watch it. I have no idea whether or not the film accurately portrays anorexia and people who have it. Some people say it doesn’t, others, like Stuckmann, say it does.

The performances are very good. Beyond Collins as Ellen is Alex Sharp as Luke, the only real guy in the film, and Sharp should be the second billed actor, instead he’s the FOURTEENTH down on the list on imdb. It’s his performance of goofy Luke having an interest in Ellen that actually carries the film. The writing is good too and Ellen’s dysfunctional family group therapy scene stands out as a notable example.

But, there’s also a feel-good artsy fartsy scene that feels very obligatory and one of the characters having a miscarriage shortly after a baby shower for her was the most unsurprising event in movie history. If you have a problem with me spoiling that for you, fuck off, it was obvious it would happen from the moment it was known she was pregnant early in the film.

The movie’s third act gets odd, Stuckmann calls it “transcendental”, for lack of a better word. There’s supposed to be a deeper meaning there, or something about finding a will to live, but it doesn’t work. Had it not been for the movie’s third act, it would have gotten a B.

Grade: C+

After the first third of the movie, I thought The Void was going to be good, instead it was mediocre-at-best. The Void was originally crowdfunded and has a 73% rating on rotten tomatoes and was certified fresh. The trailers for the film as well as reviews made it out to be a good homage to lower budget 80s Lovecraftian horror and science fiction movies from the likes of John Carpenter.

The movie turned out to be a film that wants to have the feel of a Carpenter film like a cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing in the first half with the plot of a Clive Barker Hellraiser film in the second half. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to living up to any of those films and while the practical effects are great, they are way overused and character development is very light. In fact, I didn’t like a single character in the film, as none of their back stories were adequately explained. Thus, I had zero emotion when something happened to them.

The film was trying to be mysterious or something with the lack of character development, but was then oddly exposition heavy explaining the void in the second half. And the void was referred to as they abyss in the film. If there was a need to title the film The Void to not cause confusion with 1989’s The Abyss from James Cameron, which is what I suspect happened, then the abyss should have been called the void in the film.

Anyway, an honest attempt was made and that counts for something. It is indeed a film that some would like, I suppose it’s just that I’ve seen better homages to 80s films recently with Stranger Things on Netflix and a little-heard-of movie titled Synchronicity, which is a low budget homage to Blade Runner, but with time travel and one that I felt was even better than everyone’s favorite low budget time travel movie, Primer.

Grade: C

I got around to seeing Wonder Woman today on Father’s Day and it’s as good as the majority of the reviews stated it is. I found it to be the best DC Comics movie since The Dark Knight, and that’s very good company.

The story is good, the characters are fleshed out enough and it’s an entertaining summer movie. Gal Gadot makes Wonder Woman her own in this film and her quality performance is not surprising. I had first seen her in the Fifth Fast and Furious movie and knew then that she was one to watch. When she was cast as Wonder Woman in Batman V Superman, I was not concerned whereas some others were. Her performance proved me right.

Chris Pine is good, as usual, as is the supporting cast (both in the beginning on Themyscira and in the last half of the movie in the WWI fighting. There’s some great actors and actresses in the bunch, so that was not surprising as well.

The film is also apolitical, something that is very refreshing in this day and age. Men and women are treated as equals in the film and that must drive modern (third wave) feminists nuts. Articles that try to inject politics into the film are simply there to get clicks from their respective audiences and an article I read complaining that the USA is nowhere to be found in the movie when Wonder Woman is an American character, while true, is stupid in its complaint and there to get clicks too.

The actual majority of the complaints about the film I saw was that the villains are not that great. I think these reviewers (and there seemed to be a bunch of them) missed the obvious point (IMO) that the actual villain in the movie is war itself (or “Ares” to Wonder Woman). The horrors of war are adequately depicted in this movie so I found it to be a good villain.

I was concerned about the color palette of the film going into it, as the muted tones in the previous recent DC Comics movies from Zach Snyder is still in use in this movie by Patty Jenkins. The muted tones work well in London and the WWI fighting and provided a nice contrast to the brightness of Princess Diana’s home shown at the beginning of the film.

At 141 minutes, the length reminds me of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but unlike GGV2, the movie does not feel that long and did not feel as though sections should have been cut. The extra length is due to the Themyscira origins story, a necessary and great section of the film, and that was tightly edited as well.

My only real complaint about the film is the CGI-heavy ending, but it’s a minor complaint and all superhero movies and virtually all action movies do that anyway.

Grade: A

A couple of additional notes:

Wonder Woman raises the bar for Justice League coming out in later November. I previously had lower expectations for the movie, but hopefully Snyder has learned from his two previous DC Comics outings as well as from Jenkins in Wonder Woman because now I assume the expectations are high from most everyone.

Wonder Woman is also responsible for the internet giving us one of the better memes of the past year. Whoever made this after the first trailer came out is quite the funnyman:

Jason Bourne, I mean Matt Damon is Jason Bourne in a movie about Jason Bourne in the most original title for a film this decade: JASON BOURNE. All caps means it’s special.

And special it is – a great cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassell can’t save this movie from at-best mediocrity at times and sheer stupidity in the rest of the film. There’s absolutely nothing in the movie that hasn’t been done four times before and the shaky cam is still annoying as fuck. Not only is it used for things when it shouldn’t (like looking at a phone screen), it’s used in place of real editing in this film too and the laziness shows. There’s a very half-hearted attempt at weaving privacy concerns into the storyline, but it’s just there to setup the final action sequences.

Matt Damon is JASON BOURNE. But you already know his name.

During one of these sequences, the guy hired to fail to kill Bourne, named the “Asset” of course, plows through about two dozen cars in a SWAT van in a traffic jam blowing them to the sides in dramatic fashion as bumpers, front ends and crumpled cars go flying, but the van doesn’t receive a scratch. Bourne follows in an unmarked black Dodge Charger – the movie makes sure I know this because the movie was sure to tell me this via police radio as he gets in the shiny black Charger for his commercial, I mean action sequence featuring the Charger.

The script is lazy, the direction is lazy, the characters are poor and Matt Damon phones it in. Easily the worst of the Bourne films.

SPOILER – the character played by Julia Stiles, a fan favorite in the first three films, gets killed rather early in the movie, her body simply left unceremoniously in a Greek alley somewhere. Will she miraculously come back in a future film titled The Bourne Lobotomy? Who cares?

Grade: D

I found Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to be very good and better than the original, unlike most others. There was a lot more plot and it was all about family. The action was great, the humor was funny, and there were a couple of unexpected cameos. The CGI of a young Kurt Russel in the beginning overtop of another actor worked well too.

My chief complaint with the film was that it seemed like I was watching an extended cut. I felt strongly that about 20 minutes could have been cut and coincidentally, that would have shortened the running time to just under two hours rather than 2 hours and 16 minutes. This prevents it from getting a full A.

Grade A-