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:

If you have not seen The Leftovers, I don’t believe that I spoil much, but I suggest not reading this review if you absolutely have to watch something not knowing anything about it beyond the general plot synopsis.

Too often, The Leftovers has contrived sequences and the characters do frustrating things. Some of this can be chalked up to events and actions occurring in a post-rapture world, although it’s never specifically stated it was a rapture that took place in the years prior, suddenly vanishing 2% of the world’s population, until season 3 and only then it was conjecture from an overly religious character. And that was part of my issue with The Leftovers from the beginning – it just assumes that you think the sudden vanishing was the rapture and not something else. But even though the show assumes rapture, it tries to explore it from a scientific standpoint briefly at times (and nothing ever comes of that). As for me if 2% of the world’s population suddenly disappeared, I would first think that we’re living in a virtual reality and the 2% were deleted, either accidentally or intentionally, and if accidentally then we’re living in a dead-end timeline before everything gets restored. If intentionally,well, shit.

The show reminded me of Lost while watching it, a show that I watched every now and then but didn’t take too seriously and I’m fortunate I did not given the scathing reviews of its finale from people who did take it seriously. Apparently The Leftovers was created by the same creator of Lost.

As I mentioned before, season 1 of the Leftovers was just good enough to continue watching. A cult known as the Guilty Remnant (GR) played a prominent role in season 1 and this was probably its weakest subplot in the whole series. Why these people act the way they do and how they are able to recruit so many members is never adequately explained. The show simply assumes that the viewer is to understand that people would act this way in a post-rapture world. But is that the way some people would act? It’s a take it or leave it scenario and taking it is a large stretch. They all dress in white, they all chain smoke, and all have taken a vow of silence and do not speak. So, they communicate by writing things down on notepads all the time and this gets pretty tedious at times given that they’re always communicating by writing when they’re not supposed to be communicating. As to why they do all this, it’s not explained. They are able to recruit a few new members by standing outside their houses silently stalking them. And that’s all it takes to recruit new members. Lame. They also do things like break into everybody’s houses and take their family photos and nobody bats an eye, then later when they do something equally lame, everybody in town completely and totally loses their shit.

Members of the Guilty Remnant chain smoke and communicate by notepad and sharpie.

Also, subplots are brought up, then dead-ended. A couple from season 1 included characters I mentioned in a previous post. The dog-killer states that the leftover dogs are a danger and Kevin helps kill them in his sleep walking, then Kevin later adopts one. That’s it. So are the leftover dogs a danger, or what? How do they figure into the rapture? The other subplot included Aimee, who was living with Kevin and Jill. The reason she was living with them was never explained and at one point there was an odd sexual tension in one scene between Aimee and Kevin. Nothing was ever done with this tension except to have Jill accuse Aimee of fucking her dad (which wasn’t true) to have a fallout occur between the two and get rid of Aimee from the series. The whole thing was pointless and odder still because Aimee is presumably an underage character (she’s in high school) even though the actress is obviously in her 20s. The scene with the odd sexual tension occurs because Aimee appears in the kitchen wearing a see-through shirt. I don’t know current laws with television, but this could be considered child pornography even though the actress is in her 20s because it’s a portrayal of a bare-breasted female child in a semi-sexual manner. But again, the whole thing was pointless, so I don’t know why they did any of it.

Scenes had to be cut short for the American edition of Trainspotting due to the underage sex between the actor Ewan McGregor and actress Kelly MacDonald playing a 15 year old girl, even though the two were of age.

But for all of my problems with The Leftovers, the performances from the actors and actresses are top-notch. Justin Theroux (playing Kevin Garvey) and Carrie Coon (playing Nora Durst) carry the show. Other supporting actors are great as well – Christopher Eccleston playing Matt Jamison, Kevin Carroll as John Murphy, and Regina King as Erika Murphy, to name a few. The fantastic Scott Glenn plays a supporting role too and one of my favorite episodes, Season 3’s Crazy Whitefella Thinking, featured him prominently (as the crazy whitefella). It’s these performances and stellar episodes every once in a while that kept me coming back. Season 2’s International Assassin episode is another example of great storytelling from all involved and Season 1’s Guest is the episode that really got me into the show. These three episodes all had something in common – they focused on a singular character and his or her journey. This is where The Leftovers is at its strongest and it’s engrossing.

Then, just like that, Crazy Whitefella Thinking gets followed by an episode that is one big contrived and cliched mess. Going into the last four episodes of the series, I gave The Leftovers a C+ in my mind with the final episodes being capable of raising it up to a B or B- level or dropping it down to a C. Would the final episodes be strong ones focused on a Garvey or would they go the more likely route of jumping back and forth through different characters to tie up the character arcs? But why bother doing that when so many other things haven’t been tied up? Will I be really upset by the ending like so many were who took Lost seriously?

I’m happy to say that season 3 episodes 5, 6, and 7 all largely focused on a singular character and each was successively better than the previous. Episode 5’s It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World seemed odd with the lion sex party (you would have to watch it), then Episode 6’s Certified allowed Amy Brenneman (who plays Laurie) to shine brightly despite an episode nearly devoid of plot. I felt her acting talent was largely wasted until this episode. Then came The Most Powerful Man in the World (and his Twin Brother), a brilliant episode and largely a sequel to Season 2’s International Assassin, also from the same director (Craig Zobel, who also co-founded Homestar Runner!). This penultimate episode is every bit as good as International Assassin and has one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen on the small or big screen in quite some time.

Homestar Runner is great, but who would’ve thunk one of the creators would go on to direct something as good as International Assassin?

Before I get to the series finale, I have to say that I read up a bit on the many theories online about the show. While some seem like they could be legit and others are pretty far out there, I came across one written during the first season stating they felt the series was largely a study in depression. In fact, I got the feeling that’s what the show was about before I even saw that article. That’s probably why I don’t like it quite as much as others – as a largely depressed person, I crave a little more escapist entertainment than what The Leftovers has to offer. My understanding is that the first season was loosely based on the book (which I have not read), then season 2 and 3 was not. Season 2 is where The Leftovers got significantly better, probably because the creators and writers were able to take the characters and ideas and write their own material directly for a visual format. But they still kept the depression theme at times, especially given what takes place in Certified during the third season.

As for the series finale, it was mildly disappointing and again, reminded me of Lost. There’s even a reference to Lost early in the episode. I’m not going to say anything else about it.

The strength of the latter half of season 3 earns it an increase in grade from C+, but the series finale prevents it from getting a full B and results in a B-.

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

Midnight Special, a science fiction film about a boy with special powers, could have and should have been a better film. But, it’s decent in its own right. The positives to this movie are the cast, the acting, and the shots (even though there was a noticeable smudge on the camera lens in one scene where they were driving). The negatives are that it gets relatively boring after an interesting setup in the first act to first half of the movie.
Grade: B-

Spoilers below

Many people online seemed dissatisfied with the ending. I thought it tied things up fairly nicely, so I’m not sure what the issue is. What I find odd, though, is the filmmaker’s commentary on it.
https://www.buzzfeed.com/adambvary/midnight-special-ending?utm_term=.rmokL5XQG#.ocAYWO8nG
It seemed fairly straightforward to me with the bright light emanating from the boy and the beings of light revealed to be living in a world on top of ours watching us that the boy and these beings are angels. But Jeff Nichols, the writer and director, calls that a “red herring”.
Regardless, it’s clear the filmmaker was shooting for a “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” level of film, but falls short of that. Still worth watching for science fiction buffs, though.

(WordPress if fucking up the line breaks and I don’t feel like trying to figure out why)

Suicide Squad came on HBONow last Saturday and I figured I needed to watch it, especially since I had just seen Batman V. Superman. I guess I should review it too. Unfortunately, I found Suicide Squad to be inferior to Batman V. Superman, even though everyone was in love with the Suicide Squad trailer, as compared to their hatred for the Batman V. Superman trailer.

The positives of the film are Will Smith’s performance as Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn. Interestingly, this is the first time I’ve seen Cara Delevinge on the screen, who plays an archaeologist who gets possessed by a witch named the Enchantress. Delevigne is in an upcoming film of interest, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and I have seen the trailer for that. She was hardly in the movie as the archaeologist and that performance was fine. The Enchantress performance seemed mediocre at best, but I think the primary problem was the dubbing of audio over top of her lip syncing, or something. Something wasn’t right about it at all and it took away from her performance and the scenes with the Enchantress.

The visual effects weren’t bad, but in spots weren’t necessarily good either. As for the true negatives – the story, the direction, the Joker hardly being in it. Perhaps the biggest problem with this movie is the attempt at making unlikable people likable, some of whom do unlikable things throughout the entire movie. While it generally works for Deadshot and Quinn, it fails miserably on everyone else. The other characters are completely useless too; Jai Courtney sucks as usual as an Australian named Boomerang, a guy who uses a…you guessed it…boomerang to kill people. There’s also a crocodile guy or something, a Japanese woman who uses a…you guessed it…sword to kill people and then there’s the guy that can turn his body into a flamethrower, Diablo, but then sits around most of the movie brooding while refusing to use his powers. Lame. But even lamer, there’s one guy who can climb buildings real fast and then gets killed immediately. Not even in battle. LAME.

Grade: D

Spoilers?

I rented and streamed The Devil’s Candy this past weekend based on a review by Chris Stuckmann and the fact that most reviewers are giving it positive reviews. Unfortunately, I found the film to be mediocre. The issue I had with it was that it basically seemed like a standard slasher flick. Yea, it’s an indie film and some may like the artsy take on it, but all I found that part to be was an homage to heavy metal music. And that’s pretty much all the film was – a crazy guy killing children to the backdrop of heavy metal music. Even the climactic ending seemed like it was simply an homage to heavy metal music videos and album covers.

That having been said, I liked the performances of all the actors involved especially the three family members (Kiara Glasco, the teenager, is definitely one to watch for a good film career in the future), but unfortunately, Pruitt Taylor Vince, the killer, plays his typecast character the same as most everywhere else he’s been. Which is to say very well, but I’ve seen the exact same actor playing the exact same character in movies a couple of times before (the first one being 2003’s Identity with John Cusack).

Also, Vudu had streaming problems Saturday evening when I wanted to watch the film and I ended up having to watch it Sunday evening. Lame.

Grade: C+

P.S. I found the creepiest scene to be the one where the killer appears in the girl’s bed.