Category Archives: Movies

Spider-Man: Homecoming Review – The Best Spidey Film Ever, Full Stop.

By Mike Reyes

Thanks to Jon Watts’ sublime directing, and a cast that’s anchored by a fantastic hero and villain, Spider-Man: Homecoming does whatever a Spider-Man couldn’t do on the big screen.

It’s been a long damned road to Spider-Man: Homecoming. We got two great films out of the Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire run, with one absolutely abysmal one that shut down the rumored seven film cycle they were attempting. And then there were two very mixed-up films by director Marc Webb, with Andrew Garfield making a great run as Peter Parker / Spider-Man. But neither of those runs could prepare me for Spider-Man: Homecoming, as this latest film did what the franchise has never done before: it made a superior adaptation of the Spider-Man mythos.

Baby Driver Review: The Ultimate Summer Joy Ride

by Mike Reyes

Somebody better call the folks at Merriam-Webster, because it’s time to update the dictionary. Cool is now spelled “B-A-B-Y.”

Edgar Wright is one of the most important director of modern cinema, and there’s very little room to argue against this fact. His understanding of the movies is so keen that he can always send up a genre while paying tribute to it with a fully functional entry in its canon. But with Baby Driver, he pushes himself to provide more than just another Edgar Wright film. It’s because of this that just might be his best work yet.

Cocktails & Movies Review: “Wonder Woman” – Score A Big Hearted Win For The DC Extended Universe

by Mike Reyes

After what seemed like forever, Wonder Woman has finally arrived in Hollywood, with strong, but mixed, results.

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With three films under its belt, the pre-Wonder Woman DC Extended Universe was in a bit of a bind. Between the way it handled its characters and source material, as well as the variously noted disasters, debacles, and reshuffles in its cabinet, it looked like they were never going to put out a film that could please the public. But then, hope started to shine as Patty Jenkins came aboard the first cinematic outing for the princess of Themyscira, and a pretty solid cast boarded under her leadership. Well, it pleases me to say that while Wonder Woman isn’t the silver bullet (or bulletproof bracelet) that Warner Bros intended, it’s a strong, satisfying base hit.

After growing up in the idyllic Themyscira, its princess, Diana (Gal Gadot,) ventures into the world of mankind. Accompanied by the soldier that crash lands into her life (Chris Pine,) our protagonist embarks on her greatest adventure yet. With World War I raging, and Diana’s naivete adjusting to the culture shock, the search is on for the madman who’s pulling the strings of the conflict. As her battle rages on, Diana will learn what it’s like to be human, warts and all.

While Wonder Woman is a far from perfect film, it’s a truly heartfelt piece of entertainment. Up until now, DC’s films have had a sort of anarchic / nihilistic sort of attitude about them, with a sliver of optimism being represented by Superman. With that sliver now dead in the universe, and Justice League looking like more of a bro-down than any of the other Warner Bros films, Wonder Woman is a refreshing change of pace, as the film decides to focus on themes of heroism and love. The message is a little clunky at times, particularly when the dialogue hits the nail a little too on the head, but the fact that the message is there is still important. Should the internet turn its attentions to memes about Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman’s relationship, rather than The Joker and Harley Quinn’s “relationship,” the world will already be better off.

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Of course, the goodwill doesn’t end there, as Wonder Woman powers forth with Gal Gadot as its sterling female lead and director Patty Jenkins finally putting her stamp on the comic book world, both making huge strides for women in a male-dominated genre / industry. Thankfully, that angle isn’t preached with tone-deaf sentiment, as the strength of Gadot, and the rest of the female characters in this world, is shown in actions rather than dialogue. Ms. Gadot, in particular, balances wide-eyed wonder with her warrior nature quite well, with minimal sour notes being hit throughout. It’s just a shame that the film leaves Themyscira so soon, as the film ditches 95% of its strong female characters once the action moves into the real world.

It should also be noted that Chris Pine absolutely shines in this movie, as do his fellow World War I compatriots. That’s partially because all of them are full fledged, captivating characters on their own, each with a sparkling personality, and a common goal in the name of the common good. However, it’s really Gal Gadot’s chemistry with the group, and the earnestness of her performance, that make this unit as fun to watch as Captain America, Peggy Carter, and the Howling Commandos.

Unfortunately, there’s something to be said about a lot of the borrowed elements that Wonder Woman displays, as there are moments in here that not only recall Captain America: The First Avenger, but also one particular scene in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Let’s just say No Man’s Land becomes one of those “hit the nail on the head” moments we were talking about, albeit the moment itself is redeemed with an exemplary action sequence that exhilarates the film. While these elements aren’t exactly unique in the world of comic books, it’s more noticeable when you copy elements in the context of a film.

But perhaps the weakest element of Wonder Woman is, in fact, the villainous contingent throughout the film. There’s three villains in this film, and none of them escape the classification of mere caricatures. There’s even a laughable moment where Danny Huston’s  General Ludendorff and Elena Anaya’s Dr. Maru (aka “Dr. Poison”) engage in some comedic villainy that makes for a quick chuckle, but renders both characters unable to be taken seriously. Not to mention, the third act is damaged by this villain problem, as the final showdown just isn’t as compelling as it wants or hopes to be. For a film that has such a strong first two acts, it really hurts to see the finale turn into a subpar closer.

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Despite its flaws, Wonder Woman is a film for fans of the comic book genre, as well as movie fans altogether. It’s an especially dazzling film when seen in IMAX 3D too, as the quality of the visuals are only enhanced by the superb presentation of third dimensional enhancement. It’s not a perfect movie, and there’s plenty of comic book films that outrank it in brilliance, but Wonder Woman represents hope for a better female driven franchise ahead. What it lacks in plot it makes up for in well-drawn characters you want to spend time with, and a lead that truly rocks her role like a goddess. Gal Gadot has come a long way from her Fast & Furious days, and Patty Jenkins continues to shine as a vital directorial voice in the world of film. May they both come out of the gate swinging for Wonder Woman 2, should the market allow such a possibility, as I already miss their work.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

Cocktails & Movies Review: “Alien: Covenant” – A Frightening Summer Blockbuster, With An A-List Pedigree

by Mike Reyes

Ridley Scott continues to excite with his Alien franchise, returning to the series’ terrifying, blood soaked roots.

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While no one can hear you scream in space, they probably can hear the outcry of upset fans who feel they’ve been done wrong. It’s no secret that Ridley Scott’s 2012 prequel Prometheus has its fair amount of detractors, but I myself am among its champions. I felt it was an interesting origin point for an earlier era in the story that would eventually follow Ellen Ripley’s lineage in grand style, depending on what the next couple of films in the prequels did. After seeing Alien: Covenant, I can safely say that the direction Scott is heading in is an exciting one, filled with much more danger and darkness than Prometheus could have ever promised.

In the vast distance of space, the crew of the “Covenant” are ready to start a new home on a planet that’s just ripe for the living. But after discovering a random signal, they are drawn to a planet that is much closer, and can inhabit human life just as easily. One decision will send a crew of colonists straight into the mysteries of this planet, and all of the terror that their shadows conceal. A very familiar terror, with a very interesting origin story.

In early reactions to Alien: Covenant, I remember reading someone coming out of the premiere saying that they knew this was going to be the new film for Alien fans to argue over. That’s definitely the case, as the latest film in this ever evolving saga has taken an interesting turn, in regards to the origins of the species. While ruining those turns is pretty much high treason at this point, it’s a good bet that I can say the mythos of the Alien saga is moving forward in some pretty interesting ways. The ideas that Covenant has when it comes to the creation of the Xenomorph race are not only intriguing, but also thematically ballsy, as their connections to Prometheus make even that film a little more interesting. And all the while, this film unfurls with genuine pacing and craftsmanship that only Ridley Scott could bring to such a film.

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Though it should be noted that Michael Fassbender steals this goddamned movie from everyone else. We get two scoops of synthetic this round, as Alien: Covenant has Fassbender reprising his role of David from Prometheus, as well as introducing us to Walter, a newer, more tame synthetic designed down the line. In both performances, the man shines, playing one character who feels like a soldier and the other like a mad scientist. Watching the two Fassbenders collide on screen is truly a treat, and a testament to the fact that the man is one of our greatest acting treasures in modern cinema.

That’s not to say that the ensemble containing Katherine Waterson, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bashir, and Carmen Ejogo is weak. In fact, each member of the cast sells their portion of the story with great gusto, with a particularly interesting turn from McBride. In fact, this is probably the most grounded I’ve seen him since his supporting role in Up In The Air, and when you see him upset or scared, you really feel it thanks to his usually egotistical bravado. And Waterson, whom we last saw in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, is definitely ready to be more of a Ripley-esque presence, as she gets to show in certain key moments in this film. While she’s not a full Ripley just yet, I do hope she gets the chance to work in that space, as she’s simply too good not to allow to do so.

Alien Covenant Review

Ultimately, your enjoyment of Alien: Covenant will depend on several things. Chiefly among them will be how much you like Prometheus, and just generally how you like your sci-fi. But one thing applies to all who are interested in uncovering this new film’s mysteries: you really do have to see it for yourself. It is as thrilling as it is visceral, and it might possibly be the bloodiest film of the summer, at least for this moment in time. For someone who’s loved the series since they were a kid, warts and all, I absolutely loved this film, and cannot wait to see where this series goes next.

My Rating: 5/5

Cocktails & Movies Review: “Life” – A Lean, But Extremely Mean Thrill Ride

by Mike Reyes

While Life never truly digs into its characters or its environment, it’s really efficient at horrific visuals, stunning creature design, and delivering what’s essentially a living nightmare on crack.

Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) with David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Columbia Pictures' LIFE.

If there’s any subject harder to talk about than life, I don’t know what it is. Though talking about the movie Life, not the abstract concept of existence, is a little easier to discuss. While Sony still has me gun shy to approach anything that resembles sci-fi from their production house, thanks to the horrific film I call Passengers, the pedigree of this project was enough to get me to sit down and watch it. While this is far from the movie I was really pulling for it to be, this film managed to be something rather entertaining, and in the darkest, most horrifying ways.

During an unprecedented mission aboard the International Space Station, a diverse crew of specialists discover the first signs of life on Mars. Of course, such discoveries come at a cost, and such a payment can only be made in blood. What the crew of the Pilgrim mission has awakened is fierce, deadly, and extremely intelligent. If they’re lucky, they might just stop it from getting to Earth.

I never had huge hopes for Life, the movie not the abstract concept of being of course. As much as I felt the film cast its leads effectively, and put together an ok at best trailer, I was prepared for a total garbage fire of a film. So imagine my surprise when Life managed to actually be a decent film. This isn’t to say that it’s a slam dunk, as there was a lot of problematic elements that hamper Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick’s story, as well as some questionable editing in the film’s third act. While the film’s not afraid to get downbeat and gory, it almost feels as if those are two of total set of three tricks the film has to play.

David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) in Columbia Pictures' LIFE.

But considering how the buzz was automatically knocking this film as nothing more than an Alien rip off, I’d say that dismissal is quite unfair. While this film certainly does crib its fair share from Ridley Scott’s iconic sci-fi series, it does manage to also rip off Gravity to a good extent, particularly with Jake Gyllenhaal’s record breaking astronaut who really doesn’t want to go back to Earth. For as good as the central cast’s performances are in Life, they still can’t surmount the amount of stupid decisions these supposedly professional characters make. Apparently, they have “Fuck it!” embroidered on their crew patches, as that’s a frequent exclamation uttered by crew members about to do something stupid and reckless.

Yet for all of the story notes Life borrows, it infuses its extremely thin plot with an energy and pacing that most films forego in order to bog themselves down with useless exposition. While I could have used a little more time with the crew, and some more information about the shadowy operating committee that they worked for, I can’t say that Life wasn’t a fun film to get scare shitless with.

Stupidity aside, the creature known as “Calvin” is at times beautiful and absolutely horrific during its evolution. Its intelligence is matched only by its speed, which is something I still wish I could say about this movie, as it only really enforces the latter element. Yet as inept as the characters were, I never once rooted for this creature. It’s that threatening. Still, while people do extremely stupid things in Life, they do them fast and with conviction, which makes the ride smooth, despite its underdeveloped plot and characters.

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While I really wanted more out of Life, it went into such corners of terror that I stared at the screen in horrified entertainment. There’s plenty of bone chilling stuff that packs the walls of this almost two hour panic attack, which goes so entertainingly dark with some aspects that it makes the safe playing story of the film even more of a disappointment. Sometimes, a movie just exists to be a distraction. As painful as it is to admit, sometimes a fluffy, easy to digest thrill ride is what the doctor orders.

Life definitely fits that bill to a tee, as it’s definitely a fun matinee that can keep you entertained for a short while, and doesn’t ask much of you. Think of it as an exercise to keep you warmed up for the summer season ahead, and enjoy this one with some friends, and maybe a pint or two.

My Rating: 3.5/5