“Batman: The Killing Joke”

This is one of those times where I need to restrain myself on being a fanboy. The first 30 minutes of “The Killing Joke” is everything wrong with “Batman v. Superman,” while the latter 30 is everything great about the Batman mythology.

“The Killing Joke” is an adaptation of Alan Moore’s brilliant graphic novel. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and The Joker (Mark Hamill) have their ultimate standoff after The Joker goes too far with his latest crime. We finally understand why they won’t kill each other while seeing an origin story of The Joker.

“The Killing Joke” has a lot of hype since it’s Hamill’s last appearance as The Joker, an adaptation of what’s considered one of the greatest graphic novels, and the first R-rated DC-animated film. Does it live up to the hype? Eh, yes and no.

HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD! STOP READING IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS!

The opening 30 minutes is a prologue that focuses on Batman’s relationship with Batgirl (Tara Strong), as they’re hunting for a psychotic criminal named Paris (Maury Sterling). While the action is reminiscent of the great 1992 animated series (the animation is reminiscent, as well), it’s riddled with pacing and tone inconsistencies, as well as a screenwriter’s bizarre character-shipping.

Batgirl is the object of Paris’s affection, Batgirl is also in love with Batman, and then Batman and Batgirl have a one-night stand after a heated argument? This is nothing but creepy since Batgirl is more like a niece to Batman. I get changes happen, but this change makes the story’s sole female character a sex object, which doesn’t fly with me.

Another issue is “Killing Joke” is Batman and Joker’s story, but with this unnecessary prologue, it should almost be Batgirl’s story entirely.

Once The Joker is introduced after the prologue, “Killing Joke” takes off. We dive into a dark, nightmarish psychological stand-off between two broken men that goes from physical, to personal, to finally an understanding.

Hamill is more subdued as The Joker this time, portraying him as more self-aware and burned out on his own crimes, which is a fascinating take. Conroy voices Batman as a broken man that feels he has nothing left but being Batman, which is heartbreaking. Strong does well as Batgirl, but again, it’s the writing that weighs down her character.

The last scene is haunting on many levels with Batman finally laughing, but it’s missing a couple key aspects that made it powerful in the comic. Overall, I’m happy to see “The Killing Joke” adapted, but this isn’t the adaptation we deserve.

Grade: C+

Advertisements

“Star Trek Beyond”

Captain’s logs,

Trailers suck! “Star Trek Beyond,” for example, had an underwhelming trailer that looked more like a fan-made music video. Good news, the movie’s way better!

“Beyond” takes place two years after “Into Darkness,” and Kirk (Chris Pine) is now contemplating leaving the Enterprise, Spock (Zachary Quinto) is also contemplating leaving the Enterprise, and Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban), and Scotty (Simon Pegg) are all comfortable in their positions.

They take a side mission to assist an ally in need and are attacked by a diabolical alien named Krall (Idris Elba), who destroys their ship, forcing them to crash on his home planet. With little resources and an unlikely ally named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), the crew struggle to find a way off the planet.

“Star Trek Beyond” redeems the series of all the cliches, objectification issues, and throwbacks that made “Into Darkness” an underwhelming experience. We’re now back to philosophy on life, death, and science like the series, and intermittent action like the 2009 reboot. It’s the best of both worlds.

The opening scenes with Kirk negotiating with an alien species are both slapstick and engaging, establishing the film’s fun tone. The fun tone further strengthens through the characters.

The second act of the movie takes a buddy comedy approach to “Star Trek” with the crew split into two’s. We have Kirk and Chekov impressing each other with wit, Spock and Bones bickering (and also understanding each other), and Scotty and Jaylah forming a bond over rap music (which, they call classical). Sulu and Uhura are paired together and imprisoned, so not much fun there.

The action is frenetic and masterfully directed, thanks to Justin Lin (the “Fast & Furious franchise), but it doesn’t have Abrams’s suspense factor. Speaking of underwhelming, it’s disappointing that an expressionistic and versatile actor such as Idris Elba is cast as a cliched villain we’ve seen in several “Star Trek” and comic book movies.

Elba works fine with what he has, but he’s not as menacing on screen as Nero (Eric Bana in 2009’s “Star Trek”) or Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch in “Star Trek Into Darkness”). I can forgive that since this movie is more about the crew, their bond, and their logic.

“Star Trek Beyond” is a pleasant surprise and even with a new director and screenwriter, and without Chekov (RIP Anton), the series will still live long and prosper.

Grade: A-

 

“Swiss Army Man”

I look forward to watching a post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe movie because he does what he wants. He has the financial freedom and power to do so, so why not play a farting corpse?

“Swiss Army Man” follows suicidal Hank (Paul Dano) stranded on an island. He notices a corpse named Manny (Radcliffe) slowly come back to life, possessing powers that are able to guide Hank home. Thus, an eccentric friendship blossoms.

For the first two acts of “Swiss Army Man,” I was close to naming it one of the year’s best movies. It’s sweet without being sentimental, simultaneously juvenile (the movie consists of dick and fart jokes) and philosophical, and philosophical without being pretentious. Dano and Radcliffe carry this movie.

Whether it’s Hank teaching Manny about movies and love, or Manny bluntly saying he’ll masturbate thinking about Hank’s mom, the laughs are consistent. “Swiss Army Man” also works as a dark adventure, as they struggle with nature and encounter a bear while contemplating if life is worth living for.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

I’ll never watch “Swiss Army Man” again because the final act makes the movie creepy and depressing as a whole. There’s a subplot involving Hank’s phone having a picture of a girl named Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and we’re left thinking she’s Hank’s girlfriend.

After he reveals that he took the picture of Sarah without actually meeting her, and we learn that he has several other pictures of her on his phone, I felt manipulated and frustrated we were rooting for a stalker for two hours. Manny was the actual protagonist of this movie.

Manny’s a curious child being used by Hank, who doesn’t care about him until the movie’s end. When Manny escapes across the ocean, that’s the only happy ending we get in “Swiss Army Man.” There isn’t much sympathy for Hank, but that’s fine since we were tricked in rooting for a stalker.

“Swiss Army Man” is fun at first, but I wish the filmmakers either were honest about Hank or wrote a more likable protagonist. People will say I missed the point and maybe I did. But was the point to feel uncomfortable? I’m asking you!

Grade: B-

“Ghostbusters”

Dear haters and fanboys,

If you’ve watched various franchises, you should know very well that reboots are inevitable. You were all angry that we got a “Ghostbusters” reboot either because you weren’t open minded to recasting , or because Ivan Reitman didn’t make his third installment as promised.

Sincerely,

A confused movie lover.

That’s not my review! “Ghostbusters” needs no introduction because we all know what it is: a group of paranormal investigators discover a supernatural threat that can destroy New York City and have to save the day. This time it’s Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones as the titular characters.

“Ghostbusters” takes place in a new universe with no mention of Reitman’s classic. And while the cast and director Paul Feig deliver, the script is standard and exactly like the original “Ghostbusters.” Didn’t the writers learn that’s why no one liked “Ghostbusters 2?”

The “Ghostbusters” formula is  four disgraced scientists discover something abnormal and no one believes them, there’s a political antagonist who wants them out of the picture, they quit, and then save the world at the last minute. The 2016 reboot follows this formula without taking any risks.

The cast does their best with what they have. Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are fine, but Kate McKinnon is the scene stealer as the eccentric and fearless, Holtzmann. Her delivery and lines are spot on and hit all the right notes. Leslie Jones is surprisingly more deadpan than the trailer let us believe (and I like my deadpan humor).

Chris Hemsworth (yep, Thor) has great comedic moments as the Ghostbusters’ incompetent receptionist and has me wondering why he doesn’t do more comedies. Andy Garcia also has his moments as an arrogant mayor (you should see how he reacts to being compared to the “Jaws” mayor).

I have to give Paul Feig and the cast credit for standing up to the angry fans and confidently holding their own throughout the movie. They take jabs at Youtube posts at least twice throughout the movie. The problem is, the movie gets lost in callbacks on the original franchise.

Whether it’s following the formula, having a cliched villain reminiscent of Peter MacNicol’s villain in “Ghostbusters 2,” or having forced cameos, we get it! This movie is better when it’s focusing on its own universe.

MINOR SPOILERS!

Most of the cameos feel forced, but the best one of the original cast is Ernie Hudson’s cameo because it feels natural unlike Bill Murray or Sigourney Weaver’s cameos. Slimer’s cameo is funnier than the other cameos in this movie.

Fans overreacted in thinking this movie was, “shitting on their childhood.” This installment might not be good, but there’s hope that the filmmakers will come into their own with the sequel.

Grade: C

“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”

It’s that time of year, folks! The time for the annual R-rated summer comedy. “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is this summer’s crowd-pleasing raunch fest.

Adam DeVine and Zac Efron are the titular characters, Mike and Dave, and these two are the guys you don’t want at your party. They arrive, energize the party, and ruin it with their shenanigans. Their parents are fed up and tell them they aren’t invited to their sister’s wedding, unless they bring dates to keep them civilized.

Meet the hot messes, unapologetic mean girl Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and recently single Alice (Anna Kendrick). When they learn of the boys’ dilemma, they pretend to be “respectable as fuck” to get a free Hawaii trip out of the boys. And then of course, the slapstick high-jinx ensue.

SPOILER ALERT (Well, if you consider formulaic spoilers)!

“Mike and Dave” may not be the most refreshing comedy released, but it was a lot better than the trailer let on. The trailer sells us that the boys will figure out the girls’ scheme, the girls will fall for the boys, and in the end, they’ll end up together while growing up. Yep, that’s pretty much it!

However, the four stars have winning chemistry and their comedic timing is occasionally near-perfect. Between DeVine delivering awkward phrases followed with their blunt meanings, Efron parodying the “What’s in the box” scene from “Se7en”, and Plaza  and Kendrick intentionally and unintentionally causing chaos, I was laughing throughout the movie.

The other thing that surprised me about “Mike and Dave” is that the four leads were more human than expected. We see Dave wants to be more independent, Alice is trying to get over an ugly breakup, and Tatiana is doing bad deeds to cheer up Alice. Mike is the only one who feels antagonistic, but even he stops being a jackass by the second half.

“Mike and Dave” isn’t a special comedy due to the formula and some scenes that are more drawn out than a Judd Apatow movie, but it’s still a good date movie or a hangout movie. Check it out!

Grade: B

“The Lobster”

As a single person, I would be fucking horrified to live in the “Lobster” society! No masturbation? No physical contact allowed in the woods? Happiness not guaranteed in relationships? Gah!

“The Lobster” stars Colin Farrell as David, a newly single man who’s transported to a hotel where the guests are put together for matchmaking. If he can’t find a match within 45 days, he’ll be turned into a lobster.

It’s an absurd premise with a Dystopian sci-fi formula. It’s almost predictable that David  escapes the society later and joins a group of rebels in the woods (led by a great Lea Seydoux). The first half is filled with some darkly funny, albeit disturbing moments.

Between a man being punished for masturbating, singles forced to live with one arm shackled behind their backs, and bickering couples being mandated as parents, the satire and horror are funny and rampant.

The second half loses steam when David moves to the woods and finds (what he thinks is) true love with a short-sighted woman (Rachel Weisz). The world building grows less interesting and the quirkier elements seem quirky just to be quirky.

“The Lobster” has a slow pace beginning-to-end, but it’s more noticeable in the second half. Even the beautiful slow motion shots and haunting music score grow redundant after a while.

“The Lobster” offers a refreshingly emotional performance from Farrell and some sharp moments, but I would have liked more world building and resolutions in the second half. Even a montage showing resolutions would have been satisfying. I’m in the minority of not liking this movie, but I’m sicking to my guns!

Grade: C+