Movie Diary – December 2018

Some people like to belittle the world of franchise films and wonder why movies are constantly expanding universes and sequels and I’m here to tell you it is because of ME because I saw 4 movies this month and they all ruled and all were part of massive franchises. So, in the order I saw them…

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
I’ll save you from scrolling too far south on this post: This was the best movie I saw this month. I took my kids, knowing this was going to be a better Spider-Man adventure than Infinity War. My big gripe with IW is of course that (spoilers!) Spider-Man dies. I figured this would be a better outing for my 7 year old son who loves Spider-Man. Imagine my shock when (spoilers again!) Spider-Man dies in this movie too, in the first act.
But while that was bad, it set up for all these other Spiders to replace him. And it is FUNNY. It is a PG family movie that has action and adventure and is really funny. I adored The Incredibles and its sequel and I am so happy that a very different family super hero movie can join those ranks as a go-to movie for Saturday nights on the couch.
Into the Spider-Verse is visually unlike any other movie I’ve seen. It emulates not just a hand drawn style, but the coloring mimics comic book publishing specifically, even if that kind of coloring wasn’t in use when Miles Morales was first introduced to the world.
When it was over, my son was asking about Miles and my daughter was asking about Gwen, and it seems like there is a Spidey for everyone. Of course a day later all they talked about was Spider-Ham, but they are kids.

Once Upon a Deadpool
I missed Deadpool 2 the first time around so I jumped at the chance to see it in a way that would differ from a home viewing. The bit with Fred Savage added is a clever framing device for the PG13 edit, but I have to tell you, this still behaves like a very R rated movie. A few *bleeped* F-words and probably some sexual situations subtracted doesn’t make this “family friendly” at all. I’m open to seeing the original cut of the movie now, but kinda hope they double dip for this version on home video too since it was so funny.
Added bonus: added tributes to Stan Lee. The grafitti wall art of Lee was in the original cut, but the new version has an “R.I.P.” added next to his smiling face. Post credits also includes outtakes from Lee’s cameo in the Deadpool 2 teaser trailer.

Bumblebee
I swore I wouldn’t pay to see another Transformers movie. Each of the live action entries has been worse than the one before it. I wanted the movies to end either go away or be rebooted. Then Bumblebee. New director, new cast, new style. There is so much going for it. And it worked. I loved it. The opening scene is a high budget CG animation of something we would have seen in the 1986 movie. Decepticons corner the Autbots on Cybertron, forcing them to escape. While this is cool to watch, it also directly contradicts stuff from the previous movies. And as the movie continues, it is a course correction. Bee loses his voice, becomes the VW beetle, and so on, but every time they could lose a convention from the Michael Bay movies, they did. The movie plays like a remake of The Iron Giant, but given how that shapes the tone of the movie and forces it away from Bay’s perversions, I’m fine with that.
Judging by how much has changed in the last six months or so with the movie, it would not shock me if this is the reboot I was hoping for. I liked the 2007 movie, it is imperfect but has some heart and does things we never saw before. If this was the movie we got in 2007, we’d be a lot better off. It now looks like Bumblebee is the “First Class” of this franchise, setting up a new series without the last few lousy entries.

Aquaman

MY MAN.
Its true. We go a PG-13 Deadpool movie. We got the BEST Spider-Man movie from a Sony animation studio. We got a great Transformers movie with no weird sexual stuff. It is a month of miracles.
The biggest miracle of them all is Aquaman. This movie had no business being this fun. Three years ago we saw Jason Momoa holding his breath under water in cell phone footage in Batman V Superman, and I never would have guess that a spin off would spin this far off.
As you know, I liked Justice League, but even I wouldn’t have cited Aquaman as a highlight. He has become kind of a joke with the “My Man!” stuff and the weird lens Snyder and DC cast him through, as a kind of drunk and surly bruiser. By the time Justice League finally came out and under-performed, they were knee deep in making Aquaman a movie and I have no idea what happened. It is as if no one told anyone here that something cost too much or was too big or too wet or needed to be more like whatever other movie in the DC Murderverse. James Wan guided Furious 7 into massive success despite losing the star during filming. It would seem this made him the perfect choice for Aquaman.
This movie is HUGE. Everything is big. At times it is like Star Wars underwater. Then it becomes James Bond. Yeah, theres a little Thor and Wonder Woman in there too. But none of those movies achieve the scale Aquaman moves comfortably in. The movie is constantly establishing rules and customs and devices and to my mind no thread is ever dropped. While the plot is no more or less simple than the average hero movie, it is so dense with activity. And on screen there is what you expect with some big fights and vehicle chases, but I was shocked how much appeared to be practical. Infinity War put Spider-Man and Iron Man and others in all CG suits, and it is kinda off putting watching their unmasked head float above the costumes in some scenes. This movie’s underwater storm troopers have real suits and you can see the difference on screen when they fight or run through a wall or even just walk into a room. Mo-cap an actor wearing nothing but a skin tight suit and they movie different from an actor wearing a suit or armor.
This is the DC Universe with their Iron Man moment. A movie no one expected to be good and a hero with no real big fan base. With Superman and Batman kind of off the table for WB at the moment, they’re forced to try to make the very best movies they can with who they have. Please, a Mera movie next. Then Aquaman 2. Then a Brine King movie. Do not stop.

Doctor Strange

Warning: light spoilers for Doctor Strange

I’ve seen every single Marvel studios movie in theaters up until this point. Usually opening day! 18 years ago when this hero movie boom started I felt like it was really important to see them all as soon as possible so they’d keep making more. There was no guarantee that X-Men would be a hit. Also not playing favorites as I’ve seen all the DC movies that have come out during that same time.

Doctor Strange broke the trend. I wasn’t super excited in the first place and frankly I knew they’d bring him in to Avengers or Thor or whatever no matter what. So I skipped it. I got the Blu Ray on mail order on release day and still didn’t watch it right away (I made my next movie night X-Men Apocalypse, which warrants its own tear down honestly). I finally popped it in last night and decided Doctor Strange couldn’t be that bad, even if it wasn’t exciting me like an Iron Man or whatever.

doctor-strange-1The Marvel studios formula is in full effect here. Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t a bad actor (I’m not a huge fan) but making him deliver wisecracks like he’s Downey or Paul Rudd just did not work. There is a scene about half way in where his one liners fall completely flat when he’s talking to a character who refuses to laugh. At last I found a character I relate to! Really I wish that Strange was played more straight and maybe giving more of those comedy lines to other characters around him.

Also Doctor Strange has a black best friend! Maybe they can put him in a movie with Falcon and War Machine.

Rachel McAdams is wasted, but thats what you get with a woman in a Marvel movie. She does seem to be drinking from the same fountain of youth Elizabeth Banks found because she looks exactly the same as she did 15 years ago.

The score in most Marvel studios flicks is usually OK but nothing that jumps our like the Batman theme did back in 89. Michael Giacchino has done pretty great work in the past, I’m a fan going back to his days on ALIAS. The Doctor Strange theme is similar enough to his Enterprise theme from the Star Trek reboot it would be worthy of lawsuit if they hadn’t been the same composer. Theres lots of controversy about temp score and this seemed like a pretty clear indication that they used Trek’s score in editing.

But all that shit is window dressing. What really disappointed me was way back in 2011, they established there is no such thing as magic in the Marvel Universe. Thor presented technology from Asgard as being so advanced it is mistaken for magic, but it is all the same. Doctor Strange, a character who is steeped in magic, was always going to answer for this. And I thought they were going to! As The Ancient One describes the healing of spinal cord patient as being a re-writing of the cells’s ability to heal, it was a far fetched but consistent answer to the question that Jane Foster got from Thor. Even the travel through time and space was already established in Thor as being possible. I felt like this was a sensible way to obey the rules of their established universe. Then about a half hour later is “lol nope j/k, magic is real” when we find out the guy with a broken back still has a broken back, he’s just moving because he’s casting a spell on himself to be able to play basketball.

The fights have fun Matrix/Inception energy to them with the world tumbling around them constantly, so that was cool. Also not being familiar with the lore meant I was genuinely surprised with the heel turn in the post credits scene. But I think the end result is the least essential Marvel film yet.

Toy Shelves

I had a party (you weren’t invited) last week and it gave me a good reason to clean up my toy displays and make some adjustments.
IMG_5004
Thanks to the decline in Disney Infinity, I went whole hog and bought about as many of these figures as I possibly could find. I’m still missing a few I’d like to get, but the two shelves I have now sport a complete Marvel and complete Star Wars collection. My toy vice has never been either of those properties, so this was a fun itch to scratch and while it is disappointing we won’t get any more of these figures (especially considering the leaks of near complete but unproduced figures) It is calming and comforting to know this collection is done and I’ll never have to buy another one. Plus if I ever decide to sell it a few years from now I’ll actually be able to get a few bucks for it. Maybe. Probably not. One of the reasons this line died is over production.

The risers were an inspired choice. This dark wood bookshelf I’ve had for a decade and was a cheapo pickup at Walmart. Since I’ve got so many figures under 6 inches it doesn’t make sense any more. I’ll replace it sooner or later, but these little shelves are supposed to be for kitchen cabinets for spices. I bought 2 sets of 2 and still have one of them in (which I’ll probably put in the spice cabinet). They’re cheap, about $17 for a set but allow the toys to sit a little higher. This is more pronounced in the Transformers shelf where I’ve got some figures that are 3-5 inches tall and others that 9-12.

IMG_5003Trying to find a theme for Transformers has been hard. About a year ago I decided I wanted to just try for (modern) figures of character from the 1986 animated movie. Additions like Devastator and the recent Galvatron help fill that out along with Bumblebee and Prime I’ve had for a decade.
So the lower shelf is a lot of characters from that movie. I tossed the 2000 DVD release on the back shelf between Prime and Galvatron to emphasize. Top shelf is a lot of bigger figures and some lineups from the comics. Clearly the combiners won’t fit on the lower shelf and Devastator, Menasor, and Superion were a big part of the Combiner Wars comic so they’re all up there. Bruticus isn’t a movie character OR a comics character but he’s the best of the combiner toys so he gets to stay. That white “Battle Core” Optimus Prime I’ll eventually get stickers to convert to a Nova Prime. Starscream is positioned center with Rattrap and Scoop, honoring what is perhaps the most bizarre re-writes of characters I’ve ever read.

Playlist

I tossed together a play list and hit shuffle for this party. We made it one song before someone turned it off and put cartoons on for the kids. Oh well. I get excited for stupid shit like this and it kind of crushed me to not listen to music. I’ve got no where else to put this so, enjoy. I just did a quickie itunes -> spotify conversion so theres probably 30 tracks that won’t work, skip around.