Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Avengers: Infinity War trailer

It's here. The first trailer for The Avengers: Infinity War. Oh, the hair that you see on Peter Parker's arm rising is his Spidey Sense. Wow. That's a lot of superheroes. Memo to Danny Elfman. Alan Silvestri's Avengers motif is how you write a superhero theme. Epic. Bold. Graceful. Note that Silvestri studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Can't wait for this movie.

Seth Meyers: Conservative Republicans will raise taxes on the poor

Seth Meyers in yesterday's Closer Look on Late Night explains that the conservative Republican tax plan will raise taxes on the working people and the poor. This will happen in future years. Forbes. Check out the video below. (4:50 regarding the increase on the working and the poor) The point is that the raises are to make up for the nice tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

If you are a working man and or poor, contact your congressman now and ask them to kill the bill. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Keith Olbermann signs off

Political commentator Keith Olbermann has done his last video for the GQ sponsored series The Resistance. Over the last year, Olbermann has been pretty accurate about President Trump. Remember when he did a piece where he projects that General Michael Flynn has flipped ? (May video.) Well, it looks like he just did or flipped in the past. Anyway, in the below video, Olbermann predicts that President Donald Trump will not complete his first term.

America thanks you, Keith. Viva la resistance. Impeach Trump now. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Justice League review

I'm betting that executives with Marvel Studios are happy that they got most of their cinematic universe out years before DC Comics and Warner put out this month's Justice League. That's because Marvel's Avengers (2012) movie and Justice League basically have the same plot. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the franchise that the studio calls it, there are these things called Infinity Stones which are magical and of course, bad guys want them. Not to be outdone, Justice League has magical boxes?!

Justice League takes place after the events in Batman v. Superman: The Dawn of Justice (2016). While busting a criminal, Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) runs into an alien scout. Sensing this is the start of an invasion as told to him by Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman, Wayne starts to recruit superheroes to defend the planet. Wonder Women aka Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives a warning from her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) that Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds' voice) has come back to earth to retrieve the three magic boxes on earth and use their power to perform "Born to be Wild." Um... sorry. That's from the rock band Stepppenwolf. he wants to conquer the universe.

Bruce Wayne meanwhile goes around the planet to recruit his team. Wonder Woman tells Wayne of the threat. She joins. He wants to get Flash aka Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman aka the man who sleeps with the fishes. Er... okay, that's Aquaman (Jason Momoa) aka Arthur Curry as the man who talks to the fishes and Cyborg aka Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). The band forms and they set off to tour the country doing Steppenwolf covers. Um... no. They set off to stop Steppenwolf from getting the magic boxes.

This should all sound familiar. It's pretty much the plot to Marvel's The Avengers. (2012) Both had super villains seeking magic "MacGuffins". The super villain uses said MacGuffin to conquer the world along with his army of cute, yellow minions. Sorry, they're supposed to be evil minions not the cute ones. So,  this movie Justice League has to be as good as its competitors, the Avengers. Unfortunately, it's not. And stop rejoicing Marvel comic book fans. Need I remind you of Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3?

There are problems with this film. The screenplay by Chris Terrio, and Joss Whedon is uneven in how it does the backstories of the superheroes. That was a problem with Suicide Squad. (2016) Sometimes, these forays are contrived or they stop the drama. There's no reason to have Wonder Woman still "pining" after the late Steve Trevor. (Chris Pine in this year's Wonder Woman) Bad pun, I know. But really, Trevor has been dead for about one hundred years. Through the decades, I mean Prince could have had dates with Clark Gable, John Wayne, or Rock Hudson. Strike the date with Rock Hudson. Speaking of gay, she could have become a lesbian and then we could have a scene that would satisfy the radical feminist criteria for the Bechdel Test which requires a scene where two women are talking to each other and the subject cannot be about men. God forbid. Do aliens count in a conversation? Anyway, we already know about Wonder Woman's past from the earlier movie.

But I digress. Cyborg's origin was not compelling. Maybe we needed to see the tragic accident that killed his mother. We know very little of Aquaman or why he's so grouchy. Well, actually we do know why he's pissed off. He never gets respect. I mean he's seen in  cartoons  riding seahorses and of course, he talks to fishes. That's kind of goofy.   And it doesn't help that the show Family Guy skewers him as being lame when he can't really do anything out of the water. (Video below.)

I guess that's why they cast Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Rather than an Aryan looking blonde, he's like a Polynesian biker.

Then there are the plot holes, villain development and exposition problems. Other than he wants to take over the universe, we don't have a lot of motivation for Steppenwolf. That makes him a black and white character. It's not very interesting. And as the trailer shows, Superman (Henry Cavill) makes an appearance. Okay, but if you watched Batman v. Superman, the last scene indicates Superman is not dead but perhaps is in a dormant state. Okay. So how the movie shows the appearance of Superman doesn't jibe with it. Plus Superman's behavior when he appears is not explained. Then without spoiling the movie, let me just say that Steppenwolf's minions aren't happiest of employees. Yet, their motivations are not explained.

Another problem is Danny Elfman's musical score. I'm not usually a fan of Elfman. I find his melodies in other films to be musical mcnuggets. No long melodies. Perhaps it's his rock and roll background. But in this movie, I can't remember any original melodies. That doesn't help. For example, there is a scene where Aquaman saves the team. It badly needed a strong original theme for inspiration. Elfman does use his 1989 Batman theme and the legendary 1978 Superman theme by John Williams. That's good but then he uses them as whispers rather then heroic statements that would give you goose bumps when you hear them.

As for the cast, they're all good. But one performance stands out. It's Ezra Miller's Flash. He steals the movie or should I say he runs off with the film. He's got that awkward, geeky delivery that demonstrates superhero worship and naivete. Kudos to him and the writers for creating a likable and funny character.

It should be noted that  Joss Whedon also directed  The Avengers.   In Justice League, he has crafted a movie with exciting and heroic set pieces but the weaknesses of the script makes a shallow film. Justice League is just a big budget, live action Saturday morning cartoon. The grade is B.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

John Oliver: Conservatives and Trump use Russian techniques

In this funny video Emmy Award winning satirist John Oliver demonstrates that President Trump and conservatives use Russian techniques in public debate. And folks, it's not good. Because we're not getting at the truth but are being driven by fear and anger. In the HBO video below, Oliver highlights the three Russian techniques that conservatives and Russians use. Caution: The video contains language and jokes that are mature in nature. Just so you know, the techniques are: 1) Discredit the press; 2) Use of "what about-ism?" and 3) trolling. They are all un-American in their use.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Only a moral military can stop President Trump from launching nukes

Here's more for the argument to impeach conservative President Donald Trump.  The blonde hair, orange skin demagogue can unilaterally launch nuclear missiles.   For example,  Trump is mad that Denmark is happier since they have universal healthcare.  Hey, that's socialism to him and his right-wing buddies.  He decides to nuke them for embarrassing him.  Trump does have narcissistic personality disorder.  (The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Edited Dr. Bandy Lee, 2017)

What could stop him? The moral courage of a soldier. They can disobey an immoral order. ( Huffington Post) Let's just hope it doesn't look like the opening scene in WarGames (1983) where two Air Force officers are faced with the decision of launching nuclear missiles. (Video below.)

The Foreigner review

Adapting a film from a novel can present special problems. Books may not be cinematic. And sometimes, novels can have too much detail that makes it difficult to cram into a movie of two hours long. That seems to be problem with The Foreigner , actor Jackie Chan's latest film.

Jackie Chan plays Quan, a former Vietnamese special forces soldier. who has a "particular set of skills."   After the Viet Nam war, he's now living in London as an owner of a gay fundamentalist Baptist bakery.  No.  I'm kidding about the bakery.  He runs a Chinese restaurant.  While taking his daughter to a  dressmaker, she's killed by a bomb set off by a group called the "Authentic IRA."

Quan wants answers.  So he confronts northern Irish government official, Hennessey.  (Pierce Brosnan)  Hennessy's got a bunch of secrets, one of them was that he was a former member of the IRA.  Quan follows Hennessy back to Ireland and "pressures" him for information about his daughter's killers.

Chan's age makes him perfect for this old soldier.  His fighting style and stunts are slower and less Buster Keaton.  Chan gets to show his acting chops as weary and depressed warrior.  Pierce Brosnan gets to let his Irish accent hang out.  He's not Bond, James Bond here.  His Hennessy is both practical and conniving.

There's one big problem to this film.  It's David Marconi's script.  You see it's adapted from a novel by Stephen Leather, The Chinaman.   I'll admit I didn't read the 1992 book.  So, I've got to make some assumptions.  First, let's hope the title of the book is satirical. Because being a Chinese American, the term "chinaman" is racist because it was used by bigots as an early racial epithet. But I digress. I'm presuming that the book had much more detail about the political atmosphere of the conflict between the IRA and Great Britain since it was written during the times of armed conflict. That makes turning the novel into a two hour movie difficult. It's hard to put all the political and personal details into a two hour film. Plot threads in The Foreigner are not explained or merely hinted at without any context. For example, people are killed with little or no context. The result is confusion and it makes you not care. This makes the movie an empty experience.

Director Martin Campbell who directed Brosnan in the entertaining Bond movie Goldeneye (1995) which also starred Brosnan has made a dull movie. That's hard to believe with Chan and Brosnan.    But given the screenplay, it maybe less of his fault. I mean the climatic confrontation between Quan and the terrorists takes place in cramped apartment. How about a foot chase culminating with Jackie Chan taking down the bad guys mano a mano?

The Foreigner is a strange action movie about IRA terrorism being that the threat of terrorism to Great Britain  today comes from those that adhere to a philosophy of radical Islam.  But perhaps that's not political correct.   This current threat of terrorism would have been more interesting.  Or the filmmakers could have fleshed out nebulous and confusing plot threads.   Either one would have made The Foreigner a better movie.   As it stands here, The Foreigner is not boring but not great.  The grade is B Minus. 


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok review

Does Thor: Ragnarok signal the end of the superhero movie? I say this because I remember the Adam West Batman (1966) movie and the eighties Flash Gordon (1980). Those two films were not serious. Both were campy. And both weren't particularly funny but just goofy. The problem was that they tried to straddle total comedy and some sincere nod to the source material. We would not get a good Batman film until Tim Burton's Batman in 1989. With the large amount of comedy in Thor: Ragnarok, will anyone take Thor or any superhero movie seriously in the future?

Thor: Ragnarok takes place after Thor: The Dark World. (2013) And if you didn't see that movie or The Avengers (2012), you may not get some of the jokes. So, I'm going to spoil a little of those two movies. Anyway, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fighting a big horned creature who says he is going to destroy Asgard. And if you saw the prior Thor, you know that Loki (Mr. Taylor Swift.. er. Tom Hiddleston ) has taken the form of Odin, the ruler of Asgard and is ruling in his place. Thor exposes the ruse in a funny scene if you saw the prior Thor. Loki tells Thor that the real Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is on earth.

The two travel to earth. They find him. And for some reason he dies. This we are told will lead  to Hela (Cate Blanchett) coming back.   She's the power hungry sister of Thor who wants to rule Asgard, and of course,  the universe.  That's when all Hela breaks out.  She easily defeats Thor and destroys the Mjolnir.  What's that you say?   You don't know what a Mjolnir is?   Geek alert.  It's Thor's mighty hammer.  Anyway, she sends Thor and Loki to the planet Sakaar.  Thor is forced to play in gladiator games for The Grandmaster.  (Jeff Goldblum?!)   The rest of the movie is about Thor's attempt to get off the planet and save Asgard.   On the planet he reunites with  the  big green guy aka The Hulk that you see in the trailer.

There are two actors having a lot of fun in this movie.  It's Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum.  Blanchett really hams it up as the all powerful villain.  Goldblum  is a cross between his Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park (1993) and Dom Deluise's Nero from History of the World,  Part One.  (1981)  Chris Hemsworth and Mr. Taylor Swift, um...  sorry about that, Tom Hiddleston  know that they're in a silly superhero movie and they deliver their lines and jokes with  hidden winks at the audience. 

The screenplay by Eric Pearce, Craig Kyle and Christopher  Yost  is subversive when it comes to the comic book superhero movie.  These guys aren't playing it dark and serious.  There are a lot of jokes many of which are self-conscious.   Director Taika Waititi goes along with this approach.  He knows how to stage a joke and uses bright  neon colors as the palette for the movie .  The Dark Knight this is not. Their collaborative effort has led to very humorous movie.

Thor: Ragnorok is an entertaining and funny film.  Just don't take it seriously.  The grade is B Plus.

Where's the radical feminist outrage for Thor: Ragnarok?

In a scene from Thor: Ragnarok,  there is a shirtless Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He's really cut as they pointed out in the first Thor movie. Beefcake for the ladies and gay guys. You remember the brouhaha for Star Trek Into Darkness's Alice Eve underwear scene? I got in a big fight with a radical feminist and political correct types who accused me of being evil for defending Star Trek's playful sexuality. And I'm a liberal. Well, radical feminists where's your outrage over the shirtless Hemsworth? Isn't that objectification? Yep, the silence is is deafening.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House review

Sometimes a film will premiere before a real life event which echoes the subject matter in the movie. That happened with The China Syndrome (1979) a movie about a nuclear plant meltdown. Its debut occurred twelve days days before a nuclear power plant accident happened at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania. Now comes Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, a film about the Watergate scandal. Just in time for the Trump-Russia scandal.

It's May, 1972. The film opens up with FBI deputy associate director, Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) telling President Nixon's White House counsel John Dean (Micheal C. Hall) and his other men that the FBI has kept secrets and that they are safe with the FBI. Then legendary and controversial Director, J. Edgar Hoover dies. This leads Felt to order the destruction of Hoover's personal files which contain a bunch of dirt. What dirt? The movie doensn't tell you but it's done before President Nixon's people can get it.

In June 1972, burglars break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Some of the perpetrators have FBI and CIA employment histories and are connected to President Nixon's  campaign.  Acting FBI director. Patrick Gray (Marton Csokas) seems to be under pressure from the White House and Justice Department to clear Nixon and wrap up the investigation before the FBI can get  the truth out.   Felt decides to leak to the press, specifically reporter Bob Woodward  (Julian Morris) of the Washington Post.  He becomes a secret source called "Deep Throat."  Meanwhile Felt must deal with the disappearance of his daughter and his wife Audrey's (Diane Lane)  depression.

Movies based on real life people and events often take dramatic license to tell the story.  There are reasons.  Time issues.  But more importantly, dramatic license allows filmmakers to make a movie that is more cinematic giving it more drive and tension.    As long as the the film is substantially correct, I don't see a problem.

Mark Felt:  The Man Who Brought Down the White House  really needed more dramatic license.  Peter Landesman's script and direction are stodgy and pedestrian.    The film does not show the audience the stakes or the danger of what Nixon was trying to get away with.  As a result, the performances  of the cast were pretty  much dry with the exception of Diane Lane's Audrey.

I never got the impression of the risk and need for Felt to leak information to the Washington Post.  Yeah, Felt talks about that no one stops an FBI investigation and a metaphor on how corruption can bring down a government.  But what is required here, is the importance of a free press and the leaker who believes she or he is doing something right.  It's all done to get the truth out.  Thank God for the First Amendment's protections of a free press.  And it's even more relevant now with the specter of President Trump looking to either fire Special Counsel Bob Mueller or pardon himself out of the Russian scandal.  If those things happen then the only way the truth gets out is through the press.

This film could have used a little "corn."  There should have been a discussion about the free press and the need to expose Nixon..  A "no man is above the law" speech would have been helpful for dramatic purposes.  Daniel Pemberton's score was too much musical wallpaper.  Themes would have  given the film more emotional weight.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is earnest, relevant and important but it's also arid.  One can hope there will be a better movie about Felt made in the future.  The  film to see about Watergate is All the President's Men.  (1976)  The grade is B Minus..