Japanese Origins Double Feature: Multiple reviews

Ghost in the Shell

Runtime: 1 hour 46 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $110 million

Ghost in the Shell got low ratings, but I thought that might be because it deviated from the source material and was mired in controversy over the casting. But nope, it definitely deserved low ratings.

For the entire film, I kept waiting for something to happen, for the pace to pick up. It felt like there was no climax or culmination of events that would make it a worthwhile watch. Just entirely absent from the movie.

Part of the way through, you get to meet the mysterious figure teased in the trailers. At first, he seemed like a good character. He was haunting and had an interesting story. In the end, he absolutely wasted—and not the drunk kind. The writers must’ve imbibed before finishing the script.

Mini-CommBro Breaker

It wasn’t all bad. They created a cool looking city in post. I wouldn’t watch the movie just for that though.

I don’t know the source material at all, so I can’t tell you if it makes it better or worse. The movie is just weak to the point where I felt like I wasted my time.

Your Name. (Kimi No Wa.)

Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes
Budget: Not Listed

I watched this about 20 minutes after Ghost in the Shell. I almost felt like I had to redeem the night after that mess of a movie. The difference between the two was like orange juice and tar…assuming you were looking for a refreshing drink. There might be useful application of tar depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

While Ghost in the Shell felt long and plodding, Your Name. left me wanting more. I will definitely be adding this one to my small Blu Ray collection.

I’m not going to say too much more because the less you know about it, the more enjoyable the experience will be. The animation is movie-quality. The writing, direction, and execution all came together for something great. It was an emotional roller coaster for me.

Mini-CommBro Breaker #2

Yes it’s “anime.” That carries some stigma, I know. Still worth going. I’d go again to drag others along…if the theater run for this wasn’t so short. Unless you’re horribly opposed to reading subtitles, you should be fine.

Free Fire: A review

Free Fire

Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $10 million

Little did I realize that the title would signify how much I paid to watch it. I caught a free advance screening, which helps my wallet not die from the absurd number of movies I watch. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it either, because it’s not my type of movie.

If I had to sum up the entire experience in a single word, it would be “ridiculous.” The entirety of this action-comedy takes place in a warehouse where a gun deal goes sour because of stupid people.

It had its moments and was an interesting concept, but I found myself unsatisfied after watching it. It was kind of like a Tarantino movie (generally, I’m not a fan of his movies). Who knows, though. It might be your thing.

CommBro Breaker

Brie Larson goes from being stuck in a room for an entire movie to being stuck in a warehouse for an entire movie. Look at what an Oscar can do for you!

Kong-Skull Island: A review

Kong: Skull Island

Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $185 million

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I watch a lot of movies. That means I see a lot of trailers too. Usually, I consider it part of the experience and enjoy these commercials-by-a-different-name. Sometimes, the same blasted trailer shows up about 10 times and I get tired of it. The Kong: Skull Island trailer falls in that latter category. I found myself rolling my eyes every time it showed up.

I expected a CGI-heavy pedestrian film that would border on being a waste of time. While it was indeed a CGI-heavy smashfest, the movie managed to keep me interested throughout it’s nearly two hour runtime.

Some of the writing and execution lacked greatness, but the cinematography, humor, and action managed to redeem it.

The movie contained some good horror elements while avoiding some of the pitfalls. There was less of the horror movie staple of “let’s run to the cemetery during a zombie apocalypse” kind of stupid and more of an overarching theme of arrogance to a stupid extent. The latter is believable (as if we need reminding that this exists) and still drives the plot along.

The PG-13 rating should inform you on the gore level. Like usual, they find some creative ways to skirt the rules, which I find to be equally valid as meatgrinder type war movies.

John C. Reilly was easily the best part of the movie for me. I got many laughs out of him without it being over-the-top. The humor in the movie is not exclusive to his character though.

Between this and Power Ranger, maybe studios are finally starting to learn to put some effort into reboots.

CommBro Breaker

You know what sucked? The random inclusion of Jing Tian. Are they just trying to blatantly pander to the market in China like studios did in Transformers 4? She’s not quite as intrusive as the elements in Transformers, but she definitely hindered the film rather than help it.

Also, sorry Warner Bros. I still don’t really care about your monster universe.

Power Rangers: A review

Power Rangers

Runtime: 2 hours 4 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $100 million

The 90s nostalgia cash grab continues…except this isn’t just a cash grab. I mean, they don’t really do anything new or exciting with the story direction, but that doesn’t automatically make it an uninspired reboot. The film sticks to a simple tried-and-true method that you’ve come to expect from the TV show, but executes it well.

They utilize relative unknowns and put together a good movie on a modest budget. Certain parts felt like they might’ve cheaped out, but perhaps it was a stylistic choice.

While there were some…obvious changes to the source material, somehow they kept similar ratios for the cast like: 40% women, 20% black, 20% east Asian. Consider me impressed.

I’d summarize it as a funny, character-focused film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The movie should be a worthwhile watch for those who liked the 90s TV show as a kid…or adult.

CommBro Breaker

Product placement is a different game these days. Personally, if all of them were inserted creatively, without interfering with the film, I wouldn’t mind.

Get Out: A review

Get Out

Runtime: 1 hour 43 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $4.5 million

Usually, when I hear the words “get out” in that order, it’s because I just made a horrible joke or particularly juicy pun. When you hear the title as a line in the movie, it is neither of these cases, but it does make this is one of those movies where they say the title in their dialogue. I mean, sure, lots of movies like Logan or Suicide Squad do it because those are names, but it’s not cheating when it’s a phrase like this. Like, you wouldn’t hear someone say “No Country for Old Men” anywhere in that movie. “Get Out” might be cheating though since it’s two words. Good thing I’m not the court of movie titles. The craziest thing about all this is that there is a word in the English dictionary to describe this: “eponymous.” Don’t ask me to use it in a sentence.

Jordan Peele decided to break off from his usual comedy and make a horror movie. To my memory, they achieved this while being devoid of jump scares. It’s kind of a creepy mystery that gives you enough clues to put together the story.

As you might expect from Peele’s work, the film weaves witty humor throughout the movie—all without losing the momentum of the plot.

Lots of horror movies start out decently before sputtering out during the finale. Get Out manages to avoid this by producing a satisfying ending sequence. When the credits roll, it really gives you a lot to think about back on when putting all the pieces into context. This was definitely one of the better horror movies I’ve seen.

I watched it a bit later in its theater run and expected a sparsely populated room. To my surprise, I got stuck in the front section due to the packed out theater.

CommBro Breaker

This movie is just TSA propaganda!!

Lego Batman Movie: A review

The Lego Batman Movie

Runtime: 1 hour 44 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $80 million

Lego Batman. It sounds like a straight to DVD type of movie at first. Once you get past all that, you might notice it got decent ratings. Having watched it, I can say it’s definitely not the garbage you wouldn’t even buy from the Walmart bargain bin. However, this spin-off doesn’t match up to the Lego Movie back in 2014.

The excellence of the animation was evident from the beginning, revealing the effort invested into the film.

The movie was extremely genre-savvy, leading to a lot of superhero-related gags. Many of their jokes were derived directly from past Batman movies. The easiest way to sum up the movie: Batman parody in Lego form. Despite that, they manage to have lots of Lego-related and general humor.

The humor remains smart and creative as with the first, but the life lessons are a little too heavy-handed. The frequency of the Power of Friendship refrain dragged the film to a crawl at certain points leaving an unevenly paced, preachy movie. The whole friends conquer all angle really drags this more into the kid’s only territory. That it ended with a typical corny song and dance credit scene.

It’s not a horrible watch by any means, but definitely expected something more balanced to a general audience like many Pixar movies…or, you know, the first Lego movie.

CommBro Breaker

I wanted to make some jokes, but this movie had enough. It’s almost been a month since I’ve watched it and I revisited this page hoping to post it soon only to find myself still measuring my disappointment.

Logan: A review


Runtime: 2 hours 17 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $97 million

We talk a lot about budgets here, but I think it’s important to touch on to put the entire thing in context. Whether we like it or not, money is required to get stuff done. When a particular movie doesn’t pass a threshold of funding, that ends up being quite detrimental. Yet, throwing a $300 million at it doesn’t necessarily make it good either (see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, John Carter, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies). 

James Mangold directed The Wolverine (2013) on a $120 million budget that turned out to be decent. Now after four years, despite inflation and everything, managed to deliver a great movie on a $97 million budget. That really just goes to show how far good writing and respect for the material can go. Yeah, sure it was made possible by Hugh Jackman taking a salary cut, but that emphasizes how far someone will go show respect for the material.

The film eschewed the larger scope for a more intimate road-trip around the U.S. borders of Mexico and Canada. X-Men: Apocalypse’s scale of world-ending drama and a barely worthwhile cameo for Wolverine has been flipped around. The small, character driven story focuses on Wolverine and his interactions with Laura and Professor X. Not that there’s anything wrong with going either way. Again, you just gotta have good writing and direction.

While great, the movie is not without some flaws, but are mostly forgivable. Background characters seem to lack logic in their decisions…which might be able to be explained away with some thinking.

True to what the R-rating would lead you to believe, the movie has violence beyond what typical comic book movies would risk showing. In my opinion, it reinforces some of the themes that they were going for and really added to the movie rather than just there for fluff. They kept most of the movie fairly grounded and didn’t have over-the-top flashiness. The parts that did have action were done well…unlike X-Men: Apocalypse. If you had just randomly turned on this movie while it was on TV, you might not even realize that it’s a comic book movie for a while, especially if you aren’t acquainted with the characters whose roles were reprised by Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

Speaking of Stewart and Jackman, their acting, along with Dafne Keen (Laura/X-23), was absolutely terrific. They managed to portray nuance and subtlety in a film that has people being stabbed through the face. Along with the solid writing, cinematography, and a great score, this movie is that is worth going to see (as opposed to seeing because you happened to have two and a half hours to kill near a movie theater).

CommBro Breaker

Due to the success of Deadpool and the predicted success of Logan, people are now clamoring for more rated R superhero movies. That general idea lacks the nuance that the movie had. Only certain characters lend well to the added freedom, others may not.

A Captain America spin-off, following his endeavors through World War II might work as an R-rated war drama, but Spider-Man punching a hole through someone while wise-cracking? Maybe not so much. Let’s hope studios learn the right lessons from this.

Who am I kidding, both those movies were brought to us in spite of the studio. It took some serious heavy-lifting, campaigning and ingenuity by actors and directors during their fight with the studio.

Lost studios give us things like this:

or that:

John Wick Chapter 2: A review

John Wick: Chapter 2

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $40 million

The ultimate love story of all time gets a second installment. It’s the perfect Valentine’s date movie. How far does a man go for love?

They even made this lovely poster to go with it!

They even made this lovely poster to go with it!

Just kidding, take your date unless they enjoy great action and a bloody mess.

The cinematography and choreography was excellent. The much maligned quick cuts and shaky cam are almost entirely absent. And somehow they did it with a mere $40 million budget. Less than that of the fan-favorite Deadpool and only $10 million more than La La Land. A testament to the great camera-work is a scene where they fought in the dark with flashlights and smoke. Instead of the chaos and confusion one would expect, I could still follow what was going on quite clearly.

I’m sure some of you, me included, feared that this might be in the same vein as Taken 4: Taken Again: Please Make It Stop. That was clearly not the case. Many of the action scenes were unique and give viewers much to be excited about. Some notable ones are the grappling scene, the walking scene, and the mirror room scenes.

The crew really invested into small details that bring the movie together. The most obvious most obvious—a carry over from the first film—being a realistic ammo count and reloading. However, the attention to detail goes far beyond that. See how much you notice when you watch. Notice I said when. You should really just stop reading and go right now.

As much as they cared about details, they had the continued restraint to skimp when necessary. Chapter 2 feeds you a bit more of the world by showing instead of telling. While scant, it certainly builds on their mysterious crime organization and leaves you wanting more.

While an action movie at its core, it’s not devoid of deeper ideas. There is a huge overarching them of cascading consequences that I really enjoyed. There’s more, but I prefer you watch it rather than just take my word.

While not as simplistic and small scale as the first John Wick, Chapter 2 delivers on what we’ve come to expect from this franchise. The story remains basic, but the execution is top notch.

CommBro Breaker

The first dog is cuter.

(Right: Deserves Oscar for Best Lead Actor. Left: Deserves merely competitive compensation for a supporting actor)

(Left: Deserved Oscar for Best Lead Actor. Right: Deserved merely competitive compensation for a supporting actor)

La La Land: A review

La La Land

Runtime: 2 hours 8 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $30 million

“I don’t like musicals.” That’s a line has gotten me (playfully) unfriended and disavowed by more than a few friends.

“I don’t like jazz.” That’s a line from the movie. Whether or not the filmmakers intended for a parallel to people like me, it did just that. Both statements are sweeping and absolute and unfairly so. It leaves no room for nuance. Rather, I don’t like most musicals. As a self-proclaimed CommBro, perhaps I should engage in the precise use of language to properly communicate and minimize misunderstandings. I liked this musical.

By no means is this a perfect movie…but if that’s really the bar we’re using as the starting point, that’s a good sign. And for Damien Chazelle’s third feature length film as a director and a modest budget to boot, that’s as impressive as it gets. Nobody doubts that you’ll be able to retire comfortably with $30 million to yourself, but this is insanely low for a movie budget—especially one that features big names like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I’m pretty sure Robert Downey Jr. made more than this film’s entire budget for his appearance in Captain America: Civil War

At this point, they seemed to have turned a profit and I daresay it deserves even more. This was human emotion distilled into a film. While the general plot is nothing out of the ordinary (I say that a lot), other components were well worth the price of admission.

From now on, when someone says the phrase “poetry in motion” (don’t really hear it often), I won’t think of the Johnny Tillotson song (not that I ever did), the 1982 film (definitely didn’t anyway),  Arian Foster, or any of the other uses. It will make me think of this film.

The music, dialogue, the cinematography, and the humor all make this one of the best films of the year. I won’t go around deciding if it’s the best or not, because that’s just like, an opinion, man, but it’s definitely top tier.

Unfortunately, it had a rough start from an audio perspective. That had me wondering if it would be a painful two hour slog. And no, it wasn’t just the depiction of LA traffic that was painful or because I don’t like most musicals. The sound mixing was noticeably poor. If you notice sound mixing, then it’s bad. Just like traffic. That’s one thing I can use an absolute about. I don’t like traffic.

That being said, they nailed a lot of things about LA life, albeit exaggerated. The egos, parties for the sake of networking, traffic, crappy parking situations, numerous Priuses, getting stuck with roommates, and too many other things to name. Some of these certainly aren’t exclusive to LA, but they’re definitely prevalent.

They filmed at iconic LA locations, which is cool to see…even though there’s really no shortage of that. A favorite got missed though:

A real LA gem

Still a real LA gem

While the depictions of LA reached caricature levels the film was not devoid of more grounded moments. The stark reality of dreams versus “growing up” tends to be something else most people eventually encounter and is prominently displayed. Also, of particular note was one of the most believable arguments between a couple I’ve seen in a movie.

One of the most admirable things about this movie is that they managed to marry the realistic parts nearly seamlessly into the artistic side. And they sure took full advantage of the visual medium. The contrast of colors were truly vibrant and aesthetically pleasing. Most of the music was superb to the point that I find myself wanting to go out and buy the soundtrack right away.

This movie will definitely be joining my Blu-ray collection when it’s out.

CommBro Breaker

Did I really just praise this movie for realism? Emma Stone’s character leaves a voicemail at one point during the movie. Are you serious? What kind of self-respecting millennial leaves a voicemail? Immersion broken. Trash film. I rate it 2.001 out of 1946.

Passengers: A review


Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $110 million

Did you ever wonder what happened during that time skip at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy? Before he became Starlord and traipsed around space he had to be doing something, right? Wonder no more. Chris Pratt reprises his role as Peter Quill and you get to see the beginning of his womanizing ways. Wait, that’s not right. His character’s name is Jim Preston. Oops.

Speaking of women, the movie would’ve been an even better experience had we not known Jennifer Lawrence was in it. All the marketing materials killed some of the tension and reveals. Not all of them though and it certainly doesn’t make the movie useless to watch. I mean, you’ve probably rewatched movies before so that’d be a weak argument anyway. Sadly, it’d be impossible to not plaster Lawrence’s face everywhere when they paid her so much to be in the movie. That and they want her name to bring in more viewers. Unfortunately, there are few character surprises anymore with casting choices being published on the internet during development and pre-production.

Pay no heed to the way below average ratings if the movie looked interesting. I think tthe film delivered on what was promised and critics are far too eager to throttle numbers at the first sign of trouble.

Like many good sci-fi movies, the characters wrestle with some moral quandries. The philosophical ponderings they explored were comfortable digestable, leaving room for some of the romance genre side to show through. The juxtaposition of the vastness of space against the relationship of two humans (and some robots) make for a compelling story.

But those robots, man. They got a lot right with the way the AI speech recognition was portrayed. Awe-inspiring in what it can do, yet frustrating when it falls short of our desperate expectations.

CommBro Breaker

Maybe they will make a spin-off to Passengers called ROOMBA: THE MOVIE. The roomba guys were the best character in the film! If they greenlighted a Emoji movie, why not this?

If some exec happens to be reading this, no, please don’t actually do it…