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Pokemon: Detective Pikachu (2019)

Pokemon ventures into the live action realm that’s popular lately with Detective Pikachu. It’s loosely based on the 3DS title of the same name, though there are quite a few changes to the plot and characters. The film follows Tim Goodman who teams up with a talking Pikachu, voiced by Ryan Reynolds as a wisecracking PG Deadpool. They set out to solve the mystery of Tim’s father’s death but end up unraveling a larger conspiracy.

The general plot is pretty straight forward and predictable. There are very few real twists and none of them feel particularly shocking, even probably the biggest one that happens at the end. The trip though is pretty fun. There are quite a few funny jokes and moments, the Mr. Mime Sequence shown in the trailers is pretty great, and pretty dark in it’s humor, for example. There is a lot of “Loony Tunes” style humor, that is, jokes that are funny for kids and adults but for different reasons.

It’s visually well done. The live action Pokemon all are very recognizable, and look pretty good in their “flesh and blood” style. The little Easter egg moments and little bits of Pokemon doing things in the background that really make the world feel alive. The city where this movie is set is, by way of the plot, special. Special because it’s dedicated to helping Pokemon and people live together in harmony, so there isn’t any battling or people throwing Pokeballs around. Everyone has a “buddy” Pokemon and they all work together to do their jobs.

Pretty much all of the flaws land in the 3rd act, when the villain is revealed, and his motives are a little dodgy, which makes the whole thing feel kind of odd. It’s executed well, it just could have been better. It’s also not particularly groundbreaking in any meaningful way. It’s essentially Rodger Rabbit with Pokemon.

It’s a good movie, it’s not an amazing movie. It does a good job at what it sets out to be.

Additional Spoiler Thoughts Beyond Beyond This Point

In tradition of how I tend to do reviews, I’m going to add a few additional thoughts that contain spoilers below. Read at your own risk.

So, like I said, it’s a lot of “predictable” so most of this will be about the endgame bits of the movie. So, the main villain Twist. This was probably the one real surprising twist, though it’s been done before so it wasn’t really shocking. Also, he’s not a huge actor, but you don’t pick up Bill Nighy to waste him on a throw away character in a wheelchair. That said, why the hell did he want to merge everyone with their Pokemon, aside from being “crazy evil guy”? I get why he wanted to do himself, but forcing it on everyone felt a little random and out there.

Not to mention it felt underused in it’s execution. Basically, all the humans vanished and the Pokemon all just sort of stood around doing nothing. This would have been a prime opportunity to do a few gags about the Human/Pokemon not knowing how to act or what to do. Especially say, Yoshida and Lucy, whom we have watched throughout the movie and can relate to.

This plot point also made the second twist of Tim’s father being Pikachu extremely predictable as well. Actually using Ryan Reynolds was a nice touch. It kind of sucks that they can’t really make a sequel with Ryan Reynolds Pikachu though, not without retreading the same plot ground.

A few other thoughts, the Torterra scene felt really pointless. The Greninja could have injured Pikachu and moved the plot ahead in the same way. I mean it was kind of neat seeing the massive Pokemons, but they basically just stood up and laid back down into the scenery. I guess the writers decided they needed an action sequence for the film.

Speaking of the action sequences, the other two Action scenes were both pretty good. Pikachu vs Charizard was cool, though Pikachu didn’t really DO anything. the final Mewtwo vs Pikachi was good but the whole Evil Ditto bit was what really made that scene. Plus it was a nice way to push the twist with the Father instead of the Son being the villain. Since the Son actually did something useful in the fight.

Captain Marvel (2019) – Review

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

Infinity War and Endgame are, not surprisingly, coming out very close to each other.  At least when compared to the previous Avengers outings they are close to each other.   This is kind of understandable given how disruptive the end of Infinity War was.  Even Agents of SHIELD essentially took a prolonged break to wait for things to be fixed.  A couple of films have squeezed in between, both featuring things that will likely show up prominently in Avengers End Game.  The first was Ant-Man and the Wasp, which according to the post credits scene, effectively happens simultaneously along side Avengers Infinity War.

Captain Marvel gets around this problem by taking place in the past.  Only the credits scene happens during “present day”.  This is kind of a first for Marvel films which have always taken place “Present day”.  Captain America: The First Avenger got around this by having it’s current day scene happen at the end of the film after Steve wakes up from his long cold sleep.

The core of the film is an origin story for Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, aka Vers (pronounced Veers).  The majority of the film takes place in the mid 90s with some flashbacks to Carol’s past life 6 years previous.  It sort of mixes up the standard “origin” concept this way since it doesn’t just start with “here is how she got her powers” then “here is how she learns to be a hero”, which is nice.  Her original also ties heavily into the plot itself.

The real show stealers of this film are Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a CGIed younger version of himself as Nick Fury, and Carol’s cat Goose.  Ben Mendelsohn also does a pretty good job as the Skrull leader Talos throughout the film.  There are some good funny bits, mostly involving one or more of these three characters though it’s not a constant joke like Guardians of the Galaxy.

So how is the movie?  It’s… alright.  There has been some controversy with the film getting brigaded with negative reviews on review sites.  It’s not the best Marvel film by any stretch, but it’s certainly not god awful like some of these “ratings” suggest.  It’s like a pretty solid 7/10 or so probably.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The film opens with Carol, at this point known as Vers (Veers), living on the Kree home world and training with Yon-Rogg to join an elite Kree Commando force known as the Starforce.  We get a brief look at how she has no memory of her past but has dreams of it occasionally through a brief dream sequence where she is injured on the ground along side Annette Benning’s character and being attacked by a Skrull.  The Starforce and Kree are at war with the Skrulls.  The Kree should be fairly familiar to anyone following the MCU, they have showed up in a few movies and the Agents of SHIELD show quite a bit.  The Skrulls are new to the MCU though.  Basically, they are tricky aliens who can shapeshift.  It’s not a plot element in the movie but Super Skrulls can also replicate the abilities of super heroes.

Anyway, Vers gets summoned to meet with the Supreme Intelligence, leader of the Kree, who takes the form of “something important to each individual”.  In the case of Vers, it takes the form of Annette Benning.  Vers is recruited into Starforce and the little party of fighters head off on a mission to rescue someone on a Skrull planet.  They arrive, we get to see the Starforce in action a bit when they are ambushed by Skrulls, and Vers heads into a base alone to look for the hostage.  It turns out it’s a trap and the hostage is a Skrull, and Vers is taken captive.

We get a few flashes of her past again, as the Skrulls scan her memory for information.  They find a memory of Vers and Annette Benning together on an airfield on Earth, after reviewing the memory several times they discern the location of the airfield.  Around this time Vers manages to break free of the system and starts fighting her way out of the Skrull ship.  She escapes as the ship explodes and crash lands in a Blockbuster video on Earth.

This brings up my first kind of problem here, we later find out she was out for a few hours, but it’s not really explained when the Skrulls traveled to Earth from wherever they were.  I mean, obviously it happened, but the way it was presented felt a little random and convenient. 

After using the Earth’s phone system and some Kree technology, Vers manages to contact Yon-Rogg and sets out to find out why the Skrulls were looking for Annette Benning.  Not before being confronted by SHIELD and Nick Fury, with Agent Coulson in tow as a rookie agent.  Fury doesn’t seem to quite believe Vers’ story about aliens and Skrulls and Kree.  They are interrupted by an attack by a Skrull whom Vers chases down on foot with Fury and Coulson pursuing in a car.  Vers fights with the Skrull a bit on an elevated train as the SHIELD agents follow on along behind.  Fury gets a call on the radio of his car from Coulson, who wonders where everyone went from the Blockbuster, which alerts Fury that Coulson in the car isn’t who he thinks it is.  After a brief fight he wrecks his car, killing the Skrull who reverts back to his normal form.  Vers loses the Skrull she was following in a crowd. 

After changing to some normal clothes from her fancy Kree suit, Carol takes to searching the internet for clues about Annette Benning’s whereabouts.  Coulson gets some information on the Skrull body at the SHIELD base before, in classic Fury fashion, showing up randomly to talk to Vers.  Since he now believes her story, they agree to team up to figure out what’s going on and head to a secret base where Annette Benning was working.  In the base they find that the person they are looking for has been dead for years.  They also find a cat that appeared previously in Vers’ memories and some information on the Light Speed drive that had been worked on there.  Vers also discovers that she is in a photo of the test experimental test plane.

Meanwhile, Fury has contacted SHIELD to let them know where he was, only it turns out that his boss has been replaced by a Kree.  In a bit of a clever bit, he discovers this when his boss calls him “Nick” instead of “Fury”.  He previously made a huge point to Vers that no one calls him anything but Fury.  No one.  He tricks the Skrull into splitting up by commenting “Just like in Haiti”, which I only mention as it comes up again later.

Anyway, Fury reunited with Vers, who is not happy at all about him alerting SHIELD to their location.  There is a brief battle before they escape in a Quadjet, which looks a lot like a bulkier and older model Quinjet.  They discover that the cat managed to stow away with them on board the jet.  They set off to visit Maria Rambeau, who was listed as the last person to see Vers alive in her past life. 

It turns out Maria was best friend to Vers in her past life.  They bond, we learn that Vers is from Earth (which we all kind of expected given the flashbacks).  We learn that her name isn’t Vers, it’s Carol Danvers.  There is a half a dog tag that reads “Carol Dan” on it.  Carol had a jacket that apparently Maria’s daughter wears sometimes.  Maria is a little town since she is happy her friend is alive and a little irritated that she was off on another planet. 

This is all interrupted by the arrival of Talos, the Skrull commander, now in his normal Skrull form.  He wants a truce, and to talk, and to reveal… the plot twist.  It turns out that Annette Benning wasn’t human, but was a Kree scientist known as Mar-Vell.  He plays back a recording of the crash Carol was involved in, the one that’s he had been dreaming about.  Mar-Vell and Carol are piloting the experimental craft and get shot down by some alien craft.  Only instead of being attacked by Skrulls, it turns out she had been attacked by Yon-Rogg.  The Kree were the ones after the Light Speed Drive all along, not the Skrulls.  During the confrontation, Mar-Vell had revealed her secret to Carol.  Carol then fires a Kree weapon at the Light Speed drive, causing it to explode.  Somehow the energy is absorbed into Carol’s body.  Seeing this power, Yon-Rogg abducts her, her memory is wiped, and she is recruited to Starforce.  We also see him pick up the other half of the dog tag which reads only “vers”, which was the missing half of “Carol Danvers” on the complete dog tag, and the reason she is called “Vers” early on.

Carol is a little pissed that she has been lied to of course. 

This recording also leads to the secret coordinates that aren’t on the Earth, but are actually in orbit around Earth.  The Skrulls modify the Quadjet for spaceflight and they all (Carol, Fury, Talos, Maria, the Cat) head into space.  Once there they discover Mar-Vell’s secret cloaked space station, which, surprise, contains a bunch of Skrull refugees.  Specifically, Talos’ family, who had been working with Mar-Vell.  It also contains the source of power that the Kree are after in the Tesseract Cube.  Carol gives the Tesseract to Fury for safe keeping, or specifically, Goose the Cat eats is with a bunch of tentacles that spew out of it’s mouth, because it’s not a cat it’s a Flurgen. 

The Starforce squad shows up and use an implant in Carol’s head to force her to power down.  Carol is then, once again, confronted by the Supreme Intelligence.  The Skrulls and Fury and Maria are locked up.  Carol confronts the Supreme intelligence who kind of taunts her about how weak she is.  This pretty much causes her to overcome the implant and unleash her full power.  She wipes the floor with the Starforce Squad.  Meanwhile, Talos has disguised himself as a Starforce grunt, and alerts Fury with a comment about Haiti, which is once again, kind of clever.  They overpower their captors and escape with the Skrulls to the Quadjet.  Along the way we get to see more of Goose’s true power as the Cat eats several of the guard whole.

Carol and Yon-Rogg blast out of the station in a shuttle, but not before Ronan arrives to cleanse the Earth of it’s Skrull infestation.  His starships launch several missiles at the planet.  Carol uses her newfound Super Saiyan powers to fly into space, destroying the missiles along the way and easily dispatching one of Ronan’s ship.  Ronan turns tail and exits the area to go off and get killed by the Guardians of the Galaxy later.

Carol returns to the surface to confront Yon-Rogg.  Realizing he is no match for her, he goads her into proving she can fight him with no powers, but she blasts him anyway.  Because she is “the hero” she tosses him into the escape pod, programs it to head back to the Kree home world and tells him to let the Kree know she is coming for them.

She says her goodbyes to Fury and Maria, leaving the Goose and the Tesseract with SHIELD.  She makes it her mission to help the Skrulls find a new home world and to combat the Kree, and she leaves with the Skrulls to parts unknown.  Before leaving she leaves Fury with the modified pager he can use to summon her in case of emergency.

There are two end credits scenes.  One with the Avengers in Avengers HQ, lamenting their loss at the hands of Thanos and pondering the meaning of the Pager, which was activated by Fury at the end of Infinity War.  The pager has mysteriously stopped sending a signal and they don’t know why.  Suddenly, they turn and a very angry looking Carol is there, and asks ‘Where’s Fury”.

The second scene shows Fury’s desk, Goose jumps up on the desk.  Anyone who has owned a cat can probably predict what happens next in the context of the film, I know I did.  I mean cats like to eat things they shouldn’t like plants, or Tesseracts, but these things don’t really flow through the digestive tract.  Goose starts hacking and coughing before ejecting the tesseract out onto the desk.  It’s pretty funny.

How it’s Connected

So, there’s a fair amount of connected here, but the biggest and most obvious is the Tesseract which first appeared in Captain America: TFA and later in the first Avengers film.  It also made a brief appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, since after Avengers it was stored in Asgard, where it was saved from Ragnaros by Loki.  Then again in the opening for Avengers: infinity War where it was taken by Thanos and inserted into the Infinity Gauntlet as the Space Stone.

The Tesseract is shown to be the source of power for the Light Speed drive that was being developed by Mar-Velle which exploded and infused Carol with her super powers.  It makes sense that this would be able to power a super powered space engine since it’s the Space Stone, which has the ability to let the user travel across space.

Fury gets his eye scratched out by the cat Goose, which is supposed to explain why he has an eye patch in the future.  It’s kind of cute since it’s bad ass Nick Fury and you expect it to have happened by something more than a cat.  In this same line, it’s a little lame, because you expected it to be more than a cat.  Ok, technically Goose is a Flurgen or whatever.

Near the end of the film, the Kree general Ronan makes a brief appearance.  His small fleet of ships shows up to destroy Earth but are stopped by Captain Marvel when she goes Super Saiyan.  Ronin, you may recall was the primary antagonist of the first Guardians of the Galaxy.  He isn’t the only character to show up in Captain Marvel from GotG, Korath (“Star-Lord Man”; “Who?”) shows up as well as a member of the Kree Star Force squad that Carol is a part of.

Then of course there is Agent Coulson, whom Fury refers to as “Rookie”.  His roll isn’t very big but it’s nice to see him show up again in the films and not just Agents of SHIELD.

There is also a slightly cheesy brief bit at the end that implies Fury got the name for The Avengers from Carol’s pilot nickname of “Avenger”.

Then of course the credits scene, where Carol answers the call of her pager sent out by Fury at the end of Infinity War, and shows up looking rather pissed.

One other note that may or may not become relevant later, Carol’s friend has a daughter named Monica Rambeau.  She is like 10 maybe in the film.  She carried the Captain Marvel mantle in the comics briefly, and even lead the Avengers briefly.  I doubt she elevates to that level in the MCU, but she may show up again “present day” as an adult.  She is also a member of the slightly niche with a cult following group Nextwave.  I would be pretty happy if they opted to make a Nextwave film.

Thoughts on what’s next

Captain Marvel will show up again alongside the Avengers in the next film, Avengers: Endgame.  Her massive power level will definitely be a strong addition to whatever fight happens in that film.  I look forward to seeing her go toe to toe with Thanos.  I also wonder how well she will play with the rest of the characters.  In her own movie here, she comes off as pretty single track on her goals.  I can see her showing up, discovering what has happened to Fury and everyone else, and jetting off to beat the shit out of Thanos as soon as she discovers his location, despite protests from anyone else (Steve Rodgers). 

I can also see her getting along with Thor in interesting ways.  Thor already outclasses all of the other Avengers in power level, which became supremely clear in infinity War, but I feel like Carol may actually be stronger than he is in a straight fight. 

Final Notes

There isn’t a lot of the larger picture that is advanced here, but it does introduce us to a new hero which will add a new dynamic to things going forward.  The film does a fairly decent job of sort of explaining where Carol has been since her time in the 90s and the present day time.  So far, nothing has happened that would have given Fury cause to summon her before either.  The invasion of New York was handled by the Avengers and Ultron was a problem, but not one that he really knew about until last minute, and once again, the Avengers managed to keep it under control.  Ultimately, it’s a nice introduction, but it’s kind of unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

When this film was first announced, I have to say I was both kind of excited and a little worried. Excited because it looked pretty awesome, worried because, manga to live action adaptations tend to be kind of hit or miss. I also felt like even if it was good, it wouldn’t really have enough mainstream appeal to actually be successful.

While I really liked this movie, its not perfect. It has a lot of weird pacing issues and the ending left a bad taste but the visuals are amazing and the action sequences were all well done. The story is alright as well, though if anything it’s a little overly complex for the duration of the film. In preparation for the film I read through a lot of the original manga. The manga, is sort of a series of separate stories involving Alita, one event happens, then another happens, then another, and so on. The movie is sort of a remix of these stories where they are a bit more intertwined together. This Blending helps make things feel a little more like one big story, but it can make things a little harder to keep track of which characters are important to which storyline.

There are a lot of parts that are pretty faithful to the manga, and others that are toned down and others that seem to be new. For example, the first real story in the manga involves Alita and Ido tracking down a killer who is obsessed with eating people’s brains. The same killer shows up in the movies, but the brains part is removed and his role is expanded a bit so he shows up several times throughout the movie. There is a big set piece of Motorball, which is all in later story elements of the Manga, but in the movie, it’s introduced as a plot device earlier on, and we see less of Alita rising through the ranks of the sport, probably to save time. There are however plenty of other sequences that are lifted directly from the pages of the Manga.

As much as I like that they tried to make things more cohesive, it also kind of hurts the story a lot. Alita’s evolution from innocent little girl amnesiac to bad ass warrior is basically explained away by “mysterious past”. It feels a little unnatural. In the manga, she joins Motorball because she is mad at Ido and upset over a recent personal loss and essentially wants to forget her new past life. In the movie, she joins more “because it’s cool” and vaguely because the winner gets to go to Zalem. That personal loss moment doesn’t occur until the end of the film and she never really turns away from Ido. I found this a little disappointing since Ido and Alita competing against each other’s Motorball teams while pretending to be strangers was kind of a fun bit in the manga.

The next paragraph involves some spoilers for the film. There is also a lot of subplot involving Demi Moore’s character Rose, and the mysterious Nova. I really feel like the parts about Nova should have been seriously toned down or trimmed out, with more emphasis on Vector being the main villain of the film. The plot points for Nova literally go nowhere except to set up a sequel and the plot would have felt more contained without it. Demi Moore also has this weird tendency to just sort of show up a few times, to either be a snide bitch or to help out randomly. She exists to sort of give more backstory for Ido’s connection to Alita, but overall she just sort of feels uselessly tacked into everything.

This leads to my main disappointment with this film, which frankly, is only a disappointment if there is never a sequel. The movie just sort of… ends, with no real resolution. Things are set up for a sequel, but I worry it may not do well enough to get one, leaving the movie with a very meh ending. My one optimistic hope is that that the producer, James Cameron, best known for Avatar and Titanic, two of the largest films ever made, has such a huge hard on for the material that he’s been trying to make this movie for like 20 years. I feel like he may push a sequel out even if this first film is a flop.

One other thing I definitely want to address is the eyes. When the trailers first dropped for this, the one main topic of discussion were Alita’s large eyes. In the actual film, it’s really not an issue, at all for a few reasons. First, a lot of the cast has some sort of cyborg augmentation. Hell off the top of my head, I think there were only a few notable characters who didn’t have some level of cyborg going on. There are character with robot arms, characters with robot skulls, characters with robot legs, there are robot parts, everywhere. That’s part of the world of Iron City, where the film takes place. Also, during some flashbacks of Alita’s past, other characters with these same eyes are shown, which implies that it’s part of where she came from, and not just a gimmick to make her character look more “anime”.

Speaking if Iron City, it’s a really interesting setting for the story. I really like these sort of dystopian future cyberpunk settings, and Alita has a lot of great atmosphere to it. The story takes place in Iron City, which is basically a huge slummy junkyard that sits under the flying sky city of Zalem. Nothing is really shown of Zalem aside from it’s underside. Many of the characters have dreams of reaching this city, which is believed to be some sort of utopian paradise, and it’s a central plot element motivating several of the characters. The lower city is cluttered and crowded and full of cobbled together buildings, constructed from scraps dropped by the city of Zalem.

I also wanted to touch a bit on the violence as well, more for informational purposes than that I really have a problem with it. The movie itself is rated PG-13. There isn’t any sex or nudity, there isn’t a lot of swearing, but it’s fairly violent. The manga is extremely violent. It’s full of pretty detailed art of people getting their heads crushed or brains ripped out and eaten. The movie tones this down quite a bit, but there is still a ton of dismemberment. On one hand, it’s all cyborgs, so, they are “like robots”. Except as “cyborgs”, they ARE people, with robot bits. If a human has his head removed and put on a human body, just because it doesn’t have a bunch of blood, doesn’t mean it’s not a little graphic in nature.

Wrapping up, it’s a good cyberpunk film and manga adaptation. It’s more faithful of an adaptation than some other recent manga adaptations for sure (Ghost in the Shell). That said, it’s based on an old Manga, which means it’s not really going to be everyone’s cup of tea due to some of the cultural oddities that come along with that. It’s visually nice but it’s not nearly as accessible plotwise as say, a Marvel movie. Fans of Sci-Fi and cyberpunk should definitely enjoy it.

Review – Movie – Monster Trucks

So, I’m kind of a stupid sucker for this sort of thing. Kind of dumb movies based on dumb concepts. Monster Trucks really feels like one of those, in a meeting, guy says “What about, trucks, possessed by MONSTERS. And we could call it…. MONSTER TRUCKS. This is a Nickelodeon film and rated PG, so it’s pretty sanitary in it’s story and presentation. You’re not going to get much more than what you might expect. There’s quite a few faces that you’ll recognize in here as well, though the stars are Lucas Till, from MacGuyver as “Handsome outcast loser kid” and Jane Levy as “Nerdy Girl Love Interest”.

Some spoilerish thoughts and then a less spoilery wrap up beyond that.

Plot Summary

The film starts off with an oil company discovering an underground water source during a drilling operation. After penetrating the tunnels, a mysterious creature escapes from the well (several actually). They capture at least one creature and another hides inside a company truck that was crushed during the explosion.

A few notable characters are introduced, there’s a couple of Oil company people, a corporate jerk and a couple of science folks and there is this animal tracker/exterminator/tough dude hired by the Oil company. Honestly, their names aren’t super important, they are all pretty much just the characters you’d think of in these rolls existing. It’s clear they all basically exist to serve as plot foils for our hero in various ways.

Enter our hero, Tripp (MacGuyver). We get a brief introduction sequence, he seems to be kind of the loner stereotype though he doesn’t really look it, his mom and dad are divorced (the dad was working at the oil field) and his mom seems to be dating the town Sheriff. He also works at the local junk yard with Danny Glover in a wheelchair. The junked Oil company truck is dropped off and Tripp is rather excited by the prospect of taking the engine from it for his junker old timey project truck.

He soon discovers there is more to their truck after finding some missing oil, and later luring out the giant tentacled monster who has been drinking said oil. Around this time the Oil Company enforcer dude shows up with some goons. The monster sneaks off and hides inside Tripp’s Junker truck, where he remains for most of the movie. This also crates our first… Monster Truck. Tripp tells the goons to go ahead and search around while he pushes the truck and the monster out of the garage, where he runs into Jane Levy, who was coming by to help him out with some studying.

The monster starts acting up and she discovers the monster. With the goons quickly approaching they jump in the truck and the monster drives it off. They arrive at Meredith’s place (Jane Levy), where Tripp fixes up the truck so the monster and drive it better.

They take the Monster Truck out for a spin around town and to feed on some gasoline, only to discover gasoline kind of makes the Monster go kind of nutty. After some hi-jinks in the streets they end up ad Tripp’s dad’s place to get some more input on what happened with the Oil Field accident. His dad however rats them out to the Oil Company Goons. After a dramatic chase escape between the Truck, the Goons and the Sheriff, they end up at another place run by Meredith’s family, a cabin out in the woods.

You see kids, this is how we know she likes him, because she keeps hanging out with him and his crazy truck, despite all of the peril they keep getting involved with.

Through this whole crazy escapade, we’ve gotten a few glimpses at the Oil company scientist guy. It seems that he has two additional monsters help in captivity. After some testing, he finds that the monsters are smart and able to communicate telepathically with each other. He also greatly objects to the Oil Exec dude’s plan to kill the creatures so they can get on with drilling up Oil.

So the next morning Tripp and Meredith wake up to find that the monster as left. Fortunately, Meredith’s affections for Tripp are apparently creepier than they have been coming off because she has an app on her phone that is able to track Tripp’s phone, which is in the truck. Creepy much? Tripp doesn’t bat an eye at the fact that she has apparently been secretly stalking him using her cell phone. I mean tracking apps usually need special permissions, which would suggest at some point she snuck this app on her phone.

They track the monster to a facility owned by the Oil Execs and discover the other two creatures. Unfortunately, it was a trap and they are all ambushed and taken prisoner by the Oil Company guys. While being escorted off the premises, Meredith and Tripp are picked up by the Scientist guy, who wants to help the monsters escape so they don’t get killed. The scientists suggests they need to get the monsters back to the vent in the oil field so they can return home. But they need some way to move them fast.

Which brings us to… more… Monster Trucks.

Specifically, they essentially steal a couple of other trucks, rip out the engines and modify them using more stolen parts from a car dealer. But it’s for a good cause, or something.

Our heroes hijack the semi transporting the monsters and meet up with their newly hollowed out trucks. We get an action packed cross country race through the woods and up a mountain to the dig site, and some unexpected help from the Sheriff and our family of monsters is safely returned home. Everyone gets a nice feel good ending.

Thoughts

Ok, so yeah, this movie is definitely designed for a younger audience and it’s a Nick film. Most of the characters are all as a result pretty much cookie cutter stereotypes. The basic plot is… honestly pretty solid, as well as it’s execution. This is accepting the idea of tentacle monsters that like to control trucks is a thing. The real flaw of this film is that it’s a story that’s been done before, Kid (ok, the heroes are like 18 or something but you get the idea), kid finds alien/creature/sea animal and befriends it, corporate/government goons want to stop/kill said creature/alien, usually for “reasons” that amount to “they are the bad guys”. This movie doesn’t break any new ground. It’s still a pretty fun movie, and the special effects are pretty good as are the goofy stunts.

It’s not going to win any awards, but there are worse movies to watch and younger kids will get a kick out of the whole thing for sure.

 

Review – Movie – The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Spoiler Free Thoughts and Review

The Incredible Hulk seems to be a really hard hero to get right for movies.  He’s had a few of them and even a live action TV series in the 80s.  The Incredible Hulk is sort of the redheaded stepchild of the MCU.  It came out just after Iron Man.  It’s technically sort of part of the MCU, but no one really remembers or cares that it’s part of the MCU.  Part of this confusion is the change in actors from the movie and his next appearance in The Avengers.  They traded out Edward Norton for Mark Ruffalo.  This particular movie also exists in a weird space since it’s technically a sequel to the 2003 Ang Lee film simply called Hulk.  The rumors and stories I’ve read are that Norton was kind of a bear to work with on the whole thing and had a hand in altering a lot of the script until it was much less of a sequel and more of a reboot.  It doesn’t really directly contradict Ang Lee’s Hulk, but it doesn’t reference it either.  This is also part of why they dropped Norton for Ruffalo.

A lot of the problem with Hulk is that the exciting part, IE the big green monster, is boring and hard from a story perspective.  He’s not really a hero, he doesn’t really go around saving people really, he just gets mad and rages, and hopefully he’s raging against someone more evil than he is.  The part that works for the story, Bruce Banner, is kind of boring from a movie perspective.  It’s not super easy to depict “inner turmoil” on screen, which is part of what makes the Hulk and Banner who they are.

This film also is treated by the greater MCU the same way it treats it’s Ang Lee predecessor.  It’s not really acknowledge, it’s not really rejected.  It does seem to be kind of a goto reference for the TV MCU though.  Ironic since the TV MCU is also ignored by the movies.  Daredevil and Iron Fist make references to the final battle in Harlem, Agents of SHIELD makes references to Emil Blonsky a few times.

It’s an alright film, but I kind of prefer the Ang Lee vision of Hulk and frankly, I don’t really like Edward Norton as Banner.

Synopsis and Spoilers

The plot starts off with Banner working and hiding in Mexico, working at a soda bottling plant.  He’s communicating with Samuel Sterns, a scientist in the states, anonymously working to find a cure for his Hulkness.  During an accident, he accidentally cuts himself and some of his blood lands in one of the sodas which ends up giving Gamma Poisoning to poor Stan Lee.  This leads the military to Banner’s location.  They recruit special forces agent Emil Blonsky to head in and capture Banner.  After some Fitbit advertisements where Banner’s heart rate keeps increasing during his escape from the military, he finally Hulks out and battles it out with the soldiers before making his escape.

Jealous of the Hulk’s power, Blonsky gets injected with some experimental super soldier serum to help beef himself up and help him go up against the unstoppable force that is The Hulk.  Banner returns to the states to meet up with his old girlfriend Betty Ross, daughter of General Ross, who is leading the military charge against him.  Bruce wants to recover the data from the original experiment that transformed him into The Hulk to better help Dr. Sterns  find a cure.  Unfortunately for Banner, the Military has been alerted to his presence.  Hulk rears his raging face again and makes short work of the military forces, including Blonsky, despite his newfound strength.  Hulk flees with Betty after The Hulk “kills” Blonsky.

Bruce and Betty finally meet up with Samuel Sterns, who was able to formulate a cure, but possibly a faulty cure.  They administer the cure to Banner and afterwards General Ross, Blonsky and the military show up yet again and take Banner into custody.  After Ross heads out with Banner, Blonsky forces Dr. Stern to inject him with Banner’s blood.  The super soldier serum and the Hulk blood have a negative interaction and Blonsky is transformed into the classic Hulk nemesis, Abomination, who starts rampaging through Harlem.  General Ross agrees to let Banner go because the Hulk is the only one who can stop The Abomination.  After the two brutes trash out the city, prompting Wilson Fisk to leverage his power to rebuild things in his vision for control (no wait, wrong show), The Abomination is defeated and things come to a close.

Banner is later shown to be living in seclusion again and Tony Stark shows up to talk to General Ross in vague terms about the Avengers.

How it’s Connected

Aside from Robert Downy Jr’s cameo at the end, there’s not a whole lot else that comes up later.  There aren’t any references to The Absorbing Man in the first movie, there aren’t any Infinity Stones or much SHIELD even.  The events that take place in Harlem are mentioned in the Netflix Defenders shows some, primarily because those shows mostly take place in and around Harlem.  Though I find it kind of odd that the major event everyone talks about is Hulk and not, you know, the literal alien invasion and Avengers.  The Super Soldier serum theme is here, that of course relates to Captain America, Agent Carter, and a few bits in Agents of SHIELD.

Thoughts on What’s Next

There hasn’t been a straight followup for The Hulk, he shows up again in the later Avengers films and the upcoming Thor Ragnarok, but nothing new in terms of a solo film.  There is/was clearly some plan though, during the scene when Samuel Sterns turns Blonsky into the Abomination, he too gets infected by the Hulk Blood and his head starts mutating.  In the comics, Samuel Sterns is a smart dude with a big head villain named Leader.  Someone was pushing for this angle, though at this point it’s clearly gone nowhere.

Final Notes

The Incredible Hulk is an ok though pretty forgettable part of the greater MCU.  It’s not an awful movie, it just sort of, is.  Hulk is just sort of a hard guy to really do justice in film.

Review – Movie – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

So, the first Michael Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles live action movie kind of got a lot of flack.  To be fair, though, it’s not actually directed by Michael Bay, it’s just produced, so it’s not as awful of a live action remake as The Transformers movies are, it was however quite a departure from what people think of when they think Ninja Turtles.

The second film in this series is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and it seems to be the answer to what a lot of people wanted and expected from the first movie.  Where TMNT is an updated modern take on the basic Turtles vs The Foot idea, Out of the Shadows is a very blatant tribute and Nostalgia fest for the original 80s TMNT cartoon show.   It actually kind of feels a little sad with just how blatant of a tribute it is.

Rocksteady and Bebop? Check!

The Turtle Van?  Check!

Krang? Check!

Baxter Stockman?  Check!

The Technodrom?  Check!

Also, unlike a lot of remakes and updates, things stay fairly true to the original, or at least, much more aligned with the spirit of the original.  Rocksteady and Bebop for example, are pretty unmistakable.  Krang is a little weird but still very much is obviously Krang with his goofy robot body.  Baxter Stockman follows the original comic and modern show versions of being African American instead of a goofy white guy with orange hair, but he’s still a goofy scientist.

This movie very much feels like a response to the “This isn’t the Turtles I remember” complaints of the first TMNT film.

Honestly, I kind of feels like it makes the film better.  I didn’t hate the original TMNT, but the nostalgia level of Out of the Shadows definitely does it’s job.

The biggest fault of this film is the some what flimsy plot.  It’s not awful, but there’s quite a few “what” moments, one of them is a pretty crucial hinge to everything.  Early on in the film, The Shredder is rescued by The Foot, amidst the rescue, he is suddenly kidnapped by Krang, who wants to recruit The Shredder to gather several McGuffin devices in order to open a portal from Dimension X so Krang can take over The Earth.  Very Classic 80s Cartoon to be sure.  It’s just very, sudden, however with zero build up.  It’s just suddenly “Hey, giant brain man, let’s work together”.  It kind of feels like it could have been massaged a little bit on the flow.

There’s also a subplot involving Casey Jones tracking down Rocksteady and Bebop which feels pretty superfluous to the everything.  It seems to exist entirely so create an excuse to throw Casey Jones into the movie.  He basically fills the role of Vernon from the first TMNT, someone for April O’Neal to pal around with when she isn’t hanging out with the turtles.

There’s also an ooze subplot that goes nowhere after Rocksteady and Bebop become a thing.  That is, it’s there to mutate Rocksteady and Bebop, which is fine, but then it lingers around a bit until the end where a choice is made, one that never really felt like it had any appropriate build up to actually give it any meaningful impact.

The real bottom line is that the plot, or plots aren’t awful ideas, it’s more that there’s just too much crammed into one film, and as a result, nothing gets fleshed out to any meaningful level.  Maybe I’m looking for too much from a movie about giant martial artist turtles, but I can’t help but think that maybe, splitting things out a across a couple of films would have helped solidify everything a bit better, giving us something much better than what we got.  Maybe run with Shredder being rescued and meeting with a shadowy unknown, creating Bebop and Rocksteady and introducing Casey Jones as more of an antagonist and foil, then keeping Krang and the idea of being forced to live “In the Shadows” as a plot for a third connected film.

Review – Movie – Logan (2017)

The latest and supposedly last outing for Wolverine, or at least, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Logan is one of the better comic book movies we’ve had for sure, though not totally flawless.  Most of my complaints with this movie however stem more from how sloppy Fox has been with the X-men universe continuity, and not so much with the film itself.  Much like the previous Wolverine movie, The Wolverine, this film pretty much exists in a vacuum from the other movies in the series.  There’s a vague underlying theme about how awful Logan’s existence is because, while he never dies, everything he cares about eventually does.  There’s also a brief mention of “The Statue of Liberty” which is a throwback to the original X-men when Hugh Jackman took up the role, but it felt more like an Easter egg than a plot point.

It also brings up the question of “Where does this fall in continuity”.  Is it the old time line or the new timeline?  If he mentioned the Statue of Liberty from the first X-men, that would imply this is old timeline, except there are a few little nods to the new timeline, like the return of the mutant Caliban seen briefly in X-men Apocalypse.   Or the point about how there haven’t been any new mutants in something like 25 years, which seems contradictory to X-men 3, which showed us some future where there were clearly some young mutants in the school.

Nitpicky continuity stuff aside, the movie starts off a little rough but ends up on a pretty good note overall.  It’s also worth noting that this movie, like Deadpool, is definitely rated R.  Where Deadpool was more R rated for it’s crude sexual jokes, Wolverine gets it’s rating for language, a lot of gory violence, and one moment of very, very brief, non sexual nudity.  I only bring this up really because it’s worth noting in case anyone wants to take their 9 year old to the film and because it kind of felt a little unnecessary.  I hate to sound like some sort of grump over language, but given the history of the X-men franchise and the character, adding in a bunch of “fucks” almost makes some of the characters seem out of character and all of the extra goriness on the claw slashing didn’t really add a lot to the plot.

It all also felt a bit out of place as the movie progressed and more and more of Laura and her backstory, the young girl tagging along with Wolverine, became the focus of the film.  It’s like hey, here’s a bunch of kids going completely psycho in the movie violent way possible because “Edgy cool”.

The whole film also does a pretty effective job of being a bit of an emotional roller coaster, as everyone around poor Logan seems to get harmed or killed by the people following them.  Not to mention Logan himself, who is not anywhere near peak form as the poisoning in his body from his Adamantium skeleton is finally getting the best of him.  He’s feeling a lot of pain, his claws don’t always work, and he isn’t quite healing as well as he used to.  It certainly helps give some urgency to the character.  The regular X-men movies usually managed to write off Wolverine when Magneto was around, since Wolverine can’t do anything to Magneto, The Wolverine had Logan under the influence of some poison that suppressed his abilities, I guess something needs to be done to make a guy who can’t be harmed interesting (see also The Hulk).

The core of the movie is about the interaction between Logan, Laura and Xavier as they run from a band of pretty bland bad guys.  They are involved in Laura’s past, but they are essentially just an extension, spin off or figure version of Alkali and Stryker’s band, that same old repeating thread.  There is also Weapon 24, who is the main baddie for Wolverine to battle.  It’s not super clear what makes this guy so special other than “He’s like Wolverine only extra feral” and ultimately is pretty much a throw away nobody who only exists as someone who can stand toe to toe with Wolverine and not get killed in 1 claw swipe.

Laura manages to be an interesting character, despite being mute for much of the film.  The aged Charles Xavier is also incredibly likable in this movie, though his purpose and point isn’t super clear to the big picture.  He’s basically become a super powered senile old mutant, he has some mysterious vaguely explained crisis from the past, and serves as a father figure to Logan who in turn serves as a father figure to Laura, which makes a fun dynamic, but also felt like there were some pieces missing to help explain, at the very least, why Logan hadn’t just put him out of his misery already.  I mean I get that they are old friends, but he really feels like he is suffering with no possible recovery, if Logan really cared he could have saved both of them a lot of trouble a long time ago by giving him a quiet quick send off.  I know that sounds cruel but in the context of the film world presented, it honestly isn’t.

But alas, now I’m getting off on a tangent, and running a bit long.  Logan really is a good film, it’s definitely the best of the Wolverine trilogy, though I’m not sure that it’s quite the best X-men film.  It’s also a nice send off to Wolverine while also serving as an origin story for X-23, Wolverine’s replacement.

Review – Movie – The Wolverine

I’m feeling a little lost on the logic behind the X-Men movies, just a bit.  I mean there’s the original X-men trilogy, then there’s the new timeline X-men, then there’s these Wolverine movies sprinkled in.  The Wolverine definitely takes place after X-men 3, since there’s these little flashes of Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and references to X-men 3.  What it doesn’t really reference at all is Origins: Wolverine, which is sort of the actual predecessor film.  Actually aside from the few almost unneeded references to X3, The Wolverine feels really isolated from the rest of the X-men universe.  The setting, all of the other mutants, the villain, it all feels like it exists in a vacuum.

This kind of hurts this movie quite a bit.  It’s an interesting setting and story, but there’s this little back of the mind nag that says “Where is everyone else?”  There’s no Sabertooth, though technically he died in X1, something that could have been explained away.  I mention Sabertooth because he would have been the obvious thread to tie this film a bit to Origins: Wolverine, since he was such a centerpiece of that movie’s plot and character development.    Still, there’s also not really any mention of Xavier’s school, or Storm or Rogue or anyone Wolverine has been fighting with for years.  Instead we get a little opening bit involving Wolverine getting pissy at some hunters for poisoning a bear.  This all felt like a wasted chance to tie this into the bigger picture better.  It would have been expensive to drop cameos from everyone in the X-men universe but dropping in a couple of the lesser know (cheaper) actors for a bit at the beginning at the school then having Yukio pick him up from there would have worked much better.

Instead we get hunters and a story in a vacuum despite having all these little bits happening around it.

Aside from that issue, what about the film itself.  There’s definitely a different tone to these single character movies than the larger X-men films, The focus is Wolverine, all the way, he’s always present and the whole plot revolves around his burdens and life and what makes him tick.  Most of the film takes place in Japan, as Logan is invited by an old friend who is on his death bed, wishing to thank Logan for saving his life many years ago during WW2.  There’s a lot of fish out of water element to this story, as the rough and tumble Wolverine navigates through the orderly Japanese landscape.

There’s a lager plot at work however, and Wolverine gets a bit of a taste for life without his healing ability, which makes things complicated during his battles.  The fight sequences are probably the best part of this film, and they are numerous.  There’s definitely a very Asian cinema style creeping into things here, and not just because of the setting.  The camera work and choreography of the fights are all much more stylistic in nature.  Wolverine’s feral fighting style definitely shows it’s difference from the much more fluid martial arts methods employed by his opponents.  It’s a nice chance of pace in these films really and is handles pretty nicely given the different fighting techniques.

Really the entire movie kind of feels like an excuse to get Wolverine to fight Ninjas.

There’s also the romance sub plot.  It seems a bit relevant to mention the plotline of this movie is lifted a bit from a comic plot line, though it involved a few more other X-men, a lot of the surrounding characters are there.  Mariko in the comics is one of Wolverine’s sometimes love interests.  In fact the comic some of the events of this film are inspired from draw involved the X-men gathering for a wedding between the two.  In this movie however, their romance feels, and is, really rushed, especially considering the climax amounts to Wolverine staging a rescue of his captured love.  Considering he didn’t even want to come to Japan originally and only planned to stay for a day originally, it seems a little out there that he essentially is willing to run somewhat recklessly into this rescue attempt.

This is compounded more by the really pointless Jean Grey scenes spliced in randomly.

Which also brings up another dodgy bit on the plot side, it’s never really shown well what connects Logan and Yashida Wolverine is just sort of in Japan during Hiroshima, for unclear reasons, saves this one random Japanese soldier from a nuclear blast, for which he is clearly grateful, and then as near as the story tells us, they have not seen each other since.  Its understandable Yashida would want to thank Logan one last time before his death, it’s not super clear why Logan should or would care.  Not to mention that part of Logan’s character is that he can’t really remember anything from his past, which presumably would include that time he saved some random Japanese guy.  I mean he didn’t seem to remember his actual blood brother during the first X-men movie, one whom he fought along side during WW2 if the Origins opening is to be believed, but hey, random Japanese business guy.

So yeah, there’s a lot of off points on the plot, and the film feels like it is completely disconnected from the X-men universe, aside from the one thread that feels like a random after thought.  I will give it a good point though, the effects are much better than Origins: Wolverine.  The action is also really great with a good Asian style going on with things.  One thing I will also add, there could be some redemption with the upcoming Logan film, if it bothers to reference anything in this film.  Part of the plot involved taking Logan’s power away and transferring it to another, now we get Logan, with Old Wolverine, maybe he has aged as a side effect of what happened during this film?  I’m not sure if they are organized enough on these movies to make the pieces feel like part of the same puzzle unfortunately.