The Last Duel and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Studios
Directed by Ridley Scott
It’s officially catch-up month over her as I scramble to fit a few more reviews in before the New Year and try to catch up on some of the things I missed, so hey; why not two Ridley Scott movies back to back? While House of Gucci had a modest amount of box office success despite some rather underwhelming reviews, the same cannot be said for this film which came and went with barely a notice from general audiences. Did we all miss out on a fantastic gem that deserved a lot more attention at the box office, or is this just a really bad year for the venerable director? Let’s find out!!
The story takes place in Medieval France and follows three people whose fates are inexorably and cruelly intertwined. Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is a simple if narrow-minded warrior in the French army who takes a wife, The Lady Marguerite (Jodie Comer), and while there are some advantages to the marriage in terms of property and a bit of esteem in the court, he’s still very much outclassed by his friend, the Squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). He doesn’t come from a family of warriors or is in an advantageous marriage, but still, he pulled himself up through cunning and political maneuvering to become a chief adviser to the nearby lord, Count Pierre d’Alençon (Ben Affleck). The tensions between Jean and Jacques escalate as Jacques curries more favor with the community while Jean is just kinda being sad in his castle with his wife and mother, and it all comes to a head when Jean returns from the capital to find his wife in an utterly distraught state. She says that while he was gone, Jacques broke in and raped her which Jacques denies vociferously. Being a man of honor (and one that doesn’t listen to his wife), Jean challenges Jacques to a duel to the death, with the caveat being that if Jean falls in battle then Marguerite will be burned at the stake. With so much riding on something as arbitrary as a fight with swords, can justice truly be meted out for Marguerite? Is there more to this story than any of the three participants are willing to share and is there more to the duel than meets the eye? First Joan of Arc, and now this? Seriously, Middle Ages! Get your act together!
Ford v Ferrari and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by James Mangold
With the Disney/Fox merger, there were bound to be a few films lost in the shuffle with at least one that seems to have INTENTIONALLY been shelved for the foreseeable future (*cough* New Mutants *cough*). This film was originally scheduled for earlier in the year but instead they pushed it to Oscar season which frankly seems like a solid move considering this ticks off a lot of awards bait boxes; it being a period piece relying heavily on Americana and nostalgia for the non-hippie version of the sixties while also starring two big name actors to lend a bit of clout and respectability to the proceedings. Does this movie about cars going fast manage to be about something much more, or is this yet another movie destined for heavy rotation on TNT and nowhere else? Let’s find out!!
Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles (Matt Damon and Christian Bale) don’t get along all that well but they both seem to respect the other with Shelby being a great car designer and former racer and Miles being the best racer alive with a flawless instinct for driving as well as the inner workings of the car itself. These two have been given something of a golden opportunity as Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) is determined to have one of his cars beat Ferrari at the biggest race in the world; the La Mans. With his vice president (Jon Berenthal) leading the charge, Shelby comes on board with the project and convinces Miles to go along with it as well despite his hot head and distrust of corporations; a mistrust that may be well founded as interference from the higher ups constantly gets in their way of doing what needs to be done in order to beat Ferrari and prove that Ford cars can be just as powerful and sexy as European models! Can Shelby thread the needle of the Ford Company’s misguided directives with Miles’s inability to get along with others? What kind of new tricks and technology will they need to develop in order to claim a victory that has eluded Ford for so long? Is it just me or is a movie with Batman and Jason Borne that’s being directed by the guy who made Logan somehow as cool as that description would imply despite the film ACTUALLY being about regular cars?
Deadpool 2 and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by David Leitch
The first Deadpool was really solid for what it was, and I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it only SORT of is! It was not so much a movie in its own right as it was a proof of concept for a character to show how something this dark, comedic, and off the wall can be done in the super hero genre. It makes sense considering this character had pretty much been struggling to prove itself for years as a cinematically viable presence what with the awfulness that was Origins Wolverine (there was an even a stinger for him to return in later X-Men films) or even that CG rendered test footage that became the big car action scene in the real film. I wasn’t THE MOST thrilled with the end result as a movie, but I was glad that Ryan Reynolds found a character perfectly suited for his capabilities as an actor and that a studio was finally ready to back him up on that. Now that EVERYONE knows who Deadpool is and are ready to see him in action outside of an origin story, is there enough left to work with to make the amazing film he truly deserves, or was he just a gimmick the whole time and lightening won’t be striking twice for this one? Let’s find out!!
After getting his revenge, resolving his character arc, and making a boat load at the box office, Deadpool AKA Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is living his Merc with a Mouth life full of blood, snappy quips, and awesome days with his lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Sadly the good times won’t last forever and Wade is basically left to his own devices which can only spell doom and gloom for those foolish enough to get in his way… unless of course you’re made entirely out of metal. Oh hey! His best buddy Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) is made of metal! Maybe he can get Wade out of his funk and FINALLY get him to join the X-Men! Thing is, that’s KIND of a monkey’s paw wish as he DOES indeed join the team (as a trainee) but right away screws things up when a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennsion) gets himself into trouble and Deadpool comes to his aid in a manner that doesn’t QUITE meet the X-Men code… or the law, and winds up going to Mutant Jail which is apparently a thing. If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s ALSO a half cyborg dude named Cable (Josh Brolin) pulling a Terminator by coming back to the past to save the future and it SEEMS to involve both Wade AND death, so Deadpool certainly has his work cut out for him in order to escape prison, keep the kid from ending up a reprobate like himself, and stopping the Future Cop from whatever the hell it is he plans on doing. Will Wade learn how to not just be an irreverent jackass, but an irreverent jackass with a HEART? Just how far will Cable go to complete his mission, and how much collateral damage will Wade have to suffer because of it? He may not be the best man for the job, but is he at least the FUNNIEST one!?
Downsizing and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Alexander Payne
Every year, there’s usually one movie that starts off getting quite a bit of Awards buzz (mostly due to its cast and filmmakers) that eventually pivots all the way back to being an absolute train wreck once the critics get a chance to see it, and it’s usually not due to a genuine lack of talent on anyone’s part. More often than not, it’s misguided or something happened in the production that forced corners to be cut, so the badness of these kind of movies tend to be UNIQUE compared to the drivel that usually comes out during the rest of the year. Last year the winner of this prize was Collateral Beauty that tried SO hard to be a heartfelt and charming tale despite ostensibly being about people acting like total monsters towards someone with emotional issues, and word has been circulating that this is gonna be that film for 2017. I thought the trailers looked good as does its interesting premise, but I’ve been burned by good trailers before (*cough* Mother *cough*), so I’m hoping for the best but will keep my guard up just in case. Are the critics right about this film being wholly unable to live up to its lofty ambitions, or is this one of those few instances where the popular consensus will shift once it gets screened for the masses? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the adventures of Paul (Matt Damon) who’s a simple man with a ho-hum job living a ho-hum life with his ho-hum wife (Kristen Wiig) in his ho-hum town of Nowhere-ville. He’s looking for something to spice up his life and to give him a renewed sense of meaning (by which I mean he wants to buy more stuff), so he starts to entertain the idea of him and his wife Downsizing. What is Downsizing you may ask? Well it’s a process by which a human can be permanently shrunken down to a fraction of their normal height and then move to a community of similarly shrunken people. Since things cost less when they are smaller, that means that Paul’s meager life savings can let them live as kings for the rest of their lives in one of these communities, so he eventually makes the leap. However, his wife doesn’t go with him (balking at the last second) and he’s basically back where he was before; miserable and looking for ways to be happy. Through his ongoing life in Tiny Town (also known as Leisureland) he meets with a goods trader Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) as well as a Vietnamese protestor who was Downsized against her will named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) that seem to be much happier than him and might just hold the secrets to helping Paul find what he’s been looking for. Can Paul find a shred of happiness in his sad pathetic life? What doors with Dusan and even Ngoc open for Paul that will help him on his journey? Wait, so we have this HUGE premise about people being shrunk down and living in corporate run micro-communities… and we’re focusing on some sad white dude the whole time!?
Thor: Ragnarok and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Directed by Taika Waititi
After the rather disappointing Thor: The Dark World (HOW DO YOU WASTE THE BEST DOCTOR WHO IN SUCH A BLAND VILLAIN ROLE!?) I wasn’t really looking forward to what they’d do with this character in his solo films and was more interested to see if he’d show up in a bunch of the other movies instead. Once those initial trailers hit with the heavy emphasis on fantastical Jack Kirby inspired designs and the rocking Led Zeppelin soundtrack, there seemed to be hope in this franchise digging itself out of the pit the sequel left it in. At the very least, it LOOKED a lot pretty with much more vibrant colors, and it even manages to drag Jeff Goldblum into the MCU which in and of itself would make this movie worthy of existing even if everything else ends up being awful. Does Thor’s third chance at the plate end up being one of the best films in the entire MCU, or did they just throw a lot of flash and money at a franchise that is just unable to find its place after telling the origin story? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to find out what the heck Ragnarok is which was hinted at ALL the way back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Remember when he left the team to take a bath and saw some visions? Yeah, apparently it was all foreshadowing of the destruction of Asgard in a calamity known as Ragnarok, so Thor is basically trying to find a way to stop it… whatever it may be. In the meantime though, he manages to find out that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has taken the place of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who is actually alright as Loki basically stuck his ass in a retirement home on Earth, but when Thor goes down there to bring him back to the throne it turns out that he’s all out of time and disappears in a cloud of energy or something. If that wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that one of the things he was doing when he was alive was keeping a hereto unknown daughter of his named Hela (Cate Blanchett) in some sort of magic prison which breaks as soon as he’s dead and so she’s come back for revenge against her family and all of Asgard. Both Loki and Thor are dealt with rather quickly with the latter losing his famed hammer Mjolnir and landing on some mystery planet where he is captured by a mysterious woman (Tessa Thompson) and dragged to the planet’s ruler known as THE GRANDMASTER (Jeff Goldblum). The once mighty God of Thunder and son of Odin is now put in chains and is forced to fight in gladiatorial matches in order to somehow earn his freedom and eventually find his way back home before Hela puts it inextricably under her vengeful thumb. Can Thor find a way to escape the barbaric society run by the most fabulous of dictators? What familiar faces will he find on this planet that can hopefully help him on his journey home? How the heck is Thor gonna get around now that he doesn’t have his magic propeller hammer!?
Suburbicon and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by George Clooney
Now this film kind of came out of nowhere for me as I’ve only been seeing the trailers for maybe a month leading up to its release. I guess that’s not too surprising as George Clooney films, good or bad, rarely make a whole lot of money so there’s not much point in advertising it to the movie going masses; especially when the film in question looks pretty dark and super weird. I mean that makes sense considering it’s from a script The Coen Brothers wrote back in the eighties, but that little factoid not only explains why this movie has been rather low key despite its wide release, it also raises some red flags. Is this a cinematic masterpiece that was just too good to be made in its time, or did the Coen Brother put this in a draw for so long for a really good reason? Let’s find out!!
The movie is basically split into two stories; the first being about Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) who’s family suffers a horrible tragedy, and The Mayers (Karimah Westbrook, Leith M Burke, and Tony Espinosa) who have just moved into the idyllic neighborhood known as Suburbia and have the dubious honor of being the first black family in town. With The Mayers moving into town and bringing out the worst in the neighborhood just for simply being there, there isn’t a whole lot of attention paid to Gardner and what seems to be some very shady stuff going on with him. For starters, the death of his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) by some bad men who broke into the house seems to have not been as random an act of violence as it appears to be on the surface, yet no one is picking up on this than Gardner’s son Nicky (Noah Jupe) who’s the only one really looking for answers. Throw in some possible mob connections, Nicky’s aunt Margaret (Julianne Moore as well) who’s working a bit too hard to fill in the motherly figure role, and a suspicious insurance claims adjuster (Oscar Isaac), and you have the makings for a classic noir thriller set against the backdrop of the super repressed and overtly racist fifties! Will Nicky find the answers he’s looking for and will he be happy with what he finds? What is Gardner have up his sleeve that’s making him act so inexplicably after the murder? Does anyone in this movie REALLY have any idea what they’re doing!?
The Great Wall and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Picture and China Film Group
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Hey, Disney can’t be the ONLY company making all that money all over the world, right? Sure, they have Star Wars and Marvel on their side, but there’s certainly room for even more movies that go for a global audience. Hell, we’ve already got a few we can name off already like xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Warcraft, or even the last loathsome Transformers movie which inexplicable set the third act in China. Still, this particular movie is something different as it’s a US/China co-production that is legitimately one of those instead of a Hollywood film that had some of it done in China. This is an acclaimed Chinese director with stars from his own country AND the US with financial backing from Universal and a script from Hollywood writers. Hell, the fact that this movie ACTUALLY has Chinese subtitles yet is STILL getting a wide release in the US is noteworthy in and of itself! Did all that effort ultimately pay off, or is this a lousy way to kick off this new era in filmmaking? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with William and Pero (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) running their ass off across the Gobi desert in hopes of outrunning the bandits chasing them and also finding out the secret to BLACK POWDER (i.e. gunpowder) from the Chinese once they find someone to ask about it. Unfortunately for them, they wind up at The Great Wall where a secret army of warriors assigned to guard the wall (how can they be secret if they’re base of operations can be seen from space?) and they aren’t too friendly to tourists. Fortunately for them (or maybe not so fortunately), they arrived on the EXACT DATE that an army of monsters that comes around every sixty years (I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to be aliens) are set to attack and try to break the wall down so as to siege the country behind it. Because of this, General Shao and the chief strategist Wang (Zhang Hanyu and Andy Lau) who run this secret military called The Nameless Order don’t have the time to lock them in a dungeon and so they get a chance to prove their worth by slicing up a few monsters as well. This gives them a brief stay of execution and even the respect of some of the members there including Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) and an ill prepared lower solider named Peng Yong (Lu Han). Of course, these newcomers ALSO get the attention of Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) who’s… a prisoner I think? He came to China 25 years ago for BLACK POWDER as well, and I guess The Nameless Order just won’t let the dude leave; a fate that both William and Pero fear awaits them if they stick around too long. So it looks like they have a dilemma on their hands! Take what Black Powder the order has and leave them to fight on their own, or do what they can to help and hope they can finagle a way out once the dust has settled. Will they make the right choice in the end? What does the order have planned to fight this monstrous threat? How much were they hoping Matt Damon would bring in? A hundred million? Two hundred million?
The Martian and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Ridley Scott
Oh yay! Another Ridley Scott film, because the last one was so good. Well despite his shaky track record as of late, there’s no denying that the man is one of our greatest living directors and a movie like this is right in his wheelhouse while also being an original science fiction property as opposed to going back to the Alien well. Can he manage to make a great movie with so many excellent resources at his disposal, or will he still manage to screw it up like he did with Exodus and Robin Hood? Let’s find out!!
The movie is about astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who is part of the Ares III manned mission to Mars. While on the planet’s surface, the crew gets word of a big ass storm coming their way so they have to leave the mission early, and by early I mean RIGHT THE FRAK NOW!! Apparently they didn’t see it coming until five minutes before it hits. The astronauts on the planet (including Mark) try to make it to their recon ship in the midst of the downpour of… whatever the hell it is Mars starts raining down in a storm (rocks I think).