Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gods of Egypt [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

Jesus H. Christ what the hell did I just watch? Now, I normally don't go out of my way to write purely scathing reviews, unless you count "50 Shades of Grey." But, "Gods of Egypt" is a film, if you can even call it that, that takes the concept of bad CGI and turns it into a running gag. No this is not a comedy, this is a film that takes a star-studded cast, 140 million dollars and a loose guesstimation of Egyptian mythology and turns it into 2 hours...wait hold on, this was two hours? Why? What? How? I can't believe I actually watched this...

"Gods of Egypt" follows the story of Bek (Brenton Thwaites) and Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as they fight against the new mad king Set (Gerard Butler) after he takes over the throne. This is an alternate Egypt where the earth is flat and the gods live among the mortals. You can tell who the gods are by their size, golden blood and their ability to Animorph into super-powered animal-headed deity forms. (No, I am not making this up.) During the overthrow, Set takes Horus' eyes, leaving him powerless. He also steals his Queen to be, Hathor (Elodie Yung). Bek's girlfriend --fiancee, wife, not really sure-- Zaya (Courtney Eaton) gets taken as salve to the new government. She helps get Bek the plans to steal back one of Horus' eyes and after he does the two are caught. As they run, Zaya is fatally shot with an arrow. Bek goes to Hours to give him his eye back and ask for his help as the two journey across land and space to try and save Zaya and all of Egypt from Set's apocalyptic plans.

This is CGI the film. From start to finish you're loaded with completely noticeable CGI backgrounds, god to animal transformations and copy and paste crowds of people in the background. This wouldn't be so awful if the CGI wasn't so unbearable. This film is loaded with motion blur and PS3 level design animal transformations. Nothing is seamless and everything looks like it was made in a rush. That is the theme of "God of Egypt," hastiness. The story winds on and on, with a lot of it being pointless filler that made it seem like it justified the 140 million dollar budget. The story itself is bare-bones, because this is a "bad guy takes over, good guy loses and emotionally scarred pretty boy has to change his ways to save the earth" story. Cliche in every aspect. Yet this film spends an hour and a half trying to build one dimensional characters that really didn't matter because the CGI was the focal point of everything. I will give it to Chadwick Boseman and Elodie Yung, Thoth and Hator. They had fun with their roles and actually gave some of the more okay moments of this disaster. Gerard Butler has gone back to his trend of playing King Leonidas in every role. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is pretty good on "Game of Thrones," but here he's pedestrian at best. Finally, I legit thought Bek and Zaya were Aladdin and Jasmine knock-offs for a solid portion of the film.

"Gods of Egypt" is the worst big budget film of the year by a landslide and might be the worst big budget film I've seen since "Jupiter Ascending." The acting, though they were given nothing to work with, is abysmal. The story is a cliched mess. While the CGI that is supposed to help out at times, is poorly done and looks terrible. I can't recommend much of anything at all in this film. I will say, at least three of these actors have other things going on, "Daredevil," "Black Panther" and "Game of Thrones." Because this was clearly a film that they were held hostage to make, that is the only logical explanation I can think of. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

"Cloverfield," you know that 2008 found footage action horror film about a giant alien monster --that's not Godzilla-- rampaging around New York City? Well, I'm on the side that it was a pretty solid film. The monster was cool, the POV was done well and the overall feel was fun. Never did I think that a spin-off, or "spiritual successor" as the makers call this, like "10 Cloverfield Lane" would ever be born out of that film. But, here we are in 2016 and John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winestead and John Gallagher Jr. are apart of one of the best sci-fi thrillers of the first half of the year.

"10 Cloverfield Lane" follows the story of Michelle (Winestead). She leaves New Orleans and drives through rural Louisiana after a fight with her boyfriend. On the radio she hears about blackouts in major cities and when she gets a call from Ben (her boyfriend) she gets distracted and gets into an accident. Some time later she wakes up and she is chained to wall in a basement. Howard (Goodman) enters the room and informs Michelle that she was in an accident, that an unknown attack has taken place on earth and that she is in a bunker under his home. Michelle them meets Emmett (Gallagher Jr.) who saw the attacks and took shelter in Howard's bunker as well. Time begins to pass as the three start to "live" in the bunker, but tensions begin to rise as Michelle and Emmett start to think that Howard is hiding a big secret.

This is a film that builds tension very well. This isn't a horror, but there are times where things get pretty creepy. This is partially due to the great writing that the screenwriters gave to the actors. The story is great, the characters are engaging and realistic and the atmosphere is eerie from start to finish. Without giving much away, this is a sci-fi thriller set in a bunker after an attack on the US and possibly the earth. The three people begin to try and wait out the attacks, but things get hairy as dissension, uneasiness and distrust. This makes the mystery aspect thrive from start to finish. The other part is due to the fantastic acting by the three leads. John Gallagher Jr., as Emmet, was a great middle ground character. As I'll talk about soon, Winestead is almost pure good, while Goodman is that menacing evil throughout the film. The meek guy that seems kindhearted is a great compliment to both of the other leads. Winestead, as Michelle, is the post-Apocalypse innocence that the planet will inevitably need. She is a kind girl stuck in a wholly unfortunate situation. She sees the goodness in Emmett and she is always wary of everything Howard does. We see her go from silent "damsel in distress," to a leader that has what it takes to survive. Finally, we have a committed and outstanding performance from Goodman. The lurking evil, the hidden agenda, the secret past, the mysterious knowledge of everything going on. Howard is everything you expect a psychopath and Goodman embodies it. I mean come-on, no one can leave and he's had this bunker ready for years. I almost wanted a tinfoil hat in the background somewhere.

If you liked "Cloverfield" and are at all interested in a spin-off that may or may not be in the same world, then "10 Cloverfield Lane" is for you. Even if you aren't a fan of the "first" film, then this is a good enough psychological thriller to satisfy anyone's appetite. The story is solid, the atmosphere is ominous and the acting, especially by John Goodman, is committed and convincing. In the first part of 2016, it's probably the best thriller so far.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Witch [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

Horror films are my jam. Lately though, as almost anyone with a pulse knows, there's maybe three or four good horror films that come out in a given year. The first big one for 2016 is definitely "The Witch."A bleak, dark, dreadful horror that builds tension from the opening scenes of the film until the credits roll. This film builds tension much like "It Follows," but it's much better at conveying the fact that nothing is going to get better for the family whatsoever. "The Witch" is one of those horror films that nags at you because it truly has nothing redeeming that happens at all over the course of this, just pure creepiness.

"The Witch" follows the story of a man named William (Ralph Ineson) in New England in the 17th century, who is exiled from a Puritan plantation. He and his, now banished, family-- wife, Katherine (Kate Dickie), daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw) and fraternal twins, Mercy & Jonas (Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson)-- build a farm next to a forest. After several months, Katherine has a baby, Samuel, and one day while Thomasin is playing with him, he vanishes. A witch has taken the baby and Katherine now spends her days praying and crying. Things continue to deteriorate with the entire family as William and Katherine begin to have martial problems, a black goat, Phillip, that wanders onto the farm, begins to make the twins act crazy and Caleb even gets lost in the woods and comes back in miserable shape. William and his family are going through the toughest time of their lives, but will they make it through or succumb to darkness.

"The Witch" is a horror film with the best atmosphere that I've seen in forever. The dark and grey tones, the ominous and eerie score and the cinematography is what makes this stand out above other horror films as of late. The establishing shots of the farm and the forest are beautiful. It gives that sense of dread, while making you think, "I'd never want to come across this forest on a hike." The score that accompanies this is great as well. There's no points where jump scares are employed and the tension that the music brings is truly unsettling. The acting is fine. Ralph Ineson is pretty good as William. He brings that sense of urgent to every scene and he gets better as William descends into madness. Anya Taylor-Joy is also great as Thomasin. She is the last bastion of innocence left in this neck of the woods. While the "did she, didn't she" aspect kept the mystery of the witch in the forest alive until the end. The deaths are outstanding, especially when you start getting midway and through the end of the film. They're not overdone and they look great. Bloody, creepy and above all, realistic. The supernatural aspect is there but understated as well. You see the witch for a moment, black goat Phillip, is a great medium, and watching the family descend into madness is satisfying.

"The Witch" is a great atmospheric horror film that relies on it's look and tension. It's built so well that you're in a complete state of uneasiness throughout the duration. The story is fine and the acting is alright as well, but it's the menacing feel, the dark tones and the looming feel of death is what makes this horror work. There's nothing "good" about this film and that's what makes it so great. If you're in the mood for a great looking horror film, that makes you uncomfortable from start to finish, then "The Witch" will be perfect for you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Jungle Book [A Fat Jesus Quick Hit]

When I heard that "The Jungle Book" was getting a new live-action film and another new animated film to come later, I was intrigued. More so for this live action version, because I thoroughly enjoyed "Cinderella" from a last year, another live action re-imagining of a classic Disney cartoon. Jon Favreau has always been a director/producer I've enjoyed. The "Iron Man" trilogy, "Chef" and now "The Jungle Book." The cautious interest was whisked away about 10 minutes into the film as the gorgeous scenery, great CGI design and awesome voice acting gets you into this film from the get go. Sure, you probably know the story, but this is presented in such a good way you won't care.

"The Jungle Book" follows the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a young boy who is raised by Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o), an Indian Wolf, that with her pack, led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito), raises the boy from infancy. He is brought to them by a black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsly) who periodically checks upon the boy and teaches him things and how to live in the jungle. One day, during a drought, the animals that live in the jungle gather at the watering hole. A scarred Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), catches the scent of Mowgli, and since a human scarred him, vows to kill the boy. This causes Akela's pack to send Mowgli away, for fear of attack from the tiger. Bagheera escorts Mowgli from the jungle, into the safety of the outer lands, where Mowgli meets a sloth bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), and gets to learn about the world outside of the only home he's known for the first time.

The things that stand out in this incarnation of The Jungle Book is the beauty of it all. The CGI animals look beautiful and realistic. So while they are CGI it's not distracting as if they looked CGI, if that makes sense. To go along with the CGI, the voice acting is some of the best you'll hear all year. The menacing tone of Elba as Shere Khan, the motherly love from Nyong'o as Raksha, the father-like teaching of Kingsly as Bagheera and the just plain fun in the voice of Murray as Baloo are all outstanding. Scarlett Johansson has a nice little part as Kaa, an Indian python, while a singing Christopher Walken as a mammoth orangutan, King Louie, will grab your attention. Neel Sethi as Mowgli is another high-point as he plays the part well and has great timing in all the lines he delivers and all the scenes he's apart of. The story is a hybrid of the original adaption and the original Disney film from 1967. It's got a darker tone overall, but there's still a lot of fun to be had. Especially when Mowgli meets Baloo for the first time and onward in the film. There's a serious tone, that pushed aside long enough at times, for fun shenanigans and even a few musical numbers.

All of this adds up to a fun as hell film. I like Disney's re-imagining of their own classic animated films. As I said above, "Cinderella" was good and I think "The Jungle Book" was even better. A great film from start to finish, that has exceptional voice acting, beautiful CGI and scenery and a solid hybrid story that will satisfy anyone watching. "The Jungle Book" just a fun time for all and you should definitely make time for it.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Captain America: Civil War [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Alright people who are seen as nerds because you watch over-sized fights with heroes packed in spandex (no this isn't a pro wrestling review), it's time to assemble! 2016 has already been littered with superheroes. "Deadpool" made us laugh hysterically. "Daredevil" (on Netflix) let us watch beautifully choreographed fight scenes. "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" let us...nap for a few hours? But now, NOW, we're ready for Captain America's third film, The Avengers: Fighting Between In-Laws "Captain America: Civil War!" Those those of us that got a bad taste in our mouths because of BvS, never fear! Civil War is that balance of drama, action and humor, that BvS was sorely looking for. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. lead our ensemble cast in it's most adult film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so far. There's larger than life action sequences, humorous quips that fit the tone and a pretty good story wrapping up everything perfectly fine. Civil War will make Marvel fans overjoyed and with the addition of new faces, Marvel keeps stacking future films even more now. Big time spoilers below, duh.

"Captain America: Civil War" is set one year after the events in "Avengers: Age of Ultron." It follows the grudge match that breaks out between Captain America/Steve Rodgers (Evans) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr). The Avengers B Team, that consists of Captain America, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and James Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle), take down Bock Rumblow/Crossbones (Frank Grillo), who stole a biological weapon in Lagos. During the fight, Maximoff is forced to contain a massive bomb blast, but it still levels the floor of an office building. Upon return home, Maximoff is visibly shaken by what she did. The US Secretary of State informs the group that the UN will be establishing a governing body to control The Avengers and use them when needed. The team is divided, with Stark taking one side and Rodgers taking the other. During the meeting in Vienna, a devastating bomb is detonated, killing King T'Chaka of Wakanda and his son T'Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) vows to kill the bomber, who is identified as The Winter Solider, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). After Captain America tries to get Bucky out of the country, they are captured by US intelligence. While Bucky is being interrogated by Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl), he is reconditioned by him to escape and does, solidifying the need for him to be caught. Tony Stark assembles his team to stop Rodgers team from causing further damage. In the Avengers biggest misunderstanding, Team Iron Man, which includes Vision (Paul Bettany) and Spider-Man (Tom Holland), takes on Team Captain America, which includes Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Rinner), in a fight that may tear apart The Avengers for good.

I see a lot of people, taking a political stance with regards to Civil War. While this is a political thriller, I don't think it's really fair to compare it the current political landscape happening in the United States right now. Nor do I want this review to turn into "Trump this" or "Hillary that." So with that being said, I'm going build a wall around my (real life) political thoughts and try to keep it about the film itself. The film itself, by the way, was pretty amazing. You expect a MCU film to be full of action and humor, since that's been their MO since the first Iron Man film. This one though, takes a turn for suspense and drama, with action built in and humor on the side (and swinging in at you during the middle.) This film is a power struggle and an action drama. Not to mention we get to see the results and consequences of characters growing with their lives and powers. 

We have Steve Rodgers having to struggle with the reality that he simply cannot not get involved in conflict. Not to mention, for a good portion of the film, Rodgers is almost blinded by his loyalty to his 100-year old friend, Bucky, despite what he's doing. Not to mention Peggy Carter has passed away and he's dealing with a new steamy relationship with Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), a relative of Peggy herself. Tony Stark on the other hand is dealing with the fact that throughout his life, people have left him. His parents died, Pepper has asked for a break and now The Avengers may be breaking up. Wanda Maximoff is young and learning to deal with the effects of her powers, (which look like she's already one of the most powerful of the group). Vision is learning about literally everything and on top of that he's trying to figure out the Infinity Gem that's on his head. Hawkeye is struggling with retirement, while Ant-Man and Peter Parker has have only had their powers for a limited time. For God's sake, we saw War Machine lose the use of his legs. It's one of the darkest things to happen so far in the MCU and I think it's a turning point, for the direction. Everyone is not the simple superhero we've come to see them as, we're seeing them as real people, or beings, for the first time. They're stronger than us and have powers we don't understand, some would call them freaks, while others a security concern. They see it as them trying to protect us and being (almost) rejected. Gone are the let's team up, hurl one-liners and smash baddies. We're learning, as they are, that there are consequences to everything they do. I think Marvel got that viewers will pick up on all this faster than DC did. So, I can see where Tony Stark was coming from this whole film, people need to be kept in check at times, because as the old quote goes, "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." The Avengers have don a ton of damage, and as we see in this, killed a lot of innocent people. Hell, handling Sokovia better, would've eliminated Zemo from ever losing his family and turning his life towards breaking up The Avengers. I can also see where Steve Rodgers is coming from. If a terror attack or invasion is happening, you need to be able to act. Not have your hands tied waiting for people to decide if it's the right move or not. I never chose sides, like they wanted me to. Because if they had just dug a little deeper and didn't dial everything up to 11 immediately things would've gone smoother perhaps. But in a world where things need to happen now, both Stark and Rodgers had to do what they thought was right, as quickly as possible. Pile all of this together and you have a pretty great story that I thoroughly enjoyed.

All this is written superbly as the Russo Brothers are setting up the next phase of the MCU supremely. It simply won't be "The Avengers Take On Thanos." We have a whole cast of evolving characters we get to see grow even more in the coming year, so the casting for these guys is as important as this film is. We know that Robert Downey Jr. is Stark, while Chris Evans is entrenched as Captain America, and so on with the rest of the main team we've seen for 13 films now. But what about the others, such as Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Well, we get more glimpses into our new heroes in this, more than I even thought we were going to get. We'll start with Paul Rudd, since he had the smallest role and we've seen his film already.  Rudd is as charming as he was in the first film and he's even gotten new moves since we saw him last summer. He's got a great comedic presence and a great sense of humor, so anytime he's involved it will be great. We'll be seeing Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther in a stand alone film next, so we'll see the full extent of what he can do, but so far it's great. His mannerisms are awesome and the suit and fighting style of Black Panther is awesome. The tunnel chase scene between Bucky, Rodgers/Falcon and Panther was amazing. While outside of the suit, he has a commanding presence on the screen. Finally, Tom Holland is a Spider-Man that I'm already in love with...and his unusually hot Aunt May too, wasn't expecting Marisa Tomei. In this we learn that Peter Parker is exceptionally smart, really young, has had his spider powers for about six months and is ready for his standalone adventure. His movements, suit, one-liners and fighting style were a great mini-introduction to his character. I was not expecting this much of the new Spider-Man to be in here, but he, Black Panther and Ant-Man bring a fresh dynamic to to The Avengers action. All while, Helmut Zemo added that bad-ass bad guy arc. Played perfectly by Daniel Brühl, he doesn't have powers, but he knew what he was doing from the get go. Stoic, unforgiving, vengeful, prepared and most of all, one step ahead, his plan worked to perfection in getting the team to implode from the inside out. Whether he's in jail or not, Zemo, dealt a major blow to The Avengers psyche.

Transitioning to the action, the airport fight scene was absolutely stunning. Team Cap vs Team Iron Man in what turned out to be a blast. I loved seeing Spider-Man fight for the first time. The pairs of combatants, the mini-chase between Spider-Man and Bucky & Falcon, Iron Man vs Scarlet Witch & Hawkeye, GIANT MAN OUTTA NOWHERE, the "How old is this kid?" line, Spidey vs Cap, all the way to the ending of the fight I wasn't expecting in the slightest. Everything about the scene, showcased everyone's powers perfectly. Plus, these new guys haven't even got to mesh with Thor or Hulk yet, so there's even more to look forward to. Alongside the the tunnel chase, (Bucky transitioning to the motorcycle, oh my) these two action scenes stole the film. With the end fight between Iron Man and Bucky Barnes & Captain America coming in a close third. That scene was more driven on emotion and drama as it's the finality of a fight that I don't think any of The Avengers wanted to fight. The action, was powerful, fast-paced (sometimes blurry thought and that's one of my biggest gripes with the film) and most of all, fun. Spider-Man, Black Panther and Ant-Man have now proven they can hang with the big boys on screen, which makes me want to see even more of them in their stand alone films and in the MCU going forward. My biggest problem with Civil War is, like I said above, the blurriness. Maybe it's just me, but there were a lot of points where I thought there was a noticeable CGI blur, that kind-of took me out of the moment. Nothing crazy, or something that would make me hate the film, but these kinds of things shouldn't be that out in the open with a film of this scope. 

"Captain America: Civil War" might be the most complete Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date. For me personally it's right up there with "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," as being the top three in the MCU. The writing is evolving to make our heroes, and villains, more relatable. The cast keeps growing, as it should, if this is going to end with a battle with Thanos. The acting is also improving, as everyone plays their roles to perfection. Thirteen films in and Marvel keeps finding ways to keep this long drawn out plan fresh. Sure the CGI fights and team-ups have been in all the films, and we've seen this superhero craze go nuclear. But, I think if not for Marvel tweaking each film, making each film, almost uniquely independent from the rest of the MCU (you could almost watch any of these as stand-alone stories) this idea would've ran dry years ago. Marvel is getting more technical, they're getting more mature, they're getting more humorous (by way of less one-liners blitzed at you) and they're getting bigger. Most of all, they're telling single stories, that when combined, will end with one of the biggest battles in comic and film history. Civil War is but a small battle in the scope of this unfolding universe.