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The Equalizer 2 (2018)
It isn't bad. It isn't especially good, either.
I have a hard time actually nailing this one down. I quite liked the first one, despite not feeling any desire to rewatch it on the small screen. But I can't shake this feeling that it somehow falls short, despite doing a lot of things right (at least on paper).
For starters, Denzel gives another decent performance as the stoic protagonist. He's not going to win any awards with this one, but his delivery and presence got some good reactions from both myself and the rest of the audience. For their part in this script, the rest of the cast is fine too. Again, not oscar nods here, but perfectly serviceable. All-but-gone are the gimmicky found-items based fight scenes from the first film, which, while creative, might have made this feel like more of a retread than a continuation. However, the heavier use of actual weapons makes the movie stand out less from other vigilante action titles. The take-downs are, nonetheless, just as satisfyingly visceral as ever, with enough sound-design to back up what the extras shrieking lets you know that Robert McCall is capable of.
The plot, however, needs some work. Despite some decent standalone moments scattered throughout, it overall comes across like a chef had too many pots on the stove and pulled them all too early. There are numerous plot-threads and characters that just never go anywhere, and even fewer that contribute to the central plot even if they come to a conclusion within the runtime. Set up for another sequel? Maybe, though that would suggest more of the same focus-issues which this movie suffers from in the franchise's future.
My biggest gripe comes in the form of the central story itself. The overall concept is alright, if a little clichéd. Had it taken up the entire length of the film, rather than the little, unconnected subplots, it could have been fleshed out into something much better than it otherwise really had time to. The villains, in particular, hint at the potential to be truly sympathetic, human characters who could have both been and put The Equalizer himself in an emotionally compromised position while trying to carry out their respective goals. Instead, you're left to infer too much and wonder what might have been for the inclusion of an extra line or two each.
Basically, it's okay. With the exception of a couple of one-liners it doesn't stand out much for better or for worse. It's hard to have strong feelings about, with the possible exception of the regrets I have over how much more memorable it could've been.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
This is a tonally confused conclusion to a tonally confused trilogy. Despite enjoying his role in The Avengers, I never liked the Thor standalone films. Knowing that, I approached this one with a degree of the cynicism I wish I'd had walking into the other two. In this regard, I'm amazed that I managed to be let down anyway.
Like Iron Man 3 or, indeed, the first Thor movie, the story is entirely secondary to how many jokes they can make. This worked for The Guardians of the Galaxy or Fox's Deadpool, but they had the advantage of making up for thin, predictable plots with being funny (even after multiple viewings). But, in this case, the ongoing attempt at humour is largely restricted to "Expectation vs. Reality" sight gags or acts of out-of-character incompetence and buffoonery that ruin the tension and lessen the stakes. In effect, the film deflates itself and it's epic mythological roots in favour of "safely" playing off the events of the Norse endtimes as a comedy for small children.
Despite a slew of respected veteran actors, many of the cast seem to be either reading the script off of a teleprompter in real-time for the camera or have been asked to self-deprecatingly improvise in favour of any of the three screenwriters to actually finish a scene. Hemsworth, Hiddleston and Ruffalo are all at total lowpoints for their Marvel characterizations thus far, more seeming to be personally goofing off on the occasion that I believe a word they're saying. Again, the pervasive levity renders it impossible to take anything seriously.
The only reason that this is getting so generous a score is that the visual effects were entirely adequate. Not good, adequate. At it's best, this film is functional. But, on average, it's a choppy mess with mediocre acting from people who desperately deserve a much better script. If you feel the need to not miss any possible reference points in Infinity War, then you could waste your time on something worse, but a technically inferior picture would probably prove more entertaining in a perverse way. It's no weaker than it's titular predecessors, but that means little in the way of enjoyability.
Super Troopers 2 (2018)
"Not as funny as Super Troopers" isn't saying much.
Yes, there it is. I didn't think it was as funny as the first, certainly not as quotable. But, considering that the original is one of my all time favourite comedies, saying that much is scarcely a death sentence.
There isn't much to be said without venturing into spoiler territory as, much like the first, there isn't so much a "plot" as there are a series of interconnected gags that ultimately build towards a punchline.
That said, the movie is a good time if you're into foul-mouthed raunchiness. The main cast are all back and acting like they never left, to hilarious effect. Nothing about the overall spectacle of it really demands a big screen, though. So I'd recommend either catching a matinee or waiting for it to come to Netflix or bluray.
A strong cast can't save a shoddy script.
In many ways, this film is as tragic as Spawn's own backstory.
As mentioned above, the actors are beautifully suited to their roles. Particularly Michael Jai White and John Leguizamo in the leading roles. Everyone breathes a real life into one of the greatest comic series ever written.
The story, on the other hand, is unbecomingly light-hearted for Spawn. Perhaps they were worried about the movie being to broody, but if that was the case, they grossly overcompensated. Some of the most emotionally pivotal scene of the opening comic issues are instead played for laughs here. It isn't Joel Schumacher's Spawn, by any means. But the out-of-place gags can take you out of the story when the horrid CGI doesn't.
The make-up, costumes and practical effects are honestly breathtaking, but that and the strength of the actors alternates from helping you forget that you're watching the generic cola of Spawn, and highlighting all that now seems even weaker by comparison. In short, it's a lukewarm movie at best. With good points and bad in equal measure. I can't recommend it as such, but it is an interesting study in "so close, and yet so far".
"Blade" set a new standard as being, in my opinion, the first good Marvel movie. Twenty years and more than twenty newer Marvel films later, it still holds up brilliantly. It's become dated in many regards, but managed to have smarmy one-liners, over-the-top choreography and late '90's aesthetics blend so seamlessly in tone with the antiquated effects that it in no way effects the score.
Rather, it has simply shifted genre from hardcore martial arts feature to a grindhouse/exploitation style action extravaganza that never fails to put a smile on your face.
Spot-on casting, gory fight-scenes and a fearless originality leave "Blade" near the top of my Superhero list for the past two decades and likely many years to come.
Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said for the sequels.
Sardonic witticisms, vulgar one-liners, and some scenes that go on too long.
I wanted to like this movie more than it actually turned out I did. Not by much, mind you, it scarcely looked like Oscar material to start with. But a couple of the jokes went past the point of humorous implications that made me laugh to the point of crass displays that made me cringe.
Despite this, however, I found myself laughing heartily more often than not, particularly at the shock/slapstick gags which proliferate throughout the movie. I wasn't quite laughing to the point of tears, but I did become self conscious of the neighbors on account of how much noise I made on more than one occasion.
I was surprised to see some of the celebrity clout cast in this comedy, but not unpleasantly so. Mark Strong shines, in particular, when you think of how many "better" scripts were likely on his radar when he chose to do this. He never seems to be phoning it in, even though this is a movie where he could easily get away with it. Cohen, the master of ethnic ambiguity, is his usual chameleon-goofball, this time as a football hooligan, to hilarious effect.
This comes recommended for the not-easily-offended, but it wasn't one you need to see on the big screen.
Tomb Raider (2018)
Poorly Chosen Changes
It's a bold move to condense an ~11 hour story mode into a two hour time-slot, and it's bolder still to condense an ~11 hour story into a one hour time-slot by bogging down the first act by focusing on Lara's pedantic life in London, and then the second by focusing on the trivialities of her funding and beginning her expedition when, in the game, that's already done and over with before the first cutscene begins! In brief, this movie primarily suffers from pacing issues.
Beyond that, the third act (finally encompassing what the game and trailers promised us) is so radically different from the source that they may as well have written it from the ground up as a standalone film rather than an adaptation of an existing property.
Without going into specifics, the experience is also hindered by a myriad of plotholes, character inconsistencies, tonal shifts, logical fallacies and CGI more befitting the Angelina Jolie predecessors than a current big-budget Hollywood action/thriller. It makes for an overall joyless experience. Save yourself the cash, and watch it on Netflix instead if I haven't totally swayed your interest.