Shmee Survived The Endgame!

Avengers: Endgame feels like an impossible movie to review. Either you have spent the last decade at least partially keeping up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or you have not. If you have, Endgame is a great way to put a bow on the last eleven years of films and clear the slate for the next eleven. If you have not, it is all noise and references to things that don’t make any sense. Which makes it a unique piece of media.

Avengers: Endgame picks up right after Avengers: Infinity War. Our heroes have failed, and they are struggling with their failure. Though they wouldn’t be the Avengers if they didn’t Avenge something from time to time, so they assemble to save the universe one more time.

I am not going to lie, while I found a lot of moments in this picture really moving, the character work is really great, I have a lot of problems with the plot. Problems I cannot get in to without spoiling the movie. Just know that while you are watching it everything seems to hold together, but afterwards don’t think about anything too hard, or it all turns in to mush.

At the end of Avengers: Infinity War it was no accident that the original Avengers were the ones that survived. Because Endgame is about those heroes’ journey to where they are now, and how they have grown and changed. The new class will get their movies, this was one more trip with Cap, Tony and the gang. Plus, Rocket and Nebula. So, it is not surprising that the best parts of this movie are those characters interacting with one another. Everything that is not that those interactions is a little sketchy.

Endgame had me laughing, cheering, and crying, so in that regard it was a success, and it is a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in Marvel’s films. What the Russo brothers did to tie up all these plot threads in the last two movies is astounding. It is an incredible achievement for them and Marvel’s producing team, but not quite all those pieces fit together as nicely as they want us to think they did. Though I am still quite excited to see what Marvel brings us next!

Give Us A Chance!

It is hard to believe that Us is only the second movie that Jordan Peele has written and directed. He is already proving himself to be a master, and he has once again used the horror genre to shine a light social issues without being preachy. This time the focus shifts more to classism instead of racism, but not completely. However, if you are in the theater for thrills instead of sociology lessons, never fear, Us has them in spades.

Us is about a family on vacation at their summer home in the vicinity of Santa Cruz, CA, but instead of rest and relaxation, they are attacked by murderous doppelgangers of themselves. They will struggle to survive and keep to their family alive.

The first two thirds of Us are just about perfect. The building sense of dread, and the initial attack, but it falters a bit at the end. It explains the in universe origins of the doppelgangers a little too much. Horror works best as a nightmare with no explanation needed. Because once you start explaining things and adding logic to them it invites the minds of the viewers to start picking at the movie as well. Making the flaws a little more apparent, but honestly that is a nitpick. The film is fantastic otherwise.

The best part of Us is the performances. With each actor having two roles to play, and all of them doing a great job, but Lupita Nyong’o is the real standout. She manages to play off of herself brilliantly. Which I am guessing is not super easy to do. Elisabeth Moss gives a very fun performance as well. She was clearly having a lot of fun making this movie.

Us delivers chills and thrills a plenty, and quite a few good laughs. With just a small helping of social commentary. Like they say, “A spoonful of colored corn syrup helps sociology go down.” I can’t wait to see what Jordan Peele has next. If his first two movies are anything to go by it will be chilling and thought provoking.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Alita?

If James Cameron is to be believed, the technology that he pioneered to create Avatar was so that he could make Alita: Battle Angel, based off the popular manga (Japanese comic) series Gunm (Alita: Battle Angel is its subtitle). However, Avatar got too big, and now the 800 sequels that he is writing and directing are taking up all his time, so he handed the job over to Robert Rodriguez. Who I will say did a commendable job, but the movie has its flaws.

Alita: Battle Angel is about a young cyborg (Rosa Salazar) that is pulled out of a trash heap by an old scientist/doctor named Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). She doesn’t know who she is, or why she knows how to fight so well, but she is determined to find out, and maybe kick a little cyborg butt along the way.

Apparently, Rodriguez needed to comb through 600 pages of Cameron’s notes to turn Alita in to a shoot-able script. It suffers from being chopped down. There is a forgettable and pointless boyfriend (Keean Johnson), and it doesn’t have a complete story arc. The movie establishes Alita in the world and then gives her an objective. Then it ends. Fans have said this movie is true to the source material, and that makes sense, establishing the world, the characters, and the rules are usually what volume one of any comic books series is for, but I don’t think it works well for a movie.

Those two issues aside, the rest of the movie is pretty good. The cast is fantastic. I mean it has Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, and Jennifer Connelly. It also has whatever a Keean Johnson is, but it makes up for that with a Casper Van Dien. Rosa Salazar as the star is more than able to hold her own with all that talent, and it looks like she will have a bright future, but the real star of a James Cameron movie is always the effects, and Alita: Battle Angel has them in spades.

Everywhere you look there is something cool to see in Alita. It is full of awesome moments, and I am sure that it will end up in a lot of Blu-Ray collections so people can show off the advanced features of their TVs. It does fall in to uncanny valley at times, but it is mostly able suspend your disbelief.

Alita: Battle Angel is a fine opening movie to a series, but the problem is that we have no idea if Alita 2 is going to happen. It was an expensive movie to make, and its returns have so far been the minimum to show a profit. Plus, Disney is in the process of gobbling up Fox, so Alita might end up back on the trash heap. Its best hope is that James Cameron wants it to happen, and James Cameron usually gets what he wants. As it stands by itself, it is a passible action movie, with great special effects. I had fun, but don’t expect Alita to be a game changer.

Shmee Furthers His Dragon Training!

It has been five years since How to Train Your Dragon 2 came out, and The Hidden World has the impossible task of wrapping up the trilogy. Something it manages to do quite well. As a sequel it should be no surprise that it doesn’t stand on its own, so you will want to revisit the first two movies before watching this one, but like the first two movies, The Hidden World has a lot of heart, and it is able to do a lot with kids riding around on the backs of dragons.

In How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World we find Hiccup (Jay Baruchel {who is the exact same age as me}) and his crew saving dragons from trappers who mistreat their dragons and use them for dark deeds, but he has been too successful in his protection of the dragons, and Berk is now overrun with wonderous beasts. He decides to start an adventure for The Hidden Word were dragons and the people of Berk can live in peace apart from the rest of population.

I might be skipping over a few things in that plot setup, but it is for the best. The Hidden World continues ageing up the characters with Hiccup and the gang now in their early to mid twenties. What is impressive about this series is how they are always able to work on real issues involved with growing up. Like how love and loss are intertwined, and that sometimes friends have different paths they need to take. It all manages to hit you right in the feels.

Another thing the How to Train Your Dragon movies are known for is how amazing they look, and The Hidden World can be jaw dropping. While the people are still cartoony, the world itself can be photorealistic at times, and the animators consulted with cinematography wizard Roger Deakins on how to set up a lot of their shots. How The Hidden World uses its ‘camera’ is amazing. I hope more cinematographers get in to the animation game, because it really helps.

There is not a lot I can say about the cast. I mean it is the same cast, and they are still good, so no issues to report. F. Murray Abraham plays a fun villain, even though I find his motivation to be the weakest part of the story, but that is not on the actor.

I hope they do end the How to Train Your Dragon franchise with The Hidden World. Its ending puts the perfect bow on this series. The How to Train Your Dragon movies had no right being as good as they are, and I have no problems recommending The Hidden World to fans of the previous movies. If you have not seen the first two, do not start here, and it can be a little scary for little kids, but those two cautions aside, it is a great movie for the whole family.

Lego Movie 2 Is A Solidly Built Sequel

The Lego Movie was a surprise hit in 2014. Lord and Miller somehow managed to make a likable and moving film, while celebrating what makes Lego Bricks so much fun. The Lego Batman Movie continued the first movie’s success. Diving deep in to Batman lore while never taking itself too seriously. Then The Lego Ninjago Movie came out. The humor and creativity that the franchise was known for seemingly fell off a cliff. Thankfully, the magic is mostly back for The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part takes place five years after first movie. The residents of Bricksburg have become hardened after years of repelling the invaders from planet Duplo. Except for Emmet, he is his happy self. His happy attitude grates on the people around him. One day a ship comes from the Systar System. It is not Duplo, but a more advanced ship, and it captures all Emmet’s friends. Can he become serious enough to save his friends, or will his happy go lucky attitude let them down?

If the first movie was about a son teaching his father to be creative again, you can probably guess what The Lego Movie 2 is about. It doesn’t really try and hide it, but there are also some other good lessons in this movie about trying to change people, or what growing up really means. It is very clever. It isn’t the breath of fresh air that The Lego Movie was five years ago, but it still compares favorably to first one and Lego Batman. I would say it is the third best of the franchise, and it is miles better than Lego Ninjago. A movie, based off the box-office data, that may have done irreparable harm to this franchise.

Most of the voice actors have reprised their roles and are still funny. Tiffany Haddish was a good addition as Queen Watevra Wa-Nabi, and Margo Robbie who voices several roles does a good job as well. I don’t think there was one bad voiceover. With the success of Aquaman, I am guessing they are happy they got Jason Momoa to reprise his role for a couple of great gags.

The Lego Movie 2 is not as awesome as the first film, but it is a solid follow up. Not counting The Lego Ninjago Movie, it is impressive how good this franchise has been. If you liked the first movie, I am guessing you will like The Second Part as well. I enjoyed myself, and Little Miss Shmee thought it was great too.