Bright

Bright is a strange movie in that it presents a great basic concept but has absolutely no interest in presenting any of its ideas or themes in a convincing manner. It’s a deadly serious movie that constantly trips over itself with terrible attempts at jokes that it thinks are witty. It’s a movie that flashes its racial themes from the very start only to abandon such things almost entirely about halfway through. And despite the ever-present fantasy elements of orcs, faeries, and elves, the movie never really does much with them.

BY-THE-NUMBERS

Directed by David Ayer and based on a screenplay by Max Landis, Bright feels as unoriginal as it is. Because despite the genre mash-up, the movie itself is little more than a by-the-numbers cop drama.

Nick Jakoby, played here by Joel Edgerton, is rookie police officer and a Tolkien-styled Orc treated by humans and elves as nothing more than some poor, violent creature despite his efforts to rise above the stereotypes applied to his entire race for two-thousand years. He’s acclimated to whatever passes for general human culture. He does not act or talk like a stereotypical Orc. He doesn’t even partake in deep-rooted cultural traditions in the hopes of being better accepted by humans. But the police force, including his partner Daryl Ward (Will Smith), want him gone. Not for anything he’s done wrong, of course. Jakoby being an orc is simply bad enough.

But by becoming a cop, he’s also seen as a race-traitor by other Orcs, specifically those who live down to the same generic stereotypes usually associated with black and Latino gangs in Los Angeles

This all eventually leads to a confrontation with some corrupt cops who will do anything to see Jakoby removed from his position on the force, including having his partner kill and frame him for a crime he didn’t commit.

But when Ward puts honor and pride above deep-rooted racism, he finds a target on his own back. And now he and Jakoby must evade capture while also trying to figure a way to clear their names.

There’s also something about a cult, an ancient prophecy, and a magic wand. But none of this really matters or amounts to much outside of two key scenes.

DIM

And this really does summarize everything wrong with Bright: it’s formulaic and uninterested in being interesting.

The first half of the film is all about racism in American society by way of Los Angeles. But then the movie decides it’d rather focus on police corruption by way of cliche 80s action movies. And then, in a few places, it instead becomes about some pointless ancient prophecy and other fantasy nonsense.

In the end, the movie isn’t about anything. There’s no story. The characters are little more than placeholders playing out a generic plot with a fantasy twist. And its serious, weighty themes are just an excuse to provide a thin, pretentious veneer on a shallow cliche with nothing of value to say.

But worst of all, the movie doesn’t care.

At best, the racism simply reinforces old fantasy tropes of Elves being beautiful and good, Orcs ugly and evil, and humans being somewhere in-between. At worst, it’s a lazy plot device. There’s no attempt at commentary or playing with expectations. In fact, Jakoby and his struggle is hardly the focus here. Will Smith is front and center as a racist police officer who reluctantly becomes a little less racist as the movie drags on.

The drama of two police officers struggling to survive in Los Angeles with gangs, a cult, and the entire police department after them lacks any degree of tension. It never feels like our leads are in real danger. Every scene feels like its impatiently trying to rush to the next. And Jakoby and Ward never feel like they’re bonding through any of it.

And the movie’s few action sequences are just as formulaic and unexciting. There’s a bland car chase. A bland shootout at a nightclub. And a couple of brief, bland magical showdowns that exist just to remind us that we’re watching a genre mash-up.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The movie isn’t hard to watch. And it’s far from the being the worst movie of 2017. It’s not even the worst movie carrying the “Netflix Original” branding this year.

That said, Bright is an underwhelming, disappointing mess of a movie that completely squanders every idea (and dollar) it attempts to juggle. There is no nuance. No subtlety. And despite marketing to the contrary, this is not a blockbuster-caliber experience. In fact, the movie doesn’t even attempt to reach mock-buster levels of spectacle.

I’m sure there will be some misguided audience that will find enjoyment in the fact that this movie exists. But unless you’re desperate for a lazy attempt to blend Training Day with Lord of the Rings, your time will be better spent elsewhere. (Oddly enough, I think it’s worth noting that had Ayer used movies like Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop as reference rather than more serious fare, Bright might have actually stood a chance. Maybe.)

Bright is easily a NO CHILL.

Justice League (2017)


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ surprisingly fun Justice League!


An ancient evil from beyond the stars has come to Earth to reclaim an ancient cube with the power to reshape and destroy worlds. And the only thing standing in the way of the death and destruction of everything, is a Caped Crusader, a Goddess, an Atlantean, the Fastest Man Alive, and a Cyborg…in Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ Justice League.


Originally helmed by Zack Synder and completed by Joss Whedon, Justice League brings together some of the greatest pop culture icons in modern American history for a movie that is, unfortunately, not very good. On a technical level, on a structural level, on just about every basic, fundamental filmmaking level, Justice League is, at best, subpar.

Visually speaking, the movie is all over the place. The color palette doesn’t match the production in any way, and is likely the result of Whedon’s drastic reshoots and alterations to the work already completed by Synder.

The saturation and brightness levels were clearly adjusted in post-production to move away from Snyder’s usual desatured, dark visuals. And in and of itself, these changes are likely going to be a welcomed change for many. Mature dramatics is one thing to want in a superhero movie. But drab, lifeless worlds and characters with no sense of enjoyment to any of it is a whole other thing.

However, these adjustments make every set, prop, costume, and clearly green-screen backdrops stand out in the worst way possible. The movie never looks like a cohesive, believable production. Ever. It’s always obvious that what we are seeing was done in a studio and on a computer.

In fact, this is only made worse by CGI reminiscent of the work seen in movies from the early 2000s. At times the movie actually dives right to “Scorpion King” levels of bad, as in the CGI monstrosity featured in Universal’s The Mummy 2, which infamously featured a monster that was the fusion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a giant scorpion.

And to further compound this visual mess, the compositing work is somehow worse than the CGI itself. The effects never blend seamlessly with physical reality. This ranges from issues like shots of the island of Themyscira looking like it was ripped right out of a decade-old video game to the movie’s CGI baddies–the bug-like Parademons and the big, bad Steppenwolf–interacting less believably with the movie’s flesh-and-blood cast than the toons featured in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

In a world where giant alien robots from the planet Cybertron and a humanoid raccoon and tree can believably stand-by-side with living, breathing people, there is no excuse for this level of bad CGI from a major studio and a massive budget.

MINOR LEAGUE

Of course, none of this even begins to touch upon the issues with everything else.

The plot of Justice League is little more a single thread that rationalizes everything on screen. There’s not much actually happening. Nor does what little we get actually ever mean anything. There’s no story. No heart. No character arcs. No emotional depth or dramatic weight anywhere for anything, even when certain scenes actually demand it.

And given how much material this movie lifts from actual stories featured in the pages of the comics, where such moments and images and stories are actually pulled off with some respective degree of emotional relevance, it’s shocking how hollow everything in Justice League really is.

One of the most glaring example–but certainly not the biggest offender–is when the team finally do overcome Steppenwolf and his army. This moment is a given. This is a Hollywood blockbuster after all. We expect the heroes to win. But in a good movie, that moment would come across as the single greatest thing we’ve ever witnessed…even if only for that singular instant in history.

We feel it when The Nazis die a ghastly death at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc. We feel it when The Avengers defeat Loki and his own alien army–specifically when Hulk finally gives Loki the beating he deserves.

But we don’t feel that here. There’s a big fight, and that final giant action set piece really is fun if not exceptionally creative or well-presented. But then it just kind of ends. Not unceremoniously. It’s certainly shown in such a way where the movie wants you to feel the same thing you might feel when the Luke blows up the Death Star. But that’s not what it will make you feel.

Instead, it’s just a sign that the movie is about to wrap things up.

Part of this has to do with the way everything is presented visually. It’s just not that exciting to watch. Fun, yes. Entertaining, yes. We get a good sense of everything that’s happening. We get the idea of what’s being given to us. This is a big fight where colorful and stupidly powered cartoon characters are fighting other stupidly powerful cartoon characters. Batman does this. Superman does that. And Wonder Woman is mixed in there too. And then it just sort of ends.

But this isn’t a cartoon. It shouldn’t have to meet the dramatic depth requirements of an old Saturday morning cartoon. It needs to be able to resonate with a general audience. It needs to make use of its massive budget and all the Hollywood magic that it can buy.

And in that same vein, the characters in the very big Hollywood blockbuster shouldn’t speak as if they’ve been pulled out of an old cartoon. Unless it’s one of the movie’s many wonderful small character moments–such as the bizarre, alpha-male bromance between Aquaman and Bruce Wayne of all things–the majority of the dialog is utterly insipid and heavily reliant on exposition.

This exposition, however, is required to explain the simple yet somehow purposely convoluted plot thread. Unlike the one glowing cube in The Avengers, this movie has three glowing cubes. And an unbelievable amount of time is spent on just trying to rationalize the existence of three cubes instead of one.

This means that rather than getting this emotionally powerful moment where Victor Stone confronts his father about his fears of being this inhuman fusion of flesh and alien technology. Rather than getting this, we get the two talking vaguely at each other about the stupid glowing cube. This scene between father and physically and mentally scarred son is instead just about a box. Hide the box. Steal the box. Take the box back.

Because these three Mother Boxes are the central focus of the movie rather than the actual, very straightforward danger that they represent, the movie has to constantly reinforce their existence at all times. This isn’t just a movie about the end of the world. No, it’s a movie about why these three boxes are so important.

A LITTLE FLAT

Now, that all having been said.

It still doesn’t yet begin to cover why the action is about as exciting as the various cartoons featuring these same characters. It doesn’t feel like a comic panel brought to three dimensions. Instead, it feels like it’s being replicated in yet another 2D plane. Again, it’s actually fun to watch. That’s very true. But it never feels like there’s any depth to it. There’s nothing there that you haven’t seen before in some fashion. It’s all paint-by-numbers, generic, uninteresting action by and large. All made worse by bad framing, questionable editing, and lackluster choreography. And that ever-present bad CGI and green screen.

A LEAGUE OF ITS OWN

Now all of that having been said. In spite of all that I’ve previously stated. In spite of all of that, Justice League is shockingly easy to watch. It’s much more often than not–again, almost shockingly so–fun to watch.

The movie was clearly a salvage job. And as bad as the movie is, it clearly could have been much worse. And the clumsy, quick pace doesn’t allow the bad and boring moments to linger. The movie–forced as it may have been–benefits from the hatchet job that resulted in a final cut that’s well-under two hours. The fun stuff is constantly coming at you, making you almost forget entirely about the rest.

More so, the movie is elevated by the performances of its cast. Nobody drops the balls. Everyone is at the top of their game, even when they’re reciting dialog that sounds as if it were written by a middle-school student. As bad as the stuff that comes out of their mouth might sound to the human ear, every actor brings out the best in their respective Leaguer. They live up to the iconic imagery of their characters. And they deserve all the credit in the world for even attempting to make up for the terrible presentation of it all.

A MOVIE OUT OF TIME

Had this exact movie been released 10 or 15 years ago, it would have easily been an impressive, respectable feat.

Unfortunately, Justice League is incredibly late to the party. And it shows. The bar has been raised time and again–not just in superhero movies, but in blockbusters in general. And the movie we get doesn’t hold up in any notable way in 2017.

Making a Justice League movie should not be hard after such things have been done elsewhere better and with none of the issues Warner Bros. has continued to have. It shouldn’t be hard when DC Comics itself has managed to do it very well in animation, especially with projects like Justice League: The New Frontier (a much watch if you’ve been curious how DC should be handling their properties in live-action).

Justice League has more in common with the Transformers film franchise (especially the sequels) than it does anything from Marvel. The look, the immaturity (poorly) masquerading as something mature, the suspect storytelling, the generally bad dialog and character work.

But despite being very stupid, despite being bad on a basic fundamental filmmaking level…Justice League is still fun and entertaining. Not good, but not terrible either.
You certainly won’t feel like you wasted your time by watching it. And, after the shortfalls we’ve seen with Warner and DC’s previous movies, I guess this is a good thing. Justice League, like Wonder Woman–another deeply flawed but watchable movie–is a step in the right direction.

Let’s just hope a competent filmmaker is leading things when the next step is taken.

Surprisingly and happily, I suggest you CHILL with Justice League.

Thor: Ragnarok


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the most colorful, campiest Marvel movie to date, Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok!


When they discover their long-lost sister is also the Goddess of Death, Thor and Loki will have to work together to save the Nine Realms from total destruction in Thor: Ragnarok.

RISK AND REWARD

Director Taika Waititi presents us with what is arguably Marvel’s most ambitious production yet.

And it’s rather fitting, really. Thor’s first cinematic outing was also the riskiest of Marvel’s first phase of movies. That movie took audiences away from the relatively grounded world of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and even Captain America. It exposed audiences to Marvel’s larger, stranger concepts of magic, super-science, gods, and the greater cosmic landscape.

Now, those first two entries in the Thor series of films may not have been the most successful for Marvel Studios. Nor were they the best received, especially Thor: The Dark World.

Both movies were criticized by many for a variety of reasons. The first was too focused on an expected but not entirely welcomed romantic subplot and lacked the sort of scope fans were expecting, with little of the mystical realm of Asgard being shown. And in the case of The Dark World, the movie was plagued by an incredibly underwhelming villain and under-cooked story.

RISK AND REWARD

That said, both movies have their fair share of fans. And even if The Dark World is largely considered to be the closest thing Marvel Studios has made to a cinematic misfire, it’s still a watchable and enjoyable movie. It simply pales in comparison to its abundant sister films.

More so, both films were and still are some of Marvel’s most ambitious, riskiest movies. Even long after fans have been exposed to the colorful cast and many worlds seen in Gunn’s pair of Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Because while many fans might be turned off by Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and the love story between her and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, it remained a welcome change of pace to the usual mix of overtly macho stories presented in Marvel’s other movies. They were the closest thing the studio had made to a traditional Rom-Com.

And Thor: Ragnarok is no different in that regard. But rather than being a romantic-comedy that also happens to feature colorful superheroes and villains, Ragnarok is the closest thing Marvel has made to a traditional buddy comedy.

No matter what is happening on screen, the movie is constantly cracking jokes. Whether it’s a callback to previous movies, some shenanigans between Thor and Loki, or Jeff Goldblum stealing the show with his scene-chewing as Grandmaster, the not-so benevolent ruler of a planet inhabited by the castoffs of the universe and gamemaster of the gladitorial-like Contest of Champions.

And while Thor: Ragnarok obviously lifts some visual cues from James Gunn’s work on Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie also maintains its own personal style. Of course, that style is very close to those seen in movies like Flash Gordon and Heavy Metal, with this emphasis on camp, humor, and the strangest, coolest art and music design seen and heard in a major Hollywood blockbuster.

WHAT IN THE HELA?

That said, failing to be wholly original might be the only thing Thor: Ragnarok fails at.
Because compared to its sister films, Waititi infuses the black sheep of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with some much needed structure, character work, and fun.

There is no romantic subplot. There is no moment where the jokes and action fail to shine. The main villain, Hela, is not only developed just enough but also brought to life by Cate Blanchett’s insane desire to be the MCU’s most dangerous and alluring foe to date. She even manages to give Goldblum a run for his money when it comes to chewing the scenery–and I do mean that in the best way possible.

And Karl Urban’s sympathetic not-quite a villain, Scourge–Hela’s hand-picked lackey looking for a chance to prove his worth to somebody, anybody–is proof that even smaller roles are better fleshed out than anything seen in the previous two movies.

RAGNAROK & ROLL

More so, it also opens up Marvel’s approach to movies in a way it has yet to do.

The humor isn’t new. Nor is the color palette. But Thor: Ragnarok does show that Marvel is now opening itself up to the idea that these movies don’t need some major crossover event to bring in other notable characters, even if only for a few brief scenes.

More than ever, you don’t need to have seen either The Incredible Hulk or Doctor Strange to understand who they are or why they appear in this movie. Knowing they exist at all certainly helps, but it’s not necessary to enjoy their scenes or contributions to the rest of the movie.

Now, could Thor: Ragnarok have done without Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange? Yes, and easily so. But his appearance also doesn’t feel forced. Instead, it’s a nice way to show that these characters do know each other, that they and their worlds do collide–that such a thing can happen at any time for any reason. And, more importantly, this can be done without derailing the film.

A major complaint by even the biggest fans of Marvel’s movies (and their comics) has often been the logical issue of this world of interconnected superheroes who never show up to help or even fight their friends outside of The Avengers or Captain America: Civil War.

Sure, characters like Tony Stark have appeared in movies like Spider-Man: Homecoming. But he also served a major, recurring role within the context of that film. He was important to the development of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.

But in Thor: Ragnarok, Dr. Strange pops up to help drive the plot forward, and then just as quickly takes his leave. He’s treated like any other ancillary role might be in any other movie. But because we do know the character–because the character has had his own movie at some point–what might have been an unimportant, forgettable role is instead greatly improved. And on the same note, fans no longer have to wonder why these characters fail to cross paths more frequently.

IF HE BE WORTHY…

Now, the movie isn’t without its faults. The most glaring of which is how its apocalyptic scenario is undercut by the movie’s emphasis on humor over dramatics.

There are, of course, some deadly serious moments to be found in the movie, but they feel less impactful–even if intentionally so–than they could have been. “Ragnarok” should conjure up images of death and destruction on a cosmic scale, and the movie does give us as much. But it will likely ring a bit hollow for some.

The movie, in a way, does make light of things like dictators, violent fights to the death, and, yes, the end of the world itself. All these things are present in this film. But they’re presented in a comedic light. Again, Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy first and anything else a distant second.

For some, this might prove to be a disconnect that is difficult or even impossible to overcome. It might taint any fun that might be had with the movie.

But for those looking to escape the world for two hours and go on a colorful, hilarious ride across the cosmos that also features some great visuals and action scenes, Thor: Ragnarok is more than worthy of your time.

I definitely suggest you CHILL with Thor: Ragnarok.

Watchmen


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the adaptation of a comic once thought unfilmable, 2009’s Watchmen!


When one of their own is brutally assaulted and thrown out a high-rise window by a mysterious assailant, a former group of costumed vigilantes must solve an ever-growing mystery that threatens not only them but the entire world…in Watchmen.

NOT UN-FILMABLE

Watchmen, from director Zack Snyder and based on the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, is a flawed but highly enjoyable adaptation of a story once believed to be un-filmable.

Now, yes, fans of the original comic series will find themselves conflicted by the way Synder elects to faithfully adapt so much while also omitting or changing other key details.

Some characters are more confident than originally written or have their backstory glanced over. The ending is similar but notably different. Even the reason why costumed vigilantes are no longer active in this world is almost entirely omitted, despite that still being a core aspect of the movie’s story.

But there’s so much done right here that even some of the more drastic alterations are ignorable if not necessarily forgivable.

IT’S ABOUT CHARACTERS

As grand of a story as the original is, it’s Watchmen‘s cast of flawed and deeply troubled characters that really establishes the comic as a modern classic.

The twin plots that revolve around a murder mystery and a global threat are typical comicbook fair. And in a time when so many adaptations of classic comicbook characters are hitting theaters each summer, such things feel rather mechanical. Even in 2009, when the movie originally released, such plots had been done to death in both comics and Hollywood.

But characters like the masked and hyper-violent Rorschach and the ever impotent Nite Owl struggling to find their purpose in a world that doesn’t want or need them? That’s a strong, engaging story.

Their struggles and arcs are not just a stark contrast to the fairly light-hearted efforts from Marvel Studios (or the more recent, wholly underwhelming efforts from Warner Bros.), but also well-realized despite this being a plot-centric ensemble film.

Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach is an inspired casting choice. Haley seamless slips between a troubled man who has lost any semblance of sanity to a hyper-violent psychopath to a sympathetic, almost selfless antihero.

Patrick Wilson as the middle-aged Nite Owl is a likable, book-ish type who has begrudingly accepted his new life as a private citizen. But his internal struggle as someone who feels as if the world has stripped him of his very manhood just oozes out of Wilson at every turn.

And Billy Crudup’s mostly CGI performance as the man-turned-god Dr. Manhattan carries with it a sense of loneliness and dramatic heft that might have been lost entirely with someone else in the role. Portraying a character who simultaneously has no emotions whatsoever due to his lack of tangible humanity and an inhuman degree of loneliness and heartache that comes along with that is a tough sell. It would have been very easy for anyone in this role to simply come across as bored or unsure of themselves. But Crudup somehow pulls off this balancing act without fail.

STUMBLING BLOCKS

That all said, however, the movie is not without its faults. One of the most unfortunate issues is how the movie’s already limited female cast have their roles reduced even more in the adaptation process.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the female characters–the mother/daughter pair who share the identity of Silk Specter–portrayed by Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman, respectively–were never large roles. In fact, Moore’s original story reduced them largely to the victim and child of rape, one of several notable if wholly unnecessary story beats glanced over in the final movie. Their contributions beyond this are almost nonexistent in both comic and movie.

Then there’s this bizarre habit Zack Snyder has of stripping key scenes of any emotional weight.

There are several times when a given scene is hamstrung by slow-motion, strange musical choices, or simply emphasizing and focusing on the worst thing possible. Whether it’s a very off-putting sex scene or giving entirely human characters superhuman strength at random moments, it’s likely to pull viewers out of the moment as they scratch their heads and ask themselves “Why is this happening?”

IMPERFECTION ISN’T BAD

That all said, Snyder’s Watchmen is easily his best movie to date. His choice to adhere as much as possible to the source material (both in its written content as much as its visuals) results in a faithful-enough adaptation that is streamlined in the best of ways. The spirit of the story and characters remain intact. And the performances bring the characters to life in a way even Snyder’s faithful visuals could never manage on their own.

This is not a perfect adaptation. It’s not even the best adaptation of a comicbook property. But it is one that works in spite of some glaring shortcomings. And that’s not something you can normally expect to find in those projects Snyder has more creative freedom with.

And despite the way audiences and critics gave the movie a lukewarm reception upon its release nearly a decade ago, Watchmen alway was–and continues to be–a movie worth CHILLING with. And in a time when comicbook movies are the hottest thing every summer, it may resonate more with viewers now than ever before.

Spider-Man


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look back at Sam Raimi’s groundbreaking 2002 classic superhero blockbuster: Spider-Man!


Tobey McGuire is Peter Parker, the prototypical high school geek granted great power from the bite of a genetically altered spider. But when he fails to understand the meaning of, “With great power, must also come great responsibility,” it will take the tragic death of his Uncle Ben for Peter to become the hero he was destined to be.

And along the way, he’ll struggle to keep his loved ones safe from the phenomenal Willem Dafoe’s menacing and crazed Green Goblin in Sam Raim’s classic 2002 feature film, Spider-Man.

313

It was the spring of 1989. I was nearly 4-years old. And it was–for reasons that I am forever unsure of–call it fate, call it karma–but issue 313 of Amazing Spider-Man made it into my hands during a family vacation to beautiful Santa Cruz, California.

Jump forward over 13 years later. It’s now the spring of 2002. I was a 16-year old high school junior, and summer vacation was only a few weeks away. But it wasn’t summer vacation or my impending semester finals that were on my mind. No, I was fixated on counting down the weeks, days, and hours until the upcoming release of Sony and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.

GOOD WITH THE BAD

I grew up reading Spider-Man. In fact, I still have my original copy of that comic my parents bought me nearly 30 years ago now. I even have a framed copy on my wall, a birthday gift from my wife–and one in much better condition than my dog-eared, tattered-edged original.

As a child of the 90s, I grew up playing as Spider-Man on my Nintendo Entertainment System and watching Spider-Man every weekday afternoon and Saturday morning on FOX 11. My friends and I would talk about that day’s episode the next day, every day at school.

The animation–and the show’s distinct lack of any punching or kicking–a demand made by the executives at FOX Kid’s–taints any nostalgia I may have once had for it. However, it did give me–as I’m sure it did so many other children back then–a look into many of Spider-Man’s most riveting storylines from the then-30 year publication history of my favorite superhero.

I learned about old foes like Doctor Octopus and the Chameleon–Spider-Man’s very first supervillain! I learned about newer threats like the alien symbiote, Venom. I learned of Venom’s origins as the infamous black suit first seen in the 80s, which in turn taught me all about Marvel Comic’s Secret Wars–the company’s (and the industry’s) first major inter-company crossover event.

So while the show fails in many ways to hold up to the passage of time, it’s legacy is in the way the creative team compressed an in-depth summary of the character’s history into an all-too brief 65 episodes.

FIRST SCREENING

I remember going to the first screening, early in the morning at my local movie theater, for Spider-Man. I sat in my
favorite seat. I came out singing Chad Kroeger’s “Hero”, the movie’s official theme song, which was a solid song back then but also a stark contrast to Danny Elfman’s even better original composition.

But just as much then as it is now, it’s very clear to me that the movie has number of flaws.

The most glaring of which remains a regular thorn in the sides of those who watch Raimi’s movies in anticipation of the next Spider-Man feature film: the Power Ranger-esque outfit that DaFoe dons for his role as The Green Goblin.

The suit itself symbolized a distinct lack of budget a movie of this scale required. The special effects have aged even worse than DaFoe’s green jumpsuit and helmet. It’s almost as if the intent were for the sets to look artificial. And much of the fun action sequences we expected to leap out of the panels of the comic and onto the big-screen turned out to be framed in Raimi’s budget-conscious style. Many things happened off-screen, such as Spidey’s webbing-up of criminals. He leaps into frame from just off-camera instead of swinging, twirling in the air, and then landing with grace.

Much of this was greatly improved come the somehow superior sequel, of course. And that movie holds up very well today, even in direct comparison to Marvel Studio’s impressive and ever-expanding catalog. But Raimi’s first remains flawed and hindered by many aspects of its visuals.

MOVIE IMPERFECT

Much like FOX’s cartoon from the 90s, Raimi’s original Spider-Man film remains both entertaining and important for a number of reasons despite it’s visual flaws. Not the least of which was proving, without a shadow of a doubt, that general audiences were absolutely ready once more for colorful, comic-accurate superhero movies–a risk that Bryan Singer’s X-Men was unable to take more than a year earlier.

More so, the movie’s visuals–which absolutely scream, “Sam Raimi made this!”–give it an almost timeless feel. Aside from the heavily dated CGI, which was still a bit wonky even back in 2002. But the sets, costumes, and visual shortcuts feel as if they were pulled from the movies of the same era of comic books that inspired Raimi’s film–Marvel’s “Silver Age.”

As with the classic horror movies that inspired Raimi’s vision for his Evil Dead movies, the visual aesthetic of the TV shows, movies, and comic books of the 60s and 70s would influence his vision for Spider-Man.

The intentionally melodramatic performances from McGuire, DaFoe, Kirsten Dunst, and even professional wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage–“pontificating” might even be a better word at times, especially during DaFoe’s mesmerizing monologues that range from terrifying to heart-breakingly psychotic to some hybrid of Shakespearean and Saturday-morning cartoon.

The bright colors, comicbook panel-styled framing, the soap opera-inspired love-triangle between Peter, Mary Jane, and James Franco’s Harry Osborn. The hokey but classic Hollywood–and still iconic–image of Spider-Man kissing the literal girl next-door upside down in the rain.

ENHANCE, NOT DETRACT

And while some critics might feel as if such things have aged the movie as much, if not more than it’s CGI, I stand by the opinion that they enhance the viewing experience.

Spider-Man maintains the same spirit and camp of Adam West’s classic Batman TV show. Both comic-accurate to the era that inspired them. Entertaining and engaging for viewers of all ages. And a sincere honesty to them that can be found lacking in some modern adaptations of our favorite superheroes.

It is a movie unafraid to be as true to what it is: an adaptation of a comic book that remains a staple of American pop-culture after more than 50 years. It is not a dark or mature reinterpretation. It is not a general audience-friendly approach that minimizes or sacrifices core aspects of the material to be more believable. It is a melodramatic soap opera involving a young man in colorful tights trying to save the girl he loves.

Spider-Man is whimsical, charming, funny, exciting, griping, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. It will leave you in love with Kirsten Dunst’s adorkable redhead, an admittedly drastic departure from the comics, but also one that gives us a budding relationship you want to see blossom on-screen with McGuire’s boy next-door. It will leave a lingering sense of sorrow somewhere deep inside you after Peter spends those final moments with his loving Uncle Ben. And it will fill you with glee when Peter swings through the New York skyline for the first time.

FEELS RIGHT

The movie is far from perfect. Its special effects didn’t hold up all that well back then, and are hurting much more now. And the tone of the movie can leave you questioning if this is a movie from 15-years ago or 50.

But it makes you feel everything you should feel from watching a Spider-Man movie by presenting a story and characters that are true to the spirit of then-40 years worth of comic book lore loved by millions.

Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve had the world believing a man could fly when Superman debuted nearly 40-years ago. And 15 years ago, Raimi and McGuire’s Spider-Man had us all believing in a hero who can do whatever it is a spider can.

Spider-Man remains, true believer, a big CHILL.

’nuff said.

Howard the Duck


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the much maligned, highly flawed, but wholly enjoyable Howard the Duck!


Long before The Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, or even Wesley Snipe’s Blade ever hit the big-screen, the first–and incredibly odd–choice for a live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comics property was none other than Howard the Duck.

The movie opens with Howard, a humanoid duck from another world, suddenly–and quite literally–dragged out of his apartment kicking and screaming, pulled through time and space, and comes crashing down into one of the worst places possible: 1980s Cleveland, Ohio.

After meeting up with Lea Thompson’s Beverly Marsh, a struggling musician with a heart of gold, the two bond in a rather odd and creepy fashion before seeking out answers to the whys and hows of Howard being on Earth. And whether or not it might be possible to send him back home.

THE FAIL AWAKENS

Brought to us by none other than the creator of Star Wars himself, George Lucas, this cinematic failure (according to both critics and general audiences) came at such a high cost that it ultimately forced George Lucas to sell off what would later became Pixar.

And, if nothing else, it’s rather neat to think that a movie about a foul-mouthed fowl kinda-sorta, but not really sleeping with an absolutely adorable Lea Thompson is what ultimately allowed Disney to own Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.

THE LESS THINGS CHANGE

Now, that strange bit of trivia aside…

Despite persistent fan claims to the contrary, the film actually manages to be impressively faithful to the source material to a point.

In the comics, much like the film, Howard is most definitely a humanoid duck from another world dragged to Earth. He meets and buddies up with a girl named Beverly in Cleveland. And he is eventually troubled by a dark Overlord–Thog the Overmaster in the comics and the more lazily named “Dark Overlord” in the film–as he attempts to get back home.

However, unlike the movie, comicbook Howard is far more crude and foul-mouthed, from an alternate dimension (rather than simply another planet across the cosmos), and dragged to Earth due to some fault of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange. He’s also heavily styled after Donald Duck rather than the more–for the time, at least–modern 80s look that we see in the film.

OUT OF TONER

Now, aside from these minor details changed in the translation from comic to film, the entire tone of the product was drastically altered as well. Howard’s creator, Steve Gerber, originally intended and wrote Howard as a sort of existential comic–one with no punchline and a desire to explore the medium’s many trappings.

But rather than adapt the comic’s desire to explore its own medium to the big screen, Lucas and director Williard Huyck instead chose to present a tame, middle-of-the-road popcorn flick that’s an odd mix of romantic-comedy, sci-fi, and action/adventure.

And, really, in a decade filled with a number fun, highconcept releases hitting theaters year after year, such a strange mixing of genres should work–and sort of does in hindsight.

But like many 80s films and early comicbook adaptations, a limited budget (or at least a squandered one) meant that certain cheats had to be made to keep the film under, well, not budge. Because this film went so overbudget and flopped so hard that Lucas gave up the future money printer known as Pixar to salvage his studio. But I suppose certain cheats and concessions had to be made in regards to the not-so lavish and not-quite-special effects.

OH BOY, GEORGE

And I want to say that this should come as a surprise given that this is the George Lucas around the time of the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, a period in which he was damn-near infallible.

But when you take into consideration that the first Star Wars film was a blatant rip off of The Hidden Fortress, the other two were handed off to other writers, and that the prequels were all personally handled by Lucas himself–much like how he stepped down from running Lucasfilm to personally oversee production of Howard the Duck–it all starts to make a bit more sense why Howard’s cinematic debut was also his last. At least, it was until his recent cameos in both of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films.

IT WORKS, SORTA

That said, despite its troubled production, milquetoast presentation, and underwhelming if rather expensive special effects, Howard the Duck isn’t without its charm. Nor is it unwatchable.

Aside from the unsettling “we-should-have-just-called-Jim- Henson” Howard costume, the cast of characters are actually fun to watch on screen–from the way Howard learns to adapt to life on Earth to Jeffrey Jones making the best of a bad script to the most adorable use of Lea Thompson ever.

And for all the jokes of inter-species love making that movie has rightfully earned over the past 30 years, Lea Thompson really does do a fantastic job in her role as Beverly. Her acting talent shines like the stars both in the way she manages to play a believably strong, yet sweet-hearted equal to the brash Howard and in the way she makes you believe that 80s Tim Robbins is a real living boy.

The jokes land more often than not. The action sequences are fun and silly in that way so many movies from the 80s seem to be. The originals bits of music are worth finding for your own personal enjoyment after the movie ends. And the movie proves to be surprisingly sincere–if a bit melodramatic–in its emotional beats.

QUACK

Howard the Duck is far from perfect, but it’s also far from unwatchable. It deserves a second-look by those who may have left the theater feeling scorned 30 years ago. And it definitely deserves a look by fans who are filling those same theaters now in support of Marvel Studios.

More so, this should not be the last big screen adaptation for Howard. With Marvel adapting more and more of its obscure properties into genre-bending productions, I want to believe that the tale of a pissed-off, existential duck lost in a world he didn’t create deserves a second chance.

Howard the Duck is, without any hint of irony, a big CHILL.

The Substitute


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at mid-90s action-thriller, The Substitute.


An 80s action movie unfortunately burdened with the fairly droll sensibilities of the 90s, The Substitute , from director Robert Mandel, features Tom Berenger as Jonathan Shale, a mercenary with a heart of gold who goes undercover at a Miami high school in order to seek revenge on the local gang who assaulted his fiancee.

HOW DO I REACH THESE KIDS

One part Stand and Deliver and two parts Kindergarten Cop, The Substitute ultimately fails to balance its low-budget action scenes and hackneyed revenge plot with a wholly unnecessary B-story in which Berenger’s character also learns the joys of teaching.

Because he’s not only undercover as a teacher, he also comes to connect with an entire classroom full of stereotypical (bordering on parody of) inner-city high school students.

Now, had the film been allowed to indulge in the insanity of its concept rather than taking itself far too seriously, The Substitute might have succeeded in being an entertaining bit of cheese. Instead, it comes off as an ironically straight-faced version of Jon Lovitz’ High School High.

Aside from some scene chewing by Ernie Hudson, there’s no passable bit of acting to be found in this movie. The movie crawls along at a snails pace. The action is hardly that. And there’s no attempt to really differentiate it from every other movie like it from that era.

BAD, BUT NOT BAD-BAD

That said, it could be argued that The Substitute isn’t an outright bad movie. Because while it manages to be both cringe-worthy and eye-rolling time and time again (including one of the least sexy or tender moments on film that involves a coat hanger and a full-leg cast), there’s still some fun to be had with the movie. To do so, simply turn your viewing of the movie into a drinking game with friends by taking a shot for every cliched lined, plot device, or ridiculous action a character takes. Do, however, take precaution as the most eagle-eyed player runs the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Fun aside, The Substitute is a sloppy and unoriginal collage of assorted tropes, plots, and characters blatantly ripped out of better films. In fact, The Substitute is little more than a no-budget remake of Dangerous Minds had Michelle Pfeiffer’s character also been a gun-toting psycho with a thirst for revenge.

ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

Whether or not you’ll actually enjoy any time spent with The Substitute will really be determined by two things: how much you enjoy unintentionally campy dramas set in a crime-infested high school where a teacher touches the hearts of his troubled students…and how much you enjoy cheesy thrillers with a paper-thin revenge plot.

If you are a fan of both, then you should definitely CHILL with The Substitute. That said, if you’re not a fan of either to some fair degree, avoid this one at all costs.

Vampires


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at John Carpenter’s often overlooked cult classic, Vampires!


Vampires, from director John Carpenter, features James Woods as Jack Crow, the leader of one of several Vatican-founded and supported teams of slayers currently tasked with exterminating a large nest of vampires currently located in New Mexico.

But as the team celebrates their heroic victory that night, everyone but Jack and Daniel Baldwin’s Montoya are butchered by the nest’s master, a vampire by the name of Jan Valek (played here by Thomas Ian Griffith). But it’s soon revealed that Valek is a much more ancient breed of evil than anyone could have anticipated.

ICE SKATING UPHILL

In the last decade or so, vampires have completely lost whatever remaining bite they maintained as horror icons for decades.

But the blame doesn’t entirely fall on products like the Twilight series of books and films, which were little more than the final steak through the heart. Instead, it was years of abuse at the hands of Hollywood in the wake of the massive popularity of 1994’s Interview with the Vampire. It was this book and feature film that really steered vampires away from fear-inducing antagonists to more romanticized, sexually-charged leading men.

Now, this isn’t to say that the piss hasn’t been taken out of the concept before 1994. Even the 1980s were filled with more campy, horror-comedy infused takes on vampires, such as Once Bitten, Fright Night, and even The Lost Boys.

That said, a movie like The Lost Boys, at times, certainly earns top marks as a serious horror flick. The film’s opening scene introduces these creatures of the night as a serious threat in spite of their very-80’s attire, what with the way they stalk, tease, and eventually kill some poor security guard.

But it also quickly devolves into camp when it isn’t focused on presenting well-worn, classic horror scenes, such as when our young heroes make their way into a vampire den. This tense, fairly grounded scene is off-set and almost ruined by its Scooby-Doo-like “run for the hills” conclusion that sees the cast fumbling their way out of the den the very second they’re startled.

Even a movie like Marvel and New Line Cinema’s Blade from 1998, with its updated but still classic approach to vampires, still suffers from being yet another Wesley Snipes action vehicle.

Because as great as Snipes is as the titular Blade, the film is more concerned with style, flash, and one-liners than any semblance of horror. This results in a final product that feels(and has aged) more like Demolition Man and Money Train than, say, New Jack City. Again, a movie very much of its time and place.

RETURN TO FORM

John Carpenter’s Vampires, on the other hand, manages to better balance both style and substance with a low-budget, no-nonsense return to basics.

Carpenter’s film is not shy about dismissing everything seen in movies before. The vampires in this film are mindless bloodsuckers that follow the commands of their far more competent but still somewhat animal-like masters. Sunlight and stakes through the heart can kill them, but garlic and crosses have no effect. They don’t turn into bats or other creatures. And the only reason Valek looks and acts like such an old-fashioned creature of the night is because he is an old-fashioned creature of the night from 600 years ago.

But what really makes the film work is how Wood’s Jack Crow is very much a normal guy with a rather matter-of-fact approach to his profession and world.

To Crow, vampires are like any other dangerous wild animal or pest that must be controlled and eliminated. And in spite of having been raised in and employed by the Church, Crow isn’t a priest of any sorts, a chosen one, or even much of a good man. He’s a flawed, angry individual driven by a personal vendetta. He drinks, does drugs, and parties with local prostitutes. This is an everyman working a job that isn’t quite so everyday to us, though it is to him.

In addition, the action scenes are low-budget, grounded and brutal affairs that might see men getting knocked around on wires but mostly involve violent stabbings. There isn’t any grace or flash to these fights. They are hard-hitting, unsubtle, and bare bones. No special effects when the vampires die other than when they burst into flames when they come into contact with sunlight. No puff of smoke or turning into ash– just a charred and smoldering corpse.

NOT PERFECT

That said, the film isn’t without its share of flaws. It moves along at such a quick pace that little time is dedicated to any of its characters, including Crow, making the film feel just as emotionally detached as Crow is from the twisted world around him. No flashbacks, no quiet moments of self-reflection. Just a really pissed-off James Woods hunting and stabbing vampires for 100 minutes.

And while this certainly allows us to share in Crow’s view of the world, it doesn’t do anything to make us care for him or any other character once something actually happens. It also results in these frequent fits of exposition being thrown at the camera whenever background information is required to explain the current state of the plot.

But while the film is also rarely if ever outright scary, it does take the material serious. This is more a vampire story told in the style of a modern day, grounded Western. Special effects are kept to a bare minimum. The lead is a realistic individual with no special qualities, superhuman endurance, or purpose. And the evil creatures are more ferocious beasts than charismatic, mustache-twirling villains. And aside from some occasional levity from Woods, there’s little that can be misconstrued as camp.

For those looking for a more back-to-basics approach to vampires in a time flooded with more special-effects heavy blockbusters and young adult-skewed productions, then John Carpenter’s Vampires is a movie definitely worth sinking your teeth into.

Tag


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Japanese action-horror-fantasy flick, Tag (aka Riaru Onigokko)!


Tag, from director Sion Sono, is a Japanese action-horror-fantasy movie that follows Reina Treindl as Mitsuko, a
mousy high school student who suddenly finds herself lost in an increasingly strange multiverse, slipping from one strange but familiar world to the next, losing track of who she really is with every new leap.

OUT THERE

Tag is, quite possibly, the most bizarre movie I’ve come across in years. It’s not particularly good. The acting is wooden more often than not. And whatever it’s attempting to pass off as a story or thematic elements are vague at best and totally off point at worst.

But it’s so delightfully surreal that you have almost no choice but to continue watching just to see where Sono takes the movie next.

One moment, we’re watching an entire class of high school students being brutally butchered by some supernatural force. The next we’re watching high school girls having a philosophical discussion about quantum theory and multiverses. And then we suddenly have a whole different actress playing Mitsuko, only this time it’s yet another world set a decade in the future and she’s about to get married in front of a sea of strangers. And things somehow only get even more strange from there.

PURPOSE AND DIRECTION

But while this does prove interesting in the abstract, the movie suffers greatly from this lack of a clear vision and
direction.

The idea of some Alice in Wonderland-type coming of age story where a young woman tries to figure out who she really is while simultaneously finding herself in alternate realities is compelling in and of itself. But when the movie is far more focused on being strange and playing with its heady themes in an admittedly childish manner, rather than making any real attempts to tell a story, it feels sort of pointless. Which is precisely what Tag is–pointless.

In fact, the movie revels so much in being pointless that it eventually ends by literally walking away from everything. No answers. No clarifications. It simply gives up and goes home.

Now, there’s some vague implication that Mitsuko has resolved her journey, some completion to her arc–that she
finally comes to terms with who she is as a person…but that doesn’t actually happen. The conflict the movie does resolve is one that pops up later in the film rather than the one we’ve been watching for the previous hour.

At no point do we really see Mitsuko struggling with her place in the world or her self-image. The movie simply leaps
right into the strange from the start. And because of this, we never really get to spend any personal time with Mitsuko. We never see or even hear what’s going on in her head. It’s just her being dragged from one place to the next while other characters talk at Mitsuko (and thus us, the audience). In short, Mitsuko is less a character and more of an avatar for the audience.

So aside from being too quiet and reserved, we don’t really know who or what Mitsuko is. She’s just a blank slate with no real personality or interests. An unknown victim in a cosmic
joke.

Now, the movie could have shown her growing from this aggravating, indecisive scaredy cat teenager into a secure,
determined young woman. But instead, the movie simply has other characters instructing Mitsuko what to do at every turn. She never grows. She’s never interesting, certainly not to the extent of everything else around her. And then it all just sort of ends with no real payoff.

SHORT, BUT POINTLESS

Short, pointless, paced like it has no desire to get to the end…Tag shouldn’t be anywhere as enjoyable as it is. There’s plenty of reasons to even enjoy the ride only to retroactively find yourself disappointed by it all. And yet Tag is still worth CHILLING with should you be in the mood for something way left of normal.

Wonder Woman


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at Warner/DC’s Wonder Woman, feat. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine!

A full transcript of the review is available to read below.


Wonder Woman, from director Patty Jenkins, follows Gal Gadot’s Diana, Princess of Themysicra and would-be warrior, as she ventures into the world of man for the first time during the tail-end of World War I. And she does so in order to fight alongside the forces of good against the German army and the God of War himself, Ares.

The Unpopular Truth

The unpopular truth at the moment is that Wonder Woman not only fails to be Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ saving grace after three highly faulty entries in their own cinematic universe. It not only fails at this, but it also fails to be an outright good movie.

Despite the misplaced praise that the movie is getting from a large number of critics and fans for having a much lighter tone, much needed humor, and a female lead…Wonder Woman still struggles with the exact same problems that plagued her predecessors.

And it does so by failing to tell a coherent story, reducing every character to a singular trait or action, and completely falling apart come its highly contrived and laughably bad final act.

The Good

Now, there is some good to be found in Wonder Woman. Because if nothing else, Wonder Woman definitely provides a strong promise of something better, something greater down the line.

Unlike previous efforts, Wonder Woman is bleak and sullen only when necessary–and with a backdrop like war-torn Europe, where men, women, and children are dying in horrific ways, this isn’t surprising.

But despite this, there’s a persistent sense of hope throughout the movie–something completely missing in even Man of Steel, a movie about a character who has been the
embodiment of Hope, Truth, Justice, and the American way for nearly a century.

And a lot of this good will comes from both Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s on-screen presence.

Waiting for Gadot

Gadot absolutely encapsulates the persona and iconic imagery of Diana. She’s brave, inspiring, and fiercely dedicated to those she cares for. She wears and moves in what could easily be a hokey costume with all the grace and heroic posturing that Chris Evans brings to the equally hokey and colorful persona and costume of Captain America.

In addition, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor almost out-boyscouts Captain America despite being a mere mortal man. He’s every bit as brave, inspiring, and dedicated as Diana, but he brings the world-weary and world-savvy perspective of the modern age that contrasts wonderfully against the incredibly naive and innocent Diana, who has never left her Paradise Island.

Minimum Effort

That said, these great performances are squandered due to Jenkins and company failing to do anything of value with them.

Diana, for example, simply wishes to put a stop to Ares and thus the entire concept of war itself. Steve, meanwhile, wants the same thing, but is aware–like any of us watching the movie–that war is a concept, an inherent, dark part of human nature. It isn’t something that can simply be stopped.

But this conflict, as often as it pops up while Diana and Steve trek across war-torn Europe, never really goes anywhere. Neither Diana or Steve are changed by their experience. Diana starts and ends her own movie the exact same way. Steve does as well.

Worse, there are far too many characters that are no more than plot devices. Tools to deliver a witty line, keep the plot moving, or to be the face of some vague menacing evil. But they never actually contribute to the plot or story.

Danny Huston and Elana Anaya are positioned to be the leading antagonists of the film, but they never really do anything. And, by the end, they’re quickly brushed aside without much celebration. Even Ares himself is little more than a cameo and a punching bag.

Say What

Now, it’s not to be expected that the secondary and tertiary characters be given much in the way of development. But they should be given material that warrants having them present at all. They need clear, defining moments that make them stand out. And, despite some strong performances, this never happens. Too many characters are simply just there to fill space.

For a movie that runs nearly 2-and-a-half hours, Wonder Woman has little to actually say or do outside of its stylish, fun action sequences.

A Promise

I left the theater hating Wonder Woman, cursing Patty Jenkins and Zack Snyder, and wishing I hadn’t even bothered with the movie. But not because the movie is outright terrible.

No, I was–and still am, to some degree–infuriated by how the movie could have been absolutely wonderful but, for whatever reason, wasn’t. Gadot, Pine, the setting, the thematic elements, the sequences on Themysicra and in the trenches of World War I. All beautiful in either concept or execution.

But like with everything Zack Snyder touches, it’s all window dressing for an empty, hollow viewing experience that makes for a great trailer–and a highly enticing promise of something to look forward to, eventually, maybe–but a bad movie.

Had this been where Warner Bros. and DC started several years ago, Wonder Woman would get a full pass from me. I’d have enjoyed it then as a shaky but confident first step.

But now, when we have nearly a decade of incredibly well done comic book movies being pumped out yearly from Marvel and already three movies from DC and Warner Bros.? It hardly lives up to anything other than low expectations.

Is Wonder Woman a terrible movie? No. Is it a terribly disappointing one? Yes. But it’s also worth your time and money to CHILL with Gadot and company, even if the final result isn’t as good as everyone else seems to be making it out to be–not even close. It’s fun and entertaining enough, something the previous three entires failed to be. And if Warner and DC can keep to the promise Wonder Woman makes, it will definitely have been worth it. But only time will tell.

No Escape


On this episode of The Nightly Chill, we look at the socio-political tinged action-thriller, No Escape.


No Escape features Owen Wilson as Jack Dwyer, an all-American father and civil engineer uprooting his family from Texas–yes, Owen Wilson in all his surfer-accented glory is supposed to be a man from Texas (oddly enough, despite his accent, Wilson actually is a man from Texas. Dallas, specifically)–and moving to an undisclosed country in South East Asia.

Not long after they arrive, the family find themselves caught in the middle of a violent political coup. Rebels begin executing tourists and thus our quartet of generic protagonists are forced to run for their lives, moving from one set piece to the next, and picking up bits of exposition that attempt to deepen the conflict playing out in the background.

CYNICAL, BUT APT

No Escape, from director John Eric Dowdle, can cynically be summed up as white Americans running in fear from savage brown people. Objectively, it really doesn’t have much else to say.

The movie is shot well. The action is serviceable to the plot with few scenes feeling like filler. And the characters and their actors fulfill their roles well enough. But that’s about the extent of the movie.

It has nothing of substance to say despite its socio-political themes. Its characters are dull and flat from beginning to end, with all the conflict coming across as uneventful. Also, for a story about survival, No Escape never makes it feel like the family’s lives are ever really in danger, thus undercutting its entire premise and making the 100 minutes you spend with the movie just about as pointless as its closing scene.

Those looking for an exciting movie are bound to be left disappointed. Those looking for depth in character and story are going to be bored to tears. If the final result weren’t so unbelievably lazy, No Escape might come across as something more than a shallow analogy for American views on society and race. But as it is–shallow, pointless, and stupidly insensitive–No Escape is also a NO CHILL.