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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review

This film’s entire message is “careful what you wish for,” and it rings true about the release of the film itself.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the sequel to the 2017 film, and features Gal Gadot returning to the titular role. Here, she and her long-lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) must stop a businessman bent on taking over the world (Pedro Pascal). Kristen Wiig also stars as supervillain Cheetah, while Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen reprise their roles as Wonder Woman’s mother mentors; Patty Jenkins returns to the director’s chair.

I really liked the first “Wonder Woman” film. The climax leaves more to be desired, but the overall product was good enough to place on my 2017 Top 10 list, and I think it remains the best film of the DCEU (granted, a low bar). “1984” was due out this June but then, well, you know what happened. Warner Bros. ended up releasing it simultaneously in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Christmas, a move met with a polarized response. From the success of the first installment to the fun trailers for this one, hype and clamoring for this were high, but after seeing the end result we would have all been fine just waiting to see it on the big screen.

One of the highlights of the 2017’s film was the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, and that again is the film’s biggest strength here. I won’t go into detail about how/why Pine manages to return to a sequel set 70 years after the first film, but rest assured he’s a treat. Gadot is again solid, although the thick accent occasionally makes bits of dialogue hard to make out.

Newcomers Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are a lukewarm bag. Early on, they are both chiasmatic and own the screen, with Pascal being a (borderline) con-man and Wiig being her normal dorky self. However once both go into supervillain mode they become literal cartoon characters, and don’t seem to belong in the world that Patty Jenkins has created.

And let’s talk about that world. Much like the “X-Men” reboots/prequels, this film goes out of its way to remind you the decade in which it is set, however other than using the anxieties of the Cold War, this could have taken place at any point in time. Jenkins throws fanny packs, arcades, and perms at the screen, and it’s fun to go “ha ha, the 80s were weird, huh” a few times but after a while you just want the plot to, you know, make some sense.

And almost none of this film makes any sense. There is a magic stone that grants wishes, and as the plot goes on there are more and more things that it can do, but it is never explained how or why. Do people have to submit to the will of the stone once asking for something? Is one person’s wish negated by another? They establish you must be touching it to get your wish, but then that rule is ignored later one in a big way. None of these things are answered, and by the time the climax comes around there is so much going on yet it feels like nothing is happening.

Some of the effects are cool and action scenes well-staged, however a few sequences are laughably bad. Whether it is over/under-acting by Gadot, to clear stunt wires and greenscreen, maybe seeing this on the big screen would make these flaws more forgivable. But seated on my couch with others I am free to vocally point out my issues as I see them, instead of being wowed by the spectacle of it all. Warner Bros. may have inadvertently created a situation that advocates and encourages theater-going over streaming, because I feel I am not the only one who will walk away from this with a sour taste in my mouth from the final 30 minutes, instead remembering the fun (enough) two hours.

“Wonder Woman 1984” starts out fun and fine, but as it chugs along it eventually goes completely off the rails. It is a disappointment in a year of disappointments but for whatever it’s worth, this is still one of the better DC films; unlike “Suicide Squad” or “Justice League,” at least this doesn’t feel like a studio-mandated Frankenstein of a film.

Critics Rating: 5/10

Trey Parker Steals Show in Better-Than-Expected ‘Despicable Me 3’


Maybe the Minions aren’t as much a sign of the Apocalypse as I once feared…


“Despicable Me 3” is the third film of Illumination’s most popular franchise, and follows ex-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) who meets his long-lost twin brother (also Carell). The duo must then team up to defeat a childhood actor-turned-supervillain (Trey Parker). Kristen Wiig, Steve Coogan and Jenny Slate also star as Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda direct.


I think the first two “Despicable Me” films are perfect children entertainment, with enough laughs for adults to stay amused, too. The “Minions” spin-off, however, was everything wrong with kid’s films nowadays (reliant on fart jokes and lazy animation), and the trailers for this third entry appeared to be more of that. However it is clear from the opening sequence that the writers are trying to make a film for everyone again, creating an animated romp that is nothing special, but it will keep all who view it entertained.


Trey Parker, best known for creating and voicing many characters in “South Park,” absolutely steals the show here. The film opens with Parker’s Balthazar Bratt stealing a diamond off a boat and it’s fantastic. Bratt was a child actor on a show where he portrayed an adolescent villain but when his show got cancelled he vowed revenge on Hollywood. He moonwalks, wears shoulder pads and blasts Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and even though I wasn’t alive in the 80s I loved all the references and Parker gives as great a vocal performance as one may expect.


The Minions were a fun in the first film but then Illumination realized what they had on their hands and shoved them down our throats in the sequel; then of course they got their own film and become the face of the franchise. They’re toned down here, really not affecting the plot and just having some simple cutaway jokes every few minutes and return to their cute and chuckle-inducing ways.


Some of the animation is inspired and original however (in traditional Illumination fashion) there are plenty of lazy bits, too. Non-main characters are recycled designs and some backgrounds and settings are basic and flat, because Illumination was literally founded to make movies that turn out profits. Their animated films only cost around $75 million, compared to Pixar, which has not made a film for less than $150 million in more than 15 years, so they often turn profits of over $300 million.


The moments leading up to the climax somewhat lag and even kids in my audience were getting anxious, but once Gru faces off against Bratt in Los Angeles things pick back up.


I enjoyed most of “Despicable Me 3” and that is really all that matters. It has enough clever references and innuendos for adults and more than enough stupid humor and pretty colors for the kids, Trey Parker and Steve Carell remain top vocal talents and even if this isn’t going to win any Oscars (or is as culturally or historically significant as, say, “The Boss Baby”) there is enough here to put a smile on your face if you’re having a despicable day.


Critics Rating: 7/10

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

‘Sausage Party’ as Funny as it is Thought-Provoking

Sausage_PartyFor an animated movie about swearing hot dogs, this thing has a surprising amount of intelligence.


“Sausage Party” is a (very) R-rated animated film about food who believe humans are gods sent to save them, but begin to realize what actually happens to them once they are taken out of the supermarket. It stars an ensemble voice cast, including Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek, among a half dozen others. Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, best known for their work on other raunchy comedies like “Thomas the Tank Engine” and “Shrek 2,” respectively, direct.


I was excited for this, because I love Seth Rogen but also the premise of this film is brilliant and the red band trailer may be the funniest trailer of all-time, no hyperbole. And while “Sausage Party” is never laugh-out-loud hilarious, it is a very funny, consistently entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking piece of adult cinema.


One of the great things about the film is it pokes fun of every race, religion and creed, so that way no one can call foul. The entire premise of the film is that the food’s installed beliefs in gods and a “great beyond” is a sham and all who believe in it without proof are fools, however it will then flip the script and insult those who question it just because that is the easier thing to do. There’s plenty of jokes about Middle Easterns not getting along and how foolish those feuds are, as well as more racist jokes than PC people will care to count. There are also some brilliant food puns and references, like a Hitler-esque character wanting to destroy the juice (get it?).


Even when the film isn’t making you laugh you are still entertained, as the all-star cast keeps things going at a light, breezy pace, even if at times things do begin to feel a bit repetitive and aimless.


And that’s one thing that does hold “Sausage Party” back from being great, is that after a while a hot dog saying the c-word or a bun making jokes about her buns gets old, and as much as I love food puns (or any kind of pun), Nick Kroll’s talking douche makes so many they begin to become forced (which is the point, but awareness doesn’t excuse it). Speaking of Kroll, his Jersey Shore bro voice gets annoying after a while, and his revenge plot is inserted into the plot purely to get it to a theatrical runtime.


I really had a good time with “Sausage Party.” I never had a riotous laugh out loud moment, but I had a lot of well-earned chuckles, and the film does make you think about how our own world works. Much like “Popstar” (which I please implore you to see) the film is very stupid and irrelevant yet very intelligent and self-aware all at the same time, and it is a great way to end the summer.


Critics Rating: 7/10



‘Walter Mitty’ A Visually Ambitious Film


Sometimes a movie, such as “Avatar”, can rely too heavily on its special effects, sacrificing development of its plot and character development. But other times a movie successfully blends impressive effects with a solid plot. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, which is directed by and stars Ben Stiller, is such a film.

Based on the famous short story, “Walter Mitty” follows a day-dreamer (Stiller) who must go on worldwide quest to locate a lost photograph that will go on the cover of the final edition of LIFE magazine. Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn also star.

Little background on this movie, it has languished in development hell for years. When plans first arose for the film back in 1994, Jim Carrey was attached to star, with Ron Howard to direct. Since then, it has gone through names such as Owen Wilson, Mike Myers and Sacha Baron Cohen in the lead role, and Gore Verbinski, Mark Walters and Steven Spielberg as director. Finally Stiller signed on to be the lead, and eventually became the director as well.

What makes this film was enjoyable as it is is the scenery. There were some scenes that are gorgeous, such as when Walter is hiking along the Himalayan Mountains. Stiller (as the director) uses a lot of wide shots and you really feel immersed into the film, and realize how small we really are compared to everything else on this planet.

Some of the performances are very solid as well. Stiller is always reliable for a few chuckles, and makes Walter a calm, relatable person. Kristen Wiig plays Walter’s love interest and it was nice to see her play an actual person, not an over-the-top character like she does in most of her films (not that she ever does a bad job, but things can get stale). Sean Penn is entertaining in his few minutes of scene time.

Some other characters, however, hold the film back. Adam Scott plays Walter’s new boss and he’s just a cartoon villain. He’s too mean and too snarky to take seriously. But Scott is nowhere near as strange as Walter’s sister, played by Kathryn Hahn. She is just unlike any human being on this earth. She says things that no one would ever say, and she talks to everyone as if they’re four years old.

The script is hit-or-miss. Sometimes the dialogue is witty and some scenes are very clever. But other times jokes seem forced or an attempt at a dramatic moment comes off as awkward.

Overall “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a fun, albeit flawed movie. Like I said, visually it is a very impressive film, and oth Stiller’s direction and performance are steady. The film’s biggest problem is the uneven script, but that doesn’t stop the film from being enjoyable. It has messages about life and how we should go beyond our comfort zones every now and again, and leans on its exciting imagery to push that message across.

Critics Rating: 7/10