Review of “Transformers: The Last Knight”

Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) is floating frozen in space looking for his and all the Transformers creator. He crashes on the remains of Cybertron to find a dead and broken apart planet heading toward Earth. Prime is brought before Quintessa (voiced by Gemma Chan) who claims to be maker of his race. She tells Prime about a staff that wields great power and will drain the Earth of its life force and revive Cybertron. She puts him under a spell to do her bidding and renames him Nemesis Prime, sending him on a mission to recover the staff. Meanwhile, all Transformers are considered enemies of the Earth and are hunted by a paramilitary unit called the Transformers Reaction Force (TRF) with orders to capture and if necessary kill any and all alien robots. Transformers keep arriving on Earth and helping them as best he can is Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg). He lets them hide out at his junkyard in the middle of the desert. There he has Bumblebee, Hound (voiced by John Goodman), Drift (voiced by Ken Watanabe) and several more. He has had to separate himself from his daughter now in college since the TRF is looking to arrest him. While rummaging in a restricted zone where alien craft have recently crashed (and collecting a metal disk from a dying Transformer), Cade sees a group of young teenagers being chased by a TRF drone. He and Bumblebee save the kids and get them out of the restricted zone. One of them is 14-year old Izabella (Isabela Moner), an orphan whose parents were killed in a Decepticon attack. Izabella is a mechanical genius and has cobbled together from salvaged Transformer parts a mechanical companion she calls Sqweeks. Izabella sneaks her way into Cade’s truck and rides back to his junkyard hideout. There she shows Cade just how handy she is and earns his respect. Cade is contacted by a Transformer named Cogman (Jim Carter) who is the assistant to Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Burton wants to see Cade immediately on a matter of urgency to the entire planet. While he’s there he’ll meet Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock), a beautiful and headstrong professor of English literature at Oxford University. She and Cade must work together to find the staff in its hiding place on Earth before Nemesis Prime or the Decepticons led by Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), otherwise the Earth is doomed.

That synopsis doesn’t make much sense. It didn’t help that I left out about 75% of the story but I wanted to keep it as small as possible; however, even if I told you everything that happened in the first hour of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” it still wouldn’t make much sense as this film is the most incoherent, muddled and over-stuffed of all the movies in the franchise. It makes the rambling make-believe of a five-year old seems focused and logical by comparison.

Also similar to a youngster’s make-believe is the way the film jumps from scene to scene and location to location. It gives the viewer cognitive whiplash as the story jumps around like kangaroos in mating season. You might be in a military situation room one moment then cut to an unrelated scene in Cuba the next with no transition. One moment you’re on Earth, the next on Cybertron. Modern times to the Dark Ages and in the desert then under the sea. The movie goes anywhere and everywhere at the drop of a hat never allowing a scene to breathe and actually develop. There are six credited editors on the film’s Wikipedia and IMDB pages. Each must have been exhausted by the constant cutting of the nearly two and a half hour film.

The script is actually worse than the editing. Ranging from incoherent to sexist, the script manages to make every actor in the movie look petty, dumb and childish. Much of it sounds like it was made up on set or in the recording studio. Mark Wahlberg comes off worst of all as his lines sound like they were written for a Saturday Night Live sketch. Always sounding frustrated and exasperated, Wahlberg’s Cade Yeager comes off like a spoiled child unable to get his way. Things get much worse when Laura Haddock’s Vivian Wembley arrives. Sexist dialog abounds coming not only from Cade but also her mother and other female relatives as they implore her to find a husband and settle down.

Let’s also talk about how Vivian is shown on screen in the movie: Tight, form-fitting dresses and button-up shirts that look to be about a half size too small exposing her cleavage in a not terribly subtle way. Attractive women in the “Transformers” franchise have been, let’s face it, nothing but eye candy for the largely male audience these films attract. Megan Fox, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Nicola Peltz and Laura Haddock are all objectified to some extent in these films. While it might have been a little less in the case of Nicola Peltz since she played Cade’s daughter it still was expressed by other male actors in scenes where they weren’t being shot at by military or robots. While each was given some talent or trait that had nothing to do with them being very attractive women, none of them escaped the camera’s leering eye or skimpy wardrobe that amplified their sexiness. There is even a story where Megan Fox was filmed washing Michael Bay’s Ferrari as part of the “audition” for the first film. Both have confirmed it happened and Bay has been quoted saying he isn’t sure where the tape is of the car washing. Fox has also said Bay asked her if she had a nice stomach. All of this has a level of “ick” that no male actor in a major role has ever likely faced except for possibly the “Magic Mike” movies. While I know this isn’t a new problem for actresses in films it is no more blatant than in the “Transformers” franchise.

None of the actors turns in great performances but the winner for having the most fun with his goofy role is Anthony Hopkins. His portrayal of the slightly mad Sir Edmund Burton is the most entertaining thing in the film. He brings a manic yet controlled energy to this performance that seems to say “F—k it! I know this is garbage but I’m going to enjoy myself while I’m drowning in this sea of refuse!” Hopkins is certainly a far better special effect than any of the CGI robots in the film. He isn’t in it nearly enough to save this burning trash heap but when he is on screen your eye and attention will be drawn to him to see what he does next.

While I have not been a big fan of how the Transformers have looked in battle, this film and its Industrial Light and Magic special effects team seems to have cracked whatever problem made the robots indistinguishable from one another when they were in combat. Perhaps it is the use of color that prevents the two robots from seeming to meld into one another when they were fighting. I’m not sure but whatever it is works to make the robot-on-robot action more clear.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is rated PG-13 for language, intense sci-fi action, some innuendo and violence. There are numerous battle scenes between humans and Transformers with lots of slow motion explosions that throw bodies up into the air. We see some man-to-man fighting as well. There is no gore but you do see people stabbed by swords and rolled over by burning catapult-thrown ammo. Robots are killed by humans and their own kind. There is a scene from the trailer where several Transformers are beheaded by Optimus Prime. There is some awkward effort at sexual innuendo but it is more for comedic effect. Foul language is fairly frequent but doesn’t get much worse than “s—t” or “bulls—t.”

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is likely not the last we’ll see from the robots in disguise. Bumblebee is scheduled to get his own solo movie in 2018 and Michael Bay has said up to 14 more stories have been written and could be produced into films. I’d just like to reiterate, FOURTEEN more “Transformers” movies! And I’m not sure that includes the proposed crossovers with G.I Joe and other Hasbro Toy properties. I wish I could look forward to “Transformers” films the way I do “Star Wars” movies but I just can’t. If history has taught us anything it’s that Michael Bay makes spectacle movies that are crap and it appears, at least domestically, this franchise is beginning to run out of steam. “Transformers: The Last Knight” has the lowest domestic opening weekend of all the franchise with a five day total of $69-million. That’s $50-million below the last film. While it is doing well overseas it appears America’s appetite for fighting alien robots and the humans that love and hate them is beginning to wane. Perhaps audiences are just tired of seeing basically the same movie done over and over again and each one being worse than the last. Whatever the reason, “Transformers: The Last Knight” is certainly the worst of the lot and that’s saying something considering how bad the second film, “Revenge of the Fallen,” is. But let’s face it: None of these films have been great. There is a certain amount of nostalgia that compels some audience members to see one or two of them but that wears off over film after film. If Michael Bay, Hasbro and Paramount Pictures want to keep filling theatres for the next 50 years with another 20 “Transformers” movies, they MUST get better.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” gets one star out of five.

Three new movies look to fill your eyes and minds with their amazing brilliance! I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Baby Driver—

Despicable Me 3—

The House—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Also you can hear me on the Steve and Kyle Podcast, available on iTunes, Stitcher, Libsyn and the podcatcher of your choice, on or about June 28th.

Review of “Cars 3”

Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is having a great year on the Piston Cup circuit until the arrival of younger and more high-tech race cars led by Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer). Storm and other next gen race cars begin dominating all the races forcing several veteran cars to retire. At the last race of the season McQueen pushes himself too hard and has a bad crash. Going to Radiator Springs to recuperate surrounded by his friends Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and girlfriend Sally Carrera (Bonnie Hunt). With their encouragement and fond memories of his mentor Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman), McQueen decides to keep racing. To help get him in a position to challenge Storm, new Rust-eze owner Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion) has built a state-of-the-art training and research facility. There McQueen is introduced to his trainer Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo) who believes in a multi-tiered approach including visualization, meditation, stretching and time in a race simulator. McQueen bristles at the new approach and wants to get out on the sand and dirt tracks of his mentor Doc. After a disastrous visit to a dirt track that was running a demolition derby, McQueen heads for the Doc’s old stomping grounds and finds his former pit chief Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper). Smokey and some of Doc’s old friends from the racing circuit help teach McQueen the lessons he may have forgotten over his years as a winning race car. Lessons that may help him defeat Storm and learn something about himself.

“Cars 3” is the best of the series. While I’ve liked the two previous films there’s something about this one that made me pay a bit more attention. I’m sure the thing that made this a better film for me probably went well over the heads of the film’s very young target audience; but the messages of learning from your mistakes, growing to appreciate your past and understanding your weaknesses are ones that children need to learn as early as possible and exposing them to these lessons early can’t hurt. It doesn’t hurt that the messages are delivered in a bright and colorful package with amazing animation and some terrific voice acting from a massive and talented cast including veteran actors and some NASCAR drivers and retired veterans to add a bit of authenticity to the racing chatter.

The “Cars” franchise may be considered the lower tier of the Pixar movies but you can see the effort by the studio to turn out a film that looks amazing and has a solid story base. It may not have quite the heart of the “Toy Story” movies or the humor of “Monsters, Inc.” but the series does have a strong appeal to very small children which gives Pixar and Disney an opportunity to develop a base of new fans every few years. Simpler stories told well with bright colors and sweet characters with big eyes could be considered a kind of gateway into the more complex and grownup films the company also releases. It’s a brilliant technique to constantly be bringing in new audiences and give them more mature fare as they age.

“Cars 3” boasts a massive voice cast and several of them do standout work. Owen Wilson is great as Lightning McQueen. Wilson has the perfect kind of drawl to make the character relatable to younger viewers. He can complain and whine without sounding too childish and can sell his understanding and acceptance of realizations that he’s wrong or when he learns something. It’s a homespun performance that doesn’t make fun of the quality.

Cristela Alonzo is a perfect choice for Cruz Ramirez. She can be an annoying cheerleader and quickly turn her character into a righteous and powerful advocate for herself. It is a somewhat secondary storyline how her character, and another female character, have faced discrimination due to their gender. It becomes a more prominent feature late in the film. Alonzo plays the scene like I’m afraid many women do in the real world: They surrender. While I would have preferred if her character had been written to be more of a self-advocate, it actually makes the resolution all the more thrilling.

Praise must also go to Armie Hammer as Jackson Storm. The character actually has very little screen time but Hammer’s performance makes the most of it. Storm is a bully with a very high opinion of himself and Hammer is able to make him utterly despicable, handing out false compliments and insincere praise always dripping with contempt. As Pixar villains go, Storm is right up there with Randall from “Monsters, Inc.” as the best of the worst.

There are lots of brief character bits that add to the enjoyment of “Cars 3” but it would be a mistake to not mention the late Paul Newman’s work as Doc Hudson. The lines heard in the movie were bits of dialog not used in the original “Cars.” The gravitas and history heard in Newman’s voice can’t be ignored. Weaving this old dialog into the story and making it all work within the narrative of a film written a decade after the first and several years after Newman died shows a level of commitment to storytelling and to an actor that apparently made a strong impression on the Pixar creative team. They probably could have found an actor with a gravelly voice to take over the role; but including Newman in this film honors his memory and shows just what a class act the leadership of Pixar is.

As you would expect, “Cars 3” looks amazing. The animation of the characters and the backgrounds is stunning. I found myself especially impressed with the look of one very unimpressive shot. The camera focus on a wall of an old race track shifts from the closer sections of the wall being in focus to the further away sections. It’s the kind of thing that is small and you see in live action movies all the time but using it here makes the realism of an otherwise unreal story about living cars amplified. The visual style of the film is impressive and gorgeous to look at even if you don’t find the story all that interesting.

“Cars 3” is rated G. Naturally there are no language issues but younger viewers might find the crash scene early in the film, as well as a flashback about a wreck Doc Hudson had, a little disturbing.

It may not be at the top of any “best of” lists at years end but “Cars 3” is certainly the best of the series. It looks at hard questions and, in its aimed-at-young-children way, comes up with answers that work within its world. The film also gives Disney/Pixar a chance to add to its already impressive over $10-billion worldwide merchandising haul. Race cars with eyes really rake in the dough! This film will probably do pretty good as well.

“Cars 3” gets five revved up stars out of five.

This week there’s only one new movie in theatres: Transformers: The Last Knight. I wonder if this one makes any more sense than any of the others in the series.

See my review for “Rough Night” at http://www.wimz.com/blogs/stan-movie-man. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “The Mummy”

Nick Morton and Chris Vail (Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson) are Army recon soldiers that are supposed to be scouting for insurgents but have decided to go on a search for antiquities they can steal and sell on the black market. While scouting a small town in Iraq they are attacked by insurgents and Chris calls in a drone strike. The missiles drive away the enemy fighters and open a hole in the ground showing a massive chamber with what appear to be Egyptian carvings and artifacts. Archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is called in to investigate. Nick, Chris and Jenny all repel into the cavern and find it stuffed with Egyptian statues and hieroglyphics which is unusual since they are 1000 miles away from Egypt. Reading the hieroglyphs and examining the statuary, Jenny realizes this isn’t a tomb but a prison for whoever is buried there. At the bottom of a pool of mercury is the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Princess Ahmanet was next in line to be ruler of Egypt centuries earlier but her father’s second wife had a male baby making him the next in line for the throne. Making a deal with the god of death Set, Ahmanet killed her father, his wife and their baby and prepared to sacrifice her lover so Set could use him as a receptacle and walk the Earth once again where he and Ahmanet would rule for eternity. Her father’s servants stopped the sacrifice and captured Ahmanet, mummifying her alive and burying her in that pit far from Egypt. The markings on the chain around the pool show anyone that exhumes the princess is cursed. Never one to believe in such things, Nick breaks the chain and the sarcophagus rises from the mercury. While flying the sarcophagus to London a flock of crows crash into the plane and cause it to crash. Nick puts a parachute on Jenny and forces her off the plane. It crashes and kills everyone else on board…except for Nick who wakes up in a body bag in a morgue. Surprised to see him alive, Jenny introduces Nick to her boss Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) who explains Jenny works for his organization that seeks out and attempts to contain or destroy the monsters that roam the Earth, Princess Ahmanet is one of those monsters and Nick’s actions in the chamber has cursed him to be the new vessel for Set.

I left out a great deal in this plot synopsis such as Vail being bitten by a large insect in the chamber and becoming an undead slave of Ahmanet’s, how Ahmanet actually sucks the life out of victims to rebuild her decayed body and the various artifacts in Dr. Jekyll’s lab that suggest the other monsters coming to Universal’s Dark Universe. There’s a great deal going on in “The Mummy” and much of it is noisy filler to get from one heavily CGI action set piece to another. Is it a good movie? No but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it.

“The Mummy” is the modern version of a popcorn movie. The kind of film that doesn’t have much of a reason to exist except to let you forget what’s going on in the outside world and just turn off your brain for a couple of hours. The characters are largely forgettable, the story is frequently incoherent and the resolution is about as surprising as starting your car (although I have owned cars where it frequently surprised me both by starting and not starting).

It could have been much more interesting. For instance, it won’t surprise anyone that Tom Cruise’s Nick is the hero of the film. While his character is introduced as someone that is morally questionable, once the weirdness starts he takes on the very familiar role as a good guy with a few minor and unconvincing attempts to suggest otherwise. Since “The Mummy” is the first of a series of monster movies, why not make Nick the King of the Monsters. Not Godzilla but the leader of the Universal classic monsters this film is meant to anchor: Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Bride of Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Gill Man (or Creature from the Black Lagoon if you prefer) and the Invisible Man. Nick, who doesn’t leave the film the same as when it started, could be the leader of the group and try to establish a worldwide syndicate of evil with all these creatures. Instead, Nick is a monster with a heart of gold, keeping Cruise as a lovable hero that sacrifices his humanity for the greater good. It might have worked with a character that was more predictably selfish throughout the movie but Cruise is constantly putting himself in harm’s way to save the girl or stop the monster or whatever. His actions late in the film don’t really come across as a surprise as we already know Nick is deep down a really good person that maybe had to bend and break the rules on occasion to make enough money to take care of his sick mother (we don’t know why Nick is stealing and selling antiquities as that isn’t explained in the film). Complicating Nick more would have gone a long way to making his choices more surprising and making the story more interesting.

The story is merely a scaffold to get us from one action scene to the next. Whether the cast is running from a destructive sandstorm in downtown London or fighting to escape Ahmanet’s skeletal soldiers, the script is light on dialog and heavy on CGI monsters and various crashes. Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll gets the unenviable task of being Mr. Exposition. His character, either in voiceover or on screen, explains pretty much everything going on in the movie. From the life and death of Ahmanet to the existence of his monster squad, Crowe is responsible for filling in the audience. For an actor that has won an Oscar and performed in countless dramatic films, this is really a big step down in quality. You can’t help but feel like Crowe took the part for the paycheck and for the possibility of fairly steady work for the next decade if all these monster movies get made (I wouldn’t bet on that happening). He only gets turned loose when Mr. Hyde comes out to play and that isn’t often enough or long enough.

Despite all the problems, if you can just let the movie wash over you like a warm ocean wave it has a fair amount of entertainment leaking out of it. Even with the abundant CGI, the action scenes are for the most part pretty good. While Tom Cruise running in his movies has become something of a joke (you could probably edit together all his running scenes into a feature length movie), Cruise still looks amazing at 55 and did most of his own stunts on this film as he does on his others. The interaction of the characters also delivers some surprising laughs. Jake Johnson is underutilized but pretty terrific as Chris Vail. The early scene where he and Cruise are running from the insurgents is punctuated with a soundtrack of Johnson’s yelling at Cruise about getting him into this mess. Cruise and Wallis have some nice scenes as Nick and Jenny verbally spar with one another over a night they spent together. There are small moments of humanity and humor that are sprinkled into the film and they occasionally manage to break through and provide some entertaining oases in what is otherwise a desert of burning sand.

“The Mummy” is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, some suggestive content and partial nudity. There are various scenes where characters are shown being shot. Blood is minimal. Various fights break out where characters are thrown around a room. There is a plane crash scene that could prove very intense to someone afraid of flying. Ahmanet is shown sucking the life out of several characters and they fall to the ground as withered husks but come back to life as her zombie slaves on her command. Other dead bodies also come to life at her command, many of these skeletal. A couple is shown looking like they are about to make love. Ahmanet is shown nude but in shadow with very little identifiable except for her butt cleavage. Foul language is minimal.

“The Mummy” is supposed to be the kickoff of a franchise of monster movies; but so was the 2004 film “Van Helsing.” That movie was supposed to anchor a shared universe of films with spinoffs including video games, novels and theme parks. The tepid critical reception and less than impressive box office put a stake in the heart of those plans. Now, Universal Studios is trying again to make its stable of monsters a money machine. Early domestic projections put the opening weekend receipts for “The Mummy” at a disappointing $30-million. While the film has opened big in foreign markets it will have to do really impressive numbers overseas for the Dark Universe to have any life, otherwise it will be as dead as a decapitated vampire. While it may not be the greatest monster movie of all time, “The Mummy” isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Not a ringing endorsement and maybe they will figure out a way to salvage the franchise by the next film. Who knows?

“The Mummy” gets three stars out of five.

This week I’ll be reviewing “Rough Night” for WIMZ.com.

For this webpage I’ll be reviewing one of the following:

47 Meters Down—

All Eyez on Me—

Cars 3—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Wonder Woman”

On the island of Themyscira, hidden by an invisibility shield, the Amazons, a race of female warriors, live in peace. Led by Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), the Amazons are immortal, created by the King of the Greek gods Zeus to battle his son Ares the god of war who was jealous of his father’s creation, humankind. Ares was narrowly defeated and went into hiding but Zeus was mortally wounded. His last act was to create a weapon that could kill a god in the event Ares returned. Hippolyta’s daughter Diana (Gal Gadot) has wanted to be trained as an Amazon warrior since childhood but her mother refused. Secretly the Queen’s sister Antiope (Robin Wright), the greatest warrior of the Amazons, has been training Diana and she is showing a level of ability that actually frightens her sister Amazons. One day the peace of Themyscira is shattered when a German plane crashes just off shore. The pilot is an American working as a spy for the British named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Diana witnesses the crash and saves Steve but soon a group of German soldiers come through the invisibility shield and attacks the island in an effort to capture the spy. The Germans have guns but the Amazons have centuries of battle experience and soon defeat the soldiers but Antiope is killed in the battle. Steve wants to return to the war in Europe known as the war to end all wars as he has evidence that General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) a leader of the German military has been working with Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) a chemist that makes chemical weapons and they have a new weapon that could kill millions but Hippolyta refuses to release him for fear of exposing the island. Diana believes Ares is responsible for the war and wants to go with Steve back into the world and slay Ares with a sword she calls the God Killer believing that will end the war. Diana gathers various weapons, including a lasso that compels those caught in it to tell the truth, a shield and the God Killer, and intends to leave with Steve in secret on a small sailboat but Hippolyta catches them. She knows she can’t stop her daughter from leaving with Steve and tells her she may not be able to return to Themyscira. Diana understands and she and Steve leave. Hippolyta is concerned for Diana’s safety, fearing Ares will find her but also worried that Diana will find out a secret the Queen has been keeping from her.

A movie version of “Wonder Woman” has been in the works for 20 years. Several directors and writers including Ivan Reitman and Joss Whedon have been involved at one point or another. Every A-List actress from Sandra Bullock to Angelina Jolie has been rumored to be up for the lead. Making this movie has had more twists and turns than an overwritten comic book. Now, after all the time and effort, we finally get to see the Amazon princess on the big screen. It was worth the wait.

“Wonder Woman” is successful primarily due to the performance of Gal Gadot. While the audience wants to see the super heroic daring do, the script by Allan Heinberg gives us a Diana that is certainly unprepared for everything other than fighting. The role of women in the 1910’s is certainly foreign to the Amazon as well as the fashion of the time. The hierarchy of government and the military also doesn’t make much sense to her as well as the cold reality of letting soldiers die to avoid upsetting the armistice negotiations. We watch Diana not only discover her place as a hero, we see her learn about a world that isn’t as black and white as life and Themyscira. Some of these are harder lessons than she is expecting and Gadot manages to avoid playing the role like a child. Diana asks legitimate questions that still have no satisfactory answers to this day.

Chris Pine is also very good as Steve Trevor. The spy with skills but and “aw shucks” attitude transforms from a pretty good guy to a very good person over the course of the film. It’s nice that some of what makes Diana a hero rubs off on the soldier. It is a subtle but convincing performance that never strains your willingness to believe.

What might shake your confidence is some of the CGI during the battle scenes. Of course the actions shown on screen would be impossible in real life but the CG characters don’t look real at times especially when Diana is throwing people around with the lasso. While the movements are impressive, the visuals are lacking. I would have preferred something that was maybe a bit less showy and looked more realistic.

The story also drags a bit early on when Diana and Steve are in London. While I enjoyed the humor of the scenes of Diana trying on clothes and questioning how she could be expected to fight in them they did go on too long. Also, when our main characters are reporting what Ludendorff and Maru are plotting to the government that also feels a padded out. Maybe the idea was to hammer home the inequality women faced no matter how qualified or experienced they might be but it seemed like unnecessarily beating a dead horse.

“Wonder Woman” is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content, sequences of violence and action. Since the film is set in World War I there are scenes of battle and shooting with people shown dead or with significant injuries including missing limbs. We also see people shot and killed with arrows. Wonder Woman also doesn’t mind ending the life of a bad guy and does so in various ways including with her sword but no gore is shown. A male character is shown nude covering his genitals with his hand. There is little to no foul language.

Unlike “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Wonder Woman” is actually lighthearted at times. The uncomfortable but sweet chemistry early on between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine is adorable and parts of Diana adjusting to the human world are funny. I hope this signifies a change in tone for future DC films as a superhero movie shouldn’t make you want to end your life. We’ll have to wait and see if the lighter trend continues when “Justice League” comes out in November. Until then we have a DC film that is actually enjoyable with only a few minor issues that don’t include a humorless tone and confusing editing. What a nice change of pace.

“Wonder Woman” gets four stars out of five.

This week things that go bump in the night, four-legged loyalty and the possible beginning of a new monster movie franchise are arriving on screens near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

It Comes at Night—

Megan Leavey—

The Mummy—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Baywatch”

An elite team of lifeguards called Baywatch keeps an eye on the beach and water of Emerald Bay. Their leader Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) has over 500 rescues in his career. Along with C.J. Parker (Kelly Rohrbach) and second-in-command Stephanie Holden (Ilfenesh Hadera), Mitch and his team keep the swimmers and boaters safe. Tryouts for new team members are held and making the cut as a trainee are Summer Quinn (Alexandra Daddario) and Ronnie Greenbaum (Jon Bass). Also joining the trainees is two-time Olympic gold medal swimmer Matt Brody (Zac Efron). Brody is a showboat and hothead that is on the team as part of his probation for a previous crime. Mitch wants him gone but his boss Captain Thorpe (Rob Huebel) wants Brody to stay as a way to generate some positive PR so the city council doesn’t cut their funding. While jogging on the beach, Mitch finds a packet of illegal drugs washed up on shore in front of the exclusive Huntley Club run by Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra). Behind the scenes, Leeds is buying up all the shoreline property and bribing the city council to support her efforts to make all beachfront private. She even goes so far as to have her thugs kill a city councilman that threatens to expose her plot. Her plan includes disposing of his body at sea on board a burning yacht but Mitch and the crew gets a distress call and manages to rescue two women from the boat as well as the body of the councilman. Suspicious of the circumstances, Mitch begins an investigation into the death and the drugs, thinking they are connected. This angers local police officer Sgt. Ellerbee (Yahya Abdul-Mateen, II) as well as Thorpe since Mitch and his crew aren’t cops. Brody also doesn’t think they should get involved creating tension within the team. Can they pull together and stop the privatization of their beautiful public beach?

The original “Baywatch” TV show was a massive hunk of 1990’s cheese with a big side of T and A. While cancelled after its first season on NBC, the show found its way around the world in first-run syndication and became one of the most watched shows in history. Star David Hasselhoff expanded his stardom outside of Germany and became a household name along with Pamela Anderson, Nicole Eggert, Alexandra Paul, Yasmine Bleeth and more. No matter how silly or trite the plot might be, people tuned in for a decade to keep up with the adventures of Mitch and his crew, especially to see the lady lifeguards running in slow motion. The popularity of “Baywatch” (like most things) faded and the show died a slow death after two seasons relocated and renamed “Baywatch Hawaii.” It has rested easy in its video grave for 16 years but much like Dracula has been brought back to life by Dwayne Johnson and his lifeguards for a new generation in “Baywatch.” Much like Dracula, we’d all be better off if had stayed in its grave.

“Baywatch” is very pretty to look at. Everyone on screen, with one exception, is a hard-bodied stud or a well-built beauty. Clothing is perfectly fitted and as small as possible most of the time. Male abs and pecs are on display for well over half the film. Tans are deep and perfectly even. Women’s breasts are squeezed together so they yell “Look at ME!” in swimsuits and evening wear. If the writers had worked half as hard at the story and script as the costumers did there might be a pretty good movie here. Sadly what we have is a few laughs that require slogging through a stupid story that probably would have been rejected from the writers of the TV show.

The very likable and enjoyable cast of “Baywatch” is totally wasted by the numerous hoops the ridiculous story makes them jump through. One particularly painful scene (of many) finds Johnson and Efron handling the genitals of a dead man. This scene runs for a very long time and as distasteful as it might sound from the description it’s even worse to watch. Another groaner involves Jon Bass’ Ronnie being asked to create a distraction by doing a dance that looks more like a seizure as a distraction for Priyanka Chopra’s villain. I suppose they thought it would be funny because the slightly overweight guy would look silly doing a sexy dance for the international beauty. HAHA get it? He’s overweight so he’s got to be the funny guy that sacrifices his dignity for some laughs. I truly felt sorry for Bass for having to do the scene.

Despite this particular scene, Bass acquits himself well in a thankless role as the comedic relief in what is supposed to be a comedy. His inability to speak to C.J. in an early scene is very funny. His dignity is once again sacrificed when his twig and berries get stuck in the slats of a beach lounger and C.J. and Mitch try to free him. While this is also a cringe worthy bit, it is actually written pretty well and has some decent laughs.

Priyanka Chopra deserved a better written role. Her character oozes civility when she’s playing nice with the locals but the claws come out when she’s pushed in a very stereotypical depiction of a female villain. Maybe the film was trying to go for some kind of 90’s retro vibe in how it depicted the character but it actually just wasted a very good actress in a poorly written part.

Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are clearly working as hard as they can to wring some life out of the script but only manage make themselves look pretty good. Johnson is a bright beacon of fair in a storm of awful. Efron plays the thoroughly unlikeable Brody as well as can be expected considering the script. His redemption doesn’t feel authentic (like most of the rest of the movie) but he does the best he can.

The best part of the film is the opening 20 minutes as we get introduced to the characters. Most of the good writing apparently was done for this section. The dialog is fairly snappy and most of the jokes work. It doesn’t waste any time and delivers on what the trailer suggested might happen: The audience would laugh. Once the story (such as it is) gets into full gear it is pretty much downhill from there.

“Baywatch” is rated R for language throughout, crude sexual content, and graphic nudity. There are various dirty jokes in the film. Fairly typical stuff you’ve seen before. Aside from the aforementioned dead guy genital handling we see a man’s erection standing up in his swimsuit. We also see his erection and testicles also through his swimsuit. There is also a small amount of gore including a victim of a shark bite and an arm blown off in an explosion. Foul language is common throughout.

Original “Baywatch” cast members David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson make very brief cameos in the film. If you truly love the original show this might be a reason to see the film. For everyone else there’s no need as the movie “Baywatch” is a spliced together mess that is not worth your time or money. Save your cash for an actual beach trip where you’ll likely have more fun than seeing this movie.

“Baywatch” gets two stars out of five.

This week a couple of precocious kids create a superhero while a DC Comics legend finally gets her own film. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie—

Wonder Woman—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Snatched”

Emily Middleton (Amy Schumer) has hit a rough patch with being fired from her retail clothing job and being dumped by her musician boyfriend. The only thing she has to look forward to is a trip to Ecuador she was originally planning on taking with her boyfriend. Now, unable to find anyone to go with her, Emily asks her mom Linda (Goldie Hawn). At first reluctant to even consider asking her, Emily finds a scrapbook her mother has kept showing photos of Linda on adventures in Great Britain and ticket stubs from David Bowie and Rolling Stones concerts she attended in her youth. Now mostly homebound taking care of her cats and her adult son, the agoraphobic Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz), Linda is afraid of the outside world and Emily wants to rekindle the spirit of adventure that once burned within her mother. With great trepidation, Linda decides to go. Constantly wrapped head to toe to avoid the harsh sun, Linda is constantly prodding the bikini-clad Emily to be careful. Having a drink at the bar, Emily is approached by James (Tom Bateman) who takes her out for a wild night on the town including a pop-up party in the jungle. Drunk and deliriously happy, Emily makes plans with James for the next day and he suggests she bring Linda along. While driving through the remote countryside their car is struck by a van knocking Emily and Linda unconscious. Waking up in a makeshift prison cell, the ladies realize they have been kidnapped. Their captor Morgado (Oscar Jaenada) is a ruthless thug that makes his living abducting tourists then demanding a random from their family. Morgado calls Jeffrey and demands $100-thousand for Emily and Linda’s return. Jeffrey contacts the State Department and is told there isn’t anything they can do unless the ladies find their way to a U.S. Consulate. Linda and Emily manage to escape but kill one of Morgado’s men in the process. With no money, no cell phone and no Spanish language skills, the mother/daughter combo must put aside their differences and figure out a way to get home before Morgado takes his revenge for killing one of his men.

Amy Schumer is a powerhouse standup comic and is turning into a bankable movie star. While she is surely polarizing to many in the public, one cannot argue her fearlessness both on stage and on screen. “Trainwreck” made $140-million worldwide and showed she could turn out her fans for the opening of a movie. Never straying far from her in-your-face style of standup, Schumer has bulldozed her way into theatres once again in “Snatched” and while this may not be the box office juggernaut of her debut there is plenty of evidence to show Schumer is on the big screen to stay.

While the mother/daughter-bonding-while-kidnapped premise of “Snatched” is utterly silly, the winning combination of Schumer and Goldie Hawn and their playful yet biting banter overcomes a paper-thin story with the help of some scene-stealing supporting characters played by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack. The two main players never stumble into annoying territory as their responses to being kidnapped never explode into full blown histrionics.

Schumer seems to be settling into her role as a movie star. It doesn’t hurt that she is playing the same character as you would see in her standup routines: Fearless, clueless and crude. Staying in familiar territory will work well for perhaps one more movie; but after that, Schumer will either need to get with an acting coach to expand her range or expect ever decreasing returns from her next releases.

Goldie Hawn (on whom I admit I had a crush on when I was a child and she was dancing in a bikini and covered in body paint on Laugh-In) feels a bit wooden in her performance as Linda. While the character is frightened of what might be out there in the big, mean world, Hawn seems petrified at times when it isn’t appropriate and unfazed when it is. According to IMDB.com this is Hawn’s first film role in 15 years and I’m sorry to say it somewhat shows.

Despite my issues with Hawn my biggest problem is with Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey. Actually, it isn’t with Barinholtz performance but with the inclusion of the character. Jeffrey is the kind of character that is best used in the smallest amount possible. Sadly, he is all over “Snatched” even being used as a catalyst for the film’s conclusion. Jeffrey is about the most annoying thing I’ve seen on film in a long time and could have been left out of the film completely. I’m not sure exactly what the point of including him was. He’s used like comic relief but this is billed as a comedy. His overbearing presence is grating on the nerves and I just wanted him to disappear or perhaps out of nowhere be blown to smithereens by an explosion. No explanation, just BOOM and then he’s gone.

One surprise in the film is the presence of Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack as a pair of retired special ops agents called Ruth and Barb. These characters appear to have been plucked from another movie as they don’t seem to fit in the “Snatched” universe; however they are welcome when they arrive and tend to steal every scene they are in. Cusack’s Barb is mute for reasons explained in the film. Her silence is augmented by a brilliant physical performance that speaks louder than any dialog. She and Sykes are an interesting team that might make for an entertaining spinoff film. With the right script I think it would be terrific to see these two tearing up a gang of thugs while wearing their comfortable shoes.

“Snatched” is rated R for crude sexual content, brief nudity and language throughout. The crude sexual content is photos in a pornographic magazine that is briefly shown on camera. There is one brief scene where one of Amy Schumer’s breasts is exposed. Foul language is common throughout.

“Snatched” is a silly and crude adventure/comedy that manages to overcome its ridiculous premise and find some laughs. While it is inconsistent with its humor, unable to decide if it wants to be an adventure or a comedy, and has an annoying and largely unnecessary character, “Snatched” still manages to be amusing enough to be worth your time.

“Snatched” gets four stars out of five.

If you’d like to check out my review of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” you can find it here:
http://wimz.com/blogs/stan-movie-man/

This week, alien nasties, childhood catastrophes and teen romance angst all try to unseat “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” from the top of the box office charts. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Alien: Covenant—

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul—

Everything, Everything—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

Sorry this is late as I am on vacation.   There will also be no video for the time being.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and baby Grout (voiced by Vin Diesel) successfully prevent an inter-dimensional monster from stealing extremely powerful batteries from a race called the Sovereign.  In exchange, the Sovereign turn over Nebula (Karen Gillan) who was captured while trying to steal the batteries.  When it is discovered Rocket took some batteries the Sovereign launch remotely controlled fighters to destroy the Guardians’ ship.  On the verge of destruction, their ship is saved by an egg-shaped craft that appears to have a man riding on top of it destroying all the Sovereign’s fighters.  The Guardian’s ship crashes on a planet and the egg-shaped craft lands nearby.  The occupant calls himself Ego (Kurt Russell) and says he is Peter Quill’s father.  Ego is accompanied by Mantis (Pom Klementieff) who is an empath Ego found orphaned on a world in his travels.  Meanwhile the leader of the Sovereign meets with Yondu (Michael Rooker) and hires him to capture Quill and the others and deliver them to her for execution.  Quill, Gamora and Drax travel with Ego and Mantis back to his planet so he and his son can establish a relationship; but Yondu and the Ravagers capture Rocket and Groot.  Yondu’s crew mutinies when their captain appears to be trying to protect Peter while discussing what to do next and a Ravager named Taserface (Chris Sullivan) takes over after Nebula, who managed to convince Groot to let her go to help Rocket, shoots Yondu.  On Ego’s planet, Gamora has a bad feeling about the situation but Quill is entranced with his father’s abilities and his own latent talents that Ego is bringing out in him.  Is there something going on under the surface that Quill doesn’t want to see?  Will Yondu manage to extricate himself from the angry clutches of his former crew?  Will Rocket ever not be mean to his friends?  Will Groot ever get bigger?

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” managed to do something many other recent blockbusters have failed at:  Not giving away their entire story in the trailers.  We get a few tidbits and a look at a few new characters but otherwise seeing the movie isn’t ruined by watching the trailers.  I have to commend James Gunn and Marvel for managing to keep their trailers entertaining without showing all their cards.  Having now seen “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” I can confidently state there are many surprises as well as a few scenes that might cause a tear to roll down your cheek.  This installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has more heart, more emotion and some of the most powerful reveals of any film for any hero in the series.

There is a great deal going on in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.”  There are several surprises, cameos, mentions and possible future films suggested along the way.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I will speak in only the vaguest of terms but to fully enjoy all the Easter eggs make sure you stay to the end of the credits.  True Marvel Comics fans will be dissecting every frame of the film for all the clues they can.

While I do really enjoy the movie and think it may be one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in some time, there are some issues I had with the pacing and story.  First, the movie, while it rarely slows down, does feel a bit too long.  With a running time of 136 minutes, the movie is overstuffed with battle scenes that drag at times.  Watching Peter and Rocket argue over who’s the better pilot while they are being chased by what seems to be thousands of fighters and performing wild maneuvers is cute for about 10 seconds.  After that the movie begins to enter the territory of beating a dead horse.  The climactic fight scene also feels repetitive with mini-conclusions.

While the movie is a bit too long, the story feels hurried.  Gunn and his team appear to be more concerned with giving all the big effects sequences plenty of room to breathe while rushing the story to get out of the way.  A few emotional beats are short changed and hence feel unearned.  The section involving Peter and his dad’s growing relationship is severely under developed.  Of course, no one goes to see a movie like “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” looking for a deep and emotional story; however one is there that could have really packed a punch.

Despite the movie’s shortcomings it is a very good time at the theatre.  Both Drax and Groot steal the movie out from under everyone with whom they share the screen.  Both characters get the biggest laughs and both manage to provide some emotional moments as well.

Visually, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a technicolor wonder to behold.  A vivid color palate with an apparent prohibition against muted shades and greys rocks the eyeballs along with some wondrous digital creatures.  The big monster that kicks things off may cause a few nightmares while the amazing aliens created by makeup and digital manipulation rival anything seen before.  It is mind boggling how such a production, using hundreds if not thousands of technicians in various locations and in numerous fields, could come together in such a visually cohesive way.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content.  Energy weapons are fired frequently and a great deal of stuff blows up violently.  Yondu’s whistle-controlled flying arrow is used to kill several people.  We see it passing all the way through victim’s bodies.  One character is shown severely burned.  Many characters are shown being thrown around violently and slamming into trees and the ground without any apparent injury while may encourage children to try to mimic the action.  Yondu is shown after an encounter with what appears to be a robot prostitute.  Foul language is scattered and mild.

There are several references to TV shows and actors that were very popular in the 1980’s.  “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” has a very 80’s vibe to it.  From its vibrant colors to the “will they or won’t they” nature of Peter and Gamora’s relationship, many things in the movie have a nostalgic feel.  I think that works for “Guardians” since Peter is kind of stuck in his adolescence from when Yondu abducted him.  That 1980’s feel is what sets these films apart from the rest of the MCU…that and the setting in outer space.  The dayglo colors and the “anything can happen” attitude allow this part of the franchise to take more chances and that’s something comic book movies in general can learn from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” just as long as everyone understands the story must be given as much consideration as the special effects.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” gets four stars out of five.

This week I’ll be reviewing “King Arthur:  Legend of the Sword” for WIMZ.com and “Snatched” for stanthemovieman.com.

King Arthur:  Legend of the Sword–

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SX9y5JPuRHY

Snatched–

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sY6NpLrbtbM

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.