Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Thor (2011)

Thor (2011)

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 1 hr. 55 mins. 

Studio: Marvel Studios’   Screenwriter: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Jamie Alexander, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Clark Gregg, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jeremy Renner

Thor is the sixth MCU film in thematic viewing order. The concept of Thor and company is based on an actual myth and once followed belief system. For the most part, Disney hasn’t mutilated Thor to suit its own needs yet. Given that it’s the first, this cleverly created script works to introduce that the myth is, well, real. 

Its fantasy come to life, aided by fantastic-looking costumes and sets working in tandem with the magic of CGI. The grandeur and scale of Asgard are beautiful. I wish it was explored more. 

‘Thor’ Official Trailer via Marvel Studios, YouTube

The stunt work is incredible. Whether Thor (Hemsworth) is beating up SHIELD agents, or Sif (Alexander) is taking on a magically powered sentry. To group fights with giant ice beings, nothing is questionable and disrupts the viewing experience. 

Thor is not perfect; none of the Norse mythological characters are. Okay, Disney/Marvel did change that in this first film, but that’s not a bad thing. For those who think Odin (Hopkins) can only act as Odin and Thor, a selfish, mindless meat sack should go brush up on Norse mythology. This adaptation is diet-Norse, a lower rating of their usual temperaments. Doing this fits in better with Marvel’s overall plans and makes for more compelling characters long run. 

After disobeying his king’s/fathers commands to not do something that would cause war, Thor is cast out from his home on Asgard. He is hurtled to Earth as punishment until he can grow up. Why is it that being sent to Earth by aliens is a punishment?


The message from father to son of ‘there are consequences for actions—even for ‘gods,’ is essential to represent. One, because power should not be left unchecked. Second, superhero’s seemingly walk about doing what they please, often forgetting or believing they are above ramifications. The point helps shape Thor into who he’ll become, even if it’s not what Odin had in mind. 

Even though Thor has his own standalone film to better serve Marvel’s goals of an ensemble team-up, it works. His characters’ world has depth and history, and his own movie was absolutely required. 

The overall pace of the film and scene beats flow with no sagging or hiccups. The cast is a massive part of that. Everyone is phenomenal and perfectly cast. Yes, some don’t get their full due in this film, but it’s a large cast. Certain characters will be fleshed out more later (Renner), and others are just there as supporting members (Dallas, Asano, Stevenson). 

Ray Stevenson, Jamie Alexander, Josh Dallas, Tadanobu Asano in ‘Thor’ Image: Marvel Studios via

Chris Hemsworth makes a visually appealing Thor, but more than that, he delivers his character with the right balance of emotion, force, and charm. He’s not too brutish, cheesy, or mildly simplistic like some animated versions of the character. 

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the opposite of Thor. He’s smaller in stature, lean, and lacks any physical prowess. Loki makes up for that with wit, smarts, charm, and a silver tongue. Unlike Thor, Loki was taught magic by his mother, Frigga (Russo), and uses it often. Tom was an unlikely choice for the god of mischief but made the role his own and embraced it. 

Sir Anthony Hopkins has done many roles in his distinguished career, but his casting as Odin is perfection. It’s not a large role, but once you see him as the all-father, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else. The same is true of Idris Elba as Heimdall, the gatekeeper of Asgard. His natural tenor and presence would make most think twice before wanting to deal with him, but in Thor, his golden armored costume only amplifies that. Honestly, it takes an exceptional person to pull off that much gold and fight in it, all while wielding a gigantic sword. 

Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Natalie Portman in ‘Thor’ Credit: Marvel Studios via

The comradely and established bonds of the characters shine through in such a robust and believable manner with little to no character development. That’s difficult to create and perform, and Thor executes it well. 

Thor is the general publics’ first inclination that they are not alone in the universe. Decades after Captain Marvel came to Earth, briefly and went unnoticed by the public, this is Marvel’s foot in the door to execute its master plans. 

Is Thor a compelling story as other superhero troupes? No. And yet, it’s absolutely worth watching. A good, fun story with a solid cast. For those that don’t like this kind of film, fine. For everyone else, this is worth a place on your watchlist. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Directed by: Kevin Reynolds   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 35 mins

Studio: Warner Bros.   Screenwriter: Pen Densham, John Watson

Cast: Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman, Alan Rickman, Christian Slater, Mary Elizabeth 

Mastrantonio, Nick Brimble, Michael McShane

Does every generation deserve a version of Robin Hood? Considering how many have turned out, no. So what’s the allure? Robin Hood is from an English folk story. It’s been retold or made more than the legend of King Arthur or Beowulf. This allure is probably rooted in the fact that Robin Hood sticks up for the little guy, the downtrodden, against an oppressive ruling body. That theme exists in every society today. 

For those unfamiliar with the character, he’s against the local sheriff of Nottingham overtaxing, imprisoning, and killing the people and destroying their homes. Robin steals back the money and returns it to the people. He tries to also protect the kingdom until King Richard can return home. Why? He feels honor-bound to do so, not because someone tasked him with the job. Some people don’t like bullies… I can appreciate that. 

‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Official Trailer via Movieclips Classic Trailers via YouTube

While Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves Robin of Locksley (Costner) does end up leading a group of outlaws, he’s little like the original material. Costner’s Robin is not light-hearted, and that departure is at the expense of having him been a crusader. Battling for years can change anyone, but it removes a critical component of the legends persona in this version. To say nothing of Costner’s “English” accent or the rest of the cast. 

The film begins with a dark, violent dungeon scene where body parts are chopped off. Historically this is what happened in certain places of the world as punishment. So it has little to do with an American director being overly violent. 

This introduction sequence is where Robin meets Azeem (Freeman). His character is not from the original tale but is a welcome addition that is utilized well. Morgan Freeman’s natural presence and tenor made him a perfect casting choice for this character. Azeem also balances out Costner’s lackluster performance to Alan Rickman’s sheriff’s outlandish demeanor and quips. No one on this project cared much for historical tone or accuracy to help drive the story. 

Kevin Costner in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Image: Warner Bros. via The Guardian

While historically, loves was not a factor in match-making, the tale of Robin Hood is centered around his deep love for the Maid Marion (Mastrantonio). In this film, love has nothing to do with it. Costner and Mastrantonio come across more like squabbling siblings who were ordered to get in the mood. There is no buildup of chemistry; they just sort of jump to that at some point to move the film along. This makes the immensely popular Brian Adams song “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” seem wrong. As for the rest of the music in this film, it’s strong and has a memorable intro score. 

Robin’s band of merry men are mainly nameless, except for a guy named Bull, who references his penis size. Little John (Brimble), whose role is diminished due to Azeem’s addition, Will Scarlet (Slater), and a drunk Friar Tuck (McShane). 

Christian Slater, Morgan Freeman, Nick Brimble in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Imgae Credit: Warner Bros.

Thinking back thirty years from when I first saw this as a nine-year-old kid, specific memories come to mind. The witch of Nottingham was a creepy-crone (that’s still true), wanting to rewatch this movie just to see Will Scarlet and my moms’ comment about Kevin Costner’s “nice butt.” We all have bizarre things that stick in our minds…

In terms of viewability, there are far worse Robin Hood tales to watch. As a child of the 80s, my first introduction to the character was via Disney’s 1973 animated film, Robin Hood. A fun retelling of Robin and company in animal form. The next was the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood, starring Errol Flynn. It’s the version everything else has failed to emulate for over eight decades. 

This was the early 90s, so the best action sequences still came from explosions and stunt work. The utilization of nature and the trees of the forest help to move the story forward is creative, compelling, and believable. The bow shooting, swordplay, and other action scenes are a nice change of pace from what’s usually showing in theaters. Or streaming nowadays. 

Alan Rickman and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ Credit: Warner Bros. via

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves misses the mark of Robin Hood, the legend. While Alan Rickman was a phenomenal actor, someone should have given him some scope of his character; rather than free rein. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio had nothing to truly work with, except to avoid being raped…while a creepy witch watches. That entire scene is weird, uncomfortable, and anti-climatic. Kevin Costner was too stoic for the role. 

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is watchable. It’s not bad enough to avoid it altogether. A touch of nostalgia made me again. But, any film I can go longer than a few years, or decades, without watching shouldn’t be on anyone’s watchlist. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Captain Marvel (2019)

Captain Marvel (2019)

Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 2 hrs. 5 mins.

Screenwriter: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet Studio: Marvel Studios  

Created by: Roy Thomas & Gene Colan Cast:  Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Ben

Mendelsohn, Lashana Lynch, Greg Clark, Djimon Hounsou, Annette Bening

Captain Marvel is a vibrant, well-told story with details, great CGI, and character development. It moves along at an enjoyable pace too.

It’s difficult to find movies sometimes that represent strong, fun, well-acted female characters in stories that haven’t been done before. So when Captain Marvel came out, nearly ten years after the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the first thing many said was, ‘about time.’ 

Marvel Studio’s Official Trailer for ‘Captain Marvel’ via YouTube

That’s not to ignore the many female characters who fit the above description within the MCU already, but Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel is the first to have a standalone film. 

Captain Marvel is technically the twenty-second MCU film. It’s sandwiched between Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). Its placement is only essential because of the scenes in the credits, which logically explains Captain Marvel’s place in Endgame, the film after this one in release date order. Chronologically, Captain Marvel takes place in the mid-90s, so it’s natural to place it after Captain America: The First Avenger

Vers/Carol/Captain Marvel is played by Bri Larson, who took a ton of flack for being cast. Some didn’t like how she looked for the role. Others objected to her cocky or unemotional depiction of the character. First, up to a certain point, women were not allowed to always fly, so when they could, being quiet and meek just wouldn’t do. Second, if male test pilots can be smug adrenaline junkies, why not women? To argue one can be but not the other is sexist. Third, Carol forgot everything about her life literally at one point. You can be told about your life, but there is little emotional resonance to be found if you don’t remember. Taking all the information provided about such a layered character and then crafting an authentic-like person from that is no small order. 

Lashana Lynch and Bri Larson in Marvel Studios ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via the LA Times

Vers/Carol/Captain Marvel’s journey of discovery is the main thread of this film. Other threads are not loose ends but tie-ins to the MCU as a whole. Some of those threads make more sense in chronological order viewing than the Captain Marvel story being introduced so late into the MCU. Those threads can seem like an afterthought as initially distributed. Still, discovery and agency are the leading personal themes of the movie, on top of how this story adds to the MCU. 

Speaking of adding to the MCU, think about Djimon Hounsou, Greg Clark, and Samuel L. Jackson. Hounsou first appeared in the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 (2014) as Korath the Pursuer. An older version of the same character seen in Captain Marvel. Despite some visual issues with his facial hair and eye color between the two films, I can’t tell if de-aging technology was used on him. He ages so well; I just don’t know. It was used on Greg Clark and Samuel L. Jackson. That’s not to say any of them look bad with its use, just an observation on the technology itself. It removes the need, in certain projects, to cast a younger version of an established character. It’s ingenious! 

The MCU is known for taking licenses with established characters, minor and significant, so they fit an enormously pre-planned cinematic adventure. They did this with Lashana Lynch’s character, Maria Rambeau. And Mar-Vell, played by Annette Bening. One is a clever reimagining connected to Carol’s origin story, and the other is a letdown. I won’t elaborate because that rabbit hole leads to spoiler territory. Still, both actresses brought convincing energy to their respective characters.

Still image of Kree Starforce from Marvel Studios ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via Screen Rant

Everyone performs their roles well, and many of the characters seen again in future MCU roles are fleshed out here. It’s like a window into their origins without the need for their own story. If a viewer is familiar with Agent Coulson (Clark) or Agent Fury (Jackson), it’s a nice insight. If not, they can learn and appreciate the development of certain characters from a fresher perspective than others. 

In terms of tonality, Captain Marvel is a stark departure from that of Captain America: The First Avenger, but that’s to be expected. The individual stories of Steve Rogers, Carol Danvers, Thor, Tony Stark, and every other Avenger shouldn’t be the same. They are all vastly different people or aliens. That fact means audiences will not like certain characters over others, just as all people don’t like everyone they encounter. So it’s okay to not like a character, or specifically their standalone film(s). However, the character should be given a chance of redeemed likeability when working with others in the MCU. To be fair, that point is only valid if you plan on watching all the Marvel movies to date. 

Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn in Marvel Studio’s ‘Captain Marvel’ Image Credit: Marvel Studios via

I enjoyed Captain Marvel and Bri Larson’s portrayal of her. With Disney/Marvel now owning the rights again to the X-Men franchise, my sincerest wish is that they do better by those characters. Specifically that of Rouge, because her story is tied in with Carol Danvers in such vital ways. In the comics, that is when Carol was Ms. Marvel (later becoming Captain Marvel). Still, the MCU can be decently creative when they want. So time will tell. 

Whether you want to watch the whole MCU or not, Captain Marvel is a fun, energetic superhero adventure story worth a place on your watchlist. 

—a pen lady 

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Directed by: Joe Johnston   Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 6 mins Studio: Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios   Adapted: ‘Captain America’ comic by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby   Screenwriter: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Cast:  Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Dominic Cooper, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones

Over ten years after the start of the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU), some people may wonder what’s the best order to watch the impressive list of titles so far. There are twenty-three films and counting. While the first two Iron Man movies and The Incredible Hulk are technically the first three, it’s Captain America that should be seen first. 

Why Captain America? Simple, chronological order makes the most sense after all this time. All the stories in the MCU are linked somehow, even if in the most minor ways at first. 

Marvel Studios Official Trailer for ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ via YouTube

Chris Evans, who plays the title character of Steve Rogers/Captain America, is an excellent casting choice. He is to ‘Captain America’ what Christopher Reeves was for Superman, or Adam West was for Batman. An outstanding live-action representation of a cultural icon. Chris has a presence on screen. How he sounds and carries the character to how effortlessly he comes across with the other cast members, to his performances in action sequences. He takes the material, and it just fits him. 

While his role was small, Stanley Tucci, as Dr. Erskine, is warm and kind. He grants the audience an explanation of why an event in the film is the way it is, no comic background required. That’s a nice thing about the MCU, in a way, because some stuff they just tweaked to suit movies, you don’t need to be a comic nerd. A person can watch and just enjoy. 

The Red Skull (Weaving) is an iconic foe of Captain America in the comics, and Cap’s origin story can’t be done right without him. The MCU’s choice to use the Red Skull’s character in just this film is sad. After seeing Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, it’s hard to think of anyone else better suited for the role. Weaving did such a great job. His performance and energy are absolutely believable as the iconic megalomaniac.

Hugo Weaving and Samuel L. Jackson in Marvel Studios ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ Image via

Cap’s origins can’t be told without also introducing Peggy Carter (Atwell) and Bucky (Stan). At this point, hindsight is an attribute to reviewing the MCU. In hindsight, it’s challenging to think of the other people who were considered for their roles. Atwell was a fantastic choice to embody such a significant, non-superhero role that extends beyond her place near Steve Rogers. There’s even a standalone TV show about Agent Carter staring Atwell that’s worth watching.

Bucky. Sebastian Stan’s depiction of Bucky, Steve’s best friend, is casting perfection. Again. His style, tone, mannerisms all tell the audience about him without saying much. The emotional bond, the resonance between Steve and Bucky aren’t forced or stale. They are authentic, as are the ones between Steve and Peggy and the Howling Commandos and Steve. If you don’t know who they are… just enjoy them. There is admiration, love, trust, and respect between many of the characters in this film. It’s crafted and depicted exceedingly well because the story is so well written. 

The entire story of Cap’s origins in the MCU is engaging and energetic. It has excellent casting and performances, tone, style, and set/scene/costume design. How they represented the 1940s, or WW2, isn’t dreary and drab, it easily could have been. Instead, it’s regular coloring which represents the styles of the period but without being sullen. Oh, and there’s action! 

Chris Evans & Sebastian Stan in Marvel Studios ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ Image via The Art of VFX

Captain America: The First Avenger checks all the boxes for crafting and depicting a perfect story. Out of the existing twenty-three MCU films, this one is in my top five. 

Whether you are looking for a one-night movie pick, or want to dive into the MCU for the first time, Captain America: The First Avenger should be on your watchlist. Then again, I’m biased. I’ve always been “Team Cap,” but to each their own.

** Special note. There are credit scenes in Marvel movies. This film has two. While watching in chronological order, some of these will be out of place.  Here, the end scene references the film that followed this (going by release date), which is The Avengers movie. FYI. **

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy (1999)

Directed by: Stephen Sommers  Rated: PG-13   Runtime: 2 hrs. 4 mins.

Studio: Universal Pictures   Screenwriter: Stephen Sommers

Cast:  Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, John Hannah, Patricia Velásquez

Movies often hold up a pair of their characters, in the most trying of circumstances, and get them to the point of asking, ‘Is our love worth dying for?’ Well, that setup applies to stories in general, but let’s stick with cinema here. In Stephen Sommers The Mummy, that is the introductory sequence. The actions of High Priest Imhotep(Vosloo) and his love, Anck Su Namun (Velásquez), set a solid foundation for the plot. Less than five minutes in, and you’re hooked.

Universal Pictures trailer for ‘The Mummy’ via YouTube channel The Trailer Guy

The Mummy has a strong plot and story about, well, a mummy who won’t stay dead and aims to bring his lost loves soul back from the underworld. To that end, there is action, mystery, light comedic touches, and suspense. It’s not a horror film, though kids 10-12 may find certain scenes momentarily graphic (it’s a movie about a mummy and not the bandaged groaning kind).

American Rick O’Connell (Fraser) is a French Legionnaire who is wrangled into taking Evelyn Carnahan (Weisz) and her brother Johnathan (Hannah) to a lost Egyptian city. A city guarded by the Medjai, decedents of the pharaoh’s guards, led by Ardeth Bay (Fehr). The trio has a map to this fabled city, and they’re not the only ones searching for it. Evelyn wants to prove herself to her fellow scholars; everyone else is in it for treasure. 

This is the project that introduced me to Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, and Rachel Weisz. Despite his small role in this film, Fehr displayed a believable presence and talent as Ardeth. 

Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep/Mummy in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Screenrant

Vosloo’s portrayal as Imhotep/The Mummy is fantastic! He has very few lines and none in English (there are subtitles), so his role is mostly hitting his mark. That is, being where he needs to be at the right time. Special effects took a giant leap forward in 1999 after this film came out. So props to Vosloo for pretending to be all that’s required of an actor that will later become a gooey mummy who unhinges his jaw in post-production. 

The Mummy is the only film that I like with Brendan Fraser in it. His character isn’t a tomb raider or archeologist and yet comes off like a watered-down Indian Jones. Done poorly, it could have ruined the movie, yet it works. The same can be said for Weisz’s character, Evelyn. 

Erick Avari, Oded Fehr, Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Netflix

Evelyn is a bookworm. A librarian in a museum. She scurries off on an adventure with no experience and no team. Rachel Weisz is a wonderfully talented actress, and she takes this character and makes her likable. Weisz explains things to the novice characters, as an actual museum worker might. Therefore Evelyn’s lines in many places come off as natural instead of condescending. Weisz depicts her in a way that doesn’t have me groaning at the glaring, unbelievably of the whole situation. 

As moviegoers, we expect movies to be logical enough that we can see it happening or working out. Perhaps, even so, we could picture ourselves as specific characters. The Mummy doesn’t have all the logical bits to fill in the gaps, but it’s okay. It’s a lasting example of what movies were designed to do, entertain and distract.

Kevin O’Connor in Universal Pictures ‘The Mummy’ via Looper

In the decades since its release, this movie still holds up as a good story with watchability. I viewed this film digitally on a 4K TV with HDR. WOW! Some scenes don’t upconvert as nicely as others, but I was really pleased with the viewing quality. I expected the whole thing to be grainy (noisy) and the fact that it’s not made rewatching this so much better than pre-Blu Ray. 

The Mummy is a great film to see and worth a place on your watchlist. Don’t forget the popcorn! 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) Pt.1

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Directed by: Zack Snyder  Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures  Runtime: 4hrs. 2 mins.   

Screenplay by: Chris Terrio   Story by: Zack Snyder & Chris Terrio and Will Beall

Cast: Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher,  

          Amber Heard, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons  Rated: R  

**This movie is LONG! Unpacking it is a chore, so I am breaking my review/commentary on it into two parts. Look for the second half on Monday. Thanks everyone!**

Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League movie was born from the efforts of a devoted fanbase. That is why this movie exists, pure and simple. They are all proud of this, and I might applaud their efforts if most of them weren’t so toxic. That is a conversational beast that doesn’t belong here. My review isn’t for them. They need no convincing to see this film one way or the other. 

Once a bell is rung, it cannot be un-rung. In the same way, I cannot un-see a movie already watched. The memory is there, that crucial first impression ingrained. My goal is to review just ‘the Snyder Cut’ without comparing it too much to the 2017 Justice League.  

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Official Trailer via ING, YouTube.

That said, the first scene in Zack Snyder’s Justice League shows the audience the end of the fight scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Except that it’s not. This scene is clearly meant to imply this sequence happened, but it didn’t. Basically, Snyder added it to this film in a show of ego of how he could improve something he didn’t have the foresight to do the first time around. This intro sequence certainly would have improved upon Lex Luthor’s (Jessie Eisenberg) lines said at the end of Dawn of Justice. Cementing the seriousness of what was to come in ‘Justice League.’ That aggravating clarification aside, Snyder does get points for including information in this introduction in a concise, straightforward way that explains how Lex knew certain things in the first place.

Kal-El’s (Cavill) cries are like a supersonic whistle that only three guarded boxes can hear. Pushing aside the 2017 Justice League movie, assuming you, the reader, haven’t seen that film, this introduction works:

  1. It connects this film better to the previous one.
  2. It sets the tone.
  3. It sets up the plot.

All in the first five minutes without one spoken line. Not bad. 

Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via

This film’s premise is that Bruce Wayne/Batman (Affleck) has been warned of a force coming to destroy the Earth in the wake of Superman’s death. With a fresh resolve to make up for his previous notions of Superman before his death, Bruce seeks out metahumans, with Diana/Wonder Woman’s (Gadot) help to protect Earth. Snyder presents this task and journey in the film into seven parts.

Sectioning off the film into parts doesn’t come across as chapters in a narrative as smoothly as they could have been. If anything, they serve to avoid jagged scene transitions. Personally, I find that lazy. Let’s review the film by these parts, not because I’m lazy but because it will act as headers and make it easier to read. 


In the 2017 film, I didn’t know who to blame for giving Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Momoa) ice-blue eyes, Whedon or Snyder. They both knew a stand-alone Aquaman film was in the works, so why not consult about the character? In the 2017 film, his eyes were better looking than in ‘the Snyder cut’ because there is more color and brightness. Snyder has this depressing, overcast, muted tone thing going on in this movie. It loses the effectiveness of the choice to have his eyes this color the first place. Since then, the Aquaman movie came out and Zack Snyder’s choice to not change Arthur’s eye color to match is ridiculous. When establishing a movie franchise universe with different directors and visions, SOME consulting should be a given! A professional courtesy. 

Jason Momoa as Aquaman. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via

You’re probably thinking I’m just ranting and not reviewing, but I am. This lack of acknowledgment is repeated frequently in this film. When a director and studio allow this to happen, it can damage what is trying to be built. It also can confuse the audience. I’m giving my thoughts without giving anything away. Or trying to, at least. 

The introduction and general use of Lois Lane (Adams) are better here. It connects her relationship to Clark, and the loss, in a way that is relatable for anyone who’s lost someone important. She’s not just a last resort plot mechanism.

There is a sequence in a bank where Wonder Woman busts out some unbelievable moves. Diana has impressive reflexes, true, but she’s not faster than the Flash. She’s not faster than (modern-day) speeding bullets either. It’s an example of speeding up a character beyond their established capabilities. It also made me question if children in Europe actually go on field trips to banks? We don’t in America, so it seems like a comic cliche add-on. 

Steppenwolf in 2017 ‘Justice League’ on LEFT & ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ on RIGHT. Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via ScreenCrush

A favorite DC setting is brought back, the island of Themyscira. Here we get a look at another aspect of Amazonian responsibility. This is where Steppenwolf, the antagonist of the movie, is introduced. Previously, in the 2017 version, he looked more organic. In Zack Snyder’s Justice League, he resembles the shiniest, chrome-plated Decepticon ever seen. An expansion of what happens on the island in this version shows what goes down is more than just a short keep-away game. In that, and this is in the trailer, so it’s not a spoiler, think what it would take to destroy part of an island created by a god. 


Steppenwolf’s goals and place in the universe are made more evident in this film. The audience gets a sense of it when DeSaad materializes to converse with Steppenwolf about his progress towards redeeming himself to Darkseid. The being Steppenwolf answers to. However, Snyder struggles to effectively elude to his ultimate plot within a plot.

Snyder does give a more intimate, personal introduction to Victor Stone/Cyborg’s (Fisher) storyline than he previously received. Ray Fisher does a wonderful job of portraying Cyborg, which I discuss in my review of the 2017 film.

Ray Fisher as Cyborg in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via The Hollywood Reporter

The scenario where a woman jumps, climbs, or runs in high heels is a personal gripe I have every time it happens on TV or cinema. It’s a great example of men writing women characters poorly. Diana, who’s always in heels, jumps in hers and lands with them intact. Doesn’t break her shoes or ankles. She really is a Wonder Woman.

There are two moments where I question the musical choice for scenes. Like, what kind of mood are you trying to create from the one I was just in. The tone change doesn’t transition well. One is with Aquaman, the other is later with the Flash. Music is a fantastic tool in cinema, and this film’s musical scores did nothing for me. Both ‘Everybody Knows’ by Sigrid and ‘Come Together’ by Gary Clark Jr. & Junkie XL from the 2017 film are removed in the Snyder Cut. The removal of ‘Come Together’ is understandable; its tempo is too energetic for Snyder. Sigrid’s song is great, but there is no place for it in this movie, even one four hours long.

After almost an hour, Vulko (William Dafoe) finally refers to the three boxes as ‘Mother Boxes.’ I still don’t like how the boxes were adapted from how they are utilized in the comics. This scene could have benefited from Aquaman director James Wan and Snyder swapping notes since it messes with what ends up being part of Arthurs origin story. 

Darkseid in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via

In part two, Diana explains to Bruce who/what Darkseid is. She recounts the story of when he came to Earth before, and the wording is ambiguous. It’s frustrating because the script is so vague here. The writers hope the audience isn’t paying too close attention to details because they are not concise in their storytelling. They simply lack the imagination to connect this part of the storyline to a future plot point. I could sum it up, but that would involve spoilers. It creates questions for me about Aquaman and Wonder Woman’s original stories. Snyder blows some of that away without a care to the directors who gave fans notable films and storytelling. It’s so professionally fucking rude! 

Who needs continuity in a franchise or any story? Right?


The Flash’s intro. In the 2017 version, Barry Allen/The Flash (Miller) was the best part of the movie for me. He was a mix of vulnerable, funny, and honest, appreciating and in awe for what he was joining. His reactions were tremendously different from everyone else. He’s what a young Flash should be, too bright for his own good, quick with quips and occasionally putting his foot in his mouth, but in an enduring way. Zack Snyder got rid of that. Pity. In his version, Barry/Flash starts off as an excuse-ridden idiot with attention issues. 

His intro sequence involves the introduction to Kiersey Clemons as Iris West. She’ll be in the stand-alone Flash movie for relevance. That said, she’s only in one scene, and frankly, it could have been shortened or cut altogether. The entire sequence does nothing for Barry’s character overall. There is an Easter egg here. This is the other scene when the musical choice makes me feel like I’ve been transported momentarily into a different film.

Ezra Miller as The Flash in ‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Image: Warner Bros. Pictures via Screen Rant

Victor Stone’s story is fleshed out more and elaborates better on how he became Cyborg. Every time his character’s backstory comes up, the audience sees a well-rounded character in development that you want to follow along with. 

Barry meets Bruce, and that’s the same. There wasn’t anything wrong with that whole setup. What is tweaked is how Diana and Victor meet for the first time, but she is still patient and empathetic towards him, and that matters. 

Steppenwolf goes to Atlantis, and I think Mera (Heard) is fleshed out a bit more, but not much. As is King Orm, who is only mentioned but gives the audience an idea of who he is before the Aquaman movie. I do wish Mera’s magic was utilized more; it’s an underused attribute of her character. A significant example in this section of the movie contradicts Mera’s character in this film against the Aquaman stand-alone. It’s like Zack Snyder has never bothered to see James Wan’s Aquaman! If you see this movie, can you pick up on it? 

**Come back for the second half of this review!**

–a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014)

Directed by: Jon Favreau  Rated: R Runtime: 1 hr. 54 min Screenwriter: Jon Favreau 

Studio: Aldamisa Entertainment, Fairview Entertainment

Cast:  Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Emjay Anthony, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Robert Downey Jr. 

Warning, if you love food, this movie might cause you to drool like my Great Pyrenees begging for food. 

Many adults are merely content with their jobs or careers. In Chef, however, Carl Casper (Favreau) loves what he does. To cook. To create. In real life, it’s inspiring to see such a person who enjoys what they do. Favreau creates and depicts such a person, character with chef Carl Casper. 

‘Chef’ Officail Trailer via YouTube–Movieclips Trailers

Carl is head chef at a popular LA restaurant owned and operated by Riva (Hoffman). When a review one night by famous food critic Ramsey Michel (Platt) ruffles feathers, a Twitter war ensues. Shit happens, and Carl is left looking for a place that will appreciate his creative, delicious endeavors. 

Outside the single-minded vortex of food and cooking is Carls family. His ex-wife Inez (Vergara) and their son Percy (Anthony). While there isn’t a backstory per se of their marriage, the audience understands Carl’s priorities and how parental responsibility isn’t high on his list. He isn’t so self-centered that he won’t spend time with Percy or go on a trip last minute with him and his ex-wife, essentially to be a babysitter for a weekend for his own kid. I’ve never met ex’s that get along so well, so in terms of believably take what you will from this part of the script/character development. 

Going along with the believability…is when Carl meets Marvin (RDJ). Awkward…and Marvin gives Carl a food truck because Inez talked them into it. You know what, it’s okay. It’s a fun movie, really, so go with it. 

Jon Favreau, Emjay Anthony, Sofia Vergara in ‘Chef’ from Aldamisa Entertainment via Entertainment Weekly

The actual girth of the film is Carl’s journey of discovery and self-reflection. The best ingredients for this plot and character arcs involve Percy and Carl’s former line-cook, Martin (Leguizamo). There is such great chemistry between them; you see the love, inspiration, respect, and bonds.

Anthony’s Percy comes off just right. Not too bright for his character’s age and not so whiny or dejected that you wish he wasn’t there. It’s hard to get kid roles right. Leguizamo is a welcome addition to everything I’ve ever seen him in. He adds humor, authenticity, and energy to contrast Carl’s more serious side. 

A film needs good pacing, just like a kitchen and this movie has it. While it is about Carl’s journey, it’s also about the food. Unlike a regular person Instagramming every meal they make at home, the food in a film based on a chef should be a focal point. The creations chef Carl makes are well presented and colorful. If you choose to see this movie, don’t do it on an empty stomach. That would be worse than going grocery shopping while hungry. 

Jon Favreau and John Leguizamo in ‘Chef’ by Aldamisa Entertainment Image via IMDb

This movie is stacked with a wonderfully talented cast selection; they all do justice to their respective roles. An easy film to have missed when it came out; Chef is an under-appreciated, relatable story with a comedic backbone. 

Chef is undoubtedly worthy of your time and a place on your watchlist, provided you view it on a full stomach. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts  Rated: PG-13  Runtime: 1 hr. 58 min. 

Studio: Warner Bros. & Legendary Entertainment  

Screenwriter: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman

Kong: Skull Island is a reinvention of how the story of King Kong has been told before. Set at the end of the Vietnam war, a group of soldiers is tasked to babysit a collection of William Randa’s scientists (Goodman). They work for a secret government organization named Monarch. The rationale for this expedition is up there with the idea that the world is flat. Fact, the world is round, but to give you a sense of how nutty these scientists are to the government. Nevertheless, they go, not sure of what they’ll find. 

At specific points, I thought, “adventure is out there!” as the line from the movie UP proclaims. Or “Welcome to Jumanji” if the cast got sucked into the board game with Alan Parish from the 1995 film Jumanji. Other points had me thinking of “Welcome to Jurassic Park” because my mind is a bizarre place to be at times. Then again, so is Skull Island. 

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Official Trailer from Warner Bros. via YouTube

As bizarre as things on Skull Island are, it is also visually beautiful in terms of the things that live there. The sound editing was spot on for all the screaming, crushing, smashing, and gorilla noises that bellow from Kong’s behemoth lungs. Kong himself is well designed and looks, sounds, and moves without speculating that he’s CGI. 

The film’s pace moves well between the dialogue of the cast and interaction with the island or the other things they encounter that call the island their home. Kong himself is never far away and shows up early in the film and sticks around till the end. The film is named after him! Still, the story goes beyond a rock em’ sock em’ game of who can bash who first. There is meaning to the story, and that thread gives pace to the action. There is a lot of action. 

Maybe it’s because America has begun to leave Vietnam finally; that took a toll on Lt. Col. Packard (Jackson). Perhaps it’s because he’s naturally an asshole. Maybe he just cracked—you decide. Either way, Packards’ encounter with Kong gives the story a side agenda that reeks of American mentality of power, loyalty, and dominance. 

Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson in Warner Bros. film ‘Kong: Skull Island’ Image Credit: Chuck Zlotnick via Miami Herald

Other characters are WWII fighter pilot Hank Marlow (Reilly), who is the opposite of Packard. Mason Weaver (Larson), an anti-war photographer, and James Conrad (Hiddleston), a former British Special Air Service Captain. He’s the guide, on an island never been discovered before. While there is interaction with them and a sense of who they are, it’s not really important. Character development isn’t the focus in a movie designed to focus on the literal big guy, so it’s forgivable. There are many secondary characters, but remember I said this film reminded me of Jurassic Park, so that’s not worth focusing on. For such a large cast, everyone performs well given the locations and working against various things not in front of them to respond to. I give props to realistic emotions for that any day. 

Monster movies like Kong, any of them, or Godzilla have never been my idea of good movie watching. I will sometimes, but they don’t do it for me usually. With Kong: Skull Island, however, I was interested in the retelling of the story that didn’t involve him carrying a screaming blonde to the top of the highest building. I guess that’s a spoiler of sorts… whatever. The reimagined plot sets up Kong for other cinematic adventures. If the story for those is as decent as this one, then okay. For that, I’d give it a go. So, if monster films haven’t done it for you in the past, this one might. If you already love this type of film, you won’t be disappointed. 

Kong: Skull Island can go on your watchlist and is best viewed on a larger screen, ideally with more to offer than just your TV speakers. Also, stick around after the credits!

—a pen lady 

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

KON-TIKI (2012)

KON-TIKI (2012)

Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg   Runtime: 1 hr 58 min   

Studio: Nordisk Film Production (released in the U.S. via the Weinstein Company)

Screenwriter: Petter Skavlan   Rating: PG-13

Cast: Pål Hagen, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Tobias Santelmann, Gustaf Skarsgård, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Jakob Oftebro  

*Released domestically in November 2012 and as an international release in the United States in April 2013. (The U.S. version is about twenty-minutes shorter). An interesting fact about this movie’s production. Its scenes were shot first in Norwegian and then in English. So the actors did everything twice! 

Movies like KON-TIKI are not action-packed blockbusters full of CGI and stunts to enthrall you. Its attraction lies in the story, the journey, and the wanderlust of times long gone, when things were still left in the world to be discovered. 

An explorer and adventurer named Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Hagen) spend the 1930s in Polynesia immersed in research on the natives and their origins. The world had taught, up till then, that the Polynesian islands were settled by travelers from Asia who traveled from West to East, and it couldn’t be any other way. Thor tries to sell other explorers and scientific publications on his theory that this isn’t true, but they all wave him off. 

Kon-Tiki Offical Trailer (English version) via YouTube/Movieclips Trailers

Not to be discouraged, Thor believes that if he proves his theory, he will change history. So he decides to travel across the Pacific and do just that.

Thor attracts Herman Watzinger (Anders Baasmo Christiansen), a refrigerator salesman who offers to join him. Later, after hearing of his quest, Thor is approached by Bengt Danielsson, an Ethnographer (Gustaf Skarsgård), to go along and film the journey. The six-man crew is rounded out by Knut Haugland (Tobias Santelmann) and Torstein Raaby (Jakob Oftebro) as the radio guys, and Erik Hesselberg (Odd-Magnus Williamson). Erik is a lifelong friend of Thor’s. He’s also the only one to ever have been out to sea.

The film dramatizes the real-life Thor Heyerdahl’s attempt to cross the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft. So it is based on a true story. 

Watching KON-TIKI, the audience must remember that the story isn’t about character development (except perhaps Thor’s) or drama. There isn’t anything discernible that is learned about the crew. I have not read the book myself, so I’m assessing this just from a cinematic perspective. Usually, lack of character anything would bother me. However, it’s the relatively calm nature that is depicted that is so refreshing. No one acts like the sun has baked their brains for too long. It’s about the journey. How it will end, as all journeys do. Will they all make it? Will the raft hold up? The crew takes each day as it comes. As if they tossed a coin into the ocean of fate and left fear behind at the docks. I don’t know anyone who would be that insouciance about their lives. 

Kon-Tiki route. Image: The UK Times

Despite that, there is suspense in the film. They are in the middle of the ocean! With storms and wildlife to contend with, those external factors create natural obstacles and incidents which every story has. These factors enable smooth pacing to the days at sea and for the actors to actually do things. It’s done so well that the film never comes across as slow or uneventful. While watching, I never get the impression that something is overly done because it’s a movie, fictionalized though it may be. That’s important because it keeps with the fact that this journey really did happen once. 

This movie reminds me of something I might have watched in school after being assigned to read the book. Please, don’t let that put you off! This isn’t a typical movie or family movie night choice in America anyway. I was looking for other projects that Gustaf Skarsgård had done that I could watch here and came across this. It’s a good film to watch for movie night, a day off pick, or for a relaxing weekend stay indoors. Any well-crafted movie that enlightens me about something else in the world finds its way onto my watchlist. KON-TIKI is a perfect balance of entertaining, action, and real-life events that should grace your watchlist too. 

—a pen lady

Film Critic, Movie Blog, Movie Reviews

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)   Runtime: 2 hr 22 min Rating: PG-13

Directed: Zack Snyder    Screenwriters: Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Lawrence Fishburne Studio: Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures

Henry Cavill takes on the role of the beloved and iconic comic superhero, Superman. In Zack Snyders adaptation Clark Kent seeks to learn where he came from and, ultimately, acceptance on Earth under the moniker of “Superman.” 

No story of Superman’s origin comes without Martha and Johnathan Kent. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are perfect fits as the embodiments of the salt of the earth couple responsible for the humanity at Clark’s core. 

This re-telling of Clark/Kal-El’s origin story is presented in smaller nuggets of memories that feel organic as they weave in and out of the storyline. The viewer can see Clark’s progression and struggles. Clark learns as a teenager that he’s an alien- because, ya know, high school isn’t hard enough, but that only helps him understand why he’s ‘not normal.’ Logically, he still wonders where he comes from. The film starts with his adult self out in the world seeking answers to that exact question. That need to learn where he came from and why go hand in hand with the movies other driving questions, ‘is the world ready for me? Am I ready?’ 

Warner Bros. Pictures Offical Trailer #3 of Man of Steel via YouTube

Most humans don’t measure their lives on how their character is judged by the world. So they can’t imagine if their very existence was the embodiment of someone else’s hope and beliefs. That this existence, not life, will forever be judged on their choices, their character. The adversary to Clark/Kal-El’s internal struggles judges his choices too, and from that, we see the external conflict through fight scenes. 

A few of the things I really appreciate in this film are the rig and harness work for the choreography on the flight and fight sequences. They’re impressive if you think of how fast Kryptonians move on Earth. With all the shooting and explosions, you have to appreciate all that physicality and timing required to pull it off. What you thought I was gonna give specifics? That would have meant spoilers! 

Henry Cavill in ‘Man of Steel’ Credit: Warner Bros. via

Compared to the Earth’s military forces, the Kryptonians’ technology and equipment are in stark contrast, yet not unbelievably. It’s not cheesy or over the top-it’s explained in ways that any viewer can follow along with. One scene/aspect of the story gave me a very ‘Matrix-like’ vibe. 

Henry Cavill as Superman, not just because he physically looks like a great Superman/Clark Kent but because of his presence. The way he delivers the character. His ability to take the script and what the character needs to do physically comes off so naturally. Yes, he looks good in the suit too. Honestly, I was distracted by his calf muscles a few times in that suit. Dang! He’s an ideal casting choice that makes you think there can’t ever be another actor who would do as well with a character with so many required layers. 

Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe in ‘Man of Steel’ Image: Warner Bros. via Popsugar

Clark is never without Lois, and Amy Adams is such a believable incarnation of her iconic character. She’s soft and human at all the right moments, but not delicate. Yet never loses the ‘never takes crap off of anyone’ attribute that drives Lois home as an award-winning writer. Some iterations of Lois have been too feminine, and others to tom-boyish. This version is an excellent mix of both critical aspects to her. 

So, is The Man of Steel worth your time? YES! It has drama, action, and charm rolled together in a well-told, developed story and a cast that is a perfect fit for their respective roles with great performances. Not sure yet because I don’t include details that spoil the magic? That’s cool. Just do an internet search for any of the three trailers that came out before the film’s debut. I’d recommend the second or third (the third one is below). By viewing them, you’ll get a much better feel for what I’m saying. Don’t worry if you’ve never read a comic before or know nothing about Superman; it won’t matter. This movie should be on your watch list! 

-a pen lady