Trailer: Marjorie Prime with Geena Davis, Jon Hamm, and Lois Smith
Posted onPosted on
Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith star in “Marjorie Prime,” which looks a bit like “Her,” a bit like the “Be Right Back” episode of “Black Mirror,” but still very intriguing. If you had a chance to bring someone back, would you?
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, suggestive material and brief language
Brief strong language
Extended sci-fi/action violence, guns, chases, characters injured and killed including genocide
A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters:
July 21, 2017
Yes, the visuals and special effects in Luc Besson’s “Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets” are next-level, dazzling, stunning, and themselves worth the price of a ticket (3D please). But let’s be honest. The best special effect in the movie is the lovely real face of Rihanna as Bubble, a shape-shifting alien our hero meets in an inter-galactic strip club.
That hero would be Valerian (Dane DeHaan), who has gone to the strip club in search of the disguise he needs to infiltrate an alien compound and rescue the woman he loves, his space partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne). She was captured as the two of them were on a mission to…oh, who cares what the mission was? It’s your basic save the universe stuff. You know and I know and they know you are not there for the subtleties of the space city that incorporates, “Zootopia”-style, every possible creature and culture, a veritable Pepperland of comity and the exchange of learning. In the opening scenes, we see the history of the place, as human astronauts welcome aboard an increasing variety of visitors with a warm handshake, first from other countries, and then from other planets and galaxies, still with something as close to a handshake as possible.
This is the movie Luc Besson has wanted to make since he was a teenager, base on a French comic book series from the 1960’s with a visionary aesthetic that inspired Besson’s own “5th Element” and George Lucas’ “Star Wars.” He had to wait decades until the technology made it possible to do the ravishing visuals justice. That is the good news and the bad news. The good news is that the visuals are indeed ravishing, worth a couple of viewings on the biggest screen you can find and then a couple more when you can watch it at home and hit “pause” to see every detail. The bad news is that the storyline has not held up as well over the years as the settings, in part because much of it has also been appropriated, too, over the years, partly because times have changed, and partly because it wasn’t that great to begin with. Valerian and Laureline banter back and forth about whether he can make a commitment to her as they try to save the world. It is supposed to be part of the fun of the story that they are cool and casual. Valerian even wears a Hawaiian shirt at one point instead of his spiffy spacesuit (they are undercover as tourists). But their characters are so bland, especially by contrast with the wildly imaginative world they are racing through, that it drags on the storyline. That’s disappointing because it distracts from some promising flickers of substance.
Parents should know that this film includes extensive sci-fi peril, action, and violence with many guns and blasters, characters injured and killed, sad deaths, references to genocide, corruption, brief strong language, provocative dance and references to prostitution.
Family discussion: Why do Valerian and Laureline disagree about the converter? How do you know when to break the rules?
If you like this, try: “Avatar” and “The Fifth Element”
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language, and brief suggestive content
Some strong language
Extended sci-fi/action/comic-book peril and violence with guns and explosions, characters killed, some disturbing images
Date Released to Theaters:
May 3, 2017
Remember about a week ago when I said that the baby panda in “Born in China” was the most adorable creature on earth? That may still be, but Baby Groot is probably the most adorable baby in the universe. “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2” opens up with a bang — a wild action scene as our heroes and anti-heroes fight a huge monster that is out of focus and at the side of the screen as we watch Baby Groot happily dancing to ELO’s lilting “Mr. Blue Sky.”
“A little good, a little bad, bit of both,” Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) promised his fellow Guardians and us at the end of the first film. And that’s what we get in this sequel, still delightfully off-kilter, still deliciously irreverent, and still delectably scored with 70’s pop songs. “Can you hold the banter until after the space battle?” one character asks. Probably not, and we would not want it any other way.
Despite the indicators the in post-credits scene from the first film, it is a relief to report that this movie is not about Thanos or another infinity stone. It is a more personal story, giving the characters a chance to know each other and us to know them, too.
Peter was born in Missouri to a single mother who died of cancer when he was ten, then captured by the blue-faced space pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker), who was hired to deliver him to his father but instead kept him as a sort of mascot/apprentice. In Vol 2 Peter meets his father, a “celestial” named Ego (really) with his own planet. And Zamora (Zoe Saldana) meets up with her estranged sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). I don’t mean “estranged” like having trouble agreeing on what to get Mom for Mother’s Day; I mean estranged like trying to kill one another.
Ego is accompanied by a new character named Mantis (Pom Klementieff) a shy and inexperienced empath who can read and sooth the emotions of others. As Peter gets to know his father, and even achieve his boyhood dream of tossing a ball back and forth with him, in typically off-kilter Guardians of the Galaxy way, the group is being chased down by a race of beautiful gold people who claim to be genetically perfect, led by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), via drone-style attack ships. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) could not resist stealing some of their precious batteries, the very ones Ayesha had hired them to protect. They are also being sought after by Yondu, who was expelled from the tribe of space thieves led by Sylvester Stallone (really, and it kind of makes sense because he does look and sound like an alien) for keeping Peter; kids are supposed to be off limits.
The banter is fine; with very funny references to “Cheers” and to David Hasselhoff and “Knight Rider.” The visuals are imaginative and striking and the battle scenes well staged. I got lost in the last one, but maybe we are supposed to. Writer/director James Gunn has an outstanding sense of pacing and tone. And I like the X-Men-style shifts of alliance. It is especially appropriate for characters who are “a little good, a little bad” to be surrounded by characters who are, too. While the father-son dynamic story does not always work, Baby Groot more than makes up for it, not just in adorable quotient but in what we learn in seeing the other characters interact with him.
“All any of you do is yell at each other,” Nebula correctly points out. “You are not friends.” “No, we are family,” Drax (Dave Bautista) replies. And we’re starting to feel like they’re our family, too.
NOTE: Stay all the way to the end for several extra scenes. You won’t want to miss the one with Groot.
Parents should know that this film includes extended sci-fi/comic book/action violence and peril with some disturbing images, characters injured and killed, some strong language, sexual references and and potty humor.
Family discussion: How did meeting his father change Peter’s view of family? Which switch of allegiance was most surprising?
If you like this, try: “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Avengers”
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images
Some mild language
sci-fi/action style peril and violence, guns, explosions, fire, terrorism, suicide, murder, characters injured and killed, some graphic and disturbing images
Questionable cross-race casting
Date Released to Theaters:
March 31, 2017
Date Released to DVD:
July 25, 2017
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if you are a long-time fan of the “Ghost in the Shell” mange by Masamune Shirow and anime and are yet still not offended at the casting of a white actress in a Japanese story you might enjoy seeing a big-budget version of the story with very high-end design and special effects. I am new to the franchise and I was bored. Like a lot of video game movies, it loses the story and characters in a barrage of visual effects and shoot-outs.
Scarlett Johansson plays Major, who used to be a person but is now robot with a human brain or a human brain with a robot body. People do a lot of explaining in this movie, but never about the stuff we would like to have explained. So one character tells us that Major is not a machine but a weapon in the fight against cyber-terrorism. But we never find out why Major’s clothes keep disappearing when she goes into battle. Or why a robot breathes and cries.
In an early scene, we see businessmen at an expensive dinner, being served by elegant but not un-sexy robot geishas. I hope you have seen enough movies to know that when one of them arrogant insists that “There is nothing I can’t do, nothing I can’t know, nothing I can’t be,” he is not going to be around much longer. Some gunmen break in and start shooting, and Major arrives to fight them.
Major was once a human woman. When she was injured in the terrorist attack that killed her parents, her body could not be saved but in a pioneering experiment by Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche), she is turned into a cyborg. At least that is the story she has been told. She has flashes of what could be memories but it seems to her as though there is thick fog over her memories “and I can’t see through it.” Dr. Ouelet is very proud of Major, almost maternal. And Major has a partner, Batou (Pilou Asbæk). Where she is a robot with a human brain, he is a human with mechanical parts.
The man/robot/operating system/entity behind the attack is cerebral hacking and killing more people as Major is experiencing what she calls “glitches,” especially after she does a risky “deep dive” into the network of the hacked geisha robot. But are they glitches or “Total Recall”/”Bourne”-style flashes of memory?
When the comic first appeared, some of these issues were cutting edge but they have been so thoroughly hashed out in so many movies (and in real life) that most of it is as outdated as a VHS video of “WarGames.” The issue of consent is more timely, as Major has to affirmatively accept various risks and procedures (like all of those “I agree” boxes you have to check every time you update your software), but the movie is too busy showing us zippy Pokemon Go-style virtual ads all over the city to spend any thought on it, or anything else, for that matter. It is a shame that a movie about the spark of human consciousness that remains inside a machine is itself a machine without any evidence of humanity at all.
Parents should know that this film has constant sci-fi/action style peril and violence, guns, explosions, fire, terrorism, a suicide, murder, with characters injured and killed, and some graphic and disturbing images, some nudity, prostitutes and sexual predator, smoking, and drinking. There has been some controversy over the casting of non-Asian actors. Scarlett Johansson responded “I certainly would never presume to play another race of a person. Diversity is important in Hollywood, and I would never want to feel like I was playing a character that was offensive. Also, having a franchise with a female protagonist driving it is such a rare opportunity. Certainly, I feel the enormous pressure of that—the weight of such a big property on my shoulders.” The director of the anime version also supports Johansson in the role: “What issue could there possibly be with casting her? The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her.” On Slate, Aisha Harris explains why a revelation late in the film is especially troubling in the movie’s portrayal of race.
Family discussion: Is Major a person, a machine, or a weapon? What enhancement would you like to have?
If you like this, try: the “Matrix” and “Bourne” series, “Lucy,” and the Ghost in the Shell comics and anime
Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity
Very strong language
Drinking and drunkenness
Very intense and graphic peril and violence with many disturbing and bloody images, many characters injured and killed
A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters:
March 3, 2017
A lot of Wolverine fans love the elegaic final chapter, “Logan,” but I do not. Perhaps if you are deep in the weeds of the MCU, you will see meaning and closure in “Logan,” but for me, even as a Comic-Con-attending fangirl, it was slow and depressing, and not in a good way.
Wolverine fans know that he is a loner, only intermittently joining forces with the X-Men, and his stories often show the influence of classic western sagas. “Logan” is set in the west, and its dry, dusty terrain fits the somber tone of the story. Logan/Wolverine is old and tired. His legendary powers of healing are slowing, and so is he. He and Caliban (Stephen Merchant, looking like Uncle Fester in “The Addams Family”) are caring for Professor Xavier, who is also losing his powers and near the end of his life. The time of the X-Men seems to be ending, too. No new mutants have appeared.
Or, so everyone thought. Logan is threatened by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who says he is looking for a woman who is looking for Logan. And she finds him, and offers to pay Logan a lot of money to transport a little girl to the Canadian border. He does not want to do it, but he needs the money to take care of Professor X, and when the woman is murdered, he feels that he has no choice.
Professor X, who struggles with dementia, keeps insisting that the girl has some special qualities, but Logan refuses to believe him…until the tough guys show up and she dispatches them with some very familiar-looking adamantine claws that pop out from her knuckles. Time for a road trip, including an encounter with a sweet farm family and with many perils and threats along the way.
The action is well-staged, though brutal even by comic book movie standards. Jackman and Stewart are always watchable, but the story drags (the movie is well over two hours), and we know where it’s going at every step. One big plot point has to do with Logan’s belief that the story in the comic books cannot be true. He may be persuaded otherwise, but we never are.
Parents should know that this film includes constant and very graphic comic-book/sci-fi peril and violence with many disturbing images and many characters injured and killed, and brief non-sexual nudity.
Family discussion: How does this movie show the influence of classic westerns? Why does Caliban stay loyal?
If you like this, try: the previous Wolverine and X-Men films