WONDER WOMAN – Power in Grace

wonder_woman_ver6_xlgBoth critics and audiences have been lauding Wonder Woman, the newest film in the DC Extended Universe, as a revelation and a transcendental piece of filmmaking poised to usher in a new era in cinema.

I think these reactions are a bit overhyped and inflated, primarily because of the pedigree of the film is supposedly the first female-centric superhero movie (even though it isn’t), and the first of the genre to be directed by a woman (which, again, it isn’t). That is not to say the film isn’t without merit or worthy of praise.

Is the movie good? Yes. Is it worth seeing? Definitely. Is it the transcendental, glass-ceiling-shattering piece of art that many critics and moviegoers are lauding it as? No.

Wonder Woman is a good movie with great moments. It’s fun, charming and full of exciting action. It reminded me of a DC era gone by – the Christopher Reeve / Michael Keaton days. There are times I think it’s the best DCEU film. But then there are times when I still think Man of Steel was better.

Man of Steel was interesting but in a completely different way. It was a contemplative, realistic look at a character that had a certain perception in the public consciousness, and I liked where it was going (where it ended up is a whole other story). Wonder Woman had a lot of heart, which is what Man of Steel and its follow-up lacked, and that’s what made it good.

I have never really found Wonder Woman particularly interesting, even as a comic reader. Her powers and weapons always seemed kind of hokey to me (an invisible jet – really?). However, she was the true highlight of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And if Zack Snyder succeeded doing anything in that movie, it was making Wonder Woman actually cool.

But what made this new film exceptionally good were its thematic elements. Wonder Woman was about more than just an Amazonian princess, but about the nature of humanity, actual female strength, and the power of grace.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES – A Father’s Life for Me

17015800_10154981836668830_529268610073059017_oThe Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is one of consternation to movie fans. It started off very promising in 2003, with one of the most unique films to come in a long time – totally reinventing and reviving a whole genre of movies that had been on the outs in the popular culture (ironic considering the source material was a theme park ride – not a usual source for strong content).

And then the sequels came. That’s where the divisions started.

If one is into the universe, one could overlook the relatively inferior sequels and just go along for the ride. They are all fun in their own ways – even the worst one, At World’s End. Then there are others who cannot abide the lack of thought and quality some of the films have. I am in the former camp, with the Pirates sequels, for the most part, satisfying my taste for swashbuckling adventure.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, the fifth film in this franchise, is a passable Pirates sequel. I enjoyed it. It’s not the best Pirates film by any measure, but it’s not terrible. In the spectrum of the Pirates films, with Curse of the Black Pearl being best and At World’s End being worst, Dead Men Tell No Tales ranks number three on my list – right after Dead Man’s Chest.

Dead Men Tell No Tales has just enough of everything you love about the Pirates films to make it a pleasant experience: ship battles, supernatural elements, comic pirate hijinks, romance, familiar faces, and Jack Sparrow comedic moments. It also contains a longstanding thematic tradition of these films: the role of a father.

THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

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FIVE CAME BACK – When Hollywood was Actually Brave

MV5BMjMwOTM1MTY5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ0MTM4MTI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_World War II has fascinated me since I was a child. The lore attached to the conflict fired my imagination, and fun period action films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Rocketeer only added to my fascination. To my young mind, it was the ultimate battle between good and evil, where the lines couldn’t be any clearer.

As I grew older, and I began to look into the history of the era, my fascination matured and transformed into admiration and respect for the men and women who fought that war. It was a time of great sacrifice – something that hasn’t really been seen since.

This film was an outstanding look at a part of the World War II-era I was not familiar with. Five Came Back celebrates the important contributions of the American film industry to the war effort – specifically the cinematic accomplishments of five famous directors: Frank Capra, John Huston, George Stevens, William Wyler and John Ford. These men showed the war to the public, garnered support for the conflict, and literally recorded history. Some of their footage even sealed the fate of the Nazi war criminals who propagated the Holocaust after the fight was over.

Five Came Back

Five Came Back is not just an amazing portrait of the courage of those five filmmakers – who braved everything from bombings in the Pacific to the D-Day invasion to bring footage back to the people, and came back with the horrors seared into their memories. It caused me to think about today’s entertainment industry, and just how far things have fallen in the past seven decades.

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THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS – Lots of Fun and a Little Frustrating

furiousposter_0The Fast and the Furious films are very special to my wife and I. In fact, it was my wife who turned me on to them in the first place. I had never seen them until the release of Furious 7 two years ago. We both enjoy them and have since bonded over them more.

Part car chase movie, part soap opera, these movies deliver various levels of exhilaration, excitement and just plain fun. The characters really make these films watchable – their joshing and banter between them all is part of the charm. And after eight films, the characters have become even more endearing.

I understand that these films are not everyone’s cup of tea. I’ll be the first to admit that they can be really ridiculous, and have gotten progressively more ridiculous with each installment. However, if you keep that notion in the back of your mind the whole time, these movies are very fun.

So how does the franchise’s latest entry, The Fate of the Furious, stack up against the rest of the films? It’s somewhere in the middle. Director F. Gary Gray, a newcomer to the Fast and Furious films, maintains the energy and action for which the series is known. But this is one of the few films that made me tilt my head when it came to the story – partially based on what is known of the characters in previous films.

Thematically, there are some interesting nuggets to extract from Fate. The previous films have centered on family and loyalty, but this one has a little more to it – especially when it comes to the villain.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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