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Solo: A Star Wars Story ••••

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke
Director: Ron Howard
Screenplay: Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 135 minutes
Release Date: May 25, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, would you like to review this movie together or go solo?


Let’s see if this ‘millennial’ falcon stands up to the rest of the franchise. Time to recap.


The galaxy is in turmoil with gangsters and warlords fighting to gain economic and political control. Looking to escape a chaotic planet, Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and his lover Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) bribe a local official to gain passage on a transport ship, but only Han is able to escape. Three years later, he is an infantryman for the Empire and encounters a gang of criminals led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson).


Having befriended the Wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), the two join forces with Becket and his friends to rob the Empire of the powerful fuel “coaxium” for the evil Crimson Dawn lead by Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). But things go awry when the radical group Enfys Nest interfere and the shipment is destroyed. Now, Becket, Han, and Chewbacca must face Vos and find a way to replace the shipment of fuel.


Greg, I’m not a Star Wars fan and yet I found Solo: A Star Wars Story to be thoroughly enjoyable. Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford, and yet he does a serviceable job creating a character who somewhat resembles a young Han Solo. His motive throughout the film is to “get the girl”, and even when he finds Qi’ra his goal centers re-winning her heart after a three year separation. Woody Harrelson’s complex character of Beckett is one of the true highlights of this movie. Beckett is one of those complicated people we admire one minute and hate the next – and all for plausible reasons.

This movie does a nice job of explaining the origins of Solo’s last name, as well as depicting how Solo meets and befriends Chewbacca. Solo isn’t so much a mercenary (as we might have expected) as he is a love-struck young man who will do anything to find Qi’ra and then (re-)win her heart. His superb piloting skills save his butt several times, and we’re not terribly surprised to see him go toe-to-toe with Beckett and come out on top. In all, the story works and director Ron Howard deserves credit for crafting an entertaining story out of the various elements of Solo’s character.


After the last three Star Wars films, I was afraid Solo would devolve into a child-appropriate story with lots of cute creatures suitable for sale as plush toys. But Solo turned out to be a pretty gritty story of a young man’s desire to be free and then falling into a life of moral ambiguity. While the film very much bent over backwards to fill in the blanks of Solo’s mythology (like the infamous ‘Kessel run in 12 Parsecs’ comment – and proves that when necessary, Han shoots first), it also found some deep and complex characters. And there weren’t any cute creatures to turn into cartoonesque toys.


Because Star Wars is derived directly from Joseph Campbell’s archetype-filled analysis of the hero’s journey, there are no shortage of archetypes to chew(bacca) on here. Han Solo is your classic rogue soldier, an independent agent who pretends to have no moral compass while his actions prove otherwise. There is also the mastermind villain, the baddest of bad guys who outsources his evil with an army of henchmen. We discuss the different layers of villainy in our last book, Reel Heroes & Villains. Qi’ra, I’m happy to say, defies female convention in the movies by showing a savvy and strength that ultimately saves the day in the end. She is much more than a sidekick and occupies a dual archetype of love interest to the hero as well as co-hero to Han.


Solo: A Star Wars Story does a great job of filling in the blanks of Han’s story – including his ‘frenemy’ status with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). There’s plenty of action, as well as a well-thought-out heist story. Ehrenreich channels his inner Harrison Ford to portray a devil-may-care Han Solo that we both recognize and come to know as a young man. I give Solo 4 out of 5 Reels.

Han is an interesting hero. He is devious and cunning, and he seems to apply his skills not just to what benefits himself, but to the underdog as well. His motivation for the majority of the film is to return to Qi’ra and save her. He takes on a mentor in Beckett and quickly learns the lessons of the mercenary lifestyle. We come to learn that Han started out as a compassionate character and only through his difficult choices becomes the cynical scoundrel we meet in Episode IV. I give Han Solo 4 out of 5 Heroes.

There are a multitude of archetypes here. Han as the URCHIN becomes the MERCENARY. Beckett is a DARK MENTOR. Qi’ra is both the DAMSEL IN DISTRESS and the FEMME FATALE. Lando, plays the role of the FAT MAN (the owner of a cantina and con man), though he is obviously fit for fashion.  Dryden Vos is the HENCHMAN reporting to a higher MASTERMIND. I give these archetypes 4 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Solo: A Star Wars Story gives us a wonderful backstory about the early adult life of Han Solo, one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe. The filmmakers here decided wisely to make Han’s motives less mercenary and more romance-based; doing so endows him with more noble, heroic qualities of selflessness and self-sacrifice. Woody Harrelson and Emelia Clarke deserve kudos for  endowing this film with heart, soul, and grit. Letting go of the idea that Alden Ehrenreich could “become” Harrison Ford allowed me to enjoy Ehrenreich on his own merits. This film is a winner, earning a rating of 4 Reels out of 5.

Han’s hero’s journey is an exciting adventure wrapped in intrigue, as his goal is to win the girl whose heart he once won but whose character may have changed during their three-year separation. Like all good heroes, Han enlists the aid of several allies who help him defeat the bad guys, not to mention the traitorous Beckett. Most important, his helpers help him win back Qi’ra’s heart. Our hero has all of the ‘great eight’ traits of heroes – he’s smart, strong, charismatic, reliable, caring, resilient, selfless, and inspiring. I give Han Solo a rating of 4 Hero points out of 5.

We’ve already shared our views of the archetypes, so I’ll just give my score of 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Deadpool 2 ••••

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
Director: David Leitch
Screenplay: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Action/Adventure/Comedy, Rated: R
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: May 18, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


Scott, Ryan Reynolds is back in the gene pool with Deadpool 2.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

I’ve been dying to swim in the Deadpool again, Greg. Let’s recap.


Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool) has dispatched a ‘pool’ of bad guys when he returns home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). The two are canoodling when one of the remaining bad guys interrupts and kills Vanessa. Now, Wade is despondent and attempts suicide by blowing himself into small bits – hoping that his regenerative powers are not sufficient to pull him back together.


Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) picks up Wade’s pieces and attempts to rehab him by enrolling him as a trainee in the X-Men school. On his first assignment, Wade is asked to diffuse a situation in which Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) has exploded in anger over being mistreated by the headmaster. Wade mishandles the situation, leading to he and Russell being incarcerated together. But a cyber-thug named Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives from the future to wreak havoc and kill Russell.


Scott, ‘Deadpool 2’ is the sequel that should not have been made. Or at least, a sequel that is really just a transition to a new franchise. It seems the purpose of this film is to create a new group of mutants called the X-Force. If you liked the first Deadpool, you may like this film, too. Although the shock value of a superhero who is nearly as bad as his villains has worn off. Reynolds’ sarcastic humor is still in force here. There are a lot of pop culture references that probably will go over the heads of younger audience members – so it seems every joke has to be explained (for example, Deadpool is regenerating his lower-half and he uncrosses his legs in a style reminiscent of Sharon Stone in ‘Basic Instinct’. So, someone quips that Wade has given in to his ‘Basic Instinct’. So on-the-nose.)


Greg, it’s no secret that I’ve had issues with several recent films from the Marvel Comics universe. But I’m going to have to differ with you here and proclaim Deadpool 2 to be an unequivocal winner, perhaps the best Marvel film I’ve seen in years. Like most Marvel movies, this one is a comedy, but it is no ordinary comedy. The filmmakers have taken the comedic elements to another level here, breaking the fourth wall in clever ways and giving us many laugh-out-loud moments. This movie also has a stylishness here that is usually reserved for classier films outside this genre. I was particularly taken with rather inventive, surreal scenes of the afterlife involving Deadpool’s slain girlfriend.

When we reviewed the first Deadpool, I believe we disagreed on the issue of whether Wade Wilson was a hero or an antihero. I think it’s pretty clear in this film that Wilson falls into the hero camp. Inspired by dreamlike encounters with his girlfriend in the afterlife, Wilson develops a desire to save Russell Collins before Collins becomes irredeemably bad. At the end, Wilson even sacrifices his life to save Collins’s life, with a convenient time machine able to reverse Wilson’s death. All this makes Deadpool a first-rate hero.


I’m not so easily convinced, Scott. Deadpool seems to kill without provocation – assigning himself the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. I don’t think a proper hero would do that. Compare to Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War – is he a hero or villain? Most would consider him a clear villain. But Thanos put himself in the same role of deciding for the universe who lives and dies.

Deadpool crosses the “Batman Line” in that he’s a vigilante. But unlike Batman, he doesn’t let the justice system determine the villain’s outcome – he takes it upon himself to dispatch justice. This is what X-Men Colossus and Negasonic are trying to teach him. And that is the very reason we find him in jail. However, by the end of the film, it looks like he may have found a balance. We’ll see in the next installment of this franchise.


Deadpool 2 represents a breath of fresh air in offering us a fun story with clever, comedic irreverence. The fact that I was once critical of Ryan Reynolds as an actor has come back to haunt me; he’s proven himself to be absolutely perfect in the role of Wade Wilson. This movie has many layers of nuanced humor that will require a second viewing to fully appreciate. I’m eager for more Deadpool and am sad to have to wait a couple years until the next installment. This film merits a rating of 5 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey stands out in bold relief, with Wade being thrown into the journey when his girlfriend is murdered. He’s rather pitiful for a while but the combined influence of Colossus, Russell Collins, and his love interest (in the afterlife) do a tag-team job of pulling Wade out of his funk and into his best heroic self. Wade undergoes a terrific heroic transformation in this film. I award this Pool of Dead 4 Hero points out of 5.

In this film we see many of the usual archetypes depicted in superhero movies. The super-strong hyper-masculine male is on full display in Wade, Colossus, and Russell. There is also the archetype of the revenge motive, which spurred Deadpool into action in the first movie as well as in this one. The time-travelling archetypes is old and worn yet used well with self-deprecating humor here. I give this film a rating of 3 archetypal Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


I was bored during most of Deadpool 2 – perhaps I’m suffering superhero fatigue. There was just so much demolition that I had trouble parsing out the story. I enjoyed the twist that Cable was not out to kill Deadpool, but the kid Russell. This gives Deadpool someone to protect. But in the end, it’s Cable who is trying to save his daughter by preemptively killing Russell who ultimately kills her. It creates a dual “saving the cat” motive that creates depth for both characters. I give Deadpool 2 3 out of 5 Reels.

As we’ve discussed, I’m not sold on Deadpool as a hero. Although, in this film, it looks like Wade Wilson may have come to some resolution on his villainous choices and may, in the future, not be so heavy-handed with doling out judgement. I give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The archetypes are typical superhero fare. Wade as the SUPERHERO, Russell as the SIDEKICK, Cable as the MISUNDERSTOOD VILLAIN, Vanessa as the FALLEN BRIDE, and Colossus as the MENTOR. I give them 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Life of the Party •

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Gillian Jacobs, Debby Ryan
Director: Ben Falcone
Screenplay: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy
Comedy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: May 11, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


Scott, partying is such sweet sorrow.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Let’s inject some life into that party, shall we? Time to recap.


We’re introduced to Deanna Miles (Melissa McCarthy) who is seeing her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) off to her senior year in college. She reminisces that she dropped out of her last year of college to marry her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) but has no regrets. No sooner is she in the car and on the way home when Dan drops the bombshell that he wants a divorce.


Deanna makes the momentous decision to finish her archeology degree at the same college as Maddie. Lo and behold, Deanna also happens to join Maddie’s sorority, too. At first, the transition is awkward as the generation gap between Deanna and everyone else becomes painfully apparent. But soon Deanna begins to fit right in, even with conflicts with other students looming large.


Scott, this movie is a hot mess wrapped in a flustercluck immersed in a quagmire. It is so rare to find a film with such star power that could be so impossibly bad. But, let me tell you how I really feel. As an example, Maddie is at first repulsed by the idea of having her mother in the same school as her, and then immediately supportive. Then horribly embarrassed and gives her mom a makeover. This movie runs hot and cold with characters reacting as needed to satisfy the gag for whatever scene is currently on-screen. This film has no goal, no direction, and no soul. What an incredible waste of time.

Deanna has a divorce settlement and is apparently left with no money. But her husband is funding her education. And at some point she pisses off his girlfriend so he cuts Deanna off which makes for the movie’s crisis moment where Deanna and her new sorority sisters have to throw a fundraiser. But, in what world would Deanna really be left with nothing? Logically she would have received some sort of settlement and alimony. But that would make it difficult for Deanna to be put into peril – so the writers simply make her poor.

And she has this unbelievable relationship with a college frat boy where he becomes so in love with Deanna that she can’t get rid of him. And, wait for it… he’s the son of the woman who stole Dan away from her. It’s all completely unlikely and orchestrated for yuks. Everything in this movie is played out for yuks – but virtually none of it is funny.


Greg, you’ve nailed it. Like many gifted comedians, Melissa McCarthy is having trouble finding movie roles that best suit her talents. I’ve always thought that talented funny people such as McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and Amy Schumer are better off sinking their teeth into roles with some dramatic heft in them so as to counter and even accentuate their comedic contributions. That’s why The Truman Show worked so well for Carrey and why Life of the Party works not so well for McCarthy.

The film is a giant goof-fest that isn’t as amusing as it thinks it is. McCarthy makes the most of the material in the same way that the musicians on the Titanic made the most of their situation. It’s a commendable performance but there’s no avoiding the final disastrous outcome. The most unbearable scenes in the movie involved Deanna’s parents, especially her father, whose histrionic outbursts are unfunny and cringeworthy. This film couldn’t end soon enough for me.


Life of the Party is a complete waste of time. McCarthy has no one to blame but herself for this mess as she is co-writer and producer of the film. I honestly believe the vast majority of the dialog was improvised because I cannot imagine anyone purposely writing the tripe that rolled out of characters mouths. Live of the Party just barely gets 1 out of 5 Reels from me.

As a hero Deanna is all over the map. She doesn’t really have a missing inner quality that needs resolving, so she has no arc. And she doesn’t really empower the young women around her with her example – so she can’t even measure up as a catalyst for change in the people around her. I give her just 1 Hero out of 5.

The archetypes here are the OLD STUDENT, FRAT BOY, SORORITY SISTER, BETRAYED WIFE, and MEAN GIRLS. These tropes were so blatant and stereotypical that absolutely no time was spent developing these characters. We’re simply left to recall other, superior movies, which employed them so that McCarthy could lazily not describe them. I give these archetypes 1 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Life of the Party would be more aptly named Death of the Party, a sad instance of celluloid on life-support and in need of someone pulling the plug. There are a few humorous moments sprinkled throughout the film but not nearly enough of them to salvage this “hot mess”, as you put it, Greg. McCarthy’s talents are largely wasted and I’m bitter about never getting these two hours of my life back. I give this movie a shameful 1 Reel out of 5.

There is a clear hero’s journey in this film featuring Deanna’s adventurous return to college and her challenges in forming relationships and in giving classroom presentations. What’s unclear is how she is transformed by her experience. One might say that she gained self-confidence and restored her true sense of self as a separate entity from her husband. Her going to back to school is just for gags, really. I give Deanna’s heroism a score of 2 Hero points out of 5.

The archetypes I see in this film include the classic midlife crisis, the embarrassing older parent, the professor as mentor, the woman cougar, the dark misfit roommate, and the college frat party. None of these archetypes strike me as particularly deep or interesting, and so the best rating I can muster is a score of 2 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

Overboard •••

Starring: Anna Faris, Eugenio Derbez, Eva Longoria
Director: Rob Greenberg
Screenplay: Leslie Dixon, Bob Fisher
Comedy/Romance, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 112 minutes
Release Date: May 4, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, let’s not go overboard in our praise for this movie, okay?


I have to admit, I was not over bored by how much better this remake was than the original. Let’s recap…


We meet Kate (Anna Faris), a woman studying to become a nurse while also holding down two jobs to feed her family. One day, while cleaning the carpets aboard a yacht, Kate runs into the playboy owner of the yacht, Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez). He insults her and literally throws her overboard, along with her equipment which she must now pay for.


Leonardo doesn’t waste much time getting wasted and falls overboard his yacht. He ends up in the hospital with amnesia. His sister Theresa (Eva Longoria) wants to take over the family business and having Leonardo out of the way makes that easy. So, she leaves him there. Meanwhile, Kate sees Leo’s picture on the news and hatches a plan to make him pay her back by serving as her husband and father to her three children while she studies for her nursing degree.


On the surface, Overboard is a lightweight throwaway comedy, with a far-fetched plot, stock characters we’ve seen a million times before, and a predictable, saccharin ending. Yet from a hero’s journey perspective, this movie is pure gold. Our romantic hero duo of Leo and Kate are both thrust into a new world of a faux marriage that transforms them both, especially Leo. His riches-to-rags change in setting produces a total personality makeover, transforming him from a spoiled jerk to a humbled, loving husband and father. This discovery of the true self as a result of the journey is the hallmark feature of any good hero’s tale.

When Leo returns to his rich lifestyle, he is now “Master of Both Worlds”, a man who knows wealth but who can also thrive in impoverished circumstances. While experiencing poverty, Leo transformed into a humble, devoted family man, and once transformed our hero cannot become untransformed. His faux marriage allowed him to find his “true self” who, in the terminology of Joseph Campbell, has found his bliss and emerges as a man who is in union with all the world.


Great analysis of the hero in this story, Scott. Overboard is an unlikely Hollywood comedy remade from the Goldie Hawn 1984 original. I thought this version did a great job of paving over the plot holes in the original. The production values, acting, and writing were also much better. As ridiculous as I found the plot, watching Leo commiserate with his fellow workmates was hilarious. (At one point he says, “I feel like this is not my life. Like I was destined for more. And I haven’t had sex in months.” To which his hard-working, married, and low-wages compatriots reply – “Yup. Me too.”)

While this is very much Leo’s story of redemption, Anna Faris’s depiction of Kate as a hard-working, earnest, but still wide-eyed naive single mom delivers the goods. Faris is known for her screwball comedies. But here she gives us a warm, harried, flawed, but genuinely likeable character. Regardless of whether we agree with what she’s done, we agree with her motivations.


Overboard is a silly, far-fetched story that we’ve seen in various forms many times before in storytelling. Despite the tale’s predictability, Overboard manages to touch our hearts by depicting a man’s arduous journey toward becoming his best self. The method by which this transformation occurs is heavy-handed and disturbing in a Beauty and the Beast kind of way. If you’re willing to overlook kidnapping and abuse as a means of helping someone change, this movie is for you. I give Overboard a rating of 3 Reels out of 5.

As mentioned earlier, the hero’s journey is almost textbook, with Leo’s accident on the boat propelling him (pardon the pun) onto his journey toward self-realization. His transformation is aided by the group of construction workers with whom he works, and also by Kate’s three kids who manage to squirm their way into Leo’s heart. Leo’s amnesia and subsequent self-discovery are wonderful exemplars of timeless tales of unknown hero identities becoming fully known in their richness and connectedness with the world. I give the heroes a rating of 3 Hero points out of 5.

Regarding archetypes, we have a clear example of psychologist Paul Moxnes’ family unit archetype consisting of Leo’s father (the patriarchal king), his evil sister (the dark princess), and his good sister. There is also the archetypal idea of the hero’s obliviousness about his true identity and his undergoing suffering to discover his authentic self. Then we have a very problematic archetype (which I’ll call a “darketype”), seen before in Beauty and the Beast, involving the idea of kidnapping someone long enough for them to fall in love with their kidnappers. Why this “darketype” exists really baffles me. These archetypes merit a score of 3 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes:   Heroes:


Overboard is a lot of fun and Derbez and Faris make it work. I had fun the whole time. Everyone likes to see the rich and powerful taken down a peg, and Leo definitely has his day. The “amnesia” trope is impossible to believe, but if you can swallow that, the rest plays out in a very fun way. And if you can get over Leo’s “Stockholm Syndrome” – falling in love with Kate – then you’ll have fun, too. I give Overboard 3 out of 5 Reels.

Yes, this is a redemptive story for Leo. It’s possible only because Leo has selective memory about what he is entitled to as a rich man and gaps about being married. He also doesn’t seem to question the fact that virtually nothing in the house belongs to him. But we like to see our flawed hero become a better man. So I give Leo 3 out of 5 Heroes.

Finally, you’ve covered the archetypes very well. As you said, we have the Moxnes’ family unit with Leo as father, Kate as mother, and the children in play. And it’s the fulfillment of this family structure that completes Leo as a FATHER and HUSBAND. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes:  Heroes:

Avengers: Infinity War •••

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 149 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, if there can be an infinity war, can there be an infinity peace?

 


Only if we have an infinity of time – and the stones to do it… Let’s recap:


Thanos and his henchmen have just obtained the Power Stone and are now plotting to acquire the 5 remaining sacred stones. Doing so will give Thanos (Josh Brolin) complete rule over the universe. Sure enough, Thanos obtains the Space Stone from Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Meanwhile, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) warns Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) of Thanos’ plan to kill half the population of the universe once he realizes his goal of acquiring all the stones.


Fearing for the Mind Stone embedded in Vision’s (Paul Bettany) head, Captain America (Steve Rogers, Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) appear in Paris to assist Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) in fighting off more of Thanos’ helpers. Meanwhile, Thor is found alive among the debris of his ship by the Guardians of the Galaxy. Now the fight is on to prevent Thanos from getting his hands on all the Infinity Stones and decimating the universe’s population.


Greg, this movie exhausted me. Yes, it’s a triumph of sorts, weaving dozens of super beings into a story about saving the universe. But my goodness, what a clusterfuck. For 150 minutes we’re subjected to one fight scene after another, after another. A cacophony of characters and physical mayhem, it’s a wet dream for people with ADHD, and it left my brain bleeding.

There are so many questions that need answering. Why do these magical creatures bother punching each other when they are impervious to punches? They slam each other into skyscrapers when they know their adversaries are immune to the ill-effects of such slamming. These super-peeps can be impaled, crushed, and mangled yet bounce right back up with only a slight cut on their forehead. They withstand every kind of physical abuse and we watch them pound each other to smithereens ad nauseum. What is the point?

The other problem that this film shares with many others is the problem of “superpower convenience”. When the plotline demands it, a seemingly invulnerable good guy or bad guy will suddenly show a vulnerability, or the reverse will happen, with a previously established super-strength from someone disappearing conveniently because the story demands it.

If I overlook these issues, and the problem of film-length (always my pet peeve), then we have an extremely large-scale good versus evil superhero movie. Our heroes must work together to stop Thanos from obtaining all 6 infinity gemstones, which would give him dominion over the universe. I like Thanos as a villain; he’s a morally ambiguous dude, a guy with good intentions but a questionable game-plan. But Thanos cannot rescue this frenetic mess of a film.


We’re in basic agreement, here Scott. However, in true Marvel fashion, they managed to get a dozen major stars and their characters in one movie – and no egos were bruised. Everyone gets screen time. Everyone gets great dialog. All the heroes are equals. It’s a monumental task and the writers delivered a coherent, albeit bloated, movie.

Having said that, this is just one immense battle scene after another. When you strip away all the explosions and fisticuffs, there’s not much of a story here. And since we’ve had introductions to all the major heroes in the story (through their own franchised films), the only character who has any depth is the villain – Thanos.

And what a villain, indeed. Thanos believes the universe is overpopulated. (Which is never substantiated in ANY way in this story. AND, it appears that Thanos is aware of UNIVERSAL problems when GALACTIC problems are not made clear. I would have preferred that Thanos’ goal were to cure the galaxy of overpopulation. The universe is a pretty big place.) Thanos is given the option of trading the one thing he loves (his daughter Gamora) for the Soul Stone.

This is a huge deal. Thanos is not a PURE EVIL character after all. He cares about his planet enough to take initiative to save half the population. And he actually loves his daughter. But he loves the universe enough to “give his only begotten daughter” to save it. This is the stuff of heroes to certain ways of thinking. As we mention in our book Reel Heroes and Villains – the villain often thinks he is the hero of the story. Thanos fits this to a tee.


Infinity War is a triumph of sorts but it falls victim to the mentality of “more is more” when we all know that “less is more”. My fear is that the billion-dollar success of this film will open the door to many more movies of this type, movies with too many characters, too many explosions, and too many illogical fight scenes. I am hoping that the DC Comic universe will not follow suit, but the cynic in me suspects that Infinity War has ushered in a new era of the bloated superhero movie. I give this film 2 Reels out of 5.

There are many, many heroes here trying to stop Thanos and his hench-army. There isn’t much of a journey to speak of, not much going on  in terms of character development, and not much indication of hero attributes to discuss (other than super-strength). As such, I give this humongous ensemble of heroes a rating of 2 Hero points out of 5.

In terms of archetypes, there is much more to talk about. Superhero movies are replete with archetypes of power, strength, and hyper-masculinity. Greg, you’ve nicely pointed out the archetype of sacrifice — Thanos’s daughter must be sacrificed and half the universe must be sacrificed, all presumably in the name of promoting the greater good. These and other archetypes earn this film 4 Arcs out of 5.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


Infinity War would have been a nice cap on the Avengers franchise, but based on the ending credits easter egg, it looks like a new hero is coming. I try to rate films in the genre in which they’re set. Superhero films are supposed to be filled with screen-smashing explosions and bigger-is-more effects. Infinity War does this “infinitely” better than others. But the lack of any character development is a negative. I give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

As you say, Scott, these are heroes we’ve met before. The only real character development happens in the villain. I give this film 3 out of 5 Heroes.

And the archetypes are all standard fare. Superheroes will be superheroes. Superwarriers will fight super hard. I give them all 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:

I Feel Pretty ••1/2

Starring: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski
Director: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Screenplay: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Comedy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 110 minutes
Release Date: April 20, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

reel-2 480px-One-half.svg

I feel pretty … good about this movie, Scott.


scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Pretty funny, Greg. Let’s get right to it, shall we?


We’re introduced to Renee (Amy Schumer) , an average-looking woman who is working for a fashion make-up company. She wants to move up in the company, but fears that she doesn’t have the high-fashion attractiveness that is necessary to be promoted. After watching the movie Big she wishes on a fountain that she might be “pretty.” The next day while working out in spin class when she falls off the bike and bangs her head. When she comes to, she believes that she has been transformed into a beautiful woman.


With new-found confidence, Renee begins seeking triumphs she normally would eschew. First, she has an encounter at the dry cleaners with Ethan, a man waiting in line behind her. They exchange phone numbers and she calls him later to ask him on a date. Much to his shock and admiration, she enters a bikini contest during the date. Next, she applies for a job as a receptionist at the exclusive Lily LeClair cosmetics corporation. Her winsome spirit during the job interview lands her the position.


Scott, I’m a big fan of Amy Schumer and her comedy. This movie seemed like the perfect vehicle for her brand. But, while the film starts out pretty strong, it falls apart in the third act. There’s a scene where Renee is talking to a fashion model who is lacking self-confidence and Renee tries to bolster her friend and comes to the conclusion that even pretty girls face body image issues. It’s very on-the-nose dialog that seems to be written by first-timers.

The climactic scene where Renee realizes that her appearance never changed is also a let-down. She comes to the conclusion that her attitude is what garnered her new-found success, not her appearance. It could have been an emotional moment, but in the hands of these writers fell completely flat. The writers attempted to wrap everything up in a tidy bow in two minutes. It was a major disappointment.


Greg, I think we disagree a bit on this film. I Feel Pretty works on its own as a charming and enjoyable romantic comedy, yet it also manages to convey a “message” with considerable gravitas. The message, of course, focuses on the importance of self-confidence in determining our success. Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, “Self-doubt stinks,” and I believe wiser words were never uttered about life in general. This film shines light on society’s obsession with outer beauty and reveals that obsession to be ugly. More importantly, this movie shows us how even a slight attitude adjustment about self-worth can pay big dividends.

I Feel Pretty represents a refreshing departure from last year’s Snatched which was largely a waste of Amy Schumer’s talent. I described Snatched as “a throwaway comedy with no real redeeming value”, and that was me being kind. The best movies give us a hero who is ripe for a meaningful change, undergoes the change but not without great suffering, and then gives back to the world. Our hero Renee touches all of these bases and we, the viewers, are left satisfied at the end – especially because Renee demonstrates to us the supreme importance of having confidence in ourselves.


We’ve seen this message delivered more powerfully and skillfully in other films like Big and Shallow Hal. There’s even an episode of Star Trek (Mudd’s Women) from the 1960s that does a better job. As much as I enjoyed elements of this film, the clumsy delivery made it difficult for me to enjoy. I give I Feel Pretty just 2 out of 5 Reels.

Renee does pretty well as a redeemed hero. When she believes herself to be unstoppably beautiful, she shuns her friends and grows a huge ego. When she realizes that she was herself the whole time, she also realizes that she acted badly and makes amends, thus redeeming herself. I give Renee 3 out of 5 Heroes.

The archetypes here are pretty sparse. We see the GOOD BOYFRIEND in the man she attracts. We also see the MEAN GIRLS in the fashion models in Renee’s company. I give the archetypes just 2 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


I Feel Pretty is a comeback of sorts for Amy Schumer, whose last film Snatched was one of the worst films of 2017. I Feel Pretty is by no means a cinematic masterpiece but it endears us with its simple message of believing in oneself. There are some comedic moments and also moments that remind us of Schumer’s genius as a physical comedian. I award this film 3 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey is followed by a hero to near-perfection. Renee’s bike accident transports her to a new world where she transforms herself (psychologically). Her fall in the shower later transports her back to her old familiar world, but now she has changed and is compelled to bring the change into the old world. Renee accomplishes this feat by summoning up the confidence she acquired earlier on her journey. Overall, it’s a highly effective use of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, earning our hero 4 Hero points out of 5.

You’ve mentioned two archetypes, Greg, and I’ll add the Lauren Hutton archetype of the aging matriarch along with the archetype of the muscle-bound frat-boy that we see in Lily’s brother. A non-character archetype pervades this film in the form of magic, which is the hallmark of films such as Big And Shallow Hal. These archetypes merit a rating of 4 Arcs out of 5.

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A Quiet Place ••• 1/2

Starring:  Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Director: John Krasinski
Screenplay: Bryan Woods, Scott Beck
Drama/Horror/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: April 6, 2018

SPOILERS WITHIN!

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scott
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, it’s time to review Simon & Garfunkel’s film version of ‘Sounds of Silence’.


i just hope to find a Quiet Place to review this film. Let’s recap:


The year is 2020, and most of the earth’s population has been decimated by vicious creatures called the Death Angels. With hyper-sensitive hearing, these creatures attack and kill anything that emits the slightest sound. The Abbott family has managed to survive, thanks to their mastery of ASL (American Sign Language). There is Lee Abbott (John Krasinski), his wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt), and their three children Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Noah (Noah Jupe), and Beau (Cade Woodward).


While Lee and son Beau are on an excursion, Evelyn goes into labor and steps on a nail and emits a noise that attracts the beasts. Now it’s a game of cat and mouse as the Abbotts must evade the death angels while keeping silent.


Greg, it’s hard to imagine crafting a decent movie that is 90% silence, but that’s what A Quiet Place manages to accomplish. We’ve seen this villain before in the movies, a pure-evil animal-like villain in the same vein as Jaws and Alien. Only the most empathetic of us will show compassion for a creature than indiscriminately kills and eats anyone who makes a sound. And only the most foolish characters in a movie would choose to have a baby in a world with creatures that will devour a crying baby in mere seconds.

Despite a rather boring pure evil villain and the foolhardiness of the baby, this movie works rather well as a horror story. The creature is bloodthirsty and relentless, and as in every scary movie, there are plenty of false scares and predictable moments of suspense. Our main hero, Lee, is compelled to invent a device that will destroy the creatures, and our secondary family member heroes all manage to overcome their fears and transform into courageous, resourceful threats to the creatures.


I was favorably impressed with A Quiet Place. Unlike typical horror stories, this is not a tale strictly of fright, but a tale of survival and family. Young Regan blames herself for her youngest brother’s demise and imagines her father also blames her. The tension between father and daughter is exacerbated by the typical angst of a teen trying to become independent.

At first the fact that Regan was hearing impaired seemed like an ironic twist. Later we discover that her disability becomes the key to defeating the Death Angels. While the actress who plays Regan happens to be deaf, this is not what separates her from other young actresses. Millicent Simmonds virtually carries this film with her emotive face. She has only one other acting credit before A Quiet Place, but she delivers in a film that requires a strong emotive presence. Truly, she is the breakout star of this film – standing toe-to-toe with the likes of Emily Blunt and John Krasinski.


This movie heightened the suspense by having Evelyn deliver her baby on her own, within “earshot” of a Death Angel lurking in her house. Somehow she does it noiselessly and without any pain medication, which has to be the most remarkable feat in human history. The birthing scene had me on the edge of my seat, as did the film’s climax requiring Lee to sacrifice his life to save his children. It’s good to see good old fashioned ingenuity win the day in defeating these “eerie” beasts (pun intended).

By the way, the FX crew did a fabulous job creating a brand new villain with elaborate ears that were (fortunately) no way reminiscent of the Ferengi in Star Trek. These beasts were indeed terrifying and Krasinski deserves kudos for steering this cinematic ship with sharpness and alacrity. In terms of archetypes, we’ve certainly got the pure evil villain here, along with the scientist hero, the damsel in distress, the budding teen girl with attitude, and a small child who you know is going to do something foolish to attract trouble.


A Quiet Place delivers on both suspense and emotional levels. The actors do an amazing job of performing without much dialog – keeping us interested by their actions rather than their words. I give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

This is very much an ensemble cast with the father as the leader. In our book Reel Heroes and Villains we discuss the family ensemble and how important it is. We are also guided by the Moxnes model which uses the family as a paradigm. I give them 4 out of 5 Heroes.

Again, as an archetype, the FAMILY saves that day. Otherwise, we only see THE PURE EVIL monsters. Usually, this is a boring trope, but it works well here as it forces the family to work together. And what family would be complete without the ANGST-RIDDEN TEEN. I give these archetypes 3 out of 5 Arcs.

Movie: Archetypes: Heroes:


A Quiet Place is one of the best films in the horror genre that I’ve seen in a few years. This innovative new villainous menace brings a taut, quiet urgency to virtually every scene in the movie. The production, direction, and casting of A Quiet Place is just about perfect, although it’s pretty clear that the only reason the Abbotts decided to have a baby was for me to lose 10 years of my life in fright during the baby’s delivery. I give this movie 3 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey appears in bold relief here as the family is compelled to transform the way the think, move, and survive in this new dystopian world. Most importantly, Lee’s ability to construct a device capable of defeating these ear-monsters is the culmination of the journey for his family and his gift to humanity. I award these heroes 4 Hero points out of 5.

We’ve reviewed the many archetypes in the film, and I agree with you Greg that a rating of 3 archetype Arc points out of 5 seems about right.

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