Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Posted on December 21, 2023 at 2:12 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Beer
Violence/ Scariness: Extended comic-book style fantasy action, some disturbing images of characters getting burned and stabbed, zombie-like characters, monsters
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 22, 2023

Copyright WB 2023
I get the feeling everyone was just calling it in on this one. The DCCU is getting a makeover under James Gunn and Peter Safran and who knows what will happen given the prospect of the catastrophic leadership of David Zaslav burying his bad decisions and collecting a huge paycheck with a possible sale of Warner-Discovery to Paramount. And Jason Mamoa already made it clear this was his last Aquaman movie. Whether the behind-the-scenes is the reason for this lackluster, derivative entry in the DC Cinematic Universe or not, the movie is a wait-for-streaming for all but the most devoted fans.

In our last episode, Aquaman (Momoa) killed a pirate named Jesse Kane, and his son, David (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) vows to kill Aquaman in revenge. And Aquaman seizes control of the underwater kingdom from his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson). An extra scene in the credits has David Kane joining forces with marine scientist Stephen Shin (Randall Park), who promises to help David get his revenge if David will help him find the lost kingdom under the sea.

We pick up a few years later, where, in the first of a series of clangingly obvious foreshadowing signals, Arthur/Aquaman is now married to Mera (Amber Heard) and he tells us the most important thing in the world to him is their baby son, Junior. Aquaman divides his time between his home at the shore, with his human father, Tom (Temuera Morrison) helping to care for Junior, and his undersea kingdom. He is often frustrated with the bureaucracy of the kingdom’s council. And he is very concerned about the land countries destroying the environment, but, with his kingdom’s long history of secrecy, he cannot reach out to the upper world.

David has found the lost kingdom and the source of immense evil power in the black trident. A frozen spirit who looks like a cross between Groot and the Green Goblin says he will give that power to David if he will bring him the descendent of his enemy, which turns out to be guess who.

Actually, it’s guess whos, but that comes later. In order to fight David, Aquaman will have to team up with Orm, the half-brother who tried to kill him, and who is now in prison. The council will never approve, knowing that breaking Orm out of prison will start a war with his captors, but no matter, Aquaman does it anyway.

Much of the storyline is similar to “The Black Panther,” a kingdom with superior technology trying to decide whether to let the rest of the world know who they are and a villain seeking revenge with a conclusion for one character very reminiscent of Killmonger. And the mechanical octopus-like machine seems an awful lot like the one from “The Incredibles.” Topo, the real (CGI) octopus, is, fun, though, and I wish we’d seen more of him. The special effects range from okay to pretty good. Martin Short makes the best of a character who seems like a cross between Jabba the Hutt and a champion from RuPaul’s drag race.

It swings back and forth between meaningless nods to the issue of climate change (the most damaging technology is imaginary), action scenes with lots of monsters and machines, cliche dialog (“It’s time for me to reclaim my destiny!”), and corny winks at the audience. Here’s hoping the Gunn/Safran regime can do better.

NOTE: Stay for one mid-credits scene

Parents should know that this film has some strong language and constant comic book-style action with some grisly images of monsters. Characters are in peril and there are graphic wounds.

Family discussion: What influenced the relationship between Arthur and Orm? How would we think of environmental threats differently if we thought humanoid creatures lived there? Why did Aquaman try to save David?

If you like this, try: the other DC comics films and the comic books, especially the Neal Adams versions

Related Tags:

 

3D Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Scene After the Credits Series/Sequel Superhero

Magic Mike XXL

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Copyright Warner Brothers 2015
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015

“We’re healers,” one of the male exotic dancers, explains to another in “Magic Mike XXL.”  They’re here to bring a smile to women who have not, through tragically misguided oversight, been worshipped and adored.  They have not been ap-PRE-ciated.  They have not been treated like QUEENS.

No fear.  Men have arrived who want nothing more from life than to worship, adore, and appreciate their queens, and to do so with the power of powerful, rhythmic, body movements that involve arching and thrusting.

The original “Magic Mike,” based very loosely on some of Channing Tatum’s experiences as an exotic dancer, was directed by Steven Soderbergh and had a few things to say about the economy and income inequality between the bumps and the grinds.  This sequel, produced by Soderbergh but directed by Gregory Jacobs (the underrated “Criminal”), is just out for a very good time, and on that, like its characters, it delivers.

As it opens, Mike (Tatum) has the furniture design company he was dreaming of, and it is successful enough to keep him very busy but not successful enough for him to be able to buy insurance for his employee.  Uh-oh, you think.  Sharp tools and no insurance.  There’s going to be some awful accident that will make Mike go back out to raise money a dollar at a time tucked into his g-string.

But no, this is not that movie.  No artificial stress.  It just wants to make you smile.

Mike just misses his friends, and so he decides to join them for one last big road trip, a bro-trip, with adventures along the way and the world championship exotic dancing competition at the end.  There are adventures and many, many opportunities to make women smile along the way, with a few personal problems to resolve, the most pressing finding a woman who is willing to have sex with Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello).  Spoiler alert: he does.

But before that, he has a great scene in a convenience store, doing a dance number to an 90’s pop confection that never goes out of style.  The guys stop off in a southern mansion where ladies old enough to be their mothers drink a lot of wine and reveal that they have just never been properly ap-PRE-ciated.  That problem will be at least temporarily solved.

And Mike visits a lady from his past, played by a smokin’ Jada Pinkett Smith.  She now runs a private club for ladies to be treated like QUEENS.  Will she help them by emceeing their big number at the convention?  Are healers gonna heal?  Are they going to go beyond the Village People typecasting and find dances that express their inner beings and make the ladies smile while so doing?

Yes, yes, and yes.  Gorgeous men dance for your pleasure and bro-out enough that boyfriends will enjoy it, too, especially when they realize that there is a certain fantasy element on a road trip like this one.  No one takes anything too seriously except for having fun and that is exactly what they deliver.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely explicit and crude sexual references and situations, nudity, drinking, drugs, and very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: Why do the guys like to think of themselves as “healers?”  If you created a dance to show your personality, what would it be?

If you like this, try: “Magic Mike” and the “Step Up” movies

Related Tags:

 

Musical Series/Sequel

3 Days to Kill

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm

3DaysToKill-PosterKevin Costner is back, big time, with five scheduled releases this year. It’s only February, and this is his second big spies-and-shoot-outs action film of 2014, following Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  This one, from writer Luc Besson and director McG (“Charlie’s Angels”) seems inspired by Liam Neeson’s annual series of middle-aged action films (“Taken,” “Taken 2,” next week’s “Non-Stop”).  This will not go down as an especially memorable entry in the filmography of Costner or Besson, but it is a big improvement over Besson’s previous middle-aged star action film, From Paris With Love, with John Travolta, also set in Paris.  Costner reminds us why he is a movie star with ease and likability that is a perfect on-screen match for Besson’s trademark mash-up of intense action, gooey sentiment, and goofy comedy.

Costner plays Ethan Renner, a long-time CIA operative.  He is not a spy.  He is an assassin.  He is sent in to kill people, presumably bad guys, and he is very good at it.  But when we meet him chasing after a bad guy known as “the albino” and clearly not feeling well.  It turns out he has cancer.  A doctor tells him to get his affairs in order and crisply thanks him for his service to the CIA.

Ethan returns to his apartment, where a large family of sweet-natured squatters from Africa have moved in and repainted his bedroom.  Under the law, squatters cannot be evicted until spring, plus one of them is a young pregnant woman, so he lets them stay.  Ethan contacts his estranged-but-n0t-divorced wife, Christine (Connie Nielsen) and his teenaged daughter, Zoey (Halliee Steinfeld) to spend time with them while he can.  And then Vivi (Amber Heard), a CIA operative who dresses like Lady Gaga, makes him an offer he can’t refuse.  If Ethan will take one last job, she will give him an experimental drug that could cure his cancer and give him more time.

Ethan races around Paris, alternately torturing the director of a high-end limo service to get information about the whereabouts of The Albino’s accountant and asking him for parenting tips, giving his daughter lessons in bike-riding and, with the help of that accountant, a recipe for spaghetti sauce, hallucinating due to the effects of the experimental drug and swigging vodka as an antidote, and doing some very bad things to some very bad guys.  A lot of it makes no sense, but let’s face it, that’s not why we’re here.

Parents should know that this film has extensive spy-style action peril and violence. A character is an assassin and many other characters are injured and killed with guns, chases, explosions, fights, some disturbing images, mortal illness, drinking, smoking, drugs, some nudity and suggestive dancing, non-explicit childbirth scene, and some strong language.

Family discussion: Is Ethan a good dad? How did the theme of fatherhood come up in different ways throughout this film?

If you like this, try: “The Professional” and “The Transporter”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Spies Thriller

Drive Angry

Posted on February 24, 2011 at 7:22 pm

The movie is called “Drive Angry.” It stars Nicolas Cage. It’s in 3D.

What more do you need to know?

Cage is such a fan of comic books he took his screen name from a comic book superhero and starred as “Ghost Rider.” Cage and co-writer/director Patrick Lussier have brought a stylish and mythic comic book sensibility to this story about a man determined to kill cult members who murdered his daughter and plan to kill her baby.

Cage plays John Milton (I did say mythic), a mysterious loner, who hitches a ride with Piper (Amber Heard, as terrific here as she was in “The Jones”), a waitress who just dumped her fiance and took his Dodge Charger, the one with the license plate that says DRV ANGRY. They go after Jonah King (Billy Burke, looking like a cross between Jim Jones and the Pick-Up Artist) and his Satan-worshiping followers, who are preparing to sacrifice Milton’s granddaughter under the full moon. And they are chased by cops following up on the trail of dead bodies they leave wherever they go and by a man in a suit who calls himself “the accountant” (William Fitchner, like a civilized Terminator with the nose of a bloodhound and the demeanor of an elegant viper). There’s a series of dust-ups and then the final confrontation/conflagration.

This is the kind of movie they used to show in drive-ins and clearly everyone in it is having a blast. It’s nicely twisted and even a little fierce, willing to take on some big questions that provide as much fuel for the story as the cars and carnage. The movie’s highlight is Fitchner, who can sniff the air or toss a coin with as much on-screen power as all the chases and shoot-outs.

Related Tags:

 

3D Action/Adventure Thriller
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik