Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Wolverine

The Wolverine takes a interesting look back at Wolverine past, but in a present setting. It has quite a few issues, and some annoyances. But when its predecessor was so awful, does making a few mistakes really matter? Wolverine as a franchise needed to improve greatly, and this movie tries to do this by setting itself aside from the other X films. With a story that does not seem at home in the marvel movie universe, does it manage to make up for the original Wolverine film?

Let's start with the story. Wolverine saved a Japanese soldiers life back at Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Many years have passed, and that soldier is now a old man at deaths door. He wishes to thank Logan for saving him, and invites him to his home in Tokyo. When Logan arrives, the man offers him a gift. He can take away his mutant powers, allowing him to give up his immortality. The man wishes for Logan to transfer his powers to him, as he is not ready to die. Logan refuses, but wouldn't you know it, bad stuff happens anyways. He is weakened, and his friends grand daughter is being targeted.

The story works pretty well within the movie, but it certainly doesn't feel like anything marvel has done before. If anything it reminded me of the older Blade movies, in that it was slow paced with good action thrown in from time to time. The story is also very Japanese, which isn't a bad thing. While you would expect "The Wolverine" to be mostly action, there really wasn't to much until the end. It focuses more on telling a tale about family, and honor. It wants you to know the different roles, and it focuses on what was really a defining moment in Logan's past. Comparing it to the first Wolverine film, this one easily outdoes the original in this category. I felt the story was one of the stronger parts of the movie.

One nice thing about the setting, mostly Japan, is that all the scenery is fantastic to look at. While some of the movie takes place in Tokyo, quite a lot of it takes place in the smaller cities and villages. You get to see some very beautiful architecture, and I really enjoyed seeing the country as they traveled about. The movie tried to show off multiple sides of Japan, as well as its different cultures.

This movie is a good bit bloodier then I was expecting, though for me that is not a bad thing. It is pg, so it doesn't go to overboard, but it is quite a bit worse then the first one. Seeing Wolverine cut people apart, or tossing them into heavy machinery that then spews blood and pulp is a treat. The effects were decent, and the claws no longer looked fake and ugly. While he did still do some things that are frankly impossible, even for him, most of the cheese factor was toned down. Well until the ending, but more on that later.

For acting, you have Hugh Jackman as Logan. Chances are by now, you have seen one of the X-men movies and know what to expect. He does well enough with the role, and continues to play it much like he has in the past. Famke Janssen has a surprisingly big role int his film as the deceased Jean Grey. Logan sees her quite frequently, both when he is asleep or on the verge of passing out. He is obsessed with her, and she acts almost like a guide for him at times. She did well enough with the role, though she never really gets to do much with it. Still it was a nice treat seeing her reprise the role, as I did not know she was in the movie going into it. The other two major players are Tao Okamoto as Mariko, Wolverines love interest. And Rila Fukushima, who plays his partner more or less. They both seemed to do well enough, though Fukushima was a stand out star in in the movie. She played bad ass rather well, and seeing her flip around and tear apart ninjas and Yakuza was very entertaining.

While it was neat to see Jean Grey used again, it was one of the things I didn't really like about the film. At first it was a nice touch, but she kept showing up over and over again. Logan can not let her go, and that actually plays into the story. He killed her in the last x-men movie, and that still haunts him. He also has not dealt with the fact that he loved her, but she never loved him in a romantic way. In the comics Logan has recently started a new school, and named it after Jean Grey. It is a direct competitor to her Husbands school, so clearly him not being over her works within the film. Still the extent they used it just got old, and came off as more creepy then anything else.

Now for the ending, and no don't worry about spoilers. Up until the ending, the movie was pretty decent. You had a good story, some cool fight scenes, and very little cheese. In the end though, that all goes out the window. You get a horrible final fight, that honestly didn't feel like it fit within the rest of the movie. I was leaning towards a pretty positive review until the last 15 minutes or so. It is not to say that they totally ruined the film, not by a long shot. But they did detract from everything else. Still it was better then a mute Deadpool getting his head cut off while he has Cyclop's mutant powers.

In the end, this movie was easily better then the original. Pretty much in every aspect. While the ending did take away from it a little, it still managed to be better then I thought it would be going into it. I was entertained for the duration, and we got some good action out of it. There is even a nice stinger after the credits, which I believe is a nod to Future Past, the next X-men movie.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Heat

A buddy cop movie staring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. The idea behind it is, Bullock is a very proficient F.B.I. Agent who everybody hates. She is good at her job, but she is awful with her co-workers. She gets sent out of town to work a case where she ends up working along side McCarthy. McCarthy is frankly horrible at her job, and should be fired. While most of her time on the job finds her committing acts that are, well let's just say not very legal or ethical, she is also presented as a super cop. Honestly that was the biggest issue I had with he movie. She should have been let go or possibly even imprisoned long ago. Still the 2 are very similar roles, with the exception being their lifestyles. McCarthy seems happier, and is able to interact with people on a better level then Bullock.

The story revolves around them trying to catch  a big drug dealer. While the story had no real issues with it, it also was not the main point of the film. This is a comedy, and the story quickly fades into the background. While I normally don't care for McCarthy, she did well in this role. She was humorous, and probably provided more entertainment then Bullock. 

From seeing the two getting smashed in a bar, to their over the top cop antics, the heat managed to keep me happy throughout its duration. While it was not an amazing film, for a rental I was quite happy. If you are a fan of McCarthy, you know what to expect. If you like Bullock, she does well in the comedy role. I would say if your looking for some laughs, you could do a lot worse.



The Internship

The Internship is a comedy staring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. After losing their jobs selling watches, they decide to try and get an internship at Google. The hiring process is apparently a summer long competition, with the winners getting a job offer. While I have no clue how the Google hiring process actually works, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the movie was fairly accurate. That being said, I don't know if I would hire somebody based off of their Quiditch skills. 

The issue with this movie isn't the plot, as much as it is the poor dialogue and acting. Owen Wilson hasn't been worth watching in years. Vince Vaughn is about the same. Neither did well with the comedy. While there are a few funny moments, they are spread out rather thinly over a movie that felt way to long. Most of the movie felt like it was dragging, and it never managed to find its' stride. I almost turned it off a few times, but after a while, something interesting would usually happen. 

I enjoyed the challenges the interns had to do, and they were pretty much the only real stand out moments of the film. Seeing them play Quiditch from the Harry Potter series for example. It was the most memorable part of the movie for me.

Josh Brener also played a big role in this movie. You may know him from those awful Samsung galaxy phone commercials. He was somehow able to be more unlikable, which frankly is an accomplishment in its own right. 

Honestly this movie has very little going for it. While it has some humor, most of it just fails to entertain. With long spans of boredom between the few worthwhile portions, it is hard to recommend this movie. For a rental, you can do much better. 


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Frozen

Frozen is a new Disney film staring Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad. Oddly enough, I hadn't really seen any advertising done for the film. So it was kind of nice going into it with no real knowledge or expectations. After quite a few previews, and as many amc adds....why advertise the theater I am already in? After all that, the movie began, except not. You are treated to a Mickey Mouse short that frankly could have been removed and I would have been happier. I am not sure if it was included due to Pixar usually doing something, but it fell flat and started the movie off with me annoyed. This brings me to another point, the sound. The sound was awful at the theater I saw it at. The Universal Studios theater. It sounded all filtered and distorted. I know this is not the movies fault, so I will not hold it against it. But since it was a movie with lots of singing, understand that is why I don't really spend much time on that section.

The story, with minor spoilers, is that Anna and Elise are princesses of some land with a name I don't remember. They are very close as children, but over the course of a musical number we see that all change. Elise has magic powers that allow her to create and control ice and snow. Afraid of her hurting her sister with her powers, the parents decide to seal off the children from the world. They raise them separately  and they no longer interact with each other. The main story kicks in when they are older and Elise is becoming queen. After finally seeing her sister again, Anna gets carried away and angers her. Elise looses control of her powers and sends their kingdom into an eternal  winter. 

Voice acting is very different from regular acting. It requires different talents and skills. I don't recall Kristen Bell doing voice work before, so it was very nice to see she took naturally to it. From what I could tell, she also did well with the singing portions. Her character Anna was the main role in the movie, and Bell was fantastic. The person who surprised me though was Josh Gad. I had no clue who he was going into the film, but his role as Olef the snowman was a show stealer. He does a musical number about how he wants to see summer, so he can finally do whatever it is snow does when it gets hot. Between his dopey but lovable demeanor, he easily had some of the more humorous and memorable parts. Groff also did well, but other then one musical portion, his character really doesn't stand out much. 

Sound...yeah. Music sounded like it was all well done, and a few of the numbers were very clever. Nothing really stood out as just being bad from what I could tell. Oh if you see it with your family or friends, make sure to ask them who voices the reindeer with a serious face. Don't worry, you will know when the time is right to ask.

Animation was pretty good in this one. It was done in a similar style as Tangeled or Brave. The people looked rather realistic, but the faces are often done in a more exaggerated manor. It seems like it allows for a wider range of emotions, but that could also be just in my head. The snow was cool though, and the magic stuff was impressive to see. You expect a certain level from a big Disney animated film, and this one easily met it. Seeing Elise manipulate her surroundings was always enjoyable.

The story overall was decent. Seeing the sisters trying to deal with their issues was a nice change of pace. While it wouldn't be a Disney movie without a romance subplot, this one felt unique enough to stand out. It never takes the main stage, and it didn't feel forced. The sound was hard to gauge, but I think everything was good with it. And the voice work was animated and enjoyable. Great animation quality, and cool magical visuals to round everything up. Honestly I enjoyed this movie more then I thought I would. It is a great date night movie if your lady is into these kind of films. And a great family movie that I think both male and female kids would enjoy. Hell, I can even say as a almost 30 year old male that I enjoyed the musical princess film.



Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

With so many big name movies already out this year, it can be easy to forget about those that are still left. For me that was this movie. Until I was invited out to see it, I had actually forgotten it was even coming out anytime soon. After reading the books though, I will admit I was more then a little excited to see the movie. For me this was the book that sold me on the franchise. While I liked the idea behind the first one, this is where the story finally starts to form. Without spoiling anything, this should be the best movie in the series. So did it live up to that? 

Let me start by talking about the new director. Francis Lawrence takes over for Gary Ross, and it is a great change. I had nothing against Ross or the artistic direction he took in the first film. However this one felt more, well more professional. To me the first movie was done in a style you don't normally see in big budget flicks. And I am not just talking about the shaky cam most people seemed to have a issue with. From the way they tried to show the oppressive nature of the peace keepers and the Capitol, to the camera work and the pacing. Everything just felt better in this movie. Instead of using shaky cam, weird angles, and other tactics to try and elicit emotion; Lawrence uses other means. Better pacing, better timing, solid camera work that does not take away from what is going on. The difference was far more noticeable then I thought it would be. 

If you saw the first film, you know what to expect as far as acting goes. Jennifer Lawrence still knows what she is doing, and does very well. She brings a lot of emotion into this movie, and has more then a few stand out moments. Josh Hutcherson, who I tend not to like, did very well also. He was more likable in this movie, and seems to be growing as a actor. As most of this film was not action, and more drama, I was a little worried about that. Kravitz is still amazing, and Harrelson turns in a good performance. Phillip Seymour Hoffman took me by surprise though. I don't remember his character in the book having the presence he did in the movie. He was delightfully unlikable, and yet you loved him at the same time.

Speaking of the movie being more drama then action, I would like to talk about the story a little. I don't want to get into spoilers, so let me just talk about the tone of the film. This is a very depressing movie, from start to finish. When you start to see something good forming, it rips it away. This is actually what makes the film so good though. They really draw you in and make you care about the peoples struggles. From the killings, to the torture, nothing is shown in great detail....but it still really gets to you. Emotion is a powerful tool,and they use it to turn a fairly simple story into something you care about. When it does finally shift into action mode, around the final third of the film, that emotion stays with it. 

While there are special effects before the fighting starts, they are more noticeable late in the film. From some crazy fog, to cool forcefields, this one gets it right. Everything looked great, and yes That includes Katniss's fancy dresses. As far as the fighting goes, you don't see a lot of the actual killing. Most of the times you see the beginning, and the after math. Guessing this is a ratings thing, but it doesn't detract from anything either. You still have plenty of tension and suspense.

I saw online where you could order the soundtrack to the film. After seeing it though, I can't imagine what that would comprise of. Most of the movie is silent, I don't actually remember anytime a song was playing in the background. I felt the silence added quite a bit to the overall effect. It made you feel uneasy at times, or more into what was going on onscreen at others. Who me ever scored this film did a great job by going with the minimalist approach. 

So we have a stronger overall film then the first. Better camera work, better acting.
Better story, that begins to get at the overall idea of what the series is all about. Great effect when used, and solid audio work. And a very sad and angering movie that keeps you entranced for its duration. Honestly I don't see the franchise getting better then this entry. If you enjoyed the First one, you will like this one to. If you loved the book, this does a good job with it.



It does pretty much everything right. Well worth your money.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Ender's Game

I saw Ender's Game a few nights ago with my wife. After the movie ended, I had a pretty good grasp on my feelings for it. However the more I thought about it, and the more I talked about it, the less sure I became. I have some how managed to never read the book, even though it has been recommended to me multiple times. So this review, and my thoughts are in no way based upon the book or the similarities or lack there of. I don't know if that helps or hurts in this case, as the book is pretty well known. So as you read this, just remember that. This view and opinion does not take the book into account.

Ender's Game, the basic idea is Earth was attacked 50ish years ago. Aliens who look like giant ants came in and tried to set up a colony, we fought back and managed to push them off world. In the final battle, we only won because of the heroic sacrifice of one pilot. In the time between then and now, we have managed to increase our military might and technology to the point we are a threat to the aliens and have them locked down on their home world. We have decided that children make better soldiers then adults, because of some reason I don't recall. They are able to better process situations and something or another....it made sense, but it sounded idiotic. The idea is if you raise the kid in that environment, they will be mature enough to handle it. And will be able to better utilize the training then a adult would. Ender is one of those kids, he is being trained and Harrison Ford believes he is the kid to end the war.

The story is what the movie is all about, it is based off of a book that is very well known after all. The original book won some big awards, and as such the movie has a lot to live up to. While I have not read the book, my understanding is some of the more...important aspect of it, were left out. The whole political structure of earth, and what his siblings were up to while he was away for example. From my view though, the story was not a issue with the film. The whole child soldier thing worked well, and was believable in the way it was presented. While I never really felt attached to any character, I was still kept interested in what they were doing. Seeing Ender go from his initial academy, to battle school and beyond was a interesting journey. While it did have some action, at its core it really was more of a drama film. I did find that disappointing, but as I was not really sure what the movie was going into it, I can't fault it for something I did not understand. I liked the family dynamic, and it worked well withing the movie. But it never seemed like they got the most out of those scenes. You never really learn much about them, so the fact his sister is a main focus of the film just felt odd. The movie did have some miss steps though. For one I felt it was to long. Certain parts seemed to last longer then they needed, and the whole pacing of the film suffered for it. While I think Harrison Ford did a good job with the role, he also was one of the more boring parts of the movie. So even though the story seemed good in concept, the execution dragged it down. Maybe they just tried to fit to much in.

Acting....I had no real issues with it. Harrison Ford always does well, and he continues to do so. It is odd seeing a film where you do not like him, but apparently he can do unlikable just as well as charming. Another big role was Viola Davis as Major Anderson. If you don't know who she is, you are lucky. It means you don't have a wife or girlfriend who made you go see Beautiful Creatures. She plays a sort of psychologist to the children. She is constantly checking on Ender to see how he is doing mentally. She is one of the few roles in the film, that shows somebody actually caring about the kids. It is a pretty big contrast to the rest of the military, and I thought she had a good performance here. Ben Kingsley did well, although he didn't really do that much. And Asa Butterfield does decent with Ender. I don't think he was good enough to carry the movie, but I would say he has a good future ahead of him in acting.

I want to talk about space for a moment. The movie takes place in it, and the only real battles are space battles. We see them simulating battles as part of their training, and they use a unique system that allows the commander to see and command the entire fleet at once. Think of a camera pulled back away from the battle, kind of like a video game. He can spin the camera, focus on things, and pretty much get any view of the battlefield he needs. It all sounds pretty cool, but in actuality it lessened those scenes greatly. By not focusing on the ships, and giving us the chaotic view of the battle, all of the space portions just came off as lackluster and boring. I don't go to movies to watch somebody else play a video game, I want to feel like I am out in space with them. For a movie whose final chapter is pretty much about space battle simulations, it really failed to make that section worth while. When Ender takes his final test, his crew is fighting against impossible odds and thousands of ships. That should not be boring to watch, and it should carry some sort of emotional weight with it.

THIS NEXT PART IS SPOILERS, I TALK ABOUT THE END OF THE MOVIE. LOOK FOR MORE BOLD LETTERS BELOW AND SKIP TO THOSE IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY KNOW HOW IT ENDS. THIS IS MOSTLY A RANT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE READ THE BOOK, OR HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE ALREADY. SKIP IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE ENDING

Okay so the ending is the government is screwing with Ender. It seems like it should have been a big reveal, but they give it away before they drop the bombshell on the kid. By the time he finds out, I was already over it. It made that whole moment feel cheapened. They also never go into why his friends deceived him, or did not tell him what was going on. The ending felt rushed and tacked on, it seemed like there should have been more to it. The whole movie was building to that moment, and for it to fall flat like that really dragged the whole thing down for me.

START READING AGAIN FROM THIS POINT, IGNORE THAT OTHER SECTION.

Okay so we have a strong book which seemed to be stripped down for the theatrical version. We get a story that seems to be lacking key elements, and that fails to deliver in the end. While the movie starts strong, it does tend to lose steam near the end. The entire final act was a let down to me, and by the time the movie ended, I was more then ready to go home. Acting was decent all around, but the kid who played Ender did not seem capable of fully embracing that role. And for a movie who has some pretty big space battles, they all tend to be pretty poorly done. Was the film enjoyable? I would say it had its moments. Ender has some good lines, and seeing the kid mouth off was pretty funny. His emotional scenes though left much to be desired. I enjoyed the movie overall, but would rather have not paid theater prices for it. If you are a fan of the book, from what I have been told you should enjoy it. You will be able to fill int he portions that the rest of us were simply not given. I think most can enjoy the film, but few will truly love it.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Gravity

Gravity is a odd film to talk about. You try to put it into a genre, but it can be difficult. It works off of tension, and has many elements of a horror film, but it obviously is not one. You could call it a drama, but in my mind that doesn't really fit it either. It is being called Science Fiction, but that is usually reserved for the more exotic titles. Stuff with aliens, or some form of paranormal, this is all presented to you as a possible event. It tries to work off of actual science and technology, though it does not do that well. It does however do quite a bit right. The plot is based around 2 people. Ryan Stone played by Sandra Bullock, and Matt Kowalski played by George Clooney. Stone is a medical engineer on her first mission, who is trying to set up some new equipment she developed in a hospital. Kowalksi is in charge of the mission, and is on his last outing before retirement. While they are working with the rest of their team, they get word of a Russian satellite that has been destroyed. The debris is spiraling outward and causing other satellites to explode as well adding to the shrapnel. They determine their ship is currently in its projected path, and try to escape the destruction and make their way back to Earth. Obviously that does not go well, or the movie would be 10 minutes long. This is also where the movie begins to get silly, but more on that later.

Let's start with the movies high point, the visuals. I saw this in 3d, on one of the Sony 4k screens. Basically what the means, other then $15 a ticket, is the best quality visuals and sound that can be offered....according to Sony. And to be fair, this is one of the only movies I can think of that greatly benefits from that treatment. Who ever did that score for this film deserves some sort of award, but the people behind the overall look of it deserve far better. Space is presented to you in a way I had not seen before. It was like looking at NASA photos and footage for 2 hours. Everything looked so crisp, and because it dealt only with the areas around the planet and not some huge system, it really does come off feeling like something you have not seen before. The way they shot it though is what really sets it apart from other films. They use some creative shots and angles to make you feel like you are there, or to make you understand the empty void they are in. Seeing a backdrop of nothing, while a distraught Sandra Bullock slowly spirals into it while there is no sound but her screaming....well it really does sell the moment and creates a very unsettling feeling. I feel I can easily say that this was one of the most Visually appealing movies I have seen.

Now for the music, or sound in general. In Space there is no sound, or so I am led to believe. This movie takes place in space, and as such they do try to replicate that. There are portions of the film where you really don't here anything. The 2 astronauts do talk quite a lot, but that is to help the pacing and narrative. There is rarely back ground music though, which allows it to be used to better effect when it does come in. The opening to the movie is just them talking. You can hear some music being played by Clooney over the com system, but you can not hear anything else. It really does set a mood of unrest, and whether or not you have a quiet theater, or one filled with obnoxious people, will greatly effect how you experience this movie.

I usually talk about acting, and how well people did with this role. However this movie is pretty much just Clooney and Bullock, and chance are you already have a opinion of them. They both do very well with it, and are able to carry the entire film by themselves. Zero complaints, They both did great jobs.

When I saw this movie, the idea of the debris made no sense to me. So of course I google it when I get home, and I see others agree. The debris from the satellite is spiraling in a pattern so that every 90 minutes it circles the Earth, and hits what ever the teams next objective is. Other then the idiotic notion that everything is spaced out perfectly, so that the 90 minutes period works every time, there is another issue. I have a limited understanding of orbits, and....vectors....and space stuff....but in my mind, the debris could not hold that same velocity, and path. It would slow down without some form of constant power, and would begin to fall or lose its path. Turns out people much smarter then I, and who actually understand this stuff agree. The movie works off of Convenient for the plot science, instead of actual science. If you can ignore that, you will be better off.

This is one of those movies you see once, and you are good. It is fueled by the simple fact, that until the very end, you don't know what is going to happen. Will they live, will they die? And while the story is rather simple, it works because of that tension. Clooney is very likable, and Bullock while lacking in that area, is the more relate-able. You really do want them to make it, and the movie thrives off of that. If you can get past the whole, this could never actually happen this way mentality of it all...there is something very interesting and unique here. While I do say I would never buy this movie, or probably even see it a second time....I do feel it is worth seeing that one time. And if ever there was a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen, with a awesome sound system, this is it. Heck I'll even tell you to see it in 3d, which is something I usually can't stand. At the very least though, you should rent it when that becomes a option. It really is worth you time.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

This is the End

This Is the End is a movie based around the Apocalypse. It is also based on a short film from 2007 that was never released, it was titled Seth and Jay Versus the Apocalypse. From what I understand, they used the short film to pitch this movie to studios as kind of a prototype. Looking at the original trailer for the short film, it was nice to see them expand the final version so much. What was once two guys all alone quickly became much bigger. This film is filled with so many different cameos that you eventually stop being surprised when somebody pops up. I have no clue what the budget was for it, but I would love to see how much it cost them to get somebody like Emma Watson for 20 minutes as opposed to Jay Baruchel for the whole duration. Also speaking of Cameos, Michael  Cera easily had the best appearance in the film. If you are a fan of his, you will enjoy seeing him in a new light. If you dislike him, you will enjoy seeing him act sleazy. He comes off so unlikable, that it really just makes you enjoy him. We get the Super Bad group back together for a scene, we got the Backstreet Boys back together for a performance. Heck you even get a sequel to Pineapple Express about half way into the movie. If you are a fan of the core group of actors in this film, there will be something for you to like about it. Everybody plays themselves, so they reference their old works through out the film. Everybody really plays off each other, and the movie benefits from that.

The story is simple enough. James Franco is throwing a huge party at his house. Jay Baruchel is staying with Seth Rogen while he is in town, and gets dragged to the party along with Seth. He does not get along with Seth's new friends however. He hates Jonah Hill, who I just wanted to punch in the face the entire film. Jay just does not want to be there, so he ends up leaving to buy some smokes. While he and Seth are at the convenient store, everything goes to hell. People start getting sucked into the sky, there are explosions and chaos all around. The world instantly changes, and they don't seem to understand why. When they get back to the party though, it is as if nothing has changed. All the celebrities are still there, they are still partying and are unaware of what is going on outside. There is actually a pretty interesting message at this point in the film. If you have seen the movie, or when you do, think back to who was left behind. So Jay and Seth freak everybody out, they all try to leave, and people start to die. It is actually one of the funnier scenes of the movie. People are not helping each other, those that do try end up failing in a comedic way. I have not seen wide spread death and destruction that has made me laugh like that in a while. What we end up with is Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson in the house together. And the movie is mostly about them trying to survive the final days together.

The comedy is similar to Pineapple Express. It has some drug use, and a lot of sexual comedy. If that stuff bothers you, or you are offended by it, simply skip this one. If stuff like Pineapple Express, and maybe even stuff like Tropic Thunder appeal to you, then give it a shot. Just be aware though, that the movie earns its R rating pretty easily. A easy example would be when they were all discussing what to do with Emma Watson now in the house with them. One was trying to discuss how they should approach the situation cautiously so they would not come off as creepy. It turned into a discussion about rape pretty quickly. Over hearing it, Watson misunderstands and thinks she is about to be raped. That was actually one of the tamer moments of the film, but it does show some of the sexual humor I was referencing.

Visually speaking, the film was a mixed bag. I did like the LA on fire scenes, and the monsters looked pretty good for the most part. However some portions just looked low budget compared to others. Sink holes open up and swallow people into them at one point. The holes looked fine, but what was inside of them looked off. The way people fell, and the effects were done did not seem to match up right. And the whole scene just looked very fake at certain points. They did a good job of mostly keeping in the house after that, so there are not a lot of other scenes with very many effects. So the few miss steps don't really detract that much, but they were noticeable from time to time. Only other real issue I had with the film was simply, you do get tired of the dick jokes after awhile.

Only other thing I would really like to talk about is the ending. But that is a huge spoiler, so let me just go ahead and do this. SKIP THIS PART IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW WHAT CAUSES THE APOCALYPSE, OR HOW THE MOVIE ENDS. So when the film first came out, a lot of people did not like the ending. I never really understood why until I watched it, and now I just more confused. It ends up being the Biblical Apocalypse, so the people being sucked into the sky are being raptured. They are going to heaven, and everybody left are those who were not eligible. This was the message I was talking about earlier, all the celebrities did not get into heaven. I thought that was funny, since they are the ones making and writing the movie. However with it being a biblical movie, you would expect them to follow the bible...they do not. Pretty much all of the core group end up getting into heaven, but not by the ways the Bible has set out. Also the parts of the apocalypse that were shown, did not really line up with the one in the Bible. So at first I figured, people were annoyed they didn't follow the Bible. After thinking about it though, that can't be right. While Christianity is a huge religion, not everybody complaining followed it, and it would be rather vein to assume that was the reason. So maybe people didn't like it because it was about God? I would assume most people don't go to a Seth Rogen, or Danny McBride movie expecting it to say Christians are right. So if you are reading this, and you have seen the movie....if you didn't like the ending, simply tell me why. I would appreciate it greatly.

Alright no more spoilers.

So we have a movie over flowing with celebrities.  The opening is very strong, mostly because of that reason. Crazy stuff starts to happen, and the tone changes. It is no longer about fun, but about survival. The movie works off of comedy though, instead of tension. The laughs hold up for the most part, but the same jokes over and over again do get stale eventually. We have what I felt was a good ending, with a very strong finish. There are a few effects hiccups from time to time, but for the most part everything looked pretty damn cool. I paid $15 on amazon for the movie, and feel like I got my moneys worth. If you are a fan of Seth Rogen and his other works, chances are you will enjoy this one to. Honestly I put the RedBand trailer below, just watch that. If you like it, you will like the movie. It shows you exactly what you are going to get.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2

I went to see this movie for my Birthday with the wife. The first Insidious was one of the better horror films I have seen in years. I would even say it was one of my favorite films in that genre. It had great pacing, good camera work, solid acting, and a overall creepy atmosphere that intensified the few scares it had. It was however, not a very scary movie. Still it was very enjoyable, and set a high bar for the sequel.

At the end of the first film, Josh who is played by Patrick Wilson, had managed to find his son in the further. The further is kind of a after world where souls who have not moved on reside in. Josh finds his son who was believed to be in a coma, and brings him back to his body so he can wake up. Josh however does not make it back into his body, a evil spirit who has been following him all his life manages to take control of it while he is gone. That spirit then wakes up, now inhabiting Josh, and kills the Ghost Hunter Elise. Elise was the one who was helping the family save their son, and was a threat to the evil spirit. The final scene in the movie was the wife standing over Elise, and finding the proof that the spirit had inhabited her Husband. The movie closed with him seeing her, and then her screaming. We assumed she was now dead to, however we were wrong. 

This movie starts off right where the other left off, but we get more details. The wife did see the evidence, but she thought the spirit simply materialized along side her Husband. She does not at first know he is now possessed. Her Husband is being investigated for Murder, since he was the last one with the victim. Other then that though, everything seems to be fine at first. They believe they are no longer being haunted. We quickly find out however that is not the case, and the movie picks up and takes off into the further. 

One thing I really enjoyed about the first movie was the pacing, it was perfect. Slow build up, with minimal scares or spirit activity in the beginning. We were not overwhelmed with the spirits, and it made them more intense when we did seem them. The movie built upon that, until it got up to full speed, and then just never really slowed down again. This movie however, the pacing just seemed off. I wouldn't say it was bad, but it did seem to falter in a few places. Unlike the first film, this one was very forthcoming with the spirits. There is a almost origin story early on in the film. It shows Josh as a child, and when Elise first visited him to try and get rid of the Evil Spirit that haunted him. We don't see much, but we get our first attack, and some background info on why this is happening to his family. From there though the movie never really slows down. While it does work for it, I felt it lost a lot of suspense. You always knew when something would happen.

Speaking of Origin stories, this movie basically fits that role. In the first movie we heard bits and pieces about Josh as a child. But we never got the full story of what happened. This movie has scenes from back then, and even gives us info on who the spirit is. We get to know who they are, and why they are attached to Josh specifically. We learn about their past, and why they are so intent on killing people. It was actually kind of neat finding everything out. In the first movie you never cared about it, but seeing them work everything out in this one really paid off. Some of the best scenes are when the ghost hunters and Josh's Mother are hunting down the info. The movie felt so different from the first one, and I really enjoyed the new approach. Also it gave two of my favorite characters from the first film a bigger role. Specks and Tucker, who played Elise's assistant,s are every bit as humorous in this film as the last. They have some great moments, and a little comedy helps the film out greatly. 

Another high point of the first film was the Atmosphere. The way it was shot, the music, the look of the sets. Everything just contributed to the overall vibe of the film. This one was no different, and once again nailed that dark, creepy vibe. The house they live in, looks like it was designed solely to scare you. Low lighting, a Red window pain that creates a effect no sane person would have in their house. Not to mention old houses are already kind of creepy. Add in some great music and audio, and you are ready to go. As with the first film, the camera work was well done, and really added to the overall feel of the film. Watching a spirit float from one room into the next as the camera pans from the hall way for example. It uses focus points that look like something you would be doing in real life. Other times they use odd angels I would have never thought off, but they create a effect that works well in the film. When the police are interviewing the wife, they are in a dark room with just the table lit up. The camera is very far back and slowly pulls into the room where they are sitting. There are no walls though, so it is as if the room is massive when we start off. During that scene the wife finds out her husband is the main suspect, and she starts to wonder if he is the killer. The way the scene is shot creates a effect of the room being cut off. It may have not been intentional, but to me it seemed like they were trying to recreate what was happening to the wife. It was as if everything was closing in on her, and it worked well. It is hard to explain, but the camera work adds to the emotion of the film at times. 

The last thing that is really important about any movie in this genre, does it have scares? For me, it had plenty of jump scares. Startling moments that are usually set off by loud audio, or something quickly happening that catches you off guard. The atmosphere comes into play here, it really does its job of trying to keep you in the right mind set. So when something does happen, they tend to get a reaction from you. However I did not leave freaked out, I did not have trouble going to bed. Once it was over, it was over. I would say it had its moments, but overall not a very scarey movie. Still much like the first film, it does well with what it has. The story and other aspects of it more then make up for it.

Closing thoughts...We get a nice story that answers some questions from the first film. Good audio and camera work really add to the experience. The movie was always entertaining to me, and kept me interested in what was going on. Acting was still good, and the new roles fit well along side the established characters. While it was not a very scare heavy movie, it did have a few good jumps.In the end I really enjoyed the 2nd chapter of Insidious. I felt it fell short of the first film, but only slightly. It felt like a different movie, but it still fit into the overall story. I guess you can't really recreate the first film, without it feeling like a rip off. But I do still wish it had some sort of stand out moment like the first film. The seance for example was much more intense in the first film. And that Devil monster was far creepier then anything we get in this movie. Still it was a solid movie, and one that felt worth the money I spent on the ticket. 

Thinking about the movie more, the creepiest part was by far the way they dubbed over young Elise's voice with Old Elise. I guess you can find a actress that appears to be the younger version of somebody, but getting one that also sounds similar is to much. It makes sense that they would do it that way, but seeing her lips not really match up just felt unsettling.

Also I should probably address this movie vs the conjuring. Both are in theaters still, both are horror, and both have Patrick Wilson in them. Good on him for sticking to a genre, he does well in these roles. I believe I gave Conjuring a 4, and to be honest I almost did the same with this film. I do not do half stars, but if I did this would have been a 3.5. Both movies were good, and both had some decent jumps. But I still feel the Conjuring gets a slight upper hand, simply because it was based off of true events. For me that just makes more more intense, because parts of it were considered factual. So if you are heading to the theater, and want some horror goodness. I would still toss my vote in for the Conjuring over this, but really either should be up to the task.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods

Dragon Ball started as a weekly comic back in 1984, published in the Shonen Jump books. It ran for 11 years with over 500 chapters, and was turned into a well received animated series as well. If you grew up in the 90's, chances are you have seen or are at least familiar with the show or books. While America did get everything much later, the show did very well over here. For years you could not turn on cartoon network without seeing something Dragon Ball related. Stores were filled with the merchandise, everything from clothing to video games. Even today the series still has a strong presence. When I looked up how long it had been since the last Dragon Ball film, I was shocked. The Path to Power came out March 4, 1996, around 17 years ago. Maybe that was why I was so excited to finally see Battle of Gods. After so long, anything new from Dragon Ball was sure to excite the fans. However hype does not always work in your favor. This was my major concern for the film. That after so long, it would not be able to find its footing again.

The story is simple enough, and frankly it works better by being so easy to digest. Bills is the god of destruction. He is presented as being the strongest entity in existence. He wakes up every dozen or so years to destroy a few planets, and then goes back to sleep. Our hero Goku learns of Bills existence, and decides that fighting him sounds like a good time. If you are familiar with the show, you know Goku is not the smartest guy around. But taking on a god and potentially pissing him off in the process is pretty much what we would expect from him. Bills has a dream before he sets out though, that there is a Super Saiyan God somewhere, and he will finally be able to give him a great fight. Saiyans are a alien race that was wiped out a long time ago. Only a handful remain, 5 of which live on earth and comprise of the major characters in the show. The movie is about Bills trying to find his Saiyan God, while enjoying his time on earth and deciding if he should destroy it or not.

One thing I have always enjoyed about the Dragon Ball movies, is they don't take themselves to seriously. The Books were fairly fast paced, and while they had some comedic moments, it was not the main focus. This movie however did a great job of being both a comedy and action film. The entire first half has almost no fight in it, which was surprising given that is what the series is known for. However it remained very entertaining by relying on its humor and story telling. Bills visits Goku on King Kai's planet, and they have a very short physical encounter. While it could have been a easily forgettable scene, it was sold by the smaller details. Seeing King Kai, a god, visibly shaken by Bills presence really helped sell just how big a threat he was. This is actually a theme through out the film that just works wonderfully. The majority of the movie takes place on earth at a party. Bulma is turning 38, and being one of the richest people on the planet she throws a very extravagant party for herself. She has a Bingo game where the prizes comprise of a castle and a plane, so very rich. Four of the Five Saiyans are at the party, as she is married to one, and one is her son. So Bills ends up there enjoying the food and festivities, and for a minute it seems he will spare earth simply for the food. Vegita is aware of who Bills is, and why he is there. So we get to see a side of him we are not used to. He tries to entertain Bills, and plays advocate every time something comes up that may annoy the lord of destruction.

So after almost a hour, and no real action, the movie finally shifts into gear. Bills decides the earth is annoying, and that is all he needs to destroy it. The good guys jump into action, and get swatted down like they are nothing. I won't spoil it, but this was one of the better moments in the film. Something happens that pisses one of them off, and the first shot against Bills is finally landed in a very satisfying moment. We even get a moment where Vegita finally surpasses Goku in power...for about 5 minutes. Then Goku comes in, figures out the trick to Super Saiyan God, and transforms for the final fight. I wouldn't say the final fight was a let down, but most of the issues I had with the movie stem from that. Let us just say for now, the finish was lacking. But the actual ending to the film was enjoyable, and continues the theme that action was not the main focus of this particular movie. I don't know if it sets up a future movie, but if another one comes they could incorporate this movie easily enough.

As for those issues, I want to start with animation. I have not seen a anime movie in a few years, so I am not sure if it is a new trend or not. But they mixed traditional animation with 3d animation in this movie. Most of the movie was traditional, however the city and battle grounds were 3d for the most part. Also when Goku goes into his God form, his aura was 3d. For the most part, the 3d animation did not look bad. But when movement was brought into play, it all fell apart. The way the traditional art flows, does not match up with the 3d models. It creates a very jarring effect that took me out of the action. When Goku and Bills are flying around at high speeds, it appeared as if the backgrounds were movie in different directions then they were. Or maybe a better way to say it would be, the characters movements did not appear to match what was happening in the background. Another example was Goku's Aura, or energy radiating from his body. In god form it looks almost as if his body is engulfed in flames. This is a common thing in the series, but the aura was always animated before by hand. It made it easier to match the bodies movements, and it looked natural. With the 3d flames, we get the same issues we had with the 3d backgrounds. It does not move correctly, and it just looks odd when Goku moves or fights. When he fights outside of God form though, it reverts back to the traditional animated aura. We also get by far the best minute of fighting in the entire movie at this point. The animation is so smooth, and everything flows and looks right. The music gears up, and really sells the moment. It was a stark contrast to the last few moments and really made the 3d animation flaws stand out. I don't know why they used that sort of animation for God form. Maybe it was cheaper, or maybe it is easier, but it detracts from the overall product.

So we get a Dragon Ball movie light on action, but heavy one story. Though to be fair, after 17 years that does seem like the best option. It was like seeing a old friend again, and I very much enjoyed it for that. There are plenty of stand out moments, from Drunk Gohan to Bulma going off on a God. There was even a Emperor Pilaf story tossed in. I also really enjoyed the new Villain of Bills. He was funny, and very charismatic. I actually had trouble viewing him as a bad guy because of this. Yes he kills planets and the people on them, but you never really see that.

If you are a fan, or were a fan, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You won't be disappointed. The Blue ray can be bought on amazon.com right now, but be aware it does not have English Subtitles. I do not know when the full English version will come out, but they have announced it will happen.

It was close to perfection, but a few animation flaws held it back in the end.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The World's End

A bit of a weird warning. This film contains a huge plot point that is better experienced, if you do not know what it is. The trailer however gives it away, as it is a major point of the film. If you have not seen the trailer yet, and only know it is another Pegg and Frost film in the vein of Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz...well I would recommend simply seeing the film, and not reading this or any other news on it. That may seem odd, but if you liked those films, you will like this one. If you don't care about that plot point, or already know it, please read on.

The new Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movie that is somehow considered the third and final film in the Cornetto Trilogy. If you are wondering what the other two films are, the first is Shaun of the dead, followed by Hot Fuzz. The name for the trilogy is a sort of joke based off of ice cream they ate in the 3 films. Cornetto being a brand, and each film features a flavor packed in a color to represent that film. First one was about zombies so we have red ice cream, 2nd police so we get blue. This one being aliens we get a green wrapper in the final sequence floating by a fence. So are the 3 films related in other ways? Other then the cast and a line about shortcuts being in all 3, not really. We do get a running gag about them not being able to jump fences, but the stories are not connected.

So this movie is about aliens, or rather they are simply a part of it. It is about 5 people who used to be friends but went different ways. They are all brought back together by Gary King, played by Simon Pegg, in order to do a bar crawl named "The Golden Mile." 12 pubs in one night, something they tried 20 years ago but failed to accomplish. There is a bigger story here that deals with King trying to figure out who he is and how to get his life back together, but most of that doesn't really come into play until much later on. Interesting enough, if you follow along with the names of the bars as they go, the names actually line up with what is going to happen at each one. As the comedy starts to pick up, and the movie is hitting its stride, the big swerve comes into play. After our heroes are finally good and drunk, the Alien Robots finally attack...Or defend themselves from a depressed drunk. After that the movie much like the other 2 in the trilogy, turns into more action then drama. We get some pretty decent fight scenes, and cool alien robot effects. And as they continue to drink, the humor gets better with each new pub. This movie paints drinking in a very positive light, so if that bothers you, you might as well skip it. Drunk Nick Frost is hysterical though, and worth the price of admission alone.

Speaking of Drunken Nick Frost, does alcohol turn you into a kung fu master in real life? Because I may give up the whole straight edge thing if it does. The fight scenes in this movie were very well choreographed. The robots all had the same style, but for whatever reason Pegg and his group were all pretty well versed in hand to hand combat also. Nothing overly flashy, but seeing Frost drop elbows and breaking out huge slams was oddly satisfying. I think all 5 members of the group ended up beating at least one robot down with their bare hands. The violence was comical though, as you would expect from these guys. Seeing a robot have its arms ripped off, then replace with legs from one of its fallen comrades for example. Or when Pegg rips ones arm off, and then the arm keeps attacking him. Even the more intense parts of the film kept you smiling.

If you are reading this, I will assume you are familiar with most of the cast involved. Pegg and Frost have done quite a few films and have had tv shows before. Martin Freeman is fairly well known from Sherlock, the Hobbit, and other things. Even Pierce Brosnan shows up for awhile. The acting in the film is good, and it really benefits for it. The dialogue though had me troubled from time to time. Gary King, the lead, is a jerk. He is the kind of guy everybody hates. Stuck in his glory days of the past, and dragging everybody else down so he is not the only one depressed. He ends up lying to pretty much every one of his old friends in order to convince them to go on the crawl. And he treats them all poorly while they are out. The character was written well enough, but most of the time my dislike for him brought portions of the movie down. Also parts of it were simply hard to understand, though that is only because of the accent. Thankfully though that only pertained to the beginning of the film. I would say after the first 20 minutes or so, it started to pick up and the issues I had melted away. As the friends become more and more intoxicated, they get funnier, and oddly easier to understand. And seeing the final showdown where they try to reason with the advance alien species, after a good 12+ pints, was a high point for the film.

Really the only other issues I had with the film were small things. Stuff like, why are they still doing the pub crawl while alien robots are trying to abduct them? Something that is explained later on, at least sort of. And the ending, which didn't really bother me, but my wife seemed to dislike it. So we have a strong comedy with a slow start. You have a good buddy film with far better action then I thought it would have. You have a strong twist that actually helps the story out and works well within the limits of the film. You have decent effects, and a very strong final act. I would say the few negatives I had were easily overlooked by everything else the film offered.

This got me thinking, where would I put it in relation to the other 2 movies in the trilogy. I would say Shaun of the Dead is still the best. But this and Hot Fuzz are very close....I would have to re watch that one to decide. But I feel very confident in saying, if you enjoyed Hot Fuzz, you will enjoy this. Likewise, if Hot Fuzz did nothing for you, this probably won't either.

So if you are looking for a good comedy, or even just want something with some action, give "The World's End" a chance. Or at least a consideration, it easily deserves it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Evil Dead (2013)

I wrote this for my facebook page when the movie first came out, never posted it here. Seeing as how it is now being put on redbox and amazon, I figured I would move it over.

This movie was a special case for me, the 81 version of the film is not in my top 5 by any means, but it is a movie I have seen more times then most others. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell essentially changed how I viewed the horror genre with that film. When I go into a horror film now, I hold them up to that standard. It is not all about gore, it is not all about jump scares, you need more then that to interest me. Now given my feelings for the first film, you can imagine why I was both excited and nervous when I heard about this one. Bruce Campbell is not in it for one, and everybody was nervous they would go over the top with cgi and effects and ruin the charm of the original. Thankfully as more news came out, these fears started to go away. Campbell and Raimi signed onto the film as producers, and we got the announcement that no cgi would be used in the film. After seeing it, that last one astounds me. Also there is a 10 or so second long stinger after the credits, not worth seeing if you are not a fan of the franchise however. If you are though, make sure you wait around. 


The story is pretty similar to the original, however as this is a remake they altered it quite a bit as well. We get 5 young people heading to a cabin in the woods, and bad stuff starts to happen to them. One of them is fighting a drug addiction, and her friends decide to hold her there as she goes cold turkey. One of them finds the fabled Book of Evil, and summons some sort of great evil into the area. The evil comes in the form of a witch, who targets the Mia, the drug addicted girl, and starts to torment her. Her friends and herself think it is all related to the addiction at first, and play it off until things escalate and people start to die. The story is simple, and it sets up the chaos. However it does have more depth then most cabin in the woods films. The book serves as a great plot device. As they read and learn more of it, parts of the film start to come into focus. There are lines that seem unimportant at the time, but explain why things happen later on for example. Or will let you see a twist coming before it happens. It is a movie where paying attention rewards you, but if you miss key things you may be confused later on. Also while the film does have it's own unique story separate from the original, it does have nods and scenes taken from that film. 

I mentioned earlier no CGI was used in this film, that is a huge thing. No computers adding in gore or assisting in make it look like somebody was hacked into. There are a few parts in the film I simply could not believe they did not use computer. One part in particular has somebody on fire, and you can see them still moving quite convincingly while parts of them are melted off. This also brings me to one major point of consideration if you are thinking about seeing this movie. Gore is present, though not in any extreme sense. I will admit I cringed a few times in this, and yes there are buckets of blood. However most of the violence is not over the top, and the actual visuals you get are not overly graphic. If gore bothers you, you should be fine with this film, but you will see more blood then in most other R rated movies. 

The cast is all pretty much unknown to me, but they all handled their roles nicely. Jane Levy plays Mia, and she did crazy perfect. She was by far the stand out role in the film, and one of the main reasons it works so well. The other person who really made the movie for me was Lou Taylor Pucci as Eric. He starts off the movie as by far the least likeable, but ends up being one of the more enjoyable roles. Everybody else did well with their roles, and overall the acting ended up being better then I thought it would be. 

How scary is this movie? Well that honestly depends on a few things, one being what do you consider scary. This movie works off of atmosphere, and minimal jump scares. It builds up suspense and then tosses some very chaotic and violent scenes at you. It picks up 30 or so minutes in, and then does not let off until it is over. If you find tension and a great atmosphere creepy, good news. Add in some jumps, and some god awful violence and you have a horror film worth watching. For me it was not overly scary, but it was creepy and kept me uncomfortable for the duration. For that reason alone, I would say it was one of the best horror films in recent memory.

Closing thoughts, I loved this movie. It holds true to what I consider to be the idea of the original. It is unique and well written, it has depth and great characters. It goes above and beyond what you normally expect from a horror film. The ending was fantastic, and the screen was painted red long before the credits. 


For a second opinion I asked my wife who had not see the original. She actually did not want to see this movie at first, as she thought it was a campy comedy like all the other Bruce Campbell movies I have made her watch. However after showing her the trailer and explaining it was a serious horror film she caved and went to the theaters with me....after canceling our date on opening night. She seemed to enjoy it, and after talking to her for awhile after the film she gave the same rating for it that I did. 

So if you are a fan, and are worried about how they handled the franchise, don't be. They did very well with it, and the movie is worth your time and money. If you are new to Evil Dead and just like horror, go see it. It was by far the best Horror film I have seen in some time, and still would have been even if it was not connected to the old movie in any way. 


Riddick (2013)

I saw this movie a few days ago with my wife, going into it I was unaware of her feelings towards Riddick. In my mind he is more of a anti hero. Yes he kills people, but he also helps others. There seems to be a pattern to his actions, and for the most part I had no issue excepting him as the good guy of the franchise. She on the other hand viewed him as a murderer. While she enjoys the action aspect of the movies, she does not care what happens to him. He is a villain in her eyes, and as such we view the movies differently. This got me thinking, why is it that I don't consider him bad? I could not remember why exactly he ended up in prison to begin with, but I thought it was somehow not his fault. In her mind he went there because he deserved to, so she had no sympathy for him.

After some quick googling and wiki reading I was able to put together what happened. Long story short he was a Ranger, and he excelled at it. After promoting up, he was given a position where he was tasked with enforcing security. Turns out that basically meant murder and torture where he was stationed. He tried to gather evidence against the company, and they turned on him first. He was sent to his first prison, where he ended up escaping after a few years. When that happened the company he used to work for put a huge bounty on him, and he started being hunted. As he took out those who were after him, they were also added to his initial false charges. Do this for quite a few years, and you are now at this movie.

The movie starts with Riddick stranded on a sun scorched planet filled with predators, and horrible conditions. We see no real plant life, very little water, and nothing to really help him survive. If you read reviews on this film, this is one of the main points against it. The starts of the movie is just Riddick for about 20 minutes. We see him injured and beaten, and the only voice we hear is Vin Diesel as he tries to carry the movie along. I honestly had no issues with this part, but it was definitely slow paced. And as much as I like Vin, he doesn't have the acting ability to make a strong opening on his own. This portion of the film serves little purpose also, it mostly comes off as padding to help the overall run time. We see Riddick dealing with injuries, and fixing them in ways I could never imagine actually doing. We get it, Riddick is tougher then we are. After he manages to overcome his first obstacle, which also serves to set up something later on in the film, we get the actual story. He sees something on the horizon, and decides he can no longer stay on that planet. This is where the movie picks up, and turns into what you would expect from Riddick. He finds a merc station and sends out a distress call, with his image and name attached. This makes the Bounty hunters come in, and his plan becomes apparent. He leaves them a message saying something to the effect of "leave one ship and go, or stay and die." After giving prisons so much trouble in the past, Riddick's bounty is now worth double if he is dead, so the mercs decide to not go along with his plan.

Now if you are wondering how he ended up stranded on a planet, when he was the leader of a large group of people in the last movie.....well they do explain that. Let's just say he was not to thrilled with keeping with their customs, and they didn't like him because of that.

So we now have the set up, Riddick vs the Mercs. If that sounds familiar, well the rest of the movie will to. It does not play exactly like Pitch Black did, but it does play very similar. We also get to see the Riddick I know, where he shows discretion in his killing. Two merc groups come to the planet, each wanting something different from Riddick. One tells him as soon as they get there, they will kill him and put his head in a box. The other just wants to talk to him, and then will turn him over to the other group. The first group uses deadly weapons, while the seconds uses non lethal guns. Riddick treats each group very differently because of this. I won't say to much more, but it does kind of lend to the theory that he is not so bad after all.

Now because this is a Riddick film, you get him killing people. There are expectations from that as well. You expect him to have some one liners, and you expect him to kill somebody in a very dramatic way. Think the teacup scene from the earlier films. He turns a tea cup upside down, grind it on some rocks to form a rough edge, then plunges it into a guys chest. This movie has its teacup scene, Riddick is good at killing after all. However I can not for the life of me remember him breaking out any good one one liners. Between the other Riddick movies and games we have quite a few good quotes, but nothing seems to come from this one. It was kind of disappointing.

Something else that seemed off was the acting, mostly just Vin though. Katee Sackhoff who you may know as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica is in the movie. She plays Dahl who works with the good Mercs led by Johns, which is name you should remember from the other movies. Her role was surprisingly light in the film, other then a few moments she really doesn't do much. She did well with the time she had though, and it seemed like if any of them could go toe to toe with Riddick, it may very well have been her. Speaking of Johns, if you remember he was killed in Pitch Black. So the Johns in this movie is his father, played by Matt Nable. He does well with the role, and was one of the more likable roles in the film. Really most of the acting was decent, even Batista who has no real experience yet did well enough with his role. Vin though just seemed off. It came off almost like he was tired, or just not all into this movie. Maybe he was trying to make Riddick more Methodical or Calm, seeing as he is getting older, but it just seemed odd to me. I wouldn't say he did poorly with the role by any means, but he didn't seem like the Riddick he used to be.

The action in the movie was well done, and pretty much what you would expect from the franchise. It is rated R unlike the last film, which was pg13 in the theaters. This lets them do more with the action. The fights come off more ruthless, and more gruesome. Riddick always comes off as a pure badass and this was no different. He is lethal, stealthy, and manipulates the mercs though out the film. And when the final chapter comes, all hell breaks loose. If you were wondering if Vin ever squares off against Batista, the answer is yes. Sadly it is the only fight I can say that was disappointing in the movie. It doesn't last very long, though it was nice to see when it finally did happen. If you just want a good action flick, this movie will satisfy that easily.

What if I didn't like the super powers from the last film? Well you are in luck. Riddick still has his eyes that let him see in the dark, but that furry explosion wave thing is out. There were quite a few places he could have used it, but he never does. I am guessing that took the criticism from the fans, and figured simply not mentioning it was the best way to proceed.

So we have a very solid action film, that plays similar to the first movie in the franchise. It is violent, and wors well with what little story it has. The acting is decent, and the fights and effects are well done. No real huge complaints from me on this one. It was nice to see more Riddick, after that last film I was thinking that may be it. If you liked Pitch Black, you should like this one. If you were turned off by Chronicles, consider giving this one a chance. I really enjoyed it, and will probably buy it when it comes out on blue ray.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

It feels odd having to say this, but the following review does contain language I would not normally use here. If you are reading about a movie with "Ass" in the title, chances are they will not bother you. However since most of these heroes are teenagers, and their names are names teenagers would come up with....well just be aware you got some colorful reading below.

If you look at Chloe Grace Moretz's IMDB page, there is a discussion on there about her on screen body count. It is currently around 56, and those are confirmed on screen kills as opposed to kills you don't actually see. She is also playing Carrie in the now completed remake of....well Carrie. They are estimating about 20 on screen kills in that movie, so she is thought to be in the 70s by years end. This is interesting because Uma Thurman is apparently thought to be the deadliest women in western cinema mostly due to the Kill Bill movies. Chloe will be on par, if not past her at age 16. So think about that for a moment, and understand 40 or so of those are from the first Kick-Ass. Now I want to tell you something else I read online a few days ago. Kick-Ass 2 is more Mean Girls then Mean Girls 2 was. Now consider both of those thoughts put together. Mean girls meets violence and killing, does that sound like a movie you want to see?

The story picks up shortly after the first film, I don't know exactly how long....but I would say no more then a year or so. Dave, or Kick-Ass has stopped fighting crime and is currently trying to be a normal kid. He hates it, life is boring when you are not getting punched in the face. Since he stopped though, others have taken his place. Kick-Ass brought about a movement, one that now has many other every day people putting on costumes and taking to the street. Seeing all this only makes him want to get back out there, to feel that rush again. Mindy or Hit-Girl is in a similar situation. With her dad dead, she is now living with his friend Marcus who is trying to raise her to be normal. He is aware of Hit-Girl and tries to curb that side of her, it doesn't work. After Kick-Ass begs her to team up though, she starts training him. This was nice to see as Kick-Ass pretty much spent the first movie just flailing away. He won the encounters he did thanks to his ability to simply absorb punishment and outlast people. Now he is training and learning how to actually fight. Hit-Girl is making him better, and helping him become the hero he wants to be.

Kick-Ass is a comic, the first movie comprised of the original run. The second movie is comprised of the second Kick-Ass series, as well as the Hit-Girl mini series. What this means is you get 2 stories that sort of intertwine, but mostly are independent of each other. Honestly I felt like it was pulled off alright, though it does create some weird pacing at times. The story outline above is the beginning of the movie, we then get the Hit-Girl books which deviates from it quite a bit. Her Guardian catches her and forces her to give up the costume, and we get a story about her trying to fit in at school. Her father took her childhood away, and left her with very little social skills. This is where the Mean Girls reference comes into play. Looking at reviews, these two stories seemed to be a point of contention. Either you liked it, or was the reason the movie sucked. Seeing Dave go off and join his own team though, while Mindy tries to be normal works though. They keep in touch, and their stories come together nicely. You get the super hero stuff you expect from Dave. And Mindy brings the comedy and humor you expect in the franchise. The only way her parts could have been better, was if she dropped a "fetch" in there somewhere. The lighthearted portions act as a nice buffer to everything else, and I really enjoyed seeing both stories play out.

Remember that first paragraph where I talked about Violence? Well this movie has lots of it, though that is to be expected. I would say they kill less people then the first film, though that doesn't mean less blood. With Big Daddy gone we start to get more toned down heroes. Not ones who use firearms as their main offense, but ones who want to help in other ways. Kick-Ass's team spends most of their time doing Charity work. Even Hit-Girl manages to keep her kills in the single digits from what I recall. This was something I didn't expect, but really enjoyed. They would disable people, and leave them for the cops. That all changes though when the villain emerges. The "Mother-Fucker" proves that money really is the answer to most of life's problems. He hires some serious bad people and starts his own gang basically. Their goal is simply to kill Kick-Ass. If you remember from the first movie, Kick-Ass killed Mother Fucker's father in the final fight. When costumed people on the street go from charity work to killing people, the cops decide to step in and put a stop to it. It is also where the movie takes a hard turn, no more high school antics and social drama. We get attempted rape, we get murders, and we get some crazy action scenes. The movie gets emotional, and becomes oddly enough one of the more realistic and better super hero stories I have seen in cinema. Avengers was a good movie, but it felt fake. In the first Kick-Ass we had 3 heroes, only two of them make it to the sequel. Bad guys don't play fair, and they are out for blood. Look at Iron-Man, they will never kill Tony. They will never kill Rhodes, they may injure him greatly....but not kill. Hell even in Iron-Man 3 you knew Pepper was good. It is rare that super hero movies have those kind of consequences in them. In the last third of so of the film, Kick-Ass starts to deal with those consequences. It is all fun and games until somebody stands against you, then bad stuff starts to happen. I won't say what exactly happens, but they made it more meaningful then any marvel film has managed to do so far.

It is nice being able to write about a movie minutes after you see it, it is still fresh in your mind. It also makes it harder to focus...I want to talk about the ending, I want to talk about the geek culture portrayed by it. I want to go into the humor, and how the acting was. However if you have seen the first one you know what to expect. I did enjoy the new faces though, and seeing Donald Faison was a treat. I somehow missed he was in the movie, so when he popped up as Dr. Gravity, I got pretty excited. If you liked him in Scrubs, you will like him here. Lindy Booth does well as the female hero Night-Bitch, though her role was not large. And who doesn't like Clark Duke? The guy is great in everything he does, or at least everything I have seen. I honestly can not think of any role that was poorly handled as far as acting goes.

Jim Carey was one of the bigger names in the film, he has however recently come out against it. Basically he says he is not ashamed of the film, but recent events have changed how he views it. He is talking about the violence, and the fact that kids kill and are targeted in the movie. It is a valid concern, though reading any message board would make you think he said far worse. He did well in his role, and I enjoyed seeing him do something different for him. Violence though is a issue in this film that should be addressed. If seeing people cut down or blood in general bothers you, skip on it. It is by no means one of the gorier films I have seen, but it does earn its R rating. High school kids kill other people, they get beat to hell themselves. Consider that more of a word of caution then anything else though.

So we have violence, humor.....dark humor, and a actual strong story with real consequences. The action is well done, and the final fight was both uplifting and brutal. They even leave it open ended for a possible Kick-Ass 3. Actually after a quick search it has already been announced, and it will be the final film in the series. I will see that movie, I will see this one again. What more do I need to say then?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

I caught this on amazon instant video last night. So if it is not on redbox yet, it should be soon. The last Star Trek movie came out in 2009, I manged to see that one in the theaters opening weekend. I have not seen it since, and I even own it. So I did not go into this one with the greatest of hopes, I figured it would be a good popcorn flick. Heavy on action, light on everything else. I wouldn't say I was correct on that assumption, but I wasn't to far off. The easiest way to recommend this film would be to simply ask, how would you rate the first one? Drop a star, or half a star off and go with that. If that still sounds like your kind of movie, great! Go out and rent this one, you will enjoy it. If however you found the first film lacking, or not really to your taste....this one will do nothing to win you over.

The story focuses on Khan, who was one of the bigger villains for the franchise from what I understand. I never really got into Star Trek as a show, or any of the following series. Khan launches a terrorist attack on military archives, killing quite a few people in the process. He then goes after some of the higher ups in starfleet using the previous attack to draw them out. Starfleet figures out where he has gone and sends Kirk and the Enterprise after him. Their mission is to kill him and leave the area before the locals find out. Khan is hiding on the Klingon home world, and Starfleet does not wish to start a war. Obviously a lot more happens, but we are already in spoiler territory, so let me just leave it at that for now.

Let me start with the Klingons, I always thought they looked horrible on the tv show. However in the movie they have been redone. They have this really cool looking armor on that covers their entire head. And when they take it off, instead of the odd makeup job that Warf was, we get some pretty tough looking bad guys. Everything in the movie looks well done, from the individual aliens to the special effects used in space. You do have the excessive lens flare that people liked to joke about from the first movie, though it did seemed slightly toned down.  The visuals were always stunning, and the opening scene used contrasting colors very nicely to draw you in. Even the final showdown which takes place on top of a moving transport came out nicely. As far as the effects and designs go, I had nothing to fault them on. It was a very visually appealing movie.

As far as acting goes, really no complaints there either. I will always see Quinto as Sylar, or more recently Dr. Oliver Thredson from American Horror. So him as Spock always just throws me. Frankly I prefer him in the more sinister roles, but he always puts forth a good performance regardless. The big addition to this movie was Benedict Cumberbatch, famous more recently for the tv show Sherlock. He did really well with the role of Khan. He has a vibe about him that just seems off, that plus his natural talent made him easily the high point of the film. Peter Weller did come across kind of flat in some of his scenes, but overall the acting was very good. They really do have a good cast for these movies, filled with easily recognizable faces and notable actors.

So far I have been giving the movie mostly praises, and if I talked about the action sequences that would probably continue, however earlier I came off as not really liking it. If it was not the acting, the effects, or even the action then....what was it? It is honestly a bit hard to discuss without going into the spoilers, so I will just say this vague statement. The movie has no consequences, and it gives away its big ending in a scene that was very out of place. The next paragraph will go into more details, so please skip it if you don't want to know key plot points of the film.

Once again, this paragraph will contain spoilers for the ending of the film. Dr McCoy, or Bones, has a scene where he is playing with a dead Tribble. If I remember correctly, Starfleet does not allow transportation of Tribbles, but maybe because it was dead nobody cared. Bones decides he can use Khans super blood to bring the Tribble back to life. This is all given to you between a scene where the Enterprise has just been basically captured. Kirk has decided to align with Khan and take over the enemy ship. The whole scene was very out of place, and just seemed tacked on. It also tells you, hey we can bring dead things back to life.....gosh I wonder what will happen next. This takes any sort of tension out of the big ending, and Kirk killing himself to save everybody just loses its impact. I am sitting there going, yeah but they can just bring him back to life. All they have to do is beat the bad guy, which I had a feeling they were going to do anyways. There was also a scene were Khan could have killed Spock and got away, but instead decided to help him up onto the moving transport so he could fight him. The entire ending seemed off, and poorly thought out.

Spoilers are over, please continue from this point.

So we have a weak finish, and a movie that looses all steam mid way through. The action scenes are decent, but nothing special. And I don't recall much if any space combat other then one very short scene. There was some humor in the movie, but overall the entire package just felt lacking. I also own this movie, paid full price for it. But after viewing it one time, I can safely say I have no interest in seeing it again. I am sure the franchise will continue, and in a few years I will be sitting here writing about Star Trek 3. And I am also sure they will continue to be mediocre at best.