Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Interview (2014)

So by now we should all know the story behind this movie, or its release I should say. Threats and hacks, which may or may not have been related, caused the movie to be canceled 2 days before its theatrical release. It then went from being a throw away comedy to one of the most talked about films this year. Everybody wanted to see it now, so of course Sony took advantage of that. They released it in a select group of theaters, and then pushed it online though various digital distributors. Almost makes you wonder if they had this planned all along. So now that we can see the movie that sparked all this nonsense, is it actually worth watching?

The Interview is about two friends who work in television. James Franco plays David Skylark who interviews celebrities for his talk show. Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rappaport his producer. Franco is all about entertainment, and not so much actual news and current events. His show has a bad reputation, but seems to have a large following thanks to the work of Rogen. There is a story that comes out saying that Kim Jong-un actually really enjoys american media, and that Franco's talk show is his favorite thing on television. Rogen comes up with the brilliant idea of using the Olympics committee to try and get a message to North Korea asking for a interview, and it actually ends up working. They are granted a 1 hour scripted interview which instantly grabs the attention of the entire world. North Korea is thought to have working nukes that could reach the US at this point, so the CIA decides to take advantage of Rogen and Franco and ropes them into a assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un.

The easiest way to tell if you will enjoy this movie is to simply ask yourself, did you care for any of Rogen's other big films. "This is the End," "Pineapple Express," "Knocked Up," the humor is similar in all of these. If you are not a Rogen fan, this film will not do much to change that. It follows the same kind of formula his past work does. Crass humor, a lot of homosexual stuff, and violence tossed in for fun. That is not to say they do not have some very creative and even intelligent humor. It is just not the main focus of the film. Running gags, drug use, and shock humor are all present. The film easily earns its R rating many times over. If you are a Rogen fan, none of this will phase you however. You will enjoy the movie and enjoy the humor. I myself laughed quite a bit at it. Unlike "This is the End" where the constant sexual jokes eventually wore on me, "The Interview" seemed to keep its humor fresh throughout most of the film. Much like "Pineapple Express" it did seem to turn into a action film at the end, but it worked well enough within the context of the movie. If you read any news story about Kim Jong-un right now, top comments will probably be quotes from this film. There were just so many memorable moments.

Acting, well that is hard to talk about here. Acting was fine, this was a comedy though not a drama. No real huge moments for the different actors to shine. I did feel Franco played up his role a little to much at times. Randall Park did very well with Kim Jong-un, he really was great in that role. His part had the most emotional range, and he seemed to do well with everything he was given. I would be interested to see him in something more serious just to see how good of a actor he really is. There were also some cool cameo's I won't ruin for you.

This movie took a current issue and made it into a joke. It has some valid points to it however. I didn't expect it to go so in depth with how messed up North Korea is. They discussed what would happen if they were able to kill Kim Jong-un, and why it may not be the best idea. They gave some interested figures and facts about the people and how they are treated. They really did a good job with how they presented the country and the way the citizens view Kim Jong-un. I don't know how accurate what was presented is, but from what little I have heard and read in the news it wouldn't surprise me if it was mostly true. I read a story about how damaging this movie could be to the North Korean government because of this. The fact that a simple comedy film took the time to include all this, and to a extent that is actually worried a government is commendable. Is it Rogen's funniest work yet, probably not. But is could easily be the one he is most proud of simple due to the response it is receiving.

If you are thinking about seeing this movie based solely on the hype it is getting now, I would say go ahead and give it a shot. It presents a issues that is very much real, in a way that anybody can understand. There are solid comedic moments, but if you are not into low brow humor you will not enjoy it as much as others. Be advised there is some gore, though not a lot. And it is absolutely not a movie for family night.

I often judge a movie by whether I would watch it a second or even third time. Pacific Rim was the perfect example of this, I could watch that movie over and over again. This is another unique case. Kim Jong-un will continue to show up in the news, and this movie will remain relevant for a long time because of that. That also makes it one that will be easy to re-watch as we continue to be annoyed by its main villain. Right now North Korea is suffering from a internet shortage, probably so its citizens will not watch this movie. They are of course blaming the US, if that doesn't make you want to watch "The Interview" then nothing will.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

I managed to catch Interstellar on my anniversary trip with the wife. We were in a town with a IMAX and we had never been to one. Everything I had seen on this movie made it look like the perfect fit for that format. Now my wife hates space, I don't blame her for that. But this was oddly her idea, as the movie wasn't even on my radar at the time. I didn't do a write up at the time though, so this is a good 10 days after the fact. I will try to do a simple overview, and should hopefully stay out of the heavier points of the film.

The story is pretty much the entire film here. Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey is a ex pilot. He and his daughter Murph played by Mackenzie Foy end up finding a military base run by a old friend of Coopers. Professor Brand played by Michael Caine. Brand tells them the world is ending and only has a small amount of time left. There are dust storms that are killing all the crops, and we can only grow corn at this point in time. Somebody has put a wormhole however right outside our planet. We do now know who, but we do know it was intentional. That wormhole gives us access to 12 other planets that may be inhabitable. Nasa sends a subject to each one to monitor and record data to be sent back as to whether we can live there. Cooper is tasked with going to the 4 remaining planets and finding out which one we will settle on. Brand is meanwhile trying to figure out how to get the human race there. The majority of the 3 hour film takes place as Cooper leads a team to the different worlds in search of answers to both problems.

The film is very smart in how it handles space and even time travel to a extent. Time is different out there, and it affects the explorers in different ways then the people on earth. One planet they visit effects them in 7 year increments every hour. So 1 hour on that planet for Cooper is 7 years back on earth for his Daughter. This means we get multiple actors for the different roles which was interesting. There is also a mystery in the opening of the film that spans the entire thing and the 80 or so years the film takes place in. Everything has a point to it, and if a question arises it will be addressed later on. The story was simple, but well put together in a way that created great depth. The acting was all very well done, which is exactly what you would expect with McConaughey, Caine, Hathaway, and Damon as some of your bigger roles. But one of the main things that really caught my attention was the way they shot most of the space of vehicle sequences.

This movie has a lot of space shots in it. If you read my review on Guardians of the Galaxy, you know I love space. Guardians had pretty and colorful space that was simply breathtaking to see. Interstellar has realistic space that is dark and depressing. That doesn't mean it wasn't a visually impressive movie, but simply that it was more realistic in how it portrayed space. They also had a tendency to not actually show the ship or pod as it was flying. It would show a on board camera that was attached to the hull or rear of the vehicle. I don't know if that was to save money, or create a effect, but it was unique. It didn't pull me out of the moment, and it may have even added to the drama at certain points. In movies like Star Wars you want to see the ship, they are usually fighting and doing cool things. In interstellar we don't have space battles, so the closer look makes it feel more realistic instead of giving off a fantasy vibe. The effects when we do get a wide shot are great though. And there were a few moments that IMAX screen really got to shine.

This is a Christopher Nolan film. Chances are you are familiar with him as a writer, director, and producer. He has done some big name films, heck most of his are big names. If you know me however, you also know I don't particularly care for him. He started strong, but recently he has been in rather poor form. From the lackluster finally to the Dark Knight, to the Man of Steel which I had to turn off multiple times before I could force my way to the end. Interstellar for the most part seems like a return to greatness, that is before the finally. I won't spoil anything, but the film could have been 30 minutes shorter and much better for it. The entire ending actually drug the whole thing down for me.

It was a smart well written movie that simply over stayed its welcome. Decent visuals, and interesting camera work add to the overall feeling of the film. Space is dark and depressing, just like it should be. The only real issues were the eventual reveal as well as some just straight up stupid moments spread through out. The movie did lull at times, and the pacing was a little off. Overall not a bad film, but one I will probably never see again. The high point? Robot TARS voiced by Bill Irwin.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

I ended up seeing this movie a few weeks ago while on vacation. I never got around to doing a write up on it, and sadly forgot about the whole thing until just recently. So while the movie is no longer fresh in my mind, I figured I could still put some something about it.

The story is about a young boy named Hiro, his brother Tadashi, and a robot named Baymax. Hiro has lost his way and is starting down a path that his brother does not want to see him on. Tadashi manages to trick Hiro into visiting his school and introduces him to his friends who are all Scientist or Engineers in one way or another. Well except for Fred, he is just the school mascot. This visit inspires Hiro who decides he wants to join his brother. Hiro is a robotics genius and has been making money fighting in illegal backroom battles up to this point. With the help of Tadashi and his friends he is able to make something truly amazing and wows everybody at the audition. If everything went well however, we would be left without much of a movie. Suffice to say something bad happens, and a villain is born. Hiro teams up with Baymax, a nurse robot, and goes after the bad guy.

The movie is based off of a older comic series with ties to the X-men franchise. That comic book series was awful. Seriously don't go read it, trust me on this. The heroes are all pretty unlikable, which given their ages makes sense. And they vary so much from their movie counterparts, that the only real connection is the names. Wasabi no Ginger goes from being a magic blade wielding sushi shef, to a hippy simply called Wasabi. Honey Lemon goes from being the sex symbol of the team and fighting with only a open jacket to a frumpy conservative. Baymax is the biggest change from not only his abilities to his entire persona. While these may sound like changes I didn't like, it is actually the opposite. They changed all the characters into more likable and better variations of themselves. They even changed all their powers to be science based which was cool. They created a team that children could look up to, and that parents wouldn't mind their kids being exposed to.

There are a lot of great moments in this film. From the low power Baymax sequence that makes him appear almost intoxicated, to pretty much every battle sequence. The film has a lot of emotion early on and does a good job of carrying it for the duration. I never felt like I wasn't invested once it took off. And a lot of that has to do with the great writing and voice work. There are a few known names in the film. Alan Tudyk has a decent size role. Damon Wayans Jr. who you may remember from the simply awful "Let's be Cops." Maya Rudoph played Hiro and Tadashi's aunt Cass. And T.J. Miller played Fred, the school mascot and comedic relief of the film. Everybody did very well however, even those I did not mention. Everything about the presentation of the film was spot on and really added to the overall experience. The art style was amazing and I loved the city shots. The animation was fluid and when the robots and battles started up, it was damn impressive to see.

The movie had a good comedic tone to which surprised me. Baymax had a simple intelligence and constantly had me laughing with how the robot responded to the world. From his fist bumping, to the way he talked about the cat. He never failed to make me smile, and I don't recall any of his attempts at humor just falling short. He also provided some of the more emotional moments in the film. I really enjoyed this character, and would say he is easily the best thing Pixar has come up with in years. Fred was the other spectrum of the comedy. He was stupid, but in a good way. He had some good moments, but nothing that compares to Baymax. Also he had a entire segment about his underwear that was a complete miss for me. It is only worth mentioning as it was also re-used in the post credits scene. That one may not be worth sitting around for, at least it wasn't to me.

So Big Hero 6 at a glance.....Good story with strong emotion and great moments. Stunning animation that is fluid and visually appealing. Great voice work and mostly solid writing. Add in a strong ending that had my full attention until the credits started, and you have a solid winner in my book. The fact that they changed all the characters to be better influences is a plus. And I loved the way they mixed up the power sets.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Maze Runner (2014)

I remember a few years ago standing in a book store with my fiance. She was looking for books on Tarot for her mother, and I was bored out of my mind. I picked up a book and started reading the back of it. The story sounded interesting so I carried it around for awhile. After seeing my wife on the floor going through shelf after shelf, I figured I had time and started to read. The book was The Maze Runner, and it turned me off quicker then any other book I have ever read. Shank this, Klunk that, greenie greenie greenie. The book has its own slang, which I am guessing was to get around the kids constantly cursing. It just annoyed me how often it was used. It sounded stupid and I put the book back. Think I ended up with a comic or something. Hell I always end up with a comic book. That is just who I am. Years later the book is now a movie, and I had no interest in seeing it. That is until I saw it stared Dylan O'Brien from Mtv's Teen Wolf. If you have ever sat through a episode of Teen Wolf you probably remember Stiles Stilinski, the one good character the show has. Stiles is funny, and he seemed like a good actor from the only other thing I have ever seen him in. The first Time back in 2012. So after being told that the movie actually improved on the book, and had far less shank and klunk in it, I gave it a shot.

The story is simple. Every month a boy and some supplies are lifted into a enclosed area by a elevator. That area is surrounded by a maze. A society has been slowing forming for 3 years from the boys and is living off of the supplies and what they can find in the environment they were placed in. The live in a giant open field surrounded by jungle and stone walls. They send people called Runners into the maze ever day to try and figure out how to escape.

The movie follows Thomas, played by Dylan "Stiles" O'Brien, who is the new Greenie or new kid. He is curious about the maze, which is apparently unheard of. He becomes a runner and enters the maze and has far better luck then any of the others in solving the mystery. Bad things begin to happen once he starts progressing however. This is good for us, as the movie becomes rather action packed for awhile. We are introduced to the residents of the maze, and they are frightening. Giant mechanical spider monsters who ruthlessly kill the boys or infect them with some sort of disease that slowly kills them.

The action was actually something that took me off guard in the movie. The boys can't really fight the monsters as they don't have any effective weapons. They use sharp sticks and some small blades. So you know when they do try to fight back, it is not going to go well. I was impressed at how well they filmed those scenes how ever. Whether it was them running in fear through the maze, or actually trying to band together to take on the threat. It was always exciting, and it always looked visually interesting. The maze had to just be a huge green screen set, but it felt almost alive and looks imposing. The monsters were disgusting and looked pretty damn real most of the time.

One complaint I heard about the movie was the cast. Not that they were bad, because they weren't. But that it was mostly males, which it was. The movie has one female who plays a substantial role, and a smaller part played by another. The rest is all male, including all the major roles. It did create a odd atmosphere, and I could see why it would bother some. It didn't offend them or anything like that. Simply it just felt odd seeing a movie with a all male focus.

The acting was solid, nothing award winning but still quite good. There was no huge dramatic moments, and the guys and gal did great with what they had. I really liked the character Chuck played by Blake Cooper. He did a great job of getting me to really care about his role. Thomas Brodie-Sangster from Game of Thrones played the second in command Newt. Ki Hong Lee played Minho, one of the other runners. They both had larger roles and had memorable performances. The main antagonist other then the maze was Gally played by Will Poulter. He was a good pick for this role. He has a face that just begs you to punch it, which made him very easy to dislike. There really were not weak links in the cast, which helped the movie out greatly.

The ending is something you have to talk about to give a score, but I won't put any spoilers. I thought it was interesting, and frankly I had no idea what the movie was doing half the time. Since I stopped reading very early on, the maze was a big mystery to me. I enjoyed figuring it out along side them. And I liked that even though this is a trilogy, it still felt like a contained story.

The Maze Runner surprised me. It was a enjoyable film from beginning to end. It had good characters and a cool concept. It did its best to answer any questions it created, and the ending made sense. I actually thought of buying the 2nd book as soon as the movie was over. I didn't, but I did price it. For a rental, it is a solid choice. And if I had paid to see it in theaters, I would have left happy.

The Giver (2014)

I saw the Giver about two weeks ago, never wrote about it. What that means is I don't remember a lot of the details of it at this point. So this will be a short review dealing on how I felt about the film. But without a lot of the extra stuff thrown in. Their will be some spoilers, but not a lot.

The Giver is a based off of a book written by Lois Lowry published in 1993. I remember reading it in middle school, but don't really remember much about the book other then I enjoyed it. I can not tell you how different the movie is from the book. I do know from what others have said, that there are a fair share of differences. But for the most part people seem to be okay with them.

The idea for the story is a new society that has stripped away emotions and memories of the past. This allows them to easier control the residents and curb crime and violence. Without emotions we don't get angry, we also don't feel jealously and other things that cause issues within people. You are assigned to families, and then you are assigned a job when you are of age. I am guessing you would be assigned a partner to, but I don't recall it going over that. The main character is Jonas and he has been chosen to be "The Giver." The giver is the holder of the memories. They use the knowledge of before to help guide the elders in the choices they make for moving forward. It also gives Jonas a few added perks such as now being able to lie. The current Giver transmits the memories into the new one using super powers it appeared. They looked psychically linked when transmitting. The old giver loses the memory then, which is the one thing I recall from the book. Don't believe the movie touched on that, which made no sense at it added more emotion to certain scenes.

With these new memories, and his returning emotions, Jonas decides his society is a issue. He and the current Giver come up with a plan to return the memories to the people. Nobody stops to think if this is a good idea, and frankly I don't think it was. However they go forward with their plan, and that is what the movie is about. How do they return the memories? Well there are magic towers that create a barrier around the settlement. If the memories leave that barrier, it breaks and everybody gets all the memories. This includes memories of war, murder, and may other violent acts. Imagine a society that has no concept of these. That has jobs where you actually kill people, but you do not understand what you are doing. Imagine if that subject now gains that knowledge. How would they act now knowing they have murdered 100's if not thousands in their lifetime? How about a society that does not feel love or lust. They suddenly know all about lust, and desires. The movie never deals with these types of questions. It just goes, the Giver is correct. Believe in the Giver. And we get a crap ending that does not deal with the part of the story that should have been the most interesting.

Acting was solid all around. Jeff Bridges, Mery Streep, Alexander get what you expect here. The lead was played by Brenton Thwaites who was fine. He was never really likable though, and oddly forgettable. Much like he was in Oculus. Did anybody remember he was in that? Does anybody remember anything from that movie other then Karen Gillan? The light-bulb apple, and the scene at the end. Honestly all I can remember about that movie is her doing crazy stuff. Odeya Rush played the love interest, and she was also fine. Her character was void of emotions most of the movie. She played that rather well, but never really got a chance to step up and show any ranger. Not her fault, just how that role was written.

Interesting story that took off running, only to fall on its face just before the finish line. Good acting by the supporting cast. And Taylor Swift was there for a few moments, Taylor Swift is always a plus in my book. Skarsgard said they would all get together and play piano and sing while drinking after a long day. They should put that on the DVD. The ending left much to be desired, and really seemed to detract from the overall message the film was trying to get across. Somebody told me the Giver  is an interesting story that is slightly traffic yet beautiful. I think they meant tragic, but that is a direct quote. I think it was tragic, but it never became beautiful to me. They focused on all the wrong aspects of it. This movie could have told a wonderful story. It just didn't try to be in the end. It was a lazy attempt that lost its focus and only delivered a forgettable experience. I wish I could remember the book better. Or more what I liked about it. Maybe I wasn't as cynical back then. Or maybe the book was just genuinely that much better.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Into the Storm (2014)

Okay let's go ahead and get it out of the way, twister is a better movie. There it is over with, now we can talk about Into the Storm, a movie that is about tornadoes and how much they suck in general. The idea is that a small town is assaulted by a few of these bad boys back to back, before the mega Tornado comes in and just destroys everything in its path. That is the entire story, sorry I just ruined it for you. Then again you are not watching this movie for a story, you are watching it for the effects. And it does a good job there, but was that enough to keep me happy for the fairly short duration of the film?

The movie follows 3 groups of people. A father and his two kids who are making a video for a time capsule. A group of storm hunters who are driving around in the batmobile trying to get video from inside a tornado. And two intoxicated Rednecks who are by far the more entertaining of the three. One neat thing is each group has a camera, but it is not all done in the traditional found footage style. It will often go from them filming, to the standard film angles used in most movies. Where the crew is shooting, and you are not supposed to feel like one of the characters is. Using the two different styles and switching between them often was not confusing, but it did create a odd and annoying visual style. Also there were times when we were looking through a camera being held by one of the characters in the film. But we could see all the characters in the frame....who was the phantom camera man we never met?

Each group had their own side story that ultimately was just filler. The father and his sons didn't really get along anymore. The older son was in love with a girl who didn't really know him. The storm hunters were running out of money and needed some good footage. The rednecks were drunk and wanted to have fun. Thankfully the magic Tornado fixed most of said issues, as it was a benevolent storm. The side stories provided the majority of the "acting" and took up a good 2/3rds of the film. I didn't care for any of the groups other then the rednecks led by comedian Jon Reep. The father and his two kids felt forced, and the fact that the son gets trapped with his love interest was far to convenient. I did like Matt Walsh as the boss of the storm hunters, as he was more interested in his own agenda then helping and saving the victims of the storm. Frankly though, if people were on the screen and not a storm, the movie was at its weakest.

Visually speaking, this movie was pretty impressive. I have never been in a tornado, I don't know much about them. But I can tell you if this movie was accurate, they are horrible horrible things. We see vehicles and planes lifted into the air, people sucked up and shot out. One neat thing was every time the main group got a new person who was not named, they died shortly after. It was like they were filling the ranks with fodder so they would not have to kill anybody with a story. It frankly made the deaths meaningless and detracted from any sort of tension. Still seeing all the carnage was awesome, and the destruction it left in its path was very well portrayed.

The actors were fine, I think it was mostly the writing. Still with me not caring about the majority of the cast, some of that blame has to fall on them. There were multiple times when one of the main roles was in a bad situation, but I never really felt worried. It was not that I thought they wouldn't die, it was that I simply didn't care if they did. Not being able to build any attachment to them really made it hard to enjoy the movie. The whole journey just didn't matter to me.

Kind of a quick write up, but I am tired and I don't feel it deserves much more. Story was pretty bland, but the visuals tried their best to make up for it. The storm scenes were all pretty cool, and they kept me happy. I would say for a rental, why not. You will see some cool things, and you can fast forward if the in between bits start to bother you. I would never buy this film though.

Look at this trailer, it will get you hyped for this film. Sadly the actual product does not deliver, very glad I decided to see how to train your dragon 2 in theaters instead of this.

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The original purge wasn't a horrible movie, it just wan't a good one either. It has a decent premise, but it just failed to really do anything with it. One day out of the year, oddly enough my daughters birthday, all crime is legal for 12 hours. There are rules such as what kind of weapons you can use, but pretty much anything goes. Certain high level officials are off limits, but all law enforcement and medical services are suspended until the purge is over. The idea is that crime got so far out of hand, that giving people this one night allowed them to get it out of their system. And it actually worked, crime rates have dropped. The first movie was about a single family on Purge night. They were targeted for saving a groups purge target. As such the movie was a invasion film, and really did nothing new or special. People break into the house, and they try and defend themselves. It ended up being a fairly tame and boring film. The Purge Anarchy takes the criticism against the first film, and tries to rework the franchise into what it should have always been. A look into the outside world during the purge.

The movie is about a a group who get stuck outside during the purge, they have to band together to try and survive through the night. Each has their own reason for being out there, and I won't spoil them here. But the 5 come together and have to fight back against there on individual tormentors. One couple is being chased by a band of masked riders led by the silent "I am God." While the other 3 are being hunted by somebody only known as "Big Daddy," a guy with a semi and a Gatling gun. The different stories and reasons don't really matter for the most part, as it is all about survival and not what got them to that point. By focusing on something so simple, the movie is able to better explore what is going on with them. There is also a sub plot involving Michael Kenneth Williams character, Carmelo Johns, but even that mostly just serves as a way to give the viewer a idea of how the rest of the world feels about the conflict.

The story is much tighter this time around, due mostly to the lack of one. And that is not the only way the movie has improved. It gets rid of the tense atmosphere and stops trying to be scary, and instead goes the action route. It focuses more on the violence and the terror of the situation. We see our survivors go from normal people who would never even think of purging, to killers who are out there for a reason. You see character development as ones motives change and they receive a huge moment as the film goes on. We even get a better look into the minds of the purgers and learn more about the process then we did in the original. One really neat thing I liked was how they addressed the different classes and how they purge. As well as the question of would people really do this if it was a real thing. Seeing everything come together at the end was really cool, even if you did see it coming long before then. And even though the purgers are well within their legal right, it is made easy to view them as villains. The Rich and upper class are by far the easiest to hate, and that whole portion of the film was just fantastic.

Acting was good, no real complaints. I was unfamiliar with most of the people in here, but they all were more then adequate for this type of film. Frank Grillo played the nameless lead, and he was brutal and fun to watch. Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul played the family, and were easy to relate to. Zoe was the odd one out, as I really didn't care for her. However even that I feel was intentional as she was a very opinionated teenager who you just wanted to shut up at most points. Michael Kenneth Williams killed it with his Radical anti political rally speeches, and the various purgers were all kinds of creepy and intimidating.

So we have a much better story, a film with a stronger focus. It spends more time dealing with the purge itself, and explores the concept and the way people deal and participate in it. We get a much broader understanding of the event, and the movie was far better for it. Acting that doesn't take you out of the moment, and some cool and violent moments. Add in themes that 90% of the population can get behind and identify with, and you have a pretty solid movie. When I heard there was going to be a second Purge I had no interest in it. Now if I hear there will be a third, I may actually see it in the theater. That is the best praise I can give this one, it changed my opinion and proved me wrong.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Let's be Cops (2014)

Was going to do a write up today on Let's be Cops. It releases on dvd in a few days, and should be heading to redbox shortly. Sadly I could not finish the movie, I made it about 45 minutes into it. It never really became funny, and the story was moving far to slowly. Jake Johnson was not entertaining, and it seemed as if most of the humor was supposed to be coming from his character. Wayans did try to play the straight man, while getting in some jokes of his own. However nothing ever really worked for me.

The idea for the film was a good one, but it was just poorly executed. I don't have a did not finish graphic...maybe I should make one.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

I grew up with the Turtles. For Halloween my friends and I went as a group costume multiple years in a row. My parents let me skip school to go see one of the movies in theaters. I had every official figure that came out for years, and many of the comics as well. I still have the original series and the movies on dvd, and a bunch of the trading cards in a binder. When this new movie first came out, I was very uncertain about it. The original plot about them now being Aliens instead of mutants, and my distaste for anything Michael Bay related didn't help. But as time went on, it did get some good buzz. So I decided to finally give it a chance, and put by bias aside. Oddley enough, after a few minutes the small things didn't really bother me anymore. Yes the turtles look ridiculous, but you get used to them pretty quickly. Even Donnie's god awful voice actor stopped being a sour point. But did the film win me over and deliver a memorable outing?

Let's start with the story. The foot clan, who are no longer ninjas but simply soldiers, are trying to find the turtles. We know they are trying to take over the city, but we are not sure how. Shredder is still the leader, but everything else about the story has been changed for this movie. Explaining the back-stories would count as a spoiler though, so I will leave a good portion of it out. The basic idea though is the Turtles were not accidents, but purposefully created to test a antidote that would allow for stronger better humans. Also the enjoyable scene where Splinter is still a rat and learning Karate by watching his master is no longer in. Instead they picked that up along with all their training from a book on ninjutsu.Granted that sounds far fetched, but when you take into account the added abilities these turtles have, and that is all they have been doing for 15 actually seems plausible. They have internet and better technology then normal people, so they have other means of learning as well.

Speaking of which, these are not the old school turtles. They don't say Cowabunga, except simply to fit it into the movie that one time. They also are never really in danger while fighting the foot clan, which tends to lessen a lot of the movie. They are bullet proof, and the foot only really  use guns. The only real time you feel they could be in danger is when they are fighting Shredder. Shredder also if very different, as he fights in a giant robotic suit with blades for fingers. It was actually kind of neat and one of the few changes that didn't really bother me. The Turtles having super strength though on the other hand, well that just felt very out of place. You have to accept that this isn't the same franchise you grew up with. If you can't look past that, you will hate this movie more and more as it continues on.

A interesting thing to me, the turtles were all mo-capped while wearing huge turtle suits. For the most part it was done by the guys doing there voices as well. The only odd one out being Leonardo, who was voiced by Johnny Knoxville but acted out by Pete Ploszek. All the voices for the turtles really did seem to fit the different types of characters they were, though I felt they went overboard with Donatello. He was a nerd, but he had huge glasses that gave him bug eyes. And his voice sounded very high pitched and like he was always afraid. Yes he had some good moments, but it was just annoying anytime he talked. Leonardo was also a odd choice. Johnny Knoxville is a funny guy, but he is not the serious and focused leader type. Granted you look at how much money he has made from his previous career, he clearly has those qualities. But they don't come across in his acting, and he didn't really work for that role. Alan Ritchson played Raphael, and he did a good job with it. There was a nice moment where he was doing his bet batman voice early on, but it was simply a gag and he settled into a voice that fit the character quite nicely. I will admit I wanted him to use his Blue Mountain State voice, but That Castle the ninja turtle would have never honestly worked.

All of the...well I guess people actors, those who were not mostly CG, did pretty well. Megan Fox will probably never been known as a amazing dramatic marvel, but I had no real issues with her performance here. She was center stage for a lot of the film, but her being joined by Will Arnett really benefited the performance. He plays the same kind of role he always does, and he has perfected it over the years. Seeing their interactions were some of the better moments in the movie, and he was easily one of the better characters. The villain was played by William Fichtner, who did good, but was given little screen time when compared to how big his role was.

The only real issues I had with any of the characters stemmed from the writing and not the actors. April was witness to multiple foot clan attacks, but instead of ever calling the police, she always tried to get pictures of them with her phone. Granted as a journalist, that would not be out of character. However I think they would still call if they saw known terrorist, and then try to get a picture. The turtles also had trouble winning me over. Michelangelo is introduced to us by way of him making a Erection joke in regards to how hot April is. There was a fart joke, and the scenes that focused solely on the turtles and Splinter were usually weaker then the others. The turtles formed their personas based off of television they saw in the last 15 years, so they came off as almost parodies of every kid you ever hated. Half the time you just didn't like them, and that caused issues. I will also say, I could never get used to how Splinter looked. It was just awful, and his CGI was notably worse then any other part of the film. When he was fighting Shredder, I was actually hoping the bad guy would come out on top. Just so maybe I wouldn't have to see him for the rest of the film.

Turtles love pizza, but only from Pizza Hut. I do admit, if pizza hut actually sold pizza that looked like it did in the movie, maybe I would like them to. One thing the movie did right was nods like that. The turtles are brothers, but one of them gave the other three up for pizza. Will Arnett makes a joke about heroes in a half shell. They even had a line that could have been a reference to the original Alien plot. These moments made me smile, and were enjoyable when ever they rose up.

The only thing to really talk about now are the action sequences. As stated earlier, the turtles are bullet proof. That alone pretty much made the first few not as good as they could have been. The fights with Shredder were toned down due to his movement in the super suit not being great. He was more about shooting blades and big blows. It was cool, but for a karate movie it did detract from it overall. There was one scene though that was either amazing or awful depending on how you view physics. A downhill fight on a snowy mountain with the turtles fighting the foot and a few vehicles. It was very well shot, and the effects and visuals were well done. But the whole scene was just horribly impossible. The final fight was also kind of odd, but I won't spoil that one for you. If you like the bay Transformers movies, you will enjoy this. If those just make you shake your head, you may have issues with this one to.

So we have a story that is lackluster. I don't mind them changing it up from the original, but it was notably worse. The acting was good enough for this kind of movie, it wasn't a epic drama or anything special. The humor was hit or miss, and the turtles were more annoying then not. Ralph was the stand out, but they did all have their moments. Visuals were not bad, but there were low points such as Splinter. The movie had decent pacing, but it just didn't make sense at times. The physics were just off, and the powered up turtles pissed me off. To be fair though, I did enjoy the movie. It was so bad at times it was endearing, and other scenes worked very well. I would probally watch it again, but it was certainly not a classic. And it will not replace the originals.

Better then I thought, still not worth buying.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

I like Transformers, and by that I mean the franchise as a whole. I have a few of the toys, and always seem to gravitate towards them when in a toy store these days. I have read a few of the comics, and have seen quite a lot of the animated shows on tv. Every time something Transformers comes out, they go a new direction with it. They make new designs for the Classic robots to sell more toys. They introduce new cast mates to sell more toys. They change the overall style or general sell more toys. Toys will always be at the heart of this franchise, and the desire to make money. So in the new movie, I was not surprised that they did away with the robot cast from the previous entries. We get a few new autobots with Bee and Optimus. And no returning decepticons, but instead a new faction with new robots....for toys. Also if you know anything about me, you know I hated the last few transformers movies. They were awful, and usually filled with mindless plot holes that seemed so apparent while watching, I had to wonder how they missed them. Maybe they didn't, and they just didn't feel like fixing it. The last few movies were poorly written, poorly shot, and were a travesty to the Transformers franchise. They did sell toys however, so I guess good on them. How does the new movie stack up? Well let me say I did enjoy it more then the others. I liked the human cast more in this one. Mark Wahlberg and T.J. Miller killed it the first part of the movie. And Kelsey Grammer played a pretty slick villain. The Robots though.....well I will get to that in a moment.

The story for this film is centered around the Final battle from the last one. The big fight in Chicago caused a ton of damage and killed quite a few people as well. The government decided, rightfully so, we don't need the transformers on our planet anymore. They gave asylum to a few Autobots and started to hunt the remaining Decepticons down. Or at least that was the story they gave out. They actually teamed up with a 3rd faction who was hunting the Transformers for trophies. They wanted Optimus so they could return him to the creators. This Transformer was called Lockdown, and could transform his face into a Sniper Rifle. Yes it was as cool as it sounds. Kelsey Grammer leads the black ops team working with him, and they are hunting all the remaining robots.

Mark Wahlberg is a struggling inventor, whose inventions don't actually seem to work. He and T.J. Miller are doing a job cleaning up a old theater when they come across a broken down Truck. Wahlberg buys it and takes it back to his barn to try and see if he can part it out for money. Of course it turns out to be Optimus Prime and the goverment storms his house to try and capture him. Wahlberg and his family are forced into hiding and join up with the autobots as they try to fight for their freedom. Also Dinobots show up at the end of the film for 10 or so minutes.

Acting in these movies, not usually top shelf stuff. But to be fair Mark Wahlberg does a good job here. He has good emotions, and seeing him play angry protective father is good fun. T.J. Miller is always gold for me. The guy just cracks me up, and I have enjoyed him in everything I can think of. Even Yogi Bear, so seeing him here was a very nice surprise. Sadly they decide to only use him for about 30 minutes or so. Grammer is the main human villain, and he does well with what he is given. He never really comes across as scary, or even intimidating though. It just felt like they could have done much more with him.

For the robots, Optimus is voiced by Peter Cullen. Cullen has been voicing that particular robot for 30 years now. He was the same guy who voiced him back in the first animated series. Frank Weller also returns, voicing Galvatron. He also has been voicing that robot and a few others since the 80's. Seeing these guys still working their roles is great, but also a little disappointing. They do a wonderful job, and hearing their voices is a joy. But the way they are being used now, you have to wonder if they even care about their past. Maybe it is just me being to critical, but the versions of those characters we have now are in no way similar to the great characters they have offered us in the past. More on that in a minute though.

The visuals in the movie range from god awful, to pretty damn impressive. Usually the later thankfully. However there was a scene where Wahlberg and his daughter are saved by her sometimes Irish boyfriend. He is a rally driver, and has a course set up where he jumps out of a parking garage onto a ramp. The whole sequence was just ridiculous looking. The moment the car left the garage it looked very fake, even the way it moved seemed very off. This is just one example, but there were a few times I just shook my head at how poorly something looked. On the other end of the spectrum though, I would like to talk about Transformium. It is a new metal the humans have invented in order to combat the robots. It allows them to make their own transformers, and the way it moves and transforms is a visual treat. It separates into little spheres and then reforms into the new shape. It was one of the cooler elements in the film. Seeing them change a gun into Rainbow Dash made me smile. And seeing it used in the battle sequences did the same. Sadly the actual fights did not do the same.

The action sequences were about the same as the last few films. Explosions for the sake of explosions. Fighting that seemed very out of place for the Autobots. And a whole lot of nothing happening for extended duration. They also decided to have Wahlberg fight the transformers, which worked with varying success. He is given a gun, that is human size, and he can kill them with it. He gets it off of a transformer ship though, where we never actually see anybody human size who could wield it. Also as it seems to be firing physical rounds instead of lasers, I have to wonder how much recoil a transformer killing weapon would have.....apparently none is the correct answer. He even gets the final fight, as after Lockdown takes out Optimus Prime, why wouldn't the human with a gun be able to win?

So in previous variations of the Transformers, autobots end up stranded on our planet. They decide to support and protect us from the deceptions, as it was simply the right thing to do. In other variations humans have gotten a hold of their tech and used it to fight them, but they still protected us as it was simply the right thing to do. In this movie that changes. The autobots don't like the humans, and even come off as villains in some portions. They are unable to see the difference between the corrupt members running the black ops group, and everybody else. A running gag is the autobots requesting permission from Optimus to kill random humans. And even Optimus himself does not go out of his way to protect the innocents. He even brings fights into highly populated areas purposefully. Let's remember that was his entire thing. Optimus Prime discovered sentient life on the planet and swore to protect it. That is from his wiki, and it perfectly sums up him as a character. This Optimus does not have that, and nothing has happened to him that hasn't happened in other versions of the fiction. If it was the first movie I could sort of understand it, but he seems to not remember any of the humans who have helped him from the past few Bay films. I spent the majority of the movie hating the autobots, as frankly they were awful protagonist. The fact that Cullen still voiced Optimus in this performance has lowered my opinion of him.

The high point of the film were the sequences that did not involve the transformers. T.J. Miller and Mark Wahlberg hanging out was easily the best part of the movie. The entire first 30 minutes, I actually thought they had finally made a film I was going to enjoy. Then they get rid of Miller and replace him with Jack Raynor who was just awful. He couldn't pick a accent, and his character was simply annoying. He was used to add humor to the film, but it just fell flat for me. Wahlberg did a great job of holding everything together, but even he couldn't carry the entire movie.

With a horrible story, bland action sequences, annoying inconsistencies, that whole we could have just shot the magnet the whole time thing. (if you watch the movie you will get this) Frankly this movie was garbage. Wahlberg was better then Shia Labeouf, but everybody other then him and Miller were bland and forgettable. The autobots were jerks and unlikable, though my wife was surprised that Goodman was still alive. So finding out she was wrong about that was a positive for her. It was odd watching this movie, it started out so strong. But as it progressed it somehow got worse and worse as time went on. By the end, I was just glad it was over with.

I have a strict, no money on Bay Formers rule, guess it will stay in effect for the time being. If you want a redbox, look for something else. Godzilla is out now, and Deliver us from Evil just showed up there. Give one of those a shot instead.

No trailer, watch this instead.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dracula Untold (2014)

Dracula untold is advertising itself as a, well untold variation of the Dracula story. It tries to portray Dracula as a hero, and give a justification to his transformation into the Vampire itself. It also tries to paint Vlad the Impaler  as a sympathetic leader with high morals whom we should feel bad for. Now my research on either of those two subjects is very limited, or rather non existent. But from what I do know I had a hard time accepting either of those. Doesn't honestly effect the film at all, as it is fiction. But it was a odd choice for a story. Untold has a romance plot, and it is a story about family. The Turks demanded 1000 boys to add into their army years ago. Vlad was one of those and was raised alongside the now Sultan Mehmed. Vlad felt bad about all his actions and the whole Impaler thing, and returned to his people to rule Transylvania as a benevolent leader. Sadly all does not go well, and the Turks are provoked by the Transylvanians, albeit by no real fault of their own. They demand 1000 boys again, as well as Vlad's own son. Vlad does not like this and decides to meet with the Master Vampire played by Charles Dance, and ask for his power. Vlad is given a 3 day trial period. If he does not drink blood he will return to normal....oddly enough he dies in order to initiate the trial. Not sure if that means he would die at the end of the 3 days for good, or some how magically come back to life. Either way he uses vampire magic and abilities to protect his people, and even rallies them behind his new darkness.

The story behind the movie is passable, and honestly it does its job of setting up action. That is the entire draw of this movie, the fighting. You are not seeing a horror, a drama, or anything where you are expecting to be enthralled by a epic tale. You are hear to see Vlad kill some Turks, and look stylish while doing it. And for the most part it delivers in that regard. Vlad strolls into a huge group of enemies and just lays waste to them with his powers. The way they integrated the bat transformation looked great, and seeing him form into swarm and just fly around the battlefield was good fun. The effects were good, not amazing, but still well done. There were a few cheesy moments, but all in all there were very few complaints from that department. There is a scene where Vlad controls a huge hoard of bats and they mimic his movements by crating giant fists out of their bodies. It looked kinda funny and reminded me of that scene in the mummy where the sand was forming the Mummies body as it chased the heroes in the plane.

Sadly where the movie fails the hardest, is as a vampire flick. It is about Dracula, but we don't actually get to see any real vampire activity until the finally. Yes he has powers until then, but he is devoid of the ferocity and the animal instincts you come to expect from these creatures. Until the last few minutes you never see anybody feed. No blood sucking in a vampire movie, what is the point then? Also the final fight was laughable at best. Silver is a vampire weakness according to this, which seems to be about 50-50 with most vampire lore. So the villain tricks Vlad into fighting him in a room of silver. Vlad is then reduced back to the power level of a normal human, and gets progressively weaker as time goes by. I guess it makes sense, but it once again detracted from what I wanted from the movie. Vampire violence. Final fight, Vlad has given in and is now Dracula. I wanted to see him rip the Sultan apart, not struggle with him for a few minutes before somehow just overcoming the silver weakness because of love.

The movie is at its strongest when it is not dealing with vampires. Vlad is likable, and I was able to understand his motivations and even agree with what he was doing. The family aspect and him wanting to save his son over protecting his people was interesting. And then when they turn on him and he tries to restore the balance by protecting them was noble. But I couldn't help but feel it would have worked better if they explored the darker side of the story more, instead of trying to turn Vlad into this amazing great guy. I get that Vampires are "hip" right now, but that doesn't mean we have to make everything about them a love story.

Acting was good across the board. Luke Evans was a good Vlad, and he did alright with the action sequences. Sarah Gadon played his wife Mirena, and she managed that well enough. The character was pretty unlikable by the end, but that wasn't Gadon's fault. Dominic Cooper always plays smug well, and is easy to dislike in pretty much every thing. I think it has to do with his face, but that may just be me. The weakest performance was probably by Game of Thrones actor Art Parkinson who plays Vlad's son. But hey he is young and still learning.

So let's wrap this up. Story is passable, but not great. Action sequences are enjoyable for the most part, but does have some cheesy sections that made me shake my head. Vampires were severely underused, and the film never really felt like it utilized the Dracula property to its fullest. The ending was awful, in many ways I can not explain with out spoiling more then I am willing to. But hey it had a cool line near the end. I am Dracula, son of  the devil. I would have used that as a the tagline for the film. Dracula Untold: Son of the Devil. Or Dracula Untold: The legend is born. Honestly, which one of those sounds like a movie worth seeing?

Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

The first movie was a epic tale with great story, character development, awesome visuals, great voice acting.....good action....good this...great that. It was a solid movie that delivered on all fronts. The second movie had a lot to live up to, and frankly I would have been surprised if they had managed to come up with something better. As it stands they did not, they didn't even come in at the same level as before. So the question simply is, Was it still a good movie?

In the first movie Hiccup, voiced by Jay Baruchel, is the son of the chief of his village. He is expected to becomes a great dragon killer, and a all around fearsome viking. He instead comes to care for the dragons and sees they are not the evil creatures everyone thinks they are. He unites the two and they fight a big bad dragon in the end. Simple enough but we see a lot of growth. Dragon 2.0 is 5 years later. Hiccup has changed the village to be more like him, but he still does not want to be part of it. His father wants him to take over as chief, and he has no desire to do so. He simply wants to fly around and map out the surrounding areas. As in the first book, he is more interested in Knowledge then anything else. While traveling he finds out there is a man named Drago Bludvist who is trapping and controlling dragons to make a army for conquest. Hiccup gets his attention and he decides to take his villages dragons. There is a big fight and that is the story. There is a side story that goes on about Hiccups family, but I won't ruin that for you. It was the one decent thing the movie had going for it.

So the story is weaker, and we have already met all these dragons so the wow factor is gone. They do introduce some new species, but it is not done with the same exuberance as the original film. As this is more of a battle movie then the first, you would assume that is where the movie would shine. Sadly not so much. The flying sequences in the first film out shine the ones in this one. Hiccup has fashioned a flying suit so he can soar around with his dragon. It was a cool idea but they seem to focus on that more then trying to create exciting moments around the dragons. The flying portions are still neat, but simply don't get the attention they did in the first film. The battles also seem quite tame, which is odd as they are the main focus. The trappers won't kill the dragons, as they want them. So there is no real suspense for the most part. The dragons won't really kill the people either, as it is a kids movie. There is a lot of flying around, and a few focused moments of combat, but it just feels lacking. The big moment of the film does involve somebody finally killing somebody else, but it was not enough to save the film. Also the final fight was just a dragon sitting still taking pot shots at a much larger foe.

So less excitement, a bland what does the movie do right? Well the visuals are still cool. The animation is well done, and if you enjoyed the original you will still enjoy this one. It may not be as good, but it is still far from bad. It seems to lack the direction of the first film, and doesn't seem as focused on providing a quality story. But the story is still fun for what it is. The humor was hit or miss for me, miss more often then not. But it was still nice to see more of Hiccup and Toothless. If you have kids, they won't care about the parts I didn't like. While I did expect a lot more, I still had fun with it.

Trailer has a Huge Spoiler in they all seem to these days. If you have not seen much advertising for this movie yet, maybe skip the preview. 

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Based on the novel "All you need is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow is a Science Fiction movie that focuses on Time Travel and a endless loop. Think Groundhog Day, but more violent. The planet was attacked by a group of aliens we have dubbed "Mimics." They fell to earth in a asteroid and then sprang forth and have been taking over with alarming proficiency. The movie is based around a battle where the humans are trying to invade France to start taking back the territory they have lost.

Tom Cruise plays Major Cage, a sales person of sorts for the army. He cuts promotional videos and drives up recruitment numbers in order to avoid going into actual combat. As that would be a boring action film, things don't go well for him and he ends up under the command of Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell. Paxton forces Cage into a battle using a mechanical suit he is not trained on, and he is killed very quickly. The entire plot of the movie is based around the fact that he then wakes up at the beginning of that day. Every time he dies he just resets back to that morning. Like "Groundhog Day." Cage has to figure out how to progress, and the majority of the movie is him figuring out why this is happening and how to fix it.

The other lead is Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, the "Full Metal Bitch." That name is a reference to the metal suits they wear to fight, but also one she was given after winning a huge battle as a untrained rookie. She was credited with 100 Alien kills and was called the Angle of Verdun, which is where the battle took place. We find out she also had the time loop power, which is why she was able to go from no experience to a killing machine. She simply relived the day over and over again until she memorized every detail of it. Used that to kill everything, and survive it herself. She serves as a mentor to Cage as she trains him each new day, and helps him understand the limits and meaning of his new power. She also has a way to win the war, and provides a way to move the plot forward to a resolution.

There are plenty of other characters in the film, but they are all minor parts. Cage was part of a squad who they could have focused more on, but in the end you never really felt attached to them. As they had their big moment at the end of the film, it seemed lessened by that fact. You had no real interest in them, as they were never fleshed out. The actual character development was one of my main issues with the film. We see Cage change from a coward that you genuinely disliked, into a true hero as the movie went on. We saw him care for other people and put them before him. He was the only one to really get this treatment. Blunt's character Rita never really got explored sadly. There was a great line in there where Cage is trying to get her to trust him, and is rattling off info she told him in past loops to show her that at one point she had trusted him. He gives her a name, her middle name, and she says it is not correct. Later on when she is dying for the dozenth time, she tells him her real middle name. This would have been a perfect chance for them to expand on the character. In the book her parents were killed by the mimics and she faked her identity to enlist as a minor to fight for them. The middle name she gave Cage was probably the fake one she used, before telling him her real one later on. Small details like this could have been easily fitted into many of the dialogue scenes and really helped better establish the roles. In the end though Rita just feels closed off.

The actors all did well with their respective roles however. Cruise had a nice range as he almost felt like a different character by the end of the movie. And while Blunt didn't get the development I would have liked, she did very well with her role. Rita was a bad ass, and exuded coolness. The other minor roles were done well, and Paxton is always fun to watch.

The battle scenes are one of the main draws for the movie. If you see any of the trailers, they take the main stage. The CGI was good enough for me, though I have heard complaints about it from others. I never saw any real glaring issues with it myself though, and I enjoyed all the cool visuals and battle sequences. The Mimics looked very interesting, and would be terrifying to face in real life. The way they had the tendrils moving and spiraling around really made a cool effect. And I loved how they moved and just seemed to thrash and roll about. The metal suits were awesome looking, and seeing the two fight was exhilarating. The movement for the suits could look fake at times, but it was rare and not overly noticeable. The only real draw back was the big bad Alien design. He just looked boring, but it made sense given the context.

So good acting, fun battles, and a interesting story and concept....why did the movie get mediocre reviews upon its initial release? Well other then the mentioned Character Development, the main issue most people seemed to have with it was the ending. It didn't really make sense, and required you to make up your own reasons for why it happened that way. For what it is worth, the movie does have a different ending from the book. I won't spoil anything here, but the complaints against the ending are valid. It does not work within the given information we have, and as such you feel cheated once the movie is over. Still though, even with was still enjoyable overall. I think "Looper" is still the best modern Time Travel movie right now, but "Edge of Tomorrow" has plenty to offer if you can get past the poor ending.

If you are interested in how the book ended, I will tell you. Rita and Keiji(Cage) kill the big bad alien....and the loop resets. They decide they missed one of the antenna attached to it, and that is what allowed it to reset the day. This time they take them all out, but then Rita attacks Keiji. Basically their brains have been altered by the alien substance that gave them their looping powers. They now serve as weaker versions of the antenna, and while both alive they are able to function enough for the alien to force a reset. They fight to the death so that one can live, and Keiji ends up killing her. He ends up telling her he loves her, as she has spent something like 160 days with her at that point. She is unable to say it back as she just met him, but she does understand the feeling as she has experience her own loop before. He then becomes the new hero of the war and gets the name Killer Keiji. He tries to live out his life for her. If they could have incorporated some of that into the film ending it would have been much better. If nothing else it explains why Cage is now able to telepathically connect to the Alien, which is a huge plot point mid way into the film.

This was a fun movie, and I enjoyed it. However a weak finish did lesson it quite a bit. There are a few other cases of 4 or even 5 star movies dropping greatly in the last few minutes. Stephen King's "The Mist" being the best example. However that does not completely take away the rest of the film.

3.5, its the best I can do

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Neighbors (2014)

I heard about this movie from somebody at work, they hyped it up and said I had to see it in theaters. Getting on the same schedule as my wife, and getting a baby sitter is difficult right now though. So when we finally did, we saw Godzilla instead. Clearly Godzilla is awesome, and that was the correct choice. But why bring it up now? Well because it fits in with this movie so perfectly. Neighbors is about just that, neighbors. The main group is played by Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. They have a small child, who appears to be just over 1. They still want to feel young, and are still trying to rebel against the responsibilities that having a child comes with. One scene shows one of their friends inviting them to a rave, they are so desperate to get out of the hose they decide to bring the baby with them. By the time they get everything ready, and together they are to exhausted to go. As a new parent with a 17 month old, I can tell you that is spot on. I think that fact alone is why I was able to identify with this movie so much. The other half of the equation is a frat house that moves in next door. The main 3 are played by Zach Efron, Dave Franco, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse...or McLovin as you probably known him.

The Frat house moves in, and Rogen and Byrne are worried about it disrupting their lives. So they try to act cool, make friends, and tell them to quiet down. Guess what, it doesn't work. They end up making things worse when they break a promise made to Effron, and it ends up a all out war between the two houses.

The humor in this movie is pretty standard for anything with Seth Rogen in it. It has drug use, sex jokes, and everything from witty to very lowbrow stuff tossed in. Most of it works pretty well, and not knowing much about Zach Effron, I was surprised to see him flourish in this type of role. He played off of Rogen very well, and was able to hold his own with some of the more established comedy workers. The acting wasn't anything award winning, but this movie didn't call for any of that. Everybody did well, and the casting for the Frat members was perfect. It does turn into a sort of Party movie, but with a story who seems only there to set up the jokes, it works very well.

One thing I did like was that the movie had resolution. At the end everybody seemed to grow and develop. For a movie like this, they could have easily skipped all that. They actually did a great job with the development to, as you could see it happening as the movie progressed. It was far more complex then I thought it would be. Plus we get a scene with Rogen and Efron topless outside of a store trying to entice the female customers. It had me in stitches, and I don't know why. Seeing Efron react to Rogen trying to sexy dance was just to much.

I enjoyed this movie much more then the other comedy I saw on my days off. But still I would not put it up to the other works this cast is known for. Mintz was enjoyable, but he still has not been able to get out of the shadow of Superbad. And Rogen's other latest offereing "This is the End" was far more enjoyable and humorous to me. This was still a good movie, and a decent rental. Just don't go into it expecting it to be amazing, and it might pleasantly surprise you. Also litle Franco does a beautiful De Niro impersonation.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Seth MacFarlane is well known for his particular style of comedy. Family Guy, Ted, The Cleveland Show. Chances are you have heard of and seen some of his work before. They all have the same kind of comedy to, similar jokes and characters. So it should come to no surprise that this movie follows that same pattern. If you are a fan of his previous works, you will probably enjoy this one to. If you can't stand his other stuff, well this will not do anything to win you over. I would equate it to a long episode of family guy, that tries to keep focus on a story that even it wouldn't waste more then 15 minutes on. If you don't read anything else, think of it this way. Would you watch a hour plus long episode of Family Guy? That should determine whether you should check out "A Million Ways to Die in the West."

MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep farmer who hates everything. He also complains about everything, and that leads up to the big on going joke throughout the movie. He is dumped by Seyfried's character Louise and falls into despair trying to figure out how to get her back. She is now with Neal Patrick Harris who plays Foy, a rich Mustache enthusiast. There is more to it then that, as a second women played by Charleize Theron does enter the picture later on. The movie is about Albert growing up and becoming less pathetic, and realizing he can be happy. But for me he never really manages to be likable, and his journey never seemed to finish. He seemed the same at the end as he did at the beginning. Other known actors are Liam Neeson playing outlaw Clinch and Sarah Silverman playing the religious Prostitute Ruth.

Acting for this film was good, no real complaints. Everything seemed to be done in a more conversation like tone which helped keep it at a good level. There were some more dramatic moments, but nothing that ever really stretched the abilities of those on screen. Liam Neeson did a good job of always being serious and pissy sounding. MacFarlane and Theron had decent chemistry, and she was easily the high point of the movie. I think it helped she was the only really likable one in the movie. Sarah Silverman's prostitute Ruth was enjoyable at first, but her only real joke soured very quickly. She is dating Albert's only friend, but she is also having sex with many men each day. She will not have sex with him however because they are not married, it would be un-christian. You now know how every scene with her goes. Also expect a lot of sex based jokes, such as why she has bad breath after being with a client.

That actually is a decent enough segue for me, let's talk about the comedy. This is a comedy, so surely it must be funny. If not what is the point? Well the earlier reference to family guy comes into play here. Albert is Brian the dog, as in they lifted that character and put him in this movie. If Brian annoys you, you will hate Albert. If family guy is not funny to you, this movie will not be either. One thing family guy does a lot is random bits to try and elicit a unexpected laugh. Albert gives a big long speech about why the west sucks, and how you can die doing anything including the mundane. The movie goes to great lengths to show this to you, and the running gag is killing people in stupid ways at unexpected times. The first time it does kind of shock you, the 2nd you just shake your head. By the end it is annoying, it just keeps happening. The movie seems aware of this and stops for the last 30 or so minutes, as if it knew you were tired of seeing it. Other then that the comedy is based off of farting and poop jokes. The big showdown actually has poop in it, and detracted from the build up. There are some funny parts of the film, like the first time we see Albert do drugs. But for the most part everything just fell flat.

The entire movie felt like it could have been 40 minutes long, and better for it. It was easily one of the weaker comedies I have seen in a long time. I don't care for Family Guy, but I did enjoy Ted. I was hoping this would be more in line with that movie, but I was disappointed when pretty much every part of it. The racism was not funny, the constant poop and fart jokes were not for me. The story was poorly implemented and never really gripped me. The only good thing about this film was the casting outside of MacFarlane, and then they used everybody so poorly that it no longer mattered. The high points of the film were the cameos, which I won't ruin. But the only two memorable scenes were throwaways, one of which was when the credits were rolling.

If you are a big MacFarlane fan, check this out. But rent it first, don't buy it. Everybody else, just pass on it. There are better comedies out there right now.

After watching that trailer, the best joke from it is not even in the movie. And that awesome Balloon sequence.....where was that at?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Brick Mansions (2014)

A remake of a french film 2004 called District B13, or Banlieue 13. Oddly enough it actually stars the same actor in one of the 2 main roles. David Belle reprises his role as Leito, although he is renamed as Lino in this film. Even after 10 years he still looks about the same, and it was odd seeing him return for this. The other lead was Capt. Damien Tomaso played by Paul Walker. And the Rza rounded out the cast as the main villain, Tremaine. If you saw the original, you have already seen most of this movie. From what I remember of the first one, it seemed to follow it pretty closely with the exception of the ending. The story being that there is a neighborhood that has been walled up and separated from the rest of the city. That is Brick Mansions, or B13 in the other film. Crime had gotten so bad and so far out of hand, we just rounded up what we could and gave them their own area. Tremaine is the head of Brick Mansions, and controls a huge drug empire. He is also credited with killing Capt. Tomaso's father. Tremaine comes into possession of a bomb that activated when he opened the case incorrectly. It is now ready to blow up the Mansions, killing everybody inside. Tomaso is sent in to deactivate it, and is partnered up with Lino as he knows the area and how Tremaine works.

The story actually doesn't sound to bad, but if you saw the original you know there is more to it then that. Without spoiling to much, I will say the ending left me disappointed. The way they handle it doesn't seem in character with the rest of the film. And it was also the biggest change between the two films. Keeping the original would have made for a much stronger experience overall. That being said, everything else with the story worked pretty well. It had a good set up to get the action started, and it did a good job of pissing you off and getting you invested at key moments. They give each of the two leads a reason to be there, and a reason to try there best to get to Tremaine.

This was a movie about Parkour before parkour really took off. Lino bounces around and flips all over things while running up walls and diving through any window he sees. Even Walker tries to get in on the action from time to time. That was actually one thing I didn't understand. We see Walker doing back flips off of people, and flipping around on dumpsters. But when the time comes for him to flip off of a pipe and into a 3 foot opening, he can't do it. It seemed odd and out of place that he suddenly wasn't a acrobatic god anymore. For the most part though the action was fairly solid, and the parkour scenes were usually entertaining. The movie has a lot of shooting, and fist fights. The shooting was where it seemed to lack the most. Paul Walker is given a scoped rifle and hits a very small target the size of a briefcase. He then misses a person sitting in a chair from the same range 4 or 5 times in a row within the same minute. This is kind of a metaphor for the way guns were handled in the movie. Bad guys have guns, don't worry, they won't hit anything unless it is important so you didn't really react or care. The mostly seemed to be used as loud noises to try and get some sort of excitement out of you. If they put the guns down though, you knew something cool was about to happen.

Acting is not something you worry about in a film like this. That doesn't mean it was bad, but it was not the main focus. The actors did alright with what they were given, I would say The Rza was probably the stand out here. And if you are familiar with his acting, you know that is not a positive to the film. I like Paul Walker, but he has never been known for his amazing acting abilities. He is good, but not great. And honestly that sums up pretty much everybody else here.

This seems like such a odd film to be remade, and so long after the original. Did we really need it? They didn't even really try to do anything new with it, and I don't recall it being advertised all that much. I had not even heard about it until yesterday. It does a good job of showing what the original film was all about, and tries to go for the same message that the first one did. But due to how they altered the end when we are supposed to be putting everything together, the movie just falls flat. We have decent action, but not much else. It was a enjoyable movie, but the ending seemed oddly out of place. It felt like they just took the easy way out, instead of trying to figure out a complex but appropriate answer to the issue. For a popcorn flick, it was decent enough. I would rent it, but I would never buy it. If you just want to see what Walker was working on before he did, check this out. If you just want a action flick, there are better options. Still it did keep me entertained for the most part.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is based off of a book series that began in 2006, though it involved characters from as far back as the 60's. The movie is getting a lot of comparisons to the original star wars, mostly due to the lack of space operas we seem to get. However it is neat to remember that everybody in this team pre-dates those movies. The first Guardians book came out in the late 60's and featured a team who was pretty much non existent in this movie. In 2006 they started a new story that spanned multiple Marvel franchises called "Annihilation." This story started the formation of the team the movie is based on, though it did include quite a few members who did not get a appearance on screen. Guardians of the Galaxy is a much lesser known franchise of marvels. However I would argue it is one of their stronger ones, and offers so much more then say the Avengers or any of their solo works such as Iron man or Thor. Reading Annihilation and the stories that followed it, i can say the Guardians have some of the best written and played out stories in the Marvel and even Comic book world as a whole. Marvel had so much to live up to with this film, and I was honestly a bit worried going into it.

The Avengers are fun, but they are on a much smaller scale then the Guardians. The Avengers protect our planet, but the Guardians protect all of them. That was a point that the movie never really appeared to be trying to make, but in its own way comes pretty close to succeeding near the end. The story for this film actually begins in a scene we see in the first Thor movie from 2011. In that movie we are shown a brief glance of the Infinity Gauntlet, and shortly there after the infinity gems start to appear in the various marvel films. In the sequel to Thor, we are even shown the asgardians turning over a infinity gem to the Collector, a character featured in this movie. At the end of Avengers we were introduced to Thanos the mad Titan. To those unfamiliar with marvel, these were just scenes that made no real sense. It was nice to see them finally coming together after so long.

Peter Quill played by Chris Pratt, who was excellent in this role by the way, is a young boy who is abducted from our planet by a alien named Yondu. Yondu is actually the only member of the 69 Guardians team to make a appearance in this film. Although he is less heroic in this representation, it was still a nice touch to have him included. Yondu was sent to pick him up, but instead decided to try and raise him as a criminal or thief of sorts. The main story starts with Quill who is now trying to use the name Star Lord, as he is raiding a destroyed world for some sort of Orb. The Orb is also being searched for by a Alien supremacist named Ronan. Ronan is of the Kree, a blue alien race who is very powerful. There was a war, but their people made peace. He can not accept that and still fights on, he wants the Orb to use as a weapon to destroy the home planet of those the war was fought against.

Quill ends up running into the other Guardians in various ways, and they all end up in a prison together. Seeing as this is a origin film, it was nice to see them not waste to much time on the back stories here. They were all pretty much just told through dialogue, and we were able to get to the fun parts. Though the scenes where they all come together and form the group are some of the strongest in the movie. We get to see the compassionate side of Quill as he fights to protect somebody who essentially got him caught. We get to learn about Drax, played by Dave Bautista, and his sad back story.....which by the way was oddly changed in a way that can only lesson his character going forward. We get a look into the crazy psychopath that is Rocket Raccoon. For a scene that only lasted a short time, the prison portion of the movie was such a highlight of it.

I saw the movie in 3d, which I normally skip on. While I feel it did not add to much to the film, there were  a few scenes that were very enhanced by it. Not enough that I would say it is mandatory to see in 3d, but if you were on the fence it wouldn't hurt. The scenery in the movie was gorgeous, and some of the best space art I have ever seen. The colors they used, and the art direction on the planets created some breath taking shots. I love fantasy and science fiction, and this movie had the best looking space and planets I have seen. Space was not just a dark frontier, it was alive and filled with wonder. We got some amazing looking shots of every location we visited from orbit, and each one was more fantastic then the last. These were also some of the cooler 3d shots, and would create amazing wallpapers. It was easily the most impressive Marvel movie visually to date.

For those of you who are familiar with the characters and their comic counterparts, you may be wondering how close this representation of them is. I found it to be very much spot on for the most part. They did mess around with the backstories of pretty much everybody on the team. However in every case other then Drax, the changes make sense and seem to better fit the Marvel Movie universe. Gamora's parents were killed by Thanos instead of him saving her after her race was wiped out. We skip out on Quill making his own way into space, would have taken far to long anyways. Rocket was experimented on against his will instead of Voluntarily. And Groot never got any real back story, though I have read where people believe he was on the same planet as Rocket when he was getting his implants. I did not get that from the movie, but they also never talked about him being from a planet where everybody is a huge talking tree. And they never played the "He is tree royalty" card either. Groot was actually the one that was furthest from his comic counterpart. As most people know, they went with the version that can only really say "I am Groot" as opposed to the one that can talk freely. They also gave him the mentality of a small violent child, instead of the hyper intelligent one he has in the books. I did enjoy this version of Groot, but much like the recent Batman films, it felt odd for them to leave out what I would consider to be his most important feature. Batman never came across as the worlds greatest detective, and Groot never came off as the brains of the team. Everybody else though, spot on. Quill was based off of his earlier run where he was cocky, and very impulsive. He may have lacked the seriousness he comes to have in the later books, but this is earlier on in his life and I felt that Pratt did wonderfully in the role.

For me though the stand out role was Dave Bautista and Zoe Saldana as Drax and Gamora. Probally because I can't think of a single movie I liked Saldana in. And due to the fact that Big Dave is not known for being a good actor. He has had a few roles, and while I would aruge he did well enough in each, he never really had a part with many lines or much screen time. He was used in the this film because he was such a big guy, but he also had the acting ability to make the character work beyond that. I was very impressed with him, and now that the movie is over I can't wait to see him back in the WWE again. He really brought Drax to life, and played the perfect straight man to the rest of the team, who is filled with a bunch of smart asses. Saldana was a horrible choice for Gamora in my head, but she really did well with her role as well. I didn't care for Avatar, I actually wanted to walk out on it, and I didn't really care for the newer Star Trek movies either. So I had no great expectations for her, however she seemed like a completely different actress in this. I was wrong about her being chosen for the role, and after seeing her portrayal of it, I can't admit that enough.

One neat thing about this team is that every member is broken in some way. Quill is still dealing with the death of a loved one from 20 years back. Rocket is just a violent crazy murderous genetically enhanced super animal. Drax is unable to get past his families murder, and Gamora is more of the same. Even Groot who seems like a soft soul enjoys killing and violence. These are the heroes of the film, yet unlike the Avengers or the X-men, they are not good guys when it all starts.

So did the movie live up to the books? Well to me I would say it did. The Avengers are going to remain the more popular as they always have. But the movie did a great job of showing just how much more important the Guardians are in the grand scheme of everything. That was one point that always stuck with me when reading the books. The Avengers are the premier marvel team, but they only exist because of people like the Guardians. Heck I would argue even the X-men are a better overall team and command a larger presence in the Marvel universe. With the inclusion of the Infinity Gem of Power, this movie starts to showcase the range and the necessity for the Guardians. And it served as a great launching point for future stories, which is what you want most out of a first film. I fully expect a guardian cameo of some sort in the next Avengers film.

Things I didn't care for? Drax's backstory change. In the movie his family was killed by Ronan, and that fuels his reason for originally joining the Guardians in their fight against him. In the books he was human, and his family was killed by Thanos as collateral damage in a fight against another cosmic being. That being spared Drax and empowered him into the form he is now. He also gave him the power to kill Thanos, a plot device that was huge in the Comics. Drax was strong, but Thanos was much stronger. However Drax was essentially his Kryptonite. Drax could easily kill or harm Thanos if he was able to get his hands on him. And with Thanos being a huge villain in the following Marvel films, it just seemed odd they would take away the thing that made Drax's character so important. Drax only lived to kill Thanos, it was his sole purpose in life.

I also did not care for them under utilizing Cosmo the dog. While he did show up for a few seconds of screen time, he never got to talk or was even established. It seemed odd with him being such a huge member of the guardians books. He was the dog in the space suit that was seen in the collectors area of Knowhere.

Fun Facts time! Nothing huge this time, but for those familiar with the books we did sort of....kind of....get a Adam Warlock easter egg. I completely missed this one but from what I am reading online, you did see his Cocoon in the Collector's area. And in the post credits scene was open and empty which would lead us to believe he is now awake and active int he marvel universe. With the infinity Gauntlet story line going into full swing that makes a lot of sense, and should excite the comic book fans. Also the end credits scene has a surprise cameo from another marvel franchise. The fact here though is that there movie came out the same day as the Guardian one did, though years apart.

So hopefully that didn't turn into to much of a geek out rant, the Guardians are my favorite Marvel team, runner ups being the x-men....but those movies piss me off more then anything. So we ended up with a fun movie, with great visuals. Seriously some of the best space shots I have ever seen, if you dig the cosmic stuff, you have to see this. We get good acting, and phenomenal casting all around. If Robert Downey jr is the perfect Iron man, then you could say they had similar luck with pretty much all of the Guardians. The movie established some amazing new characters, including the much anticipated Nova Corps. Maybe now we can get a Nova movie, this film really did open the doors for marvel on so many other franchise. We got to see our first Real look at Thanos and see him interact. It had a good story, and a served as a strong origins film without getting bogged down like most seem to. The music selection was outstanding, being comprised entirely of songs from the 80's and before. That also served as a strong plot device, and really helped the audience connect with Peter Quill through out the film. While I didn't agree with how all of the characters were handled, overall it was very positive unlike say Iron Man 3 where i could not even enjoy the film for that reason. For a movie that was deemed a risk by Marvel, under the guidance of James Gunn it easily became one of the best Marvel films yet. To me though, it was easily my favorite. That makes my rating it quite difficult, I would say a 4.5 for most, but to me it was a

Oh and thanks for the Kevin Bacon jokes. Also Chris Pratt has a Bacon number of 2. Deep in the Valley (2009) with Denise Richards, to Wild Things (1998) with Kevin Bacon. If that means nothing to you, then you are not bored enough on the internet.

Go to 1:15 and tell me that is not a amazing looking shot. Also after visiting Toy's R us, why are there no really decent Guardian toys? I don't want to pay a few hundred dollars for the sideshow collectible ones....I can't afford that.

Tell me that is not amazing