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

Friday, August 1, 2014

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

An interesting movie. It is a video game tie in, which means it is not based off of the comic book version. I think that is a good idea as it gives them more creative freedom. The movie may be called Batman, but really it should be noted he is only a secondary character. The movie is about the "Suicide Squad" which you may know from the "Arrow" tv show if you are not a comic fan. The idea behind the suicide squad, the government takes criminals and uses them as operatives in dangerous missions they are not willing to risk their own on. If the villains succeed their time is reduced, so there is incentive for them to co-operate. If they choose not to have ever, they have bombs implanted in their necks. As you always see in these movies, somebody gets their head blown off to prove that point. So while it is a Batman animated film, it is not for kids. It has sex, gore, language, and even Joker making a rape joke. Nothing worse then a pg movie, but be aware of what you are buying or renting for your little ones.

The Riddler has stolen files on all Suicide Squad members, the government wants them back. The Squad has to break into Arkham Asylum in order to get the files back. Arkham is a very secure prison that is used to handle the more dangerous criminals that Batman deals with. There is also a side story where Batman is running a different case, and sure enough everything crosses over.

Who are the Suicide Squad? Well in this variation the lead would be Deadshot. He was heavily featured on the Arrow tv show, and was in the last Batman game from the series this movie is based around. He doesn't really have powers, but instead is a very astounding marksman. He is joined by Captain Boomerang who is basically a lesser version of Deadshot. His gimmick is he uses Boomerangs instead of bullets. Harley Quinn, Jokers currently Ex lover. She is very crazy, but has a great mind. She knows almost everything there is to know about Arkham. Both from her time working and staying there. Black Spider who is basically a ninja. A very well trained assassin. Killer Frost who can create and shoot ice and freezing winds. And King Shark who is a very durable and strong man....with a shark mouth.

The movie is about Criminals doing illegal things. The action scenes are well done, and the animation is on the higher end of the DC direct movies. We don't get the weird looking faces that were in the last Justice League film. But the animation did seem crisper and more defined then in the Son of Batman that recently came out. The story starts off simple enough, but gets more complicated as it goes. Joker has a dirty bomb and batman is trying to locate it. He and the Squad get in each others way as they each try to complete their own objectives. In a normal film you would expect the bad guys to join up and help him, as the bomb will kill them to. However this is more realistic, and they instead try to kill him and keep going their own way. I actually really liked that. The villains never felt like they were being forced into a role they would not normally fill. It seemed natural for them to act the way they did. And while it should have been hard to root for people are still murdering as they go, it really wasn't. Deadshot and Harley are fan favorites right now, and putting them in the front of the squad was a great idea. Harley gets her own little story with the Joker that fans of them will love and enjoy. And Deadshot gets a lead role that puts him over the Batman. Heck the final fight is Deadshots, Bats is busy during it and provides no real help. If you liked that character in "Arrow" or are a fan from the comics, you will be very happy with how he comes out in this one.

Did I have any real issues with the movie? It is hard to say....well hard to say with out dropping heavy spoilers. I liked the representation of Harley, but I don't like how they ended up using her character in the end. Given this is a tie in for a upcoming game, it made sense given that games story. However it didn't seem to fit in with the mentality she had in the suicide squad comics. This is however separate from those, so that should not matter. Other then that though I was happy with how everybody acted and was portrayed. I enjoyed hearing Killer Frost drop a ice pun, and seeing the Penguin make a cameo. The scenes in Arkham features a wide variety of past bat villains as well. There really was a lot of cool little moments in this one.

How does it compare to the other DC animated films? Well I would say it ranks up there along side Red Hood, but still just below Flashpoint. It focuses on a lesser known group, and while that could have easily hurt it, I don't think it did. I applaud DC for taking a chance on this one, and I hope they do more like it in the future. Taking Batman and using him in a secondary role gave them the opportunity to make lesser known characters shine. And the result was one of their better animated features they have put out. If you are a fan of the comics, the Batman movies, the Batman games, or just animation in general, give this one a shot.

It is out now on digital distributors, and the psychical copies are coming on the 12th of August. Redbox should have it a month later.