Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Visit (2015)

The Visit is a M. Night Shyamalan film presented in the found film style. It is shown as a documentary of two kids visit to their grandparents house as they meet them for the first time. The main focal point of the film however is the mother and how sad the daughter perceives her as being. The mother had a big fight with her parents over a man, left the house and never saw them again. This was before the kids were born, which explains why they don't know the grandparents. The grandparents reach out online and ask to see the kids for a week as they want to be part of their life. The daughter who is 15 decides to make the documentary as a way of hopefully recording the Grandparents telling her what happened in that fight, and getting a apology so the mother can finally move on and be happy. Also it is apparently supposed to be a horror film, though nobody seemed to remember that while making it.

When you hear M. Night Shyamalan you groan and go, but that preview looked so promising. Remember The Village? That movie looked decent, it started decent, then "The Twist" happened and it turned became awful. Remember Wayward Pines? No you don't, you didn't finish that show either? Devil was okay though right......maybe. Shyamalan is known for making a few decent films very early on, then turning out neat concepts that fail to deliver for the next 10 to 15 years. He tends to throw a "Twist" into his films to, something that takes you by surprise and changes how the films story works. Easy example would be one of his older films, the Village. A movie that took place in a older time before technology. It was a take on the big bad wolf. A girl was trying to leave her village but was being stalked by a wolf. Turns out the wolf was simply trying to keep her in the area so she didn't discover the twist! She really lived in modern time, oh my god so amazing! It was stupid as was the rest of the movie.

So we have two kids visiting Nana and Pop Pop for the first time. They spend a week in the house recording everything for their documentary. During the day, they seem like normal old people, but at night Nana gets weird. It starts setting up for the horror moments, but it never really delivers on them. Yes the old people act weirder and weirder as it goes on, but they never do anything really scary. Also you never really feel like anybody is in danger until the final 10 or so minutes of the film. We get a stronger focus on the story between the mother and the grandparents, and the spooky stuff takes the back seat. The film tries so hard to keep you interested as you wait for "The Twist", but it just fails to. It gives little clues, and you keep watching because you paid for it so why not I guess. Then finally the twist starts to appear, and it looks like it may be a doozey. Shymalan starts giving out some heavy handed clues and your brain goes into overdrive trying to think up the craziest thing it could be. This is a guy who did a movie about plants and bees somehow psychically forcing people to commit suicide....actually I didn't finish that one, that is just what I was told happened. So when "The Twist" finally does come and all the build up amounted to pretty much nothing, the movie lost any good it had going for it.

Everything building to the final scenes was for nothing. You sit there bored out of your mind hoping for something magical. What you get was just plain and boring, combined with a very lackluster finish and you get a film that never really manages to accomplish much. It is never scary, never really enjoyable, and you have to sit through a 13 year old rapping over and over again. The only thing the movie really had going for it was occasional humor. The Son decides at one point to shout out female pop singer names instead of cursing. He only did it a few times, but it always made me laugh for some reason. Sadly that was the only enjoyment I got out of the film.

Also the trailer needs to be addressed. Watch the Trailer, and you have now seen pretty much the entire movie. It shows all the "scares" and even sort of gives away part of "The Twist." when you can fit the parts of your movie that are supposed to be the main reason for seeing it, into a single video under 3 minutes, you have a problem.

If you want some found footage horror, give the new Paranormal Activity a try. It is not what I would call overly scary, but it was fun and far better then this. Unfriended would be another one similar in style. It is told completely from the computer screen of a teenage girl who is chatting with all her friends as they start to die. A really unique and new approach to the found footage stuff.

Skip this, don't rent it. Don't watch it at a friends house, just pretend it never existed.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)

Paranormal Activity is one of those franchises that most have heard of, but not kept up with. The first movie did great, good reviews and a lot of people saw it. However as they went along, the formula staid the same, and most people quickly grew bored and stopped watching. We are now on the 6th film, and the final film in this story. It does make some radical changes to the formula, while still keeping the final product roughly the same. And while I enjoyed that, I am not sure it actually helped them any. I am a fan of these films, I have seen them all. And I have enjoyed the story they tell, as all of them are linked together even if they do have 20 years between them.

The following is a short summary of the previous films which I have all seen once at release, so it may not be 100% accurate, but it is very close.

The first Movie was about Katie, she was living with her fiance or husband or something. The movie ended with her becoming possessed by a demon and killing the love interest, and left the house. We did not see where she went, and the movie made note that the police never found her. The second story was about her sister. She had a kid named Hunter, the demon wanted the kid. The movie ended with a failed possession as the family was able to cast the demon out of the mother. Katie then comes into the house, kills the family and takes the kid. You start to see how the connection works. We get a movie about the two sisters as kids next, and we see their grandmother force them into a witch coven which kills their parents and starts to prepare them for their demonic possession later in life. There is another film where Hunter is now slightly older and with a different family, the demon comes back for him as they now have actual need for him. We get a spin off where we learn there are multiple kids all born the same day, the sixth day of the sixth month, of the sixth year of the century....666, they are marked and needed for the demon to become whole and gain a physical body in this world. This movie was a spin off, and really did not tie into the story to much, but it gave a lot of great details. The ending had the two sisters when they were little show up, even though it was in modern times. We also saw a crazy scene where the main characters raided the witch's coven to get one of their friends back. One of them is being chased and runs through a door which drops them off in the house from a earlier film, and we see older Katie and other people from earlier films. That movie gave the details that the coven and the demon had the ability to travel through time, as well as locations using set points. Magic doors that were linked, that was a very integral part to this film.

Ghost Dimension is about a family that just moved into a house, a big amazing looking house that was a deal to good to be true. They have a young daughter named Leila, and the both the wife and the husband have their sibling staying over for the holidays. It takes place at Christmas, and like the others it is all told with found footage. If you are not familair with that term, it basically means home video style. Most movies are shot as if you are looking through a camera, or as if the camera is not there. These are shot as if somebody was making their own film, and you are looking at the result. A character is holding the camera and filming, and you are seeing the movie they make. Think Blair Witch or Cloverfield.

The two brothers find a old box with a camera from the 80's and some home videos. The camera still works and they clean it up and try it out. They can see a weird distortion in their house that seems to be moving around, but you can not make out what it is. This is where Ghost Dimension differs from previous films. The camera is a spirit camera and allows them to see the demon. It is weak the begining, but as the movie goes on it grows stronger through interacting with them and takes on a more solid form. It was neat to finally see the demon, and I really enjoyed the change from before where you would just have a invisible entity terrorizing people. However it did lesson the fear, as you could see things coming and it was not a surprise anymore. Still it was unique for the franchise, and for the final film it accomplished something the fans have been wanting. The demon's name is Tobi, and fans have wanted to see and know more about Tobi, now we have.

If you remember the ending to the third or the flashback film, well you know the ending to this one. This is where those movies finally tie together. Also if you saw any of the other films, well you know how this one ends because they are all the same. That being said we do get some cool moments out of this one that fans will enjoy. They try to kill the demon at one point, a sort of super exorcism I guess. We get a creepy santa, and a great moment where you first see Tobi's face. I would say there were more memorable moments in this film the prior ones, and they really did go big for the grand finale. If you have stuck with the franchise this far, check it out. You deserve to see the ending, and you get to see some more backstory about the sisters and the coven.

If you are a newcomer, well it may not really be your thing. It was not exactly scarey, and the little details will be lost on you. You won't care about the sisters, or really know what is going on with the doorways or coven. You can still follow it all, but you will be missing key details.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

I was thinking of how to write this, and honestly I never really came up with anything. If you talk about the story, or even a synopsis it is a huge spoiler. It is not like most other movies where the trailer gives you that information already. So I decided to just go with some general thoughts presented from a huge fan, and from somebody who is not. That way you get both sides, and don't have to worry about the details of the film being ruined for you.

I don't remember when I first got into Star Wars, but I remember when it became such a huge thing to me. In the late 90's they re-released the movies in the theaters. I was already a fan, but something about seeing them up on the big screen just made them special. I started buying up the old toys, collecting the various versions of the movies, and it quickly became something more then just a franchise to me. So yes I am one of those people who hold the original 3 movies in a special place, while being of the mind that the later 3 were not so good. Going into The Force Awakens I was worried about how it would compare to the others. Would it feel like a Star Wars movie, or which Trilogy would it better fit in with. I did read a lot of rumors about the new movie as we all waited for new details to surface, but I managed to not read any actual spoilers. So with my wife, I went into the movie knowing nothing more then the characters names, and what I learned from the previous movies.

The story for the new movie was nice. The movie set up the next two, while having its own contained adventure. It felt large in scale while focusing on smaller events and world and character building. The last new Star Wars character I believe would be Ahsoka Tano from the 2008 Theatrical release of the Clone Wars animated movie. It took years for the fans to warm up to her. However the new characters in this film were the opposite. Within minutes I knew I liked Finn, and Rey grew on me very quickly to. Everybody has their own story, but the movie never rushed to present them. And in some cases never directly did, but instead gave details spread through out various scenes for you to put together yourself. It was smartly done and never got bogged down as it tried to get you invested and introduced to these new roles.

The movie reminded me more of the original trilogy from the way it was presented, handled its story telling, used humor, and the way they presented the combat. It didn't take itself to serious, but still never crossed the line to just being goofy. It was smart, and the humor was witty and on point. BB-8 was a great addition, and I loved the way he interacted with the various characters. The combat felt gritty and didn't feature the more acrobatic style the newer prequel seemed to use. It was more emotional, as if they wanted you to understand just how horrible it was for the people involved. And the new First Order Troopers were insane.

The movie had some truly memorable shots, and the cinematography was amazing. The music was on point, and there are multiple moments I still vividly remember in my head simply because of how they were presented. Using silence and visuals to create emotion and tension, it really was a amazingly well shot movie.

I really enjoyed the movie, I can't wait to see it again.

On the other side is my wife. She has seen the various films, and has a basic understanding of the history of the films. She doesn't really care for them, and doesn't remember a lot of the details. We tried to watch them before this one to get her caught up, but she stopped half way into the first one because it was boring.

She went with me to see this one, and she really enjoyed it. She liked the action, and the characters. She told me she really enjoyed the humor and her favorite character was Finn. She didn't feel lost not really knowing much about the other movies either. When I asked her how she would rate it she said 4.5 stars. Thinking about it I think that is fair for my verdict to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Krampus (2015)

Krampus is a odd movie. The previews started coming out a few months ago, and frankly it was hard to get a read on. A PG-13 horror Christmas movie centered around Children. Now if you watch a lot of horror, you know there are a few rules. Children can be tormented, but very rarely are they directly attacked or beaten by the evil entity. Given that and the rating of the film, it was not really shaping up to be anything amazing. I went into this one not really expecting anything great, but knowing Michael Dougherty was behind it was enough to get a ticket sale from me. Writer and Director of both this and my favorite Halloween film, Trick 'r Treat. Seriously if you have not seen Trick 'r Treat yet, go check it out. So did Krampus surprise me, or were first impressions correct?

Krampus is the story of a reverse Santa, or Evil variation. Santa is jolly and brings good will and all that, Krampus is dark and brings Death and Destruction. Krampus is better, plain and simple. A goat horned demonic Santa with Evil elves, they don't even compare. The idea is where Santa brings you gifts and I guess grants Christmas wishes, Krampus is who shows up when your desires are more conceited or selfish. The movie does touch on the legend of Krampus, but the big take away is essentially this. Lose your Christmas spirit, that's a Krampus.

The story for the film follows a family on Christmas. The father is always working, the mother is there but not present, two kids who no longer really get along. The youngest is Max and he still believes in Santa. He writes a letter with his Grandmother and prepares to send it off. The mothers family comes to stay for a few days, and as with most family gatherings, everything goes to hell very quickly. One family is rich, the other poor. They bicker about this and damn near everything else. The different Children don't get along with the others and a event where Max is bullied ends up with him ripping his letter to santa up and tossing it out the window. This is the event that eventually triggers Krampus, granted there is far more to it however. Krampus comes, fun commences, and hold hell so do the laughs. I didn't expect that, but I love it.

The first third of the film actually works as a very solid Christmas movie. Add in a very different 2nd act and you got yourself a lifetime Original. I was honestly enjoying it to, who doesn't love to see families fighting at Christmas? From a beautiful opening shot of a toy store opening for holiday sales, filled with trampling, shoving, weapons, and a wonderful fist fight between children, it really does set a Christmas tone. It makes you almost forget it is a horror film, and you start to identify with the various characters and feel for them. Max is the voice of reason, and he loves Christmas. He asks his dad why we have to love family, and in a great scene the dad really can't come up with a reason. It all sounds quite depressing, but it feels like it setting up for growth from the various characters and a great resolution that leads to a stronger family. Thankfully Krampus shows before all that can happen.

A freak blizzard traps the family in a house without power, as well as obstructing their view beyond their own yard. A freaky snowman shows up, and the fun begins. The daughter is worried about her boyfriend and asks if she can go to his house a few blocks down. Oddly enough the parents say yes and she sets off. This is when we get our first Glimpse of Krampus. She spies him on a roof and he begins leaping from building to building as she runs away in terror. This is where the movie really picks up, and it rarely slows down from this point on. Krampus and his minions torment the family while slowly picking them off. And yes he takes out the children to. The humor is on point, and the creatures all look fantastic and very very creepy. The movie continued to outdo itself right up until the ending. And with all the terror, the family does come together which fulfills the Christmas message part of the movie.

Now for the Humor. If you have seen Trick 'r Treat you know about what to expect. Various portions of the film decides to push the humor over the horror. Normally this is a horrible decision, but it really does work for Krampus. The film is not scary, but the theater was laughing quite a bit, it was odd. However when one of your monsters is a Cookie, well odd stuff tends to happen. While I was never scared, I was entertained, so I would consider the way they handled those sequences to be a success.

If you like Horror, or Christmas films, well Krampus is solid in both genres. Yes it is not very scary, but the vibes and the tone is there, and a horror fan will still find joy in that. Plus the creatures look fantastic, and Krampus himself looks amazing. I do know some people have trouble watching kids being hurt, so I would like to point out the Krampus does indeed go after them as well. Though most of the on screen violence is aimed at the adults, while most of the bad stuff that happens to the kids is off screen.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I left thinking about how I may start a new Christmas tradition of watching it, much like how I watch Trick 'r Treat every Halloween now. That is how much I liked this movie. Was it perfect, no. But it was easily the best Christmas film I have seen, and one of the more memorable horror films I have seen in a long time.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Martian (2015)

I saw this movie a week or so back, I was out of town though and didn't get a chance to write about it. Now that I am, the movie is no longer fresh in my mind. So this may be a shorter post then normal.

The Martian is a story about a astronaut stranded on Mars after his crew is forced to leave him behind. Luckily he is a Botanist and using the power of science, he figures out a way to survive while trying to make contact with NASA to be rescued.

Now if you are like me, you hear stuck on Mars and just go "oh so he is dead." And that is a major point of the story. NASA and the crew have already given up on him, and as such are not looking or trying to make contact. We are given a time table of how long it would be before it is even possible for him to get rescued, and it was just depressing. He had to survive for a very long period of time, alone and in a situation where it doesn't even sound possible. That created a very neat feeling, it quickly made you feel for the guy. Now Matt Damon's portrayal of Mark Watney certainly helped, he was amazing in the role. But they really did great with the feeling of Isolation and dread. Every time something went wrong you just felt awful for the guy. It wasn't until the ending that you actually knew what would happen to him. Seeing Watney figure his way out of the issues though was just as entertaining as seeing them unfold.

I was told in the book the majority of the story is told through his thoughts, and people were confused as to how that would play out in the movie. In the movie he is constantly recording himself, and narrating what he is doing for the logs. Not sure if he did that in the movie, but it did produce a similar effect to what I was told about. Watney is funny and likable and much smarter then anybody I know. I don't know nearly enough about science to tell if what he was doing was accurate or not, but it was fascinating to see and hear him talk about it. I didn't know Matt Damon was that solid of a actor, I always think of Dogma when I hear his name. But he made this movie work, and for 50% of it he was pretty much the only actor on screen.

Other notable roles would be Michael Pena who you may remember as the best character in Marvel's Antman. He plays a much more serious role here, but still managed to bring some much needed humor to help lighten the mood at times. Jessica Chastain played the commander of the crew and helped provide some of the tension and drama in the later portions. About 3/4th of the way into the film we leave Watney for quite some time and focus on NASA and the Crew as they are trying to figure out what they should be doing. She is racked with guilt for leaving him behind and it effects a lot of her characters actions. Donald Glover shows up for awhile and was enjoyable. Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor were two stand out roles as well. Pretty much everybody in this film did a great job. I can't think of one performance that I thought detracted from anything.

The movie was filled with great Characters, and they all carried their own portion of the story. While Watney was the main role, he was stuck on Mars. There were plenty of scenes back on Earth as we tried to figure out if we should help him, and how we could even do that. Ejiofor and Bean were two of those major roles and they did a great job of keeping things interesting as we were dealing with the non life threatening portions of the film. The crew gets their own moments after they left mars. And even those portions of the film were enjoyable as nothing was going on for quite a few of them. Seeing the contrast of them when compared to Watney, or even hearing them talk about him elicited a emotion from the viewer. Speaking of emotions this is a movie that will make you tear up a few times.

It is difficult to talk about this movie without dropping spoilers. Heck every big point I would like to discuss pretty much requires you to know some major plot point.

The story is solid, and while it may seem like not a lot happens, it easily kept me entertained for its lengthy run time. If you read the book, they cut out some of the Mars stuff. I would have liked to see some of what I read about, but I think adding more time to the movie might not have been a great idea. It is almost 2.5 hours long as it is. The acting was great all around, and the various characters were all well thought out and well written.

The effects were great, Mars and Space looked awesome and I loved all the science in it. While I have no clue if it was accurate, it was fun and presented in a way that made sense. Matt Damon did a great job of pulling me in and making me quickly care Watney, and he is the main reason the movie worked as well as it did.

If you are curious how it compares to his other space film, Interstellar, well I liked this one better overall.

There were some scenes that took away from it, but not enough to really hurt the film. Sadly the only one to really bother me was in the final moments of the film so I really can't discuss it.

Normally I would post a trailer here, but the trailer for this film is pretty much a summary of the entire movie. It spoils a lot of so much of it. Don't watch the trailer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pixels (2015)

Fair warning, I go into heavy spoilers in this one. If you don't want to read that, just know I do not recommend the movie. It was awful.

Pixels is a movie about arcade games coming to life and attacking our planet. The idea is a alien race got ahold of some tapes we shot into space that were part of a arcade game tournament many years ago. They mistook them as threats and us challenging them to real life versions of these games in order to take over their planet. The aliens spent years devising the technology to make this a reality and have now accepted our challenge of war. First to lose 3 games loses their planet. This is further built upon by the fact that the aliens have now all taken the form of old video game characters, and are presented as 3d representations of the pixel forms. So basically all blocky looking. This is important as it is part of my biggest complaint against the movie, but that comes later.

Adam Sandler is a genius at old games, not so much the new ones. His mind sees the patterns the enemies are taking and he can react to them accordingly. This allows him to reach the finals of the tournament that was being taped before losing to Peter Dinklage, aka the firebolt. This is of course when they are children, then the movie shoots ahead to current day. Sandler is installing tech in peoples houses, tvs and sound systems. His best friend played by Kevin James is now the President of the United States, and Dinklage is in jail. Josh Gad plays the final member of the group, and is still creepy and weird and living in his moms basement. His character is a play on the negative stereotype associated with nerds, and goes all in on every negative they could come up with. I hated it.

Gad refuses to have cable television as the government uses it to spy on you. He luckily notices a transmission from the aliens he picks up on his antenna and reports it to Sandler who gives it to the POTUS. The aliens give the coordinates to he next attack, and a time. The movie is mainly about us trying to fight back using newly developed tech.

Acting is pretty much what you expect in this movie. Sandler and James tend to overact, and guess what, they do that once again. Dinklage was quite bad as well, which given what I normally associate with him was shocking. The writing was just awful, and any time the movie could have benefited from a serious scene they instead go overly silly and try to force some awful joke onto you. I know it was supposed to be a comedy, but that doesn't mean the entire movie has to take that tone. They also tend to insult or take shots at their core demographic a lot, and pretty much anybody else that they can. The Prime Minister is a ugly women who can't string together a intelligent sentence, and they call her out on it multiple times. Gad's whole character is just insulting and the way they tie up his story is even worse. He is in love with a video game character, another stereotype, to the point he has a shrine to her. She is of course brought to life by the aliens, but for some weird reason she is not pixels but a real person. He decides to let her kill him, as he can die happy if it is at her hands, and she now suddenly loves him and turns against her entire race. She is now killing her own people for him. In the end when we win the war, their planet is forfeit and their people are killed except for the 3 we get to keep as trophies. She was not one of them, but Q*bert is. Don't know Q*bert? He was the star of a great game back in the 80's. Gad's character shames him because he has lost the love of his life, but Q*bert being a trophie was allowed to live. Q is so distraught over this he movies his gender and appearance into the female and Gad is suddenly fine again. He marries and fathers children with her, who are all little Q*berts.....I wish I was making that up. We kill a entire species over a miss-understanding. We then shame one of their only survivors into giving up their identity to sexually gratify one of our own. That was the ending to the movie.

Other huge issues with the movie, how they handled the source material and integrated it into the story. We learn that Dinklage only beat Sandler in the Donkey Kong finals by using cheat codes, however there are no codes for the arcade version of that game. Dinklage then Later uses pac man cheat codes in the real world to speed up his ghost allowing him to win that battle. Other then the absurd idea that he can somehow magically enter a cheat code into our world, that game also does not have a cheat code for that. This is a major plot point as the aliens rule it as a forfeit for us and launch a all out attack. They then challenge Sandler to a last match, winner takes all of Donkey Kong. Sandler then cheats and wins the game by attacking DK directly with the hammer instead of winning the game the correct way. The aliens decide this time cheating is okay and kill themselves. There was no consistency, and it was almost as if the writers had no idea how the games they were writing about actually worked.

If you like Sandler's recent comedies, you will probably like this. If you don't, pass on it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland is of course a section of the Disney theme parks that used to depict what the future could like like. However as we eventually caught up to there predictions they had to redesign it. It now shows what people from the very distant past thought the future would like like that we now live in. Personally I liked the change, it was charming seeing what people though we could have. What the future could have been. When they announced a movie about Tomorrowland, I was simply confused. Would it show the possible future we missed like at the attraction, or a new future similar to most other science fiction stories? The end result was something I didn't really expect, and it held true to what I felt the attraction represents. It also gave us a pretty cool story that reminded me of something else entirely.

Bioshock is a video game franchise that is know for its science fiction stories and mediocre gameplay. In the first game you find yourself stranded in a futuristic city that is under water. They collected the best and brightest to build a perfect society. Sadly when you get there it is destroyed. The other games are similar, you get a brief glimpse of what could have been before being shown the truth. Tomorrowland starts out in a very similar way. I spent the first 20 minutes or so just thinking about how much like Bioshock it really was. I loved that aspect of it, I just wish they had kept the story dark in tone.

The movie starts with young Frank Walker trying to win 50$ with his almost functioning jet pack. He is turned away but he makes a good impression on a young girl named Athena and she gives him a pin and some very specific instructions. As he follows her and some other individuals onto the "It's a Small World" ride the pin is scanned and his boat is detoured underground to dark room with only a booth in it. The booth transports him into the future, or another world entirely and we are given our first look at this utopia that the best have created. This whole sequence was really the best part of the film for me. It was serious, but still fun. And everything about it felt familiar in a good way. The rest of the film takes place in our time and deals primarily with Casey Newton played by Britt Robertson.

Newton is a optimist, it is her defining characteristic. She is caught breaking into a NASA facility and is tossed in jail. Her father bails her out, and in her belongings is a pin. She does not know how it got there, and when she goes to touch it, she is transported to a field she does not recognize. This is where the main story kicks off. We find out her position in the real world is relative to the other world she is visiting. It was actually kind of neat seeing her maneuvering around the current world and then popping back and forth to see where she was in the other. It was a small attention to detail I really appreciated, until a few minutes later when they decided to drop it to make things easier. The actual story is her trying to figure out how to get to that world. In that quest she makes contact with a now older Frank Walker played by George Clooney. My wife swears he has never done a bad film, she also refuses to watch Return of the Killer Tomatoes with me. Walker has some sort of countdown going on, and refuses to talk about it. It is easy to see where this is going, and they of course have to stop it.

The movie had a very interesting story, I really liked the idea of it. The reveal at the end was well played to, however it was a Disney film and as such it was never able to fully explore the dark subject matter it was trying to utilize. It didn't come off as so much a missed opportunity, as it still did very well with what it had. But it just made me think about the Bioshock games and how great they did with the same story and set up. If you don't have anything else to compare it to, you would probably enjoy what they were serving you.

The effects were good, the future sequences made great use of this. Everything from the robots, to the rockets, the towers, they all looked fantastic. Yes they had the same issue the hobbit films had when they animated people, where they made them to cartoonish in their movements. There are multiple jet pack portions which looked awful because of this as well as a few scenes with the Athena character. However overall, I was very happy with how the movie looked and felt. The actual "Tomorrowland" was well done to. We got a version of it thought up as how they pictured it would look as well as the actual cookie cutter future we have come to expect. I thought it was a nice touch that they included the first version as it is what the theme park attraction is all about. While that is where the similarities end, seeing them incorporate the Disney stuff was kind of neat.

The ending was nice, I liked what they were trying to do with it. And it fit the overall theme of the movie which was never give up and believe that anything is possible. It was also the weakest part of the film because of this. It was to convenient and really never went into how it all worked. I wanted to see more of what the big event was, and how everything ended up working out how it did. It seemed like they gave us a cool start to a story, then showed the middle part. Then left the ending out, and instead simply gave us the last few pages to read and try to piece together.

The movie focused on the story of Newton and not Walker. But all the details we were given about Walker made me feel like that would have been the stronger experience. Without going into spoilers, we are given a very bare bones version of his story, and it plays heavily into Newton's. But his seems more compelling, and given the extra details I think the ending would have worked better. Walker has far more info then the viewer does and his story would have answered the questions I still had after the credits rolled. That is not to say this is a bad movie, but it was not the movie I wanted it to be. I mentioned the starting segment was my favorite part, I just wish they would have continued from there.

Good effects, a entertaining story, George Clooney and Hugh Laurie. Yes I had some issues with it, but I still enjoyed it. A good rental, but I would not buy it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Inside Out (2015)

Inside out is a movie about a young girl who is forced to move away from her home for some reason we never really understand. Her family moves into a new house far away from her old friends and hobbies. She is having trouble coping and becomes increasingly frustrated by this. The gimmick though is that the movie takes place mostly inside her head. Each person has 5 little creatures that represent various emotions that control how we feel at any given time. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. They can manipulate their person and try to steer them towards the emotion they feel is appropriate at that time. They can also show them past memories or even change how that person perceives a memory if they want. Basically they control that person and manipulate them as they see fit.

Joy and Sadness are removed from the control center and spend the majority of the movie trying to make it back there. Riley, their person, has lost her core memories which make up her personality. Joy and Sadness are in possession of them and are trying to return them in hopes that it will “fix” Riley and her current issues.

The movie itself is more of a comedy thought it does tend to deal with rather heavy situations. At one point the girl tries to run away for example, and they have a re-occurring joke about a dog dying. Trying to mix the dark humor into the movie was not a horrible idea, one of their main characters is perpetually depressed after all. However the execution of it was a miss for me. The joke about the dead dog for example, I didn’t care for it. Yes it made sense given the context, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable. We are presented with an imaginary friend at one point we are supposed to care about. But we see him kill another imaginary character as a gag. There is even a scene in the end where Joy uses dozens of imaginary characters as a ladder while sentencing each and every one of them to their deaths. The logic was they were all willing to die for Riley, so why not allow them to if it benefited her. The movie constantly tries to get you to care about these characters, but then it gives you reason to dislike them. The comedy fell flat, and with the majority of the characters being unlikable, I had trouble find something to enjoy in this one.

I did enjoy a few of the emotions, Anger, Fear, and Disgust were all entertaining for the most part. They also had the smaller roles so that may be why. I also liked the various creature that populated the rest of Riley’s head. There was a scene where somebody forced her to listen to a commercial jingle over and over again. It kept popping up during the movie and it was the only thing to make me constantly laugh. It was a shame the rest of the movie tried too hard to be so unique or it could have all been enjoyable. We had prolonged scenes dealing with abstract thought, or simply showing how random a 11 year olds thoughts are. They bogged the film down and added in very large boring spans of time. The animation was decent, but the overall design of the characters and sets left a lot to be desired.

Everybody told me how amazing this movie was when it came out. After seeing it I can see the potential for that, but it failed to deliver that type of experience. The characters were interesting, as was the story. But they were all very annoying and just unlikable. Sadness was the only real likable one of the main group, but that wasn’t enough to carry the film either. I expected better from Pixar, this one was very disappointing. I couldn’t even recommend renting it after my viewing. Just pass on it and move on. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

San Andreas (2015)

San Andreas if a movie about Ray, a rescue pilot who is afraid of losing his family in one of the biggest disasters to strike the west coast. Paul Giamatti plays a earthquake expert who has figured out a way to predict earthquakes and determine the strength of them before hand. We get our first real glimpse at the chaos when he first figures this out, and shortly after the movie picks up and takes off running. A huge quake hits the west coast and that entire plate goes active. It starts in LA and heads to San Fran and pretty much destroys everything in between. The Rock plays Ray, who is getting ready to respond for his job to assist with rescue. His daughter however is with her future step dad played by Ioan Gruffudd and is traveling in that area as he takes up up to her school. The rocks Wife played by Carla Gugino is also in the area. Once the quake hits, the Rock says screw the job and takes off on his own in the helicopter to try and save them all.

As far as story goes, there really isn't to much to this one. But that is not the point of it, it is a effects driven movie that tries to keep you excited by chaining one disaster after the other. They do try to add in a story element about the Rock failing to save his daughter year ago, and it does set up a few scenes down the line. But for the most part the story is simply there to get people into trouble.

The action is fast, and most sequences look sharp. The effects are decent, but there are a few scenes that fall flat. A boating sequence at the very end looks bad, and just kind of kills the momentum of the ending. Still most of the sequences turned out pretty good and it kept me entertained right up until the final moments. There was a pretty neat moment where you see the building falling apart as the camera zooms in. We see the people screaming and running about as the camera keeps getting closer and even cuts through the window to the action inside. The movie had some great style and like all good disaster movies it handled the chaos quite well. It also handled the human aspect of it better then some other movies I have seen. There was a conflict early on between two main characters that I didn't see coming. It was a strong moment that created emotion I wouldn't normally expect from a film like this. I enjoyed seeing Giamatti struggle with what was happening and trying to figure out how to save as many people as he could. Yes the resolution at the end was kind of weak and the feel good moment they tried to tack onto some individuals stories felt cheesy and out of place. But the majority of the movie was solid and well done. The writing was not great, but thankfully given the type of movie it is, that rarely was a issue. Sadly though one scene it did cause issues with was the final one in the movie. So we do end on a low point.

Acting was solid across the board. Yes the diolague was bland, but these people could scream and look scared. I love the Rock, he can do no wrong. Giamattis is great, and seeing him in the movie got me more excited for it. His character was on the sidelines, but contributed quite a lot. He had to make you care about his portions with his acting instead of effects and action, and he did well with that. Carla Gugino and Alexandra Daddario play the rocks Ex and his Daughter. They both had major roles and were likable enough. You may remember Daddario as the best character from Percy Jackson, Annabeth. I liked her character in this movie quite a bit. She was raised by the Rock and as such had a lot of his tendencies in the film. She was the calm voice in her group and took over as the leader. They had some cool moments where she would use various knowledge I would have never thought about to help them out. Gugion I was not overly familiar with, but I wouldn't mind seeing more of her. I really enjoyed how even though she had to be rescued in the beginning, she turned into a bit of a bad ass herself by the end. My favorite though was Art Parkinson as Ollie. Art and Hugo Johnstone played a pair of brothers who ended up helping out Daddario throughout the film. Art was adorable and added a lighter tone to the film that was desperately needed. Also people tend to care more when a child's life is at risk. Ioan Gruffudd played Reed Richards in the Fantastic Four. I have not liked him since and I did not like him in this. He isn't a bad actor, he just takes bad roles. Though maybe he enjoys playing unlikable characters.

In the end San Andreas is a entertaining and over the top disaster fest where if anything can go wrong, it will. The characters are tossed from one horrible event to another for your amusement, and for the most part it works. There are a few action sequences that looked rather poorly done, but for the most part the effects were enjoyable. Not much humor, but a oddly decent amount of emotion from various moments in the film. Sadly the final scene did come off rather cheesy and ended the film on a low note for me. Was it amazing, no. But it was worth seeing if you know what to expect. Grab some popcorn and just zone out for a while. Whether it is the fun action, or the attractive cast, you will find something to enjoy in this one.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Terminator Genisys (2015)

Genisys is a odd movie to talk about. The major appeal of it is the way it interacts with the Terminator franchise as a whole, but that is also very big into the spoiler territory. So I will conduct this review while going over major plot points, but leaving out the parts that would give to much away. It will not be 100% spoiler free, but it should not ruin anything for you going into the movie.

I saw Genisys a week ago, so my memory of the film is not quite where I would like it to be. So this will be a shorter review then normal. The story is rooted deeply in the Terminator lore, and is centered around the Time Travel aspect of it. It starts in the future and we see John Connor and Kyle Reese winning the way against Cyberdyne. Reese has not yet gone back in time and protected Sarah Connor yet, so fans of the past films should see where this is going. John things they can end the war with one last move and they do come close, but sadly they were unable to stop the machines from sending a Terminator back in time. We get a pretty cool scene where the original Terminator is sent back after Sarah, and then John sends Reese back to help her. It is the set up for the first movie from 30 years ago and seeing it play out from the other side was great. That is where things start to go south though. When Kyle gets back to the past nothing is as he thought it would be. Turns out another Terminator was sent back earlier to save Sarah. She is now a trained soldier and is running with a older version of Arnold's Terminator. We get a cool scene where the younger the older version fight each other as well. The rest of the movie is about Genisys, which is a program that turns into Cyberdyne. The good guys take a page from the robots books and use time machine of their own to travel to try and kill the program before it can be complete.

If that sounds a little complicated, well it gets worse in the actual film. They pace it well though and give you plenty of time to keep up with what is going on. The various time jumps allow them to further muck about with the time line and bring together characters from the various movies all into one setting. It sounds like poor fan fiction on paper, but it actually works pretty well in the final product. If you are a fan of the franchise you will enjoy seeing all the various interactions and how the different time line plays out. Also seeing the humans use the same plan the machines have for years now made me happy. I liked seeing the creation of Cyberdyne, and I enjoyed the small details they placed into the film such as re-occurring characters from one time skip to the next. They even explained why Arnold's character seemed to age even if he was a robot. Maybe that was in the other films, but I didn't remember it.

Now for the negatives, the acting was oddly poor. Arnold was great, he plays the robotic character so well. He injects humor into it, and I loved when he would try to act human. Emilia Clarke is well known for Game of Thrones. I don't honestly remember if she was great in that, she never really seemed to have much to do. Most of her moments were memorable for what everybody else was doing. That being said she did alright here, though her performance was nothing special. Jai Courtney played Kyle Reese. I think I was supposed to like his character, but I just couldn't bring myself to care about him. Jai never really brought much to the screen and I have no interest in seeing him again after this role. Jason Clarke was delightful as John Connor, and I enjoyed seeing another chapter in his story because of that. With Reese and Sarah being the two leads though, having neither of them step up did hurt the final product. I don't really feel either of them were likable, and the only reason I can sort of give Emilia Clarke a pass is because she is the Mother of Dragons. I liked her because I liked the actress before this movie.

The action was decent, and we had a few good memorable moments. There was a helicopter chase that was pretty cool, and I loved how they ended up taking the other Helicopter out. The movie had many Terminator vs Terminator moments, and who doesn't love that? Seeing the destruction was enjoyable and I enjoyed watching the heroes struggle from one encounter to the next. Once the movie gets going, it rarely took a break. 

If you are a fan, see the movie. It is not the greatest Terminator, but it is decent. You will enjoy the little details and seeing how the first movie really started. You will like seeing the way they bring everything together, and how they end up changing things as time moves forward. Arnold was great in this, even if he sadly had to carry the movie. But don't let that keep you from seeing it, between him and the action you should find something enjoy.

Unfriended (2014)

A girl who was a jerk herself was made the victim of cyber bullying by her class mates. A video was posted on line of her drunk and passed out after she crapped her pants. This along with the vocal outburst on facebook telling her to kill herself indeed lead her to suicide. A year later a group of friends all log into their computers and video chat with each other on the anniversary of her death. Each of those 5 played some sort of role in her death, this movie is about finding out what that role was.

This was a very unique movie. The entire thing is from the perspective of a single characters computer screen. We see nothing else the entire film but her computer. The characters all interact through video chat, instant messaging, and facebook. They never actually interact with each other directly in any way. It was oddly uncomfortable at first. I kept wanting to close the various windows and open programs she had. It really felt like I was watching it all unfold with them, and I was impressed with how well the gimmick worked over all. It also allowed them to use a lot of cool little tricks. The villain was able to hack their way into their calls and even message them through facebook using the dead girls account. It was able to directly manipulate the computer as well and would for example turn on a specific song on spotify to mess with its victom. The way they used the computer was fantastic and creative.

I liked the various characters as well. They were rather believable high school teens and seemed fairly normal in the beginning. As the movie went on and they started to get picked off we learned more about them. They all had issues and by the end of the film I rather liked a few of the various roles. They were interesting yet not to over the top. The actors did fine with what they were given, though none of the performances were really memorable.

The effects are hard to judge on this one. Because it was all done with video chat, the picture was never overly clear. We are dealing with web cams so it was grainy and often had distortion on it. So the killings while somewhat violent, were lessened by what we were actually shown. I think it was a smart idea, and it kept to the computer screen theme they had going on. But it did lesson the potential effect of each kill. Some of the kills were rather creative though, and I really liked how they handled them. One we get to see the police respond and hear the officers in the background. One was done in a very quick manor with the build up making you think something else was happening entirely. It was a very creative movie, and while not scary, I enjoyed what it was doing.

The ending was decent, and I enjoyed finding out each kids secret and seeing whether they were innocent or guilty. The social media aspect was on point, and seeing the villain posting stuff about each kid was amusing. People would instantly jump on the bandwagon and start shaming the others for something that they would normally enjoy seeing simply because of the context in which it was posted. They did a good job of showing how social media works and why it can be a negative thing.

A nice fun movie which starts off a little slow. Stick with it, it does get better and I loved the computer screen gimmick. A good rental, though I would not buy it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

It Follows (2014)

My wife was in a horror mood so we decided to check out a few more recent films to see if any could truly freak us out. I had heard good things about "It Follows" and decided to watch that along with "Unfriended."

The story revolves around a creature that simply follows you until it is able to kill you. It will walk towards you at a decent pace. It can not talk from what we saw, but it is smart and appears to be able to learn about its victom and how to exploit it. The biggest thing however is that it can appear as anybody it chooses to. The main character is chased down by this creature and deals with the issue of if she wants to pawn it off onto somebody else or try to deal with it herself. The creature is basically a super STD. If you have sex, it moves on to the next person. However if it manages to kill them it goes back down the list.

The biggest issue I had was with the creature itself. I liked how it learned and how it would alter its approach to killing. I enjoyed that the movie would have you scanning the backgrounds at all times trying to see if anybody looked out of place. It didn't necessarily create tension in me, which I think was the goal. But it did entertain me for the most part and kept me interested in what was going on. Any time you saw somebody walking along, your first though was "is that the creature?" However focusing on this thing makes you want to know about it. And the movie purposely does not give you any information. No history, no clues, no definite ending. We never learn anything about the creature, or why it follows. And with the way the movie ended, the credits just felt like they were coming at a odd time. It felt like the movie needed another 10 or 15 minutes to wrap itself up with, but instead it just abruptly stopped. I left feeling disappointed in the story and the finale as well as that I knew nothing about the creature when it was all over with.

One thing I really liked about the movie however was the setting. It was some run down town with old cars and crappy television sets. I thought the movie took place years ago but one girl had some sort of makeup compact looking thing with a built in e-reader in it. I had never seen one and could not figure out if it was just a cool looking cell phone, or something different all together. I was never able to pinpoint when the movie was taking place, and I loved that aspect of it. It was very low budget and what little effects they had showed that. But everything was used in a smart manor and the flaws were very minor. The acting was decent, and I liked the various kids they filled the cast with.

The movie was sadly not scary, though I don't know if it really tried to be. It was more of a suspense thriller, but it even failed me in that area. Yes it was neat looking for the creature throughout, but I never felt tense or even really cared if it got any of the kids. In the last big scene I was actually rooting for the creature because of how poorly conceived the heroes plan was. Also the ambiguous nature of a few of the scenes turned me off. As well as them never explaining anything about the creature or defining its mythos. In the end the movie was alright, but nothing more. For a rental it wouldn't be to bad, but I would never buy or watch it a second time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of F (2015)

If you read my last DBZ review for Battle of Gods, you know I am a fan and have been since I was younger. So I won't go into all that again, just know that the last movie was a huge deal to me. This one is some what lesser as we now have a new weekly show as well as manga coming out again. However while the franchise is seeing a enjoyable revival, that doesn't mean I was not excited just as excited to see this movie as I was the last one. Battle of Gods was something that came with the promise of potentially more. Resurrection of F is the direct result of that. The "F" of course stands for Lord Frieza who was easily the most memorable villain from the franchise. His story is considered to be the best arc by a large portion of the fans. He is a alien who was heir to a great empire. His family ruled portions of the galaxy through fear and power. They would enslave races or wipe them out completely. The main character is Son Goku who is also a alien, and his entire race and planet was destroyed by Frieza years ago. Goku of course killed Frieza in the comics and show but was unable to save the planet they were fighting on. That is a major plot point, just how strong these people are. One of them destroyed a planet like it was nothing. In this movie Frieza's henchman decide to bring him back to life using the Dragon Balls and their own technology. Gathering the 7 Dragon Balls gives you a wish, so that is how that works for those who may be new to the franchise. Frieza is revived and decides to take revenge on those who killed him thus setting his sights on earth. The rest of the movie is just a huge battle between him and his troops, and Earths mightiest warriors.

If that first paragraph is confusing to you, or sounds silly, I think I can already tell you whether this movie is for you. Dragon Ball is a classic, one of the all time greats. But it is also hundreds of episodes long and filled with magic and fantasy that comes off rather poorly if you did not see the franchise build into what it is now. It started off about a young boy who journeyed around the world with his friends trying to simply grow stronger and help other people out. By the end he is a grandfather who travels across space and realms for similar reasons. There is so much progression from where it started that for the fans bringing somebody back from the dead is nothing. Being able to instantly wipe out a world is nothing. For newcomers though it will all seem rather silly, and sadly maybe even idiotic.

If you follow the show then you know Frieza should be unable to compete with Goku at his current power. The movie does deal with that, and while the explanation does seem a little lacking, it is sufficient enough for me. Frieza never trained before and when he fought Goku before that was just his natural ability and power. So after being brought back he decides to train in earnest in order to surpass his rival. It takes him 6 months to do so, and he manages to gather a army 1000 strong before launching his attack on Earth. Thankfully this all occurs off screen and the movie gets everything out of the way quickly to set up what we all really care about, the action.

There are some fun moments in the movie that feature lesser characters. Pilaf and his gang are still children and Mai is apparently dating younger Trunks. Jaco who is a character from another one of Akira Toriyama's works has a very large role in the film as well. He was rather funny and his back and forths with Bulma were some of the comedic highlights of the film. Fans of Yamcha and Chiaotzu will be disappointed to know they don't even show up. That was odd due to the fact that Master Roshi actually fought and held his own during the battle against the 1000 troops. I always assumed he was weaker then they were, but maybe I was wrong. Fans will be happy to see the few moments which deal with the popular characters outside of battle. Krillin as a super cop, Vegeta and Goku training with the gods, Piccolo baby sitting Gohan and Videl's kid. There is more action in this then the last movie, but it still does a good job of showing what the various parties are up to, and I always enjoy that stuff.

If you saw Battle of Gods, the animation in this is pretty much the same. Good high quality but with some odd 3d animation thrown in which just seems out of place. Thankfully the God Transformation is different in this one, and comes off looking better to me. Fights are animated well, and they put emphasis on the power of the main characters by showing exaggerated reactions that worked quite well given the context. Goku breaks out the Bruce Lee one inch punch which was by far the coolest part of the film. We see Frieza's whole body move back a few inches and a explosion of power come out of his back. His face contorts and you can just see how much it hurt him. They kept this level of detail through out and I loved every second of the action. A lot of the characters did have new looks, but no real dramatic changes and I think the new designs all looked great.

A band called Maximum the Hormone put out a song simple titles "F" which was about the Frieza character. Toriyama the creator of Dragon Ball heard the song and apparently came up with the idea of this film from that. Cool little note, that song appears in the film when Frieza is being revived. Dragon Ball has used hard rock before, but hearing the metal come across was a cool moment and I am sure those guys loved every second of it.

The movie was good fun, the animation was solid, the music set the tone nicely. I liked the small changes they made to the characters and how they showed some of them outside of their training and fighting roles. Krillin as a cop was fun, and it was nice to see Gohan actually doing something again. They even give Vegeta his time to shine as he truly had the best reason to be fighting Frieza. The movie was made for the fans, and they did a good job of correcting or at least addressing some of the issues the show has created in the past. The movie actually seemed like it could work as a ending to the franchise, though with the new show on it is nice to know that won't be the case. They really did a great job on this one, and while I think I enjoyed Battle of Gods more, as a fan there was something special about this one.

If you are not a fan of the franchise, or have never seen it, that rating is not for you. I would say expect a 2 or 3 star film then. The silliness of some of the mechanics they use such as dragon balls and magic will not come across well for some new comers.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Vacation (2015)

Vacation is not a remake of the 1983 movie by the same name, but a continuation of it. That movie stared Chevy Chase and involved him taking his family on a vacation. This one stars Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold, a grown up version of one of the children from the original film. The first movie was well received and viewed as a classic by many people still. Going back to that was a bold choice as it would force people to compare the new movie to the older one.

I don't honestly remember much about the original film, or any of the others that followed it. I remember I liked it, but my wife was the one that wanted to see this due to the connection. She would point out little things such as scenes that were calling back to the first film in some way, stuff I would have missed. Did it help the film out? To me no, but if you are a fan seeing the original car or Chevy Chase back in action may help the movie out in your eyes. Both Chase and Beverly D'Angelo reprise their roles as Griswolds in a fairly decent length cameo. They are now running a bed and breakfast where the family stops by for some advice before moving on.

The store revolves around Ed Helm's character Rusty. He is a pilot for a cheaper airline and is looked down on by the other pilots. His family is having issues and he doesn't really know how to address it. His two sons hate each other, and the younger one mercilessly bullies the older while the parents do nothing to stop it. The wife seems to have checked out, and you can tell early on how hard Rusty is trying. He comes up with this idea to put everybody in a car and drive to Wally World, a theme park on the other side of the country, so they can ride a new RollerCoaster that just opened. He is hoping the trip will bring the family back together, and allow them to work on some of their issues. As this is a Vacation movie, nothing goes right on the trip however.

The acting in this movie ranged from poor, to alright. Chase was good in his day, but I didn't care for him in this one. He was to over the top, and his gags were all misses for me. Chris Hemsworth was somebody I didn't expect to see in this, but he was also one of the stand out roles. He had some humor, and worked pretty well with what he was given. Helms came off as the same character he played in the Office, and with the same amount of talent. I like him, so that was fine with me, but if the Nard-Dog ins't your thing, you won't care for him here either.

CGI and Effects are not really a huge factor in these movies, but when you have a scene or two that looks as awful as they did here they are worth mentioning. If you can't make it look somewhat realistic, just leave it out.

The movie starts with a sequence of family photos that look normal until the final portion is revealed. A happy family standing on a beach until the lower half appears and we see a man in a speedo with a erection. A nice larger couple smiling, until we see the rest and there is a small child sandwiched between their fat. This actually works pretty well as a intro to the film, it shows the type of comedy you can expect. If stupid stuff like that doesn't make you smile or laugh, this film is not for you. It works off of sight gags and shock value with some juvenile humor thrown in. It is not smart, and it never really tries to be.

Is this a great Will it be a classic like the But does that mean it is not worth at least checking out? I would say in theaters, not really. But I did enjoy it, the stupid and crude humor had me laughing pretty decently quite a few times. Seeing the younger brother try and murder his older brother was shockingly funny. The big finale at the coaster was great, and that stupid Prancer car was golden. While a lot of the various gags didn't hit their mark, enough did that I was able to have a good time. I would never buy this movie, and I have no desire to see it again. But if you are bored and looking for something to rent in a few months, you could do far worse.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Insidious: Chapter 3 is as you would guess, the third movie in the Insidious franchise. However oddly enough it works as a prequel to the first and second film. So if you have not seen the other two films, this is not a bad starting point. Yes the 2nd film has portions that pre-date this one, but seeing this and the first movie will make them mean more. Insidious follows a Elise Rainier as she uses her ability to reach out to the dead to try and help various families who are being haunted. In the first movie which is quite possibly my favorite horror film, she is helping a family who believe their home to be possessed. The 2nd is about her origins and details her relationship with a the female spirit who was featured in the first film while also offering up a more complete ending to the story the first film started. They take place one right after the other, and while the 2nd film was not in the same league as the first, I did enjoy how well they worked together.

Chapter 3 one again features Elise, though the main character is a young girl by the name of Quinn Brenner. She is a high school girl who lost her mother a year or so back and believes her spirit is reaching out to her from the other side. She approaches Elise who was referred to her by a friend and seeks guidance. We learn that Elise is retired and instead of embracing her gift like in the other films, is now running from it instead. While she is unable to help Quinn, she does give her a warning. Stop reaching out, that thing is not your mother. Well if Quinn would have listened it would have been a short movie, though at 97 minutes it isn't that long to begin with. Quinn keeps reaching out and soon the spirit is able to take form in this world and starts to come after her.

The story isn't bad for a horror movie, it actually has all the needed elements for some creepy fun. Stefanie Scott plays Quinn, you may know her from something called A.N.T. Farm. I had to google that, no clue who she is. She did well enough in this role, nothing overly dramatic or any real stand out moments. Elise is played by Lin Shaye once again, although not with the same flair she had in the previous films. Frankly everything about this film was lesser then the others, which was odd. The story was not as complicated, the atmosphere was far weaker. It did get me laughing a few times, however I am pretty sure I was supposed to be frightened at most of those moments instead. In the first Insidious I was genuinely freaked out for a good portion of it, the pacing was spectacular and I loved the way it was shot. It had great atmosphere set up by the cinematography and the audio and music it used. The demon was fantastic and the effects were very cool. This one just seemed like a cash in and nothing more. The main villain was weak and never imposing. They tried to focus on jump scares instead of creating a horrific environment. They never used the movies score or sounds to any real benefit. It also didn't help that three of the characters showed in the later two movies. It kind of killed any suspense when they were in danger. Insidious was great, the 2nd was decent and was carried by the fact it was attached to the originals story. Chapter 3 is the weakest of the 3 and was entirely forgettable in the end.

Watch the first one, watch the 2nd one, skip this one. That is my recommendation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Ted 2 (2015)

When Ted 2 first came out everybody was saying pretty much the same thing. It is not as good as the first one, which most people seemed to dislike anyways. Pretty much every review I read, or every person I talked to had negative things to say about the movie. It honestly made me worried and lead to me putting off seeing it. I saw the first Ted with my wife during a trip of ours. I had no real expectations for it as I am normally not a Seth Macfarlane fan. Family guy is unwatchable to me, but I did enjoy the Cleaveland show. So I figured why not give the funny little teddy bear a chance? I loved it, it was not the best comedy I have ever seen, but it was consistently entertaining to me. Mark Wahlberg was hilarious and was perfect in his role as John the guy who brought Ted to life. Mila Kunis was a lot of fun and seeing her awkwardly trying to play off of John and Ted was one of the highlights of the movie. The three had a good chemistry and the movie was better for it. In ted 2 however Kunis was pregnant and ended up dropping out of the project. We instead get Amanda Seyfried who I am biased towards, so I had no issues with that. But it did created a odd moment in which the first movie seemed to almost not matter any more. The entire point of that film was John growing up and him and Ted finding a way to stay friends while he made the important relationship in his life work. It ended with the three of them in a good place. For this movie to get rid of her role created a pretty big issue. We don't see the destruction of that relationship, we are just told John did not like the changed he made and decided he wanted to go back to who he was so they split up. I understand why she could not do the film, but it made it feel almost like I was watching Ted 3. As if I missed a movie in between.

Ted 2 starts with Ted and his girlfriend from the previous film Tammy-Lynn getting married. It is also here we are told that John is now single and has been for awhile. The movie then skips forward 6 months and Ted and Tammy-Lynn are having marital issues and decide the best way to save the relationship is to have a baby. If you remember Ted has no ability to reproduce as he is a stuffed animal, so they decide to adopt. Ted is deemed to be property and not a person so they are denied a child. This begins a downward spiral as his status comes into question over and over again and his marriage is annulled, he is fired as he can not legally be hired and so forth. The movie revolves around the concept of what makes one a person, and if a stuffed animal is able to fill that role. John being Teds best friend decides to help him and they enlist Amanda Seyfried's character Samantha as their lawyer. There is a romance subplot with John and Samantha, but for this film Ted is the staring role. We see him struggle with the decision that he is simply property and question his importance. It was actually a pretty fascinating concept to me. He is a toy after all, he was bought at a store. Does magic giving him cognitive abilities make him a person? My wife said no, which actually surprised me. I was 100% on board with Ted being a person. So I asked if she would compromise and say he was at last a animal and she once again said no. I jokingly called her a rude name and we laughed and continued on. That is actually a pretty good representation of the movie in a way. There is a serious moment that tries to make you think, then a crude joke to take you out of the moment before they try to go back on their way. It makes it hard to concentrate on some of the scenes that could have easily been stronger by dropping the comedy for a moment.

The jokes in Ted 2 are largely like the first. Foul Language, sexual humor, and drug references. It works for them, and it had me cracking a smile the entire time. Some lines are better then others, and the instagram feud between Ted and John accompanied by the corny hashtags was a favorite of mine. The "Can you help me get home" strain of marijuana had me on the verge of tears the few times it made a appearance. Ted 2 seemed to hit the comical mark more for me then the first one did. And I loved the little call backs to the first movie. While yes I would have preferred it to approach some of the scenes with a more serious tone, I really can't complain to much about what they gave me. The time flew by, I easily enjoyed it more then the first movie.

The acting is a odd thing to talk about here. It is not like this was a drama in any sense after all. Wahlberg was great, and he really seems to be taking to comedy in his last few roles. I would much rather see him in a movie like this then anything else right now. Seyfried was fun and she handled the jokes they gave her well enough. Her schtick being that she knew nothing pop culture related while hanging out with people who watch tv and movies all day really did work for me. The movie had a huge comic con portion, and she was golden throughout it. Calling Star Wars characters captain Kirk, not knowing what Lord of the Ring was. She killed that role, and hopefully if we do get a Ted 3 she can come back for it. The only role I didn't care for was Patrick Warburtons, but I don't think that was due to his acting but his lines. Though he did have a really cool moment that fans of his will love, so that was worth him being there regardless. Also Liam Neeson's gives comedy another try, and I love him for it.

Ted 2 has some trouble, but in the end it came off more enjoyable then the first venture. While I do wish Mila Kunis could have come back, Seyfried did very well with her role. I enjoyed her character and thought she fit in nicely with the boys. We get a serious story that deals with a interesting question, and the movie was better for it. If you liked the first Ted, you should find something to enjoy in this one as well. Both were great, but this one was simply better to me.

It is worth noting one of the best parts in the trailers was not in the final cut, the part where the car explodes and Ted and John lie about the people being fine. Hopefully that means we get some good extra content when the DVD drops.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Justice League: Gods and Monsters (2015)

A movie that looks at a world where the Justice League is comprised of murderers and potential villains. But a world where they still are perceived as heroes despite this. The movie opens up with a quick origin for the new Superman Hernan Guerra who is the son of Zod instead of Jor-El. We are then treated to a scene where the 3 members kill 50 or so terrorist without a second though, and get to see vampire batman drain somebody. I wouldn't say it was jarring as much as being almost comical to see these 3 killing people like it was nothing. It is not what you expect from the Justice League, and even though they showed much worse in the various shorts they used as advertising, I was still a little surprised at the whole thing.

The story for the movie revolves around the idea that the league could take over the world if they wanted. They know it, the people know it, everybody knows it. A group decides to start killing off scientist using super powered beings with abilities similar to the league in order to frame them and turn the world against them. As the league isn't exactly filled with boy-scouts in this world, that is not all that difficult. We are then presented with a world that hates and fears them, but now has the power to stand against them. Will the league become the villains or the heroes of the story?

The league consists of 3 members, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Purists might be put off by these variations of the characters, but DC did a good job of addressing this. They changed the identities of all the characters so that it would not tarnish the classics. Batman is not Bruce Wayne but Kirk Langstrom who you may remember as Manbat from the main continuity. Wonder Woman is Bekka wife of Orion from Apokolips who is also another established character. I was not familiar with Superman's new persona, so maybe Hernan Guerra was a new character. Each is given a brief origin story in the movie to time them all together, and each fits into the over all story as well. It was kind of neat to see the new team and I enjoyed the different take we were presented with.

This is a straight to DVD animated movie, so the animation will not be on par with things you would see in the theater. It is still good though and reminded me more of the classic batman animated stuff then the newer justice league movies. The style was charming, but not overly realistic. As far as parental advisory goes, I believe it was pg-13. There was some very minor nudity, a decent amount of blood, and a older kid being burned alive at one point. I think the pg-13 is fair, but it should be established it is not a movie geared towards children. So the younger crowd may need to skip this one depending on your own personal views.

There really is not a lot more to say about this one. The concept was a darker Justice League and that is what you get. It served as a starting point and there will be a digital comic series launching alongside the movie on the 28th that furthers the story. I do think they built it up a little to much, and that it failed to deliver on the Evil has a new Playground tag line they went with. The 3 animated shorts we were given as adverts actually had a much darker moment in them then anything the final product did. Seeing Superman forced to kill a toddler version of Brainiac was a horrible moment the film never came close to touching. It also did a much better job of showcasing the evil vs good argument for those characters as well. The film felt like a missed opportunity after that, almost like they were afraid to pull the trigger on these new versions. While it was still overall enjoyable, it never became that great classic it wanted to be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

I guess I should start this out by admitting that I have never seen the other two films in the series. I have no idea if this is a continuation, or a reboot either. I know very little about the franchise, and I will not be comparing it to the previous films.

Fury Road is named after the main character in the movie, Furiosa. This movie oddly enough is not so much bout Max, but her story. It follows her as she tries to free a group of women from a slave like society where they were being used as breeders. The entire movie is them driving down a road trying to escape their captors.

So how does a Mad Max movie work, where Max takes a back seat most of the film? Surprisingly well actually. Max has a few lines of dialogue, but for the most part his character is simply there to help move the story along. We don't even get to see what he is doing at certain parts of the movie, as it is constantly focusing on the female characters instead of him. At one point he goes off to acquire supplies and comes back very bloody. I want to see that scene, but we don't get to. It does remind me of that interview Tom Hardy had where he was asked if he felt that this being a mans movie, did the amount of females in it detract from the experience. It was a stupid question, but after seeing the movie I can sort of understand what the was trying to say. This is a movie about the female characters first, and Max second.

Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa. Spell check does not like most of those words. She is part of the slave city and has a prominent role in the society. They seem to worship cars, and she drives the war rig which is basically a semi truck. The movie starts with her and her team doing a gas run in which she decides to go off road and tries to run. To her and the writers credit, her team goes along with it at first. They respect her enough to trust her. In a movie that is about "Breeders" it was nice to see a female role portrayed like that. It was actually a common theme throughout which I felt was one reason why the female protagonist worked so well. While they all had bad pasts and there was plenty implied, they never really brought those aspects of the characters to the front. They also did not make the women weak, so there was no reason to look down on them. Yes the main role of most of the females was procreation, but it was not a defining characteristic of who they were in the movie.

The villains name is Immortan Joe. I had to look that up on imdb, I had no clue what they were saying in the movie. I just assumed he was Immortal Joe and that his crazy religious zealots thought he couldn't die. It made sense given the context and what they all seemed to believe. A society built upon the idea of a good death, and that cars were some how holy. They would get excited at the prospect of death, but only when somebody was there to see or witness the death. It was a running gag for one character, and seeing how happy he was every time he was about to die was kind of endearing in a odd sort of way. They would also spray chrome spray paint into their mouths as some sort of boost. It would let them overcome some pain, and just make them more crazy for the most part. It oddly enough made me want to try it, but thankfully that passed rather quickly. I asked my wife what the hell they were doing, and she equated it to huffing which made some sense to me. One of the most interesting things about the movie was the society though, and how it reacted to everything.

The movie was essentially one long car chase. It did have small breaks in between the action sequences, but not for very long. As a action movie there are certain things you expect to see. Close quarters combat, which the movie had very little of. Gun fights, one again very little of. So what did it give us? Well vehicular combat, over and over again. Each time though was different, which helped it stay fresh and interesting. We got to see Joe's men fight porcupine like cars in the beginning. We saw how their weaponry worked and it was enjoyable. They then added in more factions each with their own style. Mad and Furiosa used mostly guns as Max was never really in a car for most of the film. We saw a lot of explosions and some really cool moments where they were using these stilt like contraptions to swing people from one car to the other to try and rip people out while driving. We had a guy with a flame thrower guitar playing the movies hard rock soundtrack as they raced across the desert. The sequences were all well done, very exciting, and most of all stylish. This was a very visually appealing movie, and all the effects were well done. They used a lot of practical effects from what I read, and that kept everything looking realistic for the most part. I would have liked to see Max get a little more hands on in the fighting, but maybe that is out of character for him. Once again I have not seen the other films, maybe fist fights were never this franchises thing.

Acting was all around good in this. Theron was the perfect pick for her role. She spent most of the movie cold and standoffish, but the few moments where she brought emotion into it were believable. Hardy did fine with Max, though he mostly just had to look cool and like he could hurt you. He is good at that, and the few lines he had were delivered well enough. His voice he went with was odd, almost like he was growling at times. It reminded me of the Batman voice that Bale did, though thankfully not as bad. Nicholas Hoult played Nux, one of the zealots from Joe's city. He was one of the better characters in the film. He had some sort of disease to where he needed blood. So he hooked a guy up to his car so he could have a constant source of blood. Then it turns out I must have misunderstood that part, because he clearly did not need the blood but just like it or something. I don't know, kid was crazy just like his entire city. But I loved it, and he was a stand out role. He was hyper and charismatic, and good on Hoult for being able to bring that all out.

The story for the movie was simple, but it worked to set everything up. The ending was decent but left it open to further explore that franchise if the choose to do so. The music was enjoyable, and I loved seeing the sountrack being played by the flame throwing guitar guy tied up to the front of one of the vehicles. It was the small things like that which made this film for me. Everything about it was just cool and stylish, but it never detracted from the experience. It reminded me so much of Fist of the North star, to the point I wondered which was the inspiration for the other. It took a over used setting and made it work again. Granted Max could have easily started that post apocalyptic trend given the time the first movie came out. Either way this movie was a refreshing experience. It was just fun, and sometimes that is all you need.

I enjoyed its stylistic approach to everything, and would be excited to see another one if it was handled the same way.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic World (2015)

Jurassic World is the 4th installment in the Jurassic Park trilogy. If you somehow have not seen any of the other films, well you should at least check out the first one. But for this movie to work, you really don't need any prior knowledge. It works quite well as a stand alone film, though there are quite a few moments that call back to the others with various set pieces and characters. Various little facts that stand out more if you know them, from the visitors center to some of the dialogue. If you ask any fan of the franchise what their favorite movie is, they will always say the first one. There is a reason for this, it was truly something special. It was a movie that stood out for its time, great effects and good story telling mixed with a theme that captivated all ages. It had suspense, action, and Dinosaurs. They followed it up with a 2nd and 3rd film which lost a lot of the appeal of the original. They seemed to forget what made the first one work, and started to drift further away from that. The 2nd film was good if you cut out the last 40 minutes, and the third was just boring all over. They injected more action, and left out the wonder that captured us all. So when I heard there was a 4th film, my honest expectations were very low. I had no interest in even seeing the film after the first few trailers. Sequences that showed the Raptors working with the Humans seemed to out of place. I was afraid taking them away as hunters would lesson the movies ability to create Tension. And to be fair, I was right. But what I never expected was the movies awareness of what it was doing, and how it never tried to actually be the first film. It had no suspenseful sections, and was pretty much pure action. It was more like a Monster film, but by not trying to compare itself to the original they were able to create their own experience. I think when you ask people now which is their favorite, you may get a more varied response. If they are older and Grew up or saw the original back when it was new, they will still say that one. There really is something just magical about it. But if they are younger they will go with this one. Either way this will be 1 or 2 for most people.

The story for this movie takes place something like 10 years after the first park failed. They have been running for a good while without incident, and have huge crowds coming to see the various exhibits. Every few years they try to introduce something new to get numbers back up, and this time they decided to create their own dino hybrid to up the wow factor. A Super T-rex called the Indominus Rex. It is created using a T-Rex as the base, then mixing in other dino and non dino species. Well as you would imagine, it escapes and incompetence from pretty much everybody creates a situation that puts the park goes at risk. Now for the type of movie it is, the story works well. However there is no real excuse for the stupidity of some of the characters. The movie and the story could have worked fine with out it. Examples would be them sending in a team to capture the super Rex with cattle prods and a net gun. It goes as well as you would imagine. What's even worse is there is a character telling them they are idiots and are going to get people killed, but they just ignore it. This is a theme throughout the film. Somebody comes up with a idea that makes you shake your head, and Chris Pratt goes, that is stupid, you are stupid...then they do said idea anyways. They bring him in as a expert then ignore everything he says. There is also a issue with the main character Claire played by Bryce Dallas Howard. She is the only character to really have any growth in the movie, and it appears as if they are trying to teach her the meaning of family. But it comes across as them trying to tell you she needs to have children to validate her life. The two kids in this film are her sisters, and they are sent to visit her since she runs the park and can get them in. She spends the entire film with Pratt trying to locate and then protect the kids. There is a line where her sister tells her she will understand when she has her own kids, to which she responds by saying if not when. The sister then gets on to her and tells her it is "when." The movie even ends with a scene pretty much shouting, see kids are great. I don't mind people injecting their opinions into their work, but this felt forced and out of place. There was also a scene dealing with divorce that seemed out of place since it was never brought up again. It seemed like it was only there to make one character look bad, which was odd since they were pretty solid the rest of the film. It alluded to another story we never got to see, and it just seemed odd on its own.

The acting was solid, Chris Pratt is always enjoyable. Bryce Dallas Howard suprised me as Claire. I had seen her in other things, but I didn't really know anything about here. She played her role well and I can see her doing well in future projects. Vincent D'Onofrio who I have never liked continued that trend. Although after just finishing Daredevil on netflix, hearing him talk like a normal person was a welcomed change. Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson played the kids in this movie. Simpkins you may know as the cool little guy from Insidious. Him and Robinson were surprisingly likable in this. In the first film you had Tim and Lex. I liked Tim because he was similar to younger me. I didn't like Lex because she was annoying to younger me. They try to play the same type of roles with these two. Simpkins is a dino nut like Tim and reads all these books and can point out the different species while rambling out facts. Robinson doesn't seem interested in that and is more into the opposite sex, he keeps checking out the girls in line over the exhibits themselves. Both the actors did a good job though of bringing those characters to life, and by the end I really liked both of them. They won't win any awards with this, but I would have no issues if I saw them pop up as a major role in another big franchise now.

Music was good, but never really had the impact it did in the first film. It did have a similar score though and used the Jurassic Park theme quite often. While that does make a lot of things sound similar, I love that theme so I didn't really care. Sound effects were great, and if we ever do magically make real dinosaurs, if they don't sound like this movie I will be disappointed with them.

So you don't care about all that, you just want to know if the Dinosaurs are worth the ticket price. Short answer yes. I posted on facebook while still in the lobby waiting for somebody else, The last 10 minutes of the movie was worth the ticket price alone. I stand by that, but it is not to say the rest was not good to. The dinosaurs look great, and while initially turned off at the idea of them using a fake dino instead of one of the many real ones, it won me over in the end. As did the human allied Raptors. They gave them names, I can't dislike a named animal. Echo, Charlie, Delta, and Blue somehow had character and personalities....well Blue did. Seeing Chris Pratt train and then try and stand with them was a cool moment. And I enjoyed seeing their intelligence play out when they got their screen time. To me they looked slightly smaller then the past raptors, but more stocky and better built. They were cooler, and fiercer. They also addressed why their dinosaurs don't quite match up to the historic representations we have for certain species which was nice. The I-Rex was pretty damn neat to. She was white, had these weird almost feather like things going down her spine, and hands. Not dino little fingers, but claws that acted like fingers almost. It was creepy and very unsettling, but in the best possible way. We saw a few other species, and they all looked great. They had a ride where you could ride baby dinosaurs, baby dinosaurs are adorable. There was a scene where they had almost a safari like experience set up, and we got to see some cool species just walking around. Some of the best moments of the film were just seeing these cool creatures. Also while most of the action was more Human vs Dino, we did get some Dino fighting which was enjoyable. There was also a scene you have probally seen in the trailers, where a huge amount of flying Dinos get loose and attack the park population. It was a very cool moment that kind of reminded me Hitchcock's The Birds, except for the obvious fact that these things looked deadly which makes it very different.

How much violence and gore is in this film, is it good for children? Well that is a tough one actually. There is some violence yes, but nothing overly brutal. There is a lot of killing, but most of it is off screen or you don't see the final act. Somebody gets their hand bitten off, but you only see the dino latch onto the arm for example. There is a decent amount of blood for a PG movie, but it never seems gross or over the top. You also don't see any ripped off limbs or anything like that. I would say it is fine for kids as long as you don't mind them seeing some blood, the movie never really takes that aspect of it to far.

This is a good action flick with some humor and solid acting and sound work. The dinosaurs are the true star of the movie as they should be, and the finale will leave you smiling like a small child. The effects are great, and the movie managed to avoid the pitfalls that the 2nd and 3rd film either stumbled or dove head first into. While we do still have some amazingly stupid humans, it doesn't really detract from the finished product. Though some of the heavy handed opinions did kind of rub me the wrong way. Also as a man I found it curious that Claire trekked through the jungle, and out ran dinos in a heels the entire time. I always thought those shoes were for show and not functional. Wonder how possible that actually was. There was also a scene where Pratt tells her to go back to the park, she was not ready for this because of her heels. She responds by turning her top into a more revealing version of itself that is tied around her waste in a fashion similar to what Ellie was wearing in the first film, except it showcased her cleavage. When Pratt asks where what that was, she simply says it means I am ready now. Not sure what Cleavage and bare arms has to do with heels not being great outdoor shoes, but he seemed fine with it. Apparently it worked to, so ladies if you are ever in heels and being chase, remember that Cleavage is the answer. It makes those heels magically work like running shoes.

So a good movie that will easily stand the test of time. It made me excited again about a franchise I had long stopped caring for. While it had some questionable moments, in the end the overall film was more then able to make up for them.

This Trailer does a pretty good job of not ruining to much, so stick with it if you are interested in seeing the film. I have no clue why most recent trailers tend to be a summary of the entire movie now.