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.