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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review: I Am Groot!

Wow.  This movie is fun.  Just a big ball of fun for about 2 hours.  Honestly, I was a little worried about this movie.  It's characters that aren't that well-known, with actors that I personally don't care for in most movies, and this is another one in a long line of Marvel movies that are starting to get a little formulaic.  Throw in the non-stop media barrage about this movie and it gave me some pause. 

But this movie is just so much fun. 

I enjoyed just about everything about it.  It's a total cheesefest, but that's why I liked it so much!  The Marvel Universe movies are about the big action.  Iron Man and Captain America does have that level of humor, but it's mostly about the drama.  Guardians of the Galaxy is all about the comedy.  That's not to say there isn't some great action, but it's secondary to the comedy.  Come on!  One of the characters is a gadgeteering anthropomorphic raccoon hauling around a BFG! 

What worked so well and what pushed this movie along is The Guardians.  Five colorful and well fleshed-out characters that you want to keep following.  They are hilarious.  They are fun.  We're rocking out with Starlord listening to classic rock.  Groot has his one sentence he repeats (I am Groot) that is a standard sentence that means just anything.  And the rest of the team seems to understand instinctively what he's really saying.  We got the sexy green assassin with a tragic past.  And then we have the brick of the team who his species is incapable of taking a joke or speaking with a filter.  If you're making Dave Bautista fun and interesting, you're doing MANY things right.

The biggest reason to see this movie is that it continues the overall story arc with the Infinity Gems.  This one is the purple "Space" gem.  The way they portray it is different from the comics.  This gem if slammed into the ground can destroy an entire planet's ecosystem and kill everything on it.  That is why Ronin wants it.  He's a genocidal religious terrorist who wants to wipe out all life defended by the Nova Corps.  (When are we going to see Nova by the way?)  All the while we have this story crossing in the path of Thanos.  So this is only going to get better.

Got to see this movie.  It's just a ton of fun.

Stay after the final credits for what could possibly be the funniest and best cameos so far.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review: It's World War Ape!

This movie is so good.  Just so good.  I think it has just enough of everything I like.  It has the cheese factor when they have apes with guns riding horses into battle.  I've already sold you on the movie, haven't I?  But believe it or not, there's also a lot of heart in the movie too.  There's some genuine drama.  All the characters are balanced and their motivations are clear.  Even the felt a level of sympathy for the story's villain. 

This is also a movie that got me thinking.  I always love that.  It's enriching.  There's things the movie brings up that require discussion.  What is the nature of conflict?  What does it mean to be a human versus an animal?  At what point did humans stop being animals?  Did we ever stop being animals?  Can we stop conflicts before they get out of hand?  Can any society be built on utopian idealism?  How does one learn to stop hating?  What is it about human nature that yearns for peace but is compelled to war?  In one way this movie gives us an answer but it's not one many will like.  The answer might just be that conflict is unavoidable.  As long as people have differences, there will always be conflicts.  And is that such a bad thing? 

I have a bit of a soft spot for this series.  Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my first reviews for this site.  I absolutely loved that movie.  I called it the best movie I'd seen all year.  This one is in good running for that same honor.  The acting was brilliant.  The writing was again just top notch.  I just love a movie that can be a bit ambiguous and gives us some room to think for ourselves.  The villain of the movie is wonderful.  Just like Magneto in X-Men: First Class it's easy to understand why he thinks the way he thinks and does the things he does.  It's not just some character in a black hat reveling in his own evil.  It's a guy (ape) that was systematically tortured by humans and has a very rational distrust and hatred for humans because of it. 

Caesar's motivations are very understandable as well.  He's desperately trying to create a new society.  One built on peace, love, and understanding.  His society seems to only have one written law.  Apes don't kill apes.  He's not trying to be some gallant warrior.  He just wants his little piece of the world and to not be bothered by outsiders into his society.  I'm sure that has to ring a few bells in our own culture. 

I could go into spoilers here but I think it's clear where this is going.  Prejudice and hatred lead to conflict.  It's not hard to figure out what happens. 

But this movie is just so good.

Luckily they are already working on the third installment.  Expect me to gush over another Planet of the Apes movie in 2016.

Hope to see you then.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers 4 Age of Extinction Review: How do you screw this up?

Bay.  What's wrong with you?  At first I thought you were just some meat-head man child acting out your own frustrating arrested development.  Now I think you are a man child with some kind of heroin addiction.  The entire movie is frantic!  It's like a junkie with an itchy finger on the morphine drip.  This isn't a movie.  I almost don't want to review it because... hey why bother.  Nobody made any real effort to making a coherent story, so why should I critique it? 

And who the flying f*** was the villain of the story?  There were about 6 or 7 antagonists.  Am I supposed to just take my pick?  What the hell did you do?  Ever see those magnetic poetry things?  You throw them at the fridge, see what sticks, and hilarity ensues because what usually comes out is just word salad.  That's this entire movie.  It's Michael Bay's free floating stream of consciousness.

How can a movie make less sense than the 1986 animated movie?  And they just keep getting worse.  I swear he can't help himself.  They just keep getting worse. 

And you know what?  You rak diseprin you racist c*** snake! 

The story is a mess.  And my first thought is this:  I do this as a hobby.  I watch movies and analyze the story.  I see what was good and what was bad.  I'm also a 33 year old man.  The target audience for this movie is what... 12 to 15 year old boys?  How are they supposed to know what the hell is happening?  I'll try my best to recap.

The Autobots have been labeled terrorists by the evil rogue agent of the CIA who is working with a private business contractor to sell Autobot and Decepticon bodies for scientific research.  They want to create their own robot army so they can have giant robot wars instead of using soldiers?  There's like one throw away line like that about 1 and a half hours in.  Unless you're really paying attention you might miss it.  I mean it's not like you just labeled all giant sentient robots terrorists and now you want to make an entire new race of them to serve as cannon fodder.  Really?  Slavery illusions in a Transformers movie?

But unknown to them, they are using the "soul" of Megatron to do it so the dead Megatron is actually manipulating all of it to create himself as Galvatron. 

Meanwhile in side plot #1 Mark Wahlberg is a Dad and a really crappy inventor.  He doesn't want his 17 year old daughter to date.  So naturally she does.  And we get insufferably overbearing Dad moments sprinkled through the whole movie.  Because nothing captures the earnestness of planet wide extinction quite like Daddy threatening to murder his daughter's statutory rapist boyfriend.  You see:  Marky Mark made a promise to his dead wife that he would get his daughter to graduate from high school without getting knocked up first.  Question: how did she die?  She died of reason never explained.  I like to think she died when she tripped over her own shoelaces and impaled herself on a garden gnome.

And in Side plot #2 we have mysterious alien giant robot who's named "No Name Given".  And he agrees to trade one of the "seeds" for Optimus Prime.  The seed is basically a tactical nuke that transforms all living matter into what this movie so lovingly called it, transformerite or Transformium.  Or something equally offensive.  I stopped listening after the 10th fight scene in the first hour. And naturally every evil human villain in the movie thinks detonating a weapon of mass destruction would just be dandy.

And don't bother looking at the promotional poster.  I know it has Optimus Prime riding Grimlock.  But you might as well just watch the last 20 minutes of the movie for that 3 minute waste of time.  It'll save you a lot of stress if you do.  And I just love how the Dinobots were included.  They are epic warriors of legend that just happened to be on no name dude's ship.  And of course they won't help until Optimus puts him in the camel clutch and makes him humble.

This movie is s**t.  And of course there's going to be another one.  So look forward to this whole thing just getting worse. 

Bah-weep-graaaaagnah wheep nini bong

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Godzilla 2014 Review: Layeth the Smacketh Down

I love Godzilla.  I make no secret of it.  He's by far the coolest monster in the history of monsters.  I think the fact he has his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame is a good indication that I'm not alone in that sentiment. 

First off, I loved this movie.  This is a Godzilla movie that Americans have waited for since Godzilla 1984.  For some reason cheesy Godzilla movies don't get much play in the main stream in the USA.  Probably because to the average movie goer, these movies suck.  I'm saying that totally as a fan.  I get it.  Big beat 'em up monster movies are a dime a dozen and seeing a guy in a crappy rubber suit isn't anything special.  Except this is Godzilla.

The movie is pretty simple so even though I am going to go into spoilers, there really isn't anything to spoil.  A monster appears, Godzilla arrives from parts unknown to do battle.  That's it.  And yeah there's a bunch of humans running around losing their minds trying not to get squished.

In this one we have a new monster.  This one is named Muto.  It's supposed to be one of those military acronyms I swear they make up before figuring out what it means.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, go watch the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still.  Muto is supposed to be a prehistoric parasite that feeds on nuclear radiation.  I know.  It's Godzilla.  It's supposed to be silly.  In fairness, all the scenes of Muto literally eating nuclear bombs is awesome!

The history of Godzilla is long, confusing, and sometimes contradictory.  Maybe one of these days I'll do a Godzilla retrospective, but not tonight.  I'm soaking in the awesome. 

There were a few elements I thought needed to be fixed.  The first being the unacceptable amount of focus on the humans.  Humans have always been a part of Godzilla movies.  Mostly for squish fodder and cheap emotionalism, but the focus of the movie was always the battle.  This movie not so much.  It all builds up to the climax and then we get the awesome monster beat down.  But then it's spliced in with the humans mucking around.  It breaks up the flow of the fight and it's just a bad decision.

So is cock blocking us from the monster fight twice!!!!!  The first scene was the trailer scene.  We finally see Godzilla in all his monsterous regal beauty.  He roars with the intensity of a pride of lions, he squares off with Muto, and then... nothing.  They cut to something else.  Next thing we see is Godzilla swimming towards San Francisco.  I honestly thought Godzilla killed the first Muto off screen.  Luckily I was wrong.  (By the way there are 2 Mutos.  One male and one female.)  The second time was just as the fight is about to start, the humans close a door in our face and we don't see the fight for another few minutes as we watch the humans muck around some more. 

It got frustrating.  But once the action hit, it was beautiful.  Just as I'm about to scream at the movie, "use your atomic fire breath!" Godzilla uses his atomic fire breath.  The Mutos honestly felt like more of a threat to humans than to Godzilla.  Their EMP ability does reek havoc on the humans because planes are falling out of the sky and cars won't move, but what does Godzilla care if there aren't any lights on?  With movies like Godzilla: Total War we see monsters with unique abilities that are a serious threat to Godzilla because they all team up against him.  And that hilarious bit where Godzilla takes down that pretender, Zilla from the 1998 American Godzilla movie in about 2 seconds.  Priceless.  Anyway, Muto never really looked like a serious threat to Godzilla except when the two teamed up. 

Last thing I want to call BS on is them trying to play off that Godzilla almost died in the fight.  Really?  A building falling on Godzilla is going to kill him?  Really?  Come on, man!  That's not even close to believable.  There's only one thing that has ever killed Godzilla and that's when his own heart when into nuclear meltdown!  And even then death was only a minor inconvenience. 

Go see it.  It's awesome.  I put it up there with some of the best Godzilla movies out there.

Hail to the King, baby!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2 review: A shock to the system

I'd say if I hadn't seen any other comic book movies for the last 10 years, this movie would be awesome.  Not to say I didn't like it.  Far from it.  But it does suffer just because comic book movies are in no short supply these days.  With the Avengers and all the movies tied in to that, it's a little harder for something like Spider-Man.  Not because it's a bad movie, but because it focuses on a smaller scale than the other Marvel movies out there.  But if it didn't, it wouldn't be Spider-Man.

Before I fanboy out about Spider-Man, let's talk about the movie.

The acting is amazing.  The cast I'd say is slumming it being in a comic book movie.  There's academy award winners in this!  Jamie Foxx brought an amazing amount of life into Electro.  I didn't know which direction they were going to go with him, but they managed to take something as silly as "turned into a giant energy battery by falling into a vat of mutated electric eels" into something I could at least take seriously enough to keep watching.  Emma Stone.  That's all I have to say.  I'm in love with Emma Stone.  She's brilliant.  She conveys emotions with even the slightest of gestures.  Future actors of the world, take notes.  Andrew Garfield is the perfect casting choice for Spider-Man.  He has a great face that really exudes pain.  When he's emotionally tortured, it's written all over his face.  He even throws in a New York accent when he gets worked up.  Sally Field.  She should be starring in dramas about the first female President of the United States.  She's totally slumming it to be in a cheesy comic book movie.  The only problem I had was the way they wasted Paul Giamatti.  The guy was barely in the movie!  But luckily with the teaser at the end of this one, I'm guessing we'll see more of him in Amazing Spider-Man 3.

The story is what it is.  It's Spider-Man.  It's a comic book movie.  Because there are so many of them out there these days, this one doesn't stand out to me.  It's not better or worse than other Marvel movies.  It does get cutesy on more than one occasion.  The little kid in the Spider-man costume was just dumb.

I can't say there was anything wrong with it.  I really liked it.  It's just a victim of there being better comic book movies out there.  I'd say Captain America 2 was just a better movie overall than this one.  And that is still out in theaters.  Maybe this should've been released in June.  

Honestly I really liked the movie.  But I can't say it was even the best comic book movie I've seen this month.  But it's still worth seeing.  

So now let me gush about Spider-Man for a few paragraphs:

What sets Spider-Man apart from other Marvel heroes is that his victories come with a very high and very personal cost.  Look at some of the other heroes in the Marvel Universe that are featured in movies lately.  Ironman, Captain America, Thor, and The Hulk.  Of these characters, which of them have ever lost?  I don't mean like lose a fight or something like that.  I'm talking about failure.  A situation that turns the sentiment against the hero.  Where he failed to save someone and that person died.  And that death haunts the hero for the rest of his life.  It's very common in comics to bring people back from the dead.  The most striking example I can give right now is Bucky Barnes from Captain America.  In the first Captain America movie, Bucky died.  But in the second movie he got better.  In the movies Thor has never had to mourn the loss of a comrade or love interest.  Neither has Iron Man.  The only one that can come close to it would be the Hulk and even then it's stretching it because he pushes people away so the monster within doesn't accidentally kill them. 

With Spider-Man it's different.  Spider-Man is a working Joe.  He isn't a soldier with the support of an army behind him.  He isn't a multi-billionaire playboy.  He's definitely not a God.  His problems are smaller scale.  He worries about making ends meet.  He worries about his family.  He has to deal with a newspaper that has it out for him no matter what he does.  And if that wasn't bad enough, he has to find a way to balance his love life with the problems of the city.  He doesn't have the luxury of sitting around wondering what Harry Osborne's latest evil scheme is going to be.  He has homework and the rent is due. 

Also Spider-Man is a product of New York City.  While other heroes are from there of course, he's still an average guy from the city.  He can't go off and deal with some giant threat over in Malawi or whatever.  He's in New York and New York has enough freak shows like Electro and the Green Goblin running around.

And Spider-Man's victories come with a huge burden.  He has people die around him.  He can't save everybody no matter how hard he tries.  He has self-doubt.  He sometimes wonders if he's doing more harm than good.  He has to sacrifice having friends and family in order to be the hero.  Even the best of us would crack under that kind of stress. 

I really like Spider-Man.  Even if the comics get a little on the weird side.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Captain America The Winter Soldier Review: See you at the end of the line.

This is an awesome movie.  Some of the fight scenes are really good.  It's still a lot of close up shaky cam fighting, but they are so brilliantly choreographed that it makes up for a few headaches.  One of my favorites was early on in the movie between Captain America and Georges Batroc.  The whole thing amounted to a cameo by UFC mega-star Georges St.-Pierre but it is a perfect example of just how skilled and physical St.-Pierre really is. 

The story itself I struggle to find a way to talk about.  Because it's one of those things that if I say too much, it will give away the whole thing.  I'm even having a hard time coming up with a witty title for this article! 

I'll try to be generic: someone wants to attack S.H.I.E.L.D. and they hired Winter Soldier to do the job.  That really is about as generic I can be without going into spoilers. 

If I had any criticism for this movie it would be that it was too much story.  This felt to me like it could've been two movies.  A lot happens.  A lot.  I wish I could talk about it, but I just can't.

But this is what I mean by a smart action movie.  Forget that it's a comic movie for a while, this movie touches on some very strong themes that need to be discussed.  For example, how far are we willing to go for security?  How far is too far?  What would we do if we ever went too far?  Could we ever go back?  These are not easy questions and should be discussed. 

Once again the acting was just brilliant.  When a minor character like Brock Rumlow makes an impact on a jaded movie freak like me, you know they did something awesome.  Rumlow is played by Frank Grillo and he was wonderful.  The only person I felt delivered a better performance was Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce.  I don't know how much of his soul he sold to have such ungodly acting talent, but it was a steal. 

Another thing I really enjoy about the Captain America films is that there's so much more attention given to the other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.  We get to see a lot more of Agent Maria Hill in time.  There's also a lot of Black Widow to go around.  With movies like Iron Man or Thor, the story is usually much more centered on the hero.  With Captain America, they really go that extra mile to say that the hero isn't Captain America but instead is Steve Rogers.  Cap might be a super soldier, but he's still the same good and decent man.  He's still an every man.  It's why I like him so much.

This is a must see.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Noah Review: Uhm... What's going on?

When I first heard about this movie, Christian fundamentalists were freaking out about it because it wasn't "biblically accurate".  I was all set to write this nice comparative essay about the biblical Noah's Ark story compared to this one and even pepper in some of my own thoughts on how we shouldn't take the Bible quite so literally.  After all it's the message that is the most important and not looking at it as 100% literal history.  That's before I saw just how awful the movie itself was!

Let me get the positives out of the way.  Because I am about to tear this movie a new one from a cinematic and storytelling point of view.  The acting is pretty strong, the story (changed from the original *rock monsters*) works but has it's flaws, and it still manages to stay true to the biblical message.  Kinda.

Before someone sees the movie and gets up me about calling them "rock monsters", I know they are angels imprisoned in rocks so they aren't technically "rock monsters".  To that I say, they are rock monsters.  They are rocks.  They have glowing eyes.  They walk.  They talk.  They are rock monsters.  There's biblical inaccuracies and then there's adding rock monsters.

This is an awful movie.  From a cinematic point of view, this movie is a disaster.  The CG effects are laughable.  And there's more than one time I wanted to run screaming from the theater F bombs akimbo because of just how crappy the movie looked and it's never ending search for ways to give me a seizure!  The shaky cam is bad enough.  I've said it before and I guess it bears repeating: if your actors can't do action scenes, don't hire them to be in an action movie!  F***ing speed lines don't make for good cinema!  I'm not kidding.  The camera work is so bad, there are speed lines.  Like we're watching a bad '80s cartoon from Japan!  We live in a world of High Definition cameras.  There is no reason for anyone to have to strain to see what the hell is going on!  Directors... you aren't being artsy.  You aren't adding energy to a tense situation at this point.  You are just pissing me off.  But then add in the strobe lighting effects and that's when I knew someone was on drugs.  But it gets worse.  There's at least two separate instances of this really weird slide show effect.  It's like watching one of those flip up books that looks like something is moving.  Only done really fast and for about 2 minutes.  This movie just hurts to look at it.  I had to really fight to stay in my seat.

I really expected much better.  The director is Darren Aronofsky!  This is the guy that did The Wrestler, Black Swan, and Pi.  These are three far better movies and deserve to be watched.  This on the other hand needs to be in the bargain bin at a Walmart somewhere because it's unwatchable.  I'm not saying it's a bad story and bad acting.  I'm saying the way it was filmed is unwatchable. 

The story on the other hand was really good.  They changed the story a lot.  *cough rock monsters cough* But not all the changes are ones that I don't like.  The big theme of the story was that humans had become too evil to be worth salvaging in the eyes of God.  Well... what does that mean? 

Here the movie goes to extraordinary lengths to show you.  Cain played by Ray Winstone was perfect.  No not Cain from the Cain and Abel story but Cain's descendant.  And if ever there was someone that sums up the hubris of mankind, it's this guy.  He took the idea of "man is made in God's image" and "God gave man dominion over the land" and took it to the most literal extreme.  If we are made in God's image, that means we are special.  We are better.  Because we are better it's okay to subjugate the world and have it bow down to our will.  Humans are above the laws of nature because we are in God's image.  Nature should worship us.  Human will is stronger than anything on Earth.  So anything we do on this Earth is fine.  We can take what we want and destroy whatever we want.  No consequences.

It's deceptively evil, isn't it?

Then this movie starts to go a little bit weird.

Consistent.  Tone.  If you want this to be a fantastical tale where flowers bloom from a drop of rain, stick with that.  If you want this to be a more grounded and dark version of the story, go with that.  You can't have both.  I don't think there's room in a serious story for rock monsters and humans eviscerating livestock with their hands and teeth.  Why should I take the movie seriously?  Well, that way I can feel the conflict and drama when Noah tries to kill his twin granddaughters in their mother's arms. 

Uhm...Wait... What?

Yeah.  I forgot to mention how this Noah is a complete nut job.  Because you know saving the world by the command of God wasn't enough drama for this movie.  No.  Let's make Noah a genocidal psychopath.  Basically he sees the evils of mankind where the people are selling women off to be raped in exchange for animals to eat. 

Excuse me a minute.  I think I lost my mind again.

Oh and FYI if the horrid cinematography and seizure inducing scenes weren't enough reason to not see this movie in IMAX and/or 3D, Russel Crowe's drunken naked man ass should be the cherry on top. 

Yeah big spoilers.  He doesn't kill his twin granddaughters and humanity flourishes.  But this is what I'm talking about in the jumps in logic we are expected to make in this story.  It's one thing to say that he needed his sons to help build the arc.  Except they never help.  The rock monsters build it.  Humans just kinda help a little.  They don't have to go and get the animals because God brings them all there.  So, exactly what did God need with Noah's family again?  And then there's Noah deciding that humanity just sucks and everyone should all just go to hell.  Literally.  So much so that he's already planned out the future for mankind and that is that he and his wife will die, his kids will bury them, and then they will die and the world will just go on without humans on it.  So, why get on the boat?  Why let your family on the boat?  Why not kill your family and yourself once you're on the boat?  It would've saved you from listening to the banshee like screaming from the entire world drowning!

It's an awful movie.  Some scenes are really good so it's not like this movie isn't fixable.  But towards the end it goes straight into Hollywood action movie cliche.  How could Cain stow away on the boat for the entire voyage and not have someone accidentally stumble upon him.  I know it's a big boat, but it's still a boat.  He's killing the animals trying to gain their power.  A guy like Cain isn't exactly Mr. Subtle.  They only have Shem's wife get pregnant and have children in the span of AT BEST five months.  Just so we can have the killing babies scene.  (Can't believe I had to write that)

This needed some serious re-writes.  Wait for rental or something.