Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

Baltimore on Film

April 2, 2016

I love when my hometown of Baltimore is in anything. I especially love when film trucks come to town and they shoot a movie or television show here. It feels like Baltimore often gets the short end of the stick because we’re often overlooked. Maybe it’s because we’re too close to Washington DC or maybe it’s because they see us as boring. Baltimore is anything but boring and the architecture and culture are near and dear to my heart. Now, everybody knows The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Streets and, although I love them, I don’t need to discuss them. I picked a couple that may surprise you. All of them are shows and movies that I really like.


Live Free or Die Hard

I love the Die Hard franchise. My whole family loves the Die Hard franchise. People are down on Live Free or Die Hard but I feel it’s a good Die Hard movie but understandably not the best. However, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. The movie is set mostly in Washington DC but has a fairly lengthy segment in Baltimore. They travel to a Baltimore neighborhood to visit with Kevin Smith’s character which is the greatest collision of Jersey and Baltimore since me. Aside from that establishing shot, numerous locations in Baltimore stood in for DC streets. It’s pretty hilarious for a Baltimore boy who grew up disliking DC.


Hairspray

I could have put all of John Waters’ films in here as my old neighbor’s movies are pretty much all set and largely filmed in the Baltimore area. Hairspray is a great example of this as we see all sorts of areas downtown and areas out in Baltimore County. The movie is set in Baltimore at a boiling point in the civil rights movies. Baltimore is a great city for that because we have historically been caught between the north and the south. Baltimore really comes alive in the movie and it looks like a place you want to live. When the movie originally came out I was six and I frequently was near locations in the movie even if I wasn’t aware. Also, forget about the new version as only one establishing shot was filmed in Baltimore. Most of it was filmed in Toronto of all places.


X-Files – The Unusual Suspects

I watched the X-Files almost every Sunday for the first few seasons. It was a great show that mixed mystery, science and the supernatural together. I loved the characters, especially Mulder and Scully because both actors made it work so well. An early indicator of my love of conspiracy theories was probably how much I loved The Lone Gunmen, a ragtag group of informants for Mulder. In season five I was overjoyed to learn that the characters would be given their origin story. Not only do they get a well-written backstory but it’s also set in Baltimore. In fact, much of it is filmed in the Baltimore Convention Center. We also get an appearance from Detective Munch of Homicide and Law and Order: SVU fame.


Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys is a great movie but admittedly it’s a very strange movie. The science fiction elements end up being a little confusing but you tend to expect such things from a movie with time travel in it. There are great performances in the movie that cover a lot of the weak points and the movie ends up being a great Terry Gilliam movie. In particular, we get a great performance from Bruce Willis and a show stealing performance from Brad Pitt. In the movie, a man is sent back in time to Baltimore to prevent a catastrophe. Unfortunately, a lot of iconic scenes take place in Pennsylvania but there are plenty of shots in Baltimore. Specifically, there were scenes shot on Gay Street and in Mount Vernon. I have been in these neighborhoods more times than I can count.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

April 1, 2016

My family has a personal connection to Abraham Lincoln. My brother owes his middle name to the sixteenth President of the United States. It makes a lot of sense. He was a very presidential president and accomplished a lot before he was laid low by an assassin’s bullet. Also, he was a lawyer and both of my parents are lawyers. Most of Abraham Lincoln’s life is hardly a secret. He grew up very poor but he was self-educated and frontier life made him pretty hardy. He became a lawyer and then joined the Illinois legislature before finally becoming President of the United States. He commanded the US during the Civil War, saw its conclusion and abolished slavery near the end. Finally, his life was taken by John Wilkes Boothe in Ford’s Theater in DC.

All of this forms the framework for the book that Seth Grahame-Smith wrote called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He took the real history and added in a secret vampire hunting quest that Honest Abe was engaged in. While he was making history in his day job, he was also declaring a private war against the vampires of our great nation. I expected the book to be silly and kind of lame but it wasn’t. The characters were well written and the author takes great pains to match actual events to fictional events. The plot was compelling and it was a hard book to put down. I rarely watch a movie after reading a book and vice versa but I thought I’d make an exception.

While I said that the book wasn’t silly, it was pretty hammy and heavy-handed. Vampire movies and books are often light and dark, good and evil as it makes things way easier. The movie skips a bit of the book and Lincoln’s history and zooms through his childhood. That’s fine, I didn’t come to see the story of a frontier child. I came to see one of the father’s of our country whoop some ass. We are given a fair background of the general time period and it already feels like we’re not getting the detail from the book. This movie feels like it’s going to be more about Abe’s story and not about matching fictional dates with historical dates. This is immensely acceptable because I’ve studied history. I want a good story.

We dive right into the supernatural and it’s not only the vampires who are magical, it’s the honest one himself as well. Also, the movie is built like a lot of epic/vaguely artsy blockbusters that came before it. While I could make a few 300 and Gangs of New York comparisons, the film felt more like a revenge movie (Kill Bill) mixed with a war film (Gettysburg). The movie knows that it is silly and also knows not to take itself seriously while appearing to take itself deadly seriously. The vampire effect is actually really fun, like Buffy and Angel, it instantly turns human-looking creatures into absolute scary monsters. Vampires are feral beasts when cornered but gentlemanly when going about their normal business.

The movie is full of some great performances although obviously not a single one of them is Oscar quality. I really like a good weaselly performance from Jimmi Simpson, a television actor who does not often get his due. I was surprised to see Alan Tudyk who is one of my all-time favorite television actors and he plays Stephen Douglas, Abe’s historic political rival. Also, there’s a solid pre-Falcon Anthony Mackie which is awesome. Abraham Lincoln himself is played really well by Benjamin Walker even if he looks more like a young Liam Neeson than I imagine Lincoln looked. There are two main villains and both of them are pretty charismatic and sufficiently evil. In the end, the movie was a really fun sit that didn’t take too long and was interesting enough to keep my attention.

Media Update 2/18/2016

February 18, 2016


Deadpool

I went into this movie with so much hype I was nervous that it wasn’t going to hold up. I like Ryan Reynolds a lot because he’s a funny and charismatic guy who seems to put everything he has into each role he gets. He has now been in five comic book movies and until now none of them were really considered a hit. Two of them were flops. Now, you may remember me defending X-Men Origins: Wolverine on this blog and I stand by that but I agree that it could have been much better. This was much, much better. This was maybe 300% better. Do yourself a favor and watch some of the promotional material for the movie such as the cancer PSAs or the Australia Day promo. Get yourself in the mood for a raunchy, silly movie. Don’t get me wrong, the movie also has a lot of heart too but it primarily made me laugh from beginning to end. See this movie. (But be warned it’s a hard, hard R movie)


Battleship

Wow. So I have to assign some blame here for this one before I begin. While sitting and waiting for Deadpool to start I mentioned I had not seen this movie. Afterward, my friend Liz suggested I watch it on FX that evening. So I did and you can tell already what I thought of it. However, the movie was not without merit. It was a very pretty movie as the effects were all professionally done and the cgi was very believable. The story was alright but it felt like it wandered a little. The movie is a love letter to the US navy but alot of the navy men and women came off as emotionless or just plain assholes. It reminded me, yet again, why I never went into any sort of armed service. The two main characters were unlikeable at best and the main main character should not have been in the movie past the frist fifteen minutes. The movie was way too long and I would have cut at least 45 minutes by eliminating characters and plotlines. Stay away from this movie unless you’re drunk among snarky friends.


Colony

So there seems to be a lot of Science Fiction shows that started up recently. As I’ve stated I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction because it gets a little bogged down in talking about technology. I prefer science fantasy but I will give science fiction a fair shot if it looks interesting enough. Colony is about a world after aliens have successfully invaded and dominated the Earth. They killed a lot of people and divided the city we see so that any resistance cannot communicate and merge into a larger faction. The main character is a former FBI agent (or something equivalent) who is pressganged into working for the human representatives of the aliens. While he is working for the transitional government and trying to subvert it from the inside, his wife is working for the resistance. It’s kind of a sci-fi spy thriller but the emphasis is on the thriller part. It’s a pretty good show and, while I won’t be watching every week, I’m interested to see where it goes.

Links of the Week:
Neneh Cherry – Buffalo Stance
The Misfits – Where Eagles Dare
Fall Out Boy – Alone Together
Deadpool Australia Day
Neil Degrasse Tyson – Diss Track

Weekly Updates:
– I am going to Magfest tomorrow
– I am watching a lot of Lucha Underground
– I’m watching the Indiana Jones Mythbusters episode right now
– I ran into somebody deprived of TV during their childhood
– The above person did not know Family Feud
– Not much else to talk about today

Top 11 “Iconic” Movies of My Childhood

April 23, 2015

Top 11

Here is a list of the some of the movies that guided my childhood and informed my preferences later in life even to this day.  I was born in December of 1982 so do the math where I haven’t and realize that I was probably irrevocably altered by Tim Burton for better or worse.

Top 11 “Iconic” Films of My Childhood

11 The Goonies (1985)

This one is thick with so much eighties nostalgia that if you sliced it, it would bleed such radical blood. The movie is an adventure movie where a bunch of kids and some teenagers search for pirate treasure which is pretty awesome. It was even more awesome when I was a kid. The kids stuck together no matter what and they struggled to keep the faith of their mission. Forget Mikey, I always liked Data as the awkward inventor type. That’s mostly how I felt as a kid. I even liked to wear a long jacket a lot like he did. Even back then the movie felt kind of wistful and slow in places. While it is inspiring, the “our time” speech feels kind of sad as well.

10 Star Trek IV (1986)

I remember being a Star Trek fan long before I was a Star Wars fan. I don’t remember who introduced me to the series but by third grade my friends and I were poring over technical drawings. I never really cared too much about how the ships were put together. I cared more about what the plans said about what life on the ship was like. In my opinion, Star Trek IV is the most enjoyable out of the original six. Sure the crew had aged quite a bit by this point but it’s so interesting to see a future society interact with a more contemporary society. It’s also the funniest Star Trek movie (Generations is actually a close second). I often hear or read about this movie being demaned as the “Dumb Whale Movie” but it’s way more memorable than most of the other movies.

9 Clueless (1995)

This was a surprise hit in my family about the time when I was thirteen. The movie is so good at being a parody of nineties culture that it’s easy to miss that there’s actually a pretty introspective message to it all. Besides, it’s the closest I’ll probably ever get to reading Emma. I think this movie is the first time that I felt safe watching and enjoying a “girl” movie, a distinction that is getting harder and harder to make. It was rare that I watched and enjoyed a movie with so little explosions but Clueless is funny and the characters are relateable. Well, they’re not as relateable now but they were when I was a young teenager.

8 Crybaby (1990)

Any list of movies I enjoyed in my childhood has to include a movie from my hometown of Baltimore. I’m Baltimore through and through and wherever I’ve been, I have always had the city deep in my heart. Not only that but John Waters has always spoken to the weird, geeky and sometimes dark side of me that is fun to explore. The first exposure I had to his movies were a few glimpsed scenes of Serial Mom before it was shut off. Crybaby is the story of a love story amidst the battle between the Squares and the Drapes, a local motorcycle gang. All of this takes place in the suburbs and rural areas ouside of Baltimore. This movie helped prepare me for how cliquish school would get. It’s also way, way better than Grease.

7 Back to the Future II (1989)

The Back to the Future series is awesome. The team up of Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox made for screen chemistry that was off the charts. The first movie was good but I actually prefer the sequels as they up the stakes considerably without dilluting the product. I struggled to decide whether I should put 2 or 3 in this spot but I opted for 2 for several reasons. 1) Where else are you going to find a movie where Michael J. Fox plays three different characters while somebody does a Crispin Glover impression? 2) The future sequence is great because it’s completely optimistic and not a crumbling, post-apocalyptic mess. 3) It is the most science fiction heavy of the series and introduced alternate universe theories to mainstream pop culture. On top of all of that, it’s a great mix of funny and dark and inspiring.

6 Jurassic Park (1993)

I was pretty sure as a young boy that liking dinosaurs was just a fact of life for young boys. I mean, all of the television, toys and theme parks seemed to tell me so. Jurrasic Park was a no-brainer and I’m sure that’s what Amblin and Universal were thinking. Of course, that movie could have ended up being a cash grab but they chose some good source material and injected a lot of heart into it. I remember watching the movie for the dinosaurs but loving it for the people. The cast is amazing and the special effects hold up so much better than some of the cgi monstrosities that showed up just a few years later. Even Jeff Goldblum looked good in this one even though he’s usually kind of a cartoon character.

5 Beetlejuice (1988)

Tim Burton was always pretty much the patron saint of all of the somewhat gothy, geeky and misunderstood kids of the world. For everyone else he was probably an entertaining director who had some hits and some misses but was financially successful. I was always in the first group and Tim Burton’s style of weirdness definitely resonated with me in ways that I felt my friends couldn’t understand. Now, Beetlejuice isn’t exactly a brilliant film but it’s a whole lot of fun. It was the first time where I saw horror movie material used for comedy instead. At this point, Tim Burton’s art direction was still very new and exciting and it feels like there were more hits than misses. It didn’t hurt that Delia Dietz was one of my dream girls.

4 Ghostbusters (1984)

Again, a supernatural comedy/adventure movie that took what should have been scary and made it hilarious. The movie took Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis at the height of their careers. Bill Murray is especially on point as a snarky asshole with a heart of gold. Of course, the three hapless scientists (and later also the awesome Winston) are up against a world of ghost trouble and an elder god. The comedy, effects and story still hold up even when a lot of other eighties movies look completely dated (like The Goonies). The movie actually has some tense and scary moments but most of it is really fun. I was two when this came out so I definitely saw it a little later on VHS but in my late teens I finally got to see it in a movie theater.

3 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

I worshipped Indiana Jones when I was a kid. I even got my folks to buy me an official Indiana Jones leather jacket and fedora. Thankfully for everyone involved, they did not buy me a whip because I would probably still be wearing an eyepatch. Indiana Jones was the ultimate hero for me. I was a smart kid but I disliked team sports but I loved being physically active. I could imagine myself swinging through temples and dealing with bad guys while using my brains to sort out ancient mysteries. I also never liked snakes either. I chose the third movie for this list because it is my favorite of the series. To me the movie is immensely helped by the addition of River Phoenix as young Indy and Sean Connery as Henry Jones Sr. The first movie feels like it drags a little in places and the second one has an insufferable female lead.

2 The Addams Family (1991)

Just like my early exposure to Tim Burton movies, this movie spoke to not only how different I felt but my desire to be different. It made it ok to “wave my freak flag high” which is what any geeky kid interested in the darker side of fiction probably wanted at the time. I was most taken at the time with young Wednesday Addams (another fictional character I had a crush on). She seems bored with what other people were interested in and had her own passions that she embraced. That’s exactly how I felt. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate one of the best casts any movie has ever had. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston in particular are captivating. It all makes me nostalgic for a television show that I never watched in the first place.

1 Batman (1989)

This was the alpha and omega of my childhood. This is the movie that spawned my interest in comic books which in turn led me to walking several miles to blow my allowance at the local comic book shop. Of course, it didn’t do that right away. Before this, the only Batman I had seen was Adam West who was goofy and looked like he’d have trouble fighting a plastic bag. I didn’t understand that the Batman television show was intentionally awful and that finally somebody had convinced Hollywood to do Batman somewhat seriously. All I understood was that Batman was kicking butt and his costume looked awesome and this was so awesome. I still love the tone, the dialogue, the pacing and the cast on this one. This is the best of the original four Batman movies and set the bar high for Joker portrayals on film. It’s also the only movie on this list that I actually saw in theaters, most of the others I saw on VHS months or years after their release. For that reason and many others, this movie will always be magical to me.

Adaptations

April 1, 2015

When ever somebody comes up with a good idea (or a bad idea really) in one medium, a lot of people try and think of a way to adapt it into another form of media. This has been happening for a long time and will continue to happen and I love it. Except when I hate it or I am indifferent. Adaptations are often very divisive among the more intense sections of a fandom especially when the adaptation changes details from the original work. People seem to either love or hate an adaption based on how much and what has changed from the source material. Quick thought: do you think people were pissed about I Am a Camera being adapted into Cabaret? Don’t research that. I’m certainly not going to. There probably were people who complained but it won Tony awards so probably nobody cared.


Iron Man 3

I love Iron Man 3 but there was a lot of grumbling from some comic book fans around the time this one came out. There is a certain twist at the end of the second act that throws a lot of people who are huge Iron Man fans. Those same fans were upset at how Whiplash was done in Iron Man 2 and so on through the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, I have a friend who can’t help but complain about every single movie Marvel puts out. He says he can’t enjoy them because they got details wrong. Each and every movie he hated, I loved because they were good movies. My thinking is that the movies are part of a separate universe where events came about a little differently. If the movies were exactly like the comics then I would be extremely bored. Instead, I like that they feed me little bits that are like the comic book and flesh out other details to make their own story.


Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Again, I loved all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I haven’t seen the last Hobbit movie yet but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. There was some criticism because they left a lot of the stuff out of the books. A lot of that stuff was interesting but I have the extended versions on DVD and those things are already 3 – 4 hours long per movie. I can live with losing a few events and poems so that I can not be watching the same movie for 5 hours. The same goes for Harry Potter movies by the way. So people complained about all of this stuff getting cut out and then they turned around and complained about Return of the King having multiple endings even though that’s how it is in the books. It’s a hard balance to strike when you want to please the hardcore fans and the casual fans and the people who had no clue Lord of the Rings is even a thing.

Which brings me to The Hobbit which decided to go the opposite direction. They threw everything from the book in and then invented a lot of stuff to flesh it out. Some have argued that this was done merely as a money grab. While that may have been the original motivation, I believe that the movies benefitted from the original story getting stretched out. The Hobbit is as chock full of detail as any of Tolkien’s books but he actually left a lot out. There are whole sections where Gandalf disappears and then they end up telling rather than showing what he was doing. It’s much more interesting to see all of that played out. Also in the original book the Dwarves were just extra characters with little personality and it was nice to see them fleshed out a little more. Again, it doesn’t make the source material bad or incomplete, it just makes for a better movie.


Man of Steel

Here is where I might start coming off like a hypocrite. I hated Man of Steel for two reasons. The first reason was that I didn’t think it was a good movie on its own merits. The second reason I didn’t like it was because I didn’t think it was a very good adaptation of the source material. In the comics Superman isn’t an asshole, Lois Lane isn’t a ditz and Jonathan Kent isn’t an idiot. I kind of went into a little more depth on this in my Man of Steel review. Still, apparently they were adapting the jerkier Superman from the recently rebooted New 52 initiative that I haven’t really read any of. That’s fine, I guess, but at least make it a good movie.

Conclusion

There’s more examples to be sure but they all amount to the same basic premise. Adaptations are their own animal and shouldn’t be judged by the original source material. There are exceptions, of course, but as long as the differences between the two aren’t too big then I usually see it as a faithful adaptation. I’m commited to keeping an open mind about things and not letting more negative sections of the fandom piss me off. This is the guy who liked Daredevil talking though so maybe you just wrote off everything I just said.

A Blade Restrospective

January 22, 2015

Hello and welcome to the Blade retrospective where I talk about the Blade movies since I got the whole set cheap at Walmart.  I love buying cheap DVDs from Walmart and Target to add to my geeky movie collection.  I think that overall the Blade movies are good but don’t hold up to the current Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

All of the films are written by David S. Goyer who is very hit and miss as a writer.   He is responsible for good stuff like all three Nolanverse Batman movies, Dark City, the Constantine tv series and Jumper.  However he also is responsible for the awful FlashForward series, Nick Fury tv movie and Man of Steel.  He definitely has his faults but is just as capable of putting out decent stuff as he is of putting out crap.  There is no consistent director so all three films have different tones and visuals.

Let’s start reviewing the Blade movies.


Blade

The first movie is pretty good.  Wesley Snipes is absolutely the best casting choice anybody could have made.  He has the ability to be stoic while having the charisma to deliver a one-liner or two.  He actually does a decent job with a few emotional moments as well.  Kris Kristofferson is amazing as the gruff but loveable Whistler.  Stephen Dorff is Stephen Dorff, a villain you want to punch in the face forever which is actually a good thing here.  Rounding out the main cast is Donal Logue who I am actually a huge fan of.

The fight sequences are the highlight throughout which makes a lot of sense when you consider that Snipes knows martial arts.  The rest of the movie is pretty formulaic but that’s just fine with me.  There are plenty of cliches and corny bits but I found them fun and not yet tired.  Overall I recommend the movie if you like action and cool effects.


Blade II

The best Blade movie ever and not only because it was directed by Guillermo del Toro.  This time around they actually saw fit to develop the characters more.  They also went for a much creepier mood which fits a story about a vampire hunter teaming up with vampires to fight the next stage of evolution.  We get Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson returning and turning in even better performances.  Leading a cast of relative unknowns is awesome character actor Ron Perlman who is awesome.

As with any del Toro venture, this one is loaded with awesome visuals and dark storytelling.  However, the a lot of the cool fighting is still there as well.  This movie has more substance but it does have a few third act problems.  Since the movie was del Toro experimenting and proving that he could helm a Hellboy movie that makes some sense.  It still holds together better than the first one which was a bare bones action/horror/comic book film. Again, I recommend this film.


Blade Trinity

A lot of people did not seem to like this movie and, to be fair, I can see why.  After Blade II, Trinity is way too light with a change in cinematography and more jokes.  There is a distinct absence of Kris Kristofferson but we get Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds instead.  Then you add in four named villains.  One of them is played by Hunter Hearst Helmsley of WWE fame.  With all of this going on you could accuse the movie of having too big a cast but it’s only slightly bigger than Blade II.  Snipes seems to be barely trying which makes sense as he was upset and feuding with the screenwriter during production.

There seem to be less fight scenes due to the limitations of Biel and Reynolds and spreading the attention between the three leads.  Instead of fight scenes we get more action sequences and more ranged weapons.  I don’t see this as a huge problem but it does kind of stray from the meat of the first two movies.  Overall I would say that Trinity is not as bad as people think.  I think it follows the spirit of the first movie.  Reynolds is actually pretty funny and there’s plenty of vampire killing action.  While the movie feels lighter there are definitely some darker moments that seem edgier than the first movie. You know what?  I recommend this one too.

So that’s the Blade movies…  Wait, what?  A NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHES!?

3 out of 4 ain't bad
Blade IV: House of Chthon

Yes there was technically a fourth blade movie.  I was intrigued when I first bought the DVD and wondered why I never knew about this.  I usually keep abreast of comic book news.  I knew about the Blade anime series (which is decent) but I didn’t know about this.  It turns out this was the pilot for a Blade series that went 12 episodes.  It was on Spike TV which is the first nail in its coffin being on what is basically the Cops network.  I struggled through this movie because I apparently hate myself.  It was poorly paced and passionless throughout most of it.

The series includes Blade who is now played by a man named Sticky Fingaz who acts like LL Cool J doing his best Wesley Snipes impression.  Though, for a series supposedly about Blade, there is a distinct lack of Blade actually doing anything.  Instead we spend most of the “movie” following the female protagonist, Krista, trying to investigate the death of her brother and stumbling upon the existence of vampires.  Blade pops up now and then to kill a few vampires but is otherwise laughably ineffectual.  Eventually stuff actually happens and Krista gets captured and transformed into a vampire.  In the end, Blade and Krista seem to make an agreement to use Krista as an undercover agent inside the House of Chthon.  I yawn and I am grateful that the movie is over.

I have two words for you as advice concerning this movie:  Stay away.  It probably had potential considering the relative success of Dusk Till Dawn: The TV Series and Fargo: The TV series.  The pacing and acting are horrible and they probably decided to save all of the exposition for a later episode.  The writing is muddled and they save a good concept for the last twenty minutes after boring you for over an hour and 10 minutes.  All I know is that I don’t want to hear anybody badmouth Blade Trinity after watching that.

Top 11 Movies I’m Excited About in 2015

January 7, 2015

It’s been a while since I followed the lead of my friend Joe so I thought I’d talk about the Top 11 movies that I’m most excited about.  There’s a lot more movies that I saw while I researched this.  Mad Max: Fury Road, Pan, Cinderella, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the Jungle Book really look good too but didn’t make the list.


1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1)

Avengers is in my top 5 favorite movies and I’ve loved every single part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.  I am interested to see the characters reunite after what they went through individually during Phase 2 and how the group dynamic may change and evolve.  Now that they more or less trust each other, it will be interesting to see them fight Ultron instead of each other.  Also, it will be interesting to see what they do with Quicksilver since he was already a huge hit in the recent X-Men movie.  We haven’t seen a cinematic Scarlet Witch yet so that should definitely be exciting.


2. Ant-man (July 17)

I’m sure we’re all disappointed that Edgar Wright didn’t get to do his take on Antman.  I would have liked to see that version but I think in the end it will be for the best.  While Hank Pym is an interesting character he also has kind of a history of being an asshole so I’m glad they are focusing instead on Scott Lang.  Having to take up the mantle of one of the smartest men on Earth has always made for a good story.  Besides, I loved Lang’s stints in the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and his relationship with his daughter Stature.  I have faith in this movie.


3. Inside Out (June 12)

I used to say “Pixar can do no wrong” and then Cars 2, Monsters U and Planes came along.  Still, they are the best animation studio on the planet.  (They were tied with Studio Ghibli in my heart but that’s over now)  The shots that I’ve seen of Inside Out so far have shown some smooth character design and animation and it will probably have that usual Pixar flair.  I don’t know a lot about the movie but I prefer to shelter myself from Pixar spoilers before I see the finished product.


4. Tomorrowland (May 22)

This movie has been the subject of a lot of speculation since it was inadvertently announced.  When the name first appeared on some crates at a Disney exhibit, the press guessed that it was part of Star Wars 7.  They were corrected and informed that it was a science fiction movie that has nothing to do with aliens.  Then Disney pretty much went radio silent on the movie for a while.  I am a huge Disney nerd so I’m intrigued about this movie especially after learning that filming was done at both Disneyland and my beloved Disney World.


5. Spectre (November 6)

I like James Bond.  Sure some of the movies sucked and were a total waste of time but at least they were memorable.  The current iteration is miles ahead of Pierce Brosnan’s tenure and I’m interested to see where they go.  They’re both retreading stuff we’ve seen before and showing us a lot of stuff we haven’t seen before.  It’s been all but confirmed that we’re getting the first appearance of Blofeld in this new continuity and that will be intensely interesting.  I hope he can at least match what


6. Jurrasic World (June 12)

I have unashamedly loved every single Jurassic Park movie.  Before you ask: Yes, even Lost World.  I have never regretted watching a Jurassic Park movie and I don’t expect that is going to change anytime soon.  This time, instead of Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neill, we’re getting Chris Pratt which is kind of sad and kind of awesome.  Guardians of the Galaxy quickly shot up to my top 5 movies ever so I’m excited to see more of his career.


7. Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)

Even if Matt Vaughn recently put down my beloved Dark Knight, he still puts out a really good comic book movie.  This looks really good and I like a good spy/action film.  It could end up giving Bond a run for his money but I won’t hold my breath.  Unfortunately it will be released the same week as Fifty Shades of Grey which is Valentine’s Day weekend. Yeah, let that sink in.


8. Furious 7 (April 3)

I am not defending this one because fuck you. I have grown to love the later Fast and Furious movies especially the last two.   The earlier ones were kind of boring but, as the movies got more ridiculous, they got more entertaining.  This is the part that Vin Diesel was born to play (that and XXX but I digress).   The movie will be loud, corny and flashy and will have the Rock in it.  I’m sold.


9. Mission Impossible 5 (December 25)

The Mission Impossible series has just gotten better as it has continued but in the opposite way that the Furious series has.  It has gotten a little edgier and a little more serious with each movie.   I loved the addition of Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg in the last movie and that will continue in the next movie.  At the same time they are bringing back Ving Rhames and adding Alec Baldwin.  I like to think that we can all just accept that Tom Cruise is a nutball who makes decent movies.


10. The Hateful Eight (November 13)

I’ve enjoyed everything that Quentin Tarantino has ever done in his career from top to bottom.  Tackling a western is actually pretty logical for him after Django Unchained and I’m interested to see what he can do with it.  Tarantino will also reunite with Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Madsen and Kurt Russell while taking on Channing Tatum and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I could go on listing all of the neat casting choices he’s made but I’ll spare you.  He has a history of getting good performances out of unlikely actors and actresses so I’m excited to see what is probably his take on the Magnificent Seven.

macbeth

11. Macbeth (Sometime in 2015. Also no trailer yet so.. hmm)

I have studied Shakespeare since I first put my hands on Romeo and Juliet at age 14 and I have worked on a lot of stage productions of his plays.  I own at least two copies of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare and I have visited his birth home and his marriage home. I would have visited the Globe but it was under renovations at the time.  Macbeth is the bad luck title but since this is the internet and not the theater we’re ok.  I watch pretty much every version of Shakespeare that hits theaters except for some of the obscure modernizations.  This one stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cottilard who are both on point.  I always thought Macbeth was a more interesting story than Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet which sometimes unfairly get more press.  We’ll see how this one turns out.

Bonus:

Yes I left off Star Wars 7.  I am really hesitant about this one.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a huge fan of Star Wars as a kid and I owned a lot of the action figures and watched the original trilogy over and over.  (God I wish I had those figures now so I could eBay them so fast)  Also, I didn’t hate the second trilogy as much as a lot of people did. Sure, Phantom Menace was a disappointment but it had some cool moments.  The trilogy more or less redeemed itself as it went on despite some really cheesy moments that I just conveniently repress.  The thing is, I thought Star Wars was all done and I had accepted that.  Maybe I’ll get more excited as we get closer.

Leprechaun 3

October 18, 2014

I really wanted to review this one because I recently finished reading Warwick Davis’ autobiography.   When Warwick Davis originally took the role of the Leprechaun because he had tax debt up to his eyeballs.  He managed to make the role memorable and really started to enjoy himself.   When he talked to Ron Howard about taking the role, Ron’s advice was: “Whatever you do, don’t do more than one.”  Warwick ended up doing six of these films to which Ron Howard replied: “Well, my kids like them so whatever they like can’t be too bad.”

So without further ado, sit back as I enjoy another holiday classic!

“I love rhyming villains.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for rhymes.  I love Etrigan in DC Comics and various other villains who speak in rhyme.  When I was way younger I used to think that poetry had to rhyme and enjoyed searching out the best ones.  One Easter I even wrote a whole scavenger hunt for children in rhyming couplets.  It was a lot of fun but a lot of work so I appreciate the hard work it takes to get the Leprechaun rhyming correctly.

“Another Leprechaun film where I instantly want the protagonist to die.  Wow, even more than Jennifer Aniston.”

I absolutely hated Jennifer Aniston’s character in the original within seconds.  They did a really job making her totally unlikeable and they do the same for the protagonists in this film.  I guess the point is that the heroes are supposed to learn a lesson.  I think it instead allows me to feel good about them suffering.  I really enjoyed watching these people suffer.

“The Lucky Shamrock Casino?  OK, I’ll allow it.”

For this movie, the writer (or somebody high up) created a fictional casino that is somewhere on the Las Vegas strip.  They name it the Lucky Shamrock which I am actually surprised never existed.  Yeah, it’s a cheap gag but it makes a lot of sense in the movie’s logic.  The outside looks cheap and the inside looks pretty cheap so it all matches up.  Also, they could set the thing in their fictional casino and not involve any of the actual name casinos on the strip.  Things were probably simpler that way.

“There seems to be a Daffy Duck thing going on.”

The Leprechaun spends much of the movie mugging and cracking jokes and engaging in slapstick and wordplay.  This follows from the first two movies but goes to ridiculous extremes in number three and only gets worse as the series progresses.  It is actually not a bad thing as most of the enjoyment of the Leprechaun films is watching the Leprechaun be the zany, evil thing that he is.  It’s similar to the Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play films.

“The ‘overbearing’ boss is more likeable than his put upon employee.”

In fact, all of the so-called villains were more likeable and better characters than the white meat protagonists.  It certainly didn’t hurt that their IQs seemed to be leaps and bounds above the protagonists.  The mobsters, the sleazy boss, the scheming employee and the arrogant magician.  They were all actually pretty good but they had good actors portraying them.  Well, good actors by horror movie standards.

“They’re making this shit up as they go along!”

A hallmark of the Leprechaun series is that in each of the movies, they add new rules and facets to the mythos.  Suddenly the Leprechaun can’t stand iron or later on he can’t stand a special medallion.  His powers only increase each movie and he becomes more and more of a threat.  He also becomes more sadistic.  Again, kind of like Freddy Krueger.

“There’s actually a plot in this horror movie.  What?”

They really don’t need to include plots to teach the heroes a big lesson.  I’m fine with mayhem being incited and the big bad chasing the heroes around for over an hour. In this one, they eventually merge all of the plots into the main plot and the movie actually gets cooking.   It’s really not a horror movie until the heroes are fleeing in terror, right?

“This went into a weird place. Where’s the Leprechaun?”

The Leprechaun disappears for way too long so that all the other characters can do funny stuff and have conflict.  It’s kind of useless padding but it does make me want them all to get mowed down so that’s an added bonus.  They were too likeable anyway.  They kind of make up for the Leprechaun not doing anything by showing clips of him on the Las Vegas strip

“Wow, it finally got really creepy. Awesome.”

They start to bring out some of my worst fears and some legitimately creepy stuff.  Killer sex robots, body transmogrification, mind control and bondage all make an appearance.  It takes a while but the movie moves from Warner Brothers cartoon to humorous horror film.  The thing is, the first part puts you off your guard by being so purposefully lame.

“Important: When the villain summons you somewhere, you have to go there.”

It’s been said a million times but the heroes in horror movies are complete idiots.  It’s a time honored tradition to yell with frustration as they hide when they should run or any number of stupid choices.  If they made correct decisions they probably wouldn’t be too bothered by the Leprechaun or the myriad other villains.  They would be in Los Angeles doing whatever young people did at the time.  Oh, one of them was supposed to go to college.  Never addressed again.  Thanks movie.

All in all I would recommend this movie.   Sure it has its flaws but I have seen way worse.  Warwick Davis is really fun to watch despite his cheesiness or maybe because of it.   This movie is chock full of cheese and goofiness but sometimes that’s exactly what I wanted.   Next time I’ll try to review something more terrifying and not just funny/creepy.

Skyfall

August 19, 2014

I finally sat down and watched Skyfall.  I wrote thoughts down as I watched the movie and I’ll share them with you.  Fair warning: I am probably going to spoil a lot.  Maybe.  Wait a second, I’m reading ahead.  Yep.  Sufficiently spoiled.  You have been warned but this is why I tend to review movies that have been out for a few years.  That and I’m often behind on seeing things since I always have a long list of things I want to watch.

First, a few words on James Bond.  I grew up with James Bond movies.  I  haven’t seen them all but there’s twenty of them so I think I can be forgiven.  Octopussy came out when I was one but the first Bond film I saw was From Russia With Love.  I loved it and I loved all of the older Bond films that I saw.  When Golden Eye came out, I embraced Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond.  Golden Eye is really fun and brought Bond into the Information Age.  Unfortunately his other three films got progressively worse.  It felt like the same decline from Burton’s Batman to Schumacher’s Batman.  I think Casino Royale can be seen as equivalent to Batman Begins.  They rebuilt the franchise from the ground up and fixed a lot of what had gone wrong in tone.

Anyway, let’s get to my random comments.

“Three minutes in and… Holy Shit that’s an awesome gun.  A little silly but hell, I want to shoot one.”

The henchman that Bond was chasing had a full automatic handgun.  Like Elliott Spencer, I hate the existence of guns but unlike Elliott I kind of love to shoot them in a shooting range.  It’s hard to explain how a person sworn to non-violence could come to love shooting a gun.  I guess it goes back to riflery classes in summer camp.  It’s also the same visceral feeling I get from shooting my bow.  Besides, an inanimate target doesn’t count.

“… Roll end credits.”

Having the main character get shot by a sniper before the opening title is pretty startling.  Everybody immediately writes him off even though he has survived horrible torture and danger in two previous movies.  It makes sense but it ends up being ridiculous later.

“Oh shit, I forgot Adele sings the theme. Mute.”

It should be clear here that I do not like Adele’s music.  I generally don’t like slow ballads at all and she does poppy ballads that were overplayed on the radio.  My patience got worn out pretty quickly.  I did mute the title sequence but I did enjoy the imagery.  It’s always a fun, trippy sequence that leaves lasting symbols usually in my sub-conscious since my conscious mind seems to forget it as soon as it’s done.

“Why are all movie hackers prone to creating goofy animations and/or video packages?”

I’m not a computer expert by far.  I’m above average for the people I know but definitely below my IT expert friends.  However, I am an animation aficionado and an artist.  Movie hackers always seem to attach some flash animation to taunt their target.  It seems kind of petty actually but I suppose that’s the point.  For reference see Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Hackers

“Wow drinking games just got Nintendo hard.”

The scorpion drinking game was impressive.  At least, I hope it was a drinking game.  It shows how bad-ass Bond is but also shows how far down the hole he has gone.  It’s a pretty simple way of showing us in a few seconds how unstable the man has become.  Of course, justifiably feeling betrayed by the country you gave your life to can shake your worldview and mental health as well.  ‘Nintendo Hard’ is a term referring to how impossibly difficult old NES games were.  See games like Ghosts and Goblins and Contra and broken TV sets across the country.

“I love you Judi Dench. You earn that paycheck.”

She really does.  She’s been excellent in these three Bond films. I’m also paraphrasing a joke made regularly by Cinema Sins.  I am a horrible thief sometimes.  I blame my training at Rutgers.

“Um. Why is he briefing Bond as he’s taking his tests?  What if he fails the last one? Then they have to kill him?”

This struck me as weird.  Sure they all expect Bond to pass his tests and this to save time but what if he doesn’t?  Also, he doesn’t pass the tests.  He only gets reinstated because he’s Bond.  It becomes clear pretty quickly that he is not passing the tests.  Shut up about national secrets until he’s reinstated already.

“Don’t cock it up is probably what all new directors of James Bond movies are told.  You cocked it up Lee Tamahori.”

I could not resist an admittedly cheap shot at the director of Die Another Day.  Pierce Brosnan started off as a good Bond but they cheesed up the whole thing.  The movies kind of ran together for me.  As somebody who prides himself as being able to remember plots and characters with high accuracy this is troubling to me.  It means something when I can’t sort out the Bond films between Golden Eye and Casino Royale.  A few scenes later and Q basically explains why the Craig bond films are better than the Brosnan ones.

“Sexy mood lighting is go.”

The lighting and cinematography in this movie are really good.  You can see everything when you need to see it  and there are a lot of very pretty yet understated shots.  The scene in question in particular was incredibly intimate with darkness punctuated by neon signs.  It was just confusing enough to convey how confusing the room was for Bond.

“Wait, go back.  Why are we in floating lantern world? Oh for gambling.  OK I’m caught up.  Spy shit going on with the casino chip. Cool.”

I legitimately got lost here for a minute or two because Craig’s Bond doesn’t have a lot of dialogue to explain things.  I’m fine with it, it just took me a bit to catch up.  I probably got distracted too.

“Hi, I go around announcing my real name to everyone.  I’m the best secret agent ever.”

I always thought it was kind of weird that James Bond casually tosses his name everywhere he goes.  Even if it’s not his real name, he uses the same alias everywhere he goes.  He almost never uses a fake name when introducing himself.  It seems a little overconfident.

“I kind of like intense Raccoon Lady.”

The quasi-villainess, ‘Bond Girl’ whose name passed me by was really quite good.  I called her Raccoon Lady because of the heavy eye-makeup she wore.  She was intense and confident and fairly well-rounded for a Bond Girl.  She doesn’t stick around too long but she was fun while she lasted.

“Surprise, I’m in your shower and that’s not my gun poking you.”

If anybody besides Bond slipped into a lady’s shower fully naked, they would be kneed in the crotch and in handcuffs so fast.  Of course, here she could have had him shot in international waters.

“Hello, Javier Bardem, I forgot you were in this.  It’s weird to hear you speak but you seem cool.”

He really makes this movie.  I refer to his silent and brilliant role in No Country for Old Men which is the only other movie I’ve seen him in.  According to IMDB he was in Collateral but he wasn’t memorable.  He is funny, creepy and almost so intelligent that you find yourself agreeing with him during his first few scenes.  He reminded me of Ricardo Montalban in Wrath of Khan.   He was an epic, intelligent and batshit insane villain.

“Nope. Nope.  This whole thing has a Phillip Seymour Hoffman in MI:3 vibe to it.”

I was right.

“Hopefully Q will get smarter.”

He would probably be the first to agree that he makes a boneheaded play here.  At least for somebody who’s supposed to be as brilliant as he is supposed to be.

“Oh did I forget to comment for awhile?  This movie must be really good.”

At some point I got completely sucked into the film.  Journeying to the Bond estate in Scotland was excellent.  I want to learn more about their family but we know how much that is a whole set of scars for Bond.  He might not be talking about it anytime soon.  The movie just continues to be great and ends perfectly.  This might not have been one of my favorite movies but this was one of the better Bond films.

In Defense of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

July 31, 2014

The first 20 minutes or so of this movie are pure gold.  I don’t even have to defend that part but I will trumpet them because I love low-hanging fruit.  Besides, at the beginning is usually the best place to start.  We begin with the origin story of young James Howlett and Victor Creed.  We learn that Victor and James are brothers which is an interesting twist on what we have seen in the comic books.  It definitely sets up complication within their later adversarial relationship.

Anyway, the first scene is followed by a great title sequence where we see James and Victor fighting in several wars through history in the United States Army (and earlier incarnations of it).  I liked the idea of the two of them being warriors because they’re the best at what they do and what they do is fighting.  It clearly and quickly paints a picture of the two of them as a brothers and teammates.  With no dialogue and brilliant facial expressions and editing, we get the entire big picture between these two characters.

This is followed by meeting Team X, a team pretty much comprised of characters ripped from the comic books.

They threw in Fred Dukes but he really works especially the way that Kevin Durand plays him in a more military setting.  He comes off as a meat and potatoes kind of guy who lacks fear due to having indestructible skin.  When he reappears he is fat, hard to move, hard to hurt and operates on a more mercenary mentality.

Zero is played by Daniel Henney and does a great job.  Not much to say here as he is a loyal government soldier who seems emotionless at first but it turns out their are subtle touches here and there that betray him as an actual human being.

Will.i.am plays John Wraith which I didn’t even realize until I looked it up just now.  He does a good job for somebody who probably has fifteen lines in the whole movie.  He especially does a good job considering that rappers are notoriously bad actors.

Dominic Monaghan plays Chris Bradley and is actually really a fun character.  He’s a little sad and a little mischievous and he comes off great in the movie.  Unfortunately he is so under utilized that he either needed a bigger part or needed to be taken out.  I love his first scene in the carnival.  It’s one of the highlights of the movie.

Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson is very much how I imagine a proto-Deadpool on film.  He constantly ran his mouth in an amusing fashion and believably kicked ass.   My problems come later when he gets his mouth sewn shut and gains everybody’s superpower.  I’m all for throwing out an original idea and taking a left turn from the comics sometimes.  What they did was take a character who has “talkative wise-ass” as a main trait and then turned him into a cold and unfeeling character.  They definitely would have done better to put the wackier Deadpool onscreen and just trick him into being the bad guy somehow.  I’m looking forward to them giving this a second chance in the rumored Ryan Reynolds Deadpool movie.

Danny Huston’s William Stryker is a great take on the character.  Obviously Brian Cox was too old to play a young William Stryker.  Huston plays Stryker with ambition while Cox plays him with smoldering hatred.  Both are valid and the events of this movie show a lot of how the character makes that change.

Liev Shreiber is awesome as Sabertooth.  He really captures the dangerous arrogance that I always saw in the character.  He is really fun to watch in the role, especially in confrontations with Wolverine.  It’s unfortunate that they cast Tyler Mane as Sabertooth in X-Men.  He had the basic look of the comic book version but either did not have the acting chops or simply was not written as knowing Wolverine from before.  I love pro-wrestlers but he should never have been cast in the role.  Shreiber brings more fun and more depth to the character.

Lynn Collins is good as Kayla and I loved the back and forth between her and Wolvie.  This is pretty much straight out of the comics and they couldn’t have done better with her.  It did not hurt that Hugh Jackman seemed to bring out the best in her portrayal.

Which brings us to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.  He was excellent but he is always excellent as Wolverine.  There is a reason they keep building the X-Franchise around the guy.  I don’t care that he’s too tall or whatever because he is entertaining.  He’s funny, believable as an action star and has the acting chops to pull off drama.  Period.

There’s a lot of little cameos and supporting roles in the movie.  None of them are awful.  They could have trimmed it down a little because we don’t get to spend much time with people who look interesting.  That goes for the main cast as well (minus Wolvie and Sabertooth).  They could have taken a breath now and then or just cut the cast down a bit to give each more screen time.  I’m especially talking about Gambit because he’s a real fan-favorite and there was a lot there to like but it was very brief especially considering he only shows up at the end of the second act and the end of the third.

Now that this is entirely too long, I will talk about what I don’t like.  Weapon XI is interesting but not as interesting as following the comic more closely.  Deadpool sells a lot of comics and they should have trusted that.  The plot meanders a lot in the third act.  I’m especially troubled about the movie being unclear about which side Victor is on constantly.  We lose a lot of momentum in the third act which makes me want to get up and grab something to eat.  And lastly they kill too many characters that could have been fun to use later.  The good news?  They have hand waved a lot of this movie’s plot away already so we can conceivably see some characters again.

I still give this movie a higher grade than most reviewers gave it.  It’s still fun and still has a decent story to tell.


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