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Category Archives: Alex Morales
I am not a fan of the Kick Ass comic books.
There I said it.
Why am I bringing this up? Because in comparison, I really enjoyed the 2010 film version and even with all its ridiculous over-the-top killing, poor language and juvenile humor, I felt that it was light years better than its source material.
Happily, I can say the same thing about Kick Ass 2.
Set after the events of Kick Ass (2010), our heroes find themselves searching for normality. High school, hormones and hoochies everywhere find both Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) struggling to be regular teenagers. With new heroes popping up on the streets everyday, both are reminded of the lives they once lived and the thrills of being heroic. At the same time, yearning for revenge over the death of his mafia father by Kick Ass, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz Plasse), haphazardly creates a plot to become the world’s first real super villain and begins forming an evil army against his unsuspecting rival.
Let the mad carnage begin.
Without having to be weighed down with an origin portion of the story, I found Kick Ass 2 to be a good companion to the first. Where most sequels fall far short, I felt this film expanded upon a few of the characters well and was a good extension of the Kick Ass story with some pretty good humor and fun, ironic approach to the super hero stories we have been bombarded with over the last several years. However, while I was entertained, it’s not till the end that I realized that this film, while fun, was not as sharp as the first installment.
When the first film was released, the bloody death scenes and the “what did she just say?” shock of having a little girl spew amazing curse words and mutilate adults worked in its favor. While in no way a small film, the bite of its approach helped deepen its effect on pop culture at the time and allowed three young actors to blossom in unique roles. However, this film seems way more watered down in comparison. Yes, there is some shocking fight scenes and of course the main villain is called the M#therF&cker, yet, in this film, I felt as if the shock value was more of an afterthought versus being central to the story’s core. As if the names of the villains and possibly a hero named Night Bitch were enough to win the fans over. In many ways, humor is used to disguise the horrible things that are happening and for some audience members, I think that will work perfectly … but for me, it just started to effect the film and it skewed my overall enjoyment.
By far the stand-out for this film is, once again, Moretz. Just like in the first film, Hit Girl is the shining star and by far a more interesting character then Kick Ass himself. In this film, I appreciated the attempt to better round out her character and make her more than just a foul-mouthed, mini-ninja as she was in the first one. I dislike teen angst story lines with a passion – one of the many reasons why I can’t finish a Twilight novel and why Harry Potter fizzled for me in the late books; however, the approach the filmmakers take on Hit Girls attempts at being a “normal” freshman in high school are both hilarious, thoughtful and, for me, very refreshing.
In comparison, while Johnson’s Kick Ass is still extremely likeable and his insecurities the core of what the film is based around, he’s just not as interesting as Hit Girl. In the middle the film I found myself not really caring as much about his story arc and wanting more from her. The same can also be said for Plasse’s villain character. More of a bumbling idiot trying to be bad, he never really takes that step into evil. Yes, he does bad things, but in the end, he always orders other people that are worse than him to his bidding and thus can never be taken seriously as a bad person. Even when the story arcs to bring the two against each other, the tension is built on other people doing bad things or, in one character’s case, a complete lack of intelligence. Kind of lame.
Rounding out the cast is palette splatter of costumes with Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, Clark Duke, Stephen Mackintosh and Lindy Booth all jumping into a life of crime fighting.
In terms of the story, I felt everything felt a little rushed – especially, for me, the portion that focused on Kick Ass and Hit Girl’s relationship. There is some gold in their training moments and quickly, their partnership moves on to the stranger hero types that begin popping up throughout the city. Of course the story is based on the idea of a “super hero team” and these other characters are integral, but I wish a little more time was given to them together in the middle of the film versus just book-ending the events in the middle.
At the same time, I think the same can be said for the special effects. In several scenes, the special effects are very poor quality and nowhere near the level of quality audiences are coming to expect. There is one scene in particular where a few bullies get their due and what is a hilarious and moth-dropping sequence quickly looses its value because the effects look so poor.
Overall, I did enjoy the film. Hit Girl is and will always be one of my favorite new hero characters. Part Wolverine, all badass, she really ends up carrying this film and while not nearly enough to make it great, she still keeps it from falling apart. Less shocking than its predecessor, I still found the film extremely funny, entertaining and enjoyable. Anchored at the end of the summer movie season may end up burying this film from getting huge audiences, but niche fans will find it and fall back in love with the little purple ninja, while hardcore source material nerds will hate on it because … well … that’s what they do. I should know. I’m usually one of them.
3 out 5 sick sticks
In terms of big budget, over-the-top summer fun, conceptually you can’t get any better than director Guillermo del Toro’s slugfest Pacific Rim. With nerd culture booming out of control and society quickly adapting some of our most prized possessions (zombies, super heroes, giant robots fighting giant monsters, etc.) this film is hitting at just the right time. The buzz behind this film was crazy exciting sending geeks and nerds into fits of joy that … well … comes every time something new comes out … so … I guess it’s actually kind of normal in that sense … but … anyway.
Unfortunately, a drub leading man, a “paint-by-the-numbers” plot and a story that keeps getting in its own way stops this from being the amazing experience that it should be.
The basics of the story is actually simple. Big monsters come through a dimensional rift deep in the Pacific Ocean. These monsters, called Kaiju, are devastatingly brutal and smash/devour everything in their path. After tons of loss of life and resources, Earth’s governments unite and develop a new weapons program called Jaegers – giant robot vessels with a co-op fighting system. However, after years of successfully stopping the invading Kaiju, bigger, badder versions are coming through and mankind is falling way behind in the war.
Sound freakin’ amazing doesn’t it? Hell yes it does! Bulls-eye directly into my attraction template.
And for some of the film it is amazing. From the outstanding (although headache inducing in 3-D) fight scenes, the fantastic set and creature designs and some great gems hidden throughout (such as hearing Ellen Mclain voice the computer for the Jaegers) it’s extremely disappointing that, in the end, I just did not like as much as I should have.
Shout out to my buddy Tim who I can feel is starting to roll his eyes at me right about now.
With strong performances by Idris Elba playing the lead military muck-a-muck of the Jaeger program and Rinko Kikuchi as a designer and wanna-be Jaeger pilot, at it’s core, Pacific Rim is set up for success. While the rest of the cast are pretty bland filler – save for a very annoying Charlie Day (just playing a slightly more intelligent version of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) and Ron Perlman - the stand-out performance (and this is not a positive) goes to Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) as lead character Raleigh Becket. It is so cringe-inducingly poor that it ruined most of this film for me. Zero range of emotion and a complete lack of chemistry with anyone around him made it extremely difficult for me to relate or like him as a character. His monotone, scratchy voice was way more destructive than any of the Kaiju and sucked all of the fun out of almost all of his scenes. Watching his performance immediately reminded me of Taylor Kitsch’s turn as John Carter.
At the same time, as a del Toro film … I don’t know … I just didn’t expect it to be as generic as it was. From Chronos (one of my favorite vampire films of all time) to Pan’s Labyrinth to his two Hellboy films, del Toro’s unique perspective on genres has always grabbed me as a consumer and made his films special experiences. Yet … not here. After a very interesting opening sequence that sets everything up, all the plot pieces begin to automatically fall into place and you start to just know what’s going to happen. Oh, this happened, well then this person will do this. Oh that blew up, then this will happen now.
And that leads me to the story. Man does it get in its own way. Sure, there is a lot to get through. The Kaiju, the Jaegers, even the “mental handshake” that the co-op team needs to do in order to control the giant machines – yes, you need a lot of exposition to set up everything up – I get it … I don’t even mind it. But, when the film starts repeating itself and smashing the audience over the head with unnecessary nonsense, you just have to say enough is enough. For example, a major plot point concerning the Kaiju is so silly and so unneeded that the film goes from awesome to becoming the sequel to Independence Day that nobody wants or needs. We know the set-up, stop wasting time with stuff that does not matter. For spoiler-sake I won’t go into detail but a lot of time is wasted in the film.
With all that being said, clearly this movie is going to be a hit. Despite everything I’ve written, I did enjoy the film for what it was – a nerdgasm of monsters fighting giant machines. Everything about the Jaegers is fun and while highly stereotyped, the different versions and their presentation is like watching a comic book come to life (Michael Bay, take note, this is what Transformers should have been). Along with that, the Kaiju are pure monster bliss in every savage way possible. However, an extremely lacking lead actor and a cliché plot proves heavier than the weight of a Jaeger and nearly sinks this film for me.
3.5 out of 5 Swords … Just use the Freakin’ Swords
A Film Review of Despicable Me 2 by Alexander Morales
A funny thing happened in 2010 … a sweet, well-made animated comedy about a villainous do-badder with high hopes came on the scene and surprised the heck out of a lot of people. I remember liking the idea of Despicable Me, a new animated tale focusing on a villain but just thought … yeah OK. Then I saw it … and after wiping away the tears from laughter and falling for the daddy/daughter experience, I was hooked.
Fast forward three years and while I still have a warm place in my heart for Gru and his girls (mainly because the DVD is in regular rotation at my house) … maybe it would have been better just to leave this one alone.
In catching up with Gru, Despicable Me 2 finds him living the straight life, leaving villainy behind and trying make an honest name for himself. However that doesn’t last long when a super secret spy network of good guys (the Anti-Villain League or AVL) needs some extra help and considers Gru their best hope for success.
Ridiculously over-the-top cultural references and stereotypes about Mexicans aside, this film was pretty fun. Good voice acting, fun action and another semi-sweet storyline involving love all helped Gru sort of get his groove back. Helping immensely, the filmmakers (directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) along with their writing team (Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul) promote the (clear fan favorites) Minions to the forefront and make them integral to the storyline which, in my opinion, helps save this secondary tale from suffering the sophomore slump.
Hearing Miranda Cosgrove (Margo), Elsie Fisher (Agnes) and Dana Grier (Edith) re-voice their parts which pulled on my heartstrings and Kristen Wiig’s animated version of one of her Saturday Night Live sketches was a great addition but hearing the semi-nonsensical blathering of the Minions put a permanent smile on my face that still comes back when I think of some of their hijinks.
I will say, however, that this film got a little boring in the middle. I’m usually complaining about the length of films, but in this case, I think it was less the length of the film and more the content. The movie does not suffer from a lack of stuff to look at – with the Minions doing funny things and so forth – but it’s clear that something is just … missing. In the first film, it was comforting to see how Gru as a character evolved into something new by the addition of the three little girls. He changed. His character’s motivations changed and thus he, as a character, moved the audience with him. This time around, Gru never really goes anywhere. Sure he becomes a spy, has a snazzy new partner and some shiny gadgets, but now he’s a good guy and while this film tries to make his new transition focus on a personal relationship, it just doesn’t resonate as much as in the previous film and thus he as a character is just not as interesting.
Luckily the Minions are there to pick up the pieces.
While not as clever or surprising as the first film, my daughter and I did enjoy the movie. The Minions are funny – laugh out loud funny – and a pet chicken adds some much needed comic relief in a few needed places. With the long, holiday weekend coming and kids out of school, Despicable Me 2 is a solid outing for family-friendly fun. Children are going to fall back in love with the Minions and enjoy their many misadventures. Parents beware, this too will be in regular rotation once out on DVD.
3.5 out of 5 Tortilla Chip Sombreros with a Guacamole Bowl on Top
A Film Review of Man of Steel by Alexander Morales
Opening to great hype and a legion of future movie deals on its back is the Man of Steel, DC Comics’ Hail Mary pass to try and keep its film franchise relevant. Unfortunately, do to a Swiss cheese-like plot and cringe-inducing dialogue, this modern day Messiah falls well short to its potential.
Let’s start with the good. Henry Cavill as the title hero is fantastic. Cavill’s portrayal of Kal-El, Clark Kent/Superman is epically perfect and he both looks and plays the part the way it should be. Discretely humble, every moment he fills the screen you simply can’t take your eyes off of him. Every moment he is allowed to be “super” is breathtaking and it’s a shame that this film does not live up to his performance. At the same time, Antje Traue (Pandorum) is strikingly gorgeous as she is deadly. As the heavy’s right hand enforcer, Faora-Ul chews up the screen with her limited time and, next to Cavill, steals the show. I was smitten with her villainy.
Along with that, surprisingly Kevin Costner gives an emotionally strong turn as Jonathon Kent – Kal-El/Clark’s adopted father. I was both surprised and pleased to see such sweet exchanges between a boy and his father that I honestly felt a little teary-eyed during one scene in particular.
In terms of the special effects – wow! Superman flying has never looked this good and the massive amounts of destruction that occurs is spectacular. While more restrained in terms of his visual style for this film, Zach Snyder (300, The Watchmen) knows how to sculpt a scene. Substance … well that’s another thing.
Unfortunately, now it’s time to move on to the not so positive aspects. Pretty much everything else.
More “alien invasion” than super hero film, Man of Steel spends so much time setting itself up and jumping from one set piece to the next that it never really allows the audience to get comfortable. In some genres, this is a good thing. But not here. Instead of a simple roller coaster ride of entertainment, detail after monotonous detail is thrown at the audience making it difficult to just enjoy the film. Every moment leads back to the same father/son lesson, repeated over and over again throughout the hero’s lifespan while overly complicated DNA genetics crap buries the moments making the audience either irritatingly say “OK, I got it!” or “Who cares?”
The plot falls a part so easily that it is nearly laughable. Convenience is the best (and possible only way) to describe the story arc which works directly against how the the filmmaking team of Synder and Christopher Nolan (with writer David S. Goyer) described their motivations for the film. “A more realistic look” or some other buzz-filled quote was what we were promised but the delivered product was not even close. Yes, I know it’s a character based on a comic book, but nothing from the way military acts to even the mass destruction and death of thousands of people seems realistic or believable. Why was Lois Lane allowed on the ship? Oh, just so she can do that. Why is the ship over Metropolis? Oh, just so these characters can seem in harm’s way. It’s all just matters of convenience versus real motivations.
Speaking of Lois … what a waste! Not that Amy Adams does a bad job with what she is given, but she is never really allowed to be the Lois Lane fans would both expect or want to see. Sure, they give her a gun for part of it, but it’s not even close to enough. At the same time, Michael Shannon as General Zod is never really given the chance to be the badass he needs to be. Confused zealot is possibly the best way to describe him in the film and unfortunately, we’ve seen this before. Nearly the exact same character as Agent Nelson Van Alden from Boardwalk Empire, I expected to him to go into his spaceship and begin flogging himself for his sins.
However, the most glaringly negative aspect that can’t be denied is how much this film steals from the Matrix film franchise. With an art direction that looks stolen from Geof Darrows’ rejection pile from 1998 and the exact character template as Keanu Reeves’ Neo, Man of Steel is extremely lacking in the originality department. Babies get harvested by machines, Christ-like overtones (not even undertones) and a final fight scene that is such a complete retread that if Neo and Agent Smith were inserted into this film, you wouldn’t even notice. There’s even a machine that looks exactly like the squid-like robots that Superman has to fight near the end. Save for the near 60 minutes of explosions that Man of Steel pours into your eyeballs, this film falls just a short of its promised potential as Matrix: Revolutions. Other creative properties that were pick-pocketed include, but are not limited too Avatar, Invincible (the comic book which kind of stole from Superman but then was robbed for this film) and Alien.
Too long in terms of run time and too little in terms of substantial story, Man of Steel comes nowhere close to representing the 75 years of legendary character that DC Comics has built. Is it a better film than Superman Returns? Most definitely. Can it contend with Marvel’s wave of super hero films? Not really. Lacking fun and vibrancy, Man of Steel is as dull as the metallic black and grey color palette that overwhelms the film.
I will say, even with all of these negative aspects, I was still entertained. I can’t say enough about how Cavill and his performance and presence helped keep the film engaging. This really is impressive considering the lagging moments of boredom that occur and a character decision that the story has Superman make that is exactly the same thing that he is trying to stop Zod from doing. (No spoilers.)
Also – there is no reason to see this movie in 3D. Headache inducing hand-held camera work and nearly zero 3D effects make that a waste of money.
Overall, while nowhere near what we were hoping for, Man of Steel will probably still make its money. Flocks of people want to see this film and hopefully some of them enjoy the experience more than I did. Word on the street is that they are already fast tracking a sequel … so good for them. Bad for Superman aficionados. My heart skipped a beat when Clark wears both a Royals and University of Kansas shirt (Rock Chalk!) in the film, but that just wasn’t enough to win me over. Poor storytelling, heavy dialogue and a lack of originality kept this Man of Steel from being my summer movie hero.
3 out of 5 Flying Krypton Creatures
Six. Can you believe it? Six? With a seventh already on the way. Yeah … for real.
Since 2001, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner have been revving the engines of fans and taking audiences for rides in some of the fastest 10 second cars Hollywood could build and while the second film in the series suffered from a sophomore slump … there’s no denying that the filmmakers behind the Fast and the Furious franchise are living by the motto – “Go big or go home.”
While not nearly as good (surprisingly) as Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 is pretty damn entertaining. By bringing back Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Agent Hobbs and Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, this film is giving fans exactly want they want in their summer film fun – more, more, more. Of course, this film is not going to win any acting awards. Never. No way. But in knowing that, this movie can be appreciated it for what it truly is – a return to the macho, one-liner, testosterone fueled action-fests that are hardly ever done well anymore.
Quickly wrapping up the events of the first, second, fourth and fifth installments (skipping part three of course because Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift occurs after the events of all of the before-mentioned films) with a montage of scenes over a hip hop beat, everyone gets back on the same page. After pulling off the big heist from the last film, our heroes are all living the life, spending their riches and trying to move on from their criminal pasts. That is until Toretto has an encounter with Hobbs, learns that Letty is still alive and calls the team back in for an afternoon drive. Now, with Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele) and Ludacris (Tej) all together, they can help Hobbs take down an international criminal (Luke Evans) and (possibly) get their records wiped clear and be able to return to American soil. Got it. Yeah, like a season of Scandal, this is soap opera goodness for gear heads.
Along the way, Gina Carano shows up, kicks some ass and shows why she is the baddest hot-chick on screen. And yes, I understand that in calling her a chick, I run the risk of getting punched really hard in the face by her … but that’s a risk I’ll take just to be near her.
This film is ridiculous. Not in the “were-they-trying-to-be-serious” kind-0f way, but overall in terms of the action, plot/story and character development. From the thuggish thievery of the first film to this international espionage tale, everything has grown exponentially over-the-top. Luckily, in this case, it kind of works … for the most part.
Things to consider before watching this film:
1. Physics do not really apply.
2. Everyone can take ass beatings that would kill an average person.
3. A quarter-mile race in a 10-second car takes about five minutes.
4. You will see gear shifting.
5. Who cares? Just have fun.
Super-charged muscle cars, bone-shattering wrecks and a tank are just the beginning. When the action is on, the movie really works. Put any of the characters behind the wheel of anything with tires or let them fight and it pops. Clearly, this cast is having fun. You can actually see Carano smirking through every fight scene showing off her skills. Where the movie fails … pretty much at all the quiet spots in between. While the cast does have good chemistry and there is some fun humor, the dialogue is cringe-inducing and the over-acting is silly at times. Luckily … who cares? It’s the Fast series. You’re not expecting Shakespeare. Just go with it. However, the run time is 20 minutes too long and I believe would have been a better experience if it was shorter. Cut out some of the excess and the movie would stay in gear longer.
While nowhere near the level of Fast Five, Fast 6 is still a solid addition to this guilty pleasure franchise. In my opinion, Tokyo Drift was the best – which also (interestingly enough) only included Diesel in a quick cameo role at the end – but with the addition of Johnson and growth of action in the last film, the franchise has grown with its audience and expanded into something more than street racers running from the cops. Pure cheesy goodness, fans will be excited with what they see and by connecting the dots throughout all six of the films, this oil soaked soap opera will get the one thing every summer movie wants – fans in the seats. While average in terms of scale when compared to the other big films coming out, I’m sure fans will not be disappointed.
3 out of 5 NOS canisters
I am no Trekkie. I’m not. Yes … I’ve seen all the movies. I’ve watched some of the original television series – mostly to make fun of them – and I’ve enjoyed going back through old episodes of Next Generation … mainly for the all the sexy-time undertones (or overtones.) But, I am no Trekkie. Basically I know enough to have conversations with our KC Studio editor and be dangerous to other teams at a pub quiz. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a uniform-wearing, “Phasers set to stun” kind-of-a-person to enjoy the newly released, action-packed, thrill-ride that is JJ Abrams’ second installment into the Star Trek universe.
With all the crew from the 2009 reboot coming back, Star Trek Into Darkness jumps right in and never looks back. Timelines and canon be damned, this is not the Star Trek of before. While the first film was successful, yet highly criticized by devotees of the franchise, this film is really going to piss some Prime Directive Zealots off.
Of course, there are plot lines to the film that are extremely spoilerific and by me mentioning them here, will ruin the fun. So here are the bare essentials of the story: Still brash and headstrong, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team aboard the Starship Enterprise are traveling on missions and getting into trouble all throughout space. Unluckily for him, a threat he and the rest of Starfleet never considered is waiting for them right under their noses. By enacting a terrorist attack in futuristic London and potentially causing war between the Federation and the Klingons, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) walks the line between good and evil. What are his true intentions and who is he really? Well it’s up to Kirk to find out.
And … that’s all you get.
With hilarious dialogue that I found smart, witty and near Empire Strikes Back levels, I genuinely enjoyed this film experience. Strong acting from all the principle characters with Easter eggs scattered throughout for fans of the fiction and pop culture jokes, I know mass audiences will be wolfing down popcorn and enjoying every Gorn-fearing minute of it.
In terms of the cast, the writers do a great job giving us what we want. With eight characters needing appropriate attention and purpose, I found the screen-time both balanced and interesting. Standing out above the rest is Zachary Quinto as Spock and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Yes, Karl Urban is great, once again channeling Bones and Zoë Saldana’s sleek Uhura makes being smart sexier than it already is, but in this film, it’s all Spock and Scotty. A close second is John Cho as Sulu and that really is based on one scene where he shows a level of bassassery that this actor never gets to show.
Quinto as Spock is excellent and a shining reason to see this film. While not only capturing the overall feeling of the character, Quinto also does an impressive job expressing emotion while keeping Spock’s deadpan, serious personality.
And then there’s Cumberbatch. As an adversarial-type character, Cumberbatch exudes self-confidence and commands every second he is shown on screen. Almost computer-like you can see him assessing ever detail in front of him in a way that makes everyone around him uncomfortable. And I liked it.
In terms of the action and special effects, I was blown away by the size and pace of the film. I could feel myself leaning forward with giddiness wanting more and enjoying the eye candy dancing across the screen. Were there explosions? Hell yeah! Was there running and jumping and fighting and stuff? Hell yeah! Was it loud with lens flares? Um … yeah. But so what? Above all, this is where most Trek fans are going to get annoyed. Big explosions to some equate to big dumbness and that’s not always true. Usually true. See Transformers for proof. But was Next Generation … with a Klingon (gasp) on board just like the original series … no. This is for new audiences and while clearly there are films I do not like because of these very reasons, Into Darkness is not one of those films.
While Into Darkess does borrow a great deal from another Star Trek film of the past, I enjoyed how the story brought the overall arc back to near it’s roots. Again, this is where many of devoted fans may also have some very big problems and you know what, they may be right. However, it’s clear that in trying to make this new arm of the franchise, the filmmakers do have a love and respect for the original series.
As always, there are holes in the story and as a narrative, it does sag a bit in the middle. However the solid acting, kinetic pacing and action all help keep it on a track that I believe mass audiences will love. I do, however with the camera was a little more stationary. Critics give Michael Bay a bunch of crap form constantly keeping the camera in motion and in that sense, I feel Abrams deserves similar criticism. Along with that, clearly this is a project Damon Lindelof worked on because there a few holes in logic that would make Spock raise an eyebrow.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a space adventure and everything that Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Star Wars was not. Building on the success of the 2009 film, Abrams has added solid addition to the franchise. Some will call Star Trek Into Darkness a dumbed-down version of a beloved series that is to be worshiped forevermore … and that’s just not true. At its center, there is a wonderful focus on friendship, the importance of the team and the capacity of sacrifice that people will give for the one’s they love. Plus you get explosions, a Klingon or two, Tribbles and a few reveals that, while may seem obvious to some, pay off well in the end. Audiences will love the crew and leave highly entertained.
Lastly … the 3D. If you know me … you have heard me complain countless times that I dislike 3D. It’s a ploy to get people to pay more for an overrated experience. Since 3D found its way back on the scene, I have only had a handful of good experiences … Avatar, Hugo, the Avengers, Life of Pi and maybe, possible, kind of The Hobbit. With that being said, I was very impressed with the 3D on this film. It was clear, crisp and added an enhanced to the viewing. I still think it’s overrated but, I would recommend seeing this film in that format.
4 out of 5 Red Shirts on an Away Mission
Nope. Not at all. Not even a little. Maybe for a second but then, poof, gone. Boring. Fake. Not even close to past work. Uninteresting with horrible editing.
Yup … that’s what I think.
I could go on with sentences like these – if that’s even what you could call them. It would be easy. And yet, even in this hateful prose style, my review would still have more substance than Baz Luhrmann’s newest film experience The Great Gatsby.
To say that I did not enjoy this experience … would be an understatement.
Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge each hold solid places in my “filmophile” heart. I understand the criticisms and agree with some, but the overall experiments in terms of color, music and acting all made for an unusual and interesting movie watching experience that I, still to do this day enjoy.
Not the case here.
With source material that drowns itself in the excess of wealth that New York was seeing in the early 1900s and the flowing booze of Prohibition, the visual potential of Luhrmann’s over-the-top, sensory overload of sound and color style would seemingly be the perfect choice. Alas, special effects that look fake-as-hell (and by fake I mean really bad-fake), a soundtrack that is extremely distracting and an overall heavy handedness in terms of dialogue and acting that treats the audience like a bunch of idiots all contribute to a film experience that was both disappointing and irritating.
Flat and emotionless, the actors and actresses are pushed into scenes that seemingly have no focus and no real meaning. Which is an extreme shame considering the cast that Luhrmann and his team have brought together. Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Really. Do I need to say more?
DiCaprio alone is usually worth the cost of admission. I mean, come one. As the title character, DiCaprio was the perfect casting choice. Classically handsome, strong acting chops and that ability to pull off social arrogance had me convinced that this was his chance at Oscar contention after being passed over so many times before. I was wrong. A poor script and worse direction took that away. Tobey Maguire, with his … his … well, whatever … should have been great as the wide-eyed Nick Carraway. And yet … no. Again, a poor script and, well his inability to be a narrator ruined that. On and on, it’s so easy to give give kudos and cheers to the cast for past work, but in this film they are left stranded by their leader with clearly no sense of how to either emote the scenes they in or what thematically they should be focusing on for their characters.
Yes this film is based on F. Scott Fitgerald’s classic (some would say in terms of story I would say only in terms of age) novel of the same name, so criticizing the overall story is a little unfair, but, how the director chooses to represent that story is another matter entirely.
Let’s talk about the visuals. Flat and horrible. Nothing near the splendor of Moulin Rouge, Gatsby just plods from scene to scene with effects that want to be cool but end up just looking more and more fake as the film goes on. Yeah, I get it. The visuals are part of the theme that Gatsby as a character represents … yes. Fake. Yes. But I can put my dog’s paws in paint and say that the tracks he makes are meaningful themes on an insignificant animal in terms of the overall existence of life on planet Earth but that doesn’t make it high art and that doesn’t mean I deserve to waste people’s time by making them suffer through the presentation.
And then … the music. What the hell is up with the music? My apologies to my keyboard but with furious anger I type these words … WHAT THE HELL?!? Layered noise that added nothing to the overall experience pounded my eardrums that gave me nothing but a few chuckles and resounding headache.
And that’s not even the least of it.
I could go on and on, but why. This film has already taken up enough of my life and seriously, I would rather have been changing diapers and folding laundry then spending my time being bored listening to Maguire’s narration tell me about what I was already watching while (fingers beginning to tense with irritation while typing again) wispy words in handwritten script also flows across the screen making you read what Maguire is describing while it is happening.
Oh … oh! Do not see this movie in 3D. Eye-numbingly bad. It’s obvious that the film was not made with the 3D in mind while it was being filmed and the transfer is awful.
Should of … could of … would of. That’s all this film left me with.
2 out of 5 Green Lights Bobbing in the Water
A Film Review of Iron Man 3 by Alexander Morales
Everyone loves Tony Stark. I mean, what’s not to love … right? He’s smart, funny, handsome and worth piles and piles of money. Stark is the dude at the party you want to be seen with and the guy most girls want to go home to. He’s awesome. Fantastic. Yes, his ego is pretty much completely out of control and his lack of appropriate behavior is near childlike while he dashes from person to person forgetting who they are, playing with their emotions like a cat finding a small mouse to terrorize before gobbling it down with a smile … but come on … what’s not to like … right?
Well wrong. Apparently there is a lot of stuff to hate about Tony Stark and in director Shane Black’s (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) first flight into the Marvel Universe, we get to see just how much and what lengths some people may go for a little revenge.
Based loosely on the 2005 Extremis story arc from the Iron Man comic books, the new film once again unites Robert Downey Jr. (Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts, Stark Industries CEO and love interest for our hero) and Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes, pilot of the War Machine Armor and friend) against a whole new level of terrorism.
So here’s the skinny: After a quick flashback to New Years Eve 1999, we find Tony being Tony. Boozing it up, being the guy everyone knew prior to the events in the first Iron Man movie. While putting the moves on young scientist Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), an awkward Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) approaches with some new ideas. However, Tony being his usual brash self, takes the opportunity to show how clever he is and before breakfast the next morning potentially burns bridges against two of the top minds in the world.
Fast forward to now and the world has a whole person to be afraid of – The Mandarin (a remarkable and wonderful Ben Kingsley), a human horror that has taken shape in the shadow of the alien invasion thwarted by the Avengers in New York. In seemingly a passionate hate for the United States, the Mandarin is producing acts or terror throughout the world, all targeting U.S. forces or civilians.
At the same time, back from outer space … literally, Tony is having some issues. Panic attacks and a fear of not being prepared for every possible threat have made him a bit of a tech-hermit much to the dismay of Pepper. Unluckily for Tony, into Stark Industries walks a now, unawkward Killian who has more than new technology that he’d like to show off to Tony’s love interest.
And then … boom. Explosions, mayhem, personal vendettas get explained, terrorism and more happen all culminating in perhaps the best individual hero story that Marvel has produced to date.
This film is solid. Entertaining, tense during the action scenes, funny and engaging are all the top layer ways to describe the overall film. As always, Downey, Jr. is spot on as the quick-witted hero and with great performances by secondary characters like Pearce and Kingsley, the film feels well-rounded and smart. At the same time, the dialogue throughout the film is strong for nearly every character including the random bad guy goons making all people involved seem more real and somewhat intelligent. Why is this important you ask? Well, because the old, tired scene where the hero is caught and surrounded by armed guards becomes a memorable, hilarious sequence where throw-away guards are able to be people and not just cardboard tough-guys who are there just to be pulverized by the hero. It’s the little things that matter and this film is, for the most part, full of them.
Along with that, in comparison to Iron Man and Iron Man 2, this film’s structure and story is much more compelling and better. It, unlike its predecessors, does not fall apart during its climaxes and, as a whole, better humanizes the hero as a character. This continues to other characters and even adds some wonderful twists that, in my opinion, ground the villain in realism that I both appreciated and loved.
However, not everything is all shiny with the armor. Like always, I think the film is too long and with action scenes that are breath-tauntingly fun, there is just too much time in between them. Along with that a new side character is introduced and to my dismay, it’s a kid. Yuck. Not to say that Ty Simpkins is a bad actor, but the story seemingly forces him into it and everything about him feels convenient, heavy-handed and at times irritating. Seriously, out of every kid that Tony Stark can bump into, it’s the one that has an understanding of electronics and physics? The dialogue between them saves the experience, but for me, too much, too long and too yuck.
Also, while very fun to watch, there is a battle that is very much a rehash from Iron Man 2 and, in a way, kind of pussifies the integrity of the Iron Man armor and makes you wonder how Tony’s lasted so long during the Chitauri invasion from the Avengers.
It’s only after over-thinking and reflecting on the film after the credits roll that I realized there are a few more holes in the script that, in the end could have made the experience so much better. I won’t go into detail here because they involve major plot lines and may spoil the fun, but I will say that if this film is the fist step to what Marvel Comics is calling Phase 2 for the film franchise, they missed out on including more from the Avengers and overall character universe.
With that being said, mass audiences are going to eat this film up with a spoon and ask for seconds. The inclusion of all the different types of armor is a toy and marketing goldmine that Disney is already capitalizing on with the Hall of Armor exhibit at Disneyland. Solid acting, a quality, compelling story with wonderful dialogue and fun action sequences will make this the summer movie to beat. With few gripes and more good, fans of the series will enjoy the film and even hardcore nerds will put down their 20-sided die to give it the praise it needs. There a few character choices that some may hate, but I found to be refreshing and brave. On a cold, blustery May day in Kansas City, this film is a great way to get you out of the weather and into a warm, action adventure.
3.75 out of 5 giant, stuffed bunny rabbits
Wait … I think I’ve seen this before. Post apocalyptic future … check. Robots doing clean-up on a desolated and deserted planet … check. Tom Cruise doing stuff that Tom Cruise does … double check.
Yup I’ve seen it before. But, ah heck, I’ll watch it again.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the visual mastermind behind Tron:Legacy, Oblivion brings together a hodgepodge of nearly ever successful sci-fi story and theme that we have been witness to over the last, oh say, 25 years or so. Based on a unpublished graphic novel of the same name, Oblivion is highly successful in certain aspects, but falls short in a few others. Luckily, the good stuff easily makes up for the bad.
Picture this: the year is 2077 and Earth is a quiet wasteland, watched over by the last two humans on the planet. In the aftermath of an intergalactic war, humans have won but alas, have had to leave our precious planet due to the fallout. Now, giant moisture machines draw necessary resources from the sea and are closely guarded by Tech 49, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), his communications officer, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and their intimidating, well armed army of flying drones. Their mission: Protect the resources getting drawn from the planet by keeping the drones working. Their only contact: A daily video feed from Sally (Melissa Leo), the missions control officer who is housed on the giant “Death Star”-like way station called the Tet, that stores the resources prior to sending them off to the newly inhabited planet or moon. With relief coming in two weeks, the affects of a memory wipe (a tool used to aid the duo in keeping focused on the mission) are starting to wear off and Jack is starting to remember something … or someone. Like all good things, something bad happens and Jack finds out there is much more to his mission than meets the eye.
As a leading man, you can’t get any better than Tom Cruise. Seriously, the man is 50 and looks like I want to look. He’s charismatic, likeable and, like always, he plays the confused hero perfectly. Coupled with the highly sexual Riseborough, the two play off each other nicely – him using his instincts to succeed on the ground and her for keeping him … ahem … stimulated above. It’s not until more of the human cast is introduced that the film begins to waiver.
With little dialogue (for most of the film) the soundtrack crafted for the film is out of this world (sigh … did I really just type that?). Music aficionados will probably say different, and while not quite near the level of what Daft Punk did for Tron: Legacy, I still contend that the score by Anthony Gonzalez (M83) and Joe Trapanese is strong. Coupled with the spectacular sound effects – specifically from the drones – the audience is given a mood enhancing background that becomes as much a character as it’s physical counterparts.
At the same time, the technology and special effects are consistently strong. While clearly inspired by the video games Portal and Portal 2, the look and feel of the film is gorgeous. While futuristic white and grey have been over-used, the overall designs fit well together and luckily, will never go out of fashion. I especially liked the drones. Like I said before, the sound effects from the drones are fantastic and the way they interact, move and sound in the environment is both fun to watch and menacing at the same time. When I saw it draw its weapons for the first time, I immediately thought of the Enforcement Droid 209 (ED-209) from the Robocop franchise.
And then there’s the action. While few and far between, when the action heats up, it really gets going. Always at the core of the action, the drones add a very high level of tension due to their lack of emotion and every time they spring into action, your eyes are glued to the screen. At the same time, as the movie evolves, the tension and emotion, surprisingly grows and while most people will be able to figure out what’s really happening 10 minutes into the film, I still found myself happily interested in the development of Jack and his his motivations.
The film is just way too long. We get it … he flies in his ship. We get it … he remembers something. We get it. Move along please. Over and over the audience is bashed over the head with scenes of him traveling or him remembering a moment on the Empire State Building and it just gets old. Maybe this was a device to represent the monotonous aspects of the mission but damn … move along please.
At the same time and as I mentioned before, once other humans are introduced, the dialogue and overall intrigue kind of goes away. I was fascinated by the relationship between Jack and Victoria, and this neat triangle thing happens half way through the film. However, when Morpheous … I mean Morgan Freeman shows up with Jaime Lannister … shoot, did it again … I mean Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, stuff gets convoluted for a bit and honestly, I just started to lose interest. Luckily those incredible action scenes happen, and I found myself right back in.
Lastily, the story is … a bit weak. Not in terms of its overall arch, but in terms of holes. I can’t get really into it without spoiling the plot, but if people have negative opinions of the film, the story will get the brunt of it.
Nothing. There’s nothing ugly about this film. It looks good, sounds good and most of all it will fit well into a season of big-budget movies.
While not perfect, Oblivion is a solid outing for Kosinski. Cruise keeps the epic from getting out of control and grounded in belief while the supporting special effects and score heighten the experience. As the film progresses, other human characters kind of get in the way, but overall still an entertaining movie experience. Critics will dissect for not being terribly original and for its transparent story, but audiences will be kinder and find more enjoyment from this futuristic tale.
3.5 out 5 Stuffed Gorillas Seemingly Just a Little Dirty and Hardly Worn Out After 60 Some Years
When you say the words Evil and Dead together … extremely specific things come to mind. For many horror fans, the first is, of course, Ash. The iconic, tortured hero played proudly by the one and only Briscoe County Junior – Bruce Campbell – “The Chin” himself. Secondly and strangely, after that, it’s love. Love for a movie that, since originally being released has inspired countless fans and professionals to mimic, gush over and above all watch and rewatch and throw parties over and recite dialogue from and laugh and be horrified and … well, you get the idea.
For those of you unaware or a little lost in the mythos, Evil Dead (1983), was one of powerhouse director and producer Sam Raimi’s (Spider-Man, Oz the Great and Powerful) early works. Low budget, full of schtick and completely bonkers, this was appointment television after midnight for kids like me. True story – as a kid, I once set my alarm to wake me up 10 minutes before Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 came on Cinemax at 2 a.m. so that I could sneak downstairs and get lost in the carnage.
Fast-forward years later and of course the Hollywood remake machine gets refueled, refired and reworked for a whole new generation of horror fans. Luckily (and unluckily … weird how this happens) back for another run at the ole cabin in the woods is Sam Raimi, this time as an executive producer, with newcomer Fede Alvarez at the helm.
Okay, so it’s a remake … yada, yada … what’s it about? Well, it’s about 5 kids, a bad book and one idiot that decides not to follow directions. Something gets woken up … and bad things start to happen. Really bad things. Enjoy.
Haven’t we’ve seen this before? I mean, isn’t that the basis for almost every horror film out there. Bad decisions lead to bad things?
Well … yeah … but it’s Evil Dead … So … you know. Hush.
Besides, this time out, with a much larger budget and a fan-base itching for more, more, more, Alvarez ups the gore to a new level and tries to push the envelope in terms of what his poor victims can take.
Filled with cringe-inducing moments overflowing with spurting blood, chunky demon/zombie vomit and nail gun wounds, I couldn’t help myself but giggle nervously as more and more pain was dished out to the young quintet. This film is not for everyone. While mass audiences will swarm looking for the next big thing, this is the kind of horror and gruesome imagery that only a select hub of people can enjoy and happily, I am one of them.
Filling out the cast is a group that some people will recognize but most people won’t. Unfortunately, in a film like this, there is only one or two characters that really matter so luckily, everyone does their parts effectively. Along with that, instead of just wandering to place filled with evil or deciding to go on a little trip to, quite possible, the worst place to relax, the filmmakers have given the young offerings a reason to be there and best of all a reason to not get the hell out of there right away when the bloody poop hits the fan. Smart.
However there are two places that I think this film falls short. The style with which the film is made and the last act of the film. Clearly, Alvarez is a fan of the original. At the same time, it’s clear that he is extremely talented. The film looks great. Technically sound with solid pacing – for most of the film – this version of Evil Dead would be a good horror film on its own. However, throughout the film are techniques that are very specific to Raimi’s style of filmmaking and sadly, I think it actually holds the new director back a little. Immediately a certain tone is set for the film and at times, I feel as though these particular techniques unbalance and undermine the director’s work. Nostalgically, I understand why they were used – but for me, they just didn’t fit in this new vision.
In terms of the second act, it’s just a little too long. I’m all for more, more, more, but (and please note that I am not giving any spoilers away) but at the end a decision is made for a character that can best be described as and then, and then, and then. It’s gets a little too long for me and not as satisfying when the end credits started to roll.
Overall, yes, please check this movie out. As executive producer, I believe that this is the film Raimi wanted to originally make. Over the top, shocking at times and completely gruesome, the remake of Evil Dead is enjoyable, is worth of the iconic title and will be in every horror fan’s collections. While perhaps not at as groundbreakingly jaw dropping as the original proved to be (in its time), this version is solid entry into the horror genre and a fantastic outing for a new director like Alvarez.
3.9 out of 5 dead hanging cat corpses
A film review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by Alexander Morales
The main thing you need to know about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it is long. I mean real long. Like 15 minutes shy of 3 hours long. Like, make sure you go to the bathroom before you find your seat and then make sure you go again right before the last preview ends kind of long. That’s how long it is. And that’s a bit of a shame considering the source material is not as bloated as this film seems to make it.
But let’s back up a bit.
Returning to the land of Middle-Earth, visionary director and producer Peter Jackson has once again taken the helm and worked his film magic to bring us another chapter in the J.R.R. Tolkien library of legend. Almost 10 years have past – yet seems less with the expanded DVDs, Bluray and return to theaters that the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy has earned – and luckily (and near immediately) audiences will be swept right back into the nostalgia those films created. Which is great for the success of the film, but bad because it may have turned the overall focus of the tale in the wrong direction.
Acted extremely well, shot just as beautifully as almost every film Jackson has developed and with an extremely high production-value, The Hobbit’s only two downfalls is its choice to fatten up the source material into three films and it’s sometimes too familiar choices in storytelling.
Beginning with the wealth of the great Dwarf kingdom Erebor, through the destruction that the dragon Smaug brings and the journey of one Hobbit and his strange band of forgettable dwarfs, The Hobbit is the first in a set of three films (yet one book … one 276 + or -) that will tell Bilbo Baggins’ (played by an always fantastic Martin Freeman) amazing story of how he, an insignificant creature, would change the balance of his world.
Bringing back some of the original cast and reengaging the audience with familiarity, The Hobbit succeeds in making the audience feel like this is the same Middle-Earth that we have experienced before. The highly emotional music, rousing sword fights and gruesome monsters of the land are all there and honestly, I loved it.
It wasn’t until after the film was over that I realized, “wait a minute?!”
Pulling the source material like a rubber band that has lost its elasticity, The Hobbit begins to fall short in that it loses its main purpose. Instead of focusing on Bilbo and his personal, introverted journey against a cast of extroverted adventurers (?), we are given the grand Fellowship-type saga that shows off the huge landscape of the world more than the personal, small story that the Hobbit represents. It’s Bilbo’s lack of confidence and his personal sense of insignificance versus his later blossoming that is inspiring. Like layers of an onion, the world opens up to Bilbo during this journey and yet, since we’ve been here already, we lose that sense of discovery.
Along with that, we are told, time and time again, that he is small, the world is large and, like an echo from Lord of the Rings, how he as a Hobbit can’t do this or that because they (Hobbits) are cowardly creatures. It becomes a wasted argument in the end, because, less we forget, these dwarfs and Gandalf showed up at Bilbo’s door and told him they needed him … not the other way around.
At the same time, while clearly a fan favorite and nearly the most popular of all the Lord of the Rings characters, the film at times feels more like Gandalf’s (played once again by the excellent Ian McKellen) story or, in contrast, more about Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage.) It’s a difficult balance to find, but none-the-less, this is called The Hobbit.
Of course that is until we get to meet our old friend Gollum.
Short of giving any details away, this scene between Bilbo and Gollum is truly epic and honestly the linchpin that keeps this film together. Luckily, it is acted, shot and edited so well, that fans will be mesmerized.
Overall, I think fans will eat this up and ask for seconds. The Hobbit has everything that audiences will expect. Fantastic sets, smart dialogue and truly invested actors make this feel and interact with the previous films with ease. Expanding the giant world and bringing us back to known places help in keeping fans engaged even against the just as monstrous running time. Those not as familiar with the book will have no problem with the additions/changes and probably find those critiques from overly familiar nerds a bit irritating, however, there is no denying that the upcoming films need to be tightened up quite a bit. Even with its downfalls, it is still as high quality a film as we would expect from Jackson and company, but after some inspection, a notch down from the standard that Return of the King set.
Of course, I also have to quickly address the choice to film this movie at 48 frames per second versus the regular 24 – something that most movie goers will care nothing about. It doesn’t matter. Like it or not, it makes this film the clearest 3D I have every seen and while, yes, it does reveal a few flaws in production, it’s like watching real life on a screen. Is it odd? Yes. At times does it remind you of old BBC or soap opera television … possibly. But as a first step in delivering a new technology to movie screens, I think it worked fine and could, like everything use some improvement.
Extremely expected and a bit too long for a film about people walking, I still enjoyed it so far.
4 out of 5 Riddles in the Dark