Tag Archives: movie review

Review: Mad Max: Fury Road – from the man that brought you Babe and Happy Feet

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Mad Max: Fury Road is a post apocalyptic action ride through Australia. This is the fourth Mad Max film and serves as a reboot, but also not really. The story and the characters stay the same, only the actors have changed. Max gets dragged into the middle of an uprising against a tyrannical leader in the midst of a vast desert. George Miller once again helms this film serving as the director and one of the writers (and yes he did direct Babe and Happy Feet). The film stars; Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult.

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Review: Ex Machina – What the Deus!?

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Ex Machina is about a guy who’s working on creating the most advance artificial intelligence out there. He brings in an outsider to “test” his newest creation. The film is written and directed by Alex Garland, you may know him from 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go.

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Review: McFarland, USA – Coming in for the win

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McFarland, USA is a sports drama that based on the true story of the McFarland high school cross country team. The team is made up of Mexican-Americans and they’re the underdogs in a more privileged sporting event. The film is directed by Niki Caro and stars Kevin Costner as Jim White, the white coach that brings this Mexican-American team together.

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Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service – tailored suits tailored to good action

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Kingsman: The Secret Service is about a super secret spy group comprised of gentleman whose codenames are that of the Knights of the Roundtable. They’re on a mission to stop Samuel L. Jackson as he lisps his way to mass genocide, throw in slick action sequences and over the top violence with an underdog recruit, and that’s what we have here.

The good; the movie is just fun, it knows what it is and goes with it, meaning, it self references itself and almost winks at the audience. From the opening credits, you know what you’re getting.
The movie is rated R and it really earned a hard R rating. But back to being fun, it’s everything we’ve grown to know about Mark Millar (who wrote the graphic novel the film is based on), he takes a teenage boys’ angst and cathartically channels it through media. Gary “Eggsy” Unwin is recruited by agent Harry Hart to be a Kingsman, Eggsy is the typical teenage male with a chip on his shoulder, but through this training he learns to shot guns and kill the bad guys, what boy doesn’t want that??

Eggsy is played by Taron Egerton, and he does a great job carrying this movie. I’ve never seen Egerton in anything else, to me he’s an unknown, Matthew Vaughn took a gamble casting him in the lead role for this movie, and it paid off.

Harry Hart is played by Colin Firth, a job well done playing the gentleman spy/agent/killer. Mark Strong as a mentor is a nice change of pace, really compliments the who group.

The bad; other than Mark Millar’s creative works being made by the devil spawn that is 20th century fox international distribution management…
There were some bad effects shots. They probably had to trim the budget in certain areas, but it was the small stuff that stuck out. Put aside the over the top violence, I’m talking stuff that you don’t normally take a second glance at, but when done hap-hazardly sticks out. The example that comes to mind is the brick wall in the elevator in to the secret chamber, obvious green screen. And some of the shots when the private plane lands in the mountain headquarters… just odd.

*SPOILERS* Oh and there’s a thing that happens with President Obama in this movie that felt… wrong. I get it that all the world leaders are in on the devious plot, but we should’ve seen some of the others suffering from the same fate. It just didn’t sit with me very well, hahaha, I guess I am patriotic. *END SPOILERS*

I haven’t read the source material, but I was hoping that the movie would be about a group of gentleman secret agents fighting the bad guys in tailored suits, oh well.

Overall, very fun, there hasn’t been a fun secret agent movie in a while. Kingsman does a great job in being meta and calling out that “this isn’t that type of movie,” where villains spout off their entire plan while they have the hero captured. The casting is brilliant. The action is sublime. The suits are tailored.
Oh and there’s a scene at a Kentucky church where things go extremely wrong and agent Hart is in the middle of it, he does something very irredeemable and pays the price. It’s shocking but yet justified, bravo for that.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a cover to a song we all know, but it’s a great cover.

Review: American Sniper – Legend, the most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history

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American Sniper is a biographical/action film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Dean Hall. It’s about Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper and his tour in Iraq. The film is based off of the book of the same name.

The good; the movie does a good job of not focusing too much on war, we get enough flashbacks and time away from the middle east to balance out the intensity of fighting a war.

Bradley Cooper does a superb job as Chris Kyle. There’s a scene right at the beginning of the movie where he has to make a decision on who to shoot, Cooper does well in giving us the struggle that goes on inside of him. Then when he’s back home stateside we get the sense of him not belonging in civilian life, how difficult it is for him to adjust.
I believed that Cooper was Kyle throughout the film.

The action sequences are great. They aren’t overly bloody and gratuitous, but they’re appropriate for the horrors that go on in war.

Clint Eastwood knows how to direct conflicted characters, which makes his movies all the more compelling. Our main characters are developed and three dimensional, not these cardboard cut outs that pass for leading roles these days.

The audience at this screening was very well behaved, it was like a Christmas present to myself, everyone was attentive from the moment go until the end (oh the end credits, what a great tribute to Kyle’s life). This is how movies should be viewed in the theatres.

The bad; I’d have to place Sienna Miller here, it was unbelievable that she was pregnant. I found myself not connecting with the scenes she was in when Kyle was back home… maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be though?

Overall, I would go see American Sniper in the theatres. It’s only in limited release at the moment, but once it goes wide in January, go check it out. When they say all war movies are anti-war movies, this is the prime example. What’s more is that when you watch this film you’ll learn about an American Hero and the toll that took on his life.
Excellent film, I enjoyed every moment of it, bravo to Bradley Cooper, I might go as far to say I smell an Oscar nom.

 

Review: Interstellar – to infinity and beyond!

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Interstellar is Christopher Nolan’s latest film. It’s a science fiction adventure about a team of NASA astronauts who travel through a wormhole in search of an inhabitable planet, because Earth is dying.
Directed by Nolan, written by Nolan and Jonathan Nolan.

The good; I love the robots. As I’ve mentioned, it’s robot season. In the film there are two main robots, TARS and CASE, they’re reminiscent of the monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but they’re move-able with separating joints to make limbs and other shapes, it’s like a big shapes puzzle. The AI that makes these robots have a personality also reminds me of B.O.B. and V.I.N.C.E.N.T. from The Black Hole. I just love that the designs are practical versus form and elegance.

The portrayal of the worm hole was stunning. The visuals in this movie are amazing, you have to go see it on the big screen.

For an adventure movie there sure are a lot of emotional moments. The actors do a great job with these scenes.

The bad; the sound design was a little much in some areas, meaning that the score and the sound effects over powered the dialog. It was hard to hear at times.

For a science based movie, they used “love” as a factor. When the scientists have to make a choice of where to go next, one of them uses love to convince the others… that only hurt her argument. It felt out of place, perhaps a little more set up could’ve made that flow better?

There’s a “plot twist” in the second act, don’t want to say too much, but it felt a bit forced.

People are just dumb, it’s getting increasingly harder to watch a movie in a theatre and enjoy it. Here’s a line from one such “patron”… “I didn’t pay $15 to have a squeaky chair.” To which my reply was, “I didn’t pay $15 to have you fidgeting in your chair the whole movie.”

Overall, I had a good time, I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling it. After seeing the film it elicits conversations, and that’s good here.
The premise reminds me of The Black Hole, the robots remind me of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the music reminds me of Philip Glass, space travel and the video messaging is very much like Alien and Aliens, the special effects remind me of Tree of Life, the second act reminds me of Sunshine, the third act’s reveal reminds me of Gundamand so on… If you were to do a double feature, I would pair Interstellar with Big Hero 6, strictly for the visuals.

 

 

Review: Big Hero 6 – equals big box office

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Big Hero 6 is the fifty fourth film in the Disney Animated Classics series. It’s inspired by the Marvel Comic of the same name, the film tells the story of a robotics prodigy name Hiro Hamada, who then in turn forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain, who’s responsible for Hiro’s older brother’s death. Simple enough right?

The good; the film is just fun. Disney keeps bringing the quality with the 3D computer animated realm.
Our protagonist Hiro (as voiced by Ryan Potter) has a great, yet familiar, arc as a character. He starts off reckless, then he finds purpose, then loses sight of that purpose, to then only sacrifice of himself in order to save someone else. It’s a very familiar character arc, but it works, and in this case, it works well.

The world building is something that has to be pointed out. The film takes place in the future city of San Fransokyo, the golden gate bridge has Asian inspired arcs, the signage on buildings has Asian writing (like Bladerunner), and there are these blimp like wind generators (I assume they’re wind generators) that are painted like Chinese dragons. There’s no time spent explaining where we are and how this place came to be, we’re just there, and I love it. It made me want to know how this city came about.

T.J. Miller as Fred, the comic relief, is amazing. His timing is wonderful, without being too much, especially his line about his underwear. And wait for the end of the credits for another great scene.

The story here is paramount, Hiro is relate-able and his journey in a sense is our journey. Then you have a great moment in the third act where he has to choose, it’s reminiscent of The Iron Giant and Wreck-It Ralph.

The bad; I honestly can’t put anything here. It more has to do with the film going audience… leave your crying kids at home next time please.

Overall, I had a blast. $56.2 million opening weekend? Looks like everyone else had a blast too. It truly is robot season in the cinemas right now. I challenge you not to love Baymax.
We also get an Asian character for the boy audience to connect with, gotta love it for that too.
The film has a screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, Jordan Robert, and is directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, they previously did The Emperor’s New Groove, Mulan, Meet The Robinsons and Bolt (collectively), can’t wait to see more like Big Hero 6.

2014 Comikaze Expo: Cosplay Pictures (day 2)

Man, it has been quite a while, since I have stepped into a convention floor.  And I am glad it was at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo Los Angeles.  This convention is a good one because it’s just big enough to be fun but not so big that there’s too many people there and not enough room.

This year, with the popularity of Guardians of the Galaxy, there were more cosplay related to that – Starlords and Groots. And of course, Disney Frozen was represented with multiple Elsas and Annas.  Unexpectedly, I saw husband and wife, Adam and Barbara, from Beetlejuice and a couple of female Army of Darkness Ash(es).

Comic book conventions are wonderful, because the range of what cosplayers dress as varies greatly.  From current popular movies, to classics like Beetlejuice or even Big Trouble in Little China.  But as always, I’m impressed with everyone’s talent and effort that they put into their cosplay.

View the gallery below and if you’re a cosplayer, see if you can find yourself.

Also, I threw my cousin in a couple of pictures, because I like messing with the kid. It was his first time at a convention and so, I wanted to make him feel awkward standing by living comic book characters.

 2014 Comikaze Expo Cosplay Pictures

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Review: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – fun for the whole family

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Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is about Alexander and his family. They all seem like they have it all together and pay no mind to the woes of Alexander, but soon they’ll get a taste of things not going their way. This family comedy stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Exenbould (Alexander), Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey, Bella Thorne, Megan Mullally, Donald Glover, and Dick Van Dyke.

The good; Ed Exenbould is pretty good for a kid actor. It helped that the movie had an ensemble cast, but he did an excellent job. This film is just family fun and you got that feeling from everyone on screen. Steve Carell was able to do his yelling that we all love, but it wasn’t too much and it didn’t call out to itself, then you have Jennifer Garner who could’ve taken center stage, but she didn’t. The story lines of each family member kept me interested by contributing the right amount of time and then moving on to the next one.

At the core of this movie, it’s about family and that’s what really drove the motivations of the characters. The wackyness of a terrible day where nothing can go right was amusing and didn’t cross over in to the realm of unbelievable.

The bad; no one’s going to see this film, when they should. In a time of darkness and broody-ness Alexander comes as a nice breath of the flip side of a coin (I know I’m mixing metaphors). People’s closemindedness, that’s what causes people to miss good movies sometimes.

Overall, I had a great time. Alexander comes as a pleasant surprise in a world where so much is going wrong. The take away is that family is paramount and that’s what really kept me invested. So do yourself a favor and go see this film, and remember what it was like to be a kid wanting to be heard.

 

 

 

 

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy – the end of the summer closes on a high note

Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest Marvel film, this time we’re propelled way in to cosmos instead of New York. It’s about some shady characters that are unwillingly brought together due to a highly coveted orb and certain galactic destruction. They’re then forced into an alliance and have to work together.
Guardians of the Galaxy is directed by James Gunn, he also co-wrote the script with Nicole Perlman, it stars; Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace,  Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close and Benicio del Toro.

The good; this film is truly inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not in story and plot, but in feeling and tone. It was great to have someone who loves Raiders so much that they wanted to make a film that channeled the spirit of what they felt when they watched that movie. James Gunn does a great job in doing so, the makers of Star Trek: Into Darkness need to take a page from Guardians, we know you like Wraith of Khan, but don’t do your version.

Then the choice of re-recorded music, I love this film’s soundtrack! I actually have most of the songs already, but the use of these “oldies” actually fits in to the movie. From the moment go on that first trailer where Hooked on a Feeling was used, I knew I was going to enjoy this movie, just for the soundtrack alone. Then I learn that the song used in the trailer is actually going to be in the film itself??? That’s unheard of these days, what with marketing lying to us at every corner. The use of the songs in Guardians is evocative of Tarantino’s films (Reservoir Dogs) and Wes Anderson’s films.

I have to mention the camera work and use of CG with practical sets. This film puts anything Michael Bay can throw at us, more specifically our eye balls, to shame! I was so thankful that the action was in focus and there was a sense of geography with what was going on. It’s something that when done right goes unnoticed. But I appreciate the way they covered the action and made it coherent.

The bad;  it ended. I didn’t want it to end.

They didn’t use Spirit in the Sky 😉

Overall, such a fun movie, perfect way to end the summer movies of 2014. This is the way to build a world and introduce us to a variety of characters.
They made use of a mix-tape, which speaks to me, a product of days gone by that’s part of the character and plot, but it’s not hokey. I highly recommend seeing this movie in the theatres, especially if you can get it with Dolby Atmos.

 

 

 

Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – go bananas!

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the direct sequel to 2011’s passable Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Taking place 10 years after the events in the first movie, the “Ape Flu” has spread throughout the planet and has killed most of humanity. Meanwhile back in San Francisco, Caesar and his fellow apes are talk with each other through sign language and forming their own society. In the mean meanwhile, some humans have managed to survive in the ruins of San Francisco, somewhere in the middle the two societies meet… dun dun dunnnnn.

The good; first and foremost, the special effects. The motion capture done with Andy Serkis is amazing. Those apes look really good, after the opening credits we open up on a close up of Caesar’s eyes, and it’s very well done.

Then we have the world that we’re going to be in for the next hour and a half. The world building done here is very good, you have the Ape society and how they live; there’s a hierarchy, daily life, school, “healer” apes, hunters, and language. It all makes sense cause they took the time to make it make sense.

Jason Clarke as Malcolm is great, Clarke does a great job bringing us to understand motivation, not only in his own character but in the humans as a whole. What otherwise could’ve been a simple plot device really worked well for me.

Then you have Michael Giacchino‘s score, at the beginning of the movie there’s this very retro sound to the music, it’s like he’s channeling the old Planet of the Apes movies, I loved it. Then as the movie progresses we get the epic quality we’ve come to expect from Giacchino.

The bad; the special effects, I know I mentioned this above, but it’s a double edged sword.

The example that really sticks out is the baby Ape, there’s a scene where the humans are interacting with the baby and it just doesn’t look as good.
Then the opening sequence is a hunting party scene where the Apes are hunting whatever’s in the forest for food. On one side you have the Apes above, in the trees, stalking their prey, down below you have the deer unaware of death from above.
Then in a scene similar to The Gladiator, hell is unleashed and the Apes descend on to their prey. I marveled at the eye candy displayed before me… but I couldn’t help but wonder how much render time this took. Cause sure it’s epic and looks amazing, but it doesn’t beat the real thing. If it was a bunch of actors in rubber masks running through the forest, that’s still a bunch of actors in rubber masks running through the forest. Where this scene was all created in the computer. But that’s just my old-school way.

There’s a throw away line about how the humans that are alive and surviving are genetically immune to the flu virus that ravaged the planet, I dunno… I’d like a little more please? Just a little sumthin’?

*SPOILER* The climax of the movie, in two parts, left me with a tilted head. Malcolm befriends Caesar and helps him to overtake Koba and his command over the Apes. Then you Malcolm has to convince Gary Oldman that the situation can be resolved, he just needs to wait. So Malcolm, who’s had a good rapport with Oldman (leader of the humans) simply draws a gun on him as he’s wiring the foundation of the tower where the Apes are now headquarted… but doesn’t even attempt to explain why he’s doing what he’s doing??? He just holds them hostage! Really? That’s completely against what we’ve built up for these two characters.
Then above, in the tower, you have Caesar going one on one with Koba, and there’s a point where Koba left hanging, Casesar chooses to grab Koba and fling him off to his death… I get it, these are Apes and not humans, but you’re giving them human characteristics. There could’ve been any number of alternatives that ended with Koba’s death… have Caesar attempt to save Koba, but then Koba attacks, letting him fall to his own death. That’s one and I just came up with that right now. What does that ending message say?
And the ending seemed really rushed, they want the next movie to be the literal Planet of the Apes, where the Apes outnumber the humans, but I liked where this movie took us and wanted to spend more time as this world transitioned to one ruled by Apes.*END SPOILERS*

Overall, much better than that first movie. Way to build the world. Even though the third act seemed super rushed, director Matt Reeves has redeemed himself after Cloverfield.

 

Review: A Million Ways To Die in the West – where that family guy does live action

A Million Ways To Die in the West is the next Seth MacFarlane live action venture. It’s a western comedy with a large cast; Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Liam Neeson.
It’s about a lowly sheep farmer/herder that learns some life lessons from a frontier woman. Throw in gags and some good ole fashion montages and that’s what you get.

The good; Charlize Theron is just beautiful. Other than being eye candy, she really carries the movie. I would’ve never thought that from those trailers.

The soundtrack is amazing. Joel McNeely really captures that distinctly western sound. Lots of horns coupled with grandeur and vastness. It’s a real homage to the western sound.

The bad; the marketing… those trailers gave a lot away. Even the scene with Doc Brown… why would they want to give that bit in the trailers? I mean, it’s was a delight to have Christopher Lloyd  reprise his role as Doc Brown, but why include it in the trailer?

The runtime, it clocks in at 116 minutes… almost 2 whole hours. This should’ve been a 90 min movie. Get in, get out! Just when we get to the third act, the movie could’ve ended here.

Overall, worth renting. The marketing people are banking on the success of Ted to get audiences to watch A Million Ways to Die in the West, so if you’re looking for a repeat of Ted, this isn’t the movie for you.