Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Numbers Station

The Numbers Station is a Netflix find. One of many unknown John Cusack and Nicolas Cage movies that have been on Netflix recently.  I like John Cusack, and love Malin Ackerman. So I watch it. Its not terrible, but not great either. Its a perfectly serviceable film about a secret CIA station somewhere in Europe where they broadcast numbers that are codes for CIA assassins and their targets.  If you got ahold of the code, and one of the stations, you could secretly assign the CIA to destroy itself and the United States.  Someone manages to do this and it's up to semi-retired CIA agent John Cusack and the girl who reads and decodes the numbers Malin Ackerman to stop it.  It's a small film, with only a few cast members, but it does manage to rachet up the tension to merit a watch. Check it out next time you think there is nothing good on Netflix!

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Kick-Ass 2

The original Kick-Ass was one of the most original comic book films of the last decade.  It was filled with humor, satire, violence, and action.  Is Kick-Ass 2 a worthy sequel? Yes, for the humor and action, not so much for the satire and violence.

This second film is directed by Jeff Wadlow, who does a pretty good job. He captured a lot of the tone and the spirit that was in the first film.  The film opens a while after the first. Kick-Ass is semi-retired, Hit-Girl is still running around, but soon retires while Kick-Ass comes out of retirement. Meanwhile, Red Mist is now the Motherfucker and wants revenge on Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl for killing his father in the first film.  Teams of heroes and villians unite, then fight.  All in all the story is nothing new to moviegoers or comic book fans.   What sets the film apart is the real world stance on all of the violence.  There are no super-powers, just regular people working out, using weapons and guns.  Actions have consequences. Some of the violence is a little amped up, but not too much. I don't know what Jim Carrey had against this film, as the violence in it is NOWHERE NEAR what was in the first film. This film is almost tame by comparison.  Almost tame, but still worthy of it's R-rating. 

All of our actors are good here. They are the reason to come see the film. Jim Carrey and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are stand outs. Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are still great, funny characters.  All in all if you're looking for a fun follow-up to the first film, you won't be dissapointed.  If you're looking for this film to be on the same level of satire and violence as the first film, you might be dissapointed. 

3.5 out of 5 Stars.


Fast & Furious 6

I worked at a movie theater when 2 Fast 2 Furious came out in the summer of 2003. I saw the movie then, and the crowds of posers, wannabe car nuts, and silly dressed people that came out.  Then, it was all about the cars. Everything was new, had NOS, and had neon lights underneath the car. Neon Neon Neon.  Didn't that film take place in Miami? No wonder neon was everywhere.  I skipped the next film Tokyo Drift and came back when Paul Walker and Diesel returned with Fast & Furious.  That movie was alright, but I thought the series really took off with Fast Five. They brought in The Rock, and he was a great antagonist to our main heroes.  Plus, the scene involving the bank vault in the streets was phenomenal. Go check it if you haven't seen it.

So after the great Fast Five I had high hopes for this film.  It was by the same director as Five, Justin Lin, and the Rock was back. Plus, Liddy (Michelle Rodriguez) lives! In the end, Fast & Furious 6 doesn't live up to the hype.  No one goes to these films for the plot. Yes we have some relationship to the characters, but its mostly about the action.  What made the bank vault scene so great was that it was plausible. You can't really say that about any of the sequences Fast 6. Now, I know how to take movies less seriously, but since this isn't a superhero film or supernatural, it's hard not to apply the rules of physics to anything that happens.  A tank on the road? It wouldn't tear up the asphalt behind it? It would drive that fast? Probably not.  The jump across the bridges to catch Liddy? Maybe.  Pulling a plane down with a few cars and cables that weighs TONS? Not even close.

Fast and Furious 6 is only okay. It's not the best in the series. That belongs to Fast Five.

3 out of 5 Stars

Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain looks like a fun movie from Michael Bay.  It looks like it has humor and action.  Despite all the Miami sunlight, and the sheen of tanning oil, Pain & Gain is not a bright film. It's a dark tale. One that ultimately will disappoint.

Based on a true story of three knucklehead body builders who steal the money of one rich guy whom they are training, and then it all comes crashing down. Some of the things that happen in the film are absolutely true, some are beyond belief.  This movie is DARK. Its not an action comedy, its a dark crime movie that tries to be humorous.  Often it does not succeed.  The performances here by Mark Wahlberg, The Rock, and Anthony Mackie are all fine. But there are no real stand outs.  Some reviewers said that The Rock's performance was good, sometimes revelatory, but in reality it's just the Rock playing a goof, which he did in Be Cool, and that wasn't great either.  What ultimately brings the film down is the stark contrast between it's dark story and sunny cinematography. They never really match up.  If Pain & Gain does anything, it shows that Michael Bay has more range in directing than just the Transformers films.

2 out of 5 Stars

Awake: TV Series

Awake was a TV series that ran for one season last year.  It produced 13 episodes and they are all currently available for viewing on Netflix.  I watched the series in a couple of days/weeks and rather enjoyed it.  The first few episodes have a good hook to them, and like most TV shows it slows down in the middle. It's worth your time if you're looking for a TV series to watch but don't want to get bogged down in seasons upon seasons of episodes.

Awake's hook is that this man is always awake.  Not that he never sleeps, but that he travels between dimensions/universes each time he falls asleep. Following a terrible car crash our protagonist (Jason Isaacs) is one of two survivors.  He, his wife, and his son were in the car when it crashed. Here is where the timelines diverge.  In one world (orange tinted)  his son died, and his wife survived.  In the other world (blue tinted) his wife died and his son survived.  So every time he falls asleep he jumps between worlds. Also, in each world he sees a psychologist. Each psychologist has a different theory on what is going on. One treats it like it is really happening and asks probing questions, the other thinks its all in his patient's head and writes it off, telling our man that he needs to cut out the other world, because it is destroying his mind.

Intrigued? Check it out! Like any one season series, it doesn't tie up a lot of loose ends, but I think it's worth checking out.

Review Blitz Today

Hey Gang!

Yes, a lot of time has passed since I posted last, but there will be a review blitz today. All short and sweet, as I've posted drafts for the movies I've watched but forgot about them. So no long reviews, just short and sweet impressions.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Evil Dead

The poster pretty much describes my experience with this film.  About an hour in I got up to take a breather and get a glass of water and fainted in my kitchen.  This film is RELENTLESS.  I've seen my share of horror movies, good and bad, and this film is the most punishing I've ever seen.  Some films choose to have the audience take a breather, to laugh or something before the next scare or horror comes around the bend. With Evil Dead, it is just one after the other after the other until the very end of the film.  After I came to, I stopped the film and had to come back to it the next day to finish it.

Evil Dead is a remake or "re-imagining" of Sam Raimi's classic franchise that made Bruce Campbell a cult icon.  Raimi and Campbell are producers on this film, though the iconic humor of the first two films are largely absent from this one.  If you've seen the original film or Cabin in the Woods you know the premise. 5 teenagers in a cabin, weird things happen, things go terribly wrong.  This film centers around Mia, played by Jane Levy, who is trying to kick her heroin addiction cold turkey with the help of her friends over a weekend.  They journey off to her parent's old cabin and arrive to find everything dilapidated and dead cats in the basement.  They still decide to stay the weekend and find book wrapped in a plastic bag, tied off in barb wire.  If the barb wire didn't tell you not to open the book, I don't know what will.  There are also warnings inside the book that say "Don't read it, don't write it, don't hear it" but our idiot teenagers do it anyway.  Whoops.

What follows is the most relentless horror film today. Now, I like my horror films to have some other element in them.  I liked the Saw films because they were just ridiculously implausible with the complexity of the death traps.  The Final Destination films started out as an interesting series on fate and consequence but also featured elaborate Rube Goldberg type death scenes.  Heck I even liked the recent Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street films even though a lot of horror purists did not.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you like your horror without any humor, fun, or pacing you are sure to love Evil Dead.  If you like your horror a little less steadfast and with some humor you may not enjoy this Evil Dead as you might the original film or Raimi's latest horror film Drag Me to Hell.

2 out of 5 Stars



Admission is a fun little movie. It's not meant to be groundbreaking or an Oscar contender, but it is a good film and worth you time and dimes.  It stars Tina Fey, of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame, and Paul Rudd from all those Judd Apatow comedies you have seen for the past ten years.  At first glance, the poster makes it look like a romantic comedy, but at it's heart it's a drama about one woman finding herself after being in the same job for 15 years. The love part comes as a consequence of this story, but it is not the main story.  Both Tina Fey and Paul Rudd give good performances here, of the quality we have come to expect.  I think these two might be the most likeable actors working today.  You can't help but like Tina's inherent nebbishness, and Paul Rudd's affable everyman.

Tina portrays an admission's representative for Princeton University. Yes. The Princeton. I assume that they filmed on campus because they make a big deal about using the name as often as possible. Free advertising for the school I guess.  I think they nailed their demographic on the head because the kids applying aren't going to watch this film, but their parents will.  For the first few minutes we see Tina doing her job going around to different high schools in her assigned region, giving speeches, and generally telling kids to apply to Princeton, even though they probably won't get in.  Along the way she visits a new age hippie-high school that Paul Rudd's character works at.  Turns out that one of the students at this school is a prodigy who "genuinely loves learning."  Paul pushes Tina to take an interest in him getting into Princeton, but also believes he is her son, through some cockamamie connection to her character in college.   What follows is Tina's journey into realizing that her life isn't what she wants it to be as she finds a path forward.

Like I said earlier, this is a good film, I don't think you will find anything to majorly dislike, but I doubt it will become your favorite movie either. Both actors have put out better work than this, and worse.

3.5 out of 5 Stars


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

X-Men Days of Future Past - New Posters

Batman/Superman! WHOA!!!!

WHOA. This was not expected! Who's going to be Batman? I liked Man of Steel, so this sounds like a great idea, especially building to the future Justice League movie. Zack Snyder directs, Snyder and David Goyer on story with Christopher Nolan producing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is awesome. Just go see it.  Go now. Support this film! We need more original ideas as films, this film was conceived entirely from the mind of director Guillermo del Toro, it's not based on a book, a comic, a video game, nothing. Just his love for giant monsters and robots. What fun it is!  I may be a little biased but I will admit I love a lot of the people involved in this film. I am a fan of del Toro's Hellboy films, Pan's Labyrinth, as well as Sons of Anarchy actors Charlie Hunnam and Ron Pearlman.  I loved what they created here.

What they've created is a world you can easily buy into and jump into. There is an effective prologue to set everything up and everything after that makes sense in this world.  More importantly this movie is a lot of eye-candy.  Great looking monsters, or Kaiju, battling even weirder robots, called Jaegers.  These Jaegers aren't Transformers ripoffs, they're bigger and the Kaiju they fight are even larger than they are sometimes. We're talking 20-30 stories tall, not the 3-5 of the Transformers.  Another thing about the Transformers comparisons, you can actually tell where the Jaeger is in the frame because it's not battling another robot, its battling something completely different.  That's one of the things that bothers me with Michael Bay's Transformers films, the action is great, but everything is such a mess of color and metal sheen that it's hard to tell which robot is which. Not so with Pacific Rim.  The action sequences are well choreographed and well lit and shot, even though they take place in the dark, rain, wind, and underwater.  Why not though, we are fighting in the Pacific ocean!

I'm not going to say much else other than that you should seek this film out.  It's one of the better summer films I've seen in 2013.  I think this is definitely a sleeper hit. Maybe by the time word gets out it will do well on Blu-Ray, I'm certainly getting it.


4.5 out of 5 Stars


Spring Breakers

Despite the four star review and quote you see in the picture, Spring Breakers is not a four-star film. Its barely even a film at all! Now, I'm not a wierd-indie-film lover but this was not a wierd-indie-film.  It was more like a hour and a half music video, except there is no music, no story, and barely little acting. The most acting being done here is by James Franco, behind a flashy grill, sunglasses, and hair braids.  Instead of a story, director Harmony Korine splices together short clips of events, somewhat in order, and expects us to infer a story from what he shows us.  It's largely incomplete.  This film wants to be lots of things and is none of them. It wants to be a party movie like Superbad, it wants to be a gangster/crime film like Scarface, it wants to be a lost teen drama, but its none of these things.  We have four female protagonists but there is so little dialogue that we don't know their names. We know there is an innocent one who leaves the film halfway through, and three slutty ones. I found out that Vanessa Hudgens' character was named Candy 5 minutes before the film ended.

A lot of this film is cutaways to young, nameless, bikini clad women, partying and mugging for the camera. Half the film is this footage, as every time we feel like we're getting somewhere in the scene, the director cuts away to this footage, completely undercutting any drama or characterization he had been building. We know it takes place on spring break already! We've heard James Franco's character repeat the line 10 times! Even more disappointing is that James Franco's Alien gangster is the most interesting character of the film, but with all the cutting away he seems like a caricature.  Its clear the Franco has fully developed this guy, but the script nor the director wants to let him flourish.   Towards the end of the film we have what feels like 10 minutes of the girls and Alien getting ready for a robbery, but instead of a sequence we hear James Franco's character ask over and over again, "Y'all ready for this?" Total crap.

I feel bad for the actresses here. I'm sure they read the script and were eager to get away from their "Disney Princess" image by being edgy, smoking pot, snorting cocaine, having sex, etc etc. That's fine, I was interested in seeing if they could act while doing all that.  What acting though? We barely hear any dialogue from the girls, if we do we hear it while we watch them snort cocaine, or gargle beer. It's a totally disjoiunted experience, that makes these girls seem less like actresses and more like dimwits.  I'm sure it was a blast to film, but its excruciating to watch.  Needless to say, I'll be avoiding anything else by "director" Harmony Korine from here on out.

0 out of 5 Stars.


Hit and Run

I caught Hit and Run on Netflix last week, and you should too. Its one of those few Netflix movies you might have never heard of that is actually worth your time.  Hit and Run was written by it's star, Dax Shepard which he co-directed with David Palmer.  You may know Dax from his initial run on MTV's Punk'd. If you remember the show, Dax was one of the best actors on there, tricking celebrities. He parlayed that show into some bit roles in TV and film, finally landing a lead role in the show Parenthood, which he is pretty good in as well.

Hit and Run is kind of a throwback movie to car films of the 70's.  There is a minimal plot where Dax's character is in witness protection in a small town with a new girlfriend, played by real life fiance Kristen Bell, where his old life comes back to haunt him and he has to go on the run.  What follows is Bradley Cooper in dreadlocks chasing after Dax and Kristin in car after car after car after car.

The chase scenes are all well shot, and lose the CGI effect and stunts that bigger films have for effective old-school filming.  It's nice to see a movie where you know there is a real driver driving a real car in this real chase. It makes it a little more exciting than when you can spot the CGI.  I thought the film was fun, add it to your Netflix queue and go drive some cars!

3.5 out of 5 Stars


This Is The End

I saw This Is The End a few weeks back. So since it was a little while ago, this will be a shorter review.  I remember liking the movie and laughing a lot while watching it.  If you think you've seen all the gags in the trailer for this movie, you're wrong.  This is an R-rated end of the world, demon apocalypse story that goes to R-rated extremes to make you laugh. You haven't seen it all in the trailers.  

This Is The End is written and directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  And they do a good job doing both.  There is one particular action/chase sequence that came out very well for first time directors, known more for comedy.  The basic premise is that these actors are playing themselves in this end of the world scenario. The movie starts out a little slow, as we spend a little more time than necessary with Jay Baruchel visiting with Seth Rogen before the two go to James Franco's house for a party, where the world inexplicably ends.  Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride are all at the party as well, and round out our group of survivors that we follow.  There is a little bit of Hollywood snobbiness in the party scene of the film, but the guys don't go out of their way to tear it down or make fun of it, which I thought they would, to relate the characters to the audience. In the end, maybe they didn't need to do that because I like a lot of these actors anyway.  The comedy here comes from a lot of different places.  Some of it is derived from the end of the world scenario and plot, other times it comes from a single line, but most of the time it comes from the relationships between the characters.  This creates a nice even mix for the movie, as you're not always laughing at one type of thing. The jokes come from all different directions, so when you're laughing, it's genuine.  

All in all, if you're a fan of any of these actors, or their past films, This Is The End is well worth your time.  If you've never seen any of these actors' films before, but like the end of the world scenario, a good dose of dick jokes, and buddy comedies, I think you'll like this film.  If you're still not convinced, here's two words that might make you want to see the film, as it has to be seen to believed: Demon Penis.

4 out of 5 Stars


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is at first glance, a very cool looking film. Until you get to watching it.  The production values are great, the witches look great, costumes are great.  Its just the acting and story are flat and predictable.  I had read a few reviews of this film when it came out in January (never a good sign), and hoped that even though it wasn't universally loved, I would find something redeeming in it.  All I can say good about this film is that as usual, Gemma Arterton really tries here, and Famke Jannsen looks like she's having fun as the evil witch.  As for Jeremy Renner, from his first line in the film, you can tell he doesn't want to be here. And that does not set a good precedence.

There's no real logic presented here to the weapons or the world. It just is what it is. There's no reason why Hansel and Gretel look like they stepped out of the Matrix, they just do. Just go with it!  Unfortunately, just go with it doesn't work for this film.  What could have been a fun Rambo-style witch killing quest movie turns into a plot-contrived story with lost family members, family secrets, and the different between good and bad witches.  I was hoping Gemma Arterton could salvage this film, as she did for Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans, but even those films had more elements going for it other then her than Hansel & Gretel does.  Unless you're really curious about how bad this film is, skip it.

1 out of 5 stars


Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Snitch is one of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's smaller films. This is not Fast and Furious, G.I. Joe, The Mummy, etc etc.  Unlike those other films, this is not an ensemble picture. It's all Rock, all the time.  I know it says Dwayne Johnson on the poster, but he'll still be The Rock for me.  As a film, it's not bad, but it is not going to break out the Rock as a stand-alone star either.

Snitch is "inspired by actual events" where Dwayne's son gets arrested for signing for a package of drugs that got sent to him without his permission.  His son now faces the mandatory minimums sentence for his crimes. Dwayne convinces the U.S. Attorney to let him "snitch" to make arrests on his son's behalf. Except that Dwayne has no connections.  Jon Bernthal enters here as one of Dwayne's employees who has a past in the drug game.  He makes introductions to the lowlifes working the street (Hi Omar from The Wire!).  Things escalate from here when the DEA wants to grab the big Mexican cartel guy (Benjamin Bratt) instead of the lowlifes.

Snitch is a pretty good film.  Dwayne and Jon Bernthal are really likable actors, so their performances keep your attention.  The biggest detractor for this film is that there is nothing here to make it stand out from Dwayne's larger franchise films.  There's no large acting twist for Dwayne to advertise, no large action sequence to compete with the other films, etc.  Its just Dwayne doing his normal thing, making a decent movie.  All in all, that is what Snitch is, a decent, likable film that won't stand out from the other things on the shelf.

3 out of 5 stars


Identity Thief

 I saw Identity Thief last week and was unimpressed.  When I first saw the trailer it looked pretty good. I like Jason Bateman in The Change Up, The Switch, and films like that.  Melissa McCarthy was awesome in Bridesmaids, how could this be anything but a winning combination?  Both actors do their best, but unfortunately, the script doesn't service their comedic talents.  It had some funny parts, but on a whole, it was definitely not worth seeing in a theater. I'm glad I saw it at home.

The basic plot is that Jason Bateman's character, Sandy Patterson, has his identity stolen by Melissa McCarthy's character, Diana.  Diana lives in Winter Park, FL and Sandy lives in Denver, CO, so he has to travel to Florida to bring Sandy back to Denver to sort out all his job troubles.  Apparently there are no Federal laws she is breaking, and Denver Police have no relationship with other police departments.  No FBI, nothing, so Sandy takes it on himself to apprehend her.  Now, Winter Park, FL is a suburb or Orlando, FL and they did NOT Shoot in Winter Park at all.  The Winter Park of this film looks more like Arizona or Louisiana than Florida.  I live in Orlando and am in Winter Park frequently, so it did not pass muster with me. Small gripe, but whatever.

During this trip, driving back across the country, Sandy has to pretend that Diana is his wife, in order not to appear weird.  I think technically this would be considered kidnapping? Anyways the best part of the film is when Diana invites another man back to their hotel room to have sex while Sandy watches. Hilarity ensues.  Its all downhill after that.  Sandy and Diana are on the run from a bill collector/bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) as well as some gangsters (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez). Its here that the film loses steam. I think the film would have been much funnier if we had more situations where Diana was stealing identities.  Once these other characters enter the picture, the film turns into a predictable on the road/on the run comedy.  There are certainly worse films than this one you could watch, but there are also certainly better films as well.

2 out of 5 stars


Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel (SPOILERS)

I have been really excited to see this movie over the past month.  The first two trailers didn't really grab me, and then the third trailer was released and we really saw a lot of the action that was going to take place.  That hooked me. Then everything we saw after that was action packed, and we still hadn't seen everything.  There were moments in the film that genuinely surprised me, and I felt like I had seen ALL of the promotional material.  In the week before this film's release the review embargo was lifted and I read a few reviews.  I came away with the impression that there were two types of critics reviewing the film.  Critics who were attached to the Christopher Reeve Superman films, and those that weren't.  I'll be upfront and say that even though I own the Reeve/Donner Superman films on DVD, I've maybe seen them one or two times.  I distinctly remember seeing Superman IV: A Quest for Peace a lot as a child, but I think it was on TV a lot back then.  So I'm not necessarily attached to Christopher Reeve as Superman, nor anyone else who has played him.  I've seen the Reeve films, grew up watching Lois & Clark with my Mom and Dad, and then spent the last 10 years watching Tom Welling as Clark Kent on Smallville.  I liked all of these actors, and wasn't really affected that they cast a new guy in the suit for this film. It seems they've done that for every iteration of it.  I am however a enormous Chris Nolan fan. I adore his Batman films as well as The Prestige, and Inception. In fact, because of his success with Batman, I'll probably watch every Chris Nolan film he directs from now on.  So, I have a little bit of bias going into Man of Steel because Chris Nolan produced it with the same team as his Batman films, as well as some affection for Zack Snyder, of 300 and Watchmen fame.

Onto the film itself.  SPOILERS from here on out.  I won't go into too much detail, but I will touch on one part of the film that seems to have affected dedicated Superman fans and split them from the movie.

Still here? Great!  I enjoyed this film.  There was clapping at the end of it in my theater, but I did not feel the same emotional satisfaction as I did when Batman Begins, or any of The Dark Knight trilogy ended.  I like most things about this movie, but in particular I don't know that I can pick out anything that I don't like.  It's strange.  I love the cast.  Henry Cavill is a good Superman. I definitely felt his loneliness and longing to belong.  Amy Adams is a great choice for Lois Lane.  She's more like the Teri Hatcher Lois, spunky, resourceful, except she doesn't get kidnapped nearly as much as Teri Hatcher's did.  Michael Shannon was great as General Zod. He wasn't so much evil, as just narrow-minded and singular in purpose. It made sense.
Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) were good choices for me. I saw some critics disliking Kevin Costner's performance, saying he came across as annoyed by Clark, but I didn't take it that way at all.  Most times Pa Kent came off as concerned.  He's more concerned for keeping his son's secrets hidden, for the good of his son than anything, but he still wants his son to make good decisions.  Pa Kent here knew that in time, Clark would have to come out to the world, and he wanted this son to be ready, even if the world wasn't.

I think one of the great victories of the film is its sequence on Krypton.  The film opens with Kal-El's birth on Krypton, and its subsequent destruction.  But instead of just rehashing the same old crystal motif here again, we see a more fully fleshed out Krypton. We see Jor-El atop a Kryptonian dragonfly-beast, as he rides it from the council chamber to the launching pad. We see the Kryptonian military with General Zod, we see the ruling Council. Everything here is new.  The costume designs are amazingly alien, and make sense in a world with such rich history that they are clinging too as their world dies.  I like the idea that Krypton was once an immense empire, spanning galaxies and setting up colonies and exploring new worlds.  It lends credence to the fact that Jor-El knows where to send Kal-El.  He didn't just land here by accident, and Jor-El isn't just hoping his son survives somewhere.  It makes Krypton a lot more plausible than the magic growing crystals of the Donner films and Smallville.  I want to go back to the Krypton of this film.  I'd like another extended flashback, or a prequel film, or animated series.  It was a stunning opening to a film, and made you forget any incarnation of Superman that had come before.

Another thing I liked is the idea of Kal-El as a symbol of hope.  His "S" is a glyph for hope in the Kryptonian language, and only we earthlings see it as an "S" and then assume his name needs to start with an "S", thus arriving at Superman.  Kal-El doesn't assign this name to himself like in the Donner movies, the people of earth do.  He's going to continue to be a symbol for hope as best he can. He's not perfect, he can't do it all, we have to participate in saving ourselves as well.  That's another thing I liked in Man of Steel.  Superman wasn't a perfect hero. He's only one man.  Even though he can do all of these great things he still cannot be two places at once.  During the film there are two Kryptonian machines terraforming the earth to match Krypton. One is in India, the other in Metropolis.  Superman leaves to stop the one in India, while leaving the very capable American Military to send the Zod and his minions back to the Phantom Zone.  Yes, the military still struggles against the superior alien technology, but we still find a way to do it.  We persevere.  The film takes the line that Jor-El says "in time, they will join you in the sun" and executes it.  Its great. At no point in time does anyone say to Superman "You have to save us" or "You have to stop them," it's "how can WE stop them?" Superman inspires us and we strive to join him in the sun.

That may tie into one of the things longtime Superman fans probably hate about the film.  Superman isn't perfect.  Lots of people die.  The Kryptonian terraforming machine in metropolis levels what looks to be a few square miles of the city.  Buildings rise, fall, and then get flattened to dust, block by block. We see other buildings topple over, which may strike some 9/11 feelings when we watched that horrific event on television.  Many critics have not liked the "umpteenth" 9/11 scene, but I don't know what films they have been watching.  This is the first time I've seen this 9/11 level of destruction, in detail, from the ground up.  It took my breath away watching it, not because the CGI was so incredible, but because as Americans we have this horrific shared experience. My breath was taken away in shock, in terror.  Because of this, I really felt invested in the film.  This is just my experience, I'm not a New Yorker, and didn't know anyone in New York or on the planes on 9/11. Others who did may have a different experience, depending on your sensitivities.  Buildings, and presumably people also die when Superman and Zod pummel each other in the city.  One thing that always happens in the comics is after the first punch, Superman takes the fight to the skies, or some other empty spaces, to avoid the kind of destruction showcased here.  Something I always wondered was who told Superman to do this? How did he learn it? I think it will be interesting in the next film to see Superman do the same thing, because of his experience in this film. In the aftermath, Superman can learn just HOW powerful he is, and what it can do to his environment.  Longtime Superman fans might say "Superman saves everyone, he doesn't let people die, he doesn't kill."  Well, in my opinion, he just became Superman, he hasn't made the rules, doesn't know the extent of his powers, so how can we expect him to be the perfect hero right out of the gate? C'mon. A baseball player doesn't hit a home run on his first at bat, he needs to know how to identify what is a good home run pitch and what isn't.  I'll apply the same argument to how Superman deals with Zod in the film.  Zod says to Superman, "either you die, or I do!"  Then they fly around in the climactic battle until they land in a train station, and Zod sees a family sheltering in a corner. Superman grabs him from behind in a headlock, and Zod uses his heat vision and threatens the family.  He tells Superman that he dies or the family dies.  Superman then snaps Zod's neck.  Realizing that he's: a) killed a person, b) killed the last kryptonian other than him, and c) failed to save other people in the battle Superman screams. I know for my buddy Raph, this moment ruined the movie for him based on the "Superman doesn't kill" argument.  I'm kind of okay with this moment.  Superman hasn't yet learned how to make these decisions. Every life or death situation for him up until now was some sort of natural disaster where he could save human lives and not get hurt.  This was unprecedented.  Superman is not perfect, and I hate the fans who think he has to be.  I know Batman doesn't kill deliberately or use guns because he knows what killing and a gun did to him and his psyche, but Superman's made no such vow.  I'm pretty sure Jor-El killed a few of Zod's soldiers in the opening, and Pa Kent essentially kills himself to keep Clark's secret.  Superman's fathers have not taught him not to kill, so how else is he going to learn this lesson? I may be reading too much into it, but that is my take on it.

After this moment is where the movie falls flat for me.  Immediately after this scene we get some humor thrown at us to lighten the moment, but it's exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Even though I liked the fact that Superman had to kill Zod, I didn't like the handling of it. Another thing the film could have used is some more humor.  Batman is funny in Nolan's films, he and Alfred trade barbs at each other from time to time, and I feel like Man of Steel could use some more moments like that. Don't get me wrong, there is some humor in the film, but not enough.  Its clear why Jimmy Olsen serves a purpose, and could have served a purpose in this film as well if he was not included.

All in all Man of Steel is a great 2.3 hours in the multiplex.  I would avoid 3D if possible, as a lot of it his handheld and so much is moving to fast to probably make the 3D worthwhile.  See Cinemablend's 3D review for more detail on that.  There are lots of things to like in this film, a few to love (like the casting and Hans Zimmer's score), and a few things to dislike.

4 out of 5 Stars


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Iron Man 2 Movie Review Podcast

Remember how I said I'd post my old movie-review podcasts? Here's another!

Aside from this blog, I've been part of the Comic Timing Podcast for several years with my friend +Ian Levenstein.  We reviewed Iron Man 2 on our podcast so I'd like to link you to there to listen to it.  

Listen Here

Comic Timing is a comics podcast where +Ian L and I will discuss comics, comic films, comic video games, and anything comics related.  We've been doing it for a couple of years and are quickly approaching our 150th episode.  If you like the Iron Man 3 review, we have done other movie reviews in the past, and I may link them here from time to time. 



Blackfish's Terrifying Trailer

Being a resident of Orlando, I remember these stories of Sea World trainers being killed by their orcas.  One in particular, Tillicum, has killed multiple people and went back to "work" at Sea World weeks later.  This documentary focuses around Tillicum and is edited in a very compelling, terrifying way.  I'm definitely going to search this one out.  Yikes!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Spartacus: A Series You Should Watch!

 I'm currently working my way through Spartacus: War of the Damned from STARZ.  If you haven't heard of it, Spartacus started a few years ago that looked like a 300 rip off because of its use of CGI blood, slow-motion shots, and fit bare-chested men.    I caught the first two seasons, Blood and Sand and Gods of the Arena on Netflix, and was hooked in by the weaving storylines and well developed characters.  All the action blood didn't hurt either.  If you're a fan of 300 or HBO's ROME, Spartacus is a good mixture of both, minus the larger budgets.  I'll talk about why you should take a look at the series and move my way towards the present series War of the Damned.

The first series launched in 2010 starring Andy Whitfield (Spartacus), Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), and John Hannah (Batiatus).  This first series followed Spartacus' capture and enslavement and rise as Gladiator.  What was neat about this season was seeing Spartacus build his resolve against the Romans through his mistreatment and betrayal, all of which came from Batiatus and his wife Lucretia.  John Hannah and Lucy Lawless were really fun to watch. Not only were they manipulating their gladiators against each other, but they were also using their gladiator's successes and failures in the arena as leverage in the Roman politcal world.  We were frequently visited by Roman senators and their wives, and we frequently saw how the slaves were used as entertainment for their masters.  Often to the slave's embarassment, or occasionally, pleasure.  This series gave us a lot of different characters to fall in love with. We had our hero Spartacus, his friend Varro, the head slave Oenomaus, and the rival Crixus.  In any episode some or all of these characters could clash or work together, mostly to serve their own goals.  I came into it thinking it was a cheap 300 knock-off but left wanting more, especially after the finale here.

Spartacus' star, Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and the series was put on pause to allow the actor to recover.  Unfortunately, Andy Whitfield passed away in 2011 and Spartacus, now STARZ's first hit series, needed to be recast.   In the meantime, STARZ gave us a six episode prequel series entitled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena to tide over fans.  This short series showed us the rise of the house of Batiatus and his Gladiators, thanks to a new character, Gannicus.  We saw Oenomaus become the head gladiator/trainer and Crixus' arrival into slavery, similar to Spartacus' in the first series, although they chose separate paths and approaches to it.  Part of the fun of this series is our new gladiator, Gannicus, as he is totally opposite of Spartacus. Gannicus is not interested in freedom, only glory, women, wine and food. His victories in the arena grant him this until he falls in love with Oenomaus' wife, who also happens to be his best friend. Whoops!  We also get a good dose of the Roman political maneuvering from Lucretia and Batiatus.  When we join them here, Batiatus is not the head of the house, his father is. So we see his struggle with his father's decisions as Batiatus maneuvers to undermine them.  All in all this was not as good as the first season, but it was an enjoyable placeholder until we got a full second season.

The second series, Spartacus: Vengence premiered and gave us a new Spartacus after Andy Whitfield's passing.  Stepping into the role was Liam McIntyre.  STARZ promoted a lot that Andy Whitfield was able to see Liam's audition, after it became clear he would not be able to act in the show any longer, and was so pleased with Liam's audition he gave him his blessing to carry Spartacus forward.  It is hard to say who is the better Spartacus, although now, Liam has been in the role longer than Andy Whitfield. I think the large shift in the tone of Vengence helped eliminate comparisons between the two actors.  Vengence finds our former slaves on the run from the Romans, wreaking havoc while formulating what will become a large rebellion in War of the Damned.  What helped keep Spartacus on track, after losing and replacing its main actor, was the large number of returning cast members. We still had Crixus, Oenomaus, Lucretia, and Ashur to keep the series along.  Seeing the old faces alongside McIntyre's helped improve his performance, I think.

The third and final series, Spartacus: War of the Damned finds Spartacus' army growing by the day and wreaking havoc on the Roman countryside.  It suffers a little because we no longer have Lucy Lawless' character in the series, but she was one of my favorites.  Spartacus' army eventually takes over a whole Roman city, and either enslaving the Romans or killing them. Watching this role reversal of the first season is interesting, it brings up strong feelings from Crixus and Spartacus, now again at opposing sides after they formed a strong bond in Vengence.  One of the best things about Spartacus is the character of Crixus, played by Manu Bennett. He starts out as the reigning champion gladiator and Spartacus' rival, and then his friend and second-in-command, and then back to sometimes rival.  It doesn't feel forced, as what drives them apart are differing opinions on where to take the slave army, long term.  Crixus wants to strike at Rome, while Spartacus seeks true freedom.  Also interesting this series is the addition of Marcus Crassus our new Roman bad guy, as well as Julius Caesar, who infiltrates the slave-city for the first few episodes.  I don't know if that is historically accurate, but it certainly build Caesar as a cunning man, which kind of connects to him in HBO's ROME.  I feel like I should go watch that again after I finish War of the Damned just to continue Caesar's story.

If you like sword and sandals stories, sword fights, beautiful women, beautiful men, political dramas, family dramas, and can stand a little blood, sex, and gore, then definitely give Spartacus a shot in your Netflix DVD queue or buy the series from wherever you buy your content.  It is worth your investment, and you won't question whether or not to continue after you finish the first series Blood and Sand. I promise, Scout's Honor!

Silver Linings Playbook

I watched Silver Linings Playbook last night.  I had wanted to watch it, mainly because of the hype leading up to the movie, as well as the Oscar buzz it had.  After Jennifer Lawrence won for Best Actress, i really wanted to see the film.  After viewing it, I don't understand the hype.  Sometimes I feel like the Oscar crowd gets all hyped up on performances for the wrong reasons.  Bradley Cooper was fine here, but nothing in this performance made me feel it was Oscar-Nomination worthy.  His character is bi-polar and yells a lot in his manic states.  I feel like I've seen Cooper do this before.  As for Jennifer Lawrence, I would say the same thing.  For me, her performance wasn't anything special or Oscar-worthy.  Don't get me wrong, she is not terrible, it's just that  no scene really stands out that sets her apart.

One of the things that also struck me as strange was that the title, Silver Linings Playbook isn't really explained. Only once does Cooper's character say "silver lining" and as for "playbook" I guess that has to do with the football subplot surrounding Robert DeNiro's character.  Its not really clear.  Now, I'm not saying that film titles should be always on the nose, but most of the time I can understand after seeing a film why it is titled as such. I enjoyed watching the movie, but if you're only curious like I was because of the Oscar-buzz only, just be forewarned that the film will by no means blow you away with its plot or acting.  I think the Oscar voters just wanted to see a young hottie onstage rather than her older competitors.

3 out of 5 stars


Gangster Squad

 I watched Gangster Squad last week.  While no means ground-breaking, it is definitely a good, fun movie.  I'd definitely recommend this over Broken City which recently came out on DVD as well and didn't hold my attention as much as this film did.  This is a pretty formulaic gangsters vs. cops film.  Sean Penn is Mickey Cohen, the big gangster in Los Angeles. Mickey is firming up his territory and getting rid of his competition to do it, with no regard for the public or innocent lives.  Its this recklessness that leads the Chief of Police (Nick Nolte) to task John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) to take him down.  What follows are some exciting car chases, shootouts, shootouts, and more shootouts.

All the actors are good here. Sean Penn is threatening behind this ridiculous nose they gave him, Josh Brolin is solid as always, and Ryan Gosling does his pretty boy shtick   One thing that I did find strange was that Ryan Gosling uses a high pitched tone throughout the whole movie.  It wasn't good, nor bad, just unnecessary.  The rest of the Gangster Squad is rounded out by the likes of Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, and Giovanni Ribisi, all whom are pretty good with their characters.  Each member of the squad, like any cop movie, serves a certain purpose. You have your technology guy, your sharpshooter, the rookie, the hotshot, the leader, and your shakedown guy.  Whats nice is that all of the team members get a moment to shine to serve their purpose as well as a moment to overcome it. So there is some character development.   All in all , this is an enjoyable film, but nothing new is offered for people who love gangster films.

3.5 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Awesome Link of the Day: James Lipton was a Pimp!

Via PopBlend/Cinemablend:

James Lipton Worked As A Pimp In Paris In The 1950s

Ranking the DCU Animated Movies

With the release of the new DCU Animated Movie Superman: Unbound I figured we should take a look back at all the other DCU Animated releases and rank them from worst to best. I haven't seen Superman: Unbound yet so that is not included in this list.

16. Batman: Gotham Knight
Batman: Gotham Knight just didn't do it for me.  Released the same month as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, this is series of shorts done by different anime studios and directors.  There is a lot of comics writing talent behind this movie, it should have been stronger.  David Goyer, Greg Rucka, Brian Azarrello all participate.  The movie was advertised as taking place between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight but the tales are so separate that the only thing that would make you think they took place in the same universe would be the inclusion of Lucius Fox.  All in all it's a disjointed effort that suffers from no central storytelling or theme.

15. Superman: Doomsday
This movie sounds great. What better thing for a film than to have Superman and Doomsday battling for 80 minutes?  Well, when they decide to adapt the Return of Superman very loosely and cram that into the movie, it just falls apart.  This was the first DCU Animated movie released, and it is a good effort, its just not up to par with the other ones that were released later.  Superman and Doomsday battle right at the beginning of the film, and at the time, we'd never seen an animated Superman fight like this. Punches looked like they hurt here, there was blood!  But then a clone Superman turns up and fights mullet Superman with a gun.  That's where the movie ends.  If this wasn't the first DCU Animated movie, and if they had gone with a 2 part story with the Death of Superman being Part 1, and the Return of Superman being Part 2, we might have had a better movie.  The DVD is worthwhile for the 45 minute documentary/retrospective on the Death of Superman storyline in the 90's.

14. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
This movie suffers the same problems as Batman: Gotham Knights for me.  Its another anthology movie weaving different tales directed by different anime directors and studios in different styles.  What makes this better than Gotham Knights is that there is a central storyline, even if it is only that the Green Lanterns are all waiting in line to recharge at the central power battery, telling new recruit Arisia the tales of the Green Lantern Corps.  Nathan Fillion is Hal Jordan, but he is not the central focus of more than one of the tales.  I think the Mogo tale was a favorite for me.

13. Superman Vs. The Elite
This is one of the more recent DCU Animated films, adapting a story from Action Comics #775.  For my memory, it was a pretty decent adaptation, but the movie kind of slogs along until we get to the final battle where Superman just goes nuts on Manchester Black, pointing out his hypocrisy.  I found it on Netflix, so if you're only fairly interested in the last fight, feel free to take a look, its the only thing here that is fun to watch.

12. Green Lantern: First Flight
Ironically, this movie came out before the live action Green Lantern film, and neither stand head and shoulder above the other.  In 70 minutes here we get the origin of Hal Jordan, a buddy cop adventure with Sinestro, and then a battle with Yellow Lantern Sinestro.  That is a lot to cram into a movie this short.  Visually, it is great, but I think it falls apart under the weight of all it is trying to accomplish.  Take a look at this alongside the live action film and see if you disagree with me.  I think these show how hard it is to do a Green Lantern movie.  Maybe next time we see GL on the big screen, we can skip the origin.

11. Batman: Year One
This movie is an adaptation of Frank Miller's classic story. And its pretty much done panel for panel.  I don't think that it did a bad job adapting, it just feels so slow, and kind of bland.  The voice actors aren't terrible, the animation echoes David Mazzucchelli's art, but nothing really makes the movie stand out apart from the story its adapted from. Nothing here reaches out and grabs you, but nothing is to terrible either. Kind of a middle of the road effort for the DCU Animated movies.

10. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies

This movie astonished me when it was released.  Why? They took Ed McGuiness' art and translated it into animation.  The character designs are fantastic, and McGuiness' style is PERFECT for animation.  Everybody is big, loud, muscular, and larger than life. Also, this was the first time that Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, and Clancy Brown returned together from the old TV animated series to do the voices.  This was every fan's dream, and it happened again and again after the success of this movie.  The story is great and offers something for everyone, like the comic, it's action packed. All in all, this one is just plain fun

9.  Justice League: The New Frontier
Adapted from Darwyn Cooke's mini-series, this was the first big Justice League story of the DCU Animated films.  It took awhile for the JLA to get together, but each character got their own spotlight and it wove the story together more cohesively than maybe the book did.  The movie also apes the art style of the book, but not as successfully as the Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.  What's fun about this film is that characters like Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Green Lantern get more screentime than Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.  Also of note, this is a better Hal Jordan origin than Green Lantern: First Flight.

8.  Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
This movie was fun. It wasn't a straight adaptation of Grant Morrison's Earth 2 Graphic Novel, but it took the same characters and attitudes established there and transferred them here. I think the best part of the movie might be James Woods as Owlman.  His sneering and sniveling over the JLA makes for a great character.  This JLA does not have the usual voice actors, Chris Noth, Mark Harmon, and William Baldwin all take a turn here as Lex Luthor, Superman, and Batman.

7.  Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Like Superman/Batman: Public Enemies this movie took the comics storyline and art and perfectly translated them into animation.  Michael Turner's style does not look like it would be good for animation, but the producers here found a way to make it work.  It's not as perfect as Public Enemies was, but Michael Turner's style is not as clean and cartoony as Ed McGuiness'.  This movie brings back Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, from the JLU series, and since they call back to the events of Public Enemies it works perfectly.  Andre Braugher is Darkseid, and while he certainly has the deep voice one might imagine with the character, he never comes across as inherently threatening. Once again, Jeph Loeb's original storyline fits this format very well.  I'd be interested to see them do more Superman/Batman storylines from the comics. There are only one or two more, c'mon!

6.  Batman: Under the Red Hood
No one expected Judd Winick's Under the Red Hood to be a blockbuster comics story. Similarly, no one expected this movie to be as good as it was. I think it was because Judd Winick himself handled the initial draft of the script.  He knew what to keep in, what needed to go, and added things in the place of others in order to keep the characters moving and the action moving as well.  Very few times does an animated scene beat the actual comics, but the final confrontation here with Joker, Batman, and Red Hood is and edge of your seat family drama.  I'd rather watch that scene over and over again than read the final issue of  Winick's storyline with the fill-in art, bar none.

5.  All Star Superman
This one is a doozy.  It took Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's instant classic 12-issue series and crammed it into a 70 minute movie.  The movie manages to keep the light, warm feel of the comic and still tell the overall story of Superman's last days on Earth.  Sure we lose some parts, like the Superman Squad, or Bizarro-world, but everything else is here and in superb fashion. Viewing this makes you appreciate how fresh the comic was when it came out, and in similar fashion this movie was in between two dark Batman tales Red Hood and Year One.  I think a lot of people may have wrote this off since it was such a massive undertaking, but its well worth a viewing or two.  Now, if only they'd get to Batman: The Long Halloween, and Dark Victory.  This movie proves those can be great.

4.  Justice League: Doom
This film is two great things coming together. One part Mark Waid's brilliant Tower of Babel story, one part Legion of Doom, Justice League: Doom is a great film.  Instead of battling Ra's Al Ghul the League goes up against Vandal Savage, Bane, Star Sapphire, Metallo, and Cheetah.  Every JLA member goes up against their opposite, who use Batman's plans against them.  How Cyborg turns out and Batman is redeemed are two great parts of the movie.  This is the last thing Dwayne McDuffie wrote before he passed away and it is a great testament to his strength as a writer and creator.

3.  Wonder Woman
If you haven't seen this yet, you will not believe your eyes in the first 15 minutes.  The film opens with an epic battle between the Amazons and the forces of Ares.  Then the limb-chopping and beheadings begin.  Yes you read that right. Beheadings! My jaw dropped at that moment, and I was hooked for the rest of the film. While Diana isn't present for that scene, it does establish that these Amazons are not to be messed with. Then Steve Trevor lands and proceeds to completely mess that up.  Nathan Fillion plays Steve Trevor with aplomb, and delivers some serious laughs while hitting on Diana.  Diana escorts him back to man's world and Ares attacks from there.  If there is any template for a live action Wonder Woman movie, it is this one. Just take the script and film it already!

2.  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
Dark Knight Returns may be the best Batman story ever.  Is it the best Batman animated movie? Yes.  Best DCU Animated movie? So far.  And since Part 2 is better than Part 1, these two take the top of the list.   Part 1 sets up the world, and the fight with the leader is perfectly executed. The overall movie is not as great as Part 2 since a lot of it is setup and exposition, but it is still very well done.  The animation style resembles Frank Miller's blocky style and does a good job as a representation of the comic.  Casual Batman fans should definitely check out this dark, yet definitive take on Batman.

1.  Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2
This movie succeeds over Part 1 only because it has so less to do and so many classic characters to feature.  Here, we have Robin, the Joker, Superman, and Green Arrow alongside Batman. Its like the movie just rises above because we have these interesting future takes on the characters to watch.  Plus, these moments are so famous in comic fandom you love to watch them happen before your eyes.  If you haven't read the book beforehand, more likely you can' believe what is happening before your eyes.  This shows how strong the DCU Animated films can be if they adapt the right material in the right way.  That doesn't mean they can all be winners, but they should all strive to be of this caliber.

Hope you enjoyed my countdown! Let me know in the comments section if you agree/disagree. What's your favorite DCU Animated movie? How was Superman: Unbound? Are you looking forward to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox?  Let me know!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Star Trek Into Dark-WHAT? (SPOILERS)

I finally saw Star Trek Into Darkness on Friday. Later than others, I know, but that's okay.  I had tried my best to stay away from spoilers but some things were spoiled for me, but they only affirmed my assumptions.  So, for your sake, SPOILERS from here on out.

Ready? Okay. First of all, for anyone who was following the blog-o-sphere, of which I am now a part of, it was pretty clear who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing.  Yes we had years of "he-is," "no-he-isn't," "no-wait-he's-who?" nonsense.  To me, that game only hampered the film.  It certainly built up a lot of anticipation for Trek fans, but I think if we hadn't played these identity games we could have had a much better movie.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Into Darkness but not as much as I would have liked.  I feel like JJ Abrams and the writers got caught up in all the "They have to do Khan!" hysteria, that they lost themselves and the spirit of the new franchise they had established in the 2009 film.

I've never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan all the way through, but I know enough about it that I feel like the Into Darkness team hit all the beats they thought they had to hit.  I feel like this hurt the film.  The Into Darkness team failed to do for Khan what Christopher Nolan and his team did for the Joker in The Dark Knight.  We didn't get a re-invention that was so well done that it can live alongside the original performance like Heath Ledger's Joker does alongside Jack Nicholson's.

So, rather than get an new original Trek story, we got a rehash of the 1982 film, in that it used Khan as a villain and a Starfleet officer dies, but not the one you might think.  Everything else I'm assuming is new to this alternate timeline.  The basic plot is that "John Harrison" aka Khan is mad at a Starfleet Admiral because he is some ancient warlike superhuman that was cryogenically frozen for 300 years along with some others of his same race.  He's mad because the rest of his ship's crew is still frozen, and for this he wants revenge.  Does this seem like the best way to un-freeze your friends? Probably not.  Who is Khan and what race is he? Where does he come from? Is he human?  None of this is addressed in the film via exposition or flashback, its mostly thrown at you while the bombastic score plays on because they just revealed it is in fact Khan.  I guess the audience is expected to forget about all of this backstory and just accept that Khan is super-strong, smart, mean, and wants to kill Starfleet.

Instead of Khan's revenge being the main plot and conflict of the film we have this other plot about Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) wanting to start a war with the Klingon Empire.  We see the Klingons, but only one without their dopey helmets on, on an "un-inhabited" part of their home planet.  I thought it was a cop out, personally.  Save on set decoration and make-up by being on this rocky terrain, with these conveniently placed rocks, and conveniently covered aliens in the middle of a foggy phaser battle.  Why is Khan here at all? We don't know.  Somehow it's the Admiral's plan to launch torpedoes here to kill Khan and start a war, but why did Khan go there at all if he's at odds with this Admiral?  After that we get an even bigger Enterprise called the U.S.S Vengence, seen here.  In the film its described as a ship designed for war, that can have a minimal crew.  We know its badass because its bigger than the Enterprise and its painted black.  If it needs minimal crew then why is it so large? I would think that something more frightening would be a tiny, undetectable ship that is super-powerful, and doesn't completely look like a bigger Enterprise.  Couldn't we come up with a different Federation starship design?  Some dialogue in the film makes a big deal about the Enterprise being the flagship of Starfleet, and then we introduce this monstrosity.

Don't get me wrong, the film is still enjoyable. The actors are all great in their roles, its just that the story is too convoluted for their own good. Spock and Kirk are becoming better friends, and Scotty is more useful, although it is interesting to note that in this film, like the last, we see more of Scotty off the Enterprise than we do on it.  That is the biggest strength of the film, is that the actors seem at home in their roles and are so fun to watch, even if we don't know why they are all doing what they are doing all the time. The action scenes are thrilling, there is less lens flares (a plus!) and funny character interactions, all of which I liked. I just took major issues with the plot.  Hopefully the next film can go into brand new territory for Star Trek and tell an original tale instead of rehashing old ones.

3 out of 5 Stars


Iron Man 3 Movie Review Podcast

Aside from this blog, I've been part of the Comic Timing Podcast for several years with my friend +Ian Levenstein.  We recently talked about Iron Man 3 on our podcast so I'd like to link you to there to listen to it.  Donovan also guest stars.

Listen Here

Comic Timing is a comics podcast where +Ian L and I will discuss comics, comic films, comic video games, and anything comics related.  We've been doing it for a couple of years and are quickly approaching our 150th episode.  If you like the Iron Man 3 review, we have done other movie reviews in the past, and I may link them here from time to time.



First Post - Welcome - What's coming...

Welcome to Brent's Movie/TV Blog!

What will be blogged about here? Numerous things, mostly within the movie/television sphere.  I like all kinds of movies/films/documentaries etc.  From time to time I'll post here my thoughts on a movie or TV show. Maybe they will have a rating, maybe not.  From time to time I'll share links to interesting movie/TV news for you to peruse.  Sometimes the things I'll be discussing will be current, maybe I'll revisit something older that I enjoyed or didn't enjoy.  I'm not intending this site to be overly long or wordy, maybe sometimes you will get only a few paragraphs or two on a topic. Maybe only a link. Maybe a few paragraphs. I don't know. There's no format, no mantra, just thoughts, maybe some pictures.