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Movie Review: Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice (2016)

 BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Batman-v-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice-Logo

Superman Evolves and Batman Involves

Firstly, let’s deal with the weirdness that happened before the actual movie was released. When Ben Affleck was cast as Batman (instead of Christian Bale) the internet(s) lost its bat-mind. Not Affleck! Not Daredevil! And yet, this same pattern has repeated itself time and time again. Heath Ledger went from Brokeback Mountain to the joker, Hugh Jackman was all parts wrong for Wolverine and Ryan Reynolds was a ‘bad” Green Lantern and a bad Deadpool the first time around in X-Men Origins and the right Deadpool in, um Deadpool (2016).   I was 100% against the switch too- and I’m saying if you have the recipe right, don’t go changing the ingredients. Now that I’ve seen the movie, it all makes sense.

This is the EVOLUTION of both characters. And that’s the difference. If you can remember with me- The Silence of the lambs franchise (I know, we’re reaching) Agent Starling was recast after Jodie Foster with Julianne Moore. Moore played an evolved Agent Starling that was tougher and far removed from where we left Clarice. Jarring. So Ben Affleck plays an EVOLVED Bruce Wayne/Batman. Clark Kent is no longer the clumsy goof that pines for Lois and does whatever he’s told. He’s got the girl now. He stands up to Perry (Laurence Fishburne) and he is certainly his own (super)man and grappling with his choices. Wayne has been doing this a while now- 20 years by the movies admission. So who should he be, twenty years LATER? Same guy womanizing and stopping bank robberies in Gotham? Batman needs to bump up from fighting skilled-human thugs to dealing with gods, monsters and well….superheroes (meta-humans as the movie calls them). Clark should be doing what? – hiding behind Lois and saving kittens from trees?

batman-v-superman-affleck-cavill-rainy-fight

Understand their fundamental differences. Batman stops crime. Superman saves lives. I’ll repeat this because many people seem to be lost on who these two characters actually are and how they were made. Batman was created by witnessing a crime, which robbed (pun intended) him of his parents. And so, he is obsessed with stopping crime. That’s his motivation. Superman is an orphan from an entire planet/race that died. His own father (Kevin Costner in Man of Steel) is portrayed as a life he couldn’t/didn’t save. He is obsessed with saving lives. Should these two get along? Maybe, not really. Batman V Superman is really serving as a bridge to the future where we go from solo adventures and personal quests to epic clashes where more than just cities are at stake. Basically, where Marvel’s Avengers are right now.

Director Zack Snyder takes the task of combining two beloved franchises and giving birth to a third and maybe even fourth (Wonder Woman, anyone?). It takes all of 2 + 1/2 hours to cram all this in and do …justice (ahem) to each caped crusader and their back stories. The story is supplied by Chris Terrio [Argo (2012)] and David S Goyer [Batman Begins(2005) The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Man of Steel (2013) which explains why the tone was rightly dark and felt like the next chapter in each heroes timeline. So what do we get?

 

We get a sequel, prequel, sequel… prequel. Before there can be a Justice League (a grouping of DC’s greatest heroes) they have to come together and find a reason to do so. Superman has to more than stand a symbol for the sanctity of life. He has to accept that there are consequences and new responsibilities and yep, his hands are gonna get dirty. Batman has to let go parts of his personal vendetta(s) and stand for more than vengeance. They both need to stand for JUSTICE. So it’s not the ‘Dawn of the Justice League’. It’s the dawn of justice as an idea or concept for the assembled characters to rally around. We have, basically, two movies in one. Yes, Batman VERSE Superman does go down, but we also have the awakening to a new world, a great cameo by Wonder Woman and an interesting future blueprint. Should it really have been split in to two movies? Probably. Most ‘fixes’ by unhappy moviegoers tend to involve adding more, which suggests future movies or side adventures in some other medium.

Batman-V-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice

So why all the bad reviews? I have no idea. The movie audience clapped at the end so I’m wondering where all the early hate came from. I hear a lot of nitpicking which can be done with any movie- so I’m not understanding how warranted all negative feedback is. – After all, it’s based on characters from comic books so historical-documentary-like treatment isn’t required. Yes, expect common comic-tropes and clichés. Flimsy reasons for the two good guys to battle, perfect coincidences and quick resolutions that make everything pretty okay by the end. Yeah, that’s a movie.

Face it, as children we were raised on brightly colored super heroes who used punches and kicks to defeat bad guys in face masks. They were born from a world at war and our heroes inhabit a much darker universe. We are at war right now. We don’t even think about that fact. We are not sure what to believe. Who are we fighting? How truthful is our government? A Batman can’t save us- nor can a Superman. But something in the middle would be rather fitting and that’s where justice is found. This movie is much more like Man of Steel II: Batman comes to Metropolis than anything else. If you expect that walking in, you’ll be fine.

 

See all the movies reviewed here.

 

 

 

Movie Review Jurassic World (2015)

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Jurassic World (2015) Movie Review

More dinos, more screaming and running and yeah, more of the same…

It's the same but different

It’s the same but different

Wasn’t that bad. I expected the worst by the reviews from most of my friends. I was only on board for the dinosaurs and basically the one shot of the marine-o-saur coming out of the water and eating the great white shark on the crane. Yes, I was planning on sitting through an entire movie for that one moment. I figured I could get past the silly humans doing silly things among the terribly dangerous beasts and roll my eyes when the ole ‘man should not mess with mother nature‘ speech occurred. I also saw that the raptors were going to be the good guys this time around. Interesting twist, I might survive this trip.

Jaws meets jaws...

Jaws meets jaws…

Jurassic World is directed by Colin Trevorrow (I didn’t see any other relevant movie credits to compare) and has writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa (both involved with the writings of Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Own and Bryce Dallas Howard (Terminator Salvation and Spider-Man 3) as Claire are the adults in the film. He is the ‘smart-survival-man’ and she is the ‘corporate-puppet-love-interest’. The two screaming kids are played by Ty Simpkins (eyes full of wonder) and Nick Robinson (too cool for life).

Tension and tense times

Tension and tense times

The big hook, this time around, is a new, genetically engineered, dinosaur called Indominus Rex. Claire, who plays a J.W. Operations VIP explains the reason for tinkering as people got used to regular dinosaurs and to maintain interest, a new more…everything attraction was needed. And, of course, it gets loose and all hell breaks…loose. It’s funny that this sentiment was included as it says so much about this movie. We need more as movie-goers too. More gore, greater peril, bigger effects and a nastier beastie that can (presumably) beat whatever we were running from last time around. There are head-nods to the previous movies and characters and familiar scenes repeated. We are still running with corporate greed, the love of dinosaurs and scientists willing to sacrifice all in the quest for knowledge. It also seems like we haven’t learned a thing from all the previous disasters and well, big monster movies.

some thrilling moments for sure...

some thrilling moments for sure…

As much as I see the repeated themes here, I am actually wondering why the ‘run from the dinosaurs’ theme hasn’t been given the standard Hollywood treatment. Why haven’t they just gone wild and full-on Transformers and Avengers and show a city-scale rampage and the cliché, if it breeds, we all gonna die end-game. You can see it clearly, skyscrapers crumbling as citizens run to and fro. We can wait 30 minutes into the carnage and still see people getting out of cars and frantically running into the…absolute… center… of danger- needing to be directed and saved by our heroes. Giant military vehicles flying low enough for raptors to leap onto them as humvees and tanks are crushed by the BIG DINO. Oh dear, I think I just gave them the idea for the next movie. Jurassic World Forever starring Dwayne Johnson and Meagan Fox. Directed by Josh Whedon and Michael Bay. And there’s a sequel already planned so standby.

There’s a lot to nit-pick, but really, the movie is about running from dinosaurs. Why worry every-time you want to say come-on! who does that? How is that possible, yeah right! The only thing I will say that’s missing is any fear factor. I just never felt like anyone was in real danger of dying. It was dead obvious who was going to die, when and how. So what we have are exciting action sequences and not much in the suspense department. The dinosaurs come to life on the big screen, but the execution is a rental.

See some more reviews and such…….

Star Wars Trailer review and Speculation

October 20, 2015 Leave a comment

The trailers for Force Awakens leaves a trail….

1st round of trailers and what A New Hope I have for this movie.

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016

Dunno why I’m doing this. First time ever for a “trailer review”. Saw some other sites/videos doing it and if a fan howling and showing amazement is enough, then I guess this is overkill.

            Firstly, it looks like J.J. Abrams is going to repeat his Star Trek system (as Marvel does to a degree) of some for the old and some for the new. New viewers get the new story and new characters and long-time fans will see shadows and head-nods to the classic trio. Dirt-poor girl from a dusty planet sets off on an adventure that changes the whole galaxy. She even has a similar garb to Luke and seems just as enthralled when hearing stories about the good ole days. In Star Wars [A New Hope] Obi-wan was explaining the force and Han was skeptical, now we see the grizzled Solo doing the ‘oh yeah, the force is really real, kids’. It’s makes for a nice twist and hints at more repeated motifs throughout.

Han hands over the story

Han hands over the story

Secondly, I say be careful with these hints and spoilers. Abrams and company [writers, Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back), Michael Arndt (Oblivion)] love red herrings. That is, misdirection, you think the story is going one way and boom- big surprise. For those that saw the trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) it hinted at being based on an original series episode Where No Man Has Gone Before. Trekkers saw the similarities and even that damn bob haircut on Elizabeth/Carol Marcus and just knew they had an inside track or trek. Wrong. It’s Khan and also a complete change of who does what in this alternate timeline. And although I see a similar fake-out here, I do expect the story to mirror the first three movies released. so far….

Carol...I mean...Elizabeth...

Carol…I mean…Elizabeth…

Had me fooled...even with the screaming for psychic powers.

Had me fooled…even with the screaming for psychic powers.

The Millennium Falcon being chased through another ship (Return of the Jedi)

fastest by parsecs..

fastest by parsecs..

Luke’s landspeeder, Anakin’s Swoop Bike and Rey’s rusty red Norelco razor.

Finn’s first dark side encounter before he is ready.

Awakens with a nightmare...

Awakens with a nightmare…

Death Star, Starkiller and planetary weapon. I think you get the idea(s)

What I Hope to see…..A New

1) I thought the hand that touches R2-D2 might belong to Mace Windu and not Luke Skywalker since he had a better hand in ROTJ. Why would he go back for the Terminator metal-work?

Dyson wants his hand back

Dyson wants his hand back

2) All the “my sister has it…” and references to force-sensitivity is probably also misdirection. Leia will probably not be shown as trained in any Jedi arts and will at most fire a blaster or two. And that is probably Rey being handed a lightsaber.

Far right alien head...

Far right alien head…

Hand off...hands off.

Hand off…hands off.

3) I’m still not sure if Finn is the Jedi and Rey won’t be. So far, she’s got the staff which hasn’t been shown to do anything yet and a funky looking speederbike that is rather bland. It is my hope that the bike opens to become the droid that follows them into the building in trailer 3. It would also explain how can she salvage anything (heavy enough or big enough to be worth anything) by herself.

I think that's meant to charge something else.

I think that’s meant to charge something else.

Almost an ABC robot.

Almost an ABC robot.

4) Rey is shown crying over a fallen comrade. I’m seeing the furry edge and the bandoleer so I’m really hoping that is not Chewbacca. I’m never a big fan of killing off major characters. I say… just… don’t…do…it. Unless there is some tribble-blood-mind-meld-force-resurrection by the end.

Don't chew Chewie

Don’t chew Chewie

5) I hope they explain where all the Clone troopers went and I do mean where the thousands of Jango Fett soldiers disappeared to.

Where did all the stray dogs in Greece go before the Olympics?

Where did all the stray dogs in Greece go before the Olympics?

6) Luke is not in the trailers, only his voice as narrator and I believe that’s a sample from another movie- at that. I hope he is a Jedi master, incredibly powerful, but not a deus ex machina.

7) As I said about Finn looking late in the movie and not ‘very forceful’. I’m also worried that whole sequence could be a force-induced dream like Luke had in Empire Strikes Back. Wouldn’t be surprised since Finn seems to always be caught sitting up, sweaty like he just had a nightmare.

Trailer #2 is my favorite for the combination of sequences and music. Now it’s time to sit back and wait for all the TV spots. Some people are torn over Abram’s work on Star Trek. I accept it and am glad a new generation gets a Star Trek that is not embarrassing and self-indulgent. The movies really began to feel like episodes and Star Wars was on the edge of falling off.

Still menaced by a phantom

Every property gets to a point where the creator no longer owns it. You’ve fleshed out the characters and worlds so fully, that there are known rules in place. We, as an audience and hard-core fans know what X-character would do. We know how things usually work and understand the motifs at play. That leads to higher expectations and the hope that we, as moviegoers, see what we came to see. Phantom Menace was a disappointment because too many rules were broken. We understood the force. Now you say it’s all in the blood. You’ve shown us epic battles in space, on a snow planet, on a jungle world and now a race that lives underwater….and the final battle takes place on a baseball field. Hint: The final battle should have been underwater.

You spent a lot of time establishing pod-racing and showing THAT as the supreme talent of the promised one. Okay, we end in space and the enemy ship is CIRCULAR like a racetrack and no…no relevancy to anything there.

Round-about the roundabout

Round-about the roundabout

Instead he does everything accidentally and clowns the entire way. Why couldn’t we see Naboo pilots trying to navigate the turns and twists and CRASH or not travel fast enough down the narrow corridors before the main generator’s internal shield closed. In this same movie, Obi-Wan raced down the hallway to assist Qui-Gon in his battle with Maul- and the shield bays closed up and he was separated. We would have gotten the point and as it is on the planet, so too in space. And, and then have Anakin step up and purposely take off to save the day. It’s as if Lucas is saying “no, no, it’s still all mine and I will show you stuff you’re gonna hate, nyah, nyah“. Abrams seems to get it- and more importantly respects the license and the big WHY we all go crazy over these franchises. There’s a reason why every cylindrical item looks like a light saber handle. Why every remote control is a phaser and every chair a captain’s chair. “Yours is superior.” I’ve got my fingers crossed that JJ Abrams can capture that old Star Wars magic and bring back the kind of movie experience we’ve all been waiting for. So far, it looks good. Can’t wait!

Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

July 28, 2014 1 comment

Movie Review: Lucy (2014)

Lucy Poster

Luc’s Lucy is a lucid Limitless that’s a little limited

A Limitless Matrix where Yakuza are the Agents (Smiths)

 

Director/Writer Luc Besson (Leon The Professional, The Fifth Element) retells a Matrix coming-of-powerful tale with a female lead (Scarlett Johansson) and more international flavor. We lose the Kung-fu (none here), but keep the prophetic black man as Morgan Freeman steps in as a professor Morpheus/Norman. If you think about it, this story could have been the Trinity awakening story that occurred before NEO took that pill.

 

The trailer shows us a woman forced to carry an experimental drug in her stomach that is slowly leaking into her bloodstream. The dosage unlocks the greater potential of the human brain and she begins to acquire extraordinary powers. Well yeah, it’s like where Neo asks about dodging bullets and Morpheus says ‘…You won’t have to’. So we wait for the big moment that The Black Widow becomes a better Avenger and does more than shoot guns. Unfortunately, the big pay off isn’t as big as it should be. Neo flew away from that phone booth at the end of the Matrix and we kinda scratched our heads. Lucy unlocks our ultimate potential and doesn’t do a whole lot.

Lucy movie image

Yeah, more Matrix talk. See, the Agents were built up over the entire movie as being total bad-ass so when Neo is able to stand up to them, it was a thrilling turning of the tables. The generic Yakuza in Lucy are killers, for sure, but never really more than gangsters with guns. If you ignore the fact that twenty-five plus Japanese men in dark suits and glasses, running around Europe, are basically invisible to all authority, then yes Lucy is in plenty of danger. Are you scared for her? No, not really. You pretty much think she’s fine ten minutes into the movie and that spoils the final confrontation(s).

 

Now I don’t mean to sound totally down on Luc’s Lucy. There are some brilliant cut scenes and references to nature and origins and cave- . Suffice to say, it’s a fun ride with a few familiar set ups, scenes and scenarios. Scarlett is fierce and sexy and is the perfect seasoning to keep this movie fresh past the expiration date. If you don’t expect too much more than the trailer, you’ll enjoy Lucy. I’m not a movie critic, I’m just critiquing a movie.

 

Want more Johansson? See my review for Under the Skin.

 

Check out all the movies I’ve reviewed.

 

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Movie Review The Last Days On Mars (2013)

The Last Days On Mars

 

Mission to Mars with Monsters – and I liked it

 

The Last Days on Mars movei poster

“The Last Days” for the mission….and the crew!

        I honesty don’t feel like writing a review for The Last Days On Mars, but I’m compelled to do so because the reviews on Amazon.com are so negative. There’s the ego aspect – where it becomes a matter of why anyone would care what I say about this movie. And then there’s the aspect of sharing a movie and hoping someone else sees it and enjoys a small gem that they might have otherwise missed. That’s why we’re here. I have recently seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier and really enjoyed it, but you don’t need a review from me to go see it. Everyone is going to see it — anyone with a passing interest in the superhero resurgence will…go…see…it. The Last Days On Mars deserves a push.

 

Marred Mars Mission

The plot involves a crew sent to Mars in search of life. It’s literally their last day on Mars when a sensor lead leads a history-grabbing team member to make a last-ditch effort to secure his place in history by recording the find first. The site is compromised and his infection sets off the major arc of the movie. As every reviewer has documented; this is essentially a zombie movie that takes place on Mars. As I stated in my review of Apollo 18, the hostile environment adds a new dimension to the perils that this crew must overcome in order to return home. It’s a crew on the brink versus an infected zombie force- verse the dangers of planetary exploration – you know, lack of breathable atmosphere and stuffs.

 

Ruairi Robinson (who I am not familiar with) directs Liev Schreiber (Sabertooth in X-Men Origins Wolverine and Ray Donovan, the TV series) as astronaut Vincent Cambell – he alone holds this movie together with his acting abilities and as the most fleshed out character. Some of the others have that writer’s crutch of a character that behaves, in a way, out of line with their supposed job title. Prometheus (reviewed here) suffers the same fate as you ask “Would a [insert the thing you are supposedly trained to do] act this way?” So a few points are lost as you scream at the screen You Idiot! followed by Serves you right! I mean, it’s a common plot-device to portray characters – so that you are okay with their deaths. They almost deserve it for being so stupid and making such dumb decisions. Maybe that’s okay for the horny teens or the inquisitive homeowner who hears a bump in the night, but for astronauts to slip up- it’s a tough sell. I mean, it’s what you were sent there for, why you trippin?

 

Mars in Motion Emotion

Despite that, there are a few emotionally gripping scenes where all the parts fit together nicely. It’s the music, plus the mayhem captured in a moment that makes this movie worth the memory. The soundtrack is used to solid effect as the backdrop support rises to epic proportions along with the climactic confrontations. Although I enjoyed this movie, it does suffer from not going hard in any direction. It’s not really about Mars-zombies so if you want to see the shambling-mumbling-brains, you’ll be disappointed. If you want the hard science of space operations and a realistic depiction of Mars exploration, well yeah, you’ll fall short. Well, what’s the big idea then? I don’t think there is one. There isn’t any big reveal like the end of Mission To Mars. There isn’t a single morality-heavy speech made by a character that underlies the thing you’re supposed to be taking home after the credits roll. Yes, we went to Mars in search of life, found it and things didn’t quite work out as we expected. Be careful: you may find what you are looking for. That’s the moral of the story.

 

If you can enjoy a sci-fi tale with a simple presentation, give The Last Days On Mars a chance. If you must have extremes to be satisfied, then I suggest flicks that put the zombies on the poster. This one had astronauts and that scene was pretty meaningful. I’m not a movie critic, I just critique movies.

Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

Movie Review: Europa Report (2013)

It’s Mission to Mars Europa with found footage… and a hard Sci-fi edge.

Europa Report Poster

Plot Summary: Footage from a failed mission to discover life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa is used to answer the most important question in the universe…are we alone?

Somewhere between the classic Arthur C Clarke novel Rendezvous with Rama and the Grand Tour novels by Ben Bova, I fell in love with the planets. Reading the vivid descriptions of their surface and atmosphere filled me with a sense of awe and wonder. In works like Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Saturn, Bova brings us the planetary system- scaled up in its cosmic-magnitude. We are there to witness…miracles and to become tourists seeing sites and sights only meant for gods and angels.

Hard Sci-fi delivers the extraordinary in a believable fashion. We stay rooted to real-world physics and the limits of our material universe are not to be circumvented by techno-babble. We need to understand what we don’t understand. That pulls us in to the story and also pushes mankind out and to the dangerous reaches of space to find answers about us from them. Them is always the concept of life or intelligence. In movies like Mission to Mars and Red Planet, we find the discovery of life to be the central goal with numerous and unforeseen perils thrown in. A sub-title of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is “An epic drama of adventure and exploration”. That’s the idea of director Sebastian Cordero and screenplay writer Philip Gelatt. I had never seen any of their previous work so I bought in not knowing what to expect. I’m very glad I did.

I recently covered Apollo 18 -using the same style of found footage, with the viewer piecing together the entire story, which slowly paces towards a revealing climax. Where Apollo 18 was played for horror, Europa Report plays for hard. We have the familiar broken feeds, the camera failing at inopportune times and the constant glitches and even the prospect of being stranded a million miles from home.

Europa Report Space Walk scene

The cost of curiosity may be too high a price to pay

Command Crew

The crew is quite believable and we have actors fleshing out familiar characters with Sharlto Copley [District 9] and Michael Nyqvist [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 2009]. The hardware and footage feels authentic and that leads to a nice level of immersion. There’s a small moment of…upset when you find the crew ‘pushing it’ and your stomach knots up as you start thinking ‘get the hell outta there’. That reminds me of an episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk takes in an opinion from Bones McCoy who votes for survival. Kirk snaps on the P.A. and reminds everyone that theirs is a mission of discovery and personal safety is not part of the prime directive. If you can appreciate that attitude then you will enjoy the core theme of Europa Report. Mission to Mars dropped the space rock a bit with the overly done big-reveal ending. Europa Report avoids this by staying true to its hard Sci-fi roots and allowing small events to have major impact. If you enjoy your science fiction leaning more towards science and enjoy the journey that a well written novel takes you on, see Europa Report. It’s was certainly worth the trip for them and it is certainly worth the trip for you.

These are a few other reviewed movies that gave me a similar feeling.

Apollo 18 (although horror-themed)

Oblivion

Solaris

and Moon (2009)

Movie Review Pacific Rim (2013)

July 15, 2013 1 comment

Movie Review Pacific Rim (2013)

The Robots are Giant and the Action is Huge

pacific Rim poster

What if Godzilla was bad and Mecha-Godzilla was good?

Giant Robo, Tranzor Z, Gundam, Big O, Voltron and Evengelion- are all part of our collective memory for what a hulking, monstrous robot adventure should be. Add Godzilla in the mix and you have mass destruction on a city-wide scale. The premise is pretty simple. A giant ocean fissure releases aliens into our dimension hell-bent on destroying humanity. They use big monsters so we use giant robots to match them. What ensues are some of the biggest bot battles depicted on screen.

Bang for the Bot

What we get is some really, really, really high quality CGI work that tops the Transformers franchise without repeating the look. Pacific Rim steps away from the Transformers city-motif by pitching its battles at night and in the rain- arguably the toughest combination to render convincingly. Even their at-sea and underwater work looks awesome. If you just go for the sights, you’ll be blown away.  The story, written in part by Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans 2010) focuses on the relationships between pilots for the giant robot Jaegers. It takes two to pilot one and the sync between them is very important. Pacific Rim reaches for dramatic impact without getting too sappy or corny.

A small nod goes to movies like Robot Jox and Robo Warriors who tried to bring us stomping bot action with the expected 80s b-movie results. This is finally realized as Director Guillermo del Toro brings his visionary passion and eye to full effect. Job well done. A point that I was somewhat apprehensive about is how ‘The Americans’ would tread upon the Japanese giant-robot culture. It was… interesting to see western stereotypes still in effect as the Japanese citizens were throwbacks to villagers -even in a very Blade Runner-ish city. The Russian pilots were Drago and his girlfriend from Rocky IV and the Chinese team were anonymous…Chinese…men in (Communist) red suits. We have a Japanese female who is established as being a warrior, but then, is sunk down to being the weak link of the party. Let’s just say our hero does a little too much checking up on her during the battles. It suggests weakness and I’m not sure how much of that is the sympathetic female-cliché and how much is derived from the traditional foot-binding-meekness stereotype.

Following his solid appearance in Prometheus [reviewed by me here] is Idris Elba adding some brass and authority to the picture. Charlie Hunnam plays the main pilot Raleigh Becket, joined by Rinko Kikuchi who is the promising prospect Mako Mori. Alongside this central cast are a few nice turns from the un-expected expected scientists. You’ll see. Another fine addition is Ron Pearlman, which caused the entire audience to tighten up as soon as he appeared. We all knew he was about to add something cool to the movie. He does and the movie does what it sets out to do. See this while it’s still in theaters. Pacific Rim was meant for the big screen.

Like giant robots? Me too. I even made a song about it. “The Big Dynamic Robot Show Episode One” from my Doctor Atomics and the Fortress of Solitude album.

Movie review Man of Steel (2013)

June 15, 2013 2 comments

Movie review Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel is a great story about a super man

Man of Steel movie poster

Steel strength and super man

Superman was in danger of falling into a bad stretch like the Batman franchise was in before Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale settled in. Do we get a great actor and a terrible story? Or do we get a great narrative with the wrong voice behind it? What if you get both parts right, but fail on the reboot’s twist? What’s that twist? It’s the extra element a director or screenwriter adds in or on to make the story, lore and legend their own. You know, it’s Spiderman having organic web secretions instead of a homemade gadget. It’s Robin being a police officer before becoming Batman’s youthful ward, it’s Loki being the frost- oh you get the idea.

In Superman Returns (2006) we had the great casting of Brandon Routh saddled with the weirdness of Superman having a babies momma. We had the untruth of Cyclops [is he gonna lose his girl in every damn movie?] raising a kid that’s not his and that’s simply not Truth, Justice and the American Way. Well it might be the current American way, but we didn’t need to see our hero behave like us.

Superman is an icon of values. And therein lies the spirit of Man of Steel. He is sent to earth to serve as an example of what we could aspire to be. And it’s not just his strength or abilities that we are drawn to, it’s his humble demeanor that covers his god-like powers. As an overall symbol, he is the largeness beyond us that still cares about the smallness within us.

Superman Poster Man of Steel

This is a Symbol of Hope

The S on his chest

Henry Cavill plays a true immortal and brings Superman to life as a heroic and physical specimen. We have Russell Crowe doing a great job as Jor-El, Kevin Costner as the father kent and a few other notables handing in solid performances. I was hoping for more of a Margot Kidder-styled love interest, but Amy Adams does a serviceable job as Lois lane. But I must say this is one of those movies where the trailer fails as a prelude and promise of what’s to come.

Early on we were given a trailer showing the child Clark playing along the laundry line and the Man of Steel streaking upward into the heavens. Cool, but that doesn’t tell us if the movie is any good. From watching the movie (almost) twice, I can only wonder why you wouldn’t reveal more- much more. There are so many epic moments, fights, battles, scrapes and scraps, there was no reason to tease.

What we do get is a reboot and retelling of Superman II (1980) where Kryptonian General Zod and his soldiers attempt to take over the earth. It’s a bit of a jump in the Superman story, but that does leave room for Lex Luthor to arrive in a sequel. Michael Shannon does a wonderful job embodying Zod and plays him as the perfect balance between misguided and maniacal. This is in step with Kent who is a timid titan trapped between two worlds: The Krypton that no longer exists and our earth, which he is alien to. And ALIEN is the angle of this move. We are given a true sense as to what the Kryton world represented. It feels like a true origin far point and hints to a much larger universe. We see true alien technology and Superman is reduced to a misplaced child from the stars. And that loneliness and quest for self-identity fuels Clark’s youthful wanderings. The question is asked, is the world ready for Superman? The better question is- is the Man of Steel ready for the world?

Action Comics

The fight choreography is some of the best and most imaginative I’ve ever seen. It’s the attention to detail that really catches the eye as the small gestures, centered on Superman’s abilities, showcase his godlike-nature. It is a true clash of titans and the action resembles the imagination of a child playing with action figures. Well done. It says the soundtrack credit goes to Hans Zimmer. You will recognize the two ominous tones from John Woo’s The Killer or A Better Tomorrow. I’ll have to do more research into how those compositions are related.

In summary Superman is a solid entry into the super hero flow and stands tall among all Superman renditions. Writers, David S Goyer and Christopher Nolan [also directing] have taken a few liberties and tinkered (and removed) some of the common plot devices from the TV serials. I accept these changes and am curious to see how they figure to play out in future movies. We also have good pacing as it’s not another slow start like endure the origin part, while we wait for the coming out party. Meaningful flashbacks serve to add weight to many of the key moments and overall the movie feels like the perfect length. Sometimes it seems like Batman doesn’t know when to end.

We’ve seen Lois and Clark, Smallville and now Man of Steel. When you create a movie this grand that does such justice to its franchise, it should have really been titled Superman: Man of Steel. Up, up and away.

Movie Review IRON MAN 3

Movie Review IRON MAN 3

 

There’s more Man than Iron in this 3rd story

Iron man 3 Movie poster

More man than metal and mayhem

Where do we go from here? – is an important question to ask since Iron Man 3 follows his biggest adventure, courtesy of The Avengers (2012) movie. It seems Stark is also left shaken after clashing with space aliens, becoming part of a team and discovering the true weight of being a hero. We find a somewhat domesticated Stark going up against an Osama bin Laden-styled terrorist threat. With my review coming- just as Iron Man 3 leaves theaters, I’m not so much giving away spoilers as discussing the overall story in detail. For a quick summary; Iron Man 3 plays out as expected with suits, science, chrome and courage all on display. There’s acerbic attitude and action aplenty. It’s a tie with 2, but (obviously) not as grand an experience as the first Iron Man.

 

Screenplay writer Drew Pearce [Mission Impossible 5] and director/writer Shane Black [Lethal Weapon 2 and The Last Boy Scout] team up inject more Tony and less tin in this 3rd spin. Looking at their previous work, it makes sense that we have more of an action-spy thriller than a straight Marvel comic splashed on the screen. I can follow this leaning because it’s the same issue Spiderman and any other superhero that has a full mask (or is rendered with a lot of CGI) has to deal with. When is the actor supposed to act? And so Robert Downey Jr. spends a huge amount of screen time outside the suit and that happens a lot even during fight sequences. The man behind the metal (I can do this all night) is much more resilient than the suit as the Iron Man armor is used as a disposable shell. Yes, he goes through them (when they are working properly or completely) like, like nothing. They are meaningless tools and no longer the shining symbol of his intellect or his father’s legacy. This theme is also repeated for relationships as Stark reconnects with an old [light] interest and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) is tempted by a previous acquaintance. The foil here is Guy Pearce playing the geeky Aldrich Killian who’s had a massive makeover. Tony treats everyone and everything as near disposable trinkets and it’s caused him to drift from both Pepper and the realities of the new world he lives in. Can he pull it back together in time- to team up with the Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle) and save the good ole US of A?

 

It makes for an interesting bed to explore, except the writing only deals with all of these devices on a surface level. We don’t see the wedge develop between Tony and Pepper. We don’t get a real sense of confusion or a hint of infidelity when Pepper is momentarily fazed by the return of Killian. We aren’t given details about how the world has changed since the alien invasion. We don’t get an explanation as to where The Avengers are and why none of them came to the aid of Iron Man. Especially weird since the news carried the destruction of his mansion and a story that his body was missing. No, not one phone call? I guess Samuel Jackson was too busy making Gazpacho with SIRI.

 

This movie really is a one-man show. Tony becomes James Bronze and plays the field agent and even the soundtrack follows. You will swear that this is Quantum Of Solace in many moments. We have our charismatic hero trying to turn the bad guy’s girl, save the world and defeat a megalomaniac nemesis [well crafted by Ben Kingsley]. I can accept Iron Man 3 as an acceptable addition to the series, but I’m hoping for more metal and emotion in the next movie. I’m not a movie critic; I’m just critiquing a movie.

Move Review Love (2011) – 2001 and Moon meet The Fountain

Love, a movie review

-directed by William Eubank and starring Gunner Wright

After editing my personal tastes and preferences in Netflix, I was bombarded with a ton of movies I have never heard of. Love was one of them. The plot summary detailed a lone astronaut abandoned in a low-orbiting space station that loses contact with earth and loses it. The reviews suggested there was an interwoven story about time travel and the memories of past lives. It sounded interesting enough so I dove in.

 

Love Movie Poster

Love is timeless and bonding

Moon (2009), Directed by Duncan Jones has a similar tone of isolation with a meaningful payoff at the end. We get the same stage here in Love as the living environment of a cold and sterile satellite-station magnifies the aloneness and loneliness. There is simply nothing to do but be alone. And that set up needs to hook you. You have to be pulled in by the hard sci-fi atmosphere and the calm and steady pacing because that’s mostly what you get here.
Director William Eubank seems to specialize in earthy urban dramas and pulled inspiration for Love [his first sci-fi foray] from a few spacey classics. It was as if he intended to improve Moon by saying something bigger in Love. It was if he wanted to recreate the vibe of Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006), but tell the story in a simpler way. And finally, Eubank must have loved the resolution of 2001: A Space Odyssey where Dave Bowman meets himself from the future.

 

In Love, we get interesting, we get profound, but we don’t get awe and epic. In the end, we find that Love is the most powerful bonding agent and it’s our memories of love that keep us rooted in time. Love is a good movie and worth watching, but I get a sense that the memory of this movie will also fade over time. There just wasn’t enough to differentiate it from all the pieces that inspired it.