Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Godzilla' Review

Several hours ago, I had the good fortune to catch a early day showing of the new Godzilla film, and wow, it was beyond amazing. The story, the special effects and the acting, ah, they were so glorious!

Right off the bat, audiences are shown that this isn't just going to be the usual Godzilla-brand movie of giant monsters fighting each other in a major metropolitan center. Yes, there are amazing fight scenes, but there is more then that. There is an actual story being told here, the story of what would happen in our world, if these giant ancient monsters existed, and how would mankind react to them? Take that script, sprinkle in the fight sequences between the various armed forces (primarily US) and Godzilla taking on this new monster that is set out to sweep aside mankind for its own survival, and then there is one heck of a movie in front of audiences.

The special effects were beyond amazing. The CGI for Godzilla and the MUTO (the antagonist monster of the film) was utterly fantastic. It is both believable, and terrifying to behold. If there are ever to be sequel movies made, this is the style of special effects crafting that needs to be utilized for making these movie monsters so real.

As for the acting, well honestly, it was a bit of hit and miss. Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all did amazing jobs with their performances, but Elizabeth Olsen's was a bit out of place. Her role is that of the loving wife to Taylor-Johnson's soldier husband, and she does her part well, but it felt out of place in all these action sequences and scenes within military zones planning the next moves against the creatures. But in the end, all did deliver and helped make the movie all the better for their acting.

'Godzilla' gets four out of four stars for breathing fresh life into the monster movie franchise, and for doing it in a way that pays homage to the films that came before it, while presenting a fresh new take on the genre that can hopefully delight and thrill audiences should further movies be made.

Friday, May 2, 2014

'Amazing Spider-Man 2' Review

One word, can be used to describe the new Spider-Man film ladies and gentlenerds (cliche as it may be), and that word is amazing. This second installment delivers so much to the screen, it stands apart from its predecessor and has laid the foundation for even more great Spider-Man films.

To start off, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone once again do a spectacular job as Peter and Gwen. There are obvious changes to the characters, the passage of time aging them, their relationship now taking a new turn as they leave high school and go off into the world of college. Andrew has upped things in his performance of Spidey, really putting the 'friendly' back into Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. He cracks funny jokes, deliver's great one-liners and carries the character physically in a way that is entirely believable and helps sell the performance. And Emma, oh there was never a doubt in my mind as to her performance. Here is her character, at this crossroads of life, and she has to make tough decisions about her future, and whether or not the man she loves (plus his side career as New York's favorite web-slinging superhero) are going to be a part of it. Once again, she is bold, she is sassy, she will break your heart and then help you pick up the pieces again, only to break it once more.

There are two new-comers to the film, Jaime Foxx as Max Dillon/Electro and Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn. Jamie has set himself up in a huge way as Electro, starting out as meek, pushover Max, who goes through this very Jekyll and Hyde like transformation when he becomes Electro, and gets overwhelmed by this power. By the time the film ends, he has become so intimidating and scary, with these small bolts of electricity crackling from his fingers, that I was genuinely in awe and afraid. As for Dane DeHaan, who is brand new to the franchise in the role of Peter's best friend Harry Osborn, he presents a young man, who was pushed aside by his father and shunted out of his life, all in the name of business. Now he has come back into Peter's life a changed person, and these changes affect their friendship, down to the very core. What comes from these changes, are events that will rock their lives, and the lives of all who close to them.

Special effects, oh what glorious special effects! The CGI for Electro starts out a bit cartoonish, but as the film progresses, it is better and better, until the very end, during the nice, splashy fight sequence, it is utterly unbelievable. Spidey's web slinging across the great canyon's of New York City skyscrapers is wonderful, at times you'd think he was going to websling out of the screen and into the theatre.

Overall, the whole movie was again (a cliche word to use) amazing. Acting, special effects, plot, pacing, all of these things contribute to put together a film that is going to be very memorable for all who see it. Face front true believers, Amazing Spider-Man 2 is worth the ticket money, and I'm giving it five out of five stars. Nuff said. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Review

When a nation calls for a hero, who is the one that answers that call. I'll give you all a hint, he wears the flag on his chest, and carries a wonderful shield made of indestructible alloy's. Once again ladies and gentlenerds, Captain America, the Sentinel of Liberty, is back, and better then ever. 

This second film, starring Chris Evans as one of Marvel's oldest superheroes, delivers not only one-two action sequences, but a compelling and dark story that thrusts Cap's black and white way of viewing the world, into a tangled spy story where a lot of grey bleeds into the picture. 

Audiences are treated to the return of some familiar faces from the Marvel Cinematic-verse, Chris Evans being one, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Samuel Jackson. There is also the return of Sebastian Stan as the titular villain the Winter Soldier, and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon. A second new face is acting legend Robert Redford as senior officer of S.H.I.E.L.D. Though Stan is silent for the majority of the film, his face does most of the talking, conveying the stern, hard evil that the Soldier projects further through his fighting and combat scenes. Mackie does a splendid job as a newcomer to the Marvel fold, and Redford nails his role utterly. 

The script is an excellent one, and while I'm not going to spoil it for everyone who hasn't seen the film yet, if anyone recalls many of the political-thriller films of the 1970s. Steve Rogers may have been awake in the comics for the swinging 60's, the Watergate 70's and the Regan 80's up to the modern day, but since he's been asleep for 60 years within the Marvel Cinematic-verse, the writing is meant to draw the elements of that period, and tie them into the modern setting for him to encounter. And it does that in a way that is both compelling and engaging for audiences. 

Overall, I give this film four out of four stars, for being another brilliant chapter in the Marvel Movie-verse, delivering one again that fantastic blend of story and action that has become synonymous with their movies. And I encourage everyone to go and see this film, because it is worth, 100%.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Draft Day Review

A little while ago, I was very fortunate to sit in on a special preview of the upcoming Kevin Costner film 'Draft Day'. And despite the fact that I know next to nothing about football, I went in expecting great things and walked out of the theatre smiling.

The basic breakdown of the plot is as follows: Costner plays Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver Jr. who is having a tough day as he and the other major teams of the NFL scramble to get their number one draft picks for the 2014 football season. Along the way, he makes a lot of tough decisions and choices that while at first don't seem reasonable to his staff or the rest of the league, in the end he makes the right call, for the good of the team.

Costner does a spectacular job as Weaver, he carries the character with grace and quiet dignity and brings once more, that classic Costner style of taking a role and making it his own. Alongside Costner is Jennifer Garner as Ali, Sonny's salary cap specialist and secret office romance. Filling in is Denis Leary as the Super Bowl winning coach Sonny has hired to replace his recently deceased father (whose legacy as the head coach for the team is felt throughout the film). Then there is Frank Langella as the Brown's owner who keeps Sonny under pressure to pick only the best.

Added into the mix is 'Smallville' star Tom Welling as Brown's QB Brian Drew, Chadwick Boseman as Ohio State linebacker Vontane Mack (one of Sonny's top choices for draft picks), NFL Houston Texans running back Arian Foster as Ray Jennings, whose father (played by Terry Crews), is a former Browns player, who wants nothing more then to play on his father's team and Josh Pence as superstar Wisconsin QB (and the prize pig coveted by many for 1st pick) Bo Callahan.

The film does an excellent job of holding audience attention, with a classic 'ticking clock' counting down how much time is left for Sonny until his draft picks need to be selected. There is also this constant flow of locations, from war rooms to locker rooms, to front office's and supply closets, Radio City Music Hall green rooms, and the handy trick of using multiple-frame/split-screen scenes and sweeping shots of the cities and stadiums of many noted NFL teams.

For all out there who are die-hard NFL fans, the film is a must see. Not only does it present legitimate behind the scenes material on what actually goes on for making draft picks, but the film is also graced with the presence of ESPN broadcasting favorites and the NFL Commissioner himself, Roger Goodell. For everyone else who isn't all that into football, the movie will educate and inform you as to a sliver of what goes on for in the hectic world of professional football. And while this movie may very well be buried when 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' opens next week, this film is a welcome bright spot in a slow movie season.

At the end of it all, I found myself entertained and informed because of this movie. I was entertained by the performances of the many fine actors who come together in this motion picture, and I was informed by all the information I now have about one of the most important facets of the mighty sports machine that is the NFL. My final star count for this sports picture, 5 out of 5. Come April 11 when this movie opens, I recommend it for everyone out there.

Friday, February 7, 2014

'The Monuments Men' Review

I had the pleasure this afternoon, of seeing a film which deals with a key part of history, that many people probably have not heard of before. 'The Monuments Men', adapted from the book 'The Monuments Men' by Robert Edsel, the film is directed by George Clooney and starring himself, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett, and Dimitri Leonidas. Since this review is different from the usual movie fair I write about on here, I should preface my thoughts on the film, with some background on the story behind the film.

With every great mark in history, there are other sides to that mark, deeper etchings then what is just scratched on the surface. World War II will always be remembered as one of the bloodiest, and most important wars in human history. 72 million people died during the war, 6 million of those people were Jewish. And while Hitler had set out with the goal of conquering Europe and eradicating the Jewish people off the face of the Earth, he also set about to plunder Europe of its greatest treasures, it's art, its culture. In the years leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy, the Nazi's plundered from across France, Poland, and the rest of occupied Europe its finest works of art. In response to this, President Roosevelt put together a division of the most unlikely people, museum curators, art historians, sculptors, men of culture, to go into Europe and using their knowledge, preserve and protect the culture of the world. That meant carefully cataloging buildings, paintings, statues, great works of art and ensuring that they made it back to their rightful owners. Most of these great works had been taken by the Nazi's and hidden away, and as the war swayed in the favor of the allies, the Nazi's grew desperate. In their desperation, they were ordered by Hitler to destroy anything culturally significant, including the art. But because of the diligence and hard work of the Monuments Men and those who aided them in their mission, many of the great paintings and pieces that would have been lost to us forever, are still with us today.

The film captures the spirit of the story like lightening in a bottle. Mixed in with lighthearted humor against a dark war backdrop, the story of these brave men and women is shown to us, the people. The cast does an excellent job, and they all work together so well. While the names are different from those in recorded history, the purpose is the same, to find, protect, and preserve, the cultural history of humanity. And while the film does at times seem slow and disjointed (moving the pacing from humorous to serious can throw a person off), it doesn't deter from the main focus of the story. At the end of the day, the movie left me wondering what other aspects of the war wasn't I aware of, what other parts of great points in history are not known to the people? For all those who love history, or love learning about new aspects of history, I highly recommend this film. In the end I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for its amazing story, cast and for presenting to us the story of the few who fought to preserve a great part of what we as people stand for.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

'Thor: The Dark World' Review

Having just returned from viewing the latest Marvel movie for a second time in two days, I decided now was the time to write my review. Having eagerly anticipated this movie, I went into to it opening night with an open mind on what to expect, and was rewarded for that with what was two hours of sheer awesomeness. Now then, let's dive into the review.

Starting off, is casting. You have Chris Hemsworth returning as Thor, Tom Hiddleston returning as Loki, Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster, Anthony Hopkins returning as Odin, and many of the other familiar faces from 'Thor' coming back to the big screen. Now then, for NEW faces, you have Christopher Eccleston as Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim/Kurse, and in a surprising mid-credits scene, Benicio Del Torro as Taneleer Tivan, the Collector. Overall, it was great to have so many familiar faces back in Asgard and Earth again, everyone did an excellent job. I especially enjoyed Eccleston's performance as Malekith, he really delivered this villainous punch to the character, a dark intensity that made me actually quake in my seat slightly. Agbaje was awesome as Kurse, granted Kurse is just a heavy hitter, the muscle to match Thor's might in a fight, but that doesn't mean the character makeup wasn't awesome. And by awesome I mean ugly as heck, but therefore awesome.

The sets were lovely as usual, Asgard in all it's shining glory, Earth being, well Earth. And the desolation of Svartalfheim, wow, visual amazing in terms of its stark, bleak and barren ruin. Picture a land ravaged by war, then mix in the sheer chaos of that land being choked of anything good left in it, and left to rot and decay and fall away to nothing, and you have Svartalfheim.

Finally, I want to comment on the mid-credit scene, that gave a hinting for those who do not follow the movie forums out in the vastness of the Internet. It was such a surprising, and yet funny little scene, hinting at things to come for the Marvel Movie world. If Earth thought the Chitauri were a threat, wait until they see what else is out there. Del Torro will be appearing as the Collector in the upcoming Marvel Studio's film, 'Guardian's of the Galaxy', a film about a group of various beings from across the universe having adventure's. The movie open's of the Marvel Cinematic-verse to the various cosmic beings that have filled many of Marvel's mighty pages over the years, and give's fan's both old and new a taste of something literally out of this world.

Overall, I give 'Thor: The Dark World' four out of four stars, for amazing acting, great casting, stunning sets and visuals and for once again, giving myself and many other Marvel fans, another adventure to help excite us in our day to day lives. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

'Doc Savage' Details, Plot, Character and Casting from Director Shane Black

I am a person, who has always had such a deep love for all the old culture of the 20th century, not just the comic books, and the films and the music, but the pulp novels as well. These were the precursor to comic books, cheap novels that kids could get for a nickel or dime at the local newsstand, featuring horror stories, romance stories, science fiction and even tales of heroes who wore costumes or went out and made the world right. One of the most popular characters from those days was Doc Savage, who adventures were chronicled by Lester Dent under the house name Kenneth Robeson.

Clark "Doc" Savage Jr, was essentially the 'Superman' of the 1930s, (and was in part the inspiration for Superman himself). A brilliant man of many sciences and backgrounds, Doc had been trained by his father and a team of scientists, to be the peak of human perfection in both mind and body. Assembling a team of operatives around him, he traveled the world, having adventures, saving the day and thwarting the forces of evil.

Now, Sony is planning on putting out a Doc Savage movie, filmed by Iron Man 3 director Shane Black. In an interview with IGN, Black had this to say regarding both the film's plot, and deepening the character of Doc Savage.

Obviously in the books there’s an element of ‘goody goody’ that we like. Doc Savage was the basis essentially for Superman because his name is Clark, he has a fortress of solitude, and ‘oh Superman has the same thing, that’s odd.’ But that kind of perfect hero who never makes mistakes him great to a point and that type of adventure and the pulp it represents has been so imitated. Raiders of the Lost Ark is essentially a child of Doc Savage. But we needed something more.
So we kept it in the 30s, we beefed up the sort of rationale behind what it would take to be a perfect person and to be trained as such from childhood and how that would scar someone. And what it would take to be a parent who is capable of inflicting that on your kid. But beyond that we’ve also tried to be true to the series, give him the helpers and it’s also reinvigorating it but introducing a whole new brand of people to this is a challenge. It’s been around, it’s been 75 years. 

 Many fans of the original Doc Savage may not like the idea of Doc being portrayed as someone who is scarred on an emotional level by his perfectionism, but there is no denying that it adds a depth to his vow to "strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better." To many people out there, it could be lamented that modern superheroes are so rarely portrayed as being wholly good and righteous, that a Doc Savage who struggles under the weight of his desire to make himself better, would be more relatable than someone who never showed weakness of resolve. 

When talked turned to the subject of casting, Black admitted that the process was still in the early stages. This isn't due to finding the right actor in terms of talent who could embody Doc Savages personality, but in terms of the physicality of the character. Black had this to say about that angle of casting the pulp hero legend. 

Here’s the problem: They kind of gotta be tall. He’s the perfect physical specimen and when people look at him, they’re overawed by the sort of symmetry and perfection that he exudes. I don’t know that you could use like James McAvoy as Doc Savage. You couldn’t do it. He’s a fine actor, but we need someone big. Back in the day Schwarzenegger was talked about to play Doc Savage. I don’t know who we’d get. 

Sony's president of production, Hannah Minghella, had stated in a previous interview that the studio intends to turn Doc Savage into a franchise that will be "built from the ground up" but any plans on sequels would certainly be put on hold until the first film had been tested at the box office. Disney's recent calamity with the Lone Ranger has given Sony plenty of reason to play things cautiously with Doc Savage, since it has now been shown that classic pulp fiction characters aren't always big sellers.

But Black's description raises a tricky question: should the original source material for such classic characters be treated as sacred, or should the writers and directors simply strive toward the best possible result (kind of like Doc), even if it means altering the protagonist a little bit?