Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Review

July of 2015 is the month of fifths. We got a fifth Terminator movie at the beginning of the month. Two days ago we were given the fifth Vacation movie. Now we have the fifth Mission: Impossible movie. That's quite the month. Speaking of Terminator, if you read my review on that you will know that before I wrote my review for that, I made sure to see all the previous Terminator movies. Knowing that Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation was coming out at the end of the month, I had a similar plan with the Mission: Impossible franchise. Unlike the Terminator franchise, I have actually seen at least most of the Mission: Impossible movies. I even wrote a review on this blog after I saw Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol back in early 2012 after its release in December 2011. It was the fourth review that I wrote for this blog. But it's been a while even since that movie and much longer for the other three. So I was going to do a refresher course on the franchise and the reward for that would be me informing you how this chapter fits in with the previous four. Sadly I failed that mission. Sorry. July 30th came a lot faster than I anticipated. As such, I had two choices. I could postpone seeing this movie until I watched the other four, much like I did with Terminator Genisys. Or I could just screw it and see this movie on opening night. I chose the second option. So unfortunately you won't be hearing right now how I liked this movie compared to the other Mission: Impossible movies, but you are getting this review a lot earlier, so that's good right?

Speaking of my Ghost Protocol review, I went back and read that just now and apparently I wasn't super enthralled with the movie when I first saw it. Interesting. I wonder how that would change on a re-watch because I had a blast with Rogue Nation. Either that means that Rogue Nation is a much better movie or I was in a weird mood when I saw Ghost Protocol. I'm thinking the latter, but we'll see. As you would expect with a Mission: Impossible movie, Tom Cruise has found himself in quite the conundrum. As he is out moseying around the world, he sees some evil dude do a very evil thing and then a bunch of that evil dude's cohorts start beating the living tar out of him and he only escapes because of one of my new favorite females. Then he decides he needs to hunt this evil dude down and so he calls his buddy Hawkeye, I mean Jeremy Renner (who was in Ghost Protocol, which was released before The Avengers), for some help but then he learns that the CIA has shut down his little organization and are out to kill him, so he can only get help from his buddies if they agree to put their lives on the line and help him. You know, typical day in the life of Tom Cruise. I could be more specific with the details and terminology here, but sometimes I like to give as little plot as possible in my reviews, thus preserving the experience for my readers who haven't seen the movie. But you get the point. Basically Tom Cruise is on yet another mission that seems, dare I say... impossible?

The thing that made this movie so great is that it was a huge, wild ride from beginning to end. Often an action movie will spend a little time setting the stage for our adventure and thus we have to wait a bit before we get to the action. That's definitely not the case here. This is like a horse race. Right out of the gate the movie just starts sprinting and it doesn't let up until it crosses the finish line. Brainless action movie? Heck to the no. This is a very smart movie with a fairly intricate plot and amazing characters. Every corner of the movie there is a new twist and turn that keeps you on your toes the whole time. You don't know what's going to happen next. You don't know what crazy stunt Tom Cruise is going to have to pull off next. You don't even know the loyalty of all the characters. Yes, you know that somehow Tom Cruise is going to pull it off, but this is definitely not a predictable movie as you have no idea how he's going to get to that point. During some parts of the movie you hear the conversations of the team as they discuss the plan. Those moments put a big smile on your face as you realize what's going to happen next. Other times the team plans off-screen and we as an audience have no idea what they have up their sleeve. Every single time that happened I had an even bigger smile because of how genius the plan was.

You heard me say team at the end of that last sentence. Without giving anything away, this mission becomes more than just Tom Cruise doing awesome stunts and coming up with ideas on his own. All four of our main protagonists get equal time to shine in this movie, which I really liked. They might not be the brilliant-minded, action star that Tom Cruise is in this movie, but they're all good in their own individual ways. First, I need to talk about Tom Cruise. If you are one of those people that still boycott this man's movies and hate on him because of his personal life, just stop already. I won't go on this rant again, but the man is an absolute genius on the screen. He's getting old now, but he sure as heck doesn't act like it. He's still acting and doing crazy stunts like he's forever in his 20's. The fact that he does his own stunts gives him even more kudos in my book. I don't expect this out of actors. I have zero problem with the inclusion of stunt doubles. But when you can do your own stunts, I give you major props. And there's some crazy things that happen in this movie that make me want to go watch a documentary on the making of this movie to see exactly what Tom Cruise put himself through. The man is a genius, a boss, and a super good actor. Stop being a hater already and accept this man's awesomeness.

The other three now. We have a great trio of support for Tom Cruise in Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames. First off, Jeremy Renner is awesome and the casting people for Ghost Protocol should really give themselves a gold star for getting this guy on board before he exploded on the scene as Hawkeye. Yes it's true that he was Hawkeye in the first Thor, which was released before Ghost Protocol. But it wasn't until The Avengers where he really caught people's eyes, mine included. Now he's in everything and is loved by everyone. Rogue Nation definitely takes advantage of this and ups his role in a big way. Smart move. Simon Pegg does a great job of being the comic relief, especially because he is able to do so in a way that doesn't disrupt the flow of the movie as this movie is very intense at times. He's also able to be equally as good at being serious and I really appreciated that versatility in his performance. Finally, as far as our main group of protagonists goes, we have Ving Rhames, who is the guy you don't want to meet in a dark alley, if you know what I mean. This guy has been in all five Mission: Impossible movies, so huge fans of the franchise will be happy to know that his role in this is pretty big, which wasn't the case in Ghost Protocol if I'm remembering correctly.

I'm now done talking about our main group of protagonists, but I'm not through with talking about these actors in this movie. Alec Baldwin is new to the franchise in this movie and I don't want to say much about his character, so I will just tell you that I really enjoyed him. This was one of the better Alec Baldwin roles. Who I do want to spend time on is the girl who I said in the second paragraph was one of my new favorite females. Her name is Rebecca Ferguson and there's a good chance you've never heard of her because the only notable thing she's done before this was last year's Dwayne Johnson Hercules movie. But holy cow, what a find. She might be the best part of this movie, which is saying a lot because there are a lot of great characters in this movie. I don't want to say too much about what she does because she is a fairly mysterious girl, but she is on par with Tom Cruise in the movie in terms of both intelligence and action. Half of the time she is actually outsmarting and out-maneuvering him and it works. I hope this movie ends up being a stepping stone for more big roles, because I really want to see more of this girl in the future. This also makes for quite the strong year for female action stars.

If there's one flaw that I find in this movie, it's the actual master-mind behind all of this villainy. While the scheme itself was brilliant, as a main villain I didn't find him very convincing. When he finally got his screen-time, I didn't buy the fact that he was the one to come up with all of this. But that's really the only issue I had with this movie and that's quite the minor issue when compared to the awesomeness that was the rest of this movie. Best action movie of the summer, like the recent TV spots have been saying? Well, no. I'd still give that title to Mad Max: Fury Road. But this ain't too far behind that. If you don't like action movies, then this isn't for you of course. But if you love action movies, which will probably be the case for most of the people reading this review, then you need to make movie a high priority because it's an absolute blast from beginning to end. I really wish I could give you my ranking for this movie in compared to the other Mission: Impossible movies. Sorry again for that. But I don't imagine things getting much better than this. It's everything you would expect from a movie called Mission: Impossible and perhaps even more. I'm going to give this movie a very strong 9/10. I even considered going a bit higher with this, but that's a strong grade for me as is, so I feel comfortable with it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love & Mercy Review

Going to see Love & Mercy the other day was quite the experience. While I do enjoy seeing big blockbusters, I'm often searching for any chance I can get to see a smaller, lesser-known film in theaters. Love & Mercy is one of those festival movies that found its way into theaters. For some reason, I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I had seen no trailers, no advertising, and barely any posters for the movie. I just knew it was a smaller movie that had gotten really good reviews. That was it. That was good enough for me, though. So I went in, hoping to enjoy it and actually was a few minutes late, so I missed the very beginning. When I walked in, there was a man having a really awkward conversation with a car saleswoman inside an older car. Ok, cool. This movie was set 30 or so years ago, I thought to myself. Man gets out of car after saying he wants to buy it. Then man gets introduced as Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. Wait what? Am I here seeing a biopic of the freaking Beach Boys? How did I not know that this existed? Yup, that was my movie-going experience. I went and saw a Brian Wilson biopic without realizing it even existed. That was great. And in terms of biopics, this was a pretty darn good one. I personally enjoyed it more than last year's Oscar-nominated biopics The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.

In addition to having no idea that I was going to see a Brian Wilson biopic, the other thing that made this a really good experience for me personally was that I knew pretty much nothing about the personal lives of any of the Beach Boys. All I knew is that they wrote some pretty darn good songs like "Good Vibrations," "Barbara Ann," and "Fun, Fun, Fun." So everything that happened in the movie was a total surprise. If you are a huge Beach Boys fan and you know every detail about their personal lives, I'm sure this will still be a great experience for you as I have enjoyed plenty of biopics where I knew how it was going to end. But knowing nothing made for quite the experience because apparently Brian Wilson had quite the crazy life and thus this was quite the intense and emotional movie. The movie jumps between two separate timelines. One timeline is back in the 60's during the Beach Boys' heyday. The other is during the 80's where Brian Wilson was going through quite the ordeal. I don't know how much of this ordeal I want to share, but I think it's safe to say that in the 60's his mental health was deteriorating quite a bit and some awful things happen to him in the later story line because of that.

One thing I found fascinating about this movie was that duel story line. The logical way to make a biopic is to start at the beginning of your story and move towards the end. That's what happens most of the time and I'm just fine with that. But bonus points go out when a movie can successfully stray away from this traditional narrative in a way that works. That's the case here. We eventually get the story of Brian's whole life. In addition to the two main story lines, we are told of what happened in his life during his childhood as well as what happens in between our two main story lines. But having it all come as a puzzle was really interesting. It also built up the story and the suspense very well. We see how Brian is acting later in life and we slowly get more and more background as to how he got to this point. Both story lines were also really interesting to follow in their own way. It could've worked very well as two separate movies, a movie about his life in the 60's and a movie about his life in the 80's. Instead it's like we watched the movie and its sequel at the exact same time. How often do you get that experience?

Major props go out to every actor involved in this movie. I first want to mention this blonde female actor in the movie before I mention the two Brians. Like I said, I knew almost nothing going into this film. I didn't even know who it starred. The later story line centered around a complicated love story that followed the female part of that more than Brian. For the life of me I couldn't figure out who this actress was, but I swear I knew her from something and since I was really enjoying the heck out of her performance, I wanted to know who it was and I wasn't about to pull out my cell phone in the theater. That's not cool. Sure enough, the credits eventually rolled around and holy Effie Trinket it was Elizabeth Banks as this girl. Wow! I mean, I've always loved Elizabeth Banks, especially in her Hunger Games role, so I'm not surprised that she was able to pull this off, but I was still impressed as this was the best I've ever seen her. I'd be in total support of her get recognized by the award ceremonies at the end of this year.

Next I want to discuss both of our Brians. Younger Brian is played by Paul Dano and older Brian is played by John Cusack. Both of these guys are the bomb in this. I think it's especially difficult to portray a character who is going through mental issues and in this case its especially difficult because the two actors have to be pretty in sync with each other as the one eventually progresses to being the other and that transition I feel is done rather well. Both of these actors definitely felt like the same character. Now John Cusack has been around for a while and he's usually great in everything he does, even if the movie itself isn't the best (2012 is an example of that). So it's no surprise that he is great in this. Props to the guy for some good consistency throughout his career. Paul Dano on the other hand is someone who's really impressed me as of late and I think he's one to keep your eye on. No, he's not new to the acting business. But he's pulled off some dang good performances as of late. In Prisoners he played our mostly mute, mysterious victim. I believe he was one of the scumbag slave owners in 12 Years a Slave. Now this where he plays a Brian that is slowly deteriorating mentally while achieving major success with the Beach Boys. All super impressive.

Also, we have Paul Giamatti in the movie. I don't want to say much about who he plays and what he does, but holy freaking cow. If I were to pick only one person to award, it might be him. But really, they are all worth it. Too bad this movie came out at the wrong time of year to be considered a serious contender. Had this been a fall or winter release later this year, I think it would be turning more heads in the awards race. I mean, if we give Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, Keira Knightley, and Felicity Jones Oscar nominations (and a win for Redmayne) for roles in their respective biopics last year, then someone in this should get a nomination, whether it be Cusack, Dano, Giamatti, or Banks because I walked out of this movie as impressed or more impressed with their performances than with the previously mentioned performances (all of which I enjoyed for the record). But alas, this movie will probably be forgotten come nomination time in January. What a sad, messed up system we have where you need to be released later in the year for the Academy to remember you existed. Because let's be honest, situations like The Grand Budapest Hotel from last year are more of an anomaly.

Overall, if you like the Beach Boys, then this is a movie that you need to check out. I watched the trailer after seeing this movie (not completely intentional -- no need to tell that story here, though) and they have this tagline that says something to the effect of you won't see the Beach Boys' music the same after watching this and I think that is true. Knowing Brian Wilson's story will give you a different perspective on this great band. Even if you don't call yourself a Beach Boys fan, but you like biopics or you just like watching good movies in general, then this is also a movie that you need to see because it's one of the better biopics that I've seen. It's also a movie where the narrative is very well crafted and all the performances by the cast are just excellent. Huge props especially go out to Elizabeth Banks, John Cusack, Paul Dano, and Paul Giamatti for really making this work. This is an intense and emotional ride that deserves your attention. I'm awarding Love & Mercy a 9/10.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pixels Review

At the beginning of this year, as I was preparing to make my annual yearly movie preview I stumbled across a movie that sounded genius. 1980's video game characters are sent to attack the earth and the military turns to some video game nerds to save the day. That immediately put a huge smile on my face and I included that in the good movies section. Perfectly logical? Absolutely not. But it sounded like a whole lot of fun. Perfect Summer movie. Then the trailer was released. We got Pac-Man, we got Donkey Kong, we got Centipede, we got Tetris. All sorts of classic games that everyone loves. Right? Advertising was pretty flawless in my opinion. It looked just as fun as the premise sounded and I was stoked. However, there was a huge number of people that saw Adam Sandler and Kevin James in the trailer and immediately shut off their brains, Rantings began of how both of those two are the worst actors on planet Earth and have never made a good movie in their entire careers and never will. NO!!! Oh the ignorance and stupidity. I immediately began defending both of those two and this movie that looked genius. Pretty soon this movie and me had developed a special connection because I was one of the few that loved the idea and defended its actors. Well, you know that feeling when someone who you considered your best friend does something completely despicable, thus stabbing you in the back, leaving you hurt and broken for years? Yeah that's almost how I feel right now. After seeing Pixels, I totally regret speaking one word in the movie's defense and now I'm going to take out my bitter revenge in this review. Prepare yourselves.

So what of this supposedly genius plot of 1980's video game characters attacking the world with super genius video game nerds saving the day? Yeah, let's back up a bit. It's 1982. Young versions of Adam Sandler and Kevin James steal this girl's huge jar of lemonade money and take it to the arcade with them. Adam Sandler instantly becomes an expert at every game imaginable and that of course leads him to entering the first annual arcade game championship where these boys will be filmed and that film will be sent by NASA into space as a treaty to the alien planets out there. Wait, what? Yeah. That's just said in passing as if its a completely logical plot device that everyone in the theaters is going to buy. So instead of being fun and silly, it's decided to go with the completely horrible and stupid route. Oh but we're not done. Advance 30 years into the future. Kevin James is the President of the United States. Yes, you read that right. Kevin James is the President of the United States. And he is the biggest buffoon on planet Earth who doesn't even know how to read well. How was he elected? Would anyone on Earth decide to vote for this character? Oh yes, comedy. That's what this. It's supposed to be funny. Got it. So anywho, these aliens decide that they are going to wage war by sending these video game characters to Earth and apparently the only people on planet Earth who have played a video game in their lives are these three doofuses played by Adam Sandler, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage. Yet all they do is point the gun and shoot. And not even trailed military personnel can aim a freaking light gun at the centipedes.

That's our movie guys. Not this fun, silly adventure where you turn off your brain and enjoy. It was this grueling, painful event stuffed with some of the worst writing I've seen on film this year. This writing is so bad that it rivals such movies like Jupiter Ascending or Strange Magic from the beginning of the year. Haven't seen those? Good. Forget about them. The acting here isn't even the problem. All these bitter Adam Sandler trolls on the internet who say the man has never made a good movie and never will are probably now laughing at me and others who defended this. But do you know what, the man HAS made plenty of good movies. He CAN act when he wants to. Happy Gilmore? The Waterboy? 50 First Dates? The Longest Yard? Click? Bedtime Stories? Hotel Transylvania? These are all good movies by Adam Sandler, several of which he pulled off a great acting performance. I even heard that he was pretty good in last year's Men, Women & Children even though the movie itself was a pile of garbage. Yes, there are plenty of times where he just seems like he doesn't care and is there for the paycheck. This actually isn't one of them. He's fine in the movie. He tries to make it fun. It's not his fault the writing was so freaking bad that not even a great actor could redeem the movie.

Same thing goes for Kevin James. For anyone who says he's never done any good, I'd quickly remind you of this TV show called The King of Queens. That was a fantastic late 90's/early 2000's sitcom. Even if you didn't like him in that, pretty much everyone I've talked to has enjoyed the movie called Hitch, which is one of my personal favorite rom-coms. Even movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Zookeeper, and Here Comes the Boom played very well for the younger audience that it was intended for. Yes, I called his character a buffoon earlier in my review, but that's not Kevin James' fault. He was just written is an unlikable buffoon. Let's continue. Josh Gad. The man is pretty much a legend in a little-known animated movie called Frozen. The voice of Olaf? I was laughing non-stop the whole movie at Olaf's brilliant one-liners. How is it that nothing that comes out of Josh Gad's mouth is even remotely funny in Pixels? Was Frozen just a one-hit wonder for him? Did he forget how to make people laugh? I don't believe that. He was trying in this movie, but the writing was so bad that it was impossible for him to be funny. Peter Dinklage. That little guy is a genius. I personally know him as Miles Finch from Elf. You know, the character that Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf refers to as a "South Pole elf" or an "angry elf"? Many of you will know him for Game of Thrones. He plays Tyrion Lannister in that. The guy knows how to act. But in Pixels he is just awful. His fault? Nope.

Getting my vibe here? This is one of those films where I could start at the beginning and go scene by scene explaining how awful things were in this movie and I'd still probably miss things. I'll spare you the pain of even attempting that, but just know that this was a painful experience for me. I went to the movie to have fun. I was hoping that I was going to laugh. There were about five minutes in the movie where I had a little bit of fun. That was when they were chasing Pac-Man around New York City. There were a few jokes a I laughed at. Josh Gad sits in Kevin James' Presidential chair. Immediately Kevin James tells him to get out and Josh Gad immediately jumps right back up, making some sort of witty comment. For some reason I found that funny. I chuckled a bit. I don't know if that was supposed to be funny, but it was. But they were trying to make me laugh the whole movie and 99 percent of the time it just didn't work. I wanted to laugh. I wasn't just being a grinch. I love laughing. But this wasn't a funny and it was painful to see them try over and over and over and over. Is this a time where I blame the director? Possibly. Chris Columbus is that man. He has directed such movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, Bicentennial Man, the first two Home Alone movies, and the first two Harry Potter movies. He was a writer for The Goonies and Gremlims. So the man is a talented man. Don't know what went wrong here.

I could go on. I could talk about some really awkward things that happened at the end of the movie. I could dive into one of the worst played romances in recent memory. But I'll stop here because I think you get my point. Pixels just doesn't work. If you saw it already, I'm sorry I couldn't warn you earlier. I decided to give my attention to Southpaw and Paper Towns first. If you haven't seen it yet, just don't. If you are part of the crowd who jokes with me that you end up liking every movie that I hate, then look at some other reviews. The movie is at 5.1 on IMDb. It's at 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Trustworthy YouTube reviewers like Chris Stuckmann and Jeremy Jahns both trashed this movie. Stuckmann even gave this movie a big, fat "F." No one is enjoying this movie, so it's not just me. I saw it because that's what I do. I watch movies and write about them. Sometimes I seek out the bad movies so that I can have fun writing bad reviews. If you are a casual movie-goer, just skip this one. At the very least, wait till it comes to Red Box, Netflix, or a dollar theater where you don't have to spend much money and you can turn it off or walk out without much worry when you realize that all of us were right all along. As a lover of the classic arcade video games that this movie showcased, I was especially frustrated at such a wasted opportunity. My grade for Pixels is a 3/10 and I only go so high because I can tell the actors were trying to make this fun and there were a few brief moments where I had a bit of fun. But mostly it's just crap.

Paper Towns Review

Last year at around this time, I went into what I thought was going to be a cheesy romance film with the added gimmick of a girl dying of cancer to make it seem more interesting. I almost even skipped it. But I saw it anyways for whatever reason and holy fetch. I couldn't have been more wrong. It was one of those awesome movie going experiences where you have very low expectations going in, but end up getting blown away by how good it is. If you haven't figured it out by now, I am of course talking about The Fault in Our Stars, which was based off of the John Green novel. This time around I was ready. Without even knowing the premise, when they announced they were adapting another John Green novel to film, that of Paper Towns, I became excited. I was ready for another great movie going experience that would give me some sort of feel good message about life. For much of this movie, I was very pleased with my experience and I was ready to report that once again a John Green novel has hit a home run. But then the end of the movie happened. And then I thought about other aspects of the film that were slightly hokey. So as it turns out, this is a much more mixed bag for me, but overall a recommendable film.

If you've never heard of Paper Towns and "based off of a John Green novel" is not enough to attract you to the theaters, let me quickly describe the fun and genius nature of this plot before I pick apart its imperfections. Our movie is about this high school kid named Quentin. He's a pretty by-the-books sort of kid who's always doing what he's supposed to and never getting trouble. He gets straight A's in his classes and he has plans on going to a prestigious college followed by Medical School and all that jazz. You get the picture. Our other main character is a girl named Margo. She's almost the exact opposite. She's probably not a bad student, per se, but she's a lot less interested in school and more interested in all these crazy adventures that could potentially get her in a whole lot of trouble. Quentin, of course, is madly in love with Margo and has been since she moved across the street from him when they were younger. They used to even hang out all the time until they grew apart. One day towards the end of his senior year in high school, she shows up at his window and forces him to go on all these crazy adventures with her and he has the night of his life. Then Margo disappears the next day and Quentin and his two best friends go on a treasure hunt to try and find her.

Sound like a sappy teenage romance movie? It's not. I'd refer to it as more of a teenage adventure movie. I say that our two main characters are Margo and Quentin, but in reality it's a lot more focused on Quentin and his two friends Ben and Radar. The three of them are all very unique, but together they make for quite the entertaining trio. The movie was a lot of fun, especially when we got to our treasure hunt/mystery part of the movie. In addition to being an adventure movie, this is definitely a comedy and these kids did a great job of making me laugh. I also appreciated the fact that they actually looked like high school seniors. A lot of movies these days that are set in a high school have actors who are aged anywhere from 25 to 30 playing these high school students. The DUFF was a great example of this. I actually enjoyed the movie, but no Robbie Amell does not pull off 18 very well. He's a year older than I am as he was born in 1988. After getting home from the movie, I looked up the ages of these Paper Towns actors and they are in fact as young as they look. For the most part they are 19 or 20 years old. I think Cara Delevigne was the oldest at 22.

Another thing that I enjoyed about this movie was that our characters had a decent amount of depth to them. There's this one girl in particular that plays the hot girl and she gets upset that people can only see her as the hot girl and not the smart, intelligent girl that she really is. It wasn't cheesy. It was emotional and well-played. Also impressive was the acting in the movie. All of these young adults did a very good job. Some of these people are fairly new actors. If I threw out the names Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, and Halston Sage, you'd probably have no idea who I'm talking about because they haven't really been in anything. But they gave the type of performance in this where I'd think that they all have a bright future ahead of them. On the other hand, if I say the names Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne, there's a much higher chance of you recognizing them. Wolff was also in The Fault in Our Stars and has been in other movies such as Stuck in Love and Palo Alto. Delevigne has done a lot of modelling work and was also in Anna Karenina. She also has big roles in the upcoming movies Pan and Suicide Squad, so if you don't know her now, you will soon. Both of them were great in this.

As you can see, there are plenty of great aspects of this movie. Where it kinda derailed for me was the final part of the movie. I'm not going to share why on this post as that would be a spoiler, but I will say that it reminded me a bit of Tomorrowland from earlier this Summer. It was fun going on the journey to Tomorrowland, but once we got there it was fairly lame and boring. Same principles here. There are aspects of the ending that I did actually appreciate, but at the same time I was not happy with how things turned out. Then I got to thinking that if they had done things differently, I would've also had issues, so it was kind of a lose/lose situation based on how they set it up. When I thought about what the root of this issue was, my conclusions were that these characters felt pretty fake and unrealistic. Better words might be that they are idealistic or romanticized teenagers. The parents and adults in this movie, or the lack thereof, are a huge part of the problem. These kids can do whatever they want without suffering any consequences whatsoever. Cara Delevigne's character of Margo was especially bad. I actually really loved Cara's performance. She's a beautiful and talented actress. But the more I think about her character, the more I realize how hokey of an idea she is. Thus sadly the more I thought about this movie, the more it just fell apart for me.

Then I got to thinking about The Fault in Our Stars and I realized that even though I still like that movie, it does suffer from similar problems. I mean, we have this girl who is dying from cancer and almost out of the blue we have this perfect guy who falls in love with her and perfect things start to happen for them? Yeah... no. Yes, it does have other themes that I really enjoyed that make it a better movie than Paper Towns overall, but perhaps the issue lies with John Green. Perhaps his writing just includes a lot of idealistic teenagers or characters that help teach some good principles. I guess it works to some degree. It also probably works very well for the teenage audience, so kudos there? However, there are plenty of movies that are similar to this that I feel do a much better job than Paper Towns at making their movie feel realistic, yet still give a very positive message. The DUFF is a good recent example that's more well known. Past movies like Easy A are fantastic. A recent, lesser known movie that might be the best in this genre is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. That's one of my favorite movies so far this year. Super realistic high school movie with a message that is a lot more powerful.

No Paper Towns is not a bad movie. I had fun with it. It's led by a great trio of friends who are an absolute blast to watch. They are all very different from each other, yet as friends that have super good chemistry. The movie is especially fun when Margo disappears and sends them on a treasure hunt to find her. The movie will certainly instill in you a sense of adventure. It made me want to go out and do something. But after everything wrapped up, it felt like there was a lot things that were missing in the movie. A lot of the writing didn't make sense when I thought about and a lot of the characters I felt did things and got away with things that normal teenagers wouldn't do or wouldn't get away with. As far as a recommendation, if you liked The Fault in Our Stars or you are a fan of John Green, go see this movie. If you are a teenager reading this review, go see this movie. If you're not sure about it, my recommendation would be to go find Me and Earl and the Dying Girl instead or even go rent The DUFF. They are similar movies to this that are far superior. My grade for Paper Towns is a 7/10.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Southpaw Review

Last year Jake Gyllenhaal delivered a knockout blow with his performance in the movie Nightcrawler. Not only was the movie itself one of my favorite movies from last year, but in my opinion, Gyllenhaal's performance in the movie was hands down the best performance by an actor from all of last year. I'm still mad at the Academy for not giving him any recognition. Anything short of a win would've been considered a disappointment in my books, yet they didn't even give him a freaking nomination. Much thanks to the YouReviewers Movie Awards for giving him their best actor award. At least one awards show out there can recognize excellence when they see it. But I digress. After receiving a huge blow from the Oscars last year, Gyllenhaal is back in the ring once again with his first of three attempts to please the ever so bitter group of voters. And yes, if you didn't notice, I am using boxing metaphors on purpose because this first attempt of his is a boxing movie. Personally I'm a huge fan of the genre and if you couldn't tell I'm a huge fan of Gyllenhaal, so this seemed like a match made in heaven for me. While a lot of other critics haven't dug this film (it's somehow ended up on the rotten side of the tomato meter), I'm hear to report that this doesn't disappoint. If you like boxing movies, Southpaw is a must see.

The biggest complaint that I have seen from critics is that this movie doesn't bring anything new to the genre. No, it doesn't. My response to that, though, is that it doesn't need to bring anything new or fancy. There's a formula that all of the best boxing movies use and it's a formula that works pretty dang well. So why stray from the formula that has worked so good in the past? Think for a second about all the Rocky films or any other boxing film for that matter. Our boxing champion starts out on the top. Something happens that causes him to fall. This may be a loss in the ring, a decision to retire from the game, a death of a family member or close friend, or something else along those lines. Our champion then spends a good portion of the movie down in the dumps before something then inspires him to get back up and prepare to fight again. He usually finds himself a good trainer if he doesn't have one already. We as an audience get to see an excellent training montage with hopefully an epic song playing in the background. Then our champion gets back in the ring for a final match where, win or lose, some sort of goal is accomplished and we end the film feeling uplifted and inspired.

That's the formula. If you don't like it, then fine. This movie isn't for you. But it's a formula that works very well for the genre and one that gets me almost every time when done right. Yes, the variables are always different. I could take some time right here telling you about the specific variables that Southpaw uses, but I'm not going to. If you really want to see what they are, just go watch the trailer again because once again too much of the plot is shared in this trailer. I'll spare you the rant this time around, but you know what I usually say to that.  Needless to say, Southpaw hits all the right notes it needs to in order to be one heck of a boxing movie. This is an extremely emotional movie that sees Jake Gyllenhaal become an absolute mess. Once he becomes this mess, I was once again blown away by the amazing acting prowess that this man has. I always say the best actors are those who can totally immerse themselves into a role and become the character they are trying to portray. Gyllenhaal did this last year in Nightcrawler to perfection. Once again he has completely transformed himself and is almost unrecognizable. I didn't see Jake Gyllenhaal. I saw a boxer whose life has completely fallen apart. When I read about all the effort and preparation the Gyllenhaal put into this role, it becomes even more impressive. He's a guy who seems to take every role seriously and I really appreciate that.

If you've watched enough boxing movies, you'll know that most of the good ones always have a moment. This moment I speak of is often a turning point where an emotional and/or heated discussion takes place between our main character and a person close to him. Southpaw's moment is between Gyllenhaal and his daughter. This daughter is played by a young 12-year-old girl named Oona Laurence and dang can this girl act. I'm always a lot more forgiving if a child actor doesn't pull off the best acting performance. I don't think it's fair to hold them to the level of their adult co-stars. However, when they do pull off a performance that is equal in scale to the adults in the movie, it's that much more impressive. Little Oona does just that. Fantastic. The other great performance in this movie is another one of my favorite actors, that of Forest Whitaker. I feel that he's often under-appreciated when he shows up in a movie. He doesn't get a whole ton of recognition. But he's also one who fully immerses himself into his role and this is no different. He plays the perfect supporting role in this movie that really is the glue that holds all the big pieces together.

In general I would say that the writing in this movie is just perfect. In addition to being acted beautifully, all the characters are just so wonderfully written. There's a lot of different story arcs that are going on during this movie in addition to Gyllenhaal's character and they're are perfectly woven together to create a grand and glorious big picture. This is also a movie that does get rather intense and graphic at times. When the fights happen, instead of being a spectator to the fight, it feels more like we are taken into the ring with the characters and they spare no pain in being realistic to what might actually happen when you get punched right in the face. This is not done in a gratuitous manner, but being that we are up close and personal, I often felt the same sentiments as the daughter and/or wife as they were watching their dad/husband get beat up. This also made for some pretty excellent cinematography that made it feel very realistic. Going along with this, the soundtrack was pretty great as much of it consisted of songs that Eminem wrote for the picture. I'm not usually a fan of rap, but I've learned to really appreciate the brilliant lyricist that is Eminem and I will say that when these songs of his started playing at all the key moments in the film, they fit very well with the tone of the movie.

Overall, Southpaw is a movie that worked very well for me. No, it didn't do anything unique or crazy with the boxing genre, but in my opinion it didn't need to. Sometimes when you are making a movie it is much better to just follow a tried and tested formula than to try to branch out too much. Yes Southpaw followed this boxing movie formula, but it hit all the right notes along the way and thus as a fan of boxing movies, I was very pleased. Propelling this movie was yet another excellent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal who once again proves why he is one of my current favorite actors. Is this the movie that will avenge his slap in the face by the Oscars last year? I don't know. Probably not. But whatever. After seeing Southpaw, I watched a YouTube video done by Francis Maxwell and Jason Rubin from the TYT Sports YouTube channel where they rank their top five favorite boxing movies (check it out right here) and they included Southpaw in their list. I don't know how my list would be, but I do agree with them that Southpaw is one of the best boxing movies that has been made and one of the best movies of the year so far. My grade for Southpaw is a 9.5/10.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ant-Man Review

I make it no secret that I am a huge Marvel fanboy. No apologies. No shame. I absolutely love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I have not been disappointed yet. Sure, there are some of the movies that are better than others, but in my opinion they haven't made a bad movie. It also might surprise some people to hear that I am also a huge DC fanboy. This whole Marvel vs. DC thing is silly to me. Can't we just like both? Why does it have to be one or the other? I just like a good superhero movie. They're a lot of fun. Yes, we're getting a lot of them right now and no I'm not sick of it at all. I think it's a great time to be a comic book fan because all of these heroes and stories that we grew up on are now being seen in the theaters in great abundance. It's like a dream come true. So the experience of walking into a movie theater to see yet another superhero movie for the first time just never gets old for me. The experience was even made better this time around when I sat down in the theater to find out that my good friend Kathi Dawn was coincidentally sitting right behind me. She told me to give a shout out to her in this review and I promised her I would. I'm a man of my word. Friends are great. Superhero movies are great. Watching superhero movies with friends is just the best. And do you know what makes the experience even better than the best? When once again Marvel just rocks your socks off with how totally freaking awesome the movie is. Yes ladies and gentlemen. Ant-Man is fan-freaking-tastic!

One thing that I've really appreciated about Marvel recently is their willingness to take risks. Ant-Man was yet another huge risk for them. There's two things that made this a huge risk. The first is that once again they decided to adapt a fairly unknown superhero to the big screen. The second is that the casual fan actually thought that the idea of Ant-Man was a very bad one. I can't tell you how many times in the last several months that I heard people predicting that Ant-Man was going to be Marvel's first bad movie and/or their first big flop. Last year's Guardians of the Galaxy also was an adaption of a group of unknown superheroes, but the advantage that movie had was a super effective marketing campaign that had people excited beyond belief ever since the first teaser trailer dropped. The Ant-Man teaser actually did nothing to convince skeptics that this was going to be good. The ensuing trailers did a better job, but I would argue that there was still more bad-will than good-will heading into this weekend. On a personal level, I was excited this whole time. I've actually developed a motto of "in Marvel we trust." Until they start making bad movies, I'm going to be excited for everything they put out. In addition to that, Ant-Man's powers and abilities sounded like something that would make for a very entertaining movie and when I personally saw the trailers I saw something that looked like a blast.

So what is Ant-Man about? Well, you can call Ant-Man an origin story. A more accurate label in my opinion might actually be a passing of the torch story. Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man in the comics and in this movie he is already an established character. He's already discovered the substance that helps him shrink and created the suit that enabled him to control that as well as communicate with ants. In fact, he's already spent years and years as the Ant-Man. One of his former mentors in the movie, Darren Cross, has created a suit similar to the Ant-Man called the Yellowjacket. He plans on selling this in mass quantities, which concerns Hank Pym because this technology in the hands of the wrong people could do a lot of bad. With Hank Pym being too old to stop Darren Cross by himself, he recruits former convict Scott Lang in a rather creative selection process to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man. One thing that I really loved about this movie was that it was a very small-scale movie. Yes, go ahead and chuckle at that pun there, but that's the best way to describe this. A lot of superhero movies are doing their best to be bigger and better than the previous one. Marvel themselves are going this route with a lot of their movies. But Ant-Man is scaled back. It's not trying to be bigger or better than anything else Marvel has done. There's even a conversation that happens where one character asks if they should call the Avengers for this but the other one says they are just going to solve this concern by themselves. Being that I have learned to love smaller films, I felt an extra special attachment to this because it had the small movie feel to it.

As is the case with most smaller films, this movie also relies a lot on story and characters. In fact, we go quite a while before we get a lot of Ant-Man action. Much of the movie takes place in Hank Pym's house. I know a lot of people will be disappointed in this as they wanted a non-stop action movie like the most recent Avengers movie, but I actually loved this approach this time around and what really sold it for me was an absolute grand slam of a cast. There's a whole lot of people that I want to talk about here and I will get to them, but there's one person in this movie that I want to talk about first and it may surprise you, but that person is my girl Evangeline Lily. If you didn't know already, my all-time favorite TV show is LOST. I'm not going to give you a review of LOST here, but the strength of the show is that it is a huge character piece with a lot of well-written characters and phenomenal actors. It's hard to pick a favorite actor or actress from the show, but if I had to I would actually pick Evangeline Lily as Kate. Such a great character and an amazing actress. I've always hoped that the cast of LOST would have a ton of post-LOST success and it's really made me happy to see Evangeline Lily obtain that with roles like this in Ant-Man as well as Tauriel in the Hobbit movies. In Ant-Man she plays Hank Pym's daughter Hope van Dyne and her relationship with her father is a rocky one. Watching that relationship is actually one of the best parts of the movie and a big part of that is Evangeline Lily's amazing as always performance.

Speaking of that relationship, the other half of that is also amazing. Like seriously. Holy Michael freaking Douglas. The Oscar-winning actor shows once again why he is one of the best in the business. In fact, after watching this I want to now go watch all of his adventures as Hank Pym's Ant-Man. No, they don't exist as movies, but I want them to. I'd also be down for making Michael Douglas young again so we can go make these movies. But alas, that may not be possible, probably, or likely. And that's okay because Paul Rudd as Ant-Man is also spectacular. The guy just has a whole lot of charisma as Scott Lang. He's made some bad decisions and he's trying to make up for it and become a new person so that he can be there for his daughter. But things just aren't working out for him and you really feel bad for him and you want things to. Then he becomes the Ant-Man and man does he do a good job as that character. I'm excited to see him join the Avengers, because yes, this movie absolutely does connect with the Avengers and it does so in fantastic fashion. Apparently this is the dispute that caused Edgar Wright to leave the project, which is sad because this was his dream project for many years. After watching this, though, I do side with Marvel because the connection with the Avengers is fabulous. And new director Peyton Reed does a great job with this. I am happy that Marvel was classy enough to give Edgar Wright writing and story credit.

I know I've spent a long time talking about the actors in this movie, but I'm not done because there are two more that have to be mentioned. The first of these two is Michael Pena. He plays Scott Lang's buddy who helps him out and that guy is a hoot in this. Everything he said and did just had me busting up laughing. On that note, the movie is simply hilarious all around. Michael Pena is just one aspect of that. While DC is taking the serious, "zero fun sir" route, Marvel is keeping things light and fun. Paul Rudd in general knows how to do comedy, so him as Scott Lang works perfectly in that manner and together with Michael Pena just is comedic gold. All the humor just lands perfectly and is balanced very well with the entertaining action. The final actor I need to bring up ties very well into that entertaining action aspect of the movie and that is our villain Darren Cross, who is played by Corey Stoll. Looking at his filmography, Corey Stoll has been around for a few years now as he had roles in Salt, Midnight in Paris, and The Bourne Legacy, but the movie where he caught my attention was last year's Non-Stop, the Liam Neeson mystery thriller about someone hijacking a plane. Stoll played a big role in that and was excellent and so when I heard he was going to be the Ant-Man villain I was stoked. Not everyone has been enamored by his character, but I was. I thought he was a very compelling villain. In fact, when comparing him to Marvel's recent villains, I liked him much better than Ronan from Guardians of the Galaxy and even found him more interesting and deep than Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron. My enjoyment of all three of these films are very close, but Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket may just be the deciding factor that puts Ant-Man over the top.

Yes, you heard that right. In ranking Marvel's Phase II movies, I would place Ant-Man just ahead of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron, but not quite ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Iron Man 3. While we're at it, Thor: The Dark World would round things out as sixth best movie of the six Phase II movies. I use the phrasing "sixth best" instead of "worst" because I really enjoyed all of these movies. Worst sounds too harsh. Point is, Ant-Man is a blast. I was excited going in because it sounded fun, but at the same time I had my expectations somewhat tempered because I didn't think this would be quite on the level of Marvel's previous outings, but even I was surprised at how much fun I had. Yes, this is on the same level of Marvel's previous outings. If you were on the fence about this, but you've loved what Marvel has had to offer thus far, go see this one. You may be shocked at how good this actually is. If you are tired of superhero movies, I'm sorry. They're not ending any time soon. Will this one convert you? I don't know. I'm not sick of superhero movies, so I can't be the one to tell you if this is any better. You could probably pick this apart like you could most superhero movies. Or you could just go and have a really fun time, but this is great. I didn't even go into much detail about all the awesome action scenes and how the shrinking element makes that even more fun. I suppose I'll leave that as a surprise for you. My grade for Ant-Man is a 9/10.

P.S.- There are TWO scenes in the credits, one during and one after. Don't be like 90 percent of my screening and leave after the first one. You should know better than that. This is Marvel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Terminator Genisys Review

The Terminator franchise. Being honest, before this past week, this was a franchise that I was fairly unfamiliar with. I've loved watching movies my whole life, but I haven't been a huge movie buff until the past five years or so. Because of this, there are in fact plenty of movies that I haven't seen. For one reason or another, the Terminator movies are ones that I just missed. This is something that I've always wanted to fix, but never got around to doing so. The release of Terminator Genisys provided the necessary motivation for me to finally go on a Terminator marathon. I meant to get that marathon done BEFORE the movie was released, but I missed that goal, so that's why you're getting this review late. Sorry. But now I have completed my goal which was topped off by me seeing Terminator Genisys in 3D IMAX, so now it's time to give you my review of this movie. I hope you appreciate the unique prospective I will give on this whole franchise as one who hasn't grown up on these movies.

Terminator Genisys starts off in the year 2029. John Conner has led the human race to near victory over the machines, whose goal is to completely wipe out the human race. This all started on August 29, 1997, a day known as Judgment Day wherein an artificial defense system known as Skynet was put into place. Skynet was created to defend the human race, but this went horribly wrong and instead wiped out most of the human race on that day. When John Conner is finally on the brink of victory, Skynet, in a move of final desperation, sends one of these machines, known as a terminator, back to the year 1984 to murder John's mother Sarah Conner before John is born. To counter this move, John in turn sends one of his soldiers named Kyle Reese to that same day to protect Sarah and stop the terminator. Now if you're like most people and have actually seen The Terminator, you'll realize that this plot sounds awfully familiar. This is because Terminator Genisys starts off pretty much the exact same way as the original film. The catch, though, is this time around Sarah Conner is ready for him because she actually had a terminator sent back to when she was nine years old to protect her and prepare her for this day. Thus begins what is essentially a reboot of the franchise as they go the same route that the X-Men and Star Trek franchises did by using time travel and alternate time lines to reboot the series.

Before I give you my thoughts on this specific chapter, I feel it's necessary for you to know how I felt about the previous four. Now I could write a long review on each of these movies because I do have a lot of thoughts, but I'm going to do my best to just give a brief summary of my opinions because I do want to focus more on Terminator Genisys with this review. I knew that the first two movies were considered some of the best action movies ever made, especially the second movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When I sat down to watch these two movies, I was prepared for an insanely fun ride and that is what I got. But I also got a LOT more. I got two movies that were some of the most well-written action/sci-fi movies I've ever seen. The story in both movies were very smart, intriguing, and thought-provoking as they dealt with issues of time travel and fate in possibly the smartest way I've seen. Both movies were also full of well-written, well-acted characters that you easily became attached to. And they weren't afraid to stop the action for long periods of time to develop these characters. In fact, I got a lot less action that I was expecting and I loved that. Brainless action movies are fun at times, but smart action movies are even better and both of James Cameron's Terminator films were extremely smart action movies. When the action did happen, holy freaking cow was it epic and fun. I was very impressed.

Then I watched the third movie. This one actually had slightly better reviews than the fourth movie, which even included a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, so I was expected some enjoyment out of it, but wow. Not only did that movie not give me even an ounce of entertainment, it felt blasphemous and offensive to the previous two. Here's the biggest issue I had. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, they ended things. They stopped Judgment Day from happening. Sarah Conner grew up to be an old grandma and John Conner ended up as a politician. It was over. Done. Finished. If they wanted to bring it back, at the very least come up with a smart way to bring it back that is consistent with the first two. This movie was possibly the worst attempt at a franchise revival/continuation that I've ever seen. Suddenly we started out with John as a 20-something-year-old guy and we are supposed to believe that his mom dies in 1997 from leukemia? It completely ignored the end of the second movie as if they just expected people to forget what happened at the end of that movie. I didn't understand. But that wasn't the only problem. The characters sucked. The story was awful. The action wasn't that fun. The villain was lame. Everything that made the franchise great was gone. Even Arnold's character was dumb and boring. I was shocked at how bad it was. I don't even really want to talk about the fourth one because that was absolutely useless. Didn't even feel like a Terminator movie.

So now after two completely awful and offensive movies, I was suddenly not excited for the Genisys at all. Not to mention the trailer showed the whole movie. I went in ready to absolutely tear this movie to shreds in my review. I did choose to see it in IMAX 3D, but that was only because it was the same price as a normal ticket on that specific day, which was only $5. The 3D was useless as usually and even the IMAX wasn't that great compared to other movies I've seen. But hey, it was cheap, so it's whatever. However, after going into this movie ready to rip it to shreds, I actually was taken aback at first. If they were to do a sequel to Judgment Day, this is the way to do it. In the first one a terminator is sent back to kill Sarah as an adult shortly before John is born. In the second one, a terminator is sent back to kill John when he's a kid. In this one a terminator is sent back to try to kill Sarah when she's a kid. Thus when Kyle Reese comes to her in 1984, he is totally taken aback because she's ready for him and knows everything, she has a terminator there protecting her which confuses the heck out of him, and there is a T-1000 (the type of terminator from the second movie) there in addition to the original terminator. For a moment I was wondering if this was going to be a movie that I was going to enjoy.

Nope. Had they stayed simple with this movie and stayed there in 1984 with the three terminators (one bad, two good) as well as Sarah and Kyle, this could've been a fun movie. I would've still taken issue with it because of how perfect the second movie ended the franchise, but I may have come out of the movie with a fairly positive outlook. The biggest issue here is that the movie quickly gets very confusing. Time travel is a subject that needs to be used with extreme care because if you get too carried away things start getting messy and convoluted. That's exactly what happens here. I don't want to spoil what happens, especially because the trailer already does plenty of that, but I will say that Kyle Reese travelling back to 1984 is not the only moment of time travel in this movie. Thus when I try to look at the current timeline of all four movies that feel like Terminator movies (Terminator Salvation being the one I'm not counting), this timeline is really hard to explain. There's a few other things in the second half of this movie that make things even worse, but I won't spoil things. I will say that they tried to include suspense halfway through, but it wasn't suspenseful one bit because I knew everything that was going to happen. When are we going to learn to NOT spoil the movie in the trailer? Stupid.

Another positive with this film are actually the characters, the best of which being Arnold returning as the terminator. He was not in Terminator Salvation (another one of the many reasons this movie is useless) and he wasn't very good in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. This time around he's back in more ways than one. I'd argue that he's back to his former glory that existed in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I loved him in that and I loved him in this. I also actually liked Emilia Clark and Jai Courtney as Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese respectively. Are they as good as Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn in the original? No way. Did they have the chemistry that those two had? Absolutely not. But yet they aren't bad in this movie. They are good in their own individual ways. A lot of people like Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones and although I don't watch that show, I can see why they do. She made for a great strong female character in this and I appreciated that. Jai Courtney is an actor that I do like, although I'm still waiting for him to have a breakout role. I feel that's going to happen here soon. That's not the case here, but it's not a bad role. I also even think that Jason Clarke did a decent job as John Conner. I hated the way his character was written, but he did the best with what he was given and he made for a better adult John Conner than Christian Bale. Sorry Batman. I don't think you fit as John Conner in Terminator Salvation.

Yes, I did go into this movie expecting to rip it to shreds, but I started as surprised. But the further and further we got into this movie, the more it just derailed. The characters were good in this, so they won't get partial blame for this movie like the characters from the third and fourth movies do. The problem here is the writing. It's just not good and once again I am convinced that the Terminator franchise should've ended after the second movie. It was the perfect ending. If you are going to bring it back, be smart with it and justify your existence as a sequel. I can now say that we have had three straight Terminator sequels that have failed at this. Thus what was once a grand and glorious franchise with the first two movies has now become the textbook example of what is wrong Hollywood today. Sequels can be good. I am not inherently opposed to sequels. But I am super frustrated with poorly done sequels made just to cash in. Can't we just learn to leave certain franchises alone? Apparently not. As far as grades go, I would give The Terminator a 9 or 9.5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day definitely gets a 10. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation would be somewhere between 3 and 5. I was actually ready to give Terminator Genisys a 6 or 6.5 because it's not as bad as the previous two, but then there was a mid-credits scene that basically said yet another sequel is happening and that made me so frustrated that I am now giving Terminator Genisys a 5/10.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Arrow Season 3 Review (SPOILERS)

Back in May when TV shows were ending, I announced somewhere that I was going to be doing reviews for some of my favorite shows once again. This may not have seemed like a significant announcement to many of you, but it was something that I was debating for most of the season actually as to whether or not I would continue writing TV show reviews on my blog and if so how would I go about doing so. After toying with a few options, ultimately the way I decided to do things this year was to write my TV show reviews in complete spoilerific fashion. This would narrow my audience down to people who have finished watching the current seasons of these shows instead of being a review for everyone to read, but perhaps the interest will increase as I give my full thoughts on everything that happened in these shows. So we'll see what happens. I started off by reviewing Bates Motel season 3 back in May shortly after it ended and perhaps you thought I'd given up on the idea of doing more because it's now been a couple months since then, but I didn't. I just kept putting it off for whatever reason. But now I'm back! After this review, I'm planning on giving people a review of The Flash season 1 and Supernatural season 10. But now it's time to discuss my thoughts on Arrow season 3. Once again, if you aren't up to date on Arrow, this is your cue to close the browser. For the rest of you, let's continue!

I've pretty much been with Arrow since the beginning. I think I jumped on board six or seven episodes in and quickly binge-watched my way to where they were on live TV. Believe it or not, it's actually fairly uncommon for this to happen to me. Usually I end up waiting for a show to be a season or two in before I jump on board and get sucked in. That wasn't the case here. It got me from the beginning. I will admit, though, that it took Arrow a little bit of time before it really got going. I felt that they didn't have much focus that first season. It was just villain of the week episodes and love stories for every main character. I felt that they had a plan with the show, but it took a while for me to catch a glimpse of what that plan was. Towards the end of that first season is when things really picked up and that carried into the second season where they took things up a notch. Season 2 was actually so epic that it made me forget that season 1 existed. It didn't take long at all for this to be my go to show.

With that brief summary of my thoughts on the first two seasons out of the way, let's jump straight into season 3. I almost don't know where to begin because there is so much to talk about. Season 3 took me on quite the wild ride, which means I might be taking you on quite the wild ride with this review. Let's start with something that happens right towards the beginning of the season. Sara Lance. Her character, in my opinion, was absolutely brilliant. Not only was she a super attractive blonde, but her character was a very deep character that was well-written and well-acted. Her backstory that led up to her being the Black Canary made a whole lot of sense. Her fighting style was developed after five long years in Hell, as Oliver describes at the beginning of each episode, because she was with Oliver in the initial ship-wreck. In season 2 it was great watching her progression both in the flash backs in the current day. When she and Oliver teamed up in season 2, it was so fun watching them work together and their romantic chemistry worked so well. I was sad when they broke-up in season 2 and went their separate ways, but it made sense story-wise and I was excited to see where they were going to go with her character because I felt that there was so much more to tell.

Then they killed her. What?!?! For me that was like cruising down the highway in a fancy Lamborghini when out of nowhere and without any warning there is suddenly a huge brick wall in the middle of the road that you smash into, totaling your Lamborghini while barely keeping yourself alive. Killing Sara made zero sense. I'm not going to lie, Arrow almost completely derailed for me when they did that. The only thing that really kept me going was the idea that possibly she's not dead for good. They can't kill off my favorite character in the show at the beginning of season 3. Or could they? When they killed her off, I felt that she would be back rather quickly as we knew that Ra's al Ghul was on the show and he had his Lazarus Pit that could bring people back from the dead. But this didn't happen right away. The further we got, the more horrified I became. Is Sara dead for good? Are they not going to bring her back. With the direction they were taking things, this seemed like more and more of a possibility and I didn't like it. We actually went through the whole season with no signs of bringing Sara back. I didn't like that one bit. There were a few episodes where it said "guest starring Caity Lotz" that got me excited, but I ended up just being disappointed because it was only her voice that was being used as Laurel tried to make herself sound like her sister. Luckily, though, the creators of the show are pretty bad at keeping secrets. One day after the finale, this trailer was released for the new spin-off, Legends of Tomorrow:

And there she is. It's 57 seconds when you see Sara for the first time. At 1:09, it is revealed that she will be part of this new team of "legends" as the White Canary. They refer to her as the "deceased assassin" and show shots of her rising from the Lazarus Pit. Oh. Well there we go. I guess this is a lesson in patience, which is why I didn't give up on the show. However, even with this in mind that I was right about Sara coming back by being raised from the dead in the Lazarus Pit, this death of hers caused a chain of events that I just wasn't pleased with. The first is Olicity. If you don't know that term, Olicity is the romance between Oliver and Felicity. This split Arrow fans and I'm here to tell you that I am on the side that is 100 percent AGAINST this. I love Felicity. I think she's a great character. But I don't think she has any romantic chemistry with Oliver whatsoever. Oliver had way more chemistry with Sara in season 2. Felicity had way more chemistry with Ray as season 3 goes on. Heck, Felicity has more chemistry with Barry Allen and Oliver has more chemistry with the Huntress from the beginning of the show and even Nyssa al Ghul at the end of season 3. I'd even rather see him get back with Laurel. Olicity being a thing is a complete fan service and makes no sense with the story and just doesn't work for me at all. I like Felicity. I think she works great as Oliver's best friend and the computer expert of the team, but not as a love interest for Oliver. But yet it's happened. And now they are into it so far that I actually am hoping that Felicity gets killed off just so Olicity can end for good. That's how much I hate it.

The other thing that the death of Sara spawned is the emergence of Laurel Lance as the Black Canary. This is something that I saw coming from the very beginning of the show. See, I did this thing where I researched the Green Arrow comics so that I could be more knowledgeable about the show and in the comics, the Black Canary's alias is Dinah Laurel Lance. It only makes sense that the eventual game plan for the show would be to eventually include Laurel as part of team Arrow as Black Canary. Oliver even marries Laurel in the comics, so there's more hope that Olicity will end. However, despite this not being a surprise for me, I really didn't like how she became Black Canary in season 3. While Sara's character was well-developed and her progression in becoming Black Canary made sense, Laurel's did not make sense. In fact, it was rather rushed and forced. In fact, she goes from lawyer-type girl with no battle experience at all to being Black Canary just because her sister died. So she trains with a random dude and only a few episodes she has completely transformed? No. Just, no. It doesn't work. Then there's the idea that the best character on the show, Sara, was just used as a stepping stone for us to get to the real Black Canary? Ouch. That hurts.

Then in addition to this, there is the whole messed-up relationship between Laurel and her father. Laurel's sister has died. The second Laurel finds this out, the first thing she should do is go talk to her father and tell him that Sara is dead. There is absolutely no reason that she should've held this from him. Her excuses on the show are completely bogus and frustrating. When he finally finds out, he has every right to be as awful and horrible as he is. His own daughter, for absolutely no reason at all, has decided to keep the death of his other daughter a complete secret. But they carried this on way too long. Quentin Lance is one of my favorite characters on this show. Or he was in the first two seasons. I liked how his progress and relationship with the Arrow developed into a Gordon/Batman type of relationship. But then he goes completely awol in season 3 and is the biggest jerk-face of the show. Yes, he had every right to be mad at Laurel. No, it didn't make sense for him to take it as far as he did. And his vendetta against Oliver in season 3 also makes no sense. I hated Quentin Lance in season 3. Paul Blackthorne did a great job with what he was given, but the writing of his character was completely awful in just about every way.

So yeah. Just about everything the show decided to do with the whole Lance family in season 3 almost completely ruined this show. Sara will be back next season and hopefully they can redeem themselves. But I fear that they are just going to bring her back just to dish her off to this new show, Legends of Tomorrow, and not actually use her on Arrow. Guess that means Legends of Tomorrow will take precedence over Arrow. But we'll see. Speaking of that, let's talk about Atom. Ray Palmer. I actually really liked his character. He comes on the show, buys Oliver's company, and for the first half of the season you don't know if he is good or bad, which I liked. Then we realize that he is just a really likable character. The casting of Brandon Routh was an interesting one because he did play Superman in Superman Returns, thus when I see him I expect him to be Superman and not Atom, which since we're in the DC world it is a plausible thing for Superman to exist. But despite this, Ray Palmer works as a character. As I mentioned before, his love story with Felicity works much, much better than Olicity. I'm sad they ended that. I also like how he fails so much with his suit he builds, which gives a contrast to the likes of Tony Stark as Iron Man. Tony is a billionaire who builds a suit that makes him immediately unstoppable. You think that the same will happen with Ray in this universe, but it doesn't. I like that development. But my big concern with Ray Palmer as concerning this show is the same with Sara. Did they introduce him just to dump him off to Legends of Tomorrow. Is that what Arrow is becoming in general? A show that exists mainly to create a bunch of other shows? I hope not.

Can we talk about some good, real quick? Yes? Ok, cool! Then let's talk about our main story line in this season. Ra's al Ghul and the league of assassins. The league played a small part in previous seasons, which foreshadowed it being a much bigger element of the show in the future and that future started here in season 3. I pretty much loved most things pertaining to the league in this season. Season 2 with Slade Wilson as the main villain was excellent and I was wondering how they were planning on topping that going forward. I was definitely pleased that Ra's al Ghul was the answer. Matt Nable as Ra's al Ghul was especially a home run. He played such a great villain not just because of how strong and powerful he was, but also because of how smart he was and how unafraid he was to take everything from Oliver if Oliver didn't concede to what he wanted him to do, which was become the next Ra's al Ghul. Oliver has no choice but to do this. Join the League of Assassins and become Ra's al Ghul. Thus this whole plot had a very Batman-like feel to it, which was cool. If we can't bring Batman into this universe, the next best thing is.

I mentioned that I pretty much loved most things pertaining to the league this season. I do say "most" because there were a few things I didn't like. After wondering Oliver is going to actually become the next Ra's al Ghul and thus turn into the villain of the show for a while, we quickly learn that he has decided that the way to beat Ra's is to beat him from within. Join the league. Train with the league. Get Ra's al Ghul's trust. Then strike. This is a pretty darn good plan in my opinion. However, when team Arrow learns of this plot, they are pissed to no end because Oliver decided to keep this a complete secret. My first minor problem is that Oliver could've let his team in on this plan. My second minor problem is that team Arrow could've reacted much better when they learned of this. I think this was a very logical thing to do and instead of being pissed at him, they should've recognized that this was a dang good plan. But no. They decide to be all pissed off at him. I can understand being a little mad. But instead they just acted like whiny cry babies. Especially Diggle. "I'm never going to forgive you for this, Oliver." Oh shut-up Diggle. No cares about your crying. Probably more blame for that should go to the writers for turning such an awesome character in Diggle into such a big cry-baby.

I also wasn't a huge fan of the final battle between Ra's al Ghul and Oliver. Ra's al Ghul totally owned Oliver in the mid-season finale without much effort. Yet all it takes is for Oliver to train with the league for a few days or weeks to suddenly become skilled enough to own Ra's al Ghul in a fight. Felt a bit rushed. On the other hand, after Oliver has defeated Ra's al Ghul, I really loved how Malcolm Merlyn was the one who took over as the new Ra's al Ghul. That was excellent. In general, Malcolm Merlyn's character is probably one of the best and most well-written characters in the show. He was great in season 1. After thinking he was dead, it was great to see him show up again in season 2 and again play a big role in season 3 in trying to befriend Oliver and team Arrow enough so that he can rise up and take over as the new Ra's al Ghul. Excellent. In a season that was full of a lot of disappointing elements, it was great seeing at least a few things done well and Malcolm was probably the best thing from this season. The other part of the finale that wasn't done well in my opinion was the very, very end where Oliver decided to "retire" and run off with Felicity to live a different life. Because that's going to last like 10 minutes into the next season. This show is called Arrow for crying out loud. Oliver isn't going to retire after three seasons. Also the lack of a cliff-hanger was disappointing. Season finales are always much better and memorable when there's a really good cliff-hanger. Oliver "retiring" or Malcolm taking over as Ra's didn't count as a cliff-hanger. Thus this finale was a lot less memorable than the previous two finales and a lot less memorable than the season 1 finale of The Flash.

I've covered most of what I've wanted to cover, but there are some things that I have left out. Instead of taking one paragraph for each of them, let me just shove them all into this paragraph. I was really disappointed with the flash backs in this season. They added almost nothing to the plot. This was disappointing because the flash backs in previous seasons at times were even more interesting than what was going on in the present time. They did provide two great characters, though, in Maseo and Tatsu. Tatsu finally introducing herself as Katana at the end was great and the scene where she was forced to kill Maseo was probably the best and most emotional scene towards the end of the show. Also done well was Roy in this season. I was sad to see him go, but I realize that this was more due to the decisions of Colton Haynes as an actor not wanting to stick around full-time anymore. How they wrote of his character was perfect. Also,I did like Thea a lot more in this season than in the previous seasons. Before she was just Oliver's slutty little sister always wearing clothes that were way too tight and/or revealing. This season she actually became something. Once again, her progression was rushed, just like Laurel and Oliver at the very end, but at the end of the show when she was fighting, it was great to watch. And when she took over Roy's red suit and told Oliver that she wanted to be called the Red Arrow, that was just gold. That means Oliver will finally be known as the Green Arrow. His official comic book name.

So yes, as you could tell, this was a much more rocky season for me. During season 2, Arrow became my favorite show on TV. If I only had time to watch one of my shows for the week, Arrow would be the show that I would watch. Season 3 I didn't hate. I'm not ready to give up on the show. I am tuning into season 4 and I am excited to see where they go with things. But looking back on season 3 and comparing to the first two seasons, I do have to admit that this is the worst season of the three so far and I hope that they can pick things up and get this show back on track because it deserves to be epic again. I just think that the creators of the show saw how much people were loving the show and decided that they wanted to go even bigger and bolder than ever before and many of the decisions they made just didn't work for me. They need to take a few steps back and remember what made this show so great so that they can have a great season 4 that matches the level of epicness of the second season. I don't have a rating system for TV shows like I do movies, but overall this borders on the line of average, just below good. There were some really great moments of season 3, but there were even more extremely frustrating moments and thus towards the end of the season, I found myself being a lot more excited for The Flash each week. That review will be the next TV show review you'll get on this blog, so stay tuned!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Self/less Review

I really don't understand the title of this movie or why it's stylized the way it is. Self/less? I'm trying to figure out what that means and why they felt the need to put a slash in the middle of the word "selfless" to come up with the title of the movie. Oh well. A title's a title. When I saw the trailers for this movie, I was intrigued. I really love a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller. I was hoping that this movie would turn out as such. But it was a proceed with caution sort of thing, not letting myself get too excited, because this could go one of two ways. It could be like this year's Ex Machina, which is still one of my top movies of the year. If you haven't seen it, then you need to fix that. The other direction this could go is last year's Transcendence, which had good ideas that were extremely poorly executed. Early reviews started to clue me in that this would sadly turn out more like Transcendence, but I still held out hope because there have been movies like this that the critics hated, but I enjoyed. Critics weren't too nice to Lucy and they hated Chappie. I loved Lucy (ha ha, that wasn't intentional, but I do enjoy the show I Love Lucy) and I enjoyed Chappie. So yeah, there was hope. Unfortunately, though, I do have to side with the critics on this one. Self/less is about as weird and dumb as the title of the movie. You can kinda see where they are coming from, but overall it's a miss.

The idea of this movie is not an original one. I was watching a review just now from YouTube channel "What the Flick" and on there Alonso Duralde mentioned that there is a 1966 movie directed by John Frankenheimer called Seconds that Also said is this movie done right. I haven't seen that movie, but I go look it up on IMDb and this is what I read, "An unhappy middle-aged banker agrees to a procedure that will fake his death and give him a completely new look and identity - one that comes with its own price." Yup. That's what I essentially just watched with Self/less. That movie is at a 7.7 on IMDb and a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Apparently I need to go give that movie a shot so I can see this premise executed well, because it is an interesting premise. In the movie, Ben Kingsley plays a very rich man who is dying of cancer and is approached by a guy who offers him to take part in a procedure where he can essentially gain immortality by putting his soul into a young man's body and live life again. But of course this comes with a price. A price that Ben Kingsley is not informed of until after he is conned into going forward with this and is already in the body of Ryan Reynolds.

I won't inform you what this price is because I don't like spoiling movies for people on my blog unless I have already warned them early on in the review. This is not a spoiler review. No spoilers. However, if you have no interest in this movie and you just want to know what happens, go watch the trailer. It's all in there. Like pretty much the whole movie. I'm wondering when studios will ever learn that they DON'T need to spoil their movie to get people to see it. Seriously. But even so, if you just think about the potential outcomes of this movie, you can probably successfully think of exactly what is going to happen. That's one of the big problems here. I like a sci-fi thriller like this to surprise me by taking some crazy twists and turns. One of the best moments in film is that jaw-dropping moment where you can't believe what just happened. I wanted that to happen in this movie. It didn't. It was just a by-the-numbers sci-fi flick that does pretty much exactly what you would expect by reading the plot. No twist. No turns. Not even much suspense. It was just pretty boring and bland.

The other big problem is that when I go see a movie like this, I want it to actually be thought-provoking. When you leave a movie theater and you are just lost in thought by how deep and interesting the movie was, that's another really good moment in film. Nope. Not here. In fact, not to far into the movie it actually almost stopped being a sci-fi movie and just became a brainless action film. I was like, what? What's happening? Why is Ryan Reynolds suddenly a Jason Bourne-like action star? It didn't make sense. There was no build up. This new body this character was in wasn't this super athletic, coordinated action star. He was a family man. Well, kind of. But when Ben Kingsley turned Ryan Reynolds starts to figure things out, at that very second, this company is somehow right there and they try to stop him. And for some weird reason, they know exactly where he is going to be every step of the way before he even knows it. How everything turns out is even more ridiculous. I can do brainless action movies. But I have to be prepared for a brainless action movie. When a sci-fi thriller becomes a brainless action without hardly warning me, there's a problem. I could even dive more into the brainless part because there are a lot of plot holes and elements of the plot that just don't make sense, but I think you get my vibe.

If there is an area where this movie does get a plus, it's in the acting category. Ben Kingsley is in the beginning of this film and he is good in the film, but since that's all he's in, the person that deserves attention here is Ryan Reynolds. For all intents and purposes, he looks like he's having fun throughout, which is a plus. I also really like the guy on an acting level. He's a good actor. He does a good job in this. He's just stuck in a movie with a lot of bad writing. Coincidental or not, I've also noticed that this is a trend for Ryan Reynolds. He's a good actor who for some reason is just not in a lot of good movies. Green Lantern, R.I.P.D., and now this are good examples of the types of movies he is in. I really like The Croods, but he's just a voice actor there. I liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine more than most people, but I will admit that his version of Deadpool in that is pretty darn weak and I'm glad it's getting a proper redo next year. The Proposal? Is that really his best film? I guess so. I do think that's a decent film. But being classified as the best movie that Ryan Reynolds is in seems pretty sad. Sorry girls. Don't hurt me too much for saying that.

Overall, this wasn't a movie that was hard to sit through, but it's not one that's worth your time or money. Ben Kingsley, Ryan Reynolds, and the other actors in this movie do a good job acting. The cinematography is fine. The idea of the movie is an interesting one, but that idea in someone's mind didn't translate to paper or film quite right. I'm not sure who to point to for blame. The movie is directed by Tarsem Singh and written by David and Alex Pastor. Those three might be good candidates for blame. But whatever the case, this just didn't work out. July is a pretty crowded month with Inside Out and Jurassic World acting as excellent June hangovers into a loaded month of huge new releases. Because of that, this movie didn't get a huge release and it's not getting a lot of attention. This is a good thing. There are a lot of great movies out right now and a lot of interesting ones coming up, so please do yourself a favor and forget about this movie. Don't see it. It's not worth it. There are too many movies out there that deserve being seen right now, so don't waste your time with this one. My grade for Self/less is a 5/10.