Thursday, October 29, 2015

Marvel Cinematic Universe Ranked: Phase I + II

Just over seven years ago, Marvel Studios took a huge gamble by creating what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Superhero movies were nothing new at that point, but creating a universe like this on this big of a scale hadn't been done before. This huge risk payed huge dividends as through 12 movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned a phenomenal $9.1 billion worldwide. That's an average of $755 million per movie. When you are making that much money per movie, you know they're not even close to being done. Marvel already has 14 movies on schedule through 2020. There hasn't been official word on when Phase III will officially end and Phase IV will start, but I've decided that at the end of each phase from here on out, I will be ranking these movies. Whether I decide to rank all the movies together or each individual phase on its own will be decided later, but now that we're done with Phase II, I will be ranking the first two phases in this post. This was a hard list to create because Marvel hasn't yet made a bad movie in my opinion. But after much thinking, I feel comfortable with my list. After you read this, I would love to see your own list, because I know it's different from mine. So let's begin!

12- The Incredible Hulk

Many people say that this Edward Norton version of the Hulk is a bad movie. I disagree. I like Edward Norton and Liv Tyler in the lead roles. I think this is a great story with great acting and a great villain. I really like this movie. So why am I putting it dead last? Because it's the one movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that is now completely irrelevant. For a few different reasons, Edward Norton did not return as the Hulk after this movie. Insert Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, who totally blew it out of the park in The Avengers. And not only is Mark Ruffalo a much better Hulk, but his version of the Hulk is actually a different Hulk. They did more than just recast. They rebooted. Thus I personally sometimes forget that this Edward Norton Hulk movie ever existed.

11- Iron Man 2

Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is what started this whole thing. That first movie is a universally loved movie and will most likely be towards the top of everyone's lists. That's no different for me. I'll get into why that movie is so great later, but first up from the Iron Man trilogy on this list is the very underwhelming second chapter. Once again, this is not a bad movie. A lot of good things happen... during the first two-thirds of the movie. But that ending. Ouch. We have this huge build up, then the final battle lasts like two seconds. It's very anti-climatic. Speaking of final battle, the main villain that they do battle is easily the dumbest marvel villain. You'll notice a theme with this list. In general, the movies with sub-par villains are the movies that end up towards the bottom for me.

10- Thor: The Dark World

Not much love given to the sequels towards the start of this list. This was almost the first bad Marvel movie for me. The first Thor was very light-hearted and fun with great characters. They attempted to go dark with the sequel, as is stated in the title, but they were too scared to go completely dark, so they threw in a bunch of humor and this time around nothing landed, thus the whole tone of the movie felt off. Most of our main Avengers have great character arcs throughout the movies. Thor in this movie? Nada. He's just Thor. And did you know that Christopher Eccleston made an appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Yeah, neither did anyone else because the Dark Elves in this are pretty forgettable villains. So why do I have this so high with all these horrible things I have to say about this? Loki. He is such an interesting character and single-handedly saves this movie. In fact, Loki is the only reason for this being a good movie.

9- Captain America: The First Avenger

I really like Captain America as a character and I really like the dynamic between him and Bucky. He also has great chemistry with Peggy Carter, which makes the finale of this movie absolutely tragic. The beginning is also really interesting as we see wimpy Steve Rodgers get transformed into this super soldier. But sadly that's all I got for this one. A lot of people loved the unique 40's style World War II movie that this offered, but for me I found it a bit boring. In fact, the first three times that I watched this movie, I actually fell asleep. All three times. Even when I finally saw it all the way through, it didn't do a lot to keep my attention. And I'm going to say this a third straight time. It's becoming a broken record at this point. Red Skull? Come one, Marvel. You can do better than that. Rumor has it he might make a return. Let's hope not.

8- Thor

There's a huge jump in quality for me between Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, thus you'll see that I get a bit more wordy from here on out. Remember everything that I said about Thor: The Dark World? Yeah, flip that for this movie. I love the unique world that this movie introduces. I love all the characters here. The duel between Loki and Thor is brilliant, especially on the side of Loki. You really feel bad for the guy as you watch this movie, which is why he makes such a good villain throughout this universe. While Thor didn't experience much of a character arc in the second movie, the one he goes through in this first one is great. He starts out as a stuck-up, self-centered jerk and thus is exiled to Earth because of it. He has to learn to be more humble and caring so he can actually be deserving of the throne that his father wants to give him. And dang is this movie hilarious. Watching this god have to work his way around Earth for the first time is fantastic. The chemistry between him and the group of people that take him in is also pretty great. Except for that romance. That was rushed. But outside that, this is a great film that I wanted to put higher. But I couldn't. In this case, that speaks less to the quality of this particular movie and more to the quality of the other movies that I have yet to mention.

7- Avengers: Age of Ultron

When I first saw this movie a few months ago, my reaction was that this movie was 141 minutes of pure entertainment. I stand by that. This Avengers sequel is blast. But when it comes to ranking these movies, I have to be a bit nit-picky and the 141 minutes of pure entertainment is more popcorn entertainment as some would put it. This isn't epic. It's not deep. It's not that emotional. It's just a whole lot of fun. This group of Avengers has amazing chemistry and it's just a blast watching them on film together fighting baddies and joking among themselves, even if what's going on around them isn't that great. If I'm being honest, Ultron himself seemed epic based on the trailers but was a bit underwhelming. Tony Stark created him and for almost no reason he just decides he's going to kill the Avengers. Oh. Okay. Let's go! And AGE of Ultron? More like WEEK of Ultron. He was just a filler villain as we continue to set up for the big villain of Thanos. Also, this movie was way too focused on setting up other movies in the universe that it almost felt like they forgot to focus on this movie. Like I said, this movie is a blast. But if I were to compare it to a season of a TV show, this would be the monster-of-the-week episode. 

6- Guardians of the Galaxy

Oh man, I'm going to get heat for this one. No matter how you look at it, this is the best reviewed Marvel movie to date by fans and critics alike. Most people have this at least in their top two or three and the fact that I don't have it in my top five is going to make it so I have to hide in my closet for a week while people seek to have my head on a platter. So let me be absolutely clear. I love this movie. It had me laughing from beginning to end. Such a fun, unique Marvel movie based on a bunch of characters that no one knew about, which makes what they pulled off even more impressive. And it has the rewatchability factor, meaning it gets even funnier the more you watch it. So why don't I have it as high as other people have it? Two reasons. Because these characters were unknown, the movie suffered a bit from what I call origin-story-itis. Instead of cutting to the chase, we were forced to spend a lot of time getting to know the character. Also, I've said it once and I've said it four times now. The villain! Ronan is NOT a good villain! He's not bad, but he's just pretty forgettable. And there's a few weird things that happen at the end for this group to defeat him that made me raise my eyebrow a bit. But that's it. Still a very fun ride, but these few things make me think the sequel is going to be an improvement.

5- Ant-Man

Ant-Man?!?! Most people were thinking that this was going to be Marvel's first slip-up. They thought it would be a financial disaster and an outright awful movie. I was in the minority. I was excited for Ant-Man. I spent months defending it. In Marvel we trust, guys! And Ant-Man's abilities are totally boss! Plus it had a great cast. But even I was shocked at how amazing this movie was. Michael Pena and Paul Rudd know how to do comedy and they were at the top of their game with this one because this movie was a blast. I laughed harder here than I did with Guardians of the Galaxy. This also wasn't an origin story. It was a passing of the torch story. Hank Pym was already established as Ant-Man and he just needed to teach Scott Lang how to work the suit after he convinced him to take it. That shrinking aspect of the movie made the action scenes way awesome. And the movie was surprisingly emotional, specifically with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne. And guess what? Corey Stoll as Yellowjacket was a great villain. Best of all, this was a small movie. Pun mostly not intended there because that's the best word to describe it. It felt like an indie superhero movie as Marvel didn't try to one-up their previous films.

4- Iron Man

We went through eight movies and only mentioned one of the Iron Man movies. You probably wondered when they were going to come. Now they are here. One of the hardest parts of this list was trying to figure out which Iron Man movie I liked best, the first or the third. I went back and forth so many times, thus you can guess which movie is coming it at number three. I'll explain why I give the slight edge to Iron Man 3 here in a second, but first I have to give major props to the movie that started it all off. Speaking of a risky move, before Iron Man came out, no one really knew much about Iron Man. But Robert Downey Jr. did such a good job with this role that he made Iron Man the Batman of the Marvel universe. Iron Man became everyone's new favorite superhero from the Marvel universe. The humor is genius. Tony Stark is quick and witty in every single movie he shows up in and it never gets old. The super genius aspect of his character is also done perfectly. It's a lot of fun just watching him think and come up with these amazing ideas on the fly. He's been in five of these movies so far and his progression throughout is fantastic. With Civil War coming up, it's not even done yet. Specifically with this first movie, this is the start of his journey. It's an origin story that you can watch over and over and not get sick of, which is impressive.

3- Iron Man 3

Now we continue to talk about Tony Stark's incredible journey. Like I just said, choosing between Iron Man and Iron Man 3 was very tough for me but what put Iron Man 3 over the top for me was how psychological this movie is. Tony Stark is not a super soldier. He is not a god. He doesn't turn into a huge green monster when he gets angry. He was not given any super powers. He was not born with super powers. He is just a man. A very smart man who built a suit and thus turned himself into a superhero. Thus I love how messed up he is in this movie after what happened in The Avengers. Gods? Aliens? A huge fight in New York City where he was almost killed? This was way too much for his normal human brain to handle and thus he became messed up in the head. Superhero movies rarely dive into this psychological aspect of their main characters, which would probably happen more often than not if these situations played out in real life. Tony Stark made a lot of dumb mistakes. He said stupid things that got his house destroyed. If you mentioned New York to him, he lost it. He didn't even want to go out on his own, so he created a lot self-operated Iron Man suits to fight for him and that failed in many aspects. I'm a sucker for psychological movies in general and since this is really the only psychological movie in the Marvel Universe, that's why it's this high. This aspect of the movie made it so I was able to easily overlook some of the other shortcomings of the movie.

2- Marvel's The Avengers

I'm as shocked as you are right now that this movie is not number one on this list. Five movies and four years of build up to the ultimate payoff of watching them all come together for the first time was incredible. I got extremely giddy every time I watched that trailer in the months leading up to this movie. It was coming. Then I saw the movie and I was in heaven. It was better than I could've ever imagined. It was so good that I saw it five or six times in theaters and I was super excited each time. I still get very happy every time I put the movie in. Sometimes the way I cope with life is by watching The Avengers. Unlike it's sequel, this isn't just a popcorn flick. We have a group of superheroes, most of whom are used to being the lead person. Yet they get slowly introduced and they have to learn how to work together as a team and for much of the movie it isn't working out. But watching them finally come together as a team is a beautiful process. Then we add the amazing villain from Thor and the amazing weapon from Captain America: The First Avenger, put those together and unleash an army of aliens on New York and spend the whole second half of the movie watching our newly formed team fight off this threat. That's one of the best, if not the best final battle in superhero movie history. I never thought there would be a movie from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that I would like more. But the more and more I think about it, there is one that is better. And I'm about to tell you why.

1- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So much to say about this movie. I'll do my best to keep it simple. I've known ever since I watched this movie that it was in my top two and that it was definitely the best solo Avengers movie. It took me a long time to realize that I do in fact think this is the best movie that Marvel has put out in their cinematic universe. I came to that conclusion after watching this movie and The Avengers back to back a month or so ago. Even if I didn't like the first movie as much, I did like the character of Captain America in that. However, this is the movie that elevated him to Superman status. It's also the movie that transformed Black Widow from a cool sidekick to possibly my favorite Avenger. Add Falcon to the mix and the three of them are the best trio of fighters in this universe. And the story. It's deep. It's emotional. It's tragic. It's fun. It's epic. All at the same time. We watch Steve Rodgers visit an old Peggy. We then watch him learn that he sacrificed 70 years of his life for nothing. Then we watch him learn that this Winter Soldier that they are fighting is his best friend. And of course on top of all this is the most interesting story in all the Marvel Universe thus far. The rise of Hydra from the midst of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I'm just scratching the surface with this movie. All in all, this movie has everything you want from a superhero movie and is the most deep and emotional movie that Marvel has put out yet. That's why it tops The Avengers for me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future Part II: A Review of Their Future

In the last several years, there have been countless memes and false alarms claiming that today is the day that Marty McFly arrived in the future. Those frustrated me. Why would someone think it was cool to post a false meme like that. And it was almost more frustrating to see how many people fell for it. Anyone who knows Back to the Future knows that in the second movie Marty, Doc, and Jennifer go to October 21, 2015. Well, go look at your calendars. It's October 21, 2015. This time it's no false alarm. Today is the day that Marty McFly has arrived in the future. Come tomorrow, the future will be the past. Trippy, right? I've grown up on this trilogy and I never imagined that this day would arrive, but now it has. I've known for a long time now that when this day does arrive, I want to do a Back to the Future marathon where I watch all three movies in one day. This will most definitely be accomplished later on today. A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to do something in addition to that because this day was so epic. My initial idea was to write a review of all three movies and release the first one on the 20th, the second one on the 21st, and the third one on the 22nd. Instead, though, I've decided to something funner than that. I wanted to detail their predicted future and compare it to what has actually happened.

Before I get to that, though, I did want to quickly review all three movies in one paragraph so you get an idea of what I think of these movies. There is definitely a nostalgic aspect for me because I've been watching them since I was young. But yet as I continue to watch them, they still hold up as good movies today after 30 years. Time travel is always a fascinating subject for me and this is definitely the best time travelling franchise that I have ever seen. In fact, this is one of the best trilogies of all time. These movies are full of great characters that experience great character arcs. The acting is fantastic. There are an endless supply of quotable lines. The cinematography still stands today as amazing. The score is one of the best ever written. The stories in all three movies are exciting and fun. Finally, the trilogy leaves you with an amazing message that has literally stuck with me and inspired me for my whole life. If I'm going specifics here, in the first movie, Marty goes back to the time where his parents are in high school and accidentally makes him Mom fall in love with him instead of his dad and needs to try to set them up before he disappears from existence. Genius. The second gets extremely complex as we start in 1985, jump to 2015, go back to 1985, then end the movie in 1955 again. This could've ended up as convoluted, but instead is brilliant, especially when we go to 1955 and weave in a second story in as the plot of the first movie also goes forward. I loved it. Then we end up in the Old West in the final chapter. 1885. That one is a lot of fun as well.

Overall, if I were to assign grades to all three movies, the first would get a 10/10, the second a 9.5/10, and the third a 9/10. The trilogy as a whole is most certainly a 10/10 and one of my favorite trilogies of all time. It's right up there with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings in terms of my personal enjoyment. Now with that in mind, let's dive into my initial purpose of this post. Yesterday in preparation for this post, I went and watched the first part of Back to the Future Part II where they go to October 21, 2015, and I took notes on all the details of their future. Now I want to go through those things one by one, seeing what they got right, what they got wrong, what I wish they would've got right, and what I'm glad they got wrong. Those type of things. After I'm done, I would love your personal input on what points I may have missed, what I got wrong, or just your own comments on their future. Let's have fun with this day!

1- Trash as Fuel - At the very beginning of the movie when Doc comes to pick up Marty to go to the future, he goes to the garbage and pulls out a bunch of trash to use as fuel for the time machine. I don't actually know if this is the fuel for all cars or just Doc's time machine. I want to say it's the latter. But either way, trash is not used as fuel today for our cars. But wouldn't it be nice if it was? I spend way too much money on gas each month.

2- Flying Cars - This is the big takeaway from this movie. If you've only seen this movie once and only remember one thing, I can bet that flying cars is what you remember. No, we don't have those today. Instead, the direction our society seems to be going is electric cars. We're not at the point where everyone has one, but I personally think that's not too far away.

3- Correct Date - This is a simple one, but they did their research. October 21, 2015 is on a Wednesday, just like the movie said it was.

4- Perfectly Accurate Weather Service - Man this one would be nice. Apparently in the future, we were supposed to be able to perfectly predict the weather to the exact second. Nope. People still laugh at the weather man when he says there's a 90 percent chance of rain and it's sunny all day. Although most of us do look at a weather app on our phones, tablets, or computers, which is kinda what Doc did.

5- Post Office Not Efficient - After bragging to Marty about how awesome the future is at predicting the weather, he makes a quick remark that he wishes the Post Office was that efficient. This isn't elaborated on, so I don't quite know what Doc means, but our postal service is actually pretty good. I can order something on Amazon and have it arrive a day or two later at the exact time it says it's going to arrive.

6- Rejuvenation Clinics - This is a weird part of the movie. Right when they get to the future, Doc pulls the skin off his face to reveal a slightly younger face. While he's doing this, he's telling Marty about these rejuvenation clinics in the future that make you look young again. My expression while watching this is still similar to Marty's slightly creeped out look when he sees this.

7- Phone Booths - They're still there. When Marty first sees Marty Jr., Marty Jr. is walking up to a fancy looking phone booth to make a call. Technically these do still exist, but most of them died out when cell phones became a big thing.

8- Power-lace Shoes - These shoes that Marty puts on are quite fascinating. He puts his feet in, presses a button, and the laces automatically tighten to fit his foot perfectly. I want a pair of these. Now, this is one of those self-fulling prophecies in that they did create a pair of shoes like this in honor of Back to the Future, but for the most part we all still tie our shoes. No power laces.

9- Power Jacket - This is another awesome piece of fashion from this movie. This jacket adjusts to meet your arm length in just a push of a button and later in the movie when Marty falls in the fountain thing, the jacket automatically dries itself. In the real 2015, our jackets are a lot more boring and lame than that.

10- Horrible Sense of Fashion - Outside the awesome shoes and jacket that Marty wears, the fashion style predicted by this movie is hideous. I mean, the style today is much different from that of the 80's, but we didn't get quite as crazy and off-the-wall as they did. Although it will make for some fantastic Halloween costumes this year.

11- Newspapers Still Exist - Yes, they do still exist. So they do get some points for that. But journalism today is a whole heck of a lot different than it was even a few years ago, let alone in the 80's. A physical copy of the newspaper would not be how Doc gets his main source of news if he went to 2015, unless of course he could adjust that fast, which seems unlikely given how fast he adjusted to everything else.

12- Cubs Sweep the World Series in 5 Games - This also comes up a bit later in the future sequence, but it's first revealed when Doc hands Marty the newspaper. A few things to take from this. First off, apparently the system was adjusted a bit in this version of the future because you have to win five games, not four. That adjustment didn't happen. As far as the Cubs winning, the honest truth is that if Marty came to the future, the story would be that the World Series hasn't yet started. We're still in the round right before the World Series. The Cubs still haven't won the World Series in over a hundred years, but the impressive thing is they are still in it at this point. And there will be a baseball game played tonight involving the Cubs. Speaking of sweep, there also could be a sweep involving the Cubs tonight, but the Cubs might be on the opposite end of that as they are trailing the Mets 0-3. Only one team has ever crawled out of that hole, so the Cubs are needing a miracle if they are going to make Back to the Future's prediction come true. Stay tuned!

13- There's a Baseball Team in Miami - While on the subject of baseball, when Marty actually realizes that the Cubs have won the World Series a bit later on, he is more surprised when he looks at who they defeated. Miami. There wasn't a team in Miami back in 1985. This is one of the big things that Back to the Future nailed. A few years back, the Florida Marlins moved to Miami and became the Miami Marlins. So yes, there is a team in Miami now. Sure, they're in the same conference as the Cubs, so they wouldn't meet in the World Series. Also, they sucked it up big time this season. But hey! They exist. So let's not be too harsh here.

14- Slamball - Back to the newspaper that Doc gives Marty, another one of the headlines is that the Slamball playoffs begin. I don't know what Slamball is. It doesn't really exist. But someone needs to create this sport because it sounds pretty epic.

15- Queen Diana - The newspaper said that Queen Diana was supposed to visit Washington today. Sadly, Princess Diana never made it to the status of Queen as she passed away tragically in 1997. Rest in peace Princess Diana.

16- Swiss Terrorist Threat - Switzerland has had a long history of armed neutrality and while it was predicted by Back to the Future that this would change, Switzerland still stands as a neutral country. We've had our fair share of terrorist threats, but none of them have come from the Swiss. Let's hope that doesn't change tomorrow because this is technically the newspaper from October 22, 2015 that they are looking at.

17- The President is Female - The newspaper article here reads, "President says she's tired." Technically they don't specify that this is the President of the United States, but that's what I'm assuming they are talking about. Our current President is not female. Barak Obama did beat out Hillary in 2008's election and no female ran in 2012. But this could change soon as we have two females running for President right now, so I don't think they are too far off with this.

18- They Abolished All Lawyers - Marty is reading the paper and is shocked when he learns that his son was sentenced to 15 years in prison just two hours after his arrest. Doc responds that the justice system works fast now that they've abolished all lawyers. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but lawyers are still here and the justice system still works slower than a snail.

19- Jaws 19 is in Theaters - When Marty passes the theater, Jaws 19, directed by Max Spielberg, is the big name movie out. Luckily they only made it to four movies in this franchise. The fourth was so bad that they just stopped. There are a few interesting things to take from this, though. First is that the number one movie in theaters right now is Goosebumps, which is a monster movie. So they got the genre right. Also released this past weekend was Bridge of Spies, which is directed by Steven Spielberg. I don't know if Steven has any relatives named Max, but they do get points for predicting that there would be a movie out this weekend by a Spielberg. Also, in honor of Back to the Future this month, a Jaws 19 trailer was created. Check this gem out real quick before moving on:

20- Holomax Theaters - I'm giving them points for this one as well. When Marty looks at the theater, he gets attacked by this hologram shark. We haven't really decided to create movie technology quite like that, but in 2009, Avatar was groundbreaking in 3D and now most movies have the option of seeing them in 3D. We also have IMAX theaters that are becoming more and more popular and that even has the "max" in the name just like Holomax. So I'm calling 3D/IMAX theaters close enough for a win here.

21- iPad-esque Technology - In two separate occasions, side characters ask for a donation or a payment. One guy comes to Marty asking for donations for the clock tower. The other is Biff's cab driver. Both of them use devices that look a whole heck of a lot like iPads. The fact that they look similar is win enough for me.

22- No Waitresses in the Cafe - The 80's-themed cafe that Marty goes in has no waitresses to take people's orders. Instead there are these little computers there at the tables with menus and ordering capabilities. We don't know for sure that this is the case in every restaurant as we only see this one little cafe in the movie. But regardless, we do still have people working in restaurants. Technology like this with computer menus and whatnot is probably not unheard of, but it's at least not the norm.

23- Michael Jackson is Still Alive - The 80's-themed cafe that Marty goes into has a TV that is showing a Michael Jackson interview that looks like a current interview. The king of pop did have a controversial life, but I think it's safe to say that he is missed today. Rest in peace Michael!

24- Pepsi Perfect - Marty orders a Pepsi and it gives him a Pepsi Perfect. This here is another example of a self-fulling prophesy. I do believe that Pepsi decided to create Pepsi Perfect in honor of this day. Because, you know, why not?

25- Elijah Wood is in this Movie - Not really a prediction here, just a fun little fact here. One of the little kids at the gaming machine in the cafe is young Elijah Wood. Cool, right? Speaking of that gaming machine...

26- You Don't Use Your Hands to Play Video Games - Elijah Wood and his friend are trying to figure out how to play the archaic gaming machine in the cafe. Marty walks up, grabs the gun, and owns it in the game. One of the kids then says, "You have to your hands? That's like a baby's toy." In other words, gaming systems in this future required no controllers. This is not the norm, but it sounds awfully like the Kinect for Xbox. I'm giving them credit for this.

27- Hover Boards - We're working on them, okay? Yes, there have been various hover boards that have been created over the years, but we haven't quite mastered the hover board technology to the point where all kids ride one. We do have a bunch of fancy-looking skateboard-like objects that kids play with these days. I don't know what they're called. It's never been my area of expertise. But you get what I'm talking about, right?

28- Scenery Windows - At least one of the windows in future Marty's house had this window cover that projected whatever outdoor scenery they wanted. I'm sure technology like this wouldn't be that hard to create, but I don't think anyone really has the motivation to do so. I guess we like our natural window views, regardless of how ugly. This idea has been used in other futuristic movies, so maybe this aspect of the movie inspired others.

29- No Doorknobs on the Front Door - Jennifer is trying to escape the house, but can't figure out how because there are no doorknobs. Doc has to tell her to press her thumb to the plate in order to open it. I suppose no one had a real big problem with the technology of a doorknob, so we decided to go with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto in this situation.

30- Flat Screen TV's - Put another check mark in the win category. I don't know when the flat screen TV was invented, but they certainly weren't a popular thing when I was growing up in the 90's, but they are now and thus it's cool to watch Marty McFly Jr. walk into a room and start watching TV on their flat screen TV. He also does this thing where he watches six channels at once, which I do believe is a capability for some networks, but don't quote me on that. It's just what I see advertised during the NFL season when they are talking about NFL Sunday Ticket and how you can watch multiple games at once, or something like that. I'll move on now.

31- Dog Walking Machine - I don't know what to call it, but when Marty is outside, we get a quick shot of a dog being walked by some sort of dog walking machine, thus making it so the dog can get some exercise without the owner having to go with it. I'm kinda glad this isn't a thing. Going with the dog on the walk is a great thing for both the dog and the human.

32- Food Hydrator - I've always found this one pretty cool. They buy this tiny Pizza Hut pizza and put it in the Black & Decker food hydrator, tell the machine the level they want, and in an instant it's a giant, full-sized pizza. Dinner in seconds. Someone needs to contact Black & Decker and tell them to actually invent this thing. The fact that they don't really do kitchen appliances is beside the point.

33- Technology at the Dinner Table - Well they got the specific technology wrong. I'll get to that in a second. But the kids at the dinner table are too busy with their technology and thus don't really interact with each other at dinner. How many times in today's world have you been gathered at dinner or in the front room and everyone is playing with cell phones, computers, tablets, etc instead of socializing with each other? Yup, that's definitely a part of our culture today.

 34- Phone Glasses - I told you the specific technology was a bit off. Now they do get some credit in my book for predicting that the phone technology in our day would be a lot more advanced. All of us have cell phones and most of us have smart phones. Marty would be fascinated when he found out all that a phone can do in our day because in his day all they did was call people. We do have bluetooth technology which allows some people walk around all day with an ear piece and others to make calls on the speaker in their cars. There's also Google Glass, which is kinda similar to what they have in the movie. But the specific idea of phone glasses isn't really a thing.

35- Video Calling - It's time to end this post on a positive note. When future Marty gets a phone call, it ends up being a video call that he pulls up on his TV. We don't make calls on the TV like this, but there are plenty of things on our computers like Skype and other things similar to Skype where we can make video calls like future Marty does. And not only are those things there, but they are actually very common. Yes, we still talk on the phones without the video part of it, but I say they get credit for this prediction.

Well, that's all folks! Now I know there's more that I missed and perhaps there are things that I said that aren't accurate, so please feel free to sound off in the comments or on facebook/twitter and brings those up. I'm just doing this for fun in celebration of Back to the Future Day. Or you can add your commentary on the things I did bring up that you find the most interesting. Like I said earlier, let's have fun this! And welcome to 2015 Marty!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Goosebumps Review

I remember a time in my life when Goosebumps was the thing. Everyone read the Goosebumps books and everyone loved the Goosebumps books. And when I saw "a time in my life," I'm referring to Elementary School. I think it was 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grade? Somewhere in that time frame. For me that was late-90's. It would've been 1996 when I started 2nd grade. If you're a 90's child like myself, you know what I'm talking about. The first Goosebumps book was written in 1992 and the original series of books had 62 books. Counting all the different spin-off series' written by R.L. Stine, there's somewhere around 200 books written and that has equated to 400 million copies sold. So yes, this is an extremely popular series and I was unashamedly right in the middle of it loving these books. When a movie was announced and the ensuing trailer came out, a lot of people were hating on it, thinking it looked terrible. I personally thought it looked like a fun Halloween affair for families. I kinda expected a dumb story with sub-par characters, yet fun monsters that led for a fun movie that critics would hate, but family audiences would enjoy. But holy cow, what I actually got shocked me. No this is not a perfect movie, but it's much better than I expected and thus I think it will become a Halloween classic that you should definitely see in theaters this month.

With around 200 books total in this series and 62 in the original series, there's a whole heck of material that they could've taken from for this movie. When I first heard that there was a Goosebumps movie being made, I assumed that they were going to adapt one of the books into a family-friendly Halloween movie. If successful, this could lead to a whole slew of successful sequels based off of the more popular characters. This is not the direction they took, though. Instead, they created a fun lore around author R.L. Stine. In the movie, Stine is someone who is very lonely and actually started writing the books because he didn't like children or people and he wanted to scare them all. Well, these books became super popular and thus he kept writing. But before too long, there was a certain spell or magic put on these books where the characters literally came off the page. Thus each of the original manuscripts had to have a lock put on it because if it was opened, the monster from the book would be released and you'd have to chase it down and trap it back in the original manuscript. You can guess how our story goes. A certain chain of events happen where all the books are opened and all the monsters are unleashed upon this small town and R.L. Stine and a group of three kids have to figure out a way to stop all these monsters and trap them back in the books.

Like I said, I expected a movie that had a dumb story, sub-par characters, and fun monsters. What really surprised me was this movie was the exact opposite. This movie has a great story, amazing characters, and slightly unimpressive monsters. I'll get to the monsters in a bit, but I really want to praise the story and the characters first. Our main character that the movie follows is actually a kid who is moving with his mom to a brand new town. This is a rough time for both of them because his dad and her husband has recently passed away and they just want to move to a place to start new. The chemistry and emotion between this mother and son is played fantastically. It really gets to you and thus you are emotionally invested in this situation right from the beginning. Then the kid meets this girl next door. Immediately you might think cheesy, teen love story. Based on the trailers that's what I thought, too. But no. This isn't a cheesy, teen love story simply because nothing about these two characters or their relationship is cheesy at all. These two have excellent chemistry as well and the direction the story went with them was excellent and believable. Our main kid actually acts how a normal teenage boy would act and the second they both discover that they have a connection, in comes R.L. Stine, the extremely over-protective dad. I don't want to say too much about R.L. Stine, but he's actually written as a very deep character and the father/daughter relationship there is also a great one.

So yes, with all this I was blown away. That's three separate relationships that immediately intrigued me. The stories with these relationships were very well written and thus very interesting to follow. There's a whole lot of depth and intrigue to this movie that I totally did not expect. And then on top of that, we have a pair of side characters that provide excellent comic relief. The first of these side characters is a guy named Champ. He plays a character who is really confident, yet really nerdy. He's not very good with the ladies and thus the popular kids at the high school never take him seriously, but that doesn't stop him from trying. Champ sees that our main kid, whose name is Zach, is the new kid at school with no friends, so he decides to be his friend and try to come up with a plan where they both fly solo at the upcoming dance. Noticing this friendliness, Zach takes advantage of Champ and uses him to help him save the girl next door, whose name is Hannah, from her crazy father. We then learn that Champ is easily scared, yet also an R.L. Stine fanboy and so his interactions with everyone is just hilarious. Our other side character is Zach's aunt, who comes in for "moral support." Yet she doesn't really provide much actual support. She's just this off-the-wall person who makes every scene she's in hysterical.

Thus the brilliance of all this is a combination of great writing and great acting. In terms of writing, I expected the monsters to be released right at the start, but they were bold enough to take time to develop their characters and establish a story that the audience can really care for and this worked like a charm. And by goodness is the acting great all around. Jack Black is our biggest name. He's often a hit and miss for me. When he's in his more adult-themed roles, he is not a funny person at all. But when he's in his family-friendly roles, the man is a comedic gold. Being that this is the family-friendly Jack Black, I was excited for him and I was really impressed by his character, especially because this was a much more subdued role for him. He was not the comic relief in this movie. His role was a dramatic, serious one and he was fantastic in it. Yes, he did have a few funny moments in the movie, but they were more subtle moments and not like Jack Black's usual humor. Our main trio of kids are fairly new on the scene, but not completely unknown. Jack is played by Dylan Minnette, who was great in Prisoners. Champ is played by Ryan Lee, who was great in Super 8. Hannah is played by Odeya Rush, who was great in The Giver. All three of them are actually 18-19 year old kids playing high school students, which I appreciate. Too often we cast people in their mid- to late- 20's to play high school kids, which is silly to me. All three of these people, like I've said, do a great job in this movie and I'm excited to see where their respective careers go.

See this is a Goosebumps movie and I haven't even really talked about anything Goosebumps-related yet. That's how surprising this movie was. But now let's talk about the Goosebumps aspect of this. The best thing about the Goosebumps books is that they are scary and intense, but not too scary or intense. As an 8-11 year old kid, this was perfect for me. I wasn't ready to dive into any Stephen King level books at that point. That was too much. But Goosebumps was perfect. There was real danger in the books, but it wasn't too over the top and thus was a lot of fun. That's exactly the tone that this movie takes. There are real monsters in this movie chasing everyone with the intent to hurt or kill them. This is real danger. But it's not too much danger. It's perfect for someone who is about 8 years old. This is too scary for little kids. Don't take your 4 or 5 year old into this movie. But if your son or daughter is nearing 10 years old, this is a great movie for him or her. I think this also bleeds over to the teenage years. This is a perfect Halloween movie to put on at Halloween parties for people in their teenage years. If you are an adult looking for something super scary, super terrifying, or super gory for your Halloween, this is the wrong movie for you. Unless you are a Goosebumps fan like myself and want an excellent nostalgic trip for Halloween.

Now you did read my statement earlier that the monsters in this movie are the worst part of this movie and you were probably wondering when I was going to actually talk about that. The time for that is now. Like I said in the previous paragraph, the tone for this movie is right. It's scary enough, but not too scary and it really respects the target audience. But if I'm being realistic here, the CGI in the movie is what's terrible. Let's take the werewolf for example. That was one of the most iconic monsters by R.L. Stine and thus I was excited for it to show up. But when it did, the CGI werewolf was so bad that it made the chase scene with the werewolf a lot less exciting. This was the same thing for a lot of the monsters. We had a great overall story with some amazing characters that I was fully invested in, but when it came to the monsters, they were the least exciting part of the movie, which was slightly disappointing. That said, not all of the monsters were bad. Believe it or not, there is a main monster in this movie and that is Slappy the dummy and he is actually a really good character who I do believe wasn't CGI. He was an actual dummy. At the very least, he looked like an actual dummy. The lawn gnomes were the same way. The were great characters that actually looked real, thus the scenes with them were excellent. Had all the monsters in this movie looked as good as these, this would've been the perfect Halloween movie.

In wrapping this review up, towards the end of the movie, R.L. Stine said that the perfect story has a beginning, a middle, and a twist. He also said that all of his books had to have a moment where our character experiences growth. The great thing about this movie is that it follows this formula that is in fact used in all of the Goosebumps books. At the beginning, we actual spend time setting the movie up. We establish great characters and interesting story arcs between the characters that make us care. The story that is set up is a great one. The middle of the movie is fun and exciting. Some have compared this to Jumanji in the way it's set up and I think that's a pretty good comparison. It moves fast as our characters have to deal with all sorts of monsters that show up out of the books. No, not all the monsters are great and that's because of some poor CGI, but overall they aren't too distracting. The movie does have some twists at the end that I won't talk about other than to say that I bought them. And yes, our characters do experience some beautiful moments of character growth. So overall, this is a very good movie. Not a perfect movie, but one that I think will and should develop into a Halloween classic that is show at Halloween parties for years to come. My grade for Goosebumps is an 8/10.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bridge of Spies Review

We're getting really close to the time where Marty McFly arrives into the future. In that fictionalized version of the future from Back to the Future Part II, Marty looks up at the cinema and sees advertised that the top movie of the week is Jaws 19. While the Jaws franchise didn't quite make it to that many sequels (they stopped after the atrocious fourth chapter, Jaws: The Revenge), the writers of Back to the Future Part II were onto something with their choice of movie. The original Jaws movie was directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg and now the man is back this weekend with Bridge of Spies. Although Bridge of Spies won't be the top movie of the weekend (early reports are that this honor will belong to Goosebumps), it will definitely be heavily advertised at theaters this upcoming Wednesday, October 21st, the day that Marty McFly arrives. Marty may be confused on what the heck Goosebumps is or who in the heck this Guillermo Del Toro dude is with his newly directed Crimson Peak. But he'll definitely be able to recognize Steven Spielberg. If he had time to relax and he wanted to go to a movie, I'm sure that the Spielberg name-brand recognition would cause him to see this movie. And I think he'd enjoy himself.

"Directed by Steven Spielberg" is all I needed to be intrigued by this movie. While his record isn't flawless (I personally wasn't a fan of War Horse or A.I.), he's typically pretty good at bringing excellent films to the table. When he's doing a historical movie and the big name star is Tom Hanks, that makes things even more intriguing. Specifically, this movie is a Cold War drama. If I'm being honest, I don't know a whole lot about the Cold War. I mean, I know the basics, but not a whole lot of details, so I was excited to dive into this and see what Spielberg had to teach me. I'll let you learn a lot of the details yourself rather than telling you much of the plot, but basically we follow a man by the name of James Donovan. You may know this guy's story. I didn't. If you are like me and you don't know who this guy is, he's the defense lawyer of Rudolf Abel, a Russian spy that the United States captured. Everyone in America is wanting this guy to be killed immediately because he is a Russian spy here in the United States. Who cares about due process or a fair trial, right? James Donovan, who is played by Tom Hanks, has a few other ideas. What about the constitution? Doesn't everyone deserve a fair trial? In the meantime, while we're being all upset about what Russia is doing and we want to immediately kill their spy, our government is doing the same exact thing. We send spies over to Russia. And guess what? One of them gets captured. Thus we dive into some really interesting themes.

Like I said, I didn't know much about the Cold War, but the whole thing essentially revolves around Nuclear weapons. Russia thinks we have Nuclear weapons and are going to attack them at any time. Thus they send spies over to the United States to figure out what we are up to. At the same time, we think Russia has Nuclear weapons and are going to attack us at the same time. So we also send spies over to Russia to figure out what they are up to. Is this fair? Do we justify this under the name of war and call it okay? Because honestly a lot of this seems really shady. I mean, all the Americans in this movie were whining and complaining that Donovan is vouching for this Russian spy to get a fair trial, but do yet they don't bat an eye at the fact that our government is sending guys on secret missions that "don't exist"? We're sitting here at home hoping that the Russians treat our guy with love and respect, but we want to send their guy to the electric chair immediately and we're going to vandalize James Donovan's home because he is standing up for the Constitution? Bridge of Spies isn't a movie that is taking a side on who is right and who is wrong. It's not a movie with a political agenda. It's just showing some of the honest truth of what happened at this time. Personally I'm also not taking a stance. I'm not saying that the United States was full of a bunch of idiots. I just thought this whole thing was really intriguing and thus the movie captivated me.

I will admit, though, that this is a movie that you have to be patient with. Yes, there are several really intense scenes scattered throughout that have you on the edge of your seat, but for the most part this is a very action-less movie. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that the movie would be this way. This isn't the Revolutionary War. It isn't the Civil War. It isn't one of the World Wars. This the Cold War. Much of the movie takes place in court rooms or in people's houses as the trial is discussed. Then we have conversations in offices discussing secret plans and having secret conversations that "don't exist." Then there are a whole heck of a lot of negotiations and other things like this where it's just people talking to other people figuring out what is to be done. There's also two very distinct halves to this movie. The first half is the court scenes like I mentioned and the drama following the Cold War. I'm not going to tell you what the second half is about, but it's certainly not action packed. Talking, talking, talking, talking. Not much doing. Thus I can definitely understand people going to this movie and getting bored with it, especially since it's 141 minutes long. There's also been people that, despite liking it, admitted that the second half is a lot more boring than the first. I'm not going to dispute that. The second half isn't as good as the first half. But it didn't kill the movie. Like I said, you have to be patient with the movie and if you are, you can take a lot from it.

I suppose the whole take away from what I'm saying is that you need to know what you are getting yourself into when you go watch this movie. There's a lot of biopics and historical dramas out there that are very effective at telling stories and presenting themes without being fast-paced or being filled with a ton of action. This is one of those movies. It's slow. It's long. It's not that intense of a movie. But yet I wasn't bored. I was really taken by all of the characters on both sides of the spectrum. I enjoyed the historical aspect of it. I don't think this is a movie that's intended on telling the whole story of the Cold War, just one specific story line during the Cold War. But I found it fascinating. Spielberg really put a lot of effort into very carefully crafting a really genius movie that you can learn a lot from and apply, not just to the past, but also the present as a lot of the themes in this movie apply to situations going on today, not just the Cold War. Just don't go into this movie expecting a ton of action or a lot of thrills. If you don't like historical dramas or biopics that take their time to slowly tell an interesting story with a lot of deep themes, then don't see this movie. It probably won't be for you. But if you do like biopics and you do love historical dramas, then this is your style of movie.

Now let's spend a moment with Oscar talk. A Spielberg-directed historical drama is huge Oscar bait and I have almost no doubt that this movie is getting a ton of Oscar nominations. I'm thinking best picture, best director, best actor, best supporting actor, best screenplay. All of that jazz. If it doesn't, quite frankly I'm going to be shocked. But am I going to be cheering this on? Probably not. And I don't mean that in a terrible, mean way. If it wins these things, I will be fine. I just personally think that it's not the best picture of the year, thus a best picture win would be a little much for me. A nomination? Absolutely. Very deserving. But being nominated is good enough in my opinion. And same goes for the acting. Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance are the two big acting names getting Oscar buzz following this movie. Both of them do a great job. Tom Hanks always seems to give his all when he's doing a movie and this is no different. He is fantastic in this. But I don't think his performance is deserving of an Oscar win. It's not one of the best of his career. If we look back at his top 5 performances that he's given in his career, this probably isn't a movie that we will feel the need to mention. Will I be upset if he wins? Absolutely not. A nomination is good enough. And even if he doesn't get that nomination, I won't lose to much sleep. Same thing guys for Mark Rylance as our Russian spy. He was really good in the movie. He was also surprisingly funny. But I don't think he gave an Oscar-winning performance. I'm just going to say all that right now because I know these conversations will be had in the not to distant future.

All in all, Spielberg has yet again shown why he is one of the most popular directors in Hollywood right now, if not the most popular director. The man has been making excellent films. I talked about Jaws in the beginning of this review. Jaws was 1975. That was 40 years ago. And that wasn't even his first movie. But in those 40 years, he has consistently put out classic after classic. He followed Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Not to long after he started the Indiana Jones trilogy. Then there's E.T. Then in the 90's he did Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan. In the current century, he's put out Minority Report, Catch Me if You Can, and Lincoln. This isn't even counting all the movies he helped write and/or produced. These are just a few great examples of his directing. The man is a movie genius and I think all of you knew that. Bridge of Spies is no Jurassic Park or Saving Private Ryan in terms of the intensity level. If you are looking for that when you go into this movie, you might be disappointed, because this is a slow-moving historical drama. Thus a better comparison might be Lincoln, which was also fairly recent. I think it's safe to say that if you loved Lincoln, then you should see Bridge of Spies. Or if you just want to see a Spielberg movie in theaters, then you should go see a Spielberg movie in theaters. I really loved this movie and I think you will too. I'm going to give Bridge of Spies a 9/10.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sicario Review

Two years ago there was an absolute gem of a movie that came out called Prisoners. It was a very dark, unhappy crime drama about a guy whose daughter gets kidnapped by a psychopath. The guy then takes matters into his own hands when he sees that the police aren't doing their job like he thinks they should. For some reason, I never actually wrote a review of the movie. What's more mysterious, though, was my exclusion of the movie from my list of favorite movies from that year. I think I was caught up on the ending after first viewing it or something like that. Anywho, it was one of the best movies from 2013 and thus now fast-forwarding again to this year, when I saw the advertising of another movie that was from the director of Prisoners, starred Oscar-nominated actors Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro as well as future Oscar-nominated actress Emily Blunt (she's becoming overdue now), and came out around the same time of year as Prisoners, I was totally down. I didn't quite see it as early as I wanted to, but I'm now making up for that. If you haven't seen Sicario either, then I highly recommend you doing so.

Sicario in Mexico means "hitman." I don't speak Spanish. I've never been to Mexico. That's just what the movie told me in the beginning. It also told a brief history of the word, which I found fascinating, but can't quote to you because I don't remember. That introduction was a good setup for this movie, which is a very dark and gritty look at the war on the Mexican drug cartel. The movie starts out with Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who is part of this group that invades this house not too far away from the Mexican border. We're somewhere in Arizona, I believe. They go into this house and holy fetch do they find disgusting things. Everyone is horrified and throwing up, so they decide to investigate further when suddenly "boom goes the dynamite!" Whether or not that is literal or figurative is something that I won't say. I'll be using that phrase interchangeable without telling you which it means for the sake of being vague. Point is, disgusting things are found, a surprising thing happens, and suddenly Emily Blunt is being recruiting for some sort of team to go solve a certain issue at the heart of the problem, which requires searching for a very bad man down in Mexico.

This is actually a very slow-moving movie. Given the subject matter, I thought we were going to speed up quite a bit and get very action-packed and intense in the second half of the movie. Not quite. Intense, yes. But intense in a different way. This is a movie that builds and builds throughout the whole movie. Yes, it's slow-moving, but it's not a bad slow-moving. It's a very good slow-moving movie. We start out with quite the jarring opening scene that sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Then when we start our actual journey, we start out with a little bit of tension. Something feels off, but we don't quite know what. Then we see some disturbing images as we go that add a little more tension to the movie. Then Emily Blunt's character starts to realize that she's gotten herself into something that she didn't really sign up for her, but there's not really any going back. As her character gets more uncomfortable, we as an audience get more uncomfortable and thus even more tension is added. Then we get the sporadic, random moments where a "boom goes the dynamite!" moment gets thrown in which adds even more tension. You get the feeling that this is leading to something big and when that thing happens, the suspension and tension has built up so perfectly that I had a jaw-dropping experience at the end of this movie.

There's almost nothing more satisfying in film for me personally than a thriller where the tension is built up perfectly and that tension leads to a very rewarding finale. This is exactly what happens in this movie and there's several aspects of the movie that really make it work. The first is the acting. There's plenty of side characters in the movie that all do a good job, but I'm going to focus on our three main characters played by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Torro. First up is Emily Blunt. When we have a dark thriller like this, the typical human reaction is to want there to be at least one good character that we can latch onto and care about. If everyone in the movie is a horrible, despicable human being, we often panic mentally because there is no one to latch onto or care about. If done right, this can still work out very well, but it's a lot harder to pull off. This is not something we have to worry about, though, because Emily Blunt is the character that we get to latch onto and dang is this woman good in this movie. She is a name that I've known for some time now, but she really caught my attention in last year's Edge of Tomorrow and followed that up fantastically after her role in Into the Woods, which I think was Oscar-worthy. Now she's stepped up her game even more with Sicario and is officially a force to be reckoned with as she's now become one of my favorite actresses. She does a fantastic job in this of making us feel really bad for her as she is essentially an innocent victim caught up in a disgusting situation.

Then there's the other two. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Torro. Most people are saying that Benicio Del Torro is the big attraction here while Josh Brolin doesn't really stand out. I half agree with that. Benicio Del Torro is definitely the big takeaway from this film, but I liked both of our Marvel baddies (Brolin plays Thanos and Del Torro is the Collector - both appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy and both will feature prominently in future Marvel films). Brolin is essentially the one who recruits Emily Blunt and is "explaining" to her what is going on. At first you think he's just fine. No one to worry about. But it doesn't take long before you realize that something is up and that's he's actually a fairly sketchy, yet interesting character. But then there's Del Torro. Yes, he is absolutely fantastic. At first he's just really mysterious. Unlike Brolin, you immediately know that something is off with him, but he's very quiet and subdued for much of the movie. Then as we move further along into the movie, we dive deeper and deeper into his character. I'm not going to spoil anything, but needless to say, the second half of the movie is the Benicio Del Torro show. Yes, I love Emily. Yes, I would love for her to get her first Oscar nomination with this movie. But if I could only pick one person to nominate from this movie, Del Torro is my choice and once you've seen this movie, you'll most likely agree with me.

There's two other aspects of this movie that really make it work. Yes, we have a really interesting, realistic, dark story that is fascinating. Yes, we have a trio of actors who knock it out of the park. But this movie wouldn't have worked without the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. In the musical world, this man is also becoming a force to be reckoned with. He got his first Oscar nomination last year for his beautiful score in The Theory of Everything. He's also responsible for the score from Prisoners, so he seems to be following director Denis Villeneuve around as he'll also be doing the score for Villeneuve's film for next year. But these are three amazing scores that this man had done that I think will lead to more and more projects for him in the future. The other aspect that really made this movie work was the absolutely amazing cinematography work done by the master himself, Roger Deakins. There's a reason why this this man has been nominated for 12 Oscars, 7 of those nominations coming in the last 8 years. Every movie he does is beyond beautiful and it's a darn shame that he's come up blank 12 times now at the Oscars. Give that man his Oscar! Come on Academy! I'm not one for lifetime achievement awards, but this wouldn't be one of those. He deserves a win because he is the best in the business and Sicario is of course no different.

Overall, this isn't a movie I can actually recommend for everyone. It's very dark, gritty, and disturbing at times and thus is not for everyone. But man is this a work of art that paints a beautiful, realistic picture of what the drug cartel can be like. It's shady and it's evil and sometimes drastic measures are taken by people to try and stop it. Sometimes that works out and sometimes that doesn't. This is not an action-packed, entertaining movie like some other movies about the drug cartel. This is a slow-moving, dark thriller where the suspense is built up perfectly. Helping add to the movie's brilliance is a great trio of acting led by the mysterious and deep character played by Benicio Del Torro. The movie also has an absolutely brilliant score by Jóhann Jóhannsson and is also one of Roger Deakins' best cinematographic pieces to date. I hope Oscar nominations are coming this movie's way, but if not you can at least be assured that the movie is very well done and worth seeing if this is the type of movie you like seeing. Director Denis Villeneuve blew me away with Prisoners and blew me away again with Sicario, so he is definitely on my radar as far as directors to watch out for. My grade for Sicario is a 9/10.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Supernatural Season 10 Review (SPOILERS)

Over the past several months, I've been slowly rolling out my reviews of the most recent seasons of the TV shows that I've been watching. My initial goal was to get them all out within a week or two of the finales which took place in May. That didn't happen. Instead I ended up releasing them about a month or so apart, which I actually kinda liked. Instead of getting an explosion of TV show reviews within a week or two and then none for the next year, you get my TV show reviews spread out. Whether or not I do the same thing next Summer is to be determined. We'll see what my schedule is like and how I'm feeling. This review of Supernatural is my final review from this past season. From network TV that is. I might get a review of Daredevil out around the time Jessica Jones gets released if I can finish that season in time. Long story there that I don't need to talk about here. Nevertheless, with this review of Supernatural season 10, my goal was to get it out right around the time season 11 started. The season 11 premier was last week, so now that you have that on your mind, I figure it's a good time to dive into what I thought of the previous season. As I've been doing with these recent TV show reviews, I will be talking about spoilers. If you haven't finished season 10 yet, go finish that then come back and read this review.

For a long time now, Supernatural has been by favorite TV show. I wasn't with them at the very beginning, but my younger brother introduced me to the show back in 2010, around the time that season 5 was finishing up. It didn't take me long at all to get hooked and since I didn't have much going on that Summer, before season 6 started I binge-watched the entire show. I've been following the brothers live on TV ever since. No, seasons 6-10 haven't been as good as season 1-5. But it's still watchable television. The series as a whole is still my favorite current TV show. When comparing the most recent seasons only, I will admit that season 10 of Supernatural wasn't my go to show. Season 1 of The Flash took that title. In fact, Supernatural got pretty far down the list of shows I was excited for each week. But it's far from the point of giving up on the show. In fact, I will be with them to the end. Whenever that comes. The initial plan was a five season show. When season 5 rolled around, they decided to continue instead of ending. For some reason I was under the impression that their new goal was ten seasons. Nope. Who knows how long they will be going now. They haven't said. Some wonder if the CW is going to ask them to stop. That's also not the case. CW is going to let them go as long as they want to go. I'll come back to this thought a bit later, but now let's dive into season 10.

Despite the issues that I've had with the most recent seasons of Supernatural, there's been a few things that have always remained consistently good. Two of those consistencies is that each season has begun well and ended well. This season is no different. The initial premise was especially interesting. Season 9 wasn't the best, but it ended in a rather shocking way. Dean had become a demon. That cliffhanger nearly killed me. How in the world were they going to solve this and where was it going to go? This is where we started off season 10 and I was really stoked. Each season has always had it's own big baddie. What if this season's big baddie was Dean? That would make for quite the epic season as Sam tries to figure out what in the heck he needs to do. Does he try to save Dean? Does he kill Dean? What if Dean starts killing a whole bunch other people and becomes an even worse monster? Wouldn't that mean Sam would be forced to think of the greater good and stop Dean for good instead of selfishly trying to find out a way to save him? This could also lead up to an amazing finale after a crazy, wild ride for the whole season. I was excited. This season was going to be good.

But no. That's not what happened. It only took us a few episodes before Demon Dean had been cured and sadly this season went south pretty fast. Instead of a story line where Dean was the main villain and Sam needed to figure out what in the heck to do, the season instead became about Sam and Dean trying to find a way to get rid of the Mark of Cain. Back in season 9, Dean had accepted the Mark of Cain from Cain himself with the intention of using it to kill Abaddon once and for all. This goal was accomplished towards the end of the season as he used the First Blade to kill Abaddon, but then the Mark of Cain started to completely mess him up and after he was killed by Metatron, the Mark of Cain, with the help of the First Blade and Crowly, resurrected him and turned him into Demon Dean. That's how season 9 ends. I wanted more Demon Dean in season 10, but instead we cured him pretty fast and now the brothers need to figure out how to get rid of the Mark of Cain before it completely messes Dean up in a more permanent way.

See this is actually another example of the brilliance of Supernatural. Throughout the whole series, they are always taking ideas from various lore and implementing them in their own creative way. This lore comes straight from the Bible. In the Bible, Cain was a friend of Satan. He loved Satan more than he loved God. Satan told Cain to kill his brother Abel, who was a righteous, God-fearing man. God wasn't too happy with Cain when this happened, to say the least. Because of this, God cursed Cain and gave him a mark. Those are two different things, the curse and the mark. I don't need to dive into what the curse and the mark actually are in the Bible, but Supernatural uses this story in their own creative way. Cain is actually a character that we meet. Part of his curse has been to not suffer death. Thus he's still around when Sam and Dean are on the earth and in fact we learn that he is a demon. This mark he has on his arm has done a lot of awful things to him. Of course this isn't quite the way the Bible actually tells the story, but it's a fun twist that had the potential to make things really interesting. You have Cain. You have the Mark of Cain. You have the First Blade that Cain used to kill his brother. But potential is the big word here and in my personal opinion, potential with this story was wasted.

First off, like I've said several times now, keeping Demon Dean around longer is what needed to happen. The Mark of Cain turned him into this awful thing and that should've been at least slightly more permanent than it was. They can cure him in the finale if they want and deal with the after effects in the next season, but they didn't. Instead we got a season that was mostly comprised of them trying to get rid of the mark and honestly I found it a little boring. A good storyline weaved into the season is the most important thing for Supernatural and when this storyline was boring, it made the whole season pretty boring. I liked their attempt to go back and use the formula from the first few seasons, that of a lot of monster-of-the-week episodes with a brilliant and intriguing story weaved in. But when the story just doesn't work out, it really negatively effects the whole season. Yes, there were some pretty good monster-of-the-week episodes in this season. But they weren't good enough to hold this whole season together.

The other missed opportunity with this came with the villain. Yes, Dean would've made a great villain, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about Cain. In season 5 our main villain was Lucifer. When it comes to Supernatural, Lucifer is a villain that simply cannot be topped. That's the part of the problem with these later seasons. In deciding to go forward with the show, they haven't been able to find a main villain as good as Lucifer. But here they finally had a great opportunity. When you've already done Lucifer, isn't Lucifer's biggest follower the perfect option for the next best villain? Cain would've been an amazing villain. But the actual character of Cain only shows up in two episodes. He's mentioned in several more, but actor Timothy Omundson only shows up once in season 9 and once in season 10 and then he is killed by Dean. What a waste. Sure, perhaps Omundson had a really busy schedule and couldn't do more than he did, but if that was the case, they really should've found someone who could've committed to a larger role and written him in more. Instead our main villain is probably Rowena. She's an extremely manipulative witch and is also the mother of Crowley. However, one episode of her was all I could handle, yet we got a whole lot more of her and we aren't done yet.

So yes, this season lost me rather quickly. There were plenty good monster-of-the-week episodes. Episode 200 was especially fantastic. That was episode 5 of the season and was titled "Fan Fiction." It was the episode where Sam and Dean run into a Supernatural play being put on at this small school. It was also the episode where Chuck showed up once again for a brief moment. He was the prophet from season 5 that was initially intended to be God. That wasn't actually stated during the show, but it was revealed behind the scenes that this was the initial goal for Chuck's character. But that didn't happen and Chuck was gone for several seasons and thus God is still a mystery. But having Chuck showing up makes me wonder of they are going to use him as God after all. I was expecting him to show up again in a bigger role towards the end of the season, but that didn't happen either. I'm not too upset with that. In fact that makes me excited for when they finally decide to bring him back. Instead we have to deal with what we've got and that is a lot of Rowena and Metatron. I haven't talked about Metatron yet. He was a season 9 baddie and was really interesting for that season. But I'm kinda done with him as well. I want something big. I want something epic. Cain could've been epic. But he was underused. Demon Dean could've been epic. But that was wrapped up way too quickly.

Now I said that two consistencies of Supernatural is that the seasons always start well and end well. I spoke about how things started well. I touched on how the middle of the season lost me. There's more I could've said like the annoying brother drama and the recycled storylines that involve that drama. But I think I've said enough for now. Before signing off, I do need to mention that the show once again remained consistent with the endings as this finale was pretty good. Was it as epic or shocking of a finale like some of the previous seasons? No. But it was still pretty good. Sam has forced Rowena into figuring out the spell that gets rid of the mark. Dean has made the decision that he is a lost cause and summons Death to kill him. Death says that he can't do this and tells Dean that the mark is a key that keeps the darkness locked in. Death offers to send Dean to a place far away where he won't disturb anyone. Dean calls Sam to come to him so he can say goodbye, but then Death says that Sam needs to die because Sam won't stop until he finds Dean. This leads to a rather intense final scene that has you on the edge of your chair as you are watching. It ends with Dean killing Death instead of Sam (which kinda doesn't make sense if you think of it, but oh well), and Rowena completes the spell that removes the mark. And just like Death said, the darkness is released. Things happen with Rowena, Crowley, and Castiel, but I don't need to discuss that. The season ends with Sam and Dean being submersed in the darkness.

Bam! That's was a great ending. What is this darkness and what happens to everyone because of it? That's a question for season 11 to answer, which has already started off pretty good. Overall, this season did what the last several seasons have done. Start well, lose me in the middle, and end with a bang. The main actors are great as always. I'm talking about Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Mark A. Sheppard, and Misha Collins. A few of the side characters were great as well while a few more bothered me a bit. But it's the writing at this point that needs to improve. I've been waiting for them to get back to their former glory that they experienced with seasons 1-5. But they haven't yet. Seasons 7 and 8 got close, but the last two seasons have dipped down. I really hope this ends on a high note, but that's the big issue that I will end this review on. What's their goal with the show? How long are they going to go? I know I will be sad when the show ends, but at this point I have no idea what their end game is. Quite frankly, I'm not sure if they have an end game. It feels like they are just wandering through and that worries me. They need to come up with an end game. If they have one, they need to tell us what it is. Season 11 isn't the end. Is it season 12? 13? 14? 15? At this point, I honestly hope it's 12, but we'll see.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pan Review

We're on quite the kick right now in Hollywood with our live-action adaptations of Disney's animated works. This idea is definitely not a new one, but we've had a recent explosion of live-action animated Disney adaptations after Alice in Wonderland earned over $1 billion worldwide in 2010. We got two Snow White movies in 2012 (Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror). Last year gave us Maleficent, a weird Sleeping Beauty adaptation. Early this year we had Cinderella. Now Peter Pan gets his turn with yet another adaptation of the classic story. And this is just the beginning. I'm not even going to begin to list all the live-action animated Disney adaptations that are coming up. The list is long. It's not just Disney doing it. A lot of studios are in on the party. Pan here is Warner Bros. Now before I get myself into trouble, I am very well aware of the fact that Peter Pan didn't originate from Disney. He was created by author and playwright J.M. Barrie in the early 1900's. Disney's version came 50 years later. But it did come, which is why I'm grouping Pan in with these other live-action animated Disney adaptations. I will do the same with upcoming movies The Jungle Book and Tarzan next year even those weren't Disney movies first, either.

In addition to following the trend of live-action animated Disney adaptations, this also follows the trend of Peter Pan adaptations, so we're hitting two birds with one stone here. For some reason, every 10 years or so, Hollywood thinks it's time for a new Peter Pan movie. In 1991 we had Hook. In 2003 we had P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan. Now in 2015 we have Pan. There's also been plenty of TV, play, and book versions of Peter Pan. Why we need so much Peter Pan in our world is beyond me. This is why I respect the idea that Pan filmmakers had of doing something different with the character. This movie is a prequel where the villain is Blackbeard, not Hook. In fact, Hook is a friend of Peter and this was our chance to see how Peter rose to be the hero he is in all the other Peter Pan stories. This was a good idea. It's similar to the idea that Steven Spielberg had of telling the story of what would happen if Peter actually went to the normal world and grew up. It's something different. Thus makes it fresh. On top of this idea, the movie had a great director in Joe Wright and a fantastic cast which included Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara, and Garrett Hedlund. Thus I was initially excited for this movie. Then the trailers started come out. Oh my word. This looked atrocious. I was hoping I was going to be wrong about that. But I wasn't. This movie is awful.

See, having the idea to do something different and unique is a good idea. But there's definitely a line that shouldn't be crossed because if you go too different with a beloved story, you're going to get hanged by the people who actually enjoy the original story and characters. When it comes to Peter Pan, I don't know where exactly that line is, but Pan didn't just cross it. They sprinted past it and are so far into left field with the story that we can't even see where they are. It's not even clever or good in its own right. It's just weird and dumb. If we pretend for a moment that this was the only Peter Pan movie to ever exist, I'd have no interest in the character because nothing in this movie worked. We start out with the most generic, cliche orphan scene. Mother leaves baby at the steps with a note, promising that she will return for him one day. We then jump 12 years into the future and the leader of the orphanage is an angry old lady who hates kids. They get mush as food while the old lady hogs all the good food for herself. Peter and his friend then come up with a scheme to break into her office and find her secret stash. They get caught and punished. Blah, blah, blah. I was bored. I just wanted the pirates to come kidnap them and take them to Neverland, because I knew that was going to happen. It was in every trailer.

But then the pirates actually came and kidnapped them and took them to Neverland. It didn't take long for me to want to go back to the orphanage. This movie is set in World War II and thus when the pirate ship is escaping, it gets stuck in a battle with some fighter planes. Then we go to the most fake version of outer space where Peter is floating around and picking up Jupiter with his hands. We then fly around to some sort of weird area with big water bubbles that have islands in them. Or something like that. What in the freak is going on? I was confused and weirded out. Just get to Neverland already. Arriving there was never that weird and complicated in other versions of Peter Pan. Why did we need to make this version look like everyone is experiencing some sort of psychotic break? I didn't get it. But then we got to Neverland. Things didn't get better. They got worse. One of the first scenes in Neverland is Hugh Jackman leading everyone in that initial scene in song. Okay, this idea is fine. But the song choice? Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. Now this is a fantastic song. But I remind you that this movie is set during World War II. Why in the world are we singing 90's music when the movie is set in the 40's? Did we go through a time warp where this song exists? It makes no sense.

This wasn't the point in the movie where the movie got bad. As I've stated, up to this point nothing in the movie was good. But I could've forgiven a lame introduction if they were able to capture the magic of Neverland. I may not be as huge of a Peter Pan fan when compared to some of my friends, but I still understand why Neverland is so amazing. It's the ideal place for when you are a kid. As a kid, you never want to grow up. You don't want to have to deal with such things as love or work. You just want to be able to play with friends and have non-stop adventures for the rest of your life. That's what Neverland is. It's a fun, magical place where kids get to be kids for their whole lives without having to grow up. Say what you want about the other adaptations of Peter Pan. You can find fault with Disney's animated version of Peter Pan. You can find fault with Steven Spielberg's Hook. You can find fault with the 2003 Peter Pan. But all three of these movies got the idea of Neverland right. I personally don't think I'd call any of these three movies a masterpiece, but I enjoy all three with Hook probably being the best of them. The biggest problem with Pan is that Neverland doesn't feel magical at all. It was a bore. I wasn't sold on the world. I thought the characters were poorly written. The story was a complete mess that got worse as it went on. The rules of Neverland in this version didn't make sense. The history that they tried to tell felt way off. The ending was absolutely atrocious. Everything that makes Neverland and the characters withing so beloved are gone in this movie. Nothing is right. And when I mean nothing is right, I mean nothing is right.

Let's talk about some of these characters in this movie. I wasn't able to latch onto any of them, which is really disappointing because there are some good actors in this. Let's start with Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard. The guy is one of my favorite actors for good reason. He's had so many iconic roles now in his career and he's nailed all of them. Was he bad in this? No. But he's not that great either. I can tell that he's having fun with the character and doing the best with what he's been given, but that last part is the problem. He's been given nothing to work with in this. Blackbeard is not a very compelling villain in this at all. Then we have Hook, who is usually the villain in Peter Pan. This time he's friends with Peter and although I like this idea, I hated Hook in this movie. Someone told Garrett Hedlund to do this weird, annoying voice the whole time. Whoever had that idea and told Hedlund to continue that the whole movie deserves to be punched. Next up is Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily. She's probably the most likable character in this, but there's probably bias in that statement because I absolutely adore Rooney Mara. She's just fantastic. But the huge elephant in the room there is the fact that we have a white girl playing a Native American character. Unfortunately I'm jumping on the band wagon that this was a bad idea. It just didn't work. Finally there is Levi Miller as Peter Pan. I really feel bad for the kid that this was his introduction as an actor because he's just not a good Peter Pan.

The other thing is that this didn't even look good visually. I'm usually not one to complain about CGI. You can have a good movie that's mostly CGI. But the key there is you have to make it look convincing enough to convince me that you had real sets and are in a real world. This looks like we are in a computer, not in Neverland. It looked like the actors were acting in front of a green screen the whole time and not on actual sets. This was especially bad when they were flying around on the ship. When someone was falling out of the ship, I didn't feel any fear or dread for the character because the world they were in was so fake. Earlier this week I saw The Walk, which was another movie that was probably shot on green screens. But they did a perfect job at making me feel like it was real. This is 2015 that we are in. It shouldn't be that hard to make a visually stunning movie where Neverland feels real. This is the one thing that this movie should've gotten right. But not even this was right. Even Hook had a much better Neverland visually speaking and that movie is now 24 years old. That's kinda sad when you think about it.

All in all, this is one of those situations where I'm really confused that a movie this bad got made. This is Joe Wright. He's made some good movies like Atonement and Hanna. As the director, he is responsible for a whole heck of a lot of horrid decisions that were made in this movie. It makes no sense. Then we have people like Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara who looked at the script for this movie and decided that it was a good idea for their careers to go forward with this project. How does this happen? I don't understand. This should've been a good movie. There should've been at least a few things that were done right. But no. Nothing about this movie is right. If you are a fan of Peter Pan, get prepared for your beloved story and characters to get ripped into shreds and thrown into a blender. This is a disaster. If you are a parent with kids aged 5-8 who aren't very familiar with Peter Pan, this might be a movie they'll enjoy. Kids usually aren't very critical. Outside that audience, though, this is a movie that deserves to be skipped. It was one of those times where the movie theater started to feel like a prison. I was writhing in pain and agony the whole time. This is one of the worst movies of the year. Not quite as bad as Fantastic Four or Jupiter Ascending, but that's not saying very much. My grade for Pan is a 4/10.