Dir: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller
Synopsis: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world tocapture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
*Review Note:This is a NON-SPOILER review and if you comment PLEASE DO NOT PUT SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS.*
J.J. Abrams has once again made a Star Trek movie for not just Star Trek fans (although they are mostly likely to catch the small winks and nods), but also for the general going audience. Some people will say Into Darkness had some plot holes and falls apart in certain areas (I slightly agree with some aspects but not entirely) but it will still be one of the most fun experiences you will have.
The opening sequence in the movie really sets the tone for the movie. It’s filled with humor, tension, suspense and action that is only pumped up as the movie moves along. We see the Starfleet still struggling with their adventures and how to come together as a crew. We see how Kirk (Pine) is still doing things his own way and ignoring regulations and Spock (Quinto) being by the book.
However, all there is really put to the test when John Harrison (Cumberbatch) shows up and sets in motion a series of events beginning with attacks on a futuristic London and having Starfleet big wigs setting up a manhunt into deep space for him. Of course, things don’t go as planned and Kirk and his crew are put to the test against Harrison’s smarts andnerve worthy intention.
Of course Cumberbatch’s Harrison character has been the spark of many fans on whether it is or isn’t a certain character. And since being a non-spoiler review I won’t confirm or deny but the reveal is pretty cool in my opinion. Cumberbatch, in no surprise, is excellent as John Harrison and you can truly see his character is willing to go anywhere to get what he wants.
Chris Pine has made Kirk his own bringing in his roguish,young, and humorous back but also bearing a lot of the emotional weight this time round. Zachary Quinto’s Spock is once again the soulful figurehead of this series, remaining clueless, in a good way, of “normal human interactions” while also dealing with two different both relationships in the film.
The rest of the cast tend to fade into the background behind this central trio (Cumberbatch, Pine, Quinto), fulfilling their roles when need be. Urban’s Bones has a lot more wise cracks than the first film while Pegg’s Scotty has his own sub-plot that involves him disappearing for a while but will still be a fan-favorite (if he wasn’t already). Zoe Saldana’s Uhura has a much smaller role than usual and when she’s not having her comic relief moments, she is having her romantic moments with Spock which honestly kind of slows the movie down just a bit. Also the addition on Alice Eve as Carol Marcus isn’t really all that besides her quick scene when she’s in her bra and panties.
I mentioned earlier that people will find problems with the movie. Which is fine by me because honestly what movie is absolutely perfect? Anyway,the movie does have fan-service and some might find it eye-roll worthy but I see it as Abram just doing that, fan-service, but also making general movie audience conformable and for many, it won’t matter.
All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is a hell of a lot of fun, maintaining all of its tones in order that they don’t over power each other and ensures the viewer that this is a franchise you want to keep seeing.
Star Trek Into Darkness
5 out of 5
Dir: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale and Ben Kinsley
Synopsis: When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
*Review Note: This is a NON-SPOILER review and if you comment PLEASE DO NOT PUT SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS.*
To fair to say Iron Man 3 could have been a tough sell. First, some people still have a bad taste in their mouths with the mention of Iron Man 2. Second, the movie finally has the famous arch-nemesis from the comic in The Mandarin. Lastly, the movie is following The Avengers which was a massive success and is still in many people’s minds. So is Iron Man 3 any good? Well, the short answer is yes.
The movie interestingly starts at a party where we see a pre-Iron Man and Iraq cave Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) being the playboy party guy that we saw briefly in the past. It’s there where we get introduced to Maya Hansen (Hall), who we see is just as smart as Tony and wants to do some good in the word, and Aldrich Killian (Pearce) who at that point is trying to make a name for himself. Fast forward to the present and we see the Tony in his workshop working on his new Mark 42 that he can now summon by will to attach to him.
But while all that happens we are finally introduced to The Mandarin. In the comics he’s more of a magical being but here he’s more of a real world terrorist that delivers some pretty chilling video messages throughout the movie. Speaking of differences, we see a different Tony Stark. We still get the smart quick witted Tony but now we get a Tony that knows aliens and demi-gods exist. He struggles with that and suffers nightmares with a few other things that makes the Tony we fell in love with distant to everyone. And Downey Jr. does another amazing job of playing Stark and gives him a lot more depth which is good to see.
The plot itself revolves around Extremis, a serum which comes from the comics but here concerns a process by which humans can be biologically enhanced by tapping into their DNA, resulting in hugely entertaining sequences that we won’t spoil here.
Something happens to someone close to Tony which results in Tony getting a little emotion and sending a message without thinking of the consequences. Of course this leads to the heavily marketed house invasion and destruction that eventually sends Tony to go off on his own and try to find a way to fight back. It puts him back metaphorically back in the cave where he has to rely on his smarts to get him out.
Of course the world isn’t without an armored hero. War Machine, now called Iron Patriot, is the government’s response for the attack on New York and goes around trying to find The Mandarin too. Don Cheadle by the way comes into his own as ‘Rhodey’ this around especially when it comes to his friendship with Tony. If there was ever any doubt that Cheadle couldn’t handle a spin-off movie then this movie puts those doubts to rest.
So, I’ve mentioned The Mandarin a lot in the review so let’s talk about him, sort of at least. It’s certainly an interesting take on the character to say the least and some fans were already bashing the idea but it works quite brilliantly in the context of this story. And Ben Kinsgley owns the role, stealing the majority of the scenes that he is in and clearly having a blast playing this character. Another standout is Guy Pearce as Killian and you almost can’t keep your eyes off him whenever he’s on screen.
As for the women, Rebecca Hall does the best can with her character that a little underwritten, which is a shame since Hall could have done so much with the part. Gwyneth Paltrow fares better and even has a lot more to do than just be the damsel in distress.
Of course one of the big differences in the movie is the new director in Shane Black who replaces Jon Favreau, who does come back as Happy Hogan. Black is known for his buddy back and forth conversation (Lethal Weapon) and that does happen in the movie through Rhodey/Tony and another relationship that Tony develops. However, Black also proves he can handle action sequences and not just with the house destruction. There is the plane sequence and the last big fight were all of Tony’s suits show up to help the fight.
All in all, Iron Man 3 is definitely going to get a mixed reaction, especially from the comic book fans, but overall it is a good movie. It’s smart, fun, funny, has some great drama filled moments and twist and turns. So really an overall a great experience to enjoy whether you know the comic book arc or not.
Iron Man 3
4.5 out of 5
Dir: Fede Alvarez (short film Panic Attack)
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, and Elizabeth Blackmore
Synopsis: Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival
Before I get into the review I want to get this out. Please try to see this with a neutral mindset. Yes, it is a remake/reboot of Sam Raimi’s classic Evil Dead film. I know the “hardcore fans” have been down talking the movie, which is fair since most remakes/reboots don’t tend to be all that good, but if you try to at least put aside what made Raimi’s Evil Dead great and know this is not trying to be that but it’s own thing then you will enjoy it, trust me. Last bit, if you seen the trailers then you know what you’re walking into somewhat so please don’t complain like A LOT of people are doing AND the movie is produced by Sami Raimi and Bruce Campbell so it’s not like they did to cash on the name and make more money. Alright onward to the review.
The beginning of the movie really kicks things off and pretty much lays out how the rest of the movie will go tone and horror wise with characters that we won’t see for the rest of the movie. From there we are introduced to our characters that are there to help one of their friends, Mia (Levy) who has a drug problem. Among the friends are Eric (Pucci), Olivia (Lucas), Natalie (Blackmore) and her estranged brother David (Fernandez).
While Mia is confronting her own horrors of withdrawal, her friends find the cellar filled with some very unpleasant things but also find a mysterious book which is in a trash bag wrapped in barbed wire (which really should be a sign). While the group deals with Mia’s withdrawal symptoms, Eric is fascinated by the idea of the book and of course reads from it despite the warnings. Once he reads it we see the familiar “demon POV speeding through the woods” shot and from this point is when start to see the Evil Dead we know, or at least some of it.
The evil, if that’s what you want to call, does all that it can make sure that no one leaves the cabin and of course starts to posses and kill the people in the cabin. The movie does have a similar structure to Raimi’s and embraces them with sounds, imagery and even some dialogue. If you are said hardcore fan I’m sure you can even find some “Easter eggs/homage” in the background. It even plays with the audience a bit knowing that they are looking for things or even specific scenes from the original to be in there.
Obviously I don’t want to give too much away but needless to say this movie is almost different and similar to the original. The movie does focus a bit more on the characters like Mia, Lou Taylor Pucci’s Eric and David. But let’s face it, the read star of the movie is the horror and boy there is a good chuck of it. The movie hardly gives you a break from the horror and the tremendous amount of blood (apparently there was over 50,000 gallons used in the movie!). The gore might throw some people off and it is definitely cringe worthy most of time, although you can also thank the movie for using practical effects over CG for the majority of the movie.
The movie does lose some momentum at times especially nearing the movies last act but that last act really reels you back in and dare I almost makes the movie. Director Fede Alvarez does a great job of creating his own story and themes but also while keeping the essence of what made Raimi’s movie a favorite almost fans.
All in all, Evil Dead is a cringe-worthy bloody good time that I think hardcore fans can enjoy if they accept the fact that this is not trying to replace Raimi’s version but its trying to be a part of it. The movie does turn the creepy factor on high and if you like gallons of blood this is the movie for you. Also, if you like, stay after the credits for something small.
4.5 out of 5
Alright ladies and gentlemen, I figured I do something new and I’ve actually wanted to do this for quite a while now but never actually did it. Now I know a lot of movie news items come out every month but I figured I’d take the “big” one and write a little something about them. So after you read them let me know what you think of the idea and if you would like to see more of this at the end of every month or more often, for example every week.
In no particular order
(Expect this one) Rumor that Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, and Zack Snyder would come back for the Justice League/World’s Finest movie
The news items for March really kicked off with the “atomic bomb” of all comic book news items. The rumor was that Nolan would be the man that Warner Brothers wanted to over look the DC Universe and would act as a producer from this point forward. It continued with Bale possibly returning to once again play Bruce Wayne/Batman alongside Henry Cavill Man of Steel’s Superman/Clark Kent in the long gestured Justice League of America OR a World’s Finest movie. (For those non-comic book fans, World’s Finest is essentially just Batman and Superman). The last bit was that Zack Snyder would come back as the director of either those two movies and David Goyer (writer of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel) would likely return as well.
Now obviously this is a HUGE rumor and should only be taken as a grain of salt. But, this came from the Latino Review which has a good track record when it comes to some exclusive comic book news. Would this be cool? For some yes (like me) and some no. Not everybody liked the “dark, gritty and grounded approach” that Christopher Nolan bought into The Dark Knight Trilogy and now into Superman but honesty ask yourself, “Would you want Nolan, who in my mind has a great track record, or somebody new that could possibly mess it up?”
The other thing that people have bought up is if Nolan is willing to almost erase his ending and arc of The Dark Knight Rises in order to bring back Christian Bale? And would WB sign Bale for more than just one movie? Well at this point no one is saying anything and I will only believe it when I see it. WB actually said that the fate of the JLA movie would depend on the success of Man of Steel but that was before WB threw out the script by Will Beall (Gangster Squad).
Veronica Mars movie greenlit thanks with help of KickStarter and fans
Well this is a first. Series creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell have always said they would love to do a Veronica Mars movie based off their cult favorite TV show that was canceled after three seasons (all season available on Netflix). But Thomas and Bell asked Warner Brothers, the right holders to Mars, if they could get two million dollars would they greenlight the movie, of course the answered yes. Then Thomas and Bell took to Kickstarter and raised the two million in a record breaking ten hours!
This pleased fans that have been waiting for more Veronica Mars but it also now opened the door for other possible TV shows that ended too early and some creators have even flirted with using Kickstarter like Chuck and Pushing Daises. However don’t hold your breath for a Firefly/Serenity from Joss Whedon because he already said it’s not going to happen since he’s tied up at Marvel for the next two to three years. However he did say it would be a “game changer.” While some will agree with Whedon the other part of all of this is what the people that really “win” in this situation is WB.
The concern is that Kickstarter might be “selling out” since the primary use for Kickstarter is not big studio companies but small independent filmmakers. The fear is that more companies may see the success of Veronica Mars and have fans pay for a chunk of the budget. Fans really don’t get the backend of the box office haul, they will only get the satisfaction of knowing they were responsible (if they gave money toward the Kickstarter) for getting the movie made.
Do I see other companies doing this? Yes. Companies are always looking for a way to spend less money on a project if they can. The main thing here is that we can finally see everybody’s favorite PI come back.
Western Drama Jane Got a Gun had some behind the scenes drama
Every once awhile we hear some drama on a movie set. Whether it’s that the project has run into production trouble with the budget or it running behind its shooting schedule. Or it’s just to bad from the beginning (I’m looking at you World War Z). Well apparently it’s happened again and for yet another project I was looking forward to.
Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) was set to direct Jane Got a Gun which see Natalie Portman (who also is a producer) trying to protect her outlaw husband from the gang he betrayed with her ex-lover who still has feelings for her. Ramsay surprisingly didn’t show up the first day of shooting and left her cast and crew hanging. Although the full story as to why she dropped out is yet to come out there are some theories that she had some personal issues that didn’t allow her to take the directors chair.
However, this isn’t the first hit the film took. Originally the outlaw husband was supposed to be played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty) and the ex-lover was supposed to be played by Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Prometheus). But scheduling conflicts with X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fassbender dropped out and left the movie without one of the main three characters. Good news came when Edgerton stepped out of the villain husband role and into the ex-lover role because Jude Law boarded the film to play Portman’s husband. Also, Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) came in as a director for the film.
But, of course the film lost Jude Law too because news reports say he only joined because he wanted to work with Ramsay. Now producers and O’Connor are looking for someone to replace Law and the names there going for, at least at the moment, are Jack Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Jeff Bridges.
Joss Whedon says Planet Hulk is NOT happening and that he wouldn’t bring back original stars for Star War Episode 7
Joss Whedon has been a busy man this month. He premiered his Shakespeare adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing but of course people can’t help but to ask him questions that involve Marvel and other nerd worthy movies. The first was his denial of the rumored possible storyline for Avengers 2 and possibly Avengers 3 that would have been based on the highly popular comic book Planet Hulk and World War Hulk.
I know many fans were giddy at the possibility of this rumor being true but when the man behind Marvel, at least at the moment, came out and said it’s not happening many were disappointed. I from the beginning knew this would be HIGHLY ambitious for Marvel to pull off and the other fact is that those stories feature very little of Bruce Banner that Marvel would really have no need in having Mark Ruffalo which would really suck.
Little bit later in the month, Whedon was asked what he would do if he directed Star War Ep: 7 (which he was rumored to direct when it was first announced) and if he would bring back the original cast of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill. His answered surprised some when he said “No.”
Of course there has been multiple stories that Ford, Fisher, and Hamill saying they are in and saying they are out and has lead many fans to voice their opinion if they want them back. I personally wouldn’t mind to see them but only if it was a “passing of the torch” type of scene.
Sam Mendes isn’t returning for Bond 24
If you saw Skyfall you know that it was arguably one of the best Bond movies made. It was most likely to the darker tone and more personal/emotion aspects of the James Bond character. But I think the real success is thanks to director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) who was able to capture all of things and make a great Bond movie.
An original story had come out that Mendes was almost set to return but Mendes apparently misjudged his schedule and now won’t be able to return. I understand “scheduling conflicts” in Hollywood, especially if you’re a high profile figure but I’m still upset that Mendes won’t be back in the director’s chair since he did a damn good job with Bond.
Watchmen killed the Bioshock movie
If you’re a video game fan you where probably looking forward to the game adaptation of Bioshock. The movie had a descent track record going for it at first, Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean 1-3, The Lone Ranger) was on board to direct and wanted to make the movie a hard rated R horror movie. This made video gamers happy that it would be keeping in tone with the source material. However, years and years passed and nothing happened. Verbinski eventually left after Universal Studios didn’t take agree with a high budget ($200 Million) R rated horror movie idea.
But now the real story has come out as to why the movie really didn’t happen and it was all thanks to the graphic novel adaptation of Watchmen. Yes, that’s right Alan Moore’s popular graphic novel adaptation killed the chances of seeing a high budget rated R movie.
According to Ken Levine (one of the people behind the game) spoke about this and how Watchmen killed the movie saying “but it didn’t do well for whatever reason and the studio got cold feet about making an R-rated $200 million film.” He went on to say they bought in someone else and he didn’t like the idea and he decided to kill the movie.
It’s actually been a while since I’ve played Bioshock but I do think a Bioshock movie could work if they got the right team behind it and don’t go too far away from the source material.
Colin Trevorrow to direct Jurassic Park 4
With the 3D re-release of Jurassic Park on April 5 for the 20th anniversary, what other kind of news would Jurassic Park fans want? Oh that’s right the news that another movie would be made. Then news came out that newcomer director Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) would be directing with the script by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
I actually thought Safety Not Guaranteed wasn’t that bad of a movie and I think Trevorrow can do something cool and refreshing. But, I think we all are excited (or somewhat at least) for another JP movie.
Dwayne Johnson’s Fast Five/Fast and Furious 6 Hobbs could get own spin-off
That’s right! Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has confirmed rumors that his character that was introduced in Fast Five, Luke Hobbs, will be getting a spin-off movie. However the question is when? Originally the plan was supposed to be Johnson filming the spin-off in between Fast and Furious 6 and Fast and Furious 7 but it now turns out that Vin Diesel says filming for part 7 will shoot this summer. So it looks like the Hobbs spin-off will now happen after filming of part 7.
Honestly I pretty excited about this. I think it would be cool to see more the Hobbs character go off on his own and catch some other person.
Robert Redford joins Captain America: The Winter Solider
Yes you read that right. Robert Redford has joined the cast of a Marvel movie! Saying he likes the idea “of stepping into new territory.” Why make a big deal out of this? Well Redford hasn’t done “Hollywood movie” since Spy Games. He’s been sticking mostly to independent work and directing his own movies, which isn’t a bad thing. This is a huge in the fact that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has said Winter Soldier would be more of a “political thriller” which is right up Redford’s ally.
No word yet on who exactly he’s playing besides the fact that he plays somebody that is high up in S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Head of S.H.I.EL.D next to, or above, Nick Fury.
Is there still hope for the Deadpool and Venom movies?
Yes believe it or not some are still trying to make a Deadpool. Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) who are involved in trying to make both Deadpool and more recently the spin-off Venom movie talked a bit about their vision for those movies and if or when we’ll be able to see those. Of course fans of these two popular comic book characters
Let’s first talk about Deadpool since it’s been in development for a LONG time. Ryan Reynolds, who played his counter part Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, is passionate about the project and has not backed out which is what usually happens when you’re attached to a project for a while. Rhett and Wernick finally said that Fox wasn’t really ready to “pull the trigger” on a Rated R comic book since all other comic book movies are pretty much rated PG-13.
As for the Venom movie, it almost seems like their no longer involved Wernick said that they did indeed work on the script but “it likely will not become a movie in that form. Too many things have happened in between now and then and different people have been involved, and it’s just likely not to happen in the form that we wrote it, unfortunately”
Which is unfortunate because it sounded like their pitch was a “realistic, grounded, a little more dark take on the character.” Wernick even said “Imagine a symbiote traveling across a city at some point in the movie, jumping from body to body as it goes, and each person that it inhabits ends up becoming really violent and striking someone else and then it jumps to the next person. There was a really cool sequence like that in there”
I’m actually looking forward to these movies, if they even happen. I like Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool and a Venom movie has a lot of potential if they get the right director and actor.
Why Will Smith turned down Django Unchained.
If you were a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained imagine what the movie would have been like with Will Smith as Django and not Jaime Foxx. Smith was apparently Tarantino’s first choice for the role but Smith turned it down because “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” That other character Smith was referring to was Christoph Waltz Dr. King Schultz.
Smith did say he liked the movie but it’s not like it erases he’s comments from that. But don’t act surprised here. Actors (especially high profile actors like Smith) have some tendencies of coming in and rewriting an already established script. Without going into spoilers Smith does say something about his character that he thinks he should have done.
When you look at it at as a whole, Django Unchained did really have two co-leads in Foxx’s Django and Waltz’s Schultz. Was Smith being a little ego driven? Maybe but the movie turned out to be pretty good anyway with Foxx’s performance and I don’t know if I could see Smith doing that role the way Foxx did.
Does Man of Steel have another familiar villain?
We’ve know for some time now that Michael Shannon will play General Zod in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel movie. However, hardcore Superman fans have wondered if we’ll see another villain that is a common presence in the comics and even in the others movies, Lex Luthor.
Screenwriter David Goyer had suggested that another classic Superman villain would show up but never said who. Ain’t It Cool News reported that Mackenzie Gray, who played a Luthor clone in an episode of Smallville, appears in Man of Steel playing an “ambitious, ego driven and cold version of Luthor” who has a significant role in the story’s endgame.
Of course this isn’t a confirmed report despite it coming from the pretty much reliable Harry Knowles. However, some people are taking his as a “grain of salt” (which they should) but also questioning it since Knowles as been making the public rounds recently. He was featured in a Hollywood Reporter story and Peter Jackson (yes that one!) talked about how much he loved Knowles. Now don’t get me wrong, if Luthor is in the movie in some sort of form okay.
Remember Christopher Nolan is producing the movie and he didn’t bring in Batman’s main nemesis until the second movie. It doesn’t mean he’s doing the same thing here but let’s face it, not having Luthor in a Superman movie in some form would be just a little weird.
Roland Emmerich gives Independence Day sequel details
We all remember Emmerich’s 1996 alien invasion movie. About last year Emmerich confirmed that he wanted to move forward with not one but two sequels to Independence Day and it made some fans excited and some fans worried. The movies having a working title of ID Forever Part 1 and ID Forever Part 2 and will apparently take place 20 years after the events of the first film. The events are also set into motion because of a distress call sent back to the aliens home planet from the first film.
Emmerich revealed that the sequel’s story is set into motion when a distress call sent back to the aliens’ home planet from the first film to brings reinforcements, which doesn’t sound that bad. Also, if you’re wondering if Will Smith will return well brace yourself.
The sequels will be a mix of characters from the original film and newcomers, with the primary focus being on the latter: “While there may be some familiar faces in the sequels, Bill Pullman has already confirmed that he is onboard; Will Smith has not, their storylines will focus on a new generation of human heroes, including the stepson of Will Smith’s Independence Day character.”
Also the movie may have a cliffhanger ending to keep audiences coming back for more. “The first one ends on a little success, but only enough to give the humans hope. And then in the second one they free themselves again [from the aliens]”
I don’t know how I feel about about Independence Day movie oh I mean movies. Usually movies that wait a long time to do a sequel usually don’t do so well quality wise, of course there are exceptions. If the material and trailer looks cool I’ll be in.
Dir: Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3)
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, and Bruce Willis
Synopsis: The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence
It’s not very often when we get a sequel that is intended to be a sequel but at the same time a reboot. This is exactly what Paramount and Hasbro have done with director Jon M. Chu with their highly popular 80’s TV show and toy line G.I. Joe. If you didn’t see G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (lucky bastard) then you really don’t need to worry. The only characters that cross over to Retaliation are Duke (Channing Tatum), Strom Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), The President (Jonathan Pryce), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the character of Cobra Commander (although played and voiced by a different actor).
Now don’t worry, you’re not missing much really but the only real thing you have to know is that Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy) has been planted into the U.S government to take the form of the President by Cobra and that Cobra Commander is locked away. All caught up? Good now lets get on with the review.
I mention before that this movie acts like a sequel but also a reboot for the franchise which the movie truly needed. Besides some of the characters the whole movie brings in a new cast and a new overall approach of being more serious than comedic like The Rise of Cobra. The movie does have humorous scenes which fit very well within the scenes and aren’t so cheesy that it won’t make you roll your eyes.
The early scenes establish the close bond between Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock (Johnson). We’re told in a brief scene that Duke now runs his own unit and includes Snake-Eyes (Park), Flint (Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Palicki) and a few others. But when the Joes are framed and ambushed, Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye (I’ll get to Snake Eyes in a bit) escape and try to clear their names and find out what happened to them.
Now, this is only one half of the movie. The other half of the movie is told through the story of Snake Eyes and of course, ninjas. Maybe one of the only good things about Rise of Cobra was that it went into the some of the back story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Here it goes into more as Snake Eyes is trying to get Storm Shadow so he can pay for the murder of their clan leader.
This actually leads to the standout sequence of the movie and one that has been understandably well-featured in the trailers, the mountainside scene. The reason it truly stands out is because it is a dialogue-free fight between Snake Eyes, Jinx (Yung) and a horde of Red Ninjas, which is inspired by Larry Hama’s famous silent issue of the 1980s G.I. Joe Marvel comic. In about ten minutes all we get is background music and an intense and thrilling action scene that involves everybody diving, gliding, flipping and slicing each other. Retaliation goes back into its roots, more military combat and ninjas, and the movie doesn’t depend on heavy doses of CG, like power suits, expect for the destruction of London (not a spoiler it’s in the trailers) but does have some cool futuristic tech that I kind of wish they used more in the movie.
Let’s get to the performances shall we. They’re all pretty solid. Johnson pretty much runs the show here, arguably next to Snake Eyes, but Johnson proves that he can take over the franchise if need be. On the other end, Jonathan Pryce as the President/Zartan President, has more to do here and you can tell he’s having fun with the role and it’s pretty fun to watch. Palicki and Cotrona don’t really have a lot to do besides their action sequences which they hold their own. Elodie Yung’s Jinx is interesting because despite being a presence’s in the ninja storyline and mountain scene she kind of just gets lost in the background once the stories merge.
Stevenson, with his southern accent, looks to have fun playing the villain Firefly as does Walton Goggins who plays a warden that holds Cobra Commander. Speaking of Commander, he was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the first movie but was replaced in this one by two people (one voice other as the actual character). The funny thing about seeing Cobra Commander is that he actually looks like he does in the TV show and even his voice is a bit closer and yes it does sound a bit cheesy at times but come on that’s the character.
I know the commercials have been pushing Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton, he’s the reason they call themselves Joes, but he’s not really in the movie that much. Willis’s role is really a glorified cameo. But the real negative on the acting side is RZA as the Blind Master. Every time he comes on screen it kind of slows the movie down and the performances comes off more as campy than “good cheesy” (can I use that term?).
All in all, Retaliation is the G.I Joe movie that the first movie should have been. It was tons of fun to watch and really enjoyable with cool action sequences and humor that should please fans. I did end up watching the movie in 3D and some scenes were kind of cool to see but you can go watch it in 2D and won’t miss much.
G.I. Joe Retaliation
4 out of 5
Dir: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune and Radha Mitchell
Synopsis: Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers
One of the two White House invasion movies has been released and this one feels like a 90’s movie…in the good way.
Gerard Butler stars as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, a tough but reliable agent who serves on the personal protection detail of President Ben Asher (Eckhart). He’s not just the President’s bodyguard, but also a close friend to both him and his young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). But after a tragedy during the line of duty, Banning finds himself transferred to Treasury (the Secret Service’s other duty being counterfeiting investigations). Banning gets a chance to redeem himself when a surprise attack on the White House cripples the U.S. government and leads to the capture of President Asher and his key staff during the visit by the Prime Minster of South Korea.
Yes, the villains in the movie are North Koreans out to destroy the U.S. government and the American way of life (insert your rant here trolls). The primary villain however is Kang (Yune) who is more cunning and intelligent than over the top, although it kind of feels like it at times.
The actually take over the White House is really brutal as Kang’s forces take out the White House security and even civilians during the process before managing to kidnap Asher and his staff within their own secure bunker. During all the craziness Banning makes his way through the city and into the White House but not before taking out some baddies along the way. After the take over, Banning becomes the only contact to the outside world and remaining government figure like Secret Service director Jacobs (Bassett), General Clegg (Robert Forster) and Speaker of the House (now acting President) Trumbell (Freeman).
Once inside, Banning becomes a one man wrecking crew and kills pretty much all of Kang’s men he comes across in some pretty cool fashion. While inside he pulls off a side mission and then does the hero thing by going and trying to save the President.
The cast here does a solid job with the roles there given. Eckhart does well in his President role, Melissa Leo plays the Defense Secretary who fights back when she’s tested. Bassett’s Jacobs character has her moment to shine when she’s defending Banning trust and Freeman plays Trumbell the way you would think when someone is thrown into high power.
However, this is Butler’s movie and he kicks returns to the old 300 days of kicking some serious ass. His Banning is stoic, but not wooden which some action hero roles sometimes fall under, tough but warm hearted to Asher’s son Connor, and humorous without coming off as trying to hard. Being nitpicky, he tries to keep his Scottish accent from slipping but sometimes you can see him twisting his mouth in order to do that, again that’s being nitpicky
The action in the movie is fun, enjoyable, and brutal (in the good action movie way) to watch. Besides the take over, Butler’s Banning likes to kill some of the bad guys a certain way that some of you may like. Like I said at the beginning it does have a 90’s action feel to it but enough that it hurts the movie.
What does hurt the movie is some of the CGI. It feels a bit clucky at times and other times a bit on the cheesy side. The movie also goes through some tonal changes a bit but action movie nowadays tend to do that.
All in all, Olympus Has Fallen is being labeled the “Die Hard in the White House” movie and at times it is. Butler proves that he can come back to the action genre where he belongs and the action in the movie is badass enough that you can forgive some the tonal changes and clucky CGI.
Olympus Has Fallen
4 out of 5
Dir: Sam Raimi
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Joey King
Synopsis: A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.
*Reviewer Note: This review, like all my other reviews, will be spoiler free and will NOT compare this movie to The Wizard of Oz (only a bit but huge like some other review out there). Also, I did not see this in 3D but I hear the 3D is great*
“I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great one” – Oz
This is essentially the journey we take with our main character Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco) as he lands in “The Land of Oz.” The movie itself acts a as a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s original story of The Wizard of Oz and follows Oz who is a pretty much selfish, womanizing and ego driven small town magician in a traveling circus who dreams of being that great man. Oz eventually lands in The Land of Oz after getting caught in a tornado and meets Theodora (Kunis).
Once there he finds out that there is a legend of a great wizard that will get rid of the wicked witch that is causing chaos and destruction all over the land. Oz goes along with it when he finds out that it comes with a nice reward of a room full of gold and being named king. Even though Theodora believes in him her sister, Evanora (Weisz), isn’t so impressed and to prove that he is the great wizard they have been waiting for she sends him to the Dark Forrest to get rid of the Wicked Witch.
On his journey he has companions in Finley the Flying Monkey (voiced by Braff), who is pretty much the comic relief on the group and also delivers his line with some charm. Then there is little China Girl (voice by King), made of porcelain, and is found by Finley and Oz in a destroyed city and looks to be the last of her kind. She’s probably going to be some people’s favorite characters with her witty-ness, charming, and tough attitude.
Then they encounter Glinda the good (Williams) and from there the movie changes in some tone and performances. I know that sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you’re not familiar with The Wizard of Oz (which really? The movie came out in 1939 COME ON) or Baum’s story.
Now let’s get performances shall we. Franco as the lead is good to a point. You can tell he’s having fun with the role and plays the character in a way like he’s always performing on a stage. As the movie progress he does change a bit but never in the way that hurts the film. Williams as Glinda is very calm and never really changes her attitude from the moment that we see her. Kunis is the interesting choice all of them, her performance may come off as “off putting” at times but other times it seems like some she could fit in the 30’s or 40’s era films. Then there’s the always reliable Rachel Weisz who like Franco looks to be having fun with her role and you’re almost kind of drawn to her when he’s on screen.
Now, I know people are going to try to find things that allude to The Wizard of Oz and it’s not a bad thing. There is quiet a lot of references and allusion to the Wizard of Oz, then again it is a prequel, that aren’t always in your face. You kind have to look for them in the background or listen to the characters (or watch for similarities of some). For example the movie starts in a black and white frame like the original and then the frame expands with color once we get to Oz and even the famous “Yellow Brick Road.”
However, the biggest thing in this movie is “the land of Oz” itself. The effects in the movie are really beautiful to look at and stunning that make the landscape just a part of the movie as much as the characters. Sometimes the landscape saves the movie or at least improves the scenes.
Oz the Great and Powerful is pretty much a family film in the classic sense of the word. It is filled with big, colorful effects, lovable characters (what’s more lovable about a flying monkey that can talk and cracks jokes right?) and humor. But, it doesn’t mean adults or older audience won’t like the movie either. There are some “horror” moments that could be a little freighting for young viewers but will be nice for Raimi fans.
All in all, Sam Raimi does a pretty good job of bringing us back to the Land of Oz but the movie does slow down at times which kills the momentum just a bit. Will all fans be happy with the final product? Who knows but it’s still a pretty fun movie with action, thrills and humor.
Oz the Great and Powerful
3.5 out of 5
Dir: Bryan Singer
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy
Synopsis: The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds
Fairy tales adaptations have become more popular over the last few years. Whether they are family-friendly, Disney-fied retellings, darker tone myths (Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth could be consider one) and revision from Red Riding Hood or Alice in Wonderland. But now comes Jack the Giant Slayer (originally titled Jack the Giant Killer) which at times feels like a combination of all the previously mentioned but also trying to be it’s own thing.
The movie stars Nicholas Hoult (seen recently in Warm Bodies) as the titular Jack, a farm boy who must rise to the challenge when he inadvertently opens a pathway to the land of the giants, sending his love-interest, Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson), into their dangerous world. When her father, King Brahmwell (McShane) finds out that her daughter is missing and is up the beanstalk he sends her guard Elmont (McGregor) with his men and a shady Roderick (Tucci). Of course Jack offers to help and despite him being a “simple farm boy” Elmont decides to take him.
The performances are generally strong, but like the rest of the movie, they are a mixed bag when it comes to some of the tones. Tomlinson and Hoult have great chemistry as both sharing desire to have some adventure. The always reliable McGregor and Tucci play a bit the comedic roles but also have their moments when they have serious moments. Tucci always plays a great “lovable ass” character and this is no different. I don’t know what it was about McGregor’s Elmont at the beginning but he felt a bit cartoony but changes later on in the movie.
Tomlinson plays the princess that doesn’t want to be stuck in the castle and wants to get to know the people she can eventually rule over. Hoult plays Jack really well and makes us care what happens to him. Hoult shows his acting chops once again and is starting to become one of my favorite actors and that he can be a true star.
Nighy voices the main villain giant General Fallon that despite the giant CG design (I’ll get to that in a bit) creates a dramatic, and in moments legitimately scary, villain. McShane finds the perfect balance between heartfelt, offbeat and funny playing the king/father character which is nice to see.
Now the giants who are…not really that special. There are really only three physical different looking giants; General Fallon, which has two heads (for some reason), a giant with an afro, and an almost not necessary rival to Fallon, Fumm. Besides them all the giants pretty much look the same especially near the end when they’re wearing their armor to fight the humans. The design of the giants works on only a few occasions but other than that the effects are put into the amazing looking landscape of the giant world.
The movie has a pretty interesting a cool opening it that he shows the tradition of storytelling. It opens with Jack and Isabelle listening to the story of the defeat of the giants as told by their respective parents. It even has a pretty cool animated sequence showing the history and what is to happen. That intertwining sequence plays later on in the movie when the two are grown up and talking to their father (Isabelle) and uncle (Jack).
All in all, Jack the Giant Slayer does have some really fun moments and doesn’t fall into “just being for kids” kind of movie. The movie does jump around a lot between genres which makes it hard to really get into because once you get use to one you have to adjust to the other.
Jack the Giant Slayer
3.5 out of 5
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises by Frankie McKeever
This are freaking badass