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Category: Reviews

[Movie Review] Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy is almost the perfect summer blockbuster.
It stars a ragtag group of hooligans including a talking tree and raccoon voiced by Vince Diesel and Bradley Cooper respectively.
And it’s from Marvel.
And it’s fun!
Even if the background music by Marvel go-to composer Tyler Bates has gotten too cookie cuter for it’s own good.
It begins on Earth in 1988 with young moppet Jason Quill at the hospital as his mother is dying from cancer. After a tearful goodbye he runs out and in his moment of grief is abducted by aliens.
Flash forward twenty-six years to a dead world where Jason Quill now played by Chris Pratt has grown up and is now a Ravager, essentially Indiana Jones with a mask, guns and jet boots. He even has a cute code name that no one remembers, Star Lord. And Star Lord along with everyone else in the movie is after an orb.
Everyone including Ronan the Accuser played by Lee Pace. The good news is Ronan has a few lackeys that are rememberable and at least gets more backstory than Thor 2’s Dark Elves. He pissed at the fact his planet signed a peace treaty with their sworn enemies and goes on a rampage.
His rent-a-lackeys include Gamora played by Zoe Saldana and Nebula played by Karen Gillian. Gamora makes more of an impression since there are too many villains to focus on including Korath the Pursuer played by Djimon Hounsou.
Gamora volunteers to get the gem back once Quill reaches Xandar, home of the Nova Corps. Unfortunately, Quill’s former Ravagers led by Yondu played by Michael Rooker has found out he stole the orb and issues a bounty on his head.
Once on Xandar, Rocket Raccoon and Groot are introduced when they try and capture Quill. The fight scene between the four of the characters is really fun until they’re arrested and sent to jail mean Drax the destroyer where even more shenanigans happen and they bust themselves out only to find out what the orb does.
Benicio del Toro reprises his role as The Collector, last seen at the end of Thor 2 where he collects all sorts of oddities, both alive and dead. After some backstory on the orbs and an explosive scene everyone finds out what’s inside the orb: It holds an Infinity Stone.
The stones have been littering the Marvel Movies for years and it’s all because of Thanos, introduced at the end of The Avengers, the mad titan, now played by Josh Brolin.
Thanos feels oddly small, mostly because Ronan is so big. Once Ronan figures out how to use the gem just like the Red Skull before him he gets even bigger and decides it’s time to destroy Xandar.
The Nova Corps know full well what’s going on with Roanan. Nova Prime played by Glenn Close is strong enough in her scenes to not be set dressing while John C. Reilly is not exactly the Coulson of Nova Corps but close.
The final battle may occur over Xandar and I swore scenes were inspired by the video game Space Invaders, the disaster porn is thankfully kept to a minimum. After Star Trek Into Darkness, Avengers and especially Man of Steel, seeing ships crash into buildings gets a yawn from me.
I should point out the CGI raccoon and talking tree are 100% real. James Gunn pulled off a talking raccoon with a penchant for explosives and a talking tree that speaks three words.
If that review sounds like a lot is going on is because a lot did go on.
And even with all that, the characters did have their arcs. There’s a scene where Quill has to rally the group and that went a long way to show everyone was thinking for themselves until the threat of Ronan makes them rethink and band together.
Many people have complained about the Marvel movies having a generic feel to them like they’re all the same. Guardians feels different. It feels like a James Gunn directed an Edgar Wright movie.
Quill’s walkman and the mix tapes he has sets the tone and makes it feel less like a Marvel movie and more like a kid plucked away from Earth dropped into Star Wars with a 70’s pop soundtrack.
The music and the fact most of these characters aren’t lily white really helped make an impression.
Saw this in IMAX 3-D and thought it was worth the monies.
And as with any Marvel Movie staying around until the end will only bring you heartache.
There’s only one scene.
So sezs Howard the Duck.
Yer welcome.

[Movie Review] Lucy

Luc Besson directing a Rated R movie with Scarlett Johansen playing a reluctant drug mule named Lucy who is accidentally gets infected by a experiment drug that makes her use more of her brain than anyone else managed to make more money than a PG-13 movie about Hercules staring The Rock.
The movie is small from beginning to end.
Lucy is a college student living in Taiwan when her seedy boyfriend gets her to deliver a package of drugs to his drug dealing boss.
This ends just as horribly as one might think with Lucy waking up after being operated on with the drugs in her stomach.
Everything is going perfectly fine until the Lucy’s unnamed middle man captor abuses her before getting on the plane and the bag of drugs get into her system.
Up to this point, Lucy has been unwillingly and at a severe disadvantage. The film emphasizes this by cutting between Lucy and shots of animals either grazing or about to get dead by a more powerful animal.
While that happens to Lucy, we are introduced to Morgan Freeman doing Morgan Freeman scientist and explaining to a group of scientists and students what may happen if someone used more brain capacity. He points out quite easily: it’s all science fiction.
This a subtle nod to the audience saying: we have no idea what’s gonna happen but it’s gonna be fun so stop bitching about the whole %10 of our brain thing.
Lastly, we learn one thing: when you don’t get Weta to do your ape SFX, it hurts.
Getting back to Lucy, her body going through the changes was a nice scene without going overboard.
The drug isn’t the downside to the movie.
In fact, the drug helps ground the movie.
It grounds the movie because once you have super powered character they get really boring until they’re fighting someone else or you give them a handicap for all that power.
It may make you smart but it’s going to eat you up. So no Doctor Who running around solving everything, you’re on a clock.
This little tidbit brings up a great theme of: reproduce or be remembered. Those expecting a steaming sex scene from this Rate R movie is in for disappointment.
The smallness of the movie helps since it’s focused on Lucy, Morgan Freeman playing the scientist, the French Cop responsible for apprehending the other drug mules and the drug lord that Lucy returns to see after she gets her brain bump.
The problem with the brain bump is it eats away at her humanity and she sounds like a dull version of herself with this thousand yard stare and able to do all sorts of things like telekinesis and see wi-fi signals at least until her body starts to burn up from the drug.
Besides a few scenes of action this movie isn’t the slam bang action fest the trailers make it out to be. Which is fine.
The problem with the movie overall is it’s too small for it’s own good.
So, when there’s a car chase directly out The Bourne Identity (complete with the same music score) it feels completely out of place and why is that car doing that flip again?
The fact the drug exists and this is happening to Lucy means it must’ve happened before so there’s no mysterious band of scientists or backers in the shadows waiting to see what happens.
2011’s Limitless with Bradley Cooper handled this smart drug plot line a bit better than Lucy. Both of these movies cover the same topic just differently enough to make them fun without pulled a Deep Impact / Armageddon vide.
The movie doesn’t do the whole lawnmower man thing where the protagonist is going to take over the internet. The ticking clock of her own mortality pushes the film until the final explosive action sequence.
If you’ve seen Transcendence and enjoyed it then you’ll like Lucy since it goes in the opposite direction.
After directing several french films and the occasional animated fair, I’m happy to say Luc Besson directed a great movie. I hope he stops producing and gets back into the directing chair.

[Movie Review] Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer is based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. (Vol 1. and Vol 2.).
Directed by Bong Joon-ho and staring a boat load of A-list stars like Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris.
The comic details the life on a constantly moving train called the Snowpiercer and the struggle of the lower, middle and upper class after a unknown ecological disaster has frozen the Earth and all that’s left are people on this self sustaining train. The first volume focuses on the train and it’s class struggle while the second Volume focuses on Snowpiercer 2 and delves deeper into the political infighting along jaunts outside the train to see what’s left of humanity.
Pieces of Vol. 1 + 2 of this comic were taken and made into the movie debuted in 2013 to much fanfare.
The Weinstein Company got the distribution rights for the US but after some lengthy battles between Harvey, the director and load of press about edits it arrived in time for summer 2014 movie season in limited release.
The movie follows the same course but explains pre-credits that man tried to stop global warming but instead it froze the planet. Seventeen snowy years later, a lone train filled the the last remains of society circles the earth. And just like in life things aren’t rainbows and sunshine.
The lower class lives in the train’s tail section and a revolt is being planned by a motley group of Scoobies consisting of Curtis Everett played by Chris Evans along with Edgar played by Jamie Bell, Gilliam played by John Hurt as Gilliam and Tanya played by Octavia Spencer. With nothing exploding in the first ten minutes the character building is focused on and for the most part it works, Jamie Bell especially looked like he was having fun with his surroundings and his character.
If you have Scoobies you must have a villain and that takes the form of Mason played by Tilda Swinton. She speaks for Wilfred who built and resides up at the front of the train. After making an example of one of the tailies, Curtis decides it’s more than time since he has been getting secret messages in the jello protein bars.
The latest tells him to find Namgoong Minsu played by Song Kang-ho and one incident later, the tail section group is on their way from car to car picking strays like Song’s daughter, Yona played by Go Ah-sung. As they progress each car empire builds the microcosm that they’ve been living in for the last seventeen years. From where the food comes from to the water to where the 1%ers live.
Each of the actors give their characters their all, besides Jamie Bell, Go Ah-sung and her wide eyes to the musical number from Alison Pill’s Teacher indoctrinating children.
There are a few character’s like Octavia’s that starts off well but in the end is somewhat one note due to the number of Scoobies getting cut down the farther up the train they go.
The two suited hench villains named Old and Young Franco played by Vlad Ivanov and Adnan Haskovic are worse off than Octavia’s Tanya even if the older of the two pulls a Terminator.
In the end, Curtis reaches his destination and Wilbur, played by Ed Harris explains the empire building on board. This is significantly better than the comics since it makes more sense. If you hated that bit in The Matrix Revolutions when Colonel Sanders explains everything to Neo then stick your thumbs in your ears.
The production design, SFX and music are top notch. The moment where the characters saw the sun for the first time is a it of a let down since we as the audience have seen the outside world. There is no Blade Runner/Dark City moment when Mister Murdock walks out into the sunlight and everyone in the audience winces because they haven’t seen it in 2 hours.
For the pluses there were a scene or two that doesn’t feel right for a Rate R movie. If/when the Blu-Ray comes out with a long cut that will probably explain a bit.
I’m glad Bong Joon-ho directed this movie, if it had been a Hollywood affair from the get go Chris Evans’s character speech at the middle of the third act wouldn’t have happened and he would’ve been saddled with a wife or girl friend.
Having said that, HBO or SyFy this is your next limited series right here. A generational show where one season is group of actors the next season is there kids and show the class struggle. If it worked for American Horror Story it can work everywhere else.
In closing, if you enjoyed Wool from Hugh Howey then Snowpiercer is right up your alley.
Unless you have a big TV, I recommend seeing it in the theater, there are several scenes and shots that are perfect for the big screen.

[Movie Review] Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to 2011’s sleeper hit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And while you don’t need to see the first one to enjoy the sequel, it’s best to watch Rise to see how things are set in motion with the beginning of Caesar’s tribe.
It’s been ten years and the human race has been decimated by a plague that started off as a cure for Alzheimer’s, tested on Apes and mutated into a virus that spread ala The 12 Monkeys during the end credits of Rise.
Caesar, motion captured once again by Andy Serkis and his tribe have carved out a home for themselves in the forest. The apes are learning to hunt, write and while things seem to be calm on the surface, Caesar’s #2, Koba, an ape that was experimented on by humans is circling for leadership when one of the apes stumbles across a band of humans.
This inciting incident while a great way to set things off brings up a lovely point: In ten years you guys have crossed paths in San Francisco?
The human scouting party is lead by Malcolm played by Jason Clarke. They’re looking to power their settlement since their resources are running dry and they need the hydroelectric dam for power.
This sets up a series of scenes of each side trying to trust the other and each side failing because you always get the one “asshole”. Aptly put by the asshole in Malcolm’s group, Carver, played by Fringe’s Kirk Acevedo. Kirk’s characters can’t seem to catch a break, ever.
The settlement’s leader, Dreyfus played by Gary Oldman isn’t Malcolm’s Koba and thankfully he’s turned down to a 1 not amped up to an 11 like in The Professional. In fact, until the end Dreyfus is rather enjoyable and so was the little settlement in San Fran until things comes to a head and the Apes led by Koba attack.
Through a series of events both sides show they are capable of act of kindness and acts of savagery. The most recent trailers show the highlight of the movie with apes on horseback with automatic weapons. There are some beautiful shots in this movie of the apes and you really need to see this movie on the big screen.
Act One introduces us the cast, act two sets things up for act three’s showdown and it’s not the showdown one would expect because Dreyfus isn’t Koba. Instead it’s Koba vs. Caesar for ruling the apes. Koba’s instills fear while Caesar promotes trust.
While each side gets enough time in the spotlight and once the third act comes to a close on Caesar just as the movie began I think the humans needed a few more minutes even if Malcolm’s exit stage left was nicely done, the remaining humans and where they’re going was just left up in the air too much for me.
Thankfully this movie doesn’t have leaps of logic like Godzilla did. It is a pretty tight movie at two hours and eleven minutes and doesn’t try to be something it’s not.
It’s the anti-Transformers in all shapes, sizes and well worth your time.
Here’s hoping 20th Century Fox does the smart thing and carefully continues the development of this franchise.

[Television Review] Extant (minor spoilers)

Extant on CBS is SyFy’s Helix for women. Minus the vampire vectors and the black goo.
It stars Halle Berry as an astronaut, Molly Woods in space on a 13 month mission when suddenly, something happens!
Back on Earth she re-adjusts with her inventor husband and their robot child she until the NASA doc played by Camryn Manheim tells her some news: she’s pregnant!
But how can this be? She can’t have kids!
Meanwhile, her superiors have a shadowy boss played by Hiroyuki Sanada who played a shadowy boss on Helix.
Meanwhile, her hubby happily shows off his learning robot child until someone during the demonstration bluntly asks: And what’s the contingency if they all go Skynet on us? He blows a gasket since this robot isn’t a robot it’s a child.
But it turns out everything will be fine due to shadowy boss is going to fund the hubby’s research privately, shadowy.
Meaneahile, someone is lurking in the ever concealing shadows outside their home and it turns out to be . . .
Sorry, I won’t ruin the entire pilot.
Mostly due to we’re running out of tropes to use.
I didn’t catch The Astronaut’s Wife, so I can’t make comparisons . . .
Having said all this, I enjoyed Extant so long as I ignore the use of flashbacks the began and started with a iris in and out and ignore the fact they didn’t open the show with the inciting event that should have kicked off the show.
The space station set was nicely done. The rotating ring to zero-G was perfect. And the inciting event was very . . . Contact comes to mind.
Yes, I’m backseat writing.
Backseat writing meaning: Hook your audience in the first 5 minutes. You want edgy but not bloody edgy. You want fun without the technobabble.
I wanted a linear plot and I got a show with flashbacks that were completely unneeded.
Sci-Fi is my bread and butter. I’d watch a show like this, The Last Ship and Leftovers until the end even if there are clunker episodes because those shows are still better than what’s on network television.
If this show had been on AMC, FX or SyFy, Halle would’ve been in a rubber room ala E.T. or The Stand.
And that’s the widening gulf that shouldn’t exist between network and cable television shows.

[Movie Review] X-Men: Days of Future Past


Scott Kurtz
from PVP Webcomic covered a lot of the misgivings I had with X-Men Days of Future Past. I’ll try and find other things to complain about.
If you haven’t seen X-Men: First Class, I recommend watching it because it’s a breath of fresh air after X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Read my review of it: here.
X-Men: Days of Future Past assembles both casts and directed by Bryan Singer who directed X-Men 1+2. The plot is bumpy because the movie doesn’t know what it wants to be.

[Movie Review] Captain America: The Winter Soldier (no spoilers, honest)

I’m not going to spoil the movie.
I hope you’re taking notes DC, because Marvel is taking some big risks and they’re pay off.
I will say composer Alan Silvestri was sorely missed.
The second end credit scene like the one in Thor: The Dark World should have been part of the movie and Agents of SHIELD have even a lot more to live up to now.
Seeing it in IMAX is worth it. The 3-D not so much. And preferably without a peanut gallery sitting behind you…spoiler filled review will be forthcoming.

[Movie Review] RoboCop (2014)

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”
To give you an idea of my stance on Robocop franchise, I enjoyed the Robocop 1+2, didn’t see 3, enjoyed the television show and vaguely remember the cartoon series and didn’t see the Robocop mini series tv movies.
Robocop has caught up with reality or reality has caught up with Robocop. Facial Recognition. Drones. Cellphone GPS. Police States. Wounded Warriors with metal prothesis straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The 2014 reboot, directed by José Padilha and staring The Killing’s Joel Kinnaman as the titular character and co-staring Michael K. Williams as Jack Lewis, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as their boss and Abbie Cornish as the soon to be grieving Missus Murphy takes place in a world where robotic police states like Tehran are the normal and the USA is anti-robot.