THE SEX ADDICT Review: There’s A Reason Sex Rhymes With Rex

It’s not often I review a film with a budget less than $100 million, let alone a film as inexpensive as The Sex Addict. Any self-respecting film fan knows there is no correlation between budget and quality. Transformers films are among the most expensive of Blockbusters, but they’re terrible. Clerks had a micro-budget and remains one of the best comedies ever made. Story, dialogue, and actors are king when it comes to a good movie, no matter the budget, as is the case with The Sex Addict.

Written, directed, and starring Amir Mo, The Sex Addict is a clever film that makes the most of its price-tag. Filmmakers like Mo who don’t have studio backing are smart to embrace comedy genre, more specifically mockumentaries. Making use of great comedians and their ability to crack wise on the fly, The Sex Addict is a great example of a independent film done right.

In fact, the film’s biggest strength is its actors. The movie does feature stars such as Horatio Sanz (SNL), Bryan Callen (MADtv, and Ken Davitian (Borat), but it really doesn’t need them. Most everyone else is perfectly capable of carrying the feature film without any sort of celebrity to their names.Amir Mo as Rex in the Sex AddictAmir Mo is absolutely hilarious as Rex, the sex addict to which the title refers. He’s the heart and soul of the film. The man is a master ad-libber, as most the film is unscripted and plays out like a Christopher Guest picture. Rex is a clever, fast-talker who Mo successfully brings to life with his unique ability to be hilarious on the fly (it’s not as easy as it looks, folks). The lead of the film, Mo is in most scenes and interacts with nearly every other comedian, always with quick whit that feels natural rather than forced.  His is neither so add-libbed it is obvious, nor so scripted and wooden that it comes across as unnatural. His interview with Porn Star Mary Carey is absolutely hilarious and is where Amir Mo shines the most. He was born to be on The Daily Show with his sharp questions and even more clever responses to Carey’s answers. Rex is certainly a sexist character, without a doubt, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Rex is obviously a flawed character and the film addresses his short comings, not endorsing sexism even with the film’s subject matter.

Still, no one can do it alone and Mo was smart to surround himself with other talented actors that range from his co-stars all the way down to featured actors and extras. Valerie Tosi is great as Suzanna, a PhD student working on her dissertation in sex psychology who chooses Rex as the subject of her study. In an interesting twist on the Mockumentary genre, the Cameraman played by Sergio Crego is a character in the film as well, behind the camera nearly all the time, yet more involved and present than whoever is shooting “documentaries” like Mascots, The Office, or Arrested Development. I guess if he was a real cameraman, this would be frowned upon as he interacts with his subjects too much, but in The Sex Addict it is a refreshing addition to the genre.Theodore Suzanne and Rex in The Sex Addict Looking past the two main leads, Caleb Thomas as Theodore is unbelievably funny, second only Rex. Anyi Malik as Arnell is another scene stealer; I would watch a movie just about him and Theodore (though Rex would need to have a presence as well). Danielle Gross also drives home the humor as Rex’s not-really-but-sort-of platonic friend Trudy. Even very minor characters like the two women Rex meets at a Church are incredibly talented. There are points in the film where I wasn’t sure if I was watching actors or real people caught in Amir’s cross-hairs because the acting was so seamless. The aforementioned women Rex meets in the church are a great example of this. In the church, I thought they were just disgusted, real people that Mo was messing with in character, but when they showed up in the next scene, I realized I misread the situation. Their shock and disgust was just that convincing.

Look, I interned at a company where all I did was watch movies submitted by idiots who really did think they were the next big thing. And every, single one of those movies was terrible… nay… unwatchable. The Sex Addict wouldn’t have been one of those films. It would have been a bright spot in a bleak internship. It is a truly is a funny film with a great premise and solid execution. It’s one of the good ones. 16711583_1324540240943388_2086400179530268773_nThe Sex Addict is available to preorder on DVD, Bluray, and Digital on March 28th, on iTunes and Amazon! The film itself is out April 28th. So check it out!


SUICIDE SQUAD Review: Is DC Even Trying?

I’m tired of giving DC movies poor reviews, I really am. I’m not a Marvel Fanboy, I believe in both teams. It is true I have more favorite Marvel characters than DC and like Marvel Studios’ movies better, but I have read far more DC books; all the essential Batman graphic novels (Year One, Dark Knight Returns & sequels & prequel, Long Halloween‘s family of books, The Killing Joke, Arkham Asylum, Knightfall, Prey, Hush, Mirror’s Edge, and even No Man’s Land), every issue of Batman, Detective Comics, Hellblazer/Constantine, and Supergirl, New 52 to the present,  as well as a good number of Suicide Squad, Justice League, and Batman & Superman New 52 story-lines. I also love older DC movies and TV including Batman: The Animated Series, Batman (1987), the animated films like Year One, and especially the Dark Knight trilogy and all four of Arkham video-games.

Yet, in 2016, I keep having to knock DC for blown opportunities like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman: The Killing Joke, and now Suicide Squad. I love these characters and their world, I really do. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than Marvel and Fox forming an alliance to bring X-Men into the MCU, DC should hand off their characters to Marvel Studios so they can make amazing films using these iconic characters. They can keep the universes separate, but for God’s Sake, give these movies to someone who knows how to make a good movie, because at the moment DC Entertainment, as well as their writers and directors, are incapable of it (except for the shows… I hear they’re pretty, pretty, pretty good and I still miss Constantine).

Going forward, I will clearly announce any SPOILERS, and most will be vague. What I absolutely won’t do is spoil Suicide Sqaud‘s antagonist’s identity, because (most) the trailers have been good at keeping it hush-hush (no, the bad guy is not Batman villain, Hush, I will say that).

I’ll also break this Review into Parts for easy navigation, because this will be a very long one.

Overall:Suicide Squad Review Task Force X Boomerang Harley Quinn Deadshot Katana Rick Flag Killer Croc DiabloSuicide Squad reminds me most of the so-so (here I go using that descriptor again…) first X-Men movie from the year 2000, before the modern age of truly good Superhero movies cemented by Marvel Studios 6 years later. This movie a muddled, bleak, grey world inhabited by underdeveloped characters that are mere shadows of their comic counterparts,  with unexplained plot points and character motivations, as well as completely “blah” action scenes. Forget the pop-y,bright visuals and tone of the many trailers and prepare for a movie less appealing visually than Batman V Superman.

Humor:Suicide Squad Review Captain Bommergang UnicornWhat humor? You mean the “jokes” you’ve already seen in the trailer? Because other than that, the biggest joke is that Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) has a Unicorn fetish, which may have been funny… before we saw Ryan Reynolds jerk off to a plush Unicorn in Deadpool back in February. Sure, this film was shot before Deadpool‘s release, but being 2nd to the Unicorn Orgy looses all the thunder. At least Will Smith as Deadshot is funny enough through attitude alone; Smith hasn’t been this snappy since his 90’s classics like Independence Day and Men In Black. Everything else is bleak as Batman V Superman. Suicide Squad seems like it wants to be more like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool, but it fails, miserably.

New Characters:Suicide Squad Review Harley Quinn Margot Robbie and Deadshot Will Smith 2Part of the excitement going into Suicide Squad is seeing all these fan favorite DC characters – Deadshot, Harely Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabaje), June Moon/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Captain Boomerang – on the big screen for the 1st time. I never thought I’d ever see these characters brought to life  after the Christopher Nolan films grounded DC more in reality than ever before. And then there’s Diablo (Jay Hernandez)and Slipknot (Adam Beach), who I’ve never heard of. 

None of these fantastic characters are done justice. The film is overstuffed with characters. You can do Suicide Squad with less… Katana and Enchantress are more often associated with Justice League Dark’s “Magic” corner of the DC Universe (this should have been a Justice League Dark movie…), Diablo and Slipknot are nearly complete unknowns, and Killer Croc has never been a Task Force X member until now. Focusing on essential characters Waller, Quinn, Deadshot, Rick Flag, and even Captain Boomerang would have been ideal. Guardians of The Galaxy proved you can flesh out a party of characters without Avengers-esque origin films preceding them, but Squad feels lost in characters like X-Men: Apocalypse (which is NOT a flattering comparison).

Part of this is actually Will Smith’s fault (or WB, depending how you look it).  Because they cast such a giant actor to play Deadshot, who rides 2nd fiddle to Harley Quinn and Rick Flag in the comics, he now becomes the focus of the movie and steals screen time from other characters who are more important in the source material. But wouldn’t you do the same if you had Will Smith in your movie?

This Amanda Waller is a perfect adaptation of her comic counterpart, perhaps one of the most faithful Comic Book to live-action interpretations ever. Will Smith brings snarky-ness to Deadshot, though his motivation to see and care for his daughter seems half-baked and one-note (especially compared to Scott Lang in Ant-Man). It feels like Harley Quinn just exists to justify Joker being in the movie, and her arc with Deadshot transitioning from a “Bad Guy”to someone with enough empathy to save the world is not earned at all; feels forced. Diablo is given some interesting motivation too, but again, it’s one-note with no depth. Every character seems to want one thing and one thing only, without any growth. Meanwhile the rest barely exist. Katana’s origin is delivered in a quick sentence right before the final climatic battle!

Batman and Joker:Suicide Squad Review Joker Jared Leto Harley Quinn Margot Robbie and CommonThough his appearance is brief, Ben Affleck’s Batman may be even better in Suicide Squad than in BvS! He moves differently, even more gracefully than than BvS, and seeing him from Deadshot’s POV is damn intimidating. Bruce Wayne even has a bit to do, in one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

On the other side of the coin, Jared Leto’s Joker is simply a mess. A mess AND a complete miss, as if writer/director David Ayer hasn’t read a Batman comic since “The Golden Age.” This latest Joker is simply a mob-boss who is a little crazy; not Joker crazy, but more like TV’s Dexter crazy.

Slight SPOILERS: Joker only kills other gangsters and people directly in his way of rescuing Harley, without any of the collateral damage or joyous mayhem the character is known for. His voice is a Heath Ledger knock-off and his laugh is creepy, but continues to miss the fun Mark Hamill brought to the animated version in the 90’s. And his motivations are very questionable to a comic fan such as myself. All Joker wants to do is rescue Harley Quinn. Though he breaks her out of Arkham all the time in the comics, he’s always willing to throw her at Batman to escape (which he sort of does here) and often abuses and mistreats her. Her love is often one-sided, but this Joker seems to care about her more than Mayhem… or getting Batman. SPOILERS OVER!

Flashbacks & Strong 1st Act: Suicide Squad Review Joker in Straigh Jacket Jared LetoThe characters that are actually deemed necessary are given flashbacks, which, though quick and also underdeveloped, are the best part of the movie. The movie starts strong with these quick stories explaining their origins (sort of), which also happen to be the only visually appealing sequences of the film. There are too many though, and while the 1st act is the most enjoyable, it does feel like an extended trailer. Some flashbacks are saved for later in the film, which really, really, slows down the story and feel completely unwelcome. So, it’s all downhill from the 1st act.

The 2nd Act & Action Sequences:Suicide Squad Review ZombiesJust a mess. All the pop-y fun of the 1st act is drained away in favor of poorly choreographed action sequences against the most generic soldiers since Loki’s Chitauri army in The Avengers or Ronan’s “Ninja Turtle” aliens in Guardians. Task Force X’s mission also seems misguided and a little unclear. Like I said earlier, Suicide Squad feels like a Superhero movie from the early 2000’s before Nolan and Marvel Studios figured out how to elevate the genre.

Main Villain & 3rd Act Finale VAGUE SPOILERS Section:Suicide Squad Review Harley Quinn Margot Robbie Baseball BatAs I mentioned, the “zombie soldiers” Task Force X faces are another example of giving a superhero team an army to destroy without murdering tons of human beings (though these “monsters” were once human, but Flag assures us they aren’t anymore…). The Avengers had the Chitauri army and Avengers: Age of Ultron had a robot drone army.  This feels similar, with a less interesting design and no charismatic leader like Loki (Tom Hiddleson) or Ultron (James Spader) to taunt the “worst heroes ever.” These soldiers are literally black blobs, a metaphor for all the bland visuals and fight scenes showcased here.

Just like with X-Men: Apocalypse, we’re back to a super-villain set on destroying the entire planet, doing just as much damage to Midway City as  Zod and Superman did to Metropolis (with a lower body count, as many were evacuated… I guess). In an era where we are transitioning to villains like Heath Ledger’s Joker who want to destroy the hero, not the world, including movies like Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Civil War, it’s just another goddamn destroy the entire world plot. Not awesome. Or original.

The finale shares so much in common with the end of the original Ghostbusters (1984) to a point that there is no way these similarities are coincidence. The villain is magical, reads the team’s thoughts, and is even uncased after the fight, like when the Ghostbusters pull Sigourney Weaver out of the husk of melted “dog.” Worst of all, it totally has that slow motion monument where (most) the team all does their part to destroy the villain; more akin to the cheesy versions in the original Fantastic Four (2005), X-Men: Apocalypse, and Batman V Superman than that awesome team fighting shot in The Avengers.

Rockin’ Soundtrack:Suicide Squad Review Amanda Waller Viola DavisIs it really rockin’? Full of great songs, Suicide Squad tries hardest to be Guardians of the Galaxy with its Soundtrack. I’m sure it does make for a great Soundtrack, but in the movie this overload of music seems distracting and overbearing; every time we meet a new character (every 3 minutes or so) we get a new song. Sloppy and simply thrown together like the rest of Suicide Squad.

Conclusion:Suicide Squad Review Enchantress June MoonAnother giant missed opportunity by DC. Suicide Squad tries hard to replicate the success of team-up movies like X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even The Avengers, but in doing so feels like a paint-by-the-numbers formulaic team movie, bringing nothing new to the table. The movie doesn’t even commit to its one chance at being unique; the twist that they are the villains, not our traditional heroes.

I can’t determine if I like the movie more or less than most because I know the comics. After all, I notice all the incorrect characterizations like the Joker’s motivation, the team dynamics, and the odd choice of including characters like Katana and Killer Croc (who is more impossible to understand than Bane, by the way). But, like BvS, there is a lot of set-up for future films and Easter Eggs that comic fans recognize, but will confuse and alienate the average movie-goer (SPOILER – like the Flash’s cameo… most may say, who is that? Especially with the new costume. – END SPOILER). I guess it some strange combo of both for me, disappointing on nearly every level.

Get your shit together, DC! If Wonder Woman and Justice League aren’t dramatic improvements, your Extended Universe may be dead in the water. I love the characters and the comics, I’m just saying it like it is.




BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE Review: Really Weird Batgirl Prologue Drags Down So-So Adaptation

I’ve seen Batman: The Killing Joke (obviously, that’s why you’re here!), the WB Animation adaptation of the classic graphic novel by masterminds Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons! It’s… a mixed bag. The original story you know and love (or should read so that you know and love it) is there, but it’s surrounded by Batgirl filler… including a really, really, weird choice. This adaption of Killing Joke also lacks the unique visuals from the book or more distinct animation that made adaptations of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One so successful.

NO SPOILERS except where noted!

The Killing Joke, originally printed in 1988, has become the defining Joker story. It tells a possible origin of the Joker, that many have taken as gospel. Killing Joke is also incredibly dark and disturbing in subject manner, leading to the first animated DC film that is Rated R! Maybe that expectation is why this adaptation just can’t do the original justice. I wasn’t expecting an animated adaptation as great as the source material: Year One, though accurate, is only good (the comic is great!) while The Dark Knight Returns film feels neutered compared to Frank Miller’s startling original work.

Expectations were heightened still, as Killing Joke has something Year One and Dark Knight Returns lack; the original voice actors that defined Batman: The Animated Series, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (who also played Luke Skywalker… du’h!). Hamill is by far my favorite Joker in any medium, while Conroy does bring a fun, unique, almost goofy interpretation of Bruce Wayne, balanced with a great “Bat Voice” (though this movie, like the comic, has no Bruce Wayne). And both actors are still great! It is though, a little silly hearing Conroy’s version of “Swear to me!” after it appeared in Batman Begins. It’s almost a shame when their characters aren’t on screen, and Joke and Batman are missing in action… a lot, due to the Batgirl story-line that was added so it was long enough to become a feature film (though it’s still on the short side).Batman The Killing Joke Batgirl Barbara GordonThis added story is half the problem with The Killing Joke, as it is mundane, yet surprisingly odd and perhaps questionable.  I have nothing against Batgirl (Tara Strong), but watching what is basically a twenty-minute episode of her generic adventure taking down a mobster (it doesn’t always need to be a Super Villain, but it helps) is like an unwelcome opening act for the band you really came to see. Though peppered with Batman, the Joker is no where to be found until after over 20 minutes in to a 76 minute film that is supposed to be about him! Knowing who Batgirl is does add emotional context to the story and that’s why a whole act of Batgirl was added. I don’t believe the original book ever addresses the fact that Barbara Gordon is Batgirl in addition to Commissioner Gordon’s (Ray Wise) daughter. I’m not saying Warner Animation shouldn’t make a Batgirl movie, I’m just saying it takes away from a story that is fundamentally just about Batman and The Joker at each other’s throats.

The prologue doesn’t necessarily take away from the film too much, except for one scene that completely baffles and slightly disturbs me as a Batman fan. Here’s the BATGIRL SPOILER AHEAD moment. Batman and Batgirl have sex, on a rooftop, and it creates sexual tension between them as Barabara (sort of) explains to her token Gay co-worker. What was that first part?!?! Batman and Batgirl have sex? Yes! I don’t know if it has ever happened in the comic (there are 76 years of Batman stories) but Batgirl and Batman having sex feels… creepy and wrong. Though he is not a father figure to her like Robin –  Jim Gordon, her biological father is still alive and plays prominently into the story – and she is not as young as Robin, it seems really rape-y of Batman to have sex with one of his proteges. Plus, what would Gordon think if he found out?! Uh-Oh! And isn’t she with Nightwing/Dick Grayson at some point in comics… and/or Red Robin/Tim Drake? What will the Robins think?! SPOILERS OVER!The Killing Joke Batman and Joker Mark Hamill Kevin ConroyBesides the Batgirl story with that controversial choice, the rest of the film is a pretty straight adaptation of the comic with great leads, yet unappealing animation that does not give Dave Gibbon’s artwork justice. While Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One imitate the style of the original artwork, Killing Joke is simplified into an update of Bruce Tim’s vision from The Animated Series, with a slightly more modern and higher quality look with just a hint of what the comic’s original art. It’s especially noticeable during the flashbacks to Joker’s origin which were originally in black and white with vivid red items in every panel. The red in the film version is far too muted and it makes a big difference. Also lost are the mirror images that were used to transition between panels set in the past and present. In short, Killing Joke should have looked a lot better!

In Killing Joke‘s defense, the story and themes are timeless, so it’s worth a viewing for someone who appreciates a good Batman story but hasn’t read the comic.  Hell, Nolan lifted Joker’s mission to drive a Batman alley mad/drag him down to his level for his 2nd Batman film, The Dark Knight.

If you need a new Batman story to see, give Batman: The Killing Joke a chance. If you love the graphic novel and want to see it done justice… skip it. Either way, that one choice they make is really, really creepy.



STAR TREK BEYOND Review: The Final Frontier Pushes Back

This year I’ve had to review some stinkers (Hardcore Henry, X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence), a bunch of mediocre films (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Ghostbusters, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, The BFG), three good movies (Central Intelligence, Green Room, Keanu), and a great movie (Captain America: Civil War). Yet, none of these had me as excited to put my thoughts on “digital paper” as Star Trek Beyond,even if the film is not as mind-blowingly awesome as Civil War.

Star Trek Beyond may be my least favorite of the three Star Trek movies set in the “Kelvin Timeline” (J.J. Abram’s rebooted universe) , but don’t fret! I actually loved Star Trek Into Darkness, contrary to popular opinion, and I would give all three films 4 ½ Stars across the board!Star Trek Beyond Trailer USS Enterprise Warp FlashNO SPOILERS ahead. I’ll only touch on what you’ve seen in the trailers and content from the 1st Act of the film, avoiding a bummer of a Spoiler that some noticed in Beyond’s final trailer.

Star Trek Beyond is the logical continuation of the 50 year-old franchise, while actually being the most self-contained of the three modern films. Star Trek (2009) was burdened with the task of introducing the entire crew, leaving little time to do the villain, the Romulan Extremist Nero (Eric Bana), justice. Star Trek Into Darkness had tight ties to the 1st film, exploring the role of Jim T. Kirk’s (Chris Pine)  father figure Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) further and keeping the 1st and 3rd Acts on Earth/in our orbit. InBeyond we finally get to see Kirk and Crew just past the mid-point of their “Five Year Mission” which served as the basis for the Original Series that started it all in 1966.Star Trek Beyond Bones Kirk Spock Chris Pine Karl Urban Zachary QuuintoFitting for the 50th Anniversary of the franchise, Star Trek Beyond feels more akin to an episode of the Original Series than any of the 12 films that preceded it. If Abrams’ Star Trek films had a baby with an Original Series episode, it would surely be Star Trek Beyond.

Just as Into Darkness opened with an “Indiana Jones -esque”  action sequence that plays like the Final Act of an old-school episode,Beyond opens with a similar adventure involving Captain Kirk doing what he always did during the Five Year Mission; with all the humor and unique aliens you would expect. Unlike Into Darkness, this scene actually introduces a story driving MacGuffin, drawing further similarities to the Indiana Jones franchise. The film continues to feel like an original episode, with only two giant set-pieces, including the well-advertised destruction of the Enterprise and an incredible sequence on an amazingly designed Space Station that feels utterly unique. Not to say the film looks cheap or is small in scale, far from it; it has a special feeling of familiarity that every other Star Trek film lacked. Best of all, we spend no time on Earth! We’ve finally made it to deep space, beyond anyone has gone before (get the title, now?).Star Trek Beyond Final Trailer 10 Bones Karl Urban Spock Zachary Quinto Beam DownWhile Star Trek (2009) was tasked with “world building” and Into Darkness put too much emphasis on Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch),Beyond gives all your favorite characters meaty material and something to do, splitting the screen time between them in what seems to be an appropriate balance. Into Darkness focused on Kirk (as they all should to an extent; he is the Captain) and gave Scotty (Simon Pegg) waaaaay more screen time and a more important role than anyone else.  My favorite character has always been Chief Medical Officer “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), who hasn’t received his fair share of screen time since the 60’s, but has plenty to do here, as does everyone else. Scattered across an alien planet due to the attack that destroys U.S.S. Enterprise, Bones actually gets paired up with Spock (Zachary Quinto), and it is refreshing to see their relationship more in depth, rather than the usual emphasis on Kirk and Spock. But don’t worry, no matter your favorite character, Spock, Scotty, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), or Chekov (the late Anton Yelchin) they are all fully fleshed out and have important roles to play, with plenty of screen time.

The new alien characters, both the villainous Krall (Idris Elba) and heroic Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), are not lost in the shuffle and are both very strong additions to the long standing franchise. Krall is the second best villain in the series, behind only Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Khan (I told you, I love Into Darkness). While Khan was a mirror of Kirk, right down to his sympathetic plight of saving his crew, Idris Elba’s Krall is a complex, super-strong alien, with other fascinating abilities I won’t spoil, more akin to the classic villains of the Star Trek Universe:  Klingons and Romulans. That being said, his motivation is much more intriguing than your typical Klingon, and fits in well with Star Trek canon. Meanwhile, Jaylah is a great strong female character akin to Furiosa (Charlize Theron) from Mad Max: Fury Road or Black Widow from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both are new species – no retreads or fan favorites here – giving Star Trek Beyond a more original feel than the past two films. Star Trek Beyond Trailer 2 Idris Elba as KrallTwo new interesting themes explored in Beyond are the idea of “Cabin Fever” and the repetition of everyday life after being on a starship for three years straight, as well as Kirk’s need to escape his father, George Kirk’s (Chris Hemsworth) long and heroic shadow.

Star Trek Beyond is fresh yet feels classic; no rehashed stories here (like Into Darkness). Justin Lin who directed three Fast & Furious films continues in the tradition and style of J.J. Abrams, not overloading it with action or making it feel like a Fast film. Writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung also seem to have a better understanding of the Trek legacy than previous writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damien Lindelof, and are willing to take more risks, not relying on previous characters, plot lines, or even alien species we’ve seen before.

Really, it’s a nearly perfect popcorn film and a strong addition to a storied franchise. As far as 2016 films go, it lands above Deadpool, but below Captain America: Civil War as the second best blockbuster of the year… thus far.

Now that Beyond is out of the way, I continue to look forward to Star Trek 4, which though it does not have a release date, we will see the return of Chris Hemsworth!

Live Long… and see Star Trek Beyond!


GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) Review: Bustin’ Makes Me Feel… Okay… I Guess

It’s hard for me to determine how much I liked the new Ghostbusters. I did like it, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure how much of my enjoyment came from the new product versus how much was Nostalgia driven.

Not that there is anything wrong with counting Nostalgia as a factor when reviewing films based off classic franchises from my childhood. Jurassic World’s extreme Nostalgia factor certainly influenced my review of the film, but my review of Independence Day: Resurgence proved that a long delayed sequel can’t rest on its Nostalgia factor alone.

Let’s look at the facts, scientifically, shall we, like the three Scientists and one Transit Worker that make up 2016’s new roster of Ghostbusters! NO SPOILERS ahead. If something doesn’t appear in the trailer or doesn’t happen in the 1st act, I won’t mention it here.Ghostbusters 2016 Review Melissa McCarthy Kate McKinnon Kristen Wiig Leslie JonesTaking over for Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, the late Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson from 1984, are Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, respectively, as each does fill the archetype of their predecessor. Erin Gilbert (Wiig) is the new Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray), leader of the group and biggest skeptic, without any of Murray’s charm or sarcasm. Gilbert may be the flattest character in this film, and that’s a problem.  Abby Yates (McCarthy) is an update on Dr. Raymond Stantz (Aykroyd) with just as much enthusiasm and dopey humor. Patty Tolan (Jones) is more or less Winston Zeddmore (Hudson), Black, street-smart, and last to join the team.  The only actress to stand out in her role, separating herself from the archetype that existed previously, is McKinnon as Holtzmann, a much wackier version of Egon (Ramis) that steals the show, with the exception of…

Chris Hemsworth rocks this film so hard. While gender swapping the Receptionist feels right at home in a cast of all female Ghostbusters, Kevin (Hemsworth) is nothing like his predecessor Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts), filling a completely different role in the film/plot that elevates him past background character. If anything, this sexy Blond hunk has more in common with Rick Moranis’ Louis Tully; both in lack of intelligence and the desire to be a Ghostbuster (which, to be fair, in Moranis’ case, wasn’t examined until  1989’s Ghostbusters 2). The humor in this film is solid, and no one looks to be having a better time than Chris Hemsworth and Kate McKinnon.Ghostbusters 2016 Review Chris Hemsworth KevinIt does seem a pattern is arising, does it not? Aside from each female Ghostbuster bringing a slight twist to their pre-assigned archetype, none of it feels fresh except the aforementioned Kevin and Hotlzmann. The plot, while not using the same ghostly entity as the big bad from the 1984 film, does feel recycled, with little new to offer. If anything, it offers much less, with a much simpler plot than that involving the Gatekeeper, Keymaster, and Zuul, which was deliciously bizarre and mysterious, with a real sense of danger. While I appreciate the reboot’s successful attempt to explain why Ghosts are suddenly a thing in New York City, the evil Ghost plot falls flat on its face and the finale is more goofy and action packed than the original; a remake in the modern age of CGI in every sense of the word. There feels as though there is no peril in the end of the film, just an overabundance of CGI Ghouls. It also lacks charm. These new female comedians certainly have the chemistry and the comedic chops deserving of the roles they landed, but there’s still something missing. The ending to the 1st film is so great, with those four men on a roof, facing a God and a Building-Sized Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, with only their wits and whit. The stakes and the chemistry just isn’t all the way there in this new Ghostbusters.

And since when can you “murder” a ghost? Aside from trapping one ghost, these new Ghostbusters expand to weapons that can pulverize ghosts… killing them again? The tricky fun of trapping ghosts is gone in exchange for modern day violence and unnecessary action.Ghostbusters 2016 ReviewThe humor does feel a bit off, but that is because the original film excelled in the humor of the 80s, while this reboot is obviously very modern. That being said, I think, like most modern takes of classic genres, the film is a little heavy on the humor and a bit light on character development, plot, and even the supernatural. Just compare Lethal Weapon (1987) to The Nice Guys (2016) as an example; both are the same genre and written by the same man, but the later goes overboard on the humor, losing the more poignant moments from the former.  I was a bit turned off by all the jokes at the ladies’ expense, considering Director Paul Feig downplayed the fact he cast women in roles originally inhabited by men. I expected there to be some differences; obviously female character behave differently than men and will get into different comedic situations, but by the end of the film I was so tired about hearing jokes about women being able (or not being able) to do “a Man’s Job.” I don’t think it’s just the sexist haters that need to get over the fact that the Ghostbusters are now women; Feig should take a chill pill of his own.

Is this 2016 Reboot better than the original Ghostbusters? Hell, No! Is it better than Ghostbusters 2? Hell, Yes! Now that all that pesky world building is out of the way, I expect the inevitable NEW Ghostbusters 2 to be an even better film, hopefully relying more on originality than Nostalgia and tried and true archetypes. If you’re going to reboot a movie for a new generation, take some risks!


THE BFG Review: Old School Spielberg with New School Tech… and Fart Jokes

Though I may have outgrown it, The BFG proves that my favorite director, Steven Spielberg, still has that magic that very few directors bring to their “Kid’s Movies.” While not as enduring and endearing as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (wow, Spielberg loves his acronyms), a film I still enjoy as an adult, that “Spielberg Magic & Wonderment” is back, after being absent in his last children’s film, The Adventures of Tintin, and not appropriate for his recent run of historical dramas. While not among his greatest works (the man is far too prolific), The BFG feels like classic Spielberg from a different era, which is always a fantastic thing!

NO SPOILERS present in this review.nullI may have mentioned magic and wonderment (I have), as that’s what The BFG has in Spades, and is its greatest strength. If anything, the plot often gets lost in the magical realm of giants. Similar to the wonderful Children’s Film, Coraline, as well as (nearly) every Tim Burton film, The BFG has a style over substance problem. It’s a slow moving film that really, really pulls off all the visuals, from the startlingly realistic appearance of the CGI Giants to the beautiful tree of dreams, and even the foggy streets of London. It is certainly a lovely looking film that also finds visual charm in the way Big Friendly Giant (who apparently doesn’t have an actual name, unless I missed it) utilizes regular size objects across his whimsical, giant home.

The plot isn’t terrible; this is a fairly good Spielberg film, everyone. The film lingers on the most magical elements, and when there is a big plot point or progression, it feels rushed, as if to get it out of the way. The narrative itself isn’t great for a film and it contains little tension, but I assume it’s because it’s tethered to the source material, “The BFG” by Roald Dahl. The wrap up is a little convenient and doesn’t feel earned, feeling more like an afterthought than the finale to a Summer Blockbuster, meant for kids or otherwise.  That being said, there are several very poignant scenes made even more wonderful by fantastic actors like Mark Rylance, Spielberg’s current Muse.The BFG Review Mark Rylance Holds Ruby Barnhill SophieThe main cast is glorious under the direction of arguably the Greatest Director of All Time, from the aforementioned Mark Rylance to newcomer Ruby Barnhill. Rylance voices and did full motion capture to bring BFG to life, and if this Giant looks vaguely familiar, that’s because Rylance won an Academy Award for playing the Russian Spy in last year’s Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies. As I also mentioned, Rylance is Spielberg’s current Muse (this director’s Tom Hanks days may be over), attached to Spielberg’s next two movies, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Ready Player One; also rumored to be on the cast list for Indiana Jones 5.  In her 1st film, Ruby Barnhill as Sophie thrives under the direction of veteran “Child Director” Steven Spielberg. As proven by E.T., A.I. Artificial Intelligence (acronyms again!), Jurassic Park, and Hook, among others, Spielberg has President status over the exclusive club of directors who can make Child Stars shine, membership including J.J. Abrams (Super 8) and Richard Donner (The Goonies). The BFG is no exception to his legacy.

THE BFG is a strong Spielberg Children’s Film that hearkens back to his classic 80’s films like E.T., with a very modern touch of CGI magic he couldn’t have pulled off thirty years ago. If  you are a fan of his work, not even a Geek, just a normal person who recognizes his uber-Household Name and allows it to slightly sway your movie going decisions, then “Sway away!” Even if it won’t go down as one of his best films, it is a great addition to Spielberg’s monumental career.The BFG Review Angry Giants But… there are Fart Jokes. Two scenes of Fart Jokes! Which would normally piss me off in a Spielberg movie (in an interview he says he’s never done one), but again, it’s from the source material, and they aren’t awful Fart Jokes like every other Children’s Film… ever… they’re… charming.

Magic and Wonderment, man. Magic and Wonderment.

And Fart Jokes. (Not one… plural! I want to make that very clear.)5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE Review: Nostalgia Gets You Nowhere

Independence Day: Resurgence proves that delayed sequels can’t rely on Nostalgia alone. It’s as if the filmmakers watched Jurassic World and drew the conclusion that its success was a result of pure repetition. Sure, Jurassic World shared a lot in common with it’s over twenty year old predecessor, 1993’s Jurassic Park, but it also brought something new to the table; upping the ante with a fully active park with the dinosaurs you already loved like velociraptors, as well as a bigger, scarier monster (Familiar, but New!). Most importantly, Jurassic World gave us new endearing characters you fell in love with, upping the stakes and making for some great interactions. Independence Day: Resurgence, another sequel following a full twenty  years after the original, goes bigger, if more destruction really qualifies, but lacks any new interesting characters or any twists that keep it from being an unnecessary, disjointed rehash of what we saw in 1996. If Jurassic World is a study in how to make a rewarding, delayed sequel, then Independence Day: Resurgence is a lesson in what not to do.

Minor SPOILERS ahead. Basically everything I will reference is already in the trailers.Independence Day Resurgence Review DestructionYes, director Roland Emmerich (ID4, Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow, 2012), attempts to go bigger, with an alien ship the size of the Atlantic Ocean, and we get one scene of London buildings and vehicles being lifted into the air (the ship has its own gravity… or gravity guns… or something) as well as some “Moon Base Destruction” (I’m stealing that for my band’s name), but the stakes somehow feel… lower than the 1st film? There was something mystifying about all the ships parked over landmarks across the globe in the original, while this one feels almost, more local? This extends to the finale where there is no world-wide effort to fight back like in the 1st Independence Day; all the action is limited to the desert wasteland around Area 51.

Everything about this sequel just feels less clever and more-or-less simplified. Instead of using technology to give the Mothership a Computer Virus like in the original Independence Day, this sequel uses a more direct, “Just Blow It to Hell” approach. No strategy… just alien tech on alien tech warfare. Sure, there is the idea of the Alien Queen, but it just feels like an Aliens rip-off crossed with one of the monsters from Gareth Edwards’ (NOT Roland Emmerich’s) Godzilla (2014). The aforementioned Alien Queen is the most original part of the film, making for the best action sequence, which really isn’t saying much because it’s still not a very worthwhile scene. The biggest twist in the plot (which I WILL NOT SPOIL) seems misguided and sets up a sequel I really don’t want to see.Independence Day Resurgence Review - Liam HemsworthThe lackluster destruction, action, and plot aren’t the films biggest shortcomings, the characters in this movie just suck, especially the new ones. The new young cast of heroes, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), the late Captain Steven Hiller’s (Will Smith in the 1st film) son Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), and the still living President Whitmore’s (Bill Pullman) daughter Patricia Whitmore (Maiki Monroe) all share a backstory that seems like it was rejected from Top Gun, with no chemistry between the characters. William Fichtner plays the criminally underdeveloped General Adams, a character who could have been this film’s President Whitmore, had he any motivation or personality. Finally, including an African Warlord and a “Government Pencil Pusher” as supporting characters just seems like a questionable choice at best.

The returning characters don’t fare any better. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) has become the one note scientist who is the resident expert; a watered down version of his cynical return as Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) seems to just be here to deliver the worst inspirational speech ever (seriously, did the Aliens kill the member of his staff that wrote his rousing speech in the 1st film?) and look worried. And I don’t know why the bothered bringing back David’s father Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner), or Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox) at all, except in an attempt to fill the void left by Will Smith.Independence Day Resurgence Review - Jeff Golblum William FitcherIndependence Day: Resurgence is an uninspired retread, recalling other lazy sequels like The Hangover Part II, Jurassic Park III, and Dumb and Dumber To. It tries to repeat what made 1996’s Independence Day such a summer smash, forgetting what actually made that film great (note to director Roland Emmerich… it wasn’t just the destruction!). Dumb plot and dumber characters make for… you guessed it… a dumb sequel.5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE Review: A Little Hart and a Big Johnson Go a Long Way

Central Intelligence follows the long tradition of “Buddy Cop” movies, pulling off humor, action, and a mismatched pair of heroes who must learn to work together. It pairs this formula with a Mission: Impossible style “Spy on the Run” plot; the film’s biggest weakness. While the plot doesn’t always click, Dwayne (formally “The Rock”) Johnson and Kevin Hart certainly do, with “Buddy Cop” chemistry we haven’t seen the likes of since Hot Fuzz.

Note: Yes, I realize neither Bob Stone (Dwayne Johnson), nor Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) are cops, but Bob Stone is a CIA Agent on the run (with a name that fits his line of work perfectly) while Calvin is dragged into the action in a movie that still feels more “Buddy Cop” than any other sub-genre. Now that we have that clarification out of the way…CENTRAL INTELLIGENCECentral Intelligence works best when it’s all jokes. Johnson and Hart are hilarious together, with this film perhaps being Johnson’s most funny thus far. It was this pairing, not the unoriginal plot, that had me excited to see the film and this aspect of the film certainly delivers! Johnson is side-splittingly-funny as the muscle bound CIA Agent Bob Stone whose personality does not fit his ripped facade. Bob Stone still has a chip on his shoulder from being the fat kid who was humiliated in High School, also never outgrowing his nerdy personality, to a point where he still loves and wears a Unicorn shirt… and a fanny pack… as a CIA Agent…

Meanwhile, Kevin Hart plays “the straight man,” in a very broad sense of the word, as he too is at the top of his comedy game. The exact opposite of Bob, Calvin was the coolest kid in school, voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” yet 20 years later he doesn’t want to attend his High School Reunion as he has amounted to an accountant in a building with an inflatable gorilla out front. Yikes.

Bob clings to Calvin because 20 years later he still doesn’t have any friends, all because he has misconstrued an accepted friend request on Facebook as an invitation to bug Calvin, not unlike Jim Carry in The Cable Guy. Of course, Bob is more than the clingy loner Calvin and thinks he is; he is instead a CIA Agent on the run who needs Calvin’s accountant expertise to track and stop the sale of satellite coordinates before the CIA catches up with him. The plot may be weak, with all the clichés and twists you expect, but the humor is what makes this movie work.Central Intelligence Review Bob Stone Dwayne the Rock Johnson Aaron PaulThe supporting cast is full of great actors and comedians, including Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Kumail Nanjiani, Melissa McCarthy, and an incredibly funny role for the incomparable Jason Bateman. All add a nice flavor and a bit more comedy into the mix (Aaron Paul even gets to say “Bitch,” immediately calling to mind his Breaking Bad catch-phrase, intentional or not). Calvin’s fear and resistance to being pulled into Bob Stone’s world, including his interactions with Agent Pamela Harris (Amy Ryan) and inexperience/fear of danger make for some funny laughs, but nothing tops the glee of Bob as he goes about his violent business with a big smile on his face and a bigger fanny pack on his waist!

The weakness here is the aforementioned plot and an unbalanced ratio of humor to action. The action is great, but similar to nearly every “Buddy Cop” movie since the 2nd Rush Hour film, the comedy seems to outweigh the action. The action isn’t bad, there just isn’t very much of it, though when there is, it does call to mind films like Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop.  Yes, the comedy to action ratio is no accident on the filmmakers’ part; Central Intelligence is best billed as a comedy first, with the action being more of the icing on this Johnson/Hart cake. This is more a personal pet peeve of mine; I wish other modern “Buddy Cop” style movies like The Other Guys and even Hot Fuzz put more focus on action and a realistic world while still sporting great comedic moments like Lethal Weapon,Beverly Hills Cop, and even Rush Hour.Central Intelligence Review Bob Stone Calvin Kevin Hart Dwayne the Rock Johnson 2If more of a comedy is what you’re looking for, and you enjoy the antics of the now fun-loving Dwayne Johnson (whose older movies used to take him too seriously; The Rock’s a funny dude) and/or the comedy stylings of Kevin Hart (Get Hard comes to mind as the closest comparison), then you will love Central Intelligence. It is exactly the film as advertised by its great trailers. If you’re looking for a more traditional 80’s “Buddy Cop” movie, this still isn’t it, but that’s not a deal breaker.   The chemistry and comedy are great, the supporting cast is solid, as is the action (if only there was more of it…).

Central Intelligence certainly takes a little Hart and a big Johnson to make for a pretty successful summer flick. Hopefully what follows is a long line of comedy roles for the artist formally known as “The Rock.”



I am shocked, shocked I tell you (shell-shocked)! I never thought I’d write this, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is… good! Not great, but good! Unlike the 1st film, this sequel has lost all of its Michael Bay/Transformers sensibilities and production design in favor of a film that feels like a direct adaptation of the Animated Series from the 90s!Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows ReviewI watched 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Hulu the other night in preparation for this sequel. Watching the 1 st film, my initial worries were confirmed: it was a Michael Bay-esque mess (you’d swear he directed it) with more visual cues from the Transformers movies that anything in Turtle “Canon” and a brand new origin that stripped the characters of their complex relationships and personalities from the original animated series and live action movies of the 90’s. Shredder was a God-Damn transformer, William Fichtner played his typical Michael Bay role (Don’t trust that guy! Remember Armageddon?), and Megan Fox was a smoking reporter… with no reporter skills, nor any resemblance of classic April O’Neal besides having breasts. The Turtles were created by April O’Neal’s (Megan Fox) father with evil Fichtner, the former destroying his creation after learning about his research’s application (a la Amazing Spider-Man’s unnecessary backstory). They were April’s turtles that she saved only to throw down a sewer. Splinter (Peter Donald Badalamenti II) was just a rat that was experimented on, same as the turtles, instead of a former Ninjutsu master that trained under the same Sensei as Shredder. This Splinter learned Ninjutsu from a book! He was never trained AND was lacking the history with Shredder that always made their conflict personal and Shredder’s hatred appropriate. Worst of all, the plot was about poisoning New York and using the Turtles DNA as a cure, a dastardly plan that doesn’t fit the MO of the Shredder we once knew. And… the CGI was terrible, even for its time.

While not erasing the events of the first movie like it never happened, this year’s sequel, Out of the Shadows, fixed all these problems and modeled itself off of the 90’s Animated Series which is the most popular iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to this day, even though they initially came from the pages of a comic book. In fact, as far as comic book movies go, TMNT: Out of the Shadows is better than last week’s release, X-Men: Apocalypse.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows Review Bebop and RocksteadyThis movie is all about giving kids of today the same feeling I got from the Animated Series, while also serving as sweet nostalgia for those that grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles like myself.Shredder (Brian Tee) has been toned down to a guy in a costume nearly identical to the show; no more whirling robot arms that look like an Iron Man suit got jacked by a Transformer. The Foot Clan has stopped using guns like in the previous film and are back to being actual ninjas! Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Stephen Farrelly) are nearly perfect adaptations of their TV counterparts, as is Krang (Brad Garrett), fully realized with perhaps an overabundance of CGI, but cool none-the- less (his suit looks a lil’ like a Transformer, but it’s also true to the character). Casey Jones (Stephen Amell from Arrow) is awesome and fits in nicely with the other new characters. Best of all, with the introduction of all these fan favorites, it never feels crowded, though Shredder and Krang deserved a little more screen time.

The tone has been nailed this time as well. It’s humorous and fun! 2014’s initial entry took itself too seriously (again, look no further than the updated origins and generic terrorist plot) while Out of the Shadows reminds you how fun it is to be a Turtle, of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety. The Turtles, Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), Donatello (Jeremy Howard), Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), and Raphael (Alan Ritchson), have distinct personalities past their archetypes: the leader, the brains, the goofy one, and the badass. They grapple with issues having to do with simply being brothers vs. learning to be an actual team, even if Master Splinter doesn’t offer as much sage advice as he did in the old days.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows Review KrangAnd the plot feels just like it came from the cartoon. No more terrorist acts like poisoning all of New York; instead, after a portal transports Shredder to the wrong location, Krang tasks him with collecting 3 relics to complete an inter-dimensional doorway which will allow Krang to invade the Earth with his warship. Meanwhile, Bebop and Rocksteady are mutated so the Foot Clan have a fighting chance against Mutant Turtles and Casey Jones takes up the vigilante mantle after he allows Bebop, Rocksteady, and Shredder to escape on his watch during a prisoner transport. Who can save the day? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Who still love Pizza!

The one plot point that worried me was in the introduction of the Purple “Ooze.” Unlike the traditional origin, there is not simply Green Mutagen which transforms any being into a combined version of their species and the last species they touched (in the old days Splinter touched the Turtles so they became humanoid, while his touching a rat made him half rodent). The Purple Ooze turns you into the animal you are in your soul (what mumbo-jumbo is that Dr. Tyler Perry?), creating Bebop and Rocksteady… who are apparently a Rhino and Warthog on the inside… while also offering the Turtles a chance to become human. Luckily the latter idea is not over explored, with the Turtles deciding not to use the Ooze without too much time spent ruminating on the subject.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows Review Megan Fox Middrift April O'NealOtherwise, the other characters are fine as well. Megan Fox remains better eye candy than a fully fleshed out April O’Neal, while Will Arnett continues to bring the funny as comic-relief Vernon Fenwick, now calling himself “The Falcon” after receiving all the credit for saving New York City in the 1 st film so the Turtles could remain a secret. Tyler Perry as Baxter Stockman is a fun addition, especially knowing his character mutates with a fly eventually in TV show continuity. That fact, as well as the ability to easily bring back Shredder, Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang, leave the franchise with a lot of places to go!

When you get down to it, this movie just feels like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while the 1 st film felt misguided and over Michael Bay-ed. Sure, it’s meant for kids and it’s not the smartest Comic Book Movie out there, but if you’ve ever liked the Turtles, it’s damn fun!

Oh, and as an added bonus, the original theme is played during the credits: new version, classic lyrics!

Bonus Points for Nostalgia!


Turtle Power!

X-MEN APOCALYPSE Review: Why Can’t They All Be Like DEADPOOL?

Only MILD SPOILERS  ahead. There’s nothing here that you couldn’t surmise from the trailer.

Even as a huge Comic Book Movie Fan who has Marvel leanings, X-Men is one of those franchises I’ve never really cared for. X-2  is fine, I do really like First Class, but Days of Future Past and The Wolverine are simply okay. The 1st X-Men ages terribly, while  X-Men 3: The Last Stand and X-Men: Wolverine Origins are completely unwatchable. Deadpool is by the far the best film in Fox’s X-Men Universe, but that’s because it’s the only film that doesn’t feel stale and clichéd. (Did I miss any?)

That being said, I don’t feel I have a mutant prejudice. I want these movies to be good, I really do.  Deadpool  and First Class (and The Wolverine… sort of…) proved that these characters can work, but only when they are treated as unique, genre films that avoid the generic superhero formula that the other X-Men films follow. Deadpool was a whole new spin on the superhero genre as a whole; a deconstruction of the genre, if you will. First Class used Pre-Magneto Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) as a Bond type assassin, hunting down Nazi’s before the film slipped into classic origin story territory. The Wolverine had limited mutants and was more Samurai movie than Superhero.xmen0002Even the best of the other 6 X-Men movies were average superhero films that brought nothing new to the table; not terrible (Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were terrible, actually), but not  memorable either, repeating storylines like the Weapon X program, the antagonistic “friendship” between Professor X and Magneto, and “love” triangle between Wolverine, Cyclops, and Jean Grey. Unfortunately, the latest outing, X-Men: Apocalypse is no exception, repeating yet again, many of these same story beats.

Repetition is what hits Apocalypse the hardest. Part of the problem is that the original X-Men trilogy and X-Men Origins: Wolverine used up many interesting characters just to cram new mutants into every movie, without any thought or plan put in place to continue their storyline like what Marvel has done with even minor characters like Scarlet Witch and Vision. They’re using Storm, Cyclops, and Jean Grey again? Yup, but this time it’s the origin (groan…). Haven’t I seen Nightcrawler, Angel, and Havok before? Again, yes, but they were one dimensional characters abandoned in the sequels that followed their initial appearance. X-Men Apocalypse Review Michael Fassbender as Magneto ErikAs alluded to earlier with my comments about Magneto having an almost 007 like adventure in the 1st half of First Class, I’ve always found Michael Fassbender’s version to be  the most interesting character in the X-Men Movie Universe (aside from ANY character from Deadpool), but here he has nothing to do. Sure, we see him with a new family that he loses (he says it right in the trailer to James McAvoy’s Professor Charlies Xavier in the trailer, so that ain’t a spoiler!), but how is this new trauma necessary when we’ve seen him losing his mother at Auschwitz twice before (with flashbacks again in this movie, for a 3rd go around)? Fassbender’s version of Magneto has been less interesting each film he’s in, so at this point his decision to go with the bad guy, and his on-again/off-again friendship with Charles are incredibly overplayed and uninteresting.

But Magneto’s just the tip of the iceberg: the film has a giant villain problem (and that’s not a reference to Apocalypse growing giant in the trailer). These bad guys are boring. Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Storm (Alexandra Shipp) might as well not be in the movie at all. They’re left with nothing to do but pose during the dull and uninspired action scene that finally ends the film. X-Men Apocalypse Review All the VillainsEven worse, Apocalypse is just a boring villain, plain and simple. He wants to create a world where only Mutants survive? I haven’t seen that in about half the X-Men movies already…  Oscar Isaac does nothing to elevate the part, easily making this his worst film (because he’s usually so great!). And what exactly are his super powers? I’ve seen the movie but I couldn’t tell you what he can do and what he can’t.

The heroes are stronger than the villains, as far as characterization and giving them something to do, but even this department is repetitive as hell. Oh no, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) can’t control her powers, just the same as X-Men and X-2, and she’s not even given an origin (thankfully?). We see nearly the exact same scene of Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) getting his powers that was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And though I couldn’t wait for the Wolverine scene from the end of the final trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, it did give us the most animalistic version of the character, but it’s literally the same Weapon X escape we’ve seen twice before!X-Men Apocalypse Review Wolverine Hugh JackmanI apologize for repeating myself, but this movie is completely repetitive on every level and I guess I want to drive that point home. Oh boy, another Quicksilver scene set to a rock song. There’s Jenifer Lawrence using her star power to avoid the Blue Paint, negating the lesson she learned in First Class about being comfortable showing her true, blue self.  Oh, but here’s something new… we’ve never seen Professor X’s hair literally fall out of his head. That’s about as fresh as this movie gets.

Simply put, Apocalypse is not a bad movie, but it gives us nothing new and suffers from a weak villain and incredibly weak action. Director Bryan Singer is doing the bare minimum to bring you a safe Superhero Film that doesn’t take any risks or attempt to subvert the genre. This is the superhero genre at its most generic.

So, I will continue to wait until Fox can show me on the screen, what makes these characters so interesting in a comic panel. Except for Deadpool. Did I say I liked Deadpool? I like Deadpool.



CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR Review: The Avengers, Fully Realized

Believe the hype. Captain America: Civil War delivers every “Holy Shit!” moment you were hoping for in an Avengers movie. And this is a Captain America film (mostly)!

There will be NO SPOILERS in this review; no exact plot points, no surprises ruined, no twists revealed, no characters’ greatest moments exposed. Just the broad strokes here, kiddies, because I want you to enjoy this film as much as I did. If it wasn’t in the trailer, I won’t discuss it here (there will be one minor spoiler, but I’ll warn you… and be as ambiguous as possible). It may make for a very short review, but all you really want me to do is confirm that Civil War is as great as everyone else is saying it is.Captain America Civil War Review Team CapAnd IT IS! Good Lord, this movie delivers on every level. I had very high hopes going in, and I can’t say I was ever disappointed.

It is hard to answer if Civil War is better than Marvel’s old reigning champ, Captain America: Winter Soldier, but that’s because they are very different films. Plus, if I consider both movies 5 Star Films, does it really make a difference which is better? Winter Soldier was a tighter, more contained movie – a 70’s-esque Thriller – while Civil War is a sprawling epic, hitting more parts of the globe and carrying the weight of more characters than even Avengers: Age of Ultron. Yet it works better, much better than Ultron. Civil War does keep that Captain America focus, spending less time with the other heroes than with Captain America and Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes, but really is more of a full Avengers adventure, sans Hulk and Thor. Captain America Civil War Review Bucky The Winter Soldier and Steve RogersIf you’re reading this, you know enough of the plot that I don’t need to say much of anything else. What I will say though, is that Civil War delivers more “I feel like I need to stand up and clap because I never thought I’d see that scene/character/moment so beautifully realized in a film” than any Marvel Cinematic Universe film before it. There are shots/scenes/moments in this film that are the most exciting you’ve seen since the unbelievable occurrence in 2o12 when the Avengers actually assembled in one movie! If The Avengers will always be remembered for bringing together different heroes with their own films onto one team, then Civil War will go down as the MCU movie that fully realizes the full potential of EVERY Avenger present, nearly always exceeding expectations. Powers you’ve never seen them use, skills highlighted in a way the other films have not, and personality shining through in characters that you could have previously accused of being one dimensional. It’s everyone from Hawkeye & Falcon as you’ve never seen him before, to Ant Man as you’ve never seen him before! Really, a stellar evolution to even the characters you already knew were bad-ass.

Avengers: Age of Ultron, you’ve been out Avenger’ed by a film with Captain America in the title. Captain America Civil War Review Spider-ManCivil War isn’t nearly as dark as Winter Soldier, even when funnier characters like Spider-Man and Ant-Man don’t populate the screen. The tone is lighter, though the plot is just as serious as an MCU film ever was, with poignant moments that may be among the most gut-wrenching in any superhero film. While I have Spider-Man brought up though, let’s just say he’s the most amazing (reference to original comic intended) iteration of the character, again, living up to all expectations (like everything else… I keep telling you!).

In this way, Captain America: Civil War avoids all the pitfalls of Batman V Superman, a movie with a similar premise but much lower IQ. Even Batman V Superman‘s greatest strengths are eclipsed by Civil War. I’m not biased, Batman is my favorite comic book character, but even his shining moments in  BvS don’t touch the excitement produced by Civil War‘s spectacle; both in character moments and those action scenes you CAN NOT BELIEVE you’ve seen!Captain America Civil War Review Steve Rogers and Tony StarkThe one comparison to Batman V Superman I will make, and this is the only MINOR SPOILER, is the villain behind the warring heroes. Unlike Lex Luthor, the baddie pulling the strings in Civil War is subtle and incredibly clever. You never question the logic of the plan he has put into action and the twists he throws into the film. Minimal Spoiler Over!

I really don’t know what else to say except… If you like the MCU, YOU WILL LOVE THIS FILM! I didn’t notice a single missed opportunity.

With directors of this film and Winter Solider, Joe and Anthony Russo, also at the helm of the Phase 3 ending film, Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1 & 2, all is well in the Marvel Universe.

DC, you best step up your game… and fast!


And yes, there is an amazing Community cameo in this film, just like Winter Soldier (but better!).


GREEN ROOM Review: Bloody Fun With Patrick Stewart

Green Room is not my genre. I don’t see many horror movies, especially not ones that pit teens against “Back Woodsy”killers ( I love Kevin Smith, yet was unable to finish watching Red State, which has a similar premise to Green Room). But, like with Saw (which I finally saw: Har-de-har-har) the genre I usually avoid is elevated by intelligent writing and great casting that transcend the genre.

There will be MINIMAL Spoilers ahead. No death revealed or plot points from late in the film mentioned here!Green Room Anton Yelchin as Pat and Alia Shawkat as Sam Imogen PootsGreen Room is about a broke band populated by actors Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Fright Night) and Alia Shawkat (Maeby on Arrested Development),  among others, who are drawn to a Neo-Nazi “Venue” in the middle of buttfuck nowhere with the promise of $350 for a gig. Things quickly go south when bandleader Pat (Anton Yelchin) stumbles upon a fresh body and the murderers in the band’s Green Room. The band holes themselves up in said Green Room (I wonder where they got the title…) as they are assaulted by the building’s owner/leader of the movement  Darcy (Patrick Stewart) and his men who are in full damage control mode with the aim of destroying all evidence… and witnesses… to the murder of Amber’s (Imogen Poots) friend, who is also trapped with the Band Members.Green Room Anton Yelchin as Pat and Alia Shawkat as SamIt’s a simple premise, but it works! Pat and his band most make some tough decisions: how long can they wait in the Green Room before they are overrun? When is the best time to make a strike/escape if there are no other exits? The film becomes a game of cat and mouse, as the band pushes their way through Darcy’s bar, only to retreat back to the “safety” of the Green Room. Repeat that formula a few times and you’d think Green Room would become a bore, but it never lets up; there are always new ways to kill and be killed and the movie’s 1 hour 35 minute run-time makes sure the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.Patrick Stewart as Darcy in Green RoomBesides being clever with  “push and get pushed back” plot, the material is elevated immensely by Patrick Stewart’s performance. You wouldn’t think a man whose played iconic Geek heroes like Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professor Xavier with a voice ideal for Shakespeare would be an intimidating and convincing a Neo-Nazi. Yet, the movie’s most chilling moments arrive when Darcy (Stewart) is trying to “negotiate” with the band from the other side of a barricaded door, leaving the audience simply with his deep and terrifying voice made even more unnerving by his calmness. Stewart’s imposing leader is not just the scary voice on the other side of a door; his character is just a violent and ferocious as any of his men. I never thought I’d say this, but Patrick Stewart is pretty damn scary.Green Room Imogen PootsAny film is only as good as its antagonist… and protagonists, with Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots (who also starred together in the horror/comedy Fright Night) carrying half the film when Patrick Stewart isn’t around. Macon Blair who plays Gabe, a henchman to Darcy, is also fantastic here, starring in his 2nd movie for Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier following the incredibly under-rated and unseen Blue Ruin (watch it now!). It is just a coincidence that both of Saulnier’s films have colors in the title…

Looking for smart, fun horror with a grand baddy? Look no further than Green Room! Make it so.


KEANU Review: Classic Key & Peele With Some Kitten Filler

Keanu arrives in theaters Thursday starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, from the Comedy Central Sketch Show, Key and Peele. Though the movie is written by Jordan Peele and Alex Rubens, not Keegan-Micheal Key, and is directed by Peter Atencio, it truly feels like the first “Key and Peele Movie.” The show Key and Peele was perhaps the most cinematic looking sketch show ever (sketches were considerably shorter, but looked no less like a film than Keanu), so translating the comedy pair’s style to the big screen wasn’t much of a stretch.

Unfortunately, transitioning from a 5 minute sketch to an hour and a half movie isn’t easy, even for masterminds Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The result is still a very funny movie, but it pales in comparison to their sketch work from their Comedy Central days. _B7A0915.dngNo Spoilers Ahead! I won’t bring up the film’s true surprises or get too specific about the  plot.

Keanu plays like Key and Peele‘s greatest hits, carrying many of the same themes and touching the same genres of their most classic sketches.

The film finds Rell (Jordan Peele) dumped by his girlfriend, only to have the cutest kitten in the world (for real though) show up on his doorstep at his emotional time of need. After being stolen by the 17th Street Blips (a new gang incorporating Bloods and Crips), Rell must enlist the help of his best friend Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to infiltrate the gang and get back his cat, Keanu (so he can make move movie themed Calendar pages, I guess).Kitten Keanu Point Break Calender PageThe main theme/running joke of the movie is taken straight from over half the sketches on Key and Peele; Rell and Clarence are the whitest, most boring Black Guys you can find, trying to fit into the toughest Black Gang by, among other things, incorporating the “N” Word (I really don’t want to use it here) into every sentence.

Rell and Clarence make up ridiculous fake names to fit in with Blips members sporting names like Hi-C, Stitches, Trunk, and Cheddar (the latter played by Method Man). If all this sounds familiar, you must be a Key and Peele fan, as they’ve done countless sketches about badass dudes (and athletes) with over-the-top, silly names. This is just one example of how Keanu invokes favorite sketches (and genres) from the show, making it feel familiar while being more ambitious with a feature film’s run-time and budget.Other elements from the show included in Keanu range from over-the-top Matrix-y action scenes to a conversation about a fictional Liam Neesons (yes, “Neesons”) film.Keanu Keegan Michael-Key Jordan Peele With GunsKeanu is a Key and Peele “Greatest Hits” movie. The film has its hilarious highlights with the comedy duo doing what they do best, but it’s not enough to save the film from itself; in adapting what could have been a short sketch into a feature film, the cracks begin to show in Key and Peele’s formula. Some of the film feels like filler, meant to get Keanu from one mini-sketch idea into another while carrying the film’s plot. Keanu feels like it was shooting for a Pineapple Express type film, and while I did enjoy the movie, the film is neither as consistently funny or as skilled with action as writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s 2nd film. Keanu Keegan Michael-Key Jordan Peele Tied Up With KittenBottom Line: Keanu is funny, especially if you are a fan of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s work, but in order to create a feature, it feels like we’re occasionally getting material that wouldn’t make the cut on their top-notch sketch show (filler, if you will). The plot meanders a bit to fill time, while the action and the cast don’t really seem to fully take advantage of a feature film budget. Still funny, though!



HARDCORE HENRY Review: Mankind Is Not Ready For A “First Person Movie”

NO Spoilers past the 1st Act here! Safe for all to read!

To quote Chris Pratt from Jurassic World, Hardcore Henry proves that “First Person” style feature films are “probably not a good idea.”

Not that the style doesn’t work in small doses. The trailer was incredibly effective, for a moment convincing me that an entirely 1st Person Movie could be consistently entertaining (I think Queen deserves half the credit for for lending selling the song rights to “Don’t Stop Me Now”). I’ve never seen Doom starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but surprisingly it was last month’s The Brothers Grimsby that delivered several 1st Person Action Sequences that really worked!… and were better than any in Hardcore Henry.Hardcore Henry Review HelicopterThe 1st time I saw the trailer for Hardcore Henry, I was at first disgusted by the proposed “gimmick” of watching a movie as one would watch his friend play Call of Duty, but was slowly won over by cool action twists and the aforementioned rocking Queen song. It’s a shame all the top action moments are in that trailer.

Hardcore Henry is truly one of those movies that works better as a three minute trailer than a feature film. The problem isn’t solely the style; Hardcore Henry shares all the weaknesses of a forgettable 1st Person Video Game Shooter. More underdeveloped/flat/wooden characters than the Star Wars prequels! More generic looking bad henchmen than were slaughtered in Deadpool.  And though the plot is surprisingly even more nonexistent than a bad video game, it is also as confounding as that of Batman V Superman. The entire time you think, “What the Fuck is going on?”

Again, rest assured, what follows is all established in the 1st Act of the film, so Nothing here is a Spoiler.

Hardcore Henry Review Danila Kozlovsky as Akan Main Villain Bad GuyThe lead villain, Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), has telekinesis powers (and seems to be Albino… or another brother from Hans Gruber’s blond henchman family in Die Hard), for no reason other than to provide an epic “Final Boss” battle: video game style. A prequel comic titled “Hardcore Akan” exists, giving an origin to the character… at least explaining how has such powers… if you can get your hands on it (and the average viewer won’t… which should leave them fairly confused).

Even the prequel comic doesn’t explain Akan’s plot to create an army of Super Soldiers, something we’ve only seen repeated by villainous organizations such as the Weapon X Program from the X-Men films, (nearly) any company in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (but usually Hydra), and Kevin Spacey’s Atlas from Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. So, you know, he wants what every modern villain wants. And though many films fail at this (including Batman V Superman), there is nothing human about the villain. No character depth present. Not the strong type of villain who doesn’t see himself as a bad guy. Akan really is just a bad guy for the sake of being a bad guy. Jerkface.Hardcore Henry Review Sharlto CopleyOn the opposite side of the spectrum, the equally unmotivated/flat character Jimmy, played by the always scene stealing Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium, The A-Team), is actually quite enjoyable… and his very existence creates a fun mystery for the audience to figure out.Hardcore Henry Review Shartlo CopleyWe first see Jimmy first as you see him in the trailer… and he quickly dies (again, NOT a Spoiler). Then he reappears with a new accent and look, remembering Henry and keeping the same name: Jimmy. Don’t worry, it all gets explained and it is a pretty cool idea which makes for the most interesting action scene, though one great actor and his “twist” can’t save the entire movie. It does give Copley some real fun scenes to do, making his screen presence the highlight of the film.Hardcore Henry Review Another Sharlto CopleyI did have the chance to see a Q&A before the film where it was made clear that Director Ilya Naishuller idea’s of doing a 1st person film wasn’t to just make the movie look like a video game, but to put you, the viewer, in Henry’s shoes. Jimmy and Akan address you directly… but it still doesn’t work. Instead, having a blank slate of a main character backfires; you have no empathy for a character without a voice or even a face to emote. I didn’t feel like I was Henry, even more so because there aren’t even buttons to hit at the right moment to perform an action like the most basic of video game cut-scenes.

Does the movie work at times? Hell, yeah, brah! There are some really cool action bits, but, alas, they are all in the trailer (that old chestnut). Shootouts and chase scenes do work in this style, but hand to hand combat is a complete mess that will make you sicker than a “Found Footage” film or shaky-cam Bourne style film. Thank God Hardcore Henry is not offered in 3D! You loose all sense of place when the camera is going everywhere because “Henry” is being thrown around.Hardcore Henry Henchmen in WhiteAnd, of course, there is ultra-violence for violence sake. Intestines spilling out, heads blown apart, you name it. Deadpool would be pleased.

Maybe it would have worked better with a rocking Junkie XL Score, a la Mad Max: Fury Road. Maybe the script and characters just needed more substance. Maybe it should have been a half-baked video game instead of a movie. Whatever the case, Hardcore Henry proves that, at this moment in film history, a First Person Movie doesn’t work.Hardcore Henry Review Detonator Explosion

Unless Hardcore Henry is a smash hit, it will not create any imitators as this “First Person Movie” idea clearly only works in small doses.


Batffleck Soars and Visuals Are King In Uneven BATMAN V SUPERMAN

Note: This is a Spoiler Free! Review of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. If it wasn’t in the trailer (a disappointingly large amount was) or the 1st act, I won’t reference anything too directly. There are so many universe building moments and DC Easter Eggs for a Geek to pour over that I will likely cover in a follow up discussion full of spoilers in the coming days.

How many reviews have you read for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice that were written by someone who has seen it twice? How many reviewers are self proclaimed amateur Batman Scholars? And yet, not so blindly obsessed with the Caped Crusader  that he proclaims a ridiculous “20 out of 10! Best Movie Ever!” Well, soon you will have read one such review!

Batman V Superman is not the best superhero movie ever made, in fact, it doesn’t come close, not even cracking my top 10… or likely even top 20 Comic Book based films. Yet, it’s also far from the worse. Neither should be a surprise in today’s world where we have received 2-6 Superhero Films a year since 2002’s Spider-Man.

Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Review Heroes Face Off Henry Cavill Ben AffleckBvS is both better than I expected, yet still a bit of a visually beautiful mess. After all, Zack Snyder is at the helm; the controversial Director behind a horrible film (Sucker Punch), a fan favorite I hate (300), an incredibly average comic book film (Man of Steel), and another beautiful mess that I have a soft spot for (Watchman). Snyder continues to showcase the same weaknesses (plot, story pacing) and strengths (incredibly rich CGI visuals that truly brings comics to life). Luckily, Snyder has help from writer Chris Terrio who has written Academy Award nominated films like The Town, saving BvS from being the complete train-wreck it could have been.

The opening credits scene is a perfect sampling/representation of the film as a whole.

The movie opens with Martha and Thomas Wayne’s funeral (yes, we’ve seen this before), which flashes back to the Wayne Murder in Crime Alley (something we’ve more than any other Comic Book scene). I went to Batman V Superman with my best friend, a self proclaimed Superman fan, who has watched everything Batman with me from The Dark Knight films, to animated features like Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, and even TV’s Gotham, in addition to having read countless comics. More than most, this friend has a hatred for the Wayne Murder that pops up in all these stories, especially the once artistically genius choice to showcase Martha’s pearls crashing to the ground; that by this point has become just as repetitive a image as as young Bruce Wayne screaming under the spotlight of a street lamp.Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Review Wayne MurderWhen we saw the funeral, and then the flashback to a family walking out of a Zorro film, yet again, we both sighed. Then something amazing happened… Zach Snyder actually presented the scene in a way we’ve never seen it before with an very creative and bold choice. Instead of Joe Chill (the man who murder’s Bruce Wayne’s parents) ripping the necklace off Martha’s neck, he slips his gun against her throat so that the gun’s hammer holds the necklace tight between her neck and the gun. When the gun fires, the hammer recoils, splitting the pearl necklace and dropping the pearls in a very visual pleasing, surprising, and brutal way.

The film as a whole (with one giant exception) offers great visual takes on heroes and action set pieces we’ve seen before (in one case, literally, but that in a later…), much like his Watchman film flawlessly captured what looked like actual panels from a comic book. It’s not just perfect CGI, it’s great choices including a visual tone that doesn’t just feel richer than Man of Steel‘s faded look, but also more true to a comic than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (visuals and a certain actor being the ONLY way the film tops the now sacred trilogy). The characters, costumes, settings, and action look fantastic from this new take on the “Pearl Scene” to the rained out battle between Superman with a fantastic rendering of the Batman “Battle” suit that’s even better than how Frank Miller was drew it in The Dark Knight Returns.Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Review Ben Affleck Steps on Henry CavillVisually, things do fall apart in the grand finale, where you have a boring flaming backdrop (EVERYTHING is on fire!) and messily animated Heroes literally lunging/flying at each other over football stadium length for epic punches, even when said characters are not known for flying.

Back to the opening scene: though presented in a brand new brilliance, we’ve seen it all before… many, many times. So follows the rest of Batman V Superman; though we’ve never watched Batman fight Superman in live action, we’ve seen all the pieces before. Superman’s scenes don’t feel fresh, which isn’t a terrible crime as this film is direct sequel to Man of Steel. Though he’s never looked so good, we’ve seen Batman in a ridiculous amount of movies. Marvel has already stolen the magic of bringing multiple titans to the same battlefield, and the destruction of the finale may be over red burning ground instead of Man of Steel‘s grey rubble, but really, what’s the difference (besides the not subtle at all lines about how everywhere anyone fights in Gotham or Metropolis is “uninhabited”)?

Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Review Ben Affleck Bruce Wayne MetrpolisThe 2nd scene, though one of the best in the film (if not the best), is not just a repeated image like the death of the Waynes and the ever present Pearls, but a literal repeat of the Battle of Metropolis from Man of Steel, this time from Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) perspective. The scene is visceral and real with painful yet effective 9/11 imagery, from Bruce’s race to the Wayne Fiances skyscraper to the building’s collapse and the remaining, living victims. The destruction is more real and seems to be on an even larger scale when we are watching the laser vision of Zod and Superman (Henry Cavill) rip Wayne Fiances to pieces from a far, with the two “Gods” (really Aliens) just specks in a sky flying around giant ships exploding, destroying nearly everything.

It’s not just the visuals that make this stand-out scene so emotional, for the film’s other greatest strength is also essential in saving what could have been boring Batman/Bruce Wayne scenes in any other Batman actor’s hands. I’m of course referring to Ben Affleck, who is indeed the Batman AND Bruce Wayne we have always deserved (no actor has pulled off both sides of the coin so evenly). His brooding and anger are the only real thing in this film (because all those visuals I’ve been praising were manufactured in a computer).Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Ben Affleck Bruce Wayne Looks At BatsuitQuick props to Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor and Jeremy Irons as the latest Alfred Pennyworth for both not playing their roles conventionally, yet still delivering satisfying versions (especially Jesse Eisenberg!).

Back to the opening of the film: it’s a dream! And this film has an overabundance of dreams/possible visions, from Bruce’s apocalyptic “Knightmare” (get it?) of a world run by a heartless Superman, to Clark Kent seeing Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) in the mountains. These kind of scenes drive the story forward (and even begin to set up the greater universe including the Justice League) in a movie that feels surprisingly slow with so many characters packed in.

A great fear of mine going in was that, not unlike Watchmen (which also had soooo many characters and events to cover) or overstuffed semi-messes like Spider-Man or even Avengers: Age of Ultron, this film would feel rushed, trying to get to the big battle referenced in the title as quickly as possible with little thought and space given to the connective plot tissue.Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice Review Final BattleQuite the opposite is true, in fact. The movie is almost too slow, allowing the themes of what it means to be just a man in a God’s world  and absolute power corrupting to breath for the 1st two acts. That is, before any theme or reason from earlier in the film is quickly forgotten in favor of “Smashy, Smashy, Punch Time” in the 3rd act.

Are there plot holes? God, yes, but I don’t want to go in so far as to spoil any plot points, nor am I trying to be “Honest Trailers” or “How It Should Have Ended.” Some plot holes and choices do make more sense as a comic fan as they are less of a stretch for someone who has read variations of these stories in the comics. Others are just dumbfounding, but even the Marvel films are guilty of that sin.

One thing The Avengers did pull off that BvS fails at, is giving Batman something to do when fighting a villain meant for the likes of the more powerful Superman and Wonder Woman. While armies of aliens or robots in the two Avengers films gave heroes with no powers (Hawkeye and Black Widow) or limited ones (Captain America) something to fight, Batman runs and stands around more than he fights in the grand finale, waiting for Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot, who is okay, but doesn’t shine) and Superman to do all the real fighting.

So, there you go! A review written by someone who had the chance to put the thoughts generated by not one, but two viewings of Batman V Superman down on (digital) paper.

Is this a Batman V Superman that rivals The Avengers? No. Is it a watchable film that actually makes you excited for the prospect of Justice League: Part One? Absolutely!

The old, classic, Zack Snyder mixed bag.





SPECTRE Review: D. Craig Finally Goes Full 007, But Film Can’t Live Up To Namesake or SKYFALL

SPECTRE is a mixed bag; not as well crafted as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but less muddled than Quantum of Solace.

There be SPOILERS ahead, so read with extreme caution.

On the one hand, Daniel Craig’s 007 has finally fully blossomed into the more traditional James Bond we know and love. He is less “Blunt Instrument” and more charming and suave like his predecessors, still not completely losing his more realistic, brutal style that defines Craig’s outings as 007. The world of James Bond is also completely in place, with a new M, Moneypenny, and Q all present at MI6 after three films spent establishing the classic hero’s “origins.”

SPECTRE 007 James Bond Poster Daniel Craig Léa Seydoux Madeleine SwannYet, we’re not completely done with Bond’s past in SPECTRE, as the film does try to build on what Skyfall started, filling in more gaps in Bond’s upbringing, never explored in the films preceding Craig’s tenure as 007. In this case, Bond was raised by Oberhauser Sr. alongside the man’s own son (Christoph Waltz), a son who will become Bond’s “greatest” foe due to jealousy that his father treated James better than his own flesh and blood.

Whereas Skyfall used Bond’s past extremely effectively to tell a unique story we’d never seen, SPECTRE‘s use of Bond’s past almost feels forced. Does it matter that Oberhauser, aka Ernest Blofeld (duh), was jealous of Bond as a child? Does the head of the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. being briefly raised with James Bond add anything to the story? Not really. Blofeld was an effective villain long before this “reboot” of his character and his connection to Bond feels as forced as Sandman’s unnecessary connection to Uncle Ben’s death in Spider-Man 3. Even though the personal element is the key to my favorite 007 villains (Silva from Skyfall and Alec Trevelyan from Goldeneye), it’s simply not necessary to make Blofeld and the organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. work as effective villains.SPECTRE Christoph Waltz Blofeld

Daniel Craig behaving with more class alongside a complete roster of MI6 allies isn’t all that makes SPECTRE feel more like classic Bond than any of Daniel Craig’s other outings as the Super Spy. The movie throws shout-outs to classic Bond scenes and villains even more so than Skyfall, giving us a lot of images 007 fans will eat up, but bringing with it some clunky scenes and plot points.

The whole production design seeks to recall classic Bond, from the White Tuxedo Craig stole from Sean Connery’s shriveled old body to sets that really recall S.P.E.C.T.R.E. bases and meetings of the old. You’ve at least seen the trailer: the film nails the classic look of cultish S.P.E.C.T.R.E. meetings from the Connery films. Blofeld’s secret hide-out  also looks like today’s version of an old set, nailing what we expect from a Bond villain’s lair.

Dave Bautista SPECTRESome of these classic elements and images are great! Dave Bautista plays a baddie who would feel right at home fighting Connery; one of the film’s strengths! Likewise, before the reveal that Oberhauser has renamed himself Blofeld, we get to see the classic white cat jump right on James’ lap! How’s that for classic S.P.E.C.T.R.E. imagery?

The 1st half the film’s weakness is that the pace and action scenes feel “classic” as well. Gone is the realism and brutality of the action sequences that made Casino Royale, Skyfall… and even Quantum of Solace memorable. The opening action scene with an impressive helicopter stunt is exciting, but it’s not as original as Casino Royale‘s parkour chase, not as intense as the opening car chase from Quantum, or as perfectly over-the-top as Skyfall‘s most impressive 007 film opening ever. In fact, there does come a car chase in the 1st half of the film which feels sluggish compared to the visceral brutality of the aforementioned chase that opened Quatum of Solace.

SPECTRE Train FightThankfully, the 2nd half the film brings the action back to Daniel Craig quality, starting with the very impressive fight between the mismatched James Bond and Buatisa’s giant character on the train. From this scene the film pivots into higher quality scenes all around, from much improved action sequences in comparison to said car chase or the plane chase in Austria, to better use of Christoph Waltz’s talents when he finally reveals himself fully to Bond.

Though just as talented as Javier Bardem who played Silva in Skyfall, Waltz seems underutilized in the very same way Sean Harris was in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Bardem was given plenty of screen time to establish him as a fantastic, eccentric yet dangerous villain of legend, while Bautista is a flat, albeit effective placeholder so that Waltz’s character can lie in the shadows. But, like I said, he spends too much time in the shadows to be truly effective.

There’s actually quite a bit in common with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation that doesn’t do SPECTRE any favors. In addition to villains that deserved more screen-time but ran shadow organizations (Rogue Nation’s “The Syndicate” is more or less S.P.E.C.T.R.E.), both films hinge on the plot point that the hero’s spy organization is being shut down with 00 Agents being put out of work in SPECTRE just as Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Crusie) IMF being shuttered in Mission: Impossible. Simply bad timing on SPECTRE’s part.

Andrew Scott as C in SPECTRELook, it’s not all gloom and doom! Though I’ve cut SPECTRE down a peg, it’s still an enjoyable James Bond movie, even if it doesn’t live up to Skyfall or the story you could tell based on the film’s namesake organization. Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BBC’s Sherlock) is brilliant as a sort of secondary villain hidden in plain sight. Blofeld and his organization S.P.E.C.T.R.E. still make for great villains, even neither hits their full potential. And, though forced, it is a cool idea that Waltz is behind all the villains Daniel Craig has faced previously (even if Quantum‘s villain is only mentioned once… barely). Plus, how many 007 films let the villain live? Besides Mr. White? We may be seeing Blofeld again (please!).

Definitely see SPECTRE if you like Daniel Craig’s Bond films… or any of the others for that matter! Though SPECTRE fails to reach its full potential, there is still a lot for a Bond fan to love!


The Best Movies of Summer 2015: PART II – No. 3, 2 & 1!

After much soul searching, I can finally finish the list of my 6 Favorite Movies of the Summer that kept on giving. And giving. And giving!

Read Part I, where I cover my 6th through 4th favorite movies now if you missed it.

First, I must make a clarification; on the first part of my list, I stated that I’m trying to balance quality and enjoyment level when ranking the best films of Summer 2015. I now realize, that what is really important is the enjoyment factor. In fact, looking back, #6: Man From UNCLE, #5: Ant-Man, and #4: Avengers: Age of Ultron were already based on enjoyment factor and NOT quality of film. So I intend to continue that trend… Now!

SPOILERS may follow for any of the films covered.


3. MAD MAX: FURY ROADMad Max Fury Road Max On a Pole

If I were to base this list purely on quality of film, then Mad Max: Fury Road would have been #1. It really is a masterpiece; light-years better than any of George Miller’s previous Mad Max films, though that has nothing to with replacing Mel Gibson with Tom Hardy. You can tell Miller has been working on the film (at least in his head) for 20 years, and the result is visually stunning with an unbelievably complex “feminist” narrative supported by limited dialog. And George Miller is one of the only people making films in the 21st Century that does stunts… for real.

Highlights: Everything mostly… mostly.

As stated previously, the movie is visually stunning, from the amazing color contrast of the “Australian” wasteland (shot in Africa) to actually watching REAL cars flip and explode. Sure, there is CGI abound, but it is there to enhance the effects (and create a crazy sandstorm that would make 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol jealous), not replace the real feeling of flipping or blowing up dozens of vehicles. Tom Hardy Mad Max Fury Road Juming Attack

This Mad Max is also the best at world building, from Immortan Joe’s Citadel, to the valley watched over by those with “spiky cars,” mention of “Gas Town,” the former “Green Lands” of the many mothers, and finally that creepy bog with human survivors walking on stilts, almost appearing bird-like in their garb.

The plot is fantastic, though simple on the surface, dialog is sparse but effective, and Tom Hardy rocks the role of Max Rockatansky just as hard (if not harder) than Mel Gibson. Charlize Theron is obviously fantastic as well as the true protagonist of the movie, with Max just along for the ride.

Finally, can we talk of Junkie XL’s score? Amazing on every level: you don’t simply watch Fury Road, you rock out to it. Can’t wait to hear the composer’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice score as well as his recently announced Deadpool music.

Weaknesses: As I find with most films showered with critical acclaim, Mad Max: Fury Road is just not as re-watchable as nearly any other film on the list. It is indeed the highest quality, but it doesn’t offer the same enjoyment and re-watch-ability as the next two movies on my list.


2. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATIONMission Impossible Rogue Nation Tom Cruise Ethan Hunt In a Box

I don’t know how they do it. Mission: Impossible is one of the few franchises getting better by the film, after the terrible M:I – 2. I keep waiting for a stinker, but each M:I film has been better than the last ever since J.J. Abrams saved the franchise with M:I:III.

If the 1st Mission: Impossible had a baby with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and the Usual Suspects had a baby with Edge of Tomorrow (which you may know as Live. Die. Repeat.)… and those babies fucked… you’d have Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. That’s the result of baby fucking. (It’s no surprise the writer/director of Rogue Nation previously wrote both Usual Suspects and Edge of Tomorrow.)

Rogue Nation is the second best film in the franchise, in my opinion, because the 1st film is a Sacred Cow, not unlike Jurassic Park, which can be honored with good sequels, but never outdone.

Highlights: I LOVE that the film hearkens back to the  slower thriller elements of the first Mission: Impossible while simultaneously  combining the action and spectacle one would expect coming off of Brad Bird’s endlessly entertaining Ghost Protocol.tom cruise ethan hunt A400 Airplane stunt mission impossible rogue nation

You got your, “Oh-My-God-I-Can’t-Believe-Tom-Cruise-Did That!” element similar to Ghost Protocol‘s Dubai Tower scene, this time with Tom Cruise attaching himself to an actual A400 airplane and doing 7 full take-offs to get the scene just right. Like George Miller, Tom Cruise feels he owes it to his fans to do as much as he can for real, one of the main reasons the film ranks so high. Though my #1 favorite movie of the summer is a CGI bonanza, I have extreme respect for Rogue Nation‘s attempt to use as little CGI as possible in exchange for stunts like Cruise on a plane, the crazy motorcycle chase, and his underwater adventures for which he did hold his breath for over 3 minutes a take!

Meanwhile, you have a more personal and one could say, smaller scope film that brings back the espionage and thriller elements of the original film. After all, though M:I – 2 through Rogue Nation are action movies, the 1st film is a tight and smaller thriller, with only one full action scene to speak of. Rogue Nation does a little of both. There’s a lot of smaller, yet impossible situations than the Plane Sequence, from the conundrum at the Opera to the personal/not-action-packed finale on the streets of London. A shoot-out closes Rogue Nation, in contrast to the giant action scene that closed out Ghost Protocol.

Now, let’s talk about the new talent on screen! Rebecca Ferguson nearly steals the film from Tom Cruise as the, “Can we trust her?” Femme Fatale. In this more personal film, she is what “The Woman” (Irene Adler) is to Sherlock Holmes; Ethan Hunt’s female equal.Soloman Lane Sean Harris Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is caught in a game of cat-and-mouse with the supremely creepy and soft-spoken Soloman Lane, played by Sean Harris (Prometheus), and his “Syndicate.” What SPECTRE is to 007, the Syndicate is to Hunt, including with Soloman Lane serving as a sort of Moriarty or Blofeld, always one step ahead of the disbanded IMF.

Weaknesses: Well, it’s not as good as the 1st one, but I can’t hold it against Rogue Nation.

Mainly, I just wanted to see more Soloman Lane! He is pulling the strings behind everything, again making Moriarty and apt comparison, but Sean Harris doesn’t have enough scenes to really make his creepy presence known. Though I believe him to be the best villain of the franchise, he is without meaty scenes like Phillip Seymor Hoffman had in M:I:III. Lane’s nasal voice and his creep factor could have been even more effective if we saw more of him!



Chris Pratt Owen Grady Runs from Indominus Rex Jurassic World

There you go! Not the highest quality movie of the summer, only average-to-pure-popcorn-movie if you judge it purely on quality, but God Damn Jurassic World is the most enjoyable movie I watched all summer!

I don’t need to go too far into it, because I’ve written about Jurassic World again and again, including writing an actual review, but the movie delivers everything you want from a Jurassic Park sequel…

A theme park setting! New dinosaurs! Classic Spielbergian elements! Velociraptors devouring people (most important)! T-Rex!… The list goes on and on.

I feel like my other posts about Jurassic World speak for themselves.jurassic world chris pratt owen grady hides from indominus jaws


So, with that, here are the Best Films of 2015!







Great summer, all! Can’t wait to judge me some Holiday blockbusters! SPECTRE and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are on the horizon!

The 6 Best Films of Summer 2015: PART I – No. 6, 5 & 4

We did it! We survived one of the highest grossing summers on record due mostly to Universal Studios hits like Jurassic World, Minions, and Straight Outta Compton. Not that Disney doesn’t deserve credit for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, and Ant-Man.

But this list isn’t about the money grossed, it’s about the quality of films we watched. What were the 6 best films of Summer 2015? According to me…T-Rex Roars Over Jurassic World

Let’s start with my predictions for the whole year. View that article in its entirety or just read this list of my anticipation levels from least excited to complete obsession. Again, there were my predictions based more on enjoyment level, not a list predicting which films would necessarily be best this summer.

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

6. Ant-Man

5. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron


1. Jurassic World

Mad Max Sticks Attack The RigSince this new List only covers Summer 2015 and not the Fall, we can knock Star Wars and SPECTRE off my possibility of choices.

The original list are the titles I thought would be most enjoyable. To be transparent, this new list of the “Best” Movies of Summer 2015 takes into account enjoyably AND quality. If this list were purely based on how much I enjoyed a film, the list would look slightly different.

Let’s start work from sixth favorite to my number one; this post just containing Sixth through Third favorite.

WARNING: SPOILERS Follow for each Film. Skip one if you haven’t seen it and don’t want it spoiled.


6. MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.The Man From UNCLE 60s Heroes

Not a great Guy Ritchie, nor Spy Film, but I had to include it rather because it still deserves a spot on this list, even if it was my 6th favorite movie of the summer and most lists are traditionally out of five.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E film is classy as hell, with tons of Guy Ritchie style more apparent than his more tightly controlled bigger studio franchise, Sherlock Holmes. The “buddy” dynamic between US Agent Solo (Our current Superman,Henry Cavill) and USSR Agent Illya (Armie Hammer!) brings most the humor that is not limited to dialog exchanges, but also humorous action scenes involving the competitive nature or two Spies from different sides of the Cold War.

HIGHLIGHTS: Henry Cavill  continues to nail the role as an American (again, see Man of Steel) with all the added almost overabundance of charm required to be a fantastic play on Sean Connery’s or Roger Moore’s version of James Bond.

Likewise, though they have a Brit playing an American and Armie Hammer playing Russian, Hammer also nails the role, with his aforementioned antics with Cavill’s Solo providing most of the film’s enjoyment.

Just like Kingsman back in February, Man From U.N.C.L.E. also has great classic 60’s 007 references in its locations and over-the-top not-so-secret Spy work of suave Solo.

Man from UNCLE 2WEAKNESSES: The action just isn’t there compared to other 2015 spy films like Kingsman: The Secret Service and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. There’s a decent chase at the end, some fun silly action sequences like the opening car chase, but the action just isn’t as abundant as in a 007 picture, for example.

Likewise, the “turncoat” scene where Gaby (Alicia Vikander) gives up Solo and Illya only to be reveled as a questionable British Agent, is very reminiscent of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

That’s just bad (unlucky) timing for Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The film really feels like a set-up for a wonderful franchise we will never see as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a flop.


5. ANT-MANAnt-Man Vs Yellowjacket Chinese PosterLook, Ant-Man is neither my favorite Marvel movie, nor my least favorite. In an age when Ant-Man is Marvel’s 12th(?… Maybe 11th) movie, that is not a bad thing what-so-ever.

For me, Ant-Man falls in the middle of the pack, higher than The Incredible Hulk, both Thor movies, Iron Man 2, and Captain America: The First Avenger, but lower than movies Iron Man 1 & 3, Captain America: Winter Solider, Guardians of the Galaxy, and both Avengers films.

Highlights:   The cast, to start! Paul Rudd as Scott Lang gives us our most grounded Avenger yet; a father who is kept from his daughter because of a criminal past. Marvel as a Universe is known for down-to-Earth heroes, but Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Capt. are not mortals like Ant-Man (Iron Man technically is mortal, but he has none of the angst that comes with fatherhood). Rudd is one of the most likable Avengers, with his character’s weaknesses yet strength of charm, empathy and comedy.

Let’s not stop there! Of course Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lily as eventual Wasp, Hope van Dyne, don’t disappoint. But, besides Rudd, Ant-Man’s Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket and Michael Pena as Lang’s best friend Luis steal the show.

Michael Douglas as Hank Pym with Corey Stoll as Darren Cross
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym with Corey Stoll as Darren Cross

Stoll combines the classic elements of Norman Osborne’s madness in the original Spider-Man and Obadiah Stane’s suit-envy in Iron Man. Meanwhile, hilarious Michael Pena brings more humor to the film than even funny-man Paul Rudd, reminding me of his favorite role as Seth Rogen’s right-hand security guard in Observe and Report.

Which brings me to Ant-Man‘s next strength… the genre. Lately, Marvel movies have played with mixing different genres with the classic Super Hero story to give their origin stories and the like more originality. Winter Soldier was a 70’s Thriller, Guardians was a Star Wars-esque Space Opera, and Ant-Man is a heist film… complete with a full team… including Michael Pena! (BOOM! Brought it all the way ’round.)

Yet, the tie-ins to Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War are the movies greatest strengths. Nothing like Ant-Man fighting Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and the mention of someone who “can climb walls.”

Humor is the final piece of Ant-Man‘s successful puzzle. My father had no interest in Ant-Man, but I dragged him along and he was shocked by how funny the film is! Like The Guardians of the Galaxy, humor was the only way to make Ant-Man mainstream.

Weaknesses:  Some of Ant-Man is very cookie-cutter Marvel. Sometimes it does feel too much like the 1st Iron Man from the idea of a “suit” as his superpower to the notion that the villain just wants the same tech. In it’s least interesting moments, Ant-Man can feel like an Iron Man clone.


4. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRONAvengers: Age of Ultron Roster

It’s The Avengers Assembled! Again! This time fighting a creation of almost villainous Tony Stark (who does risk the team’s life with the best intentions), Ultron, an artificial intelligence who cannot be destroyed until he is locked out of the net and every drone is blown to bits.

Highlights: A lot of people love to hate this film, but I still think Avengers: Age of Ultron is Marvel Top Five; even better than the 1st film.

Why? Because The Avengers was mainly awesome because of the “Holy Shit! Bruce Banner just met Steve Rogers!” That single shot in the 1st film that flies around New York City, catching every Avenger in action was mind-blowing.

And this film opens with a scene just like that!

Age of Ultron is the stronger film as the plot is more important and fleshed out than the 1st Avengers. Think about it; the 1st film was mainly on the Helicarrier and dealt with simply following Loki around, knowing exactly what he was up to. Age of Ultron doesn’t just offer a more fluid and varied plot crafted for amazing action sequences, but a more personal story that brings out every Avenger’s (except Hawkeye) greatest fears.

Tony Stark’s scene of fear is the most poignant; an alien invasion heading toward Earth while his friends die a rocky-planet with Capt. accusing Stark of not being there to save them. This is an excellent plot device to drive Stark into horrible decisions… like creating artificial intelligence using Loki’s staff… which was also handled by Hydra. It also sets the stage for Avengers: Infinity War where our heroes could very well end up dead on an Alien planet after a failed defense against Thanos.

Finally, we get a lot of Captain America! he has most the screen-time and why not? He’s team leader and his fight with Ultron is Seoul may be a mismatch, but it’s Capt. at his best! Captain America Run Avengers Age of Ultron

Weaknesses: I may like Age of Ultron better than Ant-Man, but it sure has more faults.

Too many characters! You can’t just add three Avengers in the 3rd Act (even though we knew you would…)! One can only hope that the super talented Russo Brothers can balance the sheer amount of Avengers that will exist by the time Avengers: Infinity War comes out.

Ultron is not as cool as he could have been. Right James Spader?

Hawkeye needs some screen-time to make up for The Avengers, and it’s awesome he actually has a family (like Scott Lang), but too much time spent on his farm regardless.


That’s it for Today, folks.

My favorite Summer Movies #3 – #1 is HERE




JURASSIC WORLD Review: This Ain’t Your Childhood’s JURASSIC PARK (But that can be a good thing!)

Perhaps writer/director Colin Trevorrow put it best in a recent article: Jurassic World‘s very story is a commentary on its existence. Universal Execs wanted to revive their 2nd biggest film franchise (it used to be #1 but has been bested by the sheer number of Fast & Furious films); they wanted Jurassic Park again, only bigger, scarier, more action packed. So, Trevorrow made a film about greedy InGen executives wanting something bigger and more dangerous, resulting in Indominus Rex and the popular synopsis for any film: “things go awry.”

Does Jurassic World live up to its real life mirror? Is bigger, scarier, and more action packed, a film gone “awry,” disappointing fans the world over? Or have the Universal Execs outsmarted InGen’s, creating a new monster that is not dangerous to your Jurassic Park loving self?

Owen Grady & Claire & Kids

I am happy to report, that though no film could ever top the intelligence, heart, and magic of 1993’s original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is an incredibly worthy sequel; something The Lost World and Jurassic Park III could never manage.

The best way to sum up the movie is that I saw every scene and location I wanted to see! Indominus Rex wrecking havoc? Check! A little bit o’ T-Rex? Check! (Human) Siblings in peril? Check! Chris Pratt continuing to rock the summer blockbuster? Double Check!!!

Most importantly, are the scariest parts of Jurassic Park, the famed Velociraptors (sometimes in the kitchen), neutered pets for Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to control? Fuck no! This is by far the scariest and most vicious the famed raptors have been since 1993’s trip to Isla Nublar. Velociraptor Jurassic World Review

Jurassic World smartly builds on Jurassic Park with a few fun winks; not so much as to feel like a rehash or a misguided attempt to reference the original as much as possible.

It’s amazing to see that red flares are used to get the attention of the T-Rex to ensure he actually eats the goat at feeding time; Ian Malcolm taught old Rex flares mean tasty treats 22 years ago (it is, indeed, the very same T-Rex that provided the franchise’s best scene when he famously escaped his pen). clair and red flare Jurassic World ReviewThe events of Jurassic Park are also referenced by the Lowery, played brilliantly by Jake Johnson. He wears a Jurassic Park shirt he found on Ebay for $150, which may or may not be in poor taste. He’s a Jurassic Park groupie in the same way Charlie Day played a “Kaiju groupie” in Pacific Rim. And a hero.Jurassic World Jake Johnson

Likewise, contrary to popular theories going into the film, InGen head Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) isn’t a greedy man like John Hammond’s nephew in The Lost World, he is like Hammond himself, reminding us that though Hammond spared no expense (Masrani actually says that very line, crediting Hammond), the Park was always intended the be for everyone, not just for the rich. Masrani believes this should be the fun division of InGen, not necessarily the profitable one.

Of course, other InGen employees tend to disagree, starting with Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), day-to-day park manager who can’t make time to see her two nephews visiting Jurassic World (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) because she is obsessed with creating newer, scarier attractions for the profit of literal sponsorship (her vision is “Verizon Wireless Presents Indominus Rex”). Claire’s own greed puts extra lives at risk, with a scene reminiscent of Jaws featuring Claire refusing to evacuate the park because of the loss in profit and a second where she sends mercenaries/security to track Indominus Rex with non-lethal weaponry, because he is a mulit-million dollar “asset.” Of course, she comes around after the men are all slaughtered and she learns her own nephews are lost in the park. Jurassic World Review Indominus Rex Eats Security

Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are the best kids the JP franchise has seen since Lex and Tim in the original film. They don’t ruin the danger of the movie by beating Velociraptors with gymnastics (The Lost World) or by surviving on an island by themselves for weeks (Jurassic Park III). They are closer to the original archetypes of scared siblings lost in the wild, though there is a moment where they are a little too smart and inventive for their own good.

Speaking of Jurassic Park archetypes, Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady is an interesting mash-up of Allan Grant and Muldoon. He isn’t given a ton to do, acting wise, but he brings life and charm in what could have been an overly stereotypical role. And of course he can handle action scenes like the best of them.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. Skip the next paragraph if ye’ be afraid.

Jurassic World ReviewLike any good Zombie movie, what would a Jurassic Park film be without human villains? (Besides Jurassic Park III which is 100% rotten in my opinion.) Here we seem to have two, Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), the only returning cast member from any Jurassic Park film, and Vincent D’Onofrio (who is on fire this year with Run All Night, JW, Daredevil, and being cast in the remake of Magnificent Seven… with Chris Pratt) as Hoskins. Between the two of them (Hoskins’ exact role is unknown, is he just a military man, or a former military man who seems to run the shady side of the company?), InGen has begun to look more like The Amazing Spider-Man’s Oscorp. Hoskins has a dream of using Velociraptors to hunt down terrorists in caves, while being involved in some sort of hybrid program with Dr. Wu that goes deeper than Indominus Rex and may even be the strand used to build a sequel.


Finally, let’s talk Dinos. You can tell CGI has come a long way in 22 years, from the new level of detail to classic Dinos like Gallimimus and Velociraptors, to the creation of a new dinosaur; Mr. Indominus Rex.Indominus Eye Jurassic World Review

Indominus Rex avoids the pitfalls of the Spinosaurus, Universal’s bright(?) idea for a scarier dinosaur than T-Rex in Jurassic Park III. He’s bigger, smarter, etc, but he’s also… cooler? Is that the best descriptor? He really gets the best of all worlds, with a size bigger than T-Rex, useful arms for slinging humans into trees to kill them, and intelligence that may surpass the Velociraptor… as well as a bunch of other nifty feature I won’t spoil here. He gets all the scenes T-Rex got back in day, crushing a vehicle with kids in it and leaning close to Owen Grady, nostrils flaring and a mouthful of teeth opened just wide enough to get the point across.  Indominus Rex Roar Jurassic World Review

Back to the Raptors… no one could ever hope to top Raptors in the kitchen, or that “Clever Girl” moment, but Jurassic World delivers the best Raptor thrills and scares since the 1st film. It’s great watching Owen train them like dolphins at the beginning, only having to test his Raptor whispering skills when a young paddock worker falls in with the dangerous, intelligent Dinos. But it gets better when greedy Hoskins finally gets what he wants and sets the Raptors free… leading to exactly what you would expect. JurassicWorld_ExtendedFirstLookMINOR MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

Before I wrap up this overly long review, I want to express my excitement about one element of the film I was hoping for going in. A look at the OG Jurassic Park buildings from 1993, reclaimed by the jungles of Isla Nublar. Revisiting the original Visitor Center (no pun intended) was a treat, especially the uncovering of a small part of a film-famous banner and the use of an Original “Jurassic Park” labeled Jeep.

MAJOR 3RD ACT SPOILERS AHEAD. Skip to last paragraph if need be.

The finale is probably the most polarizing part of the film. Some people will love it, others may think it is cheesy. Let’s just say it’s T-Rex and the Raptor named Blue squaring off against Indominus Rex… even with an assist by the aquatic Mosasaurus. The fact these three work together to fight off the “monster” dinosaur that shouldn’t exist, could simply be “Life Finding A Way” (again, though technically all the dinosaurs are unnatural “monsters,” built from Dino AND Frog DNA – among other things) or it could be over-the-top action with little sense. For whatever the reason, just like in Jurassic Park,T-Rex does save the day in an almost Godzilla (2014) way; a monster simply bringing balance to the ecosystem and saving “mankind.” The last scene of the film even has the classic King of the Dinos (well, Queen, all the animals in Jurassic Park were supposed to be female) T-Rex, roaring over his domain of Isla Nublar from on high. Still, since the T-Rex only appears in the 3rd act (mostly…mostly), he remains a letdown, no scenes to rival the first film or even Lost World. At least his neck isn’t broken by a Spinosaurus in the 1st act like Jurassic Park III… * Shudder*


Like 99% of sequels, Jurassic World has moments that make you cringe or upset you because it doesn’t play close enough to the original film. But, overall, it is a fantastic film, not disappointing this Jurassic Park mega-fan (JP is in my top 5 favorite movies and JW is my most anticipated movie of the year), becoming the best Jurassic Park sequel to date (you know they want to make another, especially with the one loose thread involving Hoskins and Dr. Wu’s secret work), delivering every scene and dinosaur scare I expected to see.