Archive for the ‘At The Movies’ Category

I’ll be honest. I was never that big on Kick-Ass from the beginning. I never read the graphic novel so I knew nothing of the story about real life superheroes. Was I interested in the movie? Sure I was, but when I went to see it I went in with very low expectations. I thought the movie was going to suck, and early on my theories were somewhat correct. Then there was that moment when the foul mouthed Hit-Girl showed up on the scene, and kicked the shit out of everyone to the theme of the Banana Splits. From that moment on I had a big smile on my face, and my excitement level towards the movie continued to increase. The movie may have been called Kick-Ass, but it was Hit-Girl that stole the show. Now the sequel has finally arrived, but this time my expectations were at an all-time high. The good news is that Kick-Ass 2 didn’t disappoint.

While the first Kick-Ass dealt with the possibilities of being a real life superhero, Kick-Ass 2 became more about the consequences of those actions. Dave Lizewski’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) actions as the hero Kick-Ass has become the inspiration for many others to dress up, and take to the streets as superheroes. Mindy Macready, aka Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz), was forced to retire from the superhero game, and live the civilian life as a teenager where she finds a new challenge. High school, and a Mean Girls inspired clique. As for Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), well he wanted revenge for the death of his father. How does he get that revenge? He decides to become the world’s first super villain known as The Mother Fucker, and hires his own “Legion of Doom” to reign down death and destruction.

With Dave unable to cope with life outside of being Kick-Ass, he finds a group of others just like him called Justice Forever led by Colonel Stars and Stripes played by Jim Carrey. While Carrey might be against violence (which is the reason he’s not promoting this movie), he was fantastic in his role as he owned every scene he was in. Donald Faison was also fun in his role as Dr. Gravity with his signature baseball bat weapon. Kick-Ass also has a new love interest as he gets it on with his new girlfriend Night Bitch, played by Lindy Booth. Those roles were notable, but there was one person who really stole the show, and that was Mother Russia played by Olga Kurkulina. She was the most dominant of all the villains especially when she showed off her deadly skills by killing ten cops in one over the top sequence.

Unlike the graphic novel, I felt like Kick-Ass 2 was holding back on a lot of the original source material that the movie was based on. I can understand that, because some of the more graphic details are not here or they were altered so that the movie going public wouldn’t be turned off or offended by it. This also leads to the one problem that I had with Kick-Ass 2. This movie was trying too hard to top what was done in the original. For example, the shock and awe of the potty-mouthed Hit-Girl shtick has worn on off audiences, so they’re not going to say “Hey, remember that scene where Hit-Girl…” However, she does have one awesome scene as Mindy where she gets her revenge on the clique which will have audiences laughing hysterically. The only other issue that I have is that while the movie is called Kick-Ass, I still feel like Kick-Ass’ character takes a back seat to everyone else.

Now I know that the critics are panning this movie in a big way, but Kick-Ass 2 is not as bad as what they’re saying. These critics just don’t understand what makes this movie so entertaining. It’s not perfect, but Kick-Ass 2 has it’s moments that had me laughing as well as it’s “kick ass” moments especially in the final fight scene with Kick-Ass battling The Mother Fucker and Hit-Girl fighting Mother Russia. Kick-Ass 2 didn’t fulfill the very high expectations that I had, but I still thought it was a good movie. Just don’t expect anything better than the shocking original. Oh, and make sure you stick around after the credits for an extra scene which leaves open the possibility of a Kick-Ass 3.

When I saw Neill Blomkamp’s big screen feature debut with District 9 I wasn’t sold right away. I don’t know why, but it took multiple views for me to finally appreciate the vision that he brought to the table. Blomkamp presented a sci-fi masterpiece that centered around the issues of segregation with humans and aliens. The film also introduced me to a new actor in Sharlto Copley who was phenomenal. Since the success of District 9 I haven’t heard much from Blomkamp until now with the release of Elysium. After seeing the film, I can tell you that Blomkamp has once again struck gold with a solid sci-fi action movie featuring strong ties around the issue of health care.

Elysium takes place in the year 2154. Earth is now nothing more than a poverty stricken wasteland filled with overpopulation and disease. While the people of Earth struggle for a way to survive, the wealthiest citizens have fled the planet to a new home. Elysium. An orbiting citadel where the rich are living in a peaceful lap of luxury. Basically Elysium is a paradise, and the people of Earth will do just about anything to get there. Why? Well that’s because it’s more than an escape from the horrors of Earth. Elysium also has a machine that eliminates all illnesses from the human body including cancer.

Matt Damon stars as Max DeCosta who unfortunately receives a lethal dose of radiation while on the job. With only five days left to live his only choice is to do whatever it takes to get to Elysium. What happens from that point forward helps solidify Damon as an major action superstar. Sure he was great in the Bourne trilogy, but it’s what transpires in Elysium that helps put that consideration over the top. Jodie Foster also stars as Elysium’s Secretary of Defense Delacort, but her role probably could’ve been played by anyone since her performance is somewhat notable but forgettable at the very least. The same can also be said about Alice Braga who plays DeCosta’s childhood friend Frey.

While Matt Damon is the star it was Sharlto Copley who is reunited with director Neill Blomkamp who literally stole the show. Copley plays the psychotic villain Agent Kruger who’s out to stop DeCosta (Damon) from reaching Elysium. Once Delacort (Foster) gave the command “Activate Kruger” I knew that it was time for the action to pick up to a frantic pace with some cool weapons and battle sequences. Copley is great in this film as he literally stands out in every scene that he is in with his attitude and delivery. What really amazes me is the overall range that Copley has in the roles that he plays. How come this guy doesn’t have more roles in Hollywood?

Where Elysium truly shines would have to be when I saw how both sides lived their daily lives. The deplorable conditions featured on Earth made everything believable describing a world in shambles while Elysium showed a world of brilliance and perfection. Other than the life saving health machine I could really see why the citizens of Earth really wanted to get there for a better life. I also enjoyed all the action with fight scenes from Damon and Copley even if at times the fights moved so fast that the screen couldn’t seem to catch up, but this is only a minor gripe. I’m sure my HDTV will do much better when I get the Blu-ray.

No need for multiple viewings to get the film’s message. Elysium sold me from the trailers, and the end result was sheer amazement. The film is a great blend of sci-fi and action with great pacing as well as great acting from both Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley. Neill Blomkamp now has two successful films under his belt and will hopefully receive more director jobs on future. Now that he has conquered the themes of segregation and health care I wonder what he’s capable of doing next. A live action Halo movie? One can only hope.

“Today. At the edge of our hope. At the end of our time. We have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other.
Today there is not a man or woman in here that shall stand alone. Not today.
Today we face the monsters that are at our door, and bring the fight to them.
Today we are canceling the apocalypse!”   – Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba)

Take one part Sons of Anarchy. Mix it with the guy from Prometheus, and add in a touch of GLaDOS from the Portal series. Put it all together and what you get is Pacific Rim, or better yet one of the most badass movies ever conceived for the big screen. It’s like Godzilla for a new generation. An over the top mix of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Voltron, and the 1990 movie Robot Jox. It’s giant robot mechs versus giant monsters battling it out on a global stage. Basically it’s the perfect summer popcorn movie filled with two and a half hours of awesomeness that I didn’t want to end. I want more!

From the opening moments of the movie all the way to it’s climactic ending I was treated with what Pacific Rim is all about. Robots and monsters duking it out in a battle of supremacy. These monsters (known as Kaiju) are out to ravage the world. In order to fight the monsters, the people of Earth cast their differences aside and created monsters of their own called Jaegers. Each country had their own unique Jaeger each with their own abilities. The only similarity was that each robot was controlled by two human pilots with their brains neurally linked to one another making the perfect fighting machine.

Charlie Hunnam stars as the pilot of America’s Jaeger Gipsy Danger. After losing his brother in a previous battle against a Kaiju he’s hit rock bottom only to come back again when commanding officer Stacker Pentecost, played by Idris Elba, recruits him for an important mission. Both actors did a great job in their roles. However it was Elba’s big apocalypse canceling speech along with a “Tyler Durden” like moment that will be remembered most. Rounding out the cast in notable performances included Rinko Kikuchi as a rookie pilot named Mako, Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as a pair of fast talking and yet “campy” scientists on the Kaiju, and Ron Perlman as a black market Kaiju organ dealer named Hannibal Chau. Perlman’s character was a bit short lived, but did feature a Samuel L. Jackson Deep Blue Sea moment that had me laughing.

While the actors were serviceable in their roles it was however the Jaeger vs. Kaiju combat that were the real stars here. Director Guillermo Del Toro really focuses in on the combat making each battle feel intense unlike Michael Bay’s work with the Transformers movies where each battle was filled with chaos making it hard to pay attention to what was really going on. Battles were long and satisfying no matter what the outcome was. Del Toro also captured the sheer sense of size as these humongous warriors went into battle. I also really liked how the Jaegers would use more than just conventional weaponry and use items like trailers for punching and even a freighter which was used like a baseball bat to a Kaiju’s head. Awesome!

Pacific Rim is the type of popcorn flick that I’ve always been waiting for. From the first battle to the last I had a smile on my face from each punch and death blow delivered. There was a slow moment here and there, but just when I thought things would slow to a crawl another battle took place and my adrenaline was pumping once again. Pacific Rim as a whole is the blueprint to what all summer movies should be instead of milking the cow and cashing in with multiple sequels. After experiencing this robot vs. monster masterpiece on the big screen I can definitely see Pacific Rim on my blu-ray shelf this holiday season.

It’s quite amazing to see the success that Despicable Me has generated since it’s 2010 release. Steve Carell has become a huge star, the minions are everywhere from toys to advertising, and there’s a fun 3-D attraction at Universal Studios. With the big wigs seeing mega dollar signs, and boogie fever, it was no surprise that a sequel was coming. Part of me wondered what they could possibly do to top the original movie. Well Despicable Me 2 is finally here and once again Gru is “back in the game baby,” because when the world needs a hero there’s no better person to call upon then one of it’s greatest villains. Oh, and let’s not forget about all those cute, lovable, and often hilarious minions.

Despicable Me 2 shows a new side to the once villainous Gru. He’s now grown into his new role…a loving father. However, villainy still exists in the world, and the Anti Villain League recruits Gru to save the world. While Gru turns down the offer at first he eventually realizes that he misses all the action from when he was the bad guy so he obviously reconsiders. In between all the spy action Margo, Edith, and Agnes hatch a plan of their own where they want Gru to enter the dating scene, because they want a mother. As for the minions, well they just want to have fun. Bananas. Ice cream. I think you know where I’m going with this.

While the trailers gave away a good portion of the movie, the one thing they didn’t reveal was who exactly was the villain. Enter El Macho played by Al Pacino…scratch that I mean Benjamin Bratt. Pacino unfortunately backed out of the role due to creative differences. Taking on the persona of a Mexican Luchadore, El Macho had a plan which involved kidnapping Gru’s minions and turning them into indestructible purple monsters all for the purpose of world domination. Bratt did a very respectable job as the villainous El Macho even though part of me really wanted Al Pacino doing the voice acting in the role.

Just like the original, it’s the minions who once again steal the show. While the first movie featured them mainly as comic relief, the minions are now an integral part of the story and play a key role all while still tickling the funny bone of the audience. Sure there’s still a cheap gag or two by the mischievous bunch from the beginning of the movie through the ending credits, but I couldn’t help but laugh at all the punches, ridiculous outfits, purple monsters, and their gibberish language. Overall, the minions are awesome, and I just can’t imagine what these movies would’ve been like without them.

Spy games, minion mayhem, a typical love story plot seen many times, and family fun for all ages. What’s not to like about Despicable Me 2? It’s a fun summer movie. Steve Carell once again nails it as Gru, Kristen Wiig was fun as Gru’s eventual love interest Agent Lucy Wilde, and Miranda Cosgrove showed that she’s more than just iCarly as Margo. Despicable Me (along with movies like Toy Story, Monsters Inc, and Wreck-It-Ralph) proves that animated movies are not just for kids. Despicable Me 2 is definitely a blu-ray purchase for me joining the fun-filled original on my movie shelf.

After the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy it was only fitting to see the return of Superman to the big screen. While Brian Singer’s attempt at bringing back the Christopher Reeve version of the “Man of Steel” in Superman Returns fell just short of a colossal failure, Nolan felt that going the route of a reboot was necessary. He brought on Zack Snyder, of 300 fame, as the director and David S. Goyer to write the script. The end result was a film for the ages and a glorious return of Superman.

At first I was a little skeptical that the film would succeed. The only theories I had to back this up were the last three Superman movies. Then as Man of Steel started I was whisked away once again to Krypton, and that’s where the nostalgia kicked in. Seeing Russell Crowe taking on the legendary role of Superman’s father Jor-El was special, and seeing him fight General Zod to defend his son felt like a Gladiator moment. Michael Shannon, whom I enjoyed seeing in Boardwalk Empire and The Iceman, really took the role of General Zod to new heights. I enjoyed seeing the conflict between these two characters just as much as when the roles were filled by the legendary Marlon Brando and Terence Stamp respectively in the original movie.

While the supporting cast was brilliant, the big question centered around Superman himself. Henry Cavill had some big shoes to fill. The shadow of Christopher Reeve loomed too large for Brandon Routh to succeed in the role in Superman Returns. Cavill however had a clean slate, although there was still plenty of pressure that came with donning the suit and cape. Cavill nailed it! He was fantastic as he brought a new perspective to the character. I could feel his conflict about keeping his secret along with wanting to come out and tell the world that he’s Superman. Also his relationship with Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams (excellent casting by the way), was handled much better. I’m perfectly alright with Lane knowing that Clark Kent is Superman. It just feels more real, and also makes for some great storytelling.

So what did I enjoy about Man of Steel? Well for one thing they made Superman feel more like Superman. No more holding back just how powerful “The Last Son of Krypton” really is. Seeing Superman learn to fly and eventually break the sound barrier was awesome. He even threw punches showing how strong he was. Heat vision was badass. However, the best part was his end battle with General Zod. Absolutely fantastic! As for the supporting cast, Lois Lane was empowering. Seeing her now have to keep Superman’s secret makes for a complete role reversal. The relationship with Clark Kent’s parents felt more central to the core story via flashbacks bringing more emotion that what was sorely lacking in the original movie. Let me also add that Antje Traue was outstanding, and literally stole the show as Sub-Commander Faora.

Man of Steel is a solid reboot for the Superman franchise. It’s a well done origin story along with superb acting by the cast. With Nolan producing and Snyder at the helm the future is looking really good. However, the big question would have to be who will Superman battle next? I’d love to see Lex Luthor who can become the arch nemesis like The Joker was in The Dark Knight. Then again I can also see characters including Braniac who’s presence is quite demanded by fans on the big screen as well as Doomsday to bring in a “Death of Superman” type of film. No matter what happens expectations from fans like myself will be at an all-time high, but I’m sure the team can deliver. For now I’m just happy to see Superman back where he belongs once again.

With the release of Monsters Inc. Pixar proved that they were more than just a one trick pony with the resounding success of Toy Story. Monsters Inc. wasn’t just a movie for kids. Adults like me loved it as well. It was a brilliant movie filled with well paced humor along with a heartfelt story. Now Pixar felt that it was time to head back. Back to the day when Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan first met. College! Welcome to Monsters University where monsters truly learn how to scare along with doing all the other things that college is known for.

Monsters University has a lot in common with movies including The Internship and Revenge of the Nerds. It’s your typical underdog movie where a group of outcasts find a way to win despite overwhelming odds. Nothing special. Hollywood has been making these type of movies for decades. These types of movies are quite predictable making the outcome rather unentertaining, however Monsters University finds ways to keep the pace going with good humor as well as a nod or two to the original movie making me say “Hey, I remember that.”

One thing that really bothers me, especially with prequels, is when certain details are not apparently accurate according to the original movie. The Star Wars prequels had some pretty noticeable inaccuracies making the prequels conflict with the original trilogy. There is a minor inference here in Monsters University dealing with how Mike and Sully first met. In Monsters University, we are led to believe that Mike and Sully first met in college, however in Monsters Inc. it is said that they’ve known each other since the fourth grade. C’mon Pixar, you need to check your source material. Even though this is a minor nitpicking there was no need to get lazy and pull a George Lucas.

While some moments in Monsters University are rather predictable there is a moment where the movie really shines. This would be around the last 20-30 minutes. These ending moments go away from the underdog story and focus in on the friendship of the two main characters as they come to grips with reality. This is where the heartfelt moments really kick in as well as a great scene while in one of the magical doors where they both find themselves in a big jam. Of course there’s also a cameo appearance by a popular Monsters Inc. character that’s “always watching.”

Overall, Monsters University is a blast for all ages. The movie is geared more towards the kids, but adults will still find plenty of humor and nostalgic references towards Monsters Inc. The chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman is fantastic. Steve Buscemi also does a great job once again as Randall. As a fan of the first movie, I found Monsters University enjoyable even though it’s not as good as the thrilling original. With that said I still plan to purchase Monsters University on blu-ray.

I remember how magical the world of Middle Earth was to me when I first dipped into the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy. A world filled with many races all entangled in an epic battle of good and evil. When the One Ring was finally destroyed in the fires of Mount Doom, and the the elves, Gandalf, Bilbo, and Frodo left Middle Earth forever I had a moment of sadness. The Lord of the Rings was over. Years of my life involved in what was an amazing story has come to pass. Now over seven years later director Peter Jackson has brought me back to the world of Tolkien’s masterpiece with a new prequel trilogy, The Hobbit.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first part of a three part prequel trilogy based on the story of Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo (Martin Freeman) is recruited by Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to accompany a group of thirteen dwarves on an adventure to reclaim a treasure they lost to Smaug the Dragon in the Lonely Mountain. While Hobbits don’t necessarily appreciate the mere thought of adventure, Bilbo would eventually take part in the biggest adventure of his life. An unexpected adventure where he will eventually come to pass with something “precious” that every Lord of the Rings fan knows all about. Just keep in mind that the finding of this “precious” item is just a side story to a much grander adventure.

Now when it comes to The Hobbit, most people will try to compare it to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sure it has some similarities, but comparing both of them will be like comparing apples to oranges. You just can’t do it. J.R.R. Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit as a children’s book. The Lord of the Rings trilogy however was for more of a grown up audience. Peter Jackson’s vision for The Hobbit is no children’s story. The same Middle Earth I knew from The Lord of the Rings trilogy is here once again except this time there’s more CGI than ever before. In a way that takes away a bit of the magic of the previous films, but I’m not going to make a big deal about that.

One big similarity is the fact that it seems that The Hobbit is presenting me with an all new sort of Fellowship. Basically this new crew consists of Gandalf, Bilbo, twelve Gimlis and an Aragorn wannabe. Sure it’s not the Fellowship that I’m familiar with from The Lord of the Rings, but they do have their moments which I’m alright with. Of all the dwarves, it’s the leader Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) that stands out the most. He’s the badass of the group with rugged looks and his ass kicking fighting ability. While Thorin is no Aragorn he is very likable and the type of character I would want watching my back if I had to go into battle. As for the other dwarves…well they’re quite forgettable.

The Hobbit also features quite a few faces that I remember from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Back for this adventure include Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Saruman (Christopher Lee), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving). older Bilbo (Ian Holm), Frodo (Elijah Wood), and Gollum (Andy Serkis). I must praise the performance of Ian McKellen because he once again nails the role of Gandalf the Grey. He is also a complete badass during the battle sequences. I also have to once again commend the performance of Andy Serkis as Gollum. I really enjoyed Gollum in the trilogy, and seeing him again in The Hobbit was amazing. His scenes and riddles with Bilbo made me both happy and a little sad at the same time, because I knew after this film I won’t see Gollum on the big screen ever again.

While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an amazing adventure there is something that holds it back. Length. Not in terms of the film itself, but the fact that Peter Jackson is making this one book into a trilogy. That’s a little much considering the fact that now some scenes will be extended a little longer than expected. This is noticeable in the opening hour of the film as it seems to drag on for awhile before the action begins to pick up in the second half. There was a moment where I swear that I heard a snore or two in the theater during the Shire sequences only to be woken up again when the soundtrack got a little louder and the action kicked in. Sadly, I feel like there will be more of this in the upcoming films as well.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a welcome return to the world of Middle Earth. Seeing Bilbo’s adventures and how the events of The Lord of the Rings will begin is pretty cool. The acting is wonderful even though some of the CGI moments in the battles are highly noticeable. Just a piece of advice: watch the movie in 24 frames per second because it just feels right. Peter Jackson did make the movie for 48 frames per second, but from what I’ve heard from some moviegoers is that it didn’t feel the same. Maybe the movie going audience is just not ready for the future yet. Good thing I watched it the way I’m used to. Overall, this is a film meant for the fans. For everyone else you might want to consider a rental on Blu-Ray.