Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Star Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Wait! Where’s Jar-Jar?

Many years has gone by since the events of Return of the Jedi, and well, a lot has happened. For one, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), has gone into some sort of hiding, leaving many people to wonder where he is and also, try desperately to find him. Also, the Empire has finally, once and for all, shattered and fallen apart, but that isn’t to say that evil forces in the galaxy are over and done with; now, rising from the ashes, is called the First Order, led by a ruthless, powerful and evil baddie named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). But have no fear, kind citizens, as the Resistance still exists, however, they’re doing what they’ve always done: Fight the evil-doers and leave it at that. However, in order to defeat the baddies, the Resistance needs to find a small droid who is carrying a secret map to Skywalker, which just so happens to be by the side of a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Along the way, Rey meets Finn (Jon Boyega), a former storm trooper for the First Order who has decided to defect and do whatever he can to stay alive and safe from the evil, harmful ways of the so-called bad allegiance.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

Now, it’s hard for me to fully review/write about the Force Awakens without really bringing anything new to the table; for silly reasons, I wasn’t able to see the movie for nearly a week, which left plenty of time for people to commit all sorts of chatter about it. Mostly, it’s all been good and fine, but there are the occasional bad apples in the bunch who don’t like what they see and because they have an opinion that doesn’t fully agree with the rest of the consensus, they’re attacked, made fools of, and seen as members of “the no-fun police”. Granted, it is Star Wars, a very beloved and adored franchise, but still, it’s also a movie, and by that same token, it should be approached as any movie ever made.

Which is to say that yes, the Force Awakens is a good movie. Not great, but good. Don’t kill me, please. Just bear with me and we’ll see if we’re still friends by the end of it, okay?

Good. Let’s get to it!

No matter what’s said about any of the problems within the Force Awakens, there’s no denying the fact that co-writer/director J.J. Abrams deserves every bit of respect. First off, he took on the challenge of making another Star Wars film, which also just so happened to come out after he was working on making the Star Trek movies. Clearly, he has an affection for this kind of sci-fi geekery and because of that, he gives each and every fan from every background, something to cherish and hold onto. There’s plenty of callbacks here, most of which are well-done, and because of that, it makes it obvious, even from the very start, that Abrams cares, isn’t trying to keep this all for himself, and wants to share his love and appreciation for this galaxy, just as much as every other fan does, too.

That said, the problem with the Force Awakens is that, for one, it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s one that constantly feels the need to callback and reference the original ones. Which is, yes, fine for a punchline or two, but the references, similarities, or comparisons don’t just begin and end with the humor – it’s everywhere from the plot, to the character-development, to even the action itself. While this isn’t a spoiler really, it still goes to show the kind of disappointment that can be had when one realizes that the story-line here, starts the same, continues on the same, and almost comes close to ending, nearly the same way as A New Hope.

This is especially a problem because, well, Abrams and his band of trusted confidantes clearly had so much to work with at their disposal and well, to see them hark back to the story-lines of yesteryear, almost feels like a waste.

Why does, ultimately, the movie have to come down to it being a battle between two sides? Better yet, why does it have to be hinting at some sort of family-drama? And while I’m at it, do we really need to keep on developing Han Solo, Leia, and Chewie? Can’t we just have them around to do their things, in a way to allow for the new, probably more important characters take over, do their things, and give us reasons to actually give a flyin’ hoot about their part in this story? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that Abrams decided to include Solo, or Leia, or Chewie, or anybody else from the old trilogy, all over again and show us all that they’re still alive, well, and doing what they’ve always done, but a tad too much time is dedicated to them, and not enough time is given to these newer ones who are supposed to be the leading stars of this new franchise.

Either way, it was nice to see Harrison Ford actually give a damn in a movie again, but it was even sweeter to see him playing as Han Solo all over again. Rather than seeming annoying and shticky, Ford wears this role like a glove that any line of wit he delivers, feels like a genuine reaction someone as wild and cool as he would deliver on. Carrie Fisher didn’t really get a chance to do much as Leia, except for numerous reaction-shots, but it was still nice to see her and Ford, on the screen again, clearly still having feelings for one another, but also realizing that a lot has changed, time has moved on, and well, they’re old.

As for Luke? Well, I’ll leave that up in the air.

But like I said before, not all of the Force Awakens is bad. For a movie that runs a tad over two-hours-and-ten minutes, it’s a surprisingly quick and exciting movie that hardly ever feels like it’s slowing down or not going somewhere. One of the main issues with the prequels is that we all knew where they were headed towards, however, they took so damn long to get there; here, while we don’t necessarily know where they’re heading, we’re still on-board, seeing just where Abrams takes the story next, and how he does it all. That Abrams takes familiar situations and plot-points that we’ve seen already highlighted in the earlier movies, but also turns them on their side slightly and shows them in a new light, adds a nice touch that only someone as smart as Abrams could deliver on.

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry's face!

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry’s face!

Cause I know that a lot of what I’m saying here makes it seem like Abrams missed the ball and ruined the Star Wars franchise, because he really did not. He sets everything up in a solid enough manner that it makes me all sorts of ready and anticipated for what’s to come next (in Rian Johnson’s movie, that is), while also not forgetting to keep enough going on in this story, that it doesn’t just feel like unnecessary filler. Stuff happens, is learned and made clear to us in the Force Awakens, and while plenty is left open and ready to be discussed in the upcoming films, there’s still that great feeling of knowing that yes, Star Wars is finally back in our lives and it’s actually in the hands of people capable of being trusted.

And I’m not just talking about Abrams, either, I’m also talking about the surprisingly great cast. Even though there’s no real big names among the young cast that will get the non-conformist’s butts into the seats, that doesn’t matter because they’re all still worthy of checking out and getting invested in, even if it can sometimes feel like the script isn’t giving them a whole lot to roll with or develop.

Daisy Ridley comes absolutely out of nowhere here as Rey and is a total star.

First of all, she’s got a crap-ton of charisma. Though she’s a female character, who also seems to be taking the role of one that would have been made for a man, the movie doesn’t make a point of this; it turns out that Rey, having been on her own for almost her whole life, is just a bad-ass chick that can take care of herself, regardless of what situation comes into her way. Sure, there’s one too many obstacles that she works out too simply or quickly, but hey, the fact that she’s a fun, but compelling presence on the screen, without being pushy or annoying about it, makes her more watchable and fun to stand behind.

Jon Boyega who, granted, already had a nice role in Attack the Block, does a fine job as Finn – someone who gets plenty of development and helps him and his cause more believable. Finn’s characterization is made out to be more of that he’s just a simple, everyday guy who doesn’t want to kill people for senseless reasons, but instead, wants to just be happy and live a normal life, but Boyega also makes him funny and charming, which doesn’t seem like something the script seems to always be calling out for. Rey and Finn’s relationship, whether it be anything more than just pals right now or not, is sweet enough that it tugs at the heartstrings a bit, but also not too developed to where we’re tired of seeing them together and get it already.

But really, it’s Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who I can’t seem to get enough of. Granted, I love Driver already, but his casting as Ren, while initially, a bit strange, ends up totally working when you see it actually play-out. For one, Driver’s physical presence is demanding and intimidating, but he’s also really interesting to listen to, even when it seems like he’s just delivering “bad-guy dialogue”. Ren may appear to be a total and absolute bad-ass who can stop lasers in thin-air with the force, as well as be able to choke people from across the room, but he also appears to be a bit of whiny brat, who may not deserve all of this power and respect that’s at his disposal. We soon learn more about his backstory and why he matters throughout, but what should be said now is this: Driver’s good in the role and if anything, he makes me want to see more about Ren as well as the rest of the First Order.

As for others like Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, and Gwendoline Christie, and their characters? Well, that’s for the next movies to discuss.

Until then, we’ll just wait and see.

Consensus: The Force Awakens may be too familiar and easy for its own good, but is still an exciting, well-acted, interesting, and rather funny adventure back into a galaxy that we’ve been missing for so long, and can’t wait to see what happens with it next.

8 / 10

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies.

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies. BB-8 has arrived.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Apparently, we needed more fluffy creatures.

After he lost his hand and found out just exactly who his daddy is, Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewie (Peter Mayhew), and of course, the rest of the gang get together in hopes of saving the now-frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the lair of notorious crime boss Jabba the Hutt, who now has him set-up as a set decoration of sorts. Mostly though, what the gang is looking to achieve here is that they’re able to get the Rebel Alliance all back together so that they can make one final push to take down the Empire once and for all. Issue is, the Sith is stronger than ever and, for the moment, seems as if they’re not afraid of a challenge. However, because Luke feels as if the force is strongest with him than ever before, he’s extra determined to take on the Sith, even if that does also mean he’ll have to take down his own father – someone he’s trying to connect with and change back to the bright side, but also knows that it may be a lost cause.

Meanwhile, Ewoks show up.

A goner, he is.

A goner, he is.

One of the main issues with finales in a series, is that they tend not to live up to everybody’s expectations. This is especially true in the case of Return of the Jedi, which, not only had the huge expectation of being a Star Wars movie, but also had to follow up both A New Hope, as well as the Empire Strikes Back. If anything, the odds were totally stacked against Return of the Jedi and well, needless to say, the wall sort of came tumbling down on it.

For one, Lucas’ writing, if anything, seems lazy here. Perhaps for the first half-hour or so, we spend watching what happens in Jabba’s little club of sorts and instead of feeling like a necessary bit of scenery that’s interesting to see, it just feels over-done, drawn-out, and most importantly, an excuse for Lucas to give us more odd-looking creatures that kiddies can soon buy the toys of not too long after watching. Of course, Jabba is a terribly disgusting and vile creature, but Lucas only seems interested in just how dirty he is, and that’s about it. The first sequence of this flick could have easily been chopped-down to at least 15 minutes, but instead, Lucas continues to go on and on with this and it seems to suck out a good portion of the movie’s energy.

Then, in come the Ewoks.

Granted, when I was younger, watching the Ewoks waddle around, speak in their funny gibberish, and be so fluffy and hairy that you wonder how they look on your wall, that I couldn’t help but love them. Nowadays, I still feel the same, but at the same time, realize that they’re what does in Return of the Jedi. If anything, the Ewoks are, tonally, out-of-place; they’re cute, goofy, and perfect for little kids to point at and adore. However, the rest of the movie, as it seems to be, is actually pretty dark and epic, therefore, the movie as a whole feels like a bit of a mess. One second, we’ll be watching the Ewoks tie clones up in the house-sized nets, the next, we’ll be watching as Luke and Vader battle one another.

Clearly, Lucas was solely trying to sell merchandise here, and while there’s no problem with that in the long run of things, it helps to make people wonder just where his head was for this final flick? Was he trying to close everything up in a neat, little bow-tie? Or, was he just trying to wait around and see when the paycheck comes in? Whatever the truth may be, either way, something still doesn’t sit right for about a good portion of this movie and it’s all the more disappointing that, for mostly everybody at the time, this was the ultimate flick to end the original franchise.

Fathers: Can't trust 'em for anything.

Fathers: Can’t trust ’em for anything.

After this, there was supposed to be nothing else. So why go out on such a tame note?

Either way, Return of the Jedi isn’t as bad as people make it out to be – but at the same time, it still doesn’t feel like a whole lot of effort on Lucas’ part was given. The final battle between Luke and Vader is pretty awesome, the speeder chase scene still works, and yeah, watching as Han takes out baddies, is more than welcome by this point, but still, there’s something missing here that made it all work to begin with. There’s not enough heart and soul with this story, these characters, or just what this universe means. We know that the Death Star is bad, but really, that’s all we need to know and/or get to know.

And of course, everyone in Return of the Jedi feels as if they’re going through the motions again, but also don’t really benefit from a worthwhile script make them work harder and harder. Hamill’s Luke is a bit too serious now; Leia is nothing more than a sexy, objectified object for everyone to point and stare at; Solo doesn’t have much of anything witty or fun to say, so he just sort of coasts around this movie; and yeah, of course Vader is still freaky and evil.

But really, when was he not?

If anything, what Return of the Jedi proves perhaps best about Lucas is that, when push doesn’t come to shove, he could really care less. He’s happy to write anything down, give it a try and wait till the movie’s themselves all hit number 1. Not bad for a businessman, but this is the same guy most people trust with their childhood.

And how dare he let them down.

Consensus: By far the weakest of the original franchise, Return of the Jedi finds Lucas in too much of a comfort-zone and keeps the final installment, from being the most epic, memorable and exciting.

5.5 / 10

The gang's back together and clearly more bored than ever!

The gang’s back together and clearly more bored than ever!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Everyone’s got daddy issues.

After a few years have passed, we pick up back in the Galaxy that is still, yes, far, far away, and now has Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) along with the rest of the Dark Side searching far and wide for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and and the rest of the motley crew Luke has been aligning himself with. Which means, yes, people like Han (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) are all still together, joined up with the rebels and trying to fight the good cause. However, everything turns South for the Rebel Alliance and everyone involved finds themselves left heading for the hills and looking for any refuge. Meanwhile, Luke gets stuck in a dirty, disgusting and grimy swamp that just so happens to have a little green friend of his that he may not know he needs, but will soon start to learn and understand just about everything a Jedi should know by him.

Yeah, I’m talking about Yoda (Frank Oz), in case I didn’t make that a bit clear by now.

Empire1

“Something holding you down, you feel?”

The Empire Strikes Back is where everything in the Star Wars universe gets very, very real. And is the case with most sequels, all the Empire Strikes Back has to do here is keep the story moving on, but never really feel the need to tie-up any loose-ends, either – in other words, everyone involved had a pretty easy task to just keep the story moving in a fun, entertaining manner for all of the fans to go crazy for. However, there’s a little something here.

For one, this movie’s just chock full of darkness that you hardly see coming. While with A New Hope, there were a few surprises in the way of emotionally-compelling moments, here, everything feels as if it was made to test out just how much you felt for these characters, the galaxy in which they live in, and realized just the kind of circumstances that were being fought for here. Which is to say that yes, it’s very hard not to get wrapped-up all in what the Empire Strikes Back does; even though he didn’t direct it, George Lucas’ inspiration is still felt through just about each and every frame.

Sure, we still get the little witty lines in between the havoc and violence, but they’re more or less pushed to the side here so that we can get more duking it out between skilled-fighters and tense moments that put the audience in a tail-spin of not knowing what to expect. You could say that maybe it’s a bit ridiculous to think that Lucas would have such the guts to kill-off a major character of this series in only the second movie, but honestly, while watching it, you’ll hardly ever think about that. You’ll just have that feeling that anything can happen because, well, Lucas’ universe says so.

That’s perhaps what’s missing from each and every other Star Wars flick, and it’s what keeps the Empire Strikes Back exciting.

But like I said, there’s of course more going on here than just a bunch of wild and crazy fun – there’s actually a solid amount of heart here that makes it hit harder. All of the scenes including Yoda and Luke, while getting off to a bit of a shaky start, work perfectly together as they’re not just a tad goofy and playful, but also, honest and sincere. In order for Luke to man up and become something of a better Jedi, he has to make his own self more disciplined and smarter, and to see how Yoda teaches him all of these tricks of the trade, is still an interesting watch. “The force”, in and of itself, may be made-up of total and absolute crap, but watching Yoda teach Luke on that subject is hard to look past.

Not to mention that Hamill’s acting gets a bit better here, as mostly everybody’s does. However, what mostly helps everybody out here is the fact that the script is more centered around what’s going on with them, how they feel, and less about where the plot’s heading towards and what type of cool action’s going to come up next. Granted, the movie still does both later options, which aren’t bad, but they don’t get in the way of the meat of this story and help remind us that, first and foremost, Star Wars is about its characters.

See? Luke's a bit more bad-ass now.

See? Luke’s a bit more bad-ass now.

Like I said, Yoda is great here and there’s no way to mince words about that fact. Frank Oz could do voices for days and it’s just great to see how much time and effort he put into making a strange creature like Yoda actually work. And yeah, while I’m on the subject of newcomers, Billy Dee Williams is a welcome-addition as Lando Calrissian, who is as fly as a spaceman as they come. Williams adds a nice level of cool charm to this character that makes him likable, but also not trustworthy enough and it’s what helps us put us in the same situation that Han has to go through.

Speaking of Han, Harrison Ford continues to kill it as everybody’s favorite anti-hero. However, what guides Ford this time around, is the fact that he and Fisher truly do have a bit of fun and fiery chemistry together that, honestly, you just want them to both drop the B.S., rip each other’s clothes off, and get it on like Donkey Kong. While this is a kids movie and we clearly know that’s not feasible in the PG-world, still, it’s an idea that’s hard to get out of your head once it’s in.

That’s because Ford and Fisher (who, oddly enough, got rid of her British accent), are so good together that, through it all, you want to see them together at the end. But of course, for most of us who know, the ending of this flick leaves us in two cliffhangers, both of which I won’t bother to speak about, but will say that they’re effective.

And that’s it.

Consensus: As a sequel, the Empire Strikes Back is not only heartfelt and exciting, but emotional to sit by, even if you know there’s one more movie left to go.

9 / 10

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

And nerds everywhere, were never the same.

A teenage farmhand who goes by the name of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has certain aspirations for greatness that go further than just collecting bots for his Uncle and Aunt, fixing them, and not reallly doing much else. However, through what seems to be a course of some life-changing moments and experiences in a very short span of time, he finds himself start to train to become a true jedi, one who can be trusted on to save the galaxy from the evil dark side. He learns all of his moves and skills from an older fellow named Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) who, through his teachings, makes him understand how to control his force and not get carried away at all with it all. This then leads both of them to get caught up in a plot to rescue a princess named Leia (Carrie Fisher), forcing an alignment with two bad-asses of space called Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew), and taking on perhaps the greatest force of all, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). However, little does Luke know just how hard this task will be and what it will take for someone as unskilled as him to take down a whole empire.

Always trust in these three.

Always trust in these three.

What’s there to say about A New Hope that hasn’t already been said? For one, the movie’s an absolute classic, and that’s not just talking about the movie itself. More or less, the movie changed Hollywood and the movie-world as we known it; space operas had been done before Star Wars ever came out, but this one, despite its meager budget, list of no-name actors, and total cult-appeal, somehow destroyed the box-office and became the billion-dollar juggernaut that it is today.

And for that reason alone, George Lucas will always and forever have my respect.

Sure, the past decade or so has proven that maybe dear ol’ George has fallen a bit far from the cork tree, but regardless, nobody will ever forget just what sort of guts it took for someone like George Lucas, to make a movie like Star Wars, and then actually go somewhere with it all in the end. In a way, it’s the American Dream: Making an original movie, full of your own, crazy and unique ideas, doing everything your own self, and allowing for the rest of the world to see, only to have everyone accept it, love it and want to see more of it. Of course, along with that Dream, comes plenty of money, greed and vanity, but hey, none of that dark stuff now! This, my friends, is a happy story about how one George Lucas made a movie like Star Wars and ultimately, changed the movie landscape as we know it.

But seriously, aside from all the cultural significance this flick holds, it’s still pretty great in its own right. What surprised me so much about checking out A New Hope, even after all of these years, is how funny it actually was; people will mostly get swamped remembering the later movies and how corny Lucas’ sense of humor was, but honestly, the guy was actually a pretty nifty writer. Are the jokes silly? Of course they are, but there’s a sense of actual fun and play going on here that makes this movie such a better watch than some of the others; while Lucas may want his material to be taken seriously, he still can’t keep himself away from a witty line to deliver on. But still, it all works well with the rest of the movie and doesn’t feel just thrown in there for short measure.

Perhaps what has A New Hope stand the test of time, for as long as it has, is the fact that Lucas introduced so many iconic characters and seemed to actually do something with them.

Luke is, as made out to be, the quintessential hero of this story who may be naive and a bit bitchy, but also dreams for something more out of his life. While Hamill may get a lot of crap thrown at him for not being the best actor out of the bunch here, there’s still a certain amount of sweetness to his character-arch that makes him work and seem like more than just your ordinary hero. He’s on a quest, for sure, but because he’s so clean and good, it’s hard to hate the guy, either.

Then, of course, there’s Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan who, despite being the most acclaimed and skilled actor out of the bunch here, fits perfectly. Granted, Guiness doesn’t have much more to do here except go on and on about “the force” and how to control it, but really, he’s such a seasoned pro, he can make talking about rocks sound as compelling as they probably shouldn’t be. The fact that he and Darth Vader were, at one point in their lives, adversaries, makes it all the more interesting to watch, especially once they have that final duel between one another.

Speaking of Darth, James Earl Jones was perhaps the most perfect choice to voice this character. While we all know now that Darth Vader wasn’t actually played by Jones, it still doesn’t matter because his voice is so husky, rough and manly, that it’s absolutely terrifying to hear him get mad at someone, or just talk in general. The breathing’s scary, too, in that you don’t know why he’s doing it or where it’s coming from, but regardless, there’s just something awfully intimidating about seeing a man, dressed in an all black, nearly-identical Nazi-outfit, coming at you from afar.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi's, to another.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi’s, to another.

Not to mention the fact that, yes, he’s voiced by James Earl Jones.

But still, there’s so many more iconic characters to speak about that, honestly, it’s hard to go on about them without sounding like nothing more than just a cliche. Of course, Harrison Ford is the perfect anti-hero who, rather than try and save the girl because he’s a nice guy, would much rather do so to just get some sex (like most of us men out there); Chewbacca never makes sense, but it’s hard not to laugh whenever he and Solo communicate; C-3PO and R2-D2 are like a married couple and have the most charming love-hate relationship ever seen on the big screen; and yes, Carrie Fisher was not only as cute as a button playing Leia, but also worked well as the character because she’s not just a bad-ass gal, but one who can take care of herself and get stuff done whenever the men are just sitting around on their rumps, thinking of what to do next.

There’s more here (like Porkins), but yeah, you get the point – A New Hope has so many great, memorable characters to talk about, that to do so, would just be overkill.

However, what always has me coming back to A New Hope and remembering it for how great it truly was, and still is to this day, is the universal feeling of doing something that’s not only extraordinary, but better for the rest of mankind. It’s the kind of inspirational message that almost every movie made for young kids tries to tap into, but so rarely actually deliver on; however, without even trying, Lucas has our heads in the stars, dreaming for days, and wanting to do something special with what we’re given. Whether that’s making a billion-dollar-grossing movie, or saving the galaxy from evil clones, it doesn’t matter.

Continue to dream and you know what? Maybe it can happen to you, too.

Consensus: A New Hope not only changed the movie-business as a whole, but offered up iconic characters, an inspirational tale for the decades, and gave us reason to trust in George Lucas, even if he did sort of screw all of that up later on in his career.

10 / 10

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

SithposterBlack, is always better.

It’s now been nearly three years after start of the Clone Wars and, well, a lot has changed. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) not only has long hair now, but is also married and expecting twins with Padme. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is more scruffier than ever and is starting to notice something strange with Anakin. While he’s happy that his student has now become more powerful and skilled than he ever was before, he’s also realizing that there’s a bit of a rebellious streak in Anakin that doesn’t put him in the good graces with the fellow Jedis around him like Windu, or most importantly, Yoda. Still, despite all of this, the two now spend most of their time here hunting down the leaders of the Separatist Army across the galaxy. Because while they do have plenty of power with the Clone Army and band of Jedis, they still have to worry about the opposing forces as Chancellor Palpatine is now plotting to take over senate and reclaim galactic rule for the Sith. What makes him all the more sinister is that he’s looking to do so with the help of a new padawan of his own choosing – one of whom, if he has his way, may be Anakin.

Nobody's fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

Nobody’s fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

So, finally. After wading through the other two disappointing prequels, we now get to the one that matters the most: Anakin turning to the dark side. And yes, for the most part, Revenge of the Sith is most definitely the best of the other prequels. Is that saying much to begin with? No, not really. But hey, it’s saying something that makes this movie not just an enjoyable watch, but also a pretty heartfelt one, too, for old and new fans alike.

For one, this is the installment where we see Anakin finally turn the other cheek and realize there’s a lot of evil inside of him. While the reasoning for him turning into a baddie and to start killing younglings, isn’t fully realized and more of just a, “Hey, people aren’t being nice to me, so it’s time to fight back”, but it still works in a way; we know to expect it, so when he does start going off onto the dark side, it’s neat and interesting to watch. While Christensen’s acting is, once again, a bit over-the-top and crummy, the good side of it all is that we’re not supposed to like or care for him this time – we’re supposed to dislike and hate him, so it actually works in Christensen’s favor.

For better or worse, I guess.

But what works best here is that George Lucas really seems invested in what this story will become and because of that, the action-sequences have another added element of drama and suspense that was hardly found in the other two prequels. We don’t know if Mace Windu is anywhere out there in the galaxy for the original trilogy, so when he starts to have a duel with Senator Palpatine, it’s not only exciting, but quite scary; we care for Windu and we actually want him to survive.

Same goes for that amazing, ultimately epic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Not only is it one of the best of the entire franchise (which is including the original franchise), but it also does a lot in that it tells us more about these characters through the way they battle one another. Anakin will occasionally get ahead of himself and miss a move or two, whereas Obi-Wan’s every move is as calculated as ever and ready for what’s next to come. Then again, he’s getting a lot older, so he can’t always handle Anakin’s energy, which is why, when watching the battle unfold, we wonder if Obi-Wan’s going to make a wrong step or two, and bite the dust. As I said, we know what to expect with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the later trilogy, but still, Lucas does something special here in that he keeps us expecting the unexpected.

Still though, the same issues with Revenge of the Sith, have been around for the past two installments. The script’s still pretty lame and filled with all sorts of silly lines that seem as if they came out of an episode of Young and the Restless; Padme’s and Anakin’s love story, once again, doesn’t breathe a single fresh air of truth and just continues to get more and more hackneyed as it goes along; and yeah, Palpatine himself, as played by Ian McDiarmid, gets way campy, way too quick. Thing is, though, it’s easy to push a lot of these issues to the side and just focus on the fact that, you know what, the movie’s actually pretty fun and emotional.

Yoda's still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

Yoda’s still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

And “emotional” is, honestly, not something we’d come to expect with these new installments, but like I said, Lucas does something here that works and helps this movie hit a lot harder than it should.

For example, that whole sequence in which the Clones initiate “Order 66”? Yeah, some pretty rough stuff to sit back, watch and not at all relax, too. What about the aforementioned scene of the murder of those younglings? Ten years later and you know what? That scene is still incredibly screwed-up. Even the scene when Anakin goes around the switchboard room of that Lava world and kills just about every bad person from the previous installments? Yeah, that’s a little hard to watch, too. Here, it seems like Lucas finally gave into his darker, more adult side and let everyone in this story, have it. He doesn’t hold back on hardly a single person and really, it’s actually quite brutal to watch.

To me, that’s perhaps the most impressive aspect surrounding this movie and while it does make me wish that the rest of the other flicks were just like it, I still can’t help but feel pleased that Lucas didn’t end on a terribly weak-note. Of course, people will get on the movie for trying to tarnish the legacy of the originals and not be anything more than just a bunch of obvious and manipulative cash-grabs, but personally, it’s nice to see these stories told. Could they have been done so with a better director and writer on-hand? Of course they could have! But Lucas gave it his all and while, at first, it didn’t hold, he eventually got the hang of things and it’s nice to see.

Now, it’s time for the original trilogy and oh boy, can’t wait.

Consensus: Revenge of the Sith is the best installment of the prequels, which may not be saying much at all, but does show that Lucas eventually got the hang of everything that he was doing and decided to remind his audience that this story was going to get a whole lot darker and more serious as it went along. Which, thankfully, it did.

8 / 10

See? Look! They're all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

See? Look! They’re all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Death to Jar-Jar.

In order to tell the story in its fullest form, sometimes, you have to go to the very beginning. In this case, we start with two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are sent in to break up some sort of intergalactic trade embargo that’s going on and interrupting all sorts of people. However, while they’re on the case, they also manage to uncover a secret, scary plot by a bunch of aliens who’s sole plan is to take over the planet Naboo by sheer force and power. While all of this is going on, the two Jedi’s also discover the presence of two Sith warriors, who were thought to be long extinct by this point, but are still a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the Jedi’s end up crossing paths with small, young slave boy who has something about him that just makes them want to work with him to be the next great Jedi. The kid’s name? Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and he is destined to be “The Chosen One”. Even though certain folks like Yoda, aren’t too sure of the kid and make it their top priority to test him every chance they get.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

It’s become almost second nature to despise the Phantom Menace. When I was around six or seven and saw this movie, I’ll never forget the feeling; there was just a certain rush of joy and excitement that I couldn’t get out of my system. I was hooked from the very beginning and all I wanted to do was see it again. Then, once that happened, I got the awesome PS1 video-game, caught up on the other Star Wars flicks, and considered myself a fan for so very long. But now, after all of these years of constantly pushing it away and not wanting to admit it, I can easily say that, well, yes, the Phantom Menace is not a very good movie.

Does that mean it’s an awfully terribly crappy one that deserves every cop in existence to burned and steam-piled?

No, of course not. In fact, there’s very few movies that actually deserve that; while my mind automatically jumps to Adam Sandler’s flicks, even then, I still find something here and there to take away. With the Phantom Menace, you get the sense that because the movie had so much hype surrounding what it was supposed to be, that when it ended-up actually becoming something of a let-down, it wasn’t just a disappointment – it was a sign of the end of the world. That the movie and George Lucas was given as much money and time as he needed to make this movie and do whatever he wanted to with it, already puts everything into perspective: Like, is this really what he wanted to do?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a nice couple bits within the Phantom Menace that are still fun and exciting, even if they feel thrown in a jumbled-up mess. The pod-racing scene, of course, is neat to watch, even after all of these years; the Jedi-battle duel at the end is by far one of the very best of the franchise; and Liam Neeson, playing the almighty dad-like figure as he’s best known for, does seem like a genuinely nice and warm figure to have around. Do all of these factors add up to a good movie? No, they do not. However, by the same token, they at least help the movie out in ways that, quite frankly, people don’t give them enough credit for.

Once again, I am in no way saying that the Phantom Menace is a misunderstood masterpiece that people just wanted to hate because they could – what I’m saying is that, well, it’s pretty lame and misguided, but not terrible.

Most of this has to do with the fact that George Lucas, who returned to directing and writing after 22 years for this, doesn’t seem like he’s always clear of what he wants to do with this story, whom to put the main focus on, or set things up for the next two movies. It’s obvious that, from the very start, Lucas set-out to make a Star Wars movie that his kids could enjoy and because of that, we’re tragically forced to sit through and watch as Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin take over the film, and hardly bring out any emotions whatsoever. Everything’s already been said about Jar-Jar, his faux-Jamaican accent, and the fact that the movie itself couldn’t get enough of his slapstick, so without trying to beat a dead horse, I’ll just say that, yes, when I was six or seven, Jar-Jar was awesome – now, he’s just super annoying and makes you feel like you’re watching a different movie.

Someone misses Leon.

Someone misses Leon.

But really, I still can’t wrap my head around the casting of Jake Lloyd in the iconic role of Anakin Skywalker. For one, as much as it pains me to say this, Jake Lloyd can’t act; though the movie seems like it wasn’t helping him out much either, there’s still the impression that the kid doesn’t know how to read his lines without seeming like he’s confused and in need of some help. This isn’t me ragging on him and being a cruel, miserable a-hole, because it’s not just his fault, but why he was pushed so far to the front of the line for this role, is totally beyond me. There’s also the idea of why he’s so young to begin with, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

And what the real shame about Lucas putting all of his focus on the likes of Jar-Jar and Anakin, is that it takes away from the overall impact of the story. Because this is the first movie of the supposed trilogy, after all, it makes sense to start things off slow, easy-going, and relatively peaceful, but really, a lot of this film just seems meandering. It’s as if Lucas wasn’t ready to scare his audience just yet, so in a way to wind them all up, he just gave each and everyone a film that’s perfectly serviceable for the whole family. Of course it worked for me when I was younger, but now, it just feels like a waste of what a great opportunity this movie could have been.

Thankfully, it gets better from here on out.

Sort of.

Consensus: George Lucas clearly had some rust when making the Phantom Menace, which will always and forever be known as the unwanted and unloved “Annie and Jar-Jar Show”, despite it not being the end-all, be-all disaster people love to hop on the band-wagon and go on about.

4.5 / 10

"Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me."

“Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Kinky Boots (2005)

I don’t care what gay men say, but Crocs are amazing.

With the sudden death of his father, it’s all up to Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) to take over the reigns of his family’s traditional, Northampton shoe business called Price and Sons. But unbeknownst to the rest of the loyal staff, the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy. Charlie, in a chance encounter, discovers sassy cabaret star, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s Soho world of outrageous fashion and stylish, erotic boots for men, opens his eyes to an alien new niche market that he may try to exploit to keep his family’s company alive and well.

Don't judge a book by its cover. 'Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Don’t judge a book by its cover. ‘Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Pretty much I could just review this movie in one word, and that one word would probably just be: Formulaic. Seriously, every scene, every character-detail, every frame, every-line, every anything that happens in this movie, is obvious, predictable, and nothing new that you haven’t seen before. However, being “formulaic” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, especially when your movie has a bunch of dudes in stilettos and make-up, dancing and prancing around to all sorts of funky disco hits.

Which is basically Kinky Boots: All formula, but with enough flashy eye-shadow to keep you somewhat distracted.

But before I go on any longer, I might as well and just get it off my chest now and say that if it wasn’t for Chiwetel Ejiofor being in this movie, then there would have been little to nothing at all to talk about here at all. However, because he is in this movie and takes over the role of Lola, the movie is a lot more watchable and entertaining to watch. Ejiofor is one, diverse dude in terms of acting; the guy can, and probably has, played it all and he shows here that he’s not just a guy people take too seriously and all, because he can actually do comedy, and do it so well. It also helps that the character he’s playing, is also written well, too.

Lola is such a fun, lighthearted character that looks at anything everything around him in a way that’s pretty obvious when you take into consideration all of the other LGBT characters out there in movies, but Ejiofor does a great job with it and definitely kept me interested in where he was going with this character. There’s more heart to him as well, and even though it does seem obvious to have in a movie like this, Ejiofor actually makes us believe it’s true and have it come off as a bit less manipulative than you would expect.

Basically, in a nutshell: Ejiofor makes this movie better, everytime that he shows up on the screen and really, I wish there were more of him to go around.

Joel Edgerton ain’t so shabby either as Charlie Price, but definitely gets the far more boring character here. Nowadays, watching Edgerton appear in anything, adds a certain level of excitement as he seems to constantly challenge himself as an actor and have us see him in new, interesting lights. Here, as Charlie, he doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch his wings, and because of that, the performance comes off like a bit of a disappointment. Thankfully, the times have changed and Edgerton is taking over the world of Hollywood, one great performance at a time.

But still, it’s hard to really like this movie anymore because it’s just so darn cliché! But it’s also so darn cliché in that it begins to feel safe.

Gosh. What I wouldn't do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

Gosh. What I wouldn’t do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

For example, the movie contains plenty of men, dressed in drag, with make-up, wearing stilettos, having fake breasts, and dancing to awful covers of famous disco songs from yesteryear. This all sounds like a relatively naughty, but frothy good time, but Kinky Boots still tries to keep it all well-meaning enough so that it can hold on to that PG-13 rating it’s been luckily slapped with. There’s a part of me that wants to feel proud of the MPAA for not jumping down this movie’s throat due to it featuring LGBT characters and slapping it with an unnecessary R-rating.

Then again, the fact that the movie is, at the center, very safe, also feels like it’s keeping itself away from achieving any sort of greatness it should have had in the first place. Sure, we get to see Lola for what the character is, but really, it can often feel like surface-material; just enough focus so that the general, predominately straight audience doesn’t get too uncomfortable when there’s a full-grown, masculine man trumping around on heels, singing Olivia Newton-John. I’m most definitely thinking about this a lot harder than I should, but for some reason, my mind just can’t get by this fact and it’s what’s keeping me from loving this movie more.

However, I did love the Broadway show. So much fun! So yeah, see that instead.

I guess.

Consensus: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s spirited performance is just enough to save Kinky Boots from staying stuck in its pile of conventionality, where almost everything you expect to happens, happens, except this time, it’s with more gay people.

6 / 10

It doesn't matter who's wearing the shoes - if they look nice and sexy, then that's all that matters.

It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the shoes – if they look nice and sexy, then that’s all that matters.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Score (2001)

Never trust a guy that is half your age. Especially if he has already done better movies than you.

Career-thief Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) is about to mastermind a nearly impossible theft that will require his joining forces with a clever, young accomplice named Jackie Teller (Edward Norton). The unlikely alliance, arranged by Nick’s long-time confidante Maximillian Beard (Marlon Brando), interrupts Nick’s plan to retire from crime and leads Nick to wonder whether or not this last job of his, will be the one to ruin them all.

When you got three acting powerhouses in one movie, you would expect there to be nothing else other than pure greatness. But sometimes, that doesn’t quite happen. Instead, you just get mediocrity, whether you’re willing to accept it or not. Even if the movie in question does star not just Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, but also Marlon Brando.

Seriously! Why isn’t this thing as spectacular as it sounds?

You wouldn’t think that the guy who voices Miss Piggy and Yoda would be helming a feature flick like this, but I guess Frank Oz is just chock full of surprises. Oz doesn’t do necessarily do anything new, neat, or flashy with his direction here, but did bring some well-earned moments of suspense and keeps the heist as involving as he can, without showing his cards too early-on. The heist, when it does happen, doesn’t take up the whole movie. The rest is actually dedicated to a lot of scenes with Norton and De Niro, who are butting heads and ego’s together on-screen. Which honestly, is a way better movie, because when you give two stars like these ones here free reign to just work with one another, only good can come from it.

"Now remember kid, don't try and upstage my ass."

“Now remember kid, don’t try and upstage my ass.”

However, though, it all comes back down to the plot of this movie, which services these talents, but also doesn’t do much of anything interesting either. All of the caper/heist conventions are here – guy tries to get away from his life of crime by pulling off one last job; guy doesn’t work well with others; partner isn’t all who he seems to be, etc. Basically it’s got all of the clichés that you don’t want to see in a crime thriller, especially this one, but you sadly get.

If anything, that’s what disappointed me the most here is that nothing was all that surprising with this plot and how it all eventually played out. We get a couple of tense moments where we don’t know where this film is going to go and we get a nice twist at the end that’s a bit surprising, but nothing else to really have me going, “Oh crap! You gotta see this movie with Bickle, Vineyard, and Don Corleone! Not only are do they kick-ass when it comes to the acting, but the plot is actually pretty neat-o too! Right on!”. Maybe the average movie-goer would say that, let alone, anybody else in the whole world, but the point is, this film should have offered plenty of more surprises than it actually gave.

But people, let’s not fool ourselves here, this film probably would have never gotten made and given a wide theatrical release had it not been for these three names: De Niro, Norton, and Brando. All of whom don’t disappoint, even if the movie sort of does. Robert De Niro gives a pretty solid performance here as the Nick, the old-timer just looking to get out of the “business”. De Niro doesn’t do anything special with this performance that he hasn’t already done in his long career, but it’s nice to see him actually give a commendable performance considering that seems to be very hard to come by with the crap he chooses today. Angela Bassett plays his girlyfriend, and as good as she may be, her character still comes off a bit random and unneeded, even if it does give De Niro’s character some reason for wanting to leave and star anew.

"Hey, didn't I play you once?"

“Hey, didn’t I play you once?”

Let’s face it, Bassett is black, beautiful, and rocks a sweet ‘fro whenever she wants. Why wouldn’t you want to retreat with her?

Marlon Brando isn’t in this film a whole lot, but whenever he is, he makes his presence be known. Brando plays an aging and severely over-weight crime lord that seems desperate to make sure that this last job works and it’s a role/character that seems superfluous if it wasn’t being played by anybody else. The difference here, is that it’s none other than Brando in the role and he makes it all work perfectly giving him plenty of great lines, tension, and water-drinking. This is his last film he was ever in and it’s a shame since it’s not exactly the perfect swan song that anybody with his type of career could have asked for, but at least it’s better than doing the Freshman 2.

The one who actually runs away with this flick is Edward Norton as the hormone-fueled kid that Nick is forced to work with, Jackie. Norton is always great to watch no matter who he’s playing and what I liked most about him here is that you know there’s something about this character that you can’t really trust, but you don’t know what it is because Norton is so good at playing those types of confusing characters. Norton is always a powerhouse in every film he does and could almost be considered a younger Marlon Brando himself, but in this film, he actually shows that he may be one-step ahead of the master and continue to give compelling performance after compelling performance.

Now, what about the movie?

Consensus: Though it may not offer many surprises, the Score mostly gets by on the power and strength of its leads, even if the movie itself does seem to be relying on them a tad too heavily to begin with.

7 / 10

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton's a comin'!

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton’s a comin’!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Remember those small, yellow things you used to “accidentally” stick up your nose as a kid? Yeah, they have lives you know.

Normal, everyday Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is controlled, run-by and practically dominated by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). In this plastic world, everyone is to wake up, follow their day throughout a precise set of instructions and guide-lines, always smile, swallow overpriced coffee, go to work, be happy about it, get that paycheck, sing terribly-catchy, yet excruciating pop-songs like “Everything is Awesome” and go home to watch mind-numbing sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?“. It’s so painfully dull and monotonous, but nobody cares, nor does anybody fret, because quite frankly, nobody knows any better; not even poor Emmet, who is just like everybody else. But things begin to change for Emmet once he stumbles upon an an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. He knows nothing about it, but he’s soon picked-up by the rebellious ass-kicker known as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and is told that the fate of humanity lies in his hands, and his hands only. In better words: He IS the “chosen one”, and it’s up to him to stop Lord Business’ maniacal ways.

The plot is the same old, cookie-cutter stuff that we’ve seen done in a million other movies (*cough cough* Star Wars), but that doesn’t matter because it’s all used so that the directors can get all sorts of these LEGO-pieces together and see what sort of magic they can make-up next. Needless to say, for a kid who has played with LEGO‘s all throughout his childhood, it was an honor to see the likes of 2002-era Shaquille O’Neal, rub shoulders with none other than Batman himself. And no, I do not mean that ACTUAL Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Wayne got next to one another, showed their faces to the camera, and rubbed shoulders; I mean that their LEGO figures did.

Basically, he's like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

Basically, he’s like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

And that’s where all of the fun lies with this movie, whether you like it or not.

Chances are though, going into this, no matter how idiotic you may think the idea of LEGO movie being, you’re going to be laughing, be having a great time and totally surprised by what this movie does; not just with its animation, which is quite stunning to look at pick-apart, wondering just how they were able to film it all, but with its script, that displays hilarious wit at a non-stop pace. Most of the jokes here, are made solely for the adults that will most likely get roped into seeing this, and there is no problem with that whatsoever, because there’s a lot of humor here that had me howling like a banshee in my seat. I mean hell, there’s even a joke about how they refer to one character as “Michelangelo, the artist”, and another as “Michelangelo, the Ninja Turtle.” Now, if that doesn’t make you at least crack a smile or two, then I have no freakin’ clue what will!

But there’s definitely plenty out there for the kiddies as well, which doesn’t mean that there’s just a whole bunch of slap-sticky, or fart jokes to make them giggle – there’s a whole bunch of action, fun and excitement that gets thrown into this, all because you can tell that both Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly care about the audience that this movie is being made for. Sure, you could argue that a LEGO movie actually does exist, solely to sell more toys and merchandise, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. However, the movie isn’t just an-hour-and-a-half ploy trying to grab your arm, snatch your wallet and long-dart you to the nearest Toys R Us or Wal Mart; it’s actually an animated-flick that’s pretty damn hilarious, fun and always able to gain your attention, no matter how many times you may have to remind yourself that you are in fact watching LEGO‘s, up on the big screen.

It’s a strange feeling that even I had a problem getting through on occasion, but I knew one thing: I was just happy knowing they weren’t actually MY LEGO‘s. After all of the abuse and torture I put those poor things through, lord only knows that if they ever became animated and alive, they’d come after me, and with a vengeance, too! Same goes for my sister’s Barbie Dolls!

Although, that may be a different story entirely….

Anyway, moving on!

Though it is hard to go on and on without talking about the voice-cast, I do have to give all of them credit because they do some energetic, spunky work here that definitely makes you see their wild and goofy figures brought to life. Chris Pratt is growing up more and more each day into the perfect “everyday man”, even if in this instance, it just so happens to be a LEGO; Elizabeth Banks sounds as sexy and dangerous as she should as Wyldstyle, almost too sexy and dangerous for a kids movie where young boys will most likely be present in viewing; Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, by basically just being Gob Bluth, disguised as Bruce Wayne; it’s neat to see someone like Morgan Freeman lending his voice to an animated-movie as goofy as this, but you know, the guy gives it his all and really seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself; the same being said for Morgan Freeman, can practically be said about Liam Neeson who seems like he was definitely a bit tipsy during the voice-over recordings, but hey, it made it enjoyable to listen to; and if there was one weak-link to be found in this voice-cast, it’s probably Will Ferrell, who is definitely as harsh he should be with a name like “Lord Business”, but the act gets stale after awhile and you can sort of tell that Will Ferrell himself is enjoying this a bit too much. Maybe somebody like Nic Cage would have done this guy total justice. Actually, not “somebody”, definitely Nic Cage.

Look! That's the joke I'm talking about! And there's even a ghost in the background! Sweet, right?

Look! That’s the joke I’m talking about! And there’s even a ghost in the background! Pretty sweet, right?

But being that this is an animated movie, which is more often than not, being marketed towards the whole family, there obviously has to be a message learnt here, which there is. However, that may also be where my main problem came from – the way in which it kept on hitting me over, and over head with what message it was trying to get across. Granted, Miller and Lord take a very bold-step in the last-act with a twist that I honestly can’t say I saw coming (one which I won’t spoil here), but it’s one that didn’t feel necessary. Reason being is that whatever this movie was trying to tell us about “expressing ourselves no matter how strange or different we may be from the rest of the crowd around us”, all felt like something we understood right after Wyldstyle steps in and decides to shake things up with this story. Clearly this movie wanted to be more than just your typical, fun-for-the-whole-family animated-fare, but rather than being a simple, ode-to-love flick like the Croods, it ends up going for more of a Lorax-feel, that got a bit too preachy and a bit too strained with what it was trying to say. Doesn’t mean the fun didn’t stop, but it definitely did bother me a whole lot and took me away from most of the action that was happening on screen, most of which happened and was said so fast, I couldn’t make-out half of what was going on.

But you know what? That’s the fun of it, everybody! So definitely do make sure to go out and see this! Just make sure you have at least one cup of coffee to assure yourself that you’ll be able to catch almost anything and everything that Lord and Miller are throwing at you. Because do trust me: They’ll give you everything. Even the kitchen-sink.

Consensus: Almost anything and everything that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have at their disposal, they’ll launch at you, and then some with the LEGO Movie, but it’s always fun, exciting, hilarious, appropriate for all ages, and most importantly, as quick-as-a-Jack-Rabbit. So make sure to keep up and not get too distracted by too much butter being on your popcorn!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw "Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another", but also with "The Statue of Liberty right next to them"?!?! Like, super rad!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw “Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another”, but also with “The Statue of Liberty right next to them”?!?! Like, super rad!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Blade Runner (1982)

2019 doesn’t seem too far from today. Now, where the hell are those new wave-stylized cyborgs at?

It’s the year 2019, and all sorts of sci-fi futuristic craziness is going on. “Replicants” (or robots, take your pick) that look, smell, sound, and feel like humans are slowly, but surely going extinct, but the ones who are still left around to roam the Earth, are looking for their creator in hopes of making more of these replicants and hopefully prolonging their existence. This is where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes in to save the day, or will he? See, the problem with Deckard is that he isn’t necessarily your go-to cop when you need something done, and done the right way. For starters, he’s a bit of a pissant, doesn’t like his job, somewhat sloppy in terms of his fighting skills, and now, to top all of that off, he’s fallen for a fellow cyborg in the form of Rachael (Sean Young) who isn’t as deadly as these other ones who want to take over the world, but still shows herself to be a threat to the case Deckard is handling, as well as himself.

Well, well, well. Where do I begin with this bad boy? I know, let’s start from the history of all this and how I somehow, someway, get thrown into the mix, shall we?

Anyway, knowing about this movie beforehand on countless occasions, I’ve tried to get through it all, but yet, no matter how hard I may try, I never succeeded in the completion of this movie. I’ve always either watched it, found it to be too slow, and lost interest, or, watched it, wasn’t in the right frame of mind, distracted, found it to be too slow, and lost interest. Basically, they were both the same problems, with the same outcome, and that’s because the movie’s pace really took me for a loop. I can handle slow movies that need to be so in order to build characters, tension, plot, and an overall atmosphere to the whole proceedings, but the numerous times I’ve seen this movie, knowing the hype that surrounds it, I just felt like it was too deliberate for its own good. It almost felt like Ridley Scott wanted to make the definitive mix of sci-fi and noir, that he didn’t really care about much else in the flick other than handling his plot. To me, back in those early days of my film watching/reviewing, it seemed like a stingy act on his part; but now, after many, many movies have been watched, reviewed, and studied, I think it was the most brilliant act he performed on this whole movie’s behalf.

Can't even use both hands. What a softy!

Can’t even use both hands. What a softy!

Well, that and the visuals as well, but that’s another story for later one. Let’s just continue to focus on the plot and the way Scott handles it, especially since it gives this movie a whole down-and-out, dirty vibe that too many modern, big-budget sci-fi flicks are scared to even touch, all because they fear they may scare away the audience members looking for lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, and all sorts of explosions. If you are that type of audience member and if those are your favorite things to see in a sci-fi movie, then go watch Star Wars or Star Trek, and don’t even bother with this movie. Not only does this movie have a slow-as-molasses pace that’s more than likely to have you drinking three cups of coffee in the first 30 minutes, just in hopes of making it through the whole near-two hours, but it doesn’t really have much lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, or even explosions for that matter, nor does it need to.

What Scott relies on the most here, other than his beautiful look of the movie, is the pacing and how it continues to give you more and more detail about the story we are watching unfold in front of our own very eyes; the character’s we are getting to know from the inside, and the out; and the future that Scott’s envisioned for us (originally done by Philip K. Dick, every sci-fi’s go-to novel guy), that not only puts you deep into a dark place where bad things happen on a regular, normal basis, but in a future where it almost never ceases to stop raining. I know, it’s a little dumb fact, but it’s always something I noticed and it just added more to the whole cold and muggy mood of the movie, giving the story more of a compelling feel, and also adding more stipulations onto why these replicants taking over the world matter, and why we should cheer on somebody like Deckard in the first place.

Speaking of Deckard, I can’t say that Harrison Ford was the most perfect pick for the guy, however, something tells me that Scott pitched it to him, and the dude absolutely loved it. And back in ’82, working with Harrison Ford was an offer you did not want to turn down so Ford gave it all that he could, despite the character being a little bit of a sheep-dog in terms of how he puts up his dukes and goes about certain scenes in the movie. See, the odd thing about Deckard, is that he does have this icy-cold front where he’s always making smart-ass comments and not really caring about those that he’s around that may have a problem with him; and yet, he’s a bit of a wimp. Not only does he get his rump beaten-up on more than a few occasions (by ladies no less), but he almost always resorts to his laser gun whenever he finds himself in a rut. Which, in case you haven’t been able to find out by now, is ALL OF THE TIME. And it’s not like I’m getting on Ford’s case or anything here, because he does a nice job with what he’s given, it’s just that the character of Deckard seems like such a normal, average dude that not only does it seem the slightest bit implausible that he would be considered a no-nonsense, take-no-crap cop of the near-future, but that he would be portrayed by the same guy who made a living off of those sorts of roles. Some may say this role is “iconic”, in regards to how he was naturally-written in order to give him more of a humane-feel, which I will not argue against, but putting Ford in this lead role definitely wasn’t the best action on Scott’s choice.

However, that’s just a blip on the radar compared to all of the great decisions Scott made with this movie, so I think it’s safe enough to just let it slip.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I'll let it slide by again.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I’ll let it slide by.

Everybody fares a lot better than Ford, and that’s mainly because they feel right for the material and live it up in all their campy, over-the-top, 80’s glory. The most impressive out of this cast that I can’t go on any further without mentioning is definitely Rutger Hauer who broke big with his role as the leader of these replicants, Roy Batty, a pretty effed-up and sadistic dude in his own right that proves a great foil for the straight-laced Deckard. Hauer’s a great villain and when you give him a role that he can sink his teeth into, he will gladly do so and give you the type of performance you oh so desire from him. He’s proved it time and time again in the past couple of years, but it was here where he first proved this fact and made us scared to high heavens as to what he was going to do Deckard, hell, scratch that, the human race once he got his hands around its throat. But, like with the best-written villains, there’s more to Batty than meets the eye and when we find out the real being behind what he’s perceived as, then it will not only bring a tear to your eye, but make you realize the type of movie you’ve been watching all along. And yes, I am talking about the infamous “Tears in Rain” soliloquy which totally lives up to the hype and legend surrounding it; which is all thanks to Hauer and his sure genius of making somebody more than they may be originally seen as. Good decision on his behalf, bad on anybody else’s out there who want take a look at this guy already and give him another shot. Come on, Hollywood!

Like I said before though, everybody else gets their time to shine and do what they do best, and it serves as a fun flashback to all of the stars that were big in the 80’s, and how some of their careers have sort of gone haywire since then. I’m talking mainly about Sean Young, but hey, she had a pretty damn solid run for the longest time in the 80’s-early-90’s, and her role as Rachael is what started it all. Not only was she a pleasure to look at, but she gave another character that could have easily been written off as literally “painfully robotic”, and instead, gives Deckard an unusual love-interest, yet, a very believable one since you can tell that guy wants somebody in his life to love and behold, no matter if that other person is a human or not. Pretty weird if you ask me, but hey, I’m not Rick Deckard, and thank heavens for that! But I do wish I was Harrison Ford. That is something I will not thank the heavens for. Damn you, heavens! Damn you!

Consensus: The idea that Blade Runner may not be all that it’s been hyped-up to be since it debuted so poorly back in the summer of ’82, may not be welcomed by most die-hards, but the fact of the matter remains is that it is one of the better sci-fi flicks out there because it pays attention to what matters the most in any good story: Characters, development, story, plot, and pacing. That’s all that you need and that’s what Scott executed perfectly, along with some beautiful visuals to appeal to the eyes.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Khan or not, it’s still STAR TREK!!! So, shut up!!

The crew of the Enterprise is back! But this time, they are under the guidance of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine). Whether or not that’s a good thing, people believe in him and will go about his every word. However, his leadership is put to the test when the Fleet is wiped out by a mysterious enemy (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk and his crew don’t back down and instead, lead a manhunt to capture “a one man weapon of mass destruction”.

4 years ago, J.J. Abrams did something that no person in their right mind thought was possible: he made Star Trek cool. Yep, that’s exactly right: the dude who brought us Felicity, brought us the most-accessible, and by far, most entertaining Star Trek movie of the whole franchise. I know I may be making some mortal-enemies with that last statement there, but let the record state that I am not a big Trekkie, have watched the show on numerous occasions  and have seen about three or four films (at least what I can recall anyway). So yeah, I’m not the biggest Trekkie out there in the world, so yeah, maybe my opinion doesn’t matter in terms of what’s the best and what isn’t of the whole franchise, but do you know who’s opinion does matter? The regular, movie-going audience that got hooked with the last one, and can’t wait to see what this one has got going on, that’s who!

And I think it’s quite safe to say that they are going to have a great time with the latest check-up. Or, at least I hope, because I sure as hell know I did.

The odd aspect behind this whole movie it’s that Abrams doesn’t go balls-to-the-walls with changing anything up here. Instead, we get sort of the same formula for the first one, except a bit of a darker tone. However, I don’t want to really say it’s darker just because the stakes of human-life are a bit higher, but I definitely want to say it’s more “emotional” than the first one, which was more happy-go-lucky in the way that it didn’t want to bother people too much. Basically, this movie is just like the first, but do not take that as insult whatsoever, because I loved that about this movie.

I hate to say it, but Shatner never looked THIS stunning while holding a laser gun.

I hate to say it, but Shatner never looked THIS stunning while holding a phaser.

Abrams knows the type of movie he wants to make, and he knows that he’s got to have a little bit of everything for everyone. Yes, even those damn Trekkies get their shout-outs every once and awhile too, and it’s not just the obvious ones neither. There’s a shit-ton of action, some romance, a lot of humor, some sexiness, some drama, and a bunch of scenes that actually may scare you, just by how unexpected they are. But no matter where Abrams takes this movie, it always remains fun in the type of way that you almost feel like you can’t keep up with this movie. It’s sort of like when you’re running, and your friends show up next to you in their hot-ass ride and challenge you to a playful, but somewhat-serious running vs. driving race, and you continue to run your heart out, even though you know at the bottom of your slowly-dying heart you don’t have what it takes to beat the car, let alone even come close to catching up with it. You know what I mean? Kind of? Well, that’s what this flick reminded me of: running-up against my friend’s hot-ass ride.

Don’t get me wrong, neither, because that is nowhere near being a bad thing, especially during the beginning of what seems to be an already-promising Summer. Abrams always gives us something new to view, whether it be some beautiful visuals or something popping-out us in 3D, it doesn’t matter, because it’s always thrilling. In some cases, you could almost say that this movie has too much action, but to that, I’d probably say, “ehh.” The reason I’d say that is because you wouldn’t be wrong with that statement whatsoever, however, I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind their action done when it’s always electric, entertaining, tense, and can keep me as glued to the screen as I was here.

Seriously, even though I know everything’s going to be cool with each and every one of these characters, and whether or not they’re fates will be decided in a gloomy-way by the end, I was still on-the-edge-of-my-seat, just wondering what was going to happen next, to whom, and how the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise was going to feel after all of the tears have been dropped. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but it was what I was feeling, while I sat all crumbled-up with my large-ass soda and popcorn. I was feeling comfy, cozy, and all easy inside, and then this movie came on and had to ruin everything for a simple man like myself. However, that’s not a negative either. I had fun with this movie, no matter what Abrams decided to throw at the screen and see what stuck, and it just goes to show you that this guy really does have the mastery and the craft to voice a new generation of Star Wars fans for many, many years to come.

Still though: what’s going to happen to his Star Trek franchise? Who knows? Only time will tell on that one, my friends.

"Don't worry, I have all this shit planned out."

“Don’t worry, I have all this shit planned out.”

Just like the first movie, this Star Trek entry may have the explosions, the cool-gadgets, the Klingons, and the fireworks to catch your pretty, little eyes, but in reality: it’s all about the characters and which ones mean the most to each other. Just in case you were questioning whether Spock and Kirk made up, hugged, and got over their differences, no need to worry; because they haven’t. Yup, they still bicker, argue, and trade quips against one another about choosing logicality-over-impulse and it’s as enthralling to watch as it was in the first movie. It never gets old, despite them having a fight about five or six times here, and you always wait to see what layer of this character is going to peeled-off next, so that the other can capitalize on the vulnerability of the other and show their strength. It’s not all serious though, it’s played for fun and games, but there’s something still really strong between these two that obviously keeps them on the same ground, united, and, well, “friends.” Believe it or not, these two are friends, and this movie shows that many-upon-many of times, all of which, are as compelling and heartwarming as the last. No, Kirk and Spock do not start making-out, but if they did, the reaction would have been filled with more claps than boos.

The two cats playing those iconic characters, respectively, Chris Pine and Zachary Qunto, are still amazing at what they do and show that they have fully grown into these characters with much ease and skill. Pine is as brass as he can get as Kirk, but still shows some ounces of humanity every once and awhile that has us feel like the kid is learning as time goes on, and the stakes continue to get higher for him, and his crew. Quinto is also great as Spock, showing just how smart and thought-provoking he can be with what he says, what he stands for, and what he stands against. Quinto has pretty much mastered the hell out of this role by now, and it’s no surprise that once things start getting a little hectic for Spock in the end, Quinto owns it and makes us feel like Spock will, and forever always be: a bad-ass. I mean, after all, I do own this t-shirt, so I think I know when the guy’s bad-ass and when he’s not. Rarely ever is he the latter.

As for the others along for the adventure, not all of them get as much screen-time as they did with the first movie, but still show each of the acquired-skills and how they all come into play with this story, at least once or twice just to remind us that they are there. Zoe Saldana is good as Uhura, as her and Spock’s relationship is once again, tested to see if they really are worth sticking around and getting all hyped-up over, or if they should just focus their attention on space, and shit like that. A bit obvious for a story like this to go down that route, but both stars handle it like professionals and easily make it a relationship worth caring about, even when danger stares both of them in the eyes, even without a blink. And yes, we all know that Alice Eve’s Carol will eventually play a bigger-role in the franchise sooner or later, but for right now, she’s just here for this and this alone. She’s good when she is called on to do something, but that’s very rare when she isn’t just posing in some misogynistic movie-scene. Not a huge feminist by any stretch of the meaning, but I do know when unneeded is exactly that, and that scene was. At least she’s hot, though.

"No need to fear, baby, I got this. Oh, I mean, uhm....don't worry female human-organism, I will conquer this predicament."

“No need to fear, baby, I got this. Oh, I mean, uhm….don’t worry female human-organism, I will conquer this predicament.”

Even though they don’t get as much adoration and love like they did in the first one, everybody else seems to get their one moment in the sun, and milk it for as long as they can. Simon Pegg is a bigger-part in this story, than he was in the last, and has a great time with the role, but isn’t his usual jokey-wokey self. Yes, Pegg’s definitely funny as Scotty, but the guy helps out a bit more with these plans that makes him less of a fool, and more a smarty-pants, that does smarty-things. Karl Urban is a laugh-out-loud riot as Bones, and shows why his comedic-timing is a thing to behold, even in the darkest of situations. I guess it’s still nice to see when the guy isn’t judging drug-addled crooks, the dude’s still got time to patch everyone up. John Cho gets to have his moment to play in the sun and sand as Sulu, but is mainly there to steer the ship when it needs that ripe-steering, and Anton Yelich is barely even here as Chekov, but I think that’s on-purpose for the whole fact that not many people really care for the dude. Chekov, I mean, not Yelchin. Although, I wouldn’t be too sure that the Trekkies don’t have it out for that guy either. Those mofo’s are crazy.

Most of the hooplah surrounding this movie isn’t about whether it’s good or not, or even better than the first; it’s mainly been all around if the main villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, will in fact be Khan or not. Without diving into any more about this character that may land me in some hot lava, I just want to say that the man is great with this role as he always seems to be one step ahead of everybody else on the Enterprise, and does whatever the hell he can to keep his name, his pride, and his destination clear in sight. The guy’s got some real scary eyes that demand your attention, and it works. You never quite feel like this dude’s going to get away with anything he plans, which in it’s own right, doesn’t make all that much sense to begin with, but you don’t care. All you know about this dude is that he’s a baddie, doing baddie things, and not so much as leaving a post-it for saying “sorry.” Yeah, I know, right? What a total dick!

Has to be Khan, right? I don’t know. I’ll leave that one to you, my friends.

Consensus: Regardless as to whether or not it fully fits in line with the die-hard Trekkies or not, Star Trek Into Darkness is one hell of a ride that’s jam-packed with thrills, emotion, humor, beautiful special-effects, and a feeling that this franchise can, and just might go anywhere and it will always be awesome. Let’s just hope that J-squared doesn’t get too wild ‘n out with Star Wars.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Don't worry guys, in 2 more years, I will have totally forgotten about all of you."

“Don’t worry guys, in 2 more years, I will have totally forgotten about all of you. But anyway, while we’re at it, CHEEESE!!”

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

“Giants, ain’t got shit on me!”, says the little kid from About a Boy.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a young farmer who ends up taking a bribe from a snarky monk, for some magic beans. Jack doesn’t think much of it, until he goes home, drops some of the beans, and it rains. Yeah, you know what happens next. The beans end-up leading to a land populated by giants with a taste for human flesh, and they have the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), captured and it’s up to Jack and the King’s royal-men to save her and get rid of those damn giants!

In a way, I can totally see why so many people aren’t looking forward to this movie as much as I was would be expecting. It does seem silly, it does seem stupid, it does see overly-reliant on CG, and does seem like a random-time and place for a movie like this to come out, but that’s all that advertising. That’s why, in another way, I have no idea why so many people aren’t looking forward to this. I mean, first of all, it’s directed by Bryan Singer, it’s written by Christopher McQuarrie (the two did the Usual Suspects together), and it features a new-take, on a classic-tale but told in the type of way that doesn’t alienate older-viewers, but doesn’t cater to the younger-ones either. It’s somewhere in there, slap-dab in the middle and it works perfectly for a movie that could have easily gone South, real quick, had they decided to take the darker-route. Thankfully, they didn’t and stayed straight to the source-material that I’m sure all of us grew-up loving. If not, get off your asses, and read that shit! You haven’t experienced childhood until you have.

Anyway, aside from that point, I have to say that this movie is a huge bag of fun in the sun! Okay, maybe no sun is involved because it is the beginning of March, but nonetheless, it’s still a hell of a wild ride, straight from the imaginative-mind of Bryan Singer. Here’s the thing about this movie: it doesn’t cater to a certain crowd, yet it’s the type of film you can bring your kids to, mainly boys. Why? Because it’s got all of the right-ingredients that a boy at that age should oh so desire: action, fun, humor, giants, fart jokes (not as eye-rolling as it sounds), swords, guys speaking in funny-accents, and a whole lot more where that came from. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect piece of cake to allow your kids to take a bit out of, I don’t know what the hell will!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you bastard!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you lil’ bitch!

Some may rag on this flick for not going any-deeper than just being a loosey-goosey, fun, and wild romp about the Jack and the Beanstalk-tale, but who needs that when you have Bryan Singer just playing around with the material that it seems like he actually enjoys? Seriously, the guy is having a ball with this material, and in-return; so are we. He never lets loose of the action and never loses his mind on what type of movie he’s making. He’s always making a wacky and crazy movie that has a bunch of people, hunting-down giants, and sometimes, vice versa. You can’t ask for much more, unless you want the Usual Suspects-Singer. If you go in and expect that type of Singer, then you’re going to come out of this with a huge slap-mark on your face saying, “WRONG!!”. It’s just a fun-as-hell movie. That’s it.

I could beat this horse to death with all of the shit that I’m saying, but it’s the truth: this movie is just fun. Take for instance, the fact that I saw this at a 11 a.m. screening on Saturday, not expecting anything other than a movie that would be okay, so I could sleep my hangover away. However, that’s where the surprise came. The movie woke me up instantly, and didn’t lose me for a single second. Sure, it started-off pretty slow and made me feel like I was in for a ride that I would most likely doze-off for, but as soon as Jack gets those treacherous beans, it’s a total and complete party, right from there. Singer never loses the sense or style of that party, and always kept me alive, awake, happy, and above, entertained. I can’t give this any more credit. Just go see this movie and be ready to see the return of Bryan Singer. The guy knows exactly what he’s doing with a story, how he wants to film it, and how he wants to keep the spirits alive while doing-so. If there is any increment in my mind that the guy can handle the next X-Men, this is the reason why I think so. Now, I just cannot wait!

As for the cast, they all seem to be up-to-pace with all of the fun and wild times that Singer’s having behind-the-camera. Nicholas Hoult is charming as the naive Jack that has to grab his pair, and beat the shit out of some giants. He does do some of that, but not enough to where I was feeling like, “Wow, this character really is a slayer.” Don’t get me wrong, Hoult’s good and all, it’s just that I wish Jack was doing more slaying of giants, like the title promised.

Instead of Jack doing all of that bad-assery business of slaying the fuck out of giants, all of that is left up to Elmont, playued by the awesome Ewan McGregor. Say what you will about the questionable-choices the guy has made in the past, but Ewan McGregor is a very, very likeable presence that always keeps my attention on him whenever anything’s going down, and he just so happens to be located in the same scene. McGregor seems to be having so much fun playing the charming, but bad-ass soldier that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and never lets his target get away. He’s not as sadistic as I may make him sound, but McGregor does have a cool character that can kick ass, take names, chew bubblegum, and spew-out hilarious one-liners, like nobody’s freakin’ business. Where the hell was that in all of the Star Wars movie, dammit!!?!?

"Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!"

“Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!”

Stanley Tucci is another one that seems to be having a lot of fun in his role, but instead, is more of the bad-guy here and absolutely revels in it. Tucci is a great screen-presence to have on-screen, but to watch him chew the hell out of the scenery and spit it back out, was just a blast to see, and probably an even bigger-blast to perform. Tucci’s good at playing weird-o bad guys (*cough* The Lovely Bones *cough*), but a simple one that’s just evil for the darn-sake of being evil, is even better in my book. The only one who feels like a bit of a waste is Ian McShane, who really seems like he just wants to break-out his shell, get loose with it, and just start being the bad-guy himself. Instead, he’s all wrapped-up in that King’s armor that makes him look more like a freakin’ egg than any type of ruler, but hey, at least we get to see those devil-ish eyes. God, they still scare me to this day.

Consensus: Jack the Giant Slayer is not what you think it to be from the misleading trailers and advertisements  It’s not a waste of time, it’s fun, it’s exuberant, it’s made for the whole family, it never loses it sense of joyfulness  and even better, just never loses what it’s all about in the first-place: complete and utter entertainment. Don’t bother with the 3D, but if you’re bored and got nothing else better to do with your life than watch highlight clips of the Oscars, then give this bad-boy a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

TRON (1982)

About 20 years later and hell, I could make this movie off of my Mac.

A hip and cool computer programmer named Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is transported inside the software world of a mainframe computer during a computer game. This is also where he interacts with various programs in his attempt to get back out but also make the computer program “nice and civilized” again.

Watching and reviewing old-school movies like this are so hard because you always have to take them with the grain salt, especially ones from the 80’s. You have to always expect the material to be cheesy, you have to always expect it to be dated, and you always have to expect it to not be as up-to-date with the times as you may be used. This movie is even harder to review, mostly due to the fact that nerds from all over the globe hail this as their wake-up call in life, and consider it one of the sci-fi greats, along up there with Star Wars and 2001. Sorry geek fan boys, not quite up there with those classics.

No matter what it is you may hear about this flick, whether it be good or bad, you always hear that this is just one of those flicks that changed the way computers affected a movie. For instance, back in the days before the summer ’82, computers and film didn’t really need each other, except if it was for a fully-animated movie that needed help moving the pictures and graphics along. Then comes along this movie and soon you start to see actual-people, perform in front of a live-stage that’s just filled to the core with special-effects and even though it may not look as beautiful and awe-inspiring as it may have then, it still really takes you awhile to realize, “Damn, this had to really fuck people’s minds when they saw it”.

Seeing an all-out, special-effects extravaganza like Avatar and remembering your first reactions after seeing that can only give you an idea of what people thought about after seeing this movie way back when, and it’s really impressive. Director Steve Lisberger definitely seemed like he had a real hunch in his back with everything he wanted to do, how he wanted to do it, and how he wanted it look in the final-cut, and for the most part; the guy succeeds big time. In the day and age we live in nowadays, films like these only get filled with more flashy-effects and added-on with an extra-dimension, but to see something as simple but cool as this, really brings you back to the days and gets you in the nostalgia-feeling, even if you were never born when it first came-out. Hell, this is my first-time seeing this flick and yet, I still feel the breeze of nostalgia hit me from the early-80’s. Ahh, those were the days…..I think.

Good-looking celebrities trying to look nerdy: not buying it.

Good-looking celebrities trying to look nerdy: not buying it.

Anyway, the special-effects aren’t as dated as I may make it think, they are actually pretty cool to view. I used to be a huge gamer, but recently have fallen off the wagon and found myself playing video-games around once or twice a year. To some of you out there who have hemmorhoids from all-nighters on XBOX live; you may be surprised. However, to some of you that are full-time critics that just love movies; this may not surprise you. Still, watching this made me feel like I was playing a video-game and a really fun, and retro-one at that. Some of the effects may not look as cool as you’d think, but there are still some scenes full of plenty of eye-candy and glamour to feast your eyes upon and whether or not you are a gamer; it doesn’t matter because you’ll still be able to appreciate what’s up on-screen and how Lisberger and his crew were able to create it. It’s very, very impressive, but sadly, this is just one of those cases where it’s all style and beauty, but no substance.

First of all, I had no idea what the hell was up with this story. In the beginning of the movie, I really tried to understand what the hell all of this “computer and technology talk” was all supposed to mean and as soon as I felt like it was translated to me, the film throws me for a loop and not only adds more confusing bits of language to the mix, but brings a piece of tension I never understood. I never fully got why Flynn was in this world and better yet, how, where, when, and how he was supposed to get out of it. To be brutally honest, I don’t think Lisberger cared about any of those details, either, because he seems a lot more concerned with the frequent scenes of running, chasing, brawling, and in what seems to be the most awesome game of dead-or-alive Frisbee. These scenes are all cool to see play-out with the type of visuals Lisberger has on-display, but seriously: what the hell does it all add up to?

Even worse, the film has little to no tension. Other than the cool game of Frisbee I just mentioned in that last paragraph, I never really found myself tense, on-the-edge-of-my-seat, or particularly revved-up with what was going on in the movie. Honestly, I was just watching and waiting for something other than the visuals, to take me by storm and make me feel as if I was really in the mode of playing a video-game. Instead, this ends-up being the lamest video-game ever and it’s even worse when the melodrama rears it’s ugly head in and makes everything seem so corny and dated, aka, exactly what I have come to expect from a sci-fi movie of the early 80’s.

And I know some of you out there may get a tad pissed-off at me and state that this is a movie that’s more about it’s look and feel, rather than the dialogue, but seriously: what sort of defense is that? But even if you weren’t on the film’s side of it’s “style-over-substance”-argument, you still have to admit that it doesn’t matter if a flick has a lame-o script, just as long as it has enough fun and entertainment to take my mind off the crappiness. However, this flick is not one of those and as much action there may have been in the first hour or so, it all starts to go away, in a slowly but surely manner, and rarely ever gain back the excitement it once has. No matter what negatives I may have to speak about this flick, it is still great to look at, but that’s not enough to take my mind off a shit-script of Lucas-proportions.

As of right now, Toyota is using this picture as an example for their next-line of automobiles. Good gas mileage, I''d assume.

As of right now, Toyota is using this picture as an example for their next-line of automobiles. Good gas mileage, I”d assume.

However, when you have a shit-script, you usually have shit-actors and in a way, that’s sort of the case here. Jeff Bridges plays Flynn and is a bunch of fun as the wacky and wild dude that gets sucked into his own world he enjoys to play around with, and brings a lot of excitement to a flick that seems like it really needs it at certain-points. Bridges is always fun to watch and it’s no surprise that the guy brings a much-needed levity to a script that couldn’t be concerned with it either way. The problem with Bridges being so much fun, though, is that he is probably the best one and everybody else sort of falls by the waist-side, and badly too, may I add.

Even though he’s more or less the secondary-character in this story, Bruce Boxleitner plays Tron and is fine with his material, even though you never understand what is so damn special about this guy in the first-place. You sort of feel like Bridges should have been the only guy in the video-game world after all, and even better, should have been named Tron. I don’t know how much of that would have changed and screwed-up the story, but it probably would have made a lot more sense than just featuring two characters that could be the lead-character but yet, continue to battle-it-out for the top-spot. And not in the fun way, either. It’s more confusing and annoying than that. Cindy Morgan is Yori and, rightfully so, probably plays the most robotic member of the cast as she obviously just seems to be going through the motions of acting, without a care in the world. Maybe it worked back then when people weren’t paying attention to her acting or line-reading, but now, it’s more obvious and distracting than the elephant in the room. And finally, all the movie needed was one hell of an evil S.O.B. to take this movie and make something better, but somehow, some way, David Warner isn’t up to the challenge as Stark and just feels like less and less of a threat as time goes on. Yep, I think that the Dude is the only one who prevails in this cast but then again: are you the least-bit surprised?

Consensus: No doubt that the visuals and look of TRON are as beautiful and as polished as they once were, way back when in 1982, but it just doesn’t take special-effects to make a good film. Sometimes, you need other elements like strong acting, believable dialogue, excitement, fun, joy, action, and glee to make a good film, which is where I think this movie dropped the ball on. Okay, bring on the hate-mail nerds.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

If there's anything we can thank this movie for, it's this man and all that he strives for as a human-being. That's a hero right there.

If there’s anything we can thank this movie for, it’s this man and all that he strives for as a human-being.

The Impossible (2012)

Apparently the English had it way worse than the rest of Thailand. Apparently.

Based on a real story, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three sons as they are all caught in the aftermath of the humongous tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. They get split-up, with the oldest-boy (Tom Holland) and his mother on one side, whereas the father and the younger-boys are on the other. However, among all of the pain, destruction, and disaster  both sides set out to find one another and do, simply, THE IMPOSSIBLE. Come on, you had to know that was coming up.

The 2004 Tsunami is a disaster that is still fresh and clear in many people’s minds and in ways, still has people feeling the effects, even after all of these years. That’s why making a flick about this monster-Tsuanmi would still seem a little too soon for some, but it’s a lot more tastefully done than the advertising would have you think. To be honest, it’s probably a better use of the Tsunami than that piece of crapola Hereafter was. Hey, if you’re going to cash-in on a real-life disaster, do it the right way, not the Clint Eastwood way. And that’s why director J.A Bayona is suited so well for this material because not only does he handle the subject and topic with a real sense of class and decency, but he also shows it in the way that makes me feel as if I was right then and there while it was happening.

After seeing a whole Summer chock-full of the world being blown-up and countless other areas being turned to shit, I was very, very surprised to see that the very best use of any type of destruction for a movie in 2012 (no, not that Roland Emmerich piece of shite) came from a movie that uses only 10 minutes or so of it, and then it’s practically gone. We only get 10 minutes or so until the actual Tsunami comes and concurs, and it’s just one of those moments that occurred this year where I was grounded to the floor from start-to-finish. The reason that is, is mainly because everything I saw seemed so real with the waves coming in at a very realistic look and pace, and the scariest use of water I have seen in quite some time. You seriously feel as if you are right there with these people as they get hit by the Tsunami and I have to give Bayona a crap-ton of credit for putting me on the edge of my seat and having me feel like I was in for a wild ride of drama, sadness, destruction, and family-matters. I got all of them, but sadly, not the way I wanted.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

After the Tsunami hits and we get to see the shitty situations these characters have found themselves in, everything, slowly but surely, starts to fall-apart. Maybe that isn’t the right thing to say because I was very involved with these characters, this real-life disaster, and the aftermath of it all, but then it almost seems to lose it’s focus. The story that we become first accustomed to is with Watts and Holland as he has to practically be the parent in this situation, because she can barely even walk and practically falling apart. This story-line was interesting as hell because you rarely get to see the kid parenting the parent in movies, unless it’s some teenage daughter teaching her dad all of the cool lingo that the Y-Generation, cool kids use. We see how a parent can put themselves below a child, be tended to, and how a child can actually do that while being successful, and yet, still be a child. It was interesting to see and I could tell that if this was how the whole film was going to play-out, then I was probably going to need to borrow the extra bag of Kleenex’s from the person next to me.

However, I soon forgot about a very key, important-factor to this flick: there’s a whole other side to the family! When McGregor shows up with the two, younger boys, then the flick becomes a bit conventional and melodramatic, almost to the point of where it’s off-putting. With Watts and Holland, it was rich, raw, and gritty, almost to the point of where you were cringing because somebody needed to throw water and soap on them, but when you get McGregor and his story of looking for his family, it takes everything down to something that feels as if it would be from a Lifetime movie or something. The eternal conflict that McGregor has to go through, is that he has to choose on whether or not to abandon his own children, to look for his wife and other child, and that’s it. He has to find them and if he doesn’t, chances are, they’ll be dead. I get that it’s a very real and true depiction of events that probably occurred to a plethora of families around this time, but still, it doesn’t make it the least-bit intriguing or surprising to watch, especially when all that I’m watching is a guy, walking around with a piece of paper in his head and asking people certain names. Yeah, should have just stayed with Watts. She probably would have gotten naked more, too.

The fact that this is a real depiction of something that real people had to go through, just makes this final-product a bit more distasteful in it’s own way. For instance, I find it relatively strange that the flick’s real-life story, concerns a family that was Mexican. Here, they are English and even worse, the rest of the film acts like it was hardest on them the most. Over a million people died that fateful day and some families are still reeling from the effects of that, so to sit-there and make a movie about a little, mighty family of mates that went searching for one another, does seem a bit rude to the rest of the people out there who died and were sometimes under the same circumstance as this very same family. I do have to come and realize that yes, this is a Hollywood production and yes, this is a real-life story about a real-life family, not the real-life event that actually occurred, but still, if I were one of the families who suffered from this Tsunami and saw this movie, I’d be a little ticked-off, quite frankly.

"You think I'm bad, you should see Anakin."

“You think I’m bad, you should see Anakin.”

Even though the actual, real-life family this story is based-off of is in fact, Mexican, the English cast that actually does take over this story still make it worth the while to watch and are easily the best elements to this flick. Naomi Watts is getting all sorts of hollers and praise for her role here as Maria, the wife/mother who can’t fend for herself due to a terrible disability, and it’s well-deserved hollers and praise, in my mind. Watts is always knocking roles like this out of the park, each and every single year, but here, she sort of shows the vulnerable-side to her character that can’t be the leader and owner anymore, and instead, has to sit on the back burner and try to stay alive, while her son cares and tends for her. Maybe it’s not as traumatizing of a performance as the one she gave in 21 Grams, but it’s still the cleaner, more mainstream-version of that same performance.

Ewan McGregor is an actor that has been very so-so over the last decade or so, but I think he’s gotten his career back on-track and is a great actor to watch, especially when he’s in such an act of desperation as his character is here. McGregor definitely still has the lovable sensibility to him that not only makes you feel like he’s a great father that loves his family for what they are, but will ultimately, end-up doing the right thing for every one in the end. There’s a scene with McGregor on the phone and without giving too much away and spoiling it for all of you cats out there, it’s probably his most powerful piece of acting he’s given ever since the days of Moulin Rogue. Maybe to some, that’s not saying much, but to me, it means the whole world. Good job, Ewan! Now stay away from the new Star Wars movies!

As compelling as McGregor and Watts are (and trust me, they are something to watch and behold here), the one who really stands-out the most is probably Tom Holland as the oldest-son. The kid starts off as a bit of a brat that can’t help but being a piece of crap to his parents and to his brothers, but has to change all that up once everything goes from bad, to worse, to absolutely dreadful. Not many kid actors working today could pull-off that transition from spoiled-brat, to powerful, adult-like child, but Holland does it and does it so perfectly that you really believe in whatever this kid does next. He’s a wonderfully kind specimen the way he cares for his mother and looks out for her, especially when she needs him the most, but is even kinder when it comes to helping others out in looking for their families, friends, and loved ones. Holland may, or may not slide-by with an Oscar nomination this year but if he does get one, I will not be mad in the least-bit because he’s never annoying, and he’s always real. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

Consensus: Focusing on one, English-family throughout this terrible disaster that occurred in 2004, does seem a bit insensitive to the ones who were effected the most by it, but The Impossible still provides plenty of rich, character-moments that are made even better by the cast and crew that make this flick, one step above your typical, soapy-drama.

7/10=Rental!!

Don't let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Don’t let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Being on a ship isn’t always swashbuckling fun.

Russell Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is the ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the HMS Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans.

Anybody who ever hears the words “ships” and “pirates”, automatically think of Captain Jack running rampant all over the seas, with his pet monkey on his shoulder. However, how do people feel whenever they make a story like this, with adults in mind? Answer is, more rum!

Director Peter Weir did a great job with accurate depiction of what it would really be like to stay on a ship like this, way back when. All these people do all day is stare at the ropes of the boat and the stars in the sky, then eat, sleep, drink, occasionally have a battle, and then go back to eating, sleeping, and drinking all over again. It seems very tedious, which is an emotion that Weird conveys very well and it’s a real change of pace we usually see from the fun, hip, and energetic movies about pirates out on the seas, having a grand old time. I also liked how we never knew who the enemy was in this story, considering we never know exactly who the hell these guys are going to face up against. Could be an army. Could be a leper boat. Hell, it could even be Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. But either way, it was still as much of a mystery to me as it was to these guys in the movie.

Let’s also not forget to mention that Weir’s attention to detail is what made this a sight to see the whole film. Weir definitely has a great eye for what looks good and what doesn’t and with a film that takes place on a boat, that’s something to be commended for. The opening shot is absolutely stunning and got me ready for the rest of the shots I was going to get. Long, beautiful, and sweeping shots of the sea and land around it, really made me feel like I was out there with them and took me to this world where I never knew what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, just exactly like these people on the ship thought. Maybe I’m thinking about the cinematography a bit too much here, but when you have something that looks as pretty as this one, you can’t go without at least talking about it. I mean hell, just check out this shot right here. Now try and tell me that that isn’t something that catches your eye! By the way, it’s all real, no CGI. Don’t see that very often.

Even though Weir’s direction really brought me into the mood, the story itself didn’t do much for me and I have no idea who’s fault that was. First of all, the story is pretty slow and even though it does pick up every once and a blue moon, you still can’t help but feel like there should be more character development to have us care who lives, who dies, and who ends up getting put at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker (which basically mean’s dead, but I just wanted an excuse to use that term). Whenever somebody died, and the crew had a huge ceremony for them, I didn’t really know or even care about it all that much because nothing really happens with these characters to drive this story on. It’s strange too, because even though action doesn’t take up the film, all of the other scenes weren’t really dedicated to the crew members or their character development, instead, the film just sort of lingered around. Weird, I know, plus add on a two hour run-time and you got yourself a boat ride that may over-stay its welcome by a good 45 minutes or so. Give or take.

Another strange aspect of this story, and probably its strongest was Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Once again, Crowe turns in another impressive and strong performance that shows he is able to convey so many emotions, no matter who he is playing. The character of Aubrey isn’t a very likable one, but Crowe somehow finds his way to get him by with a wee bit of charm and it worked on me, and then it didn’t. The problem with this character is that this guy goes through so many problems over the course of the flick, that it almost seems like he is a bit bi-polar. There’s those scenes where we see him being the commanding officer of the ship and is inspired to beat the enemy, then we see him being jealous towards his friend and not allow him to do what he wants to do (some random story about collecting newfound insects, that didn’t do much for me), and then he goes a little control freak-ish when he starts to lay down the law on some of the crew for not being respectful enough to him. However, at the end of all of this we get a shot of him feeling triumphant as if he was just another hero of the seas, when throughout the past 2 hours we get a glimpse at a person that seemed like he had a lot of control issues and went with his pride a bit too much. But the film tried to play him off like some great, heroic figure? Didn’t get it but I guess that’s why Weir hired Crowe to do the job since he’s always a great watch.

Another performance that almost steals the spotlight from Crowe is the one given by Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s supposed “friend”, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Bettany and Crowe last appeared in A Beautiful Mind together, where it was obviously Crowe’s show which was supposed to be the same plan here, instead, Bettany comes close to almost stealing the spot-light from him. Bettany easily as one of the best character arcs here because this is a dude that just wants to help everybody out on the ship, is very real with Jack and the crew, and just wants to see some damn animals! His character definitely sticks a lot of sense into Crowe’s face and it’s a real wonder why Bettany didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this one because his character was really the only one I actually cared about. Everybody else could get captured by Black Beard and I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass.

Consensus: With a couple of good performances from the cast and a beautiful vision from Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World definitely should hit a lot harder than it does, but due to a lacking script without a confused central character and barely little, or no character development, the film just ends up being a mildly entertaining 2 and a half hours spent. Next time, just call up Johnny Depp.

7/10=Rental!!

Argo (2012)

See, Star Wars really did save people’s lives.

The movie is on the true story of a secret 1979 CIA mission during the Iran Hostage crisis in which six diplomats are rescued through a bizarre extraction plan involving a fake Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.” Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA exfiltration expert who came up with the idea in the first-place and has to find the strength and courage to go through with it.

Believe it or not, that silly-ass plot synopsis up there is a real-life account on a secret CIA mission that took place during 1979 to 1980 and may have you think, “just how the hell did the government trust Hollywood with saving the lives of six people?” Well, the truth is that Hollywood is good for many things, and not only is saving the lives of six people one of them, but reviving Mr. Ben Affleck’s career as well.

As director, Ben Affleck is basically three-for-three (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are his two other flicks), but this one is slightly different from those other ones as he is actually stepping out of his friendly-streets of Bawhstan, and upping his game by focusing on something bigger, and a lot larger-scale than from what we usually expect from this guy. The look and feel of this movie just put me right into a late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that not only set me in the right-mood, but never rang a single false-note to me whatsoever, even with all of the goofy mustaches, cars, and hair-do’s running around all-over-the-place.

But what really came as a total shock to me is how Affleck was not only make me feel like I was exactly right there with him in America during this time-period, but also made me feel like in the chaotic shit-hole of Iran during this time as well, and damn, was it freakin’ scary. Right from the start, we are put in this area of Iran that is just full of chaos and on the verge of collapsing, and Affleck shows this perfectly by splicing together his footage, with actual-footage taken at this time to create a realistic, if even scarier view-point of the setting where our main-story takes place in. It’s not only great in it’s realistic/very detailed look, but also how we are able to draw the similarities between the Middle East and the West’s relationship with one another, to then, and how almost nothing has changed whatsoever in the thirty-plus years since this whole “Argo” mission went down.

However, it’s not all about making a point and showing off the politics with Affleck, it’s more about the whole mission itself and that’s where most of the fun of this movie came from. The first hour or so where we are left following Affleck as he tries his damn near hardest to make this fake-movie every bit of legit as he can, is the most entertaining aspect of this whole movie, not just because it takes a lighter, and slightly, more humorous approach than the rest of the film, but because it shows you just how hard it is to actually get something made in Hollywood, regardless of whether it’s the next masterpiece or not. But, all of the hootin’ and holler soon starts to go away once the real plot of this movie kicks in, and that’s where I really started to feel the tension go up my spine and get the goosebumps working. This is where Affleck shines the most, by showing how capable he is of making you sweat your ass off, with every single, tense second that goes by. It’s worked in his other two films, and it sure as hell works here but not as perfectly.

The reason why the whole suspension of this film doesn’t work as well as Affleck’s last, two movies, is because we already know the story going on and if you haven’t already known, chances are, you’re going to be able to tell how it ends. Then again, that’s sort of the basis for all movies out there but when you have a movie that puts the whole aspect of itself, on the fact that you have to feel all tense and worked-up to really enjoy the whole movie, then you kind of have to wonder just when this movie’s time is up. I don’t know want to say that it got to that point for me, but there was a very heart-breaking point where I realized that, “okay, I already know what’s going to happen, so why the hell is Affleck wasting my time with all of these slow scenes and epic score bits?” But, I don’t want to give anything else away and trust me, if you don’t know the story going in, be ready, cause you may already know it from start-to-finish about half-way through. I did, and I think that’s where this film sort of failed in captivating me as much as I would have liked it to.

Then, it seems to get worse for Affleck as the guy doesn’t really stand-out as much with his performance as Tony Mendez. The problem with Mendez isn’t Affleck’s acting, in-fact, the guy’s pretty good when it comes to him showing his near-perfect comedic timing, as well as showing us a character that’s easy to root for, even when the odds are stacked up in his defense, more of the problem is that this character just doesn’t have much going for him that’s interesting or worth really standing behind in the first-place. Yeah, the guy singlehandedly comes up with this plan and is brave enough to go out there and finish it off himself, but he doesn’t really have much of anything else going for the guy. This is fairly evident when the film tries to shoe-horn the whole angle with him and how he misses his son and wife, even though they touch on it for about 6 minutes throughout the whole film, and then at the end, is supposed to have some big, emotional impact on us as we walk out the door. No, no, mister Ben. Not falling for it this time.

Then again, you have to give Affleck more credit because this even and plain performance, almost allows him to take a side-step to the left for the rest of his ensemble to show off and do their own thang unlike anybody else. Bryan Cranston shows up in his 100,000th movie role this whole year as Tony’s boss, and nails all of the snappy dialogue they give him, and his angry soul. I was hearing a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Cranston and his role here and as good as the guy may be, I don’t really see it all that much since he’s not really stretching his skills as an actor by just yelling and looking mad all of the time. Still, it’s an act that I have yet to be tired of. Alan Arkin is also another guy that’s been getting a lot of buzz for his role here as big-shot, Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel. This buzz is deserved but I don’t really see Arkin getting a nomination, mainly because the guy doesn’t do anything else other than yell, scream, holler, and rant like the old man we all know and hopefully, love him for. Then, there’s John Goodman as real-life make-up artist John Chambers, who also seems to be having a lot of fun with his role and steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. However, the rest of the supporting cast is just filled, and filled, and filled to the brim with actors/actresses that you have most likely seen in about 1,000 other movies and when you see their faces pop-up here, you’re going to be going right up next to your buddies ear and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from that so-and-so movie?” Trust me, I did that plenty of times with my sister and I probably missed a hundred more because my mind would still be in heavy thought and not focused on who’s familiar face was going to show up next.

Consensus: Though it’s not as tense or electrifying as Affleck’s last two directorial efforts, Argo still works as a smart, funny, and entertaining thriller that covers a mission that not many people ever knew about, but was also a very important one by how it showed certain sides of the U.S. government working hand-in-hand with Hollywood in a slightly surreal, yet smart way.

8/10=Matinee!!

Taken 2 (2012)

Dude, just stay away from foreign countries.

He came, he saw, he kicked-ass, and took his daughter back (Maggie Grace), and basically lived a life he thought was all fine and dandy, until now. That’s right, this time around, it’s Neeson’s wife (Famke Janssen) who is kidnapped and instead of Paris, it’s going to be Istanbul, and it’s all by the man (Rade Sherbedgia) who wants revenge on Neeson for what he did to his family.

In all honesty, I was very surprised by how much of a success Taken was when it was released way back when in 2009. It did feature a pretty cool trailer, but for what was essentially a pretty lame thriller idea, with a big-name that hasn’t really been big since the first Star Wars prequel, and to top it all off, a film that was released in the dead-heart of January, aka a time nobody goes to see movies cause they’re all pooped-out from seeing the same crap, drunk on egg nog for the past 2 weeks. So, that’s basically why I never understood how the hell it was numero uno at the box-office for about 3 weeks, boosted Qui-Gon Jinn’s career back-up to “action hero” stardom, and made itself destine for a sequel, and possibly more. However, despite all my angry ranting and rambling, I can’t say I hate the idea of a sequel to that film, especially when this is the type of stuff we get.

Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, Taken still had it’s moments of fun that made the final-product all the more enjoyable. The problem I had with that story was how it would always start-and-stop and always kill the momentum it had going for itself, by focusing too much on the whole internal-crisis that was going on with Neeson and the thought of his daughter going out there and bangin’ dudes under the influence of drugs. I’m not saying he’s wrong to be upset about that, but come on man, go out there and start shootin’ some fuckers and get revenge. That’s exactly what this film is from the 25-minute mark to the end of the whole movie. Need I remind you, that the whole movie itself runs a steady and swift 91 minutes, so that’s basically about an hour of pure mayhem, fun, action, and Oskar Schindler looking as bad-ass as he can look.

Director Olivier Megaton obviously knows the type of movie he’s making here, and you know what? He doesn’t care what you think about it or how you want to look at, he’s having fun and that’s all that matters to him, as it should because it had an extremely positive effect on a group of a d-bags like my friend and I who went to go see this. What’s so exciting and fun about this action is that there is never a dull moment in it to where you think, “Oh great, they’re slowing things down to focus on character-development.” Nope, there’s none of that at all here because we already know who these characters are, what purpose they serve to the story, and why they are motivated to save each other’s lives. We don’t need any freakin’ back-story, we need some freakin’ action and that’s exactly what Megaton delivers on.

However, this is obviously the case where you may have to not only leave your brain at the door, but also have it delivered to you when you’re sleeping in the middle of the night so you sure as hell don’t remember half of the crap you see here because the more you think of it, the more you’re going to ask yourself, “What in the fuck did I just watch?”. Seriously, this movie is one of the dumber ones I have seen the whole year so far and in ways, that’s a compliment, and in others, it’s too distracting to even be considered anything. It’s just there and never seems to go away.

For instance, one of the only subplots that make a difference in this “story” is how Neeson’s daughter is finally learning how to drive with a permit. Now, anybody that ever remembers having a permit, sure as hell remembers how hard it was to go 5 mph down a long-road without falling to the side of the road at least once. I sure as hell do, and if that’s not the exact type of example that has happened to you, something along those lines definitely have and it just goes to show you that when you’re driving a car with your permit, shit is pretty stressful. That’s what really took me by surprise here as the daughter not only goes over 80 mph in very tight and narrow side-streets, but does it all without barely hitting anything, and/or crashing it in the first five-seconds of being behind the wheel. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been so bad either, if it hadn’t been going on for 5 minutes where it was just her driving as if she was taking over Ryan Gosling’s job from Drive, when in reality, the girl still doesn’t know how to master the art of parallel parking, if there ever was one (you city people know what I’m talking about). This example is just one of the many, I do repeat, many of times that this movie just comes off as downright stupid and if you don’t like that with you’re action movies, then stay the hell away and go off and wait for The Avengers 2 to come out in 2014, or whenever the hell Joss Whedon has that planned.

Once again, much to my douchy surprise, Liam Neeson is the big-draw with this flick and as so he should be, the guy still has the talent to pull a character like Bryan Mills, off perfectly. Neeson just has this certain amount of likability and warmth to him that makes you sympathize with his over-protective ways and also make you believe that he’s got everything under-control, when half of the time he’s got a gun pointing straight at his dome. But Neeson is also able to totally switch that off in a heartbeat and make him, your worst nightmare by pulling out all of the stops to succeed in the end and do everything in his power, to kick the ever-loving shit out of you. Neeson does that so well here, but I think it’s his time to eventually hang-it up after this, at least with action anyway. It’s not that Neeson isn’t good nor believable with these roles, because he surprisingly is, it’s just that he seems to old (60) for a role that has the guy moving around, shooting guns, beating the tar out of dudes half his age, and still not be able to break a bone of get a hernia. I love you and all, Liam, but maybe it’s time to go back to drama and see if you got one, last Oscar-push left in ya. That’s all I’m saying, though.

Maggie Grace, despite her out-of-nowhere expertise of driving, does a nice job as the sweet but determined daughter of Bryan, but also seems a bit hard to believe as a girl that is still 17 and going for her learner’s permit. It also surprised me that the first-shot of her that we get is her getting groped by her boy-toy, when in reality, I would think that someone who just got drugged-up and raped by a bunch of Russian mobsters, would still feel a little dramatized and not allow anyone to touch her in that way and to just take it slow. Basically, any girl that’s like that with me would be tossed-out as quick as 1-week old pie, but since it’s Maggie Grace, ehh, I think can withstand the wait. Rade Sherbedgia is here in his 100,000th anniversary appearance as playing the stereotypical, Russian villain that never seems to do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, and is still pretty good at it, even if his character does seem a bit overly-dicky with what he’s doing. I mean honestly, if this guy was a real Russian mobster, wouldn’t he at least understand that family-values are family-values and shouldn’t really blame Bryan for going out there and killing his son, considering his son attacked, drugged-up, and captured Bryan’s daughter? I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking about it too much but doesn’t sound like a real mobster to me. Where’s Don Corleone when you need him?

Consensus: Taken 2 is your typical unneeded, stupid, and unintentionally sequel that seems to get pushed-out every couple of times a year, but for this time, it’s actually fun and keeps your eyes moving along with the quick-fire pace at 91 minutes of pure adrenaline fun, and Liam Neeson bad-assery.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Ted (2012)

If only I could get my plush doll Spider-Man to start talking and doing cool shit.

The film centers on a 35-year-old man (Mark Wahlberg) who must deal with the cherished teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who came to life as the result of a childhood wish… and has refused to leave his side ever since.

The one reason why I wasn’t really looking forward to this film as much was mainly because it’s the directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, aka the creator of Family Guy, aka a show I’m not too fond of. I don’t know what it is about me and that show, but I just don’t find it all that funny and consider other animated-shows like Futurama or South Park to be a lot funnier and wittier when it comes to their jokes. But somehow, I caught myself laughing….a lot.

The idea of having a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear seemed like something that would be funny for the first 10 minutes, then just falter out after that and get boring, but somehow, MacFarlane doesn’t allow that to happen mainly because he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he wants with this material. That’s right, no FCC, no rules, and no standards to live by, he’s allowed to do whatever the eff he wants to do with this story and he obviously is enjoying this newly-found freedom because almost every scene is filled with fart jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, gay jokes, pot jokes, and plenty of other jokes raunchy jokes that you can shake a stick at.

But the difference here with all of these raunchy jokes in this movie, from say, another raunch-fest like That’s My Boy, is that this film actually has some cleverness behind all of the raunch. It’s not just all about making people go “ewww” or squirm at the sight of a dude’s penis, it’s all about making people laugh their asses off at something dirty, but something that’s also very funny and witty. They do the same thing in The Hangover and even though that film and this one are somewhat different from one another, they both show you can still be clever, even if a good majority of the jokes are centered around dudes smoking pot and farting.

However, it’s not all about being dirty that makes this film funny, no, there’s actually plenty of other funny stuff going on that doesn’t concern any bodily fluids. There’s a couple of great movie references to such flicks as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Van Wilder (random, I know), Superman Returns (another random one), Airplane!, and even the 80’s cult classic, Flash Gordon, which actually plays a big part in this film as well. There are plenty of other references here that I’m sure I forgot to mention but it’s also still the same exact kind of snarky humor from Family Guy and that confused me because I laughed at just about everything here, but I barely ever laugh at that show. Maybe it’s just the foul language that makes everything funnier. Oh yeah, there’s also a reference to that show as well that seemed clever. Once again, I’m using that word “clever” in a review of a movie that’s about a talking bear.

Probably the best, and worst thing about this movie, is in fact Ted, the CG bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane. It’s obvious that Ted was going to pretty much steal every single scene, but what really got to me was just how consistently funny this freakin’ character was. Sometimes when you have certain characters like this, they are very funny at points but miss the mark at others, Ted, just about made me laugh each and every single time he opened up his stitched mouth. Not only did he have the best lines in the movie (obviously) but some of his insults that he flings at almost everybody around him were sometimes so mean and cruel, that I couldn’t believe I still liked him in the end. MacFarlane, of course, does a great job with this voice-role and it’s actually surprising just how good Ted, the CG bear actually looks in this film. I don’t want to go as far to say that he looked freakin’ realistic along the lines of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I really couldn’t find a single flaw in the animation they had made for him/it.

Sadly though, Ted is such a great and funny character to have on-screen that whenever he isn’t the film falters and definitely isn’t as funny as you would have liked it to be. It’s not like the rest of the cast isn’t game, because they sure as hell are, it’s just that you laugh so much at Ted and all of the crazy shit he says, that whenever he isn’t around you’re left wondering where he is and what he’s up to. Maybe MacFarlane focused on writing so much funny stuff for his own character, that he sort of left the others all in the dust.

Also, the flick starts to get less funny by the end and lose its originality points when the story starts to dive into Ted getting his ass captured by a childhood admirer of his (another crazy role for Giovanni Ribisi, maybe his weirdest, and that’s say something). I get it, they needed to bring this story-line in to give it some tension by the end, but Ribisi’s character is sort of forgotten about for a good hour or so that when he comes back, we just don’t give a crapola and just want Ted to go back to smoking pot, having sex with chicks, and doing coke. You know, the fun stuff.

But as good as MacFarlane may be as Ted, Mark Wahlberg still shows that he’s great at doing comedy, once again with his role here as John Bennett. Wahlberg is great at delivering comedy but mostly at playing the straight-man, which he does here perfectly and it definitely helps out a lot of the scenes whenever Ted isn’t around and it’s just Wahlberg, being Wahlberg, which isn’t a bad thing because it’s obvious this guy is having a ball with this role. Mila Kunis is also pretty funny as Lori and shows that she still has some great comedic timing to her as well, and I like how they didn’t make her character one of those bitchy-types that hate on their mans for having another friend that get’s in the way of their “alone time”. Nope, she’s actually a pretty cool chick that just wants a guy who wants to settle down. Typical woman, that’s why I’m done getting married after three unsuccessful attempts. Or maybe it’s four?

Consensus: Even though it starts to lose some flavor in the last act, Ted is still a very funny and raunchy comedy that shows off MacFarlane in a new light. It’s a new light where he’s able to say, do, and act whatever he wants and not have to give a crap at all, who say’s he’s not allowed to. Still, doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching a becoming a fan boy of Family Guy. Not a chance in hell, my friend.

7.5/10=Matinee!!

Titan A.E. (2000)

A video-game come to life on screen, but in a good way this time.

Set in the year 3028, many years after the planet Earth has been blown to bits by an alien race named the Drej, a young boy named Cale (Matt Damon) is discovered to hold the secret map of the Titan machine inside of his hand. The machine holds the power to unleash another planet for the few surviving humans still roaming around in space, and the opportunity to re-ignite their evolution.

This may seem like a totally random flick to review but for some odd reason I caught this on my Netflix queue and I haven’t seen it ever since it first came out so I thought it would definitely be a great way to get some nostalgia. Being a kid ruled.

One of the best things about watching movies is how they can sometimes take you out of the world that you’re living in at the present and transport you into this different world with all of its inhabitants and beauty. This is one of the main things I liked about this movie because it takes you out into the galaxy above and around us and shows its beauty and sometimes its darkness. The visuals in some cases may be dated, but they still look glorious because they show these little animated sketches but give it this 3-D look that almost makes it seem like a live-action flick. The film does a great job of combining both styles of animation here which works and takes you to this vision of space that I haven’t seen done before. There are so many great sights to see that it’s hard to just put my finger on one and I almost wish it was in 3-D and released again in 2012 because I think it would actually look even better and maybe get a better box office return.

To add on with the visuals too, the action is very fun and there is some sort of great energy that co-directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman both contain that makes this flick so much fun. There is just enough story here to make sense but when the shoot-em-up action scenes pop-up, they bring a lot to the film and make it feel like a lot of fun as if you’re watching ‘Star Wars’ in cartoon version. Let me also not forget to mention that there are some pretty cool rock songs courtesy of Jamiroquai, Lit, and even Fun Lovin’ Criminals. I don’t understand why more animated flicks let alone more movies in general just don’t use a pretty up-beat rock soundtrack to add to their action because it can honestly do wonders like it did here.

However, on the writing front, there is a lot of problems to be had here. First of all, as understanding as the story is in the first place it still doesn’t mean that it’s original by any means. There’s so much here that seems borrowed from plenty of other sci-fi flicks/stories that it can be very annoying at points. I mean there’s no big surprises at the end of the flick, but I was at least asking for some originality for me to get to that point. I also can’t forget to mention that this flick seems very adultish for an animated flick. Sometimes there will be a random sex joke that may seem more subtle than you expect but it’s still random, and there is plenty of other moments where it seemed like this flick really stepped over the whole PG rating, especially when it’s trying to connect with a kids audience but maybe that’s why it didn’t do so well at the box office in the first place anyway.

The characters here are also very bland and they aren’t very interesting, except for maybe one character, who wasn’t even human. Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, and Drew Barrymore, among others, all do their best with their voice jobs it’s just that their characters are so bland that it’s almost way too hard to root for them to save mankind. They all seemed to be written very dry or lifeless and they didn’t stretch my imagination as much as the cool visuals did either. However, the one character that I seemed to like the most was the Caterpillar-looking type named Gune, voiced by John Leguizamo. I don’t know what it is, but it always seems like Leguizamo is able to make any character he is playing, likable beyond belief.

Consensus: The visuals are very pretty to look at and there is a lot of fun to be had here with the energy in the action, but Titan A.E. still suffers from unoriginal writing, characters, and plot devices that seem to be used from so many other sci-fi stories. Still, what stands out from all of those other ones is its great visuals which make it a lot better than it has any right to be in the first place.

6/10=Rental!!