Tag Archives: Movies

The Rock is Terrifying – Review

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Central Intelligence definitely has all the appearances of a mass-market, mainstream product of the Hollywood movie factory.  After all, you have Kevin Hart – who has been blowing up with his new stand-up movie, 2 Ride-Alongs and 2 Think Like a Mans… and Dwayne Johnson, who has been subtly trying to get my attention in comedy movies for some time now.  Why not just the adrenaline-charged serious action movies, Dwayne?

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Johnson has been walking that typecast line for a while.  With knockout roles in GI Joe, The Fast & Furious series, and remakes like Walking Tall, Escape From Witch Mountain, and the upcoming Jumanji, he has more or less played the same character, with varying degrees of charisma depending on the movie’s requirements.  With his intelligence varying from doofus Pain & Gain levels to the cunning Hobbs introduced in Fast Five, I have yet to see him in a role that required more from him than an angry, determined look and a muscle flex.

Kevin Hart, similarly, has been in the same role for much of his movies: the insecure, self-absorbed goofball that always tries to talk his way out of situations.  I actually began to tire of this character after the second Ride-Along movie, and I was prepared to groan at his resurgence with this new venture.

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Surprise, surprise, Kevin Hart is the straight man in this movie.  His character, nicknamed in high school as “The Golden Jet,” is not only a normal person, but he’s faced with very real passions, problems, and insecurities.  He’s worried that he peaked in high school, and that he is less of a man because of it.  This insecurity leaks into his relationships.

Meanwhile, The Rock has been thrust into the comedic role.  The movie not only calls his sanity into question throughout the entire running time, but also uses close-ups to show… emotion?  On The Rock?  It’s like they gave him one of those charts with the different feelings and what they look like.

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Central Intelligence is hilariously fun.  Kevin Hart is satisfyingly fresh and comical as the straight man because that’s what makes his stand-up funny; he’s a relatable, insecure guy with real concerns.  Seeing that man flustered is too funny.

The Rock is hilarious because he’s honestly terrifying.  Not in his usual way – in a deranged way.  If one of my friends began acting like he does in this movie, I would have run far, far away within the first five or six minutes.  Most of the laughter at Johnson’s antics starts with nervous laughter.  The action is fun, over-the-top, but not 21-Jump Street insane.

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That’s not to say that this is a perfect movie.  No way.  The beginning of this movie reminds me of 17 Again in all of the wrong ways, and features some of the most horrendous CGI of the decade.  The Golden Jet’s love interest is vapid and cardboard, convinced that they need counseling with little to no evidence of any real problem between the two.  Yet somehow, I know that when this title goes on sale I’ll be there to swoop it up.  Definitely worth a Red Box night with the lady.

On a scale of Doom to Fast Five, I give this movie a Get Smart.  It’s funny, full of action, and has some excellent scenes, but has little to actually remember.

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About This Here Power Rangers Reboot…

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Whoa whoa whoa, slow down, America!  We’re really doing this?  We’re going to make a reboot movie of a show which literally took action footage from another show and inserted white people to make a completely new show with roughly the same storylines and battle scenes?

Okay, I’m down.  But we all know this is going to be bad, right?  Even the best parts of the original show are bad.  Awesome?  Sure, but nobody thinks that this is going to be good, right?  Like am I going to be mad because Saban’s Power Rangers was overlooked by the Academy?  Every year, I keep expecting the acting for the latest Power Rangers franchise to get better because, hey, it’s 2016, maybe they figured it out by now.  No such luck.  The movie will not be better.  CG doesn’t make everything better.

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This is the armor Saban made for the very first movie.  Besides removing the lump that was the Yellow Ranger’s package (he was a man in Japan, you see) and making everyone shiny with little coin logos, there wasn’t much modification done.  Now we have alien cyber-suits, possibly some kind of bio-engineered thing.  But of course those aliens made sure the girls got boob cups and high heels.

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And let’s not forget our classy villain played by Academy Award Winner wait no sorry Elizabeth Banks.  She’ll be wearing an equally practical suit for ruling the world.  Is that part of her gauntlet doubling as shoulder armor for an otherwise bare shoulder?  She looks like a stand-in for Poison Ivy from Batman and Robin.

Ooh.  Just got a chill.  Must be a freeze coming.

The only way I’m really on board with this is if it really embraces what it is and doesn’t even try to be serious.  This is not going to be Chris Nolan material – heck I’ll be glad if it’s even Chris Rock material.

Half of the success of the Power Rangers is the amount of camp in it.  No camp = no Power Rangers.  If they try to get dark and gritty, or worse, go the way of CG = Everything.  If that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got an apology to the fans a decade later.

I could swear I’ve seen something like this, where an alien suit gets dropped down and some kid finds it and uses it to fight the alien chasing after the suit… I could never find that movie.  I guess I won’t have that problem anymore after this.  Just…

(UPDATE 5/7/16: Because the Internet is mighty, I found it.  The movie is called Star Kid.  Don’t watch it.  Just rest knowing that it was found.  Curiosity satisfied.  Case closed.  Keep moving.  Don’t IMDB it.)

Are we sure we want millions spent on this?  Don’t we have a struggling education system that could use the money more?  What if they just made a new series with our own CG and solid acting and just aired it after Arrow on the CW until people realizes it won’t work, or it backfires and goes on for 10 more seasons and makes a lot of people famous?

Update 5/07/2016

I can’t believe I didn’t see this before: WHERE’S FREAKIN’ TOMMY?!

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I mean, yes, they’re probably doing the whole evil to good arc considering that’s the only story arc worth anything from Mighty Morphin’, but still… how dare they cause us to doubt his presence.  Obviously if they can’t get JDF in there they should at least have the character.

Finn’s Star Wars Adventure – Review

So I know this review is considered “late” by movie standards, but the rule seems to exempt Star Wars movies, as I know there are people still writing their personal reviews of A New Hope… so I feel that my thoughts are still worth recording and presenting.

I’m split like Two-Face about this movie.

On the one hand, this movie does a lot of things right to the Star Wars franchise.  The prequels’ hugest mistake was that it moved Star Wars away from being an adventure movie series.  Nobody was experiencing new things, everyone was an expert and engaging in political negotiations and such.

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Episode IV: A princess fleeing Darth Vader with plans to destroy the Death Star?  Adventure!  Excitement!

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Episode I: Jedi sent to mediate the taxation of trade routes, which are in dispute.  They are called on to settle things between a Trade Federation and a planet you just introduced with a monarchy ruled by a 14-year-old girl who has so much makeup that she is instantly alienated from the audience until halfway through the movie?  Did you even make it past the words “taxation of trade routes” in that sentence before your eyes went half-lidded?

The Force Awakens follows a girl with an unknown past who has only really stayed on one planet, and a stormtrooper who has only known an upbringing with the Empire – both people who have experienced very little of the rest of the galaxy.  These characters go through new things with the audience and can react like the audience, instead of like smug little experts (old Han Solo…).

So now we’re back on an adventure!  There are plenty of similarities between A New Hope and this one.

  • Dark villain introduced in first few minutes and kills someone.
  • Big bad guy ship opens movie.
  • Droid given secret information and then abandoned on a desert planet.
  • Stormtrooper rescues prisoner from the bowels of enemy territory.
  • Lightsaber duel at climax.
  • Superweapon threatening Rebel Base in seconds before exploding.

We got to see some new things.

  • We got to see a pedestrian (non-Jedi) use a lightsaber.
  • We got to see a “inferior saber.”
  • We got to see troopers actually shoot people.
  • Blah blah blah minority blah blah woman main characters.

We also got to see a villain at a crucial point in his character development.

I really enjoyed Finn’s character, and how he has all the experience the Resistance needs, but other than that nothing else that would make him “street-smart.”  Finn freaks out during all the times that I would freak out.

Poe Dameron was interesting.  He was a cocky, arrogant, male character thrust into the role of a damsel in distress.

Then there’s Kylo Ren.  On one hand, horrible horrible name.  I get that you’re tired of Darth Villain being the dude behind stuff but between “Kylo Ren” and “Supreme Leader Snoke” I’m having a hard time taking anything seriously.

However, I like the character arc that he immediately represents.  Instead of showing us a cold, transformed villain (seen it) we have a villain at the very start of his transformation.

So yes, fun movie.  I predicted most of the story, but that’s okay!  True to form, they know we really wanted to see Old Luke’s power, so they slapped in a flashback so we could see Mark Hamill’s name and get excited and then just made him part of the cliffhanger.  Now they’re challenged with doing the ESB of the new trilogy…

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“Good Luck.”

Then there’s the part that infuriates me: in one deft move Disney has destroyed the EU and relegated those stories to “Star Wars Legends.”

Wow, way to relegate decades of acquired knowledge and emotional investment.  Knowing their futures and their place in a larger extended universe is part of what gave the movies replayability.  Now every character is gone?  No Jacen Solo becoming Darth Caedus?  No death of Chewbacca wracking young Anakin Solo with guilt?  No Thrawn?  No Mara Jade Skywalker?  No Lowbacca, Jedi Wookiee?  No Jaina?  No Zekk, no Kyp Duron?  No Tenel Ka, losing her arm in a lightsaber accident?

… Oh well.  It was only my childhood.

Rob De Niro, Here to Class Up Your Light Drama – Review

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Anne Hathaway is the character with an arc, but Robert De Niro steals viewer interest, as usual.

The Intern may be forgettable as a light drama with very little actual drama, but one has to also keep in mind that there is a reason for certain genres to exist. Even if you are catering to a specific genre or audience, however, it is important for movies to have that layered feel; that feeling that there is a world beyond the screen, and that the characters are living their lives offscreen while you’re watching different ones.  This movie is not for those who text while watching a movie – which is rude anyway.  This movie is for those that actually watch movies and need a break from having to strain their brains (such as in the Fantastic Four remake, where the viewer is constantly having to go “okay, NOW what just happened and why?”).

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Ben (De Niro) talks about the merits of tucking in your shirt.

This movie is a feel-good drama starring a kind, cheerful old man named Ben Whittaker (De Niro).  He keeps busy, eventually taking an internship to shake up his life.  Ben is a living example of what old people could do if they were still willing to adapt to new things.  His can-do attitude and initiative make him stand out to the founder of the company, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) and become fast friends.

The message that this movie seems to send is that some things in life are timeless, completely immune to the changing dynamics of modern internet business.  I only wish students believed me when I told them that it doesn’t matter what they know or what they study – as long as no matter what they do, they do it with maximum enthusiasm and a commitment to work hard, they’ll get a good recommendation out of any employer.

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There’s nobody to hate in this movie.  Not a bad thing, but some may find it… unsporting.

Interesting characters are flawed characters.  Which is why if you watch a lot of movies, you might get exhausted from seeing all the nasty, unsavory people movies have to offer.  This movie is a nice break from that, as there’s nobody really to hate in this whole thing.  It’s not a movie to watch by yourself, though.  Watch it with your significant other, then return it to RedBox the next morning, whistling.

Rather than hold to a consistent narrative, it seems more like the creators of this movie thought “How can I just make people feel good about the world for like 2 hours?”  The feel-good drama is not a hugely populated genre.  In fact, in college I might have ridiculed such a thing.  However, in a world where Donald Trump might become President, it’s not the most unwelcome thing in my life.

I give this movie a mathemagical score of 7 out of 10.  Single people, I’d tell you to watch the latest Hunger Games, but that movie was awful.  Don’t.  You’re better off just playing a video game and going to bed.

Fantastic Flop – Review (Spoilers)

Well, well, well, Fox, I gotta say, you’re being pretty gutsy here.  On one hand, you need to cling onto all the Marvel properties you own, because those things are definitely cash cows.  On the other hand, the last time you touched this property, you had this:

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The script for this movie was about half as impressive as this promotional picture.

While I suspect that this movie was more of a way to retain the rights of the Intellectual Property (a la the unnecessary Spider-Man remakes), I still at the very least expected a cash grab of action scenes, posturing, and scientific genius-ing to munch popcorn to.  In fact, the very beginning of the movie was quite promising!

A Promising Beginning

We began with a young Reed Richards befriending an abused yet good-natured boy, Ben Grimm, and then watching as Reed blossoms into a genius with the support of the only one to believe in him – his best friend.

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Miles Teller and Jamie Bell play the young Reed and Ben, respectively.

The young Reed (Miles Teller) is likeable and believable – as is his foil, Ben, played by Jamie Bell, who is talented (though I have yet to see him in a good movie).  However, when half the movie passes and nobody has powers yet, you begin to see what the movie is doing; it’s making a mountain out of a molehill.  You’re telling me this whole movie is going to take place before these people even become a team?  Are you kidding me?  How interesting do you think these characters are?  You do know that you’re not making a Wolverine movie, right?

I’m getting ahead of myself.  But that’s because I’m trying to match the pace of this movie.  I mentioned in my essay about Ender’s Game that movies couldn’t match a book’s ability to slow down time.  I hereby stand corrected.  This movie can slow down time.  This movie made me feel one thousand years old by the time it was over.  One way that it does this is because the whole movie covers their rather simple and rudimentary origin story, which makes it so that it feels like the movie is just getting started even hours into the film.  They might as well have had opening credits run through the entire film.  When the title showed at the end, I don’t know what they wanted me to do… applaud?  Please.  I was trying to figure out whether it was part of an excruciatingly long intro segment, and – more importantly – whether or not I’d have the opportunity to shave my castaway beard before writing this review.

The Villain

The villain is Doom (Toby Kebbel).  Is this a diabolical Doom, known for his long-term schemes and his masterful skills of deception, matched only by genius and raw power?  Nope! Meet Young Zombie Doom!  He looks like a ripoff of the superior Karl Ruprecht Kroenen from the Hellboy series!

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On the left, an awesome warrior, more machine than man, a fearsome asset to Nazis and the occult alike.  On the right, Dr. Doom 2015.  Possibly Mr. Doom, considering I didn’t actually see a degree framed anywhere.

You do know that you already made Doom a villain in the last two farces you made, right?!

How can this happen?  Don’t worry, it gets even better!  You know how Doom doesn’t care about the death of innocent lives, making it so no matter where the final fight takes place, if there are humans, there are high stakes?  Well, the final fight takes place in an alternate dimension.  The movie tells us that the Earth is getting sucked in, and that the whole planet is threatened… but you’re a movie!  Show me, don’t tell me!

Miscellaneous Notes

One Dark Film

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This is one dark film.  I mean, yes, there’s people exploding into blood, but I meant literally dark.  If you’re not watching this in a dark room, you’re going to be squinting trying to figure out what’s going on behind your screen glare

That Thang Thang

If you were attracted by the CG version of the Thing, you still shouldn’t bother.  Years later, and the best they can do is this?

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We all feel the same way about this, Grimm, no worries.

Worse, rather than cash in on some Hulk-like action shots to fuel that hypothetical mental comparison, almost all of the Thing’s action scenes are shot from a weird helicopter-like shot.  You couldn’t feel more distant from the action then if you were half-blind, sitting in the nosebleed seats of a ping-pong match between two mice.

Confusion

Making these characters younger wasn’t some kind of magical portal to our wallets, Fox.  Even children are confused by watching this movie, I’m sure.  One second the government is running experiments on these people, the next second they’re respecting their rights and giving them a secret building to do all their work in – work that they retain the rights to.  Sue Storm is adopted… or possibly part black.  Details are hazy.  Doom’s plan involves him living on Zero – with no food or water yet somehow alive without explanation, then going to Earth so he can go back to Zero and then suck Earth up into Zero so that he’ll be alone and the ruler of nobody.

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So… mathemagically, I’m going to give this disaster a 2 out of 10.  That’s 20%, which roughly matches the amount of this movie that was entertaining.

 

“N-Naruto…-” Get Real.

All heroes have their admirers.  Naruto is of course constantly after Sakura, as she is the heroine that he hangs out with constantly – plus he knows that she’s in love with his rival, Sasuke, which only makes her more attractive to Naruto as a challenge to overcome.  As Naruto’s arc develops, so too does Naruto himself develop in maturity.  His relationship with Sakura also develops too.

So naturally, this means that Naruto eventually winds up with Hinata.

… Wait, what?  Is this some kind of joke? How does a writer as brilliant as Kishimoto – the man who wrote Naruto’s inspiring speeches, developed lovable ensemble characters like Shikamaru and Choji, and cultivated long-standing relationships such as Naruto’s bond with Kurama – know absolutely nothing about writing a proper romance?  Hinata is the worst choice of character for our hero, and there are plenty of reasons why.

A Bad Example

Hinata is an awful role model for girls.  Her entire existence – spanning decades if we’re going to consider her little scarf debacle in the last movie to be canon – has been about Naruto’s approval.  She’s the heir of a wealthy clan, born with a biological advantage (the Byakugan), and apparently a very capable ninja and a master of the Hyuga clan’s signature Gentle Fist style.

I guess you can’t have too many skills in one basket, because she also seems to have some kind of crippling personality disorder.  She never speaks up for herself, never goes for what she wants, and has very stalker-like tendencies when it comes to our hero.  She even deals in creepy stalker absolutes; “I want to stand by your side – forever!” she rehearses at one point.  WHOA.  Forever, girl?  How about you go out for noodles first, then see whether you even like the same things, because I can’t think of someone more different from our hero than you.

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Her dialogue is literally “N-Naruto…!” whenever he does something to vaguely acknowledge her – positively or negatively.  She wilts and blossoms at his syllables.  What this teaches is that girls should be meek little flowers that wait until the object of their affection’s whims lean in their direction.  

Some may say that Naruto is an anime series, not a fable, and that it has no responsibility to teach anything.  If that’s true, why create such an inspirational character as Naruto?  He’s a brat that stays fixated on one goal – stubbornly refusing to be shaken from the morals he grew up with, even when it seems that all above him are ready to do so.  He wins not only the approval but the admiration of his teachers and peers alike because of this.  When it’s time for him to decide his Ninja Way, it’s that he’ll never give up on something once he’s decided to do it.  Naruto is not the best ninja there.  He isn’t the most powerful or the most experienced.  He’s not the first person they call for  an emergency.  He isn’t Goku, the all-powerful hero.  He’s a flawed child with a personality to be infectiously good despite his rough manners, boisterous personality, and tactless rhetoric.  Why go to the trouble to create such a role model for kids – such that they realize they don’t have to be perfect in order to be good people – if you’re going to not teach lessons through what he does?

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Naruto gains the lifelong respect of former adversaries – like Gaara – due to his persistence and strength of character.

Below His Character

While there are plenty of reasons to admire Naruto for the many things he has done for his village and the world – as well as for his winning optimism and eagerness to be the best shinobi his village has ever seen – there are not many reasons for Naruto to see anything to admire in Hinata.  When watching the movie The Last: Naruto the Movie, it became apparent that the biggest factor for Naruto’s reciprocation of her affections was… it was a sure thing.

Ew.  What a seedy way to portray the character that worked so hard to win my respect.  The excuse commonly given for Naruto’s ignorance of Hinata’s love is that he “hasn’t had anyone to express it to him before.”  First of all, lies!  Second of all, he expresses his own affection for Sakura constantly, such that he would definitely understand if Hinata were to talk to him like a human being instead of stuttering his name all the time.

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Naruto: “Wow, Hinata, you sure did a good job eating all that ramen.”

Hinata: [shocked that she was noticed at all] “N-Naruto…!”

Naruto: “I’ll bet that’s how you bulk up to get so strong!”

Hinata: [shocked at being complimented] “N-naruto…”

Naruto: “Well, I’m going to go talk to people that actually talk back.”

Hinata: [sad that their interaction is over] “Naruto…” [Her eyes swell with tears, partly with happiness at the overall tone of their conversation, partly because of the welling of emotion that she feels for him.]

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What is there to admire?!  All of the paragons of awesomeness that Naruto worships are people with real skills, real admirable traits!  He appreciates Kakashi for what he learned about being there for your comrades.  He learns some really neat skills from Jiraiya.  He respects Might Guy for the way he bolsters Lee’s confidence.  He admires Sakura for being a strong person.  He admires Sasuke’s drive to achieve one goal, with the possibility that this might have even been the inspiration for his ninja way.  Sure, Hinata is powerful, and Naruto can respect that, but she shows no initiative in using it.  It might as well have been a secret!  Naruto starts using sickening language like “I’ve been in love with you.”  Do you know what “been” means, kid?  It means that it was an ongoing thing.  You expressed no such thing in the past – not to the audience, not to your own internal monologues, and certainly not to anybody else.

The disappointment I feel in such a poorly written relationship for such a well-written series AND main character is tantamount to what would happen if Luke Skywalker had been killed by Jar Jar Binks seconds before entering Jabba’s Palace.  It’s like if Goku’s death to defeat Raditz had been his exit from the series.  It’s like if the Clone Wars replaced the EU’s Mandalorian warrior race with a race of peace-loving… wait, that one was real.

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One of the saddest retcons in Star Wars history.

Anyway, Naruto’s sudden decision to reciprocate in such a way (“I’ve always loved you, Hinata!”) cheapens Naruto as a character and worse, advocates behavior like this.  Better that he stay single than do this.  There’s no risk here.  There’s no character that puts their feelings on the line for the other – Hinata never even has to admit how she feels.  Naruto ends up reading her mind (via magic water and of course in true Naruto and Naruto Shippuden style: a series of flashbacks), so he knows it’s a sure thing.  There’s no risk at all for him to express his affection, and worse, because it’s the first time he’s ever expressed this affection, it looks manufactured.

Things Matter

This is why even fillers should be vetted carefully by those familiar with the main storyline.  These Hinata fillers are the reason why Hinata is getting such a nasty portrayal.  They’re still canon!  Character development always matters!  Handle your characters with care, or else you might just cheapen the character you worked so hard to create.