Archive for category Action

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Rating: Catch it on TV…Give it a rent if there’s no other option. 

This movie faces a few problems.  One of them is that it isn’t very good.  Another is the assumptions people will make about it.  I have found that when it comes to movies people tend to assume a movie will be like “this” or like “that” based on the previews or the title.  If these expectations aren’t met people don’t like the movie whether it is actually good or bad.  Half of the people going to the theater are thinking, “Nice!  A ridiculous over the top action movie…with Abe freaking Lincoln!”  (This was me).  The other half are thinking, “Ooooh vampires!  I love vampires, like that one time when Edward was trying to save Bella.”  No…just no.  About ten years ago, before Teen Paranormal Romance was a section at Barnes and Noble (I’m not making this up), vampires were blood thirsty killing machines that didn’t sparkle in the sun, or fall in love with humans.  This movie understands that.  Unfortunately though, for both parties entering the theater, neither expectation will be met.

I give the movie two stars.  One for a solid opening and exposition, the other for a surprisingly strong finish.  Unfortunately during the hour in the middle it got confused.  The middle of the movie was a fairly boring mess that couldn’t decide what kind of movie it wanted to be.  It had tones of super hero movie, action movie, period piece, war movie, and old school monster movie, all with very dark tones.  It was too much and none of it was done all that well.  It just never came together for me.

As I said before, the movie does start pretty strong.  A young Abe Lincoln is introduced to vampires at a young age when one attacks his family.  As he grows older he makes it his mission to destroy vampires, mostly out of vengeance.  He then meets an interesting man who is willing to teach him how to hunt, fight, and kill, these monsters.  The training then commences he learns how the handle a silver axe like a champ and is given several hunting assignments.  These hunting scenes are all fairly entertaining and actually quite bloody (remember, it’s a VAMPIRE movie).  After this the movie loses its way a little.  They start to create the larger threat of vampires, and incorporate vampires with the actual story of slavery.  The movie gets bigger at this point and Abe is given his real foe, Adam the vampire (yeah…I didn’t think it sounded very sinister either).  Here it was slow and clunky and boring.  Then all of a sudden we got to a climactic finish on a train, which brought my attention back in.  The best action, dialogue, and story takes place here.  I don’t want to spoil much else so I’ll leave it at that.

All of the actors played their parts well, but none of the performances were overly memorable.  Benjamin Walker was solid as Abe Lincoln, but didn’t really have to learn his intricacies as is the case in a lot of biographical movies.  This is because it’s not actually a biography.   Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, and Jimmi Simpson were all ok as Abe’s friends, even if their roles were a bit predictable.  Rounding out the cast were Mary Elizabeth Winston and Rufus Sewell who like the rest were just Ok. The visuals steal the show from the actors, but even some of the cool visuals seemed forced into the movie rather than actually have a rhyme or reason.

Overall the movie was just OK.  It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t that good either.  I think it tried to be a little too ambitious and take itself a little too seriously, which didn’t work here.  The idea, and title, are cooler than the actual film.  If I was you I would wait until they show it on Presidents Day on TV next year.

-Gish

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Men In Black 3

Rating: See it in theaters.                                              

Most prequels come within a few years of their predecessors, have high anticipations, and even higher expectations.  With ten years since the last Men in Black movie, MIB3 is more of a welcome and pleasant surprise.  Quick quiz; what year did the first Men in Black come out?…Answer; 1997.  Feel old yet?  The original movie was quirky, fresh, creative, and something new.  Fifteen years later the second sequel doesn’t feel as fresh and new, but it was still quirky, creative, and all around fun.

If you never saw the second Men in Black, don’t worry, you don’t need it.  (It wasn’t great anyway).  This third movie starts off with the infamous Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escaping from an alien prison, and swearing revenge on Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).  It turns out that in the late 60’s K put Boris, a Boglodite hit man, in prison and implemented a shield to forever keep Bogladites away from Earth, eventually leading to their extinction.  Because of this, Boris travels back in time to kill K before he can put Boris away and implement the shield.  Agent K then disappears in present time (because he was killed in the past) and a Bogladitian? invasion of Earth commences.  That probably sounds like a lot of spoilers but I swear it is all in the exposition.  Somehow Agent J (Will Smith) is the only person who remembers the original reality (where K didn’t die) and realizes he must travel even farther back in time than Boris to erase the alternate past and return it to the original one.  That all happens in about twenty minutes; the rest of the movie is about J trying to fix the past, and it is quite entertaining.

Two things that have always been a staple in the MIB world are the cool looking aliens and gadgets.  The threequel doesn’t disappoint in either of these offerings.   The single wheel cycles are cool looking but I also couldn’t help but think about Mr. Garrisons “It” the entire time they were on screen.  It was also interesting how they portrayed “modern” technology, such as jet packs, that the MIB Corporation had from the 60’s.  There didn’t seem to be as many crazy looking aliens but the ones that were on screen were pretty interesting and done well.

All of the acting was solid, but Josh Brolin stole the show.  His portrayal of a young K was phenomenal.  I literally forgot that it wasn’t Tommy Lee Jones on screen at points.  The voice, the quirks, the whole demeanor, it was flawless.  Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Emma Thompson (Agent O) all played their roles well, and kept my interest the whole time.  Jemaine Clement did a good job being the goofy yet intimidating Boris, but one my favorite character was Griffin played by Michael Stuhlbarg.  He was an alien who was strangely calm and cheery, but had a really interesting ability.  He was able to perceive alternate realities in the 5th dimension.  As a physics teacher, I was extremely intrigued by this.  Quick physics lesson…As humans we are able to perceive four dimensions based on current physics theories.  String theory needs eleven dimensions to work (don’t ask…I don’t get it either).  The dimensions we perceive are height, width, length, and the fourth being time.  The fifth dimension is alternate realities in time based on the decisions we make every day.  For example if you decided to stay in bed for an extra minute this morning your day and possibly life would be completely different because of it.  Griffin can see all of the possible outcomes/realities based on the decisions that people around him make each and every moment.  It was really interesting and integral to the plot later on.

All in all MIB3 was solid.  The movie is just a steady, good movie for an hour and a half and then finishes great.  The ending was actually quite touching.  If you enjoyed the original movie (or original two) you will really like the way they wrapped up the trilogy (I’m assuming there are no plans for a fourth but who knows).  The story, effects, and solid performances make this a fun movie for everyone.  I definitely recommend.

-Gish

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Snow White and the Huntsman

Rating: Maybe catch it on TV some day.                                                                                       

When I think back to Snow White and the Huntsman two words come to mind.  Pretty and boring.  The visuals were unlike anything I have seen before; and I mean that in a good way.  It was visually as unique as the first time I watched 300.  Unfortunately, even the breathtaking visuals couldn’t save this movie.  I can recall two points in the theater when I was actually entertained.  One included a poop joke from a dwarf, the other included the kid a few rows in front of me doing everything in his power to get the last drop out of his ICEE.  The people who somehow found this movie interesting were annoyed by him, and this was more entertaining for me than what was happening on screen.

The person who deserves the biggest award for this movie is the person who created the trailer.  The trailer looked sweet.  Unfortunately, everything that looked cool was in the preview.  Even still, the movie was very pretty to look at.  The creatures of the Dark Forest were truly creepy, and the non creepy creatures later on in the movie were fascinating and beautiful.  The few action scenes were slow and clunky but keeping with the rest of the two hours and ten minutes looked really cool.  From the first scene the movie gave interesting visuals.  An army was being literally shattered with sword blows and it looked pretty awesome.  Later on in another battle scene creatures made out of what appeared to be metal shards attacked the huntsman and again it looked really cool.  The sound editing here was also really well done with metal scraping and other menacing sounds mixed in.  The movie looked GREAT…ok I think I beat that into the ground enough and won’t say it again.

Unfortunately, despite the beautiful visuals (ok one more time), the movie felt like it was never going to end.  The story was slow torture.  Nothing happened, ever.  Well, a few things happened, but nothing entertaining.  The evil queen (Charlize Theron) has great powers but continues to age and weaken unless she can literally suck the life out of youthful people.  Her mirror then tells her that if she can steal Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart’s) heart, she can live forever without stealing other’s youth.  Fortunately for Snow White she just broke out of the Queen’s dungeon but is lost in the Dark Woods.  The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is then sent in to kill her, but instead sides with her and they rise up to fight the Queen.  Then they try and rally people to fight the Queen, or something, I don’t know I was so bored I had a hard time paying attention.  Then they keep rallying and rallying and nothing happens.  They do meet the Dwarves who are boring and forgettable.  I literally didn’t care about any of the characters.  In summary…it was BORING.

The cinematographers deserve several awards, the actors, well…do not.  Kristen Stewart was fine as Snow White but that’s because she had nothing to screw up.  She had maybe ten lines throughout the entire two hours, and one encouraging speech.  Chris Hemsworth was also fine as the Huntsman but again didn’t have much to screw up.  Then there was Charlize Theron.  I keep hearing everyone say she was the best part of the movie, and was brilliant, and will probably get an Oscar nom.  I completely disagree.  Instead of being an evil queen she seemed more like a whiney brat who was given some cool power.  She overacted the whole thing.  I think Theron is better suited for light hearted characters such as Mr. F.  The seven dwarves were very forgettable.  I didn’t care about any of them, and for some reason they used film trickery to make average people look small rather than hire little people to play the parts.  Are you telling me there really aren’t seven talented little people looking for work in Hollywood?

To sum up, the movie looked great (last time I swear!), but was incredibly slow and boring.  I can’t recommend it because I just wanted it to finish the whole time it was on.  If you see it on TV in a year or so watch it just to see how cool it looked at parts.  Otherwise skip it.

-Gish

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Battleship

Rating: If you want to go space out for a couple of hours and see some awesome CGI, see it in theaters (because the explosions look cool on the big screen).  If you feel you are better than that, maybe catch it on TV sometime.                               

Let’s start by saying that I’m glad if an alien spaceship, that has a giant force field, and just demonstrated extremely superior firepower ever attacks us in the ocean, we have a first response plan which includes the following phases.  Phase 1: Drive Rhianna around in a dinghy and have her fire a rail gun at the ship.  Phase 2: When (not if) phase 1 fails, have a Naval Destroyer entice the enemy ship with a rousing game of chicken.  Phase 3: After the inevitable destruction resulting in the failure of phase 1 and 2 record the faces of several concerned children in slow motion.

Ok now that that is out of the way, let’s discuss the insanity that is Battleship.  This could get interesting so bear with me.  I’ve seen movies described as train wrecks where you can’t look away.  I’ve seen movies so accidentally bad that they can only be laughed at.  Battleship tries a new tactic.  It beats your intelligence into such a pulp that you can’t help but be entertained by the ridiculousness that is unfolding in front of you on screen.  In the art of film making, Battleship gets zero stars.  In the art of awesome summer blockbuster making, Battleship gets four stars.  That averages to a two star movie right?  I don’t know either but just go with it.  Was the movie fantastic? No.  Was the movie terrible? No.  It was just there, on screen, and it made damn sure you knew it.  Plus Rhianna was in it because why not?

With respect to the movies details, let’s start with the bad.  First off acting.  There wasn’t any.  Not much at least.  Taylor Kitsch did what he had to as the burn out turned Lieutenant Alex Hopper, but wasn’t anything amazing.  Rhianna did everything in her power to pretend she was Michelle Rodriguez (you’ve seen her as the bad a** chick in every recent movie that needed a bad a** chick).  I love Liam Neeson, but he was not needed here.  Basically the productions companies said, “Hey Liam, we need a big name attached to this movie, and will give you millions of dollars to be on set for one day.”  And, no big surprise, he said, “Sure”.  He’s in the movie for maybe fifteen minutes and his character is boring, but he’s there.  Most of the acting from other characters was pretty weak as well.  Also, Brooklyn Decker was attractive so there’s that.

The second bad part of the movie was the plot.  Again, there wasn’t any.  I suppose that’s not entirely fair to say; they started to set up a plot but then completely threw it out the window thirty minutes in.  The story stars with Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) as a burnout loner at the bar.  For about ten minutes bad things happen to him, none of which are clever or funny like they were intended to be.  Then he meets Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), and falls in love…literally in like 4 seconds there is a relationship formed on screen.  Anyway, his brother decides he is too much of a screw up and makes him join the NAVY with him.  Cut to several months later, he is still with Samantha, whose dad happens to be Liam Neeson and his Admiral.  Also, surprise, surprise Hopper wasn’t good at life as a civilian and he’s still not really good at life as a soldier.  Because of this Liam Neeson doesn’t like him and doesn’t like him being with his daughter.  Then alien spaceships land in the water and we must fight.  That all takes place in the first thirty minutes or so, and only one portion of this paragraph is revisited for the other hour and forty five minutes.  Guess which one.  I’ll give you a hint; It’s the alien part.

This movie cost over 200 million dollars to make and obviously not much money was spent on actors or writing.  So where was the money spent you ask?  Explosions!  The visual effects and action were clearly this movies saving grace.  They were so spectacular, entertaining, and fun that I wasn’t even mad about spending ten bucks on a plotless movie.  Everything from the alien spaceships, to the explosions, to the traveling missiles was done well.  If you paid attention to the movie’s trailer you have already seen a portion of my favorite CGI/action.  The reddish orange death spheres that the mother ship fires towards unsuspecting cities.  Their mechanics and destruction was very visually entertaining.  Throughout all of the chaos, the movies creators even managed to incorporate the namesake’s board game mechanics without being incredibly cheesy.

Staying on the topic of the movie’s visuals, I really liked the way the aliens looked.  They were humanoid but different enough from a human to clearly from another planet.  Staying with what seems to be the theme of the movie, the aliens looked cool, but they could have done so much more with their story.  We didn’t really know much about them, or why they were here, and I wish we did.  Despite this, I thought the aliens were done fairly well.

One of my other favorite parts of this movie is that it didn’t take itself too seriously.  I think a lot of people would argue that it does, and they are wrong.  I laughed a lot at the insanity during the second half of the movie, and was worried I wasn’t supposed to be.  Then my favorite scene occurred.  A scene so awesomely ridiculous that I realized the creators couldn’t possibly be taking themselves seriously.  I don’t want to ruin it but lets just say it involves some eighty-something year old war vets, a seventy year old, decommissioned battleship, and ACDC’s Thunderstruck.  It was awesome.

Overall the movie was not great, but it wasn’t as bad as I’ve heard some people say.  You have to know what you are getting yourself into and if you like action movies it is worth seeing.  If you are not that big into action movies to begin with, I would recommend skipping it.  I was entertained, though, and hopefully you can get some entertainment out of it as well.

-Gish

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The Avengers

Rating: Why haven’t you seen this yet?!  Seriously see it now!    

What can I say? I’m a few weeks behind on this review and you have probably already either; a) Seen this movie, b) Seen this movie multiple times, or c) tried to figure out why your friends won’t go see this movie with you.

The movie was exactly what it should have been.  A decent enough plot to carry the viewer along and more than enough action to keep all seven superheroes busy.  Joss Whedon had his hands more than full when he took on this project.  Seven superheroes, 4.5 very successful prequels (The Hulk was only half successful…we will come back to this later), and several big names to fit into one, pretty much perfect movie.  After watching The Avengers I think it is safe to say Whedon succeeded.

That being said, let’s start with one of the only negatives I can come up with, and get it out of the way early.  The villain.  With so much artillery on the good side, you need quite an intimidating threat on the bad side.  An army of powerful aliens, capable of traveling to Earth and lead by a powerful demigod sounds intimidating enough in theory, but somehow it didn’t completely come together for me.  Loki just didn’t seem quite right as the main villain.  Yes he is powerful, but he didn’t seem like enough of a threat.  I mean, Thor already beat him once on his own, and now he has six buddies fighting alongside.  Also, the aliens were about as useful as a puddy from the power rangers.  They never seemed to pose much of a threat.  The main thing they villains had going for them is they were visually entertaining.  Loki’s abilities make for some cool action, and the alien aircraft made the long climactic scene fun.  One other positive for Loki was that Tom Hiddleston played the part fantastically.

Ok, on to all of the good stuff.  Everything else.  The first half of the movie spent most of its time getting the seven main characters together.  Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Nick Fury.  Robert Downey Jr., as usual, is fantastic as Iron Man.  He seems to get a bit, not much, but a bit of a lead story over the others and I’m fine with this.  Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are just as good here as they were in their solo films, Captain America and Thor respectively.  Scarlett Johansen is perfect as Black Widow, and is given an appropriate, interesting, and much welcomed back-story.  Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye seemed to have a bit less screen time than the others but his part was still integral to the plot and he fills the shoes of the character well.   Samuel L. Jackson doesn’t stand out but does what he needs to as Nick Fury.   That leaves us with The Hulk.  They finally did the Hulk right!  Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk was entertaining but the Hulk seems to have a hard time carrying his own movie.  Here he doesn’t have to.  Instead he gets to do what you want to see him do and nothing more.  Transform into a green beast, and beat the ever loving crap out of everything he touches.  That’s what he does here, and he does it well.  Mark Ruffalo was fantastic as the geeky, nervous Bruce Banner, and the CGI action that the Hulk is given was phenomenal.  He is also the main point of several laugh out loud, hilarious moments in the film.  For me he was the star Avenger.

The plot clocks in at just over two hours and never really slows.  As said before, the first half of the movie is spent bringing the heroes together.  It does this well with Nick Fury trying to keep everyone on the same page.  His ultimate goal is to bring together a group that is capable of standing up against Loki and his army of aliens.  There are a few tricks thrown in here and there, with Fury never seeming quite right, and Loki’s motivation a bit unclear.  Agent Caulson returns, and is a motivating force for the team.  The second half of the movie grabs you and doesn’t let go.  Loki finally has his men ready and approaching Earth and the Heroes must stop him.  It is essentially an hour long climactic battle for Earth and it never gets dull.  Each hero has a clear role and is appropriately utilized in a way only they could be.  Captain America leads, Iron Man patrol the skies, Thor and The Hulk destroy things…lots of things, and Black Widow and Hawkeye do a good job of taking out key enemies.  Also for a long, explosion packed climax there was also some really cool cinematography going on.

Overall this movie was fantastic and to miss it in theaters would be a shame.  Fortunately it is raking in money at the box office and will be around in theaters for a while.  I myself will probably go see it again.  Enjoy!

-Gish

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Real Steel

Rating: At least give it a rent.  Probably worth seeing in theaters.     

Picture this in your head.  A fourteen foot tall humanoid robot, that somewhat resembles a small transformer stands in a gated circle.  On the other side of the circle stands a 2000 pound bull.  The two charge at each other and begin to fight.  A fight which includes the robot straight up punching the bull in the face.  That’s one of the first scenes in this movie.  Sound stupid?  It is.  The whole premise of the movie, if you really want to think about it is kind of stupid.  I mean, giant robots have replaced human boxers in the ring, and the event seems as overhyped as the Superbowl?  Fortunately after this stupid, early scene the movie gets better.  And better.  And better.  By the end I was so invested in the characters that I completely forgot about the start of the film when I was regretting the ten bucks I paid to see it.

The movie takes place in a not too distant future where the world of boxing has been taken over by robots.  The robots are not self aware, or capable of fighting without a human controlling them via remote (think living video game).  There is little explanation given as to how boxing turned into a mechanical affair, beyond the fact that audiences wanted more violence and fights to the death, which living boxers would obviously not agree to.  The lack of background story is not really needed though.  Being thrown into the current state of boxing is done fairly seamlessly and I didn’t find myself questioning it much.  The look of the robots in the movie is fantastic.  There are no quick edits, giving the fight scenes between them an incredibly real feel.  There wasn’t a single moment where I remembered I was watching CGI, which is great feat for a movie with such heavy CGI.

Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, who at the start of the film is, well, kind of a douche.  He is broke and owes people thousands of dollars.  He also seems to only have his interests in mind.  Worst of all he has an 11 year old son, Max (played by Dakota Boyo) whom he hasn’t seen since birth.  He gets news that Max’s mother passed and he now has custody.  At first he shows no interest in being a father to Max, who seems more intelligent and mature than him in several ways.  With no money, broken robots, and the annoyance of a kid around he has nowhere left to turn and breaks into a robot junk yard with Max. The goal is to try and steal parts for his bots.  After a mishap in the junkyard they discover Atom, an old sparring robot.  Max immediately falls in love with Atom, after the robot “saves” his life.  The robot has a special feature that almost no other robot has, allowing him to shadow movements of people and store them to memory (A freaking awesome feature, in my opinion, that should be installed in every boxing robot in the future).  This feature gives Atom an especially human feel, along with some sweet dancing abilities.  Max and Charlie begin to train the robot and eventually work their way up the ranks to the big leagues.  Obviously the father and son duo bond as the plot continues.  The relationship between Max and Charlie seems very real, and is the driving force of the film.  Without it, the movie is just fighting robots.  With it, the movie is actually quite touching and keeps you interested until the end.

Hugh Jackman does a good job playing a character who evolves a lot throughout the film and Dakota Boyo was great as Max.  He easliy shows a large range of emotion from smart alleck, to a kid who just wants his dad to fight for him.  I could go into detail about the supporting cast but I don’t really need to.  They did a good job, and that’s it.  They weren’t the focus and they didn’t need to be.

Overall I would recommend seeing this in theaters (especially if you have a young teen in your family), or definitely renting it when it leaves the big screen.  It starts off a little shaky but improves drastically (which is nice when a lot of movies I have seen lately seem to peter out half way through).  The acting is solid, the special effects are sweet, and the emotional back story is touching.  All around fun.

-Gish

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The Hurt Locker

Rating – Rent it some time                                                         

When I sit down to watch a movie that has earned the Oscar for best picture, I have extremely high expectations.  For some reason I tend to be let down, and disagree with the Academy’s decision.  With this movie, I wasn’t really let down, but I still don’t agree with the academy’s decision.  The movie won six Oscars, somehow best cinematography wasn’t one of them.  It deserved this one more than any of the others.  Before I get even more off topic, complaining about the Academy’s choices, I should probably get down to this film.

Great acting: check, great cinematography: check, great effects: check, great editing: check, great score: check, great story: eh.  I go to movies to be told a great story.  Because I don’t work in movies, I feel that a story should be solid enough that I forget to pay attention to all the technical stuff, like editing, cinematography, etc.  With this film I found it to be the opposite.  The movie was suspenseful and had some great scenes but they didn’t really add up to anything.

Sargeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) work on a bomb squad in the middle of Iraq.  Their staff sergeant is killed in an explosion, and is replaced by Sergeant First Class, William James (Jeremy Renner).  James is bull headed, arrogant, tends to put his men in unnecessary danger, and damn good at defusing bombs.  The first time they go out together, he throws out a smoke screen (which throws his men off), and doesn’t listen to reason.  Afterwards they get upset with him, even though he is successful in their mission.  The scene is very suspenseful and well shot, keeping tension high the whole time.  Then in the next scene they go out to diffuse another bomb, and basically the same thing happens.  James goes against protocol, the others are put in danger and get angry, it’s very suspenseful.  This basically continues for the rest of the film, which would be fine, but the characters never seem to change, or grow in any way.  Its just the same thing over and over.  James is successful, but angers the others, and its suspensful.  James is successful, but angers the others, and its suspensful.  James is…you get the point.  The only story that seemed to progress was James’ forming a friendship with an Iraqi teenage street vendor.  This story gets really interesting, and emotional at one point, but later the movie’s creators decide to just throw that emotion out when new information is discovered.

Jeremy Renner did a fantastic job, and made you angry with him, while still rooting for him to literally diffuse dangerous situations.  His nomination for best actor was well deserved.  The other actors did a solid job as well, but were not mind blowing or anything.  The strong acting, along with the fantastic editing, and cinematography made this a very suspenseful movie from start to finish.  There was rarely a moment that didn’t leave me tense.

Overall, the movie looked better than fantastic, but for me the story never really took off.  If the story had evolved more throughout, I would absolutely agree with the best picture win, but because the story seemed lacking I have to disagree.  All of that being said, the acting, suspense, and look of the film, definitely make it worth renting sometime.

– Gish

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rating – Rent it some time (This one has me on the fence)

I just saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes last night.  This being (I’m pretty sure) the 5th movie to hold “Planet of the Apes” in its title.  That being said, this is only the second one that I have seen.  I saw the Mark Walberg remake of the original when it came out in 2001, but do not remember much about it.  If you couldn’t figure it out from the title, this movie is an origin story, or prequel, to the first story, which has already been put to the big screen twice.  I’m 95% sure the commas in the previous sentence are all in the right place.  Even though this movie is the prequel to a story that has already been put to the big screen twice, and was originally a novel,  I think the plan is to reboot the series…again.

Basically all of that knowledge came from IMDB.  I actually do not know much about the Planet of the Apes saga, and have never really been overly interested in it.  It is probably because of this that when I first saw a preview I thought, “Meh.”  To my surprise the reviews for the movie were very good, so off to the theater I went.

The movie starts with James Franco, as Dr. Will Rodman, working on a new drug that he claims is the cure to Alzheimer’s disease.  Thus far the drug has only been tested on chimps and seems to be working wonders.  More on the chimps shortly.  Dr. Rodman’s father (John Lithgow) is suffering from Alzheimer’s himself, making the cure more personal to the Dr.  Both Lithgow and Franco do a good job playing characters that are mostly uninteresting.  Freida Pinto (from Slumdog Millionaire fame) later becomes Franco’s love interest, and Tom Felton (formerly Draco Malfoy) and the always entertaining Brian Cox round out the main human cast.  All of the actors did a good job, but their characters and storyline, in my opinion, were dull.   This may have been done purposefully by the film’s makers, to give way for the true stars…the apes.   In fact whenever the people were on screen I couldn’t help but think, “Yeah, who cares, give me more of the apes.”

First off, with regard to the apes, the CGI was terrific in this film.  There were maybe one or two instances, when there were multiple apes on screen, that I was reminded these animals were computer generated, but for the most part they looked fantastic.  To make the main chimp, Caesar, more realistic, the film makers used the same technique that was used for Gollum from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and King Kong from, well…King Kong.  The affect is created by using motion capture technology on a real actor and overlaying the creature with the help of computers.  Andy Serkis was the actor they used for both Gollum, and King Kong, so they figured who better to use here.  He must have done a fantastic job because Caesars expressions make you forget that he doesn’t have dialogue throughout the movie.  You truly feel for him, and I found myself rooting for him, rather than the humans for the entirety of the film.  The battle scenes were also action packed and entertaining.

Overall this movie was good, but I found myself kind of bored during the scenes that didn’t include the apes.  I didn’t really care much for the humans, or their story lines.  I would say it was definitely better than I thought it would be after seeing the original previews, but not as good as many of the reviews I have read.

-Gish

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Cowboys and Aliens

Rating – See it now.                                           

If you look at the list of movies John Favreau has directed(Iron Man, Elf, Zathura…which I didn’t see but the name sounds fun), the adjective “fun” can typically be used to describe them.  I think this may have been part of the reason most of my theater seemed to have the idea of, “Oh, cowboys fighting with aliens, how fun!”  While this movie takes you on a heck of a ride, I don’t think “fun” would always be the best word to describe it.  Throughout the 2 hour run time it was suspenseful, creepy, violent, a little gritty, and…well…terrific.

I had really high hopes for this movie since I first saw the trailer.  Then when I started to see some of the names attached (Favreau, Spielberg, Ron Howard, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and on, and on) I became rather excited.  Even with this excitement the film passed my expectations.  I went into it expecting a kind of silly, but still fun and exciting, battle between a band of cowboys and a group of aliens.  I mean, at the core that’s exactly what this movie is (just read the title).  But I never felt like it was silly.

The recent remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and the recent remake of True Grit are the only two westerns I think I have ever seen from start to finish, so I am in no way an expert on the subject.  That said, I feel many purists would argue that this isn’t really a western because it has, well…aliens.  Even with the extraterrestrial threat, this movie is nothing but a western.  It even includes a group of Native Americans half way through, in case you forgot that you were watching a cowboy movie.  I’m not sure of the location where they filmed, but I thought the scenery was great and allowed for some pretty interesting shots, lined with canyons and cacti.  The scenes with spaceships whizzing around the background sky were especially well done, in my opinion.

The story starts with Daniel Craig’s character (he can’t remember his name) waking up in the middle of a desert, unsure of where he is, with a fancy new bracelet that looks rather alien, and seems to be permanent.  About 30 seconds into the film the character becomes reminiscent of Jason Bourne, if Jason Bourne were a cowboy.  He has no idea who he is, but still knows how to kick the crap out of anyone that crosses him.   Daniel Craig does a great job with the character and his American accent is good enough that I forgot he is from overseas.   After Craig’s character makes it to a small town, we meet up with many of the clichéd western residents.  The sheriff, the bar tender, the preacher, etc.  The supporting cast does a great job and each plays their part quite well.  After meeting the same old locals we are introduced to Woodrow Dolarhyde, played by Harrison Ford.  Dolarhyde is an angry old bastard, who Ford seems right at home playing.  I think that Ford actually steals the show in this film, making you dislike him and have a soft spot for him at the same time.

Overall the movie was great.  I might even say it was the best movie of the summer.  Super 8, and Cowboys and Aliens served as the strong bookends to this summer’s ups and downs.    The acting, action, and effects were all spot on in this movie.  It did have maybe one or two moments where I said to myself “really, they went there?” but then I reminded myself that it is a movie about cowboys fighting aliens.  Speaking of the aliens, they looked great.  It’s one of the first times I can remember getting a chance to get a really good look at the aliens, and actually see them in hand to hand combat with the protagonists, rather than just firing lasers from a distance.  I got my hopes up for this film, and they weren’t let down.  Do yourself a favor and see it.

-Gish

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Captain America: The First Avenger

Rating – See it now.                                             

So the film of the day was Captain America: The First Avenger.  Let’s start by saying that writers, Markus and McFeely had a lot on their plate before they began to write a screenplay.  They had to start a Captain America franchise, while simultaneously tying it in to the blossoming Avengers franchise.  They had to write a story that lives up to the hype of recent super hero summer blockbusters.  (Lets face it, with a superhero movie coming out what seems like every other week, they had better be good if they want to make it.)  The writers also had to tie into the story how Captain America, a character from the 40’s is somehow supposed to fight alongside other heroes in the present day Avengers next summer.  And finally they had to cram all of this into a nice, two hour, not drawn out package.

Given all they were dealing with, I think they succeeded.  Captain America is believable (well as far as super hero movies go), easy to follow, fun, action packed, and even allows Paramount to throw in references to the Avengers without being annoying.  The story starts with scrawny Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, being denied by several Army enlistment camps.  Going into the movie I somehow missed the fact that they had the same actor play scrawny Steve Rogers, and muscle bound Captain America.  They CGI’d Evans’ face onto the scrawny body, and the effect worked well enough that you don’t even notice it.  But I digress…back to the story.  Even though Rogers is scrawny and unhealthy, he shows tenacity.  Tenacity that is eventually recognized by the right people.  I don’t want to give too much away and I am sure you can figure out the rest of it from there, but Rogers is eventually muscle bound and ready to fight Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull.  (Red because of Communism..get it?)

I thought that Chris Evans played the role well.  His character definitely evolved from the start of the film to the end and I think he was able to handle that.  Hugo Weaving is always entertaining as a villain, which is why I might have been slightly disappointed here.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the character, and they really did a great job with his makeup, but I just wanted more.  It didn’t help that there were several scenes where his accent made me think of Willem Defoe’s Klaus from The Life Aquatic.  I think the best acting job, though, came from Stanley Tucci.  He was convincing, and quite humorous as Dr. Erskine.  I would have liked to see more from him.  The rest of the cast handled their parts well, while allowing Captain to shine.  Tommy Lee Jones was also good for a few laughs.

Overall, Captain America did what it set out to do.  Entertain (and get fans excited for The Avengers).  It had everything you would want and expect from a superhero blockbuster.  Explosions, cool weapons, action, a believable plot/threat, and even a little love.  Despite some violence and a PG-13 rating, this was actually a pretty family friendly movie. The 4 year old kid in my theater dressed in a sweet Capt. America costume and throwing his plastic shield down the aisle seemed to prove this.  Stick around to the end of the credits if you want to see a teaser trailer for The Avengers.  Kinda’ cool but nothing you won’t be able to see online.

– Gish

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