Even though I have love for the “Planet of the Apes” movies, I've never been the biggest fan that franchise. Yes, the 1968 original is a classic but its sequels are pretty silly. When the reboot, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” hit theaters in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised. The film managed to create something fresh while still honoring what worked in the original films. It was much better than expected and left me wanting more. Now that the sequel is out, one wonders if it can recreate the magic of its predecessor. Let's find out!
I was half expecting Will Smith to show up and do his crazy "Fred" rant.10 years after the events of “Rise”, mankind has fallen to the effects of the mysterious “simian flu”. During this time, Caesar (Andy Serkis) has founded a sort of ape colony; far away from the humans. When Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his fellow humans stumble upon the ape settlement, Caesar allows them to work on a dam to give what's left of their city a little electricity. Disturbed by the respect Caesar gives to the humans, Koba (Toby Kebbell), the second in command has his own agenda and sabotages the truce. Now, Caesar and Malcolm must do everything in their power to avert a full out war between man and ape. Koba, the ape with an idea...I usually continue a review with what I didn't like about a movie or point out what was flawed (for me). In this instance though, I can't really come up with one thing that didn't work or something that was weak. What Matt Reeves and co. have created here is a thing of beauty and makes “Planet of the Apes” as a sci-fi franchise more than relevant again. Especially in this day and age where racism, class-ism and inequality are on the rise. That's the one thing I always appreciated of the “Planet” movies; they didn't shy away from commenting on what ever social issues were important at the time. ...Dreyfus, the man with a plan. See what I did there?Does that mean this is a movie pushing some sort of political agenda? Absolutely not. At its core this is a movie about family. It has more heart and depth than any other so called blockbuster I've seen this summer. This can be attributed to a great screenplay. It gives humans in the film a voice and real motivation. It expertly avoids that whole “Humans are evil, apes are good” thing. Both sides have their strengths and flaws. Yes, even the villains have valid reasons for doing what they think is best. Where the performances in “Rise” were excellent, “Dawn” brings it to a whole new level. Each and every ape has a distinct voice, face and personality. What Andy Serkis and the other actor playing the apes have achieved here must get some kind of acting recognition. Not once did I say, “Great 3D animation”. These were real, living and breathing characters to me. And the Oscar for best visual effects goes to...WETA Digital!This could not have been possible of course without the superb work of the people at WETA digital. There are things in this film I've never, ever seen. The visual effects are beautiful. I also love the movie score. Michael Giacchino while keeping his own voice music wise, gives a respectful nod here and there to Jerry Goldsmith's score to the original “Planet of the Apes”. He does it very clever and subtle indeed. I have nothing but praise to give this film. It hits all the right notes, It has heart, it has adventure, it has action and I just can't recommend it enough. Go see this film now!
Let me get right to the point, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is not at all the train wreck I expected it to be. Is it a good movie then? Well, let's crawl our way into the review and find out; as I keep this one short and sweet.
Wheeeeee!Life is good for Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). He's graduating high school, has a wonderful girlfriend and he's very comfortable being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Something is eating away at his conscience though, The promise he made to Gwen's Father. The promise not to get her involved in anything having to do with his alter-ego. He decides to break off the relationship. Meanwhile his old friend Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) shows up back in town and desperately needs Parker's help. Peter also solves some of the mystery of his parents death and an energetic fellow that calls himself Electro (Jamie Foxx) has a bone to pick with Spider-Man. While all of this is going on he tries to save his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and makes some choices which will have devastating consequences. Ugh...Get a room will ya!This film is surprisingly light on an actual plot. It mostly consists of moments out of Parker's life, the choices he makes and all of it is wrapped around some action scenes. While these moments are well written, it has to be said that the script is all over the place. At one moment Spider-Man is acting all zany and fun and literally a minute later he's teary eyed and brooding. The whole tone of the film is like this. At times it even reaches Sam Raimi-like silliness and eye rolling moments of drama or forced romantics. As with the first movie, the weakest link are the villains. When it comes to their characterization, all logic is thrown out the window. Their fall from grace is comparable to that of Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. It's so abrupt. The actual reasons for them becoming evil is almost insulting to the intelligence. The Founding fathers of the Sinister Six?Bad writing aside, the performances are stellar. With what little the actors have to work with, they get the maximum out of it. I was worried most about Jamie Foxx and Dane DeHaan. Foxx, sadly is not much in the film but when he´s on, he nails it. His Electro is somewhat of a tragic figure. While his motives for becoming evil are very simplistic, you can´t help but feel for him. DeHaan´s Green Goblin was the toughest sell. The first promotional images did not instill much hope but it turned out a lot better then I could have hoped for. DeHaan actually pulled it off. I have to admit seeing Spider-Man fight against The Green Goblin and one of comic book´s iconic moments play out on the big screen was quite exhilarating. When it comes to the VFX and action scenes, I have no problems with this movie. It´s a visual treat. A visual treat indeed!So, yes. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a good movie but if Sony wants their own (cinematic) comic book universe to survive, they can´t make these movies like this anymore. This would have worked in the late 90´s or early 2000´s. In this day and age of “The Dark Knight” and more recently “Captain America – The Winter Soldier” audiences expect more than pretty visuals alone. Those movies proof that you can have fantastical characters and situations and still tell an engaging and intelligent story. While this was good, they simply have to do better than this.
This film pretty much passed me by, stayed under my radar. All of sudden it was in theaters everywhere! Now, I'm a pretty big fan of the "Need for Speed" video game and I just had to see if the movie would do that title some justice. We all know how movies based on video games tend to be bad and/or fail; will this one break the "curse"?
Just like in the game!By day Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is the respectable owner and mechanic of a car shop. At night he joins local street races. After a race with his old rival, Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) goes horribly wrong; Marshall gets framed for a death he did not cause. After 2 years, Marshall is a free man again. When he gets out of jail he is hellbent on avenging the death of his best friend. The only way to get to Dino is by joining the ”De Leon” an underground race organized by eccentric Internet personality called Monarch (Michael Keaton). With the help of his old crew, Marshall will not stop to clear his name and avenge his friend's death. Tobey and his boysLet's get it right of the bat here, this film's biggest weakness is the story and its characters. They are as cliche as it gets. Aaron Paul is the strong silent type, in fact, at one point he even gets called just that! Dominic Purcell is one step away from twirling a mustache and to add insult to injury Scott Mescudi's character Benny is quite literally the token black guy and I'm not trying to be smart or funny either. It is clear they had action set pieces ready on paper and built a story around them. From the obligatory dramatic death scene to the forced romance; It's characters and story by numbers. The tone of the movie shifts rather dramatically as well. In one scene we see Marshall getting chased by Police and it's all “ fun and games”. In the next scene we seen him teary eyed, staring off into the distance. First I was like...Strangely enough though, director Scott Waugh makes it work. With what little the actors have to work with, Waugh gets the most out of them. You can see the actors had a blast and their enthusiasms and energy can be seen. Think of a Jackie Chan movie. They never have the best acting and stories but the enthusiasm explodes right of the screen. The film makers and actors believe 100 percent in their movie, it's exactly the same with “Need for Speed”. ...but then I was likeAaron Paul is a great actor. We've seen what he's capable of (Breaking Bad, Smashed) but has never had to carry a movie. While this is an ensemble cast, he is at the center of it all and pulls it off quite nicely. With better material Aaron Paul could be a serious leading man in action or drama. The stand out performance was that of Micheal Keaton though. If people are wondering if he can step back in the role of “Beetlejuice” need not worry. His performance of wild eyed and loud Internet personality, Monarch convinces me that Keaton is more than ready. He's more than ready to step back into the spotlight. He turns every line, gesture and facial expression to gold. Whenever he's on screen it is just a pure delight. It's time for a Keatonaissance!Now, I've played some Need for Speed in my day and seeing some of the elements of the games making their way onto the big screen was quite cool to see. From the car chases, maps, vehicles to even the colored lighting of certain “race tracks” were things I recognized from the game. The most surprising thing is that little to almost no CGI was used for the race and chase scenes. It was all good ol' fashioned stunt driving and it was very spectacular indeed. That last race scene had me sitting on the edge of my seat. It's there where the movie truly delivers on its promise. Real stunts and explosions!So, yes it is cliched. Yes, the characters are barely even real people but I'll be a son of a motherless goat if I said it wasn't a whole lot of fun. The stunts are breathtaking and the cinematography is gorgeous. Yes, It is an amusing film but for that video game movie “Curse” to be broken it has to do a lot better. Need for speed made some considerable cracks in that wall though. We're almost there.
To be honest, I've seen Zack Snyder's “300” only twice. Now, that doesn't mean I didn't like the film, it had simply fallen off my radar. Because of this I went in fairly clean into this sequel. Perhaps it was possible to judge this movie on its own merits then. Early into the movie I came to the realization that this was impossible. Let's sharpen our swords and get right into the heat of things.
Finally! This CGI blood does have a purpose after all. It looks great in 3D!Ten years before King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 300 Spartans battled the Persians at Thermopylae, a brave young soldier called Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) and the Greek forces fought off the first Persian invasion at the battle of Marathon. This invasion was led by King Darius (Igal Naor) and his young son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The outcome of the battle was disastrous. While the Greeks decimated the Persian Army, Themistocles, took a once in a life time chance and managed to shoot King Darius with an arrow. Unable to save his father, Xerxes, now taken over by grief and rage swore to avenge his father. Destiny awaits...While the Greeks were victorious, Themistocles knew that he had made a mistake by killing Darius. He knew that his actions would come back one day to haunt him and his people, he was right. Xerxes, now reborn as a “God-King” invades Greece once more. Fueled by hate and vengeance he won't let anything stop him. While Leonidas and his brave 300 hold off the Persians, Themistocles has to race against the clock. He must find a way to unite the forces of Greece before their country is overtaken by Xerxes and his dark armies. ...and so it unfoldsThis film somewhat follows the beats of the first movie, meaning we get a lot of back story at the beginning of this movie, much of it focusing on Xerxes. These flashback scenes are very exciting and move the story forward at a very fast pace. Unfortunately, the movie almost comes to a standstill during its second act. Sure, there are some action scenes but the focus lies more on political maneuvering and Themistocles trying to unite the Greek forces. It is during its third act where we are rewarded. The end battle is nothing short of spectacular. The 3D cinematography does add a little extra to the action and the overall experience. it is truly exhilarating. Also pretty in 3D!Now, as good as Sullivan Stapleton and his co-stars are, he lacks Butler's natural charisma and the rest don't fare much better. Fortunately much of this emptiness is filled up with a phenomenal performance by Eva Green. Her portrayal of Artemisia, Xerxes' second in command is one for the books. It is so over the top and fun, she might as well have been a James Bond villain. It is an absolute delight and to top it off she and Stapleton have one of the most ridiculous sex scenes I've ever seen. Yes, it is absolutely intentionally over the top. Remember this is not a historical movie, nor does it try to be fully accurate when it comes to the events it portrays on screen. This is based on Frank Miller's still to be released graphic novel called “Xerxes”. This is very much a live action comic book. From the performances to the spectacular and very stylized action scenes. None of it is to be taken too seriously. I expect you to die Mr. Bond.Zack Snyder handed over the directorial duties to newcomer Noam Murro who is a very competent director and emulates Snyder's style very good but the element of surprise is gone. There is definitely a “been there, done that” vibe all over it. Also, the reason I could not really judge this on its own merits is because “300” and “300 – Rise of an Empire” are very much intertwined. You see, “Rise of an Empire” isn't really a sequel. Most of this story takes place right along side the events of “300”. We just get a different perspective making it more of a companion piece than a true sequel. Is it worse or better than it's predecessor then? Neither. These two movies are on the same level. The end battle is absolutely breathtaking!Fun performances (especially by Eva Green and Rodrigo Santoro), brilliant action scenes, a surprisingly good music score by Dutch musician/DJ, Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) and 3D cinematography that really adds to the visuals and story. This is one to be seen on the big screen and very well worth your time.
Inspector Harry Francis "Dirty Harry" Callahan
The Dead Pool
You know, apart from my movie reviews; I would also like give my two cents when it comes to the other things having to do with movies. It could be about crazy casting, the state of the comic book movie, the loss of an actor/film maker or simply share my distaste or excitement for an upcoming film. In short, I'm just going to give my opinion; or write an editorial if you will.So, you'll see "That opinion piece" pop in from time to time.Until then, keep enjoying the movies! Oh, and read my reviews of course!wink-wink
Imagine this if you will; you really have a craving for pizza. So, you go all around town and find out that for some reason all you favorite pizza joints are closed. You decide to settle for second best and get yourself a fine Chinese meal, Now, while you are eating it, you never get that satisfaction you would have gotten from the pizza. That's pretty much how I felt after watching Nurse 3D. Now, why is that? Let's find out.
Utterly insane and yet so lovely.Abigail Russel (Paz de la Huerta) has a bit a problem. She hates men that cheat. Married men in particular. So, at night she wears the skimpiest outfits possible and scours the city and the clubs to dish out her own special kind of deadly justice. During the day she's a nurse though. reliable, professional and caring of her patients. When Danni (Katrina Bowden), fresh out of nursing school arrives, Abbey immediately takes a liking to her gentle, soft spoken and somewhat naive ways and decides to take her under her wing. This friendship is about to turn into Fatal Attraction on crack!After a very wild girls night out, Danni finds her self in bed with Abigail. Embarrassed, hung over and not remembering what she did the night before (take a wild guess) she leaves Abby alone at home. Now, the more Abby tries to connect with Danni the more she gets pushed away. Now feeling betrayed and used, Abby develops an unhealthy obsession for Danni and decides she too must be punished. Anyone that gets in her way will feel her wrath as well. About to go on a rampage...This was a frustrating experience. While this film hits all the right notes it never fully comes alive. Now, take this in consideration; this is a movie where the standard nurses uniform is a short white skirt, wedges and sexy stockings. This is a film where men walk around without their shirts on (most of the time) and needles to say all of them sport a 6 pack. In other words, this is live action pulp. It is intentionally ridiculous but director Douglas Aarniokoski seems to be struggling. It's as if he couldn't decide whether he wanted to make a serious horror movie or an over the top, comedic and sexy blood fest. This makes the movie feel a bit uneven. He never fully embraces this film's ridiculousness. Much like Robert Rodriquez did with his first Machete movie. It's Aarniokoski's unwillingness or unable to fully commit that hold this film back to be truly a standout horrors/comedy. ...and no one...I've heard people say that Paz de la Huerta's performance is a truly terrible one. I have to disagree with them. She's seriously the Costello to the rest of the cast's Abbott. While they play it straight, she's the odd one out. When in one scene she does open up and shows real feelings to Katrina Bowden's character; de la Huerta brilliantly plays it like a pouting, sad little girl which ties in perfectly with her backstory. At that point you start to get what she's doing. All her facial gestures, body movements and the way she talks are all artificial. Her daytime nurse persona is a fake one, disconnected from our reality. The empty eyed passionate killer underneath is her real one. It sort of reminded me of Dexter in that way. ...is going to stand in her way!I can't really say that the story was original or that the 3D really added something to the plot or to the visuals even. Yes, Abigail Russel's backstory is an interesting one but the rest of the film was just too schizophrenic to make any real impact. It hovers just in the middle and never gives us an extreme element of horror or comedy. The performances are solid so no real complaints there. The way the movie leaves certain story lines open and character arcs unfinished just screams for a sequel. Nurse 3D gets a few chuckles and thrills here and there but it never fully embraces it's own trashy sensibilities. It wasn't bad but it wasn't really satisfying either. I got a Chinese meal, nothing wrong with that but I was really craving a delicious pizza.
This time of year is usually a barren one for us cinema-goers. Sure, you always have a couple of standout movies but for the most part; the first months of the year is Hollywood's dumping ground for weak or bad movies. How does a movie like “Non-Stop” hold up then? Let's take a quick look at it!
Drunk, depressed and overworked.
Who screens these Air Marshall candidates?!Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a miserable man. After the death of his child he fell apart and his marriage along with it. His only reason to wake up in the morning is Jim Beam and his work. Speaking of which, he is an Air Marshall with a fear of flying. He's assigned to protect the passengers on a transatlantic flight. Now, I would want a man that unstable and maladjusted to protect me as well. All seems to go well enough when suddenly he gets strange texts on his phone. A passengers on the flight threatens to kill a person every 20 minutes unless the airline transfers 150 million dollars to an offshore account. What follows is a deadly cat and mouse game where Bill must not only find this mysterious attacker but also get the plane and its passengers safely on the ground. A bomb is found and the clock is ticking.
That ol' bomb buried in blow trick. Works every time!First of let me burst that bubble! This is not an action movie. This more thriller and suspense than guns and explosions. Yes, there is an excellent set piece near the end of the film, featuring the latter but “Non-Stop” leans heavily on characters and dialog. Now, while they do build up tension fairly well and do the whole Hitchcock mystery thing, it is neither original or surprising at all. When the “big” reveal does come, most observant viewers would have figured out “the twist” already. Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore trying to save the plot of this movie.The performances are fine. They never reach excellence though. I don't blame the actors for being on auto-pilot it's the unremarkable screenplay they have to work with. What I found strange though were the supporting actors though. Why put well known performers in throw away roles? I know Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a slave) is an up and coming actress but I think she's already proved what she is capable of. The same goes for Mount Anson (Hell on Wheels). Now, he's hardly a rookie actor. Why were the both of them barely in this movie? Where are the doves?Don't get me wrong, while I do think this is a mediocre movie, it did what a movie should do; entertain. It has a nice build up of tension, it gets utterly ridiculous at times but at least it never gets boring. When the movie does shift gears into full action mode it is utterly breathtaking. Would I recommend you seeing this at a cinema then? No. This is one of those movies for a rainy Sunday afternoon. It's definitely a rental but a good rental at that!