• Archives

  • Topics

  • Meta

  • The Boogeyman - Working Vacation
  • Coming Home
  • Quest To the North
  • Via Serica
  • Tales of the Minivandians
  • Join the NRA

    Join the NRA!

Movie Review – The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the seventh installment in the Star Wars saga.  Directed by J.J. Abrams, the movie takes place a few decades after “Return of the Jedi“.

Plot Synopsis:  Go buy a ticket and watch the movie.  Seriously, I’m not going to spoil it for you.  NOTE – There are spoilers below the fold at the end of the open review.  Don’t go there if you want to be surprised in the theater.

The cast includes old favorites like Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford, and they are joined by new talent Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver.  Also making appearances are Anthony Daniels as C3P0 and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.

Overall, the acting was very well done.  The bright spot was Daisy Ridley as Rey, the female lead, although Boyega’s work as Finn was also entertaining.  Ford, Fisher, and Hamill bring continuity from the original trilogy, and their characters did not overwhelm the new storyline.

The music was, as always, exceptional.  John Williams picked up where he left off with the other movies, and his music was woven into the movie as seamlessly as one could hope.  It was almost always there, but it never asserted itself as the focal point once the movie moved beyond the initial story crawl.

The special effects were outstanding.  Honestly, I thought they looked better than what we saw in the prequels, and that was the only thing that impressed me about those movies.   Abrams does a good job of making the special effects support the characters and story, instead of the reverse found in the prequels.

There were a few problems with the plot, which I will get into below the fold.  However, this was a good movie.  It was fun, and it followed a definite plot without delving into philosophy or discussions about points of view.  The good characters were good, the bad characters were, for the most part, bad, and they were all trying to get somewhere.

Overall, I’d give this movie a B+.  It’s not the best Star Wars movie, but it’s certainly better than most.  It’s not the pinnacle of American cinema, but it’s a lot of fun and it kept me engaged through its entire 2 hour run.  It made for a good date movie, and it’s appropriate for children who can handle the original trilogy.

Best part – No Jar Jar, no midiclorians, and no obnoxious nine-year-olds hitting on the teenage lead.

Warning – Spoilers ahead!

(more…)

Coming Soon

  • Kung Fu Panda 3 – Po is back, and he’s shaking the money tree again.  The first one was somewhat enjoyable, I haven’t seen the second, and I may notice that the third is out on DVD this spring.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip – If this isn’t a sign that western civilization is rotting from the center out, I don’t know what is.
  • The Revenant – A mountain man is left for dead, and is hunting down the men who killed his son.  Looks interesting.  We’ll probably go see this one.
  • The Shannara Chronicles – A television series based on Terry Brook’s series.  I loved these books as a teenager, and Irish Woman commented on my shock and glee at seeing the preview for this.  I really hope this doesn’t suck.
  • Krampus – You better not pout, you better not cry, you better not shout, I’m telling you why:  Krampus will pull your soul out through your ear!
  • DeadPool – Another Marvel production, in which everyone’s favorite psychotic superhero finally gets a movie.
  • Gods of Egypt – Horus and Set are having a royal rumble, and we’re all invited along to watch.  Looks visually stunning, and feels like The Scorpion King.

Movie Review – Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein is a new envisioning of the Mary Shelley’s classic, with the biggest change being that the story is moved to Victorian London and the main character is Igor, rather than Dr. Frankenstein or the monster.

Short version – A really good movie that takes a fresh look at a story that’s been done before.  I recommend it, but don’t go looking for a movie that’s only a drama, horror, comedy, thriller, or action flick.

Long version – (Some spoilers ahead)

(more…)

Movie Review – Home

Alternate title – But other that that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Home is the spring kid’s movie from Dreamworks, and is based on a children’s book which looks more interesting than the movie.  The movie revolves around an alien named Oh, who is something of a screw-up.  His people, the Boov, come to Earth to hide from their ancient enemy.  After sequestering the entire human race on a reservation in the Australian outback, they move into our apartments and begin doing Boov business.  Oh meets Tip, a young human girl whose name I thought was short for Stereotip, but is really named Gratuity.  Anyway, these two crazy kids go on a mission to find Tip’s mother and save the planet.  In the end, lessons are learned, love is shown, and we are treated to dance moves by alien creatures who are just taken over by the rhythm.

Gad, I really wasn’t in the mood for a cute movie.

Oh is played by Jim Parsons, who turns in an excellent portrayal of a creature who talks with the same syntax as an email from a Nigerian prince.  Tip is voiced by Rihanna, who has that squeaky, vaguely New York accent that we all expect from a child character who claims to be from Barbados.  Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Matt Jones round out the principle speaking parts of the movie.  Overall, the voice acting was pretty good, and the actors did a good job of matching their acting to the roles.

The animation in the movie is oustanding.  The Boov, which if you’ve read Mother of Demons will seem somewhat familiar, are rather cartoonish, while the humans were less so.  The backgrounds were pretty breathtaking, and the outlandish things that the Boov do to the Earth are well done and rather humorous.

The music in the movie was a mix of R&B pop and semi-orchestral mood music.  The orchestral pieces were forgettable enough that I rarely noticed their presence, and the poppish dreck set my teeth on edge.

On the other hand, Boo sat still through the entire movie, and laughed at a lot of the sight gags and fish-out-of-water jokes.  The little girls sitting behind us were laughing out loud throughout the movie, as was their mother.  Irish Woman thought the movie was at least worth the cost of admission.

So, maybe I’m not the target demographic.

It’s a cute movie, but it just didn’t appeal to me.  If you have small children, they will probably enjoy it.

Coming Soon

  • Jurassic World – Looks pretty good, if you like more of the “there are things which man was not supposed to know” moralizing.  Probably going to see this one, if for nothing else than to show support for Dennis, who provided sheaths for some of the actors.
  • Poltergeist – Reboot of the 1980’s movie.  Little girl is taken by the things that go bump in the night, and her family tries desperately to save her.  Had nightmares from the original, so nope, nope, nope, nope.
  • Run All Night – Liam Neeson is in line for an Oscar for this, in the “Hypocritical Use of Violence and Guns To Protect Human Life by a Hoplophobe in a Drama” category.  Nope.
  • The Gunman – Sean Penn is competing with Neeson in that category.  This film appears to be the “I gots me the PTSD, so I’m gonna kill a bunch of people” kind of storyline.  Wouldn’t accept free tickets to see this, unless Sean Penn’s character dies horribly in the opening scene, then is mocked for the rest of the movie.
  • Chappie – What if we took a police robot and gave it independent intelligence.  If you said “someone will bring in an ED-209 to destroy it”, then you’ve seen the trailer for Chappie.  I’m probably going to see this one, but I hope it doesn’t take itself as seriously as the trailer suggests.
  • TomorrowLand – A young woman is let out of jail, and finds that the Disney World lapel pin that she’s handed sends her to the middle of a wheat field with a city of big buildings in the distance.  If you don’t see this trailer and immediately think that somebody watched the Wizard of Oz one too many times, please pay more attention.  I might see this with the kids, but I’ll be sure to bring along a good book just in case.
  • The Lazarus Effect – Ever wonder what would have happened if Flatliners hadn’t had a happy ending?  Watch this movie and you’ll probably find out.  Pass.
  • McFarland, USA – Kevin Costner plays a track coach in an economically depressed, rural area.  A feel-good movie where we all learn that our differences are only skin deep.  If only I went to movies to feel good.  Pass.
  • Cinderella – A live-action reboot of the Disney classic, because hand-drawn artistry from the golden age of animation just can’t compete these days.  I look forward to more Disney princess merchandise clogging the aisles of Walmart this fall.  Thank the Lord that Girlie Bear is old enough to go see this without me.
  • Home – A quirky little alien escapes to Earth after he succeeds in messing up with his own people.  He is met by Stereotype, the spunky little girl with African ancestry, who proves to him what it means to be human.  I don’t have high hopes for this one, but may see it.
  • Pan – Origin story for Peter Pan, because every childhood memory needs a brooding, psychological treatment.  On the fence about this one.
  • Underdogs – Foosball statuettes come to life when the kid who used to play with them gets into a pissing match with the soccer star he embarrassed over the table years ago.  Pass.
  • In the Heart of the Sea – Retelling story of the whaling ship Essex, which inspired Melville to write “Moby Dick”.  As a history nerd, this is almost an obligatory watch.  Hope it’s as good as it could be.
  • Unfriended – Cyber stalking for the recently deceased. Booga Booga, there’s a ghost in the machine.  Pass.
  • The Age of Adeline – A woman who is eternally young meets the guy she can give it all up for.  Might make a good date night movie.

Movie Review – Paddington

As a reward for a good week and for being good for his sister on Friday night while Irish Woman and I went out for dinner, I took Boo out to see the only kids movie that’s out right now that doesn’t include an anthropomorphized dish rag as a main character.  In short, we saw Paddington.

Paddington is loosely based on the series of children’s books by Michael Bond.  A young bear is sent to London by his aunt to seek out the explorer that visited their family years before.  On arrival, Paddington is helped out by the Brown family, who take him to their home.  The father isn’t sure about all this, and the daughter is embarrassed by the whole thing, but the son loves it, and the mother has a good heart.  Paddington and the Brown’s have adventures as they try to seek out the explorer.  In the end, Paddington finds himself in a good home with a new family.

The casting for this movie was outstanding.  Ben Wishaw provides the voice of Paddington, and he fits the character perfectly.  Likewise, the Brown family, played by Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Madeleine Harris, and Samuel Joslin, was perfect.  Nicole Kidman plays Milicent, the taxidermist at the Natural History Museum, who tries throughout the movie to catch Paddington and add him to her collection, and she is an excellent villain.

The visuals and cinematography in the movie were quite good.  The character of Paddington is CGI, of course, but he doesn’t look cartoonish or over-done.  I did see a lot that reminded me of scenes from “Mary Poppins” or “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” in the movie, and that only added to its richness for the older crowd.

Overall, I’d give the movie an A for people with kids.  I enjoyed it, as did Girlie Bear.  It says a lot that the theater was about 3/4 full of small children and parents, and not a peep was heard for the entire hour and a half run of the movie.  This one is probably going on our Christmas list.

Movie Review – Seventh Son

If you’re my age, you may remember playing Basic Edition Dungeons and Dragons.  Yeah, it wasn’t too intricate, and the characters and monsters you encountered were pretty simple, but a thirteen year old could figure it out and be a Dungeon Master in a couple of hours, and everyone had a lot of fun.  If you remember the hours of fun, gallons of soda, and mountains of snacks consumed as you wound your way through forests, dungeons, and villages, please raise your hand.

Now, imagine that somebody made a movie out of the teenage ideas of magic and monsters that were in that Basic set, and you have the makings for a movie like Seventh Son.  It’s a lot of fun, had some outstanding visual effects, and went just deep enough to enjoy.

The movie centers around Thomas, played by Ben Barns, the proverbial seventh son of a seventh son, who is bought by “Spook” Gregory, played by Jeff Bridges.  A Spook is a knight who would fit very well into a Larry Correia novel – a monster hunter and destroyer of witches.  Gregory is the last of his kind, but continues to ‘recruit’ apprentices to take over for him.  His last apprentice, played by Kit Harrington (who probably didn’t even have to change his costume from his character on a little-known TV show), is killed in a battle with Mother Malkin, played by Julianne Moore.  Gregory and Malkin have a history, including Gregory locking Malkin in a cave for a few decades, and she’s back for revenge.  Tom meets and falls in love with Alice, played by Julia Vikander, when she is about to be burned as a witch. The rest is pure monsters, magic, and mayhem.

The acting in the movie is a bit uneven, but not so bad that the movie itself is not enjoyable.  Bridges never seems to find the correct voice for Gregory, and his portrayal changes several times during the movie.  Also, the love scenes between Tom and Alice seem to have been written by a tweenage girl who has never actually been kissed, but can imagine how it would work.  Julianne Moore turns in the best performance of the picture as Malkin, which isn’t surprising.

However, the action scenes were pretty well done, and the visual effects were excellent.  Whereas Peter Jackson’s use of CGI in “The Battle of the Five Armies” was clumsy and stood out, the CGI monsters in “Seventh Son” blended in very well with the setting.

Overall, I’d give this movie a low B.  It was worth the cost of the tickets and popcorn, but won’t be something I’ll seek out later.

Coming Soon

Here are the movies that were previewed before the feature tonight:

  • The Wedding Ringer – A cool dude makes his living standing in as best man for guys who don’t have a friend to do it for them.  He keeps it professional, that is until he meets the loser who touches his heart.  Failure to Launch meets The Wedding Singer.  Pass.
  • Furious 7 – Vin Diesel tries to beat this particular dead horse just one more time, complete with Jason Statham playing Jason Statham.  Pass.
  • Insurgent – A sequel to a movie that I didn’t see, but if a plucky teenage insurgency can work for Jennifer Lawrence, why not try it again?  Girlie Bear might like this one.
  • Danny Collins – A washed-up rocker, who is now on his (n+1)th retirement tour, gets a letter that John Lennon wrote to him 30+ years ago, and decides to write another song or three.  While he’s at it, he tries to reconnect with his long-lost son and try to seduce win the heart of the manager of his hotel.  I’m sure there’s a final act of forgiveness brought on by the heart-felt music that gushes out of his newly found connection to the real world.  Pass.
  • Focus – Will Smith plays a con-man who takes on an apprentice, who happens to be a curvaceous woman.  Together, they seem to get themselves into a bit of a pickle by messing with those with whom one should not mess, but I’m sure everything works itself out in the end, and they ride off into the sunset together.  Pass.
  • Jupiter Ascending – The Wachowski Brothers make their homage to 1980’s Flash Gordon, in that a heretofore unknown universal empire is going to destroy the world, but a plucky Earthling and her allies do their best to thwart it.  I didn’t hear any Freddie Mercury vocals in the preview, but this might be watchable.  The effects and cinematography look beautiful.  I might give this one a matinee.  One word to the Wachowski’s, though: I know at least 75% of your plot from the trailer.  That other 25% better be awesome, or I’m going to be disappointed.

Movie Review – The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson completes his Hobbit trilogy with this year’s installment, The Battle of the Five Armies.  The best thing I can say about this movie is that it closes the wound.

TL;DR version – Save your money and rent this ponderous, bloated movie and watch it from the comfort of your home, if at all.  Seriously, you could get the same experience from reading The Hobbit, the Silmarillion, and a Harlequin romance.

Analysis (Spoilers Ahead)

(more…)

Movie Review – Interstellar

If you watched the TV series Firefly, you’ll recall the basic facts of how humans found themselves in the ‘Verse:  Earth got “used up”, and humans had to find a new home.  Interstellar could be the story of how that happened.

Plot Synopsis, with minimal spoilers:

Interstellar is set in the not too near, but not too far, future, where the nations of the world have had to give up their strife in order to concentrate on basic survival.  A “blight” has destroyed the world’s wheat crops entirely, and is slowly working its way through the rest of the staple crops, such as okra and corn.  Human population is crashing, with one character remarking about how it’s hard to imagine 6 billion people.  Add to that dust storms that are reminiscent of the 1930’s American Dust Bowl, and you can see why the world isn’t that great a place.  A secret program to find a better place is underway, and former pilot/astronaut Cooper is drawn into it in a desperate attempt to save his family.

Analysis:

The plot isn’t a techno-thriller, but it has an amazing amount of tension throughout most of the movie.  There are exciting semi-action scenes scattered through the movie, but they are neither over the top nor out-of-place.  They all happen for a reason, and they all support the furthering of the story.  While there is no overall antagonist, other than the “We have to save the world”, the conflicts, both big and small, between the characters fill that gap.  The movie clocks in at almost 3 hours, and by the end of it, you’ve noticed.  But don’t take that to mean that you’ll be bored and wanting to get it over with.  While the last 30 minutes or so definitely tie up all the loose ends and finish the story, it doesn’t feel too contrived.  This is a thinking movie, not a lens-flare and big explosions movie.

What I liked:

The casting is, for the most part, outstanding.  Matthew McConaughey plays the main character, Cooper.  Michael Caine plays Professor Brand, the leader of the effort to save humanity.  Anne Hathaway plays Brand’s daughter, who is a scientist and accompanies Cooper on his voyage.  John Lithgow plays Cooper’s father-in-law, who stays behind to look after his children, and puts in one of the better character roles I’ve seen in a while.  All of these actors seemed to fit into their roles extremely well, and they all turned in good performances, with Caine and McConaughey being the best in a crowd of experts.

The cinematography and visual effects in this movie were outstanding.  The space scenes look almost like something that NASA might beam back from the ISS, while the settings on alien worlds look photo-realistic.  If CGI was used as a backdrop to live actors, I couldn’t tell.

Something else that I liked was that the technology, especially the interiors of the space ships and habitats, looked real and lived-in.  Things are dirty and scuffed from use.  Things go wrong, and the characters have to live within the limits of their mission and the resources aboard their ship.  There is very little suspension of belief about how they travel, and where we have to take their word for something, it’s explained using plausible terms, rather than a semi-mystical talk of hyper-conductive crystals.

What I didn’t like:

There were only two things that I didn’t care for in this movie. One was Matt Damon, and the other one wasn’t.  Damon plays Dr. Mann, who is an astronaut who was sent on an earlier mission to scout for a habitable world and hasn’t seen another human being in years.  His performance was forced and heavy-handed, and I had a hard time believing that a man who had put himself into suspended animation after his supplies ran out would be pudgy.  This was the one place where I think the casting was wrong in this movie, and it distracted me from an important part of the story.

The other thing is really a quibble, and one I don’t think most people will notice or care about.  There is a scene late in the movie where one of the minor characters arms himself to protect against someone who he thinks will harm him or Cooper’s now-adult daughter.  They had travelled a long way from their secure area, through a world that is quickly coming apart, and the best weapon he has is a tire iron.  Maybe it’s just me, but if I was going to be traveling alone with a pretty woman across a landscape that is populated mostly with dying farms and refugees, I’d have brought something a little more ballistic for both of us.  For a movie that put a lot of thought and effort into making the space-based storyline realistic and plausible, this stuck out for me.

Overall, I’d give this movie an A.  As you can see, what I disliked in it was, to be honest, minor, and there is a lot to like.  If you like relatively hard science fiction without too much Buck Rogers, you will definitely enjoy this one.

Discussion:  (Warning, spoilers ahead)

(more…)

%d bloggers like this: