The Best Teases of 2013 – My favorite Movie Trailers for Films Released this past Year

As a movie lover/obsessor/collector, if there’s one thing that I love it’s those ten minutes before watching a movie in theaters where you’re tantalizingly teased about films that you’re highly anticipating to see. When I was a teenager, I remember that throughout 2008 I had most of the previews memorized and in what order they came in, with Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Terminator Salvation, Star Trek, and Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen being the highlights. Studios spend millions of dollars on trailers to give viewers sneak peeks, and to entice those that aren’t ready to throw our money and firstborn to the producers. A well put together trailer can do wonders for a film, as you can either sit there and laugh/troll the trailer, or look to your friends and say “that looks good, let’s go see that”. For obvious reasons, the latter is the desired effect. So, I’ve decided to compile some of what I thought were the best trailers of the year with short descriptions based on my thoughts about the movie and trailer.

#5. Iron Man 3

If there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceiving trailers. I understand that Marvel and idiot director Shane Black didn’t want to spoil the plot twists in the movie, but boy did this trailer make the movie look awesome. The great line “I offer you a choice. Do you want an empty life, or a meaningful death?” wasn’t even uttered in the film because the “Mandarin” wasn’t even the “Mandarin”. I really just want to live in this trailer.

#4 The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

This is another deceiving trailer. Jackson teased everybody beautifully with this, the fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, fans of An Unexpected Journey, and fans of the novel series. Then, he created his own egotistical tale and ran away laughing with everybody’s money. Jerk.

#3 The Wolf of Wall Street

I confess, I have not yet seen this movie. But, from what people have told me and from what I’ve read, this trailer is spot on. All the excess, partying, and ridiculousness that comes along with the Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, and Matthew McConaughey led movie is portrayed in a great fashion in this trailer. Also, as Thurston pointed out in his top 10 tracks of 2013, who doesn’t love Kanye West’s epic romp, Black Skinhead?

#2 Man of Steel Teaser Trailer

This trailer really divided people, because they felt like it was too short and didn’t really offer much insight into the film. But, Zack Snyder and his production team knew exactly what they were doing when they borrowed the music in the trailer. There are very few soundtrack pieces that are better than the latter part of The Fellowship of the Ring‘s track “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum”. The Gandalf the Grey death music is simply perfect.

#1 The Great Gatsby

I was a bit disappointed with this movie, as I thought it couldn’t make up its mind as to what it wanted to be. I still enjoyed it enough in theaters and later added it to my collection, but it wasn’t all that this trailer summed it up to be. Featuring Beyonce, Florence + The Machine, and revealing Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful”, this tease is a work of art, and beyond a doubt the best trailer for any movie that was released in the year past.


American Hustle needed more, well, hustle

The talented and established foursome of Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper were poised for a smash hit when they released American Hustle, a tale of con artists, the Mob, and the FBI. I left the theater feeling like this film was full of unfulfilled potential however.

Christian Bale is a ’70’s mystery man who dabbles in laundromats and ponzi schemes. He meets Amy Adams, an attractive loner herself, and the two begin an affair that incorporates Adams as the frontwoman in the couple’s simple con to entice desperate investors and collect on a non-refundable down payment. Bradley Cooper enters their office one day playing the part of one of those desperate investors, but is setting the two up for Federal charges. As a part of a deal to secure their freedom, and partly to appease Cooper’s consuming ego, Bale and Adams agree to aid Cooper’s FBI career in entrapping politicians in bribery and extortion charges. Cooper wants the best con artists to help in his con on the part of the government agency in order to bust corrupt public servants. The movie proceeds in a twisted web of “who’s conning who” which thankfully avoids the ever popular “got-ya” ending but the pace is far too slow.

Many of the background stories that were necessary to explain characters’ ambition, motivation, and propensity for trust vs. conning were very much underdeveloped. Many times the audience was asked to accept that a certain character would trust another just because an aspect of their backstory had been enumerated one sentence before such as when Christian Bale uses his Bronx roots to gain the trust of Camden native, Mayor Carmine Belito, to convince him to take a bribe that he had moments earlier vehemently turned down and was appalled by the notion altogether. Because of three lines of dialogue, his tune changes completely and the plot continues. It just lacked authenticity by its own standards at times.

I’ll spare details but I would not recommend paying to see this movie in theaters. The acting is very good however. Jennifer Lawrence was infuriating which “made” her character. Amy Adams was seductive and convincing. Bradley Cooper was pathetic, enraged, and erratic which differed greatly from Christian Bale’s calculated, small scoped approach to conning, providing for an interplay between these two lead characters which should’ve been expounded upon. Overall, wait until this movie hits cable networks and see what you think but save your Christmas money this month and pass on American Hustle. It is a movie that couldn’t find its identity. It lacked hustle if you will…

The Anchorman 2 Review – Does the Legend Really Continue?

The second Anchorman movie starring Will Ferrell as legendary newsman Ron Burgundy does what few comedy sequels do nowadays. 1) its run at my local movie theater, along with the gutter trash that is 47 Ronin pushed films American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street out to make room to show, and 2) it is a sequel that is not a carbon copy of the first movie as it took nine years to finally be made and released.

Anchorman 2 : The Legend Continues picks up right where the last movie left off, with Ron Burgundy and wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) being famous evening news actors, this time for a prestigious news firm in New York City. Things come to a head when nightly news anchor Mack Tannen (surprisingly played by Harrison Ford), announces his retirement and declares that one of them, specifically Veronica, will be his replacement. Ron, in turn is fired because of his numerous on-air screw ups, being deemed by Tannen to be the worst news anchor he has ever seen. Ron is completely dismayed, as his ego can’t handle such insult, so he issues an ultimatum to Veronica that it’s either him or the news job. Only an idiot would make such a statement, Veronica concludes, and Ron is kicked out and unemployed.

Being the “legend” that he is though, Ron isn’t out of work for too much of an extended period. He returns to San Diego and is barely able to hold a job, and in one of the funnier scenes from the movie, is ultimately being fired from an emcee gig at Sea World for being drunk on the job and making crude depressing comments. After a failed and rather lame suicide attempt, he is approached by a hiring agent (played by Dylan Baker, Dr. Curt Connors in Spiderman 2 and 3) for the GNN (Global News Network) a new 24 hour news network that is just starting in New York City. Enticed by the opportunity to return to doing what he was born to do (reading the news), Ron goes on to recruit his old team to take back the news with him (David Koechner, Paul Rudd, and Steve Carell). Throughout the rest of the film, Burgundy takes his team back to the number one spot in the nation, raises a shark, goes blind, and lives in a lighthouse besides doing what he was born to do. And of course, there’s the obligatory news team battle that features an overkill of cameos including Liam Neeson, Jim Carrey, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Kanye West, Vince Vaughn and Will Smith.

Anchorman 2 really is a different kind of comedy, a little different than expectations would normally be. Ron Burgundy’s team is at first placed on the graveyard shift, because they were deemed to be the least talented group of news anchors. Ron lets his ego get in the way from the get-go, as he foolishly places a bet with the daytime news anchor on who can get the highest ratings. Burgundy then develops a plan that instead of telling the world the news that is normally reported (weather predictions, politics, crime), they will broadcast what the world wants to hear. So they start showing only sports highlights, car chases, cute animal stories, live dangerous weather broadcasts, and other feel good and entertaining stories that shoot the GNN’s ratings through the roof. Other news networks rush to emulate them, at the cost of journalistic integrity everywhere. This is where The Legend Continues deviates from other comedies, in that the central meaning of the movie is woven throughout the plot. It lampoons MTV News, E! News, Yahoo! Front Page News, and everything that we’re supposed to believe is “news” nowadays. Instead of paying attention to what matters most and has the most influence on our lives, we’re bombarded with images from the red carpet, what celebrity is dating who, and what the newest adorable kitten can do when wearing a sweater. Anchorman 2 successfully satirizes this aspect to the highest degree, which is mostly where the film succeeds.

Of course as expected with a Will Ferrell movie, comedy is going to be the core, most of it rather crass. The jokes in this movie aren’t nearly as successful as The Legend of Ron Burgundy, as some of the fall quite flat resulting in a few forced laughs of the idiot genre that Anchorman dwells in. I found myself laughing a little bit more than I would like to admit, with lines such as “Who the hell is Julius Caesar, you know I don’t watch the NBA!” becoming stuck in my head along with the image of Steve Carell gnawing on a head of lettuce and barking “Gin!”. The jokes don’t come as natural as in the first, and it doesn’t measure up to the other major obscene comedy of the year, This Is the End.

For a comedy sequel, Anchorman 2 : The Legend Continues does very well. Most comedy sequels either fail to reinvent themselves (The Hangover Part II) or are simply straight up garbage (Austin Powers in Goldmember)Anchorman 2 treads lightly on the line that is “not funny”, and could well hit that mark if it proceeds to a third installment, much like The Hangover “franchise”. For the time being though, this movie succeeds for some different but interesting reasons. 6.5/10

My 2013 at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen that have been released during 2013)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Catching Fire

5. Pacific Rim

6. This Is  The End

7. Despicable Me 2

8. Monsters University

9. The Great Gatsby

10. Oblivion

11. The Wolverine

12. Elysium

13. World War Z

14. Anchorman 2 : The Legend Continues

15. The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

16. Oz the Great and Powerful

17. Fast and Furious 6

18. Iron Man 3

19. Hangover Part 3

20. Thor : The Dark World

21. A Good Day To Die Hard

I’m Sorry Mr. Jackson, I am for Real – Your New ‘Hobbit’ Movie is a Total Disgrace

I had been looking forward to watching The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug all year-long. After how I lukewarmly received its predecessor in An Unexpected Journey, I hoped and read that director Peter Jackson would be back in form for the sequel. Before going to the midnight screening, I read a few reviews (spoilers didn’t matter as I have read the novel time and time again) which all said that the middle piece of the story was by far better than the first. I was excited. The trailer made it look awesome, and after the way that Jackson stuck to the book’s main plot points (although taking a few liberties, primarily in the main villain of Journey), I had little doubt that he would do stick to the storyline’s guns again.

The_Hobbit_-_The_Desolation_of_Smaug_theatrical_posterUntil, that is, I watched the review that my favorite critics gave the film. Ty Burr and Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe gave the movie a 3/4 star rating, but in their video review said there were several parts that may ruffle the feathers of fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original work, including a cross-species romance. All of a sudden, this pit developed in my stomach and I was much afraid.

The movie starts out amicably enough, with a flashback straight from the book that I am glad was shown, when Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) meets Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) at the Inn of the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. There, Gandalf convinces Thorin to reclaim his ancestral kingdom of Erebor which was taken over by a dragon when his grandfather Thror was king. From there, Jackson throws the book out the window and hurries the movie along so he can get to the final destination of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain where Smaug the dragon sleeps on piles of dwarf gold.

It picks back up with the Company of dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf being chased by an orc-pack astride wargs (large, wild wolves) that are closing in. Gandalf knows one point of safety ahead, the home of Beorn the skin-changer, who at night takes the form of a bear-like creature that is rather dangerous. Gandalf warns the Company that Beorn has no love of dwarves (or unexpected guests), but he gambles that his hate of orcs and the evil that pursues them will be greater. It is this scene where we first see Jackson set fire to the novel. Instead of a good chapter of the book dedicated to the creation of a friendship with Beorn (including where Gandalf mentions that he slew the Great Goblin), our vaunted director creates an action sequence where the bear form of Beorn inexplicably attacks the dwarves, and after being repelled changes back into his human form as he grudgingly welcomes the dwarves with little or no explanation. Swedish actor Mikael Persbrandt nails the role of Beorn, but is only given a handful of lines and little screen time, as the film hurries along to Mirkwood, where Jackson continues his butchering of the book. Such crimes (with limited spoilers) consist of the following :

-Trimming and cutting Mirkwood down to one trippy sequence (which is actually accurate and done well), and one action scene involving Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the spiders that capture the Company (minus Gandalf, who has gone on his own quest).

-Forcing Legolas (Orlando Bloom) into a starring role and making him seem like an entitled and uptight prick, which is nearly the polar opposite of his character in Lord of the Rings.

-Creating a major character and love interest for both Legolas AND Kili the dwarf (Aidan Turner) in Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly, from LOST) in a predictable and unconvincing romance.

-Commuting the timeline and sentence of the dwarves to the Elf-King Thranduil’s (Lee Pace, Lincoln) prison to one day instead of months.

-Changing the scene where Bilbo creates a stealthy escape for the dwarves from prison in shipping barrels into an absurd action scene that involves Bombur destroying orcs while in his barrel, Legolas and Tauriel engaging regiments of orcs with the ease of Peyton Manning in a pee-wee game (all the while swinging from tree to tree and running across the river like little monkeys), and the wounding of Kili by a poisoned arrow (which he does not know is poisoned), which predictably can only be healed by elf-magic that Tauriel possesses.

-The twisting of Bard the Bowman into an outlaw, where in the book he is in fact the defender and voice of Lake-town.

-The ruining of the arrival of the dwarves into Lake-town.

-Creating another action sequence in Lake-town where Legolas and Tauriel along with three dwarves that got left behind in Lake-town from the quest to the Mountain, engage orcs led by Bolg who are hunting Thorin Oakenshield.

-Having a poor end to the Dol Guldur – Gandalf storyline that is non-canonical.

-Making a middle sequence of a film series where nothing except rising action and exposition is created. Nobody major dies. Nobody major lives. Nothing major is resolved. Everything, literally everything, is left in limbo for the next movie.

-For this last point, lets review the major events of Jackson’s first middle movie The Two Towers with The Desolation of Smaug. Granted, The Two Towers is a novel where things are meant to be somewhat resolved, but Jackson could have easily incorporated any event into Smaug that creates some resolution. In fairness, we’ll let Towers have twice as many resolved events as Smaug simply because of the book length.

The Two Towers  

Eomer destroys the Uruk-Hai, is expelled from Rohan.

Merry and Pippin meet Treebeard, persuade him to attack Isengard.

Gandalf comes back to life, meets with Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn.

Gandalf releases Saruman’s spell on Rohan King Theoden, Theoden rallies Rohan.

Saruman creates an army to pillage and destory Rohan.

Saruman’s forces meet Theoden’s at Helm’s Deep, Saruman gets defeated.

The Ents led by Treebeard attack Isengard and win a decisive victory.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum who becomes their guide to Mordor.

The three reach the Black Gate, and turn aside at the advice of Gollum, who starts to progress as a character through Smeagol his alter-ego.

They are captured by Faramir, who takes them to Osgiliath.

Despite being tempted, Faramir lets the trio go after Frodo nearly gives up, Gollum becomes fully evil and bent on waylaying the ring bearer after a perceived betrayal and capture at the hands of men.

The Desolation of Smaug

Bilbo and the Dwarves are attacked by spiders in Mirkwood, then are captured by the wood elves.

They escape imprisonment by the elves.

The 13 and one Hobbit meet Bard and are  smuggled into Lake-town.

The Company makes for the Lonely Mountain, they reach it, and Bilbo attempts to find the Arkenstone as requested by Thorin.

The Company awakens and engages Smaug.

Gandalf infiltrates Dol Guldur.

The Two Towers totals 10 events. The Desolation of Smaug totals 6, of which two are still unresolved, bringing the total to 4 actual happenings. To wrap this section up, that simply means that a lot of nothing happens in this movie. It is a bad second installment. Jackson rushes past major events and makes them minor ones, and instead hurries up all for the big finish in the end, which never actually happens. It’s like running a 5K race as fast as you can, only to realize once you hit the 5K mark, that it’s actually a 10K race. You’re exhausted and deceived, but you are only halfway there.

And then there’s the romantic story between the Elf and the Dwarf, which is just complete rubbish. It hogs so much screen time and so little viewer investment, that it robs time from the main character of Bilbo (you know, the hobbit that the movie is named after) who is so wonderfully played by Martin Freeman. Jackson decides to sit there and go through the motions of a baseless romance instead of continually developing his main character.

My other main critique of the movie (on a strictly film basis) is that just like the predecessor, Peter Jackson relies on the overuse of CGI in action sequences. He cannot make up his mind if he wants to make a movie for kids or a darker movie for adults ; as the action scenes are comical in nature, and with the computer generated goblins, creates a sillier and less scary atmosphere than in Lord of the Rings. He populates Desolation of Smaug with video gamey fight numbers, and then juxtaposes it to a room full of rotting corpses that best demonstrates his inability to decide who exactly his target audience is. I have had people ask me if there is a fundamental (novel based) difference between goblins and orcs in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings because of how different they appear in nature. It is decidedly for a turn of the worse.

As much bad as there is in this movie, there is just as much good. The cast is wonderful. From the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) to Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), almost every role is extremely well acted and perfectly cast (with the exception of Tauriel, who shouldn’t have had a role to cast for in the first place). Smaug is beautifully animated and voiced, and all scenes with him in it are worth the weight of a gold-plated Dragon (yet another Jacksonian “twist”). Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) isn’t given nearly enough screen time, as too much instead goes to the Master’s assistant in Lake-town, in a horrible and forgettable role played by Mark Mitchinson. His disgusting, unibrowed character is the largest casting and character creation mistake outside of Tauriel ; with those two characters omitted and the stick removed from the behind of Legolas, this cast would be perfect.

The plotline with Gandalf infiltrating Dol Guldur is very interesting, and although somewhat ruined by how it concludes, is very dark and mysterious as well. Jackson also well demonstrates how Bilbo is being consumed by the ring in just his short possession of it. Although at times a bit preposterous, the action scenes can be quite comical and have some really cool shots, despite the dramatic loss of realism.

Without reading the book, the movie is good, but not great. Several plot adjustments and character omissions could give his film a significantly higher grade, but unfortunately it turns out to go no where, and fails to be a sum of all its parts. This is Jackson’s worst film set in Middle-Earth yet, despite all of the potential it had. 6/10

But if you read the book, here’s your review.    

The film is an utter betrayal of the novel for the following reasons.

1. Beorn did not attack the Company as in the film, and expounded his character to a rough friendship with the dwarves, and a true one with Gandalf. When he skin changes into a bear, in the book he is still able to control himself. He intentionally kills goblins and wargs, and nails their skins to his property to ward off intruders. It works.

2. Tauriel does not exist, nor do any events involving her.

3. The Master of Lake-town’s crony does not exist.

4. Legolas and Azog are not present in The Hobbit book. Azog is actually dead at this point in time.

5. The Dol Guldur storyline is wrong for many reasons. Gandalf does in fact infilitrate the fortress (twice), but here’s a side note. In Lord of the Rings lore, Gandalf and Sauron are the same race, being angelic creatures who have descended upon the mortal to guide (in the case of Gandalf) or corrupt (in the case of Sauron). Sauron is more powerful than Gandalf and Gandalf fears him, but they have the same basis at the least. When he sneaks into Dol Guldur (the second time), Sauron (once under the guise of the Necromancer) flees to Mordor, fearing being discovered by Gandalf before he can openly present himself as the Dark Lord. There, the Grey Wizard finds Thorin’s father who has gone mad in prison, and obtains the Lonely Mountain map and key to give to Thorin. Gandalf barely escapes, but escape he does. The movie gets it all wrong with Gandalf losing a ridiculous “battle” with Sauron’s spirit, and ending up imprisoned in a cage. In the novel universe, not only would the Grey Pilgrim never risk a battle with the spirit of Sauron, but he wouldn’t allow himself to get utterly embarrassed and jailed. There’s a reason this guy once snuck through Moria and into Dol Guldur twice, he’s kind of a boss. He also wouldn’t fear a stupid orc like Azog, as this is a guy that went toe-to-toe with a Balrog.

6. The timeline is skewed. The Company spends months wandering in Mirkwood and in the cells of the Elvenking. There were also assaults on the Woodland Elf realms by orcs, but none happened when the dwarves where there. In fact, one of such attacks happened and coincidentally freed Gollum, who was being held captive by the Wood Elves, as Gollum then pursued the Fellowship into Moria. Everything is commuted to one continuous happening instead of events being spread across time.

7. Mirkwood is wrong. Much MUCH more happens in the forest than in the movie, as the dwarves wander lost and practically starved to death before being captured by the Spiders, where Bilbo uses Sting and the Ring to free them. Besides spiders, there are also flies that Mr. Baggins has to fight off.

8. Barrels out of Bond. Bilbo had worn the Ring consistently throughout having snuck into the halls of the Elvenking. It took him some time to find out where the dwarves were being held, how to reach them, who had the keys, and how to get them out. When he finally formulated a plan, he stuffed the dwarves physically in each barrel to sneak out under the noses of the elves in complete stealth. There was no escape fight, as the elves did not realize that their prisoners were missing until they surfaced in Lake-town.

9. Lake-town is wrong. Although the setting and Master are correct, Bard was not an outlaw or imprisoned, in fact he was known as the defender of the town. Seeing as the dwarves were smuggled in, their arrival is greeted with surprise and hope, as the citizens hope that the Mountain King will restore the Kingdom under the Mountain again and bring everybody wealth. No dwarf gets left behind in Lake-town either, and Bard shoots the Black Arrow from a bow, not some type of lance caster.

10. The discovery of the side door is also incorrect. This is how Thorin escaped from the Mountain when attacked by Smaug in the first place. Although he forgets the exact location of the door, he knows it exists and that it is in moon runes. In perhaps the dumbest scene of the movie, the dwarves “give up” when told that the door will be illuminated by the “last light of Durin’s Day”. It occurs to none of them (even though it occurs to every audience member) that the last light isn’t daylight, but instead moon light, as dwarf runes (as evidenced in Moria) are often written in moon script to hide the entrance.

11. The dwarves never engage Smaug. Bilbo steals a golden cup from the horde, which after much riddling and flattering talk with the dragon (which did happen), Smaug furiously erupts realizing part of his treasure is missing. He then goes off to wreak havoc on Lake-town, where he meets his demise. The entire sequence of the dwarves plotting and creating devices to attempt to off the dragon are all out of Jackson’s mind of meddle.

11. There is no fight in Lake-town. No invading wolves or orcs, no Bolg, no Legolas, no Kili, no love story, nothing. The only fight that occurs in Lake-town involves a very large dragon.

All these facts leave me completely puzzled. The first movie was criticized for sticking too close to the book (for the most part), as critics felt that the story took too long to develop. Here, Jackson throws the book into the trash and creates a movie that is “inspired by” the novel instead of “based upon” it. It seems that he does not know how to correctly incorporate events into a movie to make it whole, instead drawing one out and rushing the other. It also confounds me that he could shoot one movie at the same time as another, and yet have two completely different variations come out. One was well grounded in the source material, whereas the other takes monstrous liberties on it.

It also upsets me that Peter Jackson felt like he could do this to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. In essence, he is saying that the story he has and wants to tell is better than the story that Tolkien told, which is 110% incorrect. There’s a reason that Tolkien’s novels did so well, and became so legendary and famous that Jackson could make such a profitous franchise out of it. PJ’s ego is basically saying that he is more intelligent and creative than J.R.R. This assertion is so hilariously false, as one of these men directed Meet the Feebles and Braindead, whereas the other created an entire language, universe, and novel series all out of his own imagination.

If you are a fan of the novel like I am, you are going to find this movie offensive. This is the worst amount of liberties that Peter Jackson has taken in any LOTR based film yet, and it shows. It’s the same old story of Hollywood basing movies off good source material. If something is good, you do not change it and mess with it, especially with its core events. If it can be visibly improved (such as The Hunger Games : Catching Fire), go ahead and take those liberties. But for something that is such a work of art as Tolkien’s, this movie is a sad moment, and a betrayal of Jackson’s responsibility to guard the franchise that we the fans love. As a fan of the novel, the Lord of the Rings universe and its details, this movie merits a 2/10 as corresponds to a film adaptation of a beloved book.

My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen that have been released this year)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Catching Fire

5. Pacific Rim

6. This Is  The End

7. Despicable Me 2

8. Monsters University

9. The Great Gatsby

10. Oblivion

11. Elysium

12. World War Z

13. The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

14. Oz the Great and Powerful

15. Fast and Furious 6

16. Iron Man 3

17. Hangover Part 3

18. Thor : The Dark World

19. A Good Day To Die Hard

The Death of Paul Walker and What it Should Mean to You

In case you didn’t notice, American actor Paul Walker was killed in a car crash this past weekend. As the media is wont to do when a celebrity dies, investigations and coverage is running in an overflow of excess. Any of you that use social networking are also privy to the fact that many people are critical of those members of the proletariat that post material in memoriam of Walker, because they say that humans die every day that have more needs or have done greater deeds than a Hollywood star. They further say that people should not post things about dead celebrities since greater masses of people die every day.

Those that say these things in an outrage are simply wrong.

Firstly, this needs to be put out in the open. Paul Walker’s death is not a tragedy. Although by definition, “tragic” means dreadful or disastrous, it is not tragic. The connotation that comes with a tragedy is the implication that innocence or goodness has been destroyed through harmful forces outside of the control of the innocent. The fact of the matter is, Walker was a passenger in a fast sports car, which was reportedly being driven in excess of a safe speed. Cars are and always have been death traps, especially at volatile speeds which was the case. When driving at that speed, the driver and passengers accept responsibility for all effects to follow. As a result, innocence is lost. When something happens to a person that is unfortunate, but a direct effect of their action or inaction, the result can no longer be deemed tragic. It can be unfortunate, it can be sad, but the word “tragedy” has too strong implications and should be reserved for truly tragic events.

Moving forward, let us tender the following two statements as fact. When somebody inherently “good” dies, it is a sad occurrence. Especially when they pass at what seems like an early time; a time that could have been used touching and improving the lives of others around them.

Transitively, the death of Paul Walker is sad because of the kind of person that he was. However, it is going to be sad to so many more people than the death of an average person. This is because throughout his film career, Walker managed to reach out and touch the lives of untold millions of people. When you go to see a (good) movie, through the storyline and acting you are placed in empathetic touch with the protagonist. To me, Walker was a good enough actor that through the Fast and Furious movies that I watched and own, I felt for his character in Brian O’Conner. I wanted to see Brian succeed, to witness him overcome his weaknesses and create a circumstantial outcome that was best for him and the people he loved. Again, transitively that makes me feel for Walker, through the character he portrayed. Although I do not feel for Walker as much as I would someone like Tom Hanks, whose roles I identify and empathize with more than Walker’s, during the two hours of a Fast movie, Walker is my protagonist.

Putting this into another view, imagine how you would feel if your current favorite (alive) singer/songwriter died. The lyrics they have written, and the melodies they have composed would cease to continually be created. The essence of their being, the emotion and creativity they wrote with, and the emotions and lyrics that you identified with, would be somewhat of a memory. In the duration of the songs you listen to, you are totally empathizing and placing yourself into the shoes of the singer. They have now touched your life and are a part of you. Truth is, part of you is going to be sad if they passed away.

Although Walker’s death isn’t very personal to me particularly, it is sad. However, it is personal to some people, which I can still identify with. When Sean Taylor (Washington Redskins safety) died in 2007, I will be the first person to admit that I was personally in a somber mood. Taylor was one of my favorite players on my favorite football team, and was in the midst of a career year on the rebound from having personal problems. I liked Taylor and it was upset to see him gone. He touched my life enough that I posthumously bought his jersey so that I could remember the player that he was.

There are people who have had their lives touched by Paul Walker in a significant way, like Taylor was with me. Yes, some did not personally know him, but like the death of a character in a book, they empathized and were placed in the shoes of his characters, transitively being placed in the shoes of Walker himself. And yes, the death of a good person on any scale is sad, but not every person has the opportunity to be a part of so many lives like a movie star can. If someone who could not have possibly known Walker is bemoaning his passing, be respectful and let them be. Their influences and lives are different from yours, so treat your reactions to them as such. Remember what you were told to do as a child, and fully think through what words you are going to attribute to yourself before you make a foolish statement.

“Catching Fire” Ignites New Life into ‘Hunger Games’ Franchise

As I sit here on this cozy winter night on my couch with wireless keyboard on my lap and Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat beer in hand, let me regale you the tale of what happened last night when I went to see the next installment in The Hunger Games franchise, Catching Fire.

Now, as you may have previously read, I rather disliked the first Hunger Games movie. I felt it took a pretty good book, and made it worse. The first novel was imperfect but built on a solid concept, in which a quality film could have built a firm foundation. Yet, it failed utterly. If you wish to read that certain post, I’ll save you the time of digging and quick link you to it.

Usually, I’ll provide spoilers with a movie that I review. Not so this time. What I’ve discovered is, that with movies I dislike I need to provide all the reasons why it’s terrible. I need to spoil the movie to you the reader so that you do not waste your money in seeing it. Instead, because I liked this movie, I’ll merely tease you with spoilers, and tell you why you should go see it. A good production is literally worth gold, and I’ll encourage the development of those works of art. A bad project is worth flushing down the toilet, and thus I should discourage the masses from viewing such filth.

Which leads me  to assess the franchise as a whole, starting with the books and first movie. The Hunger Games franchise can be brought to life by this complex analogy. The overlying concept is like Aztec Gold. It’s shiny, valuable, creative, pretty, and intelligently made. Suzanne Collins then puts this concept into a book, and is like Hernan Cortez melting down all the Aztec Gold. It’s still shiny, valuable, and it’s still gold, it simply lost some of its intelligence and attractivity along the way. Then, the first movie comes along. This is like black market traders buying and selling the melted down gold bricks. The original vision (concept) gets a bit lost, and even the nice features of the gold start to get tainted as it switches hands and is used as a means to an end instead of as a work of art.

THANKFULLY, if we stick with the analogy, the second movie is like someone put a curse on all the Aztec Gold (sound familiar, Captain Jack?) and it all had to be brought back to one place to start from scratch in order to end the curse. All the gold is back in the same place with some of it restored, maybe not for the right reasons, but it’s there nonetheless. This is where we pick up with the second movie, if you still follow my analogy.

First and foremost, we switch directors. Which is a godsend. Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) takes the film into an entirely different direction than Gary Ross did. He takes the ideas that the second novel was built on, and creates a film based on them. All the parts of the book that drag on for too long or that the plot gets lost in (such as the overlong Arena setting and overemphasis on the teenage romance) get slimmed down and trimmed to fit in a fast paced movie focused on the characters and the setting, instead of the futuristic mushy love story told by the first movie.

Secondly, we get set and cinematographical (I may have just made that up) redesign. Remember how I said that the setting in the Capitol should reflect Rome? Francis Lawrence hits that nail on the head, keeping the futuristic feel but also paying much homage to ancient Italy. There are nice wide angle shots that capture how Panem should have been imagined by most of the readers. And for those of you that did not read the books, it gives a grander and more epic feel to the entire movie.

Third, it’s more menacing. Certainly the books get darker as the series goes on, but this movie actually feels PG-13 instead of the lighthearted romp that was the first film. The government is clearly defined as the real enemies, and it shows. Unlike the first movie where the villain and even the roles of the Gamemaker and President were totally passed over (even though they weren’t included in the book), it is clear who the antagonists are even if the film tells us “remember who the enemy is”. The peacekeepers uniforms have (thankfully) been redesigned, which although still imperfect reflect a much more totalitarian feel. Patrick St. Esprit (Sons of Anarchy, Green Zone, Super 8) plays the head Peacekeeper in District 12, and does a pretty good job for a guy that I laughed at when presented on screen because of the pushover character he plays in SoA. Instead, he channels Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars more than anything else, which is a remarkably good thing.

Fourth, the casting. Although Jennifer Lawrence as the protagonist is still a ridiculous babe, she might only be the fourth best actor in the film. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is wonderfully cast as head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee, and is beyond a doubt the best actor in the movie. Lenny Kravitz reprises his role as Cinna the stylist, and Jeffery Wright ( Agent Felix Leiter in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) contributes well to the expanded cast, as does Woody Harrelson who comes through yet again as the mentor Haymitch Abernathy. More new cast members arrive (and will stay for the remainder of the sereis) in Finnick Odair (Sam Clarfin, Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides), who plays his role fantastically, as well as the sexy damaged goods that make up Johanna Mason (Jena Malone, Into the Wild). I do still wish that President Snow were replaced by a more diabolical actor, but Donald Sutherland does his best to personify the films villain.

Finally, the soundtrack. I critiqued this in my last review, and it picks up considerably in this installment. Although the composer (James Newton Howard) remains the same, the times where the score is edited into the movie make quite the difference. From soft piano to Chris Martin singing the end credits song, it is a marked improvement.

Besides the obvious upgrades, everything about the movie seems real, as you identify so much better with the characters and setting. The PTSD that the characters experience from the trauma in the games is real. The brutal violence and oppression of the Capitol based regime draws parallels to not just historical fascism, but our own current government as well. The plot, which is more setting and character driven, feels conceivable and believable. We are finally sitting in Panem and buying into the universe that Collins created, even more so than those of us that read the book. This is no longer a strict romance movie (sorry to disappoint all the girls aged 12-20 that flocked to the theater last night), but instead it has turned into a work of art.

Is this movie perfect? Certainly not. The “love triangle” between Katniss Everdeen (J. Lawrence), Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), and Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is muddled at best. Katniss’ true thoughts and feelings are never really dissected, and it’s hard to see the motivation for some of the decisions she makes relationally. Gale, like in the books, is a very shallow and undeveloped character, and the adult audience is unsure of the relationship between Gale and Katniss even though the teens and tweens will swoon when the two “lovebirds” appear on screen in romantic moments. The movie also suffers from some poor source material, although the second Collins novel is a good read, it is far from great and has many imperfections and inconsistencies which you’ll notice in the film. Is that the film’s fault? No, but you’ll notice it nonetheless. And finally, it also suffers from a poor prequel. The movie has to constantly be referencing the previous movie, because after all, it’s built right on top of it. Changes in between movies may leave some viewers confused, although rest assured that the changes made from first film to second are more than likely for the best.

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire is a well done movie based on rather good source material. Neither the book or the movie will ever enter the realm of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series, but the franchise takes a giant step in the right direction with this most recent film. It boldly showcases the bleakness and oppression of the fascist regime in the fictional Panem, and even draws fantastic parallels to the entertainment industry’s hype machine that is responsible for such debacles that are “music television’s” VMA’s. Where this movie is at its best is when Catching Fire draws allegorical comparisons to the culture that created it. I rarely say this about a movie based on a book, but in this case….

The book is good.

But the movie’s way better.


My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen that have been released this year)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Catching Fire

5. Pacific Rim

6. Despicable Me 2

7. Monsters University

8. The Great Gatsby

9. Oblivion

10. Elysium

11. World War Z

12. Oz the Great and Powerful

13. Fast and Furious 6

14. Iron Man 3

15. Hangover Part 3

16. Thor : The Dark World

17. A Good Day To Die Hard

Thor The Dark World : An Adult’s Scathing Review

Typically, I go into a movie theater watching experience with expectations. Usually, if it is an installment in a franchise that has produced good films, or an adaptation of some other sort of medium that I enjoy, my expectations are rather high. I hated Iron Man 3 because it was a betrayal to the previous two franchise films (and the good ideas of the comic book medium), while conversely I loved Pacific Rim because I had no expectations whatsoever. Rotten Tomatoes gives Iron Man 3 a 79% “Fresh” Rating, whereas they give Pacific Rim a 72%. However, I hated the former title and thoroughly enjoyed the latter, all based on expectations.

This all being said, I went to an opening night showing of Thor: The Dark World with average expectations. I liked the first Thor movie, which although far from perfect was fun to watch. I disliked the need for political correctness by creating a multicultural Asgard (which runs adversely to all Norse mythology), and thought that the chemistry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was very poor, creating an unconvincing dynamic. I did like the visual elegance that director Kenneth Branagh brought with him, and praised the acting of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who stole the show from his pretty-boy brother. The plot was simple enough, and featured a vulnerable Thor who was stripped of his superpowers for arrogant abuse by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, in need of a paycheck) and marooned on Earth. In it, we found out that what they classified as “magic” in Asgard is the same as science on our planet, with the explanation for the Bifrost transportation being that it was an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Although a complex concept in reality, it was simplified enough to fit into the movie and actually make sense at its inception. The ending also perfectly set up the following film that would star both Loki and Thor, segwaying in a way that made linear sense. I gave it a 6.8/10 in my Marvel movie reviews, and I stand by that. Nothing particularly special, but a solid if not spectacular installment on the road toward The Avengers.

Now though, we’ve entered “Phase 2” of The Avengers storyline. It started off with a box office bang with Iron Man 3, which was still riddled with as many plot holes and problems as all of Tony Stark’s bullet-ridden suits. Seeing that I thought Thor was the weakest installment in “Phase 1” (at a 6.8/10), I quite rather enjoyed the other origin stories up to and culminating with The Avengers, increasing expectations. With a change of director for the second Thor movie, my expectations started to plummet, as Alan Taylor (whose only pertinent credits are directing six episodes of Game of Thrones) was handed the keys of this movie, in a typical Marvel cost-cutting, quality disassurance move. Expectations started out high, but started coming down like Mjolnir being summoned into the hand of the god whom Thursday is named after.

Beware, there are spoilers below. I don’t know how to go in-depth with a review without hitting on some major plot points, so only read this after you have seen the movie (if you plan to see it), or if you do not plan on seeing it.

The film starts out embarrassingly bad. In an attempt at a Peter Jacksonesque Lord of the Rings prologue, it is explained that Odin’s father (Bor) was in a war with a race known as the dark elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who seeks to destroy the universe by covering it in darkness using a weapon known as the Aether (which is basically PCP). Obviously, he loses the war, and somehow tricks the King of the Asgard into thinking he died when in reality, him and some of his followers simply went into suspended animation to be awoken when the Aether returns to the universe. Bor takes the Aether and places it in a stone column, and hides it where “no one can find it” (OBVIOUSLY somewhere on Earth).

Let’s pause this all for a second. Malekith has the dumbest motivation of any villain yet. He has no sensible goal. “Destroying the universe” means destroying everything, including himself. Even if he manages to somehow survive, what is he going to do once the universe is destroyed? Sleep in because everything is dark now? How does he even know that Bor hid the Aether? And if he was defeated once with it, how is it going to make him into an unstoppable force when he comes back?

Okay, I will shut up. But these questions seriously entered my mind during the opening ten minute sequence. I was horrified. It could only get better from here I thought, as the movie switched to present-day Asgard where Loki is due to stand trial for his crimes from The Avengers. He is pretty much given a slap on the wrist, and is mostly bawled over by his mother who is just so disappointed that her adopted son felt like becoming a king in his own right, since his road to the Asgardian throne was blocked. He gets set up in a nerfed prison cell, where he is left to look like an emo strung out on crack cocaine, even though the only thing that is actually punishing him is absolute boredom.

Thor, of course, is off being an oppressor. Apparently him and his compatriots have to go re-conquer the “Nine Realms” because after the destruction fo the Bifrost in the original Thor film. they decided they wanted to be free from Asgard’s rule or something like that. Of course, Thor will have no part of this, as he must go easily slay hundreds of their warriors to beat them into submission and into bowing to the Crown. The entire fight sequence is confusing. Enemies wear what seem to be iron helmets and other sorts of medieval gear while wielding laser guns, all the while being beat up and murdered by axes and bows and arrows. Nothing makes sense, but the freedom fighters must be quelled.

Of course, back on Earth we immediately visit Jane Foster (Thor’s unconvincing love interest) who is attempting to get back in the dating scene in London, but she just cannot keep her mind off of the thought of washing her clothes on Thor’s abs just one more time. As luck would have it, her partner in crime Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) is there for some welcome comic relief, as she impolitely interrupts Jane’s dinner date with shocking coincidental news of a scientific phenomenon (cue techno-babble). They come to an abandoned warehouse where objects start disobeying laws of physics and disappearing in midair, at times reappearing in strange places. Jane craps herself due to the scientific constraints of such a discovery, and starts theorizing on what it could be when all of a sudden she discovers the column, where in a trippy LSD moment she is teleported to some dark space and infected by the Aether. Ruh-Roh Raggy!

(Side note: if you add a red gleam and a bit of a gaseous presence to the Venom life form from Spiderman 3, you will get what is exactly the Aether. This movie would have been amazing if after being infected, Natalie Portman’s character returned to Earth and ripped open her jacket to reveal a black Spidey suit. That would have made my life complete.)

All of a sudden, I had a (second) glimmer of hope for this movie. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a horrible nonsensical plot twist where instead of being a superhero film, Thor : The Dark World is about the dangers of Class A recreational drugs and how crystal methamphetamine affects the body and makes you see weird things, like thinking that the prologue of the movie was awesome. Unfortunately, this isn’t a D.A.R.E. production, but instead an actual Hollywood film that someone somewhere thought was a good idea.

The foray into dramatic demon possessed existentialism ends with Jane reappearing in the warehouse with her friends outside talking to police, realizing that she has been gone for several hours in what seemed like moments to her. Before she returns though, the movie quickly cuts to Thor in Asgard talking to the racially incorrect Asgardian gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) who alerts the god of thunder that Jane has apparently disappeared (Heimdall is assumedly all-seeing and can see even tiny specks of humans on other planets) off the grid and cannot be seen. Concerned for her safety, Thor takes the Bifrost to Earth as soon as she “reappears” and lands next to lame Jane in the parking lot being surrounded by police. With bad script writing in conjunction with pitiful acting, Foster is overcome with fake emotion when the Norseman she loves finally reappears. Of course, even with the Bifrost being repaired, it becomes known that Thor has not visited Jane since the first Thor film, which makes for a thoroughly unconvincing relationship even though he claims he loves her and misses her, despite possessing the ability to visit Earth at any time. But oh no! The Aether within Jane acts out, and Hemsworth’s character is utterly astonished, and beams the duo back to Asgard to ascertain what is wrong with her.

As Jane and Thor materialize at Asgard, all of a sudden Jane has a flashback! She’s been here before, except with a Jedi Knight instead of a God! There’s even a scene where the two of them are whispering sweet nothings to each other on a bench in front of a waterfall. And then you realize that Star Wars Episode II : Attack of the Clones has nearly interchangeable scenes with this movie. And then you start laughing, because it is hysterical how similar the two are. This is the beginning of the end. Scenes that do not contain Loki and are not the final battle scene are eerily reminiscent in a horribly bad flashback way of Star Wars Episode I and II. What we soon learn is that Asgard = Naboo = Theed. Same space ships, double-bladed swords, Gungan bubble shields, fighter ships, and defense lasers. It is cringe worthy. At this point in time, my friends and I were just sitting in the theater disruptively laughing and quoting the horrible lines from the first two Star Wars prequels. We got shushed multiple times as we quoted Anakin and Padme, as I swore that if Thor and Jane started running playfully through a field that I would walk out of the theater.

This just happened.

This is actually a scene from Star Wars, photoshopped in Microsoft paint by yours truly. The scariest thing is, this could easily be from The Dark World.

But it gets better! Romeo and Juliet realize that the mortal earther is going to die (even sooner than expected) if she doesn’t get the venom removed from here, so off to the Asgardian emergency room they go! As Jane lies on the table, she gets analyzed by their high-tech equipment and she starts spouting some more techno babble about how this magical equipment is actually some type of medical scientific technology they have on Earth. The thing she does not realize is, that NOBODY CARES.

This is where, if you sit and think about it, the movie gets its most embarrassing. Unlike a fantasy film where supernatural forces are merely explained as being simply such, the movie attempts to become science fiction, which is fiction grounded in a somewhat feasible sense of futuristic reality. They try to explain how certain miniscule things work that have no relevance to the plot whatsoever, and instead leave gaping holes where they should at the very least attempt to form roots.

Of course, the movie simply cannot go five minutes without a predictable ‘plot twist’ or mindless action. As we saw a little bit previously, the release of the Aether on Earth triggers the alarm clock that happily awakens the singular emotional dark elf villain and his second in command, who he for some reason that they wrote into the script, has to be turned into an enhanced warrior known as a “Kursed” (I think it might help their cause for universal domination if they learned to spell correctly. Or wait, maybe that is why they want to destroy the galaxy, because they disagree with how things are spelled). Somehow, Celeborn the dark elf of Lorien obtains supersecret stealth cloaked spaceships that he transports an army of uglies on to obtain the Aether and destroy the Asgardians forever.

But lo! Watching is Heimdall the Seer, guarding the city of Asgard from all foreign dangers. Of course, he should have been canned in the first movie for failure to fulfill his duties as gatekeeper, but here he commits the gravest sin of all by failing to see these supersecret poorly cloaked ships, even though he can see Natalie Portman walking in London from galaxies away (makes sense, right). Even Captain Kirk can find a cloaked ship, but Heimdall utterly fails.

Actually, this is a lie. Because he does see one as it flies past him, which further exemplifies how this movie makes zero sense. It is like the classic Sam Rockwell scene from Galaxy Quest. Heimdall sees the ship, but is just totally flummoxed by his own imbecility that it takes a bit to register in his scatterbrain what is going on.

After about a millenia of watching the tortoise fly across the sky, he comes to his senses and takes out a dagger, charges it, and takes a flying leap to disable it (that’s exactly how it should be approached, right? See invisible spaceship. See spaceship fly. Fly spaceship, fly! Run at spaceship. Pull out dagger. Attack and destroy spaceship with dagger and bare hands). Whaaaaaaaaaaaat just happened.

At this point, I am just going to stop recapping the movie because it is simply too painful. The rest of the movie includes the villain’s best bud who is supposedly invincible getting inexplicably stopped, the meaningless and emotionless death of Thor’s mother, the scientific jargon techno babble that spouts from Jane’s mouth that makes sense to nobody (including these pole like weather instruments that function as teleportation devices that Jane somehow creates), and the reveal that Loki can now shape shift instead of simply casting holograms (would not have this been useful in The Avengers?).

The bright point of this movie is Tom Hiddleston. Every scene with him is practically gold. Even though the storyline and plot points that involve him make ZERO sense at times, he is a pleasurable dandy to watch on-screen. If it were not for him, this movie would rank up there with the worst Marvel has ever created.

For its pure entertainment value, the final fight sequence is fun to watch even though it is nonsensical. Although it makes you wonder. The scene takes place in London with a seemingly familiar alien invasion occurring. The main question I have in my mind is, where is S.H.I.E.L.D and why isn’t somebody trying to let a nuke off the chain like in The Avengers? The series continuity and logic is so impeccably flawed that it is hard to imagine that all the Avengers characters really do exist in the same universe.

The glaring problem with the fight scenes in this movie is that Thor is never actually in danger himself. He’s basically invincible when he has his hammer and his powers, and doesn’t outmaneuver his opponents, just inexplicably outbrawls them. The fun with the first movie was that his powers were stripped from him and he was just a normal human being. In this movie, he full wields his superpowers in a way that does not put him within a 39 1/2 foot pole of being in actual danger. Who knows, maybe if he lost the fight he could join the pointless “dark elf” Malekith with his evil plan to sleep in past 8 AM.

To conclude, this is a film for the ADD generation. Scenes are sloppily and quickly cut, assorted and jumbled together, with witless dialogue intertwined with bright lights and fancy stylized action that features weapons and combat that makes little practical sense. There are a few witty jokes written in, with most given to Loki (it is my opinion that Tom Hiddleston ad libbed them because the script was so bad) who just as in the previous two films that he is featured in, creates quite the splash. Unless you like brainless action (in other words, if you’re a fan of Transformers 3 or Die Hard 5), please do yourself (and the world) a favor and avoid throwing Marvel more money than they don’t deserve. I’m sorry they got my $8 so quickly, make sure you don’t make the same mistake. 4/10

My Year at the Movies (ranks in order of best to worst of movies I have seen in theaters this year)

1. Rush

2. Star Trek Into Darkness

3. Man of Steel

4. Pacific Rim

5. Despicable Me 2

6. Monsters University

7. The Great Gatsby

8. Oblivion

9. Elysium

10. Oz the Great and Powerful

11. Fast and Furious 6

12. Iron Man 3

13. Hangover Part 3

14. Thor : The Dark World

15. A Good Day To Die Hard

The Halo Movie : How To Make it Well

There needs to be a Halo movie. Just watch these two shorts (the first directed by Neill Blomkamp) and just agree with me on how awesome this could be.

There’s been speculation since the acclaimed release of Halo 2 that Microsoft would team up with a movie studio to make a film out of their blockbuster franchise. Numerous projects have started and stopped, with the names Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp attached, but nothing has ever gained any traction.  Although Halo 4 Forward Unto Dawn could be viewed as the Halo movie, and although it was in fact fantastically well done and about an hour and a half in total length, at a $10 million budget it comes to about 1/10th or 1/15th of what a large production would cost. With the upcoming release of the Xbox One and Steven Spielberg’s promise to release a Halo TV series along with it, there is much doubt about the creation of a Halo film happening at all. However, if it were to happen for real, here’s how it should happen.

1. The Plot

Although a first person shooter game, the overall plot to the Halo series is a rather good one, with scores of books and lore being spawned outside of the video game series. To me, it makes the most sense to tackle the series from the exact beginning, or to tell the story as mostly presented in Halo : Combat Evolved. Although criticized for its seemingly uncanonical approach, besides the game we can draw on the book Halo : The Flood amongst anything else in the Halo universe to help support the plot. I’m not going to rehash the plot of the entire game and novel for you, if you really want to know what happens just play the game or read the book.

The movie will begin with a prelude similar to a 007 movie or JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. In it, we’ll see Noble Six from Halo Reach delivering the package to Captain Keyes, who then boards the Pillar of Autumn and takes off in conjunction with Cortana’s coordinates under heavy enemy fire. As the Pillar heads into Slipspace and arrives at Halo Installation 04 with the enemy already present there, the movie really gets underway.

In order to punch the ticket for Blockbuster status, the Halo movie will need to follow the four main characters, Captain Keyes, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson, Master Chief John 117, and Cortana. The audience will have a tough time identifying with the Spartan supersoldier Master Chief during the onset of the film, which is where Keyes and Johnson have to take over, by giving the mere humans the emotional roles. It will seem at first that MC is just a cold aloof soldier that is really good at fighting and does cool stuff, but once the credits roll the writers and directors will have to shift the audience’s identification from Johnson and Keyes to John and Cortana. Master Chief will partially evolve through the movie as his relationship with Cortana is brought to light, and he begins to reveal his human side other than what could be taken for as a cyborg in a metal suit. Given that Keyes is imprisoned and killed about 2/3 of the way through, the transitional period from him being the emotional center to Master Chief becoming the relatable crux will need to happen right at the instant of his passing. Keyes’ humanity can be shown through his commanding decisions and flashbacks to his daughter Miranda, and her mother Catherine Halsey. Johnson is more of the comic relief badass marine, who has seen more than his fair share of war (especially by being where the war started and being on Harvest) and is scarred by it, yet continues to trudge on despite his personal losses.

The risky section of this movie is there are times where the main characters will all be split up doing different things. Although not often, there will be occasions when Keyes will be at one place, Johnson another, Master Chief another, and the villains yet another. The writers may have to mess with canon a little bit to simplify things, as when in films such as Return of the Jedi, following three or four different character lines at once can be too much. They will need to take a page from The Return of the King and keep everything simple and coherent. Although you have what was happening in Mordor, Gondor, Rohan, Minas Morgul, and the Paths of the Dead all at once, everything came together seamlessly by not spending too much time apart and focusing on the most important parts of the film. You don’t switch scenes in the middle of battle or of a major plot point, instead you let it play out until such a time where everything coherently makes sense.

The other key part of this movie will be the main villain. Although the parasitic flood will turn out to be the main enemy, the film needs to craft Thel ‘Vadam (the Arbiter) as the antagonist. As shown in the beginning cutscenes from Halo 2, he is the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice that follows the Pillar of Autumn to Halo. A lot of movies nowadays are make or break when it comes to the villain. Iron Man 3 was rubbish because of an awful villain, whereas The Dark Knight was amazing because of a fantastic one. The directors and writers will need to draw from other films that have alien species as antagonists (I’m mostly looking at Star Trek and perhaps parts of District 9 in this case) and create a humanistic/modern feel to them, such as juxtaposing the religion of the Covenant to overzealous terrorism, and the Covenant corruption and caste system to present day examples of government scandals and class separation. The thing we learn about Thel throughout the movie is that although he’s the villain, he isn’t exactly in the wrong as he is merely following the orders of the Prophets. Even though The (future) Arbiter the primary antagonist, he is more of a sympathetic one guarded by codes of honor and loyalty.

Finally, the movie will have to run in a non-linear style, similar to Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. We’ll need flashbacks explaining the origins of the Master Chief and the Spartan program, along with some explanations on the Covenant side of how the war came to be. Starting off with the destruction of Reach is a good introduction for the characters and action, but as the film progresses there will need to be seamless explanations for those that are not familiar with the Halo universe.

2. The Cast

The problem with casting for a Halo movie is that your main character, The Master Chief John 117, is encased in his high-powered suit, the Mjolnir Mark V body armor the entire time. And in order to stay true to Halo lore so far, you can’t reveal his face as it sits under the suit. Which means, in order to better connect with your audience, Master Chief needs to be one of the films main characters, if not the main one. The good thing about this is that the iconic voice of the MC for the past 12 years, Steve Downes, can remain in his role, and we can save some room on the budget as far as casting goes. But in order for a more humanistic feel, who do we cast in other roles?

First and foremost, Captain Jacob Keyes. George Clooney or Bruce Greenwood. Greenwood already fits the bill as being Captain Christopher Pike and Star Trek, but Clooney has the acting chops to pull it off very well, creating an emotional and identifiable character.

Secondly, Sgt. Avery Junior Johnson. Either Idris Elba or Denzel Washington. Again, same scenario as above. Elba played a fantastic Marshal Pentecost in Pacific Rim, but Washington is the superior actor and has a better feel for an ironic comic relief role. Plus, as Man on Fire, American Gangster, and The Book of Eli have proved, he’s already got the badass part down.

Third, Catherine Halsey needs to be Bonnie Hunt. Because, who else in Hollywood can you picture playing Halsey well in a minor role?

Cortana can still be voiced by Jen Taylor and Thel ‘Vadam as Keith David as dictated in the video game.

Casting Miranda Keyes as an adult is something I would choose not to do for this movie, simply because if there’s a sequel made she needs to be a main character, and actress continuity for a small part in this installment to a starring role in the next might be tough to find.

3. The Director

I would love for any of the following directors to be in charge of this movie. Those being JJ Abrams, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, or Zack Snyder. Unfortunately, Cameron and Nolan only deal in their pet projects, and Abrams is tied up in Star Wars and Star Trek just as Snyder is tied up in the DC Justice League universe.

Which leaves three names out there, two that we’ve already visited in Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson. After seeing what Guillermo del Toro did with Pacific Rim, and his ties with Ron Perlman (who is Lord Hood in Halo 2 and 3), his name should be submitted for candidacy as well.

And in all honesty, I’d be okay with any of those men directing in conjunction with production from Steven Spielberg. I like Blomkamp’s sci-fi flicks in District 9 and Elysium, but I don’t know how well he would do creating a PG-13 movie, as he does like to attend the Peter Jackson school of gore at times. Under tutelage from Spielberg I think he could flourish and create a spellbinding sci-fi epic, but that is all up to him.

Should the Halo movie be made as I spell it out? If you have any ideas that shine brighter than mine, let me know in the comments. There’s nothing that I love more than speculation on something that will never happen.


The Hunger Games : How and Why the Book and Movie Should Have Been Better

I know I’m rather behind in this scene, but I just finished reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and watching its film adaptation. The book was an enjoyable if not a transcendent read, while the movie was a complete disappointment.  I’m writing this “review” to compare and contrast (and criticize) both versions, already assuming that you have either read the book or seen the movie, or are merely interested in what I have to say. Which means, there WILL be spoilers. So, if you, like I was, are planning to read or watch the movie, bookmark this post and see if you agree or disagree with my words afterward. That also means that instead of summarizing the plot, I’m going to jump right into the action and talk about the events and characters of the medium again assuming that you know what I”m talking about.

First off, I’ll start with the book. It’s very fast paced, interesting, and has a fantastic concept that I picked up on and almost fell in love with in the first chapter. Basically, it’s a futuristic Rome and Gladiator Games contest, with the Tributes representing the Gladiators, where winners are showered in gifts, and losers systemically killed. It’s a bloodthirsty and cold-hearted tradition, but it works for the government in the Capitol (curious how it’s an “o” not an “a”) to keep control of their realm. And, choosing children as the Gladiators is utterly horrifying yet fascinating, it’s a tactic that shows the heartlessness of the Panem government to pit those aged 12-18 against each other in a Battle Royale. The characters are relateable and three dimensional, if not somewhat predictable. The action and violence is realistic, if even at some points it’s rather graphic. And, Collins kills off a loveable main character, which is something that all good novelists need to do to accurately convey realism and portray danger. Rue was an adorable character that the reader truly cared about, and when she took one for the team it was right up there with Dobby dying in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as far as emotionalism. It’s a good book, but not a great one.

And that’s because of the romance between the main characters, the two tributes from District 12 in Katniss and Peeta. It’s really boring. For the first part of their relationship in the book, you can feel the tension, but you don’t know how it will turn out with them supposed to be pretending to be in love during the games. You can predict that it’s going to turn out badly for one of them, as one might fall for the other in the midst of pretending, but it doesn’t pan out that way. Instead, Collins draaaaaaaags out the pretending part of their relationship,  muddling it and drastically overplaying it. And then to make matters worse, she doesn’t even resolve their true feelings in the end, OBVIOUSLY bating the reader for a sequel in which there will be more kissy-kissy overplayed, clear as mud teenage romance. Blech.

Secondly, there’s how she writes the book. It is written in present-progressive first person tense, which makes NO sense, but improves the pacing of the book. For example, a normal first person narrative is told like this.

“I ran through the woods, seeking my prey out amongst the evergreens, attempting to follow the blood trail as it became faint on the pines and needles.”

Present-progressive is told like this :

“I run through the woods, as I seek my prey in the evergreen forest, following the blood trail as it is becoming faint on the pines and needles.”

It’s very very confusing, because when a story is being told in first person, it’s usually the main character relating facts to you, the reader, told as a story. But instead, in present-progressive first person, it’s like she’s telling you what is going on as it’s happening, and you’re there with her. Which makes no sense, because diaries aren’t even written in present-progressive. Basically, the reader is a split personality of Katniss who she is relating what is going on to. Uh, okay? It improves the pacing, because it feels like the events are currently happening, but it makes for a bit of confusion.

The book doesn’t play to its strength of the concept, failing to expand the universe as much as it should, and wasting too much time on a romance that doesn’t even become terribly clear. Still, it’s a good book. The point of adapting a book into a film, however, is to reach a wider audience while staying faithful to the source material. However, a film adaptation can play to the strengths of the novel, and focus less on the weaknesses because it is actually an adaptation. So, in order to make a successful film, the filmmakers could do one of two things. 1) Create a teenage-romance film, and pander to that audience only OR 2) Create a heartfelt and realistically (for a fantasy) gritty film, AKA the later Harry Potters, that plays to the universe of the book. Sadly, the producers stuck with option number one, banking on the Twilight audience to bring in the box office receipts.

Here’s my problems with the movie, listed in no particular order.

1. The Film Score.

Unmemorable. All good novel adaptations should have a fantastic score, like The Lord of the Rings series. It emphasizes all the right moments in the movie and impacts the audience drastically. Which means, you need to hire a good composer, just like Peter Jackson did in LOTR (Howard Shore) or the Harry Potter producers did in John Williams. James Newton Howard is an accomplished composer, but you gotta pair him with someone like Hans Zimmer to get something truly memorable.

2. The Non-Linear Storytelling

If you’re not Quentin Tarantino or Zack Snyder, don’t tell a story non-linearly. We get these awkward flashbacks of Katniss’ father being killed in the mine explosion, and of Peeta throwing Katniss bread in the rain. We have no background or emotion tied with either scene, it just feels so utterly disjointed and awkward that we’re not sure what exactly to make of the scenes. Here’s how I would have incorporated those events into the film.

START out the film with the Everdeen’s father being the main character (like in Star Trek with Kirk’s father), with a young family in a dirt poor mining community. Show his relationship with Katniss and how he passes down his skills to her, and show what a caring parent he truly was. Then, in an emotional and tragic death scene, with piano music such as this playing……(skip to 13:10)

….show the death of their father in the mining accident, and the grief and spiraling depression that it sends the girls mother into. Then, altering the book a little bit, show Katniss running away from home in her emotion, and THERE have her encounter with Peeta as she is starving and hurt in the rain. Have her return home, and then in a voice-over by Jennifer Lawrence, have her say something like “My Name is Katniss Everdeen, and this is my story.” She can then narrate the history of Panem as the audience returns to the present events starting with the reaping. The part with Peeta has to be downplayed enough however, that when he gets chosen to be a tribute, the audience is thinking to themselves “oh my God that’s the kid that saved her in the rain!”

3. Casting and Character Changes

I don’t understand why Donald Sutherland plays  President Snow in this movie. The President isn’t featured in the first book, and Donald Sutherland isn’t a politician or intimidating. And, take the creative liberty to ax the term “President”. Make the ruler of Panem have a sweet title like “Augustus” or something Roman that implies dictatorship. If you insist on having an older guy be “President”, cast Christopher Lee while he is still alive, PLEASE. Or, if you want a truly intimidating two faced politician, Kevin Spacey should get the role.

The rest of the cast is actually very well done, they’re honestly just given bad lines. Someone please kill the writer for this movie, it’s another Michael Bay-esque film where they decide to explain entire things by throwing in a line of script instead of actually showing something. It’s a book, your movie is allowed to be 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Also, WHO IS THE VILLAIN OF THIS MOVIE?? You think it’s President Snow but he isn’t even in the book and is in about three scenes. You might think it’s the Careers (District 1 and 2 tributes), but you don’t hate them at all and they’re left totally undeveloped. I think the villain is the director, who butchered this movie completely.

Which brings me to the part of Rue. Her death in the book was very emotional, and she was a great developed supporting character. However, she isn’t developed AT ALL in the movie, and when she dies you just think to yourself, “oh, well she’s gone even though I don’t really know how because the filmmakers are afraid to show violence in an inherently violent movie.” HERE’S how you do an emotional impalementish death scene.

At this point in the movie, YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE BOROMIR. But, wow. This death scene is just unreal, as he comes to terms with everything. The music, the slow-mo, the dialogue is just off the chain. Which is how it should have been in the movie.

My final gripe as far as characters go is with the Peacekeepers. Supposed to be the policing force, they’re totally lame and not intimidating. You want intimidating and memorable? Go with something like this.

Or, if you want to stick with the Roman theme, go with a Centurion design. That works too.

4. The Setting

The Capitol is described as being in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with mountains surrounding it on all sides. In other words, it’s Denver. But, we get no real notion or idea where it is, for all we know it’s in DC. They also describe District 12 as being in Appalachia, in other words, West Virginia. But again, the audience isn’t informed about this, and we can’t connect with the setting at all.

Furthermore, there should have been way more Roman architecture to go with the theme. Steal a page from the book of Gladiator and have more white stone paved streets, arches, and pillared structures. Yet, maintain the futuristic feel by incorporating more technology into the vast courtyards and plantation styled houses.

5. The Little Things The Movie Has To Do

-Create a convincing romance between the main characters. This is foremost and premier (and is hardly a little thing_, this drives the movie. It’s boring and unconvincing, and it’s what the producers tried to make a movie about. Thus, the movie failed.

-Create an “Evil Empire” feel for the Capitol and the Government. This means NOT omitting the fact from the novel that the Muttations are given life from the corpses of the rest of the killed tributes.  Show their atrocities and their reign, create empathy for the rebellion and hatred for the Capitol.

-Be much more faithful to the book’s portrayal of Haymitch and Katniss’ relationship. They have an understanding but not a like of each other, which the movie doesn’t show at all. Woody Harrelson does a great job as Haymitch, his part simply isn’t written well at all. It’s like the director wanted to dumb down their relationship just so simplify the movie. Collins creates a unique dynamic between the characters, showcase it as best possible.

-Expand and enhance the scene where Thresh spares Katniss’ life. This is about a 40 second scene in the movie, where it’s several pages and is very dramatic and the book. Make the audience feel the pressure and the emotion of having to owe somebody for a kindness

-Show the REAL way that Katniss obtained the Mockingjay pin. In the movie, she gives it to Prim “for luck”. Apparently, it’s not lucky at all because Prim gets selected as Tribute. And still, Prim gives Katniss the pin as Katniss volunteers to take her sisters place, “for luck”. Uhhhhh……..why? It was just proven that that pin is not lucky what-so-ever.

-Include Cato’s Body Armor from the book. At “The Feast” where Katniss receives the medicine for her and Peeta. It’s integral to the plot, and the fact where in the movie she puts Cato out of his misery while being devoured by the Muttations. The body armor came without a facemask, which would amplify this further.

-Don’t skimp on the exposition of the movie. The audience needs to understand the disparity between not just the Capitol and Districts, but between the Districts themselves. Explain the universe as best possible.

-Don’t be afraid to push the limits of a PG-13 movie. I feel like this could have easily been up for a PG rating, whereas the book can get rather graphic and definitely merits a PG-13 rating with its brutality. You shouldn’t go overboard, it being a teen novel for the most part, but portray more of the violence more realistically, make the audience feel the pain and the sorrow in having children kill each other.

Despite all the negatives I’ve listed, the movie is very well cast (other than Sutherland) and the last 20 minutes are done particularly well. However, if you really like the book and have half a brain, you shouldn’t love the movie. I only enjoyed the book and I still hated the film. I did just purchase the second book which I’m told is an improvement, but there’s no way you could drag me to see the second movie after this chop job. My advice? If you want a good read, buy it cheaply (I did for $6) or borrow it from the library. It’s a good read and great concept that you won’t regret, but it without a doubt pales in comparison to Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter. The book gets a 8/10 whereas the movie 5/10.

DC Doesn’t Create Despicable Crap

Well, the title of my post is at least mostly true. No film studio is ever perfect, but for the most part DC comics are well represented with solid movies. The DC Film universe is somewhat less cluttered with films, and has a little bit more longevity to it than those of Marvel. Read into this however you like, it could be that DC is simply less greedy than Marvel, or that the DC universe isn’t as relatable on the big screen as the Marvel characters. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to leave out the original four Superman and Batman movies. What makes super hero movies real is the quality of the effects to supplement the story. And, as beloved as those movies may be to some people, if you go back and watch them today without a sentimental connection, the effects and production value seem quite silly. To enlarge the DC film universe a little more, however, I am including those DC graphic novel imprints that were made into movies. Now, to begin, we’ll pick up with DC’s movies post-1997, after two of their arguably worst movies ever, Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel and George Clooney’s nipple-suited Batman and Robin.

Such a horrid movie.

Road To Perdition (2002) – If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and find a stream or copy of it somewhere when you have some free time. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Stanley Tucci, this film is a fantastic 1930s gangster period piece that follows a former mob enforcer in his revenge path against a mobster who killed his family. Hanks and Newman give especially great acting performances, and cinematographer Conrad Hall won a posthumous Academy Award for the movie’s cinematography.  7/10

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – I almost equate this movie to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I want so badly to like it a lot. And it starts out really well, and stars Sean Connery, so about a third of the way through I’m really excited about where it’s all going. And then, things just start getting weird when they start taking the whole fantasy part of the League a little too far. Then characters start acting without motivation, and general lunacy and chaos descends upon the plot. What could have been a really cool action movie with some interesting characters forming the League, turns out into a disappointing strange mess. 4/10

Catwoman (2004) – This is actually a really really really really really bad movie. I won’t waste my time explaining why, because the one time I watched it I shut it off about twenty minutes in. At least Halle Berry is attractive, which saves this from a goose egg. 0.5/10

Constantine (2005) – Honestly, I don’t mind this movie a whole lot. It’s one of Keanu Reeves (John Constantine) better roles, as he seems pretty fit to play Messianic roles rather well. The movie is filled with religious symbolism and has a rather complicated plot filled with inconsistencies and holes, but at the very least this movie makes you think, especially if you have religious beliefs. It’s fun to watch and talk about once, but that’s about it. 5.5/10

A History of Violence (2005) – Just like Road to Perdition, this is an oft forgotten DC graphic novel movie adaptation that is one to not miss. Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) stars as a small town local restaurant owner who in defense of his employees kills to robbers who hold up the place. As his fame grows, a big city mobster (Ed Harris) comes to town stalking him and his family, claiming that Mortensen’s character is actually a gangster with big city ties from years ago. He then has to face the accusations while dealing with the growing tension and newfound popularity at home, and his questionable past. Maria Bello and William Hurt also co-star in an Academy Award nominated screenplay in which everything is so well done that it all seems real, where you can relate to the characters and their trials. Because so few people have seen it, I can’t really say a whole lot more without ruining the plot, so take my advice and find a venue to watch it if possible. 8.5/10

Batman Begins (2005) – This is where DC starts getting their ball rolling. With bringing in Christopher Nolan to direct, Batman has been changed forever thanks to this realistic, gritty reboot of the popular caped crusader. Nolan’s cast is spot on, with Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Katie Holmes (love interest Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Lt. James Gordon), and Liam Neeson (villain Ra’s al Ghul) starring. This movie spawned the idea of series rebooting, as Nolan did this film so well after the 1997 disaster of Batman and Robin. Right up there with 2008’s Iron Man, this is one of the, if not the best superhero origin stories ever put onto the big screen. Chances are that you have seen this movie and most of its sequels, so you know how good it is. The only criticism I can think of is that I would have liked to see more of a romantic subplot and attachment built up between Bale and Holmes’ characters, which is the only place this movie really falls short at. 8.5/10

The Dark Knight (2008) – The best superhero movie franchise just keeps getting better with this installment. With Katie Holmes being replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the only possible acting weakness has been removed. Bringing in Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two Face, Ledger steals the show with his character, leaving what are great performances by the rest of the cast, in the dust with the audience begging for more of the Joker at each go-around. A seamless plot chronicling Batman’s psychological battle with the Joker, this movie is astoundingly good. If you haven’t seen it, please come up from whatever rock you live underneath and steal a DVD player and a copy of this movie if you have to. Words really do not do this film justice, but I’ll attempt to use numbers to demonstrate how good it is. 10/10

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend, Tom Hardy is brought on to play the enormous villain Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as the police officer John Blake, and Anne Hathaway is cast as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Bale) has hung up his cape and cowl, and retired from his role as Batman. He lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in his manor, holed up to live a secluded life. It isn’t until the international terrorist Bane (Hardy) comes to Gotham City that Wayne is forced to take up his mantle once more and face a foe who at least equals his physical prowess. Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt, Caine, Morgan Freeman (Wayne Enterprises tech expert Lucius Fox), and Marion Cotillard form an ensemble cast to bring about the conclusion of the series. Unfortunately, this movie is the most marred with plot holes and inconsistencies, and leaves a few questions at the end. However, the entire political atmosphere created by director Christopher Nolan paints a fascinating scene in which most of the plot holes end up being forgivable. Overall, a fantastic movie, yet one that could not live up to its predecessor and is about on par with the first series installment. 8.5/10

the dark knight rises

V for Vendetta (2005)- Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Next to The Dark Knight series and Watchmen, this is DC’s best movie. An action/political drama, this film has the best entire cast of any movie save The Dark Knight or Man of Steel. Hugo Weaving stars as the titular masked character, the outcast vigilante known simply as V. In near futuristic Great Britain, following the collapse of most ordered governments due to disease and war, England has been strengthened but also taken over by the government who now runs things in a Nazi-esque dictatorial style. Weaving plays the outlaw who attempts to restore freedom to the people and reveal the true nature of the forming of the dictatorship by exposing its horrific origins and past. Natalie Portman co-stars, feeding off Weaving’s fantastic performance and putting on a good show of her own as Evey Hammond, a British Television Network employee with her own torrid past that is used in conjunction with Weaving to bring about change in the fascist state. Stephen Rea almost steals the show with an amazing acting job as the Inspector tasked with hunting down V, as he wavers on the line of doing his job and doing what he knows to be morally right. John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Rupert Graves, and Tim Pigott-Smith are also featured, finishing out what is a great working cast. A great detective and political story, this is a must-see for anyone with any sort of natural intelligence. 9/10

Superman Returns (2006) – Personally, I really disliked this movie. I love Kevin Spacey, but not a bald Kevin Spacey. I like Superman as a hero, but not when this movie picks up from after the second Superman movie which was released 30 years prior and nobody from my generation is going to remember. I also just don’t like anyone else in the cast, apart from Kevin Spacey. It’s a boring, vanilla cast with a boring, vanilla story, that when it put me to sleep, it was the best thing to happen to me all movie long. I did stay awake enough to see that the plot was pretty dumb with Spacey’s Lex Luthor attempting to create a continent out of kryptonite and become a real estate mogul. That’s such a cool movie premise (sarcasm). 4/10

Stardust (2007) – I confess, I didn’t see this movie, nor did I have any plans to at all when it was released. Reading its synopsis now, ehhhh………. I like Matthew Vaughn (X-Men First Class, Kick-Ass) who directs, but a romance-fantasy film just wasn’t appealing when I was 16. If it’s on Netflix, I’ll give it a chance. The late great Roger Ebert gave it a 2.5/4 and called it “fun”, so I’ll say……6.5/10

Watchmen (2008) – This epic I have to watch every year to remind myself of how good most of it is. Taking place in an alternate-reality 1985, the movie starts with the masked vigilante The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) being killed by an unknown foe. The so-called Watchmen superhero group made up of various masked vigilantes has recently been outlawed by third term President Nixon as the United States and USSR are on the brink of nuclear holocaust. The film follows the main character Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley in an amazing acting job), a psychopathic vigilante who tries to find out what is happening to masked heroes and why The Comedian was killed. The movie follows typical Zack Snyder non-linear storytelling style which works out perfectly in this film. Not for those with weak stomachs, this movie has very well done stylized action and can be rather gory. Although not a Hollywood A-List cast, every single cast member from Matthew Goode to Malin Akerman delivers big in their roles and creates a fascinating and very well done adaptation of the famous graphic novel on realistic heroes. It’s an entertaining and thought provoking tale that although a few rather awkward sex scenes and some blue penis on display, makes for a fantastic film. 8.5/10

The Spirit (2008) – Another movie I must admit that I haven’t seen, it’s apparently a good thing that I’ve skipped over it. It’s said that the cinematography is akin to Sin City and pretty gorgeous, but everything else in the movie aside from Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes being in it is awful. I’ll buy that. One point each for hot actresses, and one for cinematography like Sin City. 3/10

The Losers (2010) – The last DC film that I have not seen, but I rather want to. It barely made more than its $25 million budget, but still starts Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Chris Evans (Captain America). Described as an A-Team of sorts, it is said to be full of action movie clichés and is big, loud, noisy, dumb fun. Which, I can live with on occasion. 5/10

Jonah Hex (2010) – Jonah Hex was billed to be an awesome western shoot em’ up with Megan Fox being a babe on the side, and the ultimate dude flick. In reality, it turned out to be the ultimate idiot movie that actually was painful to watch. Thankfully, including the credits, it was only 81 minutes long. I was ready to be put out of my misery far before then however. 0.5/10

RED (2010) – I didn’t enjoy this movie. That being said, I didn’t hate it. I also don’t care to synopsize it because I was primarily bored by everything that happened in it. Normally, I like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman movies. Something just doesn’t gel in this one for me though. It’s like throwing firecrackers down groundhog holes. It’s exploding, loud, and occasionally funny. But after nothing really happens for about ten minutes, I move on with my life. 5.5/10

Green Lantern (2011) – Green Lantern is not as bad as some people bill it. That being said, it’s also simply just not a good movie. There’s wayyyyyyyyy too much CGI, the villain is idiotic, and the cast is pretty bad. I think that Ryan Reynolds could conceivably be Hal Jordan, and he could do a fine job as the protagonist, but he’s just weighted down by poor writing and too much unrealistic razzle-dazzle. The hope for this movie coming in would be that it could potentially be a Justice League origin movie, which instead turned super-messy with special effects and lost all semblances of reality. My advice for the series is to create a sequel more grounded in reality that’s grittier and more realistic, and keep both Reynolds and Blake Lively on the cast, while forgetting pretty much everything else that happened in the first film. 4/10

Man of Steel (2013) – This is the Superman reboot and story that everyone has been waiting for. With Zack Snyder at the helm directing, this fantastic cast of Henry Cavill (Immortals, now playing Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), and Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) puts together the darkest, yet most realistic take on Superman yet. With Snyder’s nonlinear directing style, this movie shows Clark Kent/Kal-El coming to Earth and having trouble dealing with his non-human powers on a very human level. With General Zod arriving on Earth in search of Kal, it’s up to Clark to become who he was sent and born to be to stop the aliens from punishing humanity for hiding Kal from Zod. Very well done acting, directing, and action wise, the script could be a little better with some actual attempts at humor (it’s a movie that might take itself too seriously), and the large-scale destruction we see in Metropolis is a little bit too much to believe. Not a perfect movie by all means, but a very good one and a great reboot for the series. 8/10

Red 2 (2013) – What reason would I have to pay money or even time to go see this? ????/10

Part of the reason for DC’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have created several movies based on graphic novels instead of a series of comics. There’s less to draw on for a graphic novel, and more of a linear story to be told than the masses of comics and alternate universes and characters that are in play when we venture into comic book territory. Although the film branch of DC is without a doubt without its faults, it seems that the movies they create are designed to do more than just make money. They retain good actors and directors for successful franchises (see Snyder and Nolan), and focus on the cast, the story, and the realistic nature of how it gets conveyed to the audience. The future of DC film is unknown though, as the only established movie they have concretely on tap is a Man of Steel sequel that will introduce Batman into the Superman universe, which will likely be the prelude to a future Justice League movie. Rumor has it that Christian Bale and the rest of The Dark Knight series cast will not stay on for their roles, which would be a true shame not just for the audience but for the bean counters at DC. Honestly, I do not care how they explain it, but Christian Bale needs to play Batman and the rest of the universe needs to translate over with Man of Steel. There simply is no replacement for Christopher Nolan’s series. If DC were Marvel, there would already be a Batman reboot in place so they could make even more cash out of all the movies to follow. Let us hope that DC continues to stay the course and invoke (mostly) well done movies instead of following the Marvel path to greed.