Monday, May 18, 2009

Terminator: Salvation

Of the movies so far that have been released this year in 2009, Terminator: Salvation was the one I’d been looking forward to the most. In fact, as I write this first paragraph, I haven’t seen it yet. The only thing I’ve experienced thus far is reading the prequel novelization of the film as well as seeing the trailers and clips that have been released on the Internet. So before I go venture to my city’s local movie complex, I wanted to start this review with how I felt since they’ve announced the plans to make a fourth movie.

I remember soon after Terminator 3 was released and received pretty good reviews, it was announced that the rights were acquired by Halcyon to make three more films. I was stoked! At the time, I thought Jonathan Mostow did a fair job at bringing the franchise back to continue the story of The Terminator.

Some time went by before I heard anything else on the Internet or elsewhere. But soon there were rumors of it going on the fast track to get something on screen quickly, followed by talks of who would be in it. By this time, Arnold Schwarzeneggar took the office of Governor of California, making it impossible for him to reprise his role. Which was just as well since I felt he was already too old for part 3 anyway, might as well put another body builder/actor in the role. Besides, Arnold was a Model 101 T-800…surely there were other models. 100? 102?

I digress.

Finally I started hearing rumblings of it really happening, that we were going to get a part 4 that takes it into the future war. We were going to see early Terminators like the T-600 series and the Hunter-Killers and others of the ilk. Articles on the Internet began informing us that Nick Stahl and Claire Daines were out, as was Jonathan Mostow. So, the search for the stars of the film began and the more important search for the director was what I was watching.

I believe James Cameron was approached and I think he may have even considered at first, but he went back to his original statement that he felt the story ended after T2 in 1991.

A few directors’ names were put in the hat and after some time, one came out that I really didn’t care for: Joe McGinty, otherwise known as McG. McG is best known for his campy outings of both Charlie’s Angels films and that really concerned me. The Terminator films are serious and should not have any camp whatsoever (although there were quite a few one-liners thanks to Arnie in the third film). But McG did have We Are Marshall under his belt and I thought that was a redeeming value for him as a director. With that in mind, it was a toss up for me…either it was going to be good or it was going to be bad.

At or near the same time, it was announced that Christian Bale was in talks to play John Connor. I couldn’t believe it. Bale was already sailing high with his debut as the new Caped Crusader in Batman Begins, as well as The Dark Knight which was yet to be released at the time. It was a plus, I thought, because Christian Bale is such an extreme actor and always puts everything into a role; he even lost 65 pounds to play the insomniac in The Machinist.

As time went on, more and more notable actors and actresses began to appear on the bill for the new Terminator movie. Bryce Dallas Howard takes Claire Daines’ place as Kate Brewster, John Connor’s wife. I was always curious as to who would play Kyle Reese and I found out shortly that it was Anton Yelchin, who played the Chekov role adequately in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek. Common plays Connor’s right hand man, Barnes, and Moon Bloodgood as Blair Williams. And although it’s been said that this film will take place before the T-800 series of Terminators exist, I noticed a surprising character in the IMDb web site that showed otherwise; an actor by the name of Roland Kickinger was cast as the T-800. Of course rumors began to flow through the web about this, which I found was a good fit. If anyone has seen the TV movie, Run Arnold Run, they’d know Kickinger from that film where he played the young Arnold Schwarzeneggar. He looks quite remarkably like Arnold and has a background familiar to his as well. They’re both Austrian and professional body builders at one time or another. But I guess that wasn’t good enough for the studios because they really wanted Schwarzeneggar in this film so bad, they decided to try a relatively new special effect to get this done. So, in a sense, Arnold was to return again as the T-800.

With all this going on in my mind, I walked right up to the ticket booth of Hanford’s Movies 8, paid for one ticket and went into the theater to find the best seat to plant myself for the next two hours or so, enjoying the return of the Terminator franchise.

What did I think?

In one word with all caps…AWESOME!

I’ve seen three blockbusters so far for this summer and by all means, this is the best I’ve seen. However, I am partial to the Terminator franchise, so it may not be fair for me to say that. But it is my opinion.

The film opens with Sam Worthington’s character, Marcus Wright, sitting on death row in 2003 as he awaits his sentence for the murder of his brother and a cop. Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Serena, comes in and asks him to sign away his body to science. After he signs the paperwork, we see a clear shot of the paperwork’s header which has the Cyberdyne insignia on top.

The film then cuts to the future, 2018, and we see the resistance fighting and bombing satellite dishes, obviously used by Skynet. We’re introduced to the first glimpse of John Connor as his helicopter lands on a wrecked T-600. He jumps out and puts a few bullets into its skull.

The resistance goes down into some underground bunkers where they want to rig up bombs to detonate, but we see a glimpse of some bodies (including Marcus Wright’s) and they’re wondering what the hell is Skynet doing there.

Later, Marcus wakes up, joins up with Kyle Reese and Star (if you’d read the book prequel, you’d understand why they’re on their own). They hear John Connor’s nightly message over a CB radio, letting everyone who can hear him know that they’re part of the Resistance and how to beat or outmaneuver the machines. Kyle says that they need to find this guy, so that’s their quest.

Meanwhile, John Connor is not quite the leader he’s always meant to be just yet. The Resistance has a command center that’s located in a submarine in the middle of the ocean and Connor has to abide by them like everybody else. However, it’s shown that he has a following already, not just by his squad but by people who listen to him over the airwaves.

Connor’s aware of Kyle Reese being out there somewhere and it’s apparent he’s leaving it up to fate that he’ll find Reese or Reese will find him.

I felt the plot was rather decent, not like all the grumbling I’ve heard from other reviewers saying that there was none. I feel that the story here is mainly a part one of many and we’ll have to look at all of them as a whole before we cast any judgement. But here, we have Marcus and Kyle’s need to find Connor. Later, Connor works with Marcus to rescue Kyle. All the while, there is a big Resistance strike that is about to take place that really jeopardizes Connor’s rescue of Kyle. As convoluted as that sounds, I think it’s a very contrived, yet interestingly fascinating, story.

The look of the film was great, the cast was excellent, the dialogue was good…overall, the film was very well executed and didn’t drag at all. Sure, there’s minor parts where I could nitpick, but in almost any film I could do that.

The machines featured in this outing are magnificent and spectacular. They pay respect to the original designs from the first films, yet there is more to see that we haven’t seen before, thanks in good part and memory of the late and great Stan Winston.

The Harvester is a Transformer-esque machine with the size and firepower to envy, yet doesn’t have the ridiculous moving lips and eyebrows. It seems to be a part of the HKs that patrol the airs.

The Moto-Terminators are these Ducati-type cycles that are equipped with maneuvering abilities that the humanistic machines don’t have. Like the Harvesters being a part of the HKs, the Moto-Terminators are a part of the Harvesters.

The Hydrobots patrol the waters with its serpentine capabilities and its similarity to Doctor Octopus’s tentacles, yet they swim and whisk through the water with the ease of an eel.

Of course, throughout the film we see many T-600 series of machines and they’re these behemoth monstrosities that thump around and use mini-guns to kill at will. Kyle Reese was correct in the 1984 film when he said they were easy to spot with their rubber skin.

The climax of the film was the best part of all and it included the cameo of the original Terminator himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzeneggar…well, sort of. When I saw this part, a smile grew on my face that probably made me look like a little school boy…I think I may have giggled a little as well. I didn’t giggle because the cameo wasn’t well accomplished, I giggled because I loved it!

I plan to see this film again before it leaves the screens because I really think this film delivers. Unfortunately, James Cameron’s T1 and T2 are a little better, but not by much. I really believe the reason he says he thinks the story finished with T2 is either because he couldn’t come up with anything or maybe he wants somebody to try and fail, perking up his ego when critics write or say that this film is no James Cameron film.

No, it’s no James Cameron film; it’s a McG film. Gosh, I’d never thought I’d say that.

My final “bit” on Terminator: Salvation? McG spares no expense on the action. It definitely doesn’t lack the excitement and fanfare we, as the audience, want to see. I highly recommend this film, especially if you’re a Terminator fan. If you aren’t, you may even love this movie even more than a die hard like myself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Back to the Future Trilogy

If there’s one thing that the 80s gave us were great movies. Some may argue with me and talk about the music of that era—80s music—and say how ingenious and innovative that music was…I call bullshit! But that’s a discussion I’ll save for a rainy day. The movie—or movie trilogy—I want to discuss in this post is the Back to the Future trilogy, basically the pinnacle of 80s cinema.

The year of 1985 we had Ronald Reagan for a second term, the economy was strong after the terrible 70s with inflation going through the roof, and everything felt great in America. Movies were a staple for me back then and there’s really no time for me to go through all the films I had enjoyed throughout that decade.

One film—or films—that had stood out during that time was Back to the Future with Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd as Doc Emmett Brown. It was a Universal Studios film directed by Robert Zemeckis and produced by Steven Spielberg. With that combination, how can you go wrong?

You can’t…not with this film. Back to the Future is pretty much tied for my all time favorite movie, and movie trilogy, right there with The Godfather. However, the Back to the Future trilogy has a stellar three films, where The Godfather trilogy only has the first two, with the third being good yet mediocre.

Even though the idea of all the films has a simple story of time travel, the story and setting make this movie work. And let’s not forget the Delorian as the time machine, thankfully not the time machine they originally had an idea for which was a refrigerator.

First off, let’s talk about the cast.

Originally cast as Marty McFly was Eric Stoltz. He received the part when Michael J. Fox had scheduling conflicts because of his TV hit at the time, "Family Ties." Now Stoltz was already into it, scenes already filmed with him and Christopher Lloyd, when the studio executives didn’t think he was right for the part. Some arrangements were made to have Michael J. Fox film his scenes when he could and scheduling was reshuffled to accommodate him.

As Doc Brown, Christopher Lloyd from Taxi fame was brought in to play the over-the-top scientist who’s constantly inventing things and trying new experiments. With his white hair and theatrical expressions throughout the film, Lloyd is a highlight of the series.

The film opens with a panning shot of Doc’s home, showing one of his inventions that uses some robotics and other cartoonish novelties to start breakfast for him and his dog.

The shot also pans through a number of clocks, one particular one that shows a clock face with a man hanging from the minute hand which foreshadows the climax of the movie. By the looks of this scene, it appears Doc hasn’t been here for a while.

Marty enters, but we only see him from the knee down, and the reason is to see what his skateboard bumps into under the bed.

Marty then goes through the steps to hook up an electrical guitar to some gigantic speaker amp as he turns up all the mains to the max. He strikes a chord but the speaker explodes, sending Marty back through the air and crashing through a bookcase.

The phone rings and Marty answers it, hearing Doc on the other end as he asks Marty to meet him at the mall that night. When they meet up, the film goes into the crux of the film.

I doubt if anybody out there has never seen this film; it’s a part of 80s history if you ask me. The chemistry between Fox and Lloyd is great and special at times. The film has a great mixture of comedy and action, with special effects that still hold up to this day. The cast, as a whole, work together so well.

The sets of both 1985 and 1955 contrast very well and that’s a good thing. As the movie starts, we see a normal looking town with the cars of the 80s and type of dress we see of that time. When Marty ends up in 1955, it’s noticeable right away with the music coming out of the music store playing the "Sandman" and "Davy Crockett" songs; a boy passes by bouncing on some spring gadgets attached to his shoes; all the men are wearing fedoras and suits; the Texaco station shows a car pulling up and about five attendants running out to service the car. The whole town looks cleaner and everybody looks different. The same goes for Marty as he walks through the town and receives weird looks from folks as they stare at his 1980s type of clothing.

Thomas F. Wilson as Biff is hilarious as the typical bully of the 50s who isn’t that smart but takes pleasure in being the tormentor.

Crispin Glover as Marty’s father, George McFly, plays the part awkwardly and is equally goofy as the teenaged version.

Leah Thompson as Marty’s mom doesn’t do much during the 1985 scenes, but as the teenaged version, she was a delight and stepped into the 1955 part very well.

The plot is contrived so effectively and is easy to follow along, but you can feel Marty and Doc’s frustration as they try to figure out how to make things right.

The future depends on it.

Back to the Future II takes place right after the first film ended with Doc returning from the future and taking Marty and Jennifer back with him to the future. The Delorian flies now, equipped with a hover conversion, and it doesn’t need plutonium for time travel anymore. Instead, there’s a Mr. Fusion contraption located in the back of the car. They all get into the car and they fly off with Biff watching the whole thing in shock—which comes into play later in the film.

As Doc takes them into 2015 and we see all these futuristic flying cars (funny since we’re almost there and I’ve yet to see any hover conversion technology being developed), he explains to them why he needed to take them with him. Jennifer (played this time by Elizabeth Shue) starts asking a bunch of questions so Doc puts her to sleep with some futuristic contraption. He explains that they need to keep Marty’s son from going to prison, because that event will cause a chain reaction that destroys the family.

Pretty thin, right? Well, it’s okay because the film is entertaining and basically sets up part three. In fact, part two and three were filmed back to back, so essentially both movies should be considered as one long story.

Anyway, when they arrive and lay Jennifer down in some alleyway as she’s still knocked out, Marty encounters the old Biff as well as his grandson, Griff. Not only that, but he comes face to face with his son, Marty Jr. The effects of that time may seem a little worn here, but still are fun to watch. I remember watching this as a 20-year old and wondering how the heck did they do all this.

Anyway, Marty ends up being able to fix things—after a futuristic retread of the skateboard scene of the first movie—so that his son doesn’t go to jail. So before they leave to go back to the future, Marty decides to buy a sports almanac that tells all the scores of all sports games of the 20th century (although I don’t know how that’s possible in in a book that looks as thin as a comic book). Doc finds out and throws the book away in the garbage can, but the old Biff sees this, remembering Doc and Marty and the Delorian from 1985 flying away. He goes to the garbage can and retrieves the book.

In the meantime, Doc and Marty encounter a big problem when the police find Jennifer lying in the alleyway. In the future, identification is checked by a thumbprint and since your print never changes, they think she’s the Jennifer of the future and take her to her home. Doc and Marty then have to help her get out of the house before she’s seen by the future McFly family. The future McFly clan is played by Michael J. Fox as he plays three different characters here. He plays the daughter, son and his future 48-year old self. Also, Leah Thompson makes an appearance as Grandmother McFly.

While both Marty and Doc are away from the Delorian, the old Biff shows up in a taxi and steals the Delorian, taking it into the sky and you can hear it explode into time travel off screen.

At the house Jennifer is finally on her way out without being seen but runs into her future self before walking out the door. They both stare at each other, one saying “I’m old!” the other saying “I’m young!” and they both pass out.

The Delorian comes back and parks in the same spot. The old Biff gets out but looks like he’s ready to have a heart attack as he has trouble getting his cane out of the car. The top of it breaks off as he finally gets it and walks off.

Doc and Marty get Jennifer back to the car and they take off, going back to 1985. But it’s not the 1985 they know, but an alternate 1985 that they find out had something to do with the old Biff stealing the Delorian and going back to give his younger self the sports almanac.

Doc and Marty then have to fix everything that’s been messed up and that’s the minor flaw of this film. It just gets way too convoluted to follow and you really get confused with a lot of the multiple characters. Other than that, it’s a fun movie that ends in a cliffhanger.

The final film, Back to the Future III, opens with the last few minutes of part two. Somehow, lightning strikes the Delorian while Doc’s inside of it hovering in the air and the car disappears with a couple of strange smoke trails. Marty stands there dumbfounded as a mysterious car pulls up with a man getting out and walking towards Marty. Turns out, it’s Western Union with a letter for Marty—a hilarious scene that makes you wonder if that would really actually happen, but of course you have to suspend disbelief for a movie like this.

The letter is from Doc and he’s living in the Old West of 1885, existing as a blacksmith in Hill Valley of that time. He gives instructions for Marty to pick up the Delorian from an old mine shaft and have the 1955 version of Doc help him fix it to make it work.

Of course, he gets to the area in 1955 of where he went back to 1985 in the first film, near the clock tower just as his other self left. He runs up to Doc and tells him that he’s back but Doc freaks out and passes out.

Later he convinces him he’s not some figment of his imagination and they get to work, finding the Delorian at the mine shaft and getting it out. As Doc’s hooking it up to the Delorian, Doc’s dog, Copernicus, walks off and stands at the adjacent cemetery and doesn't come when they call him. Marty goes and gets him and sees a gravestone for the Doc that's living in the Old West.

The marker shows that Doc died in 1885 by Buford Tannen (a distant relative of Biff, of course) seven days after he wrote the Western Union letter. The young Doc and Marty both decide that Marty has to go and rescue Doc and bring him back.

After getting the circuits fixed with 1955 components and the tires replaced with 1955-type whitewalls (too funny), Marty goes to 1885 only to be attacked by Indians as they shoot arrows at the car. He finds a cave to hide the car in but discovers an arrow punched a hole through the gas tank.

So through part 3, Marty and Doc have to find a way to power the car to make it go 88 miles-per-hour without using gasoline in order to get back to 1985, all the while avoiding Buford Tannen who wants to kill Doc over a matter of $80.

Throughout this whole trilogy, the story arc is magical and great for the whole family (if you don’t mind a few profanities like “shit” and “son of a bitch”). The cast is perfect, although Crispin Glover didn’t come back for parts two and three, and the sets and special effects are thorough all the way through. It will make you laugh and the action is not too violent, but when Marty McFly outsmarts Biff or Griff by causing him to crash into a manure truck or wagon (a repeating little theme throughout the arc) you’ll find yourself applauding Marty.

My final “bit” on the Back to the Future trilogy may not be impartial since I consider it to be the all-time best trilogy I’ve ever experienced. Though Michael J. Fox is not the best actor in the world, he’s so loved by audiences large and small that it’s impossible not to like these films.

Rent it, watch it, and love it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek

Since the first episode of Lost, I’ve thought of J.J. Abrams as a genius. Here’s a man that knows how to deliver the goods to the audience and not bore us with drawn out narratives or stick lackluster fillers in to make up for time quotas.

Not only does he know how to produce great fanfare for us entertainment seekers, he also knows how to promote it. Think back to when we all went to see Transformers and saw that mysterious trailer where we saw explosions inside a big city, with buildings collapsing and ending with the Statue of Liberty’s head being thrown down a street and landing right in front of the camera. Remember that? You might also recall how the trailer didn’t even have a title! All we saw was the date of 1-18-08. I went nuts! Apparently, so did a lot of movie goers, because the Internet went ballistic with a few sites and so many theories as to what the movie was about. See, nobody knew that this was coming; nobody knew that J.J. Abrams had this project going on, so the surprise was evident throughout the fans. The trailer caused a buzz that I haven’t witnessed since the Independence Day trailer debuted showing all these shadows that showed up everywhere with everybody looking into the sky. But at least that movie trailer had a title to let you know what was coming.

When the title was finally set (as Cloverfield) we all waited with baited breath for it to arrive in theaters and finally had the privilege to see that extravaganza. But before it started, another teaser trailer delighted fans of both J.J. Abrams and Trekkies alike. We hear famous quotes from leaders speaking about space travel. As we do, the screen showed construction workers welding on this big metallic service. While we are seeing this, the screen is widening. Finally, we hear the familiar voice of Leonard Nimoy speak the words, “Space…the final frontier,” and the screen widens enough to see that the construction workers are building the USS Enterprise. The screen goes dark and shows the Star Trek emblem/logo, with the clever "Under Construction" tag ending the trailer. Yes, J.J. Abrams knows what he’s doing and conveys it favorably by giving the audience what they want.

The movie opens with action as the USS Kelvin discovers an electrical storm in space, revealing an enormous spacecraft that houses the Romulan, Nero, and his crew. The gigantic ship is no match as it opens fire on the Kelvin for a while then has Nero pop up on the intercom screen asking the captain, Robau, to come on board for a talk. As Robau prepares to go into the shuttle, he names the first officer, George Kirk, to man the ship as captain while he’s on board the Romulan ship.

As expected, things go bad and it turns out that Kirk’s wife is on board, 9 months pregnant with their child. As mentioned in the trailer, George Kirk was captain of the ship for 12 minutes and in that time he was able to save 800 lives.

The opening of this film was just what I expected of Abrams; not that I knew what the plot was or what exactly was going to happen, but just the fact that I knew he’d open with something that would knock the socks off the audience. The look of the film was something of a grand scale and gave the audience what they wanted to see.

The look of the USS Enterprise as it was docked and being constructed on Earth gave it the scale it needed; with the young James T. Kirk watching it from afar, it looked colossal and massive. And in space, the ship kicked ass! Never have I seen the Enterprise go into battle like this one did in this film.

Chris Pine as James Tiberius Kirk worked well along with the other cast, as this movie gives them all something to do and not use them as background filler. Zoe Saldana as Uhura was used excellently as the communications officer, an expert in alien linguistics. John Cho as Sulu didn't just sit behind some make believe control panel and press buttons, he was able to kick some ass in one amazing scene. Simon Pegg was hilarious and well put as Scotty. And the young Anton Yelchin was perfect as Chekov.

Two actors in this film were perfectly cast as Dr. McCoy and Spock.

First, Karl Urban channeled DeForest Kelly's personality brilliantly without making a caricature of it. The scenes with Kirk and McCoy were perfect and didn't go too far with the fun of it.

Secondly, and the best actor cast for this film, was Zachary Quinto as Spock. He embodied Spock perfectly, but I don’t think t was a big effort. If you’ve seen Quinto in the TV show, Heroes, you’ll know that his character is very much like Spock’s. Not to say that he’s a one dimensional actor, but just to show that he was perfect to fill in the Vulcan ears.

The story was well done, the action and visuals placed flawlessly, it didn’t ruin the continuity of the other films since this is basically the origin of all the characters and the cast came through without a hitch. Really, there’s nothing I can complain about in this one.

My final “bit” on this flick? I’m not a big Star Trek fan, but this is something I’ll probably want to own once it comes out on Blu-Ray. It doesn’t bore; it doesn’t go too much into the Star Trek familiarity that will keep the non-Trekkie confused and not know what’s going on. In fact, if you want to get into the old television series or watch the Star Trek movies of the 80s and 90s, it may be wise to go into this film first as an introduction to the saga.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Marvel has had quite a few strings of done-right-comic book films under their belt with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone, and now X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Back again with the adamantium claws is Hugh Jackman, jumping right back into the role without missing a beat and looking as good as ever. Along for the ride are Ryan Reynolds as Wade/Deadpool, Liev Schreiber as Victor Creed/Sabretooth, Danny Huston as William Stryker, Kevin Durand as Fred Dukes (then later as The Blob), Dominic Monaghan as Bolt, Taylor Kitsch as Gambit, and Daniel Henney as Agent Zero.

Just like the second X-Men sequel, this one is not directed by Bryan Singer. Instead we have Gavin Hood taking the helm for this blockbuster and he does a great job at it. Since I had never heard of him and saw that he doesn’t have a big résumé in, I kind of thought that this might flop, be campy, or just all out suck. But it didn’t and Hood proved himself worthy of knowing how to direct a hit.

The film starts right away, showing us Wolverine as a child and how he first used his mutant powers. Interestingly enough, the claws that first come out are bone claws—rippled and primitive-looking. Of course we should know and expect it will look that way, but it’s still fascinating nonetheless.

Again, without boring us with lengthy narrative or any unnecessary boring character development, throughout the credits we see all we need to understand Wolverine’s age and what he’s experienced in his life by showing him fight in revolutionary wars in the 1800s, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.

It’s at this final era that Wolverine meets Stryker and that’s where the story begins.

The movie as a whole had a good flowing story that kept you wanting more and as a comic book geek that knows a little of the X-Men lore, I waited for answers to the questions I had in my mind. Even if you’re not a comic book aficionado like me but you’ve seen the first three X-Men films, you’ll want to see what Wolverine went through in order to get his whole skeleton covered with adamantium.

As for the other performers in the film, they played their parts well and didn’t overfill the screen making the film crowded like so many comic book films of yesteryear.

Ryan Reynolds as Wade/Deadpool was awesome in the beginning of the film, showing us his ability with his swords—that was an amazing part of the film! However, the way they went with Deadpool’s story toward the end of this flick kind of strayed away from the comic books, but that’s okay.

Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth was good as well, although I was waiting to see him transform into the Sabretooth that we all know and love from the first X-Men film, complete with the mane and tattered clothing. Both Jackman and Schreiber were great and they worked together well, seeming to have a good chemistry as hero and foe.

What can I say about Danny Huston? I loved him in 30 Days of Night and in Wolverine he was just as great. He played a perfect young Stryker that Brian Cox played in X2: X-Men United.

Kevin Durand is a good actor and has played a lot of very different parts. I first saw him in The Butterfly Effect as the Hispanic convict in the jail cell with Ashton Kutcher and then I saw him in 3:10 to Yuma with Christian Bale. As Fred Dukes, he was faultless; as The Blob, it was kind of funny. I don’t know how they made that fat suit look so perfect.

Unfortunately, Dominic Monaghan as Bolt was a little boring. As a mutant in the Weapon X project, he was needed for his power of controlling power; but for his time on the screen, he didn’t do much with it.

Now, one character I was looking forward to seeing was Gambit. The character is such a bad-ass in the comics so I wanted to see what they could do with him on screen; they didn’t disappoint. Gambit’s power of charging anything he touches and throwing that power out at anybody or anything is so cool and they got it right.

One of the coolest characters in the Weapon X saga of comic books is Agent Zero, played here by Daniel Henney. His ability and skills with guns is amazing and the film surpassed what was read and seen in comic books. The scene in Nigeria when he starts shooting up the place is so wickedly overwhelming that you can’t help but wish you could be as bad-ass as Agent Zero. The little slo-mo cut of him tossing his guns in the air to free his hands to get out his spare clips and then putting them in as they come back down into his hands make an old guy like me giggle like a googly-eyed school girl.

My final “bit” on it? X-Men Origins: Wolverine lives up to what it should’ve been (and probably exceeds it in my opinion) and it really does not disappoint. There are so many kick-ass claw fights between Sabretooth and Wolverine; you can practically feel the scratches and stabs as they go on right in front of you on the screen. You’ve got guns and swords, kicking and punching, all kinds of mutant powers…this film really delivers. Some surprises will make you smile and after watching this, you’ll probably want to go home and watch the first X-Men movie…I know I did. Don’t miss this one!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still

I went in to this film, watching it on DVD via Netflix at home, knowing that quite a few critics panned it for being mediocre and not worthy of watching it. As always, I go into a film without taking critics’ evaluations into account because I want to go into a movie fresh and not have a mindset that a film is going to be bad or great, giving me a predisposition one way or another. But I couldn’t help but glance at a web site that had an article about The Day the Earth Stood Still with the word, mediocre, in the headline. So I read through it briefly seeing that the movie was not worthy of paying nearly ten dollars to see it.

Boy, were they right!

I’m glad, now, that I didn’t venture out to see this flick in theaters when it was released. The article I read from that critic was right, but I think they went a little easy on this film because I thought it was worse than what they wrote.

First off, I thought they had a pretty stellar cast, with Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, and Kathy Bates playing some of the main characters. But as it turns out, their talents were completely wasted in this film. But that’s not what failed this movie.

Let me go over some of the things I didn’t like about this flick.

The beginning started off strong, showcasing a little bit of the special effects we will see in the rest of the movie, which is some bright sphere that shows up in the 1920s on some mountain that Keanu Reeves human character is climbing and camping out on. He sees the brightness and investigates, seeing the orb and paces forward towards it as he stretches out his hand to feel it. The screen goes black and we see Keanu passed out on the ground. He comes to and gets up, looking at his hand, and we see a square scar on top of his hand as if something was cut out of it and healed immediately.

The film then goes on and shows that it’s the present; and this is when the film goes downhill for me.

We’re introduced to Jennifer Connelly’s character and her adopted child. Now, at first, I thought it was a little girl because with that mop on top of the child’s head, I think anybody would make the same mistake unless they were familiar with Will Smith’s son, Jaden Smith. The kid had attitude from the get-go. He was instantly unlikable, in my opinion, and he really had gotten under my skin as the film progressed. As I watched any scene that Jaden was in, it took me back to when I first viewed Jurassic Park II, and how they introduced Jeff Goldblum’s adopted daughter (which there was clearly no need to have her in that flick as well). Yes, the original The Day the Earth Stood Still had a little boy in it, but at least he had been needed in the story as he helped Klaatu get to know human civilization. Jaden’s character just complained and whined throughout the film, constantly giving attitude and even snitched on Klaatu! What a little bastard! Spoiler alert, but when he was dying from the microbe bugs at the end, I was hoping his head would explode sending that bush on top of his noggin into space.

The one scene that Jaden Smith clearly couldn’t pull off was the scene at Arlington Cemetery. He had just asked Klaatu to bring his dad back to life, after witnessing that ability earlier, but Klaatu said he couldn’t. It wasn’t explained, but I’m guessing he can’t bring back the dead after the person has been gone for a very long time. Klaatu walks away and Jaden is on his knees in front of his dad’s grave, bowing his head and trying to succeed in appearing grief-stricken. It’s almost laughable…I’ve seen better performances in a kindergarten play. Jaden’s parents need to stop getting movie producers to do favors for them by sticking their untalented kids in movies where they undoubtedly don’t belong.

But enough of that little bad actor, let’s get into the other aspects of the film. Kathy Bates as the Secretary of State was utterly wasted in this film. As a very talented actress, she really didn’t have much to do and that’s a shame. Her performances were basically telegraphed in and it didn’t seem like she even wanted to be there. Jennifer Connelly was effective as the scientist needed with all the other scientists and doctors as they hauled them off to the giant sphere that suddenly arrived. Now, the scene where they get to the humongous orb and see that something is about to happen, I thought to t myself, finally. The alien comes out and it plays out like the original where a soldier decides to fire his gun and wounds the alien. The difference here is that the alien actually looks like an alien and that’s pretty cool. Out comes G.O.R.T. and it plays out pretty cool, even the alien code words from a weak Klaatu that stop him. You might notice I used an acronym for the mechanical being that comes out to protect Klaatu and I’ll explain later why that is. The scene where Klaatu appears from the sphere is short-lived and quickly cuts to the hospital, but it does follow the original pretty well here. When at the hospital, another cool shot is showcased here when they discover that the alien skin is not actual skin but a biomechanical suit that melts away to show the human body that it was protecting. You kind of guess right here that the sphere that showed up in 1928 took a DNA sample from the climber and used it to clone a human to create Klaatu’s body. Not a bad twist to the original. We’re then treated to the boring rigmarole of Klaatu going to a different part of the base to be tested by polygraph, but then he escapes. From here, the movie gets pretty boring, almost a long drawn out searching for Klaatu.

What's kind of interesting is when the army contains the giant robot that was left in front of the orb to protect it (I guess) and they transport it to some sort of bunker to see if they can probe it and test on it. It's here that they call it G.O.R.T., "Genetically Organized Robotic Technology." So, instead of a name like Klaatu claims in the original, in this one the humans name it. But at this point, the movie gets a little interesting.

I won't give away the ending, although it doesn't really have any twists nor is it worth hiding it from anybody, but the bottom line is that this movie is very boring and doesn't warrant a viewing.

My final "bit" on this one? Boring sci-fi schlock that Hollywood just couldn’t get right, with wasted talent from actors and actresses and too much screen time from that annoying little mop-headed boy.

And one off-the-cuff topic I wanted to throw out there is podcasts. I love to listen to movie podcasts and there’s one I found out there that is number one in discussing horror movies and that’s the Horror Etc. Podcast. You can find them at The hosts really know their stuff and are very entertaining when conversing about horror movies.