Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pitch Perfect 3 is set...right?

Gosh, the Barden Bellas just can't nail their third gig.

I think the "Pitch Perfect" movies were a wonderful surprise. These are movies I never expected to like, but ended up enjoying anyway. I am pretty sure I'd enjoy a third film. But the release date keeps changing.

"Pitch Perfect 3" has moved from its July 2017 date to a December 22nd 2017 release date. It has already been tossed around the summer 2017 before landing perfectly in December of that year. I hope they do these changes because they are working hard to make a good movie. So I tend not to worry about these changes.

Moving to December though, knowing that month belongs to "Star Wars" for the foreseeable future, I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it.


The Do-Over Review

The Do-Over Review
When I was a kid growing up in the 1990's, I was a huge Sandler fan. He had just come off of the heels of his SNL days, and those are days I will always cherish. He was a wonderful performer on that show and he went on to make some pretty good movies. I love "Billy Madison," and "Happy Gilmore" and "Big Daddy." He even had a pretty good career well into the early 2000's. His flaws were starting to show by then, and sadly it was those flaws that became hallmarks for his career in the future and not the exception. He got disgusting, he got overly-outrageous, he played it safe instead of being the risk taker he was after SNL. Much like Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler just decided to stop being Adam Sandler.

With this four movie Netflix deal he's got going, there seems to be a whisper of life. Not a massive breathe, but a whisper. It seems like Adam Sandler is trying to be the guy he was in the 1990's, and that shows in "The Do-Over," this year's Adam Sandler Netflix offering. It a better movie than "The Ridiculous 6" was, which was Sandler's first Netflix movie. But even in the end of the "Do-Over," the new Adam Sandler that we know shines through. For shame, because "The Do-Over" had a pretty decent premise.

Charlie (David Spade) is a guy who brings "down on his luck" to a whole new meaning. His wife cheats on him in his own house in front of him. His children disrespect him and even bully him and he manages a bank inside a grocery store, but is treated more as a grocery store clerk than a bank manager. At a recent high school reunion, he runs into an old friend named Max (Sandler). Max has become an FBI agent and he wants to start  hanging out with his old high school buddy once more. Max convinces Charlie to take a man trip down to Puerto Rico with him and the guys have a great time together. That is until Max blows up their boat and tells Charlie that they faked their deaths and stole two dead men identities. It turns out Max isn't an FBI agent, but a coroner and he felt bad for Charlie's misgivings and wanted to give him a second chance. Charlie is reluctant at first, but then decides to live it up with his best friend in Puerto Rico with new identities, which gives them lots of leisure. 

Everything is fine and dandy until guys in suits show up trying to kill them, and they realize that maybe they are over their heads...

Like I said, I think its a great idea. Its something that could possibly be ripe for comedy. It feels like a warped version of a "Weekend At Bernie's" riff. The thing that is shocking is that despite starring Sandler and Spade and featuring supporting work from Nick Swanson, Paula Patton, Catherine Bell and Matt Walsh, very little of the movie is funny. The film is more of a whodunit? mystery and it pushes through its story solving the mystery, barely stopping to breathe. Sure, there are chuckle moments here and there, but its rather remarkable how unfunny this "comedy" truly is. In the right hands, a whodunit mystery can be good fun and can be used for some big laughs, Sandler and co move past most of it.

Also, this is probably the most confusing comedy I have seen in a long while, and its a movie that unnecessarily confusing. First Max is an FBI agent, then he's a coroner and then he's a guidance counselor who went to the police academy? Its one weird character revelation after another, and it just gets exhausting after awhile. The story itself gets equally exhausting. What could have been a good movie of two goofballs stealing identities they shouldn't have to improve their lives is a fun idea by itself, but then it turns out they are getting shot at, then they meet a woman in on the conspiracy, then it turns into some kind of business cover-up and after awhile I start to wonder why any of this matters? Why is the story line constantly shifting? Also, if there is so much story to tell, who is Sandler trying so hard to bulldoze through so much of it? 

Sandler and Spade and everyone who comes to play with them (look for Sean "Samwise Gamgee" Astin in a completely unrecognizable role.) are all very good. They even squeeze a laugh out here and there, but overall "The Do-Over" is not funny. Its also confused by what it wants to be as a story, and that is what is most frustrating about it. Something like "The Do-Over" gets my goat worse than "Grown Ups" or "Jack and Jill" or "Zookeeper" or "Just Go With It" because its clear Sandler didn't care. With "The Do-Over," it seems like some genuine thought went into this. Sandler is back in his tougher, R-rated comedy here and it could have been magnificent, but then he chickens out completely. I am still hoping someday Sandler goes back to why we loved him so much in the first place, unfortunately its not here.

Third time's the charm with his Netflix endeavor though, right?


Monday, May 30, 2016

Movie Question: TV vs. Movies

Movie Question

TV vs. Movies

As of 2016, who is winning?
Why do I like movies so much?

Because they feel like dreams come to life.

I know, what a cheesy thing to say right? But in a way, its not. Film critics Richard Roeper and Harry Knowles have also referred to movies as dreams. They are tap into the psyches and emotions of people from around the country, and around the world. In an odd way, we are all connected to each other in those few hours when we are sitting in a dark auditorium, meeting characters and learning their stories. We see things that are blatantly impossible, but we also see things that are true. The world of film is a gateway. Gateways to other dimensions, places we'd never find in our own backyards. We see places where people are capable of dozens of different emotions and we feel those emotions ourselves. They help us escape. They help explain the world we live in. They help explain us as a society and a culture. They confirm our beliefs and even sometimes, challenge those beliefs. The world of cinema feels like a world that encompasses all.

As I reflect back on my life, I can't remember a time where movies weren't apart of it. I can't remember a time when a certain movie impacted me is some way, either major or minor. On Saturday mornings, I remember not watching cartoons, I watched movies. I wanted to be an actor so bad and did impressions from movies anywhere I went. I was the guy in high school who pushed films on all my friends, which resulted in a great night for everyone. (While also resulting in disaster every once in awhile.) I have always held film in such a high standard. For most of my life, I held it in a higher standard that television.

How could television compete with film, I thought. To me, television growing up was a fun pastime, but not something I felt like I needed a lot of. I had about zero shows that I felt I needed to commit myself to and that lasted a very long time. Television shows just didn't carry the inspiration and emotion that I felt movies did. Sure, I enjoyed things like "The Simpsons," and "The X-Files," but I never felt like I HAD to plant myself at my television every week. It was a casual process for a long period of my life. I was so absorbed by film that I had no time for television. Especially since I felt that so much TV felt so much alike. There were sitcoms with artificial laughter, and crime thrillers with cartoon villains. What else could I get out of that, I thought. It was the movies there were pushing the emotions, it was the movies that had the bigger budgets so we could see better actors and cutting edge special effects. Sure, television might have had stronger character development, but the well-written screenplays out there could compete with any TV show any day.

I don't know if it was 2008 or 2009 or the start of the new decade, but I began to feel a shift in screened entertainment. It was around when I went off to college that TV began to change. Suddenly, I found myself paying attention. Suddenly, people cared about writing great characters and sticking them in good stories. Suddenly, TV got experimental and played with big emotions, took chances and rolled the dice on risks. From the year 2008/2009 until now, I declare with confidence that we are living in the golden age of television. I can't remember a time when so many good shows were on the air. Growing up, I didn't commit myself any show at all. Now, I have about a dozen different shows on my DVR, and I have to frantically watch before my DVR gets full. TV is dominating both the quantity and quality. We have shows on primetime, we shows on special platforms, Netflix has blown up the streaming service world and creating original programs of their own, (as well as other streaming services doing the same.). We have so many venues to find a great show now, more than we ever have before. The thing is, a lot of the shows on the air now aren't just fun pastimes, they aren't even good, there is a lot of great TV right now. 

When I was young, I liked "The Simpsons," and "The X-Files." I am also a huge, huge "Survivor" fan. I also dabbled in "The Twilight Zone" marathon every New Years Eve. Now, I am committed to "Arrow," "The Flash," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards," "Orphan Black," "The Blacklist," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Last Man on Earth," "Daredevil," "The Affair," "The Walking Dead," "The Knick," and "The Leftovers." There is also "Bob's Burgers," "You're The Worst," "American Horror Story," "Once Upon A Time," "Homeland," "Better Call Saul," "Black-ish," "The Goldbergs," "Fresh Off The Boat," "Scorpion," "Dice," "The Americans," and "How To Get Away With Murder." Even within the last six years, the shows that have come and gone, like "Spartacus," "Boardwalk Empire," "Parks and Recreation," "Justified," "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men," and "Togetherness" are all shows I'll binge watch, over and over again, because they are that good. I never thought in my life I'd be committed to so many shows. And there are several others that I didn't list above. I am writing weekly reviews of certain shows on this very blog. It seems I hear about a new show every week that I feel I need to see. That my world won't be complete unless I see at least an episode of it. Does it all work? Of course not. There are shows that are coming out that didn't work for me. But even the shows that I don't watch or even don't like had something special going for them.  If you look at that long list of shows above, there are several different journeys you can unlock, several different emotions you can feel, and several different ways to look at our culture and society.

Now look at how Hollywood works these days. It doesn't seem that the studios are taking the chances that they used to. The golden age of television is happening now, the golden age of film was during the 1970's (arguably, of course.). There was a point in film where directors were crossing lines and not caring what the outcome would be. Taking chances and a risk on a story line was just another day at the office in the 1970's, or so it seemed. Then around the late 1980's, the dream died. Hollywood got obsessed with franchises, they wanted to see what could get sequels and how they'd plan summer schedules. That need to turn every movie into a brand only got continually worse. When we come to 2016, nobody takes chances in Hollywood anymore. It seems like nobody makes a personal movie anymore, its all manufactured from the studio. Hollywood is seemingly run by brands now, every studio wants that one big idea that they can turn into the next big franchise. They want a movie that will allow them to make about ten movies, planning their next five to seven years in the future. Hollywood is obsessed with nostalgia and is continually bringing back stuff from yesteryear, whether in worked or not, trying to get the next big franchise. Trying to fill their pockets with cash and turn their movies into money machines. It doesn't seem to matter if a movie is good or not, just as long as it breaks box office records, they will keep the machine moving.

I feel like somewhere along the line, Hollywood lost its magic, and its hard to find. It feels like if you want a personal movie, if you want to watch something that isn't just noise and chaos, you have to look at video-on-demand, you have to find a special theater, you really have to do your research. Hollywood doesn't take chances on smaller movies anymore, they want something they know will be moneymakers. There is no room to take risks or trying something new anymore. Or at least, so it seems.

But its not all bad though. Because of streaming services and a shift in thought, the foreign market is wider than its ever been. Seeing a movie from another part of the Earth is an experience that isn't for everyone, but its certainly for me. I am also happy to look for the more experimental and more arthouse movies on ITunes or another venue. I love my "Overlooked Film of the Week," column on my blog, which allows me to push for movies that don't get a fare shake in the Hollywood marketing engine, but are movies I feel deserve to be seen. Even today, there are several movies on my end-of-the-year lists that people say "I've never heard of that." Its a shame that you don't hear about more than half the movies that come out each year. But, it doesn't mean they aren't there. Plus, just because a studio is obsessed with franchises and the money they bring in, that doesn't mean that franchises don't work. I mean, just look at what Kevin Feige has done with Marvel since 2008.

I still love movies. I will still watch movies and go to the theater. I think movies are so ingrained my lifestyle that I can't just quit them. I just think its hard to ignore just how far TV has come. Its hard to ignore how much TV has changed over the years. How they are becoming more experimental and risky and how Hollywood is suddenly playing it safe. But, just like I hope-watch "Gotham" on Fox, hoping it will turn around and tell a good story about how Bruce Wayne became Batman and deviate from the clusterfuck it is right now, I will hope-watch Hollywood. I hope Hollywood gets back on track and stops its obsession with franchise work. I hope that, at the very least, its tones itself down. I hope they begin to take more risks with story and character. I hope they don't look at a movie and think how much money it will make them, but rather, what will the audience make of it? If you can hit the audience dead-center, you can make money. Guaranteed.

I'll always love movies, but I am loving TV more than ever right now. So I have to ask, do you believe in TV's current golden age? Are glued to your TV more often than ever before? Do you think Hollywood is playing things too safe? Tired of the next unwanted remake or young adult novel adaptation in Hollywood and want something more? Who is winning your heart right now, TV or movies?

The Nice Guys Review

The Nice Guys Review
I have always been drawn to neo-noir. I love a good mystery. Especially a vintage mystery circa 1950-1970. There are something about those years that is both alluring and hypnotic. I love old school Los Angeles mysteries, and history of that city alone is worth about a dozen dazzling and self-contained films that I believe would be great in the right hands. In "The Nice Guys," we have a mystery about the disappearance of a young girl, which may or may not be connected to the recent death of a porn star. The mystery takes place in Los Angeles in the year 1977. I am also a huge fan of both Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, you lend us eyes into the world of private eyes and enforcement that tiptoes on the lines of being illegal. 

What could go wrong with a movie like this you ask? Well, just about nothing!

Shane Black's "The Nice Guys," is a perfect blend of naughty and nice. Crowe and Gosling, who are clearly having a hell of a ball playing off of one another, throw themselves into their roles. They make the world of 1977 Los Angeles believable and the audience follows them right into the story-line. It feels like a time machine almost, not just in performance of actor but the attention to detail. This feels like a particular moment in history, and I love Black's eye for all details, both major and minor. But again with Crowe and Gosling, they are a dynamic duo in every sense of the phrase. Back in 2005, Black made a similar film to this called "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang," starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. Black is the master of the gritty, buddy-comedy crime film. Black does a very good job of finding quality actors and watching them collide with one another. The way he fuses story-line to time period is also superb. 

Private eye Holland March (Gosling) accepts a job to find a porn star named Misty Mountains (Murielle Teilo). Mountains dies at the beginning of the movie, but the porn stars grandmother is certain she saw her last week. March accepts the job even though he knows the porn star is dead, because he trying to find a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) who is somehow connected to Misty Mountains. Amelia does not wish to be found and hires Jackson Healy (Crowe) to protect her from anybody who could possibly be looking for her. This sets up March and Healy meeting. The thing is, Healy discovers lots of dangerous people are looking for Amelia and that she maybe in some kind of conspiracy involving the Las Vegas mob, the Los Angeles Department of Justice and a air pollution protest. How do all of these elements connect? That is the mystery of the movie, and Healy and March become fast friends to find out what everything means, and keep Amelia out of danger.

Not only are Gosling and Crowe good, but the entire cast is really great. Matt Bomer shows up as a villain, and its easily one of the best things he's done so far in his career. Kim Basinger shows up as the mother of Amelia who works for the Department of Justice, and she also very good. Qualley is good as Amelia, when we finally meet her. Keith David also has a good villain role. But easily the highlight of the movie is Angourie Rice, who plays Holly, Holland daughter. She is a teenager, not super close to her father, mom isn't in the picture, but she's fascinated by her father's private eye business. She finds herself to be an unlikely alley with her father and Healy. Rice is a great actress and if this movie is any indication, she has a long career ahead of her.

The only complaint I would have for this movie is the pacing. "The Nice Guys" is a two-hour movie and at times it feels like two hour movie pretty much throughout. There are moments where you can definitely feel the minutes go by. Its a little surprising since this is a stylish and fun caper with big laughs and big spurts of action. Sometimes, the movie slows down and I doubt that this was the intention of the film itself.

But minor nitpick aside, you should check this out if you like a good, old-fashioned mystery movie. Go to watch Gosling and Crowe tear it up with each other. Go to see some very funny content and be amazed by the detail of the film. There is quite a bit to like here and I can't wait to see what Shane Black does next.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

First Alien:Covenant Image

I have mostly enjoyed the "Alien" saga up to this point. I absolutely adore "Alien," that feels almost like a slasher movie in space, but with beautiful effects for its time. There is a little bit more fun to be had with "Aliens," which is a bit more of a man-on-a-mission movie. But I loved both movies for different reasons, and I loved that re-watching them now, they still feel very scary. I wasn't such a fan of "Alien 3" and "Alien 4."

Now, I am one of those weirdos that actually liked "Prometheus." Please don't cast stones. Its a breathtakingly beautiful movie, and while there are some script problems, it certainly made you think, certainly challenged your brain a bit. That is what I loved most about it. Soon, we will be getting "Alien:Covenant" and once again Ridley Scott will be in the director's chair. This franchise started with him and I love  that he is breathing new life into this thing!

The image above looks like it maybe coming from the ship that the movie will take place in. I love that it has a very old-school, 1970's style feel to it. I am hoping that this is another winner for Scott and that he continues to make these movies for the foreseeable future. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Angry Birds Review

Angry Birds Review
I have never once played a single version of "Angry Birds." I've seen people play it before, and I certainly know its popular among little kids. When I first started working at the daycare I work at today, all some kids could talk about was "Angry Birds" and how awesome it was. Some of them even had "Angry Birds" toys and shoes. I have certainly heard of it, and I understand the mechanics of the game, I just have never really played it. What was curious to me was how they would turn a video game that barely registers as video game into a feature film.

I have to say that I was pleasently surprised by "Angry Birds" the movie. Its not the best movie of the year by any means. Its light-hearted fluff, like most animated films geared toward children. But so much of the film is so clever, so funny and so confident in itself that its hard not to really like it. The animation is some of the most rich you're likely to see in a theater at the moment. There are also some good actors who have come forth to lend their voices.

Jason Sudeikis does the voice for Red, a bird who lives in a island utopia for birds who don't fly. In this story, birds don't fly because the lives they have are so perfect that they need not go anywhere. There is also the ancient protector Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) who protects the island. Red seems to be the only bird who is easily agitated by his everyday life. Red is a lot like the character Paul Rudd played in "Role Models." He sweats the small things, and he allows the small things to ruin his day. This gets him in trouble with the law of the land, and he is forced to attend anger management courses. Red befriends Chuck (Josh Grad) and Bomb (Danny McBride). Meanwhile, a colony of green pigs arrive on the island, offering friendship. All the birds welcome the pigs with open arms, except for Red, who doesn't trust them. Red enlists the help of his new friends to investigate the green pigs, who have sinister plans for the birds.

"Angry Birds" takes the familiar Disney concepts of becoming a hero and overcoming a gleaming obstacle, but updates it in a fun way. Red isn't an angry character simply because the movie needed him to be, there are some things that happened in his life that made him that way and I liked that the movie took its time to develop its characters. I was surprised that a lot of the comedy of the movie lands well. Sure, there are some moments where I feel the film tried a little too hard, but sometimes that happens. Its not glaringly obvious. I was blown away by the random nod to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining." Yes, I am sure parents got it and laughed. But just like the "Pulp Fiction" nod in "Space Jam," why is that kind of joke in a kids movie?

What I am sure kids and fans of the game will really enjoy is at the movie's climax, there is an actual "game" of Angry Birds. Yes, the birds unite to save their kidnapped children from the pigs, and the way they fight to get their kids back is through launching themselves at the pig capital on a massive slingshot. You can't downgrade a game adaptation that actually utilizes the inspiration. Sure, it felt weird in "Battleship," but there was so much wrong with that movie in the first place. I really enjoyed that the game was actually apart of the plot.

"Angry Birds" feels like a little more than just a quick cash grab. Sure, not all the comedy works and sure the storyline plays it a little safe. But ultimately, I had a huge smile on my face for most of the movie. This will be a fun one to enjoy with your kids.


Two new "Star Trek Beyond" posters

I have got to say that I am enjoying these two new posters for "Star Trek Beyond"

The first poster looks very 1970's, a very cool old school vibe. I hope that vibe carries into the movie. I didn't mind an origin story in the first two movies, but now I am ready for classic Star Trek. I want some adventurous and swashbuckling Star Trek movies. The second poster is just really cool looking. I am already on board on this movie due to its great first trailer. I am very much looking forward to this.

Monday, May 23, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

X-Men: Apocalypse Review
Before we begin this review, let me just say that my feelings toward the X-Men come with a great deal of bias. You see, the X-Men are my favorites. Yep, I love them more than the Avengers, more than Deadpool, more than Batman or Superman or anybody else combined. I have always been drawn to the idea of people born with their powers and how the world had to change as a result. Some chose to try to live in peace with the humans, while others chose to destroy the humans. I have always been drawn to mutants taking refuge in a school and being mentored by a flawed but deeply powerful teacher. I think reading X-Men all my life taught me that I wanted to be an educator today, which I am. In 2000, when I learned that an X-Men movie would be coming out really soon, I couldn't wait. I have enjoyed X1 and X2 and I still feel myself drawn to pieces of X3. I downright hated "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," but can die happy knowing that there is at least one good Wolverine movie that came out in 2013. I loved "First Class" and "Days of Future Past."

With that said, I know that this big series of films isn't without any flaws. I feel with "X-Men: Apocalypse," the flaws of the franchise have become stables of the franchise. Which is why I cannot fully give myself to this new X-Men outing.

Will this be the "franchise-killer" that so many critics are calling it? I don't think so. I don't think its that bad. It's not horrible, like "Batman vs. Superman" earlier this year, "X-Men: Apocalypse" is a film made up of moments, and several moments of the film I do like. Also, like "Batman vs. Superman," "X-Men: Apocalypse" seems to really get going right as the credits begin to roll. I think "X-Men: Apocalypse" works as a movie much better than "Batman vs. Superman" ever did, but out of all the other X-Men movies that came before it, its flaws bleed right through. Those flaws affect the momentum of the story this time around, the film seems to stop cold for these flaws. But its not just the normal X-Men movie flaws that get my goat when it comes to "X-Men: Apocalypse," but we will get into that now.

As the film begins, there is a ritual involving an Egyptian ruler named En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac). En Sabah Nur is a powerful mutant who is in the process of possessing a different body. This ritual is interrupted by traitors and En Sabah Nur is buried deep in the Earth. We then fast forward to the 1980's, mutant-human relations have improved since Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) saved the President's life from Magneto (Michael Fassbender) ten years prior. Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is enjoying his school. We are introduced to mutants like Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie "Sansa Stark" Turner), Nightcrawler (Kodie Smit-McPhee) and Angel (Ben Hardy) through typical X-Men movie fashion. That is one irritating thing about these X-Men movies, they have access to a huge host of great characters, and all they do with most of them is introduce them using their powers destroying things by accident or picking up books. When a studio has a limited budget, I'd like to see those powers on display that supports the story, not just for showing off. Personal hang-up aside, Magneto is retired to a quiet life in Poland with a new family and Mystique has become a vigilante of sorts, helping mutants where she can.

The world is turned upside down when En Sabah Nur resurrects himself, calling himself Apocalypse. He enlists the help of Angel, Magneto, Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn), dubbing them the four horsemen. Apocalypse believes that the world should only be inhabitated by the strong, as in the mutants and will destroy everything and everyone else. Mystique comes back to Xavier's school to warn him about Apocalypse. Mystique enlists the help of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). The two teams meet, and shit goes down.

Like I said above, the first hour or so of the film feels like a massive montage. We are introduced to an overwhelming number of characters, all with their mutants powers on display. What shocked me was how well director Bryan Singer introduced us to characters in his last film, "Days of Future Past." The film barely stops for the audience to really get to know anybody. It seems we have to rely on prior knowledge to get us through the introductions. In speaking of prior knowledge, the continuity of the X-Men films has become so twisted that I really don't understand it, and comic nerds will be frustrated by it. When "X-Men: First Class" came out in 2011, it felt like the franchise was starting over. But in its sequel, "Days of Future Past," they made it clear that they were attaching the events of "First Class" to the greater X-Men continuity. Even though that connection was gravely disjointed. In "X-Men: Apocalypse," trying to connect any event to any of the movies will be infuriating, especially with the two "Wolverine" movies and "Deadpool" out in the mix. There are several in-jokes and call-backs to previous movies, but at the same time the story line doesn't follow any sort of continuity with the other films. This is starting to become the weirdest superhero franchise, story-wise. I don't know if that is a compliment anymore.

Another problem I have had with the X-Men films as a whole is how useless some characters are. Sabretooth, Toad, Lady Deathstrike, Mastermind, Siren, Darwin, Azazel, Juggernaut, Multiple Man, Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath...these are all great X-Men characters, and yet the movies have a hard-on to just introduce characters then give them absolutely nothing to do. Psylocke is an awesome character, and I think Olivia Munn both looks the part and felt ready to play in this universe. She is given absolutely nothing to do in the movie, and I feel like I can't even judge her performance. Ben Hardy is given nothing to do as Angel, neither is Alexandra Shipp. They are just there as the other three horsemen for Apocalypse and stand around looking menacing until its time for them to use their powers. Quicksilver is given another funny scene of him running in super-speed, which is one of the biggest highlights of the movie. But after that, nothing much else occurs for him. Sure, he helps out in the final battle and he drops what could be a major plot-point into the fray. But that plot point is not explored in any significant way, so it goes nowhere. There is also another big scene involving William Stryker (Josh Helman), but other than to introduce the film's big cameo, it serves no purpose at all. Its an entire stretch of the film that could have been deleted from the film entirely. What is with the X-Men movies and only giving these great characters one or two scenes and barely any dialogue?

Alas, the biggest problem "X-Men: Apocalypse" has is the title villain himself. Apocalypse isn't just one of the most powerful villains within the X-Men rogue gallery, he's one of the most powerful beings in all of the Marvel universe. In the movie, he's just a big, blue guy who constantly talks about how mutants are superior and the old world must die. Its the most basic villain speak one could muster for a superhero movie. He also loves to kill people with sand, which after watching all of season three of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." kind of comes off lame. This is a great villain, and Oscar Isaac is a terrific actor. This could have really been something if Isaac had somebody to play.

So what does work in the movie? Besides any scene with Quicksilver in it? Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner and Kodie Smit-McPhee are all excellent in their roles. These are some of the best actors of their generation and I knew from their previous work that they'd all be fantastic, and not a single one of them disappoint. Tye Sheridan and Sophie turner in particular have good chemistry together, which could benefit a romance in the future. Sophie Turner is given some big scenes to play with, and I'll be curious to see where her character goes in the future. Smit-McPhee's German accent really reminded me of Alan Cumming's from X2, and that made me smile. You may be tired of Jennifer Lawrence at this point, but the lady can act. She makes every single one of her scenes matter here, and she has become one of my favorite parts of this franchise. I also really like the moments between McAvoy and Fassbender. Even though they essentially have the same conversations every movie, they sure do make them count. The character moments all work in a big way in these movies, and when a movie is filled to the brim with special effects, that goes a long way.

The final battle has some cool parts, but it doesn't reach the excitement level that some of the previous movies have. Plus, after viewing it, I can start to see how one might view destruction in superhero movies as numbing. I don't understand how humanity can even come close to peaceful relations with mutants after the destruction on display in this movie, and it all feels a bit overwhelming. This is a weird feeling, because I've never felt this way about superhero action before.

Overall, the character moments save a great deal of this movie. I think superfans of the franchise should check out this new adventure. But I will warn you that all of the franchise's worst flaws are on full display here. I am not sure if this will kill the franchise, it survived X3 and "X-Men: Origins." This movie is easily better than those. But I can see how this franchise could run off track if Bryan Singer doesn't get a better handle on this material. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is working well and "Deadpool" was a great movie because every character, every beat, every scene and every superpower was important to the plot, every detail of those movies matters. If Singer wants to tackle the stories he says he wants to tackle in future movies, it will be in his best interest to make sure everything about his new adventures counts. I don't need two hours of deleted scenes, that is what DVD extras are for.


I will return to this in few weeks for a Further Inspection piece.

Five Minute "Independence Day 2" trailer

When I was a wee lad back in 1996, I fell in love with a movie. That movie was "Independence Day."

I had every toy, I had every video game, I had the movie and I watched it every Saturday morning. I dreamed of a sequel all throughout my formative years, but a sequel never came. I could never get over how a movie that was one of the most popular of its year never got a sequel. But I learned to live with it. Perhaps less was more, most of the time sequels never live up to the first nor or many very good. So I thought it might not be a good idea to revisit this story. What could they do with it?

As I got older, I saw lots of new alien invasion movies. I also saw lots of disaster movies. I have seen every version of worldwide destruction you can think of. Destruction onscreen has got better over the years, but its also got bigger over the years too and sometimes it all seems to blur together. 

Unexpectedly, we are about to get a sequel to "Independence Day" and after three trailers, I still don't get what to think of it. I feel twenty years is a long time to simply make tread water style sequel. Looking at five minutes of footage, very little of it new footage, it just feels like "Resurgence" will be a bigger version of the first film. Nearly every scene in the trailer calls back to the first film in some way. Why do we need a movie that did exactly what the first film did twenty years ago?

I like the idea that we took alien technology and created a better world with it, and I wished the movie would focus on that, I wish they took the sequel in some kind of new and cool direction. I just don't know if treading water twenty years later is that exciting.

Beauty and the Beast trailer

I have been a bit critical of the live-action Disney adaptations, over the course of their creation. But, in recent years, I've begun to be drawn to them. While "Cinderella" didn't rock my socks, it was a good movie, it was definitely a "Cinderella" movie and it worked. Earlier this year, I reviewed "The Jungle Book," and I absolutely loved it. If the Disney live-action movies keep firing on these cylinders, then they will be much more than quick cash grabs.

"Beauty and The Beast" certainly feels like "The Jungle Book" and "Cinderella." Sure, the trailer itself relies heavily on nostalgia, it doesn't give us a whole lot. But it certainly wets the appetite for rabid Disney fans. Its nostalgia doesn't necessarily hit you over the head like say the "Independence Day 2" trailer did. But it gives you enough to remember what came before, while also flooring you with the new. We've got Emma Watson as Belle, Luke Evans as Gaston, and awesome veterans such as Sir Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Ewen McGregor and Josh Grad filling in the rest of the supporting cast. And beast? He's being played by Dan Stevens. Stevens was an actor who absolutely blew my mind when I watched "The Guest" on Netflix. A movie EVERYBODY should see. I love that he's getting his chance in the mainstream spotlight, he'll be a great Beast!

I am excited!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Further Inspection- "Captain America: Civil War"


Further Inspection is a new column on my blog. Every few weeks, I will pick a new movie and create a spoiler-filled write up for it. Initially, when I write my reviews, I never want to spoil movies in order for my audience to see them. This will allow for a spoiler-filled conversation, because sometimes, movies require the audiences to really indulge in the text in order to understand them. I AM GOING TO USE THIS COLUMN TO REALLY DISCUSS SPOILERS, SO UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

The Friday night before I saw "Captain America: Civil War," I rewatched "Captain America: The First Avenger" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." I also re-read Mark Millar's "Marvel Civil War," the comic story in which the film is based upon. The comic book "Civil War" is much different to its comic book counterpart, but that's been true with just about every superhero movie. The comic Civil War involved pretty much the entirety of the Marvel universe. Something that, despite what massive Marvel fans have argued, would be way too hard to do. Its easy for a comic writer to put fifty characters on the screen with their superpowers on display. Its much harder to pay for fifty actors and pay the special effects teams to conduct those powers, especially when you're on a budget. I remain blown away by the scope and the detail of the Civil War movie we got. I also love that we see the movie version play out before Captain's eyes.

I was a #TeamCap supporter before the movie, and I am still happily a supporter after the movie. Even after thinking about it over the passed few weeks. I have read that some believe that Captain is in the wrong here. I couldn't disagree more. There is a misguided argument that Captain puts people in harms way just for Bucky. First of all, nobody gets put in harm's way. Not intentionally and not by Cap or Bucky. There is a scene, built mostly for laughs, when Cap and Bucky are fighting the German police. There is a moment when Cap catches a falling policeman then quickly shoots Bucky a dirty look. Cap doesn't sign the Accords, the new government law giving the United Nations say over where The Avengers can and cannot go, because he feels he's above the law. He saw how HYDRA infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. He knows that the country he left in the 1940's is not the same country he returned to in the 21st Century. He's probably been keeping up with history and current events. When he discusses how people have agendas and those agendas can change, he can't follow that. Cap's goal is to protect all people across the globe, not just the people the UN wants him to protect. Cap as a character has always struggled with being "lawfully right" and "morally right," but he chooses morality every single time. He's also willing to argue for morality with anyone.

When Zemo, the films villain, infiltrates the governmental base and says the trigger words on Bucky, Bucky is fighting with everything in his mental power to overcome it. He can't though, and this doesn't make Bucky a villain. Cap sees how Bucky's power can fall into the wrong hands and how his best friend can be used. I don't think Cap's crusade to save his friend is a selfish impulse, but a yearning to keep the world safe. When Cap learns that Zemo is planning something with a small army of Winter Soldiers that trained with Bucky, he can't have something so dangerous and unstable threaten the world. Every decision Cap makes in this movie is for keeping people safe and saving the world. Sure, he's human and he makes mistakes. The biggest mistake is when Cap, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Falcon go after Crossbones (featuring Frank Grillo with some truly gnarly make-up) who is trying to steal a biological weapon. Cap and his Avengers save the day, but when Crossbones plans to blow himself up in the middle of a cramped village, Scarlet Witch uses her powers to obtain and remove the blast. She can't hold it, and people die. Its a tragedy, but sometimes police, firemen, doctors, our military...they sometimes fail. I think it means something when Cap says that he tries to save every life, but its almost impossible to complete that goal everyday. Does that automatically mean we put regulation on who Cap can save and when?

I think Cap makes one other huge mistake, but we will get to that in a minute. I want to talk about Tony Stark a little bit. I appreciated how Tony Stark was handled as a character here. In the comic book Civil War, I think Millar goes a little out of his way to vilify Tony. In the movie, while I may not agree with Tony, I understand him. Tony has really been put through the wringer, moreso than his comic book counterpart arguably. He's been kidnapped by terrorists, he's discovered his business has sold weapons illegally, he suffers from PTSD after saving the world with the Avengers, that PTSD leads to creating Ultron. Ultron leads Tony to Miriam Sharpe, whose son was in Sokovia when Ultron attacked it. Miriam's son died in Sokovia that day, and Miriam blames Tony and The Avengers for that. There is a moment very reminiscent from the comic book of Tony getting blamed for Sokovia. Tony did indeed invent Ultron and its tearing him apart. This is the most guilt-ridden Stark I have ever seen in an piece of Marvel media, and I completely understand his need to sign the Sokovia Accords. This is not the same Tony Stark we saw in 2008 in his first "Iron Man" outting. He can't take anymore guilt or anymore blood on his hands, so its heartbreaking for him when Cap doesn't also sign the Sokovia Accords. He figured it would be an automatic yes for Captain America. Tony Stark is also clearly still haunted by his family's death. There is a mesmerizing scene of Tony teaching an MIT class and he's using a special piece of tech used to make his memories livable. The de-aging special effects are on miraculous display as we see a young Robert Downey Jr interact with John Slattery's Howard Stark. But we are not really in awe of the de-aging special effects, we are reminded of just how much Tony has lost.

Did I mention that Tony and Pepper are no longer dating?

Did I also mention that Tony finds out Bucky killed his parents?

That is the big reveal at the end of the movie, that's the next big punch into the ground for Tony. Zemo leads Tony, Bucky and Cap into a chamber in Siberia. We think its because Zemo is going to use the other Winter Soldiers like Bucky for some world domination scheme, but really its to show Tony who his parents' killer is. I already had an idea that this would happen, and if you've seen "Captain America: Winter Soldier," its heavily eluded to the idea that Bucky killed Tony's parents for HYDRA. Tony's father was in fact a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it makes sense that Bucky would be the killer. Check out this scene below:

So its true, Bucky did kill Tony's parents and Cap knew about it. I figured Cap would tell Tony when the timing was right, but he never did. He does feel bad about this, and at the end of the movie, Cap does write Tony a letter of apology. Something Tony never did for the people of Africa, Sokovia and South Korea for inventing Ultron. Again, Cap is heroic even when he makes mistakes.

I think Bucky shows his true colors of heroism in this movie. He gets into grave detail of what he's been up to since he mistakenly died in World War II and how HYDRA used him over the years. We learn he was kept in a base in Siberia, the same place Zemo eventually makes his way to. We learn that HYDRA used certain trigger words to get Bucky to do their bidding. We learn that HYDRA made a small group of other Winter Soldiers just like him and when Bucky killed Tony's parents in 1991, the super-soldier serum he steals after their murder may have been a link to that. Its heartbreaking because Bucky feels the weight of what he's done and he is going to try and correct it. When Tony asks Bucky if he remembers his parents during a fight, Bucky solemnly admits that he remembers them all. He's starting to be lifted from HYDRA's hypnosis and its abundantly clear that Bucky wishes he could take his actions back. During the mid-credit scene, Bucky is in Wakanda, the home country to Black Panther, and he chooses to be frozen again until a cure for the hypnosis can be found. Its a major heroic gesture on Bucky's part and a promise that he will be a pure hero soon.

In my initial review of "Captain America: Civil War," I discussed how Spider-man was perfect for the first time on screen. I still stand by that statement, I think Tom Holland nailed it. He's nineteen-years-old and I love that he finally feels like a being picked right out of the comic books. Holland really takes advantage of the Spider-taunting in the movie, into perfect effect. At one point, Falcon says that there usually isn't that much talking in a fight, and it fits the bill. I never thought I'd ever see an image of Spider-Man crawling and swinging on Giant Man, but it was something I needed. I love that its Stark that introduces Spidey to this world. I love that Stark has had his eye on Spider-Man for an undisclosed amount of time. I love the conversation Peter Parker has with Tony Stark before Stark recruits him. Its the perfect way to handle why Parker became Spider-Man and just do an Spider-Man origin for the third time. Very well done.

Then there is Black Panther who introduced in this movie. When we meet Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa, its at a summit meeting in Vienna for the signing of the Sokovia Accords. T'Challa is there with his father T'Chaka, the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda. Suddenly, the summit meeting is bombed, and T'Challa father dies. The news says that the bombing was orchestrated by Bucky, which puts T'Challa on Bucky's trail. Black Panther never really allies with Iron Man simply because he believes in the Accords, he uses the alliance to get to Bucky. He plans to kill him out of revenge of losing his father. Black Panther is a badass in this movie. His Black Panther suit is made out of vibranium, leaving him pretty much indestructible. He's got high speed, he knows some kind of wicked kung-fu, and he's just vicious. What I love is that he's never looses himself in his revenge. When he learns the truth, that Zemo was behind the Vienna bombing and not Bucky, he talks about the need for revenge and how we can never let it consume us. I think it was oddly poetic how he didn't allow Zemo to commit suicide and for him to be accountable for his actions. Then he chooses to allow Bucky to stay in Wakanda, even though he could be put in prison for it. Already, Black Panther is a dynamic and complex character, I am so ready for his solo film.

But why would Zemo kill himself? Well, I loved Zemo as a villain because he isn't like the rest of the MCU villains. He isn't trying to grab control of the world, or some kind of domination. When Ultron attacked Sokovia and The Avengers stepped into stop them, Zemo lost his entire family in the aftermath. He is left with one purpose, to tear The Avengers apart. Why? Because he wants The Avengers to truly pay for what they did in Sokovia, and Zemo knows he can't defeat The Avengers himself. So he makes sure they destroy themselves. Black Widow dumping all the S.H.I.E.L.D. intel on the internet at the end of "Captain America: Winter Soldier" allowed Zemo the tools he needed to tear The Avengers apart. I can see how Zemo can barely constitute as a villain, he is a man reacting in a bad way to tragedy. While Loki and Ultron both tried to tear The Avengers apart, it was Zemo who was truly succeeded in that goal. With Cap's friends in prison, Black Widow on the run, and Captain America and Iron Man literally almost killing each other, its clear how successful Zemo truly was. After he completes this task, he has no other reason to live. He wants to be back with the family he lost in Sokovia. While unlikely, I'd be very interested in seeing Zemo again.

There are so many perfect character moments in this movie, that its rather hard to keep track of them all. I figured one day, we'd see Ant-Man turn into Giant Man, I just didn't know this early. He can turn himself small, he can also turn himself big and it was one of the best moments of the movie. Vision turned out to have some highlights in the film, with his sweater and his need to cook from cooking books. I was also a big fan of the way Vision discusses with Scarlet Witch about how he still doesn't completely understand the power his infinity stone provides him, but how he's willing to try. Falcon and Winter Soldier are funny together, and their how they collide was good for laughs. I love that Black Widow is never really on either side, she is very much about her own side. When she helps Cap and Bucky escape the airport battle, it seems very much in sync with what we've seen of her. She will look out for herself. The big airport battle between Team Cap and Team Iron Man is big and built for laughs. But I love that they close the movie out with a very personal fight between Cap and Bucky versus Iron Man, right after Iron Man finds out the truth of his parents demise. Tony telling Cap he's not worthy of carrying the shield was particularly powerful, also as Cap drops it and leaves it with Iron Man.

This kind of makes me wish that "Civil War" was its own thing and that Captain America three was titled "Captain America: Secret Avengers." Right before the credits roll, Captain America breaks his team out the prison Tony puts them in after the airport battle. I'd love to see some underground Captain America and company fights! I also loved that Captain America got some romance in this movie. Peggy Carter dies of old age int his movie, and its fitting that Cap is one of her paul bearers. We learn that Sharon Carter was Peggy's niece. While I wasn't a fan that they gave Sharon one of Cap's most popular lines in all of his comic books, I loved that they acknowledged she was on his side. I hope that romance between Sharon and Cap blossoms once more in the future.

We don't know if Tony and Cap will come to terms with each other again until at least 2018. I have a feeling in "Avengers: Infinity War," we will see Tony delivering Cap's shield back to him, as Thanos begins his attack on Earth. But how will they get there? What will be their journey? There is absolutely no way it will be an easy road. The Russo brothers left us with an uneasy hook and I can't wait to see how this new status quo plays out in their two Avengers movies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Yoda In Episode VIII?

One of my favorite things in all of "Star Wars" canon has been Yoda. I think there are so many people out there that would agree. I love the character, and I absolutely love how Frank Oz brought him to life. We know that since the character met his fate in "Return of the Jedi" that he wouldn't be seen in any of these new episodes.

Or will he?

It has been reported that Frank Oz was at the Pinewood Studio recently, apparently doing work on "Star Wars: Episode VIII"

So what does this mean?

I mean, maybe Frank Oz is going to do voice work on a different character, but I somehow doubt it. Would he be willing to do it if he wasn't bringing Yoda to life? Would he be up to being there for a wink and a nod? Maybe. I am not sure. But at the end of "Return of the Jedi," we do see Luke Skywalker seeing Yoda as a Force Ghost. Could Yoda be returning to Episode VIII as a Force Ghost. I think it could be pretty cool. I feel Luke will be a much more prominent character in the eighth episode of this saga. 

Frank Oz seemed to make it clear that he was "pretty sure" that he was doing voice work for Yoda in the eighth movie. So maybe we are getting a Force Ghost Yoda in Episode VIII, maybe we might even get a flashback of some kind. Who knows, all I know is that I'd love to see the character in some capacity.


Regression Review

Regression Review

I always love a good detective mystery. So when Ethan Hawke was on-board for "Regression," I was waiting and ready. The film also stars Emma Watson, who may or may not have been sexually abused by her father (David Denick). There also may or may not have been a satanic cult involved in the abuse case. The film is set during 1990 and we are told through title-cards that satanic rituals began popping up all over the United States as early as 1980, and that a huge world of paranoia grew because of it. So we have a Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson in a hard-boiled detective mystery revolving around a possible satanic cult. What's not to like.

When Ethan Hawke's Detective Bruce Kenner interrogates David Denick's John Gray, Gray admits to sexually abusing her daughter when she was 17-years-old. The weird thing is, John Gray can't seem to remember the abuse at all. Kenner seeks help from Dr. Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis, Remus Lupin reunites with Hermoine!). Raines is an expert on Recovered-Memory Therapy, an experimental technique to regain memories. As John Gray begins to shift through his memories, he begins to realize that perhaps there is some truth to the satanic cult being involved and that perhaps some cops in the service may have been involved as well. (One of the cops is played by Shawn Ashmore's twin brother Aaron Ashmore.) Bruce Kenner begins to lose himself in the case.

One thing I liked about "Regression," was just unexpectedly trippy it was. I was not expecting the mood and atmosphere of this movie to jump into the world of the surreal. There are several dream sequences in the movie that truly made me sit up, shaken, wanting to cover my eyes. The movie does a very good job of creating a very authentic world of paranoia. You buy into Kenner's bad dreams, to buy into the hysteria and panic. It is all handled very well. The work done by Hawke and Watson is also very good, and they seem up to the task of making this paranoid work even more believable.  

In fact, David Thewlis, David Denick and Aaron Ashmore (whom I was completely convinced was Shawn) all do very good work. Its a very well-acted picture. They create a world of darkness and skepticism and it works in the movie. There are moments where the film feels like a warped film noir from the 1930's, with a very wild twist involved. Even the film's ending feels very much in the vein of the noir films of that era, and I totally dug it. Even if I felt it was kind of an anti-climatic in fashion. I could have sat through a few more moments of the twist.

I think what's surprising about the movie is how tepid the storyline itself is. It feels like a writer had a really good idea for a movie, but it was his first time writing a script. The films writing fails the movie in some major ways. It leans on predictably and the need to have its characters make un-logical decisions. It relies familiar moments instead of trying to be something of its own. Its really too bad, because there are so many good ideas in the movie that could have worked in the hands of a better writer.

So while well-acted, and featuring some powerful scenes, "Regression" never completely gets off the ground.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016




When I think back on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." as a whole, I find there have been several missed opportunities along the way. There have been several potentially great characters from the comics that they killed off within episodes. There have been interesting concepts that the show introduced, then never went back to. There have been teases, then they either haphazardly handle those teases or barely follow through with them. Introducing the Secret Warriors could have really been something, it could have brought the show to brand new heights, it could have set a different tone for the show and brought forth a brand new direction. All throughout season three, I was ready to see the Secret Warriors. Sadly we never got the Secret Warriors, we never got a full-fledged team show. The Secret Warriors were just another missed opportunity.

With Joey gone, Yoyo severely hurt and Lincoln dead, I don't know how the Secret Warriors can possibly continue on this show now.

Oops, did I just say that Lincoln is dead? Because its true. Lincoln is the "fallen agent," he is the one who dies.

But that is not until the very end of the episode, and we've got a lot to cover until we discuss the ending. This was a two hour finale, essentially putting two episodes on-top of each other. The first hour of the finale was pretty uneventful. It was an entire hour full of Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team finding Hive and his bad guys and trapping him to bring him back to HQ. It was essentially what could have been a ten or fifteen minute moment stretched across an entire hour. Sure, we have several scenes of Daisy blaming herself for a huge host of things. Her seeing herself as a threat, and wanting S.H.I.E.L.D. to kill her. It was at this point that I figured she wasn't dying. She is going to have some kind of redemption story, just the details of that particular story still aren't very clear. But, Coulson's team trap Hive. Oh no, though. He's containable. Plus, his goons left a trap for Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D. Which turned several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents into those monster-looking Inhumans that Dr. Radcliffe made last week. (Dr. Radcliffe, who has suddenly decided to help the good guys.) So much of  the first hour was back and forth like this. S.H.I.E.L.D. traps Hive, but then he's set loose. S.H.I.E.L.D. steals the warhead that Hive plans to use to turn the rest of Earth into Inhumans, then the bad guys take it back again. It got to the point that I wondered what was the point of capturing him at all.

Then the second hour began with a big one-on-one fight between Hive and Daisy. Hive couldn't turn her back to his side, apparently due to whatever Lash did to save her last week. The weird thing was, Daisy WANTED him to turn her back. Was it all just a ruse? Or is she severely having trouble handling her mistakes? It was a little unclear, but boy was it an interesting fight. Hive was able to gain control of his warhead and was heading towards space. When finally Coulson and the rest of his team intercepted the Quinjet that Hive is on. Of course, at this point, every member of Coulson's team is wearing a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket, just so we can't figure out who it is that will be dying. Several people get hurt, (including Yoyo) and that damn necklace gets passed around from character to character like a cheap whore. It got to the point of almost being ridiculous. 

Everything began to become full circle, when the final fight broke out between Hive's Inhumans and Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. all the while Daisy took the warhead onto the last Quinjet, Hive in tough, to destroy the missile in space, sacrificing herself. The battle itself was pretty cool, with Fritz and Jemma having some big knockouts. Plus, from this point forward, Mack should carry that legendary shotgun-axe! Right before the battle however, there is a quiet, sincere talk between Lincoln and Daisy. About the dark parts of addiction, about finding a place in this world and fulfilling a destiny. At this point, it was pretty much certain that Lincoln was going to be the one dying.

At the very last minute, Lincoln zaps Daisy off the jet, and begins heading to space with Hive. He sacrifices himself for the Earth. While he says sweet nothings into a crying Daisy's ear. That POV space shot happened one more time, before Lincoln saved the world. 

"What now?" asks Jemma?

Cut six months later, and Daisy has gone rogue.

Ooh, didn't see that coming, did you? To be honest neither did I. But after loosing so many boyfriends and male buddies to her doings (Ward, Tripett, Lincoln), it all must have caught up with her. Coulson and Mack try to trap a emo-styled Daisy, whose been using her powers abundantly over the last six months. Will she be a good guy? A bad guy? An anti-hero? That isn't quite certain. What's also not certain is Coulson's stance in S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson talks to Mack about "contacting the director for their next assignment?" But I thought Coulson was director? Did he step down after Daisy went rogue? Does he feel responsible for his actions? Who is this new director? Does S.H.I.E.L.D. answer to someone else now? If so, then who?

Oh and Dr. Radcliffe is up to something with Fitz. I don't know exactly what, but it will clearly be a story-point for next season. I can't tell what Dr. Radcliffe is making, but something that has to do with robots. Maybe? Will he be designing Life Model Decoys for S.H.I.E.L.D.? Will he create some kind of other robotic character from the comics? Will he help Ultron resurface? Way too early to tell. All I know is that I am glad John Hannah is sticking with this show and I hope they give him a great character to play in the future.

This finale tried to give the show a edgier ending, and I am not sure what to think of it still. It doesn't have the hopeful future that the previous seasons had and this definitely doesn't end happily like those seasons did. I just feel there were so many missed opportunities this season that I am not sure if this finale hit me on an emotional level that it was aiming for. With Inhumans and HYDRA seemingly out of the picture, season four is a great time for "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to take the show in a completely different direction. End the circular plots and give us something fresh. Give us something rich and compelling. There is a big creative opportunity here, and I wonder if ABC will run with it? I hope to see Hunter and Bobbi back, since ABC is no longer moving forward with their spin-off show. "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." is moving to a new time next season. A time in that past that usually meant death for a show. There are those already predicting that season four will be the last season of this show. If they can give us something we haven't seen with this story and these characters, then there is still life. But "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." has been playing it pretty safe thus far. Is this all they are capable of?

What did you think of the finale?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Will 2016 be the year of the Video Game Adaptation?

Last year, I wrote a piece on the massive onslaught of spy films we experienced in that year. I think it was interesting to look back and see how history played out for itself. The year 2015 was a big year for the spy genre, that year we got all sorts of voices spilling into the genre, playing in its themes and concepts. Some failed, some succeeded and it made the year more colorful for it.

This year could bring something new to the table. We have three video game adaptations coming out this year. The most I can recall in any year. The video game adaptation has been pretty dead in recent years. Possibly because its been so unsuccessful in years passed. "Super Mario Brothers," "Street Fighter," "Mortal Kombat," "Doom," these movies aren't just horrible, they were some of the worst drivel of their respected years. I could list off even more video game adaptations which were poor. When I tried to think of a video game adaptation I liked, I couldn't think of one. I kind of get it though, video games and movies couldn't be more different from one another. Movies are, by definition, passive. You sit in a theater, you watch the film play out, you decide whether or not you like it. You really don't have to do much work as a viewer. The video game is a much different experience, you are in the experience of it all yourself. Video games challenge how we work through puzzles, how we handle patterns, how we think, how we strategize and how we solve problems. Movies don't test us in any of these arenas, so adapting a video game to fit in that mold is difficult. Its been proven difficult. It also is apparently difficult to adapt a video game while keeping the essence of that game intact. Most video game adaptations feel like sleazy fan-fictions of games, not adaptations themselves. Plus, since so many movies rip off of movies in the first place, their adaptations feel like rip-offs on top of rip-offs. I am also stunned that so many video game adaptations aim so low.

In 2016, with the trailers for "Warcraft," "Assassin's Creed" and even "Angry Birds." It seems the filmmakers are finally aiming high. They look to be making movies that both honors the fans of these games, as well as telling an engaging and entertaining story. I have played some "Assassin's Creed," and just watching some of the iconic movements that Michael Fassbender does makes me excited on its own. Plus, I don't think a single video game adaptations has had such high-profile actors as Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in the mix. As far as "Warcraft" is concerned, the film is being directed by Duncan Jones. Jones already has two great movies under his belt in the form of "Moon" and "Source Code." He's never made anything quite like "Warcraft," but that could be a good thing.

But good artists attached to a movie is neither here nor there. What is really sparked my interest in these movies is how they seem to celebrate their iconography. I mentioned above how amazing Fassbender's movements are in the trailer. It feels like "Assassin's Creed." Watching the "Warcraft" trailer, it feels like Warcraft. Watching birds actually play the game in the movie itself has me curious about "Angry Birds." The people behind these movies seem to understand what makes these games special and what makes them work. I am curious to see how fans of these games feel about these trailers, because as far as I am concerned, they nail the iconography.

There is a first time for everything. I wonder, will 2016 be the year where video game adaptations became more than "just" video game adaptations. Will this year be a watermark for the sub-genre? Or will they just because very expensive disappointments? Time will tell.

What do the rest of you think?

Doubleback Review: The Forest

Doubleback Review: The Forest
While I am a major film enthusiast, I don't get to see everything in a timely manner. I have created this doubling back columns, to catch the films I missed in theaters in the comfort of my home.

I like Natalie Dormer a lot on "Game of Thrones," that was really the only motivation I had to see this movie. I always like a good horror film and I liked Natalie Dormer on "Game of Thrones." Sometimes, something little is all it takes to get yourself ready for a movie. In "The Forest," Dormer plays both Sara and Jess, two twins were witnessed a horrible tragedy when they were very little. Jess grew up and lives in Japan, while Sara stayed in the United States. While they are not close in terms of miles, like most movie twins, they can feel when the other one is in peril. One day, it is believed that Jess has committed suicide. She journeyed to the Aokigahara forest, a suicide hotspot in Japan. Sara travels to Japan in order to discover what happened to her sister.

The Aokigahara presents the perfect backdrop for any type of horror film. Its definitely eerie that people go to a specific place in order to take their own lives. There are all sorts of stories that could be told in this setting, and I am sad to report "The Forest" scrapes from the bottom of the barrel to find the most predictable, most boring, most unimaginative fare possible. "The Forest" is all over the place in terms of logic and sense. It becomes clear early in the movie that the forest forces the people in it to hallucinate. When Sara gets to the forest, she definitely begins to hallucinate. Its heavily implied that she sees things that represent something in her life or something she is thinking about. She never once discusses the significance of creepy old women or scarecrow people at any point in the movie. But when she enters the forest, there is a creepy old woman and some scarecrow people watching her. What do these haunts mean? Its never figured out, I guess the filmmakers wanted to recycle some tropes to see if they could get some scares.

I will say that Dormer does some convincing work as both Sara and Jess. The twins are two totally different personalities, and Dormer handles both of their material well. I just cringe that she has to say standard horror movie dialogue. She can't make any of it land, and it never once feels natural. Taylor Kinney plays Aiden, a reporter who meets Sara in Japan and plans to help her find her sister. He's that one other character where we can't guess if he's good or bad, then find out he was good after all. Kinney is fine, he's just not given much of a character to play.

What surprised me was that despite the short run-time and the ludicrous nature of the scares, there were actually a few good jump scenes. When it comes to horror movies, there are specific types of the genre I like. I usually can't stand jump scares, and I particularly hate movies that use them as a crutch. "The Forest" is a movie that relies heavily on jump scares. There is even one that opens the movie that is only in it for laughs afterwards. I rolled my eyes, but as the film continued, there were some that got me good. Its really hard in this day and age to get a jump scare right, so I will give credit there. I just wish in the terms of the movie that those scares were earned.

"The Forest" may have had good performances and some good scares going for it, but I am sure it will be a horror movie that becomes forgotten as the year continues. I think the movie is a missed opportunity more than anything, just because I think this could have been something very difficult to sit through, but "The Forest" plays every aspect so save that it feels rather disappointing.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Assassin's Creed Trailer

For some reason, video game adaptations have never been very popular. I don't know why and I could never figure out why they never worked. I mean, for some games, storylines were all there. Given the right budget and the right people, I feel video game adaptation profits could be enormous. But they've never amounted to anything.

This could be the year of video game adaptations.

"Assassin's Creed" looks like they took the "just" out of "just another video game movie."

First of all, this cast is stacked. Not just because it features Michael Fassbender. But Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Dean Norris. Plus, the look at feel of the game is impressively adapted. I have played some "Assassin's Creed." This feels like that game.

I hope this turns out to be a home run. So Hollywood will start treating these kind of adaptations with more respect.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Assassin's Creed Trailer Coming Tomorrow

I've known for a little while now that we would be getting an "Assassin's Creed" movie this year. I knew that it would star Michael Fassbender in the lead role. Last year, I got an Xbox One and the two games that came in its bundle was "Assassin's Creed: Black Flag" and "Assassin's Creed: Unity." So my interest in this movie has spiked because of that.

So I'll be looking forward to the trailer tomorrow, I have no idea when we are supposed to get it. But I am already looking forward to it. For right now, these stills from the movie will have to do.

I think Fassbender will be good in the role. I hope this ushers in a era of video game adaptations that aren't sucky. Think on all the video game adaptations there have been, now think of as many as you can there were actually good. I hope we have the tools now to make these films matter. I hope the trailer for this looks good.