Review-a-Palooza! Catching you up, because I care.

GFE_collage_July2013

And because I really have been sucking when it comes to cross-posting. Bad blogger, no donut! And I really like donuts too; especially when there’s a coconut glazed, with almost-too-much coconut. Anyway, yeah.

You know the drill, clicky for the full review!

Movie Review: The Wolverine

Hugh Jackman is RIPPED y’all!  Okay, now that I’ve stated the obvious, is this second foray into Wolverine’s story worth the trip to the multiplex when there’s so many other superhero flicks out/slated for this year?  Sure, you could just look at IMDb and say “James Mangold directed?  He did Walk The Line!”  You could go with that, but remember; he also did Kate & Leopold.  *shudder*  I’m here with more intel; The Wolverine is definitely worth skipping Pacific Rim for another week…for.  In other words, it’s an artfully shot bit of cinematic beauty that manages to tell an epic story (epic in the Hollywood sense; this is definitely a Hero’s Journey flick) where the action comes fast and frequent, and the title character is crafted well enough that you want to know more about him, and root for his success.  Of course Jackman’s biceps don’t hurt that cause any.

The Wolverine starts us out with poor Logan’s nightmares, and as this story begins shortly after the occurrences in X-Men: The Last Stand, he’s got a lot of scary rattling around in his brain.  Still reeling from killing the love of his life, Jean Grey, he’s also replaying other dark times in his past.  Like the time he was in Nagasaki during WWII, when the Allied Forces dropped THE bomb.  Logan manages to survive, and saves Yashida, a young Japanese Army soldier (Ken Yamamura) that was too scared to commit seppuku with the rest of his bretheren.  Flash forward to the present day and Yashida (now played by Hal Yamanouchi) is dying, and wants to see Logan to say goodbye.  As Logan is very busy beating himself up emotionally, it takes quite a bit of persuading (and a good deal of emotional blackmail) by Yashida’s emmisary Yukio (Rila Fukushima, a funny and badass scene stealer whenever she’s onscreen).

But at last Logan heads to Japan.  However, we all know it’s not gonna be a simple goodbye, right?  Right.  Logan gets himself into trouble with the Yakuza, who want to kidnap Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), as well as a mutant with some truly killer powers.  That’d be Viper, played by Svetlana Khodchenckova (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), and she’s a nasty piece of work, though she works a latex bodysuit like nobody’s business.  Yeah, there’s a ton of stuff going on in The Wolverine, and it all fits together by the time the credits roll.  But this ain’t the kind of superhero movie where you can just let the action wash over you; in order to reap the maximum benefit, you’ve gotta pay attention.  The stories are twisty, turny affairs that make you work for your ah-ha moments.  Are most of those moments ones you can spot easily if you’re paying attention?  Absolutely.  But dang if Mangold doesn’t make it a fun trip.

Movie Review: The Conjuring

“From ghoulies and ghosties. And long-leggedy beasties. And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!”

The Scots have a great prayer there.  And for decades, real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren did their level best to help folks who suffered from beyond-the-norm problems.  The Conjuring is a film that gives the couple the big screen treatment…and it’s a throwback to the good ol’ fashioned scare-you-pantsless spookfests of the 70s.  Loved The Changeling, Ghost Story and The Amityville Horror (which, by the way, is also a case the Warrens worked on…)?  Baby, you’re gonna love The Conjuring.  This film starts off with an opening sequence that takes off with a serious case of spooky, giving the audience a heads-up; this is gonna be a bumpy night.  Oh yes, yes it is.  Okay I’ll say it; The Conjuring is looking like the best horror film of 2013.  And yes, that’s taking into account the Evil Dead remake earlier this year, the fact that a new Carrie is coming to town for Halloween, and that Director James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2 hits theaters this September.

The story is simple; a couple (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston)  sinks their savings into a house that’s roomy enough for them their five girls.  Said roomy house starts with the creepy occurrences almost right off the bat.  After one particularly harsh night of bangs, thumps and physical attacks, the family call on paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) for help.  But the Warrens have handled a few cases that have taken a toll on Lorraine — including a creepy doll that tried to kill it’s owners — and this may be one too many.  And even so, it’s going to take a lot to figure out what’s going on at the Perron house, along with the why, and how to get it to stop….

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

Big-ass monsters!  Ginormous robots!  Tons of things getting crunched, blown up and otherwise decimated!  Then why didn’t I love Pacific Rim?  That’s the question that rattled around in my head as I left the theater.  For all of it’s glorious spectacle — and there’s an awful lot of glorious spectacle here — Pacific Rim is like the giant “Jaeger” robots that the film focuses on; beautiful, awe-inspiring but hollow.

That’s not to say that there isn’t fun to be had here.  This is the perfect movie to turn off your brain (seriously; giant mechanical robots fighting kaiju?  It’s the perfect summer blockbuster) and dig into the Good ‘n Plentys.  But if you’re searching for heart and soul in this robot, you’re outta luck.  Pacific Rim plays it straight throughout it’s 2 hours plus, which lets a lot of the fun leak out of the film.  What this movie needed was more tongue-in-cheek.  Yes, there are a few bits of humor here and there, but when it happens it feels more like a transplant from a different film than an integral part of the story.

And the story has definite promise.  It’s the year 2020, seven years after gigantic creatures started to rise from the depths of the Pacific (probably the super-deep Marina Trench, though I’m not sure if it’s ever pinpointed).  “The Breach”, as it’s called, is a rift between worlds that allow these kaiju (Japanese for “strange beast”, for those not in the know) into our world.  And these ginormous Godzilla nightmares have one thing on their mind; the destruction of the human race.  Naturally.

Movie Review: Despicable Me 2

I coudn’t wait to see Despicable Me when it came to theaters.  Mostly because I met a minion; actually I met two.  Yep.  Walking down the streets of DC, I saw two minions just hangin’ around the area theater.  Of course I had to give ‘em a hug.  Because they’re awesome.  The great thing about Despicable Me was that even beyond the minion-ness, it was a great story about how a man becomes who he was always meant to be.  A dad to three adorable kids.

Well, these kids are a little bit older, but the minions are still the same.  Does Despicable Me 2 bring the funny?  Yes.  Is it as good as the first film?  Well, yes and no.  With retired super-villain Gru now a nice guy, there’s no wondering if he’ll be good or bad.  Gru has joined the Anti-Villain League and is spending most of his time trying to make jams and jellies.  Instead, the story focuses on a “will he or won’t he” romance with his secret-agent partner Lucy.  But the folks behind DM2 know what you want, and bring it to you in spades.  So if you’re wanting a new minion fix?  It’s gonna be your lucky day.  If you’re looking for a story beyond the basics, you may be a little nonplussed.  But hey; minions!

Movie Review: White House Down

Oh Roland Emmerich.  I love you and your absolutely crazypants way of channeling the American psyche.  The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Independence Day…hell, I even enjoyed your Godzilla.  Because even with all the preposterous bombastic goings-on, your movies have heart.  Now, with White House Down, you’ve whipped up another mix of patently unbelievable but still compelling and enjoyable fluff.  Dude, thank you.

With White House Down — not to be confused with Olympus Has Fallen from earlier this year — there’s the typical President-in-peril plotline.  The Prez is at risk, and it’s up to someone who has never reached his potential to save the day.  Though I find it hard to believe that Channing Tatum has never reached his potential.  Phwoar.

Tatum plays Cale, a DC cop that is looking to become a Secret Service agent.  He scores an interview, along with passes to the White House so he can bring his President-fannish daughter along.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as soon as Cale gets the heave-ho from his interview (it didn’t help that he was being interviewed by Agent Finnerty, a woman who knew him back in his crazy frat-boy days), a group of scary paramilitary psychos take over the White House.  The psychos kill everyone that’s holding a gun, leaving Cale, Our Hero, to save the day.  But how’s he gonna get the Prez and his own daughter out of there alive?  The best way America knows how; superior firepower baby.

Movie Review: World War Z

 Look — up in the sky!  It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  No, it’s a zombie leaping out to try to grab your helicopter!  Man you’ve gotta hate when that happens.  While a few folks in the theater seemed to giggle, the rest of us got our good ol’ fashioned creep on.  Because World War Z perfectly melds the action and horror genres, coming up with something nobody wants to see in a horror movie, a fully functioning hybrid.  And with the PG-13 rating there’s not much gore in this film.  I didn’t really miss it, I never had the time to think about it.  Yeah, there’s that much action.   if you’re looking for an action-packed popcorn fest that’s low on gore but crammed with zombies?  Honey, buy that extra-large popcorn right now.

Much has been said of the many rewrites, script-doctoring and post-production shuffles World War Z went through.  However, the final product shows no wear and tear in that regard.  This is the thinking man’s horror film, something that demands that you sit back and absorb how things work in our world — and in the natural kingdom — in order to get the most out of your spooky.  Since Hollywood loves to throw down comparisons (and let’s face it, so do I), I’d say you can think of this as The Walking Dead meets Contagion.

World War Z doesn’t go for the cheap gore (though I am a fan of that kinda thing) or booga-booga scares.  It takes Gerry (Brad Pitt, in a wonderfully down-to-earth role) and his family through hell as they try to escape a sudden and inexplicable outbreak of a virus so horrible that it takes you from bite to death to undeath/resurrection by virus in 12 seconds.  The virus runs the show, taking control of human beings and turning them into one-man virus armies with one goal; to spread the virus.  Teeth clack ominously, mobs of infected/zombies hurl themselves at a wall so others may make it over and infect the living.  World War Z hired researchers to give the film a feeling of something that could actually happen.  “If everyone was infected with the same virus, they would exhibit collective behavior,” says biologist David Hughes, a scientist this film hired to get a handle on how a virus may turn us into running, biting machines.  Seeing that idea played out on the big screen?  Ulp.

Movie Review: After Earth

Father and son.  Is there anything more adorable?  Well, maybe a puppy licking ice cream.  But really, the theme of father and son is something that tends to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.  And since warm cockles is a good thing (so I’ve heard; as I don’t know what a cockle is, I’ll take that as truth) wouldn’t the team of Jaden Smith and his father Will be just a cute fest of awesome?  Well….

Cute fest?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Awesome?  Um, not so much.  Their new movie After Earth isn’t bad.  The problem is After Earth isn’t particularly good either.  Sorry M. Night Shyamalan, you’ll have to look to your next directorial effort for redemption from The Last Airbender.  Or The Lady In The Water.  Or The Happening.  Perhaps a vacation to rejuvenate is in order?  I hear stone massages are the bomb.

Speaking of bombs, After Earth takes place after we humans crapped up the planet we call home.  And much like locusts, we then flew off to someplace else (and probably crapped that up too), leaving Earth to go do it’s own thing.  A thousand years later, Earth is Darwin’s theory come true, with all sorts of evolved beasties turning our once habitable planet into a danger zone of the highest order.  Heck, humans can’t even breathe the air comfortably anymore, as Earth’s atmosphere is too low in oxygen to support the current crop of folks.  Meanwhile, on the planet humans now call home, there are dangerous beasties too; aliens called Ursa that can carve us up like deli meat and sniff us out based on our fear are hunted by the Ranger Corps.  Nobody embodies the Ranger Corps better than living legend Cypher Raige (Will Smith).  Problem is, his young wanna-be Ranger son Kitai (Jaden Smith) lacks the discipline necessary to “Ghost” — turning off fear so the alien beasties can’t find you — and isn’t making the grade.  But Cyper decides to bring Kitai on a training mission or something (honestly, it’s tough to care enough to remember) and when things go wonky, guess where they crash land?  With a captured Ursa on board?  That totally gets loose?  With Kitai the only one that can save his dad?  Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Movie Review: Kon-Tiki

There are stories I’ve never gotten my greedy little hands on simply because I figured they were “Dude books”.  Call of the Wild.  Treasure Island.  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Anything by Ernest Hemingway (okay, that’s because I’m not a fan of his writing style.  And also, dudebook.)  Kon-Tiki was in there too, because I couldn’t see how a voyage across the ocean in a little raft could possibly appeal to me.  But if the book is as exciting as the movie Kon-Tiki, I owe that book a huge apology.  Huge.  This dramatic retelling of the story of one man’s quest to prove his theories makes me want to not only read the book, but see the original (Academy Award winning ) 1951 documentary.  Yeah, Kon-Tiki is that good.

 It’s just after World War II.  Naturalist, anthropologist and all-around adventure guy Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Hagen, in all his retro/40s-era matinee idol glory) is in Polynesia studying life, the universe and everything.  The natives tell Thor that they arrived in Polynesia from the West.  But all the great Western minds had decided these natives arrived from the East.  I mean really; who could sail across that wide expanse of sea in only a lashed-together log raft?  Thor sees that as a gauntlet thrown, and decides to do just that.  With a small group of friends, he takes off from Peru to try to reach Polynesia as Tiki, the native god that islanders believe populated their islands, did.

But will he make it?  Considering this movie is based on the book written by Heyerdahl after his expedition, and that I’ve already referenced his documentary of said expedition?  You can pretty much guess that answer.  Still, as other great docudramas have done before (like Titanic, All The President’s Men, Schindler’s List, and Argo), Kon-Tiki keeps viewers invested in the characters/individuals by weaving together expert storytelling and stunning visuals.

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