Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Gaurdians of The Galaxy : Volume Nearly As Good As The First.

  Marvel just doesn't miss. The first Guardians was expected by many to be a bomb. It was anything but. Now James Gunn brings his cosmic cast of lovable outlaws back for volume two. Sequels are always tough to do, but this one really doesn't miss the mark. Sure it is some of the same type of jokes and outlandish cosmic fun, but do we really want anything different from Guardians of The Galaxy? Not at all.

  The team is hired to save an alien world from a galactic threat. Upon completing their mission they are given Nebula (Karen Gillan) so that her sister Gamora (Zoe Saldana) can deliver her to prison. After Rocket (Bradley Cooper) decides to do something questionable, they are again on the run. The guardians must find away to make things right, save the universe, and discover the mystery of Peter Quilll's (Chris Pratt) parentage.

  Kurt Russel is fun as Quill's father. I won't spoil the movie, but it is fun to see him interact with the previous cast. His natural sarcasm plays well with not only Pratt, but also Drax (Dave Batista). Drax is definitely a comic element. While he is a lethal warrior, he is also the source of levity in tense situations. Regardless if it is with Rocket, Quill, Gamora, or the newcomer Mantis. Batista has made th role his and deserves more praise than he will most likely seen.  It is great to see Michael Rooker's Yandu get an expanded roll. He and Rocket are fun to watch while they are on their own adventure. We also get to see how he fits into a more expanded cosmic universe.

 The underlying theme in Volume 2 is family. The way all of these character fit together. From baby Groot to Gamora, we get invested and care about their journey. Guardians does a great job of giving us what we expect and have come to love about these characters. It also takes us on a completely new adventure. The CGI can be overwhelming at times and the dialogue is a little cheesy, but it has heart. It is both character and story driven. If I had to choose one flaw, it would be the soundtrack. I prefer Awesome Mix 1 over Awesome Mix 2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting bigger and the Guardians are taking on us on a tour. Grab a ticket, get some popcorn, forget life for two hours, and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fate of The Furious...Is there enough gas in this tank?

If ever there was a franchise at a cross roads, it is The Fast and Furious. The untimely death of Paul Walker certainly changed the direction of things and certainly the feel. The Fate of The Furious will be the first time the team we have grown to love will operate without Paul Walker's Brian O'Connor and Jordana Brewster's Mia Toretto. The franchise has lost one of it's biggest stars, it's now eight films deep, and needs to reinvent itself again. So is there still gas in the tank?

Brian and Mia have retired. The rest of the team is doing their thing and living a normal life. Luke Hobbs is coaching his little girl's soccer team and Dom and Letty are honeymooning in Cuba. Things are quiet for our heroes until a dangerous new foe recruits Dom. The team comes together again to not only take down this latest threat, but to take down their leader. In order to make that happen, they unite with past enemies to try and save their friend.

 F. Gary Gray from "Straight Out Of Compton," fame takes over the directing duties. He follows the globe trotting tradition of his predecessors. Fate of the Furious has big movie feel. We go from Cuba to Berlin, New York, and Russia. The stunts are as outlandish as one might expect and it doesn't feel like there is much down time. It's a big cast and none of them feel lost in the story. Action and humor are done well. The most important thing is the story and it completely works. The New York car stuff is incredible.

 Charlize Theron is perfectly cast as "Cipher." She is cold, ruthless, and the perfect villain to advance this arc of the story. She matches well with the team and comes across very lethal. She is more than a match for Dom. Her hold over him is explained and fits extremely well into the dynamic of the previous stories. The twist is unexpected and is the perfect way to go.

 The elephant in the room is of  course, Paul Walker. In some ways, he feels more apart of this movie than the last one. He is acknowledged in the right ways and his presence is clearly felt. Based on the way Fate plays out, his footprint will be there in future films as well.

 Tyrese is always the comic relief, but it is the Rock and Jason Statham who steal the show. The chemistry between them is off the charts. They both balance ass kicking with the perfect amount of comedy.

  Fate of the Furious is one of the best in the franchise. Yes the team is showing their age, some of the jokes are the same, and the stunts are outlandish. It is everything you would expect from a Fast and Furious movie. The movie proves we still love this cast and their globe trotting adventures. The old cast is great and the new additions fit in well. If the franchise is serious about getting to ten films, it seems like there is still plenty of gas in the tank.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Power Rangers: It's Confusion Time!

  The Power Rangers have been morphing and fighting giant monsters since the early 90's. Different themes, different casts, and different villians. The most popular incarnation was still the original. Jason, Kimberly, Billy, Zack, and Trini get the big screen reboot. The Power Rangers have seen the big screen before, but with far less flair and attitude. My problem is the fact that I cannot seem to love or hate this.

 Five misguided teenagers stumble across and alien ship buried beneath their small town of Angel Grove. They discover new powers and learn of an old enemy. Under the guidance of the mythical Zordon, they must find away to unleash the power they have inside before the world as we know it is destroyed.

 The good thing, well mostly good thing, is that everything gets an update. The ranger costumes, Rita, the tone, and overall look. The biggest flaw is that we spend so much time getting to know the cast that we really never get to know the cast. The story tries to be darker and that is fine, but it fails to give us any real emotional connection to anyone in the cast. They put the burden of leadership on Jason (Dacre Montgomery) which doesn't work because anyone who knows the original show, knows that he was a space holder for Tommy. Zack (Ludi Lin) gets a bit of a darker back story, but it gets slightly washed over. Billy (RJ Cyler) is the ranger that seems to connect the most. He is by far the most likeable. Kimberly (Naomi Scott) never really gets clearly defined. She is more that the damsel in distress, but we never see the real depth of her character. Trini (Becky G) is the character that bothered me the most. I feel like she was made gay just for the sake of being gay. I understand what the attempt was, but it is unnecessary and fails to really work.

 Rita ( Elizabeth Banks) gets a much cooler back story, but is really lame when it comes to villains. She has moments of true evil, but her time on screen feels rushed. I think part of the reason is spending too much times failing to develop the ranger's stories. Rita feels like and after thought most of the time despite Bank's best efforts to have fun with the role.

 Alpha 5 is one of the most loved yet annoying characters of the series. Bill Hader gives him a voice and the update is a really good one. He is far less annoying and is anything but the "Jar Jar Binks," of the movie.

 Zordon (Bryan Crantson) is given a much greater back story than the original series gave him. It was darker than expected, but fit the tone of the reboot. I like the effects that they used on him in the ship and making him flawed worked well.

 The update that I liked the least was Goldar. He is very far removed from what fans of the 90's incarnation will remember. If  I had to pick one big flaw of the film, it would be this one. I am not sure that this movie's version of Goldar is any better than Ivan Ooze.

 The Zords are cooler, the story is adequate, the rangers look better, and the movie is not bad. I would be lying if I said I hated the film. I did have fun with it at times and while it is not the greatest, I expected much worse. Tommy Oliver fans will be happy with the mid credit scene. We don't get Bulk and Skull, hip hop kido, or Lord Zedd. We do get a Jason David Frank and Amy Jo Johnson cameo and a film that resembles the franchise that millions loved. I guess it was almost morphin time!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Logan: One Epic Last Time

   Seventeen years. Hugh Jackman has brought one of the comic book universe's most popular characters to life. Seventeen years is a long time to play any character. He is a little too tall by the comic's definition, but Hugh is Logan. In every sense of the character. He has been brilliant in things like X2 and X-Men : Days of Future Past. He has shined despite terrible scripts with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand. He has gotten closer to the version of the character fans wanted with The Wolverine and now we get Hugh #onelasttime. Let me start by saying it is Wolverine like we have always wanted to see. Gritty, violent, raw, and near perfect.

   A lot of time has passed when we meet Logan. Mutants are gone. He spends his days hiding in the desert with Professor X and Caliban. He spends his nights working as a limo driver saving money to buy a boat. He spends both being a drunk and as you can tell by the trailers, he isn't healing very well anymore. A mysterious woman who is on the run with a girl enter his life and he and Xavier are brought back into the world they were hiding from. She is a science experiment gone rogue and being pursued by a cybernetically enhanced army called the reavers.

   Everything in this movie works. It is a little bit Old Man Logan and something else all together. The world is perfect. It is the future and it is a bleak one, but not completely devastated like we saw in Days of Future Past. We get every possible form of Logan you could want to see. He is completely broken, but still ferocious. Right from jump. Fans, myself included, wanted Hugh in the suit. We do get it. In the form of toys and comic books. There are so many great things in this movie that you won't miss it. We get nods to the previous X-Men films, The Wolverine, and it even acknowledged Origins. It also introduces us to X-23.

    Dafne Keen is solid. She does so well and barely speaks a word. She holds her own with Hugh whether it's combat, conversation, or conveying emotion. If you are not familiar, she is essentially Wolverine's daughter. She is cloned from his DNA, but her powers differ slightly. She does have her father's personality.

   Charles Xavier is also one of the best parts of Logan. He is his moral compass and in many ways his father. It is tough to see this broken version of Professor X. His power has become a threat to everyone. He isn't the Charles that we are used to, but it might just be Patrick Stewart's finest version of the character. It is raw, emotional, funny, and at times heartbreaking. It fits perfectly with the world James Mangold has created.

  Logan does what most superhero movies seem to be afraid to do. It takes it's time. It develops the characters to the point that you care about what happens to them. It tells you a very raw gritty story with great characters on both sides of the coin. I really liked Boyd Holbrook's Pierce. It is going to be tough when we see someone else play Wolverine. Hugh Jackman is so good in this. He nails the berserker and the broken man. It is a great end to this version of Logan's story. Deadpool being the R-rated success that it was paved the way for this. The violence, language, and above all else the performances make Logan the epic finale that it is. Thank you Patrick, James, and more than anyone else, Hugh. Seventeen years. It was a hell of a ride and a nearly perfect one last time.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

XXX: The Return of A Cheesy, Well Cast, and Nonsensical Mess.

   Vin Diesel is going back to his roots again. First back to the Fast and Furious Franchise. A move that proved profitable and entertaining. Now, he is reviving XXX. The rebel secret agent who is not a good guy, but not quite the bad guy either. The big difference in the two franchises is age. The furious audience seems like it grew with Vin. The XXX audience feels a little like it out grew the franchise. Vin is showing his age and sometimes feels like the oldest guy in the bar hitting on girls and hanging out with his twenty-something friends. 

   An extreme sports athlete turned agent Xander Cage (Diesel), thought to have died, comes out of hiding and is recruited by the CIA to chase another team of XXX agents and over a super weapon called "Pandora's Box" which can control military satellites which they literally drop out of the sky on people and places. Xander recruits his own team and finds himself caught up in a deadly conspiracy of corruption among world governments including his own country's government.

  The cast is great for what it is. Martial arts movie star Tony Ja and UFC Champ Michael Bisping are placed perfectly. Football great Tony Gonzalez and Samuel Jackson are what you'd expect. It's Nina Dobrev and Ruby Rose that look like they are having the most fun. For Dobrev, it was a chance to take on a slightly more adult role. She actually gets to swear and the fact that she is no where close to being an action star works. Ruby Rose is just cool. She has a look,attitude,  and just a cool factor. 

   The guys who steal the show are Donnie Yen, who people loved in Rogue One, and Rory Mcann who Game of Thrones fan will know as the Hound. The latter is clearly the comic relief while Yen turns the action up a notch. The stunts border on ridiculous. The plot is a little bland. The dialogue is cheesy. The movie itself probably didn't need to be made. What XXX is good for is escape. Grab a coke and some popcorn and turn off the world for two hours. It will never connect like the Furious films, but the best part of XXX is the fact that it doesn't take itself serious and you shouldn't either. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cause It's The World I Know....

   Maybe it is the time of year or recent events. It might even be a combination of both that compels this collection of thoughts. 2016 was the year of the reaper, but it feels like we lost more than just celebrities. It feels like we lost our country, purpose, and place in the world.

  I was truly saddened by the loss of Carrie Fisher and George Michael. I never knew either of them, but the loss of them has made me think. Princess Leia was the first Star Wars action figure my late grandma ever purchased for me. I played a ton of George Michael records on the radio over the years. I still think Freedom '90 is one of the best videos ever made. Video. Another thing that seems lost.

  The other night I was glued to, "Definitely Maybe." It's one of my favorite Ryan Reynolds movies, but it really focuses on the 90s. The time of the first Clinton Presidency and a time where it felt like the world truly had no limits. People still believed that they could be anything and little was holding them back. A lot of us just remember it as middle or high school.

   It was certainly a different time. The fear of job loss wasn't as big of a deal. Maybe I was just too young see that though. It felt like my parents had more money and their dollars stretched a lot farther. I think a lot of people's seemed to. We were a generation of kids poised to change the world for the better. Clinton was a president that actually talked to the youth of a nation. We went to college. We got involved in issues. We took a stand when it was the right thing to do. We broke barriers and focused on ourselves, but still found ways to help other people. We did it all to one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of music. The 90's era was the best for music. It just was. Things felt like they were together. These days it feels like everything is coming a part.

  Don't get me wrong. The 90's were filled with some things that we should regret. The Rodney King beating is still just as disgusting today as it was then. So are the riots that followed. It might've been the lack of social media, but it felt like those horrible things made u grow for the better. It feels like the incidents of racial violence now just tear us further apart. I was always fortunate to be taught to see past color. I never thought at this stage of my life that our country would be this divided over skin tones. Back then, we looked to the future with hope and now it seems to be replaced by fear.

  It feels like we as a people have lost our spirit. We stopped focusing on our own backyards and condemned other people for not doing what we as individuals wanted. It used to be that people were allowed to be different. Some were artsy, some jocks, some alternative, and it seemed to work. You might've been laughed at for being last picked, but it didn't hurt or lead to harm. It was accepted that not everyone wins the game and there were no participation trophies. I am still not sure that those help with self esteem.

  We are more connected now than ever, but we seem to have lost sight of what is in front of us. It happens almost everywhere. News stories come from following D list celebrities. Radio stations are force fed from Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, or wherever. People have ignored their own lives to follow someone else's.  The sad thing is that we probably have not hit the lowest point yet. The good thing is once you are at the bottom, the only place to go is up.

  A new year is on the horizon. I hope that we become a little more self aware. I hope we take a look at our own back yard first. I hope we spend less time sending pictures of our own lives and actually doing something with them. I hope that protests become peaceful and the world becomes tolerant. It has been said that everything is cyclical. If that is the case, maybe adopting the ideas of the past can build a brighter future.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rogue One: The Star Wars Story We Never Knew We Wanted

  Almost everyone loves Star Wars. It is a part of American culture. The love for the franchise has always been there, but it had been, "awakened," last year. The Star Wars craze is bigger than ever. This year we are getting a prequel that we never asked for. A story that we didn't really need to hear. A Star Wars with no Jedi or characters we are invested in. We are getting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and let me start by saying, you will be glad that we did.

    The fledgling Rebel Alliance hears whispers of the Empire building a super weapon and contemplates their next move. An intelligence officer discovers a thief that is the daughter of the scientist building it and sets out to rescue/ capture her. They enlist her help to find a defected cargo pilot and seek out a rebel extremist. The Jedi are gone and this small group of rebels set out on a path that will determine the fate of the galaxy,

  The movie is dark. It has a different tone than any Star Wars we have seen yet. It is far darker than Revenge of The Sith. We see a different view of the galactic war and it is violent. We see how out numbered the rebels are. It shows us new worlds and ties beautifully into the history. Gareth Edwards has created a movie that fits so perfectly with the film that started it all. We get some new ships and new people. The small group of rebels are interesting in their own rights. We get a quick back story on everyone involved, but they all have their moments to shine.

  We see the Empire at the height of it's power and it is so well done. There is internal conflict with the villains. The storm troopers are done in the same form as a new hope. AT-AT walkers, T.I.E. Fighters, the Death Star make appearances. All of them with great accuracy. Rogue One not only tells it's own story, but it introduces new elements of Star Wars lore and they all work beyond well. I wish I could spoil all of the cameos and nods to the films that came before, but it just wouldn't be fair.

  The one character that I will spoil a bit is Forrest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera. He was a character on the Clone Wars cartoon. We get an older version of him in Rogue One. The rebellion and wars have taken their toll on him. The casual movie goer will not know him, but it is very cool to see another part of the over all Star Wars universe brought to life. The film truly gives us some great characters. Donnie Yen's, "Chirrut Imwe," and Alan Tudyk's, "K-2SO," have their moments, but this movie is a father daughter story. It is all about Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones).

   Rumors have been out there that she is really Rey from "The Force Awakens," mother. She isn't. Sorry for that spoiler. She is her own character. She is troubled. She is strong. She is the perfect character to center this story around. Rogue One was a story that most fans didn't ask for. It has cameos. It has some great Vader moments. It has plenty of cool references. It is very much Star Wars. It is also very much it's own kind of movie. The force is strong with this one. So strong in fact that it already has a sequel. It leads perfectly into Star Wars: A New Hope. In this case, the end is truly the beginning.