Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Grey....More like ..."The Letdown"

   If you have seen "Taken" then you know that Liam Neeson plays a great bad a$$. The Grey has all the makings of a "man against the elements, battle for life and death. If you've watched a trailer. The movie, unfortunately, doesn't deliver. The plot is OK. Liam plays an interesting character, but the movie lacks in many ways.
 The plot is a combo of "Alive" and "The Edge." Neeson is on a plane of workers that crashes into an undisclosed frozen wilderness. The men find themselves fighting the elements, wolves, and sometimes each other. One of the greatest lines I've heard in along time is uttered," In about 5 seconds I am going to beat the s@#& out of you and you will swallow a lot of blood." I will carry that one with me for awhile and coming from Liam Neeson it's believable.
The battle wolves hunt them. The men do not get along and I found myself curious, more so than caring, who will survive.

The film does have it's breath taking moments. The crossing of the canyon and the frozen tundra that they traverse. My problem with "The Grey" is the fact that I never became emotionally divested in the characters. The movie does it's best to show glimpses of their past stories, but I never found myself rooting for them to make it. It will make you jump at times and there are a few tense moments, but all in all I spent two hours waiting for a pay off that doesn't come. The only thing the movie did was make me appreciate the warm bed that I sleep in. In my opinion go see "Red Tails" instead or die hard Liam Neeson fans should just rent "Taken" again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"Real Steel" is the "Real Deal"

   What could be cooler than a live action version of "Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots?" At a glance that is what many would think of Real Steel. The reality couldn't be further from the truth. This is a movie with heart, surrounded by large boxing robots. Shawn Levy directed a very feel good movie while still appealing to the average fan boy. My Michigan peeps will recognize many of the downtown Detroit and Lansing areas that served as a back drop for the film.

 Hugh Jackman plays a down on his luck boxer trying to make a buck. Boxing has been replaced with giant remote controlled robots and he is in the fighting game. He gambles, he loses, and he finds out he has a son. Dakota Goyo is the Canadian new comer who plays Hugh's troubled son. A perfect father figure Hugh isn't. He decided the best way to make a buck and keep funding his fight/gambling addiction is to sell his rights to his son. While some would already turn their heads at that concept others would find it hard not to like Jackman's character. They discover a special training robot that can mimic movement and use it to build a contender. Throw in Evangeline Lily from Lost as Hugh's partner/girlfriend and you have a nice little story with that does more than just appeal to the science fiction crowd.
 What makes "Real Steal" work is it's story. This is a movie that has heart. Hugh Jackman is very likable. Even when he is a slime ball you still find yourself rooting for him. The robot stuff is a good time and the effects are top notch. It's a science fiction world, but it never becomes to cartoon-ish. It almost makes you wonder how far away from robot boxing we actually are. Ladies will like this for the story. Guys for the action. I was skeptical when I saw the first trailers for this, but it is worth a rental or purchase. "Real Steel " is a little bit "Rocky," a little bit "Over The Top," and a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


  Kate Beckinsale is back as the vampire death dealer Selene in the latest chapter of Underworld.

The story picks up after the end of Underworld: Evolution. Selene and Michael head into hiding, but the world has changed drastically. Humans know of the existence of both species and begin “the cleanse.” That is where the story goes wrong. The government begins going door to door and wiping out both vampires and Lycans (werewolves). Selene is captured and frozen for twelve years. The question everyone asks is, where’s Michael? We will answer it and you might not like the answer you get.

  Selene awakes and finds that she and Michael have a hybrid daughter and the running begins. We get introduced to some new characters. David, a vampire caught up in the legends of the Death Dealers and a human detective. They along with Selene set out to protect the hybrid child and get to the bottom of the conspiracy.

What worked? Kate Beckinsale is great as Selene. She is one of the best female action leads in quite some time. She went from being cold and bent on revenge in the first two movies to being broken hearted and protective in this installment. All of that, but she is a believable vampire bad ass. The idea of a hybrid daughter is cool, but I think it could’ve been done better. The new characters are ok, but not enough back stories. They never become more than accessories. The 3-d was also fantastic. The right amount and very well done. The timing was also great. The movie didn’t drag. 90 minutes. Thanks for watching.

What didn’t work? Several things, let’s start with the villains. Victor and Marcus were both fantastic villains. The owned the screen and were the right balance of charismatic evil. The evil scientist and “hulk” type lycan just don’t do it for me. The scale of the movie seems too small for the entire human race to be exterminating both species. The story lacks. The first to movies told a great story and brought you into a very cool world. This would have been better left to the vamps and wolves. Keep the humans out. What was the biggest flaw? Michael. He is acknowledged by name, but Scott Speedman said “no” to a role reprisal and we are left with a fill in and some bad C.G.I. These movies are notorious for taking the second most powerful character in its universe and weakening him. I hope they do him justice at some point.

Will there be another? It’s left open, but it depends on the box office take. It’s not the strongest of the series. I didn’t hate it, but I was left wanting something better. It’s a good popcorn flick, but it might be getting by on fan boys alone this time around. The best word to describe awakening would be underwhelming.


  Where do I begin with this one? Let me start by saying that I really wanted to like this. It has the makings of a movie I should like. Good cast. Good director. Good trailer. I am an M.M.A. fan and love Gina Carano. I can't say that I dislike the move, but I can't say for sure that I liked it either. Confused? So am I.

 Let's start with Steven Soderbergh. I was a huge fan of the Ocean's Franchise. They were fun,well written, and packed with stars. Soderbergh is one of the directors that the "Hollywood A-list" seems to always want to work with. He pulls together large ensemble casts and he does it again here. Even if they are only in the movie in small doses, it works.

 Gina Carano is a female M.M.A. fighter and one of the best. The big question? Can she act? The answer is yes. She was not bad. Soderbergh did a great job by surrounding her with a good cast. I won 't say that she is up there with Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Aniston, or Sandra Bullock, but she is better than one would expect. She plays a great bad ass and because of her background all of her fights come across as believable.Let's come back to the fighting in a few. She looks good, but make no mistake she is a very muscular girl and cannot hide it.

 Carano plays an ex marine/ private contracted "Black Ops Agent." Ewan Mcgregor is her ex boyfriend/ current boss and plays a really good weasle. Michael Douglas is the government rep that wants her for a job and Antonio Banderas is the partner of Ewan's character. Mcgregor asks her to do one final mission before quitting and she reluctantly agrees. As you can imagine things go wrong for her and they attempt to kill her.
It plays out a ot like the "Bourne Identity" minus the memory loss. Michael Fassbender (Magneto/Xmen First Class) play s the European Agent that she is set up with. The fight scene between them is pretty good and in my opinion he is not in the movie enough. There are rumors that they are looking at him as a Daniel Craig replacement in the James Bond Franchise. He would be an excellent choice.

 Bill Paxton plays her ex-marine father and Channing Tatum is the fellow agent she has a fling with. It is nice to see him get his ass kicked during most of the movie. Maybe I just wanted some payback for the first G.I. Joe , but it was still entertaining. The mystery of whats going on is kind of fun, but not on the level of Ocean's or even Contraband. Carano does the best she can and if ever a live action Wonder Woman comes to be, Gina would be the perfect choice.

What Haywire lacks and where it disappoints is action. The trailer would say otherwise, but the sound needs amped during the fights. Soderbergh went for this "artsy" approach and I think that is where it fails. The car chase from inside the car doesn't work for me. The "caper" type music is horrible for this type of movie. Give me a driving rock or hip hop score and this movie easily get better. The cast is good. The story has it's moments, but overall I think Haywire fails to excite. It's not good. It's not bad. It's just OK.

Monday, January 16, 2012

What would MLK think?

 It's been interesting to see all of the things posted about Dr Martin Luther King today.
Regardless of your color or creed, you cannot help but be in awe of M.L.K. Even some fifty years later his words are still so powerful. He spoke with passion and conviction and I can't help but wonder where all of that passion and conviction has gone. I wonder what Dr King what think if her were alive today?

We live in the richest country in the world, but people starve. We elect people to speak for the people, but so many people go unheard. Home ownership is part of the dream that was America, but so many people can't buy one regardless of how hard they work. Martin Luther King was a man of peace , but in almost every city, in every state, streets bearing his name are some of the most violent. I can't help but wonder what he would think today? Is this the America he and others like him dreamed about?

 It's been fifty years and there is still racism. Our teens are beaten, broken down, and ending their lives based on the opinions and cruelty of others. Our government is more worried about "political agenda" than actually helping the people of America. Is this the dream? There was a dream where people could be different and live together in peace. Are we there yet? Are We even close?

 In 1963 one man spoke with conviction. One man fought and with his voice alone moved people to action. You could hear the passion. His words made you believe. He fought, but not with his hands. He changed the richest nation in the world with faith, love, and the belief that there was a better way.
This country has so many people who speak just to hear themselves talk. What are they even saying? Anyone with a computer can post a video. It's not the same thing. The passion isn't there. I am curious to see who comes next. Who will be the one to do some of things that Martin Luther King did? Who is the next person who will defy a country, and truly not be afraid to dream of a better world. Who will speak the words that will make the politicians of this great country take notice?

 Will it be a teacher, a house wife, or the dwindling middle class father working his fingers to the bone so his family can live? Will it be a black man, a Asian woman, or the college student who dared to be different? I hope I get to see it. I love the fact that I get to use my voice for a living. I am still in awe of the fact that M.L.K'S words still hold so much power, so many years later. There was/is a dream. There are so many voices yet to be heard. I can't wait for the one that truly restores my faith in the world.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Some Great Contraband

 Mark Wahlberg is back! Contraband is the latest vehicle and it delivers.
Smuggling is highly illegal and often dangerous, and Chris Farraday is one of the best at it, that is until he married and had a couple of kids. He started his own business and leads a quiet life with the family. Of course a movie with Marky Mark frolicking with the family would be boring, his past comes back to haunt him.

 Things go bad when Farraday's brother-in-law, played by Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee from X-Men First Class), gets into some trouble for smuggling drugs. Wahlberg comes out of retirement to keep the kid alive by coming up with 700,000.00 to pay off Briggs, played very well by Giovani Ribsi. Wahlberg and his crew set sail for Panama while his best friend Sebastion(Ben Foster) keeps his kids and wife (Kate Beckinsale) safe.

 The smuggling plot is fantastic. Your interest is kept trying to figure out how they can actually pull this off in the small amount of time given. They must avoid drug lords, U.S. Customs, and the corrupt ship Captain, played perfectly by J.K. Simmons (J Jonah Jameson-Spider man). There are obvious twists that you see coming, but the over all smuggling operation is done very well. Wahlberg is completely believable and Ben Foster is creepy in almost every movie he has been in. Giovani Ribsi plays the tattooed out thug perfectly and Kate Beckinsale is good, even though she does little more than be troubled and look smokin hot! Next we see how well she can do in the next installment of Underworld.

 I personally like Mark Wahlberg when he plays the intelligent criminal. Contraband is a lot like the Italian Job minus all the Mini Cooper fun, but still very fun to watch. Their could be potential tough competition this weekend from Beauty And The Beast and Joyful Noise, but Contraband definitely packs some bang for the buck. Good cast. Good plot. Good movie.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

worth your Moneyball!

 Whether baseball is your thing or not, this movie is one you should watch.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are both amazing. It's rare that you find a movie about baseball that isn't your typical "Field Of Dreams" or "Major League." Moneyball is in a league all it's own.

 Brad Pitt plays the troubled G.M. of The  Oakland A's who, like many other teams, is having trouble competing with the Yankees. Let's face it, there are not a lot of teams with that kind of payroll. He meets Jonah Hill and against all odds and the majority of baseball scouts, they build a "statistically" winning team. They find the best players that they can afford and that will get them into the post season based on the numbers.  Think it's a great fairy tale? It could be, but it is a true story. It's the same formula Boston used to break their curse and win the World Series in 2004.

 Brad Pitt does show is age and is phenomenal especially after admitting that he doesn't know anything about baseball. It's a fun movie to watch. Real fans will remember when this Oakland team made it's run and casual movie goers will like the story and it's real life characters like David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, Miguel Tejada and more.

To sum it all up, Moneyball is every bit worth the money.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mission ...Still Impossible?

Tom Cruise is older. Simon Pegg has a cult following. Jeremy Renner is one the new "it guys" for the moment in Hollywood. The director is best known of a pixar movie. Sounds like a recipe for disappointment, but Mission Impossible :Ghost Protocol is anything but.

Ignore the fact that there is not an overwhelmingly bad villain. There doesn't need to be. Ignore the fact that you think you might have seen this before. You haven't. Wherever your stand on Tom Cruise is, there is no denying that the guy can still more than hold his own. From the opening prison segment to the films epilogue, Ethan Hunt is still a great character.

 The last outing saw his character married and ready to retire. The film picks up on this and springs forward with a great story. Lost fans will recognize Josh Halloway (Sawyer) in some very cool flashbacks. Simon Pegg is great , but not overbearing comic relief. Paula Patton is stunning. Robin Thicke is a lucky dude. Jeremy Renner brings an excellent new twist to the film and most importantly the story delivers. Hunt and his team being the only ones that can stop an international conspiracy.

 The scaling of the tallest building in the world in Dubai is EPIC. The fact that Tom Cruise did those stunts himself is incredible. The pacing is good,the action is top notch, and the cast makes you want to see them all go on another adventure. Fans who wonder where Hunt's partner in crime Luther Stickel (Ving Rhames) is, will not be disappointed. In short Ghost Protocol proves there is still life in this franchise that has spanned 15 years.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. You will find it hard to dislike.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The LOOONG Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

It's a long movie, but it is a pretty darn good movie. Rooney Mara did an incredible job of transforming herself into Lisbeth Salander. You will not recognize her from the tiny role in "The Social Network."
Daniel Craig is finally beginning to show his age. Ironic, they wanted a younger James Bond for that franchise. Enough about the cast.

If you've read the book you know it is a murder mystery. If you haven't read the book pay attention. Fincher, like the book, does a great job of making you wonder if Salander is crazy, emotionally detached, or just really messed up. The scenes with her therapist are intense, graphic, and disturbing. Just like the book. Mara does a great job of making this troubled character come off the page and onto the screen.
In my opinion, the movie could've been about thirty minutes shorter.

It's not one for the kids. It is interesting. They have already green lit a sequel and if you have some time on your hands, worth watching.

Transformers 3.... It is that good!

Ok. So people hate Michael bay. People complain about transformers. The second movie was a let down, but this time it was done right. It is a popcorn movie, but it has what Green Lantern and Revenge of the Fallen lacked...a good story!

I thought with the first Transformers that Bay would ruin my childhood,but he did not. I didn't hate Fallen. Dark of the Moon is the biggest movie of the summer.

Minor spoilers ahead......

The moon landing is government conspiracy? Believable story. Works great for the movie. Patrick Dempsey plays a great dick. Prime kicks ass.

The Ark escapes Cybertron carrying technology that can save the AutoBots. The government steals it and Prime is pissed. They acknowledge events of the second movie without dwelling on it. The matrix is the only thing that can revive Sentinel Prime and that works. The redesign of Megatron is top notch. The twins are not there and that is great.

Shia doesn't ruin the movie and the character of Sam is struggling with what we all do. What is my place in the world? I like Laserbeak as a vulture. Sound wave was fun and Shockwave is not the main villain ,but that twist is cool. RC is gone and it's not explained. There is a shot taken at Megan Fox but it's OK.

AUtobots die. Chicago is decimated. The second part of the movie is Epic!
It was great to see Prime kick some ass. The trailer is very cool and it feels like your childhood has come to life.

Bay is done, but he goes out big. My only dislike is "Dino" should be "Hot Rod" or "Mirage."
See the movie. It is worth it .Transformers 3 is what a summer movie should be.... Big , bold, and begging you to come back for another ride.

Conan....The Slightly Below Average

Well it certainly isn't the Arnold version that most of us know, but it's not as bad as Kull the Conqueror. It's definitely not Lord of the Rings and that might be the biggest problem. We'll come back to that in a bit. I will try to make this as spoiler free as I can.

First let me say that the only Conan I know is the Swartzenegger movies and I didn't see those until high school in the 90's. I don't know the Robert E. Howard stories or the comic. I was always more of a pure super hero comic guy. I was told that this movie is closer to the Howard version of Conan.

The Good:

Jason Momoa is not a bad Conan. He looks the part and you can tell he was into it.

The beginning of the movie is pretty cool.

The Bad:

Almost everyone else.

The beginning is a cool story. Not sure of the need for a Morgan Freeman narration, but it's his thing these days. Similar to the Arnold version, but we spend more depth with the Cimmerian tribes. The battlefield birth is a stretch, but it actually works. Ron Perlman isn't bad with what he is given to work with. I like that they spent more on the back story of his people and tried to explain the Hyborian world a bit. There is also a nice nod to the "Riddle of Steel."

People thru a fit about the training borrowed from "Batman Begins." I was ok with the ice session. They were a people of the north. Where else would they train?

People have complained about the pacing and I understand, but it wasn't horrible. When we see Momoa, he is already a leader of men. It's my understanding that Howard's Conan was at also that. He is not just a brute in the sense that Swartzenegger was. I never bought his version as a thief. I found the bar scene to be a little corny, but it does a good job of explaining that Conan did love his alcohol and the attention of women.

Rachel Nichols is wasted? I am not sure she was great period, but I might be holding a grudge over G.I. Joe. There are fan boys who loved her, but I HATED EVERYTHING about that piece of garbage movie. She was just not a good choice for this role, but either her or her body double looks good naked. Conan ordering her around like she's his property is kinda amusing. The battle with the sand creatures is not horrible either.

I think my biggest problem with the movie was the villains. The underling villains are ok, but the main villains lack. Stephen Lang was not frightening enough. The evil overlord should make you fear him. This guy didn't. He was too over the top and not close to menacing enough. Rose McGowan is a waste of a character. She could have been so much better. The concept was there. The delivery was not. She was the better of the two. The item that they sought was ok and for this type of movie was typical. James Earl Jones character was a way better villain. He even had more menacing underlings. This guy, not so much.

The final fight was underwhelming. The end seemed rushed, but the beginning was decent. They borrow a lot of things from other movies. A powerful artifact, a cowardly thief, and a simple revenge story, but all of those worked. The story itself wasn't bad, but not executed properly. Crom is left out altogether and that is a mistake. I might really be nit-picking, but I didn't like the design of the swords. They did a good job of trying to take you places within the world, but the journey to get to those places lacked.

For its time, the Arnold version had an epic feel to it. This seems small. Not Sci-Fi Channel small, but not summer movie big either. The army of Khalar Zym didn't seem massive and unstoppable. This movie had been in developmental hell for a while. Everyone from Arnold to Triple H to Brett Ratner attatched. I would be curious to see what could've been done with a bigger budget for a better supporting cast. Jason Momoa made the character his own. He just didn't get much help.

Lord of The Rings has set the bar for this type of fantasy movie so high. That trilogy proved that it could be done right and people like us now seem to force fantasy movies to live up to impossible expectations. Conan is not as good as its 1982 predecessor, but it is not the worst movie to come out this year either. I give it a C+ and when it comes to summer entertainment, I've seen worse. Look at the bright side; at least they didn't cast Kelan Lutz or Channing Tatum as Conan. Hey it could've happened.