Thursday, May 30, 2013

After Earth or After Thought

    People are very polarized by Michael Bay, but another name has been known to draw the same ire. M. Night Shyamalan. I loved The Sixth Sense, was OK with Signs and felt that Unbreakable was a very underrated movie. Good films but I cannot say the same for The Village, The Happening, and the dismal Last Airbender. M. Night is back and this time he jumping in to science fiction with some stat power courtesy of Will Smith. The Big question is does it work?

In the future, about a thousand years, we were forced to evacuate earth after an alien war began. Nova Prime is our new home and it is defended by Rangers. They battle alien creatures called Ursa who hunt and see us through our fear. The greatest ranger is Cypher Raige (Smith) who has a rare ability called ghosting. It enables you to eliminate fear and become invisible to the alien threat. Raige is returning home to his family and preparing to retire. His son Kitai (Smith) is trying to become a ranger and make his father proud. In an attempt to bond with his son Cypher brings him along on his final training mission. The ship sets off with an cage alien on board and after an asteroid storm crash lands on earth. Kitai must find and recover the rescue beacon while his father lays dying. Can the young boy overcome his fear and survive an earth that is no longer friendly to human kind?

 I am not a fan of Jayden Smith, but in this one it is great casting. I love the father son demographic almost as much as did in the Pursuit of Happiness. Will is great as the disapproving task master who has little choice but to put faith in his under achieving son. You get a feel of real parental strife between them at times and it truly works in the film. Wil is finally starting to show his age, but he still has the chemistry and likability in every role he plays. Big Will still has plenty of swagger.

 Visually the film is great. It is very easily on par with oblivion and the design is very cool. It has a strange "bio organic" feel to it. The ships and buildings are all advanced yet very primitive feeling at the same time. It made for a very cool look. Kitai wears a life suit that changes color based on danger and environment. The concept plays very well. The rangers carry these lance type weapons called cutlass and they too work well. No lasers, no explosion, and yet a very good sci-fi concept. The computer generated animals are OK and world, at times, looks breathtaking.

 M. Night has a reputation for strange plot altering twists and being somewhat unpredictable. After Earth is very simple plot. It is easy to follow and figure out. The story is about a father and son and their quest to survive. Simple. So simple that it works and works well. I am not sure how much influence Will Smith had over the direction of the film, but it is better than I think most would expect. Take the kids or leave them at home. It is entertaining and maybe a little redeeming for it's director. My advice, give After Earth more than an after thought.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fast and Furious Without Signs of Slowing Down

    It's hard to believe that this franchise has been going strong for so long, but the truth is in the ticket receipts. Fast and Furious has definitely earned it's keep. The original cast returned with the fourth installment and the series hasn't stopped. They've graduated from street racing to capers, but it is a welcome change of pace. The gang is back for a sixth outing and after the very successful Fast Five, expectations are very high.

   The adventure pics up right after the last. Dom and his team are enjoying the spoils of the previous heist. Brian and Mia are proud parents, Haan is traveling the world with Gisele, Roman and Tej are doing there thing, and Dom himself has made a life with Elena. The one common problem that they all have is the fact that they can never really go home. Hobbs in the meantime is tracking a group of highly trained drivers. He decides to catch criminals with criminals and along with his new partner, goes to fetch Dom. The fact the he has proof of Letty being alive along with full pardons puts the team back on the streets.

   Luke Evans joins the cast as Shaw. He is without question the most dangerous foe the team has came up against. Military background, no morals, and intensity make him a more than worthy adversary. He also has a team with some pretty cool gear that we see in action right away. It has a different tone than the previous adventure, but is it good?

   What made the last movie so good is the same in this outing. The cast. Deisel and Paul Walker seem to have embraced the fact they will forever be Dominic Torreto and Brian O'Connor. The still have a great on screen chemistry and are still fun to watch.  I love the Rock in supporting roles. People believe that he is "The Franchise Saver," and while there is truth to that, he is better when it's not all focused on him. He is Hobbs and make no mistake, Hobbs is a bad ass dude. Gina Carano is also well cast and really does hold her own. The rest of the usual suspects all do their parts and it doesn't seem to get old. Jordana Brewster has a smaller role this outing, but it makes sense that she would watch the kid while Brian is out taking down international criminals. I loved Michelle Rodriguez. It's a different Letty, but Michelle is tough enough to believe she really could go head to head with Carano.

  So what went wrong? I will take heat for this, but too much unbelievability. Dom and his crew are a team of thieves and street racers. In reality it's hard to believe that they could take down one of the world's most dangerous criminals. Even with The Rock. These films have always been famous for crazy stunts, but this one goes just a bit too far outside of reality. If you can suspend belief, you'll have a great time.
  The last film was more fun. This one has a different tone, but allot of things work well. Nods to the things that make it famous, the cast, and locations make it a good time. It's cool to see Dom and Hobbs fighting together instead of each other. There is a twist that I loved and didn't see coming that plays well. The story really ties the films together and the last twenty minutes of the film to me were better than most of the action. The team has been given a green light for another adventure and I am all in for the next ride.
It's a different tone, some new twists, but worth taking Fast 6 for a drive. If you're a fan of the franchise you won't be disappointed and it looks like next time, we will finally get to Tokyo.


  Memorial Day weekend and the boys are back. The first Hangover was classic, but the second drew mixed reviews from just about everyone. I like the second. It had some moments that I loved and others that were just average. Most people seemed to feel like the second was a carbon copy of the first. It's 2013 and we get another sequel. How does it measure up?

 I am not really sure why it's called The Hangover because no one drinks and blacks out. This movie is all about Zach. Allan is off his meds and takes center stage. The guys reunite to drive him to an intervention and are caught up in drama created by Mr. Chow. We see a few characters from the first and meets some new ones. Chow stole some gold from Marshal (John Goodman) and he is slightly upset about it. He decides to use the wolf pack to track down Chow. Guns,violence, drugs, and danger  take over as the guys do there best to find Chow and save Doug.

  This is tough for me because I am a fan of the cast. I just didn't feel like they were into it. The movie is very different from the first two and it needed to be. They reference the previous installments which is good and it has a few funny moments, but I wasn't really impressed overall. The cast didn't seem to be having fun and truthfully neither was I. The story is OK, but it just didn't have the vibe that the others had. It's not a long movie and that is a good thing.

 What's not a good thing? Too much Chow. The movie was all about Chow and he had his moments, but over all he didn't seem to be into it either. Chow is a better party pal than ruthless criminal. The scenarios are far less entertaining. The movie tries to add some heartfelt moments, but in the end it just fails.
I didn't feel the need to walk out like some people did, but it is not even close to what it's previous installments were. My advice is wait for DVD. They didn't drink in the movie and neither did I, but we all left with a lot less of a Hangover.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Star Trek Into ....a not so unexpected twist on what we have already seen

 In 2009 JJ Abrams succeeded in making Star Trek hip. He flipped what was already written in myth into something that could be re imaged. Time travel is always the easy way out, but Abram's vision of Trek kept most fans happy while bringing it's share of new ones along for the ride. This sequel began filming and almost immediately speculation as to who the villain was began. Is it a new take on The Wrath of Khan or are we getting something new. It's a little of both.

 We join the action already in progress and it is a very exciting opening. Kirk violates orders, we see a child dying back on earth, and a mysterious stranger able to save her. A terrorist attack begins and Kirk in the gang are sent to bring this rogue agent to justice. We briefly see the Klingon home world and Klingons. The Enterprise is left to save the earth from a new threat that could destroy both Star Fleet and the human race.

 Benedict Cumberbach is the villain and he is John Harrison, but he is also Khan. We are given a slightly different approach to Khan and while the reveal drew applause, it was anything but unexpected. Kahn is both lethal and likable. Abrams does a good job of never letting you know who really is the villain. Cumberbach and Kirk's relationship in the movie plays very differently then what is shown in the trailers.

 If you remember the Wrath of Khan, you will probably remember Dr Carol Marcus who is the future mother of Kirk's child. We get a very different Dr Marcus and it becomes hard to determine if she is the love interest of Kirk or McCoy. She is unfortunately mostly eye candy, but I was OK with it.

 What the movie has going for it is the cast. Abrams does a good job of giving them something to do. The best parts of the film are when they are on the Enterprise playing their roles. They gel, there is a good balance of humor and action, and they truly have become those iconic characters.  The action scenes and special effects are top notch.

 What the film lacks is originality. There is a great cameo and Benedict is a great villain, but it's all been done before. Abram's story is incredibly predictable. There is obvious reason to Khan saving the child. The space jump is cool, but it was done better in the first film. I think the film would have played better had they not used Khan so early. I would have rather seen the newer version of the Klingons expanded upon.

In the end the story is Kirk and Spock. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are great on screen. The chemistry is there and Abram's take on their relationship is fun to watch. The movie does a good job of making you want to see more of their exploits. The problem with this Trek is originality. The trailers make the movie look better than it is. It is not bad. In my opinion it just doesn't live up to the hype. I am not calling it the movie of the summer, but I won't say it is a failure by any stretch. Star Trek Into Darkness is good, but it simply boldly goes where previous sequels have gone before.