Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maleficant :Not The Sleeping Beauty You Remember

         Taking a classic animated film and bringing it to life isn't an easy task, even for Disney. They tried this before in some capacity with the Sorcerer's Apprentice and while I didn't hate it, it didn't move the needle. This go around they tell the story of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of one of Disney's greatest villains, Maleficent. Angelina Jolie is cast in the title role and she brings with her some baggage. She is a great actress, but there are people who dislike her for the sake of it. Rumors of tension between her and director Robert Stromberg, a inflated budget, and people not crazy about the concept in general makes it a high  risk endeavor. Will the risk pay off?

       Two neighboring kingdoms have their issues. Maleficant is a care free fairy living in a magical forest. She meets a human, falls in love, and grows to be a protector of her forest kingdom. She is betrayed by her only love and grows cold and evil. Upon learning that the man who broke her heart and robbed her of one her most precious possessions, has become the king she becomes more angry. She curses his first born daughter and builds a wall of thorns. The king grows mad while Maleficant watches and befriends his daughter. Soon she begins to regret the curse that cannot be broken and discovers that she is both the hero and villain of the story.

    Angelina Jolie looks the part. She can play dark and lonely, but at the same time is great when she brings comedy to the classic villain. The look of the film is incredible and it really does a great job of bringing the character to life. She is the villain of the story, but you cannot help but sympathize with her plight. The magic is fun and it's tough to imagine anyone, but Jolie in the role.

     The rest of the cast is fun too. Sharlto Copley is such a good villain. He is a great actor that I think a lot of people over look. He is the bad guy, but he does a great job struggling with the evil side of himself. Copley is the king, but is so good at being crazy that it's fun to watch. He is great when he begs and believable when dishing out threats.

      Maleficant is visually stunning. The story takes what you loved about the classic and creates depth. It makes the old new again. Great cast, great balance of action and story, and fun for nearly every age and gender. Disney has lost a lot in the last few summers. John Carter, The Lone Ranger, and a couple of others. Maleficant was a risk, but some risks pay off and this one should. It is definitely worth the reward and truly is a beautiful film. It's not the classic Sleeping Beauty, but it offers up so much more.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

X-MEN:Days Of Future Past Storyline Corrections

   There is a lot riding on the X-Men franchise. It is arguably one of the most popular comic books in existence. The film adaptations have made sick money, but it also is a franchise that has left it's fan base angered at times. The third installment of the franchise causes fans the most strife. Fox is also notorious for ruining characters. This time around they take one of the most popular story arcs in the comics and attempt to bring it to life. My friend McConnel would probably agree that the fan boy in me really comes out when it comes to X-Men. Make no mistake, I hated X-Men the Last Stand. It was in a word,"garbage." Characters filled the screen to be used wrong and serve no real purpose. It took another popular story arc and failed miserably to bring it to life. Fox now brings Bryan Singer back and away we go.

  In a very "Terminator-esque," future the mutants and humans are all but extinct. The few that remain are desperately trying to save the world. They have found a way to alter the timeline and prevent the current world they live in from existing. Based on his healing factor, Wolverine (Huge Jacked-Man) is sent back to 1973 to stop the events that led to their current world being created. A world where giant robots called, "Sentinels," hunt humans and mutants alike. Wolverine awakens to a mentally broken Professor X and a Magneto imprisoned by the government. Time is running out and the fate of the world is once again in Wolverine's hands.

    Hugh is better than ever as Logan. I was a fan of, "The Wolverine." It had flaws, but they finally got the character right. Jackman is slides right into the role again and wears it like a glove. Time travel has always been the Hollywood way of correcting problems and they do their best to fix the issues most of us had with Wolverine's first solo outing. The door is wide open for wear Wolverine ends up next. The film doesn't erase the bastardization of Dead pool, but after this it will be easy to try and forget it.

    You win an Oscar and you get to be the start. It was that way for Halle Berry which didn't go so well in X3 and now it's Jennifer Lawrence's movie, but it works. Mystique is the center of this story. Lawrence doesn't disappoint. She looks incredible and carries her load well. I don't know that a solo Mystique move would work, but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.

   There are pretty significant differences between the movie and the comic arc, but they work for the movie. The old and young versions of Xavier and Magneto play very well. They take liberties with a few of the characters, but it doesn't hurt the film. A few characters didn't make the cut, but the ones that did are used properly. People wanted explanations for Beast being human, Xavier walking, and where the rest of the First Class are? Those questions are answered in a satisfactory manor. They pretty much give the finger to X3 and I applaud that direction. Quicksilver isn't as bad as he looks and Peter Dinklage is good, but Boliver Trask is not nearly the monster that Tyrion Lanister is.

   The are some fun story moments and it is epic in scale. They still can't seem to do what all X films do and put characters that don't belong into a story. Bishop being one of them. He works well enough, but much like "Angel," in X-Men: First Class, he doesn't fit here. It was cool to see Ice Man closer to right and Blink is very cool. It's not as good as X2, but it is a shot of improvement into a franchise that needed it. It's worth the ride and make sure you stay to the last credits roll. The future is wide open, but the quick trip to the past is right up there with the end of The Avengers and the Thanos reveal .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Godzilla....This Time Plot Matters

         Godzilla isn't a stranger to the big screen. Low budget Japanese movies from before most of us were born and of course the really bad 1998 remake. He has seen cartoons, toys, and even video games. Monster movies had a cult following, but how well does a giant monster fare in 2014 American cinema?

        Story is what the 1998 version lacked and this is the first thing that the film gets right. An accident at a nuclear plant leaves a scientist (Bryan Cranston) angry and grief stricken, he spends fifteen years trying to solve the mystery surrounding a nuclear disaster that killed his wife. Another scientist (Ken Watanabe) is called in to research the discovery at the plant and releases an even bigger threat onto the earth. When Cranston is arrested for trespassing his son (Aaron-Taylor Johnson) must retrieve him and becomes involved in the global threat. Monsters begin attacking human populations and an even bigger monster wrecks havoc in an attempt to stop them.

          The design of Godzilla is really cool. It looks like he is fighting the monster from Cloverfield even though that isn't the case. The back story of Godzilla is barely explained, but it still works. You never actually get a solid explanation of where any of the monsters come from. We get theories from Watanabe's characters  and surprisingly it works fine. The fights are cool and you can tell that they really tried to stay true to what the classic Japanese films were about.

         The cast is solid. The human involvement is handled well and I liked the scope. There are some moments that seem far fetched, but we are talking about a movie with giant monsters. Suspend your disbelief and just go with it. We go awhile without a Godzilla reveal, but it is worth the wait. My biggest complaint is that Cranston isn't in the movie long enough. I am also having trouble watching whole cities get destroyed. I guess it's a sign of the world we live in. I enjoyed the fact that Godzilla was the good guy, I appreciated the story, and had a lot of fun. Grab some popcorn, relax, and spend the first part of summer with the king of monsters.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Amazingly Flawed Spider-Man 2

   Spider-Man made money, but people were mixed on the story from Sony's reboot. I loved Garfield, but thought the movie lacked the heart of Raimi's first effort. It promised a story we hadn't heard before, but we didn't exactly get that. Director Mark Webb has brought Andrew Garfield and  Emma Stone back for another spin. The trailers show more villains, a great looking costume, and the promise of Spidey's greatest battle. Does it deliver? Yes and no. The film is a good movie that has a lot wrong with it.

We pick up after the last one. Spidey is more comfortable as a super hero and has broken his promise of staying away from Gwen Stacy. We watch Peter struggle with his parents disappearance, his relationship with Gwen, and his problems with Oscorp. He gets reacquainted with Harry Osborn and learns of his secret motives. In the middle of it all, Electro is born and threatens the city and Spider-Man is the only one who can save them all.

 Let's start with the good....

 The Green Goblin. It was a great take on the character. The costume lacked a bit, but Dane Dehaan delivers and was a great Harry Osborn. He plays a good crazy. His Harry has plenty of issues and Dehaan really does a good job of taking us on Harry's journey. I am interested to see where his story evolves in the next chapter.

  The villains in general were OK. There are a lot of the in the movie. Spider-Man 3 made the mistake of villain overload. It didn't play well,but Webb did a great job of keeping them balanced. The fight scenes with all of them were fun and VERY well done. The mechanical Rhino makes sense and fits into this world. I plays well with the different take on Goblin. There are Dr. Octopus and Vulture hints as well and rumors of a Sinister Six film.

 Electro has a different look than the comic. They chose a more modern route and the effects were pretty cool. The battle scenes with Spider-Man and Electro deliver on all levels. Electro's new look again fits better into this world than a big lightening bolt mask would. Electro was decent, but we will cover the alter-ego in a few.

   The story is about Peter and Gwen. Their relationship. She was Peter's first love and the promise he broke. Garfield and Stone have chemistry and it is definitely a bright point to the film. The only problem I had is that it's too much. The on again off again makes the movie drag. I understand the need for emotion, but it was already established. Comic fans know the arc of Gwen's character and it is handled very well. Slightly different than in the comic, but it plays very well. The call to cut Mary Jane from the movie was the right one.

All of the above worked, but a lot didn't.

 Jamie Foxx is the biggest flaw. He is a great actor, but the story does him no favors. It literally takes the Riddler story from Batman Forever, changes a couple of things, and throws it into Spider-Man. The obsessed nerd with anger issues. The actor, the character, and the fans deserved more. Jamie is capable, but isn't given much to work with beyond some cool C.G.I.

 I appreciate that they followed up on the story of Peter's parents, but there is so much conflict let's start with some chronological fact.  Peter graduates in 2014 making him at maximum 18 years old.... His parents crash in a very advanced jet for 1997. They upload files on wireless/ in flight Internet that wasn't created until just a few years ago. The Sony Vaio product placement lap top was too advanced for circa 2001. Minor flaws, but I hate when people don't correctly research things.

 Aunt May goes to nursing school? She starts taking classes and at one point looks like she has been the head of nursing for years.

 Chris Cooper is wasted as Norman Osborn. Love the concept, but we get Harry too quickly in the Goblin role.

Peter sells photos to the Bugle, we see the Bugle, but we don;t get J.J.Jameson. Disappointing.

The suit is fantastic. The web singing is top notch. The film is better than the first and Andrew Garfield is a great Peter Parker. It is 45 min too long and needs some continuity help, but isn't bad. It will make money and I am happy with the direction the Spider-Man is swinging in. Give us J.J. Stop trying to make us feel sorry for the bad guys. It's close, but we are just not there yet.