The Force is Fit for Fans

n a world where sequels and prequels run rampant, it was as no surprise that Disney would bring back the Star Wars franchise. What was uncertain was the quality of the films would be produced. The Disney brand almost certainly lends to a viable sequel but fans were left with a taste in their mouth after the mediocre prequels from years before. Add J.J. Abrams (someone with good idea but usually ruins them when he executes them) and the trepidation for The Force Awakens was mighty.
While I understand not spoiling the story, I really don’t like not knowing what the story is about and the movie handles that in the first two minutes. Basically Luke has disappeared after a tragedy involving training new Jedi. Han and Leia have drifted apart; Han has gone back so a life of smuggling but Leia is still looking for her brother. Meanwhile, a new crop of heroes join in the pursuit of Luke: Rey, an orphan abandoned on Jakku, Finn a Storm Trooper who defects, and Poe Leia’s best fighter pilot who is instrumental in battle against The First Order. I’ll keep these spoiler free (I’ll save those till the very end past the photos).
The movie pays homage to the original three films. But this becomes one of the few drawbacks. The first fifteen minutes are pretty much recap of things that have been done in the originals. This quickly gets boring but doesn’t last very long. The movie quickly begins to stand on it own while blending past characters with future characters seamlessly. But you can create checklist of things from the originals and play a drinking game with it. A cantina? Take a drink. A villain with a screwy voice? Chug! The only issue is that the end but I won’t discusses it until after the cut.
With a strong story, The Force Awakens looks great. CGI and technology have come along way but it still visually feels like Star Wars. The characters are developed as the movie progresses with out falling back on stereotypes. Abram does not screw this up. This was a fear I had after Star Trek but here he doesn’t stray away from the things original fans loved but made it accessible to a new generation. Luckily, he doesn’t have to back up his work in the sequels; this won’t be like Alias, where after the second season everything went down hill. I thank Disney for this, for there dedication of not ruining the legacy.
If you’ve seen it, then we have SO much to discuss. Skip down to below the pictures and we’ll kick some ideas around. If you haven’t seen the film, move along there is nothing to see here.

HERE BE SPOILERS
Let’s talk that ending. While it was imperative to see Luke, condemning her travel to him into a five minute time span stinks of the issues that plaque the prequels. Plus, Luke never says anything to Rey when she finds him. This is the moment where he should have announced who her parents were. But nothing was learned or benefited by this exchange. The film could have easily ended with her getting the Millennium Falcon and taking off and then cut to Luke watching and waiting for her arrival. While this is a small issue, it could mean that the pacing for the next film will be ruined.
Parentage is a big issue. With Luke being the last Jedi, we knew that Kylo Ren and Rey had to be related to someone. They came right out about Ren to move the story with Han along. But the writers fed you bits and pieces as they went and overly hinted at her being Luke’s daughter. But could this be a red herring? I certainly think so. I believe that she will be another child of Han and Leia’s. Since twins run in the family and the fear of the force going to the Dark Side, it’s not a stretch to think that they separated her from her brother to keep her safe. What proof do we have in the film? There are two notable moments: the first being when Ren take off his helmet and the two share a charged moment. It wasn’t sexually and was more than just the force clashing between them; it was loaded with recognition and importance. Plus, they looked a lot alike. Next, you have Han’s paternal feelings for her. This is odd in the loner and its possible that he doesn’t know that she is that second child. This also repeats themes from the first films which The Force Awakens has done since the opening minutes.
And finally, I should address Han himself. Many people had no idea that he was going to die and have intimated that I had been spoiler spelunking before I went on opening night. This is outright insulting. In fact, I knew because Ford has been talking about it for YEARS. Just by reading interviews with him, I have known his desire for Han’s death and that it would happen this film. ( While, I don’t make fun of people who didn’t figure it would happened, I was pissed that people would throw hate my way.) But I knew this info before I knew that Han would be such a pivotal role in this movie. Han has arguably been the character that was the moving force in the franchise (the only other character we could argue would be the Darth man himself), and he continues to be so in the Force Awakens. I don’t say this to belittle the other characters. But it will affect the upcoming films. We now know that all the characters would show up in the next film (Star Wars often overcomes death, so this won’t be an issue), but what will the films be like without him as a driving force?
I look forward to the next film and am very annoyed that it will be so long before we get the next installment. But that does give us plenty of time to develop our fan theories.

A Cult Classic Returns

More than just nerds rejoiced when news surfaced that Fox was bringing back the X-Files. Fox has done well reviving their best shows including 24, but I don’t think Fox was prepared for the response regarding The X-Files. The premier was scheduled after the NFC Championship and was delayed due to the game but fans came in droves with rating higher than anyone expected. If Fox was trying to kill the The X-Files they failed. The two night premier shows had very little to do with one another and was probably designed just to boost the ratings Fox thought would be miserable. But the fans proved, we still want to believe.
The show starts with Scully and Mulder reconnecting after a crash in their personal relationship. Scully has tried to put the life begin her because she can’t (and never will). Mulder has become even more obsessive over the stories of a government conspiracy involving aliens and the government’s involvement in their experiments. The two come back together when a loc3al web series host bring them to a girl who had been abducted.
Sunday’s show was little more than just a recap of the show fans know and love but, finally, new information about the conspiracy arises and it more notorious than ever thought. The premier polarized the main characters: Scully was a total unbeliever again and Mulder was like a lunatic with his theories. This flashed fans back to the beginning of the series but made no sense with the character development. The writers chose to go back and make their relationship null and void to rework that chemistry and it is getting old. And where was the joke about Scully’s hair? Mulder should would have made one.
The following episode was a “monster of the week” but had someXF_sc7_0067rjw_hires2f link to the overall conspiracy story.
This second episode is more like The X-Files we remember, no longer focusing on catching up new fans. Chris Carter and company were able to get back to what they do best: create creepy stories using the paranormal as metaphors for human fears. Mulder was believable again and Scully seemed genuinely interested in the pursuit of the mystery. The only downside is that the show was more gruesome that it has been in it hey day. The production team upped the gore to keep up with today’s standards (and they didn’t really need to.)
But over all it is exciting to have Scully and Mulder back. The fans never really gave up. They have bided their time with a movie and comic books that even looked at the origin of the The X-Files. No matter their age, it is wonderful to have the show cast and crew back together.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,700 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

All We Are Are Spectres in the Wind

Explosions, car chases and gun fights are a plenty as Bond slays an octopus and saves the word. Spectre is a fun ride with a succinct focus that tidily wraps up the Daniel Craig era.
Bond finds a link to an underground organization after a visit to Mexico city where his destruction makes the national news. This is critical mistake for MI6- the 00 Project is threatening to be disband as MI-6 takes over with a new system that watches everyone 24/7. Bond takes no head when, by the help of Q, he sneaks off toff after being grounded by the newest M. But what they don’t know that the previous M left a clue to her death behind. Bond will stop at nothing to avenge her and get to the bottom of Spectre and its intersection in his life.

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The is what viewers love about bond: foreign beauties, ridiculous stunts, and snappy one liners. But t the iconic lines of James Bond fall from Craig’s mouth like stale bread. It is hard to tell if it is the writing or the acting. Craig’s distaste at ever being Bond again is a good thing. This means we don’t habv to watch him an his route performance. As usual, he shows off his body but does nothing on the acting front. Christopher Waltz is great as the typical over acting villain, and Dave Batista has become this generations Tor Johnson. The true standout performance is Ben Whishaw as Q. He is witty, brave and often the humorous release for the film. Whinshaw is the best casting choice since Dame Judi Dench as M.
The plot is thin and shake which is typical of many of the films and the twist at the end you will have seen coming since early in the film. But it truly doesn’t matter. Bond films are known for the thrilling chase scenes and fights. Add in a shake of humor and the movie continues to entertain.
Happily, writers conclude the stories of the last three films forming a common thread for Craig’s time as Bond. This fourth film ties all of them together. Villains past and present have a story that is wrapped in a nice shine bow connecting some of the weaker movies together. Bond finally comes face to the face to the man he has been truly hunting since Casino Royale ending the latest leg of Bond films.
Walking out of the theater leaves a better taste in Skyfall (even if the theme song doesn’t ,measure up). Viewers and Bond get closure as the franchise looks to the future. Until the studio decides on what is next for fond, Spectre is a nice little meal to tide you over.

A Story with Ghosts in It

Guillermo del Toro’s latest film Crimson Peak has picked up a lot of hype as a horror movie. But what is Chrisom Peak exactly? And how does it stack up to his other works.

Edith was visited by the ghost of her mother as a child and it warned her from Crimson Peak. But that cryptic message becomes less of a concern as she grew into adulthood.  Edith must entertain the advances of her childhood friend Dr. Alana McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and exotic stranger (Tom Hiddleston) with a bad reputation while being shunned as a female author.  After her father dies, she marries Thomas Sharpe despite his bad reputation. They join his sitter in their decrepitated manor England. Once here, the ghosts come back to warn of betrayal and murder.

crimson-peak-posterThe problem with Crimson Peak is that it’s not scary. I had read that it was supposed to be scary and was highly disappointed. There was some violence and gore but no scares. My friend had to point out that it was more Gothic horror than a traditional horror movie, and I have tried to see it in that light. While it helped my perspective of the story, it did not really help with my enjoyment of the film. Del Toro is a fanboy and all his best work emulates his influences and likes but most add his own touch and makes it his. This is a love song to Gothic horror stories but adds very little new ideas other than some horrific violence.  The movie is basically “The Woman in Black” combined with “The House of Yes.” Taking ideas, atmospheres, and stories from a plethora of sources (Poe, Bronte just to name a few) they are hodgepodged together with little subtlety. The writing treats us like children showing us that they are telling a version of Jane Eyre with Mary Shelley undertones. We have to guess nothing that happens as we know how these stories play out. It reminds you in exposition that it is a romance and it is a story with ghosts in it (seemingly to fight off the mislead advertising for the film). This is insulting to the viewers and lacks the nuance of so many of Del Toro’s past works.

Jessica Chastain steals the movie and too much time is spent on Mia Wasikowska’s naive and inspecting lead character that sees specters. It is Chastain that moves the movie forward, the one that gets to play a smart and fierce woman.  But as her character’s persona denigrates, her performance crescendos. The other actors can’t keep up with her Hiddleston and Hunnam are all passable but not overly inspiring. There characters just seem to be fuel for Chastain’s playground There is only one other character that stands out so some much.crimson-peak-jessica-chastain-hiddelston-mia-wasikowska-00063r

Luckily, like most of this genre, the house becomes a character in itself and all the visuals are stunning. The house looks like other you have seen before but the deterioration and the clay that leaks from the walls and floors like blood are eerily creepy. It is the clay that leads to any kind of f horror turning everything a bloody red. The red snow is insanely creepy and is more than just a metaphor for the horrors taking place inside the house. Alas, not everything is treated with such smart double dimensions.

Unfortunately, adverting by the studio cannot contribute to the issues with the film.  Many reading this will say I am wrong, that it perfectly emulates all the classics. This is also its down fall. We del Toro fans hunger for his next project, to see how he puts himself into things that we love how he brings it into our world. But this movie didn’t do that. So the literature fan in me will subside so the nerd girl within me can start pining for Pacific Rim 2.

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Kingsmen

Kingsmen: The Secret Service is hands down one of the best movies of the year. Colin Firth leads a top notch cast in this humorous look at the spy world directed by Matthew Vaugh (X-Men: First

KSS_JB_D11_01354 - (From left) Harry (Colin Firth), Eggsy (Taron Egerton), Merlin (Mark Strong), Roxy (Sophie Cookson) and Percival (Alastair Macintosh) display varying reactions to an extraordinary event at the Kingsmen training facility.

Class).

Harry sees the potential in Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, an inner city kids whose mom is stuck in the mob life. When Eggy calls in a favor from the Kingsmen, Harry takes Eggsy under his wing and trains him for a spot in the elite service. Eggsy learns fighting skills, espionage techniques, and most importantly, how to be a true gentleman. All of Eggsy’s new acquired skills are put to the test when an eccentric millionaire tries to take over the world.

Kingsman combines humor and action, making it more than just a spy spoof. With subtle mocking of society and our depended on technology, Kingsmen looks at the ways of older generations and blends them with aspects of these latest generation to create a human ideal. Though I make it sound like it, the movie isn’t preachy; its tongue in cheek and full of laughter. Witty and smart, here more than just slap stick and potty humor (yes, there is some of that). At the end of the film, you are pleased to have passed the time with these characters and anxious to watch it again.

 

 

Maggie

08-maggie.w750.h560.2xThis zombie drama starring, Abigail Breslin and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is truly as good as all the hype. Focusing on family and the psychological aspects of the change, Maggie is a suspenseful thriller instead of a gory horror movie.

On a farm in the Midwest, Wade (Schwarzenegger) must deal the fact that his run -way daughter has been bitten by a zombie. Medical science has been studying the phenomenon and has no answers, just quarantine. Maggie, the titular daughter, must deal with a slow transition into a monster. With a father who loves her and a step-mother who is afraid of her, she must deal with more than just family life; she must deal with becoming undead.

Maggie is a realistic look at the zombie apocalypse. No major event happens. No half decaying bodies are running around. Instead, it focuses on how a family deals with disease and the inevitable death of a cherished member. It is a metaphor of an aging world cloaked in zombie trappings. Scaring you more by your mind than by your eyes, Maggie is the most subtle of zombie films. My friend was freaked out by the movie because of how real it was; she said several times “They are showing it as if it can actually happen.”  That scares me more than other zombie movie I’ve ever seen.

 

Child 44

The movie focuses less a murder mystery that it does on the state of life in the Soviet Union doting that the 1950’s.  Don’t expect a taunt crime thriller; instead, be prepared for lingering despair,

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hope in humanity, and malleable relationships.

Leo becomes a hero in the Russian secret police.  Promoted quickly, he rubs elbows with the higher ups. But when a longtime friend comes to him about the possible murder of his child, he becomes a liability to his superiors. When his wife is set up as a traitor, Leo is demoted but doesn’t give up on finding out who perpetrated the heinous crime.

Child 44 is slow. Little attention is paid to the mur-I mean accidents that happen to these children. Instead we see Leo’s life unfurl,  beginning with his heroism followed by his  inevitable down fall  and setting forth on his noble quest. If you were unaware of how dark Russia was during this time, then you will be surprised about how bad it was for anyone under the regime. Hardy gives an excellent performance (as always) easily portraying the irony that his character suffers from- his ladder to the top is also his downfall. Charge with emotional and driven by character development, Child 44 is not a who-done-it, but a picture of a world that was real not that long ago.

 

Dark Places

Based on the hands down best book by Gillian Flynn, Dark Places follows real human beings and the dark places inside them.

Dark-Places-Movie-2015-starring-Charlize-Theron-and-Nicholas-HoultLibby survived the massacre of her family when she was young. The only family member besides her to make it out alive is her brother who has been convicted of killing her mother and sisters. Libby hasn’t adapted well to post-tragedy life and has coast on a trust fund provided by a public with big hearts. But the donations start drying up and her book isn’t making any money, so she desperately accepts the offer to speak at a local “Murder Club.” The group meets to discuss murder cases, solve the unsolved and fact checking the solved ones. When they suggest her brother Ben is innocent, she can’t emotionally handle it but the promise of money to research what really happened is too good to pass up. Switching between the present and that her family was murdered, Libby and the audience find out what really happened that night.

The movie is better than Gone Girl because the script and story are stronger. Instead of straight up psychos (this does not disclose any psychos in this move), the story centers on real people and the murid of ways our psyche deals with the hurts in our lives. From lies to love to betrayal to sacrifice, the movie runs the gambit of human emotions and what we each see as the injuries in our lives. Backed by powerful performances by Charlize  Theron, Christina Hendricks, and Drea de Matteo, Dark Places is an excellent film.

The Rise and Fall of Ant-Man

Marvel continues to add characters into its cinematic universe, this time from the Ant-Man comics. Old meets new as Scott Lang learns how to use the power of Pym Particulars and how it can change his life.

Paul Rudd plays the titular Ant-Man a Robin Hood type felon who gets a second chance when the eccentric Dr. Hank Pym offers him an offer he can’t resist. Eager to reconnect with his young daughter, Scott takes a mission to save humanity by wearing a suit that allows him to shrink and grow at will. Working with Pym and his daughter Hope, Scott must sneak into a top secret lab that has recreated the Pym Particle and has used it to create a weapon. With the help of variety of species of ants, he must steal the formal and the prototype suit made by the evil scientist.antman0007

The movie is funny but it tries to hard to be. Jokes are thrown in at odd moments, last a beat too long, or fall back onto stereotypes. Scott’s criminal buddies are pigeonholed into their respective races/nationalities with the Russian even making cracks about gypsies. While Michel Pena is funny, I hated to see him reduced to that caricature. Many of the best gags were given away in the trailer which viewers have seen many times. By the time I actually saw the movie, the Thomas Train Engine scene was no longer funny.

But the movie does have its strengths. Michael Douglas is a brilliant actor and he plays well off Rudd. It is not Douglas’ fault that the majority of the plot is predictable (at one point, my friend asks me if I had seen the movie before as I was saying lines as they came out of the actors mouths;I had not). But he did add the right amount of eccentricity, humor, and seriousness to Pym that was greatly needed.2048x1536-fit_michael-douglas-ant-man

Rudd was cast to give an everyman, human vibe as the character and he does that well. I was bothered that they made him get six pack abs for a 30 second shot of him shirtless. Rudd has never been that and that was part and his charm and why women love him. That picture clashed with the wise cracking family that he plays so well and didn’t have to be included in the film.

The best sequence revolves an encounter with a certain avenger. This scene is fun, action packed, and the essence of Marvel films. It’s over too soon but it will have long running repercussion for the movie franchise. It also deals well with its treatment of the past including the true origins of Ant-man instead of rewriting them.

Overly dependent on humor, Ant-man combines a familiar story with the dire straits of having to save the world. Ant-Man will be a great support character in the Marvel universe but he needs less time devoted to his own adventures.

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The Boys Are Back in Town

The speakers blast the opening beats to “Pony”. It can only be one thing: The summer movie that calls to women and lures them in the theaters with the promise of rock hard abs and nice tushes. It’s Magic Mike back in theaters and this time it’s XXL!

In the previous installment, too much time was spent on a lack luster plot that was forced down the audience throats. We didn’t go for a dramatic movie: we went for a good time. Magic Mike XXL learned from the original’s strengths and weaknesses. The second romp is fun with a few moments of sentiment that will put a smile on your face.

Dallas sells out the boy leaving them stranded on their own before the big stripper convention in Myrtle Beach (is this even a real thing, because well….). Mike sees an opportunity to have some fun and re-galvanize his life. The team (Richie, Ken, Tarzan, Tito, and Tobias) set out in a food truck once the prodigal son returns for their last performance. But the ride isn’t that easy. Drag queens, drugs, and girls set the boys off the beaten path as they struggle to find a new MC and some new routines to go out in a “tsunami of dollar bills.”

This movie is pure fun with laughs abound. The plot centers around the Kings of Tampa themselves and not just on Mike and his an unworthy protege. Instead its a buddy movie focusing on the male entertainers themselves. Joe Manganiello kills it as Richie who becomes a de facto leader for the team and has some of the best one liners. He also has one of the best dance sequences in the entire movie.

There are a few moments of tenderness which reminds everyone why women seek out male entertainers. We want to be reminded that we are wanted, that we are beautiful. In the most touching (and one of the few dramatic scenes in the film), Matt Bomber’s Ken breaks out the Bryan Adams to serenade a middle aged Southern Belle reminding her that she is worth love and to have her fantasies come true.magic_mike_joe_manganiello.0

The other thing the movie does well is bringing in strong women. Jada Pinkett Smith is Rome, a feisty
and feminine strip club owner who rules every scene she’s in. Amer Heard plays the scorned photographer who just needs her smile back. And Elizabeth Banks, well, she’s just spectacular. These character balance out the testosterone and proves male entertainment isn’t an all boys club.

What does it do wrong? Well, the plot is as thin as the men’s thongs but its those thongs we came to see. Will it when the actors any acting awards? No, but someone needs to give these boys kudos for their dancing moves. This movie is pure movie escapism.

Magic Mike helps level the playing field when it comes to female sexuality. Forget 50 Shades of Grey where women have to submit to be sexy. These men remind we are beautiful just the way we are and that we should embrace to our sexuality (and those one dollar bills). Hate it if you must, but Magic Mike XXL is great summer movie fun.

As Is Often the Case, Dinosaurs Run Amok

Jurassic World is about being bigger and better. The new park has bigger attractions, bigger dinosaurs, bigger scares. But, as in the spirit of the first film, we learn that bigger doesn’t necessary mean better especially where nature is concerned. Ironically, the script doesn’t understand that lesson. The film tries to out do the original but fails in an entertaining manner.

Over twenty years later, Jurassic World has learned from previous mistakes, designing a new park sparing no expense for awed crows. Claire (played but a surprisingly one dimension Bryce Dallas Howard) helps run the park but has no time for her own family. When her nephews come for vacation, she quickly passes them off to her assistant. She is more concerned with their new dinosaur Indominuscb26e9d8-8468-430b-9503-86ed2d62d9d4

rex who was created from a variety of dinosaur and animal DNA.. The park owner wants hot shot trainer Owen to approve the pen she is kept in. But he arrives too late as Indominus rex terrorizes the park, and Claire’s nephews are lost in the struggle.

If this plot sound familiar you are right. The movie mimics (I hate to say steals) scenes from the original film trying to out do them. From trying to eat children through vehicles to having a greedy scientist try to make off with DNA, the movie fails to exude the terror for the original. Ironically, the film is at its best when it waxes nostalgia. Those first moments you hear the theme song your heart swells. When the boys find the old visitors center an steal a jeep. These feel like the homage the movie should be making.

As a movie on its own, it’s easier to enjoy. There are a few moments of pure terror. As before, it’s hightened when the raptors are let loose. Their ability to think makes them terribly scary and the movie does well using this terror. But director Colin Trevorrow really falls flat when working with the cast. He must have asked Chris Pratt to not be Starlord because Pratt’s performance is stilted which is odd because Owen is the same kind of character as Starlord. Pratt needed a longer leash to truly become the character. This could have helped Howard as the two didn’t play off each other well and chemistry was being forced on them (and the audience.)

Over all the movie is entertaining, but it makes a mistakes in trying to surpass its predecessor. It should have happy just surpassing The Lost World (which proves that even if Michael Crichton was still alive, the plot would not have been much better). Funny at times, frightening at times, Jurassic World leaves you with a “what if…” taste in your mouth.

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‘Hannibal’: Producers Stoke Fan Support with ‘#SaveHannibal’ Twitter Campaign

Variety

“Hannibal” is not going quietly.

As word spread of NBC’s decision to cancel the show after the conclusion of its third season in August, producers took to the Twitterverse with a #SaveHannibal campaign to demonstrate the depth of the show’s fan engagement to prospective new outlets.

Producers Gaumont Intl. Television and Martha De Laurentiis of the De Laurentiis Co. are actively shopping the show to new buyers, ranging from digital outlets to cable channels. The prequel to “Silence of the Lambs” reportedly had plans to introduce the Clarice Starling character, played by Jodie Foster in the Oscar-winning 1991 movie, in its fourth season.

In the meantime, the show’s hardcore fans, known as “Fannibals,” are keeping the show trending in the U.S. and other markets on social-media platforms. Exec producer Bryan Fuller, who just last week earned a series greenlight for a fantasy drama at Starz, “American Gods,” also has a dedicated…

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