Summer Showdown Part 3

This week’s showdown focuses on two comic based movies- one for the older generation and one for the younger.

Loving Him Was Red

20130717171933red_2_3Red 2 came out with a bang bringing in the middle age and older crowd. Red contains that generation’s beloved stars like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins. Based on the DC Comic, Red follows retired spies as they try to live in world where they are no longer spies. The first movie was a huge hit adding humor and action together but didn’t at all have a comic book feel.

In the sequel, Frank is brought back into the fold against his will. He wants to do nothing but keep his girlfriend safe (Mary-Louise Parker) and get out of the spy game. When they are connected to a weapon of mass destruction, its kill or be killed. Joined by old friends and new (Catherine Zeta-Jones joins this go around), this group of retirees must prove that though old they are not senile.

Red 2 is as entertaining as the first with Malchovich stealing the show at every turn. It’s got action and its fun. It does get dragged down some by the Frank’s relationships woes. But its fun to see him interact with Zeta-Jones, and Parker’s great at the scorned and jealous lover.  Red 2 is fun and a great movie, but it isn’t Parker best performance of the weekend.

To Protect and Serve—The Living

The better movie by far is R.I.P.D. It’s fun; it’s humorous; and it sticks to its comic book roots. Parker shines as Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridge’s matter-of-fact boss.ripd-ryan-reynolds-640

R.I.P.D. is the Rest in Peace Department where the world’s best law men go in the afterlife to take down the demon scum that is running amok in the living world. Reynolds is Nick the newest edition to the department and has been paired with the Western lawman Following the trail of “deados,” the partners learn that the undead are collecting gold in order to assemble a demonic tool that will allow the dead to walk on Earth. Things become even more complicated when Nick finds out his old partner is working with the deados.

R.I.P.D. is fun and funny. Somewhere between Men in Black and Betelgeuse, this Dark Horse comic comes to life with gorgeous action and well done CG sequences. The producers kept the feeling of the comic books brining the surreal to life. Combining the other world and living can be hard to accomplish but nothing looks cheesy or overdone.

It’s the ensemble that truly brings the characters to life. Parker is superb as Proctor, nailing the “I don’t give a crap about your issues boss” whose only intent is to serve the Powers that Be and keep the world safe. Her relationship to Bridge’s lawman is both tenuous and full of sexual tension leaving you guessing where the two of them really stand. This is Reynolds’s fourth forays into comic land, and he does well as the hero. But his character isn’t exactly the crooked cop the tone implies. He’s working off his sins, but his sins don’t seem that great.

Over all fun, surrealistic and gorgeous, R.I.P.D. pulls ahead of Red 2.  Don’t blame me; I’m in that demographic.

Gru Isn’t That Despicable

This go around audiences are treated to a softer side a Gru in Despicable Me 2. Now that he is no longer a villain, what will Gru be like? What is the “dad” version like? Can the franchise afford to step out in this direction?

In this sequel, Gru is no longer a super villain but the father to three orphans. He spends most of his time making the girls happy and turns down position with the Anti-Villain League. But Gru can’t fight the desire for adventure and excitement for long and joins the AVL to take down a villain in the local mal. Posed as a bakery owner with his minions and ginger AVL partner, Gru must face an evil worse than the destructions of the world: Margo dating boys.

The movie is humors and has a family feel-good vibe to it. Gru’s balancing act is intriguing especially when you think he has let his emotions interfere with his work with the AVL. The lengths he will go to make his children happy are sweet and funny-especially when boys are involved.

But, as with many children’s movies, it’s the sidekicks that steal the show. Gru’s Minions stole the first movie and continue to shine in this sequel. Whether it’s an ice cream social, or doing boy band music the minions are easily entertained and entertaining. Their ability to laugh at anything is infectious, and you can’t help but laugh with them.  Each scene is made better with a little yellow minion in it.

DM2 is truly a movie child and adults can enjoy keeping all age groups laughing thought out the movie. It’s not overly gooey and you want mind your child (or adult friend) periodically saying “bottom” and laughing.  DM2 branches out but stays just as funny.

 

Pacific Rim is del Toro’s Fanboy Opus

Homages are a tricky business. Filmmakers often miss the mark and stalely repeat events of other movies with no panache or style (think Oblivion). Occasionally, the filmmaker’s love of the subject shows and fans happily ingest the wonderful reminders of movies or games they love. Pacific Rim is one such movie,

Pacific Rim is what would exist if Xenosaga and Independence Day had a baby and name Fallout and Portal the child’s god parents. The movie is about large creatures named kaiju that come from a breach on the Pacific Rim. These creatures aren’t coming from inside the Earth but through a portal of another plane. Humans band together to create giant robots that kills the Gnosis, sorry jaegers, that must be piloted by two humans. Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam star as Raleigh a pilot who loses his brother their jaeger Gipsy Danger is attacked. Reilly is brought back into the program when as the break proof wall fails to keep the monster out. The jaegers are their only hope.

PACIFIC RIMThere are classic scenes from a variety of movies. The same speech from Independence Day is included as well as a recreation of Jurassic Park’s water vibrating. These are done beautifully giving each scene its own spin. The characters are stock: a hurt hero, an avenging daughter, the snotty opponent. But these characters fit so flawlessly into this world no questions it.

Guillermo del Toro’s homages don’t stop at the films. Gipsy Danger’s AI is voiced by none other than Portal’s Ellen McLain aka GlaDOS.  The pilots live in a compound that houses bedrooms similar to those in Fallout; the pilots seem to be locked away in their own vaults. And if we discussed the anime references, this entry would last forever.

For those not into sci-fi movies and games, you’re out of luck. It will seem repetitive, absurd, and uninspired. But for fan boys and girls, this tale is gorgeous and entertaining. Peppered with humor, Pacific Rim is a fun action flick.

Summer Showdown Part 2

Movies walk a fine line when using surrealism. The producers have to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief without them questioning it. Films have notoriously bombed when it didn’t understood when they crossed this line. The Lone Ranger and Furious 6 go head to head as surreal, and, therefore fun, summer flicks.

Johnny and His Horse

771313_017The Long Ranger is a decent film but overall it lacks the true “legend” of what we know as The Lone Ranger. Though Johnny Deep and Armie Hammer are fabulous together, the movie fails to bewitch viewers.

The Lone Ranger is an origins story. Hammer plays John Reid as lawyer who looks like the Western version How I Met Your Mother‘s Marshal. When he joins his brother to tail a villain (William Fichtner) it means both their deaths, but John is chosen to come back. Ostracized Native American Tonto finds the law man and helps him on his quest to take down the villain and become the man in the mask.

The film is strongest when Depp and Hammer are allowed to flex their humor muscles. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s and Owen Wilson’s comradeship in Shanghai Noon. They are a hoot to watch, especially when discussing “kemo sabe” actually meant. In fact, Depp is the shining star of the movie. Tonto injects humor when the plot becomes bland and, with Silver, moves the story forward.

The movie suffers because it fails to perpetuate the legend that is the Lone Ranger. Until the conflict/resolution scene towards the end, there is nothing very mythical about the Lone Ranger. This action sequence was pure Western fantasy that delights like the old stories. We know it could never possibly be real and we love that about it. Everything that comes before plot wise is just a crappy Western with a titular character who was Mostly Dead. The audience leaves unsatisfied.

Ride or Die

fast_and_furious_6Fast & Furious 6 does not suffer from the lack of surrealism. It shines brightly as an insane action flick that is just about fun and spectacle. While some seriousness is injected into the film, the creators never lose track of what the movie was made for: blowing up fast cars.

The plot? Who the hell cares? But here’s a recap for you. Dom and Brian (or in my world Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; they have no other names) are living the high life after the heist featured in Fast Five. Brian is a father, and Dom seems happy with his new girlfriend.  They have no interest in changing the status quo when Hobbs asks for their help with a military robbery. But when they find out Letty is alive, all bets are off. The two pull together the majority of their heist team to take down the perpetrators and rescue Letty.

The film is full of the absurd action sequences fans love. Use a Mustang to anchor a tank? No problem. Bring down a military grade plane? We got this. The script contains plenty of asinine dialogue but many of them are truly funny (this is the only time I will ever profess love for Ludacris). The story gets a little heavy but then Brian arranges to go to prison one night and then ridiculousness returns. The movie is high adrenaline fun, causing exclamations of amazement and astonishment leaking from viewer’s lips at every turn.

The franchise isn’t over yet. In a year, audience will get their high octane high with a sixth entry (excuse me, seventh installment; Tokyo Drift actually happened, huh?). This is welcome as long as producers remove what makes these movies so popular. The only thing weighing them down is the producers’ wish to add B-list action stars with nominal acting talent. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve had to put up with Dwayne Johnson in the last two and now to add Jason Statham into the mix? Give me a break. Here’s what makes these movies work: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michele Rodriguez. We don’t need anything else.

F&F6 speeds away in this competition leaving Tonto and the Lone Ranger hobbling along on Silver’s crippled legs.

400 Days Later

The Walking Dead: 400 Days

Platforms: PSN, PC, XBLA, iOS

Rated: M

The latest installment of Tell tale Games The Walking Dead acts as a bridge between Season 1 and Season 2. 400 Days connects past actions to the upcoming season. 400 days refers to time at which each story takes places. The stories culminate on Day 400 with Tavia.

The short download is six missives introducing six characters that will really shape the future of the next Season.  Playable in any order,  players get a look at how each character responds to the zombie crisis.  Players follow Bonnie and her two friends as they race through a corn field.  Vince is stuck on a prison bus when the outbreak strikes, while Wyatt is being chased by a psycho path while Russell comes across the same guy while hitchhiking.  The fifth story is of Shel and her younger sister and their road to safety.

The stories are brilliant delving  into the human psyche and how one  reacts to the impending apocalypse. More so than previous installments, your actions truly change the plot. For example, I had two people go with Tavia while my brother just had one. In Season 1, the changes were minimal never truly changing the plot.

The story does succeed at making some connections between the new group of survivors and Lee’s gang.  This is small though. Some of the actions take place at the same mile stones and players finally learn what happened to Vernon and the cancer survivors.

Fun and original, 400 Days leads the way into what is sure to be an amazing new season.

Want to play in chronological order?

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Follow this sequence:

Vince

Wyatt

Russell

Bonnie

Shel

Summer Showdown Part 1

Expectation can make or break a movie. No matter how good or bad it is, if it’s not what the fans are expecting the value of the movie changes. Expectations have a huge impact on Sometimes movies are sadly disappointing (like Monster University) while other surprised you (World War Z).

Mike Wazowski Gets Braces

The movie I have most been excited for was Monsters University. I loved the original and couldn’t wait to see how Mike and Sully became best friends. I imagined the movie taking place as a bed time story to little Boo (arguably the best character in the series). What I got was disappointment.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITYThe film starts with Mike and Sully as young children visiting the Monster’s Inc. In a brief tale of the popular vs. unpopular, Mike decides he wants to be a scarer. Fast forward to college and Mike is majoring in scaring though he is not at all scary. Sully waltzes through classes discounting rhetoric because he is naturally scary. Young Mike and Sully clash as their philosophies in life affect their course work. They learn to be friends when they compete in the Scare Games, a Revenge of the Nerd style Greek games with very little humor and a lot of heart ache.

In fact, the movie focuses so much on the ideas of popularity, that it drags the film down. Mike’s underdog is heart breaking but at the same time you don’t like him. It’s hard to like Sully either. He’s mean, disrespectful, and a cheater.  The resolution ends with hippie rhetoric that friends are more important than your life goals.

Meant to be a heartwarming tale of teamwork and friendship, Monster’s University lacks the humor and originality of the first film. While it is entertaining to see why Randall hates Sully and Mike, the loss of Boo and screams of “Mike Wazowski” cause this tale to fall flat.  Don’t expect a tale as charming and funny as the first, and you may enjoy it more.

Pitt’s Best Movie since Interview with a Vampire

My boyfriend talked me into World War Z. I had no interest. Super-fast zombies dog piling up a wall with no regards for the book? Pass; I’d rather watch cartoon monsters.  But then I was glad he convinces me.

Brad Pitt plays a former United Nations investigator who sees the zombie attacks first hand. He, his wife and daughters daughters manage to escape the city and are transported to a military ship. Gerry is asked to visit South Korea where the word “zombie” was first used.  What he finds is are other leads taking him around the world. Shipped from place to place and escaping zombies, Pitt actually finds a way to deter the undead.a_560x375
The book is set up as an oral history. Characters describe events that happened before, during, and after the zombie war.  For an action movie to move forward there should be central characters moving in the present. Pitt goes from the static UN interviewer to an investigator actively trying to find the cause of the zombie plague. Taking some bits and pieces of content from the book, the story moves forward briskly and keeps viewers involved. The stories are collected in a fluid tale.

The movie focuses less on the action and more on the drama. Taking a page out of The Walking Dead’s playbook, the movie is at its best when you can cut the tension with a knife. The final scenes when Gerry is in the lab are terrifying and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Reflecting on the book, it is sad the movie is not a faithful adaptation. But what would be the best way to do so? I think it would make a fabulous TV series. TV would handle the format well and real time could be spent on developing each history, the events and the character.  While not faithful, the movie is entertaining.

Surprisingly I choose zombies over cartoon monsters this time.