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The Huntsman, Winter’s War

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all? This week The Huntsman: Winter’s War reunites Charlize Theron along with Chris Hemsworth as Queen Ravenna and Eric the Huntsman respectively in the sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Joining this already star studded cast is Emily Blunt as Freya, Ravenna’s little sister who eventually becomes known to others as The Ice Queen and trainer of the Huntsmen, and Jessica Chastain as fellow warrior and Huntsman who trains with Eric and is banished by Freya when she learns that Sara and Eric have fallen in love, the one rule the Ice Queen won’t have broken in her kingdom. This prequel/sequel is being helmed by director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and is being produced by Joe Roth (Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland) along with Colleen Atwood returning from the first film as head of costume design. Check out the official trailer, posters, and synopsis on The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and tell us what you think about this film. Are you planning on seeing it this weekend? The Huntsman: Winter’s War is in theaters around the country April 22nd.

Long before the evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) was thought vanquished by Snow White’s blade, she watched silently as her sister, Freya (Blunt), suffered a heartbreaking betrayal and fled their kingdom. With Freya’s ability to freeze any enemy, the young ice queen has spent decades in a remote wintry palace raising a legion of deadly huntsmen—including Eric (Hemsworth) and warrior Sara (Chastain)—only to find that her prized two defied her one demand: Forever harden your hearts to love. 

When Freya learns of her sister’s demise, she summons her remaining soldiers to bring the Magic Mirror home to the only sorceress left who can harness its power. But once she discovers Ravenna can be resurrected from its golden depths, the wicked sisters threaten this enchanted land with twice the darkest force it’s ever seen. Now, their amassing army shall prove undefeatable…unless the banished huntsmen who broke their queen’s cardinal rule can fight their way back to one another. 

The Huntsman: Winters War  Queens

The Huntsman: Winters War Eric and Sara

With the film set to hit theaters this weekend, are you making plans to check it out? Comment below with your thoughts!

The Huntsman, Winter’s War

Criminal Movie: A Review

Criminal Review

I’d like to start this review by saying the movie Criminal is complicated, to say the least. It almost feels like a few movies put together.
I really wanted to like it from the beginning.
That being the case, I’ve split this review into different parts;
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good:
This movie has one of the most original premises I’ve seen in a while. Essentially, imagine an evil version of Billy Bob Thornton from Sling Blade wakes up with the memories of Jason Bourne. Would he still be evil? This premise kept me in my seat.
This movie has the largest assortment of actors who have been in comic book movies this side of an X-men sequel. Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gal Gadot, and Gary Oldman. And, those are just the ones on the poster. Needless to say, their acting is superb, they totally embodied the characters that they portrayed.

 

The Bad:
Where should I start? Criminal starts with a LOT of jump cuts from city to city, person to person. It’s kind of a spy thriller so it makes sense, but, you really need to pay attention to what is going on.  One of the most interesting characters is killed off in the first half of the movie, which I thought was a poor choice, as far as story is concerned. The main character, played by Kevin Costner, is not a likable guy. He does some stuff at the beginning of the movie that almost had me walking out, almost. Throughout the movie, his character changes immensely, but, it’s still unnerving.
There is a little girl who accepts this character almost immediately, which is also unnerving, as she has no idea who he is, and her mother has absolutely no reason to trust him at all. These scenes could have been better explained, in my opinion.
Gal Gadot is not given nearly the screen time that she deserves and her character was handled poorly.

FIN02_Criminal_1Sht_Payoff_VF_s

The Ugly:
Shaky Cam, Shaky Cam everywhere. If you have trouble with this, be aware. Also, I was expecting Kevin Costner’s character to bust out some Kung Fu, or Krav Maga, but, the best we get is prison moves and brute force. Some of the more violent scenes are very graphic and can be disturbing to sensitive viewers.
In addition, there was a whole subplot about guys who could be Bond villains, computer programming, and nuclear missiles. These were wholly unnecessary in my opinion. Overall, this felt like most other recent Kevin Costner movies, such as The Postman and Waterworld, both of which I enjoy to this day, but, mainly when they are on cable. So, this movie may end up as a stocking stuffer from the bargain bin at your local Wally World.

TLDR;
If you enjoy movies with interesting plots, that are well-acted and feature some big names, Criminal is a good romp.
If you like action scenes and explosions, you will enjoy Criminal.
If you have trouble with shaky cam and you don’t enjoy hasty jump cuts, Criminal might be a movie to skip.

criminal-2016-ryan-reynolds1

Oh yeah, and Ryan Reynolds is in this movie. Who knew?

Criminal Movie: A Review

Team Cap or Team Iron-Man

Recently I was privy to observe a very clever conversation arguing the true depth to what it means to be Team Cap (#TeamCap) or Team Iron Man (TeamIronMan).   Joining in was yours truly, King of The Grid Derreck, the best Black Panther cosplayer Brent Simpson, resident Ghostbuster Ryan, and our knowledgeable nerd Nikki. The conversation took place over multiple hours through a Facebook chat among friends. Some of the conversation has been edited to remove tangents, typos, colloquialisms. Overall, it was an exciting conversation to take part it and I’d like you to be apart of that too.

 

Captain America: Civil War Team Cap and Team Iron Man

Derreck: So why is everyone on Cap’s side? Seriously though, is everyone on Cap’s for personality reasons and now what they are actually doing/standing for?

Brent: I generally feel that Cap is doing the morally right thing. Even if it is unpopular.

Derreck: You don’t think people like this need to have some kind of checks and balances system? Especially after all that destruction?

Nikki: The world has gone to shit and these bamfs are saving most of us. Collateral damage is better than obliteration.

Derreck: I don’t think Iron Man’s side is: let’s all go home.

Ryan: Nope. How are you gonna check and balance a God and a big green radiation monster?

Derreck: He agrees with accountability.  Ryan, so it’s difficult, it shouldn’t be done? No accountability because Hulk? That’s some lame logic.

Ryan: The government doesn’t need their hand in everything. Look what happened when SHIELD was active. They were a government branch the Avengers were supposed to report to. They got infiltrated and caused all the Winter Soldier shit. Just because it’s the government doesn’t mean it’s any more of an infallible entity than the Avengers as a team.

Derreck: Hence the checks and balances. The same problems could arise within the Avengers. So the Hulkf takes out a city block and everyone should just look the other way because accountability “might” bring problems?

Rae: I don’t believe choosing to protect civilians means they have to become employees of any such government. What happens if the UN is corrupted?

Brent: I think internal checks and balances are different than tacit government sanction. Especially as there is no world governing body.

Nikki: The Avengers need to police themselves.

Ryan: Exactly.

Derreck: I don’t think we know that’s what’s happening. The trailer doesn’t say they are employees of the US military. As far as the UN goes, what if the Avengers are corrupted? And police themselves? That hasn’t worked so far, has it?

Rae: And,if you want to hold them accountable for their destruction you can literally rebuild.

Nikki: They’ve certainly made an effort.

Ryan: If the Avengers are corrupted, having the government involved won’t help anything.

Derreck: I like how the Avengers, a continuously growing group that includes criminals can police itself but the UN can’t.

Brent: If Hulk goes crazy, Hulkbuster and Thor can take him on. If the Security Council decides to clear the way for Hydra, what’s the plan.

Derreck: It’s just like our military today. They don’t have to listen to the President. If the UN becomes corrupt, then the Avengers do something about it. But to claim they can “police themselves” is just not realistic.

Nikki: This movie is coming out at a peak political time. Some people have lost faith in the government, others want to fix it, others think it’s fine as is. We’re just protecting our feelings onto the movie..

Brent: But the moment the Avengers take action, they are terrorists.

Derreck: Brent, I disagree. If our President gives an order that is not constitutional and the military does not obey, that is not a terrorist avct by the military.

Brent: Not obeying an order is not the same as taking an action.

Derreck: Under that logic, it doesn’t matter if the Accords** are signed or not because any corrupt military could just brand the Avengers as terrorists.

Rae: Non corrupt governments have. That’s why they’re there.

Derreck: It’s simple. There are two options: sign the Accords, show the world that you want to make it a better place and protect it. This has the chance to become a problem if the UN (or whatever agency) is taken over. Second option: Don’t sign and you’re automatically a terrorist because you see yourself as above the law and outside rule.

Rae: And that’s the WHOLE plot of the movie.

Derreck: If the UN becomes corrupt, the Avengers have literally the same options whether they’ve signed or not.

Brent: Pretty much.

Derreck: Hence, sign the damn Accords and IF the UN becomes corrupt, deal with it. It’s not like Hulk loses his powers or something if they sign.

Brent: A zero sum argument doesn’t help either argument though.

Derreck: Cap makes it personal and goes after Bucky, who is a terrorist. It’s not a zero sum. One has the possibility of ending badly, the other absolutely will.

Brent: I think it’s an absolute either way. Hydra is still out there and operating. Allowing them oversight of the Avengers means they will be pawns of Hydra. Remaining an independent peace keeping organization means the chance of that is zero.

Derreck: But that’s based on the claim that it is impossible for Hydra to infiltrate a member of the Avengers. That’s not a fair claim. Ant-man was a criminal and Scarlet Witch was a bad guy. Who’s to say Hydra can’t get involved? Add Bucky to the list as a terrorist, programmed or not.

Brent: But then we are back to self policing. If they sign and they are infiltrated, they can do nothing until sanctioned. Especially because Hydra controls the team. If they do not, they are capable of taking action against that individual.

Derreck: That’s just red tape. If Hulk wants to smash, he’ll smash. The Avengers need to be responsible for ensuring Hydra doesn’t take control, yes. But on the flip side, why should they get to dictate what classifies as acceptable destruction and loss of life? Because they have powers or suits?

Brent: I don’t follow the logic that they are able to classify anything. Independent organization doesn’t mean they aren’t required to answer for their actions or explain themselves.

Derreck: But who are they answering to at that point? Is this the whole point of the Accords, accountability? I feel like Iron Man’s whole point is that they should answer to some group. And right now, they don’t. They operate using his money and his technology but on US soil.

Brent: Answer to the government where the loss of life and destruction of property took place. We have international law. You don’t have to be a part of the UN to be tried for a crime or called into a tribunal.

Derreck: So, what the trailer leaves unanswered is, has that happened? Or have they been protected from all of that? It’s not like they can bring Bruce Banner to trial. Or Vision. If they have had to answer to the local governments, then it’s a different conversation because the Accords don’t do much at that point and the scene with the videos seem out of place. It’s a super similar question to what Superman has to answer to after the destruction of Metropolis but at least we know he ends up in court. Should Scarlet Witch be protected after she helped Ultron? And what about Bucky? Does he get a pass because he’s Cap’s old buddy?

Brent: He ends up in a congressional hearing, but it’s a fair point. Bucky is such a unique criminal case to me. You have his initial disappearance, which could be construed as kidnapping. Which makes his later actions justifiable as he was under duress, in addition to the psychological trauma he suffered in his conditioning process.

Rae: Should everyone in the MCU who has been tortured and brainwashed immediately demonized without rehabilitation?

Brent: I can’t answer to that point. There are a lot of issues with his case for a direct answer.

Derreck: I don’t disagree with that but what Cap does to get him is illegal. He is operating outside of the law. The Avengers don’t get to be the judges. I’m not demonizing anyone. I’m simply saying if the UN can be so easily corrupted, why can’t the Avengers when it’s actually happened to some of the members? I don’t fault Cap on a personal level but his actions are still illegal.

Brent: Which brings us back to moral vs. legal.

Derreck: Looking at just the existing MCU before Civil War: Hawkeye was brainwashed, Scarlet Witch helped Ultron, Ant-Man was a criminal, and Bucky was a terrorist. That’s not good odds. The issue isn’t about whether or not we understand Cap’s personal feelings, it’s about whether or not the Avengers should operate within international law. I understand Cap’s dilemma and I feel for him but that does not justify acting outside of the law. A law that was, at the time, not a covert Hydra corruption situation.

Brent: Which is very gray. Extradition and detainment varies by country.

Derreck: Agreed. It’s complicated which is exactly why Cap doesn’t get to act as Judge Dredd here without serious reprecussions. Even in the trailer, Cap says you can’t always save everyone. Maybe Bucky is one of those people the Avengers can’t save.

Brent: Which I’m sure he’s willing to face.

Derreck: Does it suck? Yes. Is it sad? Absolutely. But it doesn’t erase the rest of the world the Avengers have to operate in.

Brent: Can we just appreciate how much more nuanced this Civil War is?

Derreck: Oh, absolutely. This is definitely not a punch/smash/bad guy down movie.

Brent: As an independent organization, I think they will be called to ask for their actions. However, I can’t agree that they need to be directly responsible to one organization doesn’t cover everywhere. Strike responsible. Sub accountable. Cap’s “issue” is that he will look at this as a soldier. He will accomplish  his mission, then turn himself in for a court martial. He can explain himself the and accept whatever punishment is proper. As an outsider looking in, his character and morals mean that he will do what is good and right. Even if it isn’t legal. Guns pointed at civilians 24/7 was legal after all.

**In reference to the Sokovia Accords, the fictional documented contract that the Avengers are being asked to sign in the upcoming film.

So what did you think? Did any of this change your mind? Whose team are you on: Team Cap? Team Iron Man? Let us know!

Team Cap or Team Iron-Man

Krampus: The True Nightmare Before Christmas – Review

The timing for Krampus’ release couldn’t have been any better, as people prepare to see their favorite in-laws or grumpy aunt, or simply family they just don’t like. This film captures many concepts that are overlooked or forgotten during the holidays, the joys of caring and selflessness. Krampus serves as a reminder of why you shouldn’t be naughty.

If you are unfamiliar with this German based folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved, he is described as the “shadow of Saint Nicholas.  

(WARNING SPOILERS TO FOLLOW)

Krampus Poster

The film begins by showing a disjointed family preparing for a long Christmas weekend, as they dread the arrival of their relatives.  During dinner one of the main characters, Max (Emjay Anthony), totally loses his Christmas spirit after his heartfelt letter to Santa is read aloud at the dinner table by his bullying cousin. In a fit of embarrassed rage, Max rips up his letter for Santa Claus, and accidentally summons Krampus.

Krampus Poster GermanThe film spends a fair amount of time emphasizing the family’s distaste for one another; however, the movie progresses quickly, dropping subtle signs of of Krampus’ presence.

Krampus has a fun and  humorous tone from the beginning. It intentionally pokes fun at the horror genre clichés, by giving impossible rationalizations to explain why there is no power, or a dark spontaneous blizzard is looming over their neighborhood. Comedic actors like Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and David Koechner (Anchorman) are no strangers to such roles, and deliver enjoyable performances.

The movie really begins to build steam as the first victim is slayed, quickly transitioning from funny and a little creepy, to downright terrifying. This film takes advantage of both practical and computer generated effects. Some of the best practical effects are seen are in the attic with the large possessed toys, such as the human eating jack-in-the-box. In addition, the film’s depiction of Krampus was a pleasant surprise, as he was not your run-of-the-mill demon wearing a Santa coat, but instead a dark and twisted version of Saint Nicholas. On the other hand, the effects fell somewhat short when it came to the scenes including killer gingerbread men and their assault on the family.

There were more set pieces than expected, and the film spent just the right amount of time showing them off. The most beautiful scenes were the ones incorporating the characters navigating through the dark blizzard storm. They really contribute to the dark eerie feeling of hopelessness and isolation

The film yields many surprises; one of the biggest surprises is the animated montage depicting the grandmother’s encounter with Krampus as a poor child in Germany. This was a unique and artistic way to explain the origins of Krampus.

Krampus Movie Still

Nonetheless, I found the ending to be refreshingly dark because “sometimes you get what you wish for.” Krampus is the perfect blend of comedy and holiday horror, making for a truly fun holiday movie. It’s jam-packed with surprises, clichés, and relatable characters that bring this Christmas horror home.  Although, it has its sub-par cheesiness, and mild creepiness it brings all the right messages, inspiring viewers to not lose sight of what Christmas really is about… not ripping up your Dear Santa letters!

Overall I rate this film 4 out of 5 UFO’s: 

Rating Saucers 4 out of 5

 

 

What did you think of the latest holiday horror film? Did you think it lived up to the hype? Comment below with your thoughts!

Krampus: The True Nightmare Before Christmas – Review

Spectre Review

Overview

After a tip from a reliable source, James Bond goes on the hunt for a shadowy criminal organization known as Spectre. However, what he finds is that not only does he have a personal connection from his past with the organization, they have had a hand in all of his missions to date.

Spectre: The Good

1.Since Casino Royale, the Craig films have strongly hinted at possibility of a return to the Spectre crime organization from the Connery films of the ’60s; however, they were unable to properly do so since they did not have the rights to the name “Spectre.” Thankfully, the rights were obtained for this film and now we know that the crime organization of the Quantum from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are in fact one and the same.

spectre 62. The opening sequence of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico City was absolutely fantastic! The cinematography pans the camera to follow Bond dressed in a sinister skull mask and skeleton suit. When he reaches the hotel room with his companion, he ditches the costume for his trademark suit. The music does a wonderful transition from the sinister percussion to the Bond theme that we all know and love. This was an excellent way of introducing our hero as he is in the middle of spy subterfuge.

3. Thanks to Skyfall, the Bond inner circle is all here: Bond, Moneypenny, Tanner, M, and Q. It was good to see them all together since the recurring characters of past films have consisted of Bond, M, and Tanner. All of the inner circle contributed to film in their own way. This movie certainly had a revival of the old formula from the ’60s and ’70s.

spectre 74. Dave Bautista proved to be an excellent silent henchman who stalks Bond throughout the movie. He reminded me of both Jaws and Oddjob as he continually attempted to sabotage our hero’s efforts.

Spectre: The Bad

1. Certain actors were unfortunately underused in this movie. Monica Bellucci had very little to do and was only in the film for a few minutes before they quickly wrote her out of the movie. Even Christoph Waltz did not have nearly as much screen time as one might expect. I wanted to see more of these two wonderful actors in their respective roles but was sadly disappointed.

spectre 52. Although Waltz did the best he could with what he had, his character was a bit dumb in thinking he could thwart Bond with his various schemes. If Spectre really did manufacture all of the trouble in the previous Bond films, then why were they just dumb in this one? To make matters worse, Waltz’s character was supposed to have a past connection with Bond. Would he not know Bond more intimately than the previous villains? Oh, and on a sidenote, when you have captured a spy and you notice that he is wearing a wrist watch, it would be wise to confiscate said watch since most people do not wear watches anymore. Just a thought.

3. I’ve mentioned that Spectre was supposed to know all about James Bond, both his weaknesses and strengths. And yet, this movie was probably the easiest on Bond of any of them. Bond thwarted plan after plan with little to no personal injury or sacrifice to himself. This struck me as poor writing, allowing the hero to get by so easily.

spectre 44. I despised the romance between Bond and Swann. It was very superficial. I know. I know. Bond movies are supposed to have superficial romances, but the writers wanted us to think Swann (Lea Seydoux) was as special as Vesper or even Tracy (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). As much as I love Seydoux from her work in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Inglorious Basterds, she did not strike me as anything more special than the usual Bond girl. There was little chemistry between them and the relationship was based on Speed, a relationship founded on a mutually intense experience.

Spectre: Conclusion

I was never expecting this film to surpass the mastery of Skyfall. I doubt anyone was. However, with the same director returning, this film still had the potential to be a spectacular Bond film. Rather, it turned into a decent sequel, not a good sequel, but a decent one. Oddly enough, Spectre‘s plot was reminiscent to another recent spy movie’s plot, Mission Impossible V: Rogue Nation. Both films deal with a shadowy organization that seems to know our hero intimately. However, Ethan Hunt had a much more difficult time than James Bond. Perhaps we needed a new director for Spectre. Sam Mendes did express a reluctance in returning to the franchise. Then again, perhaps all of the problems can be blamed on the script. Wherever the blame falls, Spectre is certainly a movie worth seeing but sits at being a “good” film instead of an “excellent” one.

Spectre Review

Superman with the Kids – Review

Superman is one of the most iconic characters ever created. I can remember him being a part of my life since watching Super Friends as a kid (just don’t re-watch it now, it’s painful). My father never really cared much for comics, but went out and bought the Death of Superman comics in 1992. I think he was trying to hold on to those as a collector’s investment, but I found them and couldn’t put them down. It was really my introduction to the world of comic books.

I’ve seen every Superman movie made I think. I’ve slogged through Superman and the Mole Men from 1951. I’ve mourned as the Christopher Reeve era of Superman films started strong and ended poorly. I liked Brandon Routh as Superman, though Superman Returns just sort of fell flat for me. I’m of two minds on Man of Steel: it started strong, and I liked the ways they changed elements of his origin, but hated the last third of that movie. So much. I’ve even seen the recently released documentary “The Death of ‘Superman Lives’: What Happened?”, which would have been an interesting/insane take on Superman, and worth a watch. I just really like Superman as a character, and even the bad movies tend to have memorable moments.

As a father now, I’ve had to be selective about how to introduce my kids to these types of movies. We tend to be more than a little protective in what we allow our kids to watch, so a lot of the more action-filled movies have been off-limits. My kids are starting to get older now, so this weekend I decided it was time to introduce my children to Superman, Richard Donner’s 1978 origin story for the Man of Steel. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times, though I prefer Superman II, but this time, I wanted to see what it was like for my children to get to experience this for the first time. My son, the older of my two kids, has read enough of the kid-oriented graphic novels from the library that he knows Superman’s origin and backstory, and has a passing knowledge of Superman’s key antagonists like Lex Luther and Doomsday. As those familiar elements were presented, you could see the moments of recognition in his eyes. My daughter, however, didn’t really know much about Superman, and so for her this was all new.

Before I dig into specific elements of the film, there are a couple of things I realized while watching Superman this time around. First, this movie was clearly made with kids in mind. Many of the elements that don’t work for me had them laughing and engaged the entire time. I don’t know why I’d never really considered that before, but seeing how wrapped up in the movie they were, it struck me what a good job was done making a really family-friendly film without being obvious about it. Second, I really, really miss this version of Superman. The Clark Kent persona gets a lot of flack for just being a pair of glasses and a slouch, but in this film there’s a pronounced difference between the two personas, and it speaks to the identity that is trying to be crafted for the character. Both Clark Kent and Superman feel likable and real, and it’s a testament to Reeve’s acting that he pulls it off so well.

— Superman: The Bad —

Since I prefer to end on a positive note, let me get the elements of this film out of the way that just don’t work:

Superman Flying Around the World Backwards

No. Just No.

Reversing time by flying around the world backwards

This is the single largest criticism of this movie. It makes no sense logically, though one thing that struck me was that they foreshadow this possibility early on. Jor-El clearly explains at several points earlier in the movie that it is forbidden to tamper with human history. Was this previously a problem for Kryptonians when they would travel to other planets? Interestingly, my kids had absolutely no problem with this, though they were at first confused about what Superman was doing, but then just excited that Superman could save Lois.

Otis and Miss Tessmacher

We are supposed to accept that Lex Luthor, the Greatest Criminal Mind of the Century™, would tolerate working with two of the most useless people imaginable. The movie goes out of their way to tell us over and over again how stupid Otis is, and I have yet to understand exactly what role Miss Tessmacher plays aside from eye candy in one scene (that includes the dumbest group of military people to ever be in charge of nuclear assets). Is she his mistress? His secretary? Her plot role in helping Superman escape to stop the nuclear missiles is presumably not her only reason for existing, but why does Lex keep her around? Virtually every moment where either sidekick is on screen is terrible. The best I can figure is that these two are like the cartoon character sidekicks in an animated movie that serve as the comic relief for children. My kids thought Otis was funny, but they can’t find a reason for Miss Tessmacher to be there, either.

We spend far too long on Krypton

When the movie begins by sentencing Zod and Co. to the Phantom Zone, I thought at first I had put in the wrong movie. But no, in contrast to the after credits scenes and teases we’re used to today, this teaser for Superman II happens before you see anything else for Superman. You get this weird scene of giant ominous faces condemning three strangers to a terrible fate (at least we’re supposed to think that flying pane of glass is terrible. We’re never actually told what it is) with absolutely no context.  I don’t even remember if they actually even mention Zod’s name.  Marlon Brando’s Jor-El is the only other person physically present during this scene. This moment is never alluded to again for the duration of the movie. In the next scene, we find out Krypton is doomed, and the Kryptonian governing council was all right there, in person, to be their version of extreme climate change deniers I guess? This whole drama takes so long to play out, with it taking a full 20 minutes or so before young Kal-El is sent through space to earth, that my kids really began to wonder whether there was going to be any Superman in a movie called Superman.

Superman’s sometimes incredibly random powers

Super speed, flight, super hearing (though it’s never really explained how Lex figures out he can do that, since it doesn’t come up in Lois’s interview), and x-ray vision are all present as expected. Heat vision doesn’t show up till the second film, which was the one thing both my kids asked about at the end of the movie (“How come he didn’t use his eye lasers?”). The ability to spin himself fast enough to drill through concrete? Not sure how he discovered that power. Superman admits in his interview with Lois that he’s never clocked himself flying before, but there’s no good explanation at why catching missiles is so difficult, yet flying fast enough to change Earth’s rotation is possible shortly thereafter. Are his super-speed or time travel capabilities only unlocked via heartbreak?

The flying date with Lois
Lois and Superman Interview

Everything is fine, until they take off. Then, let the score and the whispered musings put you to sleep.

It’s corny, goes on way too long, and Lois does far too much inner monologuing. My daughter loved the whole thing and spent the whole scene in excited fits of embarrassment. Guess I’m just not the target audience for this one.

The Special Effects

They’re not all bad, especially given that the film was made 37 years ago, and the green screen flying doesn’t look terrible, but this film definitely shows it’s age.  The most disconcerting effects happen anytime dead Jor-El is communicating with Clark, especially when he first reaches the Fortress of Solitude. The weird Technicolor fade-ins and fade-outs and floating heads are just not something my kids have really been exposed to. I do appreciate that many of the action effects are practical, which helps give the scenes an air of believability, even if they can feel dated.

— Superman: The Good —

Despite those issues, I have to admit, I really enjoy this movie. It’s not perfect, and most of the important side characters and virtually every extra in the movie feel like walking clichés instead of actual people, but it gives the film a very sort of cheesy charm that works. The brief interactions with a wide variety of New Yorkers citizens of Metropolis should feel ridiculous, but for some reason they don’t. Let me touch on some of the best things this movie offers.

Christopher Reeve
Clark Kent vs Superman

While not true for all actors, Clark Kent is more than just Superman with glasses because of Christopher Reeve.

There are not enough good things to say about his performance in this movie. Without his acting, this movie would have failed. There are a couple of great moments that really define why this works for me. First, early after his introduction to Metropolis, Clark and Lois are leaving the Daily Planet and are robbed at gunpoint. Clark plays the ultimate coward, whining and terrified. After he catches a bullet to save Lois, there’s this moment where he looks at the bullet in his hand, and has this look of satisfaction that’s amazing. It’s everything short of winking at the camera, and I love it.

There’s a second moment, after Superman has his flying date mentioned above, when he shows up as Clark to take Lois on an actual date. While Lois is in the other room obviously still twitterpated by Superman, Clark takes off his glasses, stands up straight, and you see his whole demeanor change as he is about to tell Lois who he really is. I mentioned above the whole ‘glasses as a disguise’ trick isn’t often done well, and this is where Reeve excels. It’s not just taking off the glasses or standing up straight, or even speaking a little more confidently that makes it clear he’s now Superman, it’s the look in his eyes, the set of his chin. It’s a brilliant scene where he sheds the alias and is both confident and insecure, and he does so much with just body language.

Finally, when Lex tricks Superman into opening the lead case with the Kryptonite in it, there’s a moment of sheer terror when Superman realizes he’s actually in trouble.  The look on Reeve’s face is genuine, and you really believe he’s afraid. It’s vulnerable and real, and such a great performance.

Reeve just does such an amazing job as Superman. Confident, even flirty with Lois, small and timid as Clark, genuine as a hero with a smile on his face and no trace of condescension even delivering some really cheesy lines. He carries this movie.

The Costume

Superman is nothing without the costume.  It’s as iconic as any can possibly be.  This version of the costume feels lifted straight from the pages of a comic book.  It’s classical, with bright colors, and the first time you see Superman flying out of the Fortress of Solitude wearing it, it is just incredible.  I’d love if they explained a little more where he got it from, since everything we see on Krypton seems devoid of color, but that’s a really minor gripe.  My kids excitement was palpable, since it does take a while for Superman to finally become Superman.

The dynamic between Lex Luthor and Superman
Lex Luthor First Revealing Kryptonite

Gene Hackman really shines in these moments when he triumphs, if briefly, over Superman

Gene Hackman is an amazing actor, and, when his scenes aren’t being ruined by his sidekicks, he really steals the show. The entire scene with Lex explaining his whole plan to Superman about the nuclear missiles and California leading to the Kryptonite reveal is incredible. Superman is swaggering about confidence in his abilities, and Lex is just toying with him. The way they interact together here is fantastic, and echoes so much about what I like from this dynamic in the comics.

The young Clark Kent

While I think Man of Steel handles the origins of Superman well, this is the gold standard. The Kents are believable, kind, and loving. When Pa Kent gives the speech about why he has Clark conceal his powers, it is uplifting rather than paranoid, even though the content is nearly the same. Pa Kent’s death is heartbreaking. Everything here was handled perfectly, and covers all the traditional elements my son reminded me had to be there.

The Score

You cannot underestimate the genius that is John Williams’s score and how much it impacts this movie. I bet you’re humming it in your head right now. It’s incredible, and it really adds to the movie.  There are a couple of variations on the main theme to keep it fresh through the film, and the romance theme set that tone perfectly as well.

Margot Kidder as Lois Lane

Again, a fantastic casting choice. She screams a lot, and I’m not a big fan of the flying date scene, but much like Reeve she gives a very genuine performance, and her chemistry with Reeve is visible. She’s confident and assertive and immensely likeable as a character. Watching her get flustered by Superman in their interview is tremendously enjoyable, which, again, was my daughters favorite part of the movie.

The Humor

Remember when superhero movies were funny? There are quite a few moments of well-crafted (or at least well-intentioned) humor in this movie. One of my favorite moments is the obligatory ‘Superman saves a plane’ scene. The pilot, after looking out the window to see Superman supporting the exploded engine turns to his co-pilot and delivers in a perfect deadpan, “Fly. Don’t look, just fly.” Superman also gets to deliver plenty of one-liners, some of which are a little groan-worthy, but not Schwarzenegger level, so it’s fine. Even Hackman gets in on the fun with the slightly terrible line “We all have our little faults. Mine’s in California.” That one did make my son groan. It’s just such a nice change to watch a superhero movie that isn’t bleak and joyless.

— Superman: Conclusions —

So, the final verdict from my kids was that this was a solid hit. My son really enjoyed seeing all the things he knew about the character portrayed well. My daughter really enjoyed discovering one of the great romances in comics. I love coming into the room listening to them talk about it even now, days afterwards. Whether it’s about that silly guy who hit Superman in the head with a crowbar (“how dumb was that, Dad?”), or Clark’s little nod to himself after catching the bullet to save Lois, or even how dumb Otis is, the fact that they are still talking about it just makes me smile. This movie is such a perfect introduction to the character of Superman and what makes him great. It’s definitely more fun than serious, and it’s got plot holes, but it’s aged far better than you probably think it has for being more than 35 years old. If you haven’t seen it recently, especially if you have kids like mine, you can’t go wrong with truth, justice, and the American way.

Have you seen a Superman movie lately?  What’s your favorite Superman film?  If you say Superman IV, then you’re a terrible person.  Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

Superman with the Kids – Review

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

Due to my increased interest in certain types of horror, I took a chance and watched Ju-On: The Grudge, the infamous Japanese film that is often credited as being one of the scariest films of all time. However, this is plainly not the case.

For brevity and clarity’s sake, this will only be an overview type of review without too many specifics.

Jo-On: The Grudge Review: With Spoilers

Ju-On: The Grudge

Ju-On: The Grudge follows a set of Japanese people that are all affected by a curse known as The Grudge that, once it has touched a person’s life, will follow them and eventually kill them. The Grudge curse was supposedly created when a man killed his wife and child after learning of her infidelity which then led to his death when his wife’s ghost returns to seek vengeance. While this basic premise may seem like a good grounded concept for a horror movie, and it is, the execution simply led to a bland product devoid of scares or even a decent storyline.

Once The Grudge’s origin is shown at the very beginning of the film, the rest of Ju-On follows several people all of whom are, in some way, touched by the ghostly presence that resides in the house where the curse originated. However, the film presents several different segments that do not follow a strict chronology with each segment following a different character. The beginnings of each segment usually show the character living their life normally until they come into contact with The Grudge that eventually leads to their deaths at the hands of one of the three main ghosts. In the later segments, other ghosts of those who died in previous segments also make appearances although their existences are essentially without much consequence. While the segmented storyline with its overlapping timelines could have worked to show how deep this curse has woven itself into the house and those around it, its style simply did not work as well as it should and the result ended up simply rather confusing.

Since much of the film essentially repeats itself over and over with the different characters, I shall digress to discussing the ending. The ending of Ju-On: The Grudge was one that had enough potential to work as a twist ending but upon further analysis, ended up just as bland as the rest. The final character to have a segment in this film eventually finds herself in the ghost-infested house being encroached upon by the wife ghost and then a curious scene happens. A series of flashbacks show the wife ghost, curiously missing her ghastly appearance and looking more like a normal woman and mother, as she has been stalking this final victim. To me, this scene suggested that perhaps the wife ghost has not been killing anyone but rather had been attempting to warn people from the rage of the husband ghost who had not been seen since his murders at the beginning. Had this been the case, I would credit Ju-On with having a delightful twist that, while not having many substantial scares, that would have made the film worth it. However, upon remembering the rest of the film, it is clear that the wife ghost had been killing several people and that theory simply didn’t hold water. This was also substantiated by the intense research I put into this film upon finishing.

———–Spoilers End———

Overall, the concept of the film had promise and could have delivered a unique spin on films that deal with haunted houses and the like but ultimately, the film simply dredged on and had nothing special that made it worth watching.

Do you remember Jo-On: The Grudge? Did you like it? Hate it? Comment below with your thoughts.

Ju-On: The Grudge Reviewed

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review

If you’re fifteen, you probably already know this, but Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials came out this past Thursday.  The movie tacks a sequel adventure to the surprisingly highly successful film adaption to the book The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  While the first film truthfully attempted to follow the book’s plot line and stay somewhat true to the original, the second deviates a great deal. Far more than I had expected. In fact, I’ve been saying that it is only inspired by James Dashner’s The Scorch Trials.

scorch trials hangYou could call myself a fan of James Dashner, I suppose.  I don’t really care for his writing style, but his story is truly captivating.  So watching the movie  hurt my heart as his plot was reduced to a mere attempt at a blockbuster teen horror/action/suspense/romance dystopian movie.  It took me about five minutes in to realize that the film makers were going to completely abandon Dashner’s plot. I was moderately upset, but expected as much since in the first film they left out some crucially important plot details for the sequel to actually work.  Something had to be done.  It’s almost as if the film makers were like, “WHAT!!!?? MAZE RUNNER ACTUALLY PULLED A PROFIT???? WE HAVE TO MAKE THE SCORCH TRIALS NOW???? ……crap.

They essentially shot themselves in the foot after they deviated in the first one.  Dashner’s story was simply impossible, so they made a movie simply inspired by his original story.  Honestly, if I view the film in this light it helps me enjoy it a little more…..but I’m still mad.

Let’s talk about what was done well.

  1. The Cranks were nearly perfect.  Although they changed how the virus was passed along (now it’s more or less transferred in old school zombie fashion….through the blood). So the humans in the Scorch are not all already infected.  In fact, neither Brenda nor Jorge are infected when the Gladers run into them. Unlike most deviations, this one makes more sense for a film audience.  It would have taken too long to explain the complex process of the virus contraction and how it’s processed in stages.  By making it a normal zombie infection, they essentially bought themselves more time for crappy action sequences.  And what’s a crappy teen movie without crappy action sequences? f1716018a2e15b616df341a3293d7fed377d1ed4f816fbe403651b4e0b2ba824_large
  2. Jorge. Giancarlo Espocito was the best choice for this role and he easily outshines each and every actor/actress on the screen.  I was very much a fan of his performance and I feel he was the only character who was really kept true to their alternate identity in the book canon.
  3. Brenda.  Once again, Rosa Salazar was an excellent choice for the new love interest.  She blows Kaya Scodelario, who plays Teresa, out of the water. She doesn’t rock a short hairdo as well as…well….Emma Watson, Natalie Portman, or Anne Hathaway, but her decent performance makes up for it.  As long as she’s not screaming.  Seriously her screams are really annoying throughout the entire film.
  4. Alan Tudyk.  Do you really need a reason? Ok ok ok, I’ll give you one.  He as high as a kite for his whole performance, and it’s wonderful.

The Bad is an extremely long list, unfortunately, so I’ve listed a few of what I’m calling the “unforgivables.”

screen-shot-2015-05-20-at-09-09-18

  1. Aidan Gillen’s American accent. It’s horrible.  Like really bad. I go into great detail here in the article I wrote for the trailers last month. It’s even worse in the film. It would make a great drinking game. Every time Aidan’s Irish accent peeps through, you get to take a drink! Finish your drink if there wasn’t even a hint of an attempt!
  2. Aidan Gillen’s character.  He plays an interpretation of who the Gladers ill-affectionately call Rat Man in the novel.  However, he isn’t graced with this name at all in the movie.  His character is poorly written in general and I was very disappointed with someone so highly respected in the acting community.scorch trials building
  3. The multiple mazes. FILM AND BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD: In the book they discover the existence of another maze. One other maze.  It is full of girls and one boy. Thomas’ maze, of course, contained the opposite. These two maze teams are set up as competitors in the trials. In the movie, however, they discover that there are multiple mazes. Probably around like five. This felt like an attempt to ‘one up’ Dashner. It didn’t sit well with me. END SPOILERS
  4. The final and perhaps greatest sin this movie put forth is the name. In the newly structured plot, the Gladers are not tested at all by WICKED. This made me wonder why they even kept the name Scorch Trials.  Why call attention to a trial when there isn’t one? Maze Runner: The Scorch probably would have been easier to bill anyway, and it sounds way cooler to me anyway.

In the end, this movie really isn’t worth the trip to the theater.  If you really want to see it, wait for Redbox.

Did you see Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials? What did you think? Do you agree? Leave your comments below.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Review