Category Archives: Movies

Things I’m Geeking Out On – Top Ten Edition

There is so much going on in the geek circles this week that I’m just going to make this entirely a “Things I’m Geeking Out On” list. We’ll do it list style since we just did a list for Topless Robot this week on the new Daredevil series so my mind is in total Top Ten mode. (By the way, when you are done here, you can totally go read that over here – if you don’t mind spoilers, or have already seen it.)

Top Ten Things I’m Geeking Out On This Week

  1. The new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer – I didn’t think I was THAT excited about it yesterday when everyone was losing their minds over it, but now that I’ve watched it a couple of times, it really is pretty exciting. I found myself excitedly chatting up to one of my co-workers after she mentioned her dog is named Mara Jade. Apparently none of her friends are cool because she didn’t know the new trailer had dropped, nor did she know Celebrations was happening RIGHT NOW, 20 minutes away from our office! (I live for moments like this, I really do.) Anyways, it does look like it’s going to be hella cool, so you win this round J.J.
  2. Batman V Superman – Not in the sense that I’m excited about it, because I’m expecting it to be a hot mess at this point, but more in that I’ve been nerd raging about it since that insulting excuse for a teaser trailer dropped yesterday. Then the news that you had a to get tickets to see the trailer in select theaters? After the giant pile of MEH that was Man of Steel, I feel like the Warner Bros marketing team needs to earn my excitement, not act like they are doing the fans a favor. I mean, COME ON, the movie was pushed back A YEAR. That can’t possibly be a good sign. (If this movie isn’t another Suckerpunch, I’ll be amazed.)
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road – That new trailer is amazing. I cannot wait for this movie to be out. What a lovely day indeed.
  4. Fast and Furious 7 – Two of my favorite categories of movies are car movies (see above) and caper movies – F&F is pretty much the best of both worlds. The only reason we haven’t seen this already is because of Daredevil, but that will be fixed on Saturday! I need my car chase fix!
  5. Convergence: JLA – I was pretty skeptical of Convergence because I’m getting pretty tired of the seemingly endless DC comic crossover events, BUT give me the 90s versions of my favorite comic characters from my favorite era of comic collecting and I forgive surprisingly quick. In JLA, they doubled down and gave me not only some characters I’ve been really missing, like the green skinned Jade, Type A Speedster Jesse Quick, and Queen of the Sea Mara (Aquaman’s lady who is a force to be reckoned with herself), but gave us a girl power super group that I instantly fell in love with. If they turned this comic into a regular series I would lose my mind and subscribe in a heartbeat. The issue was pitch perfect – the art was beautiful, the ladies were tough, but also felt like real women, and the part where they taught some grabby dudes a lesson in manners was priceless. Also, a great reminder that DC has some pretty amazing super ladies BESIDES the way overdone Wonder Woman. In this case, we got Supergirl, Jesse Quick, Mara, Jade, and a very gothy take on Zatanna. This would be an amazing TV show – you hear me DC!?
  6. Convergence: Superboy – Speaking of characters I really miss, the Convergence version of Superboy was a total throwback to my favorite Superboy; the one with the leather jacket and the 90s haircut and the attitude. Team Cadmus is also back and excellently written (and reminded me more than a little of another certain science team on some show called Flash. Coincidence?). I felt like I was reading a lost issue from the late 90s. It made me miss it. Can we get this version back, please?
  7. Harley Quinn – Ok, I’m pretty much always geeking out on the Harley series, but this whole Team Harley storyline is pretty amazing. I love how the creators just single handedly exploded the number of female minority characters (and even added one possibly gay dude?) in the DCU. Also, those uniforms are like a gift to cosplayers everywhere. I want to see some cosplay group take this on. The humorous nods to Mad Max and 50 Shades of Grey via Harley and Ivy’s trip to the movies were also pretty delightful. Harley and Ivy’s BFF/FWB relationship has been pretty fun to watch play out.
  8. Daredevil – I liked it. I didn’t LOVE it, like some people seem to. It was very well executed and surprisingly meaty for a superhero show. My takeaway quip was that it was the Breaking Bad of superhero TV Shows. That didn’t make it into the article, but that would be my one sentence summary. If you liked Breaking Bad, you will probably like Daredevil. If you did not (I wasn’t a huge fan), you might find it’s serious approach a little much. Although, in fairness, this is the show Gotham should have been. A hard hitting crime drama with occasional super hero elements. Why didn’t I love it then? I felt like the Kingpin was not handled very well – it seemed like Wesley was in charge of everything most of the show, with the Kingpin seeming more like an idealistic figure head he was indulging, and Wesley seemed way more evil than the Kingpin would ever be capable of. Also, it was just really… dark. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but it’s mainly a circumstantial evidence thing. See, we’ve binge watched A LOT of shows at this point. When something is really good, really grabs us – Battlestar Galactica, Lost, the first 5 seasons of the modern Doctor Who – you cannot drag us away from the TV. We will reschedule everything to squeeze in just one more episode. With Daredevil we found excuses to take frequent breaks, rarely able to sit through more than two episodes without suddenly needing to make a coffee run, go to the pool, or deciding to go out to dinner with friends. That’s not a great sign to me that I’m enjoying something. Would I watch a second season? Yes. Would I watch it all in one weekend again? Nope.
  9. Witcher III: The Wild Hunt – I was not expecting to geek out on this one, but we watched the trailer last night and this video game looks AMAZING. I’ve been waiting for someone to give me a Skyrim sequel for years now, and while this isn’t exactly that, it looks pretty damn close. Close enough for me to be super excited to play it!
  10. Community – I don’t know why it took me this long to watch this show, but I finally started it three weeks ago and… I’m already caught up. You see what I mean about devouring a show if I really like it? I think I literally watched all of Season 5 in one day. (Ok, it’s only 13 episodes at 22 minutes each, but still, I have a day job!) The show is really funny, and has that absurdist, pop culture aware sense of humor that I’ve loved since The Young Ones or The State, and currently love on Archer. If you are fan of either of those shows, or have ever been back to college as an adult (which I have), or just love geeky absurdist comedy that would make Weird Al proud, you should totally catch up on Hulu or Amazon, and then check out the new season happening on Yahoo.
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Three Musketeers: the (newest) movie review

Well, by luck and happenstance we ended up seeing a screening of the Three Musketeers today.

Now, I am going to disclaim my feelings about this movie a little.

I am a big fan of the Milla Jovovich / Paul W S Anderson Resident Evil movies, which this basically serves as the steampunk version of. If you’ve seen those movies, you know of what I speak – wild technology, slow motion fighting, action that every once in a while is actually really good but can also get really campy, etc. If you like that, you will like this.

Also, if you’ve ever hummed Abney Park’s “Airship Pirates”, you’ll find some goodness in here. I don’t want to get spoiler-ish but there is some really, really great fan service in here for those who like airships.

Paul W S Anderson has a habit of making movies that look like the exact movies my inner 13 year old would film if he could. This is definitely one of those movies.

I am a bit sad about the PG13 rating – other than a bit of language here and there the movie was almost kid-oriented, with a very high wacky factor, relatively nonviolent fights (especially compared to the R rated Resident Evil movies). There are some quite funny character / comic relief characters.

Another important note – the movie was shot in 3D and the 3D was quite good, unlike quite a bit of bad 3D I saw this summer. Pirates 4 comes to mind – the 3D was super disappointing in that one in particular (and they both had a lot of 3D swords, so I think it is a fair comparison).  I’m not thinking I’ll see any oscar noms for the effects, but they were really pretty good and not entirely dependent on CGI.

So, in summary – if you like Steampunk, slightly westernized martial arts movies, slow motion fight scenes, Milla Jovovich, airships, anachronistic technology, or any of the Resident Evil movies you should catch this one for sure! If not… maybe not? It did have a bit of a B movie vibe, just one that I happened to really like.

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Steampunk Trifecta – Sherlock Holmes, LXG, and Van Helsing

These are three mainstream movies that say “Steampunk” to Burgandy and I. I am sure there are purists who (possibly angrily) disagree. But, for the sake of argument, I am going to say that we had a steampunk marathon this weekend and watched Sherlock Holmes, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen / LXG, and Van Helsing. It was a chance to introduce the little one to a few properties that we hope to get her actually reading soon.

I greatly enjoyed all three of these movies upon first viewing, and even saw Van Helsing and LXG in the theater twice (I let myself get scared away from Sherlock Holmes by bad word of mouth / the zany trailer, which is quite unfortunate). So, with that in mind, the immediate judgment – how did they hold up? Well, I thought Van Helsing and Sherlock Holmes both held up – this is somewhat unfair, almost, because Van Helsing is definitely a special effects blockbuster type and Sherlock Holmes is not as ambitious, but they both looked great. LXG, on the other hand, aged horribly – the Nautilus looked almost Roger Rabbit-esque, way too big for what it was supposed to be and not at all real. Likewise with the somewhat choppy action sequences.

I think Sherlock Holmes had the best acting – I loved the Holmes, Watson, and Adler here. They were a bit modernized (though, as Burgandy’s post pointed out, not as much as you may think) but still evocative of the characters. Van Helsing was a bit more questionable  Hugh Jackman wasn’t super-engaging at first (though he doesn’t have a lot to work with, as Van Helsing starts with basically no personality and gradually gets better). Kate Beckinsale’s Anna has a silly accent and some horrible lines (“I have never been to the sea”) but the character is a lot of fun and you get used to it (it doesn’t hurt that she looks great in this movie). David Wenham is actually quite hilarious as Carl, the friar. Both Dracula (VH) and Blackwood (SH) are great villains, too.

LXG is not so good – the first time I watched it I was just so amused by the ‘JLA of Victorian England’ schtick that I missed how much Sean Connery is phoning it in, or how silly Nemo’s beard looks. The smaller roles are better – I still really liked the foppish-but-deadly Dorian and generally enjoyed the more-vampiric-than-the-comic Mina. Dr. Jekyll / Hyde was a great performance, actually, really enjoyed it. As you watch this movie, you see the actors trying to progress things (Jekyll’s personalities integrate, Mina is less repressed, Nemo and Quartermain are nicer) but with the big cast and the movie’s lack of focus it all sort of ends up being out of nowhere. The bad guy, the Phantom, is a bit of a dud. Silly costume, sillier accent.

Plot-wise, I thought Sherlock Holmes had a great mystery and good interaction between the characters. Van Helsing had a sweeping, sometimes confusing story that added to a video-game-like feel the movie had at times (I love video games, so this isn’t necessarily something awful, but it did seem a bit strange). LXG was just plain weird – things happen that really don’t make sense if you think about them too much like outracing an earthquake in a car, then stopping with a missile or Mr. Hyde somehow knowing exactly how to drain the Nautilus when it is taking on water.

So, the verdict. The best movie has to be Sherlock Holmes, I think – everything just comes together, albeit in a way that sends rage through the minds of traditionalists. Second best – Van Helsing. I can forgive a lot of incoherency and video-game-ness when it’s helped along by Hugh Jackman in superhero mode, a scenery-chewing Dracula, a hilarious sidekick, and a badass Kate Beckinsale in a corset and leather pants. Third – LXG. My only thought on this one is that my brain was so blown by the premise the first time that I just forgave everything. Now it barely seemed to make sense, the effects looked awful, and the action sequences were choppy and nonsensical. It was still sort of fun, though, and I think it will prompt the little one to read Invisible Man and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and me to read King Solomon’s Mines) so it can not be all bad!

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Sherlock Holmes (2009) – A review

As you can tell, I put off seeing this movie for a long time. I am a big fan of Robert Downey Jr. I’m also a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, having read every Holmes story I could get my hands on in grade school before moving on to Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. I am not a fan of attempts to “modernize” classic works to make them more palatable to an audience that doesn’t have time for that reading nonsense. Which is what I expected this film to be, especially since many reviews insisted this was a revisionist Holmes that took great liberties with the character. That isn’t the film I found myself watching.

I mean, yes, it takes liberties with the timeline, but I can appreciate why they did it. Rather than just filming the same famous Holmes stories that have been filmed a thousand times over, the movie is a mash up of a handful of Holmes stories and set smack in the middle of an era during which Holmes is traditionally dead, because he’s already fought Moriarty, Irene Adler has been reduced to “the Woman” and  Watson has already been married. But I’m okay with that. Because they captured something much more important to me – they captured the essence of Holmes, not as he has become in urban legend, formed by a thousand movies of a neat and business like Holmes in a deer hunter hat, but the Holmes (and Watson for that matter) from the original stories. This is a Holmes that can beat the tar out of his adversaries as well as best them with his astounding intellect. This is a Holmes that is more than a little… eccentric, and has some chemical dependency issues to boot. This is a Watson that can hold his own with Holmes, instead of being the bumbling side kick he has become in most recent incarnations. This is the Holmes I remember. (Heck, most of the things in the movie deemed most outlandish were taking directly from Holmes stories, from Holmes shooting up a “VR” in a wall to him training bees with a violin to his little underground boxing match. Holmes was a martial artist before it was cool for action heroes to be martial artists. This was the guy they based Batman on!)

And befittingly so. One of the reasons I think Steampunk and the Neo-Victorian movement have been so popular is that Victorian characters are fun. They were the superheroes of their day. This was the era of mad geniuses – when men of keen intellect and odd habits were called “eccentric” rather than being labeled “ADD” or “Manic Depressive” and given a bunch of prozac before they could hurt themselves. We’re talking about an era where cocaine was legal and even real life geniuses were pretty much insane (Go read about Nikola Tesla sometime. That man was like a comic book villain of epic proportions).

So, yes… it messes with the timeline to tell an original story and it reintroduces all those “messy” details from the Sherlock Holmes stories like that he knew Bartitsu, or that he sometimes traded fisticuffs with his adversaries and always won, or that he had a drug… issue. But then maybe if more people spent time reading Sherlock Holmes stories than just watching stuff British movies with their safe, tall, skinny, “refined” Holmes, they’d know that.

Anyhow, enjoyed the movie quite a bit, laughed out loud in parts (not surprisingly, most of the best dialogue is actually lifted directly from the Holmes stories), and am looking forward the sequel coming out in a few months time.

 

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Pirates of the Caribbean 4 – On Stranger Tides

Good – All of the characters were a lot of fun. Johnny Depp still has Cap’n Jack nailed. The stories for Pirates continue to be ambitious and brain-challenging, with a lot of twists. The addition of voodoo and ships that sail themselves continue to expand the envelope of the Pirates universe. Penelope Cruz was great as Angelica, and Ian McShane was super awesome as the incredibly-evil-but-fully-aware-of-it Blackbeard.  This could’ve been a sequel that sat on its laurels but it was obvious they tried to do something new.

Bad – The characters and concepts were interesting, but there was way too much going on. Jack hired by King George? Barbossa losing his leg and the Black Pearl at sea and turning Privateer / land-owner? A voodoo pirate with a zombie crew with a ship that spits hellfire and controls the wind? A preacher that falls in love with a mermaid who seems reluctant to eat people? A girl from Jack’s past that knows his sword-fighting style well enough to impersonate him? The Pirate Lords abandoning the sea because of the scourge of the afore-mentioned voodoo pirate? Inquisition-ish Spanish armadas fighting for faith instead of for treasure? That’s all in there, but it seemed like a whole trilogy of ideas in one movie, made worse by the fact the first twenty-minutes+ is a very long caper / chase scene that really only features Jack and Gibbs.

The ugly: There is some distinctively non-ugly stuff in this movie, such as the mermaids and the lovely Angelica, but I do have to mention Barbossa’s intentionally hideous makeover.

The random: Most of the movie ended up having a large random factor due to the fact that there were so many characters and so little was explained. The Preacher and the Mermaid was a really interesting sub-plot that was nontheless completely random, since we really don’t know anything about the characters or why they’re fighting Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush for screen time.

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Fast Five – Ocean’s Eleven with Cars

Before we watched Fast Five, we watched all the previous four films to prepare. I’m glad we did, because not only did I enjoy 3 of these 4 movies (Tokyo Drift was pretty meh in my book), but Five basically assumed you’d seen them. Which was okay. It made for good times. And based on Ebert’s review, even if you completely forgot 2 of the movies, it was still pretty enjoyable.

Personally, I loved this movie. You pretty much need to throw everything you know about physics or how normally inept government entities are under most circumstances. But with a little suspension of disbelief this was a perfect summer action film. Lots of cool looking chase scenes, both in and out of cars, funny interactions between the supporting characters, and an insane final sequence that was inspired in that “I had no idea that this was even an option, but this is completely awesome.”

What made it fresh and interesting even in the 5th go round, is that this was much more a caper film than a car racing film. In fact, most of the racing this time is implied, but what is there tops anything they did in the previous films. The heist part seems to be an intentional riff on Ocean’s Eleven, right down to the montage sequence where Brian and Dom select their crew, which just happens to be made up of characters from all four of the previous films. Getting to finally see these characters interact was much fun, and I felt that the dude from Tokyo Drift got to especially redeem himself on this run. But the thing I liked most about how they handled the caper part of the story is how instead of just having the thing go massively wrong in one fell swoop, we instead get to witness a dozen little small things that go wrong, and root for our boys as they improvise, which seems to be what they do best.

Lastly – The Rock vs. Vin Diesel. You know you’ve always wanted to see that fight. (Well, I thought it was awesome, anyhow.)

So, if you’re a fan of these movies, well, you’ve probably already seen it since it’s holding on to the top half of the top ten, but if you are a fan of heist movies, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by the direction this franchise has gone in. And stick around for the end of the credits! Especially if you remember 2 Fast 2 Furious. I can hear the engine being turned over on a sequel already.

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A Perfect Storm – Review of Thor

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly style:

Good

This was a really fun movie – there were a lot of laughs and satisfying moments to be had, plus Thor himself seemed to be right on. The special effects were very carefully detailed. The costumes were enjoyable, if a bit cheesy (though they self-spoofed this). A whole lot of fun cameos for the nascent Marvel fanboy in me (I have been staying away since Civil War, more or less). A lot of cool fights with magic weapons. Asgard was very intricately designed. The Destroyer looked quite cool and I actually really liked Loki’s performance.

Bad

The effects were definitely heavy on the CGI at times. They seemed to try to mask this with big energy flashes and loud sound effects – it worked to a large extent but could make it hard to see. I think the 3D added to this – it had some rough points, and I think it looked blurry at times. The plot was a bit compressed – probably Thor’s sojourn should have been measured in months or years instead of days. The cheesiness factor was high if you’re expecting something like The Dark Knight.

Ugly

The CGI / 3D when it got bad. The Frost Giants (in a good way). Generally it was a very attractive movie – I enjoyed all of the fantasy realms, and the little desert / New Mexico sales looked like somewhere I’d like to live and Natalie Portman is always watchable, though her ditzy but gorgeous assistant stole a few scenes from her.

*Written by David, posted by Julie

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