Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fast and Furious 6 Review

Fast and Furious 6 Review
Director:Justin Lin

Cast Headliners: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Tyreese Gibson

Original Release Date: May 17, 2013

   There’s a series of six movies with varying quality and vibes. Some have been loved, others hated. The fifth entry was a revolution for the franchise, taking the elements which were praised and refining them while also bringing up new entertainment horizons. No, I am not talking about the Star Wars series though that definitely applies to them. I am talking about the “Fast and the Furious” series, which is a high octane manly series which has gone through a tremendous amount of titles, character, and stylistic tones. The latest entry is Fast and Furious 6, and it certainly stands amongst the best of this manly saga.
            Pretty much the whole crew of those who have survived so far is back, along with their former police enemies turned friend. Brian O’ Connor (Paul Walker), Dom “Vin Diesel” Toretto (<that fellow), Han (Sung Kang), Tej (Ludacris) , Roman(Tyreese Gibson) , Giselle(Gal Gadot), and now Hobbes(Dwayne Rock Johnson and his new recruit Riley(former MMA figter Gina Carano) assemble as the motorcar equivalent of the Avengers.  It must certainly take a major threat to need a team of that size, and the answer is in a sorta “evil version” of their driving squad led by the vile Shaw (Luke Evans).   Dom’s team may be bank robbers and vigilantes, but they are no evil masterminds like Shaw who has huge ambitions in store.  The twists turn when it is discovered that one of Shaw’s people is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), whose murder was the whole point of the fourth entry in the Fast and Furious. The sub-plot involving her return is a very interesting one, especially rewarding longtime fans who have watched every entry.  However, the interconnected plot is just a topping for the cheese-tastic explosive action this movie has.  Dom seems to agree, as with most of his character Diesel barely says anything the whole time. Luckily, the Hobbes and Roman and Tej characters all have some great joking lines.
            By now, this series has become more Die Hard than Days of Thunder. The majority of the action involves moments“out of vehicles”, and there are some fantastic scenes. Fist-fights, shoot-outs, and even classic car shenanigans wow with their CGI awesomeness at every turn. Some of the stuff is mundane, but when this movie shines it really impresses. The tank scene is as awesome as expected, and even more so the plane takedown scene is mind blowingly cool. It won’t leave you on the edge of the seat as much as Fast Five’s vault-escape sequence, but there is still some firey fun to be had.

            The main appeal of the movies these days, the things they get DANG RIGHT, is their willingness to suspend reality. The technology gets to James Bond levels of wackiness, especially the villain’s specialized armored F1-type vehicles which resemble something you’d find in the bargain bin toy area of Toys R Us.  And of course, there is a crazy jump which might be the most extreme yet. And also of course, there is one random street racing scene because this series can never totally leave that behind.  This is simple, mindless fun right here.  Luckily director Justin Lin knows what people want and delivers it. There are better movies out there, but not many with the amount of CURAYZHEE as this movie. Style over substance is usually a worthy investment when not screwed up. 8.05 out of 10

Author’s Note: Be sure to stay after the credits. Some people may have forgot that Han died in Tokyo Drift/number 3, and they may think that was just retconned out. They also may think the happy ending scene of this means the series is over. BUT, all will be explained when the mid-credits scene starts. I won’t spoil the surprise reveal, but I will say I think 2014’s Fast and Furious 7 will be an epic and possible conclusion 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Hangover Part III Review

The Hangover Part III Review
Director: Todd Phillips

Cast Headliners: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifinakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong

Original Release Date: May 23, 2013

         At long last, the long, spread-out-over-years, and complex Hangover franchise has reached its conclusion. The Hangover III re-unites the Wolfpack once again.  Things seem normal at first and it seems as if the stage is set for another “re-paint” of the usual formula, but things change.  A common criticism of the second film, which I agree with, is that it was The Plot of Hangover 1: Asia Edition.  Many of the same story twists and even jokes were re-used, and in a mostly inferior and senseless way.   Luckily, this film is different.
            Alan (Zach Galifinakis), Doug(Justin Bartha), Stu(Ed Helms), and Phil (Bradley Cooper) face a comedic adventure which is truly more of an adventure this time. The film makes a conscious effort to be the most “serious” yet, with a vibe and pacing more akin to an action thriller than a slapstick comedy. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was in satire or in seriousness, but it actually worked for the most part.  Sometimes I felt actual emotion and tension (lolwut?) Instead of a usual “waking up from a hangover” (hence the name, though a stay to partway through the credits for a shockingly hilarious classic style scene is recommended) the structure is one of heist and revenge.  John Goodman as Marshall is the most real and biggest threat the boys have faced yet, and the things he does make things even more thrilling than last time.    We all know the true mastermind is Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong), and some of his best stuff ever is in the Hangover 3. The return to Vegas by the end of the movie was as mart move too, a perfect playground for everyone’s favorite Asian playboy.
            The majority of the laughs come from Chow and Alan aka pretty much Zach Galifinakis under a character name. These two super best friends yet also arch nemeses (it makes sense in context) are hilarious with most of everything they say and do. In comparison, Stu’s freakout’s are worn out and one can really forget that Doug (duh!) and even Phil are there. I think Bradley Cooper was pretty under-used this time, especially because when he was involved he was funny.
            The problem with the Hangover 3 isn’t that it’s idiotic or silly, which is to be expected. The problem is in that much of the humor involves simple cameos and references to past events. A person who hasn’t seen the first two films wouldn’t be appreciating many of the gags and characters in this, so as a standalone film it doesn’t have much support.  Some of the jokes are so stupid that they aren’t even funny in a stupid way. But, there are some great laughs to be had. And hidden under all those laughs is a speck of emotion and adventure which has always been there for a series which has fused surreal insanity and gritty realism.  I think fans disappointed with 2 will enjoy this one better, I sure did. It won’t change the world or anything, but at least it’s good to see the gang’s story reach a at least decent conclusion.  7.75 out of 10

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pain and Gain Review

Pain and Gain Review
Director: Michael Bay

Cast Headliners: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris

Original Release Date: April 26, 2013

Seen: May 2013
            Michael Bay has become a name which is joked about. Once lauded for his explosions and punchy comedy in films such as The Rock and Bad Boys, he made a decent first Transformers film but the sequels that followed are of… debatable quality. As he prepares for another Transformers entry and a whole new 80’s franchise in Ninja Turtles, Bay has taken the time to make a personal movie, something smaller budget and edgy like his old films.  Pain and Gain “turns the notches back” a bit, and for the most part it has some success.
Bright and sunny 1995 Miami is the setting for Pain and Gain, which actually is based on a true event (even as crazy as it seems!) A unique contrast happens between the luscious beaches and people, and the seedy underbelly that gets explored. It is reminiscent in that way of classic actioners like the Miami Vice TV show and of course Bad Boys.  Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), Paul Doyle (The Rock Johnson), and Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) are three bodybuilders who commit a kidnapping to improve their lives and get money. These manly dudemen are great caricatures, and it kinda offsets the horrible acts they do by making them very likeable anti-heroes.  It’s both hilarious and wrong that some of the best parts of the movie are the antics Paul Doyle gets into while high on crack cocaine.
Michael Bay has crafted a fun and fast moving story with many great laughs.  It’s very grim and bloody too, but it hides it in a vein of dark comedy.  One of the best things of this movie is the way flashbacks happen. Little thoughts of the characters constantly happen, and scenes from the past will be shown of how they got to this point. It’s really cool , and the pace of the move is very fast and frenetic.  Complex character and plot explanation is kinda skimmed over due to the snappy-ness, but then again this is a Michael Bay movie we’re talking about. And yes there is at least one huge explosion.
            Pain and Gain isn’t an amazing movie. It has flaws, kinda like the effects of using steroids. But, it’s FUN. This a fun and manly crime film that doesn’t set out to do much and hence, accomplishes it.  Seems like Michael Bay really put effort into this personal project, and so it is worth seeing for some swears and some blood. Watch it to beat the heat of the summer and there’s nothing else to watch.  7.4 out of 10

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

Star Trek Into Darkness Review
Director: J.J Abrams 

Cast Headliners: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce

Original Release Date: May 16th, 2013
  The lines “Space, the final frontier”, “Khaaaan!”, “highly illogical”, “live long and prosper”, “I have been and always shall be your friend” and many more are iconic pop culture phrases which the Star Trek franchise has brought to the world.  The science fiction quests of Captain Kirk and Mr.Spock and the rest of the USS Enterprise crew are some of the greatest modern yarns ever spun.  Even the film versions have been great on their own merits, and after dozens of sequels in the old timeline a fresh start (in many ways but yet still loosely connected) was envisioned by JJ Abrams in 2009.  That was a fantastic film in both how it was a tribute to the original, and also in what it promised for the future adventures for the Star Trek crew.  So how can that film be topped, can it? The answer is by taking everything to the next level, and that it certainly is a amazing sequel in the vein of the original Star Trek “1 and 2”.
            Star Trek Into Darkness (because semi-colons aren’t awesome enough) opens in classic Trek style with a mission to a strange planet. This is a thrilling segment, and it’s great to be re-acquainted with the more youthful crew introduced in Trek2009. There’s the sassy Uhura ( Zoe Saldana), the humble Chekov (Anton Yelchin), the brave Sulu (John Choo), the hilarious Scotty (Simon Pegg) and his little alien friend, and of course the classic trio of Spock ( Zachary Quinto), Kirk (Chris Pine), and “Bones” Mccoy (Karl Urban).  An impressive ensemble cast, and I must admit probably a stellar spaceship crew rivaling Shatner and Nimoy’s , and Patrick Stewart’s from the Next Generation saga.  Aside from great missions, the series has fantastic characters that are easily anticipated to see.     
            The tone shifts to, as the title implies, a darker one.  Certain events involving a certain character named John Harrison who is actually someone from the first great Star Trek sequel (* COUGH*)  soon happen, and plot twist after plot twist mixed with incredible action visual set pieces soon happen. This “Harrison” is played by Benedict Cumberbatch of “Sherlock” fame, and oh my goodness. He is an incredible actor, and his villain role is also one of those characters that people will remember forever. This is a tale involving two awesomely cool people, this Kirk and this “Harrison”, and the plot involving the twists and betrayals along the way is filled with some great surprises. Kirk is awesome, the villain is just as great and I can’t stop praising it. There are some genuine emotional parts in the film, and they are handled so well for an epic blockbuster film of this type. I also want to make a shout out to Scotty, as Pegg becomes one of the main heroes of this film as well. I was pleased to see his role expanded, he is great in a space adventure like this.
            There are so many great things about this movie. The technology and visuals and score are amazing. The many different locales are awe-inspiringly beautiful. Each action scene gets more intense than the last, and as with Trek2009 it serves as both a perfect homage to large chunks of the original stories while also crafting a unique identity for itself.  JJ Abram’s has achieved an even greater directorial masterpiece with his movie, and I’d like to say I can’t wait to what he does next as this turned out so fantastic.  Oh wait, what is that he’s making? Star Wars: Episode 7? BRING IT ABRAMS, I’ll love it too. My only complaint is the obvious Abrams lense flare which really can irritate the eye slightly, and sometimes choppy camera movement. I would also like to recommend seeing it in IMAX3D if possible, this is a film meant to be seen that way and it totally works.    This journey to the final frontier, for a second time and most likely not the last, gives an extremely well deserved 9.2 out of 10.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man 3 Review
Director: Shane Black

Cast Headliners: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce

Original Release Date: May 3rd, 2013
 The character of Iron Man is one of my favorite Marvel heroes.  Over my life, in media he was “that one red and gold guy” with a cool armor suit.  The general public didn’t really know him until 2008’s movie based on him, which also kick started interested in a connected true Marvel comics movieverse similar to the cartoon series of the 90’s.   That was a great film, and Tony Stark has been a lovely character played by Robert Downey Jr who essentially has become Iron Man to the real world. Even when watching Sherlock Holmes, I can’t help but think of Tony Stark with RDJ’s trademark charisma and suaveness at play.  He is a great character and a awesome superhero, so what challenge shall he face in his 3rd film?
            The enemy of Iron Man in 3 is deception.  Tony’s dangerous new foes deceive the world and deceive each other.   The movie deceives audience into thinking it is a very grimdark film, of which it has specks of but it is the most comedic yet.  The movie deceives potential movie goer that they will get a dangerous Mandarin as the enemy, but without going further into it he is not as much of a presence in the film as it appears to be. There are an surprising amount of twists and surprises in this film.
            The laughs are frequent and well done. The movie has a light-hearted adventurous feel to it, especially during a middle segment where Tony is without his armor and powers and befriends a plucky young boy in a lonely Southern town.  Nearly everything Tony says is funny, which makes him a likeable character that is interesting to see.  Now what I have said can be applied to the previous two films, so what sets this apart? It is really a film about Tony Stark, as he frequently takes off or loses his armor.  We really get to learn what goes on inside that suit, especially since the events of The Avengers have left him stressed and having traumatic flashbacks. Some of his finest acting comes from Iron Man 3 in RDJ, and you will feel truly sorry for him one moment and think he’s a humor wizard at another.  
A fantastic action scene of the movie is when Tony must sneak into an enemy base with no powers.  He makes custom tools and traps, showing that his true power is in his invention-creating capabilities. Little things like that bring the film back to number 1, and yet also give the film a unique charm.  Same with James “Rhodey” Rhodes played smugly as last time by Don Cheadle. Rhodey, who has his War Machine suit upgraded into the Iron Patriot, is out of his suit most of the time too even in action.
Therein lays the flaw in Iron Man 3. At times, it doesn’t feel like an Iron Man or even superhero film. One of the villians, Aldritch Killian, is apparently a businessman looking for a profit.  Now his actor Guy Pearce gives one his best performances as the snide and vile Killian, but after facing aliens and Loki the maniac fallen demigod in Avengers the threat is not nearly as much. The Mandarin is very evil, and Ben Kingsley was a great choice for the role. But the stakes are lower on a global scale, ignoring of course the awesomely powerful fiery enemy Extremis super-soldiers. Also, Pepper Potts (Paltrow) gets into some dire situations, and you’ll have to see how she survives them, it’s worth it.
However, this is not a bad thing. There are many awe-inspiring action sequences despite this.  The sheer shock of WHAT happens during them is very entertaining, most notably the “Iron Man Army” scene hinted at in the commercials which is fantastic, and the special effects of course dazzle as with any Marvel Comics film.  I really enjoyed the film. It has its problems for sure, with a plot that ranges from interestingly great to fill with confusion.  I do think it is an improvement upon Iron Man 2, which lost itself even more than this in trying to explain a connected super-hero world and what that means.  This film scales back things to be pure fun and speed. But it forgets that to do that, Tony needs to wear the suit like he did in Iron Man 1 which I think best captured the spirit of the comic series.  Iron Man 3 overall though is a very good superhero experience, delivering more adventures with the best Man of Iron around.  Due to the entertaining journey, it gets a  8.55 out of 10