Friday, June 28, 2013

World War Z Review

World War Z Review
Director : Marc Forster 

Cast Headliner: Brad Pitt

Original Release Date: June 21, 2013
With zombies being so popular these days in pop TV and video games, it’s no surprise that more mainstream movies will try and cash in on that rush. The Zombie Survival Guide is a fantastic book useful and funny by Albert Brooks, and the follow up World War Z is perhaps even better and a modern classic novel. Now a movie of the same name has been made, and adaptation-wise it is unfortunately mostly in name only.  Brad Pitt stars in and helped to make this, and it well… let’s get started.
Zombies are supposed to be scary, a threat of the deformed familiar. One of the highlights of the TV shows the Walking Dead is that each monster is hand-crafted with polish and amazing makeup on actors.  Pitt’s Gerry character, in this plot essentially made up for this movie, faces the terrifying threat of bad CGI.  With a budget so high, you’d think more makeup on actors could be used. It’s an artistic choice, a bad one, that the enemy in this are super high speed infected people who look are basically humans but can run nearly 20 or more mph. It’s “dangerous” for sure, but because in most scenes they are barely seen the tension is not there.
Another flaw of this movie is that it’s only rated PG-13. So even when zombies do appear, the killing of them is quick or off-screen. There’s also a useless token “I gotta help my family” thing with the Gerry clan, but his daughters are way more annoying than sweet. Besides maybe his motivation in protecting them  through a deal with the army, and a moment near the end, I pretty much forgot about them.
Gerry gets sent around the world tracking down the cause of this zombie disease and never really finds the answers. What he does find are some action set pieces scattered around the globe , in a plot which definitely has signs of development trouble , that  are mostly extremely cheesy and ridiculous.  The scene where he meets some marines in a derelict army base in South Korea and has to escape, well. The lauded siege of Jerusalem with millions and millions of zombies, uhh wacky I guess and cool just because its so extreme.  There are moments of tension even with the messy low quality CGI.  World War Z actually makes a huge improvement in the last 15 minutes or so, with a thrilling final encounter. I think the reason it’s so good is because there’s no army backup, there’s no “war”   , it’s just Gerry and some people fighting hand to hand in building corridors.
It’s a shame that a “non-war” action sequence is the best part in a movie called WORLD WAR Z. Brad Pitt is a cool action hero and charming as always, but without him this movie would lose even more.  It has its moments, but overall it’s a shame that this has the same name as a great novel.  Go for the extreme-ness of the zombies and if you like Pitt, but otherwise there’s better zombie fare out there. 7.1 out of 10

Born on the Fourth of July Review

Born on the Fourth of July Classic Movie Review
Director : Oliver Stone

Cast Headliners: Tom Cruise

Original Release Date: December 20, 1989

Seen: June 2013
   Born on the Fourth of July is undeniably the magnum opus of Oliver Stone and simultaneously the crowning achievement highlight of Tom Cruise’s acting career. This is the true story of Ron Kovic , a Vietnam war veteran and public speaker. It is a hard touching journey, and every minute of it is fantastic.
            The structure is almost like a dark Forrest Gump.  Kovic has a childhood in the idyllic 60’s, a time of bright hope for America.  Stone interweaves clever metaphors into the film, an example being the “violent” opening scene of kids playing war. A older Ron Kovic is played by Cruise from here on out, and as his high school graduation approaches he has to deal with the responsibility of choosing to be a marine. Special mention goes out to Tom Berenger who appears as a marine speaker at Kovic’s high school, and also to Willem Dafoe who appears as another Vietnam veteran much later in the film. It is a long movie, but the tension of it keeps the pace moving. In a way it is a follow up to the ideas of the fellow Vietnam War movie Platoon, building upon its ideas as I’ll soon mention.
            Born on the Fourth of July, like Cruises’ role in Kovic, constantly changes.  The scenes actually in Vietnam are both beautifully and realistically shot, really bringing the horrific war to life. While there, the proud Kovic is unfortunately injured and left paralyzed.  A young war hero is left defenseless, and this is where the real movie starts. Because really, this is a post-Vietnam aftermath film and not a Vietnam war film.  Kovic goes through horrible things abroad, but perhaps faces even greater challenges when he is crippled and confined to a wheelchair.   Cruise has some tear-inducing moments trying to survive and be successful. He shows such a range and grace as Kovic, transforming his trademark charm into emotional power. He certainly would have been worth winning the Oscar nomination he got for this.
            Stone has crafted a very emotional drama, with scenes aided by a stellar soundtrack.  As with any Oliver Stone creation, there is a not-so-subtle message at play.  The anti-war movement Kovic interacts and drifts into has some dramatic clashes with the government. Perhaps the message gets repetitive, but it is thought provoking.
            This is touching drama about what soldiers who experience the tragedies of war really feel. Ron Kovic was brought to the cinema with expertise by Tom Cruise, and this should be remembered. 9 out of 10  

Monster's University Review

Monster's University Review
Director :Dan Scanlon

Cast Headliners: Billy Crystal, John Goodman

Original Release Date: June 21 , 2013
            Monster’s Inc was a classic Pixar film, with great humor and charm.  Now they have returned, and rather than a number 2, with Monster’s University Pixar have chosen to create a prequel. Prequels can be hit or miss, but it is safe to say this is one of the better ones.
            All of the old voice actors return for this, so it’s good to hear Billy Crystal as Mike and John Goodman as Sully again. This shows their first meeting, and it is actually not what one would expect. Mike and Sully were rivals at first, and the events of the movie cause them to have to work together. It’s interesting to see Mike be even more of a dweeb, and Sully being even more of a jerk.  Don’t worry as the story makes them more into what they are later. Also be on the lookout for cameos of younger versions of characters from the first film.
            Every great college movie stereotype is used here, and the humor is plentiful. You can tell they had a lot of fun coming up with all of the different frats and sororities who compete in the “Scare Games”.  The events are entertaining to watch, and especially with the characters involved.  Pixar are no strangers to having tons of lovable side characters, and this time it continues with everyone Mike and Sully befriend. There’s the odd Art (played by funnyman Charlie Day), the unique guy Squishy, the strange twins Terry and Terri, and the charming Don Carlton.  They’re not the greatest team in Oozma Kappa, but they try.
               The humor and visuals and characters are classic Pixar, but there is some deeper meaning as always. The plot starts going in one direction then takes a few surprise twist turns.  The emotion is sometimes lacking, especially when compared to Boo’s story in “Inc”. Boo is missed for sure, but there’s definitely still some cute and charming moments.
            Overall Monster’s University is a solid Pixar film, back to tradition after Brave’s experimentation.  It’s not perfect or anything, but it’s certainly very funny and will put a smile on your face. 8.65 out of 10

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel Review
Director :Zack Snyder

Cast Headliners: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fisbourne

Original Release Date: June 14th , 2013

        Superman is perhaps the most iconic superhero of all time in both comics and movies. His career has had ups and downs, but no movie so far as been able to fully accomplish the powerful capacity this guy has. Man of Steel, named ala The Dark Knight and even  moreso Batman Begins from which it gets inspiration (helped by the fact that Christopher Nolan helped with producing this), does true justice to this character.  
This reboot goes even farther back than anything else has before, beginning literally with Superman’s birth as baby Kal-El on Krypton to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara.  This segment on Superman’s alien home world is much longer than expected, and gives Jor some heroic screen time of his own.  One of my favorite aspects, which I’ll elaborate on later, was this part as this aspect of Superman’s life has pretty much been unknown in film and even other media. It resembled a cool alternate science fiction world that is usually only seen in movies like Star Wars.  This beginning  gives the film a long epic tone, as one of the reasons for Krypton’s problems is the extremely evil General Zod (Michael Shannon).  He is ejected into exile in the Phantom Zone, and infant Superman is sent on a spaceship to sanctuary on Earth. Its worth finding out for oneself, but Crowe’s performance as Jor is certainly not brief and he is involved in more than just the prologue of and does a great job as a powerful mentor.
It jumps to present Earth, and Kal is now Clark Kent. Superman is played in this movie by Henry Cavill, and he is a great choice. Cavill is perfect as both a charming everyman citizen, and a Superman who comes to terms with his incredible powers and destiny.  The supporting characters are all very good as well, with a heroine in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and her interesting boss Perry White (Laurence Fishbourne) who both have side-plots you really care about.  The Lois Lane/Superman romance was a better one than most recent comic movies for sure.   Clark Kent’s adoptive mother Martha (Diane Lane) was decent, but praise should be given even more so to Jonathan (Kevin Costner).  Costner is stellar as ever here, and the talks between him and Clark about the destiny of Superman are great.    There are some genuinely emotional moments in the story and interesting use of flashbacks, a new thing for the director.
Man of Steel tries to bring up questions of deeper meaning in this, but sometimes it falls flat. The story was interesting, but then it seemed like it fast forwarded to a long finale when Zod comes back into Superman’s life.  As I said earlier, this movie is all about the science fiction spectacle. That is the awesome main strength of this.  Zod is a scary villain, and Shannon makes his performance especially fearsome. I’d also like to give a shoutout to one of the main henchwoman’s Faora  (played by Antje Traue) who is nearly as powerful as Zod and equally terrifying.   Zack Snyder was a great choice as director since he knows how to create big explosive set pieces.  A problem with some past Superman material is that there has been little action or he has faced simple human enemies.  Facing a worldwide invasion of evil Kryptonians is more than enough of a challenge for Superman.  The action must be seen, the speed and ferocity of it is awe-inspiring.  Skyscrapers are thrown around and cities demolished. It makes the Avengers seem slightly tame in comparison. This alien threat really showcases the action power of Superman as a hero, letting him fly and lazer eye many things. That is one aspect I felt was done mostly well, however sometimes the CGI appears….off which ruins it.  The flight sequences also felt cheesy sometimes as well.  Snyder tried hard, but the influence of Sucker Punch has bled through into this a bit sadly.  

Nonetheless, now that Batman has had his time to shine Superman has taken the same approach to a mostly grand success.  The epic, dark tone melds well with Superman thanks to the inclusion of a big sci fi tonality.  It isn’t Batman-dark considering the title character is Superman; it feels more like a grand comic book arc.  I’d also like to point out some extremely subtle references to the extended DC universe.  Fans expected more world building for a future Justice League, but remember this is just Superman’s origin tale.  There may be more heroes out there, and if Man of Steel is the new DC paradigm, then I am looking forward to what is to come. 8.7 out of 10

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This is The End Review

This is The End Review
Director:Evan Goldberg

Cast Headliners: James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny Mcrbride 

Original Release Date: June 12th , 2013

            Six zany people cooped up in a mansion during the end of the world would be an interesting movie just on that. Now, make those people be James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride and the apocalypse formula gets hilariously interesting. This Is the End is about that, and the greatest facet of its plot is that these characters are playing themselves. This is one of the most unique and best comedies in a long while.
            Stoner buds Seth and Jay go to Franco’s house for a raving party where some great celebrity cameos happen. You’ll never look at Michael Cera in the same way again I’ll just say. While there, Armageddon gets unleashed.  The comedy gang are apparently the only survivors, and do their “best” to make it through the experience. 
            Having This Is the End set in the real world was a fantastic choice by director Evan Goldberg.  Many of the jokes (which are all of quality writing) are about the actor’s public personalities or are references to movie’s they’ve been in. It gives the movie a unique meta tone. The group of people is so funny, I was laughing nearly every moment of the running time.  Things even got epic at times, with some great story twists and surprises and quality CGI on the (spoilers).  Danny McBride is perhaps the funniest person of the film, and this is laughing highlight of his career.  James Franco also wonderfully embraces his potential oddness, which totally syncs up with most of the movie being in his house.
            There’s not much more to be said about This is The End because it needs to be experienced for full effect. Seeing the gags unfold is what makes it worth it. It can get silly at times, but overall it is a unique epic comedy with the most laughs for your dollar around. 8.6 out of 10