Category Archives: Pop Culture

This is a general category encompassing a large number of topics that are popular or trending, but in the areas of music, television, movies, books, fashion, or social trends like social media, “twerking”, fads, etc.

Wonder Woman: Movie Review

When Batman v. Superman was first being advertised I was probably more excited at the prospect of the movie than I was about any other comic book movie to date, with perhaps the exception of Captain America 2 and 3 (Winter Soldier and Civil War). Wonder Woman had been teased as a character that would be fighting alongside the Caped Crusader in some of the final trailers just before the films release. This raised my interest but still wasn’t my selling point for BvS. Then when I saw BvS in theaters for the first time I was so incredibly impressed with Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman that she was one of my favorite aspects of the movie. So much so that the then Wonder Woman movie which was still over a year out movie made it on to my must see list for 2017.

While I admit I still enjoyed Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad, none of them were great movies like can be said for some of Marvel’s MCU offerings. The bad part of a movie setting the bar so high for a genre is that it’s almost impossible to reach. The bad part about setting a bar so low is that you can’t help but trip on it, and even when you manage to make a decent movie it’s easy to fall victim to the “well of course it’s a good movie, look what we’re comparing it to” attitude. I worried that would happen with Wonder Woman.

Lucky for me, that didn’t happen. Yesterday my fiancé and I saw Wonder Woman in theaters and I was impressed. I mean thoroughly impressed. DC finally spent some time on a movie and didn’t just rush it into theaters. This movie was thoughtfully put together with a good story, a good set of characters, solid plot, great acting, good pace, and above all else, good action.

I love the slew of comic book movies we’ve enjoyed over the past decade and a half but even I can admit that we run the risk of genre fatigue at the rate these movies are being popped out. Wonder Woman was a much needed breath a fresh air in a genre that was starting to become stagnant.

We can talk about what this movie is, but I think it would be a better idea to first talk about what this movie is not.

It’s not boring. Not even a little. Nor is it rushed. The movie has a great rhythm. They don’t spend too much time on the origin aspect, nor do they rush through it (I’m looking at your X-Men Origins Wolverine). This porridge is juuuuuust right.

It’s not a testosterone fest. I love me some action. Daredevil season 2 has some of the most badass fight scenes to ever grace the television set and that’s great if you want to watch two men kick the snot out of each other. But this movie is different and while Wonder Woman no doubt kicks ass her fighting style is more fluid than it is brutal. She’s quick, she’s graceful, she’s always on point, and she still hits like a ton of bricks. There’s no Civil War chest pumping, no Batman brooding.

It’s not a chick flick. Just because it’s got a female lead doesn’t make this movie a slouch, or make it a chick flick. Diana Prince brings a new perspective to what it means to be a hero. Yes, a more womanly based approach that we’re not used to seeing, but a valid one. Fellas, this is not a movie meant to trick you into seeing an action movie that ends up turning into a romantic comedy.

It’s not a SJW shit flick. This movie is not trying to shove some anti patriarchy, man hating, women rule boys drool propaganda down your throat. It’s not. Don’t worry that you’ll get dragged into this movie to be told how evil you are for having a dick.

It doesn’t look CGI heavy. I say look because there’s no doubt this movie used a ton of Hollywood magic but the movie still appears very clean. The CG is not in your face, it’s very subtle. Basically, this movie wasn’t Avatar. It wasn’t Transformers. It didn’t make your eyes bleed.

It’s hard to believe that the DCEU could make a legitimately good movie. While none of the other three films were commercial flops by any metric, they just weren’t great movies. The DCEU up to this point has been a hot mess, and considering that no movie studio, not even the successful Disney / Marvel studio has made a comic book movie with a female lead, it seemed like very dangerous territory for DC  to venture into. But it looks like a female lead and a female director we’re exactly what the doctor ordered for this studio and wow, did it work.

So here’s what we got. This movie had a good amount of action and it progresses with the movie as Diane comes into her own, with the realization of what she is, and what she’s capable of doing. There are many different types of action sequences with scenes so ranging they feel like they came out of Troy, Captain America Winter Soldier, and Saving Private Ryan.

The casting was great. The best of any DCEU movie so far. Gal Gadot is absolutely beautiful, I mean just stunning (and a much better pick than Ronda Rousey). She can pull off the warrior princess, but she can also pull the sophisticated, elegant Diana Prince. Whether she’s flaunting a dress, a pea coat, or a sword and shield, Gadot steals whatever scene she is in. Remember, this is her second debut as Wonder Woman in just over a year and I have high hopes for her third debut in November’s Justice League.

I heard Chris Pine’s character as being the ‘damsel in distress’ and that’s far from the truth. This wasn’t about one gender being helpless, and the other having to save them. This movie illustrated that men and women have different qualities that can augment the other. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor struggles to find the balance between duty and conscience that most men do. At what point do you abandon orders and do what you know in your heart to be the right thing? Diana Prince helps him to see that morality and duty don’t have to be mutually exclusive. At the same time, Steve Trevor tries to teach Diana that things are not always as simple as black and white, and sometimes you must get your hands dirty to clean up a mess.

Robin Wright did a great job as Antiope. Wright is elegant, sexy, poised, and poisonous as Claire Underwood in House of Cards, but she is straight rugged in her role as a badass Amazon warrior. Her role was short lived, but certainly memorable.

David Thewlis as Ares, the god of war was a bit of a surprise to me, so it might be a bit of a spoiler to you. But IMBD has him listed in the role, so the cats already out of the bag.

Danny Huston does a good villain, and he performed as expected as General Ludendorff, the main protagonist of the first two acts of the movie. Fox Studios botched his role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (as they did most of the entire movie) so it was nice to see him get a role suitable for his abilities.

Wonder Woman will not be a movie soon forgotten. This movie easily gets an 8/10 score from me, and will be the first movie from the DCEU that I care to own on Blu-Ray. Here’s hoping that Gal Godot is not acted out, and can pull off this character a third time in just a year and a half with this fall’s Justice League. I expect this movie will do commercial well. Just like children’s movies result in the parents having to buy a ticket, this movie will probably draw not just the usual male comic book movie crowd, but their wives and girlfriends (if those dorks have any). If you want an action and adventure movie to jump start your summer, I recommend this over Disney’s seafaring five-quel.

Go see Wonder Woman. And bring your wife and kids too.

Batman v Superman: Movie Review

This has been the hardest movie for me to write a review about. Not because it was a horrible movie – it was a great movie – but because of the controversy and fanatic backlash that was thrown against it before it even hit the theaters.

Considering this is the first time ever that the two most popular and beloved comic book heroes in history would share the silver screen together, it’s amazing that Batman v Superman has had such a huge cloud of doubt surrounding it. If Marvel was able to turn heroes with no prior mass recognition like Iron Man, Thor, and Guardians of the Galaxy into hits, then surely Batman and Superman, the two most recognizable characters in existence should be an easy sell. It seems like this movie has been anything but.

Because of the magnitude of the movie, and because the trailers gave away very little about the movie (compared to Deadpool for example), it’s hard to do a review about the film and say why I loved it so much without also spoiling many of the finer points. Fair warning, this review does contain some minor spoilers.

The most important thing I took away from the movie is that you should forget everything you think you know about Batman and Superman. The closest source material I could think of is the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns and the two-part animated film of the same name. Aside from those amazing pieces, this movie does not feature the Batman and Superman you grew up with and are accustomed to.

Paradigm Shift

According to the dictionary, a paradigm shift means a “fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.”  What I loved about BVS is that the movie took a lot of liberties with the characters and sort of reimagined their roles. Zack Snyder recognizes that we live in a different world than we used to, and a vastly different world than existed when the two titular characters were created in 1939 and 1938 respectively. As such, Zack Snyder created a paradigm shift in this DC Universe where the things we accept as fact – specifically as they relate to Batman/Bruce Wayne – are no longer the case.

Batman and Superman are no longer simply squaring off against bank robbers and cat burglars. These days our world has to contend with darker realities like human trafficking, drug cartels, pedophilia rings and terrorism. As the troubles we face evolve, so too do our heroes.

But as every cause has an effect, every effect has a cause. BVS shows you how changing the smallest of details about a character’s backstory can result in massive consequences and change of path. As time goes on, the gap between one path and the other widens, and the differences in outcome are glaring.

In 2005’s Batman Begins, a young Bruce Wayne witnesses his mother and father get gunned down outside the opera, and just before they get shot Thomas Wayne pleads with the assailant and tries to pacify the situation, ultimately getting killed despite his efforts. BVS begs the question, what if instead of trying to resolve the situation without violence, Thomas and Martha Wayne went down swinging? Even if they were still murdered, how might this one little detail impact a young, impressionable Bruce Wayne? And as time went on, how might this affect Batman?

The result, as explained by BVS, is a tougher, hardened, more forceful and less compromising Batman.

(Almost) Impeccable Casting

Bruce Wayne / Batman

Ben Affleck will impress even the staunchest of Batfleck doubters with his incredible performance of the Caped Crusader. This is an older, wiser, experienced Affleck, playing an older, wiser, battle hardened Bruce Wayne, and the pairing could not have been any better. While Christian Bale was a good placeholder in the ever revolving door of actors to don the cape and cowl, Ben Affleck actually fills the role and the suit. The result is a Bruce Wayne that you can actually relate to, and a Batman that is as physically intimidating as he is absolutely terrifying.

This is not your grandpa’s Batman. Not at all. In fact this Batman would curb stomp  Bale’s Batman, and then eat Tom Hardy’s Bane for dessert. I love Batman but one thing that always irked me about him wasn’t that he brooded, but that he always brooded. The guy was always a morose, mopey bastard, and at a certain point you want to say “dude come on. Your parents died like 30 fucking years ago. You’re a grown ass adult. Get over it already”. Or as Carmine Falcone put it…

Snyder and Affleck bring us a revised Bruce Wayne. One who is known to occasionally indulge in a night cap, flirt with women, swear, and dare I say it actually enjoy himself. This is a Bruce Wayne who actually gives a shit about the business his family started and seems to care about its success, its future, and its employees and their well-being as if they were an extension of his family.

Clark Kent / Superman

Henry Cavill brings a routine performance. Honestly, how complicated of a character is Superman? It’s not a hard role to mess up. Just be annoyingly good and one dimensional. But I will say this, Cavill was fit for the role visually and he brings the physical prowess that was sorely lacking when Brandon Routh played the character in 2006’s Superman Returns.

Also like Batman, this version of Supes actually has some spice added on. He has some backbone and cojones. He argues with his boss, he says fuck all with authority, and the man gets down with his lady and doesn’t care if the neighbors below complain about a leak in their ceiling. Just like Bruce Wayne, I like that Clark Kent actually has a personality this time around, and that for a change he doesn’t come off as a total boy scout.

Diana Prince / Wonder Woman

Granted her role in the story felt a little forced, I think the casting was fantastic. Gal Gadot is undeniably gorgeous but despite not being ‘roided out she did have a sort of effeminate brawn about her character. A sexy swagger. A bombshell femme fatale. And although she sports a dress like the finest of women, she can also throw down with the best of men. Gadot fits the role perfectly and I am genuinely interested in seeing her in the upcoming films, both standalone and Justice Leagues.

It’s also worth noting that I am very happy that Rhonda Rousey didn’t play Wonder Woman. Just saying.

Lois Lane

Meehhhh. Amy Adams just doesn’t do it for me. She’s pretty but she doesn’t have that va-voom look that Lois Lane is known to have. Plus the role has historically always been a brunette/raven. This is one of the few areas I am having a hard time breaking from the source material. I was a little annoyed at her character’s total disregard. She would run off to do a news piece in some godforsaken part of the world only to need to be rescued by Superman. Her character kind of reminds me of those American idiots that Travel to places like North Korea and Iran. That sort of entitled, let others clean up my mess type of shit that is all too prevalent these days.

Alfred Pennyworth

Again, amazing casting choice. Jeremy Irons is an amazing new take on Alfred. Instead of a butler, he’s more of a trusted confidant. He’s Lucious Fox meets security engineer meets best friend. This interesting amalgamation of roles, instead of the tried and tested man servant is a nice change. Alfred is as important in Batman’s crusade as Batman himself and this is an Alfred who is equipped to help Batman tackle the modern age technologically and morally. I am also interested to see Bruce and Alfred’s chemistry later in the franchise.

Lex Luthor

This is the one that ruined it for me. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor was just horrible. The big thing was the age. Lex being so young that he could be Bruce’s son was different. And Lex is usually at least semi intimidating. He’s got nowhere near the stature of Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, but he at least looks like he could throw down, and he often does.

This version of Lex Luthor is more creepy than intimidating and it’s hard to take seriously. While watching the movie I thought this Lex was like a creepy, maniacal take of Mark Zuckerberg, which finally occurred to me while writing this blog that Eisenberg actually did play a creepy, maniacal version of Mark Zuckerberg six years ago.

Spoiler alert, Lex goes to jail at the end of the movie so maybe when he appears in the next Justice League he’ll be prison ripped and toughened up and finally come off as a force to be reckoned with. But as of right now, I’m glad his character is confined to a jail cell and off screen.

The Batman

BVS felt more like a Batman movie with Superman in it, than a joint movie, and I think that’s a good thing. Batman movies sell and people can’t get enough of him.

Having grown up watching Batman it’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of a Gothamite to whom Batman is merely an urban legend. Imagine growing up in Gotham hearing stories of a bat creature terrorizing the criminal underworld. Never knowing if it’s a man or a monster. Imagine being a criminal in Gotham wondering if tonight’s the night you cross The Bat.

This movie reminded me how fucking terrifying Batman actually is. I won’t give it away but there was nice scene in the movie where I actually jumped back at the sight of Batman. It reminded me of something out of Jeepers Creepers.

Playing Catch Up

The big thing about this movie is that it felt a little rushed at times. DC is desperately trying to play catch up with Marvel and I hope they don’t expend all their energy on the first lap. DC did in two movies with BVS, what Marvel did in six with Avengers. BVS is only the second installment in the DC Extended Universe and were bombarded with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Lex Luthor and poked in the eye with Cyborg, Aquaman, and the Flash – and this wasn’t even a Justice League film.

The difference however is that neither Batman nor Superman need an introduction. Everyone already knows who these characters are so the movie hits the ground running. I do however hope they pause to explain a little more about Wonder Woman and offer more of an origins story for some of the other, lessor known characters that will be brought on screen or future adaptations.

Left Hand v Right Hand

Perhaps the one thing that bothers me the most about this movie is that DC currently has half a dozen other cinematic universes going on at the same time.

  • DC Extended Universe (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman)
  • Gotham
  • Arrowverse (Arrow, Flash, Constantine)
  • Supergirl
  • Plus a whole slough of animated universes such as the basic television animated Batman series
  • The New 52 animated movies

And all of this comes right on the heels of the Nolan trilogy to boot. It will be little hairy to follow all the various storylines simultaneously, especially for people who are new to these characters. I like what Marvel has done by streamlining all of their live action titles into a single, cohesive world. Let’s hope DC and Zack Snyder have a game plan.

Summary

All things considered I thought Batman v Superman was a great movie. It was different. It was edgy without trying too hard. It took a lot of risks (a la Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy) and I can certainly appreciate that. Zack Snyder has a real eye for converting comic book and graphic novels into live action movies with taste, and with real flare.

Perhaps I am wrong in saying this but Snyder also seems to have a history of a lacing his movies with a conservative undertone, which again, I really like. Either that or he chooses to make movies based on stories with conservative undertones, such as Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchman (Rorschach), Man of Steel, and now this film which had root in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a writer who also infuses his work with conservative undertones.

The movie rocked. You’ll probably enjoy this movie if:

  • You can’t stand that Superman is such a boy scout
  • You can’t stand that Batman is always moping around and never enjoys himself
  • You love Batman but cannot for the life of you understand why he takes such a limp wrist approach to characters like the Joker who have killed hundreds of people
  • You want to see Batman cuss
  • You want to see Batman get some giggity
  • You want to see some bad ass fight scenes

So I guess I like this movie for what it is, as much as I love this movie for what it’s not. And that is that it’s not the same old crap over and over again. A lot of people might not like the liberties DC took with these two archetype characters, but if you want the same old same old, you’re welcome to continue watching your Nolan Batman trilogy. For those of you daring for something new, this is the movie to see.

I would give this movie a 9/10, but because of Jesse Eisenberg and the rushed pace, I give the film an 8/10. It was thoroughly enjoyable and a very refreshing take on time tested characters and plotlines. I will no doubt purchase this movie when it comes out on Blu-Ray and I highly anticipate the next installment in the DCEU.

The Golden Age of Comic Book Movies

Today marks a very much anticipated date for me, and that is the release of Daredevil Season 2 on Netflix, the street level epic series about the crime fighting man without fear from Hell’s Kitchen.

Soon enough audiences worldwide will be captivated by Captain America: Civil War, and the decade long overdue Batman v. Superman.

While the Golden Age of Comic Books was from the 1930s to 1950s, it has become evident that the early 21st Century has become the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies. And series. It was in the Golden Age of Comics that many of the most recognizable comic book characters were first published, including Batman, Superman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, and Aquaman all of whom will be starring in a movie or television series this year.

These original characters were archetypes and set the tone for superheroes to come for decades, unchanged until the Vietnam war brought about a darker, grittier ensemble of comic book characters, often referred to as antiheros, many of which are also enjoying screen time, such as Punisher, Wolverine and the X-Men.

This is truly an incredible time to be alive if you enjoy comic books or the genre. Never having read comics myself as a kid, I have taken a huge liking to comic book movies – and judging by ticket sales and the seemingly unstoppable train of financial success they have enjoyed, it appears the entire world has too.

A genre that largely didn’t exist prior to the year 2000, comic book movies hold three of the top 10 grossing movies of all time, Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and Iron Man 3 (2013) all having been released in this century, scratch that, this decade alone. Additionally, CBMs occupy 7 of the top 50 spots. With blockbuster Deadpool breaking all sorts of records, and mega-titans Civil War and Batman v. Superman on the horizon, don’t be surprised if a couple more comic book titles get bumped on to that list.

Almost a year ago I wrote another blog titled What’s Next for Marvel MCU in which I listed various productions that would be coming out from Marvel’s MCU (owned by Disney). Since then we’ve managed to scratch a few titles off that list. But with DC/Warner Bros cranking up the heat with their own DC Extended Universe (DCEU) this summer with not just one, but two films (double doses of Batman!), and Fox’s own Marvel franchise still churning, see this revised list of Comic Book Movie titles stretching all the way out to 2020!

  • 2015-April-10: Daredevil [Netflix]
  • 2015-May-01: Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • 2015-July-17: Ant-Man
  • 2015-Sep-29: Agents of Shield: New Season [TV]
  • 2015 Nov-20 Jessica Jones [Netflix]
  • 2016-Feb-12: Deadpool
  • 2016-Mar-25: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  • 2016-May-06: Captain America: Civil War
  • 2016-May-27: X-Men: Apocalypse
  • 2016-Aug-5: Suicide Squad
  • 2016-Sep-30: Luke Cage [Netflix]
  • 2016-Nov-04: Doctor Strange
  • 2016 Unknown: Iron Fist [Netflix]
  • 2016 Unknown: Defenders [Netflix]
  • 2017-Mar-03: Wolverine 3
  • 2017-May-05: Guardians of the Galaxy 2
  • 2017-June-23: Wonder Woman
  • 2017-July-07: Untitled Spider-Man Film
  • 2017-Nov-03: Thor Ragnarok
  • 2017-Nov-17: Justice League Part One
  • 2018-Feb-18: Black Panther
  • 2018-May-03: Avengers: Infiniti War Part I
  • 2018-Mar-8: Captain Marvel
  • 2018-Mar-16: The Flash
  • 2018-Jul-27: Aquaman
  • 2019-Apr-05: Shazam
  • 2019-June-14: Justice League Part Two
  • 2019-July-12: Inhumans
  • 2019-May-03: Avengers: Infiniti War Part II
  • 2020-Apr-03: Cyborg
  • 2020-Jun-20: Green Lantern Corps

The lists ends at 2020, but Marvel reps have previously stated they have films slated all the way out to 2028. With the complex interweaving of movies, TV shows, comics, web series, and even video games, it seems that there is no foreseeable end in sight for comic book movies and the comic book genre in general. While Spider-Man (2002) has since been relaunched not just once, but twice, and one would suspect it must have clearly been a dud, the movie did spectacularly well and started a domino effect that may very well last three decades. Iron Man (2008) introduced the world to something it had (more the most part) never seen before – a shared universe of movies.

Major studios like Fox, Disney, and Sony have gobbled up every title they can get their hands on. Comic books, once a genre thought to be exclusive to children and virgin computer nerds, have crept into the psyche of the average Joe and Hollywood brass. CBMs have started their own controversial debates over the use of violence, backboards for reflecting real life existential issues like terrorism, security, and freedom and social issues like race, gender, and sexual orientation. To a Spider-Man trailer featuring the Twin Towers being recalled shortly after the 9/11 attacks, to complaints about mass civilian casualties in Man of Steel and Avengers, and racial issues such as the casting of Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, it’s clear that comic books are popular, lucrative, controversial, engaging, and here to stay.

Welcome to the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies.

Creed: Movie Review

It’s 9:53pm, I just got home from a sneak preview of the upcoming hit, Creed, the latest movie in the decades long running Rocky series. Yes, I said the upcoming hit, because this movie truly delivers.

Late as it, and as tired as I am, I’m not going to bed tonight until I get this review wrapped up. Most of the time when I go to the movies, I sit down, kick back, sneak in a beer to relax a little, then ride home and don’t think a whole lot about the last two hours.

Not this movie.

This time I sat down, kicked back, snuck in a beer, and never got around to drinking it. I didn’t want to relax. I didn’t want to lose my edge. Creed was so damn enjoyable the only way I wanted to watch it was stone cold sober. You know how EDM sucks so bad you need to be drugged out of your mind to tolerate your own existence while listening to it? This movie was the exact opposite.

The story centers around Adonis Creed, son of famed belated champion boxer Apollo Creed. Yes, the same Apollo Creed that squared off against Rocky Balboa. Given that Rocky IV is now 30 years old it should come as no spoiler to anyone that he died in the ring during an exhibition match against Drago, a Russian cyborg.

Young Adonis grows up knowing who his father is, but never tells anyone and prefers to go by his mother’s maiden name to prevent unwanted attention, and fades away into the noise of life. With his mother and father both deceased, he is raised by the state and develops some aggression. Some years later an older Adonis works a desk job in Los Angeles, moonlighting as a backdoor boxer. Adonis doesn’t wait for fate, he pursues it, and moves to Philadelphia with the sole purpose of befriending an exhausted Rocky Balboa. Through a series of (very well written) events, one thing leads to another and Adonis ends up biting off more than he can chew, coming face to face with the legacy of his family name.

This scene will get your blood pumping.

If that seems cliché, it’s only because I can only give away so much information without spoiling the movie. Adonis did not want to piggy back off of the fame of his father’s name. Similarly, the movie could have easily polished up a recycled B-list script, piggy backed off the success of the Rocky franchise and titled this movie Rocky 6, or Rocky: New Beginning, made a couple million and called it a day. Again, not this movie. I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of detail that went into this movie, from the story, to the script, the acting, the casting, the setting, and most importantly how this new story artfully wove itself into the existing canon. Creed very easily fits into the legacy, but would also be entirely enjoyable having never seen a Rocky film in your life.

Something I have been waiting to blurt out is that Michael B. Jordan knocked this role out of the park, or I should say the ring. Apparently his comic book action adventure Fantastic Four totally flopped in theaters both critically and commercially this year. After having watched Creed, I in no way attribute whatever failure Fantastic Four was to Jordan’s performance.

Something about Jordan’s portrayal of Adonis just feels right. From the moment the audience is introduced to the character, he latches on to and grows on you. I’ve seen a bunch of the recent fighting movies like Warrior, The Fighter, Southpaw, and although those are good movies, the characters are all kinda meh. You root for the guy, but only because you sort have to root for the main character, right? In Creed you genuinely want to root for the guy. Michael B. Jordan plays the role so well you forget you’re watching a fictional movie and start to feel like you’re a fly on the wall of a real person’s life, and his character is so damn likable you just want to reach into the screen and give the guy a hug. He was orphaned, is prone to fighting, and portrays that well without the stick-up-his-ass stench that makes it hard to warm up to characters like Tom Hardy’s in Warrior. I appreciated that Adonis wasn’t a walking stereotype. He wasn’t the brooding, he wasn’t angry, he wasn’t depressed, he wasn’t down on his luck, he wasn’t a rebel. He was a true to life character with a real, believable balance of emotions and personality traits that is damn hard to find in a modern cinematic character. I hope to see more of Jordan in future films.

Sylvester Stallone featured more heavily than I thought he would. From the advertising it seemed as though Stallone would cameo in the movie for a few minutes, have a second or two in trailer to create some buzz, put his name on the billboards to draw crowds, and then be all but absent in the film. Instead he had a very fair amount of screen time, and performed a very important supporting role to our central protagonist. Stallone is also more known for his iconic roles than for his acting prowess, but this may have very well been his best performance ever. The famed actor brought real heart and passion into his 6th and possibly last portrayal of the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa.

Rounding out the cast was Tessa Thompson as the beautiful Bianca, who despite playing the again “cliché” love interest to Adonis Creed, is a very strong, modern, female role. The movie would have suffered a huge void without her, and she made a great addition to our family of characters. I loved that she wasn’t the typical nagging female character I’ve grown to loath. Lori Grimes from Walking Dead, Madeleine Swann from Spectre, Margaret Schroeder from Boardwalk Empire. Haven’t we had enough of these nagging anchors that call themselves women? Thompson as Bianca was a breath of fresh air, and reaffirmed that you can be a strong woman, and still be beautiful, kind, and loving, without being annoying, or a lesbian.

As do most of the movies that I love, Creed has real heart. I almost cried. I laughed more than I expected to. I commiserated with all the characters. The fight and training sequences were so intense and heart pounding my hands were sweating, my heart was pounding, my legs were shaking, and my hairs literally stood on end. Never since the original Rocky has a fight movie pumped you up so much. The movie was fresh, but it had plenty of nostalgia. True to form, what Rocky movie would be complete without a montage? And this movie managed to pull it off without the cheesy 80’s garb.

Creed was more than a sequel, it was a heart felt and worthy addition to the Rocky franchise.

 

Now, shall I be so bold… It is my opinion that this was the best movie of 2015. This was the best movie since Winter Soldier. And get this… Creed was the best movie in the Rocky franchise. I will probably see this movie once more in theaters, I will buy this on DVD, and I will anxiously await a sequel.

I give this movie a 10/10. Go see Creed in theaters, you will not be disappointed.

Spectre: Movie Review

The summer is over and so is the season of summer blockbusters. Between you and me, the last couple months have been a movie slump, and the last legitimately entertaining movie this year was Ant-Man. Jurassic World was mildly entertaining, and Age of Ultron was a complete let down.

But 2015 was not a complete cinematic dud. If summer of 2015 blue balled you in the action adventure department then you’ll love the 4th and latest installment of the Daniel Craig James Bond franchise. I’ve been anxiously looking forward to Craig reprising his role as the infamous 007 since the first teaser trailer came out a year ago, and after having caught an early screening on Tuesday, November 3rd, I can tell you it was well worth the wait!

We’ve seen Bond show down in a battle of wits against global money launderer, Le Chiffre, in Casino Royale. We’ve seen Bond do…. uh…. do something in South America having to do with water or oil or something, in Quantum of Solace with [enter villain here]. Then we watched Bond battle skeletons from the MI6’s deep, dark closet against the menacing Silva in Skyfall.

Now, get ready for what I consider to be the fourth, and best installment in the decade running franchise. In Spectre, super spy James Bond is caught in the crossfire when traditional espionage and intelligence gathering collides with modern day data scouring and drones. In an increasing age of terrorism and geopolitical unrest, governments around the world start to question if the world still needs traditional spies and boots on the ground, when we have drones, satellites, and wire-tapping at our disposal.

In the film, intelligence agencies from the world’s most powerful countries are called to action to combine their intelligence gathering operations and systems, to create a type of new world order of counter terrorism. When this audacious overreach is met with resistance by M, James Bond and his entire department – who are considered obsolete and antiquated – are either merged with existing departments, or are shelved entirely. Acting outside their legal jurisdictions, Bond, M, Q, and Money Penny work to stop a mysterious villain that threatens the freedom of the world, as they struggle to stay one step ahead of the enemy. Bond discovers that the person steering the course of humanity’s future may also be a shadow from his past.

Spectre was thoroughly enjoyable. Much of the plot and many of the characters may seem recycled from pervious movies, including Bond movies, because they are. But Columbia did more than rinse and repeat with old ingredients, and in my opinion managed to take kitchen scraps and turn them into an entirely new delicacy that will leave you hungry for more.

In fact, part of the appeal of Spectre is that is harkens back to the golden days of Bond. The main villain, Franz Oberhauser is a new age version of Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the original Bond films who also ran SPECTER, the same villain that Mike Meyers parodied as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers. They even went so far as to explain how this classic villain received the trademark scar across his right eye.

But the good old days villainy didn’t stop there. While Oberhauser was the brains, David Bautista was the brawn, and played the very formidable Mr. Hinx. My opinion is that Hinx is a new age version of Oddjob, a ruthless and well-dressed villain from the 1964 movie Goldfinger, who kills people by throwing a steel rimmed top hat. Mr. Hinx breathes fresh life into the role and brings a very physical, intense, unnervingly calm, and intimidating performance with him. This is the first time in the Daniel Craig franchise that James Bond was not only challenged mentally, but physically.

Daniel Craig delivers his usual and appreciated, primed and polished performance. I’ve come to appreciate his interpretation of James Bond. Spy, yes. Womanizer, yes. Fashionable, always, but still someone very much mired in tradition, and a real man’s man who is tough as nails yet still emotionally vulnerable. James Bond is anything but a new character to audiences, but just like mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, is a tried and tested recipe for success.

There are several beautiful Bond love interests in Spectre, but if one gets the title of Bond Girl, it would be Léa Seydoux. She played the character of Madeleine Swann, and as fate would have it is the daughter of a former enemy of James Bond. Personally, I wasn’t a fan. She’s young enough to be James Bond’s daughter, whined a lot, and had that prickly European demeanor. Plus, I mean come on. She’s no Eva Green.

We also got a fair amount of screen time of Ralph Fiennes and M, Ben Whishaw as Bond’s secret help and accomplice Q, Naomi Harris as the always lovable Moneypenny, Christoph Waltz as the puppet master Franz Oberhauser, and a short romance scene with the timeless beauty Monica Belluci.

Some possible SPOILER ALERTS in this next paragraph.

As I was watching Spectre, I couldn’t help but think that the movie was very similar to last year’s hit, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Spectre = Hydra

The first major similarity is that both movies feature a shadowy organization that is attempting to usurp an established, well intentioned intelligence gathering apparatus, in the name of sacrificing freedom for security. In Winter Solider, Hydra has infiltrated SHIELD and is trying to take it over from the inside out, and Captain America is trying to stop them. In Spectre, said organization is trying to swallow up MI5 and MI6 from the outside in, and James Bond is trying to stop them.

What’s more, is that both organizations are found to be responsible for a long series of horrible and violent events that are seemingly unrelated, with the sole purpose of creating enough chaos to get the masses to willingly give up their freedoms in return for a Big Brother type organization.

The figure heads behind each organization are both German. Red Skull / Johann Schmidt is a German Nazi, and actor Christoph Waltz from Spectre is of actual German Austrian descent.

hydra-vs-spectre

Even the respective mascots are the similar. Both Spectra and Hydra’s emblem sport a multi-tentacled creature, one being a hydralisk and the other an octopus.

Righteousness as a Relic

Captain America is commonly referred to as “a man out of time”, and his old school and righteous ways are considered antiquated. James Bond might not be as virtuous as Cap when it comes to his drinking and philandering, but’s still got a strong moral compass. Bond and his companions are referred to as antiquated, their methods outdated, and their purpose obsolete.

Ralph Fiennes’ role as M, Bond’s superior within the organization, is very similar both in function and in character to Samuel Jackson’s role as Nick Fury within SHIELD. In both movies, the director and soldier don’t see eye to eye, but when confronted with a larger moral dilemma, work together towards a common goal of restoring freedom.

I think there is an unspoken moral to this common story as well. Change is neither good nor bad. Change is simply change. Good or bad depends on the change, and how it is used. And just as you should be wary of people who adamantly oppose any kind of change, one should be equally wary of someone who blindly lambast the past, or tradition.

The story was well crafted and very neatly wrapped up a lot of loose ends, weaving together the other films since the relaunch. The acting was of course, what you would expect from such a legendary, decades spanning franchise. The romance was sprinkled on without overshadowing the main story, and Bond was very much a strong yet vulnerable character that audiences will be able to relate to. And of course, there was plenty of action to get you through the cinematic lulls. All in all, I think Spectre was a great movie on par with Casino Royal (2006). Some people might say it’s more of the same Hollywood product; car chases, martinis, womanizing, boat chases, plane chases, pretty much lots of chases,  explosions, fast cars, crazy gadgets, etc. Which is exactly what I want out of my James Bond! I found it very entertaining and will probably end up buying it on Bluray when it comes out. I give Spectre an A-.

The Last Witch Hunter: Movie Review

Halloween is upon us and the streets are ripe with creepy! Haunted houses, decorated front lawns, horror movie marathons, and of course scary movies! While Witch Hunter isn’t a horror film, it is a nice creepy action adventure movie.

I didn’t know a thing about Witch Hunter beforehand aside from “Oh man, this movie looks sick and has Vin Diesel in it! I want to see this!”  And basically, that sums up the movie. It’s a sick movie, and his has Vin Diesel in it.

Imagine Chronicles of Riddick, but set on earth, and with witches instead of alien necromancers, and you’re essentially got yourself The Last Witch Hunter. As unoriginal as the movie was, I still found it highly entertaining. If there is one thing Vin Diesel has always been able to do, it’s draw large audiences and I have no doubt that while this movie will not break any records, it will be successful enough to earn a sequel or two.

The movie starts centuries ago just after the black plague has swept through Europe. In the film, the plague is known to be caused by witches performing dark magic, who are trying to kill the human population an establish witch dominion over the earth. Kaulder (Diesel), and a group of soldiers head out to stop the witches before they can complete their plan of human extinction, and so so successfully. Hence you are sitting here reading this on your iPhone, you lucky bastard.

Just before Kaulder kills off the head witch, he is cursed with immortality. Over the centuries Kaulder uses this immortality (and relative invulnerability) to continue fighting, capturing or killing those who practice dark magic, which leads us to current day. 700 years have battle hardened Kaulder into a fighting machine, and his reputation proceeds him in religious and mystic circles, where he is known simply as the weapon.

Long story short, all is not well in the land, and an ancient evil has been awakened that threatens the existence of man kind, blah blah, blah, the hero comes in to the save the day and rescue the damsel in distress with the help of his butler Alfred Pennyworth, I mean Dolan, played by Michael Caine.

Like I said, the movie is intriguing but definitely not original. Nonetheless I found it very interesting. There were a lot of mentions about things like new vs. old, change vs. traditional, progressive vs. nostalgic; the usual plot devices in a story featuring  a centuries old immortal.

Vin Diesel brings his usual performance to the screen. His voice pretty much does all the acting for him. And when that falters, his machismo, athleticism, and steady hand pick up the slack.

Michael Caine pretty much plays a priest version of Alfred. Again, his usual “I feel better that a cool old wise dude is here” performance.

Elijah Wood plays Caine’s successor as Dolan 37th, and also brings his usual, pint sized, timid persona.

Lastly, we have Rose Leslie, who you might best know as the hot red head from Game of Thrones who got it on with John Snow. Her role is the most different from the one you know her best from. She doesn’t play a bad ass wildling, but she does play a determined bar owner Wiccan who really ought to invest in commercial fire insurance.  Just saying…

The movie very craft-fully took the things you like most about other movies and hodge-podged them all into a single film. Plus, it has Vin Diesel. What’s not to like?

All in all, I give Witch Hunter a D for originality, a B+ for entertainment value, and a B+ for acting.

2015 Movie Review Roundup

I get free movie tickets so I see movies pretty often which is awesome. But I don’t have time to write reviews about each and every one of them unfortunately.

Well it’s been three weeks since I last wrote a blog and there were a couple really good, a couple really not-so-good movies from 2015 that I didn’t have a chance to address previously, so I’m gonna try to rattle of a couple of these.

2015 has definitely been a year of sequels. Three of the movies on this list are sequels, and one was a reboot of a decades old TV series. Unlike these years long series, I won’t drag out these reviews for too long. Nice n’ short.

Jurassic World

Guardians of the Galaxy was such a huge success and so well liked that Chris Pratt will play a parody of Star Lord for the rest of his acting career. Jurassic Park was pretty much Star Lord going on space sabbatical as a dinosaur trainer after having watched an Indiana Jones marathon.

So as far as the show’s lead goes, it was an awesome movie and truth be told as cool as the effects and the concept were, it would have blown without Pratt leading from the front.

For a sequel that came out 20 years later, I find it weird that the dinosaurs looked less real. I’m glad I saw it and I definitely enjoyed it, but it has nothing on Jurassic Park 1.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I’m not a big fan of movies that just drop you off in the middle of something without any context. Unfortunately this type of storytelling is more common. Shows like Quantico, Hunger Games.

Well Fury Road is guilty of this story telling crime. But, the action was pretty cool and they did it with minimal CGI which is always appreciated. Tom hardy played Bane for the first hour as he had a metal muzzle stuck to his face. And just like in Dark Knight Rises, Hardy’s character was also incomprehensible the entire movie as well.

The movie was plenty entertaining. But honestly, the only thing I remember is…

So shiny… so chrome…

Age of Ultron

I was looking forward to this movie the date after Avengers 1 came out. Who wasn’t? Avengers was the shit and Avengers 2 could only be twice as awesome, right?

I’ll be stoned for this fuck screw it. Age of Ultron sucked. Sucked hard. For the millionth time Tony Stark made an invention that threatened the security of the world. In Iron Man it was his weapons, and in Captain America it was the advanced helicarrier, and in Avengers two it was Skynet- er I mean Ultron.

Oh, and what was Ultron’s objective? Kill all the humans but Quicksilver and his sister weren’t part of his extermination quest?

And what’s with Vision and how did he come about? So Ultron was going all Pinocchio and tried to be a real boy by making a slightly less robotic looking red skinned version of himself, which was also part Jarvis, and powered by an infiniti stone or something? Oh and it was brought to life by Thor going Donkey Kong on it with his hammer? Huh? So what?

There was too much shit going on and the movie frankly sucked. It’s sad when a trailer is better than the movie.

Age of Adaline

AWESOME movie. Not even a rom com, this movie is a straight romance movie but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Basically this chic doesn’t age and she falls in love with this guy and turns out that like 40 years prior she had fallen in love with his father, yada yada.

But the entire movie culminates during a 10 minutes portion of the movie starring Harrison Ford. Stop it Harrison Ford, you’re making me cry!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

I really wish I had reviewed this one in full when I first saw it. It was a super good movie and it deserves all the praise it can get but it suffered from a small budget. Cahill and Hammer did a fantastic job fleshing out their two characters as a U.S. and Soviet Spy, respectively.

Superman is such a boring character so it was great to see Cahill get aa shot at a role with some personality. His character is a fusion of James Bond, Archer, and Neil Caffrey, and it worked flawlessly. Hammer plays a great, emotionless KGB robot. The movie was smart, action packed, well written, well casted, and it was freaking hilarious to boot! Rounding out almost any movie (except a drama) with comedy always gets an extra point in my book.

Blackmass

After 10 years of playing pale skinned weirdos, Johnny Depp finally got to play an original character. Given he plays a person who is actually real, the role was a different change of pace for Depp. The movie was violent and gritty and had sprinkles of comedy in it. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s a solid watch and one that I’ll probably buy and watch many times over. It earned a place in my DVD collection alongside Departed and The Town.

Sicario

And the most recent movie I’ve seen is Sicario. It had some big name actors, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Emily Blunt, Jon Bernthal, and several others.

This was a true nail biter. You haven’t seen a movie this nerve wracking in years.

Everyone does an amazing job at acting. Del Toro is top notch. Blunt also did an amazing job, unfortunately her character is annoying as hell. Hopefully she doesn’t make it into the sequel.

Brolin as always brings a solid performance.

And again, it’s a crime-dramaesque film that makes its way into the gritty hall of fame alongside Traffic, Street Kings, and Training Day.

So that being said, 2015 was an interesting year. The movies you thought would be great probably made a lot of money, but gave meh performances. The movies no one heard of even four months before they came out were amazing works of art that will be fan favorites for years to come.