Saturday, August 8, 2015

Movie Review - Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

I enjoyed the Mission Impossible TV series from the 80s or 90s and loved the first Mission Impossible movie, but felt the movies had gone downhill from it. This one redeems the franchise.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is a 2015 action, adventure, spy film. It's rated PG-13 for language and violence and is appropriate for teenagers and up.

The Good

Action. This is an action movie first and foremost, and the action doesn't disappoint for the most part. The fighting was interesting and intense. The fights were short enough they didn't get boring, but long enough I felt real struggle. They were also filmed so I could see what was going on. Too often directors trying and make them chaotic and confusing so the viewer will feel like they are in the middle of the fight, but I'd rather watch it than be part of it.

Stunts. The stunts were fun, especially the motorcycle chase at the end. I've seen a lot of car chases and motorcycle chases, but never one like that. I actually felt like I was on the motorcycle. It was great!

Pace. The movie was really well paced. I never felt bored, nor did I feel the film was moving too quickly to keep up with.

Story. This movie actually had a pretty good story with international intrigue and espionage. It was nice that it returned to the spy genre instead of being just another over-the-top action flick. They story was actually entertaining a more than an excuse for mindless action scene after mindless action scene. There was some real character development.

Twists. I won't say that the twists were completely unexpected, but there were several satisfying reveals at the end that I didn't completely see coming.

The Bad

Underwater scene. The underwater scene did not convey how difficult it is to hold ones breath for several minutes while swimming.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I really feel very satisfied with everything in the movie and didn't feel I was missing anything. It would have been nice to see a little more chemistry between characters, but it didn't hurt the film not to have that.


Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was an entertaining flick and reminded me a lot of the first one. I'd describe this as a really good remake. I was entertained from start to finish and never felt like it dragged. I give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Movie Review: Marvel's Ant-Man

I've been an Ant-Man fan since I first discovered the character in the pages of a reprint of The Avengers comics from the 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I thought he was a really interesting character with fun adventures, but I never imagined he could carry his own movie. And I was sort of right.

Marvel's Ant-Man is a 2015 sci-fi, action, adventure, comedy, superhero, heist film based on the Henry Pym and Scott Lang versions of Ant-Man. It's rated PG-13 for language and few intense scenes. It's appropriate for most ages.

The Good

Comedy. I think what makes Marvel movies stand out from every other movie is the intelligent humor they pack each film with. This movie is no exception. There are original jokes from the beginning to the end that add to the story and character development and aren't the same old jokes we've heard a million times.

Characters. The characters are all really interesting (minus the main villain) and well developed. I genuinely cared for all of them and wanted to know what happened to them. Even the cameos that appeared on screen for just a minute or two had character and personality. Well done, Marvel. Well done.

Action/Special Effects. The action was fun, and the use of the shrinking power was handled really well. The shrinking power was used in a clever way that made Ant-Man a unique hero. The special effects were not just another Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but had their own style and flair. There was lots of action, but it didn't take over the film like in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Cameos. It was nice seeing Howard Stark and Peggy Carter at the beginning of the film to tie this into Marvel's history and put Henry Pym in his proper place as a key figure and brilliant scientist. And the fight with Falcon was fun.

The Bad

Villain. The main villain is little more than a bad caricature of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of He might as well of had a thin mustache to stroke while tying young women to train tracks. Usually Marvel villains are misunderstood and genuinely believe they are the good guys, but in this film the bad guy revelled in how bad he was.

The Heist. This film is little more than a heist film, and it's a pretty typical, predictable heist. From Marvel I was really expecting a fresh take, and I didn't get that.

Twists. One of the interesting things about heist films is how things don't go as planned and unexpected twists come up. Maybe I've just read too many comic books or watched too many movies, but the twists in this film I saw from a mile away. Nothing was a surprise, not even the two codas during and after the credits or what happened to the original Wasp.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I wish this had been more than a heist movie. There so much more that could have been done. There have been several characters who have worn the suit and called themselves Ant-Man, but Henry Pym in the 60s battling spies was by far the most interesting, and that's really what I was hoping this film would be. The heist approach was fine if it had had some really intriguing twists or a wholly original take, but it didn't.


Marvel's Ant-Man is  a solid, entertaining flick. It has the heart and humor we've come to expect from Marvel films. I highly recommend this film and give it a solid 4 out of 5 popcorn boxes.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Movie Review - Avengers: Age of Ultron

From the day I saw the first trailer for Iron Man, I've been a big fan of Marvel movies. For a while each movie was a classic, but I knew that couldn't last and the day would come where they started to get old. That day has come.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is a 2015 live-action, action, comedy, science fiction, superhero film based on the Marvel Comics characters. It's rated PG-13 for language and violence. It's appropriate for most audiences.

The Good

The Cast. This movie features the characters we've grown to love including Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, the Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, and a few characters we don't care so much about. I appreciated how most of the characters from previous films were included such as Falcon, War Hammer, and the like.

Comedy. This movie cracks jokes from the first scene to the last, and they are funny, witty, and make reference to the things we've seen and loved about previous films. Fanboys will be thrilled. The humor is a perfect 10.

Contest to Lift Thor's Hammer. This was the best scene of the whole movie. I won't spoil it for you, but Captain America shows he really is worthy.

The Bad

Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. I'm not sure why these characters were included, because they weren't that interesting and could have easily been cut out of the movie. The portrayal of Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past was so cool I was really excited to see him in this movie. Unfortunately they went a completely different direction with the character turning him into a boring, unlikable, generic blah. He and his sister weren't even mutants but genetic experiments. And they didn't appear long enough to see any real development. Considering how unlikable they were, that is probably a good thing.

Lack of Iconic Scenes. Marvel Comics has a rich history of cool scenes and iconic moments, and the Marvel movies so far have done an excellent job of capturing those and reinterpreting them. This one had no such memorable moments or scenes aside from the Thor's Hammer lifting contest.

Action. The action in this movie looked like a video game, and not the latest and greatest game. The scenes were shot from strange angles a physical camera would never see with characters moving in very unnatural and awkward ways like they were cgi rigs. Up until now, I've been impressed with how realistic and believable the action scenes were in the movies. I believed they could actually happen. I didn't with the action and stunts in this movie.

Story. The story was pretty thin and basically an excuse to travel around the world and have a lot of fight scenes, which gets old fast.

Pacing. This movie drags in several places. I actually found myself getting bored and checking my watch. The first movie was so tight that I was really disappointed that this one wasn't.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I really wish they would have chosen a stronger story. The characters are so cool, so memorable, so likable that I really want to see them do something other than fight. I love a good fight scene, but that's not enough to hold my interest for an entire movie. Where is the drama? Where is the character interaction? Aside from a few jokes during the first half hour we just don't see their personalities coming out. Where is the development? The characters are basically the same at the end of the movie as they are at the beginning. So many missed opportunities.


Overall, Avengers: Age of Ultron is your typical, over-the-top action movie lacking the classic scenes of other Marvel movies. The one highlight was the dialogue and humor which was clever, funny, and directed towards the hardcore fans. Otherwise it is just another action movie that will look very dated in a few years. I give it 3 boxes of popcorn out of 5.

Friday, April 17, 2015

TV Show Review: Marvel's Daredevil (Netflix Original Series)

I've been a fan of Daredevil ever since I first saw him in the TV movie The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. I don't think I had ever heard of the character before, but when I saw that I said to myself, "Self, that is the coolest superhero ever! (Next to Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, that is.)" A few years later I picked up the comic book during the Fall From Grace storyline and was hooked. While I haven't always enjoyed the direction Marvel has taken with the character, I've always loved the character and his potential. (I even liked the Ben Affleck movie--director's cut, of course.) When I heard Netflix would show an original series, I was excited. This was the proper venue for a Daredevil story.

Daredevil is a 2015 Netflix original series from Marvel Studios. It is a 13-episode action drama about a blind lawyer with uncanny abilities and mad fighting skills.

The Good

Charlie Cox. When I first heard Charlie Cox had been cast, I looked him up online, because I'd never heard of him. He didn't seem like an obvious choice for the show. But after the first episode, I was sold on him as both Matt Murdock and Daredevil. He really made me feel for him and his struggle. I believed he could do all the unbelievable things he does.

Writing. The writing was top notch. The dialog was believable, plot lines made sense, characters (even the minor ones) were well developed, and events flowed into the next seamlessly. Very little felt contrived or convenient. Almost everything that happened contributed to the overall story.

Pacing. This show is very deliberately paced, but unlike similarly slow-paced shows like Mad Men, this never seemed to drag. The decompression was used to its fullest like a well planned dramatic pause to give the viewer time to savor what was happening and take the enormity of it all in.

Black Suit. Every review I've seen has pointed to Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.'s Man Without Fear miniseries from the 90s as the inspiration for the black suit, but it actually made an appearance a decade earlier in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk tv movie. It makes sense that this is what someone would go out in to fight crime, and I like how ineffective it was in protecting him justifying another suit. It was a distinct look that the viewer would never confuse with all the other thousands of characters dressed in black that is a cliche of so many movies and tv shows. I really appreciate the costume designers bringing something new to the table.

Fighting. The fighting style was really unique which I appreciated. I love it when movies bring something new to the table, and this style was definitely something I hadn't seen before. I also like how many fight scenes there were and how long they take. Too often the hero is able to subdue his adversaries with a few punches and walks away with a bloody lip at most. These fights actually took enough time to feel like someone received a proper punishment with all parties receiving series injury. I like how Daredevil's suit was regularly ripped and how many times he needed stitches and couldn't even get up or walk after a few fights. It made the world feel that much more believable and the stakes that much higher.

Kingpin. The Kingpin isn't introduced until the end of the third episode. Before that he is a voice on a phone and a whispered mention. It was very effective technique to make his seem larger than life and a true menace, one that reminded me of Orson Welles in The Third Man. It's a shame they had to ruin it and actually show the character.

Rosario Dawson. It's nice to see how superheroes get patched up. If you really did go out there and fight crime, you're going to need stitches and bed rest. The nurse Rosario played was a really likeable character. The writers did an excellent job showing her struggle in deciding to help Daredevil even though the idea is ludicrous. There was really chemistry between her and the title character, which the series needed.

The Bad

Ben Urich. I've never been a fan of Ben Urich in the comics, and this show only made me dislike him more. He is the token "blackface" character Marvel puts into each of their projects (a white character cast as a black character for no reason other than to have another black character). And in this version he was an annoying old man that did little more than antagonize the main characters. He wasn't smart. He didn't do much investigating. He didn't break any big stories. He did little to move the plot along. The show could have worked just fine without him. I actually cheered when he died at the end, glad he wouldn't be returning.

Wilson Fisk. While the character was interesting and showed a lot of interesting backstory and emotion, he was portrayed as an emotionally damaged man controlled by his feelings and not his brain. He was his own worst enemy and did more to take down his empire than Daredevil. I never bought that he could run an empire or strategize to take over the criminal organizations in the city. And his sudden shift from good samaritan to thief along the road seemed contrived. He was much more interesting before we saw him. And his whole romance never made sense. We never saw why he was interested in Vanessa or her in him.

The Red Suit. While I appreciate the red suit made an appearance and Daredevil did more than just pose in it on a rooftop as the last scene, I was hoping they would introduce it earlier in the series so we could see him do more in it. That is until I saw it. It was a strange design with a really ugly mask that doesn't change the shape of Charlie Cox's head enough to make you believe it could hide his identity. The Ben Affleck suit form the movie was really a good look that was both true to the comic book and made sense in a practical world being based on biker gear. They should have stuck more closely to it.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

While I thoroughly enjoyed the show, this is not at all the approach I would have taken with the series. I would have preferred a different art style. While I think Alex Maleev is a talented artist, I just don't dig his style. His run on Daredevil was my least favorite artistically. I would have preferred less yellow and more noir in the vein of Frank Miller's run or even John Romita Jr.'s style. And the casting was not at all how I imagine the characters, but they still made for an enjoyable ensemble.


Overall, I loved this series. It had me hooked from the first minute and didn't let me go until the last. I had originally planned to watch it over three days, but once I started I couldn't stop. The characters, the story, the acting, the action, the tight plot, and the faithfulness to the comics made this a true classic. I highly recommend this series and give it a solid 4.5 out of 5 remotes.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Movie Review: The Duff

"The Duff poster" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -
I enjoy a good teen-angst flick from time to time. Most of the time they are predictable with the same basic story and cast of cardboard-cutout characters, but that doesn't stop them from being entertaining.

The Duff is a 2015 teen-angst comedy/drama. It is rated PG-13 and is appropriate for teenagers and up due to language and content.

The Good

Bianca. Bianca is presented as the typical frumpy, chubby, unpopular girl who you know is going to get the hot jock at the end. Fortunately, the actress who plays her has so much personality that she actually becomes an interesting character from almost the beginning. I actually cared what happened to her.

Contemporary. This movie was more than just a remake of past teen-angst flicks. It really did look at the current high school situation and wrote the story around that. The use of social media and teachers hands off approach was very current. And the videos the villain posted looked like something a high school student would actually put together.

Comedy. This movie is funny and I found myself laughing quite a bit. It is a PG-13 so some will find some of the language and humor inappropriate, but nothing you wouldn't expect from this kind of movie.

Pacing. This movie is well paced and never seems to drag or move too quickly.

The Bad

I'm OK, You're OK. This movie has an overly clear message that people are just right how they are and you shouldn't judge other or worry what others think about you. It's very much a product of its time. What's obnoxious is how the audience gets hit over the head repeatedly thru speech after speech. The message was clear without spelling it out, and yet the movie spells it out over and over again.

Too Nice. Everyone in the movie is too nice which takes away from the conflict and makes the main character's situation seem less severe and less sympathetic. Her two best friends are cute, popular girls who are very loyal and kind and give her access to the other popular kids at school. She's really not much of an outcast. The only really villain is the ex-girlfriend who is little more than a caricature of a mean girl with little substance. I'm sure it's just to push the message that everyone should be accepting of everyone else, but it isn't realistic and it is takes away from necessary conflict and drama.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would have appreciated the producers to give the audience a little more credit and use a little subtly with the message. We got it. Even the stupid members of the audience got it.

I would also have liked to see more chemistry and conflict between the main two characters. We know what kind of movie this is, so we know they're going to start out not liking each other in the beginning but falling in love by the end. But they actually seemed to really like each other at the beginning so much that is seems strange they aren't dating. And when they do finally date, there isn't a lot of chemistry or romance you expect to see. It makes the end a little unsatisfying.


Overall, The Duff is an entertaining movie that follows the standard teen-angst formula but brings enough interesting characters and contemporary plot points to keep the audience entertained. The characters, while typical stereotypes for this kind of movie, have enough personality to make them interesting to watch and the audience care about them. I give it 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Movie Review: Disney's Cinderella (Live action)

"Cinderella 2015 official poster" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -
I enjoy fairy tales and seeing variations on the classic tales. Sometimes they turn out well, and sometimes they aren't. The trailer made the movie look like a faithful adaption of the animated feature, and it was.

Cinderella is a live-action, fantasy, family film by The Walt Disney Company that is very faithful to their animated feature from the mid-20th Century. It is appropriate for all ages.

The Good

Visuals. The visuals were stunning from the costumes to the scenery and everything in between. It couldn't have looked more like the Cinderella movie I was expecting.

Casting. The movie was really well cast. Everyone played their parts well and fit the roles, although the Fairy Godmother could have been much zanier.

Filled Out the Story. This movie does fill out the story by actually showing Cinderella's birth, her family before her mother died, and the change in her family when her Stepmother arrives, scenes we heard about in an opening narration in the animated version.

The Bad

Faithfullness. This movie was TOO faithful to the animated feature. It brings nothing new to the table, nothing fresh, nothing memorable. It makes one wonder why it was even made.

Motivation. This movie starts to explore the motivation behind why Cinderella is so kind, why the Stepmother and Stepsisters are so cruel, and what challenges the Prince faces by marrying for love and not advantage, but it doesn't go far enough. You begin to feel some sympathy and better understand each character's motivation, but only to the point you understand intellectually. You never feel sympathy or empathy for any of them, which you should and is a missed opportunity on the filmmakers' part.

Kindness. We get it. You should be kind. Kindness brings rewards. This movie hits the viewer over the head with a 2x4 over and over again. Had the message been subtler, it would have been stronger. But being so blatant it kind of turns it into a running gag, which is a shame because it's a relevant message that people need to hear.

Pacing. The movie dragged from start to finish. Part of that was knowing exactly what was coming up next so there was never any real excitement or tension. No one was ever in any real danger. There was never any great passion, anger, happiness, or any other emotion. Everyone was pretty mellow the entire film.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would like to have seen something I haven't seen before. For example, the movie Ever After was an incredibly original take on the Cinderella story that I watched over and over again. And it was copied dozens of times to the point everyone got kind of sick of that take. This movie offered very little beyond what we got with the animated feature, no twists, no fresh takes, no classic scenes or quotable lines. Nothing.

I also would have enjoyed music other than a generic background score. They could easily have incorporated some of the songs form the animated feature or written new songs. But they didn't, and the movie suffered.


Overall this was a good movie if you just want to see the animated movie acted out with live humans or if you loved the original and consider it sacred and anything differing a sacrilege. If you are looking for anything fresh, original, or new, you'll be sorely disappointed.  I give it a 3 out of 5 boxes of popcorn and recommend waiting for the home video release or to watch it free on TV.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Movie Review: Big Eyes

I am a huge Tim Burton fan, but lately his movies have been falling flat for me. When I heard about his latest I got a little excited, because it looked and sounded more like classic Burton, and I wasn't disappointed for the most part.

Big Eyes is a live-action drama inspired by a true story but with a generous amount of creative licensing about a wife who paints and her husband who took credit for it. It is rated PG-13 for language and adult themes. It is suitable for teenagers and up.

The Good

Cinematography. Tim Burton is probably the greatest master of cinematography since Orson Wells and Fritz Lang. Every shot in this film is beautiful and still tells a story and communicates everything the viewer needs to know and feel.

Casting. Tim Burton is known for his perfect casting, and this movie is no exception. The actors and actresses cast were perfect for their roles and really made you believe they were the characters. I forgot I was watching Amy Adams at times.

Inspired. This movie was inspired by real events, which means it resembled the truth only superficially so it could tell a really good story by inventing characters and events that never happened but make for a better story. The overall message and story was preserved.

Plot. This movie had a really good pace. It was never rushed yet never felt like it dragged. Everything was developed enough for the audience to buy it and then the movie moved on. Props to whomever edited this film.

The Bad

Lack of Tim Burton touches. I almost couldn't tell this was a Tim Burton film with how straight forward everything was and how little stylization there was in everything from the sets to the costumes.

Mood. This movie is very heavy and sad until the last five minutes. It begins with a woman leaving her first husband and ends with her leaving her second husband. While the story it told was a sad story for so much of the time, it was almost too depressing. The audience needs an occasional break to regroup and prepare for the next set of trials.

What I Would Like to Have Seen

I would have appreciated a few more light-hearted touches to balance out all the heavy and depressing struggles the protagonist goes thru. And I missed the beautiful title sequences that begin and establish the mood of almost every Tim Burton film. This one had a simple pan of a painting. He could have done so much more such as showing the painting being painted step by step.


Overall, Big Eyes was a really good movie. It told a solid story, had a tight plot that moved at the right pace, but was kind of depressing until the last 5 minutes. You'd never guess it was a Tim Burton film -- it lacked his usual signature touches aside from the great casting and beautiful cinematography. But I still recommend it and give it a solid 4 out of 5 boxes of popcorn.