Fantastic Four (2015)

  Let’s be up front here. Firstly, the recent film releases based on Marvel Comics characters from any movie studio other than Marvel Studios have been a mixed bag at best and the poster child for this train of thought was last years ‘Fantastic Four’. Secondly, I am in no way defending the mixed bag results that the first two 20th Century Fox films based on Marvel’s First Family delivered during the last decade in any way shape or form, but at least they got part of the spirit of the characters right.

That’s the biggest issue I have with the 2015 reboot, but it is not the only issue I have with it. I will say that from a basic plot standpoint, I liked that they had the Fantastic Four being explorers, but the how and the why behind the main characters knowing each other and being a team was never fully fleshed out. This issue arises from the pre-planned sequel and not actually giving us even basic character development as the film went on.

Following up on that, the next massive downfall of ‘Fantastic Four’ was the tone of the film. We all know that audiences went bonkers for a dark and gritty Batman in the Christopher Nolan helmed Dark Knight trilogy, but not every superhero film needs to go that route, and no characters can be further from that thought than here. The Fantastic Four are a family, from the long standing marriage of Reed Richards and Susan Storm, to the playful adolescent pranks between Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm, they have always been a bright, loving and joking group of characters. That is not what we got in this film.

It was dark, it was gritty, there wasn’t a playfulness that we at least got in the original two films that Fox gave us last decade. The fingerprints of Nolan’s Batman were all over this film and it was both out of touch and not needed. Whether this direction was made by director Josh Trank, producer Simon Kinberg or someone higher up at Fox, this was entirely the wrong decision.

The decision to have Victor von Doom be a combination of his physical form and his protective suit resulted in a horrible look that actually makes me long for the black leather of Fox’s X-Men franchise. Tied directly into the dark and gritty, down to earth dynamic of this film, it was really the final straw on the proverbial camel’s back.

In the end, 20th Century Fox has just never gotten the Fantastic Four right, or their main adversary Doctor Doom. It really is a shame because they were Marvel’s first team, one that has some great stories and history but just never been put to film the way we would love to see.

‘Fantastic Four’ is a tough film to rate, but, end of the day, 1  tank-smashing Thing out of 5 seems a little more than fair. I wanted to like the science based explorers, but the forced realism killed that hope quickly.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer and check out the archives for older reviews. Cheers all!!!

Kingsman: The Secret Service

kingsmanThere are a lot of spy/thriller/action films franchises right now, from Bond to Bourne, hell, even Mission: Impossible, so there are a lot of options out there for films to watch, but it is nice every so often to get something new and maybe a little off the wall, and that is essentially what we got with 2015’s ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, an adaptation of the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons comic book series.

Giving us two concurrent story lines that at times cross into each other and then at the end mesh into one giant free for all, ‘Kingsman’ gives us, in the immortal words of Monty Python “something completely different”, and somethings that, while not perfect, at least something that works well.

Featuring Academy Award winner Colin Firth in one of the two main roles for the film and relative newcomer Taron Egerton in the other main role, ‘Kingsman’ is a relative 21st Century-millenial take on many spy tropes in film, all while paying homage to the grand-daddy of them all in James Bond.

Firth does an admirable job as the seasoned veteran trying to repay his debts while Egerton shows some youthfulness as the twenty something who is throwing away his potential until one final wrong step pushes him back onto the right path.

‘Kingsman’ also features Michael Caine in a bit of a throwaway role as the leader of the organization, but also features Samuel L. Jackson in a hilarious, scene-chewing role as the proverbial big bad. While the premise of the story may be a tad over the top, Jackson tackles it and makes the film all the better for it. The film also gives an interesting role to Mark Strong, one that almost seems as if it was written specifically for him.

Once you get past the overt British-ness of the film and its setup, the stylized action scenes are different enough to hook your attention while also delving into the meat of the main story and the recruitment arc all at the same time.

In the end, ‘Kingsman’ is an enjoyable romp, one that isn’t perfect due to the way in which it was filmed but one that overcomes that with enough laughs and action to satisfy most viewers.

For the new review system, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ nets a solid 3 1/4 mind altering SIM cards out of 5.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and feel free to peruse older reviews of other films in the archives. Cheers.

The Martian

themartianAs I have grown older, I have noticed that my taste in films has also changed, heading to, over the years, more adult based fare. Now, I guess that this is probably quite normal, but in the past couple of years, I have really found myself drawn to certain kinds of films, and the newest on that list is ‘The Martian’.

I need to preface this by saying that I, for the most part, really enjoy Matt Damon as an actor and think that the majority of Ridley Scott directed films are top notch, so much so that I place Scott in the top echelon of film makers today. With the combo of the two involved, I really had high hopes for ‘The Martian’, and I am happy to say that it delivered on the mark.

The not-so-distant future setting of ‘The Martian’ allows it to come off as something that we can actually believe as reality, and unlike 2014’s “Interstellar’, this film was able to pull off a whole other level of realism and convincing us that a singular human, stranded on a barren planet, could actually survive, and that is exactly what Ridley Scott does with this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel of the same name.

That being said, the star of this film is and always will be Matt Damon. Damon, he of the face on a poster type of movie star, allows you to get inside the head of his character, Mark Watney. Watney, a botanist, comes across as a likeable every man, even if he is a pretty intelligent one at that.

The supporting cast for ‘The Martian’ is fleshed out with amazing actors and actresses from Jeff Daniels to Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor. To see these names filling out their characters just goes to show the quality of this film. Each of the supporting characters has reason to be there and a key role to play in the main arc of getting the stranded astronaut home.

The visuals for this film, when needed, are near perfect for the kind of story that Ridley Scott was looking to tell, which you would expect nothing less from the man that brought us other breath taking films like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, to say nothing of his other sci-fi work over the years.

At the end of the day, what we get is a film that tells a wonderful story, keeps you on the edge of your seat in doing so, and does it without ever feeling like the 141 minutes it is. ‘The Martian’ is an amazing film, well worth its Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Matt Damon shows us why he will one day win a Best Actor Oscar after securing his second ever nomination in this film.

Also, something new for you all on this review, I am going to start a ranking of the films that I review, and for ‘The Martian’, it gets 4 1/2 Martian potatoes out of 5.

Thanks for reading all and bearing with me while I go through some spurts of not getting these reviews out. As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer and cheers!!!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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It took 32 years, but we finally have it: A film completely worthy of the ‘Star Wars’ mantle, a mantle that has been dragged through the mud, restored, battered, and remade, but one that has always been at the forefront of pop media since the debut of the original film back in 1977.

Yes, we did get the Prequel Trilogy starting in 1999, but they always felt like they were missing something, and J.J. Abrams has given us exactly what that was with ‘The Force Awakens’: an underdog fight.

Say what you will about the Prequels, but from ‘A Phantom Menace’ through ‘Attack of the Clones’ and up to ‘Revenge of the Sith’, they never gave us a story that the masses could get behind. Honestly, I’m not even sure if any of us even knew that this was what was missing until seeing the new film.

‘Star Wars’ requires a strong, ever-present dark side to balance out what is essentially a coming of age story for our heroes and their discovery of the The Force. All three of the Original Trilogy films had an out-in-the-open big bad and the Resistance resonated with the general audience all the more for it.

With that little background information behind us, let us finally get to the meat of this little blurb. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is just simply a fantastic blockbuster film. It is not perfect, and there are a few things I that I could nitpick but I won’t for a while, but it is damned entertaining, and is a great example of how to tell a story.

You may run into some people that will lament that ‘The Force Awakens’ comes across as a shot for shot remake of ‘A New Hope’, and as a result will also begin to tear into Abrams’ reboot of ‘Star Trek’ from 2009. Don’t listen to these people. Yes, there are some similarities between the very original Star Wars film from back in 1977 and this year’s release, but that is bound to happen, as there was clearly a story that work and Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan went back to scratch from.

Of course, with any film this big, this anticipated, and under a microscopic lense from day one like ‘The Force Awakens’ was, there are bound to be a couple of slip ups, and the biggest, as far as I am concerned, was the casting as Adam Driver as the big bad, Kylo Ren. Spoilers will prevent me from diving into this right now, but this is the one major item that I wish could have been improved upon.

On the flip side of the coin, I think we are seeing the debut of the next big name actress as Daisy Ridley is the star of this film. We are left with some big questions as to just who Ridley’s character, Rey, is, but this was a masterstroke from Abrams and Kasdan, even if neither is returning in a writing role for the next two films to come. These questions will surely be the carrot to the horse for the story of Episode VIII in 2017, and I for one cannot wait to see how that plays out.

Ridley has the ability to give a complete range to her character, and most of that is built on her eyes, which is nicely tied into the film during the second act, to the point where you ask if she was cast to fit the role or if the role was adjusted to her. Either way, Ridley’s Rey is the character that the Sequel Trilogy will be tied to.

As good as Rey was and as much as I wish that Kylo Ren could have been a tad different, ‘The Force Awakens’ is stolen by the returning Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harrison Ford seems like he has been waiting for the past 30 years for this film, and be it true or not, appears to be having a sincerely great time returning to one of the two roles that made him a household name.

His chemistry with our favourite Wookie, Chewie, has never been better than it is in the new film, and the way that they play off of each other allows the film to move from the first act into the third, and provide not only the film’s key doses of nostalgia, but also the necessary torch passing to not only Ridley’s Rey, but also to John Boyega’s Finn.

At the end of the day, the easiest way to describe ‘The Force Awakens’ is this way: take everything that you love about the Original Trilogy, couple it with today’s CGI, motion capture and special effects, add some well placed nostalgia, sprinkle in enough new blood, and what will you get? A new generation’s epic sci-fi space opera. Exactly what we all hoped for 16 years ago, we just may not have been ready for it yet.

I will do a further review after the next time I have seen ‘The Force Awakens’, one replete with spoilers, but ones that will allow me to properly explain all of my thoughts.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Also, take a moment to peruse my past reviews, and let me know what you agree or disagree with. Cheers all.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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2014 was a year of change for me, and part of that change resulted in a scaling back of how many movies I saw, both in the theater and at home. One of those films to get pushed by the wayside as a result of this was the reboot of the 1980’s parody styled, cult comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

While the characters have spawned numerous TV shows, two different film franchises and other media, there is nothing quite like what happens when rights to characters are sold to a new company, and that is exactly what happened when kiddie-TV company Nickelodeon bought the rights to the Turtles in 2009.

Eager to capitalize on the current trend of comic book/toy/board game/anything from the 1980’s being made into films, Nickelodeon found an eager partner in Paramount and producer Michael Bay, and lo and behold, here we have what might be the worst of all five of the Turtles movies that have been released to date. The key part there is “to date” as this reboot is getting a sequel next year.

To put it bluntly, 2014’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ is a mess. From Megan Fox’s “acting”, to Will Arnett’s gravely voice miscast as a TV cameraman, to Shredder’s armor, this film is one bad scene after another filled with director┬áJonathan Liebesman’s vision of a Michael Bay ‘Transformers’ film, but fleshed out with talking turtles instead.

As one should expect when Michael Bay is involved though, the visuals are the best part of this movie, and with that being said, I don’t have any issues with how the actual turtles looked, it was an interesting take on using the trend of motion capture to allow CGI animators the chance to give us four distinct characters in shape and size and not just characterization.

In the end, as much as I wanted to hate this movie from the reviews and word of mouth about it, and regardless of how much I love the Turtles characters and wanted to love this idea, I could do neither. ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ just ends ups as another average run of the mill film that we seem to be getting from big budget Hollywood lately.

It will be interesting to see what 2016’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ brings, but I will not be holding my breath for anything different.

At least the Turtles didn’t end up being aliens…

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer, and take a peak back at the old list of reviews and see if there is something that peeks your interest. If you disagree, feel free to let me know. Cheers everyone.

The Good Dinosaur

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I am a Pixar nut. Not quite a fanboy, but a nut. I love all of their films except one since they started making feature length films, and even that one looked damned fantastic, just didn’t nail it for me. So, with 2015 bringing us not one but two Pixar films for the first time, I was utterly ecstatic, and now, after having seen them both, I would say they got one near perfect but also one that left me wanting a little more.

As good as ‘Inside Out’ was earlier this year, and with a great message to boot, I feel like ‘The Good Dinosaur’ was a step back. What begins with a simply amazing idea of what would have happened had the great extinction meteor of 65 million years passed us by, led to a story ┬áthat ended up feeling like it was a mishmash combination of unused story elements laying around the animation office at Disney.

‘The Good Dinosaur’ is probably the best looking animated film, visuals wise, we have ever seen. The glimpses of what the animators could do at the end of ‘Monsters University’ when it ventures into the human world are fully visualized here in the background scenery. Be it a close up of a lizard, a crashing river or the acres of trees on a mountainside, we have never seen anything like this from an animated film before. Sadly, this is what the film may end up being known for.

With a great premise and the best animation we have ever seen, `The Good Dinosaur` could have been the next big groundbreaking film from Disney and Pixar, but what it winds up being is an above average cross of `The Lion King` and `Homeward Bound`, and one that never truly finds it`s own footing.

Kids will love it however, as it does try as hard as possible to tell a heartwarming story, one with some good laughs and some moments where the feels get a little too much, but one that truly never gets to that level the `Toy Story` franchise or the `Shrek` franchise that transcends being just a kiddy movie into one that is truly for the whole family.

In the end, my biggest takeaway from `The Good Dinosaur` is one of caution. Pixar and Disney are looking to release two films a year, and if it is going to be a success, they need to get closer to films like ‘The Incredibles’ and ‘Toy Story 3’ for that to work, instead of films like ‘Cars’. That being said, ‘Cars 3’ scares me…

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. I promise to review more films and get back into the swing of things. Should be easy with the next trip to the theater coming in a couple of weeks with another film being released by Disney. Cheers everyone.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One

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kinopoisk.ru

The final Harry Potter book, “The Deathly Hallows”, ended up being broken up into two films, and after seeing both films for a second time, this definitely has ended up seeming to be a cash grab by Warner Bros., one that they have become quite familiar with over the years.

I need to be honest here, as ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part One’ was the first Harry Potter film that I ever saw. I know that this seems weird, and it probably is, but I saw this film in theaters as a way to get a free ride home from a visit at a friend’s place over an hour away from my home. The fact that I saw this with the woman that would become my girlfriend just a couple of weeks later has never been lost on me, and I know it carries a special place in her heart five years later.

That being said, upon an in timeline viewing of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ is the most bloated, over-blown film of the series since ‘Chamber of Secrets’ was filmed as a book-to-screen literal translation. The weakest of the four films directed by David Yates, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ suffers as a result of far too much exposition, too many scenes of sitting around and waiting, and an overall dullness that does a disservice to the start of the film.

Opening up with a scene which shows the great lengths that the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix will go to keep Harry alive, we see an interesting battle between Harry and Voldemort, a prelude to the series finale we will see in the final film. After this, we get to see a wedding, an attempt to return to the normalcy of life, one that does not end well and finally puts our main three characters, Harry, Hermione and Ron, on the run from Voldemort, his Death Eaters, and the Ministry of Magic.

As the film progress, it slows down to a snail’s pace, in what can only be considered a full on attempt to justify splitting the final book into two films. Eventually, ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ finds its footing again as it builds to its “climax”, the splitting of the story, in a pair of scenes that will not reveal their full truths until the bitter end.

In between, we see the effects of the recently acquired Horcrux on all the main characters, but mainly on Ron, where he sets of on his own from Harry and Hermione, and in the end, with his destruction of this Horcrux, literally comes face-to-face with his worst fear and overcomes it.

With the destruction of a third Horcrux, Voldemort feels he is becoming ever more vulnerable and heads off to find the Elder Wand, the most powerful wand in existence and one of the fabled Deathly Hallows. This is how ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ ends, with Voldemort in possession of the one wand that he believes will allow him to kill Harry Potter and live forever.

The beginning and end of ‘Deathly Hallows 1’ are strong, essentially rivaling any other film of the series, but the middle part, which drags like only the first two films do, hurts the overall caliber of the film. I wonder what a full single ‘Deathly Hallows’ would have looked like and if the splitting of the story was truly needed.