Archive for the 4 Stars Category

Pacific Rim Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Anime, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2013 by russellsreviews

There are a lot of genre’s in film. Spy, romantic comedy, adventure, horror, super hero, drama, science fiction, and martial arts just to name a few. Genre’s sometimes slowly fade, but never fully go away and sometimes make huge comebacks like what we have seen with westerns and the musicals lately. That cannot be said about the monster genre. No, I’m not counting those really awful movies on the Sci-Fi channel like Sharknado. I’m not even talking about Frankenstein or wolfman. I”m talking about the giant city stomping monster movies like King Kong and Godzilla. The last one ever made was in Gamera the Brave in Japan in 2006 and the last anyone in the west would remember is the remake of King Kong by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame just the year before. Pacific Rim is director Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary Pictures attempt to bring back this beloved idea to a newer generation. If Guillermo Del Toro stopped there he would have already been my hero. Del Toro then tries to infuse some elements of mecha anime that have never been attempted in live action before. The very thought of this mix is enough to make my head explode of excitement.  Does Pacific Rim deliver on my high expectations and more importantly is it accessible for the mainstream to sell without loosing it’s purpose?

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Pacific Rim twists the formula for giant monster movie. The world has been thrown into terror being constantly attacked by giant monsters called Kaiju. Instead of scientists scrambling to make some ray gun or bomb to stop them, or having the planet’s own kaiju take it down which we have seen over and over, humanity fights back by building towering robots to defend themselves. This theme has been used over and over in anime, but has never been attempted in live action for whatever reason. I imagine the cost of making a story like this believable and digestible for the American public would be a master undertaking and a huge gamble. I can not give anymore props to Del Toro and Legendary pictures for taking on this project. The world is fully realized and the giant almost human looking robots called Jaegers are sight to behold. You will scream with joy in your head every time one launches or lands. Each evil Kaiju has a unique look to them and fighting abilities making every battle different and a surprise. Sparks, metal, buildings, and even pilots will get tossed around in the warfare. This is the reason why you see this film.

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The human characters are just as varied and over the top. The characters of the film will be where most people will start to distance themselves from the film however. All of the side characters are played to their part times 10. This was done on purpose and each character is a common trope in the mecha genre. The scientist who is a little more interesting in the enemy than he should be, the mysterious cool general,  overly bully co-worker that gives no respect, and a girl with a troubled past. If you are unfamiliar with these archetypes these characters might come off a little ridiculous and off putting. They all still fair better than the lead character Raleigh Becket. I don’t know if they were trying to have a normal center in all the madness, but instead he comes off too safe and quite frankly very boring. I cared more about the funny scientist dying in the middle of the film than I did about Becket in final fight scene which isn’t a good thing. I don’t really blame the actor fully because I just think there wasn’t much room for him to perform. Then again neither did Idris Elba as Stacker Pentecost the leader of the Jaeger team and he still was fierce and more memorable so maybe I can. Idris Elba is a beast of an actor and needs to be in more movies. Charlie Day as the quirky Dr. Newton Geiszler was my favorite character for how he reacted to everything was probably the same way I see myself reacting to a world where their are freaking giant robots and world destroying monsters duking it out.

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The main gripes of Pacific Rim is that dialogue of the characters let down the film for achieving true greatness and might keep more people from seeing how ground breaking this film is. The concept was high, the world was brilliant, art design was perfect, and the ideas were smart, but somewhere some of the lines just failed to elevate it. The dialogue was not stupid like in transformers it’s just sometimes wooden. I give it credit for adding in anime elements, but I wish Del Toro took it a little farther with the weapons and really show of how dark and creative anime can get. Speed Racer did a much better job translating anime into the big screen and wished it used that movies techniques of story telling between the fight scenes. This review sounds like I’m bashing the film, but I”m not. Pacific Rim is awesome for what it is and I strongly recommend it, but I’m afraid some people might only see the flaws and not notice the nuances of what’s going on. I just wanted them to take it to that next level so bad.

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I loved Pacific Rim. I loved the action and the chances it takes. I”m so happy it was made and Guillermo Del Toro deserves big praise and more fans. He just made me a fan. I just wish they took a little more chances on the story and main character. It’s a fun ride. Just sadly don’t expect anything more than beautifully choreographed Kaiju vs Jaeger action. It’s a summer film not based on a old TV series, video game, a remake, or comic book. Pacific Rim is original and deserves to be applauded. If you have any itch to see it please do. This might be your one and last chance to experience this genre.

4 STARS

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2013 by russellsreviews

In 2009 J. J. Abrams breathed new life in the Star Trek series. He managed to update it to make it more exciting for a newer generation while at the same time keeping everything in place to appease the long time trekkies. The film was not just smart science fiction, but just plain fun to watch for anyone. J.J. tries to keep the momentum going with it’s long awaited sequel Star Trek: Into the Darkness.

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness faces a new set of challenges that might be harder to deal with that the original reboot. Now that the new Star Trek universe has been set how can you top the first? If you push for more action and please the new fan based you run the risk of disappointing your very loyal fan base. Do you take the chance of a more traditional route building on what you made and greatly encouraging the trekkies that the reboot was more than a one hit wonder, but then loose the mainstream push you gathered? J.J. Abrams once again decides to take the same approach as his first and tries to get both.

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Trying to accomplish both in this sequel the film starts off with a high concept adventure movie and then about half way through throws  a twist bringing back a famous story from the original show. Just like before the movie does a great job of explaining how this event could happen before it did in the show and fits very well being something new as well making it feel like it fits into Star Trek lore perfectly. That being said it does bring about the only negative I can see in the film. If you are a long time Star Trek fan you will probably guess who this person/twist is and even though the writers flip the roles you will know how it ends. It’s still exciting seeing it all play out, but it does lower the score of the film in my eyes.

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I can not finish this review without talking about the break out performance of actor Benedict Cumberbatch playing John Harrison. You might recognized him since he played Sherlock Holmes in the perfect British TV mini series Sherlock and if you don’t you will remember him now. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto reprise their roles so well that the fact that he even stood out above them only testify how great he really is. He out does the original character and bring not just charisma, but true superiority. (Hint, hint)

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Star Trek: Into the Darkness is just as smart and entertaining as the first reboot. All of the crew members you know and love get their time to shine and perhaps even more so. Did I forget to mention Klingons? Yup, the fan favorite race finally makes an appearance and with a unique interesting take, but don’t worry they keep the essentials of what makes them so popular. This new Star Trek doesn’t surpass the original only because it looses some steam because it retreads some old ground, but everything else is done so well its only as good as the first. Sometimes when a film tries to better its former sometimes it can get a little ridiculous and loose its heart. Being only just as good as the awesome first film isn’t a bad thing. In this reviewer’s eyes that’s a huge compliment. When this film ends you will be ready to go on a five year voyage of the Starship Enterprise. To boldly go where no man as gone before.

4 STARS

Captain America: The First Avenger Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, New Movie, Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on August 14, 2011 by russellsreviews

Captain America: the First Avenger isn’t the patriotic hero first adaptation to live action. He has been in several TV series and even already has his time on the big screen. Unfortunately, all of which have been embarrassing failures for the character. Following all of the successful marvel movies of late marvel feels like its a ripe time to try again. Captain America is a integral part of the upcoming ground breaking Avengers movie and must get it right this time. Does Captain America make you feel proud to be an American or leaves you walking out shaking your head?

Steve Rogers is a very patriotic young man who just simply wants to do his part in helping America fight the axis powers during world war two. Only problem is he is a small meek boy with asthma that no military division would accept him.  Dr. Abraham Erskine manages to see past that weak body and sees the greatness within and gives him a chance to be a part of the experimental super solider program. Rogers’ body is reborn and gets power any other man would dream of. He slowly becomes a ray of hope for America and inspires the country to do the necessary sacrifices that it takes to beat the greatest evil the world has ever known.

What’s odd in this film for comic book fans is that Chris Evans the actor who play Steve Rogers has played a famous marvel character before, the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four. Not only that but he mostly plays cocky wish cracking characters and fans have been really nervous how he would played such a strong reserved character. The film quickly puts that to bed and he actually carries most of the film. Chris Evans is a lot better actor than people give him credit for and it shows in Captain America. Along side of him are perfectly cast actors who all help elevated the film which did its part making people take this story seriously. Tommy Lee Jones is great as a military sergeant and the always good Hugo Weaving plays the Red Skull with the perfect amount of crazy. The always great Stanley Tucci plays another stand out role as the Dr. Erskine. The one that stands out the most for me is Hayley Atwell who plays the British agent Peggy Carter. She shines in every scene and mostly because of her we get to have one of the best romantic relationship in any comic movie.

The film does a great job of keeping it real and yet still giving tons of winks to the comic fans that even the more experienced fans might miss. The progression of his costume is spot on and make even the hardcore purist happy. Keeping things real hurt the film a little however. The fight scenes are good, but nothing stands out or is memorable. He uses his shield enough and its never silly, but nothing really creative that we have seen in the comics. Another aspect of the film that hurt it is the bookends of the story. Captain America opens with people finding his body frozen in ice then flashbacks to how he came to be. I don’t have problem with this kind of story telling, but I think it was handled very wrong. When the climax of the film is pretty much ruined because you know he is going to crash and get frozen even if you had no prior knowledge of the character. The most important scene where he wakes up in modern New York was shot intensely, but when he wakes up and the film has already shown the card that he gets found takes a lot of punch of it. If they would have left that prologue out and tweaked the ending some Captain America good of been more than a good film, but one of the best comic book films ever made.

Captain America is not only fun like Thor or Iron man, but also has tons of moral messages that in my mind make the best comic book films. They’re not as subtle as the Spider-Man films, but you can appreciate them. Even his shield has a meaning to what the USA really stands for. Captain America is special because he represents a time and moral clarity that America has forgotten. A type of hero that can’t be made anymore.

4 STARS

The Social Network Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review with tags , , , , , , on October 29, 2010 by russellsreviews

People are always looking for the next big thing. Napster, youtube, twitter, and myspace were all huge successes one after the other. They became so big that everyone did them just because everyone was talking about them. You ever wonder how these ideas get started? Social Network is a movie about the beginnings of one of the biggest and most popular right now, Facebook.

The Social Network has a cool device working for it. Mark Zuckerburg ,the creator of Facebook, is in deposition and is being sued by several people for the rights to who created the idea of the website. The answers to the questions the lawyers ask are told through flashbacks and we get the see the excitement of how Facebook got created and just who is suing who. It’s slick style of telling the story and isn’t hard to follow for those that are worried. Finding the secrets and friends behind Zuckerburg’s life , some which are true and some not, are fun and provide enough entertainment for me to recommend this movie, but The Social Network goes even deeper and not only explains how Facebook got created in the business sense, but makes you question why it’s there in the first place.

The title of the film has a double meaning. The film is not just about how the social network site Facebook got started, but also the social network in life and the pains of it. It’s about the pressures of changing who we are and fitting in. Then lengths people go to be recognized and the costs of it to the people who are close to us. In the end it doesn’t matter how rich, popular, or smart you are we all sit back and wait for that friends request to answered.

I also have to note the performences of not only the two leads, but Justin Timberlake. He did more than acceptable job that suprised me. The Social Network is a excellent paced story of Facebook that everyone can enjoy, but beneath it all is also a deep statement of a generation.

4 STARS

Kick Ass Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Action, Comedy, New Movie, Review with tags , , , , , , on April 25, 2010 by russellsreviews

Lets face it, there has been a lot of movies based of comics the past few years. You knew with hits like Wanted, 300, and Iron Man that soon every movie studio under the sun was going to try to take a stab at it. Soon the movie industry was littered with average to just plain awful comic book adaptations. From just looking at the previews people unfamiliar might think Kick Ass is just another average comic book film, however nothing could be farther from the truth. Kick Ass stands on its own and brings something original to the table.

Dave Lizewski is just an average high school student with problems that every nerd, geek, outcast, or loner can relate to. He doesn’t have many friends, most kids make fun of him, and the only thing he is really good at is being invisible to the opposite sex. One day walking home Dave and two friends get robbed while someone just stands there and watches it happen. This event sparks a desire in him that maybe he can be a somebody and make a difference in the world. Dave’s soultion? Yep, become a superhero!

What sets Kick Ass apart from all the other movies is that its actually based in the real world. He doesn’t have super powers or super rich with tons of gadgets. All he is an average Joe who just wants to help people and stand up for them. His first attempt at crime fighting goes horribly wrong with him stopping no one, gets his “ass kicked”, and takes months to recover. Whats also cool is that the movie touches upon what a superhero in this day and age has to deal with being put on you tube or facebook. To help fight crime he creates a facebook page where people can vent there problems or make requests for Kick Ass to right the wrongs. His success won’t last sadly, and it doesn’t take long for the real world to finally catch up to him. The movie shifts enter a new gear and shows you just how messed up you have to be to really commit to fighting crime. Enter the real superheroes Hit Girl and Big Daddy.

Nicolas Cage  as big daddy and Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl steal the show. Especially Chloe Moretz, who after this role might just be considered the best child actor. This is where I feel sorry for Aaron Johnson who plays Dave. Aaron does a great job and prob is the best actor for that role, but Hit Girl and big Daddy are such cool and dynamic characters I think every viewer will wish they got more screen time. All of the terrific fight scenes are through them. I know that no matter you ultimately might feel about the movie you will at least walk away from it loving these two characters. Seriously, they are iconic characters that will be remembered for years to come.

Kick Ass is one of those films that what make it ground breaking and unique to some also make it a little confusing and silly for others. Most comic movies change some things to make more appealing for the masses, not Kick Ass. It doesn’t hold many punches back and its a comic book film for comic fans. Unless you know the pain of being a comic geek some of the humor will fly over you and come off awkward. Even if your not really a comic fan, I still feel the movie is enough of a rush to entertain you anyway. My one complaint is that even though all of that is said,  the movie still didn’t go far enough. For example, Dave ends up getting the girl and they don’t go into as much detail about his father not accepting him. Still, Kick Ass is one great ride that will be in the hearts for some and a fun time for others.

4 STARS

Where the Wild Things Are Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review on November 6, 2009 by russellsreviews

Where the Wild Things Are is a live action adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. The book not being very long no doubt gave director Spike Jonze a lot liberties on the direction the film could go, but he has to tackle the difficult task of how far to take it. Does he go deep and maybe a little dark and stay true to the creator’s vision and risk losing people or head for a lighter tone and a formula sure to be huge family favorite? Give Spike Jonze a lot of credit because he sure didn’t go the safe route.

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Max is an energetic restless young boy who already has his fair share of problems. Max is misunderstood and feels his broken family is moving farther away from him. The night his mom brings home a date, Max dresses up like a wolf and misbehaves and bites his Mom out of anger. His Mom scolds him, causing Max to run away from home. Max finds a boat and sails away somehow, landing on a strange island with giant scary creatures. To avoid being eaten Max convinces the creatures that he is actually king from a far away land with mystical powers not to be messed with. The creatures accept him and slowly become good friends living everyday just to have fun.

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Where the Wild Things Are very easily could have “movie by the numbers” with great special effects. It would have been more successful and created tons of fans. Instead, the movie tries very hard to dig deeper to the true meaning of the book. The movie looks at how scary the world must look at for child who just learns at school that one day the Sun might be gone. Max is dealing with his innocence and impulsiveness with reality. More importantly, his anger and insecurity. Now like the book, you could say the creatures are different parts of his personality, but to me the creatures all represent things or people in his life. The creature Carol is basically Max. His Mom is K.W. If you pay close attention all the events on the island are the events prior to him arriving. Carol just wants K.W. affection and attention, but she seems to care more about the owls Bob and Terry, who represent his Mom’s boyfriend. When K.W. brings Bob and Terry to their newly built fort, Carol throws a violent fit only earning K.W.’s distrust and fear. Max wants to control of everything and keep everything the same, but he can’t be the king of his emotions. There is no such king.

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There is always a flip side of taking a risk. The movie is very psychological in a sense that the raw emotions will leave children confused on why the creatures are fighting among themselves and some might even find the monsters too scary and intense. The story pace will make some viewers feel like its moving to0 slow and wonder whats the point of it all. The best way I can describe the explanations in Where the Wild Things Are is that everything is introverted. When Max returns home and greets his Mother, she welcomes him home in open arms but never really says a word to him. Emotions come across and Max understands that he is loved and accepted, but with little dialogue it will leave most people thinking to themselves, that’s it?

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Where the Wild Things Are is a ground breaking film in understanding the pain and confusion of youth. Some may find it very depressing and pointless, which is understandable, however, there is a great and powerful message underneath. The movie peels back the dangers of insecurity and anger and the maturity it takes to conquer them. The film could have used more mass appeal, but the film worked for what it was trying to do. It might not be for you, but then you can’t sit back and complain when Transformers 7, X-men 10, and Saw 23 come out and wonder gee I wonder why Hollywood can’t make anything original and full of passion once in a while. Where the Wild Things Are will get overlooked, but I recommend you give it a try, you might hate it, or you might find your own reasons for thinking its genius.

4 STARS

Inglourious Basterds Review

Posted in 4 Stars, Drama, New Movie, Review on September 13, 2009 by russellsreviews

Quentin Tarantino has made some of the coolest movies in the last 17 years . He has an instantly recognizable style and broke much ground that has been only imitated since. The thought that Tarantio newest is a world war II epic is enough to get any fan excited at the possibilities where only he can take it. Inglourious Bastards is absolutely a WWII movie like you have never or really ever see, but will it reach the same cult classic status?

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In Nazi occupied France, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) has assembled a team of young American Jews hungry for revenge. Calling themselves the Inglourious Basterds (yes its suppose to be misspelled like that), their only mission is cause as much hell as they can and strike up so much fear from the Nazi’s that they will loose the will to fight by the time America enters the war using any means necessary. The Basterds are free from any laws or rules and not only try to kill every Nazi they can, but in such ways the German people will look at them as monsters or savages. Lt. Aldo wouldn’t want it any other way. When the Basterds get word that in Paris the Germans are going to throw a big premiere party celebrating the release of the Nazi propaganda film “Nation’s Pride” with not only Hitler’s right hand men, but maybe with a chance of the Fuhrer himself attending, go undercover to destroy them all at once and hopefully end the war.

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Inglourious Bastereds gets very brutal sometimes and the Bastards do it with a smile. They do try to kill Nazis in horrible ways, but in this movie that’s part of the fun. For obvious reasons when the Jews commit these acts, you find yourself cheering and feel little remorse. Part of feeling this way is the opening chapter. The movie begins with a Jewish family hiding at a farm with an Italian family to avoid capture from the new S.S. Jew hunter Hans Landa only to be betrayed and slaughtered. From this point on you can only feel like the Nazis are only getting what they deserve. Tarantino knows this and takes full advantage. The Inglourious Bastard team are all unique and funny. Especially Brad Pitt’s LT. Aldo Raine. He delivers all the lines flawlessly and enjoyable. You will spend more than half the movie just waiting to see what he does or say next. Aldo Raine is one of the coolest characters on film. However, this is also the reason why the movie sags in the middle.

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As it turns out that one of the girls from the Jewish family that was killed in Chapter one managed to escape. She starts a new life in Paris in chapter 3 opening up a movie theater and gets courted by a German war hero and in order to win her affection tries to move the premiere of his new movie to her theater to help business. Seeing a chance to get revenge she conceives her own plot to blow up the theater and getting her own revenge, only the same man that killed her family stands in her way. This is an ok side story, but it takes up about half the movie parallel to the Basterds storyline. The two merge together, but with the other story being so engrossing you just wish you could fast forward and get back to Aldo. Only by the fantastic acting and dialogue of actor Christoph Walts’s portraying the Jew hunter Hans Landa saves these chapters from being a waste of time. What Pitt does to bring out Aldo’s character, Walt’s matches with the the demented and cunning Landa. The movie is worth seeing just for these two performances alone.

Inglourious Basterds is a great ride and has all the dialogue,music, and jolts that all Tarantino movies have. It isn’t as fantastic from start to finish as the others, but there is enough surprises, including something that wasn’t in the history books, at the end to be considered great. The movie does dip, if you can call it a dip, enough to keep it from being perfect, but not enough for fans to care. You have never seen WWII like this, so check it out.

4 STARS