Archive for movie review

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

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

The Avengers Review

Posted in 5 Stars with tags , , , , , on May 16, 2012 by russellsreviews

There has been a lot of comic books made in the last decade. Some had new updates for a younger generation and others stayed tired and true with a touch of dark realism. A successful formula was established and each one tends to follow that path. The Avengers has even a bigger and nearly impossible task than all of those of combining already established heroes with their own formula and universe already in place. These kind of events are common place in comics, but never before have been tried to be put on film. Can this film come close to the insane expectations placed upon it? Rest easy fans because not only did The Avengers delivered, but reached a new level that all comic films should be judged.

The Avengers is the best team up movie ever made. The X-Men movies were really good in their own way, but they might as well called them Wolverine with friends. It was wise choice for those movies, because Wolverine is the most popular X-man. This isn’t X-men. It’s Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor’s movie. These guys already have their own star power and each need a chance to shine and a reason to be there. The director/writer Joss Whedon couldn’t have put together a better feeling of this is a team of unique individuals putting differences aside to team up.

The movie was more from Shield’s Nick Fury perspective of trying to form the team rather than favoring one hero over the other. The move ultimately gave a greater importance of the team gathering and a bigger payoff when they finally do work together. The Avengers works as a film even if you have no prior knowledge of any of the other movies because of this idea. Actor Tom Hiddleston does another noteworthy job of Loki of not only with a stand out performance, but gives the story a weight for the need for the heroes to form a partnership to begin with.

The Avengers clicks on every level. Every moment you wished and wanted to see are there. Joss Whedon is known for witty banter and you have that in spades here. Captain America says what he should say. Nothing feels forced. All conversations between the heroes is smart and has a natural flow to them. Besides the dialogue, the other achievement was just how good the action was. Other comic films had great battles that fit the character, especially the Spiderman films come to mind, but the action here felt ripped from the comics. When you see a great fight scene in a comic or a cartoon you think yeah that’s awesome, but that could never work in real life or on the big screen. You can’t say that anymore. The word epic gets thrown around too much nowadays, but the Avengers fight scenes are truly epic. By the way, if this movie doesn’t prove to everyone that the Hulk is an interesting character who deserves another chance I don’t know what will.

I applaud Joss Whedon for pulling this off. The Avengers set the bar high that you can have a great comic movie and keep all of the comic book style and make it great where everyone can love it. I would say even that the characters were written more like themselves than they did in their own movies and even breathed new life into less popular ones like the Hulk. You will have a blast seeing this movie and if your a comic fan your nerd heart will grow twice in size.

5 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

Gantz movie review

Posted in 3.5 Stars, Foreign, Horror, Japan, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by russellsreviews

After the successful live-action adaptations of Death Note, Detroit Metal City, and 20th Century Boys its becoming more common for Japanese film studios to take a chance on a mature manga/anime series. Gantz is the newest one by creator Hiroya Oku. However, Gantz is a much different beast than all the others before it. Its not that the manga isn’t as deep, but it goes to some very dark and intense places for it’s characters. Does the Gantz movie pull any punches or stay true and risk loosing a broader audience?

Kei is a underachieving teenager simply waiting for his train to arrive. A drunken man stumbles and falls on the tracks and everyone, including Kei, just stares and being curious to see what happens next. The only person who decides to help turns out to be Kei’s childhood friend, Kato. With the pressure of seeing his friend, Kei drops down to help raise the drunken man back on the platform only for them to be ones crushed by the oncoming train. Kei and Kato immediately find themselves with other killed strangers in a small locked white apartment with a giant black ball in the center room. Are they really dead? Where are they? How did they get there? More importantly why are they there?

That’s as far as I want to go as a set up, because the main draw of the series for me is seeing these mysteries played out and never know whats going to happen next to the characters. From the very first time I watch the anime of Gantz I felt that the story could translate very well to the big screen and would no doubt blow the sci-fi genre craze wide open if the the action was done well. The only problem is the original Gantz goes to some disturbing limits. This will ultimately be the deciding factor if you will enjoy the film or not if your a fan. To be honest there were parts of Gantz that went to far in my opinion. I know the main character did some really nasty immature stuff and part of showing all that sex and violence was for you to see how far Kei grows as a human being, but it was borderline too far  sometimes and crossed over to being simply there for shock value and to get the very same people Kei is growing out of to watch the show. The Gantz movie rolled back the unnecessary sex and made Kei into much more likable guy from the start. Gantz might have pulled back a little too much in some areas that hurt it from being near perfect, but in this reviewer mind it also helped making it a more balanced movie. If you were one of the fans of the Gantz manga that liked it only for how messed it up it got sometimes you will feel jipped. Fans should not worry about the action side of the film. All scenes are very close to the original and are surprisingly good.

For those that know nothing of Gantz are in for a real treat. You have a lot of the fat trimmed out for a more streamlined version and are in for something totally fresh and interesting. A fair warning though. The version shown in American theaters is dubbed and dubbed very bad in some emotional scenes that did twist some powerful scenes into unintentionally funny ones. Some fans will predictably cry foul, but a lot will walk away feeling pretty satisfied and will be excited to see what the sequel might bring.

3.5 STARS

Tron Legacy Review

Posted in 2.5 Stars, New Movie, Review, Sci-Fi, video games with tags , , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by russellsreviews

The original Tron motion picture has a very special place in many peoples hearts. Tron never reached Star Wars like fandom or Blade Runner critical success, but remains a classic to this day. Tons of fans wanted a sequel, and would line up to see what the world of Tron could look like using today’s graphics. Disney is finally giving them what they wanted and betting fans will fill the seats. Can Tron Legacy live up to the hype that’s been building for over 28 years?

Tron Legacy tries its best to reconnect you to the first film and does a fairy good considering the first film came out in 1982. After years building his company Encom into the Tech giant of the world is very close to inventing something that could change the world even more.  Expect for an unknown reason he disappears abruptly, and leaves his only son Sam behind. Sam grows up never really getting to know his father other from all the stories of this computer world he always talked about making which leads him to try to harm the company that he feels that kept his Dad away from him. Shortly after this cry for help, Sam finds out from a close family friend that there is a slim chance that his Dad could be still around just hiding out in his old arcade building he used to run. Sam investigates and doesn’t find his father, but accidentally gets digitize in the very world that his dad told him stories about.

The movie does a good job shifting focus from Kevin to his son Sam, but not long after the awe and the excitement of seeing the world of Tron in 3D wears off that you start to see that Tron Legacy has been stripped of what makes the original so memorable. If you have seen any trailer for the movie then you pretty much know what almost every fight scene and plot point that’s going to happen in the first hour. The only mystery is why Kevin Flynn got trapped there. Your not shocked when Sam finds his father alive 40 minutes in because well you saw him in the first five seconds of the trailer. This development takes too much time in the first act that the movie plot would of benefited from simply the teaser trailers. The first Tron had tons of wonderment and you never knew what or who could be coming at you next in this computerize world. Yes, this being the sequel your obviously not going to have the same awe, but literally if you have see the trailer, minus a flying battle and a guest appearance of the music group daft punk, you have seen everything the movie has to offer. You have a new disc battle and light cycle to look forward to, buy both are quick and over in the first 30 minutes. The original Tron was ahead of its time handling tough topics of what could happen if computers got to powerful (which by the way Tron came out way before Terminator), what it means to be human, and makes you think about religion. Tron Legacy never goes deeper than the chase. Tron had an interesting villain that was relative and somehow made sense to be a threat in our world and the computer world. Tron legacy’s Clu was interesting concept, but never fully emotionally fleshed out besides a couple lines of meaningful dialogue at the end of the film. Not to mention that Tron, the program himself, is hugely misused. The first Tron was exactly Shakespeare either, but made most of its fans from the fantasy of what a world would be like living in the computer. So if the graphics and world lived up the movie could still work right?

Right, however in my opinion that doesn’t measure up either. The 3D really added nothing to the experience, and the world never felt realized. Tron was a little silly and campy in the graphics, but for its time it was mind blowing. It started new techniques that even creator of Pixar gives credit for helping him start CGI like graphics. Tron Legacy is very paint by the numbers graphics. You never feel like your in another world. Everything is too dark and the characters and world just look like ours just with neon lights everywhere. Legacy does nothing overly special or groundbreaking. The first movie did a better job in making you feel in a computer world and it was made 28 years ago. Clu, the villain of the film, is a CGI recreation of a young Jeff Bridges that looks good in the Tron world, but very plastic in the real one.

Tron Legacy ties into the original well at the start, but very slowly through its run time disappoints. If you have never seen the original there is still stuff to enjoy, but most you will likely be a little confused and wonder what all the hype was about. Tron Legacy isn’t necessarily a bad movie, it just hurts when you think what the movie could have been.  It could have been Terminator 2 good, instead we got Terminator 3. Its still well made and enjoyable and the new character Quorra is cool and interesting. It’s still worth seeing if you have a lot of fond memories of the original, but greatly lower your expectations and maybe wait till you can rent it and save the money.

2.5 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