Yesterday was a day I will not soon forget. It was filled with excitement and wonder as I got to see the return of one of my favorite movie series, Star Wars. I have been a fan of Star Wars for as long as I can remember. My memories go way back to a time when I was small young boy sitting on my uncles shoulders watching all the events unfolding before my eyes. I was immediately enthralled with the movie, the characters, the Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and more.
This amazing galaxy and its peopled called to me and I felt one with it. Like many of you when I was younger I wanted to be like Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber and fighting off the evil empire or I was running around with a bucket on my head pretending to be one of the Storm Troopers storming down a rebel base. As I sat in the theatre eagerly awaiting the movie to start along with my wife and friends my excitement rose to an all-time high. The movie was finally here after months of being teased with trailers and images online.
Then the lights dimmed, the John Williams opening theme music blasted through the speakers and Star Wars appeared on the screen, I cheered in excitement along with my friends and many others in the theatre. The Force Awakened had finally arrived! The next episode in a long line of Star Wars movies was here and the events were about to unfold before my eyes. My inner child was squealing with glee!
Many of us have been both encouraged and worried that this movie wouldn’t live up to our expectations and it could be another Phantom Menace. Don’t get me wrong I love the Star Wars movies but the prequels just didn’t speak to me like the original trilogy did but I still love the movies because they are Star Wars. The biggest question out there is “Did JJ Abrahms and Disney let us Star Wars fans down?” to that question I have to say a big resounding NO!
The Force Awakens was everything I wanted it to be and more. The movie was visually stunning and the dialogue was so amazing. The characters both new and old had me smiling, tense and worried. As before I felt like I was flying through the galaxy with my old friends. I left this movie filled with awe and wonder just as I had so many years ago as a child.
There were so many subtle nods to the original movies that were masterfully placed throughout the movie and Abrahms didnt pull any punches in this movie. Finally we saw Storm Troopers that could shoot something! This movie was everything I wanted in a Star Wars movie and more. I cannot wait to see what Disney does with the next episode and with Rogue One. Where will they take me and my old friends along with the new friends I just met? Where will they take us next in this vast galaxy filled with both the dark and light side of the force?
Fans new and old will love this latest installment of the Star Wars Franchise and I for one can’t wait to have my kids see it in the theater much like I did long, long ago.
“The World’s End”
Well, well, well what do we have here? Could this be my inaugural film post on the Dungeon Crawlers Blog? If you said yes, you would be correct you may now have a cookie. I thought long and hard about what I wanted my first post to be, the guys here at DCR have been so great to me that I knew I needed to really come up with a flick that would be epic, and loved by all. A movie that the entirety of geekdom could embrace, one that screamed “Look at me, I’m AWESOME!” Luckily for me, and by me I mean you, I was able to catch a showing of the The World’s End last night, and let me tell you what. It was great, it had everything that we’ve come to expect from a Wright/Pegg script with Wright’s direction.
I’m going to try something different with this review and will be breaking it up into three distinct parts; the three that I feel best encompass the film. I’ll do my best to leave out all spoilers, not because I’m worried you might hate me but because I know my friends will hate me and I’ll never hear the end of it.
The three main points as seen by Ben:
They might not make sense to you now, but this is my review and I can get away with pretty much anything I want here so “ha!” So when I say “comedy” what I am referring to are the laughs, and when we think about who is behind this movie we are expecting big ones. The “action” is pretty self-explanatory, Edgar Wright more than proved that he could film an action flick with Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs The World and he didn’t slouch here either. Now when we get to “heart” I’m more talking about how the movie affected me, how I felt during and after. All decent films have one thing in common, they all made you feel something, whether it was good or bad that doesn’t matter. And the really good ones have you talking about it for hours afterwards. Being a millennium has its perks one of which is the Facebook Group Chat feature, I’ve been involved in a chat that is going on about 12000+ individual messages completely dedicated to this great art and this where I am able to discuss the truly great movies, well there and now here.
The World’s End is funny; there is no other way to put it. You can tell the actors had a great time making it, and why wouldn’t they? The majority have been great friends for years popping up in each other’s projects time and time again. And I’m okay with that because it works, they have chemistry and that’s what counts. In the movie you’ll see that in bunches, Pegg’s “Gary King” character is great, and it’s even better to see him in a silly role again, one that he got to just have fun with. Frost had a chance to play against type instead of the lovable buffoon he got a chance to be the straight-laced everyman and it worked beautifully. I approve whole-heartedly.
Action: Were you as impressed with the fights in Scott Pilgrim as I was? Then you’re gonna love this one, the fights were well choreographed, and fun to watch. Which is all you can really ask for in a movie like this. Nick Frost does shine in his role, and is worth a viewing just watch him kick some ass. Go see it now, actually you should probably stop reading here and go see it now. Just bookmark this page, hop in the car, head to over to your theater of choice (we all have one), walk in and politely ask the theater attendant which theater you’re in, and then promptly sprint to your seat. All settled? Good, we’ll talk soon.
Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…
There now don’t you feel better? You’ve seen the movie, you understand the hype and you’re excited to finish this article. From here we’re going to talk about “heart.” You saw it; you know what I’m talking about. At its center the movie is about friendship and growing old, Ideas that we can all relate to ones that a lot of us are still worried about. I don’t want to get too much into this section because I would rather you see it for yourself.
No one can question Guillermo del Toro's passion for Japanese monster movies. The fan boy-friendly director, who earned his Comic-Con bona fides by crafting oddball fantasias including Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy films, has spoken at length about being weaned on creature double features as a kid in Mexico. And it wasn't just the granddaddy of all man-in-a-rubber-suit behemoths, Godzilla, who cracked open his mind. He also swooned over the more esoteric beasties in Toho Studios' kaiju (i.e., giant monster) stable — titanic brutes like Mothra, Megalon, and Mechagodzilla. It goes without saying that del Toro's geek credentials run deep.
Now, with his latest film, the gargantuan monsters-vs.-mammoth-robots smackdown Pacific Rim, del Toro has somehow persuaded Hollywood to bankroll his tribute to the giddy junk food he grew up on.
Set in the not-too-distant future, Pacific Rim picks up after a string of apocalyptic sea-monster attacks have reduced San Francisco, Manila, and Cabo San Lucas to dust. It turns out that a breach in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has ripped open and loosed an armada of kaiju. Humanity is defenseless against their massive, razor-toothed maws and battering-ram limbs — at least until the military's high-tech Jaeger program is conceived. The Jaegers (German for ''hunters'') are 25-story robots operated by two human pilots whose minds are neurally linked in a process called ''the drift.'' The Jaegers are only as good as their operators, who must be able to read each other's thoughts and intuit each other's next moves. Go-it-alone rebels need not apply. But of course one does: Raleigh Becket (Sons of Anarchy's Charlie Hunnam), a hotshot pilot whose brother was killed in a kaiju rampage and who's so wild and unpredictable he might as well have the name ''Maverick'' stenciled on his helmet. It doesn't help matters that Hunnam has to bark goofy lines like ''Stay in the drift, the drift is silence!''
Del Toro weaves his very own mythology throughout the film, circumventing the massive battle sequences and creating some minor but zany depth to this world, like creating the “drift”, a temporal connection between the Jaeger pilots, which allow their minds to connect as one; or the mysterious monster world which exists in another dimension and is the true origin of our dinosaurs. This mythology is pure Guillermo del Toro but the director, as well as co-writer Travis Beacham only scratch the surface of what could be mined. They leave the fun mythology and “science” stuff to two wacky opposing “scientists,” both tongue-in-cheek stereotypes. The first is Charlie Day doing a wonderful Rick Moranis/Bobcat Goldthwait one-off as the overzealous and nerdy Dr. Newton Geiszler and the classically German mad-scientist Gottlieb (Burn Gorman). More than any other character in the film, these two embody that wildly imaginative del Toro mind.
The film does become stagnant in between the battle sequences. During these scenes the story relies on training montages or jealous in-fighting between the Jaeger pilots, which is rather dull compared to the battles and the mythology. The stale acting does not help these moments either. The film could be far better if the bridges between the battles were more involving.
The scenes of mass destruction are obviously frequent throughout this epic battle between 25-story tall robots and massive dinosaur-like monsters, but what separates this heap of destruction from other recent fare like “Man of Steel” and “Transformers” is that del Toro never stops to show us just how “awesome” the destruction is. Thankfully he spares us those overlong 20 to 30 second shots of skyscrapers crumbling to the ground, which would put “Pacific Rim” in the graveyard of broken cinema. The focus during the battles is almost always on the Jaeger and Kaiju.
“Pacific Rim” is never pretentious and is often funny, which makes it lofty and entertaining, despite some rancid performances. Except for Charlie Day, Ron Perlman and the sublime Idris Elba, the performances are often cringe-worthy. Under ordinary circumstances, bad acting can sink a film, but del Toro has presented such an extensive buffet of goodies that it’s easy to look past the acting (it’s not as if the characters require top-notch acting in the first place) and get lost in this brave new world. Elba, of course, steals the show as the no-holds-barred commander Stacker Pentecost. His great line “Today we are cancelling the apocalypse” has already made it into this year’s pop culture lexicon and is one of the highlights of the film.
Finally, props to Warner Brothers for releasing a wildly imaginative sci-fi romp of this scale which isn’t a sequel or remake. Despite “Pacific Rim’s” flaws, here’s hoping enough people see it and like it to send the message to all the studios that it’s not always a bad idea to produce new material, especially from directors like del Toro who certainly knows how to make a commercial film with a unique and visionary style.
So let’s start back about a year ago when the first trailer for Man of Steel came out, many of us were doubtful. Warner Bros. seemed to have no idea how to adapt any of their DC Comic universe outside of Batman (which was thanks to Chris Nolan), and director Zack Snyder was a known abuser of slo-mo that had just come off the craptastic bomb Sucker Punch. On top of that, the less that is said about their Green Lantern attempt, the better.
Then, as more trailers came out and plot details were revealed, I became more and more optimistic. After the three minute trailer that came out around April, I noticed general anticipation had shifted dramatically in the right direction and continued to build to a crescendo ever since. I got a chance to watch Man of Steel opening weekend. Did it soar…or suck? Minor spoilers ahead.
My thoughts? I loved Man of Steel. This film finally takes Superman in the right direction cinematically, dropping him in a modern world that is in desperate need of a Superman. As great as the Christopher Reeves Superman films were, the last one came out over 25 years ago. We really need to move on.
Thankfully, Warner Bros saw that after the poorly received Superman Returns. Was the film perfect? Not by a long shot. While there were a few moments of levity here and there, like when Clark first learned to fly and during his interaction with Lois after he dons the famous suit, the film does feel a bit too serious and even dour.
Along with that, it would have been nice to see a distinct showcase of Superman’s abilities in use when he was fighting Zod and his cronies. That would have been his edge on these Kryptonians who had little experience with the use of their abilities.
Plus, something that was unanimously an issue with fans was how during Zod and Superman’s borderline demolition of Metropolis, Superman gave not a whit of interest in the collateral damage. That is always a big aspect of Superman, trying to contain a superpowered fight away from the civilians. The causalities must have been in the thousands given how many skyscrapers they knocked over. Even though he stopped Zod, why would the US or any country trust him given how much destruction he and his kind caused across just one major city? Just saying.
Now, what worked?
First off, Krypton does explode so we can all relax there.
Let me also say that the reimagining of Krypton was amazing!! This is very different from any other iteration of that planet on or off screen. I can’t say how much I was relived to not see the same ice sculpture with the dome a top it. Finally we get to see Krypton as something more. The technology is very advanced, liquid metal at times in ways that are reminiscent of The Matrix. Even the little details such as the family crests are fantastic. Apparently, they made over 300 different family crests for this film. All the political intrigue and coups prior to Krypton’s destruction really worked for me, partially due to Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe owning the scenes they were in together. I could have stayed longer on Krypton before its explosion, but obviously the story was about Superman.
And Henry Cavill IS Superman. He’s everything a fan could hope for in a new Man of Steel. The character doesn’t need to be dark and gritty just to adapt to modern times. However, I like how we see Clark choose to become Superman instead of getting brainwashed for 12 years by his bio daddy. Along with that, Clark is still finding his footing in this new role, and Cavill embodies that loneliness and confusion in the earlier parts of the movie perfectly.
I was at first hesitant about Amy Adams as Lois, mainly because of the huge age difference and that she looked more like a Lana Lang than a Lois. But she worked for me very much, a tough as nails woman who’s good at her job but still has an overwhelming knack for getting into trouble.
Michael Shannon owned as Zod. He was not a caricature, but a man who was literally made from birth to be a soldier. His sole purpose is to protect Krypton. Anyone who gets in his way is an obstacle that must be removed. Antje Traue worked wonderfully as Zod’s right-hand Faora, not saying much but delivering ass-kickings when needed.
All the supporting cast worked for me, too. Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner added gravitas as Clark’s two fathers, though I could have done with a little less of the constant hammering home of Clark’s greater destiny. Lawrence Fishburne could have gotten a little more to do as Perry White, but I’m guessing we’ll see that in later films.
I did like how the Superman name came to be in this film. Lois was about to name him that before the Army rudely interrupted. But the name got bandied about given the S on Clark’s chest, which is the family crest of House El and stands for Hope.
A big change that I enjoyed but might irk long-time fans is how Superman and Lois first meet. Not to spoil this, but it actually makes a lot of sense given the modern day context of the movie. I mean, Lois IS a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter and not an idiot.
Another smart choice David Goyer and Zack Snyder made was how all the other Kryptonians in Zod’s crew didn’t adjust so quickly to Earth’s Sun (unlike in the show Smallville). Zod, when his protective helmet gets damaged, is overwhelmed at first by all his enhanced senses. And other than Zod, who worked to master his new powers, all the other Kryptonians could only Hulk-leap to get where they were going instead of flying outright.
Superman having trouble fighting Zod and his soldiers at first made perfect sense as well. For one, from what we can tell, the Superman in this film had never really used his powers in a fighting capacity before Zod arrived. Two, he has never encountered any person as strong as him, let alone several people. And three, Zod and his officers are all trained soldiers bred from birth to be the best, whereas Clark is not. This made for very interesting fight sequences in both the battle of Smallville and Metropolis.
And of course, the final battle between Zod and Superman. Other than the potential collateral damage that I had issues with, this fight made the destruction of New York City in The Avengers look like a minor earthquake. I’m glad we finally got to see Superman fighting a superpowered foe and the devastation that could occur because of this. Which leads us to how the fight ended.
PROCEED AT YOUR OWN PERIL.
Superman kills Zod. Now, everyone knows that Superman has a very strict no-kill policy. It's as distinct as his red underwear (which is sadly missing from his suit this time around). However, Zod had nothing left to live for after Superman foiled his plan. So he forced Superman’s hand by trying to barbeque some innocent civilians with his heat vision. Despite Superman’s pleas for him to stop, Zod refused. So Clark had no choice in the heat of the moment (no pun intended but it stays) but to kill him.
Many people hated that, but I loved this moment. Superman just killed the last remnant of his race, and hates himself for it. Henry Cavill’s reaction made that scene much more powerful. Plus, for people complaining that Superman is so perfect, he had to make a very real choice between the lives of civilians or the last of his kind. Superman chose Earth. Either way, I hope that we see the ramifications of Zod’s death ripple through the next Superman films. And, to go full geek on all of you, Superman hads been forced to kill a few times in the comics, mainly Zod.
Now that Man of Steel has come out and is cleaning house at the box office, my questions is what’s the plan? One of my biggest issues with how DC/Warners has handled their comic properties is not having a clear plan. As of right now, we know that Warners is fast-tracking a Man of Steel sequel with both Zack Snyder and David Goyer returning. Other than that, we hear Warners is developing a Wonder Woman movie or considering a Flash film or wanting to do a Justice League film in 2015. However, they have not revealed any type of release strategy for their DC Movie Nation.
Having a clear plan and sticking all those milestones is one of many reasons why Marvel has been so successful in their Shared Cinematic Universe.
The Monday after the first Iron Man film broke bank, we got a three year release schedule from Marvel. DC/Warners needs to show us what the road is to Justice League, and deliver on those dates.
Right now, they’ve grabbed the public’s interest in a larger DC Universe. Now they need to take their time, not rush into Justice League yet, introduce us to some characters other than Batman or Superman, and make movie magic.
The cheers and whoops that greeted the 2009 relaunch of the Star Trek series contained in them, I thought, a big bass note of relief. For JJ Abrams had taken on the tricky task of not only of appeasing a notoriously judgmental fan base but of winning over a new generation of Trekkies.
Abrams’s film was respectful of but not slavish towards the tradition of the TV series and previous movies, acknowledging its epic proportions without pretending that any of it was Homer. Some smart casting and a better than average script ensured that intergalactic harmony was promisingly established between old school and new.
Four years down the road and we now have this follow-up. Star Trek Into Darkness is no disaster – it has too much competence on its side for that. Abrams understands the dynamics of the blockbuster, that ability to blend the outsize with the intimate, and he has got the same writing team (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, plus newcomer Damon Lindelof) to keep the ship steady. Once again, the conflict is scaled at a human level, turning on a moral debate between what is expedient and what is right. Once again, the Starship crew are once again sporting those mustard- colored V-necks that used to clad William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy et al. But there’s something missing, some vital creative spark to spring it from the crepuscular realm of the so-so and its border territory, the so-what.
As if to answer the burden of expectation, the film plunges us immediately into a set-piece of chaotic urgency. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is beamed down into the roaring heart of a volcano that will incinerate a whole planet unless he can put it out. Hellfires rage around him while the crew of the Enterprise make anxious faces at one another. It actually plays like the climax of a movie rather than its opening. When the danger approaches meltdown Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) contravenes Starfleet regulations by allowing the chalk-faced natives to clap eyes on the Starship rising from the ocean to rescue Spock from fiery doom. But Jim Kirk doesn’t bother about protocol, he just wants to save the life of his friend and first officer, though he omits this violation in his debrief to the authorities.
So imagine the captain’s outrage when the authorities get wind of his little misdemeanor – from Spock himself! There’s gratitude: you save a fellow from certain death, and then he goes and tattles on you for flouting the rules. Vulcans, as Spock explains, cannot lie, but that’s no comfort to Kirk as he’s stripped of his command and demoted to a subordinate role under his mentor Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood)
In truth, the relationship between Kirk and Spock is the heart and soul of Star Trek, being an ambiguous compound of rivalry, warmth and interspecies misunderstanding. As played by Pine, Kirk is a hothead and a daredevil who relies largely on instinct. Spock, of course, is the logician nonpareil, and Quinto has just the right expression of intellectual bemusement when faced with the muddle of human emotion. One of the best moments here comes when Kirk, about to part with his first officer, goes all misty-eyed. “Truth is, I’m gonna miss you,” he says, echoing one of the movies’ universal refrains of buddyhood, and looks to Spock’s reciprocation of the sentiment. But Spock just stares back, impassive, and poor old Jim’s left hanging, like the high-five that gets no returning smack.
Their sundering is short-lived, because news arrives from London of a major terrorist attack that has devastated its towered skyline. (Our capital in the 23rd century now resembles Dubai on steroids. ) It seems this is the fiendish handiwork of one John Harrison, played in Brit-thespian, Benedict Cumberbatch, his resonant basso profundo carrying the same frisson of sophisticated menace that won Alan Rickman similar roles 20-odd years ago. Harrison proceeds to lay waste to a Starfleet meeting in San Francisco, the cue for Kirk and Spock to reunite and pursue him to his hideout on the planet Kronos.
At which point the film enters the deep space of secret identities, interstellar debris and the notable reprise of a plot from an earlier installment of the Star Trek canon. There’s still room for a little interaction between Kirk’s faithful crew, chiefly Scotty (Simon Pegg), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the ever-moaning Bones (Karl Urban), while Alice Eve freshens up the cast as an unlikely weapons expert and a possible love interest for Kirk. Spock gamely puts forward the counter-argument to the crew’s avowed mission to destroy the fugitive Harrison: is it not morally incumbent on them to capture the suspect and bring him to trial instead?
That fine discrimination gets rather lost amid a welter of juddering explosions, collapsing scenery and technical glitches aboard the Enterprise, which generally involve the poor engineer Chekov (Anton Yelchin) scurrying about below decks and frantically explaining to the bridge that – well, who knows what? There’s not a great deal of suspense here. However frantic the scramble, however frequent the panic stations, do we believe that the Starship is heading into anything but the next sequel?
Star Trek Into Darkness gets the job done without ever threatening to raise one’s pulse. It’s a thoroughly professional entertainment.