Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Rocketeer

Starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino and Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes

Directed by Joe Johnston

Animated Segment directed by Mark Dindal

Release Date: June 21st, 1991

Created by Howard Hughes and coveted by the Third Reich: the ability to fly without an airplane! Soon, this amazing device is in the hands of Cliff Secord and Peevy Peabody, a stunt pilot and mechanic who see the device as an opportunity! The duo create a new mystery man: THE ROCKETEER! They think that no one will come after their strange new device. That is, until mobster Eddie Valentine and Hollywoodland movie star Neville Sinclair are hot on their trail! Can the Rocketeer save the day? Will Cliff save his best gal, background actress Jenny?

If you read a lot of my reviews, you'll see I have a fondness for comic-book based movies, such as The Dark Knight trilogy, DC Animated movies, and The Avengers. So, it should come as no surprise I'd be interested in The Rocketeer, which is based on Dave Stevens' comic of the same name.  In regards to the comic, I've read occasional issues of the IDW 2011 volume, but have not yet read any of Stevens' original work; when I do, I'll type up a review later. In the meantime, let's discuss the film.

If the name Joe Johnston sounds familiar, he's the director of Captain America: The First Avenger, Honey, I shrunk the Kids, and Jumanji. Johnston is a great director (in my opinion) due to his great sense of style, great use of action sequences, and making great family friendly films. So, I think he was a great choice to direct this film. He makes the film such a joy to watch. Sure, the special effects haven't aged that gracefully, but Johnston gives the magic of seeing the Rocketeer such a joyful feeling, it's hard not to smile while viewing.

In terms of performances, they're good but cheesy. You'd think that would be a bad thing, but this is a movie about a man with a jetpack fighting mobsters; it's okay to be a little over the top here. Billy Campbell does a good job as Cliff; he makes the character confident, cocky and a likable protagonist. Jennifer Connelly is a good leading lady, making Jenny more than just a damsel in distress, and actually has a fun character arc involving her acting skills. My favorite character, however, has to be Timothy Dalton's Neville Sinclair. If you were to mix an arrogant actor with a spy, you'd get Sinclair.

Final Thoughts: I LOVE this movie. It's cheesy, but so much fun. The Rocketeer gets my full recommendation. However, I'm disappointed the 20th Anniversary Blu-ray has nothing to offer in terms of documentaries or retrospectives. Let's hope that gets corrected one day.

Rating: 5 out of 5 

The Bourne Legacy

Starring Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz

Based on the character Jason Bourne by Robert Ludlum

Directed by Tony Gillory

Release Date: July 30th, 2012

Jason Bourne was only the beginning....

How do you talk about a movie like The Bourne Legacy? There's no Jason Bourne in this movie, so it's not a sequel; but for a spin-off, it relies heavily on seeing the last three Bourne movies. It's a quandary, if I can be  honest. So, I'll break it down as best I can. Is it a bad film? No. Is it a great film? No. However, it's a good start for an Aaron Cross series.

So, if you've never seen a Jason Bourne movie, here's the gist : Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) was a spy who once lost his memories and slowly regained his personality after being trained by the government. (That's the broad strokes of the premise). Now, a similar program to the program that trained Bourne, has decided to eliminate Operation Outcome, its scientists, and the operatives which includes Aaron Cross, as played by Jeremy Renner. Outcome differs from Treadstone as these operatives are given treatments of pills that increase physical and mental abilities. Cross, as an Outcome operative, must routinely take his green and blue pills or he will suffer fatal problems. As Outcome is now being systemically taken apart, Cross must find out how to cure himself of his medicinal need and outrace his handlers now trying to eliminate him.

This movie....requires an immediate prior viewing of the previous Bourne films. At times, I couldn't remember why certain events were important and felt this distracted from the story the film was telling. It was as if two screenwriters were working on two different stories: one dealing with a Jason Bourne story, and the other trying to set up a new character in that universe. Don't get me wrong, Aaron Cross is a really interesting character. But for the first 30 minutes it felt like he wasn't the main character.  Also, the ending is abrupt and disappointing. Still, the film has a lot of impressive performances from the cast and some great stunt sequences. If they can make a sequel that ties up all loose ends about Bourne and sticks with Aaron Cross from now on, I'll be satisfied.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Stuff

Starring Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello, and Paul Sorvino

Directed by Larry Cohen

Release Date: June 14th, 1985

What is The Stuff? That's the rub, nobody knows. It's Zero percent fat, highly addictive, and a complete mystery to the buying public. However, there's a dark side to such a fun treat. Are you eating it...or is it eating you?

This is a weird movie. I mean, there's been some questionable horror movies out there, but how do you top the absurdity of flesh eating pudding? Still, for what it is, The Stuff is an enjoyable 1980s horror movie. First, I have to give props to Cecil from for highlighting this film on his show; he does a lot of cheesy but enjoyable films on his show and this was one of them.

The Stuff does a lot of cool things, such as utilizing elements of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and zombie fiction, which works really well and has some great prosthetic work in the film. The film also explores the themes of greed, addiction, and manipulated advertising. In fact, the best part of the movie is how it explores The Stuff and its popularity with the public in a non-traditional way. The cast does a great job, particularly Michael Morarity as "Mo", who's a sly manipulator and does a great job with the part. However, the one flaw with the film is the terrible green screen technology; it may have been impressive in 1985, but it looks really bad now.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 

Mystery Team

Starring Donald Glover, DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, and Aubrey Plaza

Directed by Dan Eckman

Release date(s):

Sundance Film Festival........January 17th, 2009

United States......................August 28th, 2009

Once Jason, Duncan, and Charlie were the town heroes known as the Mystery team; as children, they were adored by adults and known for solving little mysteries such as who theater "hops" and who's skipping school. Ten years later, they're high school-aged teens with little emotional development and even lower respect from their peers. However, the trio have now taken the case for their first "adult" mystery: the murder of Kelly Peter's parents. Can these town weirdos solve the case?

For those who don't know, Donald Glover is on the cult hit TV show "Community" as Troy Barnes. Glover brings his quick-witted sense of humor to the show and has quickly become a favorite with audiences and critics alike. He's also a well-known stand-up comedian who's a member of Derick Comedy, an online comedy group who created Mystery Team.

If you're a fan of The Venture Brothers, Mystery Team will be right up your alley, satirizing the mystery genre and the "super kid" archetype. These three goofs (Jason, Duncan, and Charlie) are very much like Dr. Thadeous "Rusty" Venture from TVB: they all cling to their pasts, believe that they're the best in their fields, and are lovable losers. I liked little touches such as Jason and Duncan having bedroom attire you'd see them have at age 7, their "hay day" of Mystery Team, or Charlie trying to do "superhuman strength" actions that will obviously fail. It's obvious that the writers/actors knew how to develop their characters into interesting oddballs.

However, be warned this movie isn't for everyone. There's A LOT of sexual/offensive dialogue and the humor won't appeal to everyone. That said, I really enjoyed Mystery Team for its great use of improvization and absurdist comedy.

Final Thoughts: If you want to see a black comedy take on mysteries, check out Mystery Team. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tomorrow Never Dies

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Joe Don Baker, Samantha Bond and Judi Dench as M

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

Release Date: December 12th, 1997 (United Kingdom)

James Bond takes on Media Mogul. Seriously.

If someone had to ask me who's the best James Bond, I'd have to say I have 3 choices: Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, and Sean Connery. Each of them has a unique quality I like about how they play the character. However, I'd say that Pierce Brosnan would have to be my least favorite. He relies too much on one liners and gadgets, and he was just not as good as other actors in the part, but that's just my opinion.

The, this was a chore to get through. While there are some good parts, a lot of it is just dull.

What works: Michelle Yeoh. I liked her character; I read on IMDB that producers were considering making a spin-off film with her character, but it never happened. I think this is unfortunate, because Yeoh has good chemistry with Brosnan and her fight scenes are energetic and fun. Johnathan Pryce, who I loved in Brazil, has a lot fun playing Elliot Carver. It's pretty obvious he's modeling his performance off real-life media mogul Rupert Murdoch, but turning up his mannerisms to "11".

What Fails: There's too much reliance on gadgetry. Every time Bond is in a tight situation, he uses a gadget he conveniently got from Q in Act One. It's not the most notorious film that has this problem, but I was annoyed by it. Also, the plot is really dull. Sure, the premise of politics being manipulated by the media is intriguing, but I never thought the story lived up to that potential.

Final Thoughts: Not a bad James Bond movie, just fairly average.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Campaign

Starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudeikis, Brian Cox, John Lithgow, and Dan Aykroyd

Directed by Jay Roach

Release Date: August 10th, 2012

Cam Brady has run unopposed for Congress four times in North Carolina's 14th district. Brady's public image is a morally upright, faithful Christian man who the voters love. However, his high popularity takes a nose-dive when Brady exposes himself to an affair with a supporter. Then, Brady has an opponent, town "weirdo" Marty Huggins. Now, it's a battle to see who will go to D.C.

Some people don't like Ferrell or Galifianakis. Maybe it's their comedic style, their raunchy jokes....or the fact that many of  the roles they play blend together. Yeah, I'm gonna go with door number 3. Too often, these two comedians get into a groove and just never try to do better. Still, does that make them bad comedians? I'm gonna say that while they're two very funny actors, Ferrell and Galifianakis can do so much more.

As a comedy, The Campaign is very funny. There are a ton of really funny jokes and scenes involving the two leads. One of my favorites has to do with Ferrell's Brady being involved with a snake-handling church and being bitten by snakes. That, and the funniest character is Tim Whatley, played by Dylan McDermott. Whatley is a mysterious and foul-mouthed campaign manager with a habit of vanishing a la Batman. Also, how awesome is it to see Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow in a movie again? Sure, they're just playing supporting parts, but they're great comedic actors and I'm glad to see them on the big screen again.

However, as a film, The Campaign is very mediocre. It's fairly predictable and the plot is fairly standard. Also, they waste Jason Sudeikis as a straight man to Ferrell. He really gets nothing to do and that's a shame. I had a thought about how the movie could have been better. Perhaps instead of a traditional three-act story, the filmmakers could have used a "mockumentary" style that follows the candidates during the campaign. I feel that would have been more interesting than just "keep the town from being bought by shady businessmen". I feel that while the scenes involving mocking politics are the strongest, the ones involving the story are the weakest.

Final Thoughts: A funny movie, but nothing memorable.

Rating: 3. 5 out of 5

The Cabin in the Woods

Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford

Screenplay written by Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon

Release Date: April 13, 2012

Because of the nature of this film, I'll avoid the plot details of The Cabin in the Woods. Therefore, I'll breakdown my review by WHAT WORKS and WHAT FAILS.

WHAT WORKS: When one hears the words "Joss Whedon" attached to a television show or movie, you can expect well-written dialogue and an intriguing premise. If you've never heard of Whedon before, he's the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse. More recently, Whedon directed THE AVENGERS, which has made nearly $1.5 Billion and he's already signed on to direct the sequel. Whedon is known for his quirky dialogue, strong characters, and as a director, he's done great work with action sequences.

Therefore, Whedon's pop culture dialogue comes out of pothead Marty, played by Dollhouse alum Fran Kranz. Marty had to be one of my favorite characters due to his snarky sense of humor making light of the situation he and his friends are in.

However, what truly made the film for me had to be the scenes with Sitterson and Hadley. When people talk about this film, it will most likely be about these two. Their day-to-day attitudes, their unusual conversations...I found these two to be interesting characters. If anything, there needed to be more of these two.

What Fails: When I saw trailers for this film, the ad campaigns were heavily focused on the horror aspect. Sure, there are horror elements to the story, no denying that. But when you get to what's stalking our group of teens....I just didn't flinch. Maybe I've seen too many horror films myself, but I didn't find the monster at all frightening. Just to clarify, there are some frightening parts, but nothing terrifying.

Final Thoughts: The Cabin in the Woods has a lot of great ideas, I'm not denying that. However, part of the film has to do with HORROR, which never truly works for me. Still, there's some great dark humor and a dizzying plot twist. I'd recommend it if you're a fan of Joss Whedon.

Rating: 4 out of 5