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Doctor Strange (2016)
Wonderful and Amazing Escapist Entertainment
Way back when I first heard that Doctor Strange was being brought to the screen I was a bit worried. How could they translate the complexity of character and his true coolness but stay away from the cheeseball stuff? Dress a guy up like the books and remain true to the seriousness of the character? Well, they managed to not only pull it off but deliver one of the best hero origin films ever made.
The director knew that you had to establish and truly care about the character. Making it grounded but still trippy really helps give it a flavor unlike any other comic adaptation. The Harry Potter meets Iron Man meets Ant-Man flavor was there yet it all feels unique. The MCU magic is there literally. Everything established in the Captain America films and both Avengers pays dividends in a way here. The universe has been established wonderfully and this film does the best job to date playing in that universe. Everything and every scene packs some sort of punch and resonates with true style and heart. They really let the action flow but also allow for key development of the overall story and over concept. This also allows them to probe deeper into the character's personalities. ALL the characters even the ones with smaller roles get to shine. This heightens the tension, so often missing from lesser comic-book movies, and adds real weight to the action sequences which are thrilling and often mesmerizing. Add more than a dash of thriller aspects and a few new characters that steal every scene that they appear in.
I honestly can't think of one way to improve this film. The result is a movie that's just flat out exceptional and that honestly delivers the best visuals I've ever seen in a movie.
Cookie Cutter Cheese
My head is telling me to rate this thing low but my gut is saying something else. The entire movie is cookie cutter 1980's type cheese with an updated tech flare. The ending and reasoning for the entire film's events is eye rolling bad. They played it so politically correct and safe that it really kills the film. Yet, I was interested all the way through. Liam Neeson somehow makes a bad action script work somehow. This is either a guilty pleasure or I'm guilty of liking Liam Neeson too much and overlooking what a lot of people will consider a badly written movie. I guess I'm going to let my brain win out because I just can't justify recommending this movie even though it kept my attention.
The Last Stand (2013)
Delivers Throw-Back, Good Old Fashion Action Fun
Arnie is back and I'm stunned that this movie is far better than expected.
It knows exactly what it is and what it wants to be and delivers the throw-back, good old boy action fun. Including the lovely Jaimie Alexander with the good old boys was a wonderful choice! The action is vintage 1980's mixed with the proper amount of current blood and guts violence. Sure, people shake off serious knife wounds and gun shots like paper cuts but somehow it all works. There's also the right amount of humor that doesn't cross the cheesy line. Although, there's a nice grinding of cheese distributed throughout. The good guy characters connect emotionally just enough for the viewer to care and the sight of Arnie gripping and ripping with a shotgun has to make an action junkie's day.
(PS- The car stunts were quite cool. A Corvette ZR1 and A Camaro ZL1 !!!)
The Avengers (2012)
An Unstoppable Force of Awesomeness! All Hail The New King!
I have got to tell anyone who will listen that this is one of THE best adventure movies I've ever seen. It's almost impossible to convey how pumped I am now that I've seen it. I purposefully avoid hyping myself for movies because when expectations are too high, nothing seems to be able to reach them. I usually avoid the hype train whenever possible. That said, I was jacked to see this movie and was fully aboard the hype train. It couldn't be helped. So, I was certainly open to intense disappointment had this movie not been good. I'm so happy to report just the opposite has happened.
The only word I can think of to describe this movie is AWESOME. It's amazing work and everything I had hoped for and more. It's exceptional entertainment for the uninitiated but it has everything a fanboy could want to be sure. It has every little nuance of what a fanboy wants to see. One of the MANY things I loved was the tension and flat out conflict that arises between team members. It's not a two dimensional "team wonderful that bands together to fight crime ho ho ho." Most don't like each other at fist and there is so much texture to be played. That is great because so many of these characters are larger than life. They have egos and the big guns aren't used to working with other people or even playing by the rules. Stark, Thor and Banner all work "the other side of the fence" so to speak. Then there's the Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America who are used to following orders and playing within a command structure. They are all thrown together in a wonderful and, best of all, believable fashion. Again, more than I ever dreamed possible.
The entire cast really delivered. You needed more than just action actors or stunt doubles to play all these parts. The pathos is there but so are the timing and true deep performances. Look, I was missing Ed Norton as much as anyone on that hype train I talked about but I'm so happy to say that Mark Ruffalo won me over. I hope he's locked up for the long haul because we don't need any more changes. Three was the lucky number for movie Banners. Every other actor in Avnegers that we've seen before is BETTER than their previous incarnation (EVERY single one) with the possible exception of RDJ as Stark. He's great but it's hard to top his take on the character from the original Iron Man in an ensemble movie. I also have to fully disclose that I'm insanely attracted to Scarlett Johansson. I thought her Widow character was amazing but I'm definitely judging that through rose colored glasses. The character arcs that run there course during this film will surprise a lot of general audiences expecting nothing more than a Transformers type popcorn scarfdown.
I honestly don't want to give away ANY of the movie with this review because this is one film that needs every scene to be savored. Do yourself a favor and remain unspoiled. It's how I saw the movie (apart from what the trailers showed) and even though you're obviously reading this review, read no others with any kind of spoilers whatsoever. Experience the awesomeness for yourself. Avengers as a movie and as a team on screen is an unstoppable force. I'm just going to say, Hulk & Thor combination equals AWESOME and leave it at that. This movie defines MUST SEE.
Smart and Fun... An Absolute Blast! A True Hero!
Another perk of serving our country... an advance screening of a great film! Intelligent comic-book popcorn epics are rare and this one is definitely a cut above the usual fare. Besides being a tremendously smart and even emotional film, it's also refreshing to see a lead hero be just that... a hero. Steve is no morbid vigilante or narcissistic self absorbed anti-hero. He's the real deal. His tough life hasn't made him bitter or jaded. In fact, it's done just the opposite. He's needed to develop character because his body didn't develop. This is the key to Cap both in the books and in the film. Heart and character trump the physical elements and are what truly makes the character itself special. Even after he's given the great gift of being a "super soldier," he still continues to do the right thing. It's not to prove anything to anyone other than himself because he has a high moral code. I love the fact that they choose his character for the experiment because he wouldn't take advantage of the gift. That's smart writing. Cap's first assignment from the U.S. government is to be the centerpiece in a traveling USO show, building morale and raising money for the war effort. Eventually, he finds he's wasting his new abilities and NEEDS to break away on his own to fight the Nazi menace. This brings him to conflict with the awesomely diabolical Red Skull. The Skull is one of Marvel's best crazed villains and they captured that perfectly. Here, the Red Skull was a guinea pig for a similar Nazi super soldier experiment that went very wrong. These clashes and confrontations are everything they should be and more. Shades of gray are great in film (and there are those tones present here) but sometimes it's good to have character of pure heart, pure integrity and true morality take it to what history and everyone knows was pure evil. It's refreshing to sit back and root for the ultimate good to take it to the ultimate bad guys. It's why I loved Raiders of the Lost Ark and it's why I now love this film.
I enjoyed every single minute of this wonderful film!
Green Lantern (2011)
A True Disappointment and a CGI Mess
Story-wise, there's not much. It's alien protectors choosing an earthman for the first time to join their band and the rules change so often that it's impossible to establish a compelling logic. I'm sure there may be a cool story here but apparently the studio had toys and video games to sell because they cut through anything that could develop the plot or characters and get right to the crazy George Lucus new Star Wars type CGI mishmash. I like Ryan Reynolds but his charisma doesn't come through in the movie's sloppy storytelling. This is nothing but a mess of a movie.
This was a true disappointment on every level. The plot has no cohesion making it difficult for anyone to get caught up in the film. That's a big surprise after most comic based films have proved that you need more story and character than flashy powers. This thing is more Fantastic Four or Catwoman than Iron Man or Dark Knight. I had hoped that this would be better. I found myself trying hard to like the film but failing miserably. Despite the number of effects, they were very ho-hum. It may be the jaded video game culture has made any graphics heavy movie boring but Green Lantern really plays out like video game cut scenes. At one point, it was just one crazy and hard to follow CGI mess after another. Yes, a true disappointment.
Fast Five (2011)
I went with a certain amount of trepidation, but I came out of this movie impressed with action. Sure, the plot is below average and the dialogue is laughable but I really didn't expect either to be good. The refreshing thing is that there is real dialogue, forced but real and they punched up the fun all the way through. Bottom line - see this because it is a fun action movie with enough cars and fun to make the popcorn go down easy. It may not keep you on the edge of your seat but it doesn't have to for the most part.
If you see this with the kind of low expectations that I had (heck, even if you're greatly anticipating this thing), I'm willing to bet (since I bet on everything) that you'll enjoy it.
The Hangover Part II (2011)
Can we please end this franchise now???
The Hangover had a real hit with the original and has really lost its way ever since. This trash is just a pale karaoke version of the original. The problem with this sequel isn't that the humor is overly crass or that it tries to be funny but fails miserably, (well, maybe that is a HUGE problem after all) it's that there's no substance or heart to go along with it. You simply don't care about these guys this time around. Can we please end this franchise now???
Are a few laughs worth wasting 110 minutes of time? For me, the answer is a resounding "No!" There are far more promising avenues to explore with the "Wolf Pack" but all they give us here is a rehash of a better film. Putting aside the juvenile humor that is uneven, all that's left is a woefully underwritten motion picture that spends all it's time as a rehash before taking an ill-advised detour into mawkish sentimentality.
Super 8 (2011)
Disappointment of the Year
The concept was interesting but the surrounding story is borderline inept. There's something missing from the heart of Super 8 for which no amount of quality cinematography, editing, and acting can substitute. I'm not saying the acting was good. What I'm saying is that Super 8 is an insanely uninteresting and almost unlikable film. Devoid of any thriller resonance, the movie treats intrigue the way porn movies treat sex, as a subject to be exploited. The script matches mass childish mystery with awful dialogue and lame performances, using a thin plot as an excuse to try and keep the audience. Unless your IQ matches your show size, there was really nothing of intrigue. I can't tell you how disappointing I am in this movie.
I wanted to be scared but just wasn't. I wanted to like this movie and buy in to the ride but I just didn't. Huge let down.