Archives for posts with tag: sci-fi

Grade C +

In this live action re-make of the classic 1995 anime, Scarlett Johansson plays a highly advanced cyborg who has a human brain (which contains her human essence, or ghost) that is placed into a tough, weapons grade body (the shell).   She and her team of government agents are tasked with finding a hacker who is killing top executives of a robotics company.

Through the crowded streets of Japan littered with giant, holographic advertisements, Johansson’s perspective on who she is, what she is fighting for, and who the real enemy is will change the closer she gets to the truth about the hacker.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) is the scene when Johansson fights a Spider-Tank using inadequate weapons, forcing her to use her body to save another being that is similar to herself.

This iteration of “G.I.T.S.” dumbs down the complex storylines of the 1995 movie, making the 2017 version easier to understand but less satisfying.   It’s like driving a Dodge Viper ACR with the engine swapped out for one that belongs in a Toyota Camry to please those with inferior driving skills.  “G.I.T.S.” (2017) misses the whole point of a computer program becoming a sentient life form that seeks to evolve, and the arguments of what life is.  As disappointed as I was, this version is somewhat entertaining, and it was fun to see many scenes that were virtually identical to the original movie.  Still, this is a classic example of Hollywood focusing on style instead of substance.

— M

Grade B +

Manny’s Movie Musings: One of the best animated movies of the 1990s, “Ghost In The Shell” has secret agent/cyborg Motoko searching for a hacker nicknamed Puppet Master who can hack into a cyborg’s “ghost,” or human essence.  Her investigation — often culminating in violence — will have her looking into her own government and make her ask questions about the definition of life and the basic principles of what makes a creature a human being.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (1995) is the scene when Motoko, armed with a submachine-gun and a few grenades, takes on a tank as she pursues the Puppet Master.  Every anime fan is aware of this movie and loves it; and that love is well deserved.  Watch the movie and you’ll see and hear for yourself.

— M

Grade C

Manny’s Movie Musings: astronauts do the dumbest things and start messing with an alien lifeform that is evolving at a fast rate; and when things start to go bad they just forget basic safety precautions and containment procedures.  The victims’ deaths are somewhat interesting; the evolution of the alien is somewhat interesting.   “Somewhat interesting” should not be the result of a $58 million movie.  Adding more misery to “Life” is the inevitable comparison to “Alien,” a masterpiece of a movie.   Whoever greenlit “Life” for production probably has no life left in his career in the movie business.

— M

Grade B

Twelve alien spacecraft hover over various parts of Earth, their intentions unknown, their language unknown.  An expert on language (played by Amy Adams) and a physicist (played by Jeremy Renner) are tasked by the U.S. military to interpret what the aliens inside one spacecraft are saying.  It is a monumental task, but it has to be done as fast as possible because the entire world is on edge.  Fear is quickly taking hold of many people, some of whom have the power to start a war with the alien visitors.  If the “Arrival” of the aliens is meant to bring peace and friendship to humans, then it must be quickly confirmed before itchy trigger fingers causes an intergalactic war.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Arrival” is the scene when the aliens are introduced.  Let’s just say if I was there, I’d either run screaming like a Wayans brother or start crying like Matt Damon.

“Arrival” moves slowly, methodically, allowing the audience to soak in everything they hear and see.  Although many characters are in this movie, almost all of the focus is on Adams and Renner, making “Arrival” feel more personal.  The flashback sequences of Adams and her daughter adds a dreamy but highly relevant layer to the story which gives a nice surprise twist near the end of  the movie.

— M

B –

Manny’s Movie Musings: “Firestarter” adapts Stephen King’s book of the same name, and stars Drew Barrymore playing the title role and David Keith as her protective father.  Both father and daughter have super powers (Barrymore can set almost anything on fire) due to a government experiment, and now they are hunted down for more experimentation and ultimate disposal.  My most memorable, movie moment of “Firestarter” is the scene when Barrymore walks out of a burning barn, ready to kill and burn everything and everyone she sees — a little girl with an adorable face but with the power of the devil.  Although “Firestarter” has the feel of a movie of the week and has several shenanigans (e.g., the bad guys make the laughably bad assumption that Keith has lost his powers and therefore doesn’t need that much supervision), overall it is very entertaining (mostly due to Barrymore’s adorable portrayal of her character), and the part when Barrymore goes off on the bad guys is very satisfying.

— M

B+

A terrific start to a fresh take on the “Planet Of The Apes” movies.  Andy Serkis plays the role of Caesar, a chimpanzee with heightened intelligence due to an experimental drug that was developed by his owner (played by James Franco).  Living in the house of Franco, Serkis grows strong and freakishly intelligent.  But he is still basically a chimpanzee; and that inner, savage nature takes the best of him when he escapes from the house to protect a loved one.

Serkis is placed in a “sanctuary” for great apes, which is basically a prison.   Serkis must learn to carefully navigate this madhouse, avoiding the vicious alpha male of the group, and cultivating friends as he plots an escape.  But where can he and his kind escape to?  He doesn’t belong to the human world, and he certainly doesn’t belong in a zoo nor a “sanctuary.”

As Caesar tries to make sense of his situation, Franco creates a stronger version of the virus that made Serkis super intelligent, hoping for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.   But viruses being what they are, Franco risks unleashing a curse instead of a cure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” is the scene when Serkis speaks for the first time when he is being mistreated by a human.  He utters one word, a simple word that bullies, tyrants, and dictators fear.  A word that can spark a revolution.

— M

Grade A –

Mostly taking place days before “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” puts us at the tip of the spear of the Rebel Alliance.  Said tip is headed by two rebels (played by Felicity Jones and Diego Luna) who volunteer to infiltrate a heavily defended, Imperial base to steal the plans to the Empire’s dreaded, new weapon, the Death Star.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is the scene when Darth Vader boards a Rebel ship.  Invisible within the dark hallway, his breathing can be heard…then the red light saber ignites.  Vader straight up murders dozens of rebel soldiers within a span twenty seconds, an unstoppable, evil force moving forward as he kills.  It is Darth Vader’s most terrifying moment in all of the “Star Wars” movies.

What makes “Rogue One” more satisfying than the last four “Star Wars” movies (Episodes I, II, III, and VII) is mostly due to a tight screenplay that does not contain many head-scratching moments that put off “SW” fans; and a more brutal depiction of combat where characters that you grow to like may not survive.  The “dogfights” are also faster paced, have better dialogue, and have great choreography.  And last but definitely not least: the numerous characters from Episode IV that are brought back, either through CGI or from unused film footage from the 1977 movie.

My ticket to “Rogue One” was money well spent, and this title will be part of my Blu-Ray library in the near future.

— M

B+

From the mind of J.K. Rowling comes “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them,” an amazing tale of the adventures of a young wizard (perfectly played by Eddie Redmayne) who goes to NYC in the 1920s in order to retrieve and find homes for fantastic, magical beasts that would otherwise be destroyed by the wizarding community.

Redmayne will face many serious hurdles during his mission: not knowing how to navigate NYC (specifically Manhattan); being unfamiliar with the rules of the wizard community in NY; both wizards and non-wizards fearing the fantastic beasts and wanting them destroyed; and the wizarding community not sanctioning his search, capture, and release (into safe zones) of the beasts.

A larger threat is a powerful force that wreaks destruction and death in NYC, threatening to unveil the wizarding world to the normal humans.  A fantastic, magical beast is blamed; and Redmayne has little time left to prove to the wizards that the cause of the mayhem is some other, supernatural force.  If Redmayne fails at what he must do, a war between normal humans and wizards may erupt; and all the fantastic beasts in Redmayne’s care will be destroyed.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is the scene when **SPOILER ALERT** Redmayne and his wizard friend/love interest are sentenced to death, and we see the manner in which the execution is carried out.  The executioners mention that it won’t hurt, but I think it will!

“FBAWTFT” was much better than I anticipated, and it is a very good companion piece to the “Harry Potter” movies.  But it does suffer from two huge plot holes — or shenanigans, as I like to call it — that cannot be easily dismissed.  The wizards have the power to reverse any damage to property, and remove memories of magical experiences by normal humans.  In addition, the wizards can wreak such havoc upon the world and there is very little that the normal humans can do about it.  One wizard can probably destroy a small country in a day.  So why do the wizards fear having their existence revealed, and some possible war against the normal humans happening?

— M

Grade C+

After the mysterious and gruesome death of his beloved grandfather, Asa Butterfield (playing the lead role) discovers that his grandfather’s tales of children with super powers and the monsters that seek to kill them are all true.

What begins as spiritual healing for Butterfield ends as a wondrous adventure that is also terrifying as he is introduced to Eva Green (who plays the title role) and her home for peculiar children.  Each visit strengthens his bond with Green and her charges, especially for a floating, teen girl.  Happiness that has eluded Butterfield in his own world is finally found in “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” but one mistake will jeopardize not only his own life, but the lives of all his new friends and love interest.  Butterfield and the peculiar children must learn to be brave and fight the monsters that have come to kill them.

My most memorable, movie moment of “M.P.H.F.P.C.” is the scene that shows how the monsters came to be, and why they need to kill peculiar children.  It may be a bit too much for little kiddies, so parents beware.

“M.P.H.F.P.C.” gets a mediocre grade because it has too many shenanigans.  Some of the peculiar children have powers that can devastate an enemy quickly, yet they don’t take advantage of them or they wait until the last minute to use them.  Granted, some are little kids and have never been in combat, but the older children could have easily instructed the little ones on how and when to use their deadly powers.  **SPOILER ALERT** One older child (I’m being nice here, because she looks like she is 25-years-old) has the power to generate so much oxygen from her body that she can float a sunken ship, yet she can only put out about 20 seconds of air to pin the lead monster against a wall, after which the monster is free to do more damage?  Get the hell out.

I found the first two acts of this movie to be entertaining, but the last act — where most of the shenanigans take place — left me questioning what the hell the filmmakers were thinking.

— M

Grade B –

It is the 1980s.  The uneasy peace between mutants and humans will be threatened when a powerful mutant named “Apocalypse” (played by Oscar Isaac) is freed from his prison.  Having the power to amplify the powers of other mutants, Apocalypse recruits and empowers four mutants to protect him (the four horsemen of the Apocalypse — yeah, I know, it’s kind of corny) as he implements his plan to destroy humans and create a new world for mutants.  Standing in the way of Isaac’s nightmarish dream are James McAvoy (who plays mutant Professor X) and his mutant students called X-Men.  It will take all their combined efforts — and maybe a bit of outside help — to defeat Isaac and his four minions.

My most memorable, movie moment of “X-Men: Apocalypse” is **SPOILER ALERT** the sequence that had mutant Quicksilver save all the X-Men in the Westchester mansion from an enormous explosion.  This outstanding display of Quicksilver’s powers makes one wonder how he could not destroy Isaac and his four horsemen by himself.  I find this to be a huge shenanigan that forced me to take a lot of points away from this movie.

Although “X-Men: Apocalypse” is one of the better X-Men movies (the sheer number of mutants going toe to toe is a comic book lover’s dream), it suffers from two huge plot holes (one already mentioned in the previous paragraph).  The second plot hole is this: why doesn’t Isaac just make a general call for any disgruntled mutants to join him from the beginning?  Take over a tv station and make his offer to the world.  With so many mutants being abused throughout the planet, Isaac would have amassed an army of hundreds, if not thousands, of mutants; and he would have been unstoppable.  So why didn’t the movie have this take place?  Probably because the writers were like “Uhhh…we’re not going to deal with that, and hope no one notices.”  Well, we noticed.

— M

Grade B –

With more metahumans coming out of the woodwork, the U.S. government creates a secret, task force made up of metahumans to fight other metahumans who do not have the world’s best interests at heart.  Viola Davis, playing a top government agent who creates this metahuman squad, unwisely chooses villains to fill out the group.  Yes, at first this seems like a ludicrous idea…after all, how can you trust these villains to do your bidding?  And the character of Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie…how can this psychopath be expected to follow orders, even under the threat of having her head blown off by implanted, miniature explosives?  The idea of this “Suicide Squad” is so far-fetched, how can the audience blindly accept it and sit back and have fun with the movie?  Well…let me tell you…

The U.S. putting madmen and psychos under payroll and setting them up to acquire a tremendous amount of power is very real, and very common.  Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Osama Bin-Laden, and Saddam Hussein are a few examples.  Soooo…the idea of the U.S. government hiring maniacs to fight other maniacs isn’t that far-fetched after all.

Soon after Davis sets up her squad under threats and/or promises of freedom and extra goodies, a metahuman threat arises.  Ironically, it is a threat that is borne from a squad member!  Will Smith (playing Deadshot) leads the “Suicide Squad” into the fight, and as expected, things do not go smoothly.  How can it?  The squad has never fought as a group before; one is psychotic; another made a promise to himself to not use his powers anymore; two of them just want to escape; and the squad wasn’t given the full story of who they are fighting and how this threat came to be.   Working together and defeating a powerful enemy will take a miracle, and they need that miracle to happen fast because the entire world is about to end.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Suicide Squad” is the scene when Robbie finally puts on her outfit.  ‘Nuff said.

“Suicide Squad” is a reasonably entertaining, somewhat mindless action flick that has two memorable characters: Deadshot and Harley Quinn.   While Robbie killed it as Quinn, Smith seemed miscast for his role as Deadshot.  Add to this a script that needed more polish and focus, and what could have been a great movie is reduced to one that is just okay.

— M

Grade D +

Manny’s Movie Musings: It should be called “Independence Day: Regurgitation.”  The same director; the same logical flaws; the same unfunny jokes; the same main actors; the same aliens…I’d be okay with the same of many things except all the logical flaws of the story.  Okay, first the plot: it’s been 20 years since the original invasion, and humans have merged alien tech with human tech, and we now have super duper military hardware.  People think they have what it takes to defend against another attack, but they are mistaken.  From the aliens’ home world comes a ship that is 3,000 miles wide, ready to destroy us pesky humans.  But the aliens didn’t count on one thing: a screenplay so full of plot holes that the aliens are sure to be defeated in the most stupid and ridiculous ways.  “Independence Day: Resurgence” is just one big shenanigan of a movie.  For example: the mother ship, at 3,000 miles wide, has its own gravitational pull.  It destroys anything that it flies over…sooooo…why not just do a fly-by over the entire surface of Earth and wipe out the humans?  Hey, don’t look at me…ask the 5 screenwriters — which includes the director — whose combined talent (or lack thereof) couldn’t see that most of this movie made no sense.  I have to admit though: “ID: R” was somewhat amusing.  Not exactly a glowing recommendation for a $165 million dollar project (plus the cost of distribution).  My most memorable, movie moment of “ID: R” would be the final seconds of the movie when it is clear Roland Emmerich is thinking about another “ID” movie.  If there is anyone deserving of a painful, alien, anal probe, it is Emmerich.

— M

Grade A

Manny’s Movie Musings: the theatrical cut has already been reviewed by me, so this is just a supplementary.  The Ultimate Edition of “B v S” adds over 30 minutes of footage to the theatrical cut, giving the movie more depth and answering some questions which many viewers had the first time around.  Questions such as why did the black villager blame Superman for the dozens of deaths in her village in Africa; and why Superman couldn’t see the bomb that was hidden in the motorized wheelchair.  Bottom line, a movie which I thought was good has become better with Snyder’s cut; and it’s good enough for me to buy it on Blu-ray disc when the price is right.

— M

Grade A

Outrageous!  Ridiculous!  Hilarious!  Highly entertaining!

Ryan Reynolds stars as a hired thug with a heart of gold.  His life of being a poor man’s “Equalizer” is turned upside down (for the better) when he falls in love with a woman (played by Morena Baccarin) who is in every way his soulmate.  Of course, life hits Reynolds in the groin when he is at his happiest moment: he is diagnosed with cancer.

The normally fast-talking, smart-ass Reynolds is devastated, mostly because of his fear of losing Baccarin and what his condition will do to her.  Then one night, a creepy looking man tells Reynolds that he can be part of an experimental program that will cure his cancer.  Desperate, Reynolds agrees.  Taken to a dungeon-like environment and strapped down, Reynolds understands too late what he is in for.  He is injected with chemicals that will try to unlock his latent mutant genes — assuming he has any — and then he’ll be subjected to non-stop torture in order for the stress to trigger his mutation.

The long, painful experiment is a success…so to speak.  Reynolds does become a mutant with powers to regenerate damaged tissue; but his skin has turned into something that resembles third degree burns. He is also a prisoner, and is threatened with having his mind altered so he can be controlled and sold as a slave to the highest bidder.

Torture and slavery not being part of his life goals, Reynolds escapes, puts on a suit to hide his identity and hideous face, takes on the name of “Deadpool,” and goes on a savage hunt to find those responsible for his freakish transformation.  But his ultimate goal is to force the bad guys to turn him back into a regular human so he can continue his life with Baccarin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Deadpool” is the scene when Reynolds fights Colossus, an X-Men member with the power to turn his body into metal.  Reynolds hits Colossus with one hand and he breaks his hand!  He hits Colossus with his other hand and breaks that too!  Then Reynolds kicks Colossus and…yup, you guessed it: he breaks his foot!  Hopping around in pain with both hands and one foot broken, Reynolds kicks Colossus with his good foot and breaks that one too!  As I was trying to catch my breath while laughing my ass off, I wondered what the hell was wrong with Reynolds!  Then I figured it out: Reynolds just does not give up.

Parents: be warned, “Deadpool” deserves its R rating.  There is a lot of cursing and sex in this movie.  Oh, and lots of bloody violence.  Keep the kiddies away from this one.  For the adults: if you enjoyed “Ant-Man” and “Zack And Miri Make A Porno,” you’ll love “Deadpool” as it has many elements of those two movies.  The writers of “Deadpool” took a big chance on having Reynolds talk to the audience and make lots of movie references and insider jokes about filmmaking and celebrity; but the gamble paid off.  Instead of taking me out of the movie, I got more involved with it (I’m old enough to know all of Reynolds’ movie reference jokes) and it endeared me toward the Deadpool character — I wanted this guy to win; and judging by the box office receipts, so did many people.

Yes, Maximus, I was very much entertained.  I will see this movie again; but not yet…not yet.

— M

Grade A

When the Avengers accidentally kill civilians during one of their battles in Africa, the U.N. puts limitations on the superheroes’ actions, dictating when, where and how they are to fight the enemy.   One half of the Avengers are on Team Captain America (played by Chris Evans), believing that they should not surrender their autonomy to the committees of the United Nations.  The other half of the Avengers are on Team Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), believing that even superheroes should be held accountable, and it’s better to accept the U.N.’s rules now, rather than be forced into it at a future date when more draconian measures may be used against the Avengers.

Further complicating matters is a terrorist attack that is being blamed on The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan).  Stan, a former spy/assassin/brainwashed, all around bad guy with superpowers, is on the run from every law enforcement group, including Downey and his group of Avengers.  Evans, best friend of Stan, will do everything in his power to find Stan first and shield him from those who would want to kill him and/or put him in prison for life.

Downey warns Evans and his group to stand down, and if Evans does not comply, Evans will be seen as a criminal and will be treated as such.  And thus, the civil war between the Avengers starts.  On this corner, we have Captain America, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Winter Soldier, and Ant-Man!  On that corner, we have Iron Man, War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther and…Spider-Man!  May the best team win!

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we first meet a very young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (amazingly played by Tom Holland).  I thought Andrew Garfield was great at playing Peter Parker; but Holland kills it, playing the role so perfectly that he stole the whole show.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain America: Civil War” of course goes to the battle sequence between Team Evans against Team Downey.  This is absolute heaven to every reader of Marvel comic books.  It’s like eating the most indulgent dessert wrapped up in layers of more dessert, and then getting seconds and thirds!

“…Civil War” isn’t just a feast for the eyes and ears, it’s also a commentary on the legalities, complication, and ramifications of certain countries doing military ops in other countries, whether sanctioned or not.  Read between the lines and one can see a critique of America’s military actions on foreign soil.  For those who are just looking for entertainment, this third Captain America delivers, and then some.  The things we love in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are found here: action, adventure, witty banter, strong social commentary, buff guys and gals in tight outfits, heart, soul, and first rate special effects.

— M

B+

A sci-fi/suspense/thriller that has so many twists and turns, it’ll keep you guessing at the truth all the way to the end.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a woman who wakes up after a car accident only to find herself chained and cuffed to a pipe in a sparse room.  Her captor, creepily played by John Goodman, tells her that there was some kind of attack against the U.S., possibly by Russians, maybe terrorists, maybe Martians.  The air supposedly has been poisoned, and they would need to stay in his doomsday bunker for maybe a year or two for the poisons to dissipate.

Not being a moron, Winstead doubts what she is being told, and her face shows that she thinks she’s going to be a sex slave to this crazed, fat man, or worse, maybe she’s going to be in some type of “Saw” situation.  But then she meets another man — played by John Gallagher Jr. — who is also in the bunker.  Gallagher confirms to Winstead that he saw some type of flash in the air, and then he rushed to Goodman’s bunker and fought his way in so that he could survive.  But Winstead still has her doubts.  She has no idea who these two country boys are, and Goodman’s disturbing behavior — such as flipping out over the slightest thing — makes Winstead even more guarded.

Was there an attack that wiped out a good chunk of the U.S. and left the air poisoned?  Is Goodman lying so he can have a pretty woman stay in his bunker with his fat, creepy self?  Is Gallagher lying also, and possibly partners with Goodman to keep Winstead from leaving the bunker?

One thing Winstead will be sure of as time goes by: the threat inside the bunker is as dangerous as the real or imaginary threat outside.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Winstead and Gallagher look at a photo of a girl who is supposed to be Goodman’s daughter.  I’ll leave it at that.

My most memorable, movie moment of “10 Cloverfield Lane” is the scene at the end when Winstead sees absolute proof of what is really going on.  Again, I’ll leave it at that.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is a much better movie than I had hoped for.  It has a heroine who is not your typical, damsel in distress — Winstead’s character is mentally tough and very resourceful.  The movie is unpredictable, the tension remains high for the majority of the story, and the acting is top notch.

Yes, Maximus, I was surprised to be so entertained by this movie.

— M

Grade B +

After finding the scepter of Loki, The Avengers decide to give Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo (playing Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, respectively) a few days to analyze the object.  The two Avengers’ meddling leads to the release of an artificial intelligence named Ultron who wants to destroy the planet.  With the ability to hack into mainframes, Ultron creates a robot body for himself that can match Downey’s Iron Man suit; and by stealing money from various accounts, Ultron gains the resources to create an army of robots that will help him kill all the Avengers and the entire human race.

“Avengers: Age Of Ultron” ushers in two superhuman siblings called Quicksilver and The Scarlett Witch who ally themselves with Ultron in order to get revenge against The Avengers.  Time is running out quickly for Earth’s superheroes, who have been dealt a near-crippling defeat by their new foes.  Ultron grows stronger each hour, and The Avengers must find a way to stay united if they are to have any hope of saving the planet.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” takes place during the opening battle sequence.  There is a slow-motion shot that shows all six Avengers (The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) on screen attacking the enemy.  It is something that will never be forgotten by all Marvel Comics fans.   My compliments to director Joss Whedon.

At second place for my memorable moment of this movie is the scene when the commander of the HYDRA base that is under attack by The Avengers asks his men if the superheroes can be held back.  One soldier meekly says, “They’re The Avengers.”

One small weakness of “Age Of Ultron” is that there is too much comedy in it.  Even Ultron cracks one-liners almost every time he is onscreen.  It also doesn’t help that half of the jokes don’t really work.  Despite this flaw, this Avengers movie is highly entertaining, more so for comic book fans.  The action sequences are amazing and the pacing is mostly fast, making the 2 hour 21 minute running time of the movie feel shorter than it is.

Forget Ultron, this is the age of comic book geeks like me who are gorging on one superhero movie after another.

— M

Grade B

In the realm of comic book characters, no match-up is more famous and argued over than Batman versus Superman.  Director Zack Snyder’s interpretation of this fight between two of the most famous comic book heroes is…good.  That’s a compliment, right?  Sort of.  For a movie that costs about $250 million (plus the cost of film prints and the shipping of these prints, and advertising expenses), this had better be a great movie.  So in one sense, it is a success because it made a lot of money — and will continue to do so — but in another sense it is a failure because it didn’t live up to its hype nor potential.

With a running time of about 2 1/2 hours, much is crammed into this movie — way too much, actually.  I’ll give you a quick rundown on this bloated movie.  The “introduction” of Superman (played by Henry Cavill) is a rehash of the ending of “Man Of Steel,” where Metropolis undergoes a severe renovation thanks to Cavill’s fight with General Zod and his henchmen and one henchwoman.  Of course, mere mortals die by the thousands.  Ben Affleck, who plays Batman, sees the destruction and deaths firsthand; and from that moment on, he sees Cavill as an alien who is too powerful and cannot be trusted to use his powers always for good.   Thus starts Affleck’s plan to fight and kill Cavill before Cavill has the chance to destroy Earth should he have a bad day.  Oh, and there’s the story about Wonderwoman, a weird version of Lex Luthor which was like a mix of The Joker/The Riddler, a mutant abomination called Doomsday, etc., etc.  As I said, bloated.

But “Batman v Superman” does deliver on the goods, which is the fight between these heroes.  Loosely adapted from the mini-series comic books “The Dark Knight Returns,” the fight between Affleck and Cavill is amazing, and will surely have every comic book fan of Batman and Superman salivating and grinning.  It’s the rest of the movie that has audiences sharply divided: half say it was boring and nonsensical, the other half say it was good, albeit far from perfect.

What do I say?  Yes, many parts of this movie was slow, but I never found it boring.  They were needed to tell the story, to build up the characters and their motivations.  In fact, scenes that showed Affleck’s and Cavill’s human side (the best and worst parts of us) were some of my favorite scenes.  It’s how “B v S” made me feel that was the most important to me; and this movie made me feel the anger, sadness, jealousy, rage, confusion, fear, love, friendship, trust, and hope that the characters in “B v S” felt.  This is the true appeal of this movie, because without it, we just have two guys hitting each other while wearing outfits that would look fabulous in a gay pride parade.

Third place for my memorable moments category of this movie is the scene when Wonderwoman (played by Gal Gadot) looks at files of “metahumans” and sees Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg.  Justice League, here we come!

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Cavill and Affleck finally start their fight with each other.  Unfortunately, it starts off comically as Cavill taps Affleck and Affleck gets thrown like a beetle getting flicked by someone’s finger.

First place for my memorable, movie moments of “Batman v Superman” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene when Batman is about to kill Superman with a kryptonite pointed spear.  Superman, barely able to talk, begs Batman to save Martha, Martha being Superman’s mother.  Batman thinks Superman is referring to Martha Wayne, who is Batman’s dead mother.  When Batman finally realizes whom Superman is speaking of, he sees the human side of Superman.  Instead of viewing him as a dangerous alien, Batman now sees Superman as a good son desperate to save his mom, the way Batman always wished he could save his mom — and dad — from that tragic night when he was a boy.  And just like that, the Dawn of Justice begins.

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has its flaws, yes; but the emotional points of the movie hit hard and true.  And the fight between Batman and Superman…that glorious fight that comic book fans have only seen in cartoons and comics…it is a dream come true.

— M

Grade D+

Ten stories in one movie that takes place in one neighborhood during Halloween!  Wow, sounds like a great deal, right?  Wrong!  With a running time of about 90 minutes, including credits, that’s about 8 minutes per story.  There is just no time to set up the stories so that the audience will care for what happens to the characters.  “Tales Of Halloween” is just an orgy of gory deaths that sometimes has a surprise ending that is amusing.  And the special effects isn’t much better than what was seen in the “Tales From The Darkside” t.v. show decades ago.  Almost every story has so many shenanigans that they cannot be taken seriously, further disengaging the audience from the movie.  This is not horror, but comedy; and even as such, it is a failure.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Tales Of Halloween” is the scene when a little alien with a little bag for his Halloween candy keeps saying, “twick or tweet!”  It was a cute, little critter and it made me laugh.

This movie is to be avoided by horror fans, unless you want something silly and gory to watch with your friends as you get drunk and catch up on your lives.

No, Maximus, I was not entertained!

— M

Grade A

When I first heard about the movie “Ant-Man,” I thought “You got to be kidding.  Ant-Man!  Of all the Marvel superheroes to make a movie about, you do Ant-Man!”  Well, I’m glad Hollywood made this movie, because it’s one of the best superhero movies ever made.

Paul Rudd plays an ex-con who is trying to live a straight life and provide for his daughter, who is living with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.   Redemption comes in the form of Michael Douglas, who plays a former superhero and creator of the Ant-Man suit that allows the wearer to shrink to the size of an ant.   Douglas tasks Rudd with donning the Ant-Man suit so that he could infiltrate a highly secured building and steal a weapon prototype so that it could not be sold to the bad guys.  Rudd has but a few days to train, and his chances of coming out of this mission alive is slim…but he has high hopes!

One of my memorable moments of this flick is the scene when Ant-Man is fighting Yellowjacket — both hero and villain are in their tiny mode — within a toy, train set.  From the perspective of Yellowjacket, we see this enormous, noisy train bearing down on him, an impact sure to cause major catastrophe.  In the next shot, from the perspective of humans, we see the toy train simply and quietly fall off the tracks.  It was hilarious!  This is genius filmmaking!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ant-Man” is the scene when Rudd accepts Douglas’ offer of redemption.  Rudd tells Douglas that he wants to do what’s right, and he has given up his criminal ways of breaking into places and stealing s@#t.   He asks what Douglas wants him to do.  Douglas says he wants Rudd to break into a place and steal s@#t.  Ha ha!

“Ant-Man” is a well-written (it better be with four screenwriters!) action/comedy that is matched with talented actors and a very good director.  Rudd plays an extremely likeable character that the audience will root for from the first minute that we see him.  There are many funny moments and the jokes are delivered with expert timing.  If you loved “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” you’ll love “Ant-Man.”

Yes, Maximus, I was very entertained to the point that I didn’t mind you throwing your swords at me.

— M

Matt Damon plays an astronaut.  Again.  He is on another planet.  Again.  He is stranded.  Again.  He needs to be rescued.  Again.  Only this time, in “The Martian,” Damon isn’t a jerk.  Quite the opposite, Damon plays an extremely likeable scientist/botanist who is left behind Mars by his team of astronauts when a sandstorm strikes and Damon’s team believed that he was dead.  With a temporary base camp for shelter and about one month of food, Damon has to use every resource he has available — including his sense of humor and a never give up attitude — to survive long enough for NASA to send help.

Damon’s character is so intelligent and resourceful that I mistook him for MacGyver a few times.  Make no mistake, 99.999% of us wouldn’t make it past day 10.  Does that make this movie highly unrealistic?  Of course not, because there are thousands of highly intelligent people out there; and NASA doesn’t send idiots out into space.  Plus “The Martian” is considered sci-fi, so a bit of shenanigans are allowed.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Damon’s team (you know, the ones who scurried off the planet and left Damon for dead) are on their spaceship and close to Earth, and they are given the news that Damon and NASA have suffered several setbacks and Damon will most likely die on Mars.  But…there is a small chance he could be rescued if Damon’s team slingshots around Earth, picks up supplies provided by the Chinese, and heads back to Mars to prepare a James Bond-style pickup while in space (you’ll see what I mean if you watch a lot of James Bond movies).   It is a risky plan that jeopardizes the lives of 5 more astronauts/scientists and adds many more months of space travel, and the team takes a vote on whether they go home or go back for Damon.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Martian” is the scene when Damon figures out how he can create more food and oxygen and water to wait out the rescue that he hopes will come.  The ingenuity of this guy is amazing, and it is at this point that I was really rooting for this guy to make it.  I think most of the success of this movie is owed to Damon’s character connecting with the audience — we care about this guy, we feel great when he figures out a problem and are saddened to see a failure.  For two hours and twenty-four minutes, Damon is our friend who we want to see come home safely.

Yes, Maximus, I was entertained…but also confused regarding some of the science stuff that just went over my head.

— M

“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” takes place about three decades after “Return Of The Jedi.”  A new threat to freedom and the Republic has risen: The First Order, led by Dark Side of The Force practitioner Snoke and his right hand man, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver).  A weapon more powerful than the Death Star has been created that can destroy multiple planets at the same time from a great distance; and The First Order is on the verge of using this weapon to wipe out the Senate and the Republic, as well as the Resistance which is lead by Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fisher).  Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), last of the Jedi Knights, is nowhere to be found; and the hopes of the Resistance and the Republic lie within BB-8, a droid that hides a map that can lead the Resistance to the whereabouts of Hamill.

Unfortunately for the Resistance, BB-8’s owner has been captured by TFO, and the droid is forced to fend for itself on a desert planet.  It wanders the sand dunes until it is rescued by a young woman named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) who, with the help of John Boyega (playing the ex-Stormtrooper character of Finn), makes the dangerous journey to bring BB-8 and it’s precious cargo to the Resistance fighters.

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the revelation of who Kylo Ren is: the son of Han Solo.

Top honors for my most memorable, movie moment of “The Force Awakens” is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the scene when Harrison Ford (playing Han Solo) confronts Driver to bring his son home and into the Light Side of The Force.  Driver confesses to Ford that he is torn between the Light Side and the Dark Side, and he needs Ford’s help.  Driver presents his lightsaber to Ford, who holds it along with his son.  Driver suddenly activates his lightsaber, and the blade goes through Ford’s body, killing him.  What no bounty hunter, gangster, or Stormtrooper could do, the son of Han Solo has done.  I can’t say I was shocked as I kind of saw the set-up for it, but…it was hard to accept that the cocky pilot, hero, pirate and rebel is gone.

Other Episode VII movie moments that deserve honorable mentions are: 1) the introduction of the Millennium Falcon by Ridley, who calls the ship garbage; 2) a Stormtrooper wielding a baton that can parry a lightsaber; and 3) the appearance of a female Stormtrooper — no, not Captain Phasma, but a low-ranking Stormtrooper (the voice is clearly that of a woman).

Writer/director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan have brought their talent and love to the third set of “Star Wars” movies, finally freeing “Star Wars” fans from the shadows of Lucas’ failures.  But before you start raising your Force FX Lightsabers into the air in triumph, “Empire Strikes Back” is still the best “Star Wars” movie so far; and “The Force Awakens” does stumble a few times.  Boyega’s Finn is too often the clown, ruining a great character (a soldier with PTSD seeking redemption and peace).  Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber (the one he lost when his father cut off his hand in “Empire…”) is in a chest owned by a character with small eyes and big glasses — what the hell!  Boyega’s lightsaber duel with Driver, and Ridley’s lightsaber duel with Driver produces so many unanswered questions that fans were forced to seek answers elsewhere (such as comic books or the novels) — hey, if I have to go online for answers, then the filmmakers didn’t do their jobs.  And some of the questions are still unanswered because some of the “answers” are just guesses.  Then you have rookie mistakes by Abrams in showing the face of Kylo Ren too early in the movie (which ruins the mystery of what is behind the mask) and an ending which belongs in a television series instead of the movies.  Oy!

Have we “Star Wars” fans been freed from the vile clutches of Lucas only to fall into hands of The First Order led by J.J. Abrams?  Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.

— M

Taking place after “X-Men: The Last Stand,” Hugh Jackman (playing mutant Wolverine (special powers of healing factor, heightened smell, almost indestructible, Adamantium-laced bones and razor sharp claws)) is on a fast track to nowhere, living the life of a vagabond and trying to forget a painful past that include Jackman killing the only woman he ever loved.  He is without a group, without a purpose in life, and without a reason to live.  But life has its twists, and Jackman is given one in the form of a Japanese woman (played by Rila Fukushima) whose employer has tasked her with bringing Jackman to Japan.

Hal Yamanouchi plays Rila’s employer, a man whose life was saved by Jackman during the end of WWII; a man who knows of Jackman’s powers; a man who is dying and wants to thank Jackman by giving Jackman the gift of mortality.  It’s unclear why Jackman refuses Yamanouchi’s offer, but he does.  Jackman is attacked by a woman the same night of his refusal, and he soon finds his healing factor is severely impaired when he sustains multiple wounds from Yakuza gangsters while protecting Yamanouchi’s granddaughter.   Jackman must not only try to solve why the young woman is under attack by Japanese mobsters, he must also unravel the puzzle of what is happening to his healing power before his enemies find a way to kill him and the woman he is protecting and falling in love with.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Wolverine” is the scene when Jackman faces The Silver Samurai, a large robot fully armored with Adamantium and wielding double Adamantium swords that can superheat in seconds, giving the swords greater cutting power.  ** Spoiler alert here**The Silver Samurai cuts off Jackman’s claws with one stroke of its superheated sword!  That was shocking and very painful to watch.

**Spoiler alert here**First runner up for my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Jackman rips open his chest to remove an object that is attached to his heart which is the cause of his damaged, healing factor.  For those not in the know, Wolverine does feel pain.  Now just imagine what it must feel like to slice your chest open with a very large scalpel and reach into your chest and pull out a miniature robot that is attached to your heart, all without any anesthetic.  My palms get sweaty just trying to remove a splinter from my finger!

I’ve read many comic books that has the Wolverine character, and he is one of my two favorite comic book characters, so I expect much from a movie titled “The Wolverine.”  Were those expectations met?  No.  I like the movie, but it did not live up to the hype.  One of the problem I have: samurai swords, for the most part, were used to successfully parry against Wolverine’s claws.  That is absolute garbage.  Wolverine’s claws would have sliced those swords like they were made of butter.  The “making of” documentary has someone explaining they needed to have the swords withstand Wolverine’s claws so that they could have more action sequences of Wolverine fighting the samurai and ninjas.  Bulls@#t.  All the movie had to do was have some of the swords laced with Adamantium so they wouldn’t break easily against Wolverine’s claws.  That explanation would have sufficed.  But instead we get some crappy excuse about how they wanted Wolverine to be challenged and not easily defeat the enemy swords…sounds to me like the screenwriter and director were challenged instead.  My biggest problem of “The Wolverine”: he doesn’t live up to the bloodthirsty, borderline psychotic mutant who loves to slice his enemies to pieces.  The people involved in this movie go on about how this is a darker movie than the other Wolverine movies and we get to see a different, meaner side of Wolverine, blah blah blah.  This movie is rated PG-13!  And the PG-13 rating of this movie is a severe hindrance to this NC-17 rated character.

In a nutshell, this movie is like a Lamborghini Aventador forced to drive in the side streets at no more than 20 m.p.h.  Ooh, aahh, look at that fancy car going almost as fast as a little girl’s bicycle.

— M

 

Of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, “Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith” is the best movie.  Is this a glowing recommendation from yours truly?  Surely, you jest; and yes, I am calling you Surely.  “Episode III” is, after all, written and directed by George Lucas.  I could end my review with that previous sentence; but since I gave another two hours and twenty minutes of my life to another Lucas movie that did not live up to my expectations — or to anybody’s, as far as I know — I will give more details as to what I think of this movie.

“Revenge Of The Sith” focuses on the fall of Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christensen) from being a Jedi knight to becoming the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.  Christensen’s fear of losing his wife (played by Natalie Portman), his ever growing ambitions, and his anger at the Jedi Council for the perceived slights against him make Christensen an easy target to be taken over by the Dark Side of The Force.

It is indeed a dark time for the Republic: total war has spread throughout most of the solar systems; Jedi Knights struggle to bring order to the galaxy; and the Republic’s Chancellor is at the heart of this turmoil, fueling the war so that he would be given more emergency powers that would eventually make him Emperor — and not one Jedi foresaw this until the end.  This giant flaw in the story is something I wrote about in “Episode II.”  Here we go again.

How can one Sith Lord turn every Jedi into a blind idiot?  Yes, the would-be Emperor is very powerful, but Yoda almost beat this guy in a fight!  And Yoda would’ve finished the job if Yoda hadn’t fallen a great distance and the Emperor’s reinforcements didn’t show up.  And Samuel L. Jackson (playing Jedi Mace Windu) actually beat the Chancellor in a fight!  Obviously the Chancellor wasn’t that powerful.  Remember in “Empire Strikes Back” when Mark Hamill (playing Luke Skywalker) asked Yoda if the Dark Side was more powerful?  Yoda quickly said no; but the Dark Side was more seductive.  So tell me exactly how the Chancellor was able to keep secret from every Jedi Knight all his plots and schemes for several decades?  Bottom line, that’s what George Lucas wanted, and instead of giving us a plausible reason as to how things played out, he got lazy with his screenwriting and gave us flimsy explanations.

Enough of my rants…for now.  There are many bright spots to “Revenge Of The Sith.”  We get to see Chewbacca for the first time in this trilogy!  And yes, he is once again played by Peter Mayhew.  We see the birth of Luke and Leia; we are treated to the early versions of the X-Wing fighter, Imperial Shuttle, TIE fighter, and the All Terrain Scout Transport (“chicken Walker”); Princess Leia’s Blockade Runner ship makes several appearances late into the movie; and we get glimpses of a younger Grand Moff Tarkin and Captain Antilles.

Lucas’ third part of his “Star Wars” saga has many flaws, but the good more than outweighs the bad.  And here are my top three memorable, movie moments of “Revenge Of The Sith”: #1) the last two minutes of Christensen’s duel against Ewan McGregor (playing Ben Kenobi), where Christensen forces a move based on his bravado and anger, and suffers greatly for it; #2) the first 30 seconds of the movie — we get a flash of storytelling genius from George Lucas here; and #3) the montage of Portman sitting quietly in her home and Christensen in the Jedi Council chamber, his mind racing and soul struggling to decide whether he should save the Chancellor — and thereby save his chance to possibly learn how to cheat death and save Portman — or let him be arrested by the Jedi.  #3 deserves to be watched multiple times by any filmmaker or writer, because it shows how much emotion and information can be conveyed without dialogue.

What we have here is Ferrari with a body that is perfect and immaculate; but the owner never spent the money to change the fouled spark plugs or change the rusted exhaust system or replace the brake pads that have worn down to their last millimeter.  The result is a car that looks like a million bucks but runs like a $1500 beater.

— M

“I’ve been dying a little bit each day since you came back to my life.”  “I truly, deeply love you.”  “…being around her is intoxicating.”   If you’re like me, you’ll find these lines in “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack Of The Clones” nauseating.  This is dialogue I expect from a first time screenwriter who is still in Junior High School.

Co-wrote another mediocre screenplay, George Lucas has.   One of my greatest fears is that Lucas writes or co-writes another “Star Wars” screenplay; and my fears came true again with this movie.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  And so, my fellow “Star Wars” fans, we again suffer through another Episode that had so much promise that went unfulfilled.

Ten years have passed in the “Star Wars” universe since Episode I.  Thousands of solar systems have left the Republic (the Separatist Movement); intergalactic war is imminent.   Hayden Christensen (playing a teen-aged Anakin Skywalker) is now a powerful, Jedi apprentice, learning from Ewan McGregor (playing Obi Wan Kenobi).  Both are tasked with unraveling a mystery as to who is trying to kill Natalie Portman (playing Senator Amidala).  This leads to an awkward, ten year reunion between Christensen and Portman, leading to awkward banter, leading to awkward flirting, leading to a cringeworthy romance.  Let’s get this straight: Christensen and Portman are good actors; but no matter how good your actors are, if they are given a s*#t script, you will get a s*#t performance.   It’s like giving a Ferrari low-grade fuel that’s been sitting around for 5 years.

Anyway, as Portman and Christensen are making kissy faces at each other, McGregor investigates a bounty hunter involved in Portman’s assassination attempt.  This leads him to a planet where a clone army (clearly, the predecessor of Stormtroopers) has been ordered by a Jedi Knight for the use of The Republic.  Who exactly ordered this army, and why?  The overall plot of “Attack Of The Clones” is a good one, with a bit of mystery and a few plot twists; but most of all it contains the evolving relationship between Portman and Christensen, and Christensen’s slow descent into the Dark Side of The Force .  In the hands of a skilled screenwriter, this movie would have soared to new heights that would have approached the level of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Instead we got Stevie Wonder behind the wheels of a Lamborghini.

Please give me a few moments to suffer in silence as I ponder on what could have been…

Okay.  On to Manny’s memorable, movie moments.  One such moment is the scene when we see jet packs come out of R2-D2’s legs and he starts flying!  That was super cool!  I’m sure we were all geeking out with that scene!

And for my most memorable, movie moment of “Attack Of The Clones”…Yoda’s lightsaber duel with Count Dooku!  I think every “Star Wars” fan yelled out “holy s*@t” when the little dude lit up his green saber and went off on Dooku!  In “Empire Strikes Back” Yoda said “Judge me by my size, do you?  And well you should not.  For my ally is The Force, and a powerful ally, it is.”  He was not kidding.

Nitpicking time.  Wasn’t it nice for the insect army of Geonosis to let Portman keep her utility belt during the execution scene so she could slip out a pin to remove her shackles and escape?  Didn’t you find it odd that McGregor didn’t bother to help out Yoda during his fight with Dooku?  Yes, McGregor was wounded, but he could still wave his hand and move things around.  What about Portman’s decoy (played by Rose Byrne) who was a few feet away from a huge explosion that destroyed a large ship?  A few minutes later into the movie, she’s right as rain.  Yoda mentions early in the movie that it is impossible to see the future.  WTF, George!  In “Empire…” Yoda and Luke saw the future (Han and Chewbacca being tortured in a city in the clouds, Leia being the other hope)!  George Lucas had Yoda say this to cover his ass re: why none of the Jedi Knights — none, none, all these years — foresaw Anakin becoming Darth Vader!  And one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to see that Anakin Skywalker is a bad egg — just look at his face, his attitude, the things he says, his reckless actions, his disregard for authority.  What about…never mind.   I should know better than to ask when dealing with a writer/director who spends hours finding the right pattern on a piece of clothing for a character that shows up for only two seconds, yet does not put in the time necessary to turn in a script absent silly lines of dialogue and plot holes.

Yes, Maximus, I was entertained, but equally disappointed.  A movie this important to “Star Wars” fans, with a gigantic budget and thousands of people working in it should be as close to perfect as possible.  No excuses are acceptable.  So here are your grades, George Lucas: Special Effects — A; Sound Effects — A; Costumes — A; Sets — A; Direction — B; Screenplay — F-.

Now go home and get your shine box!

— M

 

 

Written and directed by George Lucas — six of the most fearsome words to movie fans, these are.

“The Phantom Menace” is the first part of the prequel trilogy to the “Star Wars” movies.  Lucas goes way back here…before Luke Skywalker was born, before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, before the dark times, before the Empire.

Senator Palpatine (who would become the Emperor) has created a false threat — a phantom menace — about a growing conflict involving taxation of trade routes and embargos and invasion and war, all to set in motion events that will allow him to rise in power as he promises to bring order throughout the galaxy.   Put into this turmoil are two Jedi Knights — Liam Neeson and his apprentice, Ewan Mcgregor (playing a young, Ben Kenobi) — who, throughout their mission, encounter the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, a young Anakin, and Anakin’s future wife (played by Natalie Portman).

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we are first introduced to R2-D2.  Portman’s ship is under attack, and her deflector shield has been damaged.  Four Astromech droids are sent outside to mend the broken parts, and three are quickly destroyed by enemy laser beams.  R2-D2 is the last droid standing, and it manages to bypass the thingamajig’s energy particle dilithium crystal thingies to repair the damage.  R2 saves the day, setting a precedent that will last all six episodes.

As most “Star Wars” fans may have guessed, my most memorable, movie moment of “The Phantom Menace” is the lightsaber duel between McGregor and Ray Park (playing Darth Maul).   Whatever problems the movie had — and it had plenty of them — they all went away when Darth Maul emerged and his light staff lit up to fight  Neeson and McGregor.  Unfortunately, when the duel was over, we were again in the world of Lucas’ shortcomings.

I want to be fair to Lucas.  I believe the man is a genius when it comes to filmmaking.  It’s not that he lost that ability, it’s that he lost his focus: instead of focusing on the story and characters, he started focusing on the costumes and special effects and sound effects and action sequences.   There are parts in “Episode 1” that shows his talents: the droid army entering Naboo’s capital is similar to the Nazis entering Paris during WW II; the duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul; and Lucas’ great use of the subject of a government creating threats to instill fear in those they govern, in hopes the people will give the government more power to supposedly provide greater protection for the people.

All of the good things above are crushed by the following: Jar Jar Binks (and his way of talking that sounds like a black buffoon of early movies); horrible dialogue throughout the movie (“Are you an angel?” — I almost throw up every time I hear that line); the Trade Federation who sound like stereotypical, old Jewish men; the character Watto who sounds like a stereotypical Arab man; enemy droids who talk like idiots (“roger roger”); the lack of emotion on Anakin’s mother when Anakin leaves her (was she not capable of acting like a distraught mother who may never see her young son again — in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for not casting someone who was capable of doing so — or did she have the talent to do so but Lucas didn’t see a need for all that drama, in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for lacking the vision to know that the separation scene should have been more emotionally devastating).   Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

“The Phantom Menace” is light years away from being in the same league as “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it still has to be seen by every “Star Wars” fan because it’s part of the story, whether you like it or not.  We’re stuck with that movie…search your feelings, you know it to be true.

— M

 

 

Fourth in the “Jurassic Park” movie series, “Jurassic World” proves that some people just don’t learn from others’ mistakes in the past.   Taking place decades after the original movie, the idea for a Jurassic Park has turned into a full blown theme park called Jurassic World.  New technology is in place to control the dinosaurs; but the old way of thinking — profits over safety; believing that large, extremely powerful and dangerous, genetically engineered animals can be fully controlled and contained — still exists.  As you may have guessed, the newest Frankensteinasaurus escapes, causing a domino effect that releases more dinosaurs, giving the audience shocks and giggles when we see the puny humans devoured by the animals they paid to see.

Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard have the starring roles as a dinosaur trainer and the manager of Jurassic World, respectively.  Pratt basically plays the same character he did in “Guardians Of The Galaxy”: smart-ass, charming, and witty with a heart of gold.  Howard starts is an ice queen whose entire reason for being is to manage Jurassic World in the most efficient, cost effective way; but her character arc was a bit of a surprise to me, and that’s always a good thing, because a predictable movie sucks.  The Pratt and Howard characters are polar opposites that manage a very good chemistry that adds to the appeal of this movie when the crap hits the fan and the running, screaming and dying begin.

One of my most memorable, movie moments is the prolonged attack on Howard’s assistant.  Fought over by multiple dinosaurs, she is tossed, flipped, dropped, grabbed, scooped up and finally eaten.  This part will either make you cringe or laugh.  I did both.

Another memorable, movie moment is the scene that has the first appearance of a Mosasaur, an aquatic dinosaur the size of a whale with a mouth bigger than the average car.  Too bad the wow factor is severely diminished due to the endless commercials showing the entrance of this beast.

And now, for my most memorable, movie moment of “Jurassic World”: the scene when Pratt tells Howard that she has no business going out into the wild looking for Howard’s nephews.  Howard rolls up her sleeves and ties the ends of her dress shirt into a knot by her stomach, hinting to Pratt that she’s ready for action.  Pratt asks her what all that is supposed to mean.  Ha ha, funny stuff.  Unfortunately, it does decrease the tension quite a bit, and the movie does that quite often; and that’s not what you want to do when this kind of story is in full swing and it’s a life and death situation for everyone on the island.

Overall, “Jurassic World” is a very good, highly entertaining movie.  Sure, there are things that doesn’t make sense, for example: Pratt being able to somewhat train the raptors, supposedly because he was there when they were born and they imprinted on him.  Huh?  These are velociraptors, not ducks.  Whatever, I give this movie a pass on the shenanigans, because it delivered on its main purpose.  Yes, Maximus, I was very much entertained.

— M

 

The final movie of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, “Return of The Jedi” bestows upon fans the rescue of Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), the truth of the connection between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), a massive, Rebel Alliance offense against the Empire’s new Death Star; and the long-awaited, final duel between Vader and Skywalker.

For the hundreds of millions who have seen this movie countless times, there’s almost nothing I can say that you haven’t already read or heard about.  For those who still haven’t seen the movies, what are you waiting for? Take 6 hours of your life and watch Episodes 4 through 6.

So what’s so special about this Special Edition?  An enhanced, Sarlacc monster (you know, the big mouth in the desert that looked like an angry anus), a new song and dance number in Jabba’s palace (which I thought was not in the same tone as the rest of the scenes in that place, and therefore made the movie worse, new celebration scenes and music at the end of the movie, and a bunch of little things here and there that most won’t notice…ksjgl…wlodkwwwlloosp0-0%$…sorry, I fell asleep.  Okay, let’s keep it moving.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Return of The Jedi” is the scene when Vader’s helmet is removed.  After 9 years of the “Star Wars” trilogy, we finally see what is behind the mask!

Second place for my memorable moment of this movie is the scene ***Spoiler Alert*** when Mark Hamill realizes that Leia (played by Carrie Fisher) is his sister!  She is the person whom Yoda referred to in “Empire…” when Yoda said there is another hope.

Taking third place among my most memorable moments of “Return…” is the scene that had Fisher in the Slave Girl outfit that put a smile on so many young boys.   Princess Leia/Carrie Fisher was at her hottest!

3 years after “The Empire Strikes Back,” George Lucas and company ties up the first trilogy in a mostly satisfying way.  Ewoks, eh, I could have done without them.  I would have preferred the original vision of having Wookies instead of Ewoks.  Sadly, the Special Edition didn’t replace the midget bears with Wookies.  On the upside, “Return of The Jedi” is the movie that had the least tampering when it comes to the Special Edition.  And that is a good thing, because Lucas has a tendency to keep changing the first 6 “Star Wars” movies.  I’ll take this movie as it was, flaws and all, back in 1983 when it first came out, the same year my parents took me to the movies to see it.

Flaws are usually not a good thing, but they are part of what makes us what we are.

— M

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My parents bought me these 2 items when we saw the movie in 1983

I had my doubts about “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before the movie even came out.  Why?  Because I watched it’s predecessor, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and found it unsatisfying.  Although the first movie had a lot of heart, and there were many things done right, too many of the combat scenes were corny, and that’s what killed it for me.  It reminded me of the 1980s “G.I. Joe” cartoons where the violence was done in such a way that you got the feeling that no character was truly hurt.  Sooooo…I was very surprised and happy to see that “…Winter Soldier” mostly got rid of the corny fight scenes and embraced the gritty, brutal nature of combat.

Also gone is the boy scout attitude of Captain America, played by Chris Evans.  The U.S. government, with the help of SHIELD, has created weapons that are supposed to fight our enemies and keep Americans safe; but Evans sees a great potential for abuse and the weapons being turned on those they were meant to protect.   As his trust in SHIELD deteriorates, Evans digs deeper and uncovers shocking secrets about SHIELD.  Evans’ discovery turns him into a fugitive, on the run from SHIELD who unleashes The Winter Soldier, a man who has the same fighting skills and powers as Evans.  Who is this Winter Soldier?  Well, that’s a surprise.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene early in the first act when Evans drops into a ship that has been taken over by pirates.   Moving at a speed that is almost too fast for the human eye to catch up, Evans destroys the enemies in an almost savage way.  With some of his attacks, he clearly kills his enemies.  Other times, it is ambiguous whether he kills them or knocks them out/cripples them.  He is, after all, so powerful that he can easily break bones and rupture organs with one blow.  Whatever the fate of his enemies, the fights are more graphic than “…The First Avenger.”

Another memorable moment of “…The Winter Soldier” is the scene in the elevator where SHIELD soldiers are packed in with Evans.  Seeing signs that this is an ambush, Evans says to the large men, “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”  Haha!  I loved that!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has to be the sequence that shows Nick Fury (played by Samuel Jackson) being attacked by dozens of police officers using fully automatic rifles.  It was a lengthy assault that brings this movie to a higher level of intensity.

“…The Winter Soldier” is not just an action/adventure movie.  It also goes into the realm of suspense/thriller, and we can thank the writers for that.  Of course, the glue that holds all this together is the actor Chris Evans.  He is so well suited to the role of Captain America that I can’t think of anyone else who can play that superhero better than Evans can.

Be sure to watch the end credits because bonus footage is hidden there.

— M

In the not so distant future, Earth has another serious problem to add to its list of serious problems: something called “blight,” which destroys crops and changes the atmosphere.  Within 20 to 40 years, people will starve, and the few who are lucky enough to survive will suffocate.  Ouch.  That’s like the movie “Spartacus” where the slaves who survived the battles against the Roman empire were crucified.

Things aren’t hopeless for our fictional descendants in the movie “Interstellar,” because NASA has secretly developed a plan to send astronauts through a wormhole (a shortcut in space) to seek out habitable worlds.  3 signals have come back — signifying viable worlds — and NASA will need to send a team of astronauts to these signals to rescue the original astronauts and confirm that the new worlds can sustain human life.

Enter Matthew McConaughey, former NASA astronaut/pilot who is chosen to fly the rescue/confirmation team to their destinations.   It’s a job that gives him mixed emotions, as he loves flying and exploring; but he will have to leave his children with the strong possibility of never coming back.   McConaughey’s leaving is especially difficult for his daughter, played by Mackenzie Foy, an extremely talented, young actor.  Earth’s time of being a bounty to its inhabitants is fast dwindling, and McConaughey is going for the slim chance of saving the people of Earth, and thereby saving his family.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when McConaughey is having a parent teacher conference, and he is told by Foy’s teacher that Foy got into a fight with a student because they were making fun of her reading an old textbook about space exploration, especially the part about the Apollo missions — you know, the trips to the moon and landing on the moon.  It seems the current teachings believe the moon landing was all a scam.   You should see the face on McConaughey when a teacher told him of this!  His eyes were popping out and his neck veins were bulging, and I could tell he was exercising every bit of self-control not to smack the teacher into the past.

Another memorable, movie moment of “Interstellar” is the scene when McConaughey and his team lands on a planet with very shallow water.  At a great distance, they see what appears to be mountains.   But quickly, those “mountains” come closer, threatening to destroy the ship and the astronauts in a few minutes.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Interstellar” is the scene when McConaughey is saying goodbye to his crying, angry daughter.  Nothing McConaughey says can console her.  An intelligent girl, Foy quickly discerns from what her father says to her that he has no idea when and if he will come back from his mission.  With no more time to stay, McConaughey leaves his daughter as he found her.  This may be their last moment together, and they parted with anger and guilt.

Don’t let the nearly 3 hour running time of this movie keep you from watching it.  “Interstellar” is a very good, sci/fi movie with enough action sequences full of suspense in the second and third acts to keep you guessing and wanting to know how it all ends.  Great acting, directing, writing…the movie deserved more financial success.

Before I go, here’s a couple of interesting things: a) Matt Damon gained so much weight I didn’t recognize him during the first minute his character shows up; b) the shots of the exterior of spaceships while in space is silent, to add to the realism (I believe it’s because there is no air in space, and without air, sound cannot travel).

— M

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