Saturday, July 19, 2014

Popcorn for One _ DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (possible Spoilers)

This may contain some SPOILERS, so let's leave it at that and get on with it, shall we?


Andy Serkis owns this move from the opening scenes.  His portrayal of Caesar dominates the entire film whether he is in the scene or not.  Gary Oldman, as Dreyfus, leader of the the remaining human population of San Francisco is just fine as is Jason Clarke as Malcolm, the engineer who comes to befriend the apes.  However, Serkis' performance, hidden as it may be by the motion capture technique, remains the thing that keeps the audience riveted to the screen.  If you are familiar with his performance as Gollum in any of Peter Jackson's Tolkien films you have only seen the beginnings of what can be done. The first film in the reboot of the franchise, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, showed the advances that had been made since the days of Gollum and this film blows those out of the water.

Close to a decade has passed since the final scenes of the first film. The virus created in the lab from which the apes escaped has wiped out a good portion of the human race.  The governments of the world and the entire infrastructures that made modern society are all but memories at this point.  Caesar and the apes he freed have created their own society in the forests outside the city of San Francisco.  There has been no contact between the species for over two years, each believing the other may have died off.  One day a group of survivors, led by Malcolm comes into the area controlled by the apes to attempt to reactivate a power station to return electricity to the city.  One of the group panics and shoots one of the apes, which brings about a confrontation.  Things look bad for the humans until Caesar intervenes.  Malcolm and Caesar come to an understanding and the humans are allowed to go about their work.

Koba, cruelly abused in medical experiments in the first film, was rescued by Caesar in that film and has become his second in command.  His feelings towards humans is understandably not as benign as his leader and as events unfold, Koba (played brilliantly by Toby Kebbell) decides that his hatred and need for revenge should be the path the apes should follow. Putting his plan into effect the inevitable face off between humans and apes comes about.

The great thing about the film is that it really doesn't follow the path you expect.  The trailer shows you some of this, but there is far more going on and the heroes & villains not as clear cut as you might think. Oldman's character is far more fine tuned than you generally find in this sort of thing.  Only a few of the characters fit the stereotypes you expect, but these are not the main actors.

Given the ending of the film, and I certainly won't spoil it for you, it does seem likely that there will be at least a third film in the current franchise.  Whether it takes place shortly after the events of DAWN or decades later, remains to be seen.  I can only hope that Andy Serkis returns, whether behind the camera or in the motion performance that he has pioneered.

If you didn't see the first film in this series, don't go in expecting the actors in heavy latex from the first franchise and the Tim Burton film from 2001.  Those days are long gone, my friends.  I highly recommend you see the film while it's still on the big screen where you can really enjoy it.

Next up, we're waiting for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY next month.

Popcorn for One: GODZILLA (a review with some spoilers)

This was written shortly after I saw the film, but due to computer problems I haven't been able to post it until now.
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I know just about everyone else has seen the film, but things have been pretty hectic around Chateau Chaput for the past few weeks.  Weddings will do that!

I guess there wasn't much of interest this past Friday, or folks were going to later showings, but the Regal/Edwards Kaleidoscope theater was pretty much empty.  There was no line at all for the ticket booth and only one guy in front of me for the concession stand.  The 12:40pm showing of GODZILLA had only one other guy in the audience, besides me.  He was several rows back so it was pretty much a private screening with my choice of seats. I generally like seeing this type of film with a bigger audience, or least I used to.  Nowadays it seems theaters are full of a**holes who have to talk through the entire feature and explain to the idiots with him (yeah, sometime it's a female, but generally it's some guy in his early twenties) what everyone can see on screen. 

(SPOILERS)
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I love how the opening credits are over actual/doctored "documentary" footage of post-WWII atomic bomb testing in the Pacific.  I won't give anything away, but look close at a couple of quick shots, which will be explained later in the film.

The film opens in 1999 Japan, where Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche) are working at a nuclear plant.  Joe believes that there are problems with seismic actvity, but no body seems to be interested.  The date is Joe's birthday and after seeing their son, Ford off to school the go to the plant.  Naturally, this is the day when Joe's concerns prove justified.  Sandra and a crew are checking out the reactor when things go badly, locking the team in when the reactor has a meltdown.  We then shift to some fifteen years later when an older Ford (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), now grown and a Navy demolitions expert, is returning home from active duty.  We meet his wife, Elle (Elizabeth Olsen) and his son Sam (Carson Bolde).  Unfortunately, that same evening Ford receives a phone call telling him that his father has been arrested.  It seems that Joe just can't let the past go, as his son has successfully done, and is still attempting to prove that the government(s) are hiding the actual cause of the accident, among other things.

We are also introduced to Dr. Ishioro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe), a scientist also investigating unusual phenomenon.  However, unlike Brody, Dr. Ishioro may know the true cause of the problem and this disturbs him.

We learn that the Japanese and American governments discovered a lifeform that lives off of nuclear radiation and although thought dormant has actually come to life.  They also know of a large predator that may be able to destroy these creatures before they can reproduce.  That predator has been called a 'god' of nature, Ishioro dubs him Godzilla.

The trailers have already shown us that Big "G" does eventually appear, but the other creatures dubbed MUTOS (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms), a male and fertile female.  Laying waste to part of Japan, Hawaii and Las Vegas the two eventually meet in the city of San Franciso and things really get ugly. Fortunately, there is that other giant from the sea who may be the only hope that humanity has.

I wanted to be able to give the film a solid four stars and the trailers seemed to lead me in that direction.  However, I find that the best I can do is three and a half.  The film starts out fine, but the death of one character really changes the focus of the film.  For some folks it seems to have ruined it, but I think it was more the fault of the marketing department and the film's director and writers.

Not to give anything else away, but the ending does indicate that a sequel may be coming.  At least I hope so, there is a lot more that can be done with Godzilla as we all know.


(END OF SPOILERS)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Popcorn for One - CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (SPOILERS)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER was everything you could want in a movie, whether it was comic book related or not.  There was plenty of action, decent writing, emotional moments and very, solid acting from almost everyone involved.  There may be a few SPOILERS in my review, so if you haven't seen the movie yet you might want to keep that in mind.

The film takes place perhaps months after the events of the AVENGERS film, with Steve Rogers (Captain America) trying to come to grips with his place in a modern society.  He has formed friendships, but he is also trying to keep a distance from any romantic entanglements.  His first love, Peggy Carter (played again by Hayley Atwell), is still alive but ill and older.  As the film opens Steve meets fellow veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).  Sam is now working to help other returning veterans deal with the traumas they face in daily civilian life.  He and Steve immediately bond, which later will prove helpful as the story unfolds.

Nick Fury ( Samuel L. Jackson) sends Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), along with a SHIELD commando unit to rescue the crew of a SHIELD ship that was taken by pirates, led by Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). If you are an older comics fan, you'll remember that Batroc The Leaper was an old Cap villain.  Nice to see him and other characters from the comics used (sometimes with just a mention of their names in later scenes. One in particular is name-dropped quickly, but it gives me hope).  Cap discovers that there was more going on than the rescue and confronts Fury upon his return.  This sets up some tension between the two of them, as well as with the Widow, whom Cap feels has lied to him.

Fury reveals a new SHIELD plan to begin launching three new heli-carriers that will be used to monitor and 'neutralize' perceived threats to the world.  The film uses this and other plot threads to point a finger (as they did in Iron Man 3) at a government willing to use methods (drones, NSA surveillance) in the name of security.  It also brings up the all too real situation where citizens are more than willing to give up their privacy in order to feel safe, even if the threat isn't real.  Into this plan comes Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) the man who had brought Fury up through the SHIELD ranks after Fury had saved some hostages by other than official methods years before.  Redford is just so good in this role and I hope the Academy folks remember it come Supporting Actor nominee time.

Tensions seem high between Pierce and other members of the SHIELD directorate over the implementation of the new security plan and Fury himself begins to have doubts.  Shortly after, Fury is attacked by men disguised as police and finally by a masked man who comes to be known as the Winter Soldier.  Wounded in the attack, Fury goes to one of the few people he can trust, namely Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, while there he is shot again and when trying to pursue the shooter, Cap encounters the Winter Solder for the first time.

I'm not going to give anything else away, but it soon develops that there is a faction within SHIELD that has its own agenda.  One with a long history that goes back to WWII and Cap's early adventures with the Howling Commandos.

There are characters in the film that we have seen in the TV show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and also in the first CA movie. (By the way, if you are one of those folks that gave up on Agents early on you might want to think about catching up and watching again.  The show did some things that tied into both the first Avengers film and the second Thor movie, and now is closely tied into the events in this film.)  It's always cool to see Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) in either films or the series. Now that she's free from HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER duties, I'm hoping we'll see more of her in the show.

Almost all the actors are great, with the exception of Garry Shandling (as Senator Stern) who pretty much mumbles his lines.  I generally like Shandling's comedy and loved his show, but he just seems uncomfortable here.  Pretty sure we'll be seeing Sam Wilson/The Falcon again and it wouldn't surprise me if Batroc and Agent Rollins are back in the third film, along with the Winter Soldier.

It continues to amaze me that folks are still walking out before the end credits.  The main credits are followed by a scene which resolves some points and sets up things for the next AVENGERS film, with a couple of new characters.  After the final credits there is another short scene with one of the characters that would lead into the third Cap feature.  The theater was about half full during the matinee yesterday, and maybe a dozen folks stayed for the initial teaser with five folks, besides myself, sitting through until the final reveal.

Good selection of trailers prior to the film, with both the up-coming SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN films, as well as GODZILLA.  The Scarlett Johansson SF film LUCY looks really good and shows that Hollywood is willing to gamble that she can open a feature.  I hope it does well, since the announced BLACK WIDOW movie is a sure-thing for comic's fans.

Marvel is doing a great job with their films and it's a shame that DC can't seem to get their act together. On the other hand, CW's ARROW is fantastic and I have high hopes for both FLASH and GOTHAM.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thor 2 -a quick review(no spoilers) (+playlist)


Some of you may have already seen this on YouTube or over on my Facebook page, but I've learned that there are a couple of people who only see my videos here.  I have fun doing these, even when Babie doesn't make an appearance, and always say I'm going to do more.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Remote Viewing - What I'm watching on TV.

If you weren't watching the CW program ARROW, last season you missed not only an exciting show, but one of the better comics related shows I've ever seen.  Based on the classic DC character GREEN ARROW, this makes some changes to the characters origin (at least as it was back in the Silver Age, since I have no clue what they have done with GA since the New (not any more) 52 began), the most obvious is that Oliver Queen is in his 20s in the show and much younger than the four-color version.

You aren't going to see any 'boxing glove' arrows or other things of that sort, but with a few explosive exceptions Ollie uses a pretty basic hunting arrow when confronting the bad guys in Starling City.  The Arrow, is never called that in the show, but is referred to by the city media and police as The Hood.  Like the early BATMAN of Gotham City the police view him as a violent vigilante and to be honest, unlike the Dark Knight, The Hood doesn't hesitate from actually taking a life when he feels it necessary.

Stephen Amell is good both as the spoiled Oliver Queen and as his more aggressive persona.  I don't know how much of the stunt work is actually done by Amell, but the scenes of him working in his gym and close-up scenes show that he is in very good physical shape and able to handle himself when a stuntman would be too obvious. The story allows him to change and grow as he begins to see himself as more than just the one to carry out his father's vengeance.  He actually does become a hero in many ways, with assistance from his bodyguard, John Diggle (played by David Ramsey), who can be just as competent, if a bit less violent than his boss.  The creators were smart in bringing in Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) a computer tech for Queen Industries to aide Oliver in her own fashion.

It will be interesting to see where the shows goes in its second season, having introduced several DCU characters in the first (Huntress, Deadshot & Deathstroke).  They have already announced that a version of Black Canary will be showing up and rumors of a FLASH appearing also have come out.  IMDB simply mentions 'Barry Allen' (Grant Gustin from GLEE and 90210) will be in two episodes.  We'll see if Barry gains his abilities in the show or already possesses them.

As you can see, I really enjoy the show and will try to have stuff about a few other programs that I'm currently watching.

Remote Viewing: SHARKNADO

This was originally going to be completed and posted a week or so after I saw the film, but I actually forgot I had begun a draft and had it here.  Hope you still enjoy it.

I had heard about this film probably a day or so before it was originally broadcast, but had just shrugged it off as another of those SyFy films that aren't worth the time to record or watch.  By the time I was getting ready for Comic-Con, it seemed that everybody was talking about it and even the Mainstream Media had to chime in.  In San Diego it was amazing how many people were talking about it and SyFy was taking advantage of the word-of-mouth by passing out postcards on the street promoting a sequel.  They were really clever by setting up a contest where folks could tweet in a suggested title for the film.



The film was instant 'cult classic' and if you've seen it you already know why.  It's fun with full of overacting, fake violence and laughable dialogue.  Pretty much all you need to be a success and start a franchise.

The basic plot (and it is really damn basic) is that a series of tornadoes over the Pacific Ocean off of California ('natch!) picks up the schools of man-eating sharks that coincidentally have come to the area.  Their first target happens to be the Santa Monica pier where hundreds of tourists suddenly find themselves chum.  Fortunately, a few folks are able to take shelter in a bar owned by Finley "Fin" Shepard (Ian Ziering), a former champion surfer a couple of co-workers and bar regular George (played with gusto by John Heard). Hard to believe that Heard, a one-time Emmy nominee, is reduced to this stuff, but everybody has got to pay the rent.  I also wonder if he only played George as drunk or was taking a few real drinks just to be able to get through the script until he met his fate.

Anyway, Fin and Co. make their way to his ex-wife's home to protect both her and his daughter.  The fact that neither wants to see him or want his protection is something you can foresee from early on, but you also know that by about halfway through this adventure they will be a bit more grateful that he showed up.  I'm not going to give anything else away, since you can probably figure things out for yourself from just the trailer and from having seen any film of this type the past twenty years.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Last San Diego Comic Con Review


No, this was not the last San Diego Comic Con and it may not be the last I attend.  It is however probably the last review of the Con to be posted, since other folks are more on the ball and able to get these things up within a few days.  Last week was crazy at work and other things happened so the review I had been planning was put on the back-burner. It's certainly not going to be as long or as in depth as most of the reviews you've already seen, heard or read online. Also, if you are looking for breaking news you should have already read that stuff on The Beat  and Bleeding Cool .  Heidi and Rich are much better at keeping up with stuff than I am or ever was, even in the day when I knew a lot of folks actually working in the industry.

To be truthful I probably spent less time at this Con, at least in the convention center, than ever before, especially given that I was there for four days. My main goal this year was to catch up with some folks I haven't seen in a while and to spend evenings with Kristina, Sarah & Dan. While it would have been nice to meet up with some other people who were in attendance the chief folks I wanted to see were The Tony Isabella, Bob Ingersoll, Randy Renaldo and anyone I knew from Capa-Alpha.  I was fortunate to meet up with all three of those guys, as well as speaking for a few minutes with Jeff Gelb (who I met through K-a).

I didn't see any movie or TV stars, at least nobody I recognized.  First off, I wasn't going to spend hours standing in line for Hall H or Ballroom 20 and those celebs on the floor were generally surrounded by either fans or security folks. Seeing Neil Gaiman and Leonard Maltin on a couple of panels was cool, but those were probably the only folks who might be known outside of fan circles.  I was introduced to Jerry Ordway, which I thought was pretty cool.

I attended over a half-dozen or so panels, including Mark Evanier's annual QUICK DRAW, with regulars Sergio Aragones and Scott Shaw.  The third artist this year was Neal Adams who showed he really could get something down on paper in less than a few months.  Peter David played along, which has become a pretty regular event and he was joined this year by the aforementioned Leonald Maltin and British television personality, Jonathan Ross.  I thought they were all good sports and the surprise appearances of both Maltin & Ross certainly got the crowd even more enthusiastic.

I also caught several other of Mark's panels, including the Spotlight on Tony Isabella, where Tony received a well-earned Inkpot award; "That '70s Panel" with Marvel & DC writers of the '70s; both the Joe Kubert & Jack Kirby tributes and Superman: The Julius Schwartz Era.


Among the non-Evanier panels I hit was "The Monsters of Alternative Comics" with Ted Rall, Keith Knight, Shannon Wheeler and Steven Notley. Nice discussion of politics, how these guys get their stuff out there and a cool slide show running behind them with photos of them at work, panels from their comics and pictures of classic horror movie monsters.

Somehow I was able to sneak into the end of the line to catch a few episodes of AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, which featured the Squadron Supreme character, Hyperion.  Looks like fun, with some good voice work, plus I'm glad that the Falcon is a member at this point.

I went to other things and walked the hall for hours.  Lots of really nice cos-players, both male & female, many who obviously worked a long time on their outfits and some that appeared to have hit Costume City a few days prior to showing up. It stood out that there were less Batmen and I didn't see a single Klingon (OTS or feature film/TNG version), but the place was packed with Wonder Women and Supergirls.

Outside the con a popular location was the huge ENDER'S GAME tent, the news down there the fact that the LGBTG activists weren't making a big deal of the thing.  They were low key and using it as a teachable moment and a chance to speak to folks about the issues.  On the other hand, the well-known yellow & black signs of the 'Christian'' "You're going to Hell" picketers were present across from the center, and on Wednesday night they even had a van with loud-speaker proclaiming the same message traveling through the Gaslamp District.  Pretty sure they had come down the weekend before for "Gay Pride" and had stuck around to save the rest of us sinners. :-)

One cool presence throughout the convention was the Despicable Me 'minion' blimp that flew overhead everyday.  A few days we had some pretty heavy marine layer hanging over the city, so the blimp was pretty low which made it even more noticeable.

A quick rundown of my nights: Wednesday was La Puerta, in the Gaslamp, where we hit for 'Happy Hour' margaritas and Mexican food; Thursday night, after getting my first tattoo, we went to Hodad's a local burger & brew chain which was pretty good, but I'd stay out of the restrooms until after dinner (if you know what I mean) and Friday we drove to Darband/Fifth Avenue Grill for some really good Persian/Iranian eats.  Saturday Donna drove down and we had a nice home-cooked Italian dinner with plenty of wine.

There were other things I saw and enjoyed, but those were the highlights.  I say every year that this will be my last, but I have a feeling (considering that the girl's place is so convenient) that I just might make it down for another day or two next July.  Hope to see more of you down there!

Friday, June 21, 2013