Sunday, March 31, 2013
G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Movie Review... I saw the Jon M. Chu-directed sequel to the 2009 hit film yesterday, and needless to say, G.I. Joe: Retaliation didn't take as much a leak on my childhood as The Rise of Cobra did. For starters, the visual effects were a lot better in Retaliation than in Cobra. There were no embarrassing shots of the Eiffel Tower getting melted by some cartoonish green goo this time around, but we do see some cool images of London (sorry to all the British folks reading this review) getting completely disintegrated by a projectile launched by an orbiting satellite that was sent up into space courtesy of Cobra Commander and company. (Industrial Light & Magic created the VFX for Retaliation...while the usually-reliable Digital Domain was responsible for the work done on The Rise of Cobra.) Secondly, the looks of the characters and military vehicles used in Retaliation were more faithful to what was in the 1980s cartoon—with Cobra Commander wearing his ominous helmet (though it's black instead of blue in this movie) and its trademark face-hiding silver visor, the helicopters and other weaponry used by Cobra and the Joes appearing just as high-tech as the toys I used to buy when I was in 3rd grade (more than two decades ago, FYI), and Snake Eyes looking more badass and mysterious without those stupid fake lips that director Stephen Sommers put on his mouthpiece in The Rise of Cobra. And finally, Retaliation had some welcome moments of humor (Adrianne Palicki's Lady Jaye looks like Miley Cyrus? Who would've thunk it) without actually casting funny but out-of-place actors like Marlon Wayans in it. Sorry Ripcord.
As stated above, the good thing about G.I. Joe: Retaliation was that it's more faithful to the cartoons. It didn't steal action sequences from fellow Hasbro property Transformers [as in that Rise of Cobra scene where two Joes (Ripcord and Channing Tatum's Duke) impersonate Ironhide from the 2007 Transformers film by doing somersaults and flipping around incoming missiles], or other properties like Xbox's Halo (the armor that Ripcord and Duke wear during the scene mentioned above) and even The Dark Knight, X-Men and The Matrix (the black full-body outfits that all the Joes end up wearing by the end of The Rise of Cobra). Cobra Commander had a Darth Vader-ish voice in this movie [which was more preferable to the high-pitch vocals provided by Chris Latta (no offense) in the cartoons; Latta also voiced Starscream in the classic Transformers animated series], but at least he looked convincing as the guy who became in charge of the global organization hellbent on destroying the Joes (though I'm sure he'll have more to do in the third flick than in this one). And in case you were wondering, Joseph Gordon-Levitt didn't play the character this time around...because there's no need to.
In terms of the other members of Cobra, Ray Stevenson's Firefly remained faithful to his animated counterpart, Arnold Vosloo's Zartan was still disguised as the President of the United States and Byung-hun Lee's Storm Shadow still kicked ass (though it may not necessarily be a Joe's ass he kicked in this film... Spoiler alert) in his white ninja outfit. Destro was, in the words of Cobra Commander, "out of the game." You'll have to see the movie to know why; but I'm guessing Destro will have a vendetta against both Cobra Commander and the Joes when he's freed from captivity once the third flick rolls around.
In regards to the heroes themselves, Dwayne Johnson was convincing as the Joe's heavy machine gunner, Roadblock. As shown with his previous film Snitch as well as past movies such as The Rundown and Fast Five, Johnson is showing what a formidable actor he has become...especially when it comes to high-octane action flicks. Speaking of high-octane action flicks, Bruce Willis followed his stint in A Good Day to Die Hard with his role as General Joseph Colton in Retaliation. Hip-hop music artist RZA apparently likes playing kung fu-related roles (he played the title character in last year's martial arts film The Man with the Iron Fists) as he portrayed the Blind Master of Snake Eyes (once again played with quiet lethality by Ray Park) and Jinx (portrayed by the lovely Elodie Yung). D.J. Cotrona was cool as Flint...though we may see a romance scene or two between him and Lady Jaye in the next movie installment. Speaking of Lady Jaye, Adrianne Palicki's tough and sexy presence (also conveyed by Yung) as the red-headed Joe made up for the loss of Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols from the previous flick. Oh well. What Retaliation lacked in um, eye candy—estrogen-wise—it made up for in kick-ass vehicles and weaponry.
From Firefly's explosive fireflies and a motorcycle that can break up into a series of deadly missiles, to the all-terrain assault vehicle that Roadblock used to take out Cobra weaponry at the end of the film, G.I. Joe: Retaliation remained true to the type of military hardware that was seen in the cartoons. Cobra helicopters had jet engines where their tail rotors should be, and Roadblock used obscenely-big machine guns in this movie just as he did in the cartoon. There were no stealth fighters in this flick as in The Rise of Cobra (the jet that Ripcord flies at the end of that film was like a toy that my brother bought, and subsequently broke, when he was young), but if Jon Chu directs the next movie and delves more into the war machines of G.I. Joe, then fans should be in for a treat. G.I. Joe: Retaliation was an enjoyable flick to watch...and I can't wait to see if Roadblock is able to use that custom-made handgun that General Colton gave to him in the final shot (pun unintended) of the film. Won't mention who the target this is meant for, though. But let's just say... He dresses in black and has a really shiny visor. 'Nuff said.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Olympus Has Fallen: Movie Review... I saw the White House-invasion action flick today, and the first thing that I want to say is, Gerard Butler did to the terrorists what Jack Bauer would've done if the now-defunct FOX TV show 24 was on HBO, Starz or Showtime instead. In other words, more gory scenes where bad guys nonchalantly get shot in the head and even knives jammed into their jugulars and/or craniums by the guy who played a Spartan in 2007's 300. Not that this is a bad thing (assuming you're not a pacifist who deplores ultra-violent movies, or just aren't a fan of Gerard Butler)... The way that the intruders make their way into the House On 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is so merciless and brutal that you want an ex-Special Forces-turned-Secret Service agent showing up on scene to put a dent in the insurgents' plans. That's where Butler comes along.
Nitpicking-wise, there are many things to critique about in Olympus Has Fallen. First and foremost, this film isn't even close to being original. The movie opens and concludes with a saturated look at the American flag (a la Saving Private Ryan); and not only did he see 24, but the screenwriter must have also watched 1997's Air Force One while writing Olympus' script. Instead of Russian terrorists led by none other than Gary Oldman, you have rogue Korean commandos who fall under the command of Rick Yune [of 2001's The Fast and the Furious, 2002's Die Another Day (in which Yune played a North Korean-born Bond villain), last year's The Man with the Iron Fists and 2009's Ninja Assassin] wreaking havoc on the U.S. government. And instead of Air Force One, we, of course, have the White House being the iconic locale that's (somewhat plausibly) invaded by foreign attackers. Plus, there's a mole in the Secret Service that allows the terrorists to gain access to the President (this time played by Aaron Eckhart and not Harrison Ford). And lastly, instead of the late Jerry Goldsmith—who composed the memorable score for Air Force One, you have Trevor Morris...whose bombastic but patriotic music for Olympus Has Fallen was obviously inspired by Air Force One and maybe even Hans Zimmer's tune for 2001's Pearl Harbor. In regards to the movie's visual effects, which looked really fake in the trailer, the computer-generated shots appeared a lot better in the actual movie. There were still some scenes with shoddy FX work (namely, the F-22 Raptors chasing after the AC-130 gunship that strafes Washington, D.C., and the shots of CG Black Hawk helicopters superimposed with grainy stock footage of Capitol Hill and other D.C. landmarks), but other than those, I was hardly taken out of the film with these post-production imperfections, hah. Imagine if the venerable FX house Industrial Light & Magic worked on Olympus Has Fallen... Wow. That would've been cool.
In regards to what I enjoyed about Olympus Has Fallen, it's the fact that this is a feel-good action flick if you're a Yank. Sure, pretty much all of the Secret Service agents and D.C. police (and even Navy SEALs) who show up to defend the White House were wiped out by Yune and company, but the way that Butler dispatches these antagonists with ferocity deservedly elicited cheers from the audience. (Despite being gagged and bound, one Korean commando was foolish enough to laugh at Butler's character as he interrogated the terrorist in one scene; the commando stopped laughing, permanently, after getting the previously-mentioned knife to the throat.) And being a military buff, I like how the filmmakers accurately portrayed the way flares are dispensed from the AC-130 gunship when threatened by missiles fired by the F-22s. Though if only the F-22 saw real combat instead of having to continuously engage in fictional big-screen dogfights as seen in this film, 2008's Iron Man and the Transformers trilogy. Oh well. So would I recommend Olympus Has Fallen for viewing, you ask? Sure. Just make sure you watch it with another flick like this Friday's G.I. Joe: Retaliation to get your 6 bucks worth...if you're going to a matinee at AMC or Regal Cinemas or something. Oh, and here's hoping that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un doesn't obtain any copy of this movie. He might get ideas.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone... I saw the new Steve Carell/Jim Carrey film today, and disappointing box office results aside, it was a funny flick. It's not exactly original (Jim Carrey punkin' on Steve Carell is nothing new; re-watch 2003's Bruce Almighty), but it definitely had its moments...namely any scene with Olivia Wilde (as Jane) in it, Jim Carrey (as Steve Gray) performing his own brand of magic tricks (a.k.a. acts of self-mutilation) and the 'disappearing audience' act in the movie's climax. After appearing in last year's Stand Up Guys and the Oscar-winning film Argo, it's amusing to see Alan Arkin (as Rance Holloway) in lighter fare such as The Incredible Burt Wonderstone—though this isn't the first time he showed up in a Steve Carell comedy (Arkin played The Chief in 2008's Get Smart, which starred Carell and Anne Hathaway). Also playing a protagonist this time around is James Gandolfini, who follows his performance as the CIA Director in Zero Dark Thirty with a comical role as Las Vegas hotel owner Doug Munny. Not to be forgotten among this stellar cast is Steve Buscemi (as Anton Marvelton), who once again shows how hilarious he can be [don't forget that Buscemi was in Con Air (though playing a Hannibal Lecter-type serial killer doesn't really count as being hilarious) and Michael Bay's Armageddon] when he's not working on serious cable TV flicks like Boardwalk Empire.
As mentioned near the top of this movie review, the most memorable scene in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the moment where Wonderstone, Marvelton and Jane make an entire audience disappear from a magic show. You think the film is going to leave moviegoers hangin' by not showing how the audience (who were knocked unconscious by a special sleeping gas derived from a Cambodian plant, courtesy of Marvelton) was transported from a hotel auditorium to a hill overlooking the Vegas Strip, but lo and behold...the flick humorously reveals how this act is done before the end credits roll. As expected, it's a pretty rough process to get hundreds of hapless folks from inside the hotel to the hillside, and vice versa. The production assistants who help Wonderstone and company aren't exactly gentle when loading snoozing show attendees into the back of moving trucks, and at one point Jane needs to use make-up to hide a black eye that one audience member sustained during his trip from one location to the next. It's a lot funnier than it sounds on the big screen.
It's not a surprise that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was overshadowed by Oz: The Great and Powerful this weekend (the gorgeous witches played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams were too formidable for Olivia Wilde's gorgeous magician's assistant to handle), though I'm wondering why it was also beaten by The Call (which definitely looked suspenseful...but was obviously one of those flicks where the entire plot seemed to be given away in the movie's preview). Oh well. Lookin' forward to seeing Olympus Has Fallen next weekend—mostly to check if the visual effects were improved since the film's theatrical trailer premiered. Carry on.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Kick-Ass 2... For those of you who enjoyed the hit 2010 satirical flick about normal people trying to act like superheroes, check out these photos from the upcoming movie that will continue the exploits of Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and the evil Red Mist—now known as The Mother F*cker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Also returning for Kick-Ass 2 is the lovely Lyndsy Fonseca (who's been kicking ass on her own in the CW Network's Nikita), with Jim Carrey making an appearance as Colonel Stars and Stripes, John Leguizamo as Javier and Morris Chestnut as Sergeant Marcus Williams. Kick-Ass 2 gets released in theaters nationwide on August 16.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Star Wars Pics... Don't know when the photo above was taken, but it makes me even more excited to see this cast hopefully reunite for Episode VII. And for those of you wondering, if David Caruso could be made to look decent on the now-defunct TV show CSI: Miami, then Mark Hamill could be made to look like a badass Jedi Master in the sequel trilogy. Just sayin'.
And check out these other cool images that I stumbled upon online.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Oz: The Great and Powerful... Earlier today, I got around to watching Sam Raimi's prequel to the 1939 cinematic classic, The Wizard of Oz. Visually, Oz: The Great and Powerful is awesome...staying true to its Best Picture-nominated predecessor with a black-and-white opening that takes place in a small and dystopic Kansas town before eventually transitioning to the colorful (and now computer-generated) world that enshrouds Emerald City. The Munchkins, flying monkeys and yellow brick road make their return in Raimi's flick—as well as the three witches from the original MGM film. However, unlike The Wizard of Oz, all three witches are alive and kicking this time around (in case you didn't see any of the trailers or TV spots for The Great and Powerful); and actually, it's when they're on screen (separately or together) that The Great and Powerful is at its best.
While James Franco is commendable as Oz (a.k.a. Oscar Diggs, a struggling but determined magician), it's the beautiful Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams who make The Great and Powerful an enjoyable movie to watch. The story of the three witches was enough to make Wicked, the musical such a huge hit on Broadway (though I myself never saw it)...and it's enough to make the latest flick worthy to view at the cinemas. (SPOILERS AHEAD) Since it was revealed before the film was released yesterday that Mila Kunis' character Theodora would become the Wicked Witch of the West, it was interesting to see how Kunis would transform from the beautiful red-hatted vixen who greets Diggs upon his arrival to Oz to the green-faced villainess that would torment Judy Garland's Dorothy many years later (or 74 years ago, take your pick). We never saw the face of Evanora (a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the East, played by Rachel Weisz) in The Wizard of Oz (since she was already squashed underneath Dorothy's house when she arrives), but clearly she was as conniving as she was hot if Raimi's film is to believe. Finding out that Evanora was the Wicked Witch who wrought havoc in Oz upon Diggs' arrival wasn't much of a surprise, but it's how she manipulates Theodora and causes her to develop complete and utter hatred for Diggs (since Evanora tricked Theodora into thinking that she was betrayed by the magician, who Theodora had strong feelings for) and transform into another Wicked Witch that's intriguing.
Not to be outshone by her evil cohorts is Glinda, the Good Witch (played by Michelle Williams). In our first introduction to Glinda, she is portrayed as the Wicked Witch by Theodora and Evanora...dressed like a Sith Lord (RE: Wearing a black hood and a cloak) when Diggs, his loyal flying monkey Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) and China Girl (voiced by Joey King) encounter her outside a cemetery in the Dark Forest. Once her true identity is revealed, however, we see that the Good Witch is more than pivotal to helping Diggs realize his true place as the Wizard of Oz. Glinda is down-to-Earth—and has as much romantic chemistry with Diggs as Theodora had with him. The Great and Powerful makes a nice reference to Glinda's arrival (inside a bubble) in The Wizard of Oz; using bubbles to help her, Diggs, Finley and China Girl escape from the deadly clutches of Evanora's flying monkeys before arriving at Glinda's Castle to plot a way to defeat the true Wicked Witch (and her sister), once and for all.
All-in-all, Oz: The Great and Powerful is an entertaining film. It definitely has its moments, though if articles that I recently read in media like The Los Angeles Times is to be believed, Diggs would've been better portrayed by a character actor like Robert Downey Jr. (who bowed out of the project due to creative differences with Raimi). But as I said in the second paragraph above, Franco is respectable as Oz...and his upbeat performance in this flick is a nice contrast to his mopey, emo portrayal of Harry Osborne in the original Spider-Man trilogy. Danny Elfman's music score for The Great and Powerful is noteworthy—though I'm wondering why Raimi decided to employ this composer again after booting him from Spider-Man 3 (which Christopher Young orchestrated). Oh well. And not to be forgotten in all of this is how Raimi cleverly explained the origin of Oz's giant face in a cloud of smoke...with Diggs employing simple magic tricks (and inspiration by Thomas Edison) to convince the two Wicked Witches and everyone else in Emerald City that he is indeed the Great and Powerful Oz. Next up for Diggs to impress with his wizardry: a girl and her dog from Kansas, a cowardly lion, a heartless tin man and a brainless scarecrow. Carry on.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Iron Man 3... Two days after potential game-changing news was revealed about Christopher Nolan overseeing production of DC Comics' Justice League and bringing Christian Bale aboard to tie this movie with the ultra-successful The Dark Knight trilogy, Marvel officially released the trailer to the 3rd installment of the film series that made The Avengers possible. As obligatory with summer flicks that I am absolutely stoked to see at the theater on opening weekend, here are screenshots that I grabbed from the latest Iron Man 3 preview. Needless to say, I want to know where all of those armored suits that we see at the end of this clip came from. And just how badass the Mandarin will be. And why Pepper Potts' brassiere is showing. Yea, I'm really curious about that one.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Justice League... I just found out awhile ago that Christopher Nolan is reportedly in talks to oversee the potential ensemble film by Warner Bros and DC Comics. Not only that, but Nolan would have Christian Bale return as the Dark Knight in Justice League. If both of this turns out to be true, then all I can say is: HECK YEA! Personally speaking, it would pretty plausible to have the Bruce Wayne storyline from The Dark Knight trilogy factor into DC's hopeful cinematic answer to Marvel's The Avengers. I'm reading a lot of fans' online suggestions that an 'Easter Egg' appear after the end credits of this June's Man of Steel to show Henry Cavill's Superman visiting Wayne at his secret retirement spot (heck— It would also be sweet if Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle was present in this scene). Also, even though it's implied that he put The Bat on autopilot prior to bailing out before the reactor core exploded over the sea at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, who's to say that Wayne actually just severed the cable holding the core before flying away to safety (overlooking the effects of the electromagnetic pulse caused by the blast)? I can picture an awesome shot in Justice League (that would be featured in its Super Bowl TV spot, hah) where The Bat—accompanied by an airborne Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman (minus the Invisible Plane)—comes zooming down on a metropolis in distress. Who's the villain wreaking havoc in this film, you ask? None other than Doomsday (played by Dwayne Johnson. You reading this, The Rock?)...because it's about time we once again see Superman throwing punches on the big screen. And how 'bout Jennifer Lawrence as Wonder Woman (excluding the fact Lawrence is in X-Men: First Class)? She dyed her hair for The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, FYI.
Anyways, that's enough for speculation. Latino Review is the source that revealed this awesome news. Word has it that this website has been correct in leaking out major movie developments in the past (the last big development being that Harrison Ford is pretty much signed on to play Han Solo again in Star Wars: Episode VII...though Disney and Lucasfilm haven't confirmed this yet); let's hope that its winning streak continues.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Photo of the Day... Apparently, Batman was no match for Mr. Freeze. So what was the catchphrase that the villain gave before he made an ice statue out of the Dark Knight? Or am I veering dangerously close in alluding to that Joel Schumacher Film Which Shalt Not Be Named?
"Freeze in hell, Batman!"
Err— Too late.
Courtesy of Facebook
"Freeze in hell, Batman!"
Err— Too late.
Courtesy of Facebook