Monday, July 25, 2011

Capitan America: The First Avenger (First Impressions) (Movie Review)


        From “X-Men” to “Spider-Man” to “The Fantastic Four” to “Iron man”, every great Marvel superhero has gotten a modern movie adaption and at long last it’s Capitan America’s turn to get a modern superhero blockbuster. Personally, I couldn’t wait to see a modern Capitan America movie because he’s always been one of my favorites. So how was this film compared to the other two summer, marvel blockbusters, well it wasn’t as good as “Thor” or as masterful as “X-Men First Class”, but never the less it was a very, VERY satisfying superhero movie. It’s basically a traditional and fun superhero flick that’s not meant to be taken seriously and it’s only purpose is to entertain and it succeeds on all of those. It also works as a good underdog story of a man rising up to the challenge and a hero gaining acceptance to those who disapprove of him. The action is really fun, with lots of good explosions, hand to hand combat and a fun aroma of cool weapons (including these awesome new tank vehicles). Chris Evans is good in the role of Captain America but he isn’t quiet on the same level of Robert Downy Jr. as Iron Man or Hugo Jackman as Wolverine. Plus, it’s just a little strange to see him as Captain America because he’s still very familiar to me as “The Human Torch” from the recent “Fantastic Four” movies (there’s a fun bit of trivia). The costume looks great, keeping the iconic, propaganda image alive while still modernizing it to keep him from looking silly. The rest of the characters are a lot of fun. The female lead (played very well by Hayley Atwell) named Peggy Charter is just awesome, she’s one of those rare female characters that’s never in need of rescuing, has an awesome accent, looks great, can kick ass and her relation with Captain America was genuinely sweet. Tommy Lee Jones is just awesome as always and manages to steel every scene he’s in. But the best casting decision by far was Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull.
      When I heard Hugo weaving was going to play him I was like, oh yea, that’s The Red Skull, perfect actor, can’t go wrong and he didn’t disappoint. The esthetics for his face were also terrific, I honestly couldn’t tell at first if it was CG or make up, it just looked really cool. Overall, it was another one of Marvels most popular villains brought to life perfectly on the big screen. Hydra also made for very threatening villains and are on par with the storm troopers from “Star Wars”, as cool looking solders. The visuals were good and simple, they never felt over the top and they never over shadowed the characters (like in “G.I. Go: Rise of Cobra”). The visuals for making Captain America look small and scrawny were outstanding, he never looked CG, it all looked genuine, so that was very impressive. Now there are some small things to nitpick at, like this one painfully long montage of Captain America being shown off as a celebrity (slash) propaganda symbol (slash) children’s action figure. Now, I like that he didn’t become a superhero immediately after getting his powers and instead starts as a TV, comic book, celebrity. This was a great explanation as to why he’s called Captain America and how he got the costume, but this silly little montage, was just too long for its own good. Now there’s one other little complaint that I know I’ve mentioned many times before in several other reviews but I feel I must bring it up once again because it ticks me off every time, once again the movie begins without showing the title in the opening! Why has it become so common for films to begin without showing us the title, at least this movie has a fun and colorful end credit sequence but I wish they would still fit the title in the opining.
       One thing I really liked about this film was that so many hints and references to other Marvel comic characters were actually primary parts of the story. For example, one of Captain Americas aids is named Howard Stark, an ancestor to Tony Stark (Iron Man). Also, the Red Skull uses an ancient object of devastating power that he refers to as something from Odin’s treasury (Thor) and it also bears a striking resemblance to the object seen at the end of “Thor”. Stan Lee has another fun little cameo and Samuel L. Jackson makes another appearance at the end of the film as Nick Fury. The highlight of the whole movie is a trailer at the end of the credits for “The Avengers” movie that’s coming out next summer. It was so cool to finally see live action footage of Captain America, Thor and Iron Man all in one film, it’s what every comic book geek has been waiting for and I can’t wait to see it next summer! We also got a first look at the new Spider-Man movie titled “The Amazing Spider-Man” but it wasn’t part of the movie and the trailer honestly didn’t show that much, but it was still cool. Overall, this was a fun superhero flick that’s worthy to be placed amongst all the other classic superhero blockbusters. I give “Captain America: The First Avenger” 4 stars.         

Planet of the Apes (a look at the complete series)



Okay, so there’s a new Planet of the Apes movie coming out this summer and judging by the trailer, it looks good. So to celebrate, let’s look at the long history of the Planet of the Apes movies. P.S I’m not going to look at any of the TV shows or independent spinoffs, I’m just looking at the 7 theatrical movies.   
                                                                  
                                                                       Planet of the Apes (1968)


        The original Planet of the Apes is widely regarded as one of the greatest Sci-Fi classics of all time and for a good reason. The action may not be that exciting but the drama is still very strong, the ape make up is incredible, the cinematography and landscape are riveting spectacles and there are plenty of quotable lines of dialog “Get your stinking paws off of me you dammed dirty ape!” The final shot of the statue of liberty is one of the most iconic and disturbing images to end a film. But beyond all of that, this movie really raises some thought provoking questions on our culture and it stands as a rich warning story of ware humanity can and may ultimately lead to in the future, extinction by our own stupidity.  

                                                      Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)


       At first it seems like a good follow up to the first film but when the characters discover the underground society of people who worship an atom bomb, it suddenly feels like a completely different movie. Most of the characters from the first movie only make brief appearances but there are some questions from the first film that do get answered and it does provide some enjoyment.  

                                                    Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)


        Of the 4 sequels to the first film, this one is easily the best and most character driven. You find yourself getting really attached to the two lead apes (Zira & Cornelius) as they try to make piece with the human race. It’s like a role reversal of the first film and is more compelling and touching then other entries in the series, despite some stupid moments. Oh, almost forgot to mention a small yet still moving performance from Ricardo Montalban.

                                                         Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)


      Probably the darkest, angriest and most disturbing entry in the series (as well as the main inspiration for the new Planet of the Apes movie). An ape named Caesar (the son of Zira & Cornelius) is convinced that humans are evil and he leads an all out attack against humanity. For the most part, there’s hardly anything happening in this film, and it’s not until the very end that things get interesting and exciting. For the most part, it’s just sad and often boring. It is the first and only film in the series that a character actually says the title “planet of the apes” in a sentence.

                                                            Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)


        The fifth entry in the series is critically regarded as the worst of all the Planet of the Apes movies and while I do agree that it’s the weakest, it’s not terrible, I’ve seen worse. I actually think it’s more entertaining than Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and it brings a satisfying conclusion to the series, with a big battle and apes making peace with humans. But there are plenty of problems, the acting is a little corny, the plot is lame, most of the characters aren't interesting and what the heck was up with that ape statue crying at the end of the film, I just don’t get it.

                                                                      Planet of the Apes (2001) 


       The 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes is often regarded as one of the worst remakes of the decade but in all honesty, I like it. It’s no masterpiece or anything, but it does make for a fun, action packed, visually dazzling, Sci-Fi blockbuster. There are some stupid things that way it down, like that stupid ending, the boring lead character and the fact that humans actually have intelligence but there still treated like unintelligent beings. However, there’s still plenty of things to like in this film. Some of the ape characters were good, the makeup is very impressive, the opening was outstanding, a lot of set pieces were really cool to look at, the battle at the end was very exciting, and there are plenty of fun B movie charms that make it worthwhile. 

                                                         Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)


                                                          
    My favorite of the series by far, it sets up the story very well, there’s genuine emotion and fear that comes from the characters, the action is great and of all the films, this one made me care the most. My full review for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is now up, check it out.

The End



                                                                              

  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Top 15 favorite moments in the Harry Potter series

                                                                                                         
      Wow, I remember being in 4th grade when the first Harry Potter film came out and now the final film is here, ending an outstanding series that I feel privileged to have grown up with. So to celebrate I’m counting down my top 15 favorite moments from this amazing series. Now it’s not easy to select just 15 moments or even 100 for that matter because there are so many great moments in this series but I’ll do my best. So prep your brooms and get ready to launch into my top 15 favorite moments from the Harry Potter Series.
#15 Opening to Half Blood Prince 
 Of all the films in the sires, this one has my favorite opening , I love how it starts with the WB logo, we hear Bellatrix in the background, followed by flashes on the events from the last film. Then the title shows up with powerful music playing in the background and then we get awesome shots of the camera zooming through ales and crashing through walls. It’s almost like a theme park ride. Overall a great opening, too bad the rest of the film isn’t as exciting.  

#14 Harry and Herminie dance (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Of all the relations in this series, the one that always came off as the strongest to me was the true friend ship between Harry and Herminie and this little dance was simply the most joyful moment between the two.
#13 Spider attack (from Chamber of Secrets) 
 This whole movie was like a collection of adventure serials with Ron and Harry getting in one huge predicament after the next. But the most exciting moment for me was when they were trying to escape the dark forest from an army of killer spiders. It was intense, thrilling, and the last time we would see that awesome flying car.  
 #12 Dumbledore’s quick escape (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 This is just an awesome scene, Dumbledore is about to be taken away to prison but he makes a quick escape by grabbing onto the tail of the Phoenix and disappearing in a large, fiery eruption. What better way to end it then with this fun line, “You may not like him minister but you can’t deny, Dumbledore’s got style”, perfect.  
#11 Sky Battle (from Deathly Hallows Part 1) 
 Now this was a teat, what better way to get you excited for the adventure ahead than by starting the film with an awesome sky chase. Spells are being fired left and right, the stakes are higher than usual because more characters are involved and we get lots of on road vehicle destruction, awesome! 
#10 Harry and Lupin talk on the bridge (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I don’t know what it is about this scene that I love so much but there’s something moving about it. It’s the first time we really see Harry have a simple heart to heart conversation with another teacher. There’s no life changing moral or anything but the setting is great, the background music is nice and soothing and Lupin’s words carry so much care and understanding towed Harry and his family that it makes for such an emotional little moment without anything being to overly dramatic, it’s all simple and pure.   
#9 Arriving at Hogwarts for the first time on boat (in the Sorcerer’s stone) 
 This was such a perfect first shot of Hogwarts castle, the music fits it perfectly and it’s such a memorable little moment that it’s actually on par with seeing the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road for the first time from “The Wizard of Oz”.     
   
#8 The “Something Wicked this way Comes” quire (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 This small little musicale number is just awesome! The lyrics are great, the sound of the low drum in the background is perfect and it creates such a foreboding, yet lively atmosphere. I love how beautifully all the visuals and images match with the song. First we see a dark reflection of Harry’s face in a window, then it dissolves to a shot of horseless carriages ridding off in the rain and finally the interior of the great hall, fantastic!

#7 Dumbledore vs. Voldemort (from Order of the Phoenix) 
 The entire third act of this film is just one amazing action scene after the next with all the characters trying to escape the ministry. What better way to end everything then an amazing one on one wizard dual between Voldermort and Dumbledore. I could have filled this list entirely with scenes from this battle, but if I had to choose one action moment it would be this dual. It’s not just a collision of spells, there are all kinds of energy elements that are being used, like water, a fire snake, shattered glass,  shadow energy, it’s just an amazing dual.
#6 The Tail of the Peverell Brothers (from Deathly Hollows Part 1) 
 None of the previous films ever gave use anything like this awesome story. This was so unique, the visuals and animation were strange yet so fascinating at the same time. I love the whole mood, atmosphere, its terrific ways of making transitions and Emma Watsons narration was so cryptic that it brought everything to life perfectly. 
#5 Every single Quidditch match from the series 
 I couldn’t pick one individual Quidditch match, there all outstanding. The first time seeing a Quidditch match in the first film was simply amazing, I had never seen anything like it before. The second film just built on top of it by having Harry compete against Draco and get chased by that rouge bludger. The third film was much darker and more haunting, the rain is falling on them, the grim (creepy dog omen of death) appears in the sky and Harry is chased be death eaters. Bottom line, whenever I watch a Harry Potter film, always look forward to the Quidditch matches.      
#4 The PETRONAS charm (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 It was such a spectacle to see Harry find the strength within himself to conjure a massive PETRONAS shock wave that takes out an army of death eaters. The music, the visuals, the sensation of this whole scene was simply riveting.
 #3 Flying Buck Beak (from Prisoner of Azkaban) 
 I absolutely love atmospheric flights in films and this is when I first discovered how effective they are. I love all the different shots of the castle and landscape and how it all matched perfectly with the stunning music in this scene. It almost feels meditative and it fully allows you to take in all the atmosphere and genius that the film has to offer.

#2 The ending to Chamber of secrets 
 This is something that I can only describe as the best feel good moment of the entire series. There couldn’t have been a more satisfying ending then seeing the great hall in thunderous applause, we get one final shot of every main character (including one last great shot of Richard Harris as Dumbledore), the camera backs out a window, we get an amazing final shot of the castle, all matched with some great music and it always leaves me with such a powerful and satisfying feeling, like this is the perfect way to end a film.      
#1 The possession scene (from Order of the Phoenix) 

 This scene is just epic and it’s one of the most powerful moments I ever experienced in the cinema. Harry is being torn apart by Voldermort and we get a lot of creepy images and negative flashbacks from the previous films, (which is really cool, how often does a character flashback on events from past films). Then from looking at his friends he remembers why he has strength over Voldermort, he’ll never no love or friendship the way Harry does and then in his last breath he looks at his enemy and says “I feel sorry for you”. This is why we love this character, he’s a hero who looks at his enemy, not with hate but with sorrow that he’ll never know what it’s like to be loved. He then defeats his enemy by bringing up all positive thoughts about the times he’s had with his loved ones. The music in this scene is stunning, the images are right on, and the emotion in this scene is the highest that have ever come from this series and that’s why it stands as my favorite moment from all the Harry Potter films.
Will the last film have a scene that can top this, well find out, when I review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Top 10 favorite Shoot Outs in Movies


     Well, I’ve posted lists of my favorite car chases and my favorite one on one duals, so what other great action related subject is there for me to list, oh yeah, SHOOT OUTS! Guns are probably the greatest and most clich├ęd weapons ever and are often what we want to see in action movies, like Die Hard, Rambo, Aliens and the Terminator movies. It can last for a few minutes or it can be the whole movie, bottom line, there’s nothing like seeing large chunks of ammunition being fired. So I’m counting down my top 10 favorite shoot ups.



10. Shoot Out from the movie “Commando” (1985)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is fully armed and feeling vengeful, an awesome and deadly combination. Arnold blows the hell out of this base looking for his kidnapped daughter and he just tears people apart. It’s hilarious how no one can shoot him even though he’s out in the open but all that stupidity just adds to the awesomeness.


 9. Shoot Out from the movie “Death Wish 3” (1985)

 
I’ll admit, I’m not that big of a Death Wish fan, and the third entry was probably the most poorly put together, but it did have one hell of an awesome final shoot out. It’s probably one of the most purely entertaining action scenes with no tension or realism, it’s just for fun. Charles Bronson just wipes the floor with everyone, then it becomes a full blown war as the neighbors all join in and it becomes this big free for all of people just shooting left and right. It’s almost like one big video game, there’s people on ruff top’s, windows, people shooting from trees and they all just keep coming out of no wear, it’s great. Everything ends with the lead bad guy getting taken out at close range with a rocket launcher, you don’t get any more awesome than that!   

           
8. Shoot Out from the movie “Predator” (1987)

Schwarzenegger and a team of heavily armed troops take down a rebel camp to rescue some hostages. Now there’s one thing we’ve already learned from "Commando" that is made perfectly clear in this scene, you don’t screw with Arnold Schwarzenegger because he and his team are unstoppable. They just keep walking through everyone like it’s nothing and we get an on slot of corny yet terrific one liners to go along with everything, it's good stuff.  
   
 7. Shoot Out from the movie “Robocop” (1987)

You really can’t pick out one individual moment because this entire movie is one amazing and brutal shoot up. It starts with a cop named Alex Murphy getting killed in what has to be the worst shooting ever. Then he comes back as Robocop and that’s when things get really awesome. He breaks into a factory full of drug lords and blasts the shit out of everyone. He’s like a walking bullet machine that can’t be stopped, it's awesome!

6. Shoot out From the movie “The Expendables 2” (2012) 

It was just a real treat to get an action movie from this decade that was literally one big tribute to 80’s action movies and it delivers all the way. We got a top notch cast of legendary action stars, lots of shooting, even more explosions and it’s fuelled with 100%, testosterone driven, male power!  

 
5. Shoot Out from the movie “Extreme Prejudice” (1987)
 
This starts as a simple dual between two men but then just like in Death wish 3, the entire town is at war. There’s nowhere to hide, bullets are coming from every direction and Nick Nolte (who plays the lead character named Jack Benteen) is just so perfectly calm and collected even though his wife is being dragged through all this carnage. There’s people driving by on jeeps, big machine guns going off and it all ends with most of the population killed, now that’s what I call a shoot out.
4. Shoot Out from the movie "Scarface" (1983)

This is often regarded as one of the most ground breaking shoot ups in American cinema and while it’s not my absolute favorite, it still is one heck of an ending. This guy Tony Montana knows he’s about to die and he’s pissed off. So what better way to go down then by unleashing all his anger and shooting the hell out of an oncoming team of armed criminals. He’s constantly getting hit by bullets but he just keeps coming with everything he’s got. Then there’s the classic line “Say hello to my little friend!” What a way to go out!  


3. Shoot out from the movie "Hard-Boiled" (1992) 



This foreign action flick directed by John Woo is one of the most mind blowing action spectacles of its time, and still very impressive today. The plot revolves around a cop who teams up with a rebel police officer and both are determined to bring down a sinister mobster and his crew. They pretty much declare war on these guys and it leads to some of the most relentless, explosive and breathless action shootouts I’ve ever seen. There’s a battle in a warehouse with lots of gun wielding hit men on motorcycles and lots of destruction. The climax is one long shootout in a hospital that will leave you exhausted by the time it wraps up. There’s some very impressive camera work and editing, including this one really long take with our hero’s running down a hallway that lasts for about four minutes, which is very impressive.  


2. Shoot Out from the movie “Desperado” (1995)

This is simply one of my favorite, soled action flicks ever. The writing, editing and directing of Robert Rodriguez is just perfect, the action scenes are put together beautifully and you can really feel his style of filming at work. We get the commanding screen presence of Antonio Banderas and the amazingly beautiful Salma Hayek as they get themselves stuck in one awesome, explosive action scene after the next. It’s entertaining as hell, its ridicules, not meant to be taken seriously and that’s why it’s awesome.




Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are my honorable mentions. The shoot outs from ...

“The Wild Bunch”
“Big Jake”
“Bonnie and Clyde”
“Highlander 2”

“Rambo” (2007)
     



1. Shoot Out from the movie “The Matrix” (1999)
    
     Yet another number one favorite action scene from The Matrix and all I can say is DAMN! Our two lead hero’s named Neo and Trinity walk into a lobby and are fully armed with all kinds of fire arms. Then a swat team unleashes a hail storm of bullets. Neo and Trinity blast the crap out of every one, there’s ruble flying everywhere, cool slow motion shots and it’s all boasted by an electrifying musicale score. Best shoot out says nothing, this is one of the most amazing action scenes ever committed to film, period!      

The End