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.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Top 10 Animated Disney Channel Programs (Updated for 2017)


Of all the TV stations I grew up with in the 90’s, I watched Disney cartoons more than anything. That was Disney channel’s golden age, featuring some of their most timeless TV shows and any child who grew up with them will always have long lasting nostalgic fondness. I gradually stopped watching Disney back in 2001, but the shows I did grow up with were so captivating that they shouldn’t go without mention. For this list, I'll be counting down my personal favorite animated Programs from Disney, some new, but mostly ones that I grew up with.


#10 Darkwing Duck



Building on the universe of the already successful “Duck Tales” series came a highly original satire of the superhero genera simply called “Darkwing Duck”. While it’s clearly paying homage to Batman and other dark comic books, this show was also very clever with its approach by giving us a protagonist that was only fighting crime for fame and attention. Yeah, in a rare move by Disney, Darkwing Duck was the first ego driven hero, and it was hilarious for that. Not to say he wouldn’t do anything heroic, but sometimes you just need a stick in the mud to balance out all the other super heroes. With voice actor Jim Cummings on the top of his game in the role of Darkwing Duck, it made for a memorable character from a memorable animated series.       


#9 The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh



While I can’t say I re-watch this as an adult, it was still something very meaningful to my child hood, and it’s the kind of program I’d want kids to grow up on. It’s honestly kind of depressing that kids from this generation can’t be exposed to this series the same way I was. This was the series that worked Winnie the Pooh and his friends into the hearts and minds of a whole generation of children. The gentle light hearted nature of Winnie the Pooh goes much deeper than just looking cute, it was a way of telling meaningful stories of friendship, finding courage and giving to others. Weather it was a colorful adventure in the woods, or learning valuable life lesions, I’ll always have fond memories of that magical forest and the humble characters that lived within it.     


#8 Aladdin 

The movie “Aladdin” was already one of my favorite Disney properties, and it seemed like a good one to expand. The Arabian Knights setting offered many possibilities for new adventures with our favorite characters from the film. The show also featured a colorful cast of memorable villains, giant monsters and exotic locations. While the show hasn’t exactly aged as well as other Disney shows, it was still a lot of fun to grow up with and still has some excitement that’s worth looking back on.    



#7. The Classic Mickey Mouse cartoons


      Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, etc, those have always been my favorite cartoon characters of all time and for a while, the Disney Channel had a special half hour show in which they aired there classic cartoons. I know most people preferred the Loony Tunes for being a little more adult with their hummer, but they lack the same nostalgic charm that only Mickey Mouse and company can provide.


#6. Duck Tales
    

     Good old Duck Tales, this show is often regarded as the great classic Disney cartoon, and for good reason. The show is memorable just for that catchy theme song in the opening. It was also their first syndicated show that paved the way for other animated classics including “Tail Spin” and “Goof Troop”. It was basically a treasure hunting adventure series, just with classic Disney characters like Scrooge Mcduck and his three mischievous nephews tacking center stage. Throw in some brisk animation, and you got yourself a TV show that’s just as rich as Scrooges big gold collection.
   

#5. The Little Mermaid


     This wasn’t the first, or the last Disney TV show to be adapted from one of their movies, but for whatever it’s worth, I remember watching this one far more than either the “Aladdin” or “101 Dalmatians” spin-offs. You wouldn’t think that a princess themed show would be that interesting to a small boy, but The Little Mermaid series was actually just as much for boys as it was for girls, if not more so. It gave us underwater adventures that revolved around defrosted Dinosaurs, fire breathing sea dragons, an ancient Cyclops, pirates and evil doctors. Fortunately, everything balanced out with its wholesome characters, a colorful underwater world, musical numbers and good moral values for young viewers.


#4. Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers



       Oh, I loved “Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers”, with its cute animal leads, colorful animation, fast paced adventures and insanely catchy theme song, this is the show that literally made Disney Channel a house hold station for me. Seriously that theme song was just so catchy that after all these years, it’s still bouncing around in my head. As part of the Disney Afternoon line-up, Chip and Dale paid tribute to Indiana Jones and Magnum P.I., respectively, solving crimes too small for the full-sized police to handle. It may sound silly giving these classic Disney cartoon characters a CSI makeover, but it was all done so well. Each mystery had their own moral tied in, and the new supporting characters like Gadget, Monterey Jack and Zipper were great fun to watch and once again. 


#3 Star Wars Rebels 




Once Disney got hold of the rights to Lucas films it was no surprise that an animated “Star Wars” show was on the horizon. What did surprise me was just how much I loved the new series. It proved to me that “Star Wars” still had a lot more fresh ideas and fun space adventures to offer. “Star Wars Rebels” focuses on a small team of hero’s that are standing up to the terrine of the all controlling evil Empire. So it’s like an animated version of the 2002 TV series “Firefly”, just set in the “Star Wars” universe. The series simultaneously works as a sequel to the previous TV series “Star Wars The Clone Wars”, by giving closure to some loss story arcs and brings back some fan favorite characters. The show was also kind enough to bring in classic characters from the original trilogy, but they were all used sparingly, most especially Darth Vader who’s brief appearance still stole the show. With a completely original cast of colorful new characters, a brisk pace, awesome battle scenes and even a subtle sense of hummer, this show accomplished the unthinkable and stands as yet another great entry in the ever expanding “Star Wars” saga.    


#2 Gravity Falls 



In the strange little town of Gravity Falls, twin siblings named Dipper and Mable spend their summer going on wild and hilarious supernatural adventures. Watching over the kids is there cranky old uncle named Stan, who makes his living as an expert con-artist. This show came well after my childhood had passed, but word of mouth got around for me, and upon my first viewing I realized that series was right up my alley. It’s got the spooky charms of shows like “Goosebumps” or “Courage the Cowardly Dog”, with the brilliant comedy one would expect from shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” or “The Simpsons”. Unlike other Disney programs, I was quiet surprised with just how funny this show got, as well as how exciting it got. It had an engaging mystery plot that was slowly unraveled, but more to the point, it just had a splendid cast of characters that I loved going on adventures with. I loved the atmosphere, I loved the creepy moments and the cast was solid. 


Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some quick honorable mentions ...

Quack Pack 

Tale Spin 

Goof Troop

Kim Possible

The Lion Guard  





#1Gargoyles


      Interesting that my favorite Disney TV show is nothing like traditional Disney material. To be honest, Gargoyles was whole different league and far to good for the Disney. This was like the Batman of Disney cartoons, focusing on dark, complex, melodramatic storytelling and episodes chalk full of action, adventure, mystery, mythology, and history. The show had a short run, but it still left a big impact, focusing on a tight group of memorable characters, fascinating villains and thrilling story arcs. It had a different look, took risks and should be cited as one of the great classic action series of the 90's. Calling Gargoyles my number one favorite Disney channel show is honestly an understatement because it's still to this day one of my personal favorite TV shows of all time.

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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