Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Investigator (First Impressions) (Movie Review)

    I usually like to give general reviews of the new, big blockbusters that come out every summer but now I’d like to take a moment and talk about a small, low budget movie that was released in select theaters this year, titled “The Investigator”. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air to go to the movie theater and see a genuinely good film like this as opposed to all those action flicks and comedy’s where all so accustomed to. Despite being a movie for select theaters and minimal showings, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were in the theater, it was actually more crowded then when my friends and I went to see “World War Z”. 
 
     This movie is based on real events and real people, which always makes the characters feel more real. The plot goes like this, a veteran police detective named James becomes a criminal justice teacher and baseball coach at a local high school. He teaches his students that the truth is the most important thing to learn and that facts from history books can only convey so much that’s honest. Needless to say, this new teacher has experienced so many things in his life that have diminished his faith in God completely. After a series of events James decides to lead his students on an investigation to discover the truth about God, was his son Jesus real and if so, what proof do we have. On the side lines, he leads a baseball team to be the best they can be and with a little bit of faith, they may win the championships. So it’s kind of like “The Dead Poets Society” meets “Angels in the Outfield”.    


     It falls into the category of faith inspiring dramas and the way this film gets its message across is one of the most unique and original I’ve ever seen. Instead of perching generic morals and faith inspiring speeches, this movie just asks the audience, do you believe in God and why? In the end, there’s no definitive answer as to whether God was real or not, it just ends leaving the door open for you to interpret things on your own. It may sound like a very simple and basic film, which it honestly it, but everything’s done very well. There’s deeper stories and conflicts going on with the characters, the performances are all solid, the pacing is great and the questions raised in this film do get you to ponder on some interesting topics and ideas. It’s not the absolute best faith inspiring drama I’ve ever seen and you probably won’t remember watching it after a few years, but this is still very good film, the way it conveys it’s morals are very unique and as a whole, I’d say it’s worth checking out. I give the 2013 motion picture “The Investigator” 3 ½ stars.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My 10 favorite Film series

Try to imagine what the movies were like over twenty years ago, it was always a new experience, a new movie and most of which were just stand alone films with no sequels at all. Those days are all but dead, now everything’s about sequels and keeping a series of films running for as many movies as they can to make box office money. But then again, it’s we the fans that play a big part in keeping a successful series running, because we can’t get enough of these films. It’s just impossible to say “no” to another new installment in a beloved franchise of ours and here are my personal favorite long running film series. Now in order to make this list, there needs to be at least more than one sequel (at least three installments to make it official) and I’m only including Theatrical movies for this list, no TV series and no direct to video series. So with all that said, here are my personal favorite movie series.  


10. The Rocky franchise

How could you not love Rocky, he’s perhaps the most humble and sincere character from any film franchise. The series itself can be profound and depressing but so uplifting and powerful all at once. They can also be wild and over the top too, which is still good fun, but it’s the driving heart at the center of the series that makes them so captivating. Through up’s and downs, good times and bad, Rocky still stands strong and it’s so easy to cheer for him every step of the way. Whether you take the films seriously or not, these movies can always pick me up and give me that extra confidence to push through some of my own personal struggles.

Favorite installment: “Rocky Balboa” (2006) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Rocky V” (1990)



9. The James Bond series
The escapist thrills, memorable villains, high-tech gadgets, attractive women and over the top action scenarios make this franchise one of the most purely fun watch. Now this is the longest lasting series on my list and is now up to 25 feature films. Yet the formula that makes these movies so captivating just seems to get better and better with age and to this day, I’m still a devoted fan, long live 007.

Favorite installment: “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Casino Royale” (1967)

  

8. Marvels cinematic universe


Now when I say “Marvels Cinematic Universe”, I specifically mean the ones that make up the Avengers. This includes Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Incredible Hulk. Why just those four, because, their movies are all connected in some way and are all part of one big franchise. Other marvel based comics like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are limited to their own individual franchises. Of cores I’m a really big comic book fan and to have all these awesome Marvel based comic book hero’s share this massive franchise together, that’s more of a cinematic spectacle than even the biggest comic book nerd could dream up.

Favorite installment: “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Iron Man 2” (2010)



7. The Chronicles of Narnia series



I’ve been a long time fan of the “Chronicles of Narnia book” series. In fact it was my very first chapter book series I read all the way through back when I was in Elementary School and I still love them to this day. I have just as much fondness for the movies based on these awesome books and I honestly feel that there not appreciated enough. Unlike the popular “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (which I don’t hate, but certainly won’t be making this list), Chronicles of Narnia just feels more magical. This series still has it dark and relatively serious aspects, as well as some grand and epic battle sequences but it offers so much more, the stories feel more compelling, the moral’s are deeper and I just feel more transported into this magical realm than I do in any other fantasy adaption. True the film series isn’t that big right now and is currently on hold, but there is still a lot of potential for further movies based on these outstanding books, I sure hope they make more.     

Favorite installment: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” (2005) 
Least Favorite Installment: “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” (2010)



6. The Batman series


When it comes to stand alone super heroes that aren’t part of a team, no one excites me like Batman, he just seems to have it all. He’s dark and mysterious but also complex and interesting. He also has a fun collection of villains that can be just as complex and interesting as the title character (for the most part). More than anything, he just has a really fun collection of films with different styles, different artistic directions and different tones that somehow still feel appropriate in their own unique way. We have the dark and surreal tones of the Tim Burton movies, the bright and colorful comic book world of the Joel Shumaker movies, an animated movie adapted from the hit TV series, the campy and fun movie from the 1960’s, the grittier and more down to earth Christopher Nolan trilogy and even Batman movie in which he's a Lego. Other superhero film series like Spider-Man are always on one precise and direct tone but Batman’s film series is just so much more unique in its presentation. But the real reason I love this series so much, obviously is for Batman alone. He’s the definitive superhero who’s legacy as only gotten better with age.

Favorite installment: “The Dark Knight” (2008) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)    
    


5. The Star Wars series


       

Now here’s a film series that needs no introduction, Star Wars is more of a cinematic phenomenon than any other franchise I can think of and its legacy is undated. Every generation seems to be captivated by these movies, the classic characters, the thrilling adventures through outer space, the imaginative weapons and aliens, it all just takes a life of its own. Obviously I prefer the original trilogy but I still enjoy the newer installments and I can’t wait to see the new films yet to come. There’s even been a fun collection of TV shows and direct to video movies based on this series to further expand on its universe. Need I say any more, it’s Star Wars, the definitive classic series!

Favorite installment: “Star Wars 6: Return of the Jedi” (1983) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace” (1999)



4. The Harry Potter series

               
What do I even need to say about the Harry Potter series that hasn’t already been said? It was such a privilege to be one of the many young adults to have grown up with this series as a child and see it through to a more than satasphying conclusion. Even if you’re not a fan of the beloved book series, it’s still such an easy film series to get yourself fully invested in. The characters, storytelling, countless adventures that can excite both young and old, plus one of the most magical world’s ever to be submersed in on film, I can hardly do it justice in just a single paragraph. Harry Potter takes the classic formula of a young adventure series in a fantasy world, splashes on its own unique style of technical wizardry, complex storytelling and a cast of excellent characters that are truly unforgettable.  

Favorite installment: “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ” (2002) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” (2005)



3. The Toy Story Trilogy

                 

Personally, I don’t think there’s any other children’s series or trilogy for that matter that’s as perfectly constructed as these films. The “Toy Story” movies will always stand as the greatest family films of all time for me because they perfectly capture all the charms and nostalgia of our youths. These films do such an awesome job combining laughs with legitimate drama and that balance is always so perfectly in place. The characters are all so lovable, colorful and genuine that they practically leap off the screen. There’s actually a touch of humanity to these characters that some human characters in other films lack, and it’s that bit of believability mixed with all the charms and impressive visual effects that make these films so timeless. 

Favorite installmentAll of them
Least Favorite InstallmentNone of them



2. The X-Men series

When it comes to comic book based film franchises, X-Men will always stand as my personal favorite. I’m a huge fan of just about everything X-Men related and this film series is just so respectable to the source material while keeping regular audiences entertained and invested. That’s no easy task, considering how many different characters, back stories and plot threads go into the X-Men universe.  All the actors bring their respected rolls to life with class, elegance and charismatic performances. I feel that this series has something special at the center that takes it one step higher than any other superhero franchise. I’m referring to its sharp narrative focus and issues that go beyond your usual defeat villain scenario. The subject of prejudice and excepting what makes you different is such a welcome concept for a superhero franchise that it elevates all the spectacular action sequences and impressive effects. Whether you like these films or not, one thing remains certain, this is the series that made audiences realize just how smart a comic book adapted movie can be.

Favorite installment: “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (2014) 
Least Favorite Installment: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)



Before I revel my number one pick, here are my honorable mentions:


The Indiana Jones series
The Matrix trilogy
The Back to the Future trilogy
The National Lampoon Vacation series
Spider-Man series
The Naked Gun Trilogy
The Jurassic Park series













1. The Star Trek series

I’ll admit, a lot of this decision comes from my fondness of the fantastic Star Trek TV shows, most especially “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. But on their own, it’s still an outstanding film series. I love the concepts of exploration, boldly venturing into the unknown reaches of outer space. With a premise like this, you can have something different for every film, a new adventure, occasionally thrilling action scenes, new planets to explore, and more often than not, a deeper look inside one’s humanity. I especially love travelling with a select group of fantastic characters on a spaceship, it gives the cast something of a close family feel as we travel with them across the stars. Whether it’s the classic enterprise crew, the next generation crew or the new, re-imagined Trek crew, I’ll always be engaged. For all this and more, Star Trek remains my personal favorite film franchise of all time.


Favorite installment: “Star Trek First Contact” (1996) 
Least Favorite Installment: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)


                                                      The End