Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this next chapter of the epic “Maze Runner” saga, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers face their greatest challenge yet: searching for clues about the mysterious and powerful organization known as WCKD. Their journey takes them to the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles. Teaming up with resistance fighters, the Gladers take on WCKD’s vastly superior forces and uncover its shocking plans for them all.

What people are saying:

“The special effects and production design provide powerful visuals and the idea of post apocalyptic zombies is alluring but the plot drags on without much to say or do and the ending is unsatisfying.” 2 stars

“What do you get when you cross Mockingjay part 2 with The walking dead? You get this very confusing movie in the second of three movies of the maze runner trilogy. The movie is basically kids running from zombies, kids running from everything – and then we have a huge battle and poof, let’s get ready for the third installation” 2 stars

“The Scorch Trials returns with its fast pacing and its diverse characters, but the running seems to be becoming more aimless. Not to mention, the casting of Game of Thrones characters in hopes of scoring points with critics has returned…and it is an utter failure.” 3 stars

“As a surprising fan of the original Maze Runner film, I was quite excited to see where the story would take me. It turns out, the sequel doesn’t have much to do. It runs out of gas with a series of endless chase scenes and a bland plot. Surprisingly too, the film is almost relentlessly bleak and while there are exciting moments, there isn’t much character development or humor. While the first was solid, this follow-up doesn’t reach Catching Fire levels of dystopian smarts. ” 2 1/2 stars

“I guess that if you’re younger than 25 this movie might have some appeal for you, maybe. I liked the first movie, and having to figure out what was going on, how our heroes would make it. This movie had none of that. Some kind of mashup combination of this and that — and c’mon! zombies?!!!! Weak in so (too) many areas. The kids haven’t learned to act yet. I queued this one up because it was a sequel and I was looking forward to seeing where the story went. Greatly disappointed. If Divergent and Hunger games are 10’s, and Maze Runner was an 8, this one is a 3. I quit watching this mess after an hour and a half — and I was sorry that I watched any of it, sorry that they did this to the Maze Runner.  ” 2 stars

Fantastic Four (2015)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 7, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Childhood friends Reed Richards and Ben Grimm have worked together on a prototype teleporter since youth, eventually attracting the attention of Professor Franklin Storm, director of the Baxter Foundation, a government-sponsored research institute for young prodigies. Reed is recruited to join them and aid Storm’s children, scientist Sue Storm and the somewhat reckless technician and her younger brother Johnny Storm, into completing a “Quantum Gate” designed by Storm’s wayward protégé, Victor von Doom, who begrudgingly agrees to help due to his unrequited feelings for Sue.

The experiment is successful, and the facility’s supervisor, Dr. Allen, plans to send a group from NASA to venture into a parallel dimension known as “Planet Zero”. Disappointed at being denied the chance to join the expedition, Reed, Johnny, and Victor along with Ben use the Quantum Gate to embark on an unsanctioned voyage to Planet Zero, which they learn is a world filled with otherworldly substances. Victor attempts to touch the green-lava like substance, causing the surface they are on to collapse and the ground to erupt. Reed, Johnny, and Ben return to their shuttle just as Sue brings them back to Earth. Victor is seemingly killed after he falls into the collapsing landscape. The machine explodes, altering Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben on a molecular-genetic level, affording them superhuman abilities beyond their control: Reed can stretch like rubber, Susan can become invisible and generate force shields, Johnny can engulf his entire body in fire and fly, and Ben becomes bigger and develops a rock-like hide which gives him superhuman strength and durability. They are then placed in government custody and confinement to be studied and have their conditions and abilities tested. Blaming himself for the accident, Reed escapes from the facility and tries to find a cure for their changes.

One year later, Reed is now a fugitive and has built a suit that is able to adapt to his body’s plasticity and help him control his ability. Hiding in Central America, he is eventually found by the United States military with Sue’s help and captured by Ben, who has become a military asset along with Johnny and Sue. Johnny and Sue have been outfitted with specialized suits designed to help them stabilize and control their abilities. Reed is brought to Area 57, where Dr. Allen conscripts him to open another portal to Planet Zero in exchange for giving Reed the necessary resources to find a cure. Arriving in Planet Zero, Dr. Allen’s explorers find Victor, who has been fused to his spacesuit and can now control the elements, as well as having telekinetic abilities, and bring him back to Earth. Believing the human race needs to be destroyed so he can rebuild Planet Zero in his image, Victor kills scientists and soldiers in the base including Dr. Allen and Professor Storm and returns to Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate, with Ben, Johnny, Reed, and Sue in pursuit.

Now dubbing himself “Doom”, Victor activates a portal on Planet Zero using the Quantum Gate II, and a structure consisting of the rock formations in Planet Zero he made while in the realm, that begins consuming the landscape of the Earth. He is confronted by the four and, after a short battle, Ben punches Doom into the portal’s energy beam, disintegrating him while Johnny closes the portal. Returning to Earth, the group is rewarded for their heroics by being given a new base of operations by the US military known as “Central City” to study their abilities. They decide to use their powers to help people and adopt the mantle of the “Fantastic Four”.

REVIEW:

In Marvel Comics, there have always been 3 main groups (though these days it isn’t so cut and dry). The Avengers, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four…and Spider-Man is on the outside looking in sometimes. We are all aware of how the big screen has treated the Avengers and X-Men, but the Fantastic Four haven’t fared so well, be it the early film that director Harvey Korman wants kept from public viewing or the two films from the early 2000s,  the studio felt it time to give this family another shot. This brings us to Fant4stic, but will the film be fantastic?

What is this about?

In this updated sci-fi saga about the legendary Fantastic Four, a team of scientists who suddenly acquire superhuman abilities are soon obliged to put them to use when a powerful nemesis with malevolent plans threatens Earth.

What did I like?

Basics. When it comes to the Fantastic Four, it is next to impossible to get the basics wrong, unless you are just changing things for the sake of changing them (more on that later). The filmmakers were smart enough to give us the basic origin and characteristics of the titular characters and their arch-nemesis (albeit slightly altered), showed us the infamous Baxter building, and threw in the magical voice of Reg E. Cathey for good measure.

What didn’t I like?

Tone. For quite some time, I have been saying that not every superhero film needs to be dark and brooding. Marvel Studios knows how to have a different tone for their films, though I’m not so sure about the TV and Netflix shows. How else do you explain the reason Captain America’s films feel totally different from the Iron Man films? Now, while the FF may be Marvel properties, the still aren’t under the studio banner because of some legal mumbo jumbo that I don’t really feel like getting into right now. What is important to note is that a character like Batman works in a dark, gritty, realistic landscape. The Fantastic Four belong in the optimistic, bright, family friendly city. Someone suggested that this might have worked better as a period piece, set in the 60s. I can totally see that, or maybe being set in something similar to the new Spider-Man film. This darkness, though, does nothing for these characters.

Chemistry. These four are supposed to be family, even though at this point they’re just meeting each other. I just wasn’t feeling it, though. Sue and Reed have about as much spark as two sticks being rubbed together in the ocean. Johnny and Ben, who are known for having witty repartee’, barely interact until the last scene, and then it feels forced. One more thing, their interaction with Dr. Doom…sorry, its just Doom for some reason, was more like, *YAWN* let’s get this over with. Who ever put this group together…well, I’m not done with you, yet!

Storm front. Before this film was released, much was made of the casting of the Johnny and Susan Storm. Kate Mara as Susan felt like everything opposite of Sue Storm, except for smart. When I think of Sue Storm, I picture a smart, sexy woman with maternal qualities keeping the group together, not a cold bitch who could care less about any of them. As far as Johnny goes, he actually might have been the best part of the film, as far as acting goes. That being said, I feel Michael B. Jordan was cast for no other reason than to stir up headlines. There was no reason for Johnny Storm to be an African-American and have a white sister, a situation which was never explained as far as I can tell. Nothing against Michael B. Jordan, but his casting is one of the reasons this film didn’t work. It was too much of a distraction. If the filmmakers insisted on going with him, then they shouldn’t have cast Mara as Sue, but instead found an African-American actress who could do the role justice.

Effects. Let me get right down to it. The effects are horrible. I want to focus on 2 in particular, Doom and The Thing. As we say in Fantastic Four, Victor von Doom just can’t have a regular mask. He has to be an entire suit of metal, complete with telekinesis powers. Why? Don’t ask me! I’m really dumbfounded by the fact that they copied his look from a film that they were trying to distance themselves from. As far as Ben Grimm goes, well, he didn’t look like a lovable, blue-eyed thing, but instead a true monster. If that was the look they were going for, great. However, imagine if you’re a little kid and you run into him. Chances are you’d run away. Thing isn’t supposed to be scary, but this filmmakers seemed to think that was the way to go…and he was wrong!

Quantum leap. We are taught in school that every good story has a beginning, middle, and end, and somewhere in there needs to be a climax. Well, the person who wrote this film obviously didn’t go to school because after this film’s 90 minute extremely slow intro, it skips the middle and jumps to the climactic confrontation. What happened to the middle? Your guess is as good as mine!

Final verdict on Fant4stic? For those that are looking for a truly solid Fantastic Four film, Pixar has one in their library. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, The Incredibles? I struggle to have anything good to say about this film. Oh, it was filmed here in Baton Rouge! Does that count? Much like Man of Steel, someone got the bright idea that these characters would work better if you took away everything that had made them so popular in the first place (humor, chemistry, color, etc). As a result, the film suffers and we’ll probably have to wait for Marvel to get the rights back for anything positive to happen with these characters. Do I recommend this flick? No, you’re better off finding one of the other films, if you must have a FF fix. Don’t waste your time with this one.

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 1/5

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on January 5, 2017 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Last week, I had a chance to reacclimate myself with my love of MGM musicals. So, to start the year off right, this month will be musical trailers!

First up, the incomparable Gene Kelly in An American in Paris

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT( spoiler alert!!!):

Research scientist Galen Erso is in hiding on the planet Lah’mu when Imperial weapons developer Orson Krennic arrives to take him to complete the unfinished Death Star, a space station-based superweapon capable of destroying an entire planet. Erso’s wife Lyra is killed in the confrontation, but their daughter Jyn escapes and is taken to safety by Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera.

Fifteen years later, pilot Bodhi Rook defects from the Empire, smuggling a holographic message from Galen to Gerrera on the desert moon of Jedha. After learning about Rook’s defection, Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor frees Jyn from Imperial captivity and brings her to the Rebels, who plan to use her to extract Galen and learn more about the Death Star. Unbeknownst to Jyn, however, Cassian is covertly ordered to kill Galen rather than extract him.

Jyn, Cassian, and reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO travel to Jedha, where the Empire is mining kyber crystals to power the Death Star while Gerrera and his partisans are engaged in an armed insurgency against them. With the aid of blind spiritual warrior Chirrut Îmwe and his mercenary friend Baze Malbus, Jyn makes contact with Gerrera, who has been holding Rook captive. Gerrera shows her the message, in which Galen reveals he has secretly built a vulnerability into the Death Star and directs them to retrieve the schematics from a high-security Imperial data bank on the planet Scarif.

On the Death Star, Krennic orders a low-powered shot from the superlaser to destroy Jedha’s capital, causing Jyn and her group to take Rook and flee the planet, but Gerrera and his group are killed. Grand Moff Tarkin congratulates Krennic before using Rook’s defection and security leak as a pretext to take control of the project.

Rook leads the group to Galen’s Imperial research facility on the planet Eadu, where Cassian chooses not to kill Galen. When Krennic directs that Galen’s main team be killed for causing the security leak, Galen confesses that he is responsible. Jyn makes her presence known moments before Rebel bombers attack the facility, resulting in Galen being wounded. Jyn reunites with her father, only to have him die in her arms, before she escapes with her group onboard a stolen Imperial cargo shuttle. Krennic visits Darth Vader, seeking support with granting an audience with the Emperor, but Vader dismisses his appeal for recognition.

Jyn proposes a plan to steal the Death Star schematics using the Rebel fleet but fails to get approval from the Alliance Council. Frustrated at their inaction, Jyn’s group is supported by a small squad of Rebels intent on raiding the data bank themselves. Arriving at Scarif via the stolen Imperial ship, which Rook dubs “Rogue One”, a disguised Jyn and Cassian enter the base with K-2SO while volunteers attack the resident Imperial garrison as a distraction. The Rebel fleet learns about the raid from intercepted Imperial communications and deploy in support. Rook is killed by a grenade just after informing the Rebel fleet that it must deactivate the shield surrounding the planet to allow Jyn and Cassian to transmit them the schematics. K-2SO sacrifices himself so Jyn and Cassian can retrieve the data. Despite this, Jyn and Cassian are ambushed by Krennic, who has traveled to Scarif, and seemingly kills Cassian.

Îmwe is killed after activating the master switch to allow communication with the Rebel fleet, while Malbus is killed shortly after. Krennic corners Jyn, declaring the Empire’s victory, but Cassian, who has survived, shoots Krennic. Jyn transmits the schematics to the Rebel command ship. The Death Star enters Scarif’s orbit, where Tarkin uses the weapon to destroy the Empire’s base. Krennic dies instantly, while Jyn and Cassian embrace on a beach before dying in the ensuing shock wave.

The Rebel fleet prepares to jump to hyperspace only to be attacked by Vader’s flagship. Vader boards the command ship and kills several soldiers in his pursuit of the schematics, but a small starship escapes with them onboard. Aboard the fleeing ship, Princess Leia declares that the schematics will provide hope for the Rebellion.

REVIEW:

One of the critics I listen to on a regular basis is always mentioning how the Star Wars universe doesn’t feel like a universe, but rather a small corner of the neighborhood. With Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the hope is that we start to learn more about this universe and expand beyond the same borders.

What is this about?

All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.

What did I like?

Loose ends. For those select few that may not be aware, this is a prequel to the original Star Wars. For this reason, this film had the very unenviable task of having to fill in some gaps in the timeline, come up with an original story, and make sure it all connects. With the exception of a rushed last few minutes, it does just that. We learn how the Death Star plans were stolen and how they got in the hands of Princess Leia…and all that other stuff that happened in this 2 hr flick.

Sky battle. As an Air Force brat, I saw my fair share of planes. I feel that growing up around all of that has greatly influenced me towards airplanes, jets, and various space fighters. Perhaps that is why I found the shootout in the sky so appealing, even though we get this in very film in this franchise. This time around, though, when those fighters came in and shot down the AT-ATs, I knew something big was going to happen. That feeling is something that hasn’t been felt with these films in some time and I’m glad it is back!

Big, bad, Vader. The holy trilogy gave a progression with Darth Vader, as he went from enigmatic badass to the Emperor’s lackey to the soft shell of who he was. The prequels ruined him even further by making him a whiny little bitch. Well, Vader is back. He’s not in this film very long, but the 2 scenes he is in will remind you why he is one of the greatest villains of all time and why the galaxy fears him. James Earl Jones came back to lend his voice, but it is a certain scene that will give you chills and true Star Wars fans will be pissing on themselves watching him in action.

What didn’t I like?

Crawl space. I know that the filmmakers wanted to keep this film separate from the main series, but i really missed the crawl at the very beginning. You know, the bit of reading that happens whilst we enjoy the wonderful theme music and before the film starts. There has to be another way to distinguish these films without taking away the crawl, right? Is there to be no crawl in the forthcoming Han Solo film, either?

Diversity. Can you believe there was actually some talk of boycotting this film because it had a diverse cast? WTF?!? I’m glad they showed different races (and in the process pissed off Trump Nazis). I do have two issues with the diversity, though. First, and this goes back to the holy trilogy, is that most everyone seems to be British. Second, where were the alien species. That is to say, the non-humans? Other than the commander of the Rebel fleet and a cameo from the 2 guys who will be seen in Mos Eisley, i don’t recall seeing many alien species. This is a vast galaxy, surely there had to be more out there, right?

Know your history. CGI and myself are no friends, but i will give credit where credit is due. The use of CGI in this film was able to bring back to life Grand Moff Tarkin (the actor, whose name escapes me at the moment, died in 1994), commander of the Death Star. Not only did they bring him back to life, but he had some lines, as well. Nothing wrong with that, but also given the gift of life or youth were some of the pilots and Princess Leia (which was a gut punch after her recent death). I kind of feel like this was a bit of overkill with the CGI. Tarkin could have been played by another actor. Leia, I can live with, though.

Final verdict of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Fans of the franchise will definitely be pleased. The casual viewer may scratch their heads at a few things, but they’ll be entertained. Felicity Jones is a decent antihero for the franchise and did what she had to do for this film. Much like Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, she isn’t given much, but works with what they gave her.  We get action, call backs to previous films, drama, intrigue, and a little comedy with this flick. Do i recommend it? Yes, very highly! Go! Run! Check it out now!!!

5 out of 5 stars

That’s Entertainment, part II

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , on December 31, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire present more golden moments from the MGM film library, this time including comedy and drama as well as classic musical numbers.

What people are saying:

“Probably the most impressive opening cast credits in the history of cinema – other than Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, they’re all in recycled clips though for this sequel that isn’t just musicals this time. The two hosts do offer something new though with original singing and dancing interludes between the repeats which are a mix of song left on the cutting room floor from the first That’s Entertainment, and other famous scenes from the Hollywood period of filmmaking that is no more. It’s not a bad celebration of what’s come before.” 3 stars

“The organization and hosting by Astaire and Kelly is lacking, but the clips, as always, are priceless. These movies always bring tears to my eyes.” 3 1/2 stars

“Some splendid clips, but the best had already been used up for the first movie. And seeing Astaire and Kelly together again is nice, but a bit unsettling given their ages – especially Astaire who looks like he might snap like a twig if a stiff breeze turns up.” 4 stars

“I enjoyed seeing some classic clips, but I didn’t feel that the movie itself was very good. It’s randomly thrown together with no rhyme or reason. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire are legends and it is nice to see them clowning around, but a movie like this works better with several people taking turns sharing memories.” 2 1/2 stars

“What a joy to see Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly dancing and singing together again… They are definitely my 2 favorite dancers. If you like musicals this is the movie to watch to find the best of those times… Great continuation to “That’s Entertainment”” 4 stars

That’s Entertainment!

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on December 31, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

MGM musical numbers from the introduction of sound in the late ’20s through to the 1950s, possibly with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland getting the most coverage. Linked by some of the stars who worked at MGM handing the commentary on one to another.

What people are saying:

“‘Boy, do we need it now’ was catchphrase when this MGM musical salute was first released–and it stands even more today.” 5 stars

“That’s entertainment indeed! I do not particularly care for musicals, but when some of the best musical numbers ever made are all pieced together, it is phenomenal. Incredibly interesting and fascinating. Historically important film. Great narration.” 4 stars

“I liked all the compiliations of musicals but it’s pretty much a marathon of shows. I would rather see musicals with plots. ” 1 1/2 stars

“The MGM musical equivalent of a clip show. Some of the edited down sequences make me sad (take note, MGM special edition gnomes), but the overall breadth of material is awesome.” 4 stars

“Sure, it’s just a video compilation piece, no different than something the History Channel might’ve produced, but if one has grown up watching the films in this compilation it transforms before your eyes, assuming the teary qualities of a deathbed goodbye of a hypochondriac, weakly whispering “remember the good times when …” into your ear. You know that they’re not dying, but nonetheless feel the strings of your heart pulled anyway and have to admire the work of a master manipulator despite yourself.” 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/29

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 29, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Today’s trailer honors a true Hollywood legend, Debbie Reynolds, who passed away this morning, barely 24 hours after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, a legend in her own right.

Take a moment and check out the trailer for The Unsinkable Molly Brown