Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Just saw it.  LOVED IT!

I would rank this as my third favorite Star Wars movie.  (Yup, I'm placing it higher than the Ewok-infested Return of the Jedi.)

Great seeing the old gang and ALMOST all of the new characters left me impressed.

My favorite new addition is Oscar Isaac, though John Boyega totally won me over.

When I saw the credits at the end, I spotted an untouted return that, in my opinion, was the deciding factor--Lawrence Kasdan is back on the writing team!  Kasdan did the heavy lifting on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and most importantly, was NOT involved in the writing of Episodes I, II, and III.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


I don't know if Deadpool is going to be a great movie, so this is not an endorsement.  I won't go see Deadpool because I generally avoid R-rated movies, and Deadpool is absolutely of the R-rated persuasion.

It appears to do to do the same thing for superheroes that Ted did for Carebears.

Still, I like what I've seen.

"He's got the brown pants."
So here's this scene on the freeway in which Deadpool is in an overturned SUP surrounded by a gun-wielding horde.  He opens the window and shouts, "WAIT!  You may be wondering why the red suit.  Well, that's so bad guys can't see me bleed.  This guy has the right idea.  He wore the brown pants."

"That guy has the right idea..."

And then the payoff

The kind of humor you'd expect from a middle schooler.

Damn I wish I'd come up with that line!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I meant to see Pixels last night, but I think I went to the wrong movie.

This morning, Rotten Tomatoes announced that Pixels was the third worst reviewed film of the summer.

The movie I saw wasn't "great," but it was better than Hot Pursuit, Aloha, Self/Less or Poltergeist.  That still means it could be the fifth worst movie of the summer, I suppose, but it probably isn't.  In fact, while it was mediocre from an artistic point of view, I found it diverting, even entertaining.  It carried me along.

Listen, I'm with the rest of you; Adam Sandler pisses me off.  First he gives us goofy fun schlock  like Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer, then all of a sudden everything turns into Little Nicky.

Thw movie that sums up Sandler's career as far as I'm concerned.  It's from Click, a comedy/drama that could have been this generation's It's a Wonderful Life had Sandler not sacrificed a great premise for jokes about a stuffed animal-humping Lab.

Back to Pixels.

The story is pretty simple.  In 1982, NASA sends a satellite into space packed with good old wholesome 1980s culture.  Now, in a weird present day in which Kevin James is the president of the United States (as if Jeb and Hillary weren't scary enough), an alien culture attacks Earth using the "video game warriors" we sent to their planet thirty years earlier.

Hence, you get GalagaCentipede, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Arkanoid, Robotron 2084 and a host of other classic games attacking New York, London, Agra and Washington D.C.

One thing Pixels does right is throw classic games at you.  Watch closely and you'll see cameos by Mario and Dig Dug dragon, Burger Time and many arcade classics,

Faux Iwatani
Speaking of cameos, in an ironic twist, Pixels has an actor playing Toru Iwatani (creator of Pac-Man) and a quick shot of real Iwatani playing an arcade tech.

The real Toru Iwatani as he appears in the film
Okay, so the story is really a gratuitous pat on the back for veterans of the 1980s and retro-gamers.  Taken for what it is, it works.  Look, this is Adam Sandler, folks, he seldom makes make high-concept art.  This is a repackaging of Ghostbusters.  It's not supposed to be smart, just fun.

The cast of Pixels is good.  Checking the IMDB cast list, Pixels appears to be a bit of a family outing.  Along with Adam, four other Sandlers have small roles in this show.

The main Pixelbusters include Kevin James, Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan and Peter Dinklage. Gad is always fun to watch and Monaghan is so likable.  Kevin James is a good comedian, but he's generally too far over the top when he pals around with Sandler.  He succumbs to that urge in Pixels.

Peter Dinkage channeling his inner Billy Mitchell
I want to say a word about Dinklage,; sadly his talents are wasted in this Pixels.  Dinklage is a good actor who refuses to be typecasted because of his short stature.  Unfortunately in this film, he is Sandler-ized and forced to play a miniature version of Billy Mitchell, the Donkey Kong  champion who was so vilified in King of Kong.
Arcade-legend Billy Mitchell

And Sandler's performance... well, on the Wedding Singer--Grown Ups 2 scale, this performance rates about a Waterboy.  I'd give Mr. Sandler a B- because he keeps the screaming to an acceptable level.  Like everything else about this movie, he's generally likable and entertaining.

So consider me among the 18 percent who liked Pixels... sort of.  I give it a solid C+, or a 78 percent for the back to the school crowd.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ANT-MAN... Not even vanilla, but likable.

Ever had the Sweet Cream ice cream at Cold Stone?

Sweet Cream is the most basic ice cream batter--just cream, milk, and sugar.  Add banana flavoring and it becomes banana ice cream.  Add chocolate and it becomes chocolate.  You need to add vanilla extract to make it vanilla.

Ant-Man is the Sweet Cream of Marvel superhero movies.  It's got all of base ingredients--a sense of humor, a sympathetic and somewhat vulnerable protagonist, an evil semi-insane villain (who is every bit as bald as Jeff Bridges in Iron Man and Hugo Weaving in Captain America), a bad-ass female love interest (in this case played by Evagneline Lilly), an army of plain-Jane drone enemies, a quirky superpower, an Odin/Dr. Erskine/Yinsen style mentor figure, and the requisite appearance of an established Avenger.

Not every Marvel movie has every one of these ingredients, but they all draw heavily from the cafeteria.

Iron Man had two bald nemesises--Obadiah Stain and Raza, the rebel leader.  All of Thor's enemies had hair, except for the ice giants.  Hulk didn't have a mentor except maybe Rickson Gracie.  I guess Nick Fury has become everybody Avenger's mentor now.
Who says the Hulk never had a mentor?

Look, I'm not complaining about any of these elements; I like 'em all. Really, I do. Maybe I don't like them all the time in every single movie, but I like them.

So Ant-Man  has all of the elements needed to qualify as a Marvel superhero movie.  They're all used well enough and the end result is a likable move that adds a little to the Marvel universe without taking anything away.

Ant-Man, as you may know, is about an ex-con named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who is given a chance to redeem himself by taking on a scientifically provided super power--the ability to become the size of an ant while retaining the strength of a normal human.

He only has three friends in the world--all petty criminals with very colorful personalities--a comic Hispanic man with a knockout punch (), a relatively fearless African American getaway driver (T.I.), and a Russian hacker (David Dastmalchian).

The four of them find their lives turned upside down when Lang comes in contact with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), inventor of ant-man technology among other things.  So what happens next?  These are not spoilers.  If you have seen the trailer, you know this much:

  • Scott trains to become the world's smallest superhero
  • Scott must use his burglarring skills to steal ant-man technology from a really bad guy
  • The bad guy utilizes the technology leading to a final fight
Me, I really like sweet cream sundaes, and I enjoyed Ant-Man as well.  It had all the elements and it used them in a likable way.  I would give this movie a C+ except...

Ant-Man included one homage that took this movie into B-territory for me.  

At one point in the film, Ant-Man falls out of a building and lands on the roof of a car in which sits a forgotten Saturday Night Live talent named Garrett Morris.  
Dan Aykroyd as the Flash, John Belushi as the Hulk, Garrett Morris as Ant-Man.
In 1979, SNL ran a skit in which all of the cast played superheroes gathering together at a cocktail party, and Morris showed up as Ant-Man.  

He is met at the door by Hulk and Flash who ask him about his super power and then ridicule him when he says he can shrink to the size of an ant and still have the strength of a normal man.

You know what, I'm going to give this movie a B for including the great Garrett Morris, the otherwise forgotten man from the early days of SNL.

Saturday, July 04, 2015


Maybe not the best use of my hard-won independence, but it had a bunch of fireworks.

Terminator Genisys is  not the worst movie in the series.  It's got Terminator 3 beat hands-down, but it's no Judgment Day... not for lack of trying.  What stands out most about Genisys is that the director, the screenwriter, the producer, and the actors all took this film very seriously and gave it their best.

Jai Courtney, as the time-traveling Kyle Reese, is tough and vulnerable and believable as the man who travels back in time to save Sarah Connor, the mother of the heroic John Connor--the man who ultimately defeats the "machines."

Emilia Clarke makes a credible Sarah Connor and really does have a certain Linda Hamilton (the original Sarah Connor) charm about her.

Jason Clarke, who may or may not be related to Emilia, makes a great John Connor.  Clarke, with his very distinctive look, is one of the rising stars of Hollywood.  He's found his way into such diverse movies as The Great Gatsby and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a great Arnold Schwarzenegger--reprising his role as a young terminator with the help of a lot of CG and also as an aging terminator.  He was in good form for this movie, lovable, menacing and silly all at the same time.

J.K. Simmons (Jay Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies) is as witty and charismatic (in a quirky way) as ever.

I really liked Byung-hun Lee as a T-1000.  He captured so much of the intensity that Robert Patrick brought to the role twenty-four years ago in Terminator Judgment Day.

The story, well, it has all of the required elements--Kyle coming back in time to save Sarah from a terminator that has come back in time to kill her.  Its got glimpses of an apocalyptic future and chases and lots of things that blow up.

Exploding gas truck?


Terminator crashing its head through a windshield and menacing a driver?


Arnold saying, "I'll be back"?

Of course.

Yipee Kay yay, mother... oh, wait, that's Bruce Willis.

Genisys is nothing if not action-packed, and yet the action seemed to drag on after a while.  No one can accuse the scriptwriters or the actors of being asleep at the wheel, but the action just felt too familiar.  Genesis feels more like a class reunion than and adventure.

Look, I'm not going to give away any secrets on this movie--how can I, the coming attractions really do give the story away.  I'll just say that Terminator Genisys is a reasonable summer movie by mid-summer standards and give it a C.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


I went to Inside Out kicking and screaming.

Ever since John Lassiter re-added Disney to his resume, Pixar's gone downhill in my book, plus, a touching movie about the intricate workings inside a little girl's head just didn't sound all that exciting, so, yes, I really wasn't interested in seeing Inside Out.

Okay, yeah, it's sitting at 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and yes, it's got a good cast of successful comedians, but a movie about a little girl's emotions?

Inside Out is AMAZING!  It's funny.  It's emotional.  It has so many, many insights into human emotion.  Oh, and it's probably the most creative cartoon I have ever seen.

And here's the big confession: I LIKED IT BETTER THAN WRECK-IT RALPH.  coming from an old-school arcade addict like me, that's a strong endorsement

Here's my spoiler-free synopsis.  Riley is a little girl with the embodiments of five emotions living in her head--Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Anger, and Fear.  She lives in a world in which everyone has the same personified emotions living in their heads as well.  These emotions interact with each other, and the outcomes of their interactions determine how Riley will react to the world around her.

It's all pretty swell and then things go wrong.

The voice acting in this movie is sensational.  Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) is the voice of Joy.  Phyllis Smith (The Office) is Sadness.  Mindy Kaling (also from The Office) is Disgust.  SNL stud Bill Hader is Fear.  Lewis Black (whom I really don't know) is Anger.   All of these actors played their parts perfectly.

But I want to mention one more voice actor, Richard Kind, possibly the most overlooked man in all of Hollywood by design.  Richard Kind is a character actor who plays the ready-made victim, the BETA male, the guy no one ever notices.  Fortunately, movie and TV producers have been noticing Kind for years and he's popped up in everything from the recurring role of Harvey Corman in Scrubs to Clark in the Alaska Airlines radio ads, to Max Klein in Argo... and he's always perfect.  In Inside Out he plays a strange character named "Bing Bong," and he's perfect.

Anyway, I give Inside Out an A+.  It is my pick for the best movie of the summer so far.  I will be shocked if any other movie comes close this summer or this year.  It's a lock for best animated movie in the Oscars, and I hope it gets nominated for "Best Picture" as well.

Pictures of actors all taken from IMDB.

Picture of Bing Bong taken from Big Shiny Robot.

Picture of Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Anger taken from Neogaf

Picture of Riley and family taken from Fox3Now

Picture of Inside Out poster taken from IMDB

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Movie Scorecard

Such a summer for big movies.  The big names just keep coming and coming and almost all of them are disappointing, not bad, but disappointing.  

Look, last summer was amazing.  It started out with a phenomenal X-Men movie followed by a decent Captain America.  Okay, yes, I have left out Divergent, Noah, and Godzilla, all memories I wish to expunge from my memory.  But just when I thought the summer couldn't get any better, Tom Cruise, surprised the world with Edge of Tomorrow, a movie I consider a masterpiece, partially because of Mr. Cruise's excellent work.

And this year, well, let's just say that Hollywood seems to have shifted gears into neutral.

For me, the summer kicked off with Tomorrowland, an incredibly forgettable Disney yarn about a futuristic society that may exist in a parallel universe or maybe in the future, who can really tell.  Like many Disney movies, Tomorrowland centers around an apparently normal kid who, for reasons unapparent to the audience, is able to make prosaic statements that help far more intelligent adults solve galactic-sized problems.
As you may have guessed, Tomorrowland includes a lot of nice visuals, all kinds of CG, and more than a few visual homages to the Tomorrowland found in Disney theme parks.  I enjoyed those homages because I adore Disney theme parks, but I found the movie a bit quaint.

I'll give Tomorrowland a C+.
Avengers: Age of Ultron

Ultron is a robot with lips.  Why in the world would anyone place lips on a robot?
I mean, in the Holy name of Asimov, why oh why place lips on robots!  The best robots don't even need lips to express emotion.  I can prove this with one word--BENDER.  Nuff said.
Ultron's egregious lips sort of sum up the entire movie for me--interesting when I watched it but ultimately meaningless.

My favorite part of Age of Ultron was actually Andy Serkis's brief but charismatic appearance as a South African arms trader named Ulysses Klau.  Serkis is amazing.  it doesn't matter whether he is a twisted hobbit, a brilliant chimpanzee,  or a mercenary, this actor always steals the show!

Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen Age of Ultron, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

About the only meaningful thing to come out of Age of Ultron are the new Avengers--Red Witch, Vision, Rhodes as Iron Man-2 and Hawk, whom we met in Winter Soldier.  As it ends, the movie drops hints that Iron Man, Hulk, and even Thor may possibly go on hiatus, and that this new B-team may be handling the action in the foreseeable future.

The B-team is powerful.  According to Iron Man, Vision is more powerful than all of the original Avengers combined.  The amazing Red Witch can levitate, control objects and mess with people's heads, but I gotta tell you, the idea of this new B-team headlining a movie sounds dull, dull, dull.

If that really is the new direction the Avengers are taking, I guess I'm through with this thrill ride.
I give Avengers 2: Age of Ultron a B.

San Andreas

Word to the wise, whenever possible, go to movies having low expectations.  You'll often be pleasantly surprised.

I went to San Andreas expecting silliness and great CG.  You know what I got, silliness and great CG... plus a reminder that Dwayne Johnson really is a remarkable star.  He may be as big as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but there's no denying his air of intelligence, and he has a knack for comedy.

In fact, all of the acting is good.  Paul Giamatti is great, per his usual, as the geologist who figures it all out .  Carla Gugino is good as Johnson's ex-wife.  If you ever get over Alexandra Daddario's incredible figure and distracting blue eyes, you may notice she's a good enough actress.  Ioan Gruffudd (whom I only know from the not so fantastic Fantastic Four movies) make a great step-father character.

Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen San Andreas, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

What isn't so intelligent about San Andreas is the science.  California nearly slips into the sea and guess who gets struck by the tsunami... California!  Yup, in this world earthquakes suck tsunamis in rather than sending them out.  Who knew!  Oh, oh, and once the tsunami strikes, places remain underwater.  It turns out tsunamis aren't simply waves, they establish a new and persistent water level--about ten stories up!

Growing up in Hawaii, I never learned any of this.

Okay, so the science is backwards, but do we really go to disaster flicks to learn about tsunamis?  Based on the good CG, the charismatic cast, and the fact that this movie kept me interested for the entire time, I give San Andreas a B+.

Jurassic World

I wasn't all that impressed with Jurassic World as a movie, but boy howdy are the posters ever great!

I mean, these may be the coolest and most exciting posters in Hollywood history.

Go to any theater and you're bound to see them.  There's the one with the Alluring Bryce Dallas Howard staring out a window into the nostrils of an enormous indominus rex.  There's a great poster of a young boy standing at the window of an aquarium watching a new and enormous water dinosaur eating a helpless white shark; that's pretty amazing.  There's also a poster of Chris Pratt riding a motorcycle flanked by raptors.

So the posters are great, but I found the movie is so-so.

Not everything in this movie was special effects, though most of it seems to have come out of a computer.  One fact that emerges is that Chris Pratt is Hollywood's brightest star.  He handles action better than Arnold Schwarzenegger, comedy with the timing of a Steve Carell, and, despite his new muscle-toned physique, does it all with the any-man vibe that made Tom Hanks so successful.

All of the acting was fine in this movie.  Bryce Dallas Howard was fine.  Vincent D'Onofrio was fine.  The actors playing the Mitchell boys were fine.  So were their parents.  So were the dinosaurs.

Skip to the next movie unless you have already seen Mad Max: Fury Road, and even then you may want to skip ahead!

The problem with Jurassic World is that in an effort to justify themselves, the script writers threw everything including the kitchen sink into their story.  Here are just some of the storylines this movies chucks at you:

Marsani, who has taken over all things Jurassic from the late John Hammand is a nice, good-hearted Indian answer to Richard Branson--not only good hearted, but one of the richest men in the world and a real thrill seeker.  With all of his money, he doesn't care about losing money on Jurassic World as long as he can thrill the guests of his Jurassic World theme park.  Little does he know that Dr. Wu, his chief genetic scientist, is secretly working for InGen, a pseudo-military firm with plans for turning dinosaurs into mercenaries.

In the meantime, Karen and Scott Mitchell are in the throes of a secret divorce, so they send their teenage sons, Grey and Zach, to visit Auntie Claire who runs Jurassic World while they end their marriage behind the boys back.  Zach, the older son, is a self-absorbed bully who you kind of hope will end up as dinosaur food while Grey is a more than willing victim, and Claire who is too busy to bother with nephews pawns the boys off on Zara her assistant.

Claire has problems of her own.  Not only does she have sexual tension with Owen, the former Navy man who Marasani has hired as a dinosaur trainer, but it turns out running an island resort/dinosaur theme park is actually a demanding job, especially because the profits are rising far more slowly than projected.

None of this would matter in the least except that the Indominus Rex escapes from its holding cell and uses all of the brilliant mercenary abilities Dr. Wu built into it on InGen's request meaning it's smart, camouflages itself like a cuttlefish, and hides from heat detection like a tree frog.

Ah, but don't worry.  This is Spielberg--survive the billionaire's bad helicopter driving, the industrial espionage, the rampaging dinosaurs and everything ends up GREAT!

So waht's my problem?  Early in the movie, Auntie Claire bemoans the sour evolution of her park attendees by pointing out that dinosaurs aren't enough anymore; crowds need bigger, more fierce, more scary animals.  Apparently the makers of this movie feel the same way about movie goers.  Dinosaurs aren't enough anymore.  Spielberg and company, and Claire by extension, answered our dwindling attention spans by inventing a new and more terrifying dinosaur--indominus rex.  Personally, I think a more focused storyline would have done the trick.

I give Jurassic World a B-.

Mad Max: Fury Road

I haven't actually seen this movie, but it has the great Tom Hardy and I hear amazing, and since I need to give some movie a good grade, I will give Mad Ma: Fury Road an A+.