30 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zero Dark Thirty



Movie: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Really excellent watch.

The story is about the decade long man hunt for Osama Bin Laden. I really hate to watch any scenes to do with torture, but I'm not kidding myself in that what was presented in the movie had already been softened significantly. I'm also not naive to the fact that torture happens all the time by all governments, but that doesn't mean I want to watch it necessarily. Or that it adds to the plot or characters development.

While it did add to the plot in this movie, I still wasn't keen on watching it.

There was a strong cast to support the plot and I was held in suspense a lot. And of course, watching a strong female lead always gets support from me.

29 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Y is for The Yards



Movie: The Yards (2000)

Overall Rating: 2 / 5

General Impression: Take it or leave it.

With a cast that included Mark Wahlberg, Jaoquin Phoenix, and Charlize Theron you'd think it would be a spectacular movie. Instead it was a boring movie about a gangster family and a man failing to start over on the straight and narrow after his prison release.

Definitely not as exciting as the trailer makes it out to be.

28 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: X ... There is no reputable movie...



Movie: Vampire Academy (2014)

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

General Impression: When is the sequel coming out??? (I don't say that often...)

X-men: Days of Future Past wasn't released to theaters when I started my movie watching for the A to Z Challenge so I had to come up with a contingency plan for the letter X. X is not a reputable letter when it comes to movies so I've decided to fill it with a movie that I watched that stood out. Vampire Academy was it.

And OMG, I loved this movie so much. I didn't know what to expect but it was funny, fantastical, and had vampires. I did some digging on the movie, because I didn't remember any marketing related to it, and found out it was based on a series written by Richelle Mead of the same title. I also found out that the movie was a box office flop... and no sequel will be made.

This was sad news for me because while really outrageously set in "high school" I found the movie to be quirky and funny, have a bit of romance, some pretty decent fight scenes, and the plot was engaging enough to follow. Because there was a cast of characters it was really hard to get to know them all properly, but the movie did a good job of portraying them. I loved Zoey Duetch as Rose, and I think I enjoy Zoey Duetch anyway: there aren't too many actresses with a comedic quirk like her.

Given all of this, I don't understand how this franchise didn't take off and Twilight did. Vampire Academy (from the single movie I saw; I will get to reading the books later) had a much more interesting plot and characters, and portrayed young women in a much stronger and realistic light.

Has anyone read both Vampire Academy and Twilight series? Any thoughts? Any other teenage vampire/urban fantasy recommendations?

27 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: W is for Warriors





Movie: Warrior (2011)

Overall Rating: 5 / 5

General Impression: Fantastic!

So, not a typical martial arts movie. More like a sports drama if I had to call it anything, just the sport happens to be MMA and some great fight scenes that happen along the way.

I don't really know how to talk about the movie in a good way without spoiling the whole plot but I will try: the plot does center around one family of a dad and his two estranged sons. The whole story gets set into motion when a chance to win a lot of money comes around and both brothers, unbeknownst to each other, start training towards achieving the same prize.

The characters and story have surprising depth considering it's an MMA sports drama. Every character was well cast and I almost didn't recognize Tom Hardy. Those traps... And he busted out an American accent, which is better than a lot of other UK to US actors have managed to achieve.

Definitely worth a watch!

25 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: V is for Veronica Guerrin





Movie: Veronica Guerrin (2003)

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

General Impression: Such a powerful movie.

I don't just love this movie because Cate Blanchett manages to master yet another accent for another powerful story. It's such a heartbreaking story of the conditions of Ireland in the 90's and one woman who refuses to be intimidated by the task at hand. The ending isn't happy or sad: change does happen but only after the death of Vernoica.

Don't think that was a spoiler. The movie is based on a true story, the actual Veronica Guerrin and if you would Google the name you would quickly find out she is, tragically, dead.

Definitely worth a watch, and make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

24 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: U is for Under Siege



Movie: Under Siege  (1992)

Overall Rating: 1 / 5

General Impression: I don't even know...

Starring Steven Seagal... Need I say more?

23 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: T is for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles



Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Loved it!

As far as reboots of a franchise go, this isn't the best, but it's up there. And funny that two awesome reboots happened with the Michael Bay and Megan Fox team (after they managed to put their strife behind them...).

The turtle brothers were well voice casted, and I liked that the different personalities were maintained with the reboot. Even if a little exaggerated at times. The haphazard costuming of each brother kind of accentuated each personality but I was most pleased to see April O'Neil's signature jacket kept in the movie but also get a realistic update.

Say what you will about Megan Fox, I think she was well cast in this movie. I also liked the increased depth of character and plot points she was given: a struggling journalist instead of an already successful one. It was nice to see Whoopi Goldberg as well the lady boss, but the character Vern Fenwick annoyed me. He had no real purpose but to pursue April and be her shoulder to cry on. Which would have been fine if the story had left him at that, instead there was forced chemistry between them when it was clear April just wanted to be one of the guys and hang out with the turtle brothers.

Can't say I blame her.

The CGI was amazing, even though some of the fight sequences were contrived. Of course, they're teenage MUTANT and NINJA turtles so you would expect a bit of outrageous stunts. But definitely worth watching if you were a fan of the FIRST Ninja Turtles movie... You know which one I'm talking about:

22 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: S is for Star Trek: Into Darkness



Movie: Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: It's Star Trek, what do you think I'm going to say?

I wouldn't say Star Trek fell victim to the Sequel's Curse, but the movie did have moments of boring. I know sometimes you have to slow down in order to set up a plot point, especially if the motives of the characters are going to be believable.

While all the main cast of protagonists and the antagonist, Khan (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) were all superb in their acting and the portrayal of their characters, the one that really annoyed me was Dr Carol Marcus (played by Alice Eve). I'm not sure what it was: the portrayal of her motives? The actress itself? The questionable underwear scene? The fact that she didn't really add to the plot or anyone's character development? The she wasn't really an interesting female character (in fact she pales in comparison to Uhura's caracter)?

Overall though, it was a solid sequel to the series reboot and worthwhile watching.

21 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rocky



Movie: Rocky (1976)

Overall Rating: 5 / 5

General Impression: Fantastic movie.

Even though the movie is nearly 40 years old it's fantastic and I'm sure it took the cinematic world by surprise (and by storm?). It has everything a good story needs: good plot, good characters, romance, action, and a happy ending.

I only found out later than Sylvester Stallone had also written the script and this surprised me as well. Up to the point of watching this movie I had only seen Stallone act in movies that made him look simplistic, if not stupid, and knowing that he as an actor, writer, producer, director, etc could be so much more.

This is one of the few "classic" movies that I've watched and that actually lives up to the hype of being amazing. If you haven't watched it, you definitely need to.

20 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Q is for Quarantine 2: Terminal




Movie:
 Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011)

Overall Rating: 2.5 / 5

General Impression: It happened.

As far as thriller/horror movies are concerned it wasn't that bad, but after the third or fourth zombie-infection type movie you kind of start using the movies as background noise.

Can't say anymore about the movie... Soz.

18 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: P is for Pacific Rim





Movie: Pacific Rim (2013)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: OMG where has this been all my life?

When was the last time there was a good Mech movie? Transformers don't count because they're sentient beings. But MECHS. And Sci fi. And action. And I loved it even though the plot was pretty straight forward. The characters didn't have a magnitude of depth but added to the story well enough. Well worth the watch (and also, small Sons of Anarchy reunion?)

17 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: O is for Olympus Has Fallen





Movie: Olympus Has Falled (2013)

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

General Impression: Action. Check. More Action. Check.

So there's a little more than just action in this movie, but it's not that complicated of a plot line either: The White House has been invaded and the President of the USA has been held hostage by the North Koreans.

Gerard Butler (swoon) is back playing yet another American, but again, he pulls off this character quite well: a brooding, angsting close protection officer that failed to protect a family member of the President a few years ago. Aaron Eckhart plays president quite well and Morgan Freeman's role as Speaker is also well played.

I enjoyed the movie but didn't give it a higher rating for a few reasons: 1) Gerard Butler is speaking with an American accent; 2) there were moments where the movie really dragged; 3) there were many moments of unbelievable feats of one man gunning his way to herodom. Some were OK, others were like "Yeah, whatever."and 4) no real female characters of interest.

Ah well, a slightly updated version of the classic action movie formula with some good acting.

16 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: N is for Never Back Down



Movie: Never Back Down (2008)

Overall Rating: 0.5 / 5

General Impression: What is this shit?

Seriously, this is the most contrived piece of high school bullshit I have ever watched in my life. It only gets HALF a rating because of Djimon Housou, though I'm sorely disappointed in this movie choice. An African playing a Brazilian MMA fighter? Really? I actually know an MMA fighter from Brazil and they sound nothing alike.

The worst part? There's a Never Back Down sequel.


15 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: M is for Machine Gun Preacher



Movie: Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Wow.

I loved Gerard Butler and all of his Scottish-ness before he got really famous. And nothing made me squee like a fan girl when I saw him in Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life.

But then... the bad American accents and Rom Coms started happening and I didn't think anything good would ever happen again (minus How to Train Your Dragon, because he was Scottish again). In Machine Gun Preacher Gerard Butler's American accent was actually believable and his rough looks really suited the character.

I didn't know the story behind the movie and I did feel like it was completely made up at a couple points just to get feels out of me. I'm sure there was some movie magic exaggeration, but with what's going on in various parts of Africa at the moment I'm inclined to believe it now.

I know the movie did badly at the box office and received a lot of bad reviews, but I enjoyed watching it and will probably seek out the book it was based on in the near future.

14 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: L is for Little Buddha



Movie: Little Buddha (1995)

Overall Rating: 2.5 / 5

General Impression: Take it or leave it.

World's slowest movie ever.

Or at least, it's one of the slowest movies of this year's A to Z Challenge.

I know it's a movie that was released 20 years ago and the criteria of what constituted a critically acclaimed movie was different then, but wow, it was hard to stay awake to. It didn't help that a lot of the colours in the movie were really subdued and dark when it really wasn't meant to be a dark movie.

On the plus, it was a great telling of the story of Siddhartha and the movie combined the two story lines in a really pretty way. And I'm sure it was the most authentic look into Buddhism that North America has ever had in media. At the very least it was educational I guess.

13 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: K is for The Kickboxer



Movie: The Kickboxer (1989)

Overall Rating: 3 / 5

General Impression: Liked it. More than I should have.

You can't be a martial artist and not have heard about Jean Claude Van Damme. It just doesn't comptute. What you don't have to be is a person who likes JCVD just because he did some awesome martial arts movies (don't worry, I totally understand), but this movie kind of surprised me because it was actually enjoyable, and probably one of JCVD's better movies.

OK, so it's not going to be better than anything made in the last 10 years, but given that it was released in 1989 and the expectations for actors in action movies to act was not fabulous, it was good movie and worth watching if you're going to expand your martial arts movie repertoire. There was a believable plot even if the characters were flat and predictable and the action scenes were great to watch, partly because the men were muscular and shirtless (I'm not above this fan service).

What annoyed me however, was the fact that both of the brothers were supposed to be American, yet JCVD kept his accept. There was no back story to that and made that aspect of the movie really sad and cheap. Surely they could have found another kick boxer-actor in Belgium to play JCVD's brother?

True to the era there was a lone female character who played THE LOVE INTEREST. And as usual she was pretty useless. But as I said before, it was 1989, and that's how women were portrayed at the time so we'll just give that a miss.

If you're a JCVD fan, definitely recommend this one, if not, then watch at your own risk.

11 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: J is for Jack the Giant Slayer




Movie: Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

General Impression: Enjoyed it!

The last retelling of a fairy tale (Hansel & Gretel) left me sorely disappointed as far as retellings go, but Jack the Giant Slayer entertained me. This movie felt like it took itself a little less seriously while filling out the fable of "Jack and the Giant Beanstalk".

While the story dragged a little here and there, I enjoyed the characters and the actors who played them. The costumes and setting were great and there was some action and adventure mixed in with some romance (a little bit for everyone!). And of course Ewan McGregor.

The only reason I didn't give the movie a 4/5 even though it was an enjoyable movie was that I wouldn't recommend it as a movie everyone needs to see before they die. Not to say that I wouldn't recommend it at all, of course I would, but maybe to people with families or need to babysit a younger niece or nephew.

10 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: I is for Iron Man 3



Movie: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

General Impression: I'm trying not to be too hard but... Meh.

When Marvel decided to really start making live action movies of all its comic book characters it took our cinematic world by storm. Fans of X-men, Iron Man, Thor, Daredevil, Electra, etc could see a pretty awesome rendition of their favourite characters and non-fans became fans. Some movies were a bit embarrassing, but some ended up being really amazing. I know this, because I was there when this started happening.

One of these movies was Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr cast as Tony Stark. I can remember there being a lot of skepticism by older Marvel fans and a lot of shoulder shrugging by younger fans who didn't really know RDJ and is troublesome personal life. But somehow it worked and the first Iron Man was brilliant.

As with every sequel, there was a lot questioning and lowering of expectations because a sequel always follows the curse of being shit. Marvel surprised everyone again with something pretty solid. And then first Avengers movie was released and that was hands down spectacular. So I myself raised my expectations for the third movie and that was probably my mistake. I know it's always hard to follow up a great movie with a sequel, never mind contribute to a franchise, but this movie's plot and motivation seemed to be weaker than I expected.

The characters and acting was good, the CGI was good, but the rest just felt grasping at straws a little bit. However, this won't stop me from watching any other movies of the franchise (I mean, like, hello) but I will have to remind myself to keep my expectations in check, even if the Iron Man franchise started out better than awesome.

09 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: H is for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters



Movie: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Overall Rating: 2.5 / 5

General Impression: Some I liked, a lot I didn't.

While not as horrendous as GI Joe: Retaliation, this Hansel & Gretel retelling really failed to deliver. I liked the action, but the weapons were just too unbelievable. Considering the story is supposed to take place in Europe, not having Hansel & Gretel speak with some sort of European accents is a let down. Especially since Gemma Arterton who plays Gretel is English Actress.

Was it just easier to make her speak like an American than to make Jeremy Renner try to speak like an Englishman???

Perhaps.

Although I'm pretty sure that there are enough English actors around that the directors could have picked from.

The costumes were cool, but the humour only reached a sort of internal "lol" level. The music didn't fit... I don't know. Maybe if the retelling had happened in our present day world it would have been more palatable instead the movie served as a lot of back ground noise.

08 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: G is for GI Joe: Retaliation




Movie: GI Joe: Retaliation (2013)

Overall Rating: 1 / 5

General Impression: I am never getting that time back...

OK.

So.

Action. Check. A bit of sci fi tech. Check. Explosions. Check. Reduced expectations. Check.

Still disappointed.

Like, words cannot describe the sheer disappointment of having spent time watching this movie.

As I mentioned, my expectations were already reduced when I saw that Channing Tatum, The Rock, and Bruce Willis were starring in this movie. But seriously, it put me to sleep: the plot was predictable, the action was predictable and unrealistic, and the humour wasn't... humourous.

Please, don't make the same mistake I did and waste the 120 odd minutes of your life watching this.

07 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: F is for Frozen




Movie: Frozen (2013)

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

General Impression: Take it or leave it.

As I mentioned yesterday, I watched Epic and Frozen around the same time. Epic surprised me, after all the hype around Frozen I was kind of left thinking there could have been more. Yes, I know it's a Disney movie, and yes, it's a giant leap to female representation in media, and yes, there was still a lot of unfulfilled potential within the representation and with the plot and characters.

I know Epic doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but there was a lot less hype about it's representation than Frozen's. Elsa was probably the more interesting of the two female leads, but since most of the story was focused on Anna trying to reconnect with Elsa, her character felt flat and her motivation was grasping at straws. I don't' have a sister, but I have two brothers I care deeply about. But if I hadn't really interacted with either of them for the better part of 10 years, I cant' say I would throw myself in harm's way as readily.

Maybe it is a sister thing, who knows?

There was a bit of action and adventure, but if we're going to look at it from a feminist angle, if Anna is supposed to be the hero of this story, why did she need the help of two males? You could spin it as "she's royalty and wouldn't have learned cold weather survival skills." OK, sure, but why couldn't the snowman been female? I could go on and pick the movie apart, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't buy the hype of how awesome Frozen is and what great role models Anna and Elsa are.

I guess what really bothers me is why the media had to pitch it as the first female hero in the Disney franchise? How  quickly did everyone forget about Mulan? MULAN! I mean, defied her culture to pass herself off as a man to become a soldier to save her family's honour. She wasn't capable at the start of the movie but BECAME capable. Anna remained as capable (or incapable) for the duration of the movie.

Don't get me wrong, I liked the movie, but the hype made watching it and appreciating it a disappointing experience. One can only hope that in my lifetime I will see something as equally epic as Mulan was.

06 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: E is for Epic



Movie: Epic (2013)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Surprisingly good!

I watched Epic around the time I watched Frozen and I wasn't as impressed with Frozen as a lot of other people were. More of that tomorrow.

My point is, I probably thought Epic was better than I thought it would be might have had something to do with my lowered expectations. On the other hand, I found the characters, even the side comic relief characters more interesting and relateable. I found the voice actors suited their roles and there were a lot of quirky, humourous moments throughout.

The soundtrack was good, the animation was good, the pace was good, but the only thing that seemed to let this movie down was that it felt like a Fern Gully rip off. Sure the genders were swapped of the protagonists, but it's essentially the same story but not as deep. Whereas Fern Gully made more of a statement about the environment, Epic was more about an epic battle about having control of the forest.

It was still a good movie, and I'd watch it again, but oh Fern Gully, you can never be replaced.

04 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: D is for Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story





Movie: Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Love it.

The movie was originally released in 1993 and I watched it as a kid a couple of times -Before I started Taekwondo- and it didn't that much to me. As I got older and started watching all sorts of martial arts movies and learned about martial arts icons, the more I knew about Bruce Lee's influence in martial arts and the world of cinema.

It felt right to re-watch the movie as an adult and considering its production in the 90's of a story that takes place in the 60's and 70's, it's a really well done movie. Sure it feels short by today's standards of 180min epics, but it's a well balanced story that captures the ups and downs of a legend. Other movies will be made, but Jascon Scott Lee was there first.

03 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: C is for Cloud Atlas



Movie: Cloud Atlas (2012)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Really, super impressed.

I don't know why it had taken me so long to watch this movie because I really, really enjoyed it. Just about everything else the Wachowski's have been a part of I've really enjoyed (except the Matrix sequels...). Overall I thought the movie was brilliant and can't really fault anything out of the whole movie. There was romance, sci-fi, action, adventure, heartache, and a lot of feels. My only criticism is that some of the storylines moved at a slow pace and because of that there was a bit of confusion as to how and why it related to the overall story arc. 

02 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: B is for Best of the Best





Movie: Best of the Best (1989)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: It was so bad, it was good.

When I started Taekwondo back up after moving to the UK, I was doing a training session with Colin (my coach at the time), Scotty, and Angus. A conversation about old school martial arts movies came up that were the inspiration and staple diet of any practitioner in the 80's and 90's. Best of the Best came up and naturally, the internet came through for me to watch not just the Best of the Best, but all FOUR sequels.

Yes four.

To which Soctty chimed in, "That's like the Rocky triology." and me reminding him that Rocky and the Best of the Best franchise was a bit more than a triology (Sorry Scotty, but you are never living that one down).

I'll admit I have a penchant for cheesy martial arts action movies but seriously, it was so cheesy and with so many predictable storyline elements that I couldn't help but love this movie. On the one hand it was a typical action flick from the 80's where men are central characters and central to the plot, displaying all the typical and acceptable manly behaviours of the time. But on the other hand, it had elements that were atypical of the era with a female black belt and men letting their emotions overwhelm them.

Overall it was not that brilliant of a movie, but it was good entertainment, and if you just needed some background noise, this will do nicely.

01 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: A is for After Earth



Movie: After Earth (2013)

Overall Rating: 3.5 / 5

General Impression: Take it or leave it.

After Earth was released in 2013, and I was really intrigued by it. I love Sci-Fi and I have historically enjoyed the movies Will Smith has starred in, especially Will Smith Sci-Fi movies. 

I think along with a lot of other critics viewers, I was a bit leery about Will Smith and his son starring in the same movie. Again. It seemed to work in The Pursuit of Happiness, but then Jaden Smith was still really young. Now he was going to be judged more so on his acting ability, his presence, his appearance, etc etc. 

As I watched the movie I loved the setting of the story, though I found the premise a bit weak. The visual effects were brilliant, but the characters were pretty flat and really not that interesting. The father-son relationship and dynamics didn't really interest me and really added nothing to the story as they could have been any mentor or student thrown together. 

Overall I guess it wasn't a terrible movie, but I feel like a lot of potential was lost, particularly in making the characters interesting.