Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Movie Review: Fast and Furious 6 (PG13 - 130 minutes)

Welcome to Summer, and the popcorn movies that entails.  Fast and Furious 6 is the very definition of a summer popcorn movie.
In 2001, Rob Cohen directed a movie called The Fast and The Furious.   It was the simple story of an undercover cop infiltrating the underworld of Los Angles street racers.  He then becomes friends with the racers, falls for one of them, and questions his loyalties when they get closer to getting busted. 

The movie was fun, simple, and re-introduced the world to Vin Diesel, who had previously owned Pitch Black (go watch that again, it’s so good).   We met the characters of O’Conner (Walker), Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Dom’s sister Mia (Jordanna Brewster), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Vince (Matt Schulze).  Rick Yune played Johnny Tran, and there was a cameo by Ja Rule.  The movie was a quick hit, easily made back what it cost, and launched a huge franchise.  2003 brought 2 Fast 2 Furious to the screen, and O’Conner moved to Miami, still undercover and partnered up with Roman (Tyrese) a fast-talking racer. 
They teamed up with Tej (Ludacris), and Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), another undercover agent, to take down Cuban bad guy Carter Verone (played by Diesel’s Pitch Black co-star Cole Hauser, the least Cuban man alive).  In 2006 we got The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, an odd entry into the series, set in the ‘distant future’. 
Alabama teenager Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) gets caught up in ‘drifting’ street racing after moving in with his father in Tokyo.  Since this one is slightly out of the chronology, the only key character is Han, played by Sung Kang – who (spoilers) dies in a massive crash while drifting in this movie.  Diesel’s character, Dom, shows up at the very end.  In 2009 Justin Lin took over directing the series and brought back Diesel, Rodriguez, Walker, and Brewster.  
O’Conner is now working for the FBI in LA, and he has to team up with Dom to help bring down a Mexican drug cartel.  Letty was helping O’Conner undercover and gets killed by the cartel, so Dom and O’Conner race fast cars over the border.  New characters in this one include the cartel bad guy Campos (John Ortiz), the turncoat Gisele (Gal Gadot), Agent Stasiak (Shea Whigham), Tego and Don Omar.  Surprise – Han shows up not dead, so clearly this movie takes place prior to Tokyo Drift.  2011 brings us to Fast Five, by this time Justin Lin had realized exactly what this franchise is.  It never pretends to be anything other than it is – a big, loud, fast, stupid, entertaining-as-hell fun movie. 
 In this one, the plot gets even more crazy (ludicrous?) as the crew head to Brazil to pull one last huge heist to set them all free.  O’Conner and Mia are now completely together, and she’s pregnant.  Dom’s still mourning Letty, and they encounter Vince again.  In order to pull of the heist, calls go out to everyone:  Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang), Gisele (Gal Gadot), Tego and Don (Tego and Rico).  They encounter Reyes (Joaquim del Almeida), the drug lord who owns Rio.  We are introduced to Hobbs (Dwayne “Rock” Johnson) as the no-stop agent out to bring down this crew, and Elena (Elsa Pataky) as the only honest cop in Rio who partners up with Hobbs.  Han and Gisele get closer in this one, building a relationship.  The movie ends with Hobbs teaming up with the crew to take down Reyes, and Hobbs letting the crew take off with millions of dollars.  There is a fantastic post-credits sequence where Eva Mendes’s character shows up again to walk into Hobb’s office, and state there is a new threat out there.  She puts a picture of the crew on the desk, and it’s revealed to be Letty – despite her having been killed two movies ago!

That brings us up to date, and Justin Lin’s final (he says) entry to the franchise:  Furious 6.  This time, Hobbs is chasing international arms dealer Shaw (Luke Evans), with his new partner Riley (Gina Carano).  He decides that in order to catch Shaw’s evil crew (which contains Letty), he needs Dom and his crew.  So he drops in at Dom’s palatial Spanish estate where Dom is living happily with Elena visiting Mia, O’Conner, and his new baby nephew down the street.  They’ve given up on their life of crime, because nothing is more important than family (you won’t miss this as the theme of the movie, because it is mentioned over and over again).  Hobbs shows Dom the picture of Letty, and because nothing is more important than family, he decides he has to go after her.  Elena, apparently the world’s most understanding woman, tells him he has to go.  Dom drops by his sister’s place, and O’Conner, still feeling guilty that Letty was helping him out when she died, agrees to help as well. 

Dom assembles the crew again, and they meet up in London to check out the rival crew.  There is even a hilarious moment where Roman (the overt comedy relief in this one since Tego and Don are not around) points out that Shaw’s crew is basically the evil-twin version of their own crew.  I would explain the plot further, but it’s not really necessary.  Shaw wants to steal a thing, in order to sell a really destructive weapon.  Dom wants to stop him, but also get Letty back (she has amnesia).  In between these two opposing viewpoints, there are a lot of crazy action sequences.  Some of the best action sequences I’ve seen in a long time, in fact.  There is the scene with the tank that is in all the trailers.  There is the sequence with the plane.  There’s a street race around London, there are several incredible (and I mean incredible) hand to hand combat scenes. 

Now – without spoiling anything – the post credit sequence where Letty was revealed to be alive was the best part of 5, and the post credit sequence in this one is better than that!  I can tell you that Han at last heads to Tokyo, so it would seem that the correct chronological list goes:  1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, and then 7.  Yes, 7 has been greenlit and will be released in a few years.  I cannot wait.
Castwise, do I need to break it down?

·         Vin Diesel  as Dominic Toretto owns this movie.  He gravelly voices that family is incredibly important all the way through this movie.  He does a great job, and is fantastic.

·         Paul Walker again plays Brian O’Conner, not a law enforcement officer of any kind in this movie.  He and Jordanna Brewster, back as Mia, now have a baby so he’s focused on family.

·         Michelle Rodriguez plays amnesiac Letty – and here’s an odd thing, she never gets her memory back through the whole movie, but Dom does win her back over, because nothing is more important than family.

·         Tyrese is really fun as Roman and has a great time in this movie.  This movie is so worried about boring you that during the one exposition scene, Tyrese diverts your attention by trying to get some snacks from Han, then from a vending machine.

·         Sung Kang as Han is really the soul of this movie.  He’s fantastic, fun, and is eating the entire time.  I mean constantly.  So much so that when Tyrese does ask him for snacks, his bag is empty, because he has finished it.  He is much closer to Gal Gadot’s Gisele in this movie, and the two of them are making plans to settle down together (in Tokyo – see where this is going?) because after all, family is the most important thing.

·         Chris “Ludacris” Bridges plays tech wizard Tej again.  He’s fun and entertaining, and the jokes back and forth between he and Tyrese are great.

·         Elsa Pataky as Elena gets very little to do in this one, she does again, graciously give Dom up at the end so that he can be with Letty (who again, still has amnesia).  She goes off with Hobbs to solve more international crimes?

·         MMA star Gina Carano is great as Rock’s new partner Riley.  She’s no nonsense, and seriously the fight(s) between her and Rodriguez are incredible.

·      Luke Evans joins the cast as Shaw, and is serviceable as an international villain.  He's sufficiently threatening, and menacing, but doesn't steal the movie.  Clara Paget, Kim Kold and Johannes Taslim play some of Shaw’s evil crew, and they are all pretty entertaining, but they don’t have a ton of things to do. 

I have to say, one of the reasons I love this franchise is the absolute multi-ethnicity of the cast.  There is so much diversity in the core cast, it’s really fantastic, and I cannot think of any other movie, much less franchise, with that much of everyone included.  The females are all strong characters as well.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is still the ‘street race’ sequence in the center that is all about chicks in tiny clothes and pretty cars.  But, at least in this movie, there’s only one of those objectify scenes.  The first one had a lot more.  The movie is fantastic and super fun.  Don’t expect it to be more than it is, and it will not let you down.  It is non-stop action from the start to the finish, and seriously, that post credit sequence made me want to see number 7 immediately!
9 out of 10!  Go see this now, and take your family, because nothing is more important than family.  Gained points for the cast - love them.  Lost points for the one objectify scene, meh.  Gained points for the tank scene.  Lost points for Shaw not having a super big end, just a casual end.  Gained points for the plane sequence, but lost points for the length of that runway - come on.

Bonus Video 1:  Pitch Black, again, so good.

Bonus Video 2:  Transporter – another fantastic action/car movie.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness (PG-13 – 132 minutes)

First off – this review will be long, sorry.  Second it will contain spoilers.  I usually try to avoid that, but honestly, I don’t think I can tell you what I really thought about this without spoiling some things.  So – that being said – you have been warned.  Spoiler Alert!  Don’t read this unless you’ve seen the movie!  Although, the spoilers only apply if you’re a die-hard Star Trek fan, and know all of the previous incarnations of the franchise.  If you don’t, and you’re thinking of seeing this because it looks like a fun summer popcorn movie (which it is, and you should), then never-mind – and read on.

Star Trek is an American science fiction franchise created in 1966 by Gene Roddenberry.   The Original Series (TOS) lasted three years, and became a huge cult hit, spawning many TV spin-offs:  an animated show (you can Netflix those, and you should!), Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), Star Trek: Voyager (no acronym needed), and Star Trek: Enterprise (no acronym here, not because it’s short enough, but mainly because no one liked it).  It also spawned six TOS movies and four TNG movies, and now J.J. Abrams’s re-booted movies.  TOS gave us a multi-ethnic cast (on TV in the 60s!?! What?!?) and a future where all mankind was seemingly at peace with one another, and our “Federation” was a science/exploratory based group. It was hopeful to say the very least. 
In terms of Stars, I have always gravitated more towards Wars than Trek, but I have always loved Star Trek, mainly TOS, but I am familiar with the others.  I love the six movies featuring the original cast, especially 4, 6 and 2.  In particular Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country, in which the Klingon Empire suffers a near fatal blow, but not nearly fatal enough to stop Klingon Christopher Plummer from coming after Kirk and crew one final time.  It also features the fantastic exchange by the crew of the Enterprise, “Well, once again, we’ve saved the universe as we know it.”  “The good news is that this time they’re not going to press charges.” 

A fantastic show of swagger by a cast who, at that point (1991), had been in these roles for 25 years; and were well aware of their influence on pop culture and the world at large.  We did have a NASA Space Shuttle named Enterprise, and countless real-life gadgets and gizmos are based on the items seen first on Star Trek. 
In TOS, first season, there is an episode called “Space Seed”, which first aired on February 16th, 1967.  In the episode Kirk and the crew happen across the “Botany Bay” which was apparently launched from earth in the late 1990s, after the Eugenics Wars.  Kirk, McCoy, two red shirts, and Lt. McGivers (a historian?) beam over.  Aboard they find 72 humans in suspended animation after 300 years adrift.  One wakes up and they take him back over to the Enterprise where they discover that he is a genetically altered ‘superman’, which was the problem/cause/issue of the Eugenics Wars. 

Kahn Noonien Singh was a warlord during his time, and ruled a quarter of the earth; he was widely reputed to be the most dangerous of the ‘supermen’.  After waking up on the Enterprise, he promptly out-egos Kirk (an almost impossible task but he pulls it off easily – go Netflix the episode again and watch Montalban tell you he’s fatigued), romances McGivers, wakes up the rest of his people, and decides to take over the ship – because, after all, he’s genetically superior. 
Kirk and Spock eventually come up with a plan, which involves gassing the whole ship, capturing Khan and court-martialing him.  Kirk decides to exile Khan and his followers onto Ceti Alpha V, a treacherous world, where Khan agrees to take his people to start his kingdom over again.  McGivers goes with him.  Spock states that it would be interesting to return to Ceti Alpha V in 100 years to see what Khan has done with it.  As a side note, Chekov does not appear in this episode. 

You’d think that would be the last you hear of Khan, but then in Star Trek 2: the Wrath of Khan (spoiler in the title?), Chekov is working on assignment on the Reliant with Paul Winfield, looking for barren worlds for Dr. Carol Marcus to test her ‘Genesis Experiment’.  Basically it creates a living planet on a dead rock.  They think they’ve found one, but then they come across the remains of the Botany Bay.  Chekov panics, and tries to get them out of there, but not before Khan and his people find them.  Khan is really, really angry because he’s lost his wife (McGivers) because Ceti Alpha VI exploded after they were left on Ceti Alpha V and turned V into the dusty rock it is now.  He blames Kirk for all this, puts some brain-control slugs in Chekov and Paul Winfield’s ears, steals the Reliant, finds out about Genesis, and sets out to destroy Kirk. 
Meanwhile Kirk debates retirement, establishes the super close friendship he has with his whole crew, but especially McCoy and even more especially Spock.  He is supervising Spock’s new crew of cadets on the Enterprise, when they have to swing into action and check up on Carol Marcus and her crew.  Kirk and McCoy find Carol, and her (and Kirk’s – surprise!) son David, in the center of a planet where Khan attempts to maroon them.  Kirk gets angry, and yells Khan’s name, in what is perhaps the best yell in all of movie yells. 

Since Kirk and Spock have a 30 year friendship at this point, they are able to come up with a secret plan.  Kirk bides his time by reminding everyone he’s with how awesome he is; eating Genesis apples and telling them how he beat the Kobayashi Maru test, until Spock beams them out.  They head into a Nebula, and battle Khan.  Khan, unwilling to go out without taking Kirk with him, sets off Genesis, and the Enterprise is entirely too damaged to make it out.  Spock heads down to engineering, mind-melds with McCoy, and enters the radiation-filled chamber to manually fix the ship, to save it.  Kirk mans the bridge, but afterwards, gets called down to the engine room to witness Spock’s final moments.  The entire scene between Nimoy and Shatner is absolutely brilliant; beginning with Nimoy’s straightening of his uniform as he stands, to confirming the ship is out of danger, to collapsing at the window, to Shatner collapsing on the other side.  Spock states that he has been, and always will be, Kirk’s friend.  This scene, and the funeral after, and David’s visit to Kirk, always makes me cry – and I have seen it hundreds of times.  It’s the performances by actors who have a relationship, and can bring that through to the characters’ relationship that is so touching.
Why tell you all that?  Isn’t this supposed to be about Into Darkness?  In 2009 J.J. Abrams re-booted Star Trek, gave us a bold new young crew playing the characters we already loved and a fancy new adventure on a super shiny new Enterprise which has more lens flares than all of the Star Trek TV shows to date.  During this adventure, a Romulan named Nero comes back in time with a grudge against Spock and screws up the timeline.  So, you see, Abrams can give us a bunch of new stories with the same characters, because – alternate timeline. 

Into Darkness picks up where the re-boot left off.  The Enterprise saves an indigenous people, but Kirk bucks the Prime Directive (shocker) so he gets demoted.   Meanwhile, Benedict Cumberbatch promises to save the daughter of a Starfleet Officer if he blows up a building.  After the explosion, Kirk and Spock are called to a meeting of Starship captains and first officers.  The meeting is attacked, Captain Pike gets killed, Kirk gets angry and talks with the head of StarFleet about heading off to kill “John Harrison” the man who planned the explosion and the attack.  Harrison’s on Kronos (is he out of his mind?), the Klingon home world, and the Klingons have been on the warpath lately.   Admiral Marcus tells Kirk to take these new torpedoes and the Enterprise, head to Kronos, and kill the hell out of Harrison.  Kirk’s crew reminds him that’s not morally good.  In fact, Scotty protests so much that he resigns.  They get to Kronos, Kirk realizes everyone else is right, and beams down, telling Sulu to threaten Harrison with the new torpedoes.  They immediately run into Klingons, who are about to - well, who knows – Uhura was doing a pretty good job with speaking Klingon.  Harrison attacks the Klingons, there’s a big fight, he wipes out all the Klingons (wow), and demands to know how many of the torpedoes are pointed at him.  When Kirk tells him 72 (hey, that sounds familiar, right?) he immediately surrenders. 

They take him on board the Enterprise, where he gives them some coordinates that Kirk relays to Scotty (they lead him to a secret shipyard outside Jupiter), and he tells them to open one of the torpedoes.  McCoy and the Admiral’s daughter – Carol Marcus open them and surprise! They’re filled with people.  Genetically altered super-people leftover from the Eugenics Wars, and Harrison says, “My name is Khan”.  Meanwhile Admiral Marcus shows up in his militarized starship very disappointed that Kirk didn’t fire all the torpedoes at Kronos, simultaneously killing Khan and his people, and starting a major war with the Klingon Empire.  There’s a big battle, during which Khan and Kirk briefly team up, Spock calls old Spock to ask about Khan, and the Enterprise gets damaged while beating the militarized ship.  Khan crushes the Admiral’s head with his hands, there’s another firefight, and the Enterprise wins by pulling the people out of the torpedoes, but arming them and beaming them over to Khan.  His ship goes down, and the Enterprise starts to go with it, but Kirk heads into the radiation-flooded engine room to re-align the warpcore manually (see where this is going?).   Spock arrives just in time to see Kirk dying through a window; they acknowledge their friendship and confirm the ship is safe.  Kirk dies, and Spock yells Khan’s name.  He then beams down to beat the hell out of Khan, who has survived a starship crash into San Francisco.  With Uhura’s help, they catch Khan, and use some of his blood to bring Kirk back to life.  They re-freeze Khan and his people, then it looked like they stored them in the same warehouse the government put the Ark of the Covenant.  They then are given their 5 year assignment to explore new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before.

Cast-wise, everyone’s as good as you expect, Pine and Quinto make a find young Kirk and Spock, but they have nowhere near the chemistry Shatner and Nimoy had by Star Trek 2.  Maybe that wouldn’t matter, except for the Kirk death scene.  Because these two characters did not have that extended time and relationship built up, the scene doesn’t have the same weight and beauty the first one did.  And maybe they shouldn’t be compared, but since it is virtually the same scene – comparisons are inevitable and this new one falls way short.  The rest of the crew of the Enterprise has very little to do, everyone gets one or two scenes, and they are all good, but minor:  Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin.  Peter Weller was fun as the Admiral, but really, who put RoboCop in charge of StarFleet and then was surprised when he wanted to militarize it?  Alice Eve plays Carol Marcus, and looks like a young Carol Marcus. 

The standout is Benedict Cumberbatch, he does an amazing job.  You have to get over the fact that he is exceptionally Caucasian, playing Indian (besides, Montalban was Mexican playing Indian).   He is threatening and powerful and does a really really good job.

Overall, I liked the movie, I just didn’t love it.  The inclusion of the death scene from Star Trek 2 upsets me the most, because that movie was so fantastic, and that scene so amazing.  In this one it felt forced and hollow, mainly because these characters just haven’t built up the relationship yet that the originals had.  Also, I did love the Kirk line, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, I only know what I can do.”  Very nice, very Kirk, and well done. 

8 out of 10 – it’s pretty fantastic.  Gained points for making sure there were 72 torpedoes.  Lost points for not mentioning the Botany Bay at all.  Gained points for Nimoy’s cameo, and his reaction when Quinto asks about Khan.  Lost points for Alice Eve in her underwear, not necessary.  Lost points for all the lens flares.
Bonus Video 1:  The best commercial ever?
Bonus Video 2:  How the first one Should Have Ended...yes, turn off the lens flare generators!
Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (PG13 – 130 mins)

Marvel announced their ‘Phase 1’ plans in 2008 with the release of Iron Man.  They planned to release a standalone movie with each of their heavy hitters (Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America) leading up to the mega-superhero masterpiece The Avengers, last summer.  As crazy as this sounded at the time, it turned out to be an amazing plan.  In that lineup was Iron Man 2 as well, in case you forgot what happened up to this point, this sums it up nicely:

John Favreau directed Iron Man 1 and 2, but stepped aside for this movie (perhaps to devote more time to his portrayal of Happy, Tony Stark’s bodyguard).  Shane Black, who had previously worked with Robert Downey Jr. on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang stepped in.  If you have seen that movie, you need to – it’s fantastic.

Iron Man 3 starts Marvel’s ‘Phase 2’ plans, which will go through Thor 2 later this year, Captain America 2 early next year, and Guardians of the Galaxy late next year before finishing with Avengers 2 in 2015, and preparing for ‘Phase 3’. 

Iron Man 3 picks up where Avengers left off, Tony is battling some sleep depravity and anxiety after clashing with an entire army from outer space and assembling the Avengers in New York.  He is attempting to continue letting Pepper Potts run Stark Enterprises.  Pepper turns down an offer from Aldrich Killian (who has founded A.I.M. – which you are familiar with if you know the comics) to both to join AIM and help him with some questionable research into ‘healing’ technology.  He doesn’t take this too kindly, and partners with an international terrorist known as ‘the Mandarin’ to go after Stark.  Meanwhile, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, is helping the government and the president, and has shifted from the brutal War Machine to the more friendly Iron Patriot. The Mandarin attacks, Happy gets injured, Tony gets angry, mouths off about the Mandarin on TV – giving away his home address in the process, the Mandarin attacks, destroys the house, and Tony is presumed dead.  Tony takes this opportunity to do some investigating of some strange explosions, bond with a random kid (sort of), and rebuild; both his suit and himself.  He then brings the fight to the Mandarin in a spectacular way.

I wasn’t sure that Shane Black would have what it takes to direct a big budget action comic-book piece, but I remember thinking that about Favreau in 2008 as well.  Black does a fantastic job, not competing with the grandeur that was the Avengers, but bringing the story back in to just Tony and his clique, and by maintaining a big feel for the action pieces.  The movie looks amazing, and is worth the extra cost for the 3D.

The cast is mostly the same as the other Iron Man movies, with a few new additions.

·         Robert Downey Jr. is again absolutely perfect as Tony Stark, even with this more damaged and anxious Tony Stark.  Marvel did well with his casting, and has been able to build this entire franchise around him.  He is quick witted and smart, and again, the dialogue benefits greatly from his freedom to improvise.  He’s believable and charming, and is the main reason that Iron Man has become so popular.

·         Gwyneth Paltrow again plays Pepper Potts, equal parts smarts and spunk.  She’s trying to balance her relationship with Tony to running the company.  Paltrow finally gets some serious action in this movie that she does really well (check out those abs).  Rescue was teased, but is not fully delivered.  However, her climatic action sequence is fantastic.

·         Don Cheadle plays Rhodey for the second time, he has more to do in this one, but it’s still not a lot.  He protects the president and gets captured and booted out of his suit.  That’s odd, but provides some great scenes for he and RDJ to play without suits. 

·         Guy Pearce steps in as Aldrich Killian, the head of AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics).  Guy is amazing in almost everything he does (I loved Lockout, despite it being terrible – and you should probably go watch Memento again).  He brings a likeable quality to Killian, and then takes an amazing villain turn.  Also – he’s a big enough character and an actor with enough confidence to go toe to toe with RDJ, which is always difficult in these movies.

·         Rebecca Hall plays Maya Hansen, she’s a scientist who first develops the regeneration tech.  She has only a few scenes.  She’s not particularly memorable, but she’s not forgettable either.

·         Jon Favreau plays Happy Hogan, the loyal bodyguard.  Since he’s not directing this time, he has a few more scenes, including some truly hilarious moments at the front of the movie.

·         Ben Kingsley plays the Mandarin, and while it’s not the Mandarin we’re familiar with, it is a brilliant take on it – for this movie.  Sir Ben is amazing and looks like he is having the time of his life with this role.  That hairstyle, well, I’ll let you make your own call on that.  Where’s the Fu Manchu mustache?

·         William Sadler plays the President, and Miguel Ferrer plays the Vice President.  Neither of them have a lot to do, but they’re good with what they have.

·         James Badge Dale is worth mentioning as Savin – or Henchman number 1.  There’s always a Henchman number 1 in these movies.  His main purpose is to demonstrate the level of tech the bad guys have, and the effect is fantastic.

I loved the movie overall – it has the same tone as the other Iron Man movies; really funny, with some great action sequences.  On top of that is the brilliance of RDJ’s portrayal of the world’s most lovable jerk.  The scenes of him interacting with the kid were fantastic.  The skydiving sequence was amazing, and I am not sure I have ever seen anything like that in a movie.  Of course, there were some things I did not like.  There are some issues I have with this version of the Mandarin.  Setting it during Christmas was weird, it was always meant to be a big summer tentpole movie, but apparently Shane Black really loves Christmas.  I also felt like it was a bit long.  It’s just over 2 hours, and there were some slow parts in the middle that could have been trimmed down.  Apparently the edit for the China market is even longer, containing more footage of the character Dr. Wu, and his assistant, played by Chinese stars Xueqi Wang and Bingbing Fan.  All in all though, if this is RDJ’s last standalone deliverance of Iron Man – it is a spectacular one.  Stay through the credits - but I should not have to tell you that at this point.

9 out of 10. Gained points for Pepper’s role in this one, much more.  Lost points for no one who was working for AIM being in the AIM suits…come on guys – really?  Gained points for Stan Lee’s cameo – hilarious.  Lost points for the Mandarin, but then gained points for the Mandarin.  Gained points for all the other Iron Man suits, then lost points for what happens to them.  Lost points for no FingFangFoom, I know, that would have been crazy - but I wanted to see him.  Gained points for RDJ – he is Tony Stark.

Bonus Video 1:  EMF…This cartoon is streaming on your Netflix – do yourself a favor and watch it – it is fantastic!  Also – AIM is always in their suits.

Bonus Video 2:  Pearce in Memento – in case you forgot (that’s a pun).  He’s told you about his condition, right?

Bonus Video 3:  More How It Should Have Ended goodness.

Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Movie Review: Pain and Gain (R – 129 minutes)

Michael Bay is a horrible person.  He’s well known for yelling at people on the set for no reason.  He’s a huge sexist, and constantly has one dimensional, insulting female characters in his movies – if there are female characters in them at all.  His movies have far more style over substance, and he will probably never win an Oscar.  At least he has a sense of humor about that, as he proved on The Neighbors: 

All that being said; he is one of my favorite directors working today.  He started his career directing commercials and music videos, and that super-slick attention-deficit style can still be seen in his work.  Everything is far too big, far too loud, and far too colorful.  He has developed his own trademark slick-action style, and because of this, he makes the best looking movies.  Starting in 1995 with Bad Boys, he’s cornered the market on his own brand of action flick:  The Rock (1996), Armageddon (1998), Pearl harbor (2001), Bad Boys 2 (2003), the Island (2005), Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), and now Pain and Gain.  My favorite of these is Armageddon, but not to be overlooked is the Miami-based cop action/comedy Bad Boys.  Even Will Smith has acknowledged that his movie career is most likely due to the slow-motion open-shirt running scene.

Pain and Gain is based on the unbelievable true story of Daniel Lugo, Adrian Doorbal, and Paul Doyle – the ‘Sun Gym Gang’.  In 1995 these three bodybuilders, robbed and killed several people in Miami (that is putting it mildly).  You can check the Wikipedia page for the movie for some of the real-vs.-embellished-for-the-film differences (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_and_Gain), but the fact is that both Lugo and Doorbal are currently on death row.   
In this film version, Daniel Lugo is a hard working personal trainer at Sun Gym.  He has helped the owner, John Mese; build the gym into a successful business and befriended a co-worker, Adrian Doorbal.  Lugo encounters a new client, Victor Kershaw, and decides he wants/deserves the money/lifestyle that Kershaw has.  He recruits Doorbal and newly released convict Paul Doyle to help him kidnap Kershaw to force him to sign away everything he owns to the trio.  The plan sort-of works, and the trio are fairly happy –until they start running out of money, and look for another score.  Meanwhile, they botch killing Kershaw (twice), and he hires a private detective to help track them down. The second job goes even worse than the first one, and eventually – the three are caught.

Despite having the lowest budget of any Michael Bay movie since Bad Boys (Bay, Wahlberg and Johnson all took pay cuts), it still has the glossy, colorful feel of his other action flicks.  It is his first rated R movie in quite some time, and it is a hard R (at one point, there is the grilling of hands – seriously).  The difference between this and other Bay flicks is that there are almost no likable characters in the movie.  The three bodybuilders are portrayed as incredibly self-involved, cruel, brutal, and clueless.  It is incredibly difficult to enjoy a movie when you hate every character!    That being said, the cast does a good job…

·         Mark Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, and bulked up to 212 pounds for the film.  He’s in great shape, and does a good job making Lugo almost likeable (almost) for the front half of the movie.  If not for Wahlberg’s own inherent charm, it would be impossible to find any redeeming qualities in Lugo.

·         Anthony Mackie plays Adrian Doorbal, and he bulked up to 213 pounds for the movie (yes, he and Wahlberg had a little competition going).  Mackie portrays Doorbal as a hapless bystander, sucked into this crime spree because he needs money for expensive testosterone treatments, as all the steroids he’s been using have rendered his manhood useless.  Mackie a great actor (go watch the Adjustment Bureau again), he doesn’t get to do much in this movie, but what he does is pretty hilarious.

·         Dwayne Johnson (I just keep calling him the Rock, like everybody else) bulked back up to almost 300 pounds for this movie and he is frighteningly large.  Every Bay movie features at least one slow circling camera shot as a figure stands up.  In Pain and Gain, the Rock gets that shot.  He plays the slow-witted Doyle well, but it is tough to believe the Rock as a bumbling cocaine addict.

·         Rebel Wilson adds a few moments of hilarity as Doorbal’s soon to be wife, Robin Peck.  Yes, those are her own nunchucks that she brought to set to use.

·         Tony Shalhoub plays Victor Kershaw – and actually does a great job.  The character is completely despicable, and Shalhoub plays him with just the right amount of venom.  This role was supposed to go to John Tuturro, who has worked with Bay in all the Transformers movies, but he had scheduling conflicts.

·         Rob Corddry plays gym owner and notary John Mese.  There’s not much for him to do in this movie, but he’s fine with what he’s got – including a hilarious scene in which he’s befuddled by the *69 process.

·         Ed Harris plays the retired cop and current private detective Ed DuBois who finally takes Kershaw’s case.  He may be the one likeable character in the movie.

·         Ken Jeong pops up as Lugo’s self-help money-making guru Johnny Wu.

·         Peter Stormare has a cameo as Doorbal’s doctor, probably doing a favor for Bay since they worked together in Armageddon.

All in all – this is a completely insane movie.  I’m not sure I liked it – it was well done, well put together, and the story was told well…it’s just that the story is so horrible, it almost left me a bit queasy!  There is a very interesting use of voice-over narration: each character gets to narrate their own introduction and select sequences.  The best part is the real-life bits worked in over the end credits including photos of the real men, and the receipt for the chainsaw that they took back to Home Depot after it broke down while they were trying to dismember a body.  No, I’m not kidding.  They returned it and bought another one.

6 out of 10 – hey, it looked good.  The colors are amazing, and Bay obviously loves Miami.  But seriously, I hated almost every character.  But then again, that was the point.  Gained points for that Bay trademark slow-motion-circle-up on the Rock – nice.  Lost points for the scene of Mackie realizing his ‘stuff’ doesn’t work anymore – eww.  Gained points for grilling of the hands, I’m sorry, it did make me laugh out loud.  Lost points for everything they attempted to do to Kershaw – yikes.

Bonus Video 1:  The Island, that Michael Bay movie you forgot about.

Bonus Video 2:  The Rock – the other Michael Bay movie with Ed Harris.

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: