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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Movie Review: The Maze Runner (PG13 – 113 minutes)

Let me clear this up for you right now – if you’re anything like me, you’re hugely disappointed by the news that nowhere in The Maze Runner does David Bowie sing to a bunch of Goblins – even though the Maze does keep changing. 
The Maze Runner is one of many young-adult, science-fiction, post-apocalyptic books to be made into movies recently.  This particular book was first published in October of 2007, with the sequels The Scorch Trials and the Death Cure coming in 2010 and 2011.  There is also a prequel book – The Kill Order. 

From what I can tell, the movie seems to stick to the book pretty closely – but I haven’t read it.  A boy enters a pleasant field surrounded by woods then walls through a box on an elevator.  He joins many other boys, all living in this “Glade”.  The box brings up a new boy every month, along with supplies, which has been going on for three years.  The boy gradually remembers his name, but nothing else, and is given a job to do so that the community can continue on.  Thomas learns from Alby – the leader, that the Glade is surrounded by tall walls, with large doors that open every morning.  Runners go into the doors every day, to map the maze that lies beyond.  Thomas is immediately curious about the maze, and wants to be a Runner, but Gally – the Enforcer type, Minho – the head Runner, Newt – second in command, Alby, and Chuck (I don’t know what Chuck’s job is) all warn him against it.  Thomas begins to acclimate, but shortly after he had arrived, a girl comes up in the box for the first time with a note that says “She is the last one ever”, implying that there is no more box, no more people, and no more supplies.  

The next day, Alby decides to go into the maze with Minho and is stung by a “Greiver”, some sort of monster that lives in the maze.  As Minho is carrying him back, the doors begin to close for the night, and Thomas runs in to help Minho with Alby.  Minho runs, but Thomas hides Alby and lures a Greiver to its death.  Incidentally – if I was asked to describe a Greiver – I would have to say it looks like a bio-engineered slug, the size of a Bear, with teeth like a moray eel and slime like an Alien Xenomorph.  Grafted onto the slug part seemed to be four (or maybe six?) mechanical legs that operate similar to a spider’s legs.  Does that help?  No?  Well, the CGI is average, and they move really fast, so it’s tough to say. 

In any case, Minho is impressed, and he and Thomas drag Alby out of the maze in the morning.    The girl, Theresa, realizes she came up from the box with two syringes of something in her pocket.  They use one to cure Alby – who then remembers everything, but the everything he remembers implies that a lot of this is Thomas’s fault.  Thomas then wants to examine the dead Greiver – which is really logical, even though Gally is against it.  Four others join him, and they succeed in pulling out a large battery-type mechanical object from the center of the dead Greiver, basically it’s a cylinder with a number on it.  Minho explains that parts of the maze are numbered, and this must be the Griever from area 7.  He and Thomas then run the maze all the way to the back end of area 7, and the battery thing acts like a key to open a door.  Excited, they head back out – but apparently, they pissed someone off, because that evening – all four doors open, and the Greivers come into the Glade.  They wipe out a whole bunch of boys, including Alby.  Thomas needs answers, and stings himself with a leftover Griever tail so that they can use the cure on him and he can remember.  Honestly – I couldn’t begin to tell you what he remembered – it made no sense.  Apparently he and Theresa work for a company that put the boys there as part of a test?  In any case, he decides to take anyone who wants to go out through the maze.  Gally makes a lame attempt to stop them, but the majority of them go and make it through after battling a bunch of Greivers.  They find the exit, into a lab, where they watch a video that sort-of explains things (the sun is scorching the earth – we needed to see who could survive in extreme circumstances), then Gally shows up (how did he get past the Grievers alone?) and shoots Chuck by accident.  Then they are ‘rescued’ by some helicopter dudes, and they get to see the maze from the air.

If that sounds confusing – you are correct.  The execution is pretty good, and the direction is not bad.  Wes Ball is the director and this and the sequel are the first major movies he has done.  He previously was the art director on a lot of Star Trek episodes.  Cast-wise, there are not that many familiar faces.
  • Dylan O’Brien plays Thomas, and does a decent job, mainly of running and encouraging.

  • Aml Ameen is an English actor who plays Alby – he’s stoic and brave, until he gets stung.  Then he’s angry and upset.

  • Ki Hong Lee plays Minho – and he’s annoyed the front half, then supportive to Thomas the second.  Also- for the head Runner, he has a weird running style.

  • Blake Cooper plays Chuck – don’t get too attached to him, but you knew that already, since he is the one who bonds with Thomas the most.

  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who plays the weird kid from Game of Thrones who insists that Bran search for the crow with the third eye) plays Newt, the second in command.  He seems way too scrawny to be anyone’s second in command, but Alby must know what he’s doing.

  • Will Poulter is another English actor who plays Gally – he was just in We’re the Millers, and has amazing eyebrows.  He does a pretty good job in this.

  • Dexter Darden from Joyful Noise plays Frypan, he helps support Thomas when he needs it.

  • Kaya Scodelario plays Teresa – and again, she shows up just to cause trouble.  I did enjoy how her first plan of action was to climb a tower and throw stuff at the boys, causing Chuck to say, “Girls are awesome.”

  • Patricia Clarkson has basically a cameo as the doctor who provides the explanation at the end –which just made me more confused. 

Overall, I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t not enjoy it either.  It just was.  The parts that I found interesting – the box, the note that Teresa had – the layout of the maze, didn’t really seem to get developed as much as I wanted, but who knows, maybe they will in the sequel.  Also – the parts that seem to get hammered home probably mean more if you are a fan of the books – “Rule 1 – everyone does their part”, “Wicked is Good”, etc.

6 out of 10 – Gained points for Poulter’s eyebrows.  Lost points for the Greiver design and effects.  Gained points for the daring escape, but lost points when the seemed to escape into the desert from Resident Evil 3.  It does stand to reason that the corporation involved was Umbrella.  Good luck with the Zombies!

Bonus Video 1.  Rent Solarbabies again – it’s similar enough, plus it has Jason Patrick and Jami Gertz.

Bonus Video 2:  Labyrinth – because really, this is the best Maze movie ever.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You (R – 103 minutes)

Dramedies are a tough watch, and I find that I really have to be in the right mood to watch them.  Honestly, I prefer a straight comedy to a dramedy.  I do not think you need to drag all that drama into your comedy.  However, a truly great comedy will have multiple layers, and drama to make you feel is always a good layer.  This can be accomplished in multiple ways, but ideally with a good director and a great cast.  The best example of the family-dynamic dramedy I can think of?  That would be the original Parenthood from 1989 that was directed by Ron Howard and starred Steve Martin.  It was the basis for the now-popular TV show Parenthood.

This Is Where I Leave You is another family-dynamic dramedy that was adapted for the screen by Jonathan Tropper, from the book that he wrote.  It helps to have the author do the screenplay – that way you know the material is true to the origin.  The director is Shawn Levy, who actually has more experience with pure comedies, having done all three of the Night at the Museum movies (that's right, the third one will be out this Christmas), and the Internship (which was poorly received), Date Night (which combined comedy with action), Real Steel (which combined family-dynamic drama with robot fighting), the Steve Martin Pink Panther remake (no.), and the Steve Martin Cheaper By The Dozen movie (which is awesome if you love both Bonnie Hunt and Tom Welling like I do).

So we know we have a good director – what’s the story?  It’s fairly simple.  The patriarch of the Altman family has passed away, causing all the siblings and their families to come back to their home town to sit Shiva – a Jewish mourning tradition (their father’s last wish – as told to them by their mother).  

Essentially, the immediate family of the deceased gathers in their home and sits for 7 days to receive visitors.  The siblings have all spread out, and don’t really get along that well, so this proves to be difficult.  To make matters worse, Judd, the son of the family that functions as the audience perspective, has just found out that his wife has been cheating on him with his boss (who is a complete tool) for the last year.  He’s at an emotionally difficult point already, so going home to deal with his therapist mother, struggling sister, bossy older brother, screw-up younger brother (and his new girlfriend who is almost the age of their mother), and the local friends and family he hasn’t seen in a long time,  is cause for hilarity and sadness.

The movie does find a decent balance between the humor and the drama, but really – the reason to see this movie is the cast.
  • Jason Bateman plays Judd, and is always fantastic – but particularly good in this.  Yes, since he is our focus, it will remind you of the Bluths from Arrested Development – but it’s not nearly as funny as that, and Judd is not nearly as self-confident as Michael.  I prefer Bateman in a movie where he can be a little funnier, I’m not sure I liked seeing him so sad – but he does a really great job at it.

  • Jane Fonda is a whirlwind of crazy as the mother, Hillary.  She does a great job of trying to get all the kids together and in line, and then also moving forward with her own life.  Fonda has been at this a long time, and really just seems to be getting better.  Also – the twist at the end?  I saw that coming miles away.  You will too if you are paying attention.

  • Tina Fey plays sister Wendy – who is struggling with a successful but disinterested husband and two kids who are just barely under control.  Fey doesn’t really have the range for this character yet (she’s also better at pure comedy), but she does a good job.  She’s fantastic when she gets to go crazy, and is less fantastic in the moments that require her to be a little more subtle or sad.  Aaron Lazar plays Barry – her basically too-busy husband, who had one really interesting line, about how he knew he was an asshole – but then that goes nowhere.  With all the other stuff in the movie that seems unnecessary – I was interested in where that would go, then it’s never mentioned again.

  • Adam Driver plays youngest brother, Phillip, who is a well-documented screw-up.  Since I don’t watch Girls, I have been largely ignorant of Driver’s skill until seeing this movie.  He’s good, and has the potential for great darkness – so I am super excited to see what he brings to Episode 7.  He does get to play various levels of screw-up, but always stays in the screw-up range. 

  • Connie Britton is spectacular as Phillip’s new girlfriend, Tracy.  She’s a therapist, in fact she used to be his therapist, so she is well aware that this is a bad idea, and that the relationship can’t go anywhere.  However, she also seems to be unable to help herself.  She’s very good in this, and it’s a subtle role for those who are used to Nashville.

  • Corey Stoll (welcome to the year of the Stoll!) continues his epic year as he plays oldest brother Paul.  He has a little bit of bitterness, since he was the brother who stayed and took over the family sporting goods business from his father.  He and his wife have been trying to have a baby for two years, and Paul is starting to feel the pressure from all sides and seems to be constantly just on the edge of a breakdown – which is a credit to Stoll’s performance.  Starting out the year with Non-Stop, bits on House of Cards, A role in the Normal Heart – and being excellent on The Strain (start catching up on that if you haven’t been watching it), then being named as the villain for the upcoming Marvel movie, Ant-Man – he’s really on the rise.  Get on the bandwagon now, while you can!

  • Kathryn Hahn, a fantastic comedian who you have seen in countless movies, plays Paul’s stressed out wife Alice.  This was a new level from Hahn of pure drama with little to no option for comedy.  She does  a great job of conveying the desperation of a woman who just wants to have a baby – and feels like a failure for not being able to do it.

  • Rose Byrne plays Penny, a townswoman who Judd knew years ago.  She sweeps in and flirts with him just as he’s busy wallowing in self-loathing.  She’s fun, and helps to bring a bit of lightness to the movie.  Also – good job on the American accent.

  • Debra Monk plays Linda, the neighbor across the street of Hillary’s house.  She and Hillary have been friends for years, so she is always in and around the house especially during the Shiva so that she can help.  She does have a great exchange with Judd.

  • Timothy Olyphant plays Horry (Horry?),  Linda’s son.  Apparently he and Wendy were very much in love when they were younger, but then there was a car accident, and he suffered some traumatic brain injury, and now cannot live on his own, and Wendy moved away.  He’s amazing, but I have been a fan of his for a really long time.

  • Dax Shepard plays Wade, Judd’s boss and the dude who is banging Judd’s wife.  It’s the same type of character you have seen him play before, and he is really getting good.  There’s actually a lot of subtlety to his performance, and I look forward to seeing what else he can do.  Also – if you haven’t seen Hit and Run – rent that now.

  • Abigail Spencer plays Judd’s cheating wife Quinn – who I wanted to slap repeatedly.  Especially after she trails Judd to his mom’s house, then drops a bit of a bombshell on him.
  • Comedian Ben Schwartz plays Rabbi Charles Grodner, and he seems to think he’s in a straight comedy, playing one running gag over and over.  He’s hilarious, and he brings a good break-up to this movie.

On the whole, I liked it, but I sure didn't love it.  It has some funny parts, and some emotional parts.  In reality – I felt like there were a ton of characters, and way too many of them had seriously complicated storylines and issues.  The whole movie feels busy and overwhelming, with not nearly enough funny.  Individual performances were good, but the united piece feels a bit slapdash (that’s right, slapdash).  Or, you know, like someone tried to take a really long book and make it into a 103 minute movie.

6 out of 10 – Gained points for Olyphant (go watch Gone in 60 Seconds again, and watch him steal bits of that movie), lost points for the pot-smoking scene…does every one of these movies need a pot-smoking scene? Give me a break.  Gained points for Rose Byrne, but lost points for her skating double.  Gained points for Adam Driver’s biceps.

Bonus Video 1:  The Family Stone – another surprisingly good family-dynamic dramedy. 

Bonus Video 2:  Date Night – a little more comedy from Shawn Levy.

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Movie Review: No Good Deed (PG13 – 84 minutes)

There is certainly something to be said for a well-crafted relationship-thriller.   If you haven’t seen Fatal Attraction, or don’t remember it, you should probably check it out again.  Michael Douglas’s character has a fling affair with Glenn Close’s character, except, she turns out to be crazy, and comes after he and his wife, played by Anne Archer.  It’s pretty epic, and there were plenty of movies after it that adopted a similar storyline.  One that changed the story a little (he didn’t cheat, but the girl was still crazy) was the movie Obsessed, starring Idris Elba, Beyonce, and Ali Larter.  It’s pretty intense, and has an incredible fight sequence at the climax. 

Sam Miller, who has previously directed a lot of Luther episodes, directs this new entry into the relationship-thriller genre.  It’s entertaining, it’s shot well, and it’s super fun to watch in a full theater. 

No Good Deed (not to be confused with the 2002 No Good Deed starring Samuel L. Jackson, Milla Jovovich and Stellan Skarsgaard – so two Avengers cast members) twists the typical story a little to give it just enough difference to keep it interesting.  It takes place over the course of one day.  Colin Evans is a convicted felon, who was convicted of assaulting a man in a bar fight, but may have actually killed 5 women (but wasn’t convicted of that crime).  He’s up for parole, and we are introduced to him as he gives his speech stating he’s reformed, and he’s sorry about that fight (he beat up a guy who was talking to his girl).  The parole board seems to buy it, but one member of the board states that Colin is a “malignant narcissist” and probably did kill those 5 women, blah blah blah.  Now, I’m not adding in the ‘blahs’ because the guy goes on and on – the audience literally does not get to hear what the guy is saying as we go into Colin’s “rage-vision” for the first time in the movie.  Everything goes a bit blurry and static-y.  He stands up, furious, but is cut off, denied parole, and heads back to the paddy wagon to be shipped back to prison.  He promptly fakes a nosebleed and busts out. 

We then get introduced to Terri and her husband, Jeffrey.  They’ve got two kids, a toddler and a brand new baby, and they seem to be disconnecting.  Jeffrey is heading out to pick up his dad for a golfing weekend, and Terri is disappointed that he didn’t come home early enough to let her go to the store.  After promising her that they will talk after the weekend, and schedule some time for themselves, he takes off, and Terri’s friend Meg promises to come over for a girl’s night since Jeffrey will be out of town.

We reconnect with Colin as he is stalking what seems to be a random woman as she lunches with some dude.  She goes home to unload her groceries to find out that Colin is in her house – it turns out she’s his ex-fiancee.  He tells her he found a note from her boyfriend on the bed, and wants to know who she’s been with – she tries to placate him, but then he goes into rage-vision again and kills her.  He then heads out in a stolen truck, gets all rage-visiony in the car and crashes.  We see him walk down the road and up the driveway to Terri’s house.  What follows from here is some tense moments as he pretends to be an injured car accident victim – and she lets him use her phone, then lets him in the house – then tells him her husband isn’t home (at this moment, there was a lot of yelling at the screen from the packed theater I was in).  The situation gets worse when Meg comes over, Terri eventually figures out that Colin is bad news –then there’s a bit of a twist, that I won’t ruin for you, but I really enjoyed.  The end is really satisfying. 

The cast is entertaining, although really, there are not many people in the movie:
  • Idris Elba stars as Colin, and while I really do want him to be the next James Bond, he does a decent job of faking a Southern American accent for this movie.  Personally, I enjoy his own british accent better, but hey – what can you do.  He’s still too incredibly beautiful to completely buy as a villain (maybe that's just me), but the movie does a good job of convincing you that he’s irredeemable.  He’s incredibly magnetic on screen and does a good job as this bad guy.  Also - be sure to catch the season of The Office that he was on - he was hilarious.

  • Taraji P. Henson plays Terri, and while I can’t blame her for letting him in – honestly, if Idris Elba showed up wet on my door step, I’d let him in too.  Once she figures out the issue, she does a good job of keeping her kids safe and defending herself.  She’s always good, and it was fun to see her in this movie.

  • Leslie Bibb plays the BFF Meg, who is just nosy enough to set off the terrifying parts of the evening.  She’s perfect as the annoying friend, and did a great job.

  • Kate del Castillo plays Angie – the dead ex-fiancee.  We don’t spend any real time with her, we just watch her scramble to avoid Colin just before he kills her.

  • Henry Simmons (who will be on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD this upcoming season) plays Jeffrey, who does a really great job of making you dislike him intensely. 

That’s about it – the front half of the movie is Idris convincing you he’s evil – the midsection is him trying to convince Taraji and Leslie he’s okay – and the final third is the cat and mouse chess game between he and Taraji.  It’s short – it’s rated PG13, which I really appreciated (as an R, this could have gone really dark and disturbing, and I didn’t really want that).  It’s great to see in a full theater – a full theater of Idris Elba fans is even better.

7 out of 10 – Bonus points for the gratuitous scene of Idris slowly changing shirts – and double Bonus points for the even more gratuitous scene of him stripping down to shower off the fire extinguisher (Sam Miller is clearly a director who has been working with Elba long enough to know what his fan base wants, even if he is playing a creep.  Lost points for Terri having worked as a prosecuting lawyer in the D.A.’s office and still not picking up on the villain in her house.  Lost points for Meg not picking up on the danger, and then once she did, not simply running to call for help instead of throwing it in his face.  And really lost points for that cop not picking up on the villain in the car – They share APBs of escaped convicts over state lines, right?

Bonus Video 1:  The other No Good Deed trailer:

Bonus Video 2:  Idris canceling the apocalypse in Pacific Rim.

Bonus Video 3: The Office - He is aware of the effect he has on women:

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Movie Review: The November Man (R – 108 minutes)

Here we are in that time of year after all the summer blockbusters and prior to the late-year rush of Award-Season type movies that studios push out just in December to keep fresh in the voters’ minds.   October will be filled with new horror movies, as it should be.  Guardians of the Galaxy is still playing (go see it again!) but aside from that, there’s not much to look forward to for a while (Avengers 2 will be out in May!!).  We will get a few average action flicks and rom-coms to fill the space.  Case in point, The November Man (it’s the former, not the latter, although thinking of it as a rom-com is interesting.  Someone re-edit the trailer with Rom-Com music and voice-over!).

It is directed by Austrailian director Roger Donaldson who also did No Way Out, Cadillac Man, White Sands, The Getaway, Species, Dante’s Peak, The Recruit, and The Bank Job.  All of those are better than this.  Especially White Sands, Species, and The Bank Job.

This particular movie is actually based on Bill Granger’s novel “There are No Spies”, which was published in 1987, and was the 7th Devereaux novel.  The first novel in the series was actually called “The November Man”, and was published in 1979.  We are first introduced to Devereaux as he is on a CIA mission 8 years ago with his trainee.  They are looking to protect a diplomat of some sort who has to avoid an impending assassination attempt.  Well, Devereaux’s young recruit says he’s ready, acts like he’s ready, but jumps the gun and fires his sniper rifle, despite being warned by Devereaux to wait.  He hits his target, but also manages to kill a small child who was in the line of fire.  This apparently was enough to force Devereaux into retirement.

We then catch up with Devereaux 8 years later in that retirement as he relaxes in the bistro he owns.  He’s visited by his old handler, Hanley, who lets him know that a woman he was close to needs to defect from the Russian politician she’s been undercover with.  See, this Russian politician is about to become the new Russian president, and he’s cleaning up his history by assassinating everyone who knew what he did in the past – which varies from the sex trafficking of young women he kidnapped during the war in Serbia to starting that same war with the assistance of the CIA.  This woman, with whom Devereaux had a relationship (I mention that again because the movie hits you over the head with it repeatedly), has information that needs to be known, but, according to Hanley, she will only speak to Devereaux – again, because of their relationship.  He heads to Moscow, just as she flees her employer.  He rescues her, but she is surprised to see him and clearly was not expecting him.  She gives him a phone filled with secrets just as the former trainee, now fully fledged agent, assassinates her on the orders of another CIA operative.

Now Devereaux is left with a phone of secrets, a bitter ex-trainee sniper, a female Russian assassin, a social worker,  and a name of a woman who had been the Russian politician’s “pet” and witnessed him conspiring with the CIA to start the war.  He has to work fast to put all the pieces together, protect the social worker, and find the girl before the sniper and/or assassin kill him.

That sounds pretty exciting and twisty, right?  It’s not poorly put together, Donaldson is a great director who excels at these types of movies (if you’ve forgotten No Way Out – watch that again).  So why was my reception of it so lukewarm?  It may be the cast;
  • Pierce Brosnan plays Devereaux very well, and while I never, ever buy him as American, no matter how good the accent is (it’s not), he does play him as old and weary, yet determined and able.  He goes through an entire range of emotions during the case, but in a very subtle manner, which I found very believable.  He spends a lot of time drinking – seriously, every time he stops running, he’s drinking – so I am curious if that is a bit from the book?  It felt a little out of place in the movie. 

  • Austrailian actor Luke Bracey plays Mason, the ex-trainee who is now all angry and bitter once he finds out that Devereaux recommended he be let go because he couldn’t follow orders.  He really takes that personally.  If you are not familiar with Bracey yet – go ahead and get familiar – apparently they are remaking Point Break (sacrilege!) and he is your new Johnny Utah.

  • Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) plays the social worker, Alice, and it’s pretty clear from the beginning that she is hiding something.  She gets swept up in the chase for this refugee girl that she helped escape Russia, then reveals something that I think everyone saw coming, but still does a good job – I wanted a bit more from her final scene –and were they trying to sell that she and Brosnan had a romantic connection?  Because that I would not buy.

  • Bill Smitrovich – who you’ve seen in everything – plays Hanley.  He’s desperate when he shows up at the Bistro begging Devereaux to get back in the game and help him extract the undercover Russian agent Natalia.  He uses the leverage of their relationship (alright already!  We get it!), so he knows that Devereaux will not be able to say no.  He’s super trustworthy and sympathetic, until he flips, and man – does he flip.  He really steals the end of the movie.

  • Amila Terzimehic plays the Russian assassin, who was really interesting – and just as I am about to say I could have used more of her in the movie, it occurs to me that I am glad there wasn’t more of her – because that is what kept her interesting.  You have never seen her in movies before, but she was a Bosnia and Herzegovinia Rythmic Gymnastics champion – which explains the scene of her stretching.  She’s vicious and efficient, and was really cool in this movie.

  • Lazar Ristovski plays the Russian politician Arkady Federov.  I can’t tell if he was really good at playing the slimy, villainous Federov, or if he just is that way.  He’s basically the same character as all Russian politician characters in movies like this.  You cannot wait for him to get his comeuppance, and thank goodness he does.
  • Will Patton has what is almost a cameo as Perry Weinstein, the CIA head who orders several hits, and seems to be the bad guy.  He’s really around to push Mason to get angry with Devereaux, because Devereaux recommended he be dropped, and because Devereaux hid his relationship with Natalia from him.  And because Devereaux told Mason he couldn’t have relationships, but then had one of his own – how dare he!   Also – not sure about the hair, clearly a wig to cover his Falling Skies hair, and not really a good one.

It’s not bad, really – It’s just unoriginal.  It seems to be the same political spy/espionage movie you’ve seen a dozen times.  It could have been great, the cast is certainly capable, but with a few changes here and there to bring in some real chemistry – or someone really interesting to watch, the movie may have been even better.  As it is, it’s just fine for this time of year.  If it had come out it May – it would be worse!

6 out of 10 – Gained points for Patton being evil behind a desk.  Lost points for the R rating, which was probably not necessary – they could have trimmed out some of the language and blood.  Gained points for Terzimehic – she was pretty awesome.  Lost points for the weird slow motion in weird parts.  It just felt like it didn’t fit.  Lost points for Devereaux’s constant drinking…I mean really, who does he think he is - James Bond?

Bonus Video 1:  The Thomas Crown Affair Remake.  I loved Pierce as James Bond – but this is my favorite Pierce Brosnan movie.

Bonus Video 2:  Species – a really cool sci-fi flick by the same director, with a great cast!

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG – 102 minutes)

I rarely see kids’ movies, but How To Train Your Dragon from 2010, was beautiful and I loved it.  It was in 3D, and the flying sequences were just stunning.  Also, the very simple story of Hiccup, the head warrior of Berk’s son, befriending and then training a wild dragon was touching and funny.  In the first movie, Hiccup finds Toothless, an injured Night Fury dragon.  He nurses the dragon back to health, while learning as much about it as possible, to quickly excel at his ‘dragon fighting’ classes back in Berk.  His classmates are astounded, but quickly pick up on the skills, and his father is finally proud of his son.  I loved the first movie.

This sequel is equally as beautiful, and picks up 5 years after the first one.  If you watched the cartoon that was on (I did) Saturday mornings, you know that the Dragonriders of Berk have been having all kinds of adventures.  

Hiccup has grown into a young man, and his father, Stoick, is ready to name him as successor.  Gobber is still coordinating the riders, including Snotlout, Fishlegs, and the twins: Ruffnut and Tuffnut.  Hiccup and Astrid are in a very serious relationship and Hiccup spends his days riding with Toothless, developing his own flight suit, and mapping out new lands.

On one of his treks, he encounters dragon hunters led by Eret (son of Eret), who claim they are bringing dragons to Drago Bloodfist, who is building an army of dragons.  Hiccup relays this information to his father, who insists the clan get ready for war.  Hiccup however, is convinced he can negotiate with Drago, and stop the war from happening.  This goes very poorly, but in the process, Hiccup encounters a mysterious dragon rider.  It’s his long lost mother, who apparently was not eaten by dragons years ago, and has been living with and riding them for years in a secret ice cave, built by their Alpha dragon, who can control the others.  The story fairly quickly skips over the part where Hiccup should be outraged that his mother never came back, and she has a wonderful reunion with Stoick.  Just as quickly, however, Drago attacks, reveals he has an alpha of his own, and things get worse from there.  It does have a happy ending – so hang on through the tough bits.

The voices are all the same from the first movie with a few new additions:
  • Canadian stand up Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup again, and it was very interesting to see how they aged and matured his animated character.  Baruchel’s distinctive voice gives Hiccup a wonderful charming quality, and his hopefulness that he can avoid war with negotiation is sweet; perhaps unfounded, but sweet.

  • Cate Blanchett joins the cast to play Valka, Hiccup’s long lost mother.  She has been living with dragons so long, she is slightly off.  Like I said, I think there probably would have been a whole sequence of anger for her having stayed away for so long, but hey – it’s a kids movie, so that gets skipped.

  • Gerard Butler plays Stoick in your typical loud Scottish Viking way.

  • Stoick is usually paired with Gobber, who trained the kids in the first movie, and corrals the dragons in this movie.  He’s voiced by Craig Ferguson who is equally loud and Scottish as Butler.

  • America Ferrera plays Astrid, and she very quickly establishes that she is staying by Hiccup’s side, no matter what.

  • Jonah Hill plays Snotlout again – who is fighting with Fishlegs for the affections of Ruffnut.

  • Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays Fishlegs, and he still has his flashcards of dragon breeds in this movie, which was one of my favorite parts of the first movie – all the different kinds of dragons.

  • T. J. Miller and Kristen Wiig play Tuffnut and Ruffnut respectively – I enjoy that they ride a two headed dragon.

  • I also enjoyed Ruffnut’s obsession with Eret, son of Eret, played by Kit Harrington – and his biceps.

  • Djimon Hounsou plays Drago Bloodfist – a villain who seems to be a villain for the sake of being a villain.  As he is building his dragon army, he becomes more and more horrible.  I’m not entirely sure what happens to him during the final battle – did he get killed?  They didn’t really show it.  I sure hope so, I wouldn’t want them to have to deal with that maniac again.

Overall, it’s beautiful, wonderful – but see the first one first – just in case you haven’t.  I loved it, but not as much as I loved the first one.

8 out of 10 – Gained points for the alpha fight, but lost points for the result of that fight.  Gained points for Valka’s cool dragon riding outfit, Lost points for not really showing the demise of Drago – seriously, I need to know that dude got his comeuppance.
Bonus Video 1:  The animated series – pretty awesome.

Bonus Video 2:  Reign of Fire – a better dragon movie with Gerard Butler

Bonus Video 3:  Cast Interviews