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!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Movie Review: Pixels (PG13 – 105 minutes)

In 2010, Johnny Alves and Benjamin Darras produced a short film directed by Patrick Jean.  It is a two minute film in which a man discards an old TV by the trash, and from that TV, a cloud of colorful pixels are released and fly over New York City and split into various directions.  Eventually they turn into 1980s arcade game characters including Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Tetris tiles, Frogger, and Donkey Kong.  The characters turn everything they touch into pixels, and eventually the entire planet turns into one giant cubic pixel as it slowly drifts through space.

The short film was so creative and interesting, I completely understand wanting to turn it into a full length feature – and really, Chris Columbus (Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter 1 and 2, Percy Jackson 1) seems like the right choice.  Even the plot seems like a good idea.

The movie starts in 1982, and we are introduced to Brenner, his buddy Cooper and their love for arcade games.  Brenner is naturally very good because he can see and recognize the patterns of the games. They enter the world championship of arcade games where they meet another buddy, Ludlow, and Brenner loses to dominate player Eddie Plant, causing him to spiral into what seems to be a lifelong depression about not winning a videogame competition?  Footage of the competition is included into a capsule that is blasted into space in the hopes of sending communication to any other species out in space. 

We jump up to present time, and find that Brenner is currently working as a Nerd Squad (did Best Buy not want to join in the product placement, and would not let him be called a Geek Squad member?) employee and is still hanging out with Cooper who is now the president of the United States (no, seriously, Kevin James plays the president).  Cooper continues to remind Brenner how smart he is and that he could be doing more with his life.  Well, Brenner responds to a call to help set up a system for a woman named Violet and her son – she’s just been left by her husband.  Brenner bonds with her over a bottle of wine and stories about their spouses leaving them.  When Brenner attempts to kiss her, she gets upset, and he calls her snobby.  He is then summoned by the president because Guam was just attacked by 1980s video game characters that destroyed a military base – one soldier was taken.  Brenner recognizes the pattern, and attempts to give everyone advice – it’s revealed that Violet is the head of DARPA, and is also at the White House.

Ludlow returns to let Brenner know that he found a message that this attack was from aliens who misinterpreted the message they received years ago, they learn that there will be three attacks, whoever wins each attack gets a ‘trophy’.  If the aliens win they will take over the earth, if earth wins the aliens will leave.  This is apparently not enough warning because the Taj Mahal is destroyed by Pong and a young man is taken as the trophy.  

The president has Brenner and Ludlow prep the military for the next attack.  They head to England to fight off Centipede.  They are successful and the dog from Duck Hunt is delivered as a trophy. 

DARPA continues to prep, and they suddenly learn of their next attack – PacMan shows up in New York City – so Brenner, Ludlow, and a recently released from prison Eddie Plant battle PacMan in mini-cooper Ghosts.  They win this one too and get Q-Bert as a trophy.  The president throws a part to celebrate their victory –they receive another message that states they cheated, and will be punished, and the aliens send down everything to attack Washington.  Brenner, Plant, Ludlow, Cooper and Violet all join forces to battle everything that is being thrown at them in order to save the world.  Spoiler alert – they win by getting pixelated up into the alien mothership and defeating Donkey Kong.

Columbus does a great job with the action – during the battles, the movie looks absolutely amazing! I think the majority of the negative issues come in with the live-action people in the movie.

  • I like some Adam Sandler movies (okay, very few), but he really seems to be half asleep in this movie.  He plays Brenner as snarky, annoyed, and bitter.  I suppose that’s fine, but honestly he also seems fairly disinterested and sarcastic.  That works great in the throw-away movies he makes with his friends – Grown-Ups, for example, but here – it really does not work.

  • Kevin James plays President Cooper?  I don’t even know where to start there.  Okay, since the movie begins with him as president – let’s say he ran a really great campaign and had some really great ideas.  But now he’s a complete buffoon – there’s a scene where he struggles to read to kids because he’s stumbling over words.  That’s played as a joke and is supposed to be hilarious.  Also – Jane Krakowski is cast as his wife and has almost no scenes/lines.

  • Michelle Monaghan plays Violet and honestly, she’s better than what she’s given, and she does the best with what she’s given, but her depression at just being left by her husband is played for laughs, and then Sandler constantly refers to her as snobby. She gets to go back at him with some insults of her own, but not as many as he throws at her. I really had no idea her character name was Violet until I looked it up on IMDB.  I don't recall anyone calling her by name in the movie.  

  • Peter Dinklage is great, but then he always is.  Again – I feel like he’s the only one who understood the tone completely.  He’s way way way over-the-top, but that works.  If only some of the others had over-committed on this level.

  • Josh Gad is more talented than he’s allowed to be in this as well.  Ludlow is played for one-note anti-nerd jokes.  I feel like if he was given a little bit more freedom he could have brought more to this – but I’ve thought that about the last few movies I’ve seen him in, so maybe not?

Okay – so by now, you’ve heard the overwhelmingly negative reviews of this movie.  Listen, it's not horrible, really - it's not.  But, it's not great, and what’s really upsetting is that it really had the potential to be something really fun!  Let’s start with the good – the bones of the story are actually pretty good – and you could see how that would make for an interesting movie.  Also – the graphics and visuals are amazing.  Really – the movie looks fantastic during the alien attack sequences.  There is something really thrilling about seeing giant pixelated versions of arcade characters tearing through the world.  Pac-Man in particular is just spectacular.

Now – the bad.  Who is this movie for?  The tone was childish, and all the trailers before it were for kids movies, but that can’t be right, because kids today probably won’t get any of the references to 80s games.  This is actually perfectly illustrated in the movie because Violet’s son is perplexed by the idea of games having ‘three lives’.  Kids today and their console games are used to having unlimited lives.  So – in theory, the movie could be for people my age who fondly remember the 80s arcade games, but then why is it so juvenile, why not fully commit to the nonsense and make it rated R?  Also – there are issues with the tone.  It goes from over-the-top silly to wanting us to buy the sense of danger and the romance between certain characters – but none of that fits well together.  Honestly, watching this movie after watching Sharknado 3 presented an interesting problem.  This movie actually needed some Sharknado-ing.  If more of the people in it had played it completely over-the-top crazy or with Ian Ziering levels of over-committment, it may have come off with a more unified tone.  Dinklage is right on; and actually – so are Brian Cox and Sean Bean (guys, seriously, Brian Cox and Sean Bean are in this).  Josh Gad is close, but no one else seems clear on how silly they should be behaving.

Another tone issue, is this movie pro-nerd or anti-nerd?  I would never consider Adam Sandler a nerd; really – he and his buddies (you know who his buddies are, they’re the guys in all his movies) seem like the guys who bullied the nerds in high school.  They’re the class clowns who made fun of the kids who wanted to play video games.  Even in this movie – they are supposed to be playing ‘nerds’ however, they are constantly making anti-nerd jokes and comments.  Gad’s character Ludlow is the nerdiest of the bunch, and is the butt of plenty of Sandler/James jokes.  Essentially the core of the story is Sandler’s character, Brenner, is trying to find redemption for the competition he lost as a child which has hung over his whole life?  I can’t figure that out – it’s repeatedly mentioned how smart he is and that he could be doing more, so is saving the world is his redemption for that?  He and Violet’s son Matt have two scenes discussing games, and Matt thinks Brenner needs to update to modern games and just “pretend he’s the guy and doesn’t want to die”.  Seriously – that seems to be Brenner's character arc - moving past studying the patterns to embrace a more intrinsic style of play, and maybe if Sandler had played that with a little more joy...?

This might be a tone issue, or a story issue, but what about the aliens?  I get that we are focused on our side of the story – but who are the aliens, what do they really look like? What do they want?  The only information we get about them is from Q-Bert, who states they are evil and want to conquer, but who is telling us that?  Q-Bert?  What did he look like before he was Q-Bert?  There’s a few holes there, but maybe we’re just supposed to ignore them.  Also, I would like to slap whoever thought that it would be funny to have Q-Bert pee.  You heard me right.

Also – the ‘romantic’ side stories.  We’re supposed to believe that Violet’s character would fall for Sandler’s?  She’s the head of DARPA, but is completely thrown away as just "the chick".  Admittedly, at least she is not a ‘damsel in distress’ and does get to do her own bit of rescuing of her son and other characters in the end, but still – it was annoying how one-dimensional her character was.  That's probably a small part of a larger whole issue.  It’s a Sandler movie, and like all of them, they are not made for women.  Either he thinks he has no female fans, or he doesn’t care about them, so women are always underdeveloped in his movies – or played as jokes, or just flat out un-important.  We’ve already established that the movie treats the female characters poorly.  Ludlow’s character is demonstrated as a child to be in love with Lady Lisa – a fictional game character.  Once Brenner re-encounters Ludlow, he realizes that Ludlow is still in love with her.  So inevitably, during the final battle, Ludlow encounters her – they fight for a few seconds, when Ludlow falls to his knees professing his love for her (she’s not pixels for some reason), and she decides that she’s into him (she has no lines – none!), stops fighting and kisses him. 

After the final fight, she’s taken back with the other creatures, but Q-Bert, because he was a trophy, stays.  Because Ludlow is depressed, Q-Bert changes into Lady Lisa (how and why?).  So Ludlow gets to keep this ‘trophy’ and they get married and have kids – which is shown in the post-credits sequence.  There’s four of them and they are all Q-Berts.  I have no words for that.  Also – along those lines, one of the jokes is that Plant’s character has demands when they get him out of prison – one of those demans is for a three way with Serena Williams and Martha Stewart in the Lincoln bedroom – seriously.  The president says no, but guess what Plant gets as the movie is ending?  I shit you not.

It’s so disappointing because it could have been good – or at least way more fun.  Honestly, just watch the short film a few times – until you can rent this and fast forward through the parts with the humans in it.

5 out of 10 – Gained points for the graphics – especially the Tetris Bricks removing floors of a building at a time – easily my favorite thing!  Lost points for everything else.  There has been some downright outrage about this movie, I'm not outraged, I'm just disappointed.

Bonus Video 1: It’s a widely held belief that no video game movie has been any good – personally, I loved the Mortal Kombat movie:

Bonus Video 2: On the flip side of that, there was a Street Fighter movie made...it certainly was not good.  But I sure do own the soundtrack - hey, it features a Deion Sanders track!

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Movie Review: Trainwreck (R – 125 minutes)

If you’re not familiar with Amy Schumer at this point, you’re doing a good job of avoiding social media and pop culture in general – congrats on that, you’re probably happier.  Amy is a stand-up comedian, who has rapidly moved to the forefront due to her smart, funny, and very adult comedy central show – Inside Amy Schumer (warning - below clip is uncensored!) :)

Judd Apatow is the writer/director of multiple comedies, starting with the TV show Freaks and Geeks, then 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked UP, Funny People, and This is 40.  After hearing an interview with Amy Schumer, he was inspired by her stories about dealing with her dad’s illness, and asked to work with her.  The result is Trainwreck – a movie that Amy wrote and Apatow directed that is sort-of semi-autobiographical. 

Schumer stars as Amy, a woman who has believed from 9 years old that monogamy is not realistic, thanks to being told that directly by her cheating father as he and her mother split.  Amy took that sentence to heart, and is currently living as the titular ‘trainwreck’.  She has a great job and apartment in New York City, but rarely sleeps with the same guy twice, and seems to be working through most of the men in New York, believing that relationships are for suckers.  She’s working at a men’s magazine for a Devil-Wears-Prada-inspired boss and is suddenly given an assignment to interview a sports doctor who is about to pioneer a new knee surgery for NBA players.  During the course of the interview, Amy spends the night with Aaron, the doctor, but starts to fall for him, which is new for her and she finds it confusing and off-putting while also trying to deal with her father’s failing health and her sister’s marriage, step-child, and impending pregnancy.  Eventually – Amy has to come to grips with the fact that the way she was living was not actually all that great, and take steps to grow up and take responsibility for her actions.

I expected the movie to be funny, but what I didn’t expect was that it has a lot of heart, and quite a few genuinely touching moments.  I have found in several previous Apatow movies that the female roles tend to be very one-dimensional.  Perhaps because Schumer wrote this or perhaps due to the collaboration - this one does goes beyond that.   In terms of direction, Apatow was good enough to let people do a lot of improvising, providing for a natural-ness between all the cast members. 
  • Amy does a great job playing an exaggerated version of herself, and I was a little afraid that the movie would glorify her ‘trainwreck’ life-style.  However, the movie never really makes that mistake.  The constant drinking and partying really causes problems and makes her look like a terrible person.  I thought that was a smart choice.  Especially once she begins to realize that she is pushing away all the people who really do care about her, and she decides to start making some changes.  I was really impressed, and I hope she gets to do more movies…of course, we’ll have to see how she does playing a character that is not based on her!

  • SNL vet Bill Hader plays Aaron Conner, the doctor that Amy has to interview.  Hader is wonderful at over-the-top comedy, but he’s even better playing the quiet romantic that is this doctor.  He’s swept up in Amy’s zaniness, and falls for her pretty quickly.  I loved their interactions, and I was impressed by his ability to quietly let Amy shine.

  • Brie Larson plays Amy’s younger sister Kim.  She didn’t get as indoctrinated by their father’s anti-monogamy statement as Amy, and is very happy with her husband and stepson.  She also does a good job letting Amy be the big personality while she either quietly listens, quietly disagrees, or quietly gets hurt by what Amy says.  I also enjoyed what appear to be genuine reactions by Larson to Schumer’s improvs.  Mike Birbiglia plays her husband Tom, and he (and his sweaters) and his eerily polite son are mostly played for laughs – but each has a genuinely sweet moment or two.

  • Colin Quinn plays the father, and he really uses his gruff irish-ness to its full potential here.  Amy and Kim are constantly arguing about the quality of the facility that they move him into due to his progressing MS.  He doesn’t stretch, he basically just plays Colin Quinn – but that really suits this role, and I felt that he did a great job, especially in his improved interactions with Norman Lloyd, a 100-year old actor who plays another resident at the home.

  • A huge surprise in this movie is LeBron James (yes, that LeBron James).  He’s playing an exaggerated version of LeBron James as Aaron’s best friend.  He really steals every scene that he’s in – he’s really funny and has a natural ease with the other actors.  Who knew he could be that funny?  I especially love the scene where he insists that he and Aaron split the check for their lunch.

  • Another surprise was John Cena playing Steven – a guy who thinks that he’s Amy’s boyfriend at the beginning of the movie, even if Amy considers him just a guy she’s hooking up with regularly.  He is also really hilarious, and again – fantastic ease in the movie.  His sadness as he realizes that Amy is not really into him feels genuine and really helps to make her look like the trainwreck she is portraying.

  • Stand up Dave Attell plays Noam, the homeless guy who is always outside Amy’s apartment, who really does seem like more of a friend than most of her other ‘friends’. 

  • Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, and Jon Glaser all play Amy’s co-workers, and they all get small scenes in which they get to be hilarious.  Park suggests several odd story choices for the magazine, Glaser basically plays the same character he played on Parks and Rec, and Bayer gets yelled at for smiling too much.   

  • Ezra Miller plays intern Donald – and I’m mentioning him here only because he creeped me the hell out, and because Zach Synder has announced he is playing the Flash in their DC movie universe, which seems to me to be a huge mistake…but since I haven’t agreed with any choices Zach Synder has made yet…I guess that makes sense!

  • The biggest surprise in this movie is Tilda Swinton (yes, that Tilda Swinton) as Dianna, the boss at the men’s magazine.  She is almost unrecognizable, and is hilariously horrible in this role. 

Overall, the movie was really funny, really enjoyable, and surprisingly touching!  It’s definitely a hard R, and earns that rating, for example, you’ll see way more of John Cena than you were expecting.  Honestly – I liked that, the men were definitely objectified, which is what women have been in male-driven comedies for years.  It was very much a romantic comedy and did have a very predictable ending, but again – romcoms are the one genre that’s acceptable.  The happy, successful, single woman does not exist in the romcom universe.   I thought everyone did a great job, and Amy was fantastic.  I cannot wait to see what she does next.  Also – I’d like to see LeBron do more comedies.  Honestly – I now want a buddy-cop movie with him and John Cena, where Tilda Swinton plays their commanding officer…come on – that’s genius right there.

9 out of 10 – really fantastic.  Gained points for the fake movie Amy and Steven go to see, “The Dogwalker” featuring Daniel Radcliffe and Marisa Tomei – it looked terrible.  Lost points for all the drinking and pot-smoking Amy does…but then gained points for being one of the only movies I’ve seen where people actually call her out for that nonsense, and does not glorify that in any way.  Gained points for Swinton – Lost points for Miller.  Gained all the points for LeBron and Cena.

Bonus Video 1:  Just in case you somehow missed it -  Another hard R comedy that cracked me up from Apatow as producer – Bridesmaids

Bonus Video 2:  In case you missed Spy earlier this year – it’s out in the budget theaters now…go catch it.

Bonus Video 3: Cast interviews.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TV Movie Review: Sharknado 3 – Oh Hell No! (TV14 - 88 minutes)

If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the SyFy Channel’s creature features, let me try to sum them up quickly.  Essentially they take some large insane creature and it terrorizes a bunch of B-level celebrities.  That’s about it.  A sharknado – again, in case you are unfamiliar, is exactly what it sounds like: a tornado filled with sharks.  This presents several problems – sharks are flying through the air chomping, and occasionally fall to the ground, also chomping.

Sharknado was supposed to be just another one of SyFy’s terribly entertaining Saturday night creature features, but for some reason, it struck a chord with audiences, and became the first of their movies that people went crazy for online – the Twitter feeds were filled with Sharknado joy, including many celebrity fans.  Since that was the case – it became much more of an event than their normal fare. 

In Sharknado (tagline: “enough said!” - you can Netflix or Amazon it), Fin Sheppard (yes, his name is Fin) is an ex-surfer running a bar on the beach in L.A.  Global Warming has caused a huge shark swarm, and on top of that – a big-time hurricane. This results in three tornadoes that pick up the sharks and then hit downtown L.A.  The science is sound.  Fin has to rescue his ex-wife April, along with his kids Matt and Claudia with the help of his bartender, Nova – who has a legendary hatred of sharks.  They defeat them by dropping bombs from a helicopter to disrupt the tornados – the science is sound.

The first one was such a hit that the second one was immediately greenlit, and celebrities started clamoring for cameo appearances.  Fin and April have reconciled and are heading to New York for a book signing for the book April wrote (How To Survive A Sharknado – and Other Unnatural Disasters – which is an actual book you can buy).  While there, two sharknadoes come inland and run into one another – causing a giant sharknado that destroys half the city.  This time, Fin’s high school sweetheart helps him by sacrificing herself to freeze the tornado, disrupting the air flow.  The science is sound.  Fin and April decide to get remarried, even though April loses a hand.

The third one begins with a James Bond style opening as Fin is running through Washington D.C.  Apparently, he’s in a hurry to get to the White House where he is about to be given an award by the President.  Once there, a sharknado hits – and chaos ensues.  Fin and April help save the President and the Vice President; then the opening credits roll.  That’s right, this one has a cold open – and it’s fantastic. 

We then learn that Fin and a very pregnant April are taking Claudia (Matt is in the military) to Universal Studios Florida along with April’s mother, May, for a vacation.  Claudia, April and May are already there, and Fin is coming down the coast to meet them.  He runs into a Sharknado near Charleston (of course he does), and there also runs into Nova again – who has partnered with her friend Lucas and are now Sharknado storm chasers (of course they are).  They offer to drive Fin to Orlando, but only make it as far as the military base in Charleston, where Lucas doesn’t make it – but Nova and Fin head down to Orlando in a jet as the sharknado destroys the base. 

Upon their arrival in Orlando, they bail out of the plane, and end up in their underwear in the lake at Universal Studios – just as a massive Sharknado is hitting the park, of course it is.  It has already disrupted a Nascar event by causing a crash and dropping sharks on attendees.  Of course, April and May are in danger, but Claudia is hanging out with a boy she met - Billy.  There’s a whole sequence where a shark ends up on a roller coaster – because why not.  

One also crashes into the Twister effects show, as well as a 3D movie called Shark Wedding – which is called that because of the celebrity who gets eaten in the audience of that movie.  They take refuge inside the Universal Studios Globe, which gets tossed around the park. 

They realize the whole east coast is covered in a “wall of sharknadoes” because of the increasing frequency and size of these storms.  Nova’s friend Lucas had a plan to disrupt the mass storm by using incredible heat.  Fin decides to call his dad, Colonel Gil Sheppard (yes, his name is Gil), because he works for NASA – to launch a shuttle, then use the fuel tanks to create an atmospheric explosion big enough to disrupt the storm.  Gil takes them to a secret NASA base to launch a secret NASA shuttle – he and Fin go up (in the lowest budget space suits you have ever seen), but April comes running out to stop Fin (she has a problem with his hero complex), and a sharknado hits and removes the bridge, so of course, she has to go too, which apparently is fine for really pregnant ladies with one hand. 

They head up to space, drop the fuel tanks to cause the explosion – but it’s not big enough, so – Gil contacts a secret French associate and they head to space laser to fire that back at the storm on earth.  Gil goes out into space to fire the laser – which disrupts the storm - which somehow launches some sharks into space – which then destroy the shuttle.  April gets swallowed whole by a huge space shark so of course Fin dives into said shark.

This shark then falls back to earth, and not only makes it through re-entry – but Fin is able to stick his parachute through it so that they have a gentle enough landing to not die.  

Fin crawls out, and turns back to the shark to look for April (this parallels the end of the first movie where he pulled Nova out of a shark), and April shoves his newborn baby out of the shark before exiting herself.  You heard me right.  She gave birth to their baby in the belly of a giant shark as it fell back to earth from space.  FROM SPACE!  Let me just repeat that sentence, because it’s one you may never hear again.  She gave birth to their baby in the belly of a giant shark as it fell back to earth from space.  I want to say the science is sound – but honestly, that one might be pushing it just a bit.
They reunite with their loved ones who are left over as tons of sharks and space debris fall around them, and just as April appears to about to be killed by falling debris, the screen goes dark, and the audience is invited to tweet either #AprilLives or #AprilDies with the result being part of Sharknado 4.  So the audience gets to choose.  I tweeted #AprilLives, because honestly, if she made it through giving birth to a baby in the belly of a falling shark – there’s no way she should be killed by falling debris.

As with the previous two Sharknado movies, the third entry is written by Thunder Levin (yes, his name is Thunder) and directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, it does feature the same Sharknado theme song, which is very catchy.   It’s absolutely terrible, has the worst special effects – and seems to have no costuming budget at all.  But honestly, all of that works more in its favor than against it.  It’s supposed to be just awful, that’s the point.  Again – this one is filled with tons of cameos, and returning central cast.

  • Once again, the best part of this movie is Ian Ziering as Fin Sheppard.  Ziering plays Sheppard with such over-the-top commitment that he just sets the tone for everything else around him.  He’s so completely into it that you can’t help but get sucked in.  Ziering is well aware that this franchise has made him relevant again and is more than happy to continue chasing fake sharks with chainsaws.  After all, as he says, “This movie is doing something that it doesn’t know it’s not supposed to do”.

  • Tara Reid plays April again – and honestly, she was a little bit better in this one than the others.  She’s still a terrible actress, and looks half asleep most of the time, but at least in this one she seemed to be in on the joke.

  • Cassie Scerbo returns as Nova for this one having sat out the second.  I enjoyed her transformation from shark-hating bartender in the first movie to shark-hating sharknado chaser in this one.  She has a whole outfit and a really geared up RV that she uses.  And she still really hates sharks.

  • Frankie Muniz plays Nova’s friend Lucas – who seems to be in love with her, but she’s still holding a bit of a torch for Fin.  He’s the guy who figures out what they will need to finish off the mega sharknado storm, but unfortunately, he loses a leg, then an arm, then the other arm while trying to help Nova and Fin out.

  • Ryan Newman plays Claudia Sheppard – and this is a completely different actress than in the first movie – which they cover in this one by having multiple people tell her how much they like how she “changed her hair” – which is pretty hilarious.  It’s clearly done tongue-in-cheek style, they know it’s obvious it’s a different girl.  Newman is better than the first one, she’s way more involved, and doesn’t hesitate to pick up a weapon to battle the sharks.

  • David Hasslehoff joins the nonsense as Gil Sheppard.  He’s exactly what you expect, but since most of his scenes are with Ziering, it’s great that he has the same level of over-commitment that Ziering has.  Also – the super-cheesy end of him sacrificing himself to save everyone, then standing alone on the moon (they weren’t really that close to the moon) saluting the earth (as Fin salutes the moon from the earth) is just ridiculous – I laughed out loud at the one.

  • Mark Cuban plays the president.  He also says the line, “they used to call me a shark”. 

  • Bo Derek – who is actually a big time anti-shark finning activist and ocean conservationist, plays April’s mother May.  She spends a lot of time in Universal Studios being over protective, and not liking Fin.

  • Jack Griffo plays Claudia’s new love interest, Billy.  Don’t get too attached to Billy.

  • From that point on, everything else is really cameos, and man, there are almost too many to mention.  Ne-Yo plays a secret service agent, Chris Jericho plays Bruce the Roller Coaster Attendant, Ann Coulter plays the Vice President, Grant Imahara plays Lodge, Bill Engvall, Lou Ferrigno and Rick Fox play Secret Service Agents,  Anthony Weiner plays the NASA director, Tim Russ plays General Gottleib, Jerry Springer, Ray J, Penn and Teller, Brad Keselowski, Kendra Wilinson, Holly Madison, Jackie Collins, Harvey Levin, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) all show up.  There’s actually more than that, but my goodness, it’s just too many to list.  And every single one of them seems to be having an absolute blast.

Listen, it’s complete and total nonsense.  But you knew that going in – that was the point.  I will recommend the podcast How Did This Get Made if you aren’t already listening to it (find it at http://www.EarWolf.com) .  They have done the previous two Sharknado movies and will be releasing an episode on this one.  The acting is terrible, the costuming is laughable, and the effects are some of the worst I have seen.  All that being what it is – the movie is still one of the most enjoyable things you can watch.  Give it a shot, but be sure to turn your brain off at the door – remember, the science is sound.  For anyone who tries to point out otherwise, knunch them (remember, that’s the combined knee and punch that takes some coordination to pull off).

10 out of 10 – Gained points for the cameos – really, gained all the points for the cameos.  Lost points for the space-suits (were those football pads?), but then gained points for the random underwear shot when Fin and Nova ended up in the water (where did their clothes go? That doesn’t even make sense!).

Bonus Video 1:  Sharktopus is my absolute favorite of the SyFy creatures - and this year it's back, and taking on a whalewolf with Casper Van Dien!  

Bonus Video 2: The trailer for Lavalantula, which premieres this Saturday night (7/25/15).

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews

Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man (PG13 – 117 minutes)

Ant-Man first appeared in Marvel Comics “Tales to Astonish” #27 in 1962.  Scientist Hank Pym invented a substance that allowed him to change size, called Pym Particles.  He became a founding member of the Avengers, along with his girlfriend Janet van Dyne - the Wasp.  Pym had a bit of a checkered history, creating Ultron, and developing several mental issues which resulted in him hitting Janet.  After Janet’s presumed death, he stopped being Ant-Man, developing other hero identities while others became Ant-Man.  Scott Lang was a thief who became Ant-Man after stealing the suit to save his daughter Cassie from a heart condition.  Pym allowed Lang to continue using the suit when he gave up his criminal ways.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2007 with Iron Man and has built successfully since then, with very few misses (this means you, Iron Man 2).  Fans had been looking for Ant-man since the first Avengers movie, since Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers.  He is a bit difficult to bring to screen, mainly since Pym was a difficult character, and after all, his power was shrinking to ant size.  Edgar Wright originally was hired to write and direct the movie, but he left after having some difficulties with Disney/Marvel.  Peyton Reed was brought on to replace him as director, and Paul Rudd was hired to star.  Rudd did some re-write work on Wright’s script with Adam McKay, and the result is a tighter, smaller story than we are used to seeing in Marvel movies, but one that is equally as well crafted with a lot of heart and humor. 

The story opens in 1989 as S.H.I.E.L.D. is still constructing the building we see destroyed in Winter Soldier.  Agent Carter, Howard Stark, and Mitchell Carson are hanging out, presumably discussing if they can shorten the acronym, when Hank Pym storms in, angry with them for attempting to use his technology, and smacks Carson’s head into the table after he callously brings up Hank’s wife Janet.  Pym leaves, presumably taking his tech with him.  
We jump to present day and learn that Scott Lang is a thief (a righteous thief) who is being released from San Quentin and picked up by his friend Luis.  He tries to reconnect with his daughter Cassie, but his ex and her new cop fiancée won’t really let him until he gets a job and starts paying child support.  That goes about as well as you would expect for an ex-con, and after getting fired from Baskin-Robbins, he finally agrees to help Luis on a tip he’s gotten for a ‘job’ with his “associates” Dave and Kurt.   An old man is out of town and there’s a fancy safe in his house.  They break in, but the only thing in the safe is the Ant-Man suit – which Lang takes.  He tries it on back at his place, and swiftly shrinks with Pym communicating to him inside the helmet.  That terrifies him and he attempts to return the suit, but gets arrested.  Pym comes to visit him as his ‘lawyer’ and explains that he wants to give him a second chance to be the hero his daughter thinks he already is.

Lang takes the opportunity, and starts training with Pym and his daughter Hope on their plan to break into Pym’s former company.  His protégé, Darren Cross, has finally discovered the secret to the Pym Particle, and is about to sell the tech to some nefarious characters (they turn out to be Hydra).  After learning how to use the suit and communicate with ants, Lang successfully runs a pre-heist to break into what used to be an old Stark storage facility, but is now the new Avengers headquarters, leading to a hilarious encounter/fight with Falcon. 

Meanwhile, Cross starts to go a little crazy, or continues to go crazy, and triples security, so Lang has to bring Luis, Dave, and Kurt into Hank and Hope’s plan, leading to a big final heist to steal Cross’s tech, and destroy his research so that he will not be able to ‘plunge the world into chaos”, as all villains want to do.

Peyton Reed is mainly known for oddball comedies up to this point: Bring It On, The Break-Up, and Yes Man, so I expected this movie to be funny, but I wasn’t sure about the action.  I am pleased to report that the action was exceptional as well.  I do recommend seeing the movie in 3D because of the new “macrophotography” that was used for the shrinking sequences.  It looks amazing.  The fights are all really well done, and Reed does a great job letting his actors have great quiet emotional moments as well as big over-the-top humor moments.

  • Paul Rudd is absolutely a great choice for Scott Lang.  He certainly is not what you would expect for a super hero, and that is actually what works perfectly for Ant-man.  He’s completely relatable, and super charming.  He’s a guy the audience wants to root for.  Yes, the underlying “do-it-for-your-daughter” theme got a little heavy-handed and cheesy, but it felt like it made sense and did make the character more lovable.

  • Michael Douglas is actually a perfect choice for the angsty and aging Hank Pym.  He’s so destroyed by the loss of Janet many years ago that he is very withdrawn and controlling with his own daughter Hope.  He actually does get the opportunity to throw a little humor in there too.

  • Evangeline Lilly plays Hope, and plays her as very cold and calculating, mainly because she’s so angry that her father will not simply let her wear the Ant-Man suit and get things handled.  She’s slow to realize that he’s trying to protect her, but he’s slow to admit why.  She finally starts to warm up to Scott, and she really did a great job in the scene where she finally learns what happened to Janet.

  • I have been telling you for the last year to get on the Corey Stoll bandwagon, so I would hope that by now, you were completely familiar with him.  He’s fantastic as Darren Cross – exceptionally hurt and angry that his mentor Pym chose to abandon him rather than share his greatest invention with him.  He’s got a slick elegance that works great for the super-villan in a movie like this.  Yes, the Yellow Jacket suit was all CG, but it looked amazing.

  • Bobby Cannavale plays the new fiancée to the ex-wife Judy Greer.  He’s constantly after Scott once he’s released, in general making him feel bad about himself until he finally sees what Scott has been up to – and witnessing the final showdown between Ant-man and YellowJacket.

  • One of my biggest complaints with Avengers 2 was not enough Falcon, luckily, there’s some Falcon in this movie and Anthony Mackie once again nails it.  He’s so funny and entertaining, and still completely believable as a badass superhero.  The fight sequence between he and Ant-Man is really well done and amazing to watch – but equally as entertaining is the beginning of that fight, where Lang attempts to introduce himself to Falcon.

  • You’ve heard this, and now I’m going to confirm it – Michael Pena steals this movie as Luis.  He is hilarious, genuine, and a great friend to Scott who is ready to become one of the good guys.  From his very first appearance in the movie when he picks up Scott and tells him that his girl left him, his mom died, and his dad was deported, but at least he got the van!  His exuberance carries all the way through the movie, rubbing off on the audience.

  • David Dastmalchian – who is one of those dudes you’ve seen in everything before but never knew his name – plays Kurt, who has most of his scenes with T.I. as Dave.  They work well together and add to the comedy relief.

  • Hayley Atwell plays Agent Carter again (Hulu season 1 if you missed it because that show is awesome!) along with John Slattery back as Howard Stark.  He played Howard Stark in the videos in Iron Man 2, although Dominic Cooper plays young Howard Stark on Agent Carter.  It was a great callback to see them establishing S.H.I.E.L.D. and worrying about Hank Pym. 
  • Marin Donovan plays Mitchell Carson, who will no doubt pop up again somewhere because he ran off with a vial of Cross’s version of Pym Particles.
  • In a really fun cameo – Garrett Morris shows up as a cab driver – why is that significant?  Well, because of this sketch from a 1975 Saturday Night Live episode where Margot Kidder was the guest host.  Garrett Morris played Ant-Man in his first ever live-action appearance:  http://comicbook.com/2015/07/18/ant-mans-most-overlooked-cameo-ant-man-himself/

I loved this movie! It was a tighter, smaller story than we are used to seeing from the recent MCU movies.  It was fun, it was entertaining, and it has great heart and great action.  The effects were fantastic, and as much as I was unsure about really getting into an Ant-Man movie because his powers are admittedly a little silly – the scenes of him running with the ants were thrilling, especially after his training sequences where we get to learn about the 4 breeds of ants and their special abilities. And yes, I got a little choked up over Antony.  

Yes, parts were a little cheesy, but in the best way.  Having Paul Rudd on hand to both re-write and then interpret the script made all the difference.  This one was almost as enjoyable as Guardians of the Galaxy.  Also – as a quick side note, something that has been a bit of a complaint about the MCU up to date was a notable lack of diversity.  I don’t think that was on purpose, just the characters they had chosen up to this point.  This movie has a pretty diverse cast – not in the leads, but more so than most of the other movies.  It’s certainly a start in the right direction to get us more female and minority characters in the MCU.  As Hope says at the end of the movie, (stay through all the credits by the way) “It’s about damn time.”

10 out of 10 – I liked it better than Avengers 2.  Gained points for Antony – so cute!  Lost points for losing Antony, but you knew that was coming as soon as Scott gave him a name.  Gained points for Hope being awesome, gained points for Kurt and Dave being less than helpful, and gained all the rest of the points for Luis’s recollection way of telling Scott what is happening.  Absolutely fantastic!

Bonus Video 1:  Again – if you want to know more about Ant-Man, Netflix the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes show – it’s great, and they really give both Hank and Janet their due.

Bonus Video 2:  Some Paul Rudd Tim and Eric Show nonsense - and I mean NONSENSE.

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews: