Tag Archives: Movies

Review: Max

i4IjUStThis is film is yet another which divulges you into the feeling of nostalgia! Back in 80s and 90s, family film starring animals such as chimps & dogs as best friends with the star of the film being probably the most popular ones! With the change in decade & film making style, this is one genre of family films which were unfortunately (in most cases fortunately) pushed into the section of direct to DVD movies or TV specials (especially the holiday ones). But still who can forget films such as 101 Dalmatians (1996) or the Air Bud series or Marley & Me (2008) or Turner & Hooch (1989), OK I am just kidding about the last one!  This film is an old-fashioned action-adventure, very much in the tradition of earlier canine movie stars. There are clear-cut good guy and bad guy characters. Right and wrong are well-defined and values like loyalty and self-sacrifice are front and center. There is danger (shown with impressive cinematography) and even death, but no blood – and no swearing or sexuality. This is family-friendly fare at its finest, well almost.

MAX - 2015 FILM STILL - Pictured: ROBBIE AMELL as Kyle Wincott with MAX - Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures   © 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

This inspirational story won’t only make you explore your feelings in a refreshing way, it will also teach you about important life lessons along the way. The power of truth, honesty and the importance of opening your heart to those around you –to both humans and animals.- As you watch the growth of the main character in Max you will also feel yourself growing alongside of him. The story follows Max (played by a dog named Carlos, who previously appeared in Project Almanac), a Belgian Malinois (a type of Belgian Shepherd) who is employed as a military working dog, sniffing out weapons, explosives and other kinds of trouble for U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. When his handler, Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), is killed, Max accompanies the body back to the U.S. and is even brought to Kyle’s funeral. The dog formed such a strong bond with Kyle and was so traumatized by combat that he won’t obey anyone else. But Max is relatively calm around Kyle’s teenage brother, Justin (Josh Wiggins), so Justin’s parents, Ray (Thomas Hayden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham) decide to adopt the dog. Like it or not (mostly not), Justin is put in charge of taking care of Max. Justin learns a few tricks from a girl named Carmen (Mia Xitlali), the cousin of his best friend, Chuy (Dejon LaQuake), and in a very short time, Max is off leash and following Justin and his friends as they daringly ride their bikes through the woods near their homes. Max seems to be warming up to everyone except Tyler Harne (Luke Kleintank), a boyhood friend of Kyle’s and fellow Marine who was since returned from Afghanistan. Whenever Max sees Tyler, he wants to attack. Carmen tells Justin that dogs are usually good judges of character. Justin also senses that there is something not right about Tyler, even as Ray hires Tyler to work for him. Justin approaches another Marine dog handler (Jay Hernandez) for information about Tyler and does some deep forest reconnaissance of his own, with Max in tow.

I don’t want to reveal too much, so I’ll just say that Justin’s and Max’s instincts about Tyler are not wrong and what they discover in those woods jeopardizes their safety and that of their family and friends. The film starts off as a war drama & then quickly changes into the family drama part. Although most parts of the movie are indeed dramatizations, it can nicely recreate scenes inspired by real-life events.

max-1The scene where Max sits by Kyle’s coffin draped with the flag is among the most emotional scenes I have seen in a while. The most beautiful thing about this movie is how remarkably well the actors did at making this film bring out the raw truth and ‘real life’ events displayed throughout this movie. Carlos (real life Belgian Malinois in the film) did an absolutely amazing job at bringing to life the character of Max and making everyone fall in love with this true hero. I have seen some good dog films before but by far this canine outdid every other dog ‘actor’ I have seen. Sure the film has its own faults, mainly when the film unnecessarily tries to circumvent to get the audience to feel something grand and, in doing so, undermines the inherent emotional value of this story at hand. I get its tough being from an army family. The first half of the movie is pretty slow. Some of the dialog is not just old-fashioned, it distractedly lacks freshness and even a little silly. Yet thanks to the good flow of its central characters the film manages to work. First and foremost, Josh Wiggins handles Justin’s character perfectly, with his believable teenage stubbornness, his character is most believable. Thomas Haden Church gives a strong performance of the kind of father who’s experiences in the Marines defined him as a person so much so that he can’t understand why anybody else wouldn’t think or act like him. Church has it all in his look and tone of voice, summoning fright in anyone who dares question his authority. Robbie Amell is likable in a small role. Luke Kleintank, Lauren Graham, Mia Xitlali, Dejon LaQuake & Jay Hernandez do a good job.

On the whole, Max, is something I really wasn’t expecting, with all the right components to make families smile, laugh, tear up, and applaud, this film is destined to be a crowd pleaser! On a technical level, sure it’s a mess, maybe they could have worked with a better story line, but nonetheless you have to admit the characters & the lead dog more than make up for the negatives. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 7.2

Director – Boaz Yakin
Starring – Thomas Haden Church, Josh Wiggins, Luke Kleintank
Rated – PG
Run Time – 111 minutes

Movie Review: Before We Go

before we goChris Evans has been around for sometime, acting mostly as comedic goof ball or a charming play boy in most of the movies he has done. Well of course, Hollywood usually doesn’t take pretty boys seriously hence the familiar roles. In my opinion, it wasn’t until he donned himself as a symbol of patriotism in Marvel’s superhero entry Captain America: First Avenger (followed by Avengers, Winter Soldier and the Avengers sequel) and Korean director Joon-ho Bong English language debut Snowpiercer, a brilliant futuristic thriller, people noticed something. But frankly their has always been something like-able about him, you gotta admit, eve though he has starred in some horrid romantic comedies, he was probably the best part of them. It doesn’t come as a surprise, like many of his fellow actors, its time he gets on the directors chair. Especially as it seemed that he was getting pegged as either the hero, fanciable guy or main character who’s point of view determines the story arc like in most of his filmography. So how is Evans as a director? Pretty good actually! Yes! the story may remind people of Before Sunrise, but it takes a slightly different road. It has an interesting and delicate perspective on love, loss & making choices based on profound love and not just lust.

5b094f8fb6b5e25717a88467c9a630e3c7940f58The story follows Nick Vaughan (Chris Evans), a Bostonian trumpet player who is due to go to an interview for the job of his dreams the next morning, & instead of staying in his room resting or practicing, he decides to hang out at the grand central station playing for the crowd & admiring the people. Its here where he meets Brooke Dalton (Alice Eve), an art enthusiast & buyer who misses her last train to her home in Boston. Above all, she has been robbed of her bag & is left with only a ticket for the train which leaves next at 5:30 am. Forced to leave station after it closes, Nick offers his help to make sure she reaches her home in Boston before Brooke’s husband lands in Atlanta. From there, Nick and Brooke spend the next four hours trying to get Brooke back to Boston, then helping each other with their real concerns. The best part of the story, probably the most unusual fact in terms of how Rom Coms usually play out rather banal because the man ends up convincing the woman to drop everything and be in a relationship. This time though, Nick and Brooke start as strangers and end up as connected somehow through their shared experiences.

The movie is not the kind of romance that shows to have a marriage of happily forever after, but instead it shows the deepest life moments in such a few hours. It brought in a realistic message on how one can actually love more than one person in this world. It is funny, thoughtful (but not over dramatized), clever and sensitive at the same time. Finally a film where love, a man and a woman and the relationship between them is treated with respect, gentleness and is elevating, and refreshing instead of getting all mushy from the moment they meet. Its really amazing to know how the film took just 19 days to shoot! Chris Evans‘s directorial debut is completely changing the pace as he shifts away from his action-oriented career as Captain America for something more intimate and personal. And he has not a single problem capturing the drama from a performance point of view. Evans has a certain charm to him that feels welcoming and warm and exactly like the guy that you’d want to wonder around New York City with.

tumblr_n9he0uxlBg1rvecl6o1_1280He’s the best kind of company and his character Nick is essentially an extension of that idea and it works well. Alice Eve comes with a little more baggage, but both seem to be the perfect match as they unravel their lives over the course of one interesting evening. It’s fun watching Evans and Eve go back and forth, constantly bringing up topics of discussion that stretch far past normal standards of conversation. They’re not afraid to get up close and personal and that sort of energy feels authentic enough to give the film some good graces. Even though I have only seen the 1st installment of Richard Linklater‘s Before trilogy, I do understand what the reviews are complaining about! Mainly as that film established a similar theme and is still fresh in the mind of the views even though it came out two decades ago! Plus it feels the film constantly feels the need to remind us why these two characters are still associating with each other — be it a stolen purse, lack of cash or credit card funds or the fact that neither of them seem to know many people in NYC that can help them get where they need to be. And that’s a big killer for the film, because it makes everything feel like an obligation for the story to move forward and less like an organic story coming to life as the night takes over.

Still, as a filmmaker Chris Evans manages to keep the story feeling engaging enough to not be considered a complete waste of time thanks to Evans as an actor and his gorgeous costar Alice Eve. On the whole, Before We Go‘, is fine debut for Chris Evans on the director chairs. With a simple vision to warrant a story, he has made a film which captures hearts. Plus the film highlights how Evans and Eve’s can star in action vehicles, but also steal the show on a much smaller scale. Give it a watch!

Overall Rating: 7.8

Director – Chris Evans
Starring – Chris Evans, Alice Eve, Maria Breyman
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 89 minutes

Review: Justice League: Gods and Monsters

Justice-League-Gods-and-Monsters-2015-movie-posterAnimation legend Bruce Timm returns to the popular DC Universe Original Movies with his unique new vision of a Justice League you’ve never seen before. Justice League: Gods & Monsters features a Superman born of General Zod’s blood, a Batman with a healthy dose of bat in the man, and a Wonder Woman rising from the ranks of the New Gods. This ain’t your daddy’s Justice League. They are as likely the world’s saviors as Earth’s despotic rulers. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League — and into a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law?

This newest animated movie based on DC Comic characters is a fascinating one in that it really puts a lot of interesting new takes on characters, and while it goes far in some points, it also doesn’t go far enough and explore others. The concept of a Superman not only of Zod’s blood, but raised by immigrant parents is potentially amazing, and worthy of a film all to itself. However to socio and political impact of such a change is only handled by a few sentences or some words in Spanish.

jlgm-group06jpg-806cceChanges for Wonder Woman and Batman too are interesting, and while they get a bit more of a focus on their past, more so than Superman, that is more to really show us what is different in their origin, or provide the reasoning behind something that matters in the film.

The movie reminds me of the classic DC Elseworlds line of comics, spinning out different versions of characters we know. The movie is entertaining, it’s also not super deep other than different versions of characters we know. The murder mystery story is interesting, and gives us a threat that isn’t just another super villain to punch.

The voice acting is solid, I liked the cast, featuring Michael C. Hall as Batman, Benjamin Bratt as Superman, Tamara Taylor as Wonder Woman, and many more who you’d recognize. It’s rare that I’ve had issues with Warner Bros.’ voice casting for their films, and this is no exception there.

I think overall, the movie screams potential for me. There’s tons here to mine and dive deeper in to, I want to see more of it. What we get is very entertaining, but shallow in some ways. I will say, the spin on classic characters, with so many nods for long time fans, will keep DC Comic fans entertained throughout.

Overall rating: 8

Warner Bros./DC Comics provided a FREE copy for review

2015 Japan Film Fest of San Francisco Adds 16 Films

JFFSF15-LOGO-MAINThe 2015 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (JFFSF), the first and only fully-dedicated Japanese film celebration for the S.F. Bay Area, has just announced 16 additional films that will screen as part of this year’s program.

Presenting a diverse array of current and acclaimed Japanese cinema, this year’s slate features a number of notable Japanese films across a variety of genres such as action, anime sci-fi, documentary, short film, historical drama, crime drama, coming-of-age, and romantic mystery. The just-announced films augment an extensive roster of titles already announced to run during the weekend of the 2015 J-POP Summit, taking place at Fort Mason on Saturday and Sunday August 8th and 9th

The 2015 Japan Film Festival of San Francisco opens in conjunction with the 2015 J-POP Summit on Friday, August 7th at the Castro Theatre, and runs thru Sunday, August 16th at New People Cinema located inside the NEW PEOPLE entertainment complex in Japantown at 1746 Post St., San Francisco, CA 94115. Tickets to individual screenings are $13.00 each, unless otherwise noted.

The latest announced films will run at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema beginning the week of Monday August 10th with screenings continuing until Sunday, August 16th.

THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS

Monday, August 10th, 7:00pm

Granted near-unrestricted access to the notoriously isolated Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli – the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential “other director,” Isao Takahata – over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

 

HARAJUKU DENIER

Monday, August 10th, 9:20pm

This film unfolds in Harajuku, the melting pot of Tokyo and the epicenter of many popular sub-cultures. The lives of many young and dream-filled eccentrics, teenyboppers, narcissists, tourists, and workers from various countries – cutting-edge filmmaker Shuta Tanaka humorously captures the amalgamation of cultures found in today’s Harajuku in an ensemble cast comedy.

 

LITTLE FOREST – SUMMER & AUTUMN

Tuesday, August 11th, 7:00pm

Here comes the farm-to-table film for foodies! Little Forest, Summer Autumn is a beautiful adaptation of the popular comic by Daisuke Igarashi about a young woman’s self-discovery through farming, cooking, and eating to live through the changing seasons. Ichiko moves back from the city to the tiny village in Northeastern Japan where she grew up and starts living a sustainable lifestyle that she learned from her mother.

 

THE WIND RISES

Tuesday, August 11th, 9:15pm

Hayao Miyazaki pays tribute to engineer Jiro Horikoshi and author Tatsuo Hori in his creation of the fictional character Jiro – the center of the epic tale of love, perseverance, and the challenges of living and making choices in a turbulent world. Inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni – Jiro dreams of flying and designing beautiful airplanes and grows to become one of the world’s most accomplished airplane designers.

 

UZUMASA LIMELIGHT

Wednesday, August 12th, 7:00pm

A nostalgic portrait of kirare-yaku – an actor whose forte is being “cut to death” with a sword in samurai films, Uzumasa Limelight goes behind the scenes of the distinctive film genre. A professional extra named Kamiyama (played by real-life kirare-yaku Seizo Fukumoto) has devoted 50 years of his life as a kirare-yaku. When the studio decides to discontinue its productions, he finds himself at a loss. Will the art of dying by the sword live on?

 

WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE

Wednesday, August 12th, 9:00pm

The newest feature from Japan’s famed Studio Ghibli is a sweeping story of friendship, mystery and discovery that delivers breathtaking animation that only Ghibli can bring to life. When shy and artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and a mysterious young girl named Marnie. The two girls instantly form a unique connection that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.

 

THE CASE OF HANA AND ALICE

Thursday, August 13th, 7:00pm

Directed by multi-faceted filmmaker Shunji Iwai, The Case of Hana & Alice follows Tetsuko Arisugawa (a.k.a. Alice), a transfer student at Ishinomori Middle School. She hears a strange rumor about a murder case in school. Meanwhile, Alice’s classmate Hana is said to know something about the case… Was Judas really murdered? Hana and Alice embark on an adventure to solve the mystery of the “smallest murder in the world.”

 

HAVE A SONG ON YOUR LIPS

Thursday, August 13th, 9:00pm

This touching school drama unfolds around Yuri Kashiwagi, a former piano prodigy, who returns to her hometown to work as a temporary music teacher and supervise the chorus members at the local middle school. While practicing for the regional contest, chorus members get an assignment from Yuri to write a letter to themselves in 15 years. Facing their personal issues, Yuri and her students begin to find their own voices.

 

OUR FAMILY

Friday, August 14th, 7:00pm

From Yuya Ishii, the award-winning director of The Great Passage, comes this honest adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel about a family that pulls together to fight a terminal illness will resonate close to the heart. Reiko’s daydreams and forgetfulness were not concerning to her broken family until a trip to the doctor reveals that she has brain cancer. With Reiko given only one week left to live, how will this dysfunctional family keep from falling apart?

 

KABUKICHO LOVE HOTEL

Friday, August 14th, 9:20pm

Directed by Ryuichi Hiroki, one of Japan’s leading directors in the erotic fantasy genre known as pinku (pink films), Kabukicho Love Hotel is an erotically charged drama that traces the intersecting stories of a group of employees and visitors at a notorious “Love Hotel” (a type of short-stay hotel in Japan used primarily for sexual activities) in Tokyo’s red-light district- from a sexless young couple with broken dreams to a middle-aged couple on the run.

 

100 YEN LOVE

Saturday, August 15th, 12:00pm

32-year-old slacker Ichiko lives with her parents until a fight with her disapproving sister escalates, prompting her to move out and start working at a local 100-yen shop. One day she meets boxer Yuji, whom she has seen passing by on his way home and becomes attracted to him. After her life takes more unexpected and unwanted turns, she takes up boxing herself and attempts to change her ways.

 

TOKYO SHORT SHORTS 2015: A New Generation of 5 Short Films

Saturday, August 15th, 2:30pm

Co-presented by Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia. By popular demand, JFFSF teams up again with the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia to present the exclusive SF premiere of five outstanding short films directed by several up-and-coming filmmakers from Japan! Enjoy a colorful mix of comedy and drama that reflect life in Japan with a delicate and witty touch.

 

THE BIRTH OF SAKÉ

Saturday, August 15th, 4:30pm & Sunday August 16th, 12:00pm – Director Erik Shirai will attend both screenings followed by Q&A sessions

The Birth of Saké is a cinematic documentary that reveals the story of passionate saké-makers and what it takes to make world-class saké at Yoshida Brewery, a 144-year-old family-owned small brewery in Northern Japan. Director Erik Shirai and producer Masako Tsumura were granted unprecedented full access to film at the brewery and capture the intense and relatively unknown process (even within in Japan), of traditional saké making.

 

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA

Saturday, August 15th, 7:00pm

This Academy Award nominated film is legendary Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata’s (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko) rendition of Japan’s most famous folktale, that has been decades in the making. Found inside a shining stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter, a tiny baby girl grows rapidly into an exquisite young lady. The mysterious young princess enthralls all who encounter her – but ultimately she must confront her fate, the punishment for her crime.

 

INITIATION LOVE

Sunday August 16th, 2:30pm

Co-starring ex-AKB star Atsuko Maeda and Shota Matsuda, this romantic mystery is based on the bestselling novel by Kurumi Inui. In the late 1980s, a college student in Shizuoka Prefecture named Suzuki begins a romance with a dental hygienist named Mayu. However, when Suzuki moves to Tokyo for his job and the two are forced into a long-distance relationship, their relationship starts to fall apart as Suzuki begins spending time with another woman named Miyako.

 

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Sunday August 16th, 5:00pm

Co-presented by the Legacy Film Festival on Aging. Director Momoko Ando takes on the big subjects of Japan’s historical, social and emotional psyche with her second feature epic. Based on the director’s own novel and starring her sister Sakura Ando in the leading role of Sawa, an oddly determined caregiver for the elderly, the film is a lengthy yet magnetic road movie that brilliantly captures Sawa’s unexpected encounters and unique relationships with the elderly.

Review: Trainwreck

trainwreck0Amy Schumer is an important comic pop culture icon thanks to her often intelligent, subversive satire on gender politics and her inherent existence as an empowered female public figure. With Trainwreck, a movie she wrote and stars in, Schumer makes a consequential dive in her career into not just film acting but also into screenwriting. There is a clear attempt to bring a feminist mentality draped in the familiar sleaze that director Judd Apatow has made a staple of modern comedies and it occasionally shines through, but not without some clawing and gasping for air required to brave the unfortunate misogyny and homophobia that ends up ultimately defining the movie more than anything else. Trainwreck is a well-acted movie with some hilarious bits, but as a whole it’s a massively disappointing movie that embraces the kind of straight male thought process it appears on the surface to reject.

Schumer’s main character, naturally named Amy, is not the playful kind of sexually promiscuous woman that modern feminism champions, but the “whore” boogieman that patriarchy loves to demonize. It’s admirable to have a female character that is portrayed as a more average, conflicted character rather than a lazy, feel-good role-model, but that foundation isn’t built upon in any compelling way. Instead, the cheating, aimless woman who jumps from man to man is just a foundation for an aggravating redemption arc, in which the apparent harlot becomes a civilized member of society who strives for a monogamous relationship and perhaps two-and-a-half kids.

What’s so problematic about this is that the movie never even attempts to demonstrate that Amy actually desires monogamy over the casual sex her character shows throughout the vast majority of the movie to love. Sure, it’s apparent that the repeated personal failures of cheating and the drunken, confused mornings in strange beds distresses her, but to say that those two things accurately sum up a sexual lifestyle focused on casual sex is ludicrous and insulting to people who decide monogamy isn’t for them and that sex is an activity sought out for no-strings fun. And that is exactly what the movie preaches, when it gives us a redemption arc about a woman who loves casual sex and doesn’t understand the appeal of monogamous relationships realizes she is broken, something the character says in her own words actually, whenever she accepts society’s obsession with monogamy despite growing reason to be skeptical of such an obsession. trainwreck2

The movie’s entire selection of female characters really is sad, too. There’s a lot of woman poked fun at for being too prudish, there’s a few other women that pose as straw-men for women who love casual sex actually being serial harassers and creeps, there’s a woman in charge of a sex-focused lifestyle magazine who is morally monstrous and cartoonishly blind to the sexism she promotes, and so on and so forth.

Trainwreck is a romantic comedy and the obligatory love interest is Bill Hader’s Aaron, a conflicting character. On one hand, Hader does a wonderful job of portraying a charming and lovely man and has great chemistry with Schumer. Scenes that eschew dialogue for simple moments of kissing and touching are beautifully done. However, Aaron’s character falls pretty squarely into the “nice guy” archetype; you know, the kind of guy Men’s Rights Activists love championing in the face of those blasted, cheating whores who usually go for those handsome assholes. As a whole, the relationship between the two never justifies itself logistically either, the movie never showing evidence to support either of them liking each other to such the strong extent that they do.

Aaron, who is a doctor for famous professional athletes, has a friend in LeBron James, whose character is easily the most consistently feminist part of the movie. He shows genuine, cute concern for his friend Aaron’s pursuit of a woman, not getting tripped up on inappropriate sexual objectification through uncomfortable guy-talk and convincing Amy to pursue Aaron seriously when he could easily slide in for a hook-up. trainwreck3

And listen, the movie really does manage to be funny pretty often. There are lots of great little bits, like when a bunch of men have really hilariously barbaric yet realistic conversations about sports stars. There’s an entire movie-within-the-movie toward the beginning, when Amy goes on a movie date, and it is hysterical but wholly unrelated to the rest of the movie. There’s good drama too, with a sweet father-daughter relationship between Amy and her dad that culminates into a particularly sad and brilliantly-written speech.

It’s just not enough to counter-balance the much more focal portions of the movie that are so problematic. There’s a consistent streak of homophobia in the movie, from subtle to incredibly, horribly uncomfortable. The movie pokes fun at John Cena’s masculinity in a role he plays early in the movie, but it quickly devolves into lazy and unfunny exaggeration that portrays him as almost certainly gay rather than simply less masculine that he’d like to think he is. What’s much worse is a scene almost at the end of the movie in which Amy attempts to sleep with a stereotypically gay but actually straight or bisexual boy played by Ezra Miller, a gay actor defined by his moving role as a gay teen who faces horrible adversity in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

The scene ruthlessly mocks him for enjoying to be submissive in the bedroom through acts that will come off as extremely mundane for any sexually-active gay or bisexual man in the audience. It ends with a sequence of events that embodies the “trainwreck” descriptor more than anything else in the movie, when the movie mocks him again with an out-of-character decision to hit Amy across the face without any kind of consent, prompting her to violently punch him in the face, sending him literally crying to his mother as Amy learns he is 16 and faces no legal repercussion and no extra challenges to face in the movie; in fact, her getting fired at the magazine she worked at seems to have empowered her to take on better career opportunities.

trainwreck1 I don’t want to sound hyperbolic when I said that the scene gave me a physically discomforting feeling in my stomach and made me want to leave the theater. What makes this scene so much worse is keeping in mind a previous moment in the movie whenever Amy combats another character who says that she doesn’t know how to tell her kids about gay people by muttering, “you can just tell them they’re people,” or something similar. Trainwreck is an excellent example of homophobia hidden behind disingenuous Hollywood liberalism.

At the point of that disturbing scene, the movie truly lost me, but the rest of the movie was still poor. You see, there was a moment earlier in the movie whenever Amy shows a strongly-worded distaste for cheerleaders, saying that they will lose women the right to vote. It’s perhaps the only opinion on gender politics the character expresses the entire time, but she throws it away to perform as a cheerleader for Aaron in a big, aggrandized apology over a fight that seemed to require compromise from both of them in the first place. It’s an ending I’m glad was rushed, because I wanted the whole thing to end.

I laughed during Trainwreck, and am impressed by the performances, more than a few jokes, some of the drama and a character moment here and there. Unfortunately, what stuck with me much more was the movie’s backwards messaging that proves sexist, with some thoroughly troubling homophobia along the way. For a movie with so many filthy, raunchy jokes, it’s hard to think of a movie in recent memory more antagonistic towards sexually-free liberation.

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Review: Terminator Genisys

Terminator-bannerLet me get this out first – I am a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan! His corny lines, his bad ass yet hilarious attitude is something which I have always enjoyed, mainly because despite his acting capabilities, he is an original movie star! Which have become a rarity now days. While his return to movies after hiatus have not been welcomed at the box office, be it highly entertaining The Last Stand (2013) or the very well made Escape Plan (2013), his movies have been fairly good (except for 2014’s Sabotage, that film is really disappointing). As a result being a fan of aging movie star & a fan of the Terminator franchise, I had to check this film out despite its mixed reviews (and failure at the U.S Box office).

I guess anyone would agree, Terminator 2 (1991) is one of the best action films ever made! While the first installment (released in 1984) was a decent watch, I believe it was the third unnecessary cash grab film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) which killed the franchise. While many believe (and really hate) Terminator Salvation (2009), I kinda enjoyed the film! Sure it has no Arnold (well the CGI version doesn’t count), but at least the film tried to go in another direction, unlike T3 which tried to rehash T2 sans James Cameron in the worst way possible! While no one of us (the fans) asked for another installment (apparently a new trilogy), Arnold is back and like he says ‘Old but not obsolete’. After watching this film, I have to agree with James Cameron, this truly is the sequel the franchise deserved! Its great to see how they brought back some of the nostalgia and the emotional content which made T2 so awesome!

This reboot/sequel takes place after a cataclysmic global disaster known as Judgment Day, when most of humanity has been wiped out by a rogue software known as Skynet. Hence leading to the Machine vs Humans war. By 2029, the bunch of survivors known as the Resistance led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), have been actively fighting Skynet for many years. However, Skynet comes up with a plan to safeguard its existence. Sending a Terminator back in time to 1984 (the plot of the 1st film), to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) to prevent John from ever being born. John sends his most faithful ally Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), back in time to protect Sarah at any cost.

TerminatorGenisysHowever, the situation in 1984 is nothing like John described it! Sarah Connor is not clueless waitress, but a gun trotting action heroine protected by Guardian aka Pops aka model T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Even the T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) from T2 is present here and trying to kill them. Due to the change in the original timeline (of the original films) Kyle ends up receiving new memories of his childhood with his parents and a message from his younger self: ‘Genisys is Skynet’! As a result Sarah and Kyle must travel to 2017 to prevent (with T-800 waiting for them there) the launch of new application named Genisys (of course) which is about to sync into every communication device in a matter of hours.

Now, if you’ve seen the Star Trek reboot, you’ll know about ‘alternate timelines.’  The film borrows from this and uses time travel as a way of explaining changing the original story and starting again (without alienating the numerous die-hard fans of the original – like me). This film is the Terminator movie all true fans have been waiting for. It pays homage to the original two movies in many ways, including film style and including movie specific clips (for example, Kyle Reese’s behavior to choosing clothes in the clothing store from the first Terminator). I think some of the rehash makes the film seem more fitted, into the Terminator universe! The film also works to eliminate the crap story lines introduced by the third.

The film may only be PG-13, but it has enough action in it to keep any action movie guy happy. It’s plot centers around returning back in time to undo the existing time line from the previous movies. An issue many people have complained about starts from the idea that the characters are able to remember facts about a future time line that no longer exists. With the time-paradox, there are no defined characteristics that effectively prove that existing matter cannot retain information that was otherwise deleted due to time travel. Hence, there is no science, yet, to prove that a time traveler that experiences a change in the past cannot remember the original time line while time traveling. I hope future science can validate or invalidate this, however since this does not exist we cannot apply theories of how this should work as fact.

I will say this though. There are a lot of nods, references, and direct connections to Cameron‘s originals here. You will recognize plenty of stuff. Some big, some smaller. Sound effects, visual effects, director Alan Taylor has made a film very true to Cameron‘s vision. Very nice. And the theme song! Love it! And, if you’ve got really good eyesight – try and spot the one second cameo from the former T-1000 Robert Patrick. Blink and you’ll miss him!

Left to right: Jason Clarke plays John Connor and Jai Courtney plays Kyle Reese in TERMINATOR GENISYS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Despite all the nostalgia, I must say I understand why some (or should I say most) are throwing hate around this film. While most of the nostalgia is fun to watch, it may get repetitive at times! How many times do they have to repeat lines from the previous films? Sarah Conner says: “Come with me if you want to live” Really? Again? Really? Come on, having that as an obligatory line in each movie is actually annoying. “I’ll be back” is just like an obligatory oh, we’ll just squeeze that in there, the audience will love that! Nope, not really, see in the first Terminator that had impact! Like the impact of a car coming through the wall! This is there just for the sake of it. Yes! It lacks the serious tone, and atmosphere of the original, and T2, but this is fundamentally a film for the fans, written by fans. The first two films aren’t coming back, but if we can accept it, we can enjoy this weird trip of expecting more from the franchise. People actually cared this time, and it shows. The acting is clunky but good enough that you feel more and more comfortable with it as the action unwinds until you can simply enjoy the ride. Arnold Schwarzenegger is & will always be the terminator, despite looking old & worn out, this film shows how he still has some action left in him. Even though at times it sad to see him play second fiddle to Jai Courtney. Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke was fantastic! Although I found her a bit physically too small to come across as ‘bad-ass’ as Linda Hamilton played her. J.K. Simmons is likable in a small role. Jason Clarke did a spectacular job. And of course we have Jai Courtney, a Spactacus alumni, who has suddenly started landing up roles in big budget films out of now where (dude I need to get in touch with your agent) with limited acting capabilities and no charm. Even though he seems more comfortable & in control this time around, he is no Michael Biehn. In Terminator Salvation Reece was already recast as Ashton Yelchin – who did a damn sight better job with the role. Jai Courtney really is the film’s ‘weak link.’ Matt Smith is wasted!

On the whole, despite its flaws Terminator Genisys is a film made to cater to the Terminator fans. Sure it has its own sequences and confusing plot points, but does it make the film less enjoyable? No! Terminator Genisys was exactly what it needed to be. A stand alone Terminator film that told a different take of the story that was in the original Terminator. Genisys is, suppose to be, the beginning of a new trilogy. The first three films were great movies that tied up the story of the time before the war in a neat bow. Genisys now begins a new era into what is a great franchise as a whole. We have gotten through the first movies’ stories and can now begin new ones that will tell their own tales. He is back!

Overall Rating: 7.2

Director – Alan Taylor
Starring – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 126 minutes

New X-Men: Apocalypse Photos

More official photos are being released for next year’s X-Men: Apocalypse. Check out a better look at some of the new characters and actors in the role of some classic characters.

Review: Pixels

pixels_movie_poster_wallpaper_hd Like I had mentioned in my earlier review about Arnold Schwarzenegger being a star, the same goes for once upon a time ago A Lister Adam Sandler, but unlike other failing stars (well comparatively) Adam Sandler is at most blame here as he mainly produces and co-writes almost every film he does! Films such as Jack & Jill, That’s My Boy and Grown Ups have no reason to exist other than to prove a point how this once awesome comedian has gone down, well except for Blended which I feel was unfairly rejected! Now talking about this film, which is based on a brilliant conceptual short film by Patrick Jean, seems like the perfect film for redemption as we get to see Adam Sandler the actor after a long time!

If you are an eighties or a nineties kid you have definitely grown up playing Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Centipede and other arcade games, until consoles such as Play Station came into picture. Seriously what would you do, if beloved characters from your favorites games come to life & are out to kill you! I know scary but wouldn’t that be awesome too? Luckily for us director Chris Columbus has turned this idea into a really light hearted CGI filled humorous film. Sure the jokes are not “laugh your heart out funny,” it does miss its mark quite often, but but not enough for the film to not be good.

The story follows best buds Sam Brenner and Will Cooper, while Sam proves to be a prodigy of the joystick and ball roller. Will, not so much, though he does seem to be quite adept at “The Claw,” a skill that will come in handy a few years down the road. Sam’s talents take them to a video game competition where they pick up a new bud, conspiracy-theorist-in-the-making Ludlow Lamonsoff, as well as a new nemesis, Eddie ‘The Fire Blaster’ Plant, a fellow gamer whose skills at the uprights are only surpassed by his extreme narcissism. The The entire video game competition was videotaped. The videotape, as announced by the emcee, will be sent into space by NASA in a capsule to alert possible alien life to our existence and culture. Many years later, Sam (Adam Sandler) has grown up to be divorced and installing home entertainment systems. While Will (Kevin James) is the President of the USA! A bit of a goofy one, but President nonetheless. While on a call, he meets Violet (Michelle Monaghan), a single mother whose marriage has recently fallen apart. In a funny and touching moment, the two find in each other a kindred spirit, though one of them wants to be a bit more kindred than the other. Before things can get too romantic or embarrassing (which will it be?) Sam receives a call from his old friend Will who tells him to get to The White House ASAP.

pixels-adam-sandler-peter-dinklageUpon his arrival, Will tells Sam that Guam was attacked by a powerful, unknown force. The attack was picked up by satellite and bears a strong resemblance to a game they enjoyed in their younger days. What follows is a series of events leading up to the realization that the videotape of the competition was, in fact, found by aliens and they misinterpreted it as a declaration of war. As the extraterrestrial onslaught begins, with the invaders taking on the guise of classic video game characters, Sam must step up and become the man he should have been, using his antiquated gamer talents to save the world. Along for the ride are Will, Violet, the recently resurfaced Ludlow (Josh Gad) who is more paranoid and manic than ever before, and old enemy Eddie (Peter Dinklage) who hasn’t changed a bit in the thirty-odd years since their last meeting.

I gotta admit, I didn’t have the highest of hopes walking into this. I figured there was going to be a lot of mugging for the camera, funny voices, and pratfalls all mixed together in a sea of CGI. But boy was I surprised! The amount of nostalgia watching this characters come to life is immeasurable! The film overall has this great 80’s feel to it. It shot like an 80’s film and has the story of an 80’s film would have. Even has the classic 80’s score. Which all makes sense given the what the film is about. Thinking back on it, it’s basically Ghostbusters with aliens filling in for the ghosts, right down to Donkey Kong taking over for the Marshmallow Man. But for what this film lacks in originality, it more than makes up for it in heart and humor. There are moments between characters that are truly touching, and they are not being shoved down your throat. They come across more in words than in actions, in simple scenes where there is not much more going on than just two people sitting across from one another having a chat.

Some of my favorites involve exchanges between Sam and Violet’s young son Matty (Matt Linz) as they bridge the generation gap between them through their mutual love of video games. This kid isn’t annoying or mean to our hero who so often pops up in these kinds of movies. He’s smart and soft-spoken, and I really enjoyed the bond that develops between him and the guy who has eyes for his mom. The same goes for Sandler and Kevin James. It should come as no surprise that they are friends in real life as there is an ease and naturalness to their interactions that really comes across here. They are truly best buds, even when they are taking the piss out of one another.

Like I mentioned before, Adam Sandler has been on a downward spiral for some time now, but here he is really impressive! Instead of being the guy who passes on cringe worthy insults or just being obnoxious, he is more reserved & calm while keep it low & hilarious on the gags. Kevin James (who is usually annoying as hell) pulls off the President like no other! Other than playing on his usual fat jokes, his funnier moments appear in more real life circumstances.

2848306-pixels_movie4Michelle Monaghan isn’t just some pretty face waiting in the wings to embrace the conquering hero. She’s a tough cookie herself, and plays an important role in the war against the space invaders. The scenes in which she and Sandler playing off one another are a delight. Josh Gad is on an upswing here! He has the best and most wackiest scenes of all! He is totally believable as a sympathetic lunatic. Even though Games of Thrones star Peter Dinklage is probably the best actor of the lot is kinda underwhelming here! His unrelenting self-obsession and need to mock others wears thin pretty quickly, and I kept hoping he would take a cue from his costars and dial it back a bit. Plus having the least screen time of the lot doesn’t help. Its awesome to see many familiar faces pop up here and there, including Sean Bean, Vanessa Williams, Dan Aykroyd and Brian Cox.

Of course the film has its own set of flaws, especially in the second half where the film doesn’t stay as exciting as it starts off, especially the rushed climax was a bit downer for me. Another fact which was running in my mind, while watching this film was – how would the younger audience (which the film is clearly aimed at) would connect with most of these characters whom possibly they would never had heard off! Well, I hope it doesn’t keep them away, as its director Chris Columbus like his previous movies like Home Alone and the 1st two installments of the Harry Potter film has given this film a heart.

On the whole, Pixels, may seem like another family film which attempts to boost up its sales with the nostalgia effect, but is actually more than that! With a near perfect execution, good humor and interesting CGI, the film is treat! A good one that takes you back in time for some nostalgia delight! Welcome back Adam Sandler the actor!

Overall Rating: 7

Director – Chris Columbus
Starring – Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 105 minutes

Around the Tubes

It’s new comic book day! What’s everyone excited for? While you decide on that, here’s some news and reviews from around the web to keep you busy.

Around the Tubes

BBC – The 100 Greatest American Films – Agree? Disagree?

Comics Alliance – ‘Ant-Man’ Director Peyton Reed Reveals Alternate Ending – An interesting ending. Better? Worse? What do you think?

Bleeding Cool – Europe Comics Will Host International Digital Comics In English – Pretty cool to see this.

Comics Alliance – Marvel’s Kevin Feige on When We’ll See The Wasp in the MCU – A good plan? A band plan?

The Christian Science Monitor – How comic books are combating extremism in Pakistan  – A lot of articles on this lately.

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Nothing But Comics – The Disciples #2

Comics Alliance – Mercury Heat

Movie Review: Minions

Minions-2015In my opinion, films focusing on sidekicks/ spin off from original films seldom seem to work! Films such as Evan Almighty, Elecktra, The Scorpion King, U.S. Marshals, Get him to the Greek etc. are perfect examples. Even films surrounding the best side characters from film like Shrek (Puss N Boots) and Madagascar (Penguins of Madagascar) ended up disappointing, nevertheless the studio executive at Universal felt despite what history says, let’s make a film on those cute little yellow sidekicks constantly stole the thunder from under the lead character Gru in the likable Despicable Me films. From the trailers, the film did look to be one of the most entertaining films of the summer. Unfortunately, it’s a very forgettable film. The story went in all directions in a rather scatterbrain way. It is also ironic and actually disturbing how a kiddie movie seemingly targeted for very young audiences had very dark and negative humor, like a bank robbery with kid accomplices or torturing Minions in a dungeon. That they made it look “cute” is not enough to erase the bad taste in the mouth. There were also some risqué humor in the mix. All this prequel was riding on was the popularity of the cute yellow Minions. For me, they were hilarious as the sidekick of Gru in the Despicable Me films. Unfortunately, for the Minions to carry one whole film with cuteness alone does not cut it. Hearing their gibberish language for an entire hour and a half can be tiresome.

15085825824_0c823235d8_oThe film is a prequel taking way before the Despicable Me films to be clear – the beginning of time on earth. Minions existed even before the first land creatures crawled out of the water. Since then, they would follow the most evil creature around like the T-Rex, for reasons never explained. Eventually they moved on to serving evil men, Dracula and Napoleon among them. Because of their klutzy nature, they could not stay too long under one master. They all just retreated into their own snow-covered community, becoming very bored. So one day, a tall long-faced Minion named Kevin thought of venturing out to look for a master for them. For his quest, he had with him Stuart, a guitar-playing, single-eyed Minion and Bob, an adorably short Minion with mismatched-colored eyes and a teddy bear. The trio trek all over the world, finding their way to Orlando, Florida in the year 1968 for Villain Con. There they meet the super-villainess Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock), who just so happened to be looking for new henchmen. With hi-tech hippie age weaponry provided by her husband Herb (voiced by Jon Hamm), Scarlet sends the three Minions to steal Queen Elizabeth’s crown for her. Will the Minions be able to pull off their big heist? Yup, the plot does sound exciting, but it’s actually not! The worst part about the film is that the entire movie is pretty much shown in all the trailers. All of the great jokes, some of which I still laughed at in the film, were shown in the various 3 minute long trailers we saw. I really do feel like if I would have stayed away from all the trailers I would have enjoyed the film a ton more!

The only point of comparison with The Minions that I can think of is last year’s Penguins of Madagascar, another off-shoot of a popular animated series. The difference is that the Penguins come with a particular skill set, a drive toward absolutely flawless organization that made their adventure somewhat predictable, i.e. they can take care of themselves. The Minions aren’t quite that smart. Their forward momentum is more random leaving them more vulnerable and, for the viewer, more interesting. What doesn’t work so well is the story. It’s bulky and much of it deals with the Minions trying to defeat a big, bad enemy leading to one of those long tired old Battle-in-the-Streets that we’ve seen a million times before. In the world of animation it’s so much fun when the filmmakers can find a way to spin their characters into other worlds, other dimensions and get away from formula. Why not have the Minions chase their foe through time, or around the globe, or to different planets, or to different dimensions, or different multi-verses? Or even different movie-universes? The possibilities are endless. I did not really like the character of Scarlet Overkill too much with her over-hysterical personality. (Sandra Bullock‘s voice work was only at her best during her “Bedtime Story” scene.) Her husband Herb was a lot cooler, making him the more interesting villain.

minionwIt’s not fun as the first two Despicable Me movies were. There is a conscious effort to generate chuckles here, the spin-off of the blockbuster animation, Despicable Me. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor one that could have been easily shrugged off, but its inevitable persistence, somehow tones down the ingenuity of the bean-shaped yellow cuties, in their first solo (almost) Gru-less outing (wink!).

In Despicable Me, the heart of the narrative runs on Gru’s relationship with three little cute girls, providing heart and soul amid of the massive comic effort delivered to draw brittle laughter from the audience. Such thing is seemingly missing here. In their original movies, they couldn’t care less whether we’re attentive or not of their silly, almost always stupid but laughable choices, but here, they are already working hard to please us, which is somehow distracting, but still never less of a massive entertainment. The animation studio has managed to bring all the cuddliness of Gru’s henchmen and unleash it tenfold on the screen. Sure there were some adorable moments in Despicable Me movies, but here they take the next level with squeaky voices, petite faces and huggable goodness.

Boys and girls, men and women of all ages will be awing as our three heroes traverse the elements to find their new boss. Bob in particular was the cutest as he jumps into the adventure with eager eyes, and a beat up teddy bear. In truth it is like watching three small children go on an impossible voyage, constantly failing, but doing so in a manner that pulls at your heart-strings.

On the whole, Minions has its certain funny and cute moments, yet with hackneyed and non-existence plot, the film turns out to be a forgettable flick, a film clearly made to cash in the popularity of our adorable creatures. We rather see them again in Despicable Me 3!

Overall Rating: 5.1

Directors – Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin
Starring (voices of) – Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton
Rated – PG
Run Time – 91 minutes

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