Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sabotage (2014): Review

I went and saw this movie last week and although I thought it was better then i imaged it would be, I didn't have internet in my new apartment and then procrastinated writing it.  Now that I am getting around to it I would recommend that anyone who likes action movies and this type of film see it when it comes out on DVD/television because although it was pretty standard it wasn't as cookie cutter as some other films of the same flavor.
Sabotage is the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and I think that overall he does a good job and this movie kept my interest throughout and went more for a seeder feel then some of the other recent action movies of this type which have been going more toward the weary protagonist.  In this Arnold plays John "Breacher" Wharton the head of a DEA task force that specializes in installing themselves in drug organizations to take them down.  The movie starts with Breacher's team taking down a drug cartel and in doing so steal ten million dollars from the cash store.  When the team goes to get the money they find that it has been stolen from them. They have to pull it together and act like nothing happens when the DEA suspect them of stealing the money. When the investigation is dropped for lack of evidence Breacher pulls his team back together but everything is not how it seems.  The team is being targeted and taken down and they do not know who it is who is targeting them, could it be the DEA or the drug cartel?  This movie also stars Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, and Mireille Enos as Breacher's Team as well as Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau as the investigators of the teams deaths.

This movie went for gritty and seedy but to me it didn't quite pull it off as it was too shiny around the edges and had high production value.  This would usually be a good thing but as it felt like the grit was wanted and to see how the team really embraces the criminal and drug world which the team had immersed themselves in.  There is lots of swearing, sex, strippers, drug use, etc.  This movie really went for the feel they wanted but didn't quite capture it.
I really liked the cast and how all the actors played off of each other. I especially liked Olivia Williams as Agent Caroline and thought that her character was very interesting to watch and I was invested in her journey of discovery.  I think that the feel of team was there between the actors of Breacher's team and that the dynamics of the team was looked at but I think that they quickly added back story without filling it in to give the motivation for decisions some of the characters made that seemed to be put in because the motivation was needed but there wasn't enough to have gone through any of the emotions of those characters.
I tend to like crappy action movies and really like this resurgence of older action stars in movies as their curmudgeonly and beaten down old selves.  It seems that when the movies go for more serious they are more successful and I believe that this one was one of the ones that worked pretty well.  It stuck to basic story's but wasn't as cookie cutter that I thought it was just phoned in.  It tired really hard for the group dynamics and character interactions which I appreciated, as well as the actin and fight sequences.

My Rating: 2-

Friday, April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): Review

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and I am so very very happy to state that it was amazing. I had been hoping that it would be good but trying to not get to exited for this movie because when I get my expectations up I tend to be disappointed. With this movie, I don't think that I would have disappointing no matter how high my expectations were because for me it was one of the best action movies I have seen in a while and that is saying a lot with the movies of this year.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is definitely one of my favorite movies so far this year and I think it is a must see for everyone.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier Chris Evens continues to play Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America following the events of the Avengers (2012) movie. For an account of what happens to the Cap in his previews movies click the following links ( http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/04/captain-america-first-avenger-2011.html and http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-captains-role-in-avengers-2012.html ). The Captain has been adjusting to being in modern day and has been taking on missions assigned by S.H.E.I.L.D, which is headed by Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He has been teeming up with Natasha AKA Black Widow, played by Scarlet Johannson, and working with elite shield teams to complete his assigned mission. He discovers that people are not telling him all the information about what he has been doing, specifically Fury.  When it is discovered that more is going on with S.H.E.I.L.D The Captain finds that he is being drawn into all the deception and discovers that HYDRA may not be as gone as he thought it was.  Can The Captain relay on Black Widow and new ally Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie to figure out what is really going on with HYDRA and overcome the link between The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan, and Roger's past.
I really think that this movie has the right balance of all of its elements, the only week link was that nothing happening in the plot was that surprising or full of suspense. I think the balance of action sequences, fights, changes of pace, story, back story, Roger's journey, and banter was fantastic.  I think that some of the CG was obviously CG, but it seems like some of these graphics are so sharp that they go past realistic for me. I did see this movie in 3D and it worked as there was a bunch of stuff being thrown around (i.e. The Cap shield.) but I don't think you will really need it to be in 3D to enjoy what it going on.

I was surprised to say that I really enjoyed the chemistry between Rogers and Natasha in this movie and think that the banter and relationship growth between them really worked.  It was a way to have a female in the picture and have her build on a relationship with the male lead but without making it a romantic love interest.  I liked how she kept trying to bring up people who he could go out with and introducing the banter between them while The Cap was always the chivalrous soldier.
Overall the cast of this movie was spot on and how they all came together and played off each other was perfectly balanced.  Even the smaller roles worked in the whole scheme of things, with enough about them to work for what they were but not too much to seem out of place.  The only character who I feel should have had a bit more in the general plot was Agent 13, played by Emily VanCamp, because although she had some focus on her nothing would have been missed if she was not there.  I understand this is probably a set up for the story arc between her and Cap or just an obvious Easter Egg for fans.
One of the reasons that I think I am putting this action film above a lot of other ones is I feel that it didn't go OTT with the action sequences.  I have noticed that recently they have really extended out action sequences and the CGI battles, but in Captain America: The Winter Soldier they kept them at a good length and focused it on what the characters where working to achieve, not just focusing on the destruction and how cool the graphics looked.  Although worked in were some scenes of plot and story which broke up these sequences.

I really like Captain America as a character and think that Chris Evens is great in the role. This movie got top marks from me because I was drawn into the journey that Cap was going through and I wanted everything to work out for him.  He was able to touch the emotional connection that I as an audience member want to actually care about him and whats happening.  There have been some movies recently that missed this and I found myself watching the movie but not really feeling anything for the main character and therefore not really caring what happens to them or forgiving their faults.  Captain America, although at times preachy doesn't get pushy because you like you as a character.

My Rating: 4- (almost a perfect movie)

Side Note- Make sure to stay through the end of the all the credits because there are two after movie scenes, one a few minutes into the credits and one after they are completed.  The first one is important for the development of Marvel's Phase 2, and the second hints as another characters personal development and journey post movie.

I am not that familiar with all of the dynamics of the Marvel universe, so if someone could explain to me the general role of the people introduced in the first post movie scene, I would appreciate it.

The Captain's Role in The Avengers (2012)

In gearing up for the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): I have been re watching Roger's movies.  To see my recap of Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) click here ( http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/04/captain-america-first-avenger-2011.html ).  Captain America's journey continues in the Avengers, where their is not much development with him but is about him playing a stable role in the team and getting in back into the game of being a hero.
It starts with Rogers, played by Chris Evens, holed up and working out.  He is waiting for a mission and a chance to get back into the world.  This happens when the tesseract is stolen and S.H.E.I.L.D. is infiltrated.  The Captain is brought in and learns that he really is a fish out of water with how things are in the world today. Although he has difficulty understanding references (except about flying monkeys) he knows how to be strong and seek to do what it right.  During the battle of New York he takes a leadership role during the battle and works to control the carnage on the group.  Throughout this movie he starts to discover that people are not always honest about what is going on and that he needs to be careful about putting his full trust in other people.

Based on the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier the professional relationship between Rogers and Natasha, (The Black Widow) played by Scarlet Johansson continues. With her being a ally and someone who helps Rogers to continue to transition into the world of modern day.

I am very excited to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier later on today!!!

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Recap & Review

In preparation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) which came out today I re watched the first Captain America movie.  Captain American: The First Avenger is the origin story for Captain America and is mainly set during WWII.  It follows Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evens, who wants to join the US Army and serve his country but inst able to because of his diminutive size and health limitations. Through trying to join multiple times he comes to the attention of Dr. Abraham Erskine, played by Stanley Tucci, who sees Rogers for the man of integrity and strength that he is.  Rogers goes through the initiative Army training where he meets Col. Chester Phillips, played by Tommy Lee Jones, and Agent Peggy Carter, played by Haley Atwell.  Rogers continues to impress Erskine and starts to grow on Peggy and is chosen as the man to be turned into a super soldier with the help of Howard Stark, played by Dominic Cooper.

  During this process the facility is infiltrated by a agent of HYDRA and Dr. Eskine is killed.  Rogers is put to work as a marketing tool Captain America because after the attack the super soldier project was seen as a failure.  Meanwhile in Europe, HYDRA who is being led by Johann Schmidt AKA Red Skull, have been working to harness the power of the Tesseract, an outer space infinity stone.  While Rogers in vising the troops in Italy, Rogers finds out that his hometown friend Bucky, played by Sebastian Stan, he recruits Peggy and Stark to help him get to the bunker where Bucky as well as the other surviving members of his unit are being held.  While he is there you can see all that Captain America is really able to do, as he battles against Red Skull, who he discovered was the original partner of Dr. Erskine and the first super-soldier.  After proving himself to Col. Phillips with his rescue mission Captain America is given his own team and set on the mission to take down HYDRA.  As he does this Bucky is killed and Captain America is put in a position where he chooses to sacrifice himself to prevent New York City from being distorted. He crash lands in the arctic and is thorough to be lost.  Captain America remains frozen in the ice until present day when he is revived by S.H.E.I.L.D. and discovered that he now in 2011.

Captain America is one of my favorite Avengers and is one if my favorite Marvel Phase I movies, it is an enjoyable one. It has a different feel then the other phase I movies because it is set during WWII and has a military focus because Steve Rogers is Captain America.  It shows and focus on the integrity of Rogers and how he always wants to do what it right and will protect others.  It is a movie worth watching and I like it.  The main down fall is that because it is set during WWII and the Captain is now in modern day the story line of a romantic connection between himself and Peggy is not possible.

My Rating: 3-

Click here to continue to get a summary of The Captain's story in the Avengers http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-captains-role-in-avengers-2012.html

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah (2014): Review

Last night I went and saw the new Russell Crowe movie Noah which is the adaptation of the biblical story of Noah and his arc.  This movie was a big undertaking and achieves the grandness that it is was aiming for but wasn't that great of a movie overall.  It seemed to be one of those movies that relies on the public's familiarity with the name attached to the story and the basic plot as well as use actors that people would recognize as a way to get people into the movie and them muck with the story and do whatever they want with the movie.  Although it was a grandiose movie and hits the main points of the Noah story it overacted and focused on a drama/conflict that isn't even hinted at in the story.
The Noah movie hit all the main points of the biblical story but as it is only several chapters in the Old Testament (Genesis 5-9) and the movie is over two hours the creators of the movie took a lot of liberties.  It stars Russel Crowe as Noah, the last remaining descendant of Seth (Adam and Eve's Son), who God has chosen to build an arc to survive the great flood which will destroy the world and mankind who has given into their wickedness.  During this he comes in contact with the wickedness of man and sees how they are not worth saving and need to be destroyed.  Man, specifically King Tubal-cain, played by Ray Winstone, who is set on taking all that he wants, which includes the arc and destroying Noah. Also in the movie are Noah's sons: Shem, played by Douglass Booth; Ham, played by Logan Lerman; and Japheth, played by Leo McHugh Carroll. Also included is Noah's wife named Naameh, played by Jennifer Connolly, and Shem's wife Ila, played by Emma Watson. Although the wives are not given any real focus in the biblical story they are a big part of the movie and counterpoint to Noah.  Anthony Hopkins makes an appearance as Noah;s grandfather Methuselah.

Overall this movie focuses on the struggle of Noah and how he decides on what the message from God means and how he has executes it.  He is both supported and challenged by those around him and seeks the help of Watchers, fallen angels from heaven who are basically these big rock creatures.  They both assist Noah in building the arc and battling the evilness of man.
My main problem with this movie is that it felt like the over two hour movie that it was. I liked the incorporation of Jennifer Connolly and Emma Watson because those where the characters whose story and journey I actually connected with ad kept me focused through the rest of what was happening and the OTT drama and undeveloped internal conflict of the other characters.  I felt like with the others they told us what they were going through and what was happening but didn't really do what was needed to connect with the person and care to follow.

The movie was a big production and had a lot of work put into it. I saw the 2D version and besides the part with the snake it didn't seem like I missed anything from the 3D version.  I did do a lot of wider shots, which I appreciated.
Basically there was nothing horrible about this movie but it wasn't anything that I would have been bummed for not have seen.  It is something that you have to go into knowing and expecting it to be a diversion of the biblical story and go with the additions and changes.  It is something that is worth waiting to watch on television if you even care to see it then.

My Rating: 1

Friday, March 21, 2014

Divergent (2014): Review

Tonight I went and saw one of the first showings of the new teen book to movie adaptation Divergent.  I would have gone and seen the earlier show tonight but I couldn't because I was working, but after I got done I was able to get my sister to come and see it with me and I am happy to say that it was better then I thought it would be.  Going in I was trying not to get my hopes up too much, because for some of these types of movies although the movie itself is entertaining, the whole experience just inst able to deliver.
Divergent (2014) is the movie adaptation of the 2011 Veronica Roth movie of the same name.  It is the first movie in a trilogy of three and the second and third movies are already scheduled for release in the upcoming years.  The story itself is complicated and has a lot of pieces that fit together to create the whole.  Overall the movie did a good job but I think that the book had so many things that were important it was harder to whittle it down to the movie and the movie is quite long coming in at just under two and a half hours. Divergent is set in a future Chicago where the world that has been destroyed by war and the remaining people have divided themselves into five groups in order to keep order within their society.  Every year the sixteen years old take an aptitude test to see where they naturally fall into the system, it is then up to them to choose which faction they will choose to be a part of and who;s ruling characteristic they will dedicate their life too (it doesn't have to be the faction their aptitude is for).  The five factions are Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (brave), Amity (peaceful), and Candor (honest). Although there are five factions in this world, Divergent focuses on three Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless.  
Divergent follows Tris (Beatrice), played by Shailene Woodly, a girl raised in Abnegation who has never felt like she was naturally selfless and had always been drawn to the Dauntless.  When she takes her aptitude test which is administered by Dauntless Tori, played by Maggie Q, is found to be Divergent.  Divergent means that she does not fit into just one characteristic and is the type of person who is dangerous to this system that requires people be categorized into one thing.  She is told that if the leaders find out she is Divergent she will be killed.  She chooses to change her faction and joins Dauntless where she meets Four, played by Theo James and finds out that it is not so easy to blend in and belong to the brave faction then she thought.  As she struggles to make the cut through Dauntless initiation she finds herself attracted to Four, hiding her true self from everyone, and drawn into the struggle for power of leadership between the factions.
Other important characters are Jeanine, played by Kate Winselet, who is the leader of Erudite and is seeking out the Divergent; Tris's mother Natalie, played by Ashley Judd; Tris's brother Caleb, played by Andel Elgort, who chooses the Erudite faction; a leader of Dauntless Eric, played by Jai Courtney; Christina, played by Zoe Kravitz, a Dauntless transfer from Candor who becomes friends with Tris; and Peter, played by Miles Teller, a Dauntless transfer who is at odds with Tris.  There are many other characters who are pieces in the overall puzzle of the story and pull the parts of the story together but these were the main ones in my opinion.
I really did enjoy this movie and I think that it helped that I had read the books and I new the importance of the things put in and who all the characters were, that being said, I then also became disappointed in how the movie spoon fed the audience information about the animosity coming from Erudite and how they ampted up, in a way that took away from the actual book story this conflict.  In the book you follow Tris through her struggles and discovery of things not necessarily being what they seem but in the movie it puts it out there and even makes it obvious to others involved.  The good thing about this breaking down of the story and letting the audience know what is happening, is that it helps to have all the background information for the story According to my sister who has not read the book the overall movie made scene but to me it seemed like she asked more clarifying questions then normal for her attending a movie where I have read the book and she hasn't. I would have liked if they stuck a bit closer to the book at the end conflict as I think the dramatic level could have still been high, it will be interesting to see how they string this chance into the other movies.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this movie and felt like it was entertaining and kept my interest. It does some of the things that I don't like in movies with lot of close up shots and action sequences.  I just wanted the camera to pan out and let me see what was happening, hold the wider shots for just a little bit longer, or let me see more then just a close up on the faces of the actors. I am starting to just except that movie do this but it still bugs me.

I really liked the overall cast of this movie and thought that they worked together.  Theo James was great as Four and he fit the bill of the hunky, mysterious guy that you cant help but be attracted and drawn to but you know probably is going to bring some danger with him.  With increasing his age and having an actor play him who is older helped me with really going with how good looking he is 'cos he looks quite fine in many of these scenes.  The supporting cast was good and worked well off each other.  Shailene Woodl as Tris was fine but for some reason I struggle with seeing her meld into the character and feel that another actress could have done the same or better then her in this movie, she just didn't seem up to the task of playing the internal struggle of Tris and the warring parts of herself.
Divergent has all of the things needed to have a great teen lit book movie adaptation. There is internal snuggle, drama, conflict, attraction, danger, etc.  I recommend seeing this movie for sure for anyone who likes these book adaptions, and it is a movie that although the original target audience of the book are teenagers translates well into a movie for a wider demographic.  

My Rating: 3

Friday, March 14, 2014

Veronica Mars Movie (2014): Review

Today the Veronica Mars movie came out and I was happy to be able to see it.  I have recently discovered that I am indeed a Marshmallow and just wish that I had discovered the fabulousness of Veronica Mars the television show earlier (check out my veronica mars fandome experience here http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/02/veronica-mars-my-new-fandom-experience.html ). I really loved this movie and it hit on most of the things I wanted from it. The main thing was I just wanted more of all the little components and things that they put in but with it just being a 107 minute movie it did a pretty good job.

Veronica Mars the movie takes place nine years after the last episode of the show (it doesn't include the mini season 4 pilot the FBI years- but does make a reference to how a character had heard she joined the FBI) with Veronica, played by Kristin Bell, having left Neptune and Hurst college to get her Bachelors Degree in psychology and then went on to Law school in NYC. For those who have not seen the television show you will still be able to understand what is going on because the movie starts with a summary of show and how Veronica has left her old ways behind. This is done in Veronica voice over which is a staple of the show.
Veronica starts that movie after completing law school trying to get a job prior to taking the bar, and in a relationship with Piz, played by Chris Lowell, who she has been back together with for a year.  Her long ago love Logan Echolls, played by Jason Dohring, gets into trouble back in Neptune after his girlfriend is found by him murdered and he becomes the key suspect.  He asks for Veronica's help and for her to work her old magic and get him out of this spot.  Helping him brings Veronica back to Neptune, where she gets sucked back into her old pattern of sleuthing and putting herself in danger, plus attending her ten year high school reunion.  Veronica also runs into many of old friends, allies, and adversaries as she tries to find out what really happened and who set up Logan.

Like I said this movie is made for the fans of Veronica Mars but can also be enjoyed by people who have not seen it.  My sister went with me to watch it and said that she liked it and it made sense to the non initiated (she did say that it seemed more like a long television episode then movie but I loved all the things they put in).   This movie brings back together many of the characters from the movies and weaves them into the plot or just into the general story of the movie (it is their high school reunion after all). To see a breakdown of the characters and cast click here http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2014/03/veronica-mars-movie-2014-characters-and.html .
I think that this movie did a good job of bringing in references to the television show and had a little bit of screen time for most of my favorite and the important recurring characters.  I think that these moments will be the hardest to understand from those who have not seen the movie but I don't think it will really hinder the movie that much.  I enjoyed the Dax Shepherd cameo, he and Kristen Bell played well off each other.

I really enjoyed this movie and think that everyone should go see it and get into the television show as it is good fun with its Camp Noir flavor.  This movie's mystery is not that complex and for me there wasnt really anything that was super surprising or anxiety provoking, but it was fun.  I was definitely pulled into the team Logan vs. Team Piz triangle and I was defiantly rooting for team Logan (go LoVe)
 but it is really all focused around Veronica and who she really is.  Is she really able to put her past behind her and move on as a big shot New York lawyer or is she really kidding herself with being able to let a good mystery go.  You will have to see it to see what Veronica does.

My Rating: 3
My Enjoyment Rating: 4-

There is an extra little scene after the movie but it doesn't add to the plot, it is just a continuation of a cameo earlier in the movie.

Note- You can already buy/rent Veronica Mars the movie on itunes and amazon instant video so if you don't want to go to the theaters to see it you can enjoy it at home!!!!!