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Summer Block Busters: Part 3

There were just a few movies I overlooked in this series so allow me to post them today.

White House Down (June 28, 2013)

This is the year of two movies about the White House being taken over by terrorists. Olympus Has Fallen is in theaters now while White House Down is coming in June. This movie stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins & James Woods.

Despicable Me 2 (July 3, 2013)

I really liked the original and I hope this one will be just as good. No plot synopsis as of yet. This movie stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, Steve  Coogan, Ken Jeong

Hammer of the Gods (July 5, 2013)

This movie takes place in Scandinavia in the year 871. A young Viking warrior, faces hostile conditions and tribes to bring back his estranged brother to the kingdom he will one day rule. The movie stars Charlie Bewley, Elliot Cowan, Clive Standen, Guy Flanagan, Michael Jibson

The Lone Ranger (July 3, 2013)

The Lone Ranger has not done well on the big screen. In 1980 or was it 81 the last time he was on the big screen and it failed miserably. Johnny Depp stars as Tonto (can he pull it off?) with  Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger. From the looks of the trailer the tone of the film looks like the movie will be an action adventure with somje fun mixed in. My type of movie! These stars round out the cast. Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James  Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, Helena Bonham Carter.

The Wolverine (July 26, 2013)

The X-Men’s favorite superhero is back with another solo film. His first solo film, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, did pretty good at the box office but reviews are mixed. It was an alright film but not the ones fans really wanted. Here is hoping that this one will be it! It stars Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal  Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Brian Tee

300: Rise of an Empire (August 2, 2013)

This is the sequel to 300. With Zack Snyder, who directed 300, now directing Man of Steel, Noam Murro is sitting in the directors chair. Based on Frank Miller’s latest graphic novel  “Xerxes” Greek general Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece  by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. The movie stars Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro,  David Wenham, Igal Naor, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Andrew Tiernan

Kick-Ass 2 (August 16, 2013)

Kick-Ass  & Hit-Girl are back to fight crime. Jim Carrey also joins in on the fun. This movie looks like a raunchy fun action and adventure! Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chlo Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris  Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Jim Carrey

The World’s End (August 23, 2013)

This movie stars the wonderful comedy team of Simon Pegg, & Nick Frost (Paul, Sean of the Dead) and it is about drinking parties and the end of the world…what more could you ask for? As they re-stage an old drinking marathon and decide what they need to do for their future, they must also face the world as it comes to an end. The movie also stars Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike

There you have it….I knew there were more movies coming out that I wanted to see. Keep posted to this blog for further reviews!!

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Henry VIII

I also enjoy historical movies and today I want to review a BBC min-series on the life of King Henry VIII of England. 

The movie I want to review today is Henry VIII. It was not a theatrical movie it was two-part British television serial produced principally by Granada Television for ITV in 2003. The movie chronicles the life of Henry VIII of England from the collapse of his first marriage to his death following a stroke in 1547 and depicts his other marriages. In some ways this seems more like a remake of the 1970s BBC production of the Six Wives of Henry VIII.

The movie and subsequent DVD are divided into two parts. The fist part deals mainly with the ending of Henry’s marriage to Infanta Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Bolyn. The second part encompasses Henry’s other 4 marriages and for that reason the second part seems a little crammed and rushed. I would have liked to have seen the movie done in three parts with each part addressing two of the six marriages.

The main star of the movie is veteran British actor Ray Winstone as King Henry VIII and Helena Bonham Carter (herself the queen of period pieces) as the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Part two stars Emily Blunt as Catherine Howard another of Henry VIII’s ill-fated queens. Actually, her pleas not to be executed are pretty heart wrenching.

I have read that there was controversy surrounding the casting and performance of Ray Winstone as the king. He is noted for playing many tough guy roles and people who are thugs and that his portrayal of the king was anything buy kingly and aristocratic. I can have empathy for the critics on that point. Henry does not come across as particularly regal or aristocratic. However, that doesn’t really bother me too much even though I do acknowledge that point of view. What Ray does provide for the role is sense of power, authority and ruthlessness along with strength and selfish ambition. These are all qualities I can envision Henry VIII having.

I do enjoy the series even though it is a bit uneven. Part one being the better of the two if only for the presence Helena Bonham Carter and the chemistry between her and Ray.Carter does a great job of bringing Anne Boleyn to life. She is depicted not only as a person who was grabbing power for herself she is also depicted as a victim of a system that literally killed if one did not produce results. As I mentioned above part two just seems too rushed for my tastes. I do think that Emily Blunt does a very good job depicting the young Catherine Howard but since she seems to be only window dressing around which the plot unfolds she is not given the opportunity to flesh out her character. If they had devoted more time to that marriage I think Emily Blunt would have shined even more.

Despite of those flaws I mentioned I do enjoy the two part movie a great deal. Henry VIII is a great study. I would not say I admire him because I think he was a blood thirsty tyrant in many ways. He is a good study on the abuse of power and the role of monarchy in the 16th century. I will close this review with my disclaimer. Do not get your history lesson from a movie. Let a movie give you the sense of how things looked and felt during the time period, let it come alive through costumes and setting and let the movie be a spring board to searching out and understanding the real events. Sorry, don’t mean to sound too preachy.

What’s in the hopper?….the Lone Ranger!

I was a big fan of the 1950s Lone Ranger TV series starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. Every Saturday it was on I didn’t miss it. The last attempt at a big screen film of the Lone Ranger was in the 1981 movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, which was a huge disaster. I remember reading about Johnny Depp being cast as Tonto and just rolling my eyes thinking what a huge mistake that was and further thinking that Hollywood must really want to see another Lone Ranger movie fail.

However, seeing the above picture, which is shocking because it is an authentic depiction of a native American and not the usual sanitized Hollywood version, I began to have higher hopes for this movie. Now after seeing the trailer which was released yesterday, my enthusiasm and hopes for this film has increased. Other than Johnny Depp, the movie stars, Armmie Hammer as the Lone Ranger and Helena Bonham Carter and Tom Wilkerson. Sounds like a great cast and the movie does look good! My expectations are up for this one! 

The movie hits theaters on May 31, 2013. 

Guilty Pleasures

Last Wednesday I listed movies I do not like. This week I list my 6 favorite guilty pleasures. 

Back in the early 1990s I called a local radio station in Rochester NY that had a movie reviewer, Bill Klein, and I asked him a question about how he reviewed movies that he knew were not really good and he should give it a negative review but for some reason he liked the movie anyway. He told me he called them “guilty pleasures” and he said would be honest in his reviews about them being guilty pleasures.

Today I will list my top five guilty pleasures. These are movies that the majority of the professional reviewers and the fan base generally do not like but for reasons, which will be explained below, I do enjoy them a great deal.

Batman & Robin 1997

This movie literally brought the Batman franchise to a grinding halt. Warner Brothers had planned on doing a sequel to Batman and Robin entitled Batman Triumphant, with the Scarecrow as the main villain until this movie tanked at the box office. I have even read that director Joel Schumacher has apologized to the fan base for this movie.

I grew up on the Batman TV series starring Adam West which was pure camp and very fun to watch. I think Batman & Robin is in that same vein because it is fun and campy as hell! I also think there is a good story in there. I like the addition of Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl. Her rebellious nature and desire to help her uncle Alfred out is touching. The conflicts between Batman and Robin as they learn to trust one another is good character developments as is the relationship between the dying Alfred and Bruce Wayne. Both Arnold Schwarzenegger and  Uma Thurman, Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy respectively, chew up the scenery with witty puns and dialog that made me laugh and groan.

Some have cried blasphemy that I actually prefer to watch this over The Dark Knight. Sure, I get in the mood for a more serious take on Batman and will watch the Christopher Nolan movies, but most of the time I will watch the two Schumacher movies because they’re a heck of a lot of fun! I could have included the other Schumacher Batman movie, Batman Forever, in this list because that had uneven reviews. But Batman Forever isn’t as hated as Batman & Robin. I must admit that I do like Batman Forever more than Batman & Robin.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier 1989

It was actually many years before I learned that this movie was not well received by the fan base. Star Trek V did elevate the comedy which the very successful Star trek IV: the Voyage Home had originated. I saw this movie in the theater back in the summer of 1989 and the theater was jam packed and people were laughing and having a good time and I was one of them. I left the theater entertained and happy with the movie.

But it didn’t do that well at the box office (it made only $52 million) and a large majority of the fan base did not like it. Today I think some of the comedy has not aged well but there is still a good movie in there. I think the way the relationships between Kirk, Spock and McCoy were examined and expounded upon have never been done better. I liked the “villain” of Sybok, Spock’s emotional half-brother. Was he crazy, insane or a misguided religious nut? I think the movie does demonstrate how we must keep our beliefs anchored in rationality. I have reached a point in my life where I need to have some type of evidence in order to believe in something, otherwise we can believe in anything under the sun without evidence. So, I think Trek V clearly demonstrates that wisdom. Plus…say it with me…it is a lot of fun.

Planet of the Apes (Time Burton) 2001

First of all I must admit I am really not a big Tim Burton Fan. I liked the first Batman movie he did, I really liked Beatlejuice and this movie…that is about it. Now I do not think this movie holds a candle to the 1968 original starring Charleton Heston. I think the that movie is the best science fiction movie ever and a well deserved classic. What makes this remake a guilty pleasure for me is the story. Spoiler alert if you have not seen the movie. In this movie the planet where the apes live is not earth but we find out it is the events which Mark Wahlberg’s character sets in motion at the start of the film are what caused the planet to become what it had become in the future. That is a good twist. I love time travel movies as well so it has that in its corner. There is genuine humor and good action as well as some things I didn’t care for. For example, the settings feel cramped and claustrophobic at times. Helena Bonham Carter, whom I always like, has ape makeup that makes her look too human and not ape-like enough. This movie does have some great action scenes and great special effects.

Godzilla (American) 1998

I am a huge Godzilla fan. In the last few years I have rekindled my love for the franchise. I also love giant monster movies in general so I really enjoyed this lighthearted, fun adventurous take on Godzilla. I don’t want to say too much about the movie because I will be giving it an official review in my Friday’s review of the entire franchise. I am doing those in chronological order and I will be doing my full review in the weeks to come.

I remember reading some hard-core fans reaction to this movie and they called it GINO…Godzilla In Name Only. I rolled my eyes and thought they’re just being too harsh and ridiculous. However, I have come around to their way of thinking. I do see the monster as Godzilla in name only because the monster depicted in the movie does move too far away from the established characteristics of the Japanese Godzilla. However, the main difference between me and the vast majority of the fan base is that I still love the movie. I also love the design of GINO, or Zilla as he is called by Toho, so much that I have a two foot tall figure of him in my home.

Judge Dredd 1995

Judge Dredd is a comic book character and the film, starring Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider, plays like a comic book movie. I must admit the tone is a bit uneven as there are some real funny moments with Rob Schneider’s character who is there purely for comic relief, and then there are some bloody and dark serious moments with Armand Assante. I have not read the comics and this movie supposedly deviated too far from the the comics for the fans. I guess the main point was that Judge Dredd never is seen with his helmet off and in the movie you hardly see Stallone with the helmet on!

Stylistically the view of the future looks identical to the way it was depicted in the Bruce Willis movie, The Fifth Element. I have never read the comic so the complaints do not bother me in the least. I love Stallone’s over the top portrayal of the Judge and the movie has a lot of great action sequences and Rob Schneider, a person people seem to love to hate, is really quite good in this movie and it wouldn’t be the same without him. There is a new version of this movie coming out, starring Karl Ubran from the Lord of the Rings and Star Trek 09. This version looks to be more authentic to the comic and more dark and gritty which is the way Hollywood seems to be going, but my question is…will it be as fun and enjoyable as the original?

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 1999

I never understood the hate for this movie. Honestly the entire franchise is uneven. I am not the biggest Star Wars fan and I think the original movie is by far the best, but all of the films are not perfect and I think the Star Wars: Phantom Menace  doesn’t deserve the bad rap it gets. Sure the kid playing young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, is painful to watch in some places but over all the movie is the best of the prequels in my opinion. I think the movie is spectacular to look at. I think the performances by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor really make this movie. With apologies to Sir Alec Guinness I think Ewan McGregor eqaully captured the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Natalie Portman is also as cute as a bug in this movie and really protrays the sweet innocent charms of  Queen Amidala aka Padme.

George Lucas has mentioned that the Star Wars saga is based of of old serial shorts of the 30s and 40s. That is very evident in this movie and I mean that in a positive way. This movie is filled with spectacular scenes of action and adventure. The pod race alone is worth the price of admission. Sure it gets bogged down in the boring politics of the series but other than that it is a great visual extravaganza and has a larger than life epic feel accompanied by the brilliant work of composer John Williams. For what Star Wars is supposed to be, a fun action adventure space fantasy, Phantom Menace sure does deliver and it is my 2nd favorite Star Wars movie after the original. 

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows
Starring: Johnny Depp, Chloe Moretz, Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Tim Burton
Release Date: 11 May 2012

This movie is based on the Gothic soap opera which ran weekdays on the ABC television network, from June 27, 1966 to April 2, 1971. I really enjoyed this show as a kid and found it real scary. Although as an adult I find it a bit cheesy. I am not a real big Tim Burton fan and there are only a couple of his movies that I really enjoy, namely, the two Batman movies from the 90s and Beetlejuice. Oh, and his re-envisioning of the Planet of the Apes is not as bad as some claim in my opinion. Once again collaborating with Johnny Depp, Burton takes on Dark Shadows. When I first saw the trailer above I was surprised by the comedic tone of the movie. I wasn’t disappointed just a little surprised thinking Burton was going to do a straight retelling of the story. However, this trailer does look like a lot of fun. It contains two of my favorite time periods, the nineteenth century and the 1970s. After reading a couple of early reviews I have come to learn that the trailer may be a little misleading in that the entire movie does not have a comedic tone and that there are more serious elements to the story that reflect the original series.