Saturday, April 30, 2011

Comic Pick of the Week – Xombi #2

Writer: John Rozum

Artist: Frazer Irving

Stealing an idea from iFanboy (A podcast you should really listen to), I’m now introducing a new section into my blog rotation. Every week I’ll go through the comics I’ve purchased and pick one that in my mind stood out from the rest. Now what better place to start than the next instalment of Xombi, a comic I already reviewed for Girl on Book Action (a blog you should all be reading). The first issue really got me intrigued and I must say the second issue seems to have topped the first so I’m here for the long haul. Without further ado lets looks into issue 2 of Xombi.

I’ll first get to the art as this was one of my main complaints with issue 1. I felt that barring that last page, it seemed a little to clean to represent the inherent weirdness of the world being presented. I’m pleased to say that issue 2 makes me eat my words, and seeming that it is far more action packed it’s really starting to do the story justice. If there is one problem that I have, it’s the backgrounds tend to just become blank colours. Now I’m not too sure if this is an effort to create mood through colours; but it just makes some of the panels a little bland. Still the art in my mind is an improvement on the first and I’m happy enough with it, that it won’t be distracting me away from the main story.

Yet again the world that John Rozum is just grand. Weird, disturbing, original and yet based on all our myths and legends, there is just something about the world David Kim inhabits that is a joy to read, especially for those with a love for horror and more macabre things in life. In this particular issue we get some characters development for the main character David and yet it does its job without halting the entire story. It helps that the man behind this reboot of the series is also the one who original started the series. Also his take on the various creatures is interesting with a blending of what is already in our culture, and his own slight variations.

Compared to the first issue, the second really hits the action. We have fights with Snow Angels, dead Halloween children and of course the Nun superhero group. Also we meet the main bad guy Finch. Sure things are still a little up in the air, what does David Kim have to do with it all? What does John Church have to do with Finch’s plans? Also there seems to be some holy elements entering the fray and it does get me asking how involved the church was in the prisoner break out? The fact is the story is keeping its cards close to it’s chest but it’s giving enough interesting ideas to allow for the plot to retain flow. If however it were to become something like Lost and just introduce too many weird elements, it could just bring everything to a screeching halt. But at the moment I’m still intrigued and want to see where it’s all going.

The main reason why this was my pick of the week, was that it stood out from the crowd in regards to its world. It’s unique and something we haven’t seen a thousand times. I also want to give it a little bit of hype, as I’m hoping that this series will be around for a while. Of course the biggest thing will be if the end justifies everything that is being thrown at the reader. If you’re a fan of horror comics, or are just looking for something that is different to the spandex clad superheroes then I would say grab a copy. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review - Fast Five (2011)

“Chances are sooner or later, we are gonna end up behind bars or buried in a ditch somewhere. But not today.”

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul
Walker, Jordana Brewster, The Rock, Sung Kang
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Chris Morgan

If you were to look up the definition of dumb fun in the fictional dictionary I use, then you would find that The Fast and The Furious would be used as an example. This movie series has more holes in it that swiss cheese, and I can understand people just not liking it. While some of the car stuff can be cool, when CGI is used the films look more like video games. Also the acting can be just plain bad at times. Yet despite all its flaws I really dig these movies. I shut my brain off and enjoy the stupidity, and lets face it Vin Diesel does have charisma, and the best films in the series are when he’s front and centre. So along comes the fifth in the series and the question must be asked. Does this movie in anyway justify its existence?

As an action movie, Fast Five isn’t too bad. It starts off with a decent action set piece and moves on from there pretty rapidly. Unlike some of the Fast and Furious Franchise (here by dubbed FFF for the rest of this review) there aren’t that many slow points. We are either getting action or character comedy. This in my mind makes it a step up in the series, yet there is one thing lacking in this movie that might piss off a few fans. Some of the street races are cut out. In fact there is only one street race and it’s pretty short. The series has slowly morphed away from its roots and turned into just a straight up vehicle (sorry about that) for car action set pieces. While I personally don’t have a problem with this, I think a lot of the loyal fans will be thrown off as their culture was kind of at the centre and now it’s pushed to the side. Sure there is some of that on the screen, but it’s obvious the plots are moving further and further away from this base.

Now with Vin Diesel playing Vin Diesel in this Vin Diesel movie, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he knows what he’s doing. Toretto is like an old trusty suit that he can just slip into. Paul Walker while not being a very good actor, knows at least the character of Brian O’Conner and has developed good buddy chemistry with Vin Diesel. Jordana is okay in the role of Mia, her chemistry with Paul Walker has also developed over the course of the movies so I at least feel like it’s a proper couple on the screen. As always she does get placed into the background, and while there is a character arc somewhat in this movie, she does appear to be short changed by the story. Out of all the returning secondary characters, I was really happy to see Han (Sung Kang). I thought he was excellent in FF3 Tokyo Drift, and in this movie he shows how he just has this easy charm. Of course a lot of eyes will be on the new addition to the line up. The Rock plays Agent Hobbs, a man whose main goal is to track down the fugitives Toretto and O’Conner. As with all his action roles he brings an intensity; and this does add a little freshness to the series. I think The Rock is an actual credible actor and if he just picked the right projects, could really make something of himself. Unfortunately he is let down by some of the dialogue which stinks of cheese, and yet he makes the most of it and is at least an equal with Vin.

The back drop of Rio is actually a nice change to the scenery, and like Tokyo Drift before it, does allow the film to stand out. Also the car scenes are great, and if you are a fan of cars I’m sure there will be many drool worthy moments. As for the heist aspect of the film it does seem to try and aim for the Ocean’s Eleven factor of all these characters coming together and yet doesn’t quite get there. Also the villain of the movie just didn’t really grab my interest and I was more fascinated by the inevitable collision of Vin Diesel and The Rock. This of course hurts the movie, and while it is fast paced I was just waiting for the next bit of action rather than the story. Justin Lin does an admirable job holding the movie together, but at the end of the day there isn’t a lot of meat on the bones of this series and therefore will probably never be elevated to the level of classic action movie.

At this stage in the game you’re either a fan of the FFF or you are not. I don’t think I can convince non fans to put there money down for a ticket. Looking at this movie, there are just not enough new elements to draw in new comers. So I will say that it’s one of the stronger movies in the series and if you like seeing Vin and Paul driving around like a maniac then go for it. Otherwise just move on and go and watch some better action movies. Personally this fifth movie made me want to stay for the long haul as I’m sure that there will be more of these movies down the track.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review - Thor (2011)

“You know, for a crazy homeless person... he's pretty cut. “

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie
Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom
Hiddleston, Idris Elba
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne

I will admit that I only went to see Thor because it’s all leading up to the Avengers movies which I’m excited for. Also out of this and Captain America I am definitely more excited for good ol Cap. I mean come on its got Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull, what more could you want? But as I left the cinemas I was actually really excited. Was it because of the scene at the end of all the credits? Maybe. But there was just something about this movie, something fun; something that just made me excited for more.

Kenneth Branagh seems like an unlikely director for a superhero movie, but what he brings is something fresh, and perhaps a sense of the melodramatic that comic book movies really need (well in most cases). A lot of the scenes in Asgard have a very Shakespearean quality to them. This normally means a lot of shouting, crying and wearing ones emotions on their sleeve but it so works and creates an epicness that I’m afraid to say was lacking in the likes of Iron Man, Spider-Man and dare I say it The Dark Knight (though the Dark Knight is still the better movie). Kenneth handles these portions with such an assured hand that when the action does take place on Earth things do get a little dull in places. Plus it should also be noted that while the acting does seem Shakespearean the writing isn’t, and sometimes the story does not do justice to what is being attempted.

While the writing and story do seem a little flat sometimes the acting in this is great. Sure we aren’t talking award winning, but everyone seems to be having fun. Anthony Hopkins is just awesome as Odin, I was wondering if he could pull of warrior god considering his age, and yet I was left eating my words. Tom Hiddleston was also jaw dropping in the layers that he gave Loki. I was never sure what Loki’s true motivations were (which is exactly what the character should be doing), and yet I was feeling sympathy and booing him in equal turn. Stellen Skarsgard was a pleasant surprise as Erik Selvig, a man on earth who was seeing the Myth’s and Legends he grew up with come to life. Clark Gregg as everyone’s favourite SHIELD agent was also a delight and it was great to see him given a bigger role, other than the small stuff in the Iron Man movies. Finally we get to the main man, Chris Hemsworth who played Thor. Known as that guy who played Kirk’s dad, he really sinks his teeth into the role and even goes toe to toe in the acting game with Hopkins. I believed that this man was Thor. Now to the worst actor and that goes to Natalie Portman. I’m not so sure why but the more I thought about it, and talked about her character with others I came to realise that I never really believed her motivations, and worse yet never really got to know the character. Hell in the short amount of time, Kat Dennings did a better job conveying what her character was all about. In fact when it comes to the females of this movie, we really do find characters that are lacking sufficient character development. I will note that I think that most of this blame has to go to the writers, as it just seems they weren’t capable of writing full formed female characters, while the guys got nice little character background touches to play with.

Visually Asgard is a very pretty place and yet it sticks out like a sore thumb when compared to the other realms that we visit. Jotunheim realm of the Frost Giants looks really cold which I guess is a good thing, but at the same time it’s rather bland and thanks to the 3D effect seemed to kind of all blur together; at least for me. As for Earth it was a desert, with a desert town. That’s about it. In comparison to Jotunheim I would like to think this was just a clever yin, yang aspect thrown in for visual cues, but it too was a little boring, and directly after a visit to the realm of Asgard kind of just made me wish to skip this part of the movie and get back to Odin and all those crazy gods.

Overall I left Thor happy, and after the secret scene at the end of the credits I’m anxious for the Avengers movie, but this is just nerd baiting by Marvel. The acting is top notch for the guys and while the girls are a tad underwritten they at least seem to be having fun. Visually Asgard is splendid and yet the dullness of the other realms is only amplified by it, still while in Asgard it’s fun to just soak it in. I’m sure fellow comic book readers are going to enjoy this movie. Still I don’t think Marvel is getting anywhere near the excellence that was Dark Knight. To sum up, maybe I should summon Volstagg (one of Thor’s friends) or at least speak like him. Go, watch and enjoy people for who knows when you shall fall in battle.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review - Paul (2011)

“Clive likes boning space bears!”

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost,
Seth Rogen, Kristen Wig, Jason Bateman
Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg

Mr Pegg and Mr Frost please stand up and take a bow. Along with your boy Mr Wright, you’ve given the nerd/geek community some of the finest examples of movie and television. Ah yes there was Spaced which was just a brilliant show, and while many people cry out into the night wanting a third season, it doesn’t bother me as I’m grateful for the two I got. There of course is also the Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and I will say Mr Pegg I thought you were one of the finest Scotty’s to ever out Scotty, a Scotty in a Scotty competition since Welshy. If you understood that last sentence, then congratulations. Anyway, where was I. Oh yes, Pegg and Frost are great and this new movie just reinforces their greatness. But is it a perfect movie? That’s the question, so now read on and find out.

Well the story is pretty solid, two nerds on a road trip find a real alien on the run from shadowy types. You can see the brains of Frost and Pegg through this entire thing, yet there does seem to be something a little lacking. In the beginning the movie does move slow and doesn’t really pick up till Paul (the alien for those who’ve been living under a rock) enters the fray. From there the film chugs along at a good pace with jokes landing thick and fast. Yet whenever I try and gather my feelings about the two main characters Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost), I just feel meh. Personally I don’t think they are as well developed as they could be, and there relationship didn’t really get highlighted until later on into the film. I think perhaps the problem could be the balance of an actual humorous story and jokes for the sake of jokes, it sounds like a weird complaint but sometimes you’ve got to drop a joke just to let the story breathe and be funnier in the long run. Unlike previous efforts these two elements don’t gel as well; maybe it’s director Greg Mottola fault. Maybe what this film needed was Edgar Wright to sort things out and bring more focus. Still I need to stress that this is just a small gripe, the movie is still funny as hell, and the nerd/geek crowd are just going to eat it up.

Acting wise everyone brings their A game, and one thing that works damn well is the main alien dude Paul. Seth Rogen lends his voice to the character and it’s a perfect fit, he’s both rude and yet a pal at the same time. Rogen really does breathe life into Paul and as such makes us care about this CGI creation. Kristen Wig is also a delight as Ruth. I won’t get too much into her character as it does revolve around plot stuff, which is better watched than told, but her adventures into swearing are really funny. Of course the two boys Frost and Pegg are perfect in their roles, I would have maybe liked a little more exposition in regards to their relationship, but there are enough small visual cues and an easy chemistry that at least fill in some of the blanks. Finally I have to say Jason Bateman as Agent Zoil is just awesome. Anything he is in, he brings a little bit of fried gold to the proceedings, and it was also nice to see him in a more competent character role and actually shows that he has a great range which will serve him well in years to come.

Visually Greg Mottola gets the job done but it’s nothing to write home about. There are a lot of little in jokes and science fiction references through out the film but I can’t help but feel that we can thank Pegg and Frost for that. Also I can’t help but feel that there was a wasted opportunity in what was shot at Comic Con. A little more time could have been spent there and at the same time bolstered the relationship of Frost and Pegg earlier on to allow for a bigger impact of the introduction of Paul to the friends. Still at the end of the day Mottola didn’t screw up the movie and the laughs still come, so I should probably stop being so harsh on this movie.

Overall I had a really good time with Paul, and while it may seem that I’m harsh on it, it’s only because while it’s funny, it isn’t up there with Shaun or Hot Fuzz in my books. Of course this shouldn’t be expected just because this movie teams up Frost and Pegg, and maybe in the respects you should take this review with a grain of salt. However I do feel that if Wright was on board to direct this film, the movie could have really hit some high notes and have been a classic. Still if you’re after a good solid comedy, you won’t be wasting your money. Paul may be rude but he’s still classy in my book.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review - Scream 4 (2011)

“One generation's tragedy is the next one's joke.”

Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courtney Cox, Hayden Panettiere
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Kevin Williamson

When I was a little kid I used to wake up when both my parents were late, sneak to my TV and then with headphones on used to watch the Friday the 13th movies. This was truly me dipping my toes into the horror field. As time progressed I ventured into other horror series, Phantasm, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Hellraiser to name a few. But around the tender age of 15 when I was really starting to delve into horror a little movie came along called Scream and suddenly horror exploded. Whether you like the self referential nature that Scream brought to the genre isn’t important, because even if you loathed it you had to admit Scream breathed life into horror. However sequels occurred, and while they weren’t as good as the original I did derive some enjoyment from them. Now it’s 2011 and a new Scream sequel is upon us and the question has to be asked was it worth the bother?

Going in with a bad feeling about this movie I was massively surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this movie. Not only that but it managed to make me a fan of an actress that I normally find very annoying. So big tip of the hat to Craven and Williamson for probably delivering the best Scream sequel so far, and I say so far as we all know that if this is popular enough evil studio execs will be trying to cash in. I mean the Saw franchise looks dead, time to hitch the money wagon to something else right?

So first off let’s go and take a look at the acting, as it would be expected the core three do fine, especially Campbell and Arquette. It was nice seeing them back in the thick of things, and I remembered how much I liked Sydney and Dewey. It was also great to see how these characters developed with Sydney definitely becoming more proactive and willing to face the new Ghostface head on. Courtney as Gail is slightly underused in my opinion and due to the lack of focus was really just a side player. All the new blood did fine, including the two new geeky characters who took over Randy’s role. However I would like to give big props to Hayden Panettiere, I’ve never really liked her in anything, and even in Hero’s I wasn’t a huge fan of her character. However she really runs with her character Kirby and I was just a fan of the character right till the end, I really wish she was the main character but oh well.

Story wise this movie plays off the beats of the original of course with some twists. The beginning was a little to self referential and was beginning to irritate me but then got into the story. Also the end was a tad played out and I did just want them to cut to the credits. However the meat in the middle is tasty and if you dug the first Scream you should have no problems here. We aren’t talking Oscar nominations but some good decent fun is to be had. Overall I think the Kevin Williamson had a good idea for this sequel and it manages to rise above the obvious, “we are just cashing in on the name,” thing. Also it was a pleasant surprise to see Wes Craven helm a movie that is competently directed. After that last few movies he’s handled this movie does re-establish him as one of the horror greats. I do stress competent as the movie does move along at a great pace and there isn’t anything to flashy getting in the way of the story, however there isn’t anything that really stands out. Oh and it was exciting to see a horror movie that wasn’t afraid to show some of the old crimson colour. Too many times of late horror movies have been castrated by studios looking for that lower rating so the teens can go watch.

Overall I can highly recommend this movie to those who loved the original. While the beginning and end might annoy people I think there is more than enough fun in the middle to warrant heading down to the cinemas to watch. If you are not into horror then I would just move along. This is a fun ride that took me back to when I was younger. To paraphrase someone from this movie, “don’t fuck with the old school.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quick Movie Reviews: Vol 3

Well thanks to being sick I’ve gotten behind with my blog posts yet again. But I certainly haven’t been slouching in the watching of movies department. In fact I’ve managed to watch a few classic that I’ll be reviewing at a later date. By classic of course I mean Vampire Girl vs Frakenstein Girl. See classic. Anyway enough with the small talk onto todays three movies.

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

I haven’t seen a court room drama in a while that managed to really grab my attention. But low and behold The Lincoln Lawyer manages it thanks to the absolutely wonderful performance by Mr Abs himself Mathew McConaughey. Other than the central performance, the story is pretty decent and did have me wondering how everything fit together. Walking out of this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and was grateful for the refresher course on McConaughey’s acting ability. I am actually a fan of court room drama’s and remember the string of Grisham adaptations that hit the cinema’s. However since then I can’t really remember me enjoying one that much, (maybe Primal Fear but I think that came out in the Grisham era) so it was nice to be taken back to a genre that has been a little neglected in the current age.

Sucker Punch (2011)

So far this has to be the biggest disappointment of the year. I’m not going to tear it apart like a lot of other reviewers as it does have some good points. First off it is visually appealing and I did like some of the ideas for the dreamscapes, most of the girls seemed keen to give everything they had into the performance even if the material didn’t really allow them much development. For me the major problem of this movie was an emotional core that needed to be present right from the get go. The movie seemed too keen on its own set up, that it forgot that it needs to hook the audience early on. However I will note that I know that people did find that at the end of the movie there was more of an emotional impact. Its weird how this just never became my cup of tea.

The Green Hornet (2011)

Well I finally managed to watch this. I never saw it at the cinemas as I didn’t want to pay the price for a 3D showing. After watching this movie I’m glad I did as there is nothing in this movie that justifies it being converted into a 3D movie. Still it proved to be an entertaining film and I have yet not really suffered from Seth Rogen over exposure. However while I was entertained for the run time there wasn’t really anything that made it stand out from the glut of superhero movies. I was hoping maybe for more comedy but it actually did try and take itself rather seriously, however serious and Seth don’t really work. Christopher Waltz shows up as the main villain and while it’s an interesting take on a villain I don’t think he’s helped with the strongest writing in the world. I did love his gun. Finally I think the reason why I enjoyed this movie more than I should was it was nice to see action happen and be able to watch it without shaky cam, or MTZ editing.