Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Battleship – 131m – PG-13

Any review that starts out with, "wow that movie did not suck as bad as I thought it would" is not a raving review. This movie was no more or less than what it was advertized as. It’s a water ballet version of Transformers. The XY of my brain liked the eye candy with the babes, explosions and high action. It pulls a little bit at the patriotic heart strings and even has a multicultural flare. All of that doesn't change the fact that this is a movie that is based on a board game. A dull board game at that. This two hour board game advertisement gets a red light. The action was fine but nothing else. Excuse me while I go weep in the corner over the realization Candy Land is actually being developed.

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a brilliant family screw-up. He has potential that no one sees except for his brother. Commander Stone Hopper (Alexander Skarsgard). After Alex gets arrested for breaking into a convince store to steal a burrito for Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker), he is forced into joining the Navy by his brother. Fast forward to Alex as an officer on a ship and wants to marry Samantha. He is now in a position to ask for her hand from her father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson).
Alex gets into trouble with another officer Captian Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) from a Japanese ship and is going to be thrown out of the Navy after they get back to shore after the cross cultural naval games. Enter an alien invasion and the ship that Alex is on gets separated from the fleet and he must fight for humanity with a rag-tag group of survivors.

The main problem with this film is that it is just an excuse to blow things up and show off how cool real battleships are. The sad point is that they might have had some really good story ideas if they had let go of the whole board game tie-in aspect. If they spent more money on making a movie that was better told I think the payday would have been much higher for much longer. This could have been much better leveraged as a sea battle movie because battleships are extremely cool. They don’t need special gimmicks.

Rihanna was in this film and for nothing more than eye candy, (and she does that well). I feel that she was completely held back and made to be set dressing than actually doing anything substantial in the role. I think she has talent but she needs to get a more serious role to really give this acting thing a go.

Spoiler Warrning!!!! Only crew members of the Mighty Mo click here to see the spoilers!!!

Ok. If you have any military experience you would know that any military equipment is being given over to civilians or set up as a museum, they break every system in that piece of equipment. They pour concrete down the barrel and strip out anything that could give away any military secret. It would have been better to say that the Mighty Mo was on its way to be decommissioned.

The other problem is that it seemed like there were only really five people on the crew the stars did everything from sniper to navigating the ship to security sweeps. I was in the Army so I am not sure but doesn't each ship have like hundreds of people on it to keep it running? Why is the Capitan down in the hold running around clearing aliens?

Col. Greg Gadson is a real life Army Serviceman who was wounded during his service in Iraq. He has been working as a director of the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program and was approached by the film’s director (Peter Berg) to be in the film. This was a great opportunity to bring attention to the men and women who have served our country; I just wish it was a better venue. Col. Gadson’s scene was poorly written. He has such a powerful presence that was poorly used. The scene was presented as a man who overpowers his internal demons as well as kicking ass on an alien. The pacing felt like it was rushed and crammed in without making sure that it was constant with the tempo of the entire move.

What changes would you have made to the story? What do you think would have been a better direction?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Avengers

The Avengers – 142min – PG13

I am glad I was alive when they final got an epic superhero movie franchise right. I am not a fan boy of the comics. I was aware of them but I never followed them. I can say that these movies have made me a fan. We have spent a long time waiting for this film and I was nervous that they would follow the path of previous hero series. I saw this movie twice on Saturday. I like to see movies twice so once I can get lost in the story and the second time I can really examine the film. Honestly I would like to see it again because the second time I was just as involved with the story as the first viewing. Needles to say I am giving this marvelous movie a green light.

I usually talk about the plot in high level but I am going to forgo that and say this movie is about 130 min of high action. I can’t really talk about the plot without giving anything away so I will save most of the conversation for my spoiler section. I will say that the Avengers are composed of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). They are under the guidance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). All of them did an outstanding job, I have absolutely no negative comments about the cast in any way, and they personified the characters in every aspect.
Hero films in the past have been victims of the studio machine. Once they have a story idea they mold and stretch it into something to fit everyone’s palate and thereby ensuring that no one likes it. Perhaps they try and write the story to get as much as they can get out of the toys and games that go along with a big budget picture. These theories have failed in the past and I am glad to see that this is an example of a movie franchise that can keep focus on the source material.

I am also pleased with the fact they balanced its humor and action well. They had a great feel for smart and witty without going to low brow levels. In the past I think that people who make comic book films feel that it’s going to pander to kids so they write for what they feel the 12 to 14 year old demographic will like. The writing in this film brings the humor level higher and is still understandable to that age range without talking down to them.

The second time around I did see some specific camera shots that seemed out of place for the pace of the surrounding scenes and there was a use of reflections in this film that was prevalent throughout the movie. I am really going to have to go again to catch more and to focus in on more of the setting than the action.

The big question is where do they go from here? How do they top this film? Joss Whedon is an exceptional storyteller and filmmaker. I know that he can do a long story arc well but even I don’t see how they can continue at this level. I will enjoy watching him try.

Spoiler Warning!!! Only Members of S.H.I.E.L.D are authorized to Click her to see spoilers!!!

Ok first off The Hulk smack down is Hi-larious. I laughed so hard at that scene that I missed Hulk's line: “Puny God”. A second viewing was needed and I almost did not hear it because of the roars of laughter. I think that having the Hulk retain some of the facial structure of Mark Ruffalo was excellently done to bring a sense of connection in the conversion.

Agent Coulson dies and it was for a very good reason. There needed to be the one event that brings everyone together, they needed that catalyst moment and Phil’s death was what was needed.
I know that Joss gets hell from fans because he seems to kill of the people we come to know and love, but as a writer you have to be able to raise the stakes and the best way to do that is to kill off the ones we have made a connection to. We can’t kill off the heroes because that ends the story (unless you are a DC character) but we have to know that the dangerous battle is dangerous and the only way to do that is to have a death of one of the supporting cast. Besides this one was Kevin Feige’s Idea. (See the I09 article for more details.)

The movie starts off with high action and does not stop until they are eating Shawarma. If you left before the very end of the movie shame on you, they always seem to have a tidbit at the end. They also introduced a glimpse of the next bad guy, Thanos. Good bad guy .I see epic battles coming.
What do you think DC needs to do to compete with the new standard Marvel has set?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

ASTD Training Conference

I am at a conference for work and I will be unable to post this week, I will be posting again next week

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the Woods – 95Min – R

There is a formula to horror movies and this movie is not going to deviate from that formula, or is it? This movie is unapologetically dripping with the entire playlist of horror movie clichés. It was co-written by Joss Whedon which means that not everything is as obvious as you might believe. It's a new take on tired material, but it’s still not fresh enough to pull the “camp” out of this campy trip to the cabin. I enjoyed many parts of this film and I really liked the new perspective but not enough to give it more than a yellow light.

Roommates Dana (Kristen Connolly) and Jules (Anna Hutchison) are planning a getaway weekend to a cabin. They are going to be joined by Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams) and Marty (Fran Kranz). They drive up to the cabin and along the way they get a menacing warning from Mordecai (Tim De Zam), a gas station attendant that tells them they should take care up there. They arrive and start to enjoy themselves when the cellar opens up and they find a book that has a phrase that when spoken awakens the previous owners who were cannibals and are now zombies. Much mayhem ensues.

Drew Goddard directed this film and with Joss Whedon as a co-writer it has everything you need to be an excellent television show. I know it’s a movie, but the timing of the laugh lines is paced in such a way that it felt like they were relieving the tension almost too often for a film but just right for a TV Show. Please understand that I think the writing is awesome and the talent of the filmmaker shows through as it’s a very well made film. I expect more from this writing team than recycled ideas from television shows they have worked on in the past.

I have struggled with writing this review because I so desperately want to love this movie. When your favorite creative team gets together you want to have more than just average experience. Maybe the fault is mine? I see them as creative gods and really they are just like us. When many of the projects you work on are held in such high regard when you do just a good movie it pales in comparison to the body of work.

Spoiler Warning!!!! These Spoilers will overrun you with a warehouse full of nightmares!!!!! Click on this link to see the spoilers!!!!!!

The fact that this movie was all about the people who manage the sacrifices was a great take on the tired and over-used horror movie formula. It was hard for me to figure out what was really going on and I think that was done to keep me engaged. It was a good mix of the main story of the teens in the woods, and the intertwining of what was really going on. They presented more and more information as the events unfolded.

Love, love, love the speaker phone bit. That scene was excellent, I rarely laugh out loud at movies at most they get a grin, but this had me. The betting pool was great I can see people who work in an environment like that would need to have some fun. Making out with a stuffed wolf head…Allow me to quote a Geico commercial. “eeeew, seriously, that is so gross.”

The biggest problem I think I had was the fact the main feel of this film was an amalgam of Angel, Buffy, Dollhouse, and Lost. I could see this movie fitting into a season of any of these shows. It’s the end of the world…..again. They need to come up with a new thing to write about.

Amy Acker is awesome. Love her skill at characterization. It is also nice to see Bradley Whitford again. Brian White is someone I am going to have to seek out and watch his other films. His differences in characters from Good Deeds to this film are different enough that I want to see what other films he has done.

What movie have you really wanted to love but was disappointed by in the end because it was good but not as awesome as you expected?