Film Review: Juice (1992)

Also known as: Angel Town 2 (Europe video title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1992
Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson
Written by: Ernest R. Dickerson, Gerard Brown
Music by: Hank Shocklee and The Bomb Squad
Cast: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine Hopkins, Khalil Kain, Cindy Herron, Vincent Laresca, Samuel L. Jackson, George O. Gore II, Fab 5 Freddy, Doctor Dre, Ed Lover, Donald Faison, Oran “Juice” Jones, Special Ed, EPMD (Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith)

Island World, Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You gotta snap some collars and let them motherfuckers know you here to take them out anytime you feel like it! You gotta get the ground beneath your feet, partner, get the wind behind your back and go out in a blaze if you got to! Otherwise you ain’t shit! You might as well be dead your damn self!” – Bishop

Any film that opens with a Rakim song is going to get me pumped up. Juice opens up with the best Rakim song, so I was hooked right away.

Truth be told, this was a favorite film of mine during my middle school years. It came out at the very beginning of the black film movement that happened in the ’90s. This, along with New Jack CityBoyz N The Hood and Menace II Society made a huge cultural impact and for good reason.

Watching it now, I do notice some of the weaknesses of the film, which weren’t as apparent in my younger days.

A big part of the narrative towards the end of the movie has to do with how the gun crazy Bishop (Shakur) is pinning his killings and crimes on his ex-best friend Q (Epps). While Bishop gets his just desserts and Q survives, it’s left unknown what the outcome really was. Was Q in trouble? Would he still be punished for these crimes? Or would his other friend Steel, who survived an attempt on his life, be able to save his friend. While Steel mentions that Bishop is setting up Q to a nurse that is their friend, you don’t know if he survives his trip to the ER. I guess it is to be assumed that it worked out okay but after Bishop’s death, the film ends abruptly.

Another issue I have with the narrative, is that it doesn’t really develop Bishop’s power trip enough. Sure, having a gun is power but it is pretty one-dimensional in how it is handled. Also, the group of friends, who skip school and steal records, still feel like decent kids. The plot shifting to them all of a sudden deciding to rob a corner store just happens out of nowhere.

Still, shaky narrative aside, the film is an adrenaline rush, especially over the course of the last act.

It is well acted by all important parties in the film. Epps and Shakur are pretty exceptional and both men were incredibly young in this. In fact, this was what brought Tupac into the mainstream for most people. He was given an opportunity, ran with it and did great.

The film is very stylistic and represents early ’90s east coast hip-hop well. There are also cameos from several known rappers and hip-hop personalities besides Tupac: Queen Latifah, Treach, Special Ed, EPMD and from Yo! MTV Raps, Ed Lover, Doctor Dre and Fab 5 Freddy. You also get to see Samuel Jackson in an early role, just before he broke out as a star in 1994’s Pulp Fiction.

I also love that they focused a lot on Q’s quest to make it as a respected DJ in the super competitive New York City landscape. The movie does a good job of showcasing what DJ battles were like at the time, when DJs still mixed manually and didn’t have computers and gadgets to make their lives infinitely easier.

Juice is gritty and has a strong feeling of realism to it. Plus, it has a lot of energy and a great soundtrack.

Film Review: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Release Date: December 13th, 2014 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon)
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn
Based on: The Secret Service by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons
Music by: Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sofia Boutella, Sophie Cookson, Mark Hamill

Marv Films, Cloudy Productions, Shangri-La Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 129 Minutes

Review:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Harry Hart

I missed this when it initially came out in the theater a few years back and then it sort of got lost in the shuffle of time. However, I’ve really heard nothing but great things about it since it came out and I wanted to give it a watch now that its sequel is coming out.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed and in fact, I was really impressed with the film but I guess I can expect great things from Matthew Vaughn after he gave us Layer CakeKick-Ass and X-Men: First Class. Plus, this thing had a solid cast with Colin Firth, Sam Jackson, Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Mark Hamill, Sofia Boutella and impressive newcomers Taron Egerton and Sophie Cookson.

It is impossible to not compare this film to the James Bond series, as it is a gadget-filled British action spy thriller. The main difference, is this is more of a comedy and features a young spy coming into the fold. Kingsman, though, is a much hipper take on the genre.

You see, as James Bond was forced to evolve into a more serious series at the beginning of the Daniel Craig era, the jovial spirit of the franchise has been missing. It is understandable that it had to change, as films like Austin Powers were parodying it to the point of no return and the Pierce Brosnan era (no fault of Brosnan’s) had gotten too hokey and playful for its own good.

Kingsman brings us back to that classic Bond energy without being overly cheesy. It somehow found the perfect balance between serious and playful for the modern era. It is also cooler than the modern Bond movies and a lot more interesting. It fills the giant void that has been gone for a long time and it has kind of cemented itself in there. In fact, the James Bond franchise could learn a lot from this film.

Parts of the movie, however, are a bit insane and very stylized. The thing is, it works to this film’s benefit. Kingsman knows what it is and it really embraces itself, for better or for worse. That being said, its self-confidence permeates with something truly genuine and fantastically bad ass. It has gravitas that the uber serious modern Bond pictures don’t have. And don’t get me wrong, I generally like the Craig Bond films but Kingsman is the true throwback to the classic era of spy thrillers, even if it brings its own refreshing take to the table.

The entire cast is extraordinary and there really isn’t a weak link. Taron Egerton was perfect casting as the main character, Eggsy. Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine and Mark Strong each had a great presence. It was cool seeing Mark Hamill and Sofia Boutella, now most famous as the newest version of the title character in The Mummy.

It is Colin Firth that really takes the cake in the picture, though. This is a great role for him, a man who has played just about everything and won an Oscar in the process. Honestly, as much as I loved him in The King’s Speech, this is now my favorite Firth role.

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a wonderful experience, especially for old school James Bond fans that have been yearning for something in that classic style. While this is a very modernized take on the genre, it truly knows its roots and it balances the new with the old pretty seamlessly. Most importantly, the film is exciting and fun.

 

Film Review: Oldboy (2013)

Release Date: November 27th, 2013
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Mark Protosevich
Based on: Oldboy by Park Chan-wook, Im Joon-hyeong, Hwang Jo-yoon
Music by: Roque Banos
Cast: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Michael Imperioli, Max Casella, Pom Klementieff, Rami Malek,

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Good Universe, Vertigo Entertainment, FilmDistrict, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I swear, I don’t know nothin’! I swear before God and eight motherfuckin’ white people!” – Chaney

The original Oldboy might be my favorite South Korean film of all-time. Its director, Park Chan-wook made an almost flawless film. It was an instant classic, has stood the test of time and become more than just a cult film in the United States and around the world.

Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors. I’ve been a fan since seeing Do The Right Thing as a kid. He’s got a unique visual style and a great gift for storytelling. While I respect his work, I’m a bit puzzled as to why he wanted to remake Oldboy, as it was pretty unnecessary.

I guess Hollywood always wants English language versions of foreign hits but the fact that Spike Lee stepped up is a bit strange. Although, the combination of Lee’s skill and style mixed with this violent Asian tale motivated me to check it out.

I’ve heard this film being slammed by many critics and fans of the original. I get it, as some things should be sacred and all that. However, after seeing the film, I think a lot of the bitching is just bitching for the sake of bitching. This film is not as good as the original but looking at it as a completely separate entity, it’s still a pretty good film.

Josh Brolin was fantastic, as he usually is. On top of that, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel Jackson were really good. I also enjoyed the performances of Michael Imperioli and Sharlto Copley. Max Casella even shows up for a bit.

Action-wise, the epic fight from the first film was recreated but not as well. It was still a damn good sequence all on its own but if we are going to compare them, the original was superior. Again, the original, as a whole, was a superior film.

The cinematography in this movie was beautiful. Spike Lee and his art department really did their job in creating specific emotional vibes from scene-to-scene. The “hotel room” was eerie and haunting and really became its own character within the film.

If you were to see this film without being a big fan of the original, you’d probably enjoy it more. It’s not as bad as people say and Spike Lee did some great work, fattening his already amazing portfolio.

But again, after seeing it, I still have to question why this remake was necessary. And in retrospect, this was a project destined to piss off fans and critics alike.

Film Review: The ‘Star Wars’ Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005)

*Written in 2015.

I haven’t watched these films in a few years. I catch glimpses of them from time to time as I am flipping through channels on cable but it has been at least five years since I’ve sat down and watched this trilogy in its entirety.

It is universally agreed upon that this trilogy was not on par with the original trilogy and many people have griped about these three films for well over a decade now. I knew they weren’t as good but I used to try and defend them, as I could look passed their faults because at least they were new Star Wars movies.

Having had a lot of time away from this series and being less enthusiastic than I probably should be about the upcoming Disney films, I can no longer defend the prequels in good conscience. They are what essentially killed the Star Wars magic inside of me, even if I didn’t want to see it at the time.

But let me address each one individually.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999):

Release Date: May 25th, 1999
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Pernilla August, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Ahmed Best, Ray Park, Terence Stamp, Keira Knightley, Peter Serafinowicz, Sofia Coppola, Warwick Davis

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 133 Minutes

Review:

“I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The Phantom Menace is a bad film, plain and simple.

There are only a few good things even worth mentioning as positives.

To start, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor were great as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Also, Darth Maul is the most bad ass looking Sith of all-time. Unfortunately, Darth Maul has little screen time and meets his demise before this film is over and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have to share most of their scenes with any combination of the characters Jar Jar Binks, Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala. All three of those characters, in this film and really all of the films, were mostly unbearable.

This installment into the Star Wars mega franchise was too full of political nonsense and pointless babble about stuff no one cares about. Sure, we’d like to know how the Galactic Empire came to be and how the Sith rose to power and conquered the Jedi but we didn’t need endless diatribes about details no one even remotely wanted to follow.

Also, take into account what this franchise was before this movie. You have now replaced terrifying and cool Storm Troopers with anorexic and bumbling Battle Droids. You replaced Rebel soldiers with thousands of Jar Jars and armed them with bubbles. You replaced X-wing Starfighters and TIE Fighters with awfully designed Naboo Starfighters and Vulture Droids. You replaced desolate and wild worlds with the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Everything about this film was wrong: in tone, in characters, in design, in total execution.

It was corny, cheesy, way too child friendly and full of more annoyances than things that are actually cool.

Fuck pod racing. Fuck midichlorians. Fuck George Lucas.

There really is nothing I like about this film other than the few things mentioned around paragraph two. And even then, they certainly aren’t enough to save this movie.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002):

Release Date: May 12th, 2002 (Tribeca)
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Rose Byrne, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Liam Neeson

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 142 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Anakin Skywalker

Attack of the Clones may be even worse than The Phantom Menace.

This film offers up a lot of the same as the previous. Luckily though, Jar Jar Binks has pretty limited screen time, as the backlash of that character was tremendous. In fact, I’ll be shocked if future Star Wars films even remotely show a Gungan.

The cool thing about this film is the inclusion of Jango Fett and the origin of his son, the uber popular and awesome Boba Fett. Also, Christoper Lee, one of my three favorite actors of all-time, shows up as the Sith Lord, Count Dooku.

This film should have been awesome. Well, for the first time ever, we get to see what happens when an army of Jedi fights together. While it was visually cool to see a bunch of Jedi light up a few dozen lightsabers, it happened against Battle Droids. You know, those clumsy metal comedians that the idiotic Gungans beat in the previous film. Somehow, now, they present a challenge to the best Jedi in the galaxy. Am I missing something here?

Also, one thing that has always bothered me about the Star Wars films was the ambiguous travel times. Never is it as much of a continuity problem, as it is here.

Look at the timeline of people traveling to Geonosis. Yoda shows up five minutes after Mace Windu, even though they both left Coruscant at the same time and Yoda had to make a pit stop at Kamino to pick up the Clone Army. Anakin and Padmé got there not too long before Windu because they knew Windu would not make it in time to stop Kenobi’s execution. However, Windu walks up just as the attempt at execution is going down. And Windu was walking casually slow. Had he tried not to look so cool, he could’ve probably beat the clock for sure.

This movie is a mess. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s acting during the Anakin and Padmé romance scenes was beyond painful to watch.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005):

Release Date: May 15th, 2005 (Cannes)
Directed by: George Lucas
Written by: George Lucas
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Temuera Morrison, Joel Edgerton, Bruce Spence, Keisha Castle-Hughes, James Earl Jones, Bai Ling (scenes cut)

Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, 140 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, I have a bad feeling about this.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

The third and final movie in the prequel trilogy is the best of the three. However, it still isn’t very good by Star Wars standards.

In this one, we see Anakin’s destiny reach full climax as, by film’s end, he becomes the iconic Darth Vader. Of course, the path to full Vaderdom is just more of the same bullshit that we’ve had to endure over multiple films now. And Hayden Christensen continues to give a wooden performance accented by Natalie Portman, who doesn’t even want to be there and Ewan McGregor, who is trying to be passionate with the shitty lines George Lucas gave him to speak.

This film solidifies just how stupid the Jedi Council is or just how bad of a writer that George Lucas is. Why are only two Jedi sent to rescue the Supreme Chancellor who is held hostage over Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy? I mean, there is a Jedi Temple full of Jedi below, even if many are off fighting on other planets. And why did Yoda and Obi-Wan not tag team Palpatine and then Anakin? And somehow, Yoda and Obi-Wan fought their battles at the same time, even though they took off for them simultaneously but one was down the street and the other was on the other side of the galaxy. Again, ambiguous travel times.

Count Dooku dies too early. General Grievous is a dumb villain and it is clear that instead of having long lasting iconic bad guys like Darth Vader, Lucas would rather give us Maul then Dooku then Grievous in an effort to sell more toys. Sacrifice the story, sell more shit.

Fuck this movie too.

 

Film Review: Do The Right Thing (1989)

Release Date: May 19th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee
Music by: Bill Lee, Public Enemy
Cast: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Spike Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, John Savage, Roger Guenveur Smith, Rosie Perez, Joie Lee, Steve White, Martin Lawrence, Robin Harris, Paul Benjamin, Frankie Faison, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Park, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Turturro

40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Universal Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

In the summer of 1989 I was in Brooklyn visiting family for a few weeks. Being a big film buff, even at ten years-old, I had already seen every big summer movie that year. My cousin was driving us around and he asked if I wanted to see a movie. I did. He asked what I wanted to see. Thinking he would say “no”, I still replied “Do The Right Thing.” Being the cool nineteen year-old kid that he was, he smirked and said, “Well, alright.”

Leading up to my seeing Do The Right Thing in a movie theater in Brooklyn, not far from where the movie took place, I was mesmerized by the trailers and footage I saw on television. Living in Southwest Florida, I didn’t have a lot to do during summer days, except hang with friends, play video games or watch TV. I often times spent hours watching a cable channel called Movietime, which was actually E! Entertainment Television before it re-branded itself. On that channel, they always showed trailers, over and over again, and also went behind the scenes on films in development or coming out. It was a cool channel that taught a young film fan a lot about the industry and art he loved. But it is there, where I saw trailers and other footage for Do The Right Thing. Something about it just drew me in.

I always cherished the experience of seeing this film, so close to where it was made, at a time when I hadn’t quite experienced a real adult film in the theater. It was exciting but at the same time, it was a lot more than that. Do The Right Thing had a profound effect on me and how I saw other people. When I watch it now, much later in life, it is a reminder of that experience and the lessons I learned from it. It also is one of the first films that I saw to really cultivate my love for the art of motion pictures and filmmaking itself. This, alongside Cinema Paradiso, made me see movies differently.

Having just revisited Do The Right Thing for the first time in several years, it is kind of sad. Not because of the film itself but because it took away some of my optimism in regards to people. When I saw it was a kid, I truly believed that society was headed in the right direction. I thought that as time rolled on, the struggle of black people and the prejudices in America would improve. Yet, this film is almost thirty years old and its message is maybe even more relevant today than it was in 1989. Will it be even more relevant in another 30 years?

Spike Lee did a fantastic job with Do The Right Thing and it is, still to this day, my favorite Lee film (Malcolm X is a very close second). Maybe it is due to the experience it gave me when I should have been too young to have to see the world for what it is. But out of all his films, this one has the strongest message not just for African-Americans but for all Americans. And again, it is still a message that needs to be heard today.

The cinematography is stellar. The film really captures the people, the scenery and Brooklyn life in that era. The technique of using first-person perspective, which gets more prevalent as the film progresses and racial tensions increase, is masterfully shot and presented. The breaking of the fourth wall, as characters’ inner monologues come to life, directed at the audience, is effective in understanding their deepest inner prejudices and in helping escalate the tension from a narrative standpoint.

The use of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” throughout the film is perfect and really gives an anthem to the attitudes of many of the characters. It represents, what this film, at its core, is all about. The character of Radio Raheem was the perfect vessel within the film to deliver the song to the masses, as he walked up and down the street, all day, blasting the song from his radio. He wasn’t just a vessel for the message though, he was also a symbol, a physical embodiment of it. Bill Nunn did a fine job as Raheem and made him into an iconic figure for many.

There are several really standout performances in the film. I think a lot of props need to go to Giancarlo Esposito as Buggin’ Out. Most people know Esposito as the villainous Gus from Breaking Bad. It was his role in this film, that put him on the map for me. Then years later, when I did see him on Breaking Bad, playing one of the greatest villains in television history, I was ecstatic because this was a guy who I had followed since seeing him on the big screen as a ten year-old in a Brooklyn movie theater. I’ve always thought Esposito was an underutilized actor but those who regularly work with him know his talent. In Do The Right Thing, Esposito is so committed to the role that he really stands out above everyone else. And we’re talking about a movie that has Samuel Jackson, Rosie Perez, John Turturro, Robin Harris, Frankie Faison, Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Martin Lawrence, Frank Vincent and so many other faces that own the screen when they are on it.

Roger Guenveur Smith’s performance as Smiley is also superb. You couldn’t not feel for the guy and when he lost his shit, you were right there with him. It’s also heartbreaking to see how others in the film treat him, even his friends, due to his handicap. Smith  has played a lot of great characters over the years but Smiley is the one I most fondly remember.

There are few films that illustrate a sense of human brotherhood as much as Do The Right Thing. While it shows cultural clashes and tensions boiling over into violence, it also provides hope and displays a lot of wisdom. Most of the characters try to maintain order but the few who keep pushing each other bring the whole neighborhood to its breaking point. And then the cops show up to screw it up even more.

Do The Right Thing isn’t just a great film, it is an important film, maybe even more so today than in 1989.

Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Release Date: April 13th, 2015 (Dolby Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler, Danny Elfman
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 141 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Avengers: Age of Ultron further solidified the main takeaway that I had after seeing The Avengers three years ago. A film this big, with a multitude of characters strong enough to carry their own film, is not necessarily a good formula. This wasn’t a bad movie, but like the first film featuring all the Avengers, it ranks below most of the solo films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Yes, I did enjoy the movie but nowhere near as much as the recent films that preceded this one: Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Winter Solider. I even enjoyed Thor: The Dark World more than this. The fact of the matter is, this film is just too busy.

In its busyness, Avengers: Age of Ultron lacks a good balance between the characters. There seems to be more focus on Black Widow and the Hulk, which is fine, as neither seem to be getting their own film anytime soon, but it makes things somewhat lopsided and there’s just a bunch of dudes in superhero garb one-lining each other to death from start-to-finish. And while Tony Stark witticisms are funny and the camaraderie of all these actors is generally pretty great, it has gotten to the point where it is starting to feel like a caricature of itself. The joke is wearing thin and it seems less organic now. The banter has gotten too predictable and thus, somewhat mundane. Much of it seemed forced and the back-and-forth between them over their radios during big battles, didn’t come off as natural. It felt like actors reading lines to a room full of strangers and a green screen.

Ultron, the main villain of the story, was created way too quickly, conveniently and easily. I feel like he should have been something brewing in Stark’s lab for a very long time. Something in the shadows that had been watching this whole time. Maybe there should have been seeds planted throughout other movies. I mean, the studio had to know they were going to do a film with Ultron, right? Right?!

The execution of Ultron was half-assed and the character, in this film, just didn’t feel like the unbeatable and nearly omnipotent Ultron of the comic books. Additionally, his personality was bizarre. While he was a cold and calculated killing machine, ready to wipe humanity away, he subjected himself to his own witticisms and his own weird sense of humor. Also, his powers were pretty limited compared to his comic book version, which they did because it is harder to write a story where the heroes are essentially fighting a god. That is a pretty weak cop out. Isn’t Thor a god? And then you have the Scarlet Witch, Hulk and Vision, so…

In a nutshell, Ultron came across as a bulked up General Grievous. But at least Grievous had four lightsabers. Ultron just had an army of flying robots that have been used to death since the second Iron Man film, which was eight Marvel movies ago.

And what was the point of Baron Strucker? He should have been just some random unimportant Hydra commander. He was made to look extremely weak and then just brushed aside and murdered off-screen. It was a waste of an iconic character that had potential and probably should have been used as a major villain on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also, his eye piece looked retarded.

Yay, Nick Fury shows up! And then he just talks a bunch.

The CGI at certain points in this film was just ridiculous. In the opening scene, everything felt too sped up and the movements of the Avengers came off as pretty cartoony. Call me old fashioned but what’s wrong with using some practical effects? It isn’t a bunch of Avatar creatures fighting a Tolkien dragon, it’s a bunch of human beings in costumes. So they all move like Jedi on cocaine now? And what’s the point of Quicksilver, if every other character comes off as almost that fast? The opening scene of Avengers: Age of Ultron just reminded me of that awful snow mountain sequence from last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Speaking of Quicksilver and while I’m at it, the Scarlet Witch, both of them had horrible accents. Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn’t. I guess that’s okay though, since Black Widow, a Russian character, sounds like she is from New York City. Also, Joss Whedon recently poked fun at how X-Men: Days of Future Past handled their version of Quicksilver. Whedon’s a boring jackass, as his version was one-dimensional, uninteresting and didn’t have a single moment nearly as notable as the amazing prison break scene from last year’s X-Men film.

Oh yeah, and Quicksilver dies. You see, there had been a rumor around for awhile that an Avenger would be killed off in this film. A rumor that was pretty much confirmed. But what Whedon did was go the easy route. The guy who loves killing likable characters, didn’t have the balls to commit this round. Maybe that was Marvel’s call, maybe it was Whedon’s, no one will ever really know but it was a pointless and shallow end to a pointless and shallow character.

The plot was nothing special. You can take away almost everything you need from the trailers. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the set up. Essentially, bad guy is born, bad guy fucks shit up, good guys fight him and then win. There are no surprises, no big twists, nothing great and unexpected. It is a pretty straightforward story and predictable. But at least they weren’t standing around talking on a Helicarrier for a third of the film like the last one. And at least the big enemy wasn’t a giant propeller or generic aliens on flying jet skis.

And the big evil plan? Ultron lifts some eastern European city into the sky with underground boosters, in an attempt to drop it back down to Earth like a meteor. And people think Whedon is a genius? Ultron was mentally handicapped for a super computer but at least they explained that the giant rock wasn’t crumbling as it was being lifted due to some magic magnetic field. Never mind that this super strong magnetic field wasn’t stopping small pieces from crumbling off the edges during the very lengthy sequence. And I wasn’t sure how the city lifting didn’t turn the city itself into a crumbled mess pretty instantaneously. Were the buildings protected by the magnetic field too? And when Thor saved people falling off the floating city, why did he drop them off on the floating city destined to crash and not the fucking ground below?

And with the giant floating rock, was Whedon inspired by Superman Returns. Visually, this idea felt like a reverse of the major villainous plot from that film.

Then there was the ongoing joke of the film, that started with the first dialogue exchange. Stark says “shit” and Cap points out his potty mouth, to which every five minutes someone has to poke fun at Cap about how lame he is. Because if you forgot, he’s from the World War II era and must be an old coot.

And why did Black Widow have a tactical outfit that lit up like a character from Tron? How the fuck is she supposed to sneak up on bad guys and take them out stealthily if you can see her body outline glowing in the dark? Then again, neon Scarlett Johansson boobies would probably distract anyone long enough for her to get in a punch.

As far as positives, I like the seed planted for the upcoming Black Panther film. I also like how the arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis, is Klaw. They even went as far as to make him lose an arm in the film. I also liked how they made the Hulk v. Iron Man in Hulkbuster armor battle happen. I thought it would be handled poorly and was a bullshit attempt at fan service but how they made it work in the film was pretty awesome. Granted, I don’t understand why people were standing around gawking during the fight but that’s Hollywood for ya.

I also like that Hawkeye actually had a presence in this movie and wasn’t just some Loki zombie for 90 percent of the film. The look into his life and the fleshing out of his character was good. I liked the casting of Linda Cardellini as his wife.

I liked the tension between Captain America and Iron Man, which is a nice set up to what will happen in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

I like that the Infinity Stones were finally explained and that Thanos acquires the Infinity Gauntlet in the mid-credits scene. Although that scene was bizarre and it seemed like Thanos was breaking the fourth wall. I don’t like that there wasn’t a post-credits scene.

However, the greatest thing about this film was Vision (I’ve always hated calling him “The Vision”). Paul Bettany, who has been the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. since the first Iron Man film in 2008, was brought to life in the form of Vision. Bettany was the perfect choice and not just because his voice was Tony Stark’s assistant over the years, he just had a very serious yet calming presence that made him perfect for the part.

I’m fairly excited for where this series can go but I am more optimistic about the future than the present, as the next set of Avengers films will not be helmed by Joss Whedon. To be frank, I don’t understand the insane amount of fans that guy has.

Well, next up is Ant-Man. I’m hoping its smaller scale, pun intended, is a refreshing experience because this film was too large for its own good.

But what the hell do I know? Billions of fan boys will love this without question because Marvel can apparently do no wrong and Joss Whedon has a golden penis.

Film Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Release Date: February 28th, 2017 (Odeon Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Written by: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatnis
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Henry Jackman
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly, Robert Taylor

Legendary Pictures, Tencent Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

I guess I will forever have a personal connection to this film, as the cigar box that Samuel L. Jackson’s Col. Packard keeps his medals in, is one that I designed in 2004. Strange that a product I had a hand in creating a decade ago ended up in a film that takes place just after the Vietnam War.

Personal connection aside, it should be no surprise to anyone who regularly reads Cinespiria, that I am a massive fan of kaiju movies. So anything with giant monsters is always a treat, especially when it comes with a cast of actors as strong as those in Kong: Skull Island.

While I liked Legendary Pictures’ Godzilla from 2014, it lacked a certain spirit that the giant scaly kaiju always seemed to have in his Japanese films. Kong: Skull Island is also missing that spirit. While it feels like there is some heart put into the film, it was sacrificed for action and the current trend of making films as big and as loud as possible. It is also a CGI fest that doesn’t always work, as it sometimes looks spectacular and other times looks shoddy.

Kong is still a great conflicted character that you feel for, and I guess, to me, that is always the most important part of any Kong story. In this film, you learn that his family was killed by the giant reptiles that live under the island. You even have a scene where our heroes come across a graveyard where the bones of Kong’s parents are on display. You certainly care for the big hulking CGI ape, which is good at building the foundation for what the studio plans to do after this film. Ultimately, we will get to a Godzilla and King Kong showdown after the next solo Godzilla movie.

I thought it was great that this film is just shy of two hours. The Peter Jackson King Kong from 2005 was a tremendous bore at well over three hours and Hollywood has had this trend of making big blockbusters a lot longer than they need to be.

In regards to the story, the setup and the purpose for going to the island is well orchestrated. Once we get to the island however, things move too fast and are very disjointed. I feel like the reveal of Kong came too early. Maybe Legendary Pictures were trying to makeup for the lack of Godzilla in Godzilla but it was too much, too soon in this picture. Seeing Kong destroy a fleet of helicopters minutes after they arrive was surprising. While this Kong doesn’t follow the traditional storylines of its predecessors, Kong typically doesn’t really arrive until the halfway point of his films. Even in the first Toho Kong film from Japan, it was a good third of the way through the movie before the giant ape showed up to crush a giant octopus.

The cast, as great as the ensemble is, wasn’t that exciting to watch. It almost feels like a Marvel movie though, as it features four actors from the Avengers film franchise: Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), John C. Reilly (a small part in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brie Larson (who has been cast to play Captain Marvel). None of the characters were written that well and they all seemed a bit lifeless. It was cool seeing Hiddleston get to be a macho bad ass but there was no real depth to who he was.

Kong: Skull Island was a bit of a disappointment. The first trailer looked really good and I had hoped that Legendary would have corrected some of the mistakes they made with Godzilla. In attempting to do so, they may have gone too far in the other direction, they need to find the balance. Frankly, for movies about giant monsters fighting, neither are as exciting as they should be.