Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Summer '14 Movie Thoughts

Written: January 2nd-3rd, 2014
 
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  And it is 2015, yay!!!  =D  Which is why I decided to take this moment to do something different to start off.  In the Summer of 2014 I saw twelve movies in theatres, and while I tried going over each of them individually (and in-depth) plans fell through unfortunately after I talked about the first two that I saw.  Part of it is the thing that contributes to this is that I'm more experienced at talking about video games, and when it comes to movies there's only so many things one could say about them.  Which is why I decided that I'm going to talk about all of them at once, only as brief summaries.
Another reason I'm starting off the year talking about movies as opposed to video games, my specialty, is that I wanted to branch out this year.  Plus for my New Year's Resolution (one of them, anyway) I wanted to get at least one post made per week (if not more), even if it's not about video games.  With that said, here's the overview:
 
Like a lot of people I frequently watch movies, especially in theatres.  2014's Summer had a lot of movies in stock for the theatres, but I only saw twelve on the big screen (two less the amount that I saw in theatres during 2013's Summer).  The majority of them I liked, with only one of them that left me feeling ambivalent towards it.  These are my personal thoughts on these Summer flicks, and everyone is entitled to their opinion; so if you don't agree with what I have to say about some (or any) of the movies that's fine, to each their own.  But please, be civil about it.  They'll be categorized by month, too, which shouldn't be too bad.  One more thing:
AMC's red balls (and the narrator of said red balls) preceding the previews are obnoxious as all hell!  >=P
Okay then, here they are, in summarized form:
MAY 2014
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 141 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Marc Webb
Marc Webb's 2012 Amazing reboot of Marvel's famed webslinger was met with mixed to generally positive reactions from fans and movie-goers alike, and I personally liked it; especially since it had its own identity despite rehashing some of the plot points from the first movie by Sam Raimi a decade prior.  But when the long-awaited sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out in May, it was nowhere near as well received, and for good reason: its lack of focus.  The movie tries to cram in so much in almost two and a half hours of running time, like the villains (including a sadly underused Paul Giamatti as the Rhino who only appears in two scenes) and subplots (like the mystery of Peter's parents and trying to reconnect with his best friend Harry Osborn), which won't bother those familiar with the character in the comics and shows but ultimately ends up losing the uninitiated in the process.  There's also the villain Electro who's played by Jamie Foxx, who starts off as an embarrassingly bad comic relief that he makes Richard Pryor's Gus Gorman from Superman III look more dignified by comparison, and when he becomes the villain the less said the better.  What ends up saving the movie, at least in my opinion, is the incredible production values, a largely great cast, its abundantly usage of colors throughout (the new Spidey suit is more vibrant than the one that was worn in the previous film), and when it doesn't stumble it doesn't forget to be fun!  Andrew Garfield is still excellent as the wisecracking Spider-Man and Peter Parker, and his scenes with Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy are the real highlights of the movie, plus they've got great chemistry so that helps too.  If not for so much clutter it would've fared better, but for what it is I liked it, and it ends on a decent note.  =)
My Personal Score: 3.5/5
 
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 123 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Gareth Edwards
The screening that I went to for this movie had a faulty projector, so as a result it was shown really dark, which doesn't exactly work in Godzilla 2014's favor since a lot of its scenes are shot in the dark!  Even so, there are a lot of issues that I have with this movie: for starters, the pacing is slow--and don't get me wrong, I don't mind slow-paced movies once in a while, but in the case of this movie it is painfully slow; and I maybe would not have minded that had the people been more interesting and full of personality and not a bunch of bores (like Aaron Taylor Johnson's Ford).  The two exceptions are Bryan Cranston who I thought was the life of the movie early in the proceedings, and Ken Watanabe's Dr. Ishiru Serizawa who has got a commanding presence and not entirely explained but subtle backstory; everyone one, I felt, sucked.  It's not that the acting was bad; it just wasn't enough to make me care about them.  The movie-exclusive MUTO's were interesting monstrosities, and the attention to detail was impeccable; and I'm sorry I have to harp on this movie, but you know what ultimately kills Godzilla's newest outing for me?  Tone--everything is taken so damn seriously there is not a single moment that lightens the mood or makes you laugh in the slightest (unless they were unintentional, like the rarely talked about "Boomer Will Live" snippet... I know it's only seen for a few seconds, but I can't be the only who noticed this).  Again, I would not have minded the tone had the slow buildup to Godzilla not been utterly tedious.  And speaking of Godzilla, he looks fine and is in good form (at least as far as I could see); but the problem is Edwards keeps cutting to the aftermath.  First time we see him get ready for battle--cut to aftermath; next time we see him get ready for battle--cut to aftermath; so, we've reached the climactic point of the movie where Godzilla is ready to confront the MUTO's, and what is the scenario?  Incredibly dark scene with actions hard to make out!  *sigh*  Promise me that when the sequel does come out that all of its scenes will be easy to see and that a tiny dose of light will be injected in it, making for a more satisfactory experience than this movie was.  Godzilla 2014 wasn't a bad movie by any means, and I appreciate aspects of it; but for being my first time seeing the King of Monsters on the big screen it was a disappointment, and the second weakest movie I saw that year (behind Annabelle).  =|
My Personal Score: 3.0/5
 
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 131 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Bryan Singer
Considering that he hadn't directed an X-Men movie since 2003's X2, it amazes me how eleven years later Bryan Singer has not lost his touch.  Taking place in the span of fifty years--or rather, it begins in the future and largely transpires in the past--this X-Men meets Terminator story (adapted from the comic event of the same name) was really engaging, thought-provoking, and emotionally resonant.  The cast is spot-on, mixing members from the original trilogy to the younger versions of the veteran mutants as introduced in Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class in the same pic, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is still fun and incredible as ever.  Considering the world of mutants as was established back in 2000, I can only imagine as a time travel movie how big of a nightmare maintaining continuity must have been.  I liked each characters' three-dimentionality (including Peter Dinklage as a well-acted Trask who turns the character into his own), and Singer has done a good job at making the '70s decade look and feel like the '70s.  Some of the fates in the future world are pretty damn intense for PG-13 (you'll have to see them for yourself), and above all is a well-paced and carefully structured movie from beginning to end; though why exactly was Logan told he would need Magneto's help in the past?  That wasn't exactly a smart idea.  I said X-Men: Days of Future Past was emotionally resonant before, and as much as I personally liked Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand, Bryan Singer's latest film in the franchise I thought was a much more touching and well-earned sendoff to the mutants.  Oh, and one mustn't talk about this movie without bringing up Quiksilver; his pivotal moment stole the movie.  =D
My Personal Score: 4.5/5
 
Rated: PG | Running Time: 97 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Robert Stromberg
I admit to have had some reservations before going to watch first-time director Robert Stromberg's Maleficent, a retcon on the story of the titular villainess from Sleeping Beauty.  I mean there is a lot to take into account, and there are many expectations to withstand; namely, will Angelina Jolie do Maleficent justice?  Answer: yes.  Jolie shines as the mistress of all evil, she looks the part, and she's got a great commanding presence.  I also liked the atmospheric environments, James Newton Howard's music is inviting and engaging as always, some of the special effects are well-done, and her chemistry with Elle Fanning's Aurora.  Since having found out that Sharlto Copley was in it, of course I had to see it; his Kruge was the sole highlight of Elysium.  To my disappointment his King Stefan was awful!  Some might be turned off by the Wicked formula that's implemented here, but I wasn't personally; the fairies have been turned into nitwits, and that's... bad.  For awhile Maleficent was slated to be two hours and fifteen minutes long, but the week and a half before scheduling day the running time's been cut back by thirty-eight minutes.  What the hell happened?  Did the same thing that happen to Superman IV: The Quest for Peace transpire here too: where initial test screenings of it were poorly received so to make up for it they had to trim roughly 28% of it?  I'll be very disappointed if this was what they planned all this time and that they did not make an extended cut of this (I own neither Blu-Ray nor DVD of the movie yet).  Personally I liked Maleficent for what it was, and I'm glad I saw it; though I can understand why others would not.  Predictable?  A little.  Terrible?  Not to me.  =)
My Personal Score: 3.5/5

JUNE 2014
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 113 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Doug Liman
The first few minutes in I was worried I was into a similar experience to one I had with Elysium the previous year, where every other character is an a-hole during the first act because the script demanded them to be--I'm looking at you, Brendan Gleeson's General Brigham.  But once the plot kicked into high gear, I was pleasantly relieved and surprised by how fun a romp the movie adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazawa's light novel All You Need is Kill was.  An amalgamation of Groundhog Day and Aliens, Edge of Tomorrow is a well-written and well-paced movie with some comedic dark humor thrown in which works to the movie's benefit.  Tom Cruise's William Cage is a likable main lead, and it's refreshing to see him play a role where he begins unprepared but the more he dies and starts the day over again, the more he learns and prepares in advance for what's to come.  It's also thought-provoking and engaging in the approach to this hybrid genre, in particular any time he pairs up with Emily Blunt's Rita Vrataski and how they work off of each other really well.  Bill Paxton was great too, even if his role was limited to secondary character.  But just because it's funny in bursts it doesn't mean that it's deep, it definitely is; even during the climactic part of the film very later on.  If there's something that wasn't really explained really well, without going into too much detail, it's the ending.  I don't know if the Japanese light novel established on that point or not, but while I hesitate to call it a deus ex machina, it was something I did not see coming.  Aside from that though, I had fun with Edge of Tomorrow=)
My Personal Score: 4.0/5

Rated: PG | Running Time: 102 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 | Directed by: Dean DeBlois
DreamWorks' 2010 hit How to Train Your Dragon was a really charming, magical, engaging, bittersweet, and incredibly appealing feature; which also had an intelligent and witty script and had a good moral.  I loved that movie so much, and it's one of my top favorite animated features ever.  Public consensus for How to Train Your Dragon 2, the middle chapter of the trilogy (we still have one more coming in 2017), says that it's a cash-in sequel but a good one; and yeah, that's exactly what it is.  And as far as (cash-in) sequels are concerned this is about on par with the predecessor in terms of quality, which is good because I honestly liked How to Train Your Dragon 2 as much as the first one (if not slightly more).  The good characters are still likable (including newcomer Valka voiced by Cate Blanchett), the premise about cat-like dragons is still excellent (Toothless is still awesome), and the animation and models are actually improved over the original (watch the two back to back, you'll be very surprised).  And like the original the 3D is superb when it comes to the flying scenes; even in 2D you can get a sense of being in the air when they whoosh through the clouds.  While the first movie was lighthearted, the second one veers into darker territory (especially around the seventy-minute mark... you know what I'm getting at); resulting in a serious but no less heartwarming experience.  And like the dragons, the first hour whizzes by so quickly (at least, to me it did) because of how fun and engaging it is.  To me this animated fare is second to Christopher Miller and Phil Lord's The Lego Movie for 2014.  I loved it, and I would gladly watch it over and over.  =D
My Personal Score: 5/5

JULY 2014
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 131 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 | Directed by: Matt Reeves
Rupert Wyatt's 2011 reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a movie that I admit I was ambivalent towards when it first came out, but since then my thoughts on it have softened.  So imagine my surprise when Matt Reeves' sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes not only was captivating and had three-dimensional characters (most of them, anyway) in an intelligently written script, but also by how emotionally resonant it was by the time the movie was over.  I'm not going to say it isn't a bit heavy-handed at times (especially through its symbolism), but even so this movie was really damn good.  Andy Serkis is still noble and worth rooting for as Caesar, with his own complexity making him all the more intriguing.  Koba is still frightening in his mannerisms and presence, but it was nice to see Caesar settle down and have a family... with every ape eventually learning how to talk (I can only presume a lot of time has passed since the ending of the preceding film).  The human characters (the majority of them) are sympathetic, even Gary Oldman's Dreyfus despite not being a good guy (not really spoilers, it's pretty obvious).  One of the things I liked about the movie is how it starts off calm and relaxing until it gradually but slowly eases in to dark territory; various moments are allowed to happen because the movie doesn't rush us, and I liked that.  The ending had such emotional depth, too, and despite concluding on a cliffhanger, it's enough to make me look forward to the next installment.  =D
My Personal Score: 4.5/5

Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 98 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Brett Ratner
Brett Ratner has received a lot of hate since having helmed X-Men: The Last Stand way back in 2006, despite the movie itself having not been received all that negatively by critics.  So much so that anytime his name pops up it's always treated as a bad sign for movies; regardless of how you feel about the guy he has made some worthwhile features: October Sky, The Family Man, and even Red Dragon.  The moment I saw the trailer for 2014's second feature on Hercules (the first one being Renny Harlin's reportedly so bad it's funny The Legend of Hercules) I just knew I had to see it.  The Rock as mythical hero Hercules?  How could one not imagine many possibilities with that?  Ratner's vision of Hercules, based on the Dark Horse Comics series of the same title, is a clever demythologization of the demi-God.  What if in the world they lived in there were no Gods?  What if in the world they inhabit the mythical creatures are actually disguises by normal human beings?  And what if the Hercules we all know and cherish is nothing but an experienced and pure-hearted mercenary (who's got a secret posse helping do his incredible deeds for him) who's still got bulk and muscle?  What a daring and ingenious premise.  To me the movie was a lot of popcorn fun; I liked Chris Johnson as Hercules, and Ian MacShane's Amphiaraus was funny with his delivery and dialogue (even when it involves him foreseeing his own death).  Maybe unintentional, but as I was watching I couldn't help but sense an eerie parallel to Thor: The Dark World... maybe it's because how because in both movies there were the main characters and a group of followers (one of them female).  The look and feel of the movie was neat, yet despite demythologizing the powers of the Gods, Hercules is still pretty damn strong for a normal human being.  Maybe not for everyone (reactions towards it are polarizing at best), but I enjoyed Hercules 2014--and that's good enough for me.  =)
My Personal Score: 4.0/5

AUGUST 2014
Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 121 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: James Gunn
Looking back, I still find it incredible how much negative hype there was surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Guardians of the Galaxy long before it had even arrived in theatres, mainly due to director James Gunn's involvement.  But once reviews started pouring in and once the movie came out in the 1st of August, all the negative hype long preceding it died away; reason being, Guardians of the Galaxy is an incredibly enjoyable super hero flick from the first frame to the very last.  And, in my humble opinion, I daresay it's the best MCU theatrical release since Joss Whedon's The Avengers.  The quintet who form up the Guardians of the Galaxy have got varying personalities which make them really distinctive and thoroughly engaging characters: from Parks and Recreations' and The Lego Movie's Chris Pratt as quirky '80s junkie Star-Lord, to Zoe Saldana's orphaned assassin Gamora, to Dave Bautista's Drax the Destroyer, to the best members of the team Rocket the genetically engineered raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Rocket's tree-like companion Groot (Vin Diesel).  Despite a lot fun action and hilarious moments and lines from time to time, there are some emotional moments too; which helps lend the movie emotional depth (even later on during the climactic section of the third act).  I didn't see it in 3D, but a lot of its special effects were spectacular and were pleasing to the eye.  The '70s and '80s selection of music gives this MCU movie its heart and personality, and it's incredible that it's as fantastic as it turned out.  The final post credits scene was one of the best parts of the movie, and not to give anything away, but it was a pleasant surprise.  If it seems like I'm not saying all that much about it it's because a lot has already been touted about Guardians of the Galaxy that I'm not sure I could possibly say anything different or new (at least, in one paragraph summary form).  I loved it, it's one of the best movies I saw in 2014, one of my favorite superhero movies ever, and I've got a feelin' that Marvel's direction is still going North.  =D
My Personal Score: 5/5

Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 89 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 | Directed by: Steven Quale
Against all odds, I liked Godzilla 2014 somewhat less than the movie adaptations of Vampire Academy and Divergent, though I think that's attributed to how much I cared about the characters in both movies (and the fact that neither ran at a boringly slow pace).  And seeing as the characters in Into the Storm 2014 aren't exactly well-written (hell, the movie itself isn't all that well-written) I should feel less decently about it than I do.  But, surprisingly, I ended up liking this tornado-driven disaster movie slightly more than Gareth Edwards' creature feature.  That's not to say it's a groundbreaking masterpiece by any means, but there were things I thought personally had their merits.  Steven Quale's movie is a collection of found footage thrown together, so everything happens in real-time... even if sometimes I can't help but wonder how the hell a certain perspective is being shot sometimes.  As not that greatly-written a movie as it was, I actually gave a crap for some of the characters in this movie than I did in the aforementioned Godzilla movie (namely the characters played by Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, and Richard Armitage) because at least they had character and were (sort of) relatable.  There is a tiny nod to Twister, but it's only seen for a fraction of a second so it's a blink and you'll miss it moment (hint: it involves a cow).  Once the tornados start making their grand appearance, HOLY CRAP!!!  It's tension-filled all the way from there, for they are well-rendered for a movie that clearly has no business being in theatres, and some of the shots are pretty chilling.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either; the fact that I ended up liking it a little bit is a bit surprising.  And honestly, with the other alternative that weekend being the Jonathan Liebesman/Michael Bay collaborated live action reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with some of the most frightening CG/motion capture ever, I think I made the right call in selecting this one instead.  =)
My Personal Score: 3.0/5

Rated: PG-13 | Running Time: 106 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: R.J. Cutler
I haven't read the Gayle Forman novel R.J. Cutler's theatrical adaptation was based on, but after having seen the movie, I almost want to go grab a copy of the book (and its sequel Where She Went).  Normally I don't go watching these kinds of movies, but something about the trailers that I got for it compelled me to give it a shot.  I thought the structure was interesting with Chloë Grace Moretz's Mia Hall's life hanging in the balance between life and death while her soul roaming around the hospital looking for her and recalling the events of her life that ultimately led to this tragic moment.  It's been compared to The Fault in Our Stars (which I really wanted to see but never had the chance), and not in favorable light; critics were bothered by the "conventional" or "melodramatic" way that If I Stay was presented.  On one hand I can understand how one would be put off by a movie of this stature, especially since it becomes draining near the end; but on the other I was honestly invested in the movie.  The acting is exceptionally well-done, and while I'm not normally a fan of Moretz's I actually liked her Mia (both as a soul and in flashbacks before the accident) a whole lot.  Her on-and-off boyfriend Adam was decent, and what's nice is that he wasn't obsessive or fell in the category of selfish douchebag, with maybe one instance.  Also refreshing is Mia's dysfunctional family: I like these guys!  They're not contrived and awkward, they feel natural; and the parents are so accepting of the positive times Mia goes through with Adam that it's a blessing.  I'm glad that Mireille Enos, who plays Mia's mother, contributed in a more prominent role than the scarcely limited one she provided for World War Z (also as a mother); and speaking of, she's awesome!  She's a rocker but is consoling and caring when the moment calls for it; she's understanding and is there when Mia needs comforting; and despite seeming responsibility-free at times she knows exactly what to say.  She's up there with Tino Tonitini's Mom from The Weekenders and Marge Simpson as the best mother in media ever.  I wasn't all too bothered by the placement of the flashbacks, as it does alternate between hospital and past.  Later on it does become a bit emotional, even in the closing scenes where everyone is there to see her; the classical music that frequently plays also helps expressing Mia's feelings.  A lot of critics probably regret having seen or have likely even forgot about If I Stay by now, but I have not regretted it and I still remember it.  Different strokes for different folks.  =)
My Personal Score: 3.5/5

Rated: PG | Running Time: 105 Minutes | Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 | Directed by: Ivan Reitman
The last movie I saw during the Summer of 2014 is also the best movie I saw in theatres during that season.  I freakin' love Ghostbusters, and the fact that the timeless 1984 Ivan Reitman classic got a limited rerelease to the big screen thirty years after it debuted was a perfect opportunity for me to experience it as it was meant to be: inside an indoor theatre.  And frankly it makes all the difference!  I'm a bit sheepish to admit, however, that I first saw the movie back in 2013 and never once saw it when I was little (I knew of The Real Ghostbusters animated series, though).  On one hand, I feel bad about that since it really is that good; on the other hand, it's probably for the best because had I grown up watching it in the '90s I would've likely ended watching a crappy 1.33:1 pan-and-scan version of it, and Lord knows I loathe the cropping of widescreen movies for the sake of fitting the size of the screen with an undying passion.  I don't care if there are borders above and below sandwiching the feature; show me the movie in the aspect ratio it was made to be presented in, or don't show me the damn film at all!  With that out of the way, what could I possibly say about Ghostbusters that hasn't been said a million times before?  The even mix of horror and comedy is seamless, the cinematography by László Kovács is great, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis' script is intelligently written with heart and wit, the special effects mostly hold up even today (with one exception), and the truly effective score by Elmer Bernstein gives the movie a lot of atmosphere and an appropriate sense of urgency.  The acting is great, and a lot of the comedy comes from the dialogue; if not for that the movie wouldn't be anywhere near as quotable as it is now ("Yes, it's true.  This man has no dick.").  Harold Ramis' and Casey Kasem's absence from our lives was keenly felt as I saw it on the big screen, and I still can't believe that the man who portrayed Dr. Egon Spengler--the man who lectured about crossing the streams--is gone.  Despite having seen this movie several times, some of the scenes I saw in the theatrical showing still gave me chills (thank the surround sound and the big screen); like when the wall of an apartment blows up right in front of a possessed Dana who just stands there as it happens, and even the closing moments.  To me Ghostbusters is an all-time classic that never gets old no matter how many times I watch it... can't say the same for the inferior Ghostbusters II; but I do wonder if the female-driven Ghostbusters reboot by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig will deliver.  If there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?  =D
My Personal Score: 5/5

With the exception of the 30th anniversary Ghostbusters poster (from http://wpc.556e.edgecastcdn.net/80556E/img.site/PH4KHYCVd5AT89_1_m.jpg), the other poster images I got from the Rotten Tomatoes website.
So those were my opinions on these movies.  Again, if you have any misgivings about my opinion or don't agree with them, that's okay, we can agree to disagree.  All I ask is that you be civil about it.  2015 is off to a good start, and I cannot wait to start covering more video games on my blog.
 
I'm StarBoy91, and may your day shine brightly!  =)
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
Thank you for reading my latest blog post, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think (whether it be about the specifics of the blog entry or the subject itself).  Happy New Year, and Take Care!  =D


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