Category Archives: Science Fiction

When Harry Met Sally – IN SPAAAAAACE!

Please note: This review contains spoilers. That’s right, I’m going to ruin the whole movie for you. You can’t stop me. I’m mad with power!

passengers

Passengers (2016)

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheehan, Laurence Fishburne

Director: Morten Tyldum

Rating: PG-13 for partial space nudity and space hanky panky.

Plot: Two passengers on a luxurious, long range space ship emerge from hibernation decades early and learn they will die before everyone else wakes up. It’s a love story!

In the future, Earthlings will travel through space to colonize far off planets.

They say this will happen because future Earth will be overcrowded and polluted, but I believe it will be because Amazon.com will become so powerful it will eventually need other planets to conquer.

As Passengers opens, the interplanetary space ship Avalon is 30 years into its 120 year trip to a planet called Homestead II. Thousands of passengers and crew are in hibernation pods aboard the massive automated vessel with an interior that looks like a cross between an Apple store, a Carnival cruise ship, and The Mall of America.

A freak meteor storm causes the ship to malfunction, and for some reason a single hibernation pod pops open and out pops affable engineer Jim Preston (Chris Star Lord Pratt).

Jim learns quickly that the Avalon has not reached Homestead II, mostly because he’s the only person to show up at the “Welcome back from Hibernation” seminar at the conference center. Then Jim discovers some horrible truths: his hibernation pod can’t be reactivated, the ship won’t reach its destination for another 90 years which means he will die alone long before the others wake up, and only first class passengers get unlimited bacon in the automated cafeteria!

Without a volleyball to talk to, Jim befriends Arthur (Michael Sheehan) an android who tends bar at a swanky lounge located on the Avalon’s massive promenade.

As a fair man of the bottle I can appreciate Jim and Aurthur’s relationship. There have been times in my life when I was in despair, desperate for some beacon of hope, and a bartender was there to offer me comfort and understanding with a kind word, some sage advice, and a shiny wall of booze. Treasure your bartenders, kids. They are special people.

After a year of moping about the ship, Jim spots pretty Aurora Lane (uber movie star Jennifer Lawrence) fast asleep in her pod. He becomes smitten with the pretty Aurora, an accomplished journalist and writer who would have been way out of his league back on earth.

Desperate to talk to someone other than a robot bartender who doesn’t know a single dirty joke, Jim does something that back on earth would be classified as a “dick move.” He breaks Aurora’s pod and when she wakes up he tells her a ship malfunction did it.

Yeah, the trailer for Passengers didn’t mention that plot twist did it?

Affable Jim is kind of a monster for sentencing poor Aurora to a life sentence alone on the Avalon with him and then lying about it, isn’t he? I bet Aurora is so distraught about the thought of dying alone with the handsome engineer with the washboard abs she doesn’t fall madly in love with him!

Oh wait, she does. Well, he is Star Lord.

Unfortunately Jim and Aurora’s little romance (which involves doing it on every flat surface on the ship; thank God the Aurora is swarming with little Roomba droids that clean everything) is interrupted when Arthur breaks the robot bro code and tells Aurora Jim deliberately sabotaged her pod and lied about it. Needless to say Aurora has an Academy Award actress level conniption fit and breaks things off with Jim, who really hopes Aurora can look past the whole “I ruined your life and then lied about it” thing so they can get back to snuggling in the observation lounge.

Things get even worse when systems start failing all over the Avalon, putting our space lovers and the thousands of sleeping passengers in mortal peril. Can Jim and Aurora put aside their issues and save everyone? More importantly, can they save their relationship, or will they have to work out a joint custody agreement for Arthur?

If you can overlook the whole Jim did something really horrible to an innocent woman thing, Passengers is a pretty interesting movie and a unique love story.

I’ve seen worse movies about the give and take of complicated relationships between a man and a woman:

Before Sunrise. Ghost.  Eraserhead. The Devil’s Rejects. The Human Centipede. My Best Friend’s Wedding….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robots in Disguise!

TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

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Starring: Arnold Shwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke

Director: Alan Taylor

Plot: To save mankind from extinction, Kyle Reese goes back in time to protect the woman who will be the mother of the man who will lead the humans in the future war against the machines. Nah! Just kidding. This movie is nothing like that.

Rating: PG-13 Because nobody does R rated action movies anymore.

Hey kids. It’s Tom, your DVD Critics Corner pal. Sorry I haven’t been around that much the past few months, but my job as a retired black ops soldier turned pro kite surfing champion who occasionally solves crimes the CIA won’t touch has been keeping me really busy.

Why just the other day as I was hanging from the landing skid of a helicopter with one hand with bullets and rockets whizzing by my head and a briefcase full of recovered nuclear missile launch codes in my free hand when it hit me; it this what I’m all about? Am I fulfilled?

The answer was no. So the CIA gave me a nice going away party, erased most of my memory, and here I am, back at my post as… what is it I do here?

I think the CIA gave me the deluxe memory wipe package.

Speaking of memory wipes, I want you to forget everything you know about the Terminator movies. Forget Skynet, forget a young Linda Hamilton running from a Michelin Man sized Arnold Shwarzenegger, forget everything that happened in Terminator Salvation – seriously, forget everything about that movie – because the latest installment of the venerable sci fi saga, Terminator Genysis has rebooted/revamped the franchise with a plot twist that has everything in the Terminator universe all topsy turvy and higgledy piggeldy.

Higgledy piggeldy is a movie reviewer word. Only we can use it. Let’s move on.

As the movie opens, it’s 2029 and the last surviving humans are duking it out with the Skynet and their evil army of robots. Under the leadership of John Connor (Jason Clarke), Skynet is on the ropes, but they activate their time machine to send a Terminator cyborg back in time to kill John’s mother in 1984. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, more wooden than ever) Connor’s most trusted soldier, volunteers to get naked and travel back in time to protect Sarah’s pretty little head from the menacing Arnold-bot.

Reese arrives in 1984 Los Angeles. But before he can play Donkey Kong on Colecovision or catch an episode of Dynasty, he’s set upon by a T-1000 liquid metal robot, who’s not supposed to be there. Before lunkhead Reese can figure out what is going on, he’s rescued by a gun toting Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and her T-800 bodyguard “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger; still looking darn good) who have a lot of plot exposition to lay down.

Turns out Pops was (for reasons not explained) sent back into the 1970’s to protect Sarah when she was 9, so Sarah grew up knowing that her son was destined to lead the human resistance, a T-800 would be sent to try to kill her in 1984, and  most importantly, she has to do the no pants dance with Kyle Reese to insure her son is born.

That’s a lot of pressure on a little kid. When I was nine all I worried about was returning a book to the library on time. Hey, those late book fees could cost you 8 cents a month!

Since Sarah and Pops have already taken care of the T-800 cyborg sent to kill her, they want to now go forward in time to 1997 to stop Skynet from going online using the time machine she and Pops built in their secret underground bunker, which makes that old dresser you and your dad restored and repainted in the garage look really lame in comparison

But wait! Kyle suggests they go ahead in time to 2017, because when he was travelling back in time, he saw an altered timeline when his younger self tells him to go to 2017.

Remember all those sci fi books, movies, and TV shows that told us that mucking around in the past would cause irreparable damage to the future, and the end result could be a rift in the space time continuum that causes the collapse of the universe itself?

Nah! Forget that crap! According to Terminator Genisys, the timeline welcomes our abuse. So do whatever you want with it! Change the past, mess with the future, it’s all good! Don’t pay any attention to what Doc Brown said! Stupid old geezer…

Anyhoo, Sarah and Kyle travel forward to 2017 to find that Skynet isn’t a high tech defense computer controlling our nuclear weapons. In this new timeline it’s a super cool operating system named Genisys that’s about to go online to an adoring public hungry for a faster app that will help share pictures of the sandwich they are about to eat with strangers.

Sarah and Kyle hook up with an aged Pops, who has been hanging around awaiting their arrival for 33 years stockpiling more weapons in the bunker and catching up on his soaps. The valiant trio gears up to destroy Skynet/Genisys, but a new, stronger, smarter, T-3000 cyborg is running things now, and he looks a lot like someone they all know!

Terminator: Genisys has lots of action and cool effects – the fight scene  between “Pops” Arnold and his younger bulkier 1984 self is especially fun – the usual stuff you’d expect from a Terminator movie.

Which is fine, I guess.

The problem is the cast. As Sarah Connor, Emelia Clarke has a hard time filling Linda Hamilton’s combat boots. And Jai Courtney, bless his little heart is really trying to make a go with this whole acting thing, but when Arnold freakin Schwarzenegger shows more range playing an emotionless cyborg, maybe it’s time to try something new. I don’t care if he’s dreamy! He’s a lousy actor! Man, I wish the voice in my head would leave me alone when I blog!

To sum up, I guess those Hollywood movie folks thought the whole “change the timeline” thing would help reboot the Terminator franchise the same way it did for Star Trek in 2009, but this case the time tripping franchise makeover falls flat.

Still, it’s always good to see Arnold stepping back into one of his signature roles. And it’s nice to see Emelia “Game of Thrones” Clarke in a role that requires her to wear a shirt.

I didn’t write that last part. The voice in my head insisted I put that in.

He is such a prude.

 

 

 

There’s No Way the Dinosaurs will Escape and Kill Again. Part 4!

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JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Vincent D’Onofrio

Plot: Everything is fine and dandy at Jurassic World until a super smart genetically engineered dinosaur  breaks loose and starts eating people. Sorry, no refunds!

Rating: PG-13 for dinosaur violence and icky blood splatter.

Unless you’ve been living in a remote mountain cave without cable and missing a head for the past 23 years, you’ve probably heard of the Jurassic Park film franchise. And if you have been living without a head for that long, congratulations! I hear that’s really hard to do.

Based on the best selling novel by Michael Crichton, the first three Jurassic Park films were mega blockbusters, earning billions of dollars at the box office and scaring the crap out of a generation of children who thought dinosaurs were those cute and cuddly creatures from The Land Before Time film series.

Land-Before-Time-2_web

Thanks a lot, Don Bluth!

The film series was dormant for about 14 years until executive producer Steven Spielberg decided it was time for another chapter in the dino-saga, and Jurassic World came roaring into theaters this summer. This sequel/reboot features a new cast, new park, and a bunch of new dinosaurs who gosh darn just won’t stay in their cages no matter how nicely they are asked!

Picking up 20 years after the events of the first movie, Jurassic World is now a ginormous amusement park on the same island the original  Jurassic Park once stood. Every day thousands of tourists come to Isla Nublar to ride a baby triceratops, watch a giant dinofish eat a tiny shark, and purchase expensive merchandise in one of many Jurassic World souvenir shops.

Billionaire industrialist Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) now owns the park and all the dinosaur cloning technology, and is looking for a new attraction that will keep the visitors coming back and spending way too much money for a Venti latte at the Jurassic World Starbucks. I’m not making that up. There is a Starbucks in the park in the movie.

Claire Dearing (Howard), the operations manager of the park shows Masrani their new hybrid “Indonimus Rex,” which is very big, very mean, and just loves killing and eating anything with a pulse.

Meanwhile, raptor expert Owen Grady (Star Lord Chris Pratt) has been training a quartet of raptors to sit, roll over, and stay off the sofa for some reason. Park security chief Hoskins (D’Onofrio) thinks the raptors would make great soldiers once they are trained, but Grady shrugs off such an outrageous suggestion. I mean, it’s not like Vincent D’Onofrio has ever played a treacherous jerk who turns on everyone in the third act before, right?

Anyhoo,  Grady warns Claire that her new pet dinosaur is super dangerous and should not be the next stuffed toy at the Jurassic World gift shop, but before Claire can say “hey, aren’t you that Star Lord guy,” the Indonimus Rex escapes from her escape proof pen and starts killing and eating anything with a pulse.

Claire, Grady, and the rest of the staff try to get the thousands of park guests to safety before the I Rex can make it across the island to where most of the delicious dinosaurs and people are located. To complicate matters Claire’s two nephews are trapped outside the park when their cool hamster ball car is destroyed by the I Rex. As Claire and Grady try to rescue the kids, Hoskins and his security team learns the hard way that genetically engineered dinosaurs don’t liked being told to get back in their cages or no more snausages!

When a swarm of pterodactyls starts carrying off park guests waiting to be evacuated from the island, Grady gathers up his raptor pals and heads out into the jungle to take out the I Rex in a classic man vs dinosaur vs raptor showdown. Spoiler alert: the Starbucks doesn’t survive. Great. Claire is going to be so pissed off!

Like the original Jurassic Park, Jurassic World ends with a multi billion dollar theme park in ruins and lots of innocent bystanders either injured, killed, or eaten. It’s doubtful the park will ever open again (between the lawsuits, the property damage – have you ever tried to clean raptor blood off of concrete?) but since Jurassic World made over a billion and a half dollars at the box office, it’s safe to say we haven’t seen the last of Grady, Claire and all their dinosaur pals.

Maybe they could get Starbucks to sponsor a new park.

Think of the cross promotion!

Caramel Velociraptorccinos!

Mosasaurus Macchiato!

Tazo Rex tea!

Hey Starbucks, if you’re reading this, don’t steal my ideas.

This is Lucy. This is Lucy’s Brain on Drugs. Any Questions?

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LUCY (2014)

Director: Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked

Plot: An unwitting college student ingests a new synthetic drug that turns her into a major brainiac!

Rating: R for graphic violence, gunplay, some blood, some more blood, a little more gunplay…

Lucy opens with brilliant scientist and brain expert Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) informing a lecture hall full of students that humans only use about 10% of their brain.

10 percent? He’s probably right. Here’s how I use my 10:

1% – devoted to thinking about the construction of and/or acquisition of sandwiches.

1% – Star Wars. Actually, it’s more like 2% with The Force Awakens opening in 93 days.

5% – Stuff that keeps me alive; breathe in, breathe out, fire = hot, do not close eyes while driving, etc.

1% – Witty answers to hashtag games on Twitter.

1% – Brad and Angelina.

Fret not folks. Professor Norman informs us that as humans evolve and unlock more of their brains power, we will be able to do amazing things; like repair our sick bodies, speak to each other telepathically, and remember where you lost your retainer in the 8th grade.

Mom never let me hear the end of that.

Anyhoo, while it will take several hundred millennium for us to harness 100 percent of our brainpower, the hapless heroine of this movie manages to do it in just a few days thanks to a ruthless drug gang and a huge overdose of a powerful new club drug. And they say ruthless drug gangs never give back to their community.

In Taipei, college/party girl Lucy (Johansson) is tricked by her oily jerkass boyfriend into delivering a suitcase to a man in a swank hotel. Before you can say what could possibly go wrong, poor Lucy is grabbed by a well armed Korean drug cartel whose boss Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik) really enjoys killing people.

Turns out Lucy was carrying a suitcase full of a new drug all the kids will be jonesing for, and now she and three other poor dopes have been recruited as mules to deliver the drugs across Europe, which probably means Lucy won’t be going to her 2:00 French Lit class.

Lucy and the other mules have a bag of the drug surgically implanted in them and are sent on their way, but before she can hop a plane, one of her abusive captors – who gosh darn it just can’t stop himself from being abusive – assaults Lucy, causing the drug bag to rupture and flooding Lucy’s petite system with enough blue stuff to make Walter White freak out.

Rather than dying from a monumental drug overdose, Lucy finds herself alive and growing smarter by the minute. And I’m not talking “I just learned a fun new life hack on YouTube” smart, I mean “I can see cell phone signals and make shit float with my mind” smart. Lucy finds her way back to Mr. Jang and with a little mind reading (and a couple of knives) she finds where the other three bags of drugs are going and sets off to retrieve them leaving Jang alive, which just goes to show you that even the smartest person alive doesn’t know YOU NEVER LEAVE HOMICIDAL DRUG KINGPINS ALIVE SO THEY CAN COME AFTER YOU!!!!

Lucy realizes she needs the rest of the drugs to open all 100 percent of her mind so she enlists the help of a Parisian detective Del Rio (Waked) to have the other drug mules rounded up and sent to Paris, where she also meets Professor Norman so she can tell him in person she’s about to unlock the secrets of mans next step in evolution and to compliment him on his awesome speaking voice.

Lucy draws to an action packed conclusion as Lucy races to “download” all the secrets to human existence she has unlocked to Professor Norman while Jang and his heavily armed gang storm the building hoping to get what’s left of his drugs back only to run into Del Rio and his armed police pals.

Will Jang succeed? Will Lucy leave behind a path for human beings to follow into a new plane of existence? More importantly, now that she has evolved into a superbeing free of any corporeal shell, will her parents be able to get a refund on her tuition?

Lucy is a trippy little film by Luc Besson, who keeps the usual gunplay and violence of his films to a minimum to tell an interesting sci-fi tale about the human mind an how it will evolve as man evolves.

Heck, what’s going to happen to us when we finally unlock all the powers of our mind?

I don’t know. I was thinking about sandwiches. And Star Wars.

Cinderella in Spaaaaaaaaaace!!!

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JUPITER ASCENDING (2015)

Directors: The Wachowskis

Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne

Plot: Mila Kunis is a lowly Chicago maid until she learns she owns the planet Earth, and Channing Tatum is a half wolf space soldier who, um…you know what, you’re on your own here buddy..

Rating: PG-13 for laser gun fights and CG space gore and one bare bottom. No, it’s not Mila’s.

Poor Jupiter Jones. Working her fingers to the bone day after day cleaning rich peoples homes while having to live with a cutesy comic book character name.

Jupiter Jones… Didn’t she date Peter Parker?

No. Jupiter Jones was a cub reporter for the Daily Planet, right?

I know! Jupiter Jones was Jughead’s sister!

No, that was Jellybean Jones. Is Archie Comics still around? Archie has to be in his seventies by now..

What were we talking about? Oh, yeah..

One day Jupiiter (Mila Kunis) is scrubbing toilets and thinking about some serious life changes when a bunch of alien bounty hunters try to kill her. She is saved from assassination by a human/wolf warrior named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum sporting Spock ears and guyliner) who flies around on rocket powered hover boots. Seriously.

Why do a bunch of bad guy aliens want to off the adorable little maid from Chicago? Is she a White Sox fan? No, she’s not that awful.

Let me esplain, No, there is too much, let me sum up:

Jupiter is the genetic double of the head of the House of Abrasax, one of many ancient families of humans that throughout time have colonized all humanoid planets in the universe and now covet them like so many green and red houses on a galactic monopoly board. The Abrasax matriarch “owned” Earth, but since Jupiter is an exact DNA match for the dead Mom, Jupiter now owns Earth, much to the chagrin of the other three Abrasax family members who each want Earth for their own because they plan to mine the entire planet and turn it into a magic elixir that extends the life of whomever drinks it, is the most valuable commodity in the universe, and looks like Crystal Pepsi.

Got it, Chachi? Good, I’m glad somebody does.

Jupiter is taken up to space where he meets the Abrasax children; Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) who takes a dip in the youth juice and shows Jupiter that 15,000 is the new 40!

Then she meets smooth talking Titus (Douglas Booth) who wants to take over the family by marrying Jupiter and take Earth for himself without acknowledging how creepy it is that he wants to marry the exact double of his Mother. Ew.

Caine saves Jupiter before she marries Titus, but they soon run afoul of Balem (Eddie Redmayne) the Abrasax sibling who cornered the family market on batshit crazy and homicidal. Balem and his hoard of CG minions kidnap Jupiter’s family and threatens to turn them into gazpacho unless she signs the earth to him, and that includes the entire earth, even the useless parts like Antarctica and Greenland. Can Jupiter save her family and her planet so she can fly off into the sunset with her man-wolf boytoy?

Between all the palace intrigue, Jupiter Ascending is packed with weird creatures, outlandish costumes, and people saying weird things. It’s kind of like Burning Man, minus the sand and hippies.

I give the Wachowskis credit for trying to give the movie audience an original sci-fi adventure in a world of sequels and remakes, but Jupiter Ascending didn’t rock my world.

I do like the idea of a magic drink that can make you young and healthy again. So get on that right away sort drink companies. Oh, it better not have a nasty after taste like Red Bull. Also, it should come in regular and diet.

I’m watching my figure.

What if Godzilla was One of Us?

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 GODZILLA (2014)

Director: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and Bryan Cranston

Plot: A bunch of horrifying creatures terrorize a city and the world is powerless to stop them! Wait, that’s the plot of Smurfs 2.  

Rating: PG-13 for CG explosions and destruction of perfectly good real estate.

Godzilla is a gigantic lizard/dinosaur type creature who rises out of the ocean every once in a while to teach the children of Japan valuable lessons about friendship and love, and if time permitting, fight other monsters.

The original Godzilla films featured men in monster suits fighting on sets with miniaturized buildings that were stepped on and crushed while model planes on wires flew over their rubber heads, thus proving that early monster movies were really flipping fun to make.

In 1998 Godzilla was reborn as a fully computer generated monster in Roland Emmerich’s actioner Godzilla, unfortunately audiences didn’t warm up to this high tech addition to the franchise. Probably because the mighty Godzilla the king of the monsters was brought down by Matthew Broderick.

and his adorable little hat!

and his adorable little hat!

After a 16 year vacation the big green dinosaur we all know and love returned to the big screen earlier this year in a movie entitled (wait for it…) Godzilla. This modernized version doesn’t have rubber monster suits and hoards of Japanese extras running in terror.  But is does have the guy from Breaking Bad, Kick-Ass from Kick-Ass, and the Olsen sister who can actually act.

So that’s a good thing. Right?

In 1999, a mining expedition in the Philippines unearth some huge dinosaur like creatures. One of them swims towards Japan where it causes a nuclear powerplant to overload killing lots of scientists and the wife of plant manager Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston, the guy from Breaking Bad). 15 years later Brody with the help of his Navy officer son Ford (the kid from Kick-Ass) return to the plant to find out what exactly happened and instead find a bunch of scientists from the top secret Project Monarch milling about. Before Brody can exclaim “I knew there was a conspiracy!” he’s killed when a giant creature explodes out of the ground and flies away, leaving Ford to be the lead actor for the rest of the movie.

Soon Ford, Project Monarch scientist Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and the United States Navy are racing across the globe to stop these giant creatures now dubbed MOTUS – yes there are two of them now as another one shows up and crushes the Vegas strip. I guess he couldn’t get Brittany Spears tickets.

Oh woe is us! If only there were a larger creature out there somewhere who could rise from the depths to battle these giant MOTUS and bring peace to the planet?

TA-DAAAH!!!

TA-DAAAH!!!

Godzilla turns into a battle royale as our title character steps into the ring against the two MOTUS who look like a praying mantis on a bad day.  Unfortunately the battle takes place in San Francisco, which gets flattened in the process. But don’t worry, it’s just a computer generated San Francisco so stomp those buildings Godzilla! It’s not like all those people are real or anything!

Godzilla is a well made update of the classic monster movies many of us watched on a Saturday afternoon when we were kids.  I’m all for a good updating of a classic film, but I miss the poorly dubbed dialogue andlow budget cheesiness that made those movies so special.

The miniature buildings, tiny pyrotechnics, and radio controlled tanks are gone. And so is the fun.

Sometimes the new isn’t as appealing as the old.

Catching Sequels!

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THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013)

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland

Plot: Katniss and Peeta are back for more wacky hijinks as they once again step into the arena of death in a dystopian future! It’s an all out laugh fest!

Rating: PG-13 for violence, near nudity and for flogging Gale,  the handsome guy.

In case you didn’t know, DVD Critics Corner! has been around for a few years. I think it’s due to clean living, my lack of other hobbies, and the unbelievable fact that no one has told me to stop.

Anyhoo, when running a movie review blog during a sequel crazy era in movie history, it was only a matter of time before a sequel to a movie I’ve reviewed has arrived at the top of my DVD queue.  That movie is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games and the second film in the four part Hunger Games movie saga; a saga not quite as epic as The Hobbit saga and not nearly as stupid as the Twilight saga, but a saga nonetheless.

Catching Fire picks up shortly after the events of the first film. Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) have survived the 74th Hunger games, but they are far from safe. President Snow (a seething Donald Sutherland) fears the young winners have sparked a rebel movement among the people of Panem who for some reason are growing tired of an oppressive government that starves them and kills them for no reason. Kantiss and Peeta embark on a “victory tour” of the 12 districts, but they stray from their “we love the facist world we live in” script and a few riots are started, which doesn’t look good on Panem’s version of Entertainment Tonight.

Snow knows he must kill the two troublesome kids who are making him look bad without looking like the type of guy who kills troublesome kids who make him look bad. So when the 75th Hunger Games rolls around a short time later, he pulls the end all be all of dick moves by futzing with the rules: All tributes for the next Hunger Games will be chosen from previous winners, which means Katniss and Peeta are going back in the jungle for another chance at violent death, facing a bunch of former winners who are really happy they were plucked from their lives of luxury with the overdressed elite of Panem and forced to fight for their lives again.

To make things even worse, the new game designer Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has promised his best buddy President Snow that Katniss and Peeta will certainly die in his game arena, which is filled with killer monkeys, random flash floods, and a mysterious fog that not only cleans and exfoliates the skin, it eats it off completely. No more unsightly blemishes!

Katniss is severely worried that this time Snow has finally got her trapped in a no win situation, but her good ol’ buddy and District 12 mentor Hamish (Wood Harrelson) calmly advises her to make as many allies as she can with the other disgruntled tributes, promising her that things will work out in the end.

The game sequence in Catching Fire is as thrilling and suspenseful as the first movie, but it’s not as long because there are other things going on in Panem (like the growing underground revolution against Snow’s regime) and the movie was almost over when the game sequence begins. The games itself are just a side event that leads up to the important stuff: the final scenes where Katniss learns who her true allies are and what part she’s going to play in the next movie.

I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Shleader of the Shrevolution.

In conclusion, not only is The Hunger Games: Catching Firea sequel to The Hunger Games, it is a sequel to a movie I have written about in a previous entry in this blog. You’re welcome, Katniss, Peeta, and all your  kooky revolutionary pals.

Now go play nice.

Click here for the DVD Critics Corner review of The Hunger Games

Kids In Spaaaaaaaaaaace!!!

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ENDER’S GAME (2013)

Director: Gavin Hood

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley

Plot: In the future, a super smart kid named Ender Wiggam is shot into space and trained to fight a war against a race of alien bugs who tried to take over Earth decades earlier. Will Ender save humanity, or is he just another no good lazy slacker with his iPonepads and instavine video things…

Rating: PG-13 for some violence and sci-fi explosions with space fighters flying around going pew! pew! at one another.

Ender’s Game is based on a huge series of science fiction books written by Orson Scott Card. How huge? Currently, there are 14 in the series, with two more on the way. Also, there is a series of Ender’s Game short stories, and a comic book series based on the books.

That is a heck of a lot of reading. I have to take a nap after I proofread my shopping list.

Luckily Hollywood (that’s where the movie making folks live!) wanted to help all of us avoid such a lengthy reading list so they adapted the fourth book of the Ender series into a big screen sci-fi adventure.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those Hollywood folks are really watching out for us!

In the near future, an alien bug-like species called the Formics invade Earth hoping to turn our lovely little planet into an alien bug vacation destination. The Earth’s military forces fight back and drive the Formics away, but millions of lives are lost in the process. Determined not to be caught with their pants down again, the International Force is formed to train the best and brightest young people how to fight the aliens should they ever return.

Fifty-something years later, a brilliant young cadet named Ender Wiggan (Asa Butterfield) is acing the training programs and defeating everyone in battle simulation games. Naturally the other cadets dislike being beaten regularly by a tiny kid with a weird first name, so they hate him and want to punch him repeatedly. It’s nice to now that even in the future, your classmates will still be homicidal dicks.

International Force Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) sees potential in young Ender, and sends him off to Battle School, which is an orbiting space station conveniently located in outer space. Ender and his fellow newbies start their training to be space soldiers or something by playing a game that involves shooting lasers at each other while floating around in a huge zero-gravity dome. I’m not sure how this trains cadets to be better soldiers, but flying around and shooting stuff sounds like a hoot to me, so sign me up baby!

As Ender learns the ins an outs of space cadet life, he makes some friends like Petra Arkanian (Hailee Steinfield) who helps him catch up on training when he’s promoted to another unit, and makes some enemies like Commander Bonzo Madrid (Moises Arias) who helps no one because he’s a homicidal dick.

But Ender presses on undaunted and his skills as a space soldier/alien killer impresses Graff so much he is given command of his own squad who show Bonzo and the other haters how Ender gets his game on!

See what I did there?

Ender’s Game isn’t all fun and…well, you know. There are a lot of serious issues Ender tries to come to terms with throughout the movie: like death, sacrifice, honor, and whether or not kids should be emotionless machines trained to kill a species who may not be looking for a fight this time around.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff for a sci-fi adventure film, but nobody ever said a sci-fi movie had to be non stop laughs and amusement. Ever see The Adventures of Pluto Nash? I rest my case.

The movie concludes with Ender and his Battle School crew prepping for a huge battle just outside the Formic’s home planet. With some sage advice from former war hero Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley sporting some sick facial ink), Ender prepares for war.  Can Ender and his army of drone fighters defeat an alien race that lives in dirt tunnels and yet were somehow able to master intergalactic space travel?

Seriously, how do giant bugs with no visible grasp of technology build spaceships with laser weapons?

Maybe we’ll find out in the next movie – Ender’s Game 2: Catching Bugs!

The Smith Family Vacation!

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AFTER EARTH (2013)

DIRECTOR: M. Knight Shyamalan

STARRING: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo, Zoe Kravitz

PLOT: Father and son do some bonding on a fierce planet that used to  be earth.

RATING: PG-13 for intense scenes with CG animals and a big ass alien bug!

2013 was not a good year for movies set on earth in the future.

In Oblivion, earth 63 years in the future is a desolate wasteland populated by creepy robots and Tom Cruise, who is also a creepy robot.

In Elysium, earth circa 2157 is so messed up the only person the poor people can turn to is Matt Damon!

Yes, Matt Daaaaamon.

Matt Daaaaamon.

After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden is set over 1,000 years in the future, where a long abandoned earth has been reclaimed by nature.  The streets and highways have been replaced by green fields, the skyscrapers replaced by towering trees, and the adorable woodland creatures that used to populate earth have been replaced by bloodthirsty animals who are as vicious as they are computer generated. But there is no longer a Starbucks on every corner, so I’d say new earth is pretty damn great!

As the movie opens, human kind abandons earth because we forgot to pick up after ourselves and we left the water running or something.

They relocate to a planet called Nova Prime where everything is peaches and cream for about one thousand years until an alien race attacks, determined to wipe out mankind with huge six legged beasts called Ursa who hunt humans by smelling their fear.

But General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) of the United Ranger Corps has learned to mask his fear using a method that in no way involves the use of Axe body spray. The Rangers defeat the Ursa thanks to Cypher’s mind control trick, and Cypher is elevated to Fresh Prince levels of famous, but he’s become estranged from his family, especially his son Kitai (Jaden Smith) who wants to be a Ranger just like his awesome but neglectful Dad.

Hoping to reconnect with his boy, Cypher takes Kitai along on a Ranger Corps business trip to a neighboring planet, but things take a turn for the sucky when the ship is damaged in an asteroid storm, sucked into a wormhole and crash lands on earth.

Cypher and son survive the crash, but Cypher is severely injured and the only way to call for help is to find a distress beacon located in the tail section of the ship which is now miles away.

A brief aside: it’s comforting to know that designers and engineers 1,000 years into the future will still make ships with only one distress beacon that will still be located in the tail section of the craft – the one freaking thing that always breaks off and hits the ground miles away from where the rest of the ship will crash!

Kitai agrees to take on the dangerous mission to hike to the tail wreckage and signal for help.

Can the young Ranger in training survive the harsh flora and fauna of the planet of earth?

Can Kitai defeat the Ursa creature that escaped from the wreckage and is now stalking the jungle?

Why are Will and his son talking in some kind of weird Australian/Jamaican/ New Zealand accent?

Did you know the Six Sense guy directed this? Man, remember what a good movie that was?

Contrary to what you may have heard, After Earth is not the worst movie ever made. Not by a long shot.

As a person who loves watching, studying and absorbing bad movies since the cable company plugged the box into the house over 30 years ago, you can believe me when I tell you After Earth no danger of being added to the list of cinematic abominations that are in fact the worst movies ever made.

Smokey and the Bandit III is on this list.  The Ghost Rider movies are on the list. Charlies Angels: Full Throttle is on the list. Twice if I had my way.

The only thing After Earth is guilty of is being a boring vanity project Will Smith cooked up to introduce us to his son Jaden in the hopes that the movie going public we will embrace him like a new puppy we will hug, cuddle, take for longs walks in the park and love unconditionally even though the puppy in question has very little acting experience and practically zero on screen charisma.

What a waste of a puppy.

Rock’em Sock’em Robots!

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PACIFIC RIM (2013)  Director: Guillermo del Toro Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Ron Perlman Rating: PG-13 for big robots punching big monsters and lots of stuff getting stepped on. 

Hey.

In a review I posted a while back I shared a detailed list of all the special things I look for in a movie that make it worthy of this blog. Creating this list was a near impossible task that took me years to put together and cost me every penny of my family’s fortune, plus I had to kill several cold blooded ninja assassins who wanted to discover the secrets of my list.

Of course the ninjas could have just read my blog where the list was out in the open for everyone to read. If they had only subscribed to my blog, they’d still be alive doing ninja assassin stuff today.

Anyhoo, here are the things that make a movie worthy of a review here on DVD Critics Corner:

1. A gratuitous amount of violence which includes any or all of the following: gun play, sword play, close quarter hand to hand combat, kung fu fighting, and lots and lots of kicking.

2. Space aliens, other worldly monsters, scary zombies, cool robots, or at the very least Ron Perlman.

3. Plenty of explosions which destroy property and/or motor vehicles.

4. A complete lack of Katherine Heigl.

Hold onto your hats folks because I have found a movie that has scored a perfect 100% on the DVD Critics Corner Movie Worthiness Checklist (pat. pend.).

It’s Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro’s action epic tribute to the Japanese monster movies we all know and love!

It’s got monsters! It’s got robots! It’s got destruction! It has Ron Perlman! It has absolutely no Katherine Heigl!

A movie that satisfies all my prerequisites at this special time of year? It’s a Christmas miracle!

Here is a bunch of things that happen in the movie:

In the not too distant future, Earth is just fine until a bunch of giant monsters begin attacking it! These towering creatures (known as Kaijus) are coming from another dimension through a portal in the Pacific Ocean and are determined to wipe out all the people; even the really nice ones who say please and thank you.

When conventional weapons fail to slow down the Kaiju attacks, the governments of the Pacific Rim nations decide the best way to fight these monsters is with equally giant robots with supercool weapons, because the governments of the Pacific Rim nations are run by nine year old boys.

The giant robots (named Jaegers) battle the Kaijus for the survival of Earth, but as the the years go by the Kaijus get bigger and stronger and their attacks become more frequent, leaving the humans with little hope for survival and a huge stack of giant robot repair bills.

The last four super Jaeger bots gather in Hong Kong where for some reason it always rains to end the war by destroying the portal and sending those monsters back to the computer generated heck they came from!

Commander Pentacost (Idris Elba) recruits Raleigh (a well chiseled Charlie Hunnam) as his ace in the hole.  A former Jaeger pilot who’s been out of the war for a while he may be the maverick who has the right stuff to ride into the danger zone and other movie cliches.

But Raleigh needs a co-pilot, since the robots need two people to work all of the controls and two brains that must be electronically linked to handle all of the complex computer stuff. Raleigh meets with several candidates who are physically and mentally up for the challenge, and settles on Moko (Rinko Kikuchi), an untested warrior who is loaded with determination, courage…

mako

And hotness. Let’s not forget hotness.

There’a plenty of action and excitement in Pacific Rim as huge robots punch huge monsters then huge huge weapons to slice and dice the monsters into tiny but still huge pieces. As I said before the movie is reminiscent of those 60’s Japanese monster movies featuring Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, and Mothra: The Big Stupid Moth that Nobody Liked.  But instead of men in rubber suits smashing scale model buildings and fighter jets, millions of computer guys created every monster, robot, ocean, city, and explosion in Pacific Rim. 

Which is what they do nowadays, and that’s okay I guess. Personally, I miss all the cool model buildings getting smashed and stepped on with the tiny explosions and the model jets flying around on clearly visible wires.  What I’m trying to say is I like my special effects like I like my women; cheap and from the 1960s.

Pacific Rim is a great deal of fun with the fighting robots, evil monsters, a delightful cameo by everyone’s favorite thespian Ron Perlman, and the destruction of major (though computer generated) cities and property.

And no Katherine Heigl.

Best Christmas gift EVER.