Category: Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers

MOVIE REVIEW: Transformers

When this summer hit, only one image popped into my head, and it wasn’t a black spider, a drunk pirate, or a dorky kid with glasses. All I saw since day one was a semi truck that turned into a 50-foot robot. So as you can assume, going into the film my expectations were a little high, and you had better believe they were met with bells on.

Seeing as this film is truly the ultimate summer blockbuster (thanks, Mr. Bay), I’m going to have to break down this film like I do all others with the acting, the plot, and of course the one thing that ties the entire movie together: the effects.

Starting with the worst note and working our way up, the acting wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in a Bay film, but wasn’t exactly Gone with the Wind. I don’t know about you, but I expect when I’m going to see a movie about giant robots from space, I want Gone with the Wind.

Putting aside my disdain for Shia LaBeouf, I was just like every other fanboy out there on the Internet that rolled his or her eyes when the list of cameo’s for the flick got released. Bernie Mac’s presence in the film was completely superfluous, other than about eight seconds, his entire sequence should have gotten well acquainted with the floor. As well as John Turturro’s scenes. Turturro plays the cocky secret government agency role very well, but after about 10 minutes, it becomes too much to handle, and he needs to go away. When doing the entire exposition scene of Megatron and the plot-focusing All-Spark cube, there was no need for a cocky government type. Just faces of awe.

LaBeouf and Megan Fox did a decent job of playing the frightened kids… at first. But once the imminent threat of world domination became second priority to LeBeouf’s parents finding him alone in a room with a girl, the film kind of lost its head. As scary as chracter actor Kevin Dunn can be, a gigantic robot with a sword is far scarier. Finally, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, and Tyrese “Hero For Hire” Gibson played roles that were both aiding in the “Bay” way of showing the how disasters effect people on a human level, but these characters were effortlessly forgettable in comparison to the robots.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Live Free Or Die Hard

MOVIE REVIEW: Live Free Or Die Hard

Well, after 12 years John McClain is back in full force with Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth sequel in the series, and the sixth sequel to come out this summer. I have to say going into the flick I wasn’t expecting much, especially after seeing the trailer, which only made me believe Ric Meyer’s micro-review in saying that this isn’t a Die Hard sequel, it’s actually the unwritten sequel for Unbreakable. So between that and the fact that this is the first Die Hard film to receive a PG-13 Rating, I was less than excited for it.

Having that frame of mind, I think I was able to enjoy the film much more. I wasn’t looking for a direct comparison to the first three movies, I just wanted a good John McClain movie, and that’s what I got. The biggest issue with Bruce Willis’ character is that Willis himself has so drastically changed his acting style in the last 12 years, that it’s like asking Walt Disney’s head to unfreeze itself and start drawing exactly like he used to. Granted the fun loving, swearing Bruce Willis that we remember from the first flicks is long gone, and we’re left with the bald, grumpy old man Willis who looks like he has to force himself to smile, but we all just have to change with the times, and even McClain has to age.

Following the formula of With a Vengeance, our hero is accompanied by a would-be sidekick, who fights spends a good chunk of the movie deciding whether or not this is a battle worth fighting, and of course breaking out of his mold by the end of the movie to become someone super cop John McClain can respect. This time around, we get Mac Boy Justin Long as the cowardly super hacker Matt Fuller. Long played the role just as any sidekick should, by accentuating the heroism of…well, the hero.

Also along for the ride were Maggie Q and Tim Olyphant as the evil duo. Everywhere I go, guys are falling in love with Maggie Q, and until checking out this movie I didn’t know why. She manages to play the seductive-yet-deadly henchwoman very well. And as per usual, Olyphant oozes charisma as the bad guy in this picture. I’ve been following this guy since Gone in 60 Seconds, and I’ve had nothing but good things to say about each of his roles.

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BOOK REVIEW: Drawing Comics Is Easy (Except…)

BOOK REVIEW: Drawing Comics Is Easy (Except…)

Reviewed by Lillian Baker, age 8

I started making comics when I was three. When I was six, I made copies and started to sell them at soccer. Last year, when I was seven, I sold them at my dad’s table at the New York ComicCon. Alexa Kitchen wrote and drew her new book when she was seven, too. She’s nine now.

She is a talented girl. I can tell because I read a lot of her books. She makes up really really really good stories. I see that she gets inspired by Calvin and Hobbes a lot. She talks to her doll dog. His name is Kora 2. Other characters are Lucy, who is the girl on the cover, and Denis the cat.

It’s a book about drawing, not just funny cartoons. It’s very funny, though.

Alexa is a very nice girl.

Drawing Comics is Easy (Except When It’s Hard), by Alexa Kitchen, age 7
Published by DKP
$19.95
www.alexakitchen.com

MOVIE REVIEW: Ratatouille

MOVIE REVIEW: Ratatouille

Ratatouille is the latest feature film from Pixar/Disney. Written and directed by Brad Bird (with additional story assists from Jim Capobianco, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg and Jan Pinkava), it’s the story of a young mouse (Remy) who finds himself alienated from his family because of his preference for fine cooking over garbage.

Lillian Baker (age 8) and Martha Thomases (age 54) attended an early screening on opening day in New York’s East Village.

MT: This movie was very different from The Incredibles, the last movie Brad Bird directed for Pixar. He worked on The Simpsons, too.

LB: I want to see The Simpsons Movie.

MT: Do you think the Simpsons would like Ratatouille?

LB: Yeah. Why not?

MT: It was a terrific film. The characters were believable, even the talking, cooking rats. And the animation was amazing. That scene early on, where Remy is rushed to Paris via the rivers going to the sewers underground, was spectacular. I loved the way the rats’ fur would get wet, and look different as it dried.

LB: The whole thing happened because of that book, Everyone Can Cook, a cookbook written by Gusteau. Remy was a little blue-ish.

MT: I saw lots of different colors in the rats. There were brown and gray and even green rats in the crowd scenes. They had lots of different body types, too, from skinny like Remy to fat like his brother, Emile. I noticed that Remy, Emile and their father, Django, spoke American English, while the humans spoke with French accents except for the restaurant critic, Anton Ego. Do you have a favorite scene?

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MICRO-REVIEW: Live Free Or Die Hard

MICRO-REVIEW: Live Free Or Die Hard

This is not actually a sequel to the Bruce Willis films where he stars as John McClane. This is actually a secret sequel to Unbreakable, where Willis stars as invulnerable hero David Dunn. Somewhere between Die Hard 2 and 3, the characters switched places.

We encourage Live Free viewers to comment.

REVIEW: Star Wars: Robot Chicken

REVIEW: Star Wars: Robot Chicken

Last night Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim premiered Star Wars: Robot Chicken. The half-hour edition of the popular stop motion cartoon show was entirely devoted to Star Wars gags. What separates this from countless issues of  Mad Magazine was the involvement of George Lucas himself. Lucas provides a sense of legitimacy and an acknowledgement that he is finally ready to laugh at his own creation.

Unfortunately, much like the prequel trilogy, maybe more could have been done if Lucas was less involved. The sketch featuring Lucas being saved from a mob of fans by a guy dressed as a tauntaun was by far the weakest in the entire show. I don’t know if this was a problem with the writers or with Lucas, but the sketch felt particularly flat.

The rest of the show was more successful. The highlight was a sketch in which Darth Vader explains a number of the more contrived coincidences in the series to a Mark-Hamil-voiced-Luke Skywalker. Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy) was excellent as the voice of Emperor Palpatine in a number of bits, including one featuring a mama-joke contest between the Emperor and Luke.

Overall, the show worked the best when it was contained within the universe, albeit one with a lot more jokes, the Late Night with Zuckuss sketch (featuring the voice of Conan O’Brien) scored, as did the Ponda Baba segment.

The more it felt like they were winking at the audience the less it worked for me; another lowlight was the sketch featuring a Jedi President Bush fighting Sith Abraham Lincoln.

The best possible outcome of this would be increased exposure for Robot Chicken, Adult Swim’s gem, with its third season set to begin in under two months. With the Family Guy season premiere bringing another high profile Star Wars parody our way I’m interested to see if they can match this effort by Seth Green and the staff at Robot Chicken, the way Family Guy has been going it won’t be easy.

Star Wars: Robot Chicken can be watched for free (for at least the time being) at adultswim.com

REVIEW: Sam Noir Samurai Detective, Volume One

A book like this comes around and I am forced to wonder whether Image is making books especially for me. Sam Noir Samurai Detective is exactly what it sounds like a story about a hardboiled detective who kills ninja assassins with a katana.

The construction of the world is the most amazing part of Sam Noir. Eric A Anderson and Manny Trembley have a textbook noir cityscape narrowly separated from the rolling plains of classic samurai dramas. The first story in the collection goes seamlessly from fighting ninja in the snow to a small army of samurai clad in business suits on top of a skyscraper. The second story adds pirates and voodoo to the universe. If this isn’t going to sell you on this, I don’t know what will.

Volume One trade collects the original mini-series along with the Ronin Holiday mini-series. I think the original series is a lot stronger, focusing on more established noir and samurai conventions as opposed to the more outside the box second series. Not that I can’t find any of it enjoyable, but the story in the second one felt a little slapped together and devoid of any sort of real climactic battle. To introduce a character that can make zombies and then only make one of them is weak sauce, I was really excited to see Sam and Eddie tear through a ton of zombies but it was not to be.

Image has announced a third Sam Noir mini-series is coming and I await its arrival anxiously. They have a real hit on their hands, a universe capable of effortlessly encompassing a great deal of genre fiction.

REVIEW: Fantastic Four Two

REVIEW: Fantastic Four Two

OK, so here we go: it’s the official midway point between the first and latter half of the Summer of Blockbusters. With last week’s box office flop consisting of Ocean’s 13 and Hostel Part 2, a sequel to a film nobody was all that psyched about to begin with has got failure written all over it, right? Wrong. Of the films I have caught this summer, FF2 has got to be my favorite, which is probably the highest honor I can give it. From titles to credits, I only complained once, and even that wasn’t totally worthy of complaint. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ve done this enough times for me not to deter from format, of course we have to break the film down and throw in a few obscure comic references, or else it just wouldn’t feel right.

Starting off with the acting, I was more than happy with everyone’s performances in the film, including Alba’s, who I bitched and moaned about in the previous film. This movie has got enough content jam-packed into 89 minutes that her flickering eyes and blank stare were almost as invisible as the character herself.

My favorite part of a superhero sequel is that we’re beyond the need for introductions and origins, and we can get to the grits of the character. There were a few things I wanted in the first film that were delivered with bells on in this film. Those being: more Johnny and Ben camaraderie, less “will they or won’t they” with Sue and Reed, and a whole lot less of Julian McMahon looking somber. While we got much more of the first, the second two still had their moments, but again with a film that primarily shifts the focus on a brand new character, the little problems like that get lost in the cracks. We also get a reprise of Stan Lee, unsurprisingly, but this time he doesn’t come back as Postman Willie Lumpkin, but another, very special character. I won’t give it away, but I’ll drop a hint: He’s old.

The next section of course being the special effects of the film. And I’m somewhat jaded in this category, because for years, the only Fantastic Four I knew of other than ink on paper was from the Roger Corman epic, and those of you who remember that also remember a lot of clay-mation stretchiness and I Dream of Jeannie camera tricks for the invisible effect. So comparing it to the two new films is like holding a candle up to the sun. The effects started off pretty poor, but then came to blow me away by the end of the flick. This is where we touch on the giant purple elephant in the room, Galactus.

I’m going to put an end to the rumor right now and admit that Yes: Galactus is a cloud, BUT! It’s completely pulled off in this picture. I was the first webgeek to bitch and moan that I wanted a giant purple dude like we’ve always known the Devourer of Worlds to be, but when you consider the impact of a twister three times the size of earth coming to literally eat the world, the image is haunting, and even us original geeks get a nod from the crew towards the end of the picture. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but during the final battle, look directly into the “belly of Galactus” to see an old face.

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MATT RAUB: Spider-Man 3 Review

MATT RAUB: Spider-Man 3 Review

So here we are, one day before the highest anticipated film of 2007, Spider-Man 3, gets released into a record 4,252 theaters. I, just like about a billion other fans, couldn’t wait to see this flick, mostly because this is the film where we get the infamous Venom as a villain, along with a laundry list of other storylines. But before I get too deep into that, lets break it down. Usually when reviewing comic book movies, I like to break the critique down into three separate sections: the Acting, the Story, and the FX.

Lets begin with my least favorite part of the entire film: the acting. Now I may be a bit jaded, but I’ve never really got into having Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. This is where doing a book or comic adaptation gets funky, because originally the character’s voice and overall demeanor is up to their interpretation. A perfect example of this is the Harry Potter film franchise. The casting of those films were almost spot-on with the fan’s interpretation of the characters, and they didn’t even have the visual aids that comic books have.

With that said, in my head Spidey was the nerdy, quiet kid before bitten by the radioactive/genetically enhanced spider, but then gains self-confidence while still keeping his puerile attitude towards life. This is how we get the wisecracking interpretation in modern books. But with Maguire’s performance, we are constantly treated to the somber, “woe is me” Spider-Man who, granted, still jumps, swings, and does whatever a spider can, but in between those periods is constantly in a state of teary-eyed misery. Even in the second film where he is convinced that being Spider-Man is a curse, and trashes the costume, he still looks like at any moment, he could burst into tears. Some could attribute this to Maguire’s incredible range, but if I wanted that, I’d go see Seabiscuit again.
 
Spider-Man is the comic relief of the New Avengers, and even in the Ultimate books, he may cry, but when he’s in the suit, he’s a regular swinging Henny Youngman. The same goes for this film, in the times that the mask isn’t on (which is way too much to begin with), his eyes are constantly filled with tears.

Moving on to our leading lady, Kirsten Dunst, I have a whole different problem. In the first film, I was starting to get into the idea of having a non-supermodel quality Mary Jane Watson and by the end of the second film, I was completely sold, though she looked like she hadn’t eaten since Jumanji. And just then, as if it was her master plan to get us all to love her, and then crush us, in a press junket for Spider-Man 2, Dunst was quoted in saying that her ideal plot for another sequel would be where our webbed hero dies in the first act, and the rest of the film is about Mary Jane coping in the modern world with an unborn Spider-Baby as a single mother. Some of you remember this quote as “The Day We Started to Hate Kirsten Dunst.” I don’t know what it is about female actors and preaching their ideas when the majority of the audience paying attention to them are people who could care less about them. We go to superhero movies to see superheroes, not their girlfriends.

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