Movie Review: ULTIMATE AVENGERS

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Movie Review: ULTIMATE AVENGERSMarvel Studios
2005
PG-13

“Are you really Russian, or are you just trying to make an impression?”

In 1945, in one of the last battles against the Nazis, Super Soldier Steve Rogers, a. k. a. Captain America, stumbles upon an alien plot to help the Nazis build a nuclear warhead to take out the United States. The Captain manages to stop the bomb and destroy it, but at the cost of being hurtled into the Atlantic Ocean and put into suspended animation within an underwater glacier. Flash forward 60 years, and the top-secret Government agency S. H. I. E. L. D., led by General Nick Fury, has found the body of Steve Rogers, and retrieves him in order to duplicate the lost Super Soldier serum to build a new army of super soldiers to take on the lingering alien threat. Only, the Captain is still alive, and the government is getting impatient for results. Now, Steve Rogers finds himself a man out of time, and leading a group of cocky, hot headed modern heroes against the extraterrestrial threat. Only thing is, the aliens aren’t the biggest threat to the Avengers…

As a comic book geek, I do believe that we’re experiencing a neo-Renaissance of sorts with movies and cartoons based on comic book properties. The release of this direct-to-video animated movie based on the first storyline in the uber-popular (and kick arse, I might add) Ultimates comic is, in my not-so-humble opinion, quite spectacular. It’s not perfect, mind you, but realize what it could have been if it was made in, say, the 80s…or even the 90s. I shudder to think…

The animation is top-notch, with a style like that of the late lamented X-Men: Evolution cartoon. There are some noticeable instances where the CGI and traditional animation don’t mix too well, mostly with the scenes involving S. H. I. E. L. D.’s flying machines. Otherwise, it’s pretty smooth and tight. Story-wise, it sticks pretty close to the source material, albeit a bit toned down (anyone who’s read the Ultimates know what I’m talking about…somehow I don’t think Captain America kicking Bruce Banner in the nuts would’ve played out too well). Still, it doesn’t skimp on the explosive action, or the rather deep characterization with the Marvel icons. Steve Rogers trying to adjust to the future present he’s stuck in with almost all ties to his past gone is handled really well. Also, Bruce Banner as the obsessive yet brilliant scientist trying to find a way to control his Hulk alter-ego is nicely done. And call me crazy, heretical, or whatnow, but I personally prefer the Ultimate version of Nick Fury rather than the regular continuity version. The obvious Samuel L. Jackson design works for him. Seriously…

Sadly, this movie’s only 73 minutes long. Not really a full-length movie, but still very satisfying. Well done. I’d like to see more Marvel-based DTV movies like this in the future, perhaps with more obscure characters. Maybe an animated miniseries based on the Alex Ross / Mark Waid opus Marvels. In the extras, for all you George Perez freaks out there, there’s an interesting 25-minute documentary entitled “Avengers Assemble!”, which features interviews with Perez and a couple of others involved with the Avengers comic in various incarnations. In any case, check this nifty gem out…

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Movie Review: TRUE GRIT (2010)

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Movie Review: TRUE GRIT (2010)Paramount
2010
PG-13

“You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God.”

Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with “true grit,” Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her “grit” tested.

I normally don’t watch straight-up westerns. Usually, the genre would have to have a healthy dose of sci-fi or horror mixed in to get me interested. That, or Clint Eastwood. That guy’s just awesome. So, it’s rare that I would actually plop down money to go see a straight-up western movie in the theater. It was the matinee pricing, but still.

When it came to this remake of the John Wayne classic True Grit, there were two things going for it: it was a Coen Brothers joint, and it starred Jeff Bridges. Still, I held off for a few weeks after it was released…because it was a western. Yeah, yeah, terrible person I am, being all comfortable with my personal movie preferences. How do I live with myself?

Anyway, not being familiar with the original movie, beyond that it’s lauded as one of John Wayne’s finest performances, and that he was playing against his usual type of movie character – and that he wore an eyepatch – I really don’t know just how this remake holds up to the classic. Neither do I care. I’m just getting that out of the way, as I’ve had a lot of people ask me if it’s as good as the original since watching this version. I also don’t foresee myself watching the original any time soon. And that’s enough talking about that. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

As a whole, I found True Grit to be rather enjoyable, a good way to spend an afternoon with the guys. Good period piece settings, the story kept me engaged with just a bare few minor lagging moments, and it’s gritty without going overboard, I thought. The main thing that made this enjoyable was the cast. All of them were fantastic, from the main actors down to the very minor characters. Jeff Bridges is a joy to watch here as the grumpy and perpetually drunken Rooster, and whenever he has to go off screen or there’s a scene without him, it makes me sad. Matt Damon as LaBoeuf as the polar opposite of Bridge’s Rooster works well. Very amusing moments with those two together. The big surprise, though, was the performance of Hailee Steinfeld as the 14-year-old with a vengeance streak. Surprise because the actress is actually 14 here, but she gave a much, much more professional performance, holding her own against Bridges, Damon and the other actors that spice up the story. I honestly thought they got a younger 20-something to play the part, until I did a little research after watching this. Very impressive.

Overall, I found this True Grit to be enjoyable. Good story, great cast. Hasn’t made me want to watch more westerns, but I can think of worse things to do on a weekend afternoon.

Movie Review: TRON: Legacy

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Movie Review: TRON: LegacyWalt Disney Pictures
2010
PG

Twenty-eight years is a long time to wait for a sequel. Especially a sequel to a movie that was considered a box office flop when it was first released. I of course speak of the 1982 movie Tron, a sci-fi flick Disney released at a time when the company wasn’t doing so hot, but was still actively innovative and imaginative none the less. The original Tron was a perfect example of Disney being much more than catering to kids — the effects and production was pretty cutting edge at the time, and the story was a bit darker in tone (something Disney never shied away from, really). Problem was, Tron was released against the soon-to-be pop culture juggernaut that was E. T.: The Extra Terrestrial. Yeah, looking back it seemed like a stupid move, but really who could have foreseen that at the time?

Anyhoo, as with a lot of other genre movies, Tron grew quite the cult following over the decades, so much that we finally have a sequel that, in my not-so-humble opinion, not only recaptures the spirit of the original, but builds upon it, giving the world of the Grid a deeper depth and dimension. And no, that has nothing to do with the 3D effects.

(Just a quick side note, here; I wrote the rough draft of this earlier in the morning, and later that same evening had a rather spirited discussion about the original vs. the sequel with some of my fellow geeks I hold in high esteem; I only bring this up because I realize there’s going to be cries of blasphemy and high amounts of nerd rage after what I just wrote…and I make no apologies…love you all)

The story begins several years after the events of the original Tron: Kevin Flynn is telling the tale of his adventure in The Grid to his young son, Sam, before heading out to work on his new creation. It would be the last time his son and the world sees or hears from him again. Flash forward twenty years, and Sam is a somewhat reckless young adult, channeling his inner angst and inherent intelligence and genius to playfully sabotaging his father’s (and his, as he’s also the majority stock holder) company’s efforts to become the next big corporate playa’s. OS / Linux fans will get a kick out of that opening bit, there. After his latest escapade, he’s informed that his estranged father might still be alive, which leads him to the old arcade, where to a soundtrack of vintage 80s rock he’s zapped into The Grid. Immediately he’s taken into the games, and must battle his way out, facing not only a corrupt A. I. master, but also his long-lost father. Oh, and there’s also only eight hours before the porthole between this and the real world closes. And the A. I. wants to conquer the real world as well. So, no pressure or anything.

I’m only going to say upfront that, as far as the original Tron goes, I have an appreciation of the film and its impact on sci-fi film history, but I don’t consider myself an ubergeek about it. Not like I am about, say, Star Wars, Star Trek or Doctor Who. I think it’s that kind of low-grade geek appreciation that perhaps allowed me to enjoy Tron: Legacy much more than a lot of others. Overall, I thought that Tron: Legacy was a fantastic sci-fi cyberpunk fantasy, one that immediately drew me in and held me there for over two hours, unwilling to move despite the protests of my bladder. It’s rare that I just lose myself in a movie like that. I’m not saying it’s the greatest movie ever; far from it. I’m just saying that Tron: Legacy provided one of those rare instances where everything came together and worked to that end.

There’s a lot I can write about, which has the potential to go on for hours. To keep things relatively brief, I’ll say that I found the plot to be deeper than just the surface points. The father / son dynamic is refreshingly subdued in the angsty drama, where I strongly believed the bond those two shared. There was even a surprising depth to CLU, the A. I. antagonist that, aside from providing the obvious “I’m my own worst enemy” dynamic (if you’ve seen the movie already, you know what I’m getting at…and if you haven’t, that’s technically not a spoiler, so quit whining), there’s a certain flashback scene where you actually start to feel kind of sympathetic for him. Kind of. The acting was great, and the effects were just stunning. Tron: Legacy is probably the first movie I would recommend seeing in 3D. Which is something in itself, considering my general disdain for what I normally consider an overpriced and unnecessary movie gimmick.

So, obviously I completely enjoyed Tron: Legacy. Haters are gonna hate, I realize this; but what it comes down to is that it made me forget I was in a movie theater. And I’ve seen it twice. And I haven’t double dipped in the theater in over a decade. At least it isn’t a remake…

Movie Review: The TRIPPER

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Movie Review: TRIPPERCoquette Productions
2006
R

“But I’m a Republican!”

A bunch of neo-hippies gather together in the middle of a Redwood forest for a weekend of music, drug and sex-fueled debauchery. There to harsh on the fest attendee’s mellow are local rednecks, disgruntled loggers, an unscrupulous promoter…and a homicidal maniac dressed as former President Ronald Reagan…

In this volatile political climate nowadays, it’s like everyone who has any kind of ties to the entertainment industry considers themselves a political expert, using their “art” as a mouthpiece to voice their opinions on the government and such. There’s a difference between political and social satire and thinly veiled soapbox propaganda. The Tripper falls somewhere between the two. At its heart, the movie is a deliciously raucous slasher flick brimming with dark humor. As writer, director, co-producer and actor, David Arquette has gleeful fun with the material, as any horror geek should. A psychotic maniac mowing down hippies and rednecks dressed up like Ronald Regan — brilliant. Loved it to death (no pun intended). That in and of itself would have prompted me to check this out, no matter who was doing this. The actors chosen for the rolls brought some serious meat to the movie, and not in the “kill fodder” sense. Not a bad apple in the bunch, and everyone seemed to have real fun with the rolls they were given. Jason Mewes plays essentially himself, and that’s a good thing. Jamie King was great as the girl trying to escape her past and trying to stay sober in the middle of the drugs and craziness. Thomas “The Punisher” Jane was a great choice as the local Sheriff, as was Paul “Don’t Call Me Pee-Wee” Reubens as the show promoter.

I should point out that the majority of the movie was shot on location in the redwood forest, during an actual festival held there, which resulted in some really beautiful scenery. And the contrast between this and the brutality of the kills is very effective. And kudos on taking the time to build up the characters to make ’em more than just redshirts.

As far as the political soapboxing — well, it’s there, but there’s little of it, and taken care of at the beginning. That’s what I was worried about, having to sit through a bunch of Bush hating bandwagon crap. But no, outside of the “Bush is the worst President!” whining at first, followed by a shot of rednecks gushing about how great Bush is, the political sentiments are more tongue-in-cheek. Really, the only character I found annoying (besides the hippies; you can bet I was cheering their demise on with gleeful abandon) was the ex-boyfriend of Jamie King’s character –basically stuck in 80s Wall Street mode, with a license plate that read REDS8TS and toting a pistol because he loved Charlton Heston. And he was abusive. Imagine that.

I guess someone can look at The Tripper as a blatant slap against Republicans. I, however, found this a refreshing take on the slasher horror genre amidst movies full of cannibalistic mutated hillbillies. If you find yourself taking this too seriously…well, the word “therapy” springs to mind. Otherwise, great slasher horror that goes beyond the sum of its parts. Recommended…

Movie Review: TRICK ‘R TREAT

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Movie Review: TRICK 'R TREATWarner Bros. Pictures
2008
R

“Samhain, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, also known as Halloween. Pre-dating Christianity, the Celtic holiday was celebrated on the one night between autumn and winter when the barrier between the living and the dead was thinnest, and often involved rituals that included human sacrifice…I like your eye patch.”

Further proof that the world we live in is slipping deeper and deeper into Bizarro Land. The past few years, Warner Bros. has released such direct-to-video fare as Lost Boys: The Tribe (*grrrr*) immediately, not to mention a lot of less-than-memorable theatrical features, and let movies like this one languish for over 2 years before releasing it on DVD almost as an afterthought. Me am not Bizarro NecRo, goodbye.

For the past couple of years, I’ve kept hearing about this movie. Websites and message boards were gushing about Trick ‘R Treat, how it captured the fun horror spirit of the classic EC Comics and especially the first Creepshow movie. The buzz was surrounding this movie. And wouldn’t you know, the Brothers Warner (and their sister Dot…HA!) kept promising to give it a theatrical release, but they continued to push back the release date. Until finally they recently decided to just put it out on DVD. And if it weren’t for the online horror networks I regularly peruse, I would have missed it entirely.

So now it’s out. And while I’m usually a patient man, and can wait until a DVD is in the cheaper rental section, I immediately rented the sucker (I had some credit to burn at the rental place, anyway), and it was with a cautious anticipation I pressed play on the DVD player.

Man, I couldn’t build the suspense in this review more even if I started with “It was a dark and stormy night”…

Approximately an hour and half later, after the final credits rolled and the DVD reverted back to the main title index, I sat there thinking this was some bloody awesome horror watchin’. A really fun Halloween-themed roller coaster ride this is, featuring four individual vignettes taking place on All Hallows Eve and subtly intertwining, loosely tied together by this cute little spawn of Samhain named Sammy in the credits. Really, this “Sammy has the potential to become one of the great modern horror icons, along side Jason, Friedie, Michael and the host of others.

Trick ‘R Treat is great horror movie watchin’ fun, and a perfect example of how the genre isn’t dead in the hearts of us horror freaks. I urge you to pick up a copy of your very own and keep the Halloween spirit alive. Highly recommended…

You might be Goth if…

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You might be Goth if...1. You pay 6 bucks for cigarettes that match your outfit

2. You wear sunglasses in the produce department at night

3. You won’t get in a fight because it might smudge your make up

4. You wake up still drunk at 3 in the afternoon with anonymous black lipstick on your face

5. People can’t tell whether you’re searching for a missing contact or dancing

6. The only day you feel normal is Halloween

7. You don’t know whether the person you’re sleeping with is male or female until you’re actually in bed with them

8. You don’t care

9. The shade of powder you wear is called “Sheet Of Paper”

10. You were rooting for the vampires in “From Dusk Til Dawn”, “Lost Boys”, etc.

11. The Count was your favorite Sesame Street character as a child

12. You watch Sesame Street as an adult just to see The Count

13. You wear long, velvet coats in the middle of summer

14. You go to Denny’s at 5 in the morning and think, “These are my people”

15. You think dead flowers are prettier than live ones

16. You think anything dead is pretty

17. You refer to your age in mortal years

18. You give yourself the honorary title of Lord or Lady

19. You know what a Malkavian is

20. You know what a Malkavian is because you’ve been there, done that

21. You have the t-shirt

22. You dressed as The Crow for Halloween one year

23. You have dressed as The Crow for Halloween the past few years

24. The club you frequent has concocted an original drink called “The Vampire’s Kiss”

25. You buy $15 fishnets and rip them on purpose

26. You think blood is “pretty”

27. Your combat boots cost more than it takes to feed a third world child for two years

28. You’ve willingly undergone cosmetic dental surgery

29. You own 16 or more Cleopatra C.D.’s

30. You own even 1 Projekt C.D.

31. Friday the Thirteenth is your lucky day

32. You can’t decide whether Morticia Addams or Lily Munster is prettier

33. You decide Wednesday blows them both away

34. You could easily blow $500 in a Halloween store

35. You could spend all $500 on just make up

36. You were disappointed to find out that “American Gothic” is a portrait of two farmers

37. You claim the Chupacabra is a friend/relative of yours

38. You own a hearse

39. You own a hearse and don’t work in a funeral parlor

40. You keep a coffin in the back as “decoration”

41. You keep a coffin in the back as a bed

42. You think of the hearse as the “family car”

43. You think heresy is a religion

44. You claim heresy as YOUR religion

45. You own a rosary that you wear

46. You own many rosaries that you wear

47. You own a glow-in-the-dark rosary that alternates between your neck and the rearview mirror in your car

48. You fashion your eyeliner after a culture that’s been dead over 2000 years

49. You wish to name your first born Lestat

50. You plan to name your first born after ANY Anne Rice character

51. You didn’t know they were characters

52. Your purse is large, square and metal

53. The purse has scratches from being used in a fight

54. It has scratches from being kicked on the dance floor

55. This is the reason it was scratched in a fight

56. You think bats are “cute”

57. You argue on whether Poppy Z. Brite or Anne Rice has the more realistic view on vampires

58. You can debate both sides of that argument

59. You’ve participated in one of those “Do you think Tom Cruise was good as Lestat?” conversations

60. You’ve started one of those conversations

61. If you saw Valor on the street, you would throw your large, metal purse at him

62. You and your friends enjoy congregating in a local graveyard

63. No one you know is buried there

64. You and your friends take lengthy drives to visit non-local graveyards

65. You take pictures of the gravestones while reciting Oscar Wylde or singing “Cemetery Gates” by The Smiths

66. You know the words to “Cemetery Gates” by The Smiths

67. You know who The Smiths are

68. Your favorite poem is “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe

69. Your favorite poem is “Metamorphosis of a Vampire” by Charles Baudelaire

70. You spell Vampire either Vampyre or Vamphyre

71. Your boyfriend complains that his ribs just don’t stick out the way they used to

72. Your girlfriend complains that you look better in her black, velvet skirt than she does

73. You refer to others as “The Normals”

74. You refer to our leather-clad brethren as “Those Industrialites” or “Industrial-heads”

75. You go to South Beach, but have never seen the ocean

76. You can reminisce through all 4 locations of The Kitchen Club and 2 of The Church

77. You put on The Wake and practice dancing in front of the mirror

78. You practice with your own personal strobe AND blacklight

79. You are too poor to afford either and stole the lights off the Christmas tree

80. You can’t even tell whether you’re looking for a missing contact or dancing

81. You are happy when no one has ever heard of your favorite band

82. When someone else “discovers” you’re favorite band, you find another favorite band

83. Christians accost you with pamphlets on the street frequently

84. Jehovah’s Witnesses accost you with pamphlets on the street frequently

85. You accost Christians with pamphlets on the street

86. Satanists just look at you and smile

87. You laugh hysterically during those Church Of Latter-Day Saints commercials

88. You call for the free Bible anyway

89. You take great pleasure in vandalizing said Bible after waiting impatiently by your mailbox for 4-6 weeks

90. You stop vandalizing the Bible momentarily to look up Psalm 69

91. In your honest opinion, the image of Jesus ruins the beauty and natural fluidity of the cross

92. You’ve been with your significant other for over a year and still wonder what they look like without make up

93. You and your boyfriend fight over make up

94. You decide to get matching his/hers make up caddies to separate your make up

95. You smudge your lipstick on purpose to look like Robert Smith

96. You eat those limited edition pop-tarts just because they have bats on them

97. You save them because Hey!…they’re limited edition

98. You call them goth-tarts

99. You know what Renfield’s Disease is

100. You have Renfield’s Disease

101. You have taken anything on this list personally

102. You were offended

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movie Review: TRICK OR TREAT

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Movie Review: TRICK OR TREATCastle Home Video
1986
R

“Shut up! Play my tape for me tonight or die!”

Poor little metal head Skip…er, I mean Eddie finds solace from the everyday torment of being a mulleted high school geek in the form of heavy METAAAAAAAAAAL!!! (You can’t see it, but I’m raising the two-fingered fist of METAAAAAAAAAAL!!! and banging my head) One day his Hessian Xanadu is rocked (no pun intended) when his spandex clad idol Sammi Curr dies in a hotel fire. While in mourning, a reclusive rock DJ gives Eddie a rare master pressing of the album Sammi Curr was set to release before his untimely passing. Soon, though, Eddie finds that this is no ordinary slab of vinyl- seems that Sammi somehow encoded his very soul within the grooves, and when played backwards…well, let’s just say ol’ Sammi’s comin’ back for an encore…of EEE-VIL! That scamp…

Alright, let me tell you, this movie is one heck of a low-budget heavy metal horror ride. I’ve seen copies of Trick Or Treat on DVDs sold at Wal-Mart for $5. Although the cover art is a bit of a misnomer- metal icons Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne are both pictured prominently, when they only have bit parts in the movie (the rock DJ and a televangelist, respectively). You would be remiss not to check this quaint cheeseball out.

As an old metal head who discovered music in the 80s, I felt the pain of reclusive Eddie, who spends most of his time in his room listening to music (the scene where Ed’s mom discovers his album collection and freaks out over the cover artwork is priceless). Obviously this movie capitalized on the national hubbub going on at the time involving the supposed evil effect heavy metal had on teens, and especially so-called backmasking. But instead of moralizing, Trick Or Treat neither condemns nor blindly accepts the issues; instead, it’s played as a fun horror excess. Weird things happen when a tape Eddie made of the record played backwards is used, Eddie gets revenge on his jock tormentors, and Sammi Curr materializes at a high school dance to spread his heavy metal evil by…prancing around the stage like a peacock. This is a fine watch some dark, stormy night. Order a pizza, invite some friends over and enjoy…

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