Monday, July 28, 2014

Pacific Rim Review

I don't always see movies in the theater.  I've been emotionally scarred too many times, plus I am paranoid and skeptical.  So I try to choose theatrical movies carefully, because I never want to give money to support something that sucks.  Of course there are no guarantees and my opinions are sometimes slightly askew of friends and critics.  So whether good or bad, my life is still often times filled with regret.

One such movie I did not see in the theater, was Guillermo del Toro's 2013 giant monster movie, Pacific Rim... but should I have?

Have you ever been a fan of Godzilla movies, or King Kong where ginormous monsters destroy your favorite major city... mostly  Tokyo or New York?  Have you ever been a fan of Gundam/Voltron/Transformers/giant mech suits?  Well, Guillermo apparently was, and he made this movie for fans of that genre.  I never have been, so I was not one of those eagerly leaping into the theater.  Sorry!  My nerdly tastes are more about spaceships, aliens, time travel or freakin' laser beams. 

Having said that, I can honestly say, Guillermo made a really fun movie!  I sort of wish I had seen this in the theater, because I think it's important we promote quality programming so maybe Hollowood would stop making so much crap (that is not a typo, as there are plenty of soulless hollow beings making our movies today).

The plot is not overly complicated, which is fine.  It just needed to tell the story, and be better written than most other crap in theaters today (i.e. every Transformers movie or anything written by David S. Goyer).  Pacific Rim drifts from being fun and silly, to unnecessarily sappy at times.  But don't worry too much about the sappy parts.  It isn't enough to take away from the ass kicking parts. 

The best thing this movie has going for it, is Guillermo del Toro.  This man knows how to make a good movie!  The action moves along nicely, with fight choreography you can see *gasp* what a concept! The creatures (aka Kaiju) and giant mech (aka Jaeger) were all unique and interesting enough, that merchandising alone should promote this movie for many years to come.

The acting by our likeable hero (Charlie Hunnam) was decent enough.  And you know I like Asian girls as much as the next American guy, but I felt the female lead, (played by Rinko Kikuchi) was just okay.  Maybe it was her hair that bothered me... but of course now I am being nitpicky.  

And all hail Charlie Day for playing the great nerdy scientist!  I was concerned that he would take me out of the movie and suddenly remind me that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  But somehow, he made it work!  His scientist partner (played by Burn Gorman) helped make them a fun team to watch. 

I was also concerned the computer AI, voiced by Ellen McLain would remind me too much of GlaDOS from the extra awesome game Portal.  But with everything happening around those scenes, it was easy to think of her as a giant mech AI and not the type of AI eager to offer you cake, or kill you.

So if this is a genre you love, then shut off your brain for a couple hours and enjoy.  And maybe this time I should have listened to my friends and seen it in theaters.  ...HA!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

300 Rise of an Empire Review

I love pretty movies.  To me, one of the most important aspects about a movie is, it should be visually artistic.  If a movie doesn't look good, I might as well read a book... and who has time for that??  (But seriously kids, read a book!  You won't regret it!).  Unfortunately, these days, most movies (and television shows) are more eager to look gritty and dark with all their bland muted colors and shaky cameras.  They try to justify it saying things look more 'realistic'.  Well, my life is filled with the big box of 64 crayons, not just the dark 8 pack many directors use today *COUGH*christophernolan*COUGH* 

So you can imagine my excitement seeing the 2006 movie 300, staring Gerard Butler and directed by Zack Snyder.  I wrote an awesome review (that I will re-post one day) saying how visually amazing it was for me, with all the pretty colors and airbrush looking art style.  Filled with great characters, and an interesting story, it is still one of my top ten favorite movies of all time for many reasons.

And now in 2014, we finally get a sequel, with a mostly different cast and different director.  So how does 300: Rise of an Empire compare to the original?

300 was a graphic novel by Frank Miller, released in 1998, creatively based on real events that took place a long time ago in a country far, far away (well, far away from where I live anyway).  Shortly after the success of the first movie, Frank began writing a sequel entitled Xerxes.  Seven years later, he still hasn't completed it.  However, they released the movie based on that unfinished story anyway.  Take a moment and let your brain wrap around that.

For the sequel, we spend our time with the Greeks (although for the record, I don't think there were 300 of them), as their events run parallel to everything that was happening in the first movie (think Back to the Future 2, although not as covert... or silly).  Their leader, Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) has a particularly freaky relationship with Xerxes second-in-command, Artemisia (Eva Green).  We also get a few moments here and there with great characters from the first movie, Xerxes (still ultra cool Rodrigo Santoro), Queen Gorgo (yes Lena Headey just as awesome as she always is, from Game of Thrones), and even Ephialtes (hunching better than ever by Andrew Tiernan)... but we don't see nearly enough of any of them.

Most of this movie took place at sea, and maybe that's why it felt... watered down (sorry, I couldn't resist).  None of the characters or visuals were quite as interesting as they were in the original movie.  And every time the Greeks cheered, it really made me miss the Spartan "AH-HOO!  AH-HOO!".  We do get moments of pretty airbrushing visuals, but overall, nothing stood out quite as much as the original.  Even Queen Gorgo, who looked beautiful and regal from the first movie, looks a bit harsh here.  It was like director Noam Murro saw the original, and jumped up and down and said, "I can do that too!".  No... no Noam, you really can't.  Now go to your room.

In all fairness, I shouldn't be too harsh to this movie.  It's not bad... it's just drawn that way.  If the original 300 was never made, Rise of an Empire would be a decent movie on it's own.  But if you have to watch a movie with lots of shirtless men with rock hard abs, grunting and sweating, the original Spartan story is still much more arousing... err, I mean exciting to watch.

Speaking of shirtless, maybe it would have helped a bit more if they showed an Oracle or two... or three.