TV – Movies

Jack Reacher

I thought this was a pretty good movie, but not consistent with the trailer, which shows it as if there are comedic elements. Sure the scene where he gets out of the car and blends into the crowd and slips away from the police is funny, but you already saw that in the trailer. The rest of the movie is serious for the most part. The first five minutes get your attention. The movie is not gory or bloody in any scenes, and there are a few fight scenes. Cruise did well as the lead character, taking no crap from anybody and looking at things from a different angle. There’s a twist at the end about who is bad instead of good, but the other bad guys are bad for certain. This was a good drama to watch with some good acting and some action scenes. I recommend it.

Argo

I read a lot of complaining after watching this movie about the lack of historical accuracy. Be that as it may, besides some ridiculous Hollywood forced drama at the end of the movie, it was pretty good. There were some good characters (Alan Arkin and John Goodman gave good performances) and it played out as a good drama. Just don’t go into this movie expecting the facts to be accurate and you might enjoy this movie as a dramatic portrayal of an undercover escape from a hostile country. There is some real tension with the people who are trapped living day-to-day in danger of being caught. Also some crazy government schemes to get them out are debunked by Ben Affleck’s character. It comes across as one guy fighting hard to rescue 6 people from a dangerous situation against government bureaucracy and with time running out. Knowing the ending spoils it a bit, but watching events unfold was very interesting.

The Dark Knight Rises

I found time to watch this long movie last week. I think it was about 2 hours 45 minutes. I enjoyed it though. It never was boring or slow, even when there wasn’t any action. I remember reading people complaining about the lack of Batman, that he only appears twice in the whole movie. But this movie was more about Bruce Wayne and him giving up being Batman. I think that was established early on in the movie.

There were a lot of twists and turns in the movie, one at the end I should have seen a mile away, especially since I am familiar with R’as Al Ghul (whose name they continue to mispronounce) from the comics and Batman cartoon. I did enjoy the story coming around full circle from Batman Begins. There were many appearances by individuals from the different movies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good in the movie and the ending is a nice setup for a sequel. I also noticed many characters besides Bruce Wayne did not have as many scenes in the movie as you would expect. There was a lot going on, but it was a good movie.

I always check the credit to see if I missed anyone, and I did; I didn’t notice Matthew Modine as the officer who questions Gordon, then realizes he is right by the end. I guess these actors I grew up with are just getting older.

This movie wasn’t as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight (my favorite of the three, you just can’t beat the Joker). But it was still a good movie, if different because it has less action and more story. If you can live without fights and explosions every few minutes, you might like this movie. At least give it a shot.

Total Recall (2012)

I just had a chance to watch this on DVD and I thought it was great. A lot of people dinged it because it wasn’t “funny” like the original or “as faithful” to the Philip K. Dick story (which I still have on my list so I can’t comment much there) as the 1990 movie. However, I thought the story was more believable (if you’ve seen the original, just think about how ridiculous the ending was), and the acting was much better (sure, cheesy Arnold lines were okay 20 years ago, but give me a serious sci-fi story any day). Of course, the FX were much better with today’s technology, and I thought Jessica Biel was much better than the original Melina actress. Referring to her and Kate Beckinsale as “eye candy” in many Netflix reviews is sexist and juvenile in my opinion. They both brought something to the movie, especially Kate (who definitely topped Sharon Stone, though she was good in the original movie, and Michael Ironside, who is always Michael Ironside). I’m sorry, but ever since Underworld, Kate has been kicking butt on screen, literally.

Colin Farrell was outstanding and much more believable than the buff Arnold in the Quaid / Hauser role. But surprisingly, Bryan Cranston was great as the villain Cohagen. Also Bill Nighy makes a brief appearance as Matthias the rebel leader.There were also some nice nods to the 1990 film with the three-breasted woman flash, but the better one was the woman at the terminal saying “two weeks.”

It seems like people either like this movie or hate it. If you like good sci-fi storytelling, you will like this movie. Go into it without any thought of or comparison to the 1990 movie and you’ll probably like it even more. The movie tells a good story and has good flow through it, and the ending is decent and conclusive.

The Bourne Legacy

I went into this movie with an open mind. I wasn’t looking for a continuation of the Bourne trilogy, but something similar and different. Jeremy Renner does a great job as the main character. His action scenes are good and his methods are believable. Rachel Weisz also is good in this movie as a doctor involved in a Treadstone-like project, but with no real knowledge of what the project’s purpose is.

The beginning of the movie is a little confusing, and the tie-ins to the Bourne Ultimatum don’t do much to pull you in, although they tie the plots together. I was expecting more from some of the big names from the last movie like Joan Allen, but her, Scott Glenn, and David Strathairn only have brief scenes in the movie. Maybe the inevitable sequel will provide them with more screen time.

The beginning and middle of the movie have the best action scenes in my opinion. A lot of people have complained that the final motorcycle chase is way too long. I also was disappointed with the way the super agent sent in to kill Renner and Weisz was disposed of. I would have liked to see some fighting between him and Renner like Bourne had in the previous movies with agents sent to kill him.

Edward Norton’s role was a bit confusing in the beginning, and he was definitely no David Strathairn on Bourne’s trail. I think this movie had a weak supporting cast, unlike the previous movies. There were some nice surprises throughout, but the ending was very weak: the end of the motorcycle chase as well as the final scene.

I enjoyed the movie overall, but it won’t be one I’ll be running to buy. The movie had a good cast, but I think the writing was too muddled and the suspense did not do enough to pull you in at times. Don’t go into it expecting one of the previous Bourne movies and you will probably enjoy it as a good action movie.

Looper

I watched this movie recently because it looked like a pretty cool time travel flick. I knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in it, but I didn’t recognize him as the main character in the movie. Apparently they changed his appearance to look more like his older self (played by Bruce Willis). Both of these actors gave good performances in the movie, as well as Jeff Daniels in a bad guy role. The movie did have some cool effects like doing stuff to a younger self affecting the older version. The idea of sending back people to kill them was kind of cool in the beginning.

Unfortunately, the story had some problems with it. In the trailer, the way I understood it Joseph’s character is a looper, a person who kills people sent back in time. Then his future self is sent back and this is a big deal. However, in the movie this happened to all loopers at some point (referred to as “closing the loop”). You were supposed to kill your future self and the mob (who sent people back) paid you big bucks for this and you retired from your job. Throw in that 10% of the population somehow gets telekinesis in the future (which is not important until the end, so it really only serves as an excuse for how some events take place in the future).  Throw in the killing of children to stop a future bad guy (even though it is portrayed as heinous, was this really necessary?). Also a fall from 20 feet up onto a car with no discernible injuries by one character?

The end of movie solution to a problem is interesting, as is Bruce kicking butt over the bad guys, but the ending also makes you wonder what you sat through everything for. Maybe the main characters struggle of what to do about his future self who doesn’t want to die?

Looper is worth watching for the effects, interesting ideas, and butt-kicking. I was just disappointed it wasn’t better. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

With a lot of Bond craze going on with the release of Skyfall (which I thought was a pretty good back to basics Bond movie), I recorded On Her Majesty’s Secret Service because I think it was the only Bond movie I had not seen. I knew a different actor from Connery and Moore had played this Bond back in the 70’s, and after watching this movie now I know why he only got one shot at it. Looking at the movie as a whole, it was a muddled affair with two many slow parts, too much talking in low voices that you could barely hear, and a Bond (played by George Lazenby) that was more of a teenage dork than a gentlemanly and suave 007. I think what really ruined any chance of me liking this Bond was in a scene where Bond sneaks into some guy’s office to steal some papers. The papers are in a safe so Bond starts working on cracking the safe. But instead of doing it himself he has some machine doing it, while he sits down and flips through a Playboy magazine! Really? Bond, who gets more beautiful women than he can shake a stick at needs to look at a girly magazine? And like a complete dork he actually puts the centerfold in his jacket as he exits the office.

Then there is the random love interest who he marries at the end. The movie starts with her driving past him very fast. Then he catches up to her parked car, and she is walking down a beach and into the water (presumably to commit suicide?). So Bond runs to rescue her, but these tough guys show up and he has to fight them with some of the worst, sped-up fight scenes you can imagine. Meanwhile, the woman recovers and drives off. Of course Bond is hounded by these tough guys who take him to the woman’s father who wants Bond to be with her. She starts out all disinterested, then suddenly loves him. Whatever.

Then there’s Telly Savalas, a great actor in my opinion. He has also played good villains. This time he is not at all scary. The worst scene is where he has kidnapped Bond’s woman and is coming on to her. He unzips his jogging suit top and looks pretty big and not at all attractive. At least he has a scary fraulein to watch his back!

There are so many long and boring scenes in the movie, I think it took me 3 or 4 times to finish watching it. I thought it just had to get better. But even the chase scenes were too long, and I think the whole movie was well over 2 hours.

This review is getting pretty long, but to wrap it up I only finished this movie because it was Bond. I was very disappointed. I thought there were other Bond movies that were bad (For Your Eyes Only, License To Kill) and other bad Bonds (Timothy Dalton) but this is the worst by far. Take my word for it, if you like Bond and haven’t seen this one, skip it. You aren’t missing anything.

Caprica

I just finished watching Caprica on Netflix. I had previously watched the Pilot when it originally aired and thought it was okay. I didn’t think much about the show going into Season 1, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end. The show starts off very slow. The direction the writers go in the first several shows mostly changes later. Also, some of the characters like Amanda Greystone who I thought was very annoying at first end up becoming decent characters.

One of the best things the show does is develop some of the characters like the Adamas. We learn about their history on Tauran and some of their rituals. We also learn about the STO and monotheistic church on Geminon. By the end of the season, the shows are very good. There is a lot of plot developments, action, and important events for several characters. The show finishes strong on the last episode. There is also a brief look at what was going to happen in future seasons that ties the show even more into the new Battlestar Galactica.

Unfortunately the show was canceled. Too bad SyFy didn’t give the show more time as the first season finished very strongly. If you want to learn about some of the history of Battlestar Galactica watch this show. It may be slow in the beginning, but it becomes really good after several episodes.

Game of Thrones – Season One

I finished watching HBO’s Game of Thrones Season One and was very impressed with it. I have read four of the five books in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series and I thought the first season’s ten episodes captured the events of first book very well. The acting was superb and the choice of actors well done. The settings were also well done. Since I finished the fourth book six years ago, season one was a nice refresher. I think I may wait until the last two books come out before finishing (or rereading) the series; anyone who has read one or more of the books can attest to the many characters and the complicated plot of the series. At least with the HBO series Martin might actually get the last two books out in the next four to five years so HBO can make all seven books in a row since they are doing one book per year.

If you haven’t seen the series or read any of the books but like Lord of the Rings style fantasy (with an adult flair) then read and watch immediately. Martin has created a very complicated and interesting world that holds nothing back; great characters, great plots, twists, and many deaths. This is definitely adult material, though.

I cannot wait until season two comes out in the spring!

AVATAR and Midworld

I just watched Avatar for the first time today and thought it was a good movie. However, as I watched it I immediately began to see similarities to Alan Dean Foster’s classic Midworld. So many similarities in fact that I was surprised there was no mention of Midworld as an inspiration for this movie. Sure the plots are not the same, but the environment and parts of the story are way too similar for this to be a coincidence. A quick Google search confirmed my feelings as I found several sites saying the same thing (and including Poul Anderson’s “Call Me Joe” as another inspiration). At the blog site Preserving Privacy, Sanity and the Individual, I read comments by people saying the movie was a total ripoff, the movie was nothing like Midworld, and opinions in between. There are some good arguments outlining the similarities between the movie and the book so I won’t repeat them here, but I do agree with the sentiments of some of the comments which say Cameron should acknowledge that he drew inspiration for Avatar from these two classic sci-fi stories.