"2,500 Tons of Awesome."

Image from eonline.com.
It goes without saying that, from day one, I was drooling over this movie like Tarantino at a shoe store. Big, massive aliens from the sea fighting mechanical powerhouses of destruction. Sold. Aliens and robots are pretty much my favorite thing (with cowboys and aliens coming in as a close second, tied only by mobsters and robots--if that isn't a movie, it needs to be created), so I was really, really easy to please. 

But no. They couldn't stop there. They couldn't just give me an awesome movie filled with bone-crunshing punches and shrill, otherworldly screams. No, they had to also build an intricate universe, sprinkled with moments of quirky humor and lovable characters.

You guys. It's looking like Christmas sure as hell came early for me this summer. 

There were, of course, a couple things that stood out to me that I've got to mention. So, with that, here are five reasons why Pacific Rim has officially set the summer blockbuster bar high

1. Not a Bolt Out of Place

Normally, I'm something of a sensitive movie-goer. I'm not the biggest fan of 3D and all those...gizmos and gadgets. So the fact that I saw this in IMAX 3D should have been a problem for me. But it wasn't. I barely noticed the 3D aspects of it. Now, to people who enjoy the shit-popping-out-at-your-face bit, that might be a problem. To me? It worked perfectly. 

But it's more than just the 3D. Occasionally, when you see a movie that's about 95% CGI, it shows. You can tell when the actors are talking to blank, green space. You can tell when something just doesn't feel right. Even if the CGI looks spot on, there will sometimes be that disconnect, that fabricated feeling. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the actors had such a deep respect and connection to their CGI robot machine-suits, but somehow, the CGI felt completely natural to me. It was organic to the world and flowed seamlessly through the film. A+ to the nerds who worked on that one. 

2. Drifting
Image from http://www.slate.com.

Can we talk for a second about how awesome drifting is? A mental brain-connection between two people and a machine. C'mon. That's fucking awesome. In fact, all the world-building details of this story were awesome. Everything from drifting to the wall they tried to build to the various different Jaeger models and their human teams (can I have a movie solely about the Russians now?). I am going to be very, very sad when sci-fi goes back out of style. Like, borderline depressed. Mark my words.

3. Idris Elba
Just stop with your awesome, Mumbles.

Let me count the ways I love this man. I will follow him to the Apocalypse. And then watch him cancel that shit. I was probably the most invested in his character, simply because he was exactly the kind of over-the-top character that fit so perfectly into the texture of the world. Not to mention, his character was hard and direct when he had to be hard and direct, yet was able to inspire anyone to action with only a few precise words. You go, Idris Elba. 

4. Everyone Else
Image from http://www.nerdist.com.

What can I say? The acting was good. Charlie Hunnam--who you have to love for his subtle fuck you faces if nothing else--it turns out is great on and off the motorcycle. He's turning out to be a surprisingly versatile actor and I'm looking forward to seeing more of his face. His counterpart, Rinko Kikuchi, was everything she needed to be--wide-eyed, inquisitive, and somehow simultaneously bold and timid. 

5. The Newton's Cradle
Just because I can't get enough of these two.

More than the acting, the writing was good. Which, to be perfectly honest, I wasn't expecting. No, they're not going to win an Oscar for best screenplay anytime soon, but it was fun. It was more than a couple machismo-enfused one-liners. It was campy at times (moments which Charlie Day and Ron Perlman pulled off brilliantly), powerful and ribcage-expanding at times (all signs lead to Idris Elba), and even unexpected at times--some of my favorite moments involved the brief, still silences in which a seagull took flight or a Newton's cradle began to click in the middle of a city-crushing fight. The script knew it was a shameless, campy movie and ran with it--it didn't try to make it bigger than it was, it didn't set the audience up for a plethora of increasingly bad sequels (though I wouldn't be surprised if they happened anyway). The film never took itself too seriously while simultaneously giving the plot the epicness it deserved which, at the end of the day, what exactly what won me over. 


When I Was A Young Lad...

Image from www.salon.com.

As a young, 12-year-old boy growing up in the 1950s, I have fond memories of sitting down in front of the ol' black-and-white and watching episodes of The Lone Ranger while ma cooked up a post-dinner apple pie. No? Not buying it? Okay, so maybe I'm an 80s child with a healthy dose of penis envy, but the point is, I wanted to be that little boy with the Lone Ranger mask who ran around terrorizing the neighborhood cat with a slingshot. So when they announced that they were doing a Lone Ranger movie, I (and all the baby-boomers twice my age) had a purely sentimental reaction. Because, for about an hour and thirty minutes, I could be that little troublemaker who goes strutting into the Wild West tent at the carnival, craving adventure. 

 Pretty sure she picks movies for the wardrobe.
Of course, therein also lies the problem of the movie. It's a sentimental film, but also a very selectively sentimental film. The Lone Ranger was big in its day, sure. But it doesn't have a lot of modern day relevance. Like Dark Shadows, it's a passion project that's going to miss a lot of viewers simply because...well. It's old. You can remake fairytales until the cows come home because we're still reading those bedtimes stories about princesses and frogs and slightly rape-y sleep-kisses. However, there aren't a lot of kids who are still watching black-and-white reruns of The Lone Ranger

Which is my way of saying: this movie was doomed from the start. It just doesn't have the audience it used to. However, the plot itself was pretty simple. John Reid--a by-the-book lawyer--suffers a dramatic event and learns to drop his old, law-abiding ways to follow the road of justice. Eventually. This is an origins story more than anything, so there isn't a heck of a lot of the Lone Ranger being the Lone Ranger. Rather, there's a lot of John Reid being wishy-washy, arguing with Tonto, and struggling to stand by his moral compass in an immoral world. 

For a simple plot, the writers managed to twist it up in a couple of convoluted knots that just didn't need to be there. Most of the rickety storytelling came from the fact that the story had an unreliable narrator--old and weathered Tonto--who often lost the thread and had to retrace his steps. There's a good way to do this (a la Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), and a bad way to do this. This fell somewhere in the middle--it didn't lose me at any point, but sometimes, it just felt a little gimmicky and unnecessary. Plus, there were too many characters and small, subplot arcs thrown around. What was the deal with the American army and did it really need to play such an integral role? Nope. Don't think so.

Cowboys doing cowboy shit.

The plot aside, the actors were great. I believed 100% that Armie Hammer was just as much of a goody-two-shoes as he presented himself to be. He pulled off the character well, even though his teeth could've been a little less damn shiny (this is the wild west. C'mon). Johnny Depp was Johnny Depp--thoroughly silly and thoroughly enjoyable. Of course, many fucks were given over the fact that some white dude was playing Tonto, but Johnny Depp is at least a shamelessly ridiculous replacement, where I might add, Khan was supposed to be taken completely, unflinchingly seriously. So sit on that for a couple white-washing seconds. 

Two of my favorite actors--Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner--played our main villains, which was just...lovely. They're both so good at being bad, I have no complaints. Plus, William Fichtner just has such an interesting face, that man can do anything with it. Speaking of chameleons, a moment for James Badge Dale, who proved that no matter what the role, he can pull it off flawlessly. Granted, his roles are often a little extravagant and there's never anything really subtle about his characters (big metal flame guy in Iron Man 3 and prick boss in Shame), but he's always exactly the character the movie needs and manages to fit in seamlessly with the mood of the film. All the awards for James Badge Dale. I guess I should mention Helena Bonham Carter, but she was just...Helena Bonham Carter. Lovely and ridiculous and clearly written into someone's contract. 

And Silver did a great job being a horse.

Which brings me to my final point...you don't need to know a heck of a lot about The Lone Ranger to enjoy this one. I think the real draw of this film is the world it exists in. It's more than a homage to the old Lone Ranger series--rather, it's a homage to spaghetti westerns period. It's got all the necessary ingredients--train robberies, whore houses, indians, mines, the railroad, the hunt for gold and silver. It's almost like a mash-up of the "best of Westerns." And, at the end of the day, that was what stuck with me. To its credit, the movie spared no expense in world-building. They took us through even the little details of the world--that heavy-hoofed patter as the horses raced to catch up with a steam-billowing train. The grimy, snaggletooth villains that'll kill their grandmothers for just a little extra coin. The clattering awe of the first trains, chugging down freshly laid tracks--

Well. It was the feeling of being a slack-jawed, twelve-year old boy clutching a slingshot. 

If you want a movie that brings up purely nostalgic western feelings, you'll enjoy this one. If you want a shamelessly fun summer flick, you'll enjoy this one. If you want to spend two hours in air conditioning, you'll enjoy this one. With that, I'm off to buy a cowboy hat and attempt to lasso my girlfriend's yorkie for a couple of hours. Hi-yo, Silver, away--!


BAMF Of The Week: Lena Headey

"I hate being looked at."

It has come to my attention that Lena Headey has yet to be my BAMF of the week. Like...what? How did I allow this to go unnoticed for so long? Never mind the fact that I may/may not (okay, definitely may) have a major crush on Miss Headey, the thing is, this woman is just badass. In everything she does. She's been typecast more than once as the strong, female lead because she can nail it. And that's something to be proud of. She's the epitome of take-no-prisoners BAMFitry, and for that, I must salute her. 

Best films: She played the stoney, kickass Queen in both 300 (2006) and Game of Thrones (2011). And though she wasn't exactly "badass" in it, can we all appreciate the fact that she was in a lesbian romcom with Piper Perabo? All that aside, my favorite role has to be the way she played off the gritty, bones-to-the-wall Ma-Ma in Dredd (2012). Own it. 

Worst films: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) bombed pretty spectacularly. Which is a shame, because I love Lena Headey, I love Summer Glau, and, most of all, I love motherfucking Sarah Connor. To be honest, I've only seen an episode or two, so you can make up your own mind about this one. Maybe it was just too good to be true? 

Upcoming: I think she's pretty set as Cersei. Though apparently there's going to be a sequel to 300...? I'm going to let you sit with that for a second.


Low Expectations And Great Fun.

THE PURGE (2013)
Image from horrorcultfilms.co.uk.
I've heard this movie get a bad rap by a couple reviews, yet I was pulled along to see it because 1) the lady wanted a horror flick and 2) Lena Headey. Enough said. Here's what I assumed it would be: a mildly updated version of Panic Room (2002). I figured it would be just another they're-stuck-in-the-house-and-sort-of-scary-shit-happens movie. The kind of movie where they say things like "this will be the scariest movie of the summer" and then you watch them play with shadows for an hour and a half. Needless to say, I did not go in with high expectation. 

And then...well, hell. It looks like I'm rooting for the underdog all year (I kid you not; a positive review of After Earth is imminent). 

The thing is, I liked this one. It was fun. It was exactly what it needed to be. And it exceeded expectations (keeping in mind that my expectation was that it was going to be a poorly written should've-been-straight-to-DVD B-horror flick). Here's the thing: the concept is great. Pure genius. It's the kind of thing I wish I'd come up with; after all, it's not really a stretch of the imagination with all the IRL violence that's been going on lately (yeah, I just used acronyms, what up?). The concept of a Purge one day a year in which Americas are able to unleash their inner rage and violent tendencies is very relevant right now. You can either chose to hole up inside or join the violence and chaos outside and in the morning, all sins are forgiven. At the end of the day, it's a solid premise. 

Image from spinoff.comicbookresources.com.
Now, with this premise, the writers had two options. On one hand they could've created an all-out science fiction flick that went deep into the world and the mindset these people live in. A sort of dystopian film that dealt with the heavy moral implications of a night of violence. On the other hand, they could make a relatively light-hearted horror film that grazed on these issues but, at the end of the day, was just looking for a couple good screams. They chose the path of least resistance. 

As a science-fiction junkie, I say this without any judgement or prejudice. If you want to make a campy horror film, make a campy horror film. They're easy to digest and usually pretty easy sells at the box office. The Purge, however, was a campy horror film on the surface with a super clever premise underneath. 

So could they really pull it off? Well, yeah. I think they did. Ultimately, the movie was a hell of a lot more successful at delivering on its promise than I thought it would be. Did it have issues? It sure as hell did. Let me get them out of my system right now:
  1. Why was their house so frustratingly enormous?
  2. So if there's a homeless, possibly insane stranger running around their house, are the parents really going to let their daughter go and throw a bitch fit?
  3. Why does everyone partaking in The Purge talk like an evil doll brought to life?
  4. Why isn't Mrs. Terminator killing more bitches?
  5. Did we really need that terrible in-car exposition with the secretary going, "You're number one!"
Look on the bright side, at least they're not bunnies.
...You get the point. There were a couple bad eggs, a couple spots that could have been cleared up with another run through of the script. But overall...I was surprised by how not-stupid the script was. They delivered on a lot of the moral implications of The Purge, playing through a couple great character driven dilemmas. The reintroduction of the boyfriend at the moment of The Purge was the first moment when I realized that this movie--surprise, surprise--might actually know what it's doing. The boyfriend was great, the homeless man was great (and the dog tags were an excellent surprise), and, most of all, the husbands arc (is he protecting or is he Purging?) was ultimately satisfying. Yes, a lot of it was predictable, but that's the campy horror movie aspect. It still had plenty twists and turns I did not see coming, and those I did see coming still felt satisfying.

At the end of the day, while it was maybe not movie of the year and certainly won't be winning any Oscars anytime soon, it was a clever concept and a smart script. The actors played their parts nicely; hell, even the children engaged my interest instead of irritating me (and by children I mean the little boy). Ethan Hawke was great, and that's coming from someone who generally doesn't get what the big deal is with Ethan Hawke. I loved Lena Headey--but hell, I always love Lena Headey (especially during her final scenes of the movie). And "Polite Stranger," AKA: batshit crazy Rhys Wakefield was fantastic; exactly the kind of overacted, yet unrestrained creepinesses the role needed. 

Yep. I even liked the kid.
Ultimately, the movie felt a little like a Funny Games that didn't take itself so seriously and threw in a splash of violence and humor just to keep the energy going. As someone who can solidly appreciate a simply enjoyable movie with a killer concept, I'd recommend this one over the "oh, god, something is movie in the blankets again" mindless horror flick any day of the week. 


"I Told Myself I Would Never Come Back."

The Wolfpack...or something like it.
Here's the thing. I've been a pretty big fuck-it fan of the Hangover series. Why? Because they're shameless, predictable, and usually come hand-in-hand with a good soundtrack and a couple memorable one-liners. The Hangover had a tight script, it knew what it was, and it owned it's insane ridiculousness. The Hangover II was a little less tight, a little less laugh-out-loud, but I stood by it because, hey. It's a bro-comedy about bachelor parties gone wrong. How seriously can you really take that shit, right?

Well. Apparently, very seriously. In Todd Phillips' final installment of the Hangover trilogy, I have finally run out of redeeming things to say about it. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. Because, at the heart of it, I have a soft spot for the series and a soft spot for the characters. If you right fun characters and hook me in, I'm there. The Wolfpack (and Doug) are just fun to watch in action. Nine times out of ten, you get the feeling that, deep down, they're all bros in some way or another. Even (and maybe even especially) when they laugh at each other's misfortunes and pull terrible pranks on one another. 

Image from Huff Post.

However, the Hangover III forgot the main draw of the films. The bromance. The Wolfpack. Instead, it focused more heavily on the gimmicky characters. But the problem with gimmicky characters is that they're only funny because they're explosive side-characters. When you devote a whole movie to Leslie Chow...well. Yeah, we liked it, but not that much

If I had to pick one main character out of the entire series, I'd probably put my money on Stu. He's the one who always seems to have the major challenge to overcome, start to finish. He always goes through the most noteworthy "journey," where all the other characters are, more or less, just trying to get to the wedding on time. In Hangover III, however, Stu was basically nonexistent. He popped up now and then to deliver a couple one-liners that were repeated throughout the series, but that was it. He had approximately zero screen time. Phil, who often took the "leader" role, was also sectioned off to the sidelines. Instead, we handed the movie over to Alan and Chow. First mistake. 

To top off an already bad move, this wasn't even the same warm and well-intentioned Alan we'd grown to love from the first film. Instead, this Alan was mean, aggressive, and a little more sociopathic. Maybe the failed bachelor parties just hardened him into a bitter, angry man. Maybe he's worked so hard at impersonating Phil that he's got the callousness down to a T. I don't really know what was going on, all I know is that I was not a fan of Alan 3.0. 

My overall experience of Alan in the last movie.

But evil!Alan was, more or less, the epitome of everything that was wrong in Hangover III. Here's the thing: I wouldn't be bashing this movie if it just let itself be a bad movie. I had problems with Hangover II, but I let most them go. Because it presented itself as a shameless repeat of the first one. It said, "Hey, we know what you came here for, so here it is, word-for-word." A cheap move on Todd's part, but as I'm a big fan of unapologetic shamelessness, I could appreciate it for what it was. Hangover III, on the other hand, tried too hard to be a good movie. I could see it trying. But, at the end of the day, it was like watching Sam Worthington try to pull off an accent. Painfully obvious and, ultimately, a waste of time. 

I don't want to end this on a completely sour note. Because the thing is, shit. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed The Wolfpack. I enjoyed their antics and one-liners. I enjoyed the movie, overall. But at the end of the day, it took the series to a place it didn't need to go. I never thought I'd say this about John Goodman, because I love that man, but his character pretty much fucked up the whole movie. You know something's wrong when too many people die in what was supposed to be a shameless comedy, including the dogs. I enjoy excessive violence, but there's a movie for that and this is not it. I will say this, however: for people who enjoyed the series throughout (or at least enough to stick to it), this entire movie might have just been worth it for the ending credits scene. That last couple minutes was what I needed to see for the entire of the movie. End credits is where it's at. 

Dammit, Goodman. 


And Then A Wild Merman Appears!

Image from empireonline.com.

Let's start this off by saying: I'm shamelessly, shamelessly biased when it comes to Joss Whedon. Really. The man has my heart and then some. If I could somehow steal the brain cells from Joss Whedon, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie and inject them into my own skull, I'd probably be set for life. Robert Rodriguez can come too. The point is, Joss Whedon can do no wrong. I was destined to love this movie at first sight.

With that said, Joss Whedon isn't the only one who brings something to the table. Here are my five main reasons why I absolutely loved this one:

1. Men Behind The Curtain

It's one thing to create a mysterious evil company that does evil, mysterious things. It's another thing to create a mysterious evil company that does hilarious, common day workplace things and still maintains and aura of evil mystery. Despite the fact that the organization is clearly completely evil, you can't help but be fascinated, mortified and mildly endeared by their daily shenanigans. Even though we were supposed to be rooting for our friends in the woods, I would've been okay with watching the psychopathic puppeteers the entire time.

2. Dat Ass

Just when I thought a woman making out with a mounted animal head could not possibly be sexy...it is. Or maybe it's just the fact that she engages in a couple minutes of shameless ass shaking over the fireplace. Either way...you go, Anna Hutchison. Keep up the good ass. 

3. Fran Kranz

Here's the thing. Since I'm in the middle of watching Dollhouse (2009) on Netflix (hello, Joss Whedon fixation), I kind of already have a man-crush on Fran Kranz. So the fact that he spent the whole movie smoking up and trolling everyone made me adore him even more. The rest of the cast was good, don't get me wrong. Kristen Connolly was wide-eyed. Jesse Williams was...there. Chris Hemsworth was Chris Hemsworth. But, in my biased opinion, Kranz kind of stole the show. Plus, he has a pipe that transforms into a coffee mug. Now I know what I'm asking Santa for this year.

4. Motherfucking Merman

If you're going to have a creature movie, you've got to have excellent creatures. The zombies were cool. Particularly for their pain fetish. But things really got awesome when we got to see all the different creatures tucked away "downstairs." Most are familiar, but there were a few inventive scares that I had to give the movie props for. I, for one, wasn't actually really scared by this movie, but that doesn't mean I couldn't appreciate good creature designs. And if you have any doubts about the creatures, let me list off a couple creature names from the behind the scenes: Angry Molesting Tree, Balding Menace, Face Peeler, Man In Transparent Tarp, Exploding Shard Babies, and Snake Pubic Hair Woman. C'mon. I want a Cabin in the Woods II just so we can get more insane creature screen time.

And then there's the Merman. The most satisfying creature in the movie. You're waiting for it. Waiting for it. And then when it appears...it's more amazing than you anticipated. Karma wrapped up in a slimy, fanged, fishy mess. And the blowhole. THE BLOWHOLE. A thousand female fantasies suddenly sunk to the bottom of the lake and I absolutely loved it.

5. More Than Meets The Eye

At the end of the day, there's a reason Joss Whedon gets all my love. It's because he's a brilliant writer who has the uncanny ability to create deceptively simple stories with incredibly complex undertones. The Cabin in the Woods is, on the surface, a flawless, by-the-book shameless teenagers-meet-scary-cabin movie. We've got our stereotypical jocks, sluts, nerds, virgins, and that-best-friend-with-a-heart-of-gold. Hell, we've even got the old, gnarly man at the gas station who warns the teens of what lies ahead. And yet, it's so much more than that. On one hand, it's a borderline spoof of cabin-in-the-woods movies, entangled with a social commentary on our culture's voyeurism and lack of empathy. It's horror with touches of science fiction and a generous splash of comedy. And it works. Joss Whedon's talent truly lies his ability to create multiple layers all while making it look easy.

Basically, though I was probably one of the last people to see Cabin in the Woods and it was in grave danger of getting overhyped, it still managed to keep me hooked and then some. Which says a lot. Overall, I'd call this a successful satire, if not a successful, solid horror film in its own right. And Sigourney Weaver. I rest my case.