Pulp Fiction

Image  —  Posted: July 14, 2014 in Art
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Sailing Sunset

Image  —  Posted: July 14, 2014 in Art
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a perfect movie in tone and spirit.

Whether it ends up being the best this summer depends on James Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy. Even so, these are entirely two different movies. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a much more realistic, grounded depiction of a rather unrealistic, ridiculous premise. While I hoped for a James Franco cameo, it’s probably better that his appearance is relegated to that of a picture and short video snippet.

If you’re waiting to watch this movie, stop and go directly to the theater.

It’s truly amazing how far our technology has come. Interestingly enough, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a story with humans on the cusp of extinction because the simian flu (a man-made disease released 10 years prior) has wiped out nearly everyone else, and the remaining survivors are attempting to reconnect to technology in order to rebuild civilization. The only thing standing in their way is an army of genetically enhanced apes who don’t have any reason to be particularly nice to humans based on their experiences.

Caesar

Our computer-generated apes look fantastic and frighteningly real. But the true credit goes to Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell for bringing Caesar and Koba to life. At this point, Andy Serkis should be recognized as a seriously talented actor instead of just a motion capture monkey or greedy goblin.

Although Rise of the Planet of the Apes focused primarily on James Franco and his relationship with Caesar, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes places the attention on Caesar and the apes from the start. Like the new world they now live in, the humans are few and far between on the outskirts of the apes’ forest near San Francisco. It’s unconfirmed as to whether there even are any more humans outside this area.

Our four main featured characters are the aforementioned Caesar (played by Andy Serkis) and Koba (played by Toby Kebbell) on the ape side with Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) and Dreyfus (played by Gary Oldman) on the human side. Despite the differences between the apes and humans, the dynamics between each respective leader and right-hand man/ape are rather similar. Malcolm and Caesar hope to establish a truce while Dreyfus and Koba are prepared to go to war to be the dominant species.

Oldman

Gary Oldman is fucking awesome as usual. Not much is asked from him in terms of effort, but he delivers as a stern yet sympathetic character that gives impeccable, impassioned speeches like the one below.

“We’ve been through hell together! We spent four years, FOUR YEARS fighting that virus, and then another four fighting each other! It was chaos!… But you all know what we’re up against! And I want you to know, it’s not just about power! It’s about giving us the hope to rebuild, to reclaim the world we lost!” — Dreyfus

I don’t know if Jason Clarke is necessarily a good actor, but his performance in this movie is rock solid. For the most part, Jason Clarke has been a bona fide “that guy” for the last 10 years in the sense that you’ve seen him before but probably don’t know his name. However, his movie career has definitely started to pick up steam during the last few years—most notably with a prime role in Zero Dark Thirty.

Unfortunately, the rest of the supporting cast isn’t noteworthy. Keri Russell doesn’t do much besides standing there and looking sad. I don’t even remember her name or that of the kid (Malcolm’s son). But I was thrilled to see character actor Kirk Acevedo (Miguel Alvarez for HBO’s Oz) playing the role of trigger-happy Carver. Acevedo has been doing the rounds on television, but I’ve always enjoyed his acting. Hopefully this surprisingly pivotal role is parlayed into more movies in the near future.

Remember that kid I mentioned above? Some may recognize him as Owen from Let Me In, but he’s also Boy from The Road. For me, Kodi Smit-McPhee will resonate and rattle around in my brain for being the common link between two miserable movie-going experiences. I loved Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Everyone should watch this movie…except the jackass drunken teenagers that were sitting behind us.

I don’t know what would possess someone to talk in a theater during the movie. It is not your fucking living room. The worst experience I can recall was also due to a gaggle of stupid kids when trying to watch The Road. I must not be meant to watch any Kodi Smit-McPhee movie around other people.

Fortunately, there was nothing that could spoil Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This movie is an unstoppable force. A lot of parallels can be found between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Lion King—with more mature tones in the former though the latter is more likely to induce tears.

Peace

A major feat for an epic summer blockbuster is the ability to make the audience emotionally invested. I wanted to know what would happen to these characters and I actually cared when those events unfolded. This is an example of everything that can good about summer movies. And the execution is perfect. As a result, the bar has been raised to expect a flawless film for the third leg of this trilogy.

Anything less would be uncivilized. Like those damn, dirty apes.

Go

5 out of 5 stars

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I don’t know why I allow myself to get sucked into watching these shitty horror movies. I can’t keep subjecting my brain to this awful, watered down bullshit. Deliver Us from Evil is so fucking bad that it’s not even comical. And there are people out there that tolerate this putrid product, let alone those who like it.

This goofy glob of dog shit could not be saved from itself. I actually feel bad for Eric Bana being forced to shoulder the burden of this terrible script and even worse direction. There was simply nothing he could do. With only 15 to 20 minutes into the first act, I was slumped over in my chair waiting for this excruciatingly slow movie to unfold. Referring to the pace of Deliver Us from Evil as measured or calculated would be a drastic understatement. Instead, this movie moves at a snail’s pace stuck in super glue with no end in sight.

Like any typical commercially successful contemporary horror movie, the marketing campaign for Deliver Us from Evil highlighted the handful of moderately tense moments, and showed them over and over in every preview. Although I was dragged to this by my wife, I was admittedly duped into thinking there might be something worthwhile within this tired old premise (demonic possession). At the very least, I was hoping for some interesting deaths—something along the lines of The Happening.

No such luck.

Joel McHale

Without Joel McHale, I would have walked out of the theater…and I would have waiting by myself since I went with 3 other people. Joel McHale is the single redeeming quality about this movie as Eric Bana’s police partner, Butler. Delivering his lines perfectly with just the right amount of comic relief, Joel McHale is the only thing I’ll remember from this movie. Unfortunately, this makes two astonishingly awful movies on McHale’s resume for 2014—joining Blended, which would garner a 0 out of 5 stars if I ever feel like punishing myself by deciding to write a review of Adam Sandler’s latest bowel movement.

Exorcism

Deliver Us from Evil plays out like the nonsensical ramblings recounted from a former NYPD officer. And that’s because it is. This is neither scary nor novel, which is the death knell of any horror movie. Stay away from this movie at all costs. Don’t get me started on The fuckin’ Doors either. I can’t wait to move past this traumatic experience, and it doesn’t deserve any more of my precious words.

In a nutshell: Deliver Us from Evil delivers nothing but yawns of boredom. Just walk away.

Walk Away

1 out of 5 stars

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Captain America has made Chris Evans a superstar. But has he truly had an opportunity to spread his wings as an actor? For the most part, everything in Evans’ catalog comes off as cloyingly sweet. Quick: name his most memorable role. The first thing that comes to mind for me is Not Another Teen Movie, which is a sad indication of his limited range–self-inflicted by his choice of roles or not.

If Snowpiercer is a harbinger, his time with Marvel is robbing us of some quality Chris Evans performances.

Chris Evans

Despite its faults, Snowpiercer could certainly sneak up on people and find itself on top ten lists at the end of the year. I knew next to nothing about Snowpiercer when I stumbled upon this movie about a month and a half ago. Knowing as little as possible about this movie will maximize your enjoyment and its entertainment value so I’ll carefully attempt to keep anything important close to the vest.

In terms of sci-fi dystopian futures, you’re hard-pressed to find a more bleak depiction of the coming apocalypse. After humanity created a global warming disaster that froze the world, the only remaining humans survive on a never-ending train ride aboard the Snowpiercer, which is powered by a perpetual motion engine controlled by the mysterious Wilford. The inevitable reveal of Wilford is exceptional, and it’s perhaps the most enjoyable sequence in Snowpiercer. Per usual, Chris Evans is playing our hero—albeit in a bit different fashion than we’ve grown accustomed to from Captain America.

Train

A distinct class system exists on the Snowpiercer with the lowest rung at the ass end of the train while the rich and well-off reside near the front of the train. This delicate balance between abject poverty and absolute wealth is not so harmonious as there always seems to be a rebellion brewing. Unsurprisingly, Curtis (played by Chris Evans) fulfills the role of reluctant leader of this potential uprising.

 

The story unfolds with a calculated pace that keeps you intrigued and on the edge of your seat.

Foot

Each reveal of additional information provides another piece of the puzzle. Thanks to some fantastic performances in supporting roles, Snowpiercer is elevated into a more interesting stratosphere of recent sci-fi movies. In addition to Jamie Bell as Edgar and Octavia Spencer as Tanya, two other acting standouts are Kang-ho Song as Namgoong Minsoo and John Hurt as Gilliam. In particular, I hope to see more from Kang-ho Song, who was the lead from The Host in 2006—a fantastic foreign film and one of my all-time favorite creature features. Without Kang-ho Song, the second act of Snowpiercer could have meandered and remained within the cookie cutter confines of most standard sci-fi movies.

John Hurt

Regardless of Chris Evans and the rest of this impressive supporting cast mentioned above, I would argue that Tilda Swinton makes this movie. You can’t even recognize her in the character makeup of Mason, everyone’s least favorite bureaucrat in charge of communicating with the back of the train and maintaining tight control. I only found out that it was actually Tilda Swinton after researching the cast afterwards.

If you think her performance in Snowpiercer was impressive, then I suggest watching We Need to Talk About Kevin for a peak into her impeccable acting range. Although Tilda Swinton isn’t the highest paid actress or the biggest celebrity, she is deservedly among the most respected due to her acting ability.

Chris Evans should be paying attention because he could certainly learn something from her choice of roles and execution each and every time. Hopefully Snowpiercer will earn enough of a cult following that we’ll see fewer roles like Captain America and more performances like Curtis—a complicated, conflicted character that moves beyond a flat, one-dimensional portrayal of a hero. Charisma like that shouldn’t be wasted on movies targeted towards making millions from children’s piggy banks.

Chris Evans needs to know his place. He needs to keep his place.

Shoe

4.5 out of 5 stars

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If you haven’t already, there’s probably nothing I could say to persuade you to see Edge of Tomorrow. But that’s not going to stop me from at least trying. Everyone needs to experience this movie.

Even if you’re not a fan of the sci-fi genre, Edge of Tomorrow provides a surprising, unexpected amount of entertainment value for a broad audience. All the elements are here: action, adventure, comedy, drama, mystery, sci-fi, and more. I consider it an accomplishment that this movie isn’t a disjointed mess.

With an impressive pace featuring seamless transitions from emotional tones to story exposition, Edge of Tomorrow is a work that displays all the hallmarks of a director with a deft hand (Doug Liman). The icing on the cake that raises this movie to another level is the star power and terrific performance of Tom Cruise.

While T.C. has become almost exclusively an action star, I would argue that his best work has always been comedic. In the last 10 Tom Cruise movies, my favorite appearance has to be as the sleazy Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder. In terms of all-time, his best role is probably as Charlie Babbitt in Rain Man.

I don’t know what it is, but Tom Cruise has a certain undeniable charisma and charm.

And that weird energy really works for comedies. Tom Cruise’s delivery of his lines is fucking spot-on and that alone induces laugh-out loud moments. Several of those such scenes exist in this movie—especially when the story keeps being reset. Edge of Tomorrow is so much more than just the sum of its comedic components, but I’m struggling to recall a movie I’ve seen in 2014 that’s funnier.

Full Metal Bitch

Tom Cruise does all the heavy lifting here, but Emily Blunt holds her own next to one of the biggest movie stars. The only movie I can remember Emily Blunt from before this is Looper, which now makes it two of the best most recent sci-fi movies under her belt. Blunt plays the role of Rita Vrataski, the Full Metal Bitch, who is actually the resident badass in this film since Cruise is acting against type as a more of a coward.

The story almost goes off the rails during the meandering middle section, but the chemistry between these two characters carries the movie by actually making you care emotionally about their well-being.

If you’ve heard or seen anything about this movie, you know that Edge of Tomorrow is essentially equal parts Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers. That’s not entirely the case as it turns out, but it’s easy to see why those comparisons arise. Somehow, Edge of Tomorrow still manages to seem fresh even though this isn’t entirely unique since it’s a mish-mash of components from other successful movies.

Mimics

However, my biggest issue with Edge of Tomorrow is the design of the aliens (called mimics, for some reason) because they are neither new nor memorable. Basically, most of the aliens look like hurling chunks of metal dreadlocks with chaotic movement that only makes the action more difficult to follow. Since these creatures are main focus for at least two-thirds of the film, the re-watchability is drastically reduced because you can’t immerse yourself in the visuals and lose your sense of time. Even though the audience should enjoy the ride, you are keenly aware of the inevitable direction and how it will inevitably end.

While this is a very good movie, an opportunity to create something great was wasted by its own watered down PG-13 nature. I understand big budget blockbusters need to appeal to a broader audience to turn a profit, but certain stories just play better with a darker tone. Although an R-rating would have allowed a better version of this story to be told, this is still the summer movie that deserves your adoration.

Aside from some odd visual choices—specifically the shoddy green screen special effects of news footage super-imposing actors into real life clips—there’s very little to complain about this movie. Get over whatever reservations you may have against Tom Cruise and bask in his electric awkwardness once again.

And if you don’t like this movie…

Big Step Back Fuck Your Own Face

4.5 out of 5 stars

TC Dance

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Amidst a largely disappointing summer season, X-Men: Days of Future Past delivers on the promise of a summer blockbuster: providing ample mindless entertainment. While this movie isn’t without its own fair share of flaws, the latest X-Men effort is arguably the best in a long series of mostly worthwhile films. Let’s all agree X-Men Origins: Wolverine never happened. The world is just a better place that way.

Considering that The Wolverine was such an awful mess as well, it’s hard not to walk away impressed with this successful blend of two separate casts in a relatively straightforward time-travel plot.

X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn’t waste any time setting up the story and plunging forward. In this dystopian future, Sentinels (robots) track down and destroy mutants, but they’ve also been designed to hunt humans who help mutants. The introduction displays countless bodies dumped in what appears to be a makeshift mutant landfill. Charles Xavier, Wolverine, and our favorite band of merry mutants attempt to act as a counterforce against the Sentinels, but it’s always a battle they can never win.

Kitty Pryde (played by Ellen Page) can send a person’s consciousness into their younger self, but this form of time-travel is limited because going back more than a week or so will irreparably hurt that person.

If only there was an indestructible mutant that can heal himself. Oh yeah, that’s Wolverine.

In a true stroke of either genius or luck, the writers get to use their biggest movie star (Hugh Jackman) as the connection between past and present. More screen time for Hugh Jackman is never a bad thing for box office success. As a result, the story once again works around the dichotomy between the relationship of Professor Xavier and Magneto, which really has been the driving force in all the traditional X-Men movies. In this version, the audience gets to see this relationship play out over time with different actors.

You can have a movie jam-packed with action sequences and amazing visual effects, but this movie works because of the performances of James McAvoy (Xavier) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto). At this point, no one should be surprised that Fassbender put forth an amazing performance since he’s one of the best working actors. However, I was kinda taken back by James McAvoy. Given the ability to act as the emotional center, McAvoy runs the gamut and comes out shining on the other side.

In X-Men: Days of Future Past, both Xavier and Magneto are basically fighting over the soul or at least the moral core of Mystique as the story is fixated on going back into the past to prevent Mystique from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (played by Peter Dinklage)—who invented the Sentinels in 1973. The primary reason the Sentinels prove to be unstoppable murderers of mutants is Mystique being captured after the assassination and the incorporation of her unique DNA into the Sentinels.

Jennifer Lawrence does a solid job in human and mutant form as Mystique. And blah, blah, blah.

Mystique

I enjoy watching a half-naked Jennifer Lawrence as much as any pre-pubescent male, and her jiggle was impressive and on full display during this movie. But please endure a short rant…

What the fuck were they thinking with Mystique’s makeup? I understand Jennifer Lawrence has become a genuine movie star after the commercial success of The Hunger Games, but there’s a better way to cut down on the makeup time while still putting forth a more quality product. From shoulders to feet, the sequins on her body suit stand out like it’s part of a crappy arts and crafts project. And I can point to scenes where the awkward orange wig does not sit proper. Yes, this is very nitpicky, but it’s an observation of a distracting component of a majorly successful, multi-million dollar summer blockbuster.

Maybe it’s just my hyper-vigilance. I hope so.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is more of the same in the current surge of comic book movies with a certain gritty realism—inspired by The Dark Knight (directed by Christopher Nolan). However, it also puts a slight twist with the time-travel plot, which gives the audience the illusion of something new.

That’s a credit to Bryan Singer.

I haven’t read much into the Bryan Singer scandal to know if it is bullshit or not. Appearing on an episode of Face Off—a reality competition show based on special effects movie makeups—for Jack the Giant Slayer, I came away with the impression that Singer was a little odd on a personal level. But that’s not an indication of anything other than being goofy. In terms of directing, Singer’s slightly off demeanor may even help him present his movies in a more interesting light with a unique perspective.

Magneto

In particular, one of the most impressive portions of X-Men: Days of Future Past is the character introduction of Quicksilver. I was admittedly among those horrified of the initial preview of this character. The images released beforehand showed Evan Peters as an Asian hipster with light purple hair.

It all looked so fucking awful.

Even though the outfit still left a lot to be desire, it didn’t seem so out of place in the context of the movie as well as the specific set designs of his mom’s basement and the Pentagon, which are the only two scenes featuring Quicksilver. In fact, the action sequence of Quicksilver breaking out Magneto from the Pentagon will remain the most memorable scene from this movie years down the road. I can’t envision another actor successfully pulling off the portrayal of this particular vision of Quicksilver. Evan Peters exuded charisma and actually transformed an unlikable character into someone who’s at least tolerated.

Quicksilver1

Quicksilver2

Quicksilver3

The other new mutants (Bishop, Blink, Warpath, and even Sunspot) did not get that same treatment or any true effort to flesh out more backstory. But with a remarkable blend of solid story and a few action scenes, this movie is a perfect recipe for a summer blockbuster. Don’t expect an Academy Award winner, but this new X-Men movie has easily been the best, most enjoyable I’ve seen in theaters this summer.

Now that the stage is set for X-Men: Apocalypse, it’ll be interesting to see the big screen treatment of such an infamous villain. Growing up as an avid fan of X-Men (reading comics and watching the 90s cartoon), I would love to see Sinister added to the mix as well. There are so many more mutants could be introduced, and I think most fans would love to see the next movie feature a more diverse array than the same old characters. With the focus on the younger cast, that could be a real possibility in X-Men: Apocalypse.

But if the announcement of Channing Tatum as Gambit, I do not have much hope of the next movie achieving this same level of entertainment. Like everyone, my favorite character has always been Wolverine, but Gambit is a close second. Channing Tatum is a very odd choice and I don’t see this turning out too well. For now, just enjoy the X-Men universe where Channing Tatum doesn’t exist.

Gambit

4.5 out of 5 stars