Movie Escape

Originally posted on MovieMayhem2013:

With all the stresses in our lives, everyone is looking to get away from it all even for just a little while.  Admittedly, my life isn’t all that stressful.  For the most part I spend my days traveling back and forth to work almost an hour each way, sitting at my desk or in meetings at work, and playing cards when I’m not.  I’m married, have 2 teenage children, a mortgage, 2 car payments, and a proportionate amount of debt.  Aside from being the victim of a sedentary lifestyle and very poor diet choices, my life is pretty ho-hum.

So what gets me excited…it’s pretty simple really.  Well, it’s 22 x 52 feet of fantasy and fiction supported by 100 decibels of sound effects that can change the way you feel in an instant.  Simply put, movies.

I love going to the movies.  Whether it’s with my family or friends…

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Superhero Movies – Inspired by Iron Man 3

Originally posted on MovieMayhem2013:

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Plain and simple, I love superhero movies!  Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America…they’re all great.  Of course the best of them all is The Avengers.  There are only 3 movies I have gone to the theater to see twice…the Avengers was the last one.  The other two you ask…There’s Something About Mary and Avatar, both of which are in my top 10 movies of all time, but I digress.

So what is my fascination with superhero movies?  I wish I had some profound answer that was both philosophical and meaningful in nature like “I’ve always dreamed of flying or having super strength”.  However, the reality is that they are just really cool.  The spectacular  animations, the special powers, the creative villains who always get an edge but ultimately in the end the superhero always prevails.  There’s something reassuring about that.  Sure I act like a…

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My Top 10 Actors of the Last 20 Years – Inspired by The Great Gatsby

Originally posted on MovieMayhem2013:

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This past week I went to see The Great Gatsby. This is the second movie in my 10 week run of new releases I plan to see. I won’t get into a review of the movie other than to say that it was decent, but Leonardo Dicaprio was excellent. It got me thinking about all the terrific roles he has had over the years which logically lead me to think if there have been others that would eclipse his run of classic characters.

The following is a list of my favorite 10 actors over the past 20 or so years. The criteria I used includes 1) Star power 2) Movie recognition 3) Breadth of characters 4) Overall likability. I want to be clear. These are my favorite actors and this should not be confused with any Oscar Award Winner list as you will see.

Honorable mentions: Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt…

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Star Wars vs. Star Trek (new movies) – Inspired by Star Trek: Into Darkness

Originally posted on MovieMayhem2013:

Star

I’m hoping to put a new twist on a 35 year old debate. Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? I’m actually going to push this debate, but I’m only limiting it to the 3 new Star Wars movies and the 2 new Star Trek movies because frankly, nobody cares what happened 35 years ago. So here goes.

Last Friday I went to see the third of the movies that I am planning to see in ten consecutive weeks. It was Star Trek: Into Darkness. In short, the movie was a solid 8 out of 10. Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison) stole the show but Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) were right there with some stellar banter and quality action scenes. If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, then you’ll appreciate the contributions of Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Bones. They provided the…

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My Favorite Sequels of the Past 10 Years – Inspired by The Hangover Part III

Originally posted on MovieMayhem2013:

HO3

So I went to see The Hangover Part III last week as the fourth of my 10 movies that I want to see this movie season. (Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, After Earth, The Internship, This Is The End, Man of Steel, World War Z, Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim) I went into the movie with tempered expectations as I had already heard some unflattering feedback from critics. However, I always temper my expectations for sequels because rarely are they as good or better than the original. In this instance, how many times can they wake up hungover and not remember what happened the night before? Seriously, how many times can they play out the plot of Alan drugging all of them which leads to a night of debauchery?

As always, I don’t want to give anything away, but this movie goes in a…

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My Favorite Sequels of the Past 10 Years – Inspired by The Hangover Part III

HO3

So I went to see The Hangover Part III last week as the fourth of my 10 movies that I want to see this movie season. (Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, After Earth, The Internship, This Is The End, Man of Steel, World War Z, Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim) I went into the movie with tempered expectations as I had already heard some unflattering feedback from critics. However, I always temper my expectations for sequels because rarely are they as good or better than the original. In this instance, how many times can they wake up hungover and not remember what happened the night before? Seriously, how many times can they play out the plot of Alan drugging all of them which leads to a night of debauchery?

As always, I don’t want to give anything away, but this movie goes in a slightly different direction and is a solid sequel to the original Hangover. It’s not one of my favorite sequels of the past 10 years, but it had some funny moments none the less. The payoff comes at the end of the movie shortly into the credits. It’s not as good as the first one or even Hangover II, but you will get some laughs out of it. It was a 5 out of 10 for me.

As I was leaving the movie it got me to thinking, are sequels ever as good as the original movie? There are some that came up in recent memory, so I did a little investigating. You can find dozens of lists that cover the best sequels of all time and for the most part they all include the same movies. I never found a list for the past 10 years so I had to do a little more Research. One trend has emerged in the movie industry and that is to make sequels of big blockbusters, which for the most part over the past 10 years are sci-fi and superhero movies, hence the entries on my list of the top 6.

#6 X2: X-Men United

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I was never a comic book geek growing up. I know, that’s hard to believe. As a kid I never really knew much about the X-Men. In the 90’s they became more prevalent and when the original X-Men movie came out in 2001, I was definitely hooked. The original movie was solid, but it required a lot of explaining and back stories to establish the characters. The variety of characters was rather limited. When X2 came out in 2003, they opened up the comic books and brought out a lot more heroes and villains with powers ranging from Nightcrawler’s ability to teleport and Iceman’s ability to create a wall of ice in an instant. Contrary to popular belief, Rebecca Romijn’s power is not her ability to dress up in body paint, but instead her character Mystique is a shapeshifter. X-Men encompasses the dream of all 12 year old boys everywhere who wished they had superpowers of their own.

#5 Star Trek: Into Darkness

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I covered this movie in my last blog post, but I hope many of you have seen this one in theaters by now. I only wish I had seen it in IMAX 3D. Packed with action, a solid story line, and great character development with some side antics from supporting players. An overall enjoyable viewing.

#4 Star Wars Episode III

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Many Star Wars fans in their late 30’s and older don’t really appreciate the new Star Wars prequels because we were prejudiced by the memory of the impact that the original 3 movies had on us. Back in the early 80s, Star Wars was a cult. But back then, there really wasn’t much to compare it to. Nowadays, we have a dozen new sci-fi thillers coming out every year. So this particular sequel had a lot working against it before it even came out. For me, the struggle between Anakin and Obi-Wan goes down as one of the best good vs. evil stories in movie history. When Obi-Wan finally defeats Anakin, it gives birth to the whole original series and sets the stage for Luke’s coming of age Jedi story. It brings the whole series full circle. I’m a bit skeptical about the next trilogy that is in the works. Other than James Bond, I’m not familiar with any other 9 movie series.

#3 The Dark Knight Rises

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In 2005 the reboot of the Batman franchise began. Following the 90’s megaflops where 3 different actors played the title role (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney), it was hard to envision how they could save the reputation of DC’s dominant superhero. Little known Christian Bale took on the role of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego and put his own twist on the dark but savvy hero. Every part of the story is about his ultimate struggle through life that stems from his parents being murdered when he was a young child. He was left a fortune and spent his life seeking revenge for those that killed them. Batman Begins provided a nice lead in to the transformation from Batman to the Dark Knight. The third movie in this trilogy, Dark Knight Rises provided a fitting end (?) to the personal struggles and relationship burdens that Bruce Wayne had carried with him for all these years. The graphics were spectacular, especially the football stadium scene. Bain was a worthy adversary, but the best part of the movie was the twist that revealed who the real villain was in one final fight scene. It is now rumored that there may be more movies to come featuring Chris Nolan’s creation, but it may not be Bale that dons the mask. There is an outside chance that Robin, portrayed and revealed in this move through the role of Blake played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, could become the new Caped Crusader in The Justice League which is scheduled to be released in 2015.

#2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

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After 2 years and over 8 hours of films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy came to a conclusion in 2003. Frodo and Sam’s journey from The Shire to Mordor would be completed when Frodo threw the ring into the center of Mount Doom along with Gollum. The cinematography was groundbreaking within the film industry and it was during this time that IMAX really hit its stride in theaters. It was this trilogy that made me a staunch IMAX enthusiast. The Return of the King went on to become one of three films to win a record 11 Oscars (Ben Hur, Titanic) including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects. The storyline is compelling but the visual effects and breadth of the characters are what give the film such broad and lasting appeal. I never get tired of watching this movie which is a key component to what makes a movie epic.

#1 The Dark Knight

Dark Knight Joker

With all due respect to the five other movies on my list and those that I may have omitted, The Dark Knight remains one of the best movies (second only to The Avengers in superhero films) let alone sequels, that I have ever seen. It has all the grit and substance that The Dark Knight Rises has, but with the added impact of the Joker played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger “created the most iconic villain Hollywood has ever seen”. Recently, a video has surfaced of an interview conducted with Heath’s father who discusses the diary Heath kept during the filming of this role which he became so intimately dedicated to that some fear it may have contributed to his untimely death during the post production editing phase of the movie. In some morbid fashion, the passing of Ledger may have contributed to the legendary status of his character leading him to posthumously win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His spot on portrayal of a psychotic villain who is only out to wreak havoc on Gotham is eery. There are more stories that have surfaced regarding a warning Ledger received from Jack Nicholson on the danger of taking on such a mentally demanding role. Heath pulled I off flawlessly.

So this is my list. And for the record, Hangover III was not even in my top 20.

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Star Wars vs. Star Trek (new movies) – Inspired by Star Trek: Into Darkness

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I’m hoping to put a new twist on a 35 year old debate. Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? I’m actually going to push this debate, but I’m only limiting it to the 3 new Star Wars movies and the 2 new Star Trek movies because frankly, nobody cares what happened 35 years ago. So here goes.

Last Friday I went to see the third of the movies that I am planning to see in ten consecutive weeks. It was Star Trek: Into Darkness. In short, the movie was a solid 8 out of 10. Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison) stole the show but Chris Pine (Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Spock) were right there with some stellar banter and quality action scenes. If you’re a fan of the original Star Trek, then you’ll appreciate the contributions of Simon Pegg as Scotty and Karl Urban as Bones. They provided the comedic breaks within the action filled movie. I would even consider seeing it again at the movies which is rather rare. The story was terrific, but I do think the viewer needed to be exposed to the previous movie or at least the original series to have some context of the jokes.

So the question is, how did this movie and the previous Star Trek, compare to the most recent Star Wars movies? Well, it’s a close call for me. Both sets of movies are prequels. Both were cinematically appealing, much more so than the original series. Both included technologies that were far more advanced than what was available in the earlier movies making for some inconsistency when strung together in the appropriate order, but that was to be expected. However, there is one thing that sets one apart from the other…Jar Jar Binks.

Back in 1999 when Star Wars Episode I came out, I was thrilled that they were relaunching the franchise because it had been 16 years since Return of the Jedi came out and I was only 9 at the time. So this was a chance to re-engage my childhood memories of the characters we had all played with as action figures. Luke, Han and Darth with their kung fu grips and light sabers and laser guns. R2D2 with wheels and the Millenium Falcon. Ahh…good times.

SW figures

This time around however, the technology in the film industry had been so far advanced that there was no need for mini scale models of the death star or the stop motion technology of the At-At Walkers (giant robot camels). CGI technology was going to take the franchise in a whole new direction. But for some godforsaken reason, they decided to use a puppet once again for Yoda and they wasted the technology on a mind numbing character like Jar Jar Binks. Inexplicable. Aside from Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin, being a terrible actor and some of the character flaws within the movie, I loved the idea that we would get the backstory to the biggest mystery from the original three movies, Darth Vader. Sure we all knew Darth was Luke’s father, but why did he turn to the dark side and how did he become a robot? (Incidentally, the line “Luke, I am your father” was never uttered in that fashion in Return of the Jedi. That was only the line in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley was speaking into the fan.)

I like the development of Anakin’s character over the 3 movies and the answers to many of the questions we had as to why there was so much animosity between him and Obi Wan Kenobe. I was happy to see that in Episodes II and III they went with a CGI of Yoda and finally phased out Jar Jar. But the big moment that made me really like the new series and gave it some credence was the final fight scene between Obi Wan and Anakin on Mustafar. It was epic. Every time that movie plays, I have to watch it through that scene. Their hatred for each other overshadowed the fact that they were battling on a crumbling station at the bottom of a lava pit.

Star Trek’s relaunch opened up the franchise to a whole new generation of fans. However, I don’t think the original series may have been as popular with the targeted demographics as compared to Star Wars. But I think they did a great job in making the new movies stand on their own and telling a story that new Trekkies could appreciate without having been exposed to any of the original 6 movies. Did anybody even know that there were 6 previous Star Trek movies that were released between 1979 and 1991? The younger characters of James Kirk and Spock were more appealing and charismatic than the original Shatner and Nimoy versions. I don’t recall seeing most of the original 6 movies and I could never really get into the TV series. This time however, I thought the story lines were compelling and the action scenes and intricate characters, though few, were better understood than those of the Star Wars counterparts.

So which is better in my opinion? I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the new Star Trek takes the cake. Partly because of what it is and partly because of what Star Wars shouldn’t have been. In terms of cinematography and graphics, Star Trek wins out mostly because they are newer and the technology to make these movies is always getting better, including 3D and IMAX 3D. The story lines were both compelling, but Star Wars was much more diverse and focused on multiple characters at a shallow level where as Star Trek focuses on 2 main characters but at a deeper level. Sure we know Anakin needs to save Padme and that’s where all his angst comes from. Obi Wan wants to do what’s best for the Jedi Council and is a loyal Soldier. However, Kirk is trying to find his place as a leader in the Starfleet and Spock is trying to adapt to new surroundings in Kirk’s world of emotions and gut instinct which is counter intuitive to Spock’s nature. This is where the separation lies between the two franchises and the character that tips the scale one way is the annoying, intrusive and inconspicuous use of a character like Jar Jar Binks.

Jar Jar’s role in the films was simply to provide a conduit from one encounter to the next at the level of a 5 year old. The way he speaks, acts and the role he plays in the success of the Rebels in fighting the evil Empire is absurd. He takes all credibility out of the importance of the Jedi and their battles with the Sith utilizing the ways of the force. The movies build up the characters on both sides to be superhuman with abilities to control thoughts, move objects and choke someone simply by waving a hand. With that supreme power at their disposal, along with thousands of droids, here is Jar Jar turning the tides simply by falling and stumbling his way through a battlefield destroying powerful combat technology along the way giving the Rebels the advantage they need. It is truly absurd.

So until Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII and IX are released beginning in 2015, my preference lies in the Star Trek franchise for sheer entertainment value. Rumor has it that they are already planning another Star Trek. Here’s to hoping they go somewhere even bolder.

She said: (through the eyes of my 14-year-old co-blogger.)

I went to see Star Trek this past weekend with a friend of mine. We’d already known about Benedict Cumberbatch being in the film because we’d seen his previous works and thought we should go see this too. But it wasn’t just about that, I am a major nerd about special effects and I was very keen on seeing it anyway. The acting in this one was particularly great. I loved Chris Pine’s interpretation of Kirk, Zachary Quinto’s Spock and I fell in love with Simon Pegg’s Scotty. After seeing this film I went home and had to see the 2009 film again. I am also planning on going to see Star Trek again with another friend of mine. I would definitely recommend going to see it because it was freaking awesome!

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