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February 28th, 2015 Movie – Ghost Rider

ghost rider

I love reading comic books. One of the things from my childhood that I still do today. I also enjoy watching movies based on comic books. They are always entertaining. So when I heard that a movie was being made based on one of my favorite characters, I was pretty excited. Then I heard Nicolas Cage was starring in it, and my excitement started to dwindle. When it finally came out, I was still hopeful that the movie wouldn’t totally suck. And, well….let’s just get on with today’s movie, Ghost Rider.

The plot: 17 year old Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stunt driver working with his father in a carnival. When Johnny finds out that his father has cancer, he winds up making a deal with a stranger named Mephistopheles to have his father’s cancer cured in exchange for his soul. His father’s cancer is cured but he winds up dying that same day in a mototcycle accident and Johnny leaves the carnival. Years later, Johnny is a famous stunt rider preparing for his latest jump when he runs into his old girlfriend Roxanne Simpson, who is now a TV reporter and agrees to go to dinner with Johnny. That night, Mephistopheles appears and informs Johnny that he is the Ghost Rider, the devil’s bounty hunter. Johnny must stop Blackheart and his minions from obtaining the contract of San Venganza, a contract worth 1000 souls that was stolen by a previous Ghost Rider named Carter Slade 150 years ago. Ghost Rider kills two of Blackheart’s minions but Blackheart kidnaps Roxanne and threatens to kill her if Blaze does not bring him the contract. Blaze gets the contract from the cemetary caretaker, who happens to be Carter Slade, and heads towards San Venganza to face Blackheart. Blaze manages to rescue Roxanne and defeat Blackheart but when Mephistopheles offers to take back the power of the Rider and give Johnny his soul back, Johnny refuses and says he will use the power of the Ghost Rider to fight evil.

Ghost Rider received some highly negative reviews from the critics, receiving a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While some critics did praise some of the effects in the movie, many of them ripped on the bad writing and Nicolas Cage’s performance. Cage was actually nominated for a Razzie for Worst Actor for this movie (but he would lose to Eddie Murphy). However, the audience didn’t seem to care about all the negative press as Ghost Rider would go on to make over $228 million worldwide in theaters.

Maybe it is the comic nerd in me but the biggest annoyance with this movie is that they combined aspect of two different Ghost Riders to make the one character in this movie. Johnny Blaze, Roxanne Simpson, the deal with the devil, changing at night are all aspects of the Blaze’s Ghost Rider from the 70’s and early 80’s. The Penance Stare, chain as a weapon, Caretaker are aspects from Danny Ketch’s Ghost Rider from the 90’s. The hellfire shotgun is kind of a combination of the two as it came about in the 90’s but is Johnny Blaze’s primary weapon when he was no longer the Ghost Rider.

All that aside, while this is entertaining at times, this really isn’t that good of a movie. Nicolas Cage was terrible in this movie, no other way to describe it. The other actors and actresses weren’t much better. The only redeeming front as far as acting goes was Sam Elliott. The special effects were pretty decent at times and pretty atrocious at others, especially where it concerned Blackheart’s powers. The plot was pretty simplistic and some of the action scenes where good but the dialogue was horrible. Seriously, if your only redeeming feature is one actor who is only in a couple of scenes, then you know you have a problem.

If you are a die-hard fan or really love comic book movies, then you may want to watch this…actually, you still might want to skip it.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5

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February 27th, 2015 Movie – FDR: American Badass!

fdr american badass

Last week, I mentioned that my roommate had mentioned a movie that she thought I would like and after watching the trailer, decided to buy it. Amazon said that I would receive it on March 2nd but what a nice surprise to see that it shipped early. So I watched it and it was everything I had hoped it would be. It has been a while since I watched a movie for the first time and laughed as much as I did today. With that being said, allow me to present to you, our 32nd president and the hero of today’s movie, FDR: American Badass.

The plot: While on a hunting trip in 1931, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is attacked and bitten in the leg by a werewolf, infecting him with polio. While he recuperates in the hospital, his friend/bodyguard, Louis, informs him that the werewolf was a German Nazi. The leaders of the Nazi party, who are all werewolves, wanted to eliminate Roosevelt before he could become president. Mussolini sends in some members of the mafia to take advantage of prohibition by importing alcohol laced with werewolf blood in order to turn U.S. citizens into werewolves. Roosevelt repeals prohibition and kills all of the werewolf mafia members before they can spread the tainted drinks. Later, Roosevelt is debating on whether to get involved in the war in Europe and decides to partake of some of Washington’s secret marijuana. While high, he has a conversation with Abraham Lincoln and is told that he was the one that could end the war. Roosevelt flies the lead plane as the U.S. attacks Germany and manages to kill Mussolini and Hitler but is shot down in the process. He survived and made it back to Washington where he got ready to get on the radio and tell the country what a bad ass he is for stopping the war.

This movie has to be one of the most over-the-top spoofs I have seen in a long time, and I laughed almost the entire time I watched it. Barry Bostwick was hysterical in his portrayal of F.D.R.I honestly think the best part of this movie is the fact that the cast knew that this was a low budget movie and didn’t treat it that seriously but instead just had fun making the movie. The writing actually was pretty good considering the type of movie it was for. The movie was ridiculous, offensive, vulgar, and just downright entertaining in a complete “shut your brain off and laugh” type of way. The only thing that I thought was too much was the scene with F.D.R.’s son taking a dump in a vase and actually seeing stuff come out. Could have done without that. Otherwise this is a funny movie that is worth watching.

So if you want to watch a funny movie that has almost no bearing on history, then you should give this a shot.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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February 26th, 2015 Movie – Ghost In The Shell

ghost in the shell

When it comes to anime in the last couple of decades, it seems like there is always one or two movies that seem to completely redefine the genre. You know, those “must see” movies that everyone always talks about. In the 80’s, it was Akira, which I think really introduced anime to mainstream audiences in the U.S. In the 90’s, there were two movies that fit this pattern. One was Princess Mononoke, the record setting movie that came out in 1997, and the other is today’s movie, Ghost In The Shell.

The plot: In the year 2029, the world is extensively connected by a vast information network, which humanity is able to access through the use of cybernetic bodies called “shells”. Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of Public Security Section 9, is tasked with tracking down an elusive hacker known as The Puppet Master. Kusanagi and her team seem to have a solid lead when a facility is programmed to make a female cybernetic body that was hit by a truck when it tried to escape. As Section 9 examines the body, they discover a human ghost inside the shell, which they believe to be The Puppet Master. Officials from rival agency Section 6 arrive and explain that the body was made to lure The Puppet Master into a trap. However, as Section 9 begins to get some information out of the body, the body is stolen by Section 6. Kusanagi tracks the body but is attacked and injured by an armored robot that Section 6 had sent to stop her. Kusanagi’s teammate, Bateau, rescues her and Kusanagi links up with the body so she can speak with the ghost. Kusanagi learns that The Puppet Master was actually a program designated Project 2501 developed by Section 6 and intended to hack “ghosts” illegally for Section 6’s own interests. However, it developed sentience and after discovering a sense of mortality, decided that it wanted to merge with Kusanagi in order to form a more complete being. Before the merge is completed, helicoptors from Section 6 arrive and destroy the body and Kusanagi, but Bateau manages to save Kusanagi’s head. After acquiring a new body for her, Kusangi informs him that she is not Kusanagi or The Puppet Master, but a combination of both and she leaves to figure out where she should go from here.

Ghost In The Shell was highly praised by critics, receiving a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. From the blending of CG animation and traditional cell drawn animation to the music used, just about everything received high praises. One critic stated that it transcended the popularity of the original book and gives new meaning to an already popular brand. When it was released onto video, it became the first anime to reach Bilboard’s #1 video slot on the week of it’s release. Now that is saying something. Ghost In The Shell also influenced a number of filmmakers, not the least of which are the Wachowskis, whose film, The Matrix, had several elements that were derived from this film.

I love this movie. It is one of my top 5 favorite anime movies (usually ranking in at #2 or #3 depending what mood I am in). The animation was fantastic and definitely ahead of it’s time. I think it could hold it’s own against some of the anime that is out now, and this stuff is 20 years old. The story and writing are both fantastic. Having never read the manga before watching this movie, it definitely aroused my curiosity and made me want to start reading them. The music was also incredible and really fit in with all of the scenes where it was used. I hate to use a cliche but this really is one of those movies that everyone should watch.

So if you want to watch a fantastic example of anime, you have to watch this movie.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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February 25th, 2015 Movie – The Ghost And The Darkness

the ghost and the darkness

Well the winter storm that they have been expecting all week had finally started to hit Atlanta, although I will admit that it is not as bad as they were expecting here. Still there is no telling what the rest of the afternoon and night will bring so might as well enjoy the snow while it lasts. Today’s movie has absolutely nothing to do with snow. In fact, it is about as far removed from snow as you can probably get. What this movie is about is one of the most infamous cases of animal attacks in the last century, well I guess two centuries since this occurred in 1898. I present to you today’s movie, The Ghost And The Darkness.

The plot: When a British railroad project in Tsavo falls behind schedule, Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson is sent to Africa to build a bridge across the river so the railroad can get back on track. Upon his arrival to Tsavo, Patterson meets the supervisors and doctor at the camp and after hearing of a recent lion attack so he sets an ambush and manages to kill the lion with a single shot, earning the respect of the workers. Work continues on the bridge and the project is getting back on schedule when one of the foremen is attacked by a lion. The next night Patterson tries setting another ambush but another worker is killed at the opposite end of the camp. A few days later, the lion attacks a worker in the daylight but when Patterson tries to shoot it, a second lion leaps down from the roof of a nearby building, killing Patterson’s aide Angus Starling. The company financing the railroad hire experienced hunter Charles Remington to kill the lions. After two failed attempts by Remington and Patterson to kill the lions, Patterson tries a new idea for a trap and they manage to kill one of the lions. The remaining lion kills Remington later that night but Patterson finally manages to kill it, and bring the nightmare to an end.

The Ghost And The Darkness was based on the real life events surrounding the building of the Tsavo Bridge in 1898 where 2 lions killed a large number of workers during a 10 month period before they were killed. It received mixed reviews from the critics, earning a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert actually said that it ” was an African adventure that makes the Tarzan movies look subtle and realistic.” The audiences didn’t seem to mind as it would earn over $75 million dollars in the box office. It also managed to win the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing, but it also received a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for Val Kilmer.

I like this movie for a number of reasons, two of them being that it is a killer animal movie (one of my favorite genres) and that it is based on actual events. Val Kilmer wasn’t completely terrible in this movie but the fact that he could not keep his accent consistent was really annoying. Michael Douglas was great and very entertaining with his character. The scenes with the lions were actually pretty impressive, especially when you consider that every scene but one used real lions. Now this obviously wasn’t 100% historically accurate and I never expected it to be. But it was still entertaining and I thought it was worth watching.

An entertaining movie about an actual event and worth a watch if you get the chance.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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February 24th, 2015 Movie – The Ghost (1963)

the ghost 1963

ITALIAN HORROR MOVIE! ITALIAN HORROR MOVIE! Now that I got the obligatory warning out of the way, I can get onto the review. Now this is another movie from the Chilling Classics box set. I had not heard of this movie before but I had heard of the director so I was definitely curious about this movie. So let’s dive right into today’s movie, The Ghost (1963).

The plot: Dr. John Hitchcock, a wealthy doctor confined to a wheelchair, is allowing his friend, Dr. Charles Livingstone, to use him as a test subject although he really wishes to end his life. However, Charles is the lover of John’s wife, Margaret, and the two have been plotting John’s death so they can steal his fortune. However, when they open the safe, they discover the fortune is missing. At the same time, strange things begin occurring around the house leading them to wonder if Dr. Hitchcock is really dead, or if his ghost has come back for revenge.

So this was more of a suspenseful horror movie rather than slasher horror movie. I am a little disappointed because that totally kills the stereotype I had about Italian Horror movies. Oh well. This was a decent movie but not very original. Barbara Steele was definitely the best actress in this movie, doing a good job in her portrayal of Margaret Hitchcock. The music and lighting in the movie helped set the tone for the movie. The plot was very simplistic and probably would have been more surprising back when this first came out compared to now. I guess that is the problem with watching an older movie after watching similar movies that came out after it was released.

So an older movie that might be worth watching, but don’t be upset if you already know how it ends.

Rating: 2 out of 5

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February 23rd, 2015 Movie – Get Smart

get smart

During the late 60’s, the pairing of Don Adams and Mel Brooks made for one incredibly funny show. Now I wasn’t alive when it first aired, but I remember watching reruns of it on TV when I lived in Texas. When I heard that they were making a movie based on the show, and that Steve Carell was starring in it, I was actually excited about seeing it. That almost never happens when it comes to a movie based on a TV show. So let’s get going with today’s movie, Get Smart.

The plot: Agent Maxwell Smart, an analyst for American intelligence agency CONTROL, has passed his field agent testing but is told he is too valuable as an analyst to be promoted. However, when the terrorist organization, KAOS, attacks CONTROL HQ and leaks the identities of all their field agents, Max is promoted to field agent. Along with Agent 99, who is the only other agent available for field work, Max heads to Russia to check out a lead into KAOS’s plans involving stolen nuclear material. After surviving attacks from armed guards and assassins, hindered at times by Max’s own clumsiness, Max and 99 find where KAOS is keeping the uranium and meets Siegfried, the rumored head of KAOS. Max blows up the bakery that houses the uranium but when a CONTROL team arrives to clean up the area and do not find any uranium, Max is arrested under suspicion of being a double agent. While in custody, Max receives a message from a KAOS agent that he befriended that there will be a bomb in Los Angeles. Max escapes his cell, heads to L.A., and manages to convince Agent 99 and the Chief that he is not a double agent when he realizes that his best friend, Agent 23, is actually the double agent. As 23 takes 99 hostage, Max and the Chief must rescue 99 and stop 99 before he detonates the bomb.

Get Smart received mixed reviews from the critics, only earning a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While some critics were positive, several critics were pretty harsh about this movie, with one critic saying, “it couldn’t buy a laugh in a nitrous oxide factory with a fistful of clown noses.” However, the audiences didn’t seem to mind as it would go on to make over $264 million worldwide. This would actually be the highest grossing live action film that starred Steve Carell in the lead role.

Ok, it’s not a perfect remake. I knew it wouldn’t be. But this is still a very entertaining movie. I think Steve Carell was great in his role. I honestly don’t know if there is a better comedic actor out there that could have come close to filling Don Adam’s role. Anne Hathaway, Alan Arkin and Dwane Johnson were also good in their roles. While the plot wasn’t anything extraordinary, the dialogue and action were both pretty good. The only thing that bothered me is that they seemed to downplay Max’s bumbling. That was the best part of the show and though there were some really funny scenes with Carell screwing things up, I felt like there should have been more. That is really my only complaint about this movie.

So if you are feeling nostalgic and want to watch a funny movie, then you should give this a try.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Flashback Review: February 3rd, 2014 Movie – 300

300

Frank Miller. A name that is synonymous with some of the greatest comic stories ever written in recent history. And since comic books have a tendency to be turned into movies, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to turn one of Frank Miller’s comics into a movie. Today’s movie is the second of his works to be turned into a movie. I remember going to see this with a bunch of friends for my friend Chris’s birthday. That was a night to remember for a number of reasons, but one of them was definitely watching 300 in IMAX.

The plot: When a Persian envoy arrives in Sparta asking for earth and water as a sign of submission, King Leonidas’ response was to kicking the messenger into a well, as well as killing the rest of the envoy. King Leonidas then goes to consult the Ephors on his strategy for stopping the Persians but, after being bribed by the Persians, they say that Sparta will not wage war during the Carneia. Leonidas then decides to take 300 of his best soldiers, under the claim that they are his personal bodyguard, and heads off to fight the Persians. After being joined by a group of Arcadians, the Spartans first rebuild a wall along the coast in order to funnel the Persians into the Hot Gates, a narrow pass between the mountains and the seas. For two days, the Spartans managed to hold off the Persian army, but when Ephialtes, a disfigured Spartan, betrays Leonidas by informing the Persians of a hidden goat path that can be used to outflank the Spartan army, the Arcadians flee leaving a depleted Spartan force behind. On the third day, King Xerxes rides with his army to face the Spartans and orders Leonidas to surrender. Leonidas pretends to surrender but uses it as a feint in order to try and kill Xerxes but only succeeds in wounding Xerxes as the Persian army finishes off the Spartans with a barrage of arrows. After hearing of what happened at Hells Gate, the Spartan army, as well as a larger Greek army, is mobilized to defeat the Persian army.

300 is based on the actual events at The Battle Of Thermopylae, where a small force of Greeks, led by Leonidas of Sparta, held off the Persian army from marching into the rest of Greece. The critics were pretty mixed about this movie, only giving it a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While many of them praised it visually, several critics were more critical about the plot and the physical appearance of the Spartans. The audiences didn’t care as it would wind up making over $456 million worldwide.

This was a live action comic book and it was fantastic. It honestly seemed like they took the pages from the comic and transformed them into a movie. I thought Gerard Butler was great as Leonidas and Lena Headey was fantastic as Queen Gorgo. I know a lot of critics criticized the violence in this movie but this was a comic book based movie. There is going to be over the top violence. I don’t know why they were shocked about it. Yes the movie was violent to the point ov being over the top, but so was the comic. It worked in the comic and it worked in the movie. The sets and backgrounds were amazing as were the effects and CGI. This was a great movie.

So if you like comic book movies and don’t mind the violence, then you should definitely watch this movie.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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