Re-Published from 2013
Okay gang, Summer of 2013 has had a lot of hits and a few misses. My reviews today, I’ll admit, hang further on the positive side, but that’s only because I’m reviewing mostly genre films. For example, I saw Grown-Ups 2 at the Fairlee Drive-In, and I didn’t think it was all that great. But, I’ll stick with horror/fantasy/sci-fi for now. This is after all, the Fright Channel Reviews!!!
WHITE HOUSE DOWN –
In what is clearly a PR move for the Obama regime, White House Down suffers from being insufferable. You’re supposed to believe that the presiden is hip, cool, and will attempt to personally kick ass for our country. I don’t believe it with our real-life president, so why would I believe Jamie Fox’s portrayal? Channing Tatum (is he Carol Channing & Tatum O’Neil’s love child?) is an ex-military guy who desperately wants to be in the Secret Service, and is trying to do right by his estranged daughter. He takes her to the White House where he will interview for the job, and she can enjoy the rich history of the historic building. Channing, of course, does not get the job but lets his daughter think he did. They continue on for what she thinks will (finally!) be a happy time with her dad. However, as is wont in these films, things go horribly wrong when terrorists attack the White House and only Channing Tatum can save the day.
Overall, the action is fun and the effects are worthwhile, but the story is lacking. I really didn’t care about Tatum’s character, and he tried TOO hard to be the everyman. Bruce Willis did it with ease in Die hard, but Tatum’s performance is forced and awkward. OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN was a MUCH BETTER film in every respect. The cast was great; the acting and story were also great. But this movie just smells like it came straight from the White House’s PR room and onto the movie screen. Don’t waste your time or money.
PACIFIC RIM –
Arguably, this is my favorite movie of the year so far. Much like last year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which was also my pic for last year’s best pic), Pacific Rim has some action sequences that we haven’t seen before in a movie. It’s the future, and giant monsters have been entering our world through a dimensional rift deep in the Pacific Ocean. These monsters, called Kaiju (Japanese for “giant monster”), are like forces of nature, so much so that the world has given them category numbers to identify them, similar to Hurricanes or Tornadoes. Because of this threat, the governments have united to create giant robots to combat these fearsome behemoths. The Jaegers (German for “hunters”), as they are known, must be piloted by two men, because the neural interface will fry just one person’s mind.
This is akin to what I always thought about the Giant Robot Japanese cartoons we saw as kids, like Grandizer: The reason the pilot shouts out the weapon’s name before he uses it is because he’s psychically linked to the robot. He can’t just simply think the weapon into existence because any stray thought would cause havoc. The Jaeger’s don’t shout the names of the weapons here, but their motions and mind help pilot the robot, and if a stray memory gets in the way it could cost them their life.
Astounding special effects, a great story, and some superb acting by Idris Elba makes this one of the hottest and fun movies of the summer!
WORLD WAR Z –
I did not expect much going into this movie. Zombies seem to have saturated the market so much that, while I’m looking forward to the new season of Walking Dead, they are starting to lose their appeal. However, this movie took me completely by surprise. I’d forgotten that Brad Pitt is actually a good actor and enjoyable to watch. He plays a former United Nations agent (I didn’t know they had their own version of the CIA…I always thought it was just a useless organization filled with has-been bureaucrats that needed work) who, when the zombie apocalypse hits, he is called in to help the World Health Organization find a cure. Initially, sent to protect the scientist that is leading the excursion, Pitt ends up having to take on the cause himself in hopes of saving the world.
These zombies are actually scary this time around, and there are many moments that I jumped in my seat! The scenes where they pile up on top of each other to scale walls, while somewhat silly-looking in the commercials, work quite effectively in the film itself. The movie is NOT gory, which helps lend itself to finding a wider audience, and a much needed respite from the blood drenched fare of late.
All in all, a fun, exciting movie, with a plot that is fresh and unique amongst the sea of zombies out there. And by the way, you get to see the up and coming 12th Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, who ironically plays a doctor that works for W.H.O.!
THE CONJURING –
I have known about Ed & Lorraine Warren since my wee years studying psychic phenomena and the paranormal. So, I was excited to find out that Hollywood was finally making a movie about them. This was a long time coming, and it really does the couple justice. Back in the late 60s & early 70s, a couple and their five children moved into a seemingly innocuous house. Soon, strange things start to happen: sounds that go bump in the night, the wife wakes up with mysterious bruises, the youngest daughter talks to an imaginary friend, the clocks all stop at 3:07am, etc. etc. etc.
Yes, it is rather by the numbers but I translated that as a nod to many of the more classic horror movies. There are elements of Amityville, Poltergeist, Legend of Hell House, and many more nods to old movies. But what makes it really work is the dynamic of Ed and Lorraine. Lorraine is a clairvoyant and saw something so terrifying months earlier, that it has taken her all this time to recover, so when they get embroiled in this new investigation, Ed is hesitant to let her participate. You really get behind them as characters and want to see them battle the forces of darkness.
By the numbers horror? Yes. Tons of scary fun? Double yes!!
MAN OF STEEL –
Does Hollywood only know how to do origin stories? It seems like they get a film or two under their belts and then get cold feet and go back to remake the first one. What was wrong with SUPERMAN RETURNS? It wasn’t balls to the wall action from beginning to end, but it was faithful to the first two Superman films. So why the need to rehash the origin, particularly since we just went through ten years of it with Tom Welling on Smallville?
Man of Steel is a decent action movie. The plot is familiar, the last son of the planet Krypton is sent to Earth before its destruction. Found and raised by Jonathan & Martha Kent, Clark grows up to become Superman, and he must defeat General Zod and his army who’ve escaped from the Phantom Zone (which is really more like being plugged into a VR unit). Yadda, yadda, yadda.
No familiar John Williams Superman theme (oh, but the Lone Ranger getst to keep HIS theme!). No fun superhero antics saving people and the world. Just doom and gloom, and sulking. This is like Batman with superpowers. I found the film depressing and NOT Superman at all. Just a brooding guy who has Superman’s powers. Not even the ever boring Kevin Costner could save this movie. Another “don’t waste your money” stinker.
THE WOLVERINE –
Hugh Jackman is back again as everyone’s favorite mutant, Wolverine! This time he’s summoned to Japan by an old man that he had once saved (when he was a young man) during World War II. The old man is dying and wants to take Logan’s healing powers to extend his life. He preys on the fact that the Wolverine is growing weary of outliving loved ones. His powers gone, the Wolverine must face his own fears and demons and battle a renegade Samurai. Much better than X-Men Origins, this film is gripping from beginning to end, and Jackman continues to embody the pathos that we all love in The Wolverine!
Definitely one of the best superhero movies in a long time, The Wolverine is not to be missed!
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS –
What’s cool about the Percy Jackson books is that, while the Harry Potter series got kids reading again, author Rick Riordan takes it one step further by infusing his stories with stories & characters from Greek Mythology. My own son is a Greek Myth fanatic now because of the Percy Jackson books, and that is a good thing. The movies themselves, while not as dark as Harry Potter, are just as fun. Percy Jackson was a strong character to begin with, and not a weakling who had to learn to become cool in order to defeat evil. Steeped in Greek mythology, Sea of Monsters is an excellent continuation of the saga.
When we last left the intrepid Percy and his friends, they had successfully uncovered the Lightning Thief. Now Percy and company must embark on a quest to find the Golden Fleece to save the guardian of their demi-god children’s camp. Lots of fun for fans of the series, and enjoyable for those on the periphery as well. Not overly gory or violent, this one was a pleasant family action film.
As of this writing, Kick-Ass 2 and You’re Next haven’t come out yet, so some more reviews may be on the horizon…
As always, join us for Fright Channel fun at http://www.havenpodcasts.com!