Saturday, May 20, 2017

Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, & Kurt Russell
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The long awaited sequel to the break out hit, Guardians of The Galaxy, is here! In 2014, the Marvel Studios original came out of obscurity to set box office records, introducing fans to a cast of heroes who aren't exactly your typical superheroes. Combining amazing special effects and comedy, the film quickly gained a cult following and critical acclaim, but can they defeat the biggest enemy of all, the curse of the sequel? The Guardians are back doing what they do best, with a new enemy on their tail, when they crash land on an uninhabited planet. Their rescuer comes in a form of a man who seems too good to be true, is he really there to help them or does he have something else in mind? The story in volume two is not as good as the first one, that was to be expected, but luckily it isn't far off. The characters are the same and this time they know each other a whole lot better, meaning the chemistry is better, the humor comes more quickly, and the magic is still there. Once again Chris Pratt is outstanding, it's still hard to believe he went from the annoying jock on Everwood to this charismatic megastar. The rest of the cast is also on it's game and we learn much more about the characters then we did in the first film. While not being as strong story wise, this film certainly hits closer to home, and everything is amped up from the special effects to the humor and even the soundtrack. I love these films and I hope there are a lot more of them, however I'd be remiss in not sharing my thought that something this good, especially with how the story evolves in the second film, is better suited for a weekly TV series than at most a handful of feature films. The Bottom Line, if you liked the first one, you'll love the second one.

Dark Matter (TV Series)

Starring: Marc Bendavid, Melissa O'Neil, Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari Jr., Jodelle Ferland, Roger Cross, Zoie Palmer, Shaun Sipos, & Melanie Liburd

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Once in a generation, a show comes along that insists you pay attention to it. Nearly fifty years after the debut of Star Trek, Dark Matter is the latest show turning heads in the world of science fiction and it is like nothing you have ever seen before. Blending elements of Star Trek, Lost, and Knight Rider, this new show from the producers of Stargate SG1, will have you talking about it and pining for the next episode.

Orbiting a planet out in deep space on the edges of civilization, six people wake up on a spaceship, with no memory of who they are or how they got there. After pairing up and searching the ship, they discover it's full of weapons. With the help of an android they find on board, the crew discovers they are orbiting a disputed planet and the weapons are likely for the colonists below. The crew quickly becomes attached to the colonists, that is until they learn the horrible truth, that they are mercenaries at the top of the galactic authorities most wanted list. They know they must be there to remove the colonist for one of the big corporations that now run the galaxy, but with the lose of their memories, came something no one could have expected, a conscience. Eventually, the crew of the ship called, The Raza, decide they have to stick together and find out who they are, where they're from, and what happened to them, so begins Dark Matter.

Each episode is another adventure, dealing with the authority, their old enemies, and their old employers. They don't know their friends from their enemies, but after each adventure they get another piece of the puzzle and we get a glimpse into their passed lives. Together with the crew, the audience has the pleasure of trying to figure out who these people were, what happened to them, and debate on where they may be going. 

Much like Star Trek, this show has a virtually unknown cast, and is slowly producing it's own stars. I only recognized a couple of name, but the different skills each cast member present is as incredible and unique as the characters themselves. The women on board have moves that would make Bruce Lee jealous, but not to be overlooked is the cast interactions with each other, which often times are hilarious. The cast is diverse and so are the characters and their backgrounds, in coming together they all play on each others strengths and weaknesses to make this one of the most enjoyable shows on television.

I watch a lot of TV, probably a lot more than is healthy, but in all this time, there have only been a handful of shows that I can honestly say, I could not wait to see the next episode, Dark Matter is one of those shows. Honestly I get home early on the nights it on and put on SyFy fifteen minutes early so that I don't miss a second. The first two seasons are currently streaming, go and watch the pilot and I promise you, weather you love science fiction or not, Dark Matter will have you hooked.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

Starring: Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, & Juliette Lewis
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sometimes the best performance come in a film that just doesn't deserve them. Everyone knows of Gilbert Grape, but not because it is a classic film that deserves to stand the test of time, rather it is the film that launched two of the biggest careers in Hollywood. Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is barely old enough to drink, yet he is the man of the house, forced to raise his brother and sisters, and care for his obese mother. Gilbert lives in the middle of nowhere, works a terrible job, and his future doesn't look so bright, that is until a girl, traveling cross-country with her grandmother, breaks down in his town. A relationship blossoms and Gilbert finally discovers that life has been passing him by. The story here is simple and at many points extremely slow moving. This film was just meant to be a backwards love story, but has become so much more, because of Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. The two young stars gave everything they had and more, with so little to work with, that their performances became absolutely legendary. What's Eating Gilbert Grape is not a good film, but you will be hard pressed to find one performance, must less two as good as the ones in this film. The feeling and emotion that come along with their joys and despair is something you just can't teach, either you have it or you don't. Both these actors will make you feel every emotion of their characters and make you take a look inside yourself in a way that few film will ever do. I hated the story, but I recommend this film for nothing else than it's performances. If every performance were as good as these, there wouldn't be a need to rate and review films.

The Giver

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, & Brenton Thwaites
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was the Nebula award winning novel that took the science fiction world by storm. Almost immediately after it's release, talk of turning The Giver into a feature film began, but turning a complex science fiction story into something general audiences could enjoy was a big issue. Studio, cast delays, and re-writes held the film up for more than a decade, but in 2014 it was released and it is spectacular! In the not so distant future, on top of a mountain, lays a futurist society in which pain, war, and disease has been eliminated at a huge cost. With all that society has gained, it has lost the ability to exercise individuality and free thought, this effects everyone except for one, The Giver. The Giver is the historian, who keeps the memory of what life used to be like, so that society never forgets that what it's gained far outweighs the cost. The Giver however is old and must train a replacement. At the choosing ceremony, a young teenager named Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is chosen. Once Jonas learns the truth, he must decide to do the job of The Giver or reveal the truth, in the hopes of bringing back individuality, but at what cost? Originally producers wanted Lloyd Bridges to play the Giver, when he passed, his son took on the role, and while he doesn't fit the mold of an elder statesman, he was still amazing. Meryl Streep also partakes in this magical film, playing the settlements leader, and she is every bit as chilling and suspenseful as the character in the book. At this point, I'm really convinced that there isn't a role she can't play successfully. Even with all the star power, far an away the best performance in this film is given by Brenton Thwaites, a British actor I'd never seen before. Aside from his tremendous good looks, Thwaites portrayal of a teenager with the fate of the world on his shoulders is better than even that of Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. The passion and charisma he portrays was absolutely infectious and helped carry the film through even the slowest parts. The Bottom Line, the book is a Sci-Fi lovers dream, while the movie is a lot different in order to attract a more mainstream audience, the power and genius of the story remains, and for that The Giver joins our list of must see movies!

Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Starring: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould, & Bella Thorne
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

When something fresh and successful comes along, everyone wants a piece of it. Shortly following the films release, a number of copycats emerge and to be honest most of them are terrible. Maybe it's because we tend to compare it to the original or maybe it's because the scripts are rushed and just aren't that good. In any case, after the release of the Wimpy Kid series, we saw a lot of these family comedies, centering on the not so popular kids, and as expected, most of them were awful, with one notable exception. Alexander's bad day focuses on a young man whose birthday coincides with his first day of middle school, which doesn't go so well. After receiving no sympathy from his family, Alexander wishes that they all had their own bad day, and the results were hilarious. This isn't the typical PG family comedy you see from Disney, as it was quite raunchy for them and really pushes the boundary of that PG rating. Ed Oxenbould stars as Alexander and fits the role like a glove. Oxenbould looks and sounds kind of awkward, after all it is a strange age, but watching him gave the feeling that he's not all that unfamiliar with being unpopular. Possibly playing on real life experience, he rivals Alex Gordon with a performance that was not only believable, but it was also very funny. Another advantage this film has over the Wimpy Kid series is that the young cast has help from some of Hollywood's elite, as co-stars include Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner. The pair give a lot of support and the producers use them to break-up the middle school monotony that would has surely ensued. While not my usual genre, I loved the Wimpy kid series, but Alexander's bad day is more than an adequate alternative for those who are looking for something a little bit different.

Bending The Rules

Starring: Edge, Jamie Kennedy, & Jennifer Esposito
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

WWE Superstars aren't seen as actors, but in fact make some of the best action heroes on the big screen. They may be athletes showing off impossible moves in the ring, but they are also actors, who portray characters and memorize lines on a weekly basis. They are tailor made action stars, who even do their own stunts. That's why I was looking forward to Bending The Rules, It's star Edge is one of the most charismatic superstars in WWE history and he certainly didn't disappoint, unlike the script. The story follows a by the book District Attorney, who turns to an unconventional cop to help him, when his late father's prized possession is stolen. In order to score points with the man who is out to get him, the officer agrees, having no idea the case would take him into something much bigger. As I said Edge was great, the stunts were terrific, he was funny, and had great chemistry with Jamie Kennedy. This comedic duo could have made a great film together, if they didn't get stuck with a script that made little sense and was all over the place. This film randomly jumps between scenes without any context and without completing the scene before it, A lot of it just doesn't make sense. The whole premise is a bit ridiculous to begin with, a D.A. turning to the cop he's trying to bust to help him get back a stolen car, which leads to an international conspiracy, involving the police, the D.A., the FBI, gangsters, drug dealers, gang-bangers, and everyone else they could throw in there. Honestly, I continued to watch this film for it's humor and it's exemplary choreographed action sequences, beyond that, Bending The Rules is a pretty forgettable film.

The Fear of 13

Starring: Nicholas Yarris
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I don't generally review Documentaries, but sometimes a documentary comes along that is so compelling, people need to know about it. The Fear of 13 is the biography of a man, that most of us have never heard of, Nicholas Yarris. His was one of the first cases taken on by the Innocence Project and he is a prime example of not only the system failing to help someone, but a reason that it should scare the hell out of you. Yarris wasn't a great guy, when he was pulled over in the wrong place at the wrong time. Given his criminal history and inability to pay for a proper defense, Yarris was the perfect target for an over zealous District Attorney. Despite being based on completely circumstantial evidence, Yarris was convinced of murder and sentenced to death row. His life was troubled on the outside, but what happened in prison made it seem like a walk in the park. For twenty years, Yarris's cries fell on deaf ears, and it wasn't until he gave up and said, just kill me already, that someone finally noticed him. Nicholas Yarris's story is the kind of thing you can't make up and someday, I'd love to see a movie version of it. This man was never considered innocent and he wasn't proven guilty, yet he was forced to endure government sanctioned torture, the likes of which we couldn't possibly imagine. This is an eye opening documentary that must be seen by all and afterwards it may just change your opinion on our criminal justice system.