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So it’s been kinda slow recently, at least movie wise, and a bit busy elsewhere. I skipped everything that came out on the 19th (not a horror fan, didn’t see Red, behind on all the animated films, and I’ll rent RIPD eventually), and instead took my cousin to see Pacific Rim, of which I’ll add some additional thoughts below.

For now though, I believe it’ll be a lot of art house stuff and the few remaining big summer films to see (The Wolverine is forth coming, for example). I’ll try and start getting caught up on other movies too from earlier this year. Also, I’m slowly getting through season two of Deep Space 9, which is becoming a chore because it’s terrible but it’s Star Trek so I have to do it (and because I want to write about it anyway). I’m roughly two-thirds through now, so expect that Looking Back feature at some point in August.

Anyway, enough about random stuff. Here’s Arnie quoting one liners.

Why the heck did I miss this when it came out? Ugh I’m the worst.

It’s a good, fun film. Yeah, it’s B-movie all over, but holy crap it’s good. I haven’t seem Kim Ji-woon previous films, though I should check them out (he did The Good, the Bad, and the Weird if I remember correctly), since his American debut is good.

In short, Arnie plays Ray Owens, an old sheriff, in Somerton, Arizona, when a few unfriendlies arrive in town. They’re there to help a major cartel boss, Cortez, cross the border to Mexico to escape US authorities. Arnie finds out, and sets up the town, along with a few deputies, to block that crossing until the FBI arrive.

It’s as straightforward as it gets, and it’s great fun along the way. The writing is good, with Arnie getting the bulk of the amusing one liners, though Knoxville, who I thought would be annoying, is pretty hilarious in it, playing a gun collector with some sweet weapons in his disposal. There are a couple other characters in it, but they’re all decent, and they all stand apart as their own.

There’s a lot of action pieces scattered throughout the film, from Cortez escape from the FBI through the Arizona desert, to the stand off in Somerton and the final beat down on the canyon crossing. The sequence in Somerton is the highlight of the film, as Arnie and the deputies face off against Cortez getaway crew. It’s done well, with the action being kept strictly on the town’s Main Street and a few businesses that are along that street. It’s probably one of the better sequences this year.

So all in all, a good, fun movie with some great Arnie moments. I’m sad I missed it when it came out, but I’m glad I got to see it now. It’s out on VOD and DVD now, so definitely check it out.

I saw Pacific Rim a second time, taking my 12-year-old cousin with me.  He loved the film, and the first thing he asked about was about the kaiju and if they were men in suits.  Pretty perceptive in noting the design of the kaiju.

We saw it in 2D this time (opening night was IMAX 3D so we could get those awesome posters), and the main difference was the color, being a bit more brighter.  Oh, and the sound quality wasn’t as loud (this is IMAX we’re taking about; the volume just hitting you in the face hard).  My thoughts on the film didn’t change much: the story is still simple and relies a little too much on the Mako Mori drift scenes.  That Hong Kong sequence is still fantastic though, and probably the best action sequence this year in any film.

What it probably succeeds in well too was that it’s a perfect film for a 12-year-old, or any child with an imagination.  Raleigh Beckett said it perfectly early on, when they’re in the Jaeger, they can fight anything, including a hurricane.  It’s being able to not feel small, and being able to take on something larger and stronger than you with something large and strong for yourself.  But it’s also taking this film and finding a spark, something that’ll allow a child or teen to say “I can make this” and then learn how to make this kind of thing.  Hell, I find the 12-year-old in me wanting to learn how to make movies, and to make them enjoyable, but also to have something to say too, something about humanity.

This is probably why I loved Pacific Rim as much as I did.  If there weren’t so many things to see right now, I’d check it out a third time.  There’s always DVD though, and I’ll come back again and again when it does show up.


Jaeger VS Kaiju battle begins now!

It finally took over half of the summer, but we finally reached the big blockbuster that’s just as good as Iron Man 3, and probably better at times too.  Pacific Rim is massive, and it’s great and it’s fun.

The story is simple: kaiju have invaded Earth, and in response, humanity has built large machines called Jaegers, piloted by two people who are mind-melded together through a synchronization process called the Drift.  Humanity wins a lot of battles early on, but as the war wears on, the kaiju are getting bigger, and they’re adapting to the Jaegers.  The war has entered its twelfth year, with the Pacific rim countries building a giant wall to keep out the kaiju.  The Jaegers are no longer appealing, and the remaining four are moved to Hong Kong.

The characters are all pretty good, with enough background details and distinctive personalities to distinguish themselves from other characters.  Raleigh Becket is the retired pilot of Gipsy Danger, called back into service one last time.  Stacker Pentecost leads the Jaeger program and devises a plan to end the war.  Mako Mori is Pentecost’s assistant and a rookie when it comes to piloting.  Dr Newton Geizler and Dr Hermann Gottleib work with the program to study how the kaiju operate.  Hannibal Chau is a black market dealer of kaiju organs and body parts.  And Herc and Chuck Henson are the father-son team of Eureka Striker, the Australian Jaeger.  Each of them have arcs that resolve in one way or another.  Everyone playing them is great, especially Charlie Day, who, as Geizler, is not as obnoxious as you’d expect him to be.  Mako Mori, played by Rinko Kikuchi, is probably the strongest realized female character this summer, though it doesn’t get to be that way until a little late in the film because of how certain reveals were handled.  The story does focus on her a lot though, especially during her first Drift synchronization.  It’s here that certain things are learned, which again, could have been explained a bit sooner.

The action, of course, is the big draw, and it doesn’t disappoint.  There are really only three major Jaeger/kaiju sequences (Gipsy Danger vs Knifehead, the Hong Kong attack, and the final battle), but they’re all staged wonderfully.  The Hong Kong sequence is definitely the best in the whole film (and probably one of the best action sequences filmed this year[1]) and perfectly captures both how the Jaegers and kaiju move and fight, but also how any major action sequence should be done.  There is no lost sense of place or scale with the fighting, especially when it moves into Hong Kong itself and Gipsy Danger first takes on the kaiju Leatherback, and then Otachi.  There is a lot of destruction, but people do escape in shelters when an attack occurs (there are a couple times that I recall that there is talk of, or people actually going to, underground shelters to escape the attacks).  Compare that to other films this summer and the careless disregard for human life; it’s almost refreshing to see that some characters do give a damn.

I loved this film.  It isn’t dark and cynical and it doesn’t actively hate its audience.  It’s simple and straightforward, and not a convoluted mess of a film.  It knows the story it wants to tell and it does it well, and it has important things to say too.  But most importantly, it’s fun, and along with Iron Man 3, probably the best blockbuster film to show up this summer, and the most fun you’ll have too.  And I think that has been missing a lot this summer, the grand sense of fun that everyone should enjoy.

This is a movie that I will gladly see two or three times in theaters.  It’s that damn good.

[1] Iron Man 3 actually has two or three really good sequences that are also some of the year’s best.  All hail Shane Black.

Hey, lookie, it’s probably the best film so far this year!

I’m not really sure how to express that properly though, as being one of the best films that have come out this year.  But I’ll try.

This films succeeds largely on the shoulders of Greta Gerwig, who gives a marvelous performance as the title character.  She’s a fun character, she’s engaging, and she’s enjoyable.  She’s also sporadic and frustrating, and can’t easily tell the truth.  She’s like any twenty-something who is trying to figure life out but ends up making stupid decisions that affect her, but there’s also things that end up largely out of her control and there’s nothing she can do.  Then there are the moments when she has complete control, and instead of taking it, she sidesteps it for no explicable reason (there was one moment during the film that I wanted to yell my frustration at the screen).

There’s no real forward momentum in the film, such that life can be (one wakes up, go through the days events, then goes back to sleep, repeat ad nauseum).  It does cover about a year in Frances’ life and the things that happen around her: her best friend Sophie decides to move first to a more expensive part of NYC, then to Japan with her boyfriend; France moves in with a couple random guys who quickly find out how undateable she is; she wants to dance, but can’t get beyond the apprentice level.  She goes to several places in the film (Sacramento to visit her family, a random weekend in Paris, and a summer in her alma mater).  The ending goes well for her and a lot of other characters that show up in the film, though she doesn’t change one bit, which is fine.  There are occasions where characters don’t change at all in the course of a film, simply because this is a slice of life and there’s no real reason for them to change (Happy-Go-Lucky is one such example of a great film where Poppy doesn’t change at all).  I can’t tell if her ending is earned though, especially during the more frustrating bits of the film.  As short as the film was (only 86 minutes), it could have used probably one or two more scenes to connect things better.

This film has also made me wonder if I’ll ever get Noah Baumbach.  I saw Greenberg a few years ago and, at the time, hated it a lot because of Ben Stiller’s character and how much of a disruptive and unchanging asshole he was.  I’ll have to rewatch it again though at some point, mainly to see if my opinion has changed, because it seems like that’s the kind of characters Baumbach likes to write about[1].  That said, he does make really good films, and his characters, as frustrating they can be, are fully realized persons.  The writing is top notch too between Baumbach and Gerwig.  It helps that this movie is hilarious, and probably the funniest film of the year because everything clicks so well.  The monochromatic color scheme is interesting as well, with some pretty good choices in wardrobe and such.

I caught this movie at the tail end of its box office run, so it’ll be out of theaters really soon.  Definitely catch it though when it makes it to DVD and VOD.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Just see it.

[1] Then again, Core saw Margot at the Wedding and loathed it completely, so I don’t think I’m the only one who doesn’t get Baumbach.

Hurrr…. urrrrgghhhhh…. chomp chomp chomp….

I could, if I really wanted to, write this whole thing in zombie speak (is that even a thing?), though everyone would probably hate me.  So, here’s a english translated zombie speak version of the review.  Or something.

World War Z is a surprisingly solid film, which is unexpected given how maligned the production was, especially with the refilming of the entire last third of the film.  It hits all the right beats, sometimes in a mechanical way, sometimes really well.  The movie starts in Philadelphia, where shit gets insane really quick.  The entire eastern seaboard falls, as well as other major urban areas where it is easy to transmit an airborne disease.  This is essentially SARS or H1N1 actualized, spreading nonstop around the globe in a matter of days or weeks.

The changes to the zombies for this film were curious.  It’s fast zombies all the way, though there’s no eating.  It’s bite and move on to the next victim.  I’m curious if this was done to at least have a better rating and a bigger possible audience (the film exploded to $200 million budget with the refilmed shots), to get better returns.  If that’s the case, then it worked, at least with an opening weekend that far surpassed studio expectations.

The zombies were ill defined at times though, between reacting to sound, but also with what they did in the third act.  The sequence in the plane, as well as the revelation of what ended up working to stop them, kind of clashed together.  That said, the element introduced in the third act was original and interesting.  It may not have been the best idea (again, going back to how ill defined the zombies were) but it worked for the film.

The non-zombie characters were good.  Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane turns into an everyman of sorts by the end, but he’s still a pretty good character.  He has his family, and his concern will always be on his family, even when he heads out to find answers about the zombies.  Mireille Enos plays Karin Lane, Gerry’s wife, and while she doesn’t do too much (she stays with the kids while Gerry is off globe trotting), she isn’t a waste.  Other characters act their parts (the Secretary General, the US Navy people, etc), though special kudos to Daniella Kertesz as Segen, who, even after surviving a zombie bite, is an absolute badass and one of the better written female characters to show up this summer[1][2].

One thing about the final third of the film: the tonal shift is intense.  The film starts huge (running through the streets of Philadelphia and Newark) and stays huge into Jerusalem, then quiets down a lot in the WHO building.  It’s not a bad thing, honestly, and probably the best part of the film (though trying to find where anything is at in the zombie-infested wing of the building detracts from that some).

So like I said, an unexpectedly solid film.  Check it out.

[1] Speaking of which, what a fucking cesspool of poorly written female characters this summer season.  It’s ranged from good-ish at best (Iron Man 3 with Pepper Potts; Man of Steel with Lois Lane, at least the first half of the film) to downright awful (Star Trek Into Darkness with Carol Marcus and, at times, Lt Uhura; Now You See Me with whoever Melanie Laurent played).  There was an NPR article that showed up a couple weeks ago that discussed the lack of female leads so far this summer (in fact, the first major wide release targeting females specifically finally comes out this weekend with the Heat).  It’s been a boys club through and through.

[1b] Also, yes, I’m going to try and see Francis Ha soon.

[2] That said, yes, Segen doesn’t say much.  I think a lot as to do with the actual acting beyond speaking (and that the character is a member of the Israeli army), and that’s what probably got me with her performance.

Welcome to the end of the world, and endless laughing pains.

This is the End is a disaster comedy (is that a new category now? disaster comedy?) starring a whole bunch of people playing themselves (well, there’s the primary cast (Rogen, Franco, Hill, Baruchel, McBride, and Robinson) and then a bunch of other people (Watson, Cera, Segel, Mintz-Plasse, Rihanna, and many more) and then a few hilarious cameos (…, …, what, see this film okay?!)) when the world goes to shit.  The primary cast hole up in Franco’s house, keeping a (bad) eye on food supplies, filming sequels to films they’ve starred in, and trying to stay alive long enough for help to come.

It’s not perfect by any means.  It goes from set piece to set piece looking for something for the guys to do, and at two hours is almost entirely too long.  It makes up for it though with each set piece being genuinely funny.  Some of them were really good: coked out Michael Cera was classic, the Pineapple Express sequel was great, the Emma Watson bit worked (which could have been a disaster but was pretty damn funny), the Franco/McBride masturbation argument was fantastic, and the brief cameos at the end were insane and worth it.

The primary cast were all really good, and, in a way, playing really dickish versions of themselves.  Franco and Hill especially, though Hill was more of a diva than anything else, but it still worked.  Or are they just like that in real life?

What probably helped the film a lot was using the book of Revelations as its apocalyptic backdrop and just ran it to its logical (or illogical) end.  I haven’t read Revelations (though I probably should at some point), but my understanding of it is that it’s genuinely fucked up, and the movie plays with how fucked up that book is.  Once the survivors know what to do at towards the end (how to escape hell on earth), they try to be good, and all of them with hilarious results.

This movie is hilarious from start to finish.  Definitely see it.

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