DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Ghost Rider

Following in a long vein of mediocre superhero films comes a sparkling gem that sets itself apart from the rest of the soot-ridden rocks accumulating in Stan Lee’s closet.

Ghost Rider is the story of Johnny Blaze (Matt Long), a young, hotshot daredevil looking to make a name for himself. When not leaping through hoops or crashing unceremoniously, he sees a lovely young woman (Raquel Alessi) and spends time with his alcoholic, chimney-smoking dad (Brett Cullen).

Much to his surprise, he discovers that his dad has been diagnosed with cancer, and its spread. Saddened, he decides to think about his life, and reassess things. It’s on this fateful eve that a worn-out thespian (Peter Fonda) decides to pay him a visit, offering him his father’s perfect health for the mere price of his earthly soul.

Deed signed, soul sold, his father makes a miraculous recovery. We soon find, however, that all good things do come at a steep price. Our aged octogenarian friend is soon revealed as no one other than Mephisto himself, and Blaze, his new bounty hunter.

Fast-forward some decades, and we find Blaze (Nicolas Cage) once again up to his old stunts, only his dares now border closer to suicidal than thrill-seeking. Luck doesn’t favor our protagonist much, however, as it appears Mephisto has a need for his little errand boy, and his pimp-hand is strong.

Overall, the movie follows a very linear plot. Boy finds dream, boy loses faith, boy sells soul to devil, and then, boy becomes a flaming-headed servant of Satan. There are a few hiccups along the way, but throughout, it seems a little bit forced.

At times, it seems as though the writers would face obstacles in plot development the same way Johnny did… driving over them with a mother****ing Hellcycle!

Still, this leaves too many questions unexplored, and even critical plot moments seem fake in retrospect. It’s too easy, all of it. From the tragic romance to the climatic battles. Nothing that would seem to even make Ant-Man break a sweat.

Despite its shortcomings, it does have some stunning visual effects, and some amazing stunts, but at times, it feels that the entire plot was merely created as a justification to put Nick Cage in a leather biker outfit, and have him drive up and down buildings.

Still, it does not fall as short as some of the more recent superhero flops (*cough* Spider-Man III *coooughh*), but it never does soar higher than the likes of Daredevil, or Elektra.

While there may be heart, this movie lacks heavily in the way of soul, seemingly as devoid of one as villain. Ooh, yes, I went there Blackheart… whatcha gonna do? I didn’t even know your name until I looked it up on Wikipedia!

Final Score – ** (Average)

Fanboy Score – ** (Average)

Final Word – If you’re just in to watching summer blockbusters, or movies that develop plot, you’ll find little here other than a CGI demonstration, but if you’re a die-hard fan, and don’t despise Nicholas Cage, you might like what little story there is, if you can let go of the fantasy that this is a serious movie.

DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Serenity

This is the kind of thing you don’t usually see in a typical space opera. Instead of taking a helm seat during the greatest struggle in the history of the galactic republic, we get to watch moments reminiscent of Han Solo making the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.

But then, that is what makes this film so great.

Serenity follows the story of Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his ragtag crew of misfits. Popularized by the cult TV series, Firefly, we get a feature length look into the lives of a band of space mercs bent on collecting the almighty dollar. And, Gorram it, it’s shiny.

Without delving too deeply into exposition explaining fourteen episodes of brilliant dialogue and beautiful character development, Serenity is a continuation of an ongoing storyline, that of River Tam (Summer Glau), a gifted young woman, and her brother, Simon Tam (Sean Maher), who rescued her from the blue-handed clutches of the insidious Alliance.

On the run from the law, the siblings manage to take up keep on a Firefly-class transport ship named Serenity. Despite corruption and thievery, they manage to make themselves useful enough to keep most of Mal’s ire at bay, and become members of the jolly bunch.

Flash-forward to the beginning of the movie, and it seems as though trouble has once again caught up to our big damn heroes. A nameless man, identified only as “The Operative”, has begun tracking the ship and its crew, forcing them into a number of difficult and dangerous situations.

The crew eventually manages to elude him long enough to figure out just what the secret is hidden inside of River. After the revelation sinks in, that the knowledge they possess could actually threaten the great and mighty Alliance, they decide to misbehave.

Rounded out with the rest of the crew, Jayne (Adam Ballwin), Zoë and Wash (Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk), Inara (Morena Baccarin), Kaylee (Jewel Staite), and the good Shepherd Book (Ron Glass), this action-packed feature-length film brings back all that was good about the show.

However, appealing to a niche group does have its drawbacks, and to some, the film might come off a hint confusing. All of the interplay between characters is painstakingly preserved, and though a delight to listen to as it flows beautifully, some might feel a bit awkward without the afore knowledge granted by the TV show.

What struck me as most entertaining about this film, however, was the way it was driven. Unlike films such as Star Wars, or anything Star Trek, Serenity is driven entirely by its characters, and they are strong. Where as most supporting roles are usually flushed out more fully in the course of additional novel tie-ins, and comic book adaptations, the characters aboard the Serenity just feel real enough already.

Joss Whedon (Writer, Director) employs a large number of interesting tricks and tacks to make this movie work. From the sweeping camera shots in the beginning that help to introduce and establish the ship and its crew, to the dramatic and shocking moments near the end, and, let’s just say, Joss plays for keeps.

All in all this movie is packed full of style and grace, enough for any Science Fiction fan, and is a cult classic. If you don’t quote the film regularly, it’s just a gorram shame.

Final Score – **** (Excellent)

Fanboy Score – **** (Excellent)

Final Word – I really wanted to find five stars for this movie somewhere, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

As a critical viewer, the movie is stunning and innovative in terms of both dialogue and character development, but it falls short of perfect due to a somewhat muddled back-story and poor translation for those not privy to the TV show.

As a fan of the series and the movie, I can’t give it a perfect because I feel some important decisions were not taken as seriously as they should have been, and I believe it was evident that Joss Whedon unleashed some of his hostility towards FOX and the cancellation of his show on this film.

DVD Review Text Reviews

DVD Review: Children of Men

It struck me suddenly, that in movies today, themes can be somewhat obscure. You can look for angles, bias, and all that, but it seems less frequently that you find a film with an untarnished theme.

That is what drew me into this movie.

From the beginning to the end, themes of hope, despair, misery, and grief are evident, but in the end, there’s that little shining glimmer that brings your through the darkness.

Based on a 1992 novel by P. D. James, Children of Men follows the thematic journey of a young pregnant girl through a world where all men have been rendered sterile. Though it is never clearly explained, some biological quirk has caused a sudden decrease in the sperm count of all males, leaving the world without a hope for a future.

Largely dystopian, countries are ravished one by one, leaving only Great Britain remaining in the end. Much of the plot revolves around rebels and refugees of some sort, in a world where it seems the only rule is survival.

Our protagonist, Theo (played by actor Clive Owen) begins as a rather apathetic hero. Drawn into a terrorist organization by his ex-wife (Julianne Moore), he is forced to face his past, as well as his future. He ends up protecting the last remaining pregnant women on earth, as different organizations rival for her and her baby.

Though slow at first, the action picks up the pace and pulls you through the movie right alongside the characters. Notable credit should be given to the direction of this movie, and the filmmakers whose work and cuts should be admirable to even the most veteran directors in Hollywood.

Action sequences follow the characters with a moving camera that does not cut for at least several minutes, flowing perfectly through explosions and car chases. At times, you almost feel like you should duck as the characters do, for fear the gunshots will fly across your living room.

Though thought provoking and thematically driven, the movie does seem a little bit barren in the ways of innovation. The science-fiction elements appear generalized and devoid of any particular importance, short of telling the viewer that this film takes place in the future (The year 2027 to be exact).

Some viewers may be left wanting more in the ways of clarification, as the cause of the mass sterility is brushed over quickly and rarely revisited throughout the story. However, it does carry on well enough without it.

Still, it was one of the more enjoyable dystopian movies I have seen lately, and the themes hold their own well enough to make even the most quizzical viewer come away with something to think about.

Final Score – *** (Good)

Final Word – Though I find it enjoyable and wonderfully filmed, the movie failed to live up to all of my expectations. Where it fell short, however, it picked up the pace with action, drama, and theme, leading me to feel this is one you’ll want to own and watch again.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: TMNT

Here is a movie that needs little introduction. Based on the 1984 graphic novel and subsequent movie sequels and cartoon shows, this movie hit an already eager viewing audience.

It’s been fourteen years since the release of the last film, and this one doesn’t waste much time getting right back into it. After a somewhat inconsequential prologue, we are quickly reintroduced to the four brothers and their recent ventures. Unlike other continuity reboots, such as Superman Returns, TMNT does not dwell long on the past, though the references make you remember quite often.

The story runs the typical ex-superhero team gamut. We have a world where the turtles have pretty much stopped all their major enemies, leaving them to the tedium of a normal albeit teen-aged mutant life. A new threat arises, however, forcing the brothers to reunite and stand together as one.

The film does a good job bringing the turtles back to their roots. It comes close to the original comic’s grim and gritty feel, a definite departure from the previous three. Few animated features manage to break out of the mold, offering something for children and adults alike, but this is one of them.

From start to finish there is little to pull you out of the action. There is a definite pace that draws you in quickly and carries you through until the end, which, unfortunately comes all too soon.

The animation is done masterfully, flowing more fluent than many of its predecessors. Movies like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and The Polar Express seem like ancient technology by comparison. With realistic physics and wonderfully rendered backgrounds to balance out the slightly cartoonish character design, TMNT should be recognized as cutting edge, at least for the next few years.

Final Score – **** (Excellent)

Final Word – All and all, the movie is beautifully animated, maintaining a careful bridge between the cartoon shows and the live-action films. I personally felt that it was too short, lasting only 87 minutes, but that is to be expected. As Imagi Animation’s first feature length film, it definitely feels like they were testing the water. Hopefully we’ll see further sequels as well made as this one.