Thursday, April 3, 2014

Retro TV: Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends [1981-1983]

"Okay, trusty old camera, time to make a couple of bucks!"

Photo taken from here
For as long as I've known, I've always loved superheroes. Right from when I first learned to read and was as tall as an Ewok, all the way through the present day as a fully grown adult who is as tall as Luke Skywalker (I'm only estimating... but I'm pretty sure I'm too short to be a Stormtrooper), that affection towards humans with incredible abilities have never faded.

But watching Captain America: Winter Soldier [2014] last week (which was totally awesome!! Review here), especially its geek-activating mid-credits scene, made me realize how much I crave a bigger Marvel universe. That mid-credits scene included *mild spoiler alert* two characters that can appear in two different franchises owned my two different movie studios *end of spoiler*.

Some of you are already aware that the characters from Marvel comics are own by different movie studios. So characters from different studios can't appear in the same movie. That's why we don't see Spider-Man in an Avengers movie or a film where Wolverine and The Hulk faces off. Except of course the characters in spoilers mentioned above. Here's an awesome infographic, courtesy of The Geek Twins on what studio owns what character (click on the photo for a larger view):


Now if only the studios can work together and we can finally get the crossovers and larger Marvel universe that we crave for. What does this have to do with the title of this post? Well a taste of what's possible if the studios collaborated can be seen in one of my favorite animated series from my childhood.... Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends [1981-1983]. I've included this series for reasons: (A) I'm a nostalgic guy, and (B) I don't watch a lot of TV shows nowadays, so aren't familiar with today's Marvel animations


Aw, man... catchy theme song too!! The show featured plenty of crossovers like the X-Men, Hulk, Dr. Stange, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, and even Shanna The Jungle Queen. There were also villians like The Green Goblin, Magneto, Juggernaut, Mysterio, Electro, Dr. Doom, Red Skull, and Loki. Now how awesome is that! Let's hope one day this larger cinematic Marvel universe becomes a reality. 

But in the mean time, check out this episode where Spider-Man (and his amazing friends -- Iceman and Firestar) meets the X-Men.....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Captain America - The Winter Soldier

"Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?"

Fan Art poster taken from here
Background:
Release Date: 27 March 2014 (Malaysia), 4 April 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Written By: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Ed Brubaker
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp
Duration: 136 minutes


In A Nutshell:
Captain America/Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) continues trying to adapt in the modern-day world, while at the same time still working with S.H.E.I.L.D.  But something is not well inside the agency, and the problem is on a very large scale too. Not knowing who to trust, he seeks the help of Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johansson) and an ex-military paratrooper, Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie).


Thumbs Up:
+ The movie hits the ground running. I love it when movies open with great scenes right away (okay, not in the very first scene here, but the second scene if you insist on being that picky)
+ The action scenes and fight sequences are up there with the very best you'll ever see on screen.
+ The conspiracy plot lends a sophisticated feel to the movie.
+ Plenty of twists, shocks, and surprises
+ Lots of screen time is given to various characters, yet each are well developed and manages NOT to make the movie feel bloated.
+ Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff is in a supporting role here and she kicks some serious ass! (ehem.. her actually ass isn't bad too). The female assassin shows exactly why she'll be getting a stand-alone movie soon.
+ Finally, yes finally, we get to see Nick Fury (played by Lawrence Fishburn Samuel L. Jackson) being in full-length action!

+ The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) - Marvel Studios at long last serves us a worthy villain other than Loki. And my, oh my, is he indeed menacing!
+ The score (by Henry Jackman) perfectly complements the bucket load of tense and exciting scenes on display.
+ The mention of Dr. Strange!!
+ The mid-credits scene. Gave me full blown nerdgasm! Bring on Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron [2015]! *spoiler alert (minimum): Expanded superhero universe! This is why we want movie studios that hold rights to different Marvel characters to work together on a project! Thank God the characters revealed in this scene can appear in to two different franchises owned by two different studios!
Thumbs Down:
- May need knowledge of previous Marvel movies to fully appreciate this one (this was the case for the couple sitting next to me... the boyfriend needed to constantly explain the backstory to the girlfriend. Extremely annoying).
- Stan Lee's cameo wasn't as good as his previous ones (list of his cameos here).
- Patriotic speech by Captain America just before the movie's climax. Sounded cheesy to me.


The Verdict Is In:
Ever since Marvel Studios started producing movies with the release of Iron Man [2008], I have enjoyed every single film from the studio with the exception of one. And that odd movie out is Captain America: The First Avenger [2011]. So, when added with the fact the "The Greatest Soldier In History" is no one's favorite superhero, my expectations wasn't very high for this second installment.

But man, was I mistaken. This movie was all sorts of awesome!! The action, characters and the story makes it an extremely solid and exciting movie. As much as I like dark and gritty superhero movies, it's getting somewhat tiresome as everyone seems to be following the trend. We need more variety. The conspiracy plot here gives this movie some level of sophistication, but it doesn't lose it's fun and vibrant feel. In fact I love the fact that all Marvel Studios movies so far haven't gone down the dark and gritty path.
 

The film also doesn't feel like a spin-off to a much bigger movie (Avengers 2) because everything here feels like being on large scale. I'm actually surprised this wasn't a summer release.

If the first Captain America movie was my least favorite from Marvel Studios, this one is actually the opposite.... its on top of the list! I even like it more than Iron Man and The Avengers [2012]! Now that totally took me off guard and is saying a lot!
Rating:
9.5 out 10

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Top 4 Actor Voices - TDC Blogathon: Mt. Rushmore Of Movies


M. Brown of Two Dollar Cinema has come up with his first ever blogathon, titled 'Mt. Rushmore Of Movies'. To put it simply, it is in honor of President's Day and in order to participate, all you have to is choose the top 4 of anything cinematic and explain why it should be carved into the side of a mountain forever. 

So head over to his site if you too want to participate, and heck, even if you have no intention of joining, you still need to go over there. Because seriously, his site is the funniest movie blog that I know off. Try reading one of his reviews and I dare you to, at the very least, say that his reviews aren't unique.

I've picked "Top 4 Actor Voices" for my category. As usual, I'll give the same lame excuse of 'time being a luxury to me' for this blog entry being very brief.


#4 Liam Neeson


A very distinctive male voice. In Clash Of The Titans [2010] he delivered the line "Release The Kraken!!" with so much conviction, that it became the most memorable scene from that very dull movie. But it is his delivery of the world's most awesome phone monologue ever in Taken [2008] that sticks out the most to me. Sure, the dialogue played a big part. But if I was on the other side of the phone, I'd shit my pants hearing his voice. It is even more terrifying than hearing the "7 days until you die," speech from The Ring [2002].



#3 Samuel L. Jackson


Whether it is in Pulp Fiction [1994], Snakes On A Plane [2006], or even the recent RoboCop [2014] movie, listening to Lawrence Fishburne Sam Jackson going on a rant is just utter bliss.




#2 James Earl Jones


Darth Vader. End of argument.

But honestly though, check out the video below to see what it feels like if Jones' voice wasn't used. David Prowse was the guy under the Darth Vader suit, and well, he is just not James Earl Jones.




#1 Morgan Freeman


Go watch The Shawshank Redemption [1994] again and you'll realize why Morgan Freeman has the voice of God.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

List: 15 Favorite Movie Couples

Opposites attract. They have so much in common. A mixture between love and hate. Those are some of the explanations given for attraction. So what really does makes a good couple? I really am not sure but with Valentine's Day arriving in a couple of days, lets celebrate my 15 favorite couples from the silver screen.

The last time I did a list here was six months ago. Gosh, that's unacceptable. Way, way, too long. I mean coming up with favorite lists is main the reason I first created this blog in the first place. Plus, the only interesting movie in theaters right now is The Lego Movie [2014], and I've already reviewed that last week.

#15 "I Love Us" ~ Tom & Summer


Movie: (500) Days Of Summer [2009]
Played By: Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Zooey Deschanel

The only reason these two aren't higher up the list is they actually aren't a couple at all. Tom's affections towards Summer was mostly one-sided, but I know a lot people would have loved it if things had worked out between the two of them. Everyone's favorite pseudo-couple then.

Selected Quote: Summer:"I just... I woke up one day and knew". Tom:"Knew what?" Summer:".... What I was never sure of with you".

#14 "Dancing Their Way Into Our Hearts" ~ Danny & Sandy


Movie: Grease [1978]
Played By: John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John

Decades before Highschool Musical [2006], we had Grease to remind us of youthful exuberance. Danny & Sandy will always be associated with an abundance of fun and joy.

Selected Quote: "You'd better shape up, because I need a man.... and my heart is set on you"

#13 "The Media Made Them Superstars" ~ Mallory & Mickey



Movie: Natural Born Killers [1994]
Played By: Juliette Lewis & Woody Harrelson

A twisted a relationship but nevertheless these two were just made for each other.

Selected Quote: "Baby.... by the power invested in me, as the God of my own world.... I pronounce us husband and wife"

#12 "Happily Ever After" ~ Rapunzel & Flynn Ryder/EugeneFitzherbert



Movie: Tangled [2010]
Voiced By: Mandy Moore & Zachary Levi

There's a lot of lovable couples to pick from the Disney family, but I'm going for these two. The reason being mainly of the amazing flying lantern scene in the film. Its absolutely magical (especially when viewed in 3D). In fact it is probably my favorite date scene in a movie. Ever!

Selected Quote: "I didn't want to do this but you leave me with no choice.... here comes.... the smolder"

#11 "In A Galaxy Far, Far, Away" ~ Hans Solo & Princess Leia


Movies: Star Wars [1977], The Empire Strikes Back [1980], The Return Of The Jedi [1983]
Played By: Harrison Ford & Carrie Fisher

They say its easy to turn hate into love. Look no further than these two. Plus, who could forget the awesome line featured below:

Selected Quote: Leia:"I love you". Hans Solo: "I know".

#10 "Internet Dating" ~ Joe & Kathleen


Movie: You've Got Mail [1998]
Played By: Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The original American Sweethearts. Many would choose the pairing they had in another Nora Ephron film, Sleepless In Seattle [1993], but I much prefer You've Got Mail, both as movie in general, and also because of the relationship between Joe shared with Kathleen.

Selected Quote: "I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly."

#9 "I'll Have What She's Having" ~ Harry & Sally



Movie: When Harry Met Sally [1989]
Played by: Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan

Can men and women ever just be friends? When it comes to Harry and Sally, we would want them to be. This is the second time in a row that Meg Ryan has featured in this list. I actually miss seeing her on screen. Someone needs to revive her career fast.

 Selceted Quote: "I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

#8 "Sing Your Hearts Out" ~ Maria & Captain Von Trapp


Movie: The Sound Of Music [1965]
Played By: Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer

I'm fairly confident that I'm not the only person who spent their childhood singing along with Maria and Captain Von Trapp. They've stood the test of time too. I still enjoy watching them even now.

Selected Quote: "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window."

#7 "Tales From The Story Teller" ~ Ed Bloom & Sandra


Image taken from here
Movie: Big Fish [2003]
Played By: Ewan McGregor & Alison Lohman

Edward's stories may have been exaggerated, but his love for Sandra was never in doubt. Such beautiful movie and excellent pairing.

Selected Quote: "They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that's true"

#6 "The Luminous Debut" ~ Princess Ann & Joe


Movie: Roman Holiday [1953]
Played By: Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck

Let's face it. There's no other actress more suitable to play a princess than Audrey Hepburn. But as dazzling as she is, this movie isn't just about her. Gregory Peck provides more than a perfect companion as we are treated to the vivid sights of Rome.

Selected Quote: "I've never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on. With my dress off, its most unusual."

#5 "Unconventional Love" ~ Theodore & Samantha

Photo taken from here
Photo taken from here
Movie: Her [2013]
Played By: Joaquin Pheonix & Scarlett Johansson

This is proof that men can look beyond physical beauty. Considering that Samantha is actually an Operating System, it is her personality that hooks Theodore's heart. My favorite movie of 2013. Full review here.

Selected Quote: "The heart is not like a box that gets filled up. It expands in size the more you love."

#4 "Music Unites Us All" ~ Boy & Girl


Movie: Once [2007]
Played By: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

We don't even need to know the characters' names during the entire movie, yet we still fall deeply in love with them. Music connects souls.

Selected Quote: Boy: "What's the Czech for 'do you love him'?" Girl:"Milujes ho". Boy:"So.... milujes ho?" Girl:"Miluju tebe". Boy:"???"

#3 "Everyone's Long Lost Friend" ~ Jessie & Celine


Movies: Before Sunrise [1995], Before Sunset [2004], Before Midnight [2013]
Played By: Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy

3 movies, 18 years apart. The audience has basically grown old together with these two. After each of those 9 years separating the movies, it feels like we are being re-united with long lost friends. The final part of Before Midnight however might have damaged our perception of them as a perfect couple a little bit.

Selected Quote: "I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing."

#2 "A Love That Spreads Beyond Galaxies" ~ WALL-E & EVE


Movie: WALL-E [2008]
Voiced By: n/a

I know that they are not human, but they are the cutest couple I know. Well, the second cutest couple (that's why they're at #2). But my heart never fails to melt when seeing the interactions between these two.

Selected Quote: WALL-E: "Directive?" Eve: "Classified!!"

#1 "The Greatest Love Of All" ~ Carl & Ellie



Movie: Up [2009]
Voiced By: Edward Asner/Jeremy Leary & Elie Docter

Romeo and Juliet. Cleopatra and Mark Antony. No, the world's greatest romance was Carl and Ellie. These photos reveal everything.

Selected Quote: "Thanks for the adventure. Now go have a new one."

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Review: The Lego Movie [2014]

"♬♪♩♬♪ Everything Is Awesome..... ♬♪♩♬♪"


Background:
Release Date: 6 February 2014 (Malaysia), 7 February 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Written By: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman
Voiced By: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Nick Offerman
Duration: 100 minutes


In A Nutshell:
Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) is a very average, instructions-obeying construction worker who soon finds out he is "The Special". According to the prophecy made by Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), he will be the one to stop the evil President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) from 'destroying' the universe. Emmet and Vitruvius are joined in their quest with Wyldstyle (voice by Elizabeth Bath), Batman (voiced by Will Arnet), Spaceman Benny (voiced by Charlie Day), Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), and Metal Beard (voice by Nick Offerman).


Thumbs Up:
+ The huge crossovers of various pop-culture characters. Crossovers are always fun, see The Avengers [2012] and Wreck-It Ralph [2012] for recent proof.
+ BATMAN!!! The Caped Crusader has always been DC Comics' best character. But he is just hilarious in this one!
+ Star Wars = Enough to give me full nerdgasm. Star Wars AND Batman in the same scene = I've just died and gone to nerd heaven!!
+ Excellent voice cast. If having Liam Neeson (voicing the character: Bad Cop) wasn't awesome enough, they also have Morgan "Voice Of God" Freeman!
+ The theme song, "Everything is awesome", on its own might not be too special. But when tied-in with this movie, it becomes extremely addictive and uplifting. I just can't get it out of my head right now. In fact I reckon if listening to it while going to work, it'll significantly help to reduce the "Monday Blues" effect.
+ Despite the story/plot being very simple one, it is also a very intelligent. Yes, it is possible to be both.
+ Imaginative and beautiful animation. Sure, all animated films are beautiful nowadays, but the Lego stop-motion technique here is really refreshing.
+ Full of fun and really does offer a laugh every minute.
+ Heart-warming scene involving the "Man Upstairs" near the end of the movie.
Thumbs Down:
- People not familiar with the pop-culture characters might not get some of the jokes. Their lost.


The Verdict Is In:
January-April isn't traditionally a period that serves us excellent movies, so I was rather surprised at how much fun I had watching this animated gem. It was filled with laughs from start to finish. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are continuing to impress me. They previously came up with the hugely entertaining Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs [2009]  (the second installment had different directors and maybe that was why it wasn't as entertaining) and then followed it up with their funny rendition of 21 Jump Street [2012]. Now, with The Lego Movie, they have raised their own bar to even greater heights.


As absurd as it sounds, this movie has made Christian Bale no longer my favorite Batman. That honor now belongs the Dark Knight from this film. There are many lovable characters on show here, but Will Arnett's portrayal is pure comedic genius. Now the only thing left for me to do is to buy some new Legos and keep on humming that theme song for a few more weeks. ♬♪♩♬♪ Everything is awesome...... ♬♪♩♬♪
Rating:
9 out of 10

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Review: RoboCop [2014]

"What's Better Than A Hero? A Dead One!!"


Background:
Release Date: 30 January 2014 (Malaysia), 12 February 2014 (USA)
Directed By: Jose Padilha
Written By: Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Kornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Samuel L. Jackson
Duration: 118 minutes


In A Nutshell:
A remake of the classic Paul Verhoeven movie, RoboCop [1987]. In the year 2028, drones made by conglomerate, OmniCorp have taken over humans as law enforcers around the globe except for America. OmniCorp's CEO, Raymond Sellars (played by Michael Keaton) wants something to win-over the U.S people so he instructs his leading scientist, Dr. Dennet Norton (played by Gary Oldman) to begin a project involving part-man and part-robot. The perfect opportunity arrives when Alex Murphy (played by Joel Kinnaman) - a loving husband, father, and good cop is critically injured.


Thumbs Up:
+ The action scenes, while being few, are really exciting and impressive
+ RoboCop's method of transportation. Never has a hero looked as utterly cool on a motorbike than this. No, not even Arnie in Terminator 2: Judgement Day [1991] or Batman on his Batpod.
+ Scenes during the night are beautiful to look at.... the RoboCop suit and motorbike are simply gorgeous in this environment
+ The scene of stripping-down the RoboCop suit. A genuine "Whoa" moment.
+ Pat Novak (played by Samuel L. Jackson) swearing and getting all angry. This is a thumbs up because.... its Samuel L. Jackson doing the swearing and getting angry!!


Thumbs Down:
- The first half of the movie is pretty lethargic. It takes around an hour or so to finally arrive at some real fun
- Despite the movie trying to ground the story in human elements, it still feels emotionally detached
- A real strong point of the movie, its action, weren't sufficient in terms of screen time
- They weren't bad, but I still preferred how the suit (except during nighttime... see Thumbs Up above) and the ED-209 drones looked in the original movie
- The film could have benefited from a little comic relief


The Verdict Is In:
Let's be honest here, remakes of classic movies rarely goes well. And for the first hour or so of this updated RoboCop version seemed to go down the same path too. This period was used to establish the background story and give it an emotional core. But despite the human elements to it, the film still felt a little detached (there were some tiny pay-offs late into the movie), and ultimately made this first period somewhat lethargic. But when RoboCop went fully functional, we were treated to some real cool action scenes. The film started to gather momentum starting from that point on but I believe still needed a few more action scenes to make up for its earlier half. In the end, this is an OK effort and if a new generation of film lovers enjoyed this, they might finally go check out the original afterwards!
Rating:
6.5 out of 10


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