Friday, July 1, 2016

LEGEND OF TARZAN Swings Solidly to ☆☆☆1/2 out of ☆☆☆☆☆

Entertainment

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN
☆1/2 out of 

For those who don't know, I am a lifelong fan of the Tarzan character.  In fact, I am drawn to all the mythical "feral man" archetypes including Tarzan, Ka-Zar, Mowgli, and others.  The thing about Tarzan is that much like the Frankenstein Monster and Dracula, most people have a rather simplistic and distorted view of the character influenced by film and tv bastardizations that bear very little similarity in depth with the original literary version.  Perhaps we might call the novel version the "prime" version?


I also have to add that other than the 80s film GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES starring future Highlander, Christopher Lambert, pretty much every Tarzan movie is close to unwatchable after the age of 8.  The primary reason for it, in my opinion, is that the filmmakers usually have no desire to translate the character from the novels to the big screen -- they want to just churn out some cheap jungle action with a stuntman running around in a loin cloth, or in John Derek's TARZAN, THE APE MAN, make some jungle-based soft porn starring your wife.

So, does THE LEGEND OF TARZAN break the mold and give us a Tarzan for our times?  For the most part, the answer is yes.  It's not a perfect film, but it is a good movie and it is entertaining throughout (altho a couple of slow spots in the middle).  The best thing about the movie is Alexander Skarsgård who absolutely nails the role of Tarzan/John Clayton every moment he's on screen (minus the forced hug at the end).  He's giving it his all internalizing the beast within as a John Clayton who has turned his back on the jungle to assume his role as England's Earl of Greystoke.  The motivation for he and his wife, Jane, staking out a new life in England is John's grief over the loss of their child.  It's a solid motivation and the stoic Lord Greystoke can't help but show his pain through his eyes.  Skarsgård gets it.  He is physically everything the Tarzan of the novels describes tall and athletic.  He is brooding but charismatic; cunning and clever; driven and intense; and always in conflict between his human nature and ape nurture.

This film, for the first time (at least that I can recall) makes the effort to bring out from the novels the fact that the apes that raised Tarzan are not normal apes.  They are the Mangani.  They are much more intelligent, organized, and violent than normal gorillas.  This film incorporates the famous jewels of the hidden ancient city of Opar.  (I'm told that this was mentioned in that awful Caspar Van Diem TARZAN movie from the '90s, but I've apparently blocked out those details.)  I thoroughly enjoyed the backstory flashbacks giving Tarzan's origin story and establishing the conflict with his ape father but also the camaraderie between Tarzan and his ape brother -- whose signal of brotherly affection is a slight bump with the back of his hand, which is used effectively for both humor and drama.

Really I cannot find anything to criticize about Skarsgård's performance.  I know I came away from this film very glad that he did not get cast as Thor because it very likely would've prevented him from taking on this role as a 19th century super-hero. Lord Greystoke is a man of few words but all of his actions have impact and meaning, even if it is just a nod of his head or a bend of a finger. So, what the filmmakers have done is surround him with people who talk....a lot.  The exposition and dialogue that the lead character might usually be informing the audience with is put into the mouths of those surrounding him.  His wife, the American Jane Porter, is played by Margot Robbie and she has quite the mouth on her.  She's feisty and sassy but also compassionate and strong. She was so strong that it actually bothered me that she was forced into the damsel in distress role for nearly the entire film.  I would've liked to have seen her partnering with Tarzan more equally.  The character, George Washington Williams, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is based on a real person but is saddled with a motormouth of bad dialogue.  As I mentioned, I understand the need for someone to drive the story's dialogue since Tarzan is mostly silent, but man...I wish they could've written it stronger.  His manner of speaking was anachronistic and more of the modern annoying American tourist type of dialogue.  Christoph Walz was...well...the same bad guy he's been for the last 25 movies he's been in.  I love the guy, but I want the casting directors to start challenging him with something more different than whether his character has facial hair or not.

The storyline is also a bit preachy and involves a slavery  storyline as well as ripping a little from the real world with King Leopold of Belgium attempting to win a real-life game of RISK over possession of the African Congo.  It really does turn into a super-hero movie by the huge climax where Tarzan is basically Land-Aquaman but I loved it. It was a silly romp and very satisfying.  I definitely hope it does a brisk business this weekend because I'd love to see Skarsgård's Tarzan in another adventure.

#legendoftarzan

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SUPERMAN . . . MEET SUPERMAN . . . MEET SUPERMAN

Entertainment


The return of the "classic" Superman to the DC Comics Universe inspired this cartoon highlighting just some of the myriad of variations of Superman that have appeared in DC Comics over the years. There are plenty more, especially if I start opening up the "Elseworlds" and "Imaginary Tales" versions.

For those who may not be able to identify all of them, here's some info about each character starting at the top going left to right.

1.  "CLASSIC" SUPERMAN.  This is the one most people associate with the character.  Lantern-jawed caucasian with thick eyebrows, a spit-curl, and a low-necked costume with a cape.

2. "SUPER-LEX" SUPERMAN.  This version is currently appearing in DC Comics and is following the *spoiler* death of the Nu52 version of Superman.  Lex Luthor now wears super-powered armor and has set himself up as the replacement Superman for Earth in the aftermath of hero's death. Needless to say, the return of "Classic" Superman has upset Lex's plans.

3.  "NEW SUPER-MAN" SUPERMAN.  As far as I know, this version has not officially appeared in print yet, but this Chinese Super-Man is soon to premiere in his own series.

4. "NEW 52" SUPERMAN. The younger Superman of the New 52 era marked by the high collar, overly detailed costume, and the loss of the red trunks over tights look the character has had since the beginning.

5. "MULTIVERSITY" SUPERMAN.  This Superman of "Earth 23" is also the President of the United States.

6.  "EARTH 2" SUPERMAN. In the New 52 version of "Earth 2" this is the second person to be called Superman.

7.  "SUPERMAN PRIME" SUPERMAN.  I'm convinced the entire purpose of the DC event known as Infinite Crisis was done primarily to destroy the character of Superboy as a big eff-yoo to the family of Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Superman) who had recently won a huge ruling in the courts granting back to the Siegels the rights to the character of "Superboy"—a decision since reversed.  So, in Infinite Crisis, the character of "Superboy Prime" (introduced during the original 1985 Crisis on Infinite Earths as the Superboy of our Earth -- known as "Earth Prime"—was revealed to have gone psychotic and tried to destroy the entire Multiverse.  And since at that time DC was enjoined from using "Superboy," the character called himself "Superman Prime."

8.  "SUPERBOY" SUPERMAN. After the Death of Superman in the early 90s, there was a storyline called "Reign of the Supermen" where 4 new characters were introduced -- each calling himself "Superman."  One of them was this new Superboy character who was a clone from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor.

9.  "STEEL" SUPERMAN.  In the "Reign of the Supermen," John Henry Irons fashioned himself a super-armored suit and called himself Superman for awhile. After the real Superman returned he called himself "Steel."

10.  "CYBORG" SUPERMAN.  In the "Reign of the Supermen," Hank Henshaw (DC's evil pastiche of Marvel's Reed Richards) used his super-brain to take possession of a cyborg body and pretended to be Superman.

11.  "ERADICATOR" SUPERMAN.  In the "Reign of the Supermen," a sentient Kryptonian weapon known as the Eradicator took on the human-like form of Superman in the interim between the Death and Resurrection of Superman.

12.  "MESSIANIC MULLET" SUPERMAN. When Superman was eventually resurrected he somehow gained what I call his "Messianic Mullet" that stuck around way longer than it should have and resulting in the very embarrassing period in which Clark Kent wore a pony tail.

13.  "ELECTRIC BLUE" SUPERMAN.  In one of the worst ideas of the '90s, DC decided to give Superman all-new electricity powers and an all-new costume to go with it.  Like the messianic mullet, this too went on way longer than it should have.

14.  "TANGENT" SUPERMAN. DC let Superman artist Dan Jurgens go on a "tangent" and create a new universe of his own imagining using the familiar character names from the DC Universe and nothing else.  This is the Superman of the Tangent Universe.

15.  "JUST IMAGINE" SUPERMAN.  DC also approached Stan Lee to do the same thing and try to re-imagine the DC Universe if the only things he had were the names.  This is a series of comics that turned out way better than you might expect.  This version of an alien policeman called Superman is a co-creation of Stan Lee and John Buscema.

16.  SUPERSQUIRREL?  Yes. Supersquirrel.  The Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew stories take place on "Earth C" but most readers do not know that there is also an "Earth C-minus" where the JLA (Just'a Lotta Animals) exists.  And on that Earth, there are funny animal versions of the entire JLA (Batmouse, Wonder Wabbit, Green Sparrow, etc.) and their pantheon of villains.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

MOVIE-POCALYPSE NOW: 2015 BEST AND WORST IN FILM

Entertainment

Increasingly dissatisfied with the self-indulgent Academy Awards and the endless knock-offs like the Golden Globes, MOVIE-POCALYPSE NOW is recognizing and awarding its own new self-indulgent award for excellence, or lack thereof, in film entertainment.  The only qualification for consideration is that it is a film that was released between January 1—December 31, 2015.  The categories are arbitrary, exhaustive, and subject to my own sense of whimsy.  Most categories I chose to count down from 5 to 1 with 1 being the best.  Often the degree of separation between any of them was almost imperceptible.  A handful of categories I was unable to come up with 5 and a couple have as many as 10 to mention.

So, without further ado, let me welcome you to the first-ever APOCALYPSOS!

BEST FILM NOBODY ELSE SAW
All movie buffs know that every year there are movies we see that we love but it seems like nobody else saw them–and often are completely unaware of their existence.  This is an opportunity for me highlight five such movies.

5. THE INTER
A smart, funny, and touching story about a retired widower (Robert DeNiro) who becomes an intern for a young online business mogul (Anne Hathaway).
4. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
As far as I'm concerned this stylish and funny spy flick was about as flawless of a television series adaptation as I've ever seen.
3. DANNY COLLINS
Al Pacino starred in this film about an aging pop singer who attempts to recapture the authenticity he gave up as a young man in pursuit of fame.  Surprisingly heartwarming and not unintentionally cheesy at all.
2. INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
Mark Ruffalo gave an amazing performance in this story about a bi-polar father in the less-enlightened 1970s doing his best to raise his children right.
1. LOVE, THE COOPERS
A series of Christmas vignettes that synch up together to present  an exceptionally well-done and touching story about family dynamics.

BEST FILM
Taking into account the writing, directing, acting, and overall storytelling approach and style, I think these five rise to the top for me for 2015.

5. EX MACHINA
Chilling exploration of what it means to be human but also what it means to be a sociopath.
4. BRIDGE OF SPIES
Spielberg does not really know how to make bad movies, but even by Spielberg standards this is an exceptional Cold War story with strong thematic relevance to today.
3. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
Another Tarantino masterpiece of film-making.  Over 3 hours long and riveting from the opening shot to the final.
2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
I was so surprised by how good this one was. This was a truly unique film experience like I've never had before.
1. STEVE JOBS
Brilliant film biography.  A masterpiece of character study in three acts.


BEST DIRECTOR

5. Bill Pohlad (LOVE AND MERCY)
The director flourishes and choices in structuring this unusual and compelling biography of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson stands out from nearly all other directing jobs of 2015.
4. Steven Spielberg (BRIDGE OF SPIES)
Spielberg's visual style has become so well-known that I think people have begun to forget how good he is.Under a different director, this movie could have been excruciatingly dull but instead it was riveting.
3. Quentin Tarantino (THE HATEFUL EIGHT)
The visual texturing in this film is unparalleled and Tarantino once again proves his mastery of the long take and symphonic character dialogue.
2. Danny Boyle (STEVE JOBS)
Brilliant and original approach to biography was visually exhilarating.
1. George Miller (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD)
A master class on visual storytelling by George Miller.


BEST WRITING

5. INSIDE OUT
It may be an animated film, but the writing was particularly brilliant.
4. MR. HOLMES
3. EX MACHINA
2. INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
1. THE BIG SHORT
Taking the subprime mortgage debacle of 2007-2008 and making it comprehensible and entertaining requires this win for Best Writing.


BEST ACTING

5. Ian McKellan (MR. HOLMES)
McKellan gives a charming and touching performance as an aged Sherlock Holmes battling the onset of dementia.
4. Mark Ruffalo (INFINITELY POLAR BEAR)
Heartbreaking and heartwarming performance—sometimes simultaneously.
3. Paul Dano (LOVE AND MERCY)
An externalized performance of a man living inside his own head.  As the younger Brian Williams (John Cusak plays the older) Dano sympathetically plays our emotions as Williams battles his own.
2. Michael Fassbender (STEVE JOBS)
Fassbender charismatically captures the viewers' attention and never lets us look away.
1. Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES)
Rylance gives the most incredible under-performance of the year as the self-controlled and quietly bemused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel.


BEST ACTING IN AN OTHERWISE AWFUL MOVIE
Nobody tries to make a bad movie, but bad movies get made anyway.  However, sometimes even within the worst of movies there are actors who act the shit out of their role.  In fact, they often feel as if they are in a completely different movie because they are acting on a completely separate plane from the other actors.  Here are two standouts from 2015:

2. Hugh Jackman (PAN)
In what is arguably one of the worst films of the year, Jackman stood out from the crap surrounding him to deliver a ridiculously nuanced performance that could have easily become over-the-top but never did. 
1. Cate Blanchett (TRUTH)
Portraying Mary Mapes, who appears to me to be a dishonest and wretched person in real life, Blanchett gave a powerfully effective and emotional performance in this misguided attempt to rewrite history in Mapes' favor.


BEST ANIMATED

4. THE PEANUTS MOVIE
I wasn't expecting to like this one as much as I did.  But it perfectly captured the spirit and tone of Peanuts and without any cynicism.
3. SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE
I didn't have a clue what this was going in and was pleasantly surprised.  The fact that they could have me laughing out loud at this cartoon, with no dialogue, about a sheep taking a trip to the city, is a testament to how good it is.
2. HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2
Genndy Tartakovsky directed this brilliantly funny film with magnificent character designs—particularly Grampa Drac voiced by Mel Brooks.
1. INSIDE OUT
One of the smartest movies of the year.


BIGGEST SURPRISE
Every year there are movies that surprise me.  Sometimes it's simply because I went in completely unaware. Sometimes it's because I had lowered expectations.  Whatever the reason, these are the 5 biggest surprises of 2015:

5. MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS
I watched the first MAZE RUNNER movie and it was okay, but mostly forgettable.  So, I was not particularly looking forward to the sequel.  But surprise!  This one was fun, exciting, and unpredictable.  Loved it.
4. PAWN SACRIFICE
A movie about chess that is riveting from start to finish? Color me surprised.
3. CINDERELLA
Disney is cynically recycling their old classic animated movies by remaking them into live-action films.  Last year's MALEFICENT was disappointing but this one was exceptionally well-done.
2. THE GIFT
I had no idea what this was about and was shocked by this tense and disturbing film.
1. ANT-MAN
It's a Marvel super-hero movie, so I knew it would be good.  But if someone had tried to convince me that it would be the single best super-hero movie of the year, I would've said they were crazy.  But this is the single best super-hero movie of the year—even better than AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON.


BEST MOVIES THAT I DID NOT SEE
Every year there are movies that I did not get around to watching or chose not to see, for a variety of reasons.

5. THE REVENANT
I know it's supposed to be amazing. I cannot muster any interest.
4. MOCKINGJAY PART 2
Something keeps happening that keeps me from making the effort to see this one, which is weird considering how much I have enjoyed the HUNGER GAMES movies and the books.  Perhaps the depressing ending that I know is coming is preventing me from seeing the movie.
3. TRUMBO
I really want to see this one but it has only been at the art cinema that requires a bit of a drive to get to.  During the holiday season, this has just been too difficult to get to.  I wish it had been in wider release.
2. BEASTS OF NO NATION
I hear nothing but good stuff about this one, but I confess that the topic makes me a bit queasy and I have not been able to muster up the motivation to subject myself to it.
1. AMY
Came and went too fast from the art cinema.


MOST SHOCKING

THE OVERNIGHT
The sight of nude Jason Schwartzman, with a prosthetic giant penis, and Adam Scott, with a prosthetic micro-penis, dancing poolside is only one of many reasons this movie shocked the hell out of me.

FUNNIEST MOVIE (INTENTIONALLY)
Comedies that try to be funny and actually succeed are rare these days.

5. DADDY'S HOME
This should have been too stupid to be funny but instead it has real heart and legitimately had me laughing out loud.
4. WEDDING RINGER
This one also should have been too stupid to be funny but the comedy chemistry between Kevin Hart  and Josh Gad was strong enough to overcome the stupid.
3. PITCH PERFECT 2
When I went to see the worst film of the year, I walked out of it halfway through and heard this one starting in the theater directly across.  So I just slipped in and found myself laughing....a lot. Really funny and the music was great too.
2. SPY
Hilarious and smart funny.
1. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
Mostly improvised mockumentary about vampire flatmates in New Zealand.  Funniest movie of the year.


FUNNIEST MOVIE (UNINTENTIONALLY)
Movies that try to be serious but are so absurd that they become a comedy are always a cinematic treat.

2. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
I was literally laughing out loud during this, supposedly, sex-based drama.
1. TRUTH
This overly earnest pile of bullshit attempting to retroactively salvage the reputations and careers of Mary Mapes and Dan Rather was not only hilarious but had me openly talking back to the screen incredulously in the thankfully empty theater.



LEAST FUNNY COMEDY
Some movies try so hard to be funny but still no laughs are to be had.

5. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE 2
The movie so unfunny that the star of the original wouldn't even appear in it.
4. TED 2
Sometimes funny ideas are only funny enough for one movie.
3. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Ugh. Vince Vaughn.  What happened to you?
2. PIXELS
Adam Sandler's spectacularly bad attempt at remaking GHOSTBUSTERS.
1. ENTOURAGE
So unfunny I walked out halfway through.
Lord, let's hope the ride is finally over.
CREDIT FOR TRYING
MAGGIE
Schwarzenegger works really hard to do some acting in this film about a father whose daughter is becoming a zombie. 


FUN BUT FORGETTABLE
 These movies don't have to be particularly well-done or even good.  They just need to be something that was fun while watching them but disappear from my mind almost immediately afterward and don't really have any inclination to ever watch again.

5. VACATION
4. KRAMPUS
3. RICKI AND THE FLASH
2. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE–ROGUE NATION
1. GOOSEBUMPS



MOST MEH
These movies are actually well-done films but for whatever inexplicable reason they just don't have that resonance or impact that I think the filmmakers were trying for and they ultimately just get lost in the mass of movies.

5. A WALK IN THE WOODS
4. WOMAN IN GOLD
3. JOY
2. AGE OF ADALINE
1. FOCUS


LAMEST MOVIE
These are movies that had everything going for them in terms of budget and talent to deliver something good but didn't even have the ability to drop a giant turd onto movie screens.  Instead, we just get something depressingly lame that makes us all sad that we experienced it.

10. THE NIGHT BEFORE
9. OLD FASHIONED
8. ALOHA
7. THE DUFF
6. VACATION
5. PROJECT ALMANAC
4. SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER
3. UNFINISHED BUSINESS
2. BURNT
1. MORTDECAI


STUPIDEST MOVIE
You know those occasional movies that entertain the hell out of you but are so unbelievably stupid that you walk out of the theater having lost anywhere from 1 to 10 points off your IQ?  If you watched these three movies in 2015, you are stupider than you were in 2014 because of it.  Perhaps a class-action suit could be filed against Hollywood? And yes, The Rock is in two of them.  I don't know what that means but it must mean something.

3. SAN ANDREAS
I. Just. Can. Not. Even.
2. TERMINATOR GENYSIS
WTF?
1. FURIOUS 7
Everything about this movie rocked my world, and I have the brain leakage to prove it.


BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a movie is to have high audience expectations.  Occasionally a movie exceeds those high expectations (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, I am looking at you).  More often, the movie fails to meet those expectations and sometimes shockingly so.

2. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
Unfortunately, the "too many cooks in the kitchen" disease appeared to prevent this sequel from achieving the expected heights of awesomeness.  However, while it was a big disappointment, it was still a decent movie.
1. TOMORROWLAND
This movie had everything going for it.  Ridiculously huge budget.  Cool concept.  Brilliant visual design and f/x. George Clooney as star. Brad Bird as director.  And yet, in every conceivable way in terms of story and storytelling it failed and failed and failed.  


MOST SELF-INDULGENT
There are few things I hate worse in movies than when it comes off like a piece of self-indulgence by the filmmakers.  In that, I mean something that just smacks of the filmmakers masturbating themselves on screen creatively rather than serving the audience.  Sometimes it can still be entertaining, but more often it makes the movie-going experience excruciating.

3. CRIMSON PEAK
I did enjoy this one, but I was constantly aware of everything about it being driven not by story but by Guillermo del Toro's own personal directorial fetishes.
2. BURNT
I'm not quite sure why Hollywood filmmakers have such a love affair with the absurdly over-wrought and narcissistic world of fine cuisine but they can stop anytime now.
1. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN
What a stupid and insipid excuse for a movie that makes no sense, but acts as if it is brilliant, as it tries to twist the Frankenstein story around in what is essentially a vehicle for scenery-chewing James McAvoy to overact to the point of distraction.

MOST UNDERRATED
Movies that should be getting more attention and viewers than they did.

5. BRIDGE OF SPIES
4. FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
3. THE INTERN
2. MR. HOLMES
1. STEVE JOBS


MOST OVERRATED
These are movies that the critics go crazy for that don't really deserve it.  That is not to say they are bad movies.  These are good movies; solidly well-made movies.  They are not, however, exceptional.

3. THE MARTIAN
Beautiful, fun, interesting, and mostly well-done with a few odd little flaws and plot holes that keep it from achieving excellence all around.
2. BROOKLYN
Good and engaging little historical love story but I cannot figure out at all what is so good about it to deserve the accolades and attention.
1. SPOTLIGHT
Well-done movie about the Boston Globe's investigation and expose' of the Catholic cover-up of priests sexually abusing children.  The subject matter is the only reason I can think of for why the critics keep zeroing in on this one as best of 2015.  There is nothing about the directing, writing, or acting that is anything other than journeyman film-making.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but it is not exceptional.  It is just a solid, respectable work of film-making.



WORST MOVIE THAT I ACTUALLY WATCHED
Most of the time when I see an awful movie, I kind of know going into it that it's going to be pretty bad.  I may hope to be surprised, but I rarely am.  Occasionally, however, even a bad movie can surpass my expectations to be worse than I thought it could be.

5. PAN
Convoluted mess.
4. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN
Nothing in this film is good.
3. JUPITER ASCENDING
Excellent F/X but just dumb as can be.
2. FANTASTIC FOUR
Indescribably awful.
1. ENTOURAGE
Unbearable to the point that I actually walked out of it halfway through.


WORST THAT I DID NOT SEE
Sometimes movies are so obviously excruciatingly awful that even I, who enjoys bad movies sometimes, cannot make myself go see them.

5. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE ROAD CHIP
Just the trailer actually made me yell "NOOOOO" in a crowded theater.
4. HOT PURSUIT
3. MAGIC MIKE XXL
Clearly done for the money only as the original MAGIC MIKE ended in such a way that if Mike ever got back onstage it would be such a pathetically contrary choice that it would completely undercut the entire point of Soderbergh's original, and darkly compelling film.
2. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
After the experience of the FANTASTIC FOUR, there was no way I could sit down for another cartoon to movie abortion onscreen.
1. CHAPPIE


WORST DIRECTOR

4. Sam Taylor-Johnson (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY)
3. Joe Wright (PAN)
2. Paul McGuigan (VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN)
1. Josh Trank (FANTASTIC FOUR)



WORST ACTOR

5. Jamie Dornan (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY)
Smirking and showing your nipples is not acting.
4. Mila Kunis (JUPITER ASCENDING)
Can she actually act?  
3. Garrett Hedlund (PAN)
Really, he has to be seen to be believed.
2. James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliff (VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN)
I couldn't decide between the two, but trust me, they are both examples of the worst over-acting of the year.
1. Eddie Redmayne (JUPITER ASCENDING)
Yes.  Our 2014 Academy Award winning actor gave the 2015's worst performance as he sleepwalked and mumbled his way through this mess of a movie.  Huzzah!
zzzzzzzzzzzzz....












WORST WRITING

5. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
If the book writing is actually worse than the film adaptation then there really is no hope for this world.
4. TERMINATOR GENYSIS
Just no.
3. PAN
I defy anyone to explain what just happened.
2. VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN
Someone needed to take a red pen to this script early on and remove every stupid idea trying to masquerade as clever.  The move would've only been two minutes long though.
1. JUPITER ASCENDING
Believing you are writing something profound when it is actually mindless derivative drivel is the height of bad writing.


WORST ANIMATED

2. MINIONS
The movie that made me lose my affection for the minions.  A perfect example of too much of a good thing.
1. THE GOOD DINOSAUR
A colossal failure by Pixar.  Everything from concept to character design to final execution stunk.  The actual technical aspect of the animation was still exceptional. I guess it was inevitable but I wish I had not lived to see it happen. The opening short film was good.


HORRIBLE MOVIE TRAILERS THAT MADE ME WANT TO SET MY HAIR ON FIRE
The modern day movie trailers are mostly awful all around.  Hollywood trailer-making has forgotten the art of the tease, for the most part.  As soon as a trailer starts telling me the entire story then I lose my interest in ever seeing the movie because...what's the point?  There's also these repetitive patterns in which they cut certain trailers to stall out on a joke and eventually after the umpteenth time of seeing that trailer you start to dread the joke and then to hate the joke and then to hate the unseen movie.  And then there are trailers that you can just tell are trying to take a bad movie and make it look better than it is.  Those just irritate the hell out of me.  The worst are those that give away major plot points or jokes.  An example of that last year would be A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST where, literally, every single funny joke was shown in the trailer. Every. Damn. One.

10. TERMINATOR GENISYS
YOU FREAKING GAVE AWAY THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PLOT SURPRISE IN THE DAMNED TRAILER!!!!!!!!!
9. PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2
Speechless.
8. THE LONGEST RIDE
Nicholas Sparks makes me vomit.
7. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS; THE ROAD CHIP


6. DO YOU BELIEVE?
Ted McGinley. 'Nuff said.
5. IN THE HEART OF THE SEA
You can try so hard to make me think this story is important and profound but all I'm thinking is....no it isn't.
4. CHAPPIE
I only felt angry and violated every time I was forced to sit through the garbage trailer for this piece of shit movie.
3. WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS
When you watch a trailer for the first time and it makes you hate the movie.
2. PAPER TOWNS
Too much in the trailer. Plus, its own sense of self-profundity was seeping out of every frame.
1. THE SECOND BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
If I ever hear Dame Maggie say that stupid joke about the life-span of a wasp again, I will spontaneously combust, I swear!


MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2015
This is just a list of my favorite movies of the year.  This is not about what was the best or the worst, but simply movies I loved for reasons all my own.  I would, and will, watch these again at some point and recommend them.

In alphabetical order:
ANT-MAN, CREED, DANNY COLLINS, EX MACHINA, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2, INSIDE OUT, JURASSIC WORLD, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, LOVE AND MERCY, LOVE THE COOPERS, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., MR. HOLMES, SICARIO, SPECTRE, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, STEVE JOBS, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON

And that's your first official APOCALYPSO Awards.  I hope to see you back here in 2017 when I look back at the movies of 2016.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

THE FORCE AWAKENS TO A VERY DIFFERENT WORLD THAN THE STAR WARS OF 1977

Entertainment


THE FORCE AWAKENS finally late Thursday night, December 17, 2015 and the Disney era of the STAR WARS phenomenon officially begins.  I find it so fascinating in my late 40s to watch the clamor build toward this film premiere because I have strong memories of the original and all that followed.  My interest lays equally in my desire to see where the story goes and my rubber-necking the global crowd chorus surrounding this monumental debut.

In law school we were taught that it was axiomatic that eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence.  Why is that?  Our memories are fickle and easily malleable and, thus, highly inaccurate without other objective evidence to support it.  An example relating to my point might be the nice gentleman who worked the check-out counter at a local Taco Bell just two days ago.  He noticed my son’s STAR WARS t-shirt and this triggered him to start up a conversation with me about the “new” STAR WARS movie coming out this week.  And while I talked to him he regaled me with his memories of people camped out at the theater waiting to buy their tickets back in 1977.  I was polite and just laughed about it with him but inside I was thinking back on that original opening weekend and, while I can’t say with absolute assuredness that he did not experience that, I strongly suspect he is conflating memories of the craziness surrounding the prequels with his memories of the original trilogy.  Even in 1977 terms, an opening weekend of $1.5 million, which was good, was not the sort of opening gross that supports the notion that people were camping out en masse for a movie that (1) they had little prior knowledge, and (2) was not even conceived of as a franchise or larger universe yet.  I mention this because the phenomenon that STAR WARS has become is widely based not on the films or the characters themselves but rather the “feelings” we associate with them.  STAR WARS is a phenomenon mostly because we associate, and recapture just a smidgeon of, a moment from our childhood where anything was possible and life was without the crushing weight of adult responsibility.  The fairy tale of our childhood nostalgia becomes connected to this fairy tale set in outer space and how it captured our collective imaginations and held onto it.  And like all fairy tales, they evolve and sometimes lose touch with the original version over time in the retelling.

There are plenty of resources out there that can recount in minute detail every step of the production of the original STAR WARS and the succeeding films, cartoons, novels, and…yes, one stupefyingly horrible television holiday special.  I want to focus specifically on my memories, as best and as accurately as I can be at this point, of the original STAR WARS.  I will leave it to others to discuss the colossal impact of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and how that last-minute second-draft exclusion of Luke’s father and inclusion of a new revelation about his father is the “Big Bang” moment where the phenomenon of the STAR WARS universe actually began.  I want to focus on this stand-alone movie that cookbooked itself along the structural path of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” monomyth and was a nostalgic attempt itself by George Lucas to capture the feelings he had as a child watching FLASH GORDON serials at the movie theater.  He wanted to reproduce that feeling for modern children.  It was also his attempt at upgrading science-fiction adventure film effects to a degree never seen before.  And maybe more than anything else, Lucas recognized the importance of sound in the experience than anyone before him.  Those of us who do have visceral memories of sitting down to see STAR WARS in the theater for the very first time will understand.  From the bombastic John Williams score to the rumble of a seemingly endless giant space ship coming into view for the first time to Darth Vader’s wheezing and threatening voice to the hum of the light sabers and the “pew-pew” of the laser blasters (something that has now replaced “bang-bang” in the childhood playground lexicon).  Lucas created more than just a movie, he created an experience—and with EMPIRE he gave birth to a phenomenon that has grown to maturity and moved on without him.  And by all accounts—if the current 9.5 out of 10 rating on IMDB is any indication—has surpassed him with the advent of THE FORCE AWAKENS.








Saturday, October 3, 2015

TYPOLOGY COMICS PRESENTS: ESTP AND INFP COMICS

Entertainment
Recently Stephen Colbert featured the MBTI Personality Assessment on his new Late Show.  It triggered in me an idea to do a series of MBTI-oriented comic book cover parodies and this is my first foray into this series of Photoshop wonders:  THE ESTP AND THE INFP, which is perfectly encapsulated in Steve Ditko's super-hero brothers The Hawk (ESTP) and the Dove (INFP).  Enjoy.


Friday, August 14, 2015

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. IS STYLISH & NEARLY FLAWLESS ★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Entertainment
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
★★★★ out of ★★★★★

Official Synopsis:  In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Guy Ritchie (screenplay), Lionel Wigram (screenplay)
Stars: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. film adaptation of the 1960's television spy series is pretty much a filmmaking class on how to properly do films based on old television series.  Director Guy Ritchie brings exciting stylized visuals and action sequences on a modern wide-screen scale.  Set in the early years of the Cold War (the early 1960s) the plot is a wry convolution of spy vs spy vs spy as the mysterious and deadly Soviet spy Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) is paired up with unflappable American rival Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) to stop a nuclear bomb from getting in the wrong hands.  The film sweeps in and out of tense action sequences, beautiful locations, explosions, and more plot-twisting and plot-turning than your average summer movie.  The film also delivers legitimately funny moments throughout which lends an air of fun to the proceedings without ever diving into jokes and gags.

Cavill's suave, dry Solo is charming and brilliant.  Hammer's Kuryakin is equally brilliant but has protective stoic walls in place as high and as girded as the Berlin Wall itself.  Their chemistry onscreen as partners and rivals perfectly translates the chemistry of the characters (and actors) from the television series without doing impressions.  The smartest thing to do in an adaptation like this is to give a modern flair to the storytelling but stay true to the characters, even if you add some new bits to their backgrounds, which they do in this "origin" story.   What Ritchie gets so right is that the point of adapting a beloved old television series (or even a comic book like THE FANTASTIC FOUR) is not to go meta on it or give it a new "twist" or try to darken it up or lighten it up.  There is a reason why characters stay in the public consciousness and that is because the public likes them and is interested in them.  When adapting them into a film, then the audience should expect the characters to at least "feel" right.   In THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., Ritchie has distilled the essence of the show's tone and what makes these characters connect with the audience.

As far as I'm concerned this was about as flawless of a television series adaptation as I've ever seen. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. is my favorite movie of the summer hands down!  Cannot wait to go see it again.

*Not that it really matters in the scheme of things, but I did not notice a single instance of swearing or even coarse language throughout the entire movie.  For those parents who are concerned about that sort of thing, this is a pretty clean movie for a spy movie with a little implied sex and some well-done torture and kill moments.

#manfromuncle