The Dark Knight Rises, and Blows You Away

This may be the film that kicks off The Avengers from the all time box-office winner for 2012.  The movie is called The Dark Knight Rises, but loyal fans will refer to the film as Batman and they know that this dark knight has all the power to rise above any comic book hero the industry can throw at him. For me, I’m just one of the crew, a follower hooked since Batman BeginsRead more

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, A Kid Flick

This action adventure aims for the 9 to 12 age group and nails it on the head.  Fueled with wondrous scenes of a quest filled journey and combined with a LOT of 3D special effects, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island should do okay at the box-office. Having Josh Hutcherson and Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t hurt either, as they are both very popular with the Tweens and Teens.

Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) has not yet recovered from his last trip to the center of the Earth and the many disasters that confronted him. One day he gets an encrypted message from this grandfather Alexander (Michael Caine), a famous explorer who went missing some time ago.  Never loosing faith that his grandfather is alive, the note has peaked his interest in finding him.  With the help of his new father Hank (Dwayne Johnson) and armed with a map with special coordinates they fly to the South Pacific.  There they meet up with a guide Gabato (Luis Guzmán) and his pretty yet uncompromising daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) who agree to take them to the mysterious island. Read more

THE SCORPION KING 3, ON DVD AND BLU-RAY

 

Not the best of the three in the series, but still entertaining for those who like fantasy adventure films. The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, the third in the series that started with The Scorpion King (2002) seems to have hit the budget crunch with the lack of good CGI, low-grade special effects, a novice director and inferior make-up.  Although it has other downfalls, the movie should screen well with male teens.

 

Since his rise to power as the Scorpion King, Mathayus’ (Victor Webster) kingdom has fallen. Now an assassin for hire, he must defend a kingdom from an evil tyrant and his ghost warriors for the chance to regain the power and glory he once knew. His wife recently buried, Mathayus joins with Olaf (Bostin Christopher) and Silda (Krystal Vee) on a dangerous trek to wipe out Talus (Billy Zane). Along the way they fight Ninja’s, Talus’s army, elephants and other obstacles. Just when they think they have declared victory, Talus brings two vicious assassins, Zulu Kondo (Kevin ‘Kimbo Slice’ Ferguson) and Tsukai (Selina Lo), to life.

 

Watching the WWE & UFC stars David Bautista and Slice in their fight routines provides some teen fun. Billy Zane as the pompous King Talus however, gets a little over the top and his character becomes more comical than it should have been. The film also features an appearance by Ron Perlman as the wicked Horus the powerful King of Egypt.  

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIaXKP8yTFg[/youtube]

I did like the aerial stunts that were performed during the Ninja battle, the attack with the eight elephants, and the choreography of the final fight in the film.  I am not fond of the direction by novice Roel Reine who seems to let the plot get away from him at times and the actors looked like they were ‘reading’ their lines direct from the script in some scenes.

 

The bonus features are good.  The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes:

Digital Copy of The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption
Deleted Shots Montage
Gag Reel
Swords and Scorpions: A Making Of
Preparing for Battle- With black belt champion Victor Webster
Feature Commentary with Director Roel Reine

 

In addition to the regular bonuses the Blu-ray Combo pack exclusive BONUS FEATURES provide access to:

BD-LIVE™: Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to watch the latest trailers and more!

pocket BLU™ app:   The groundbreaking pocket BLU™ app uses iPad®, iPhone®, iPod® touch,  Android™, PC and Mac®  to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray™ player. Plus iPad® and Android™ tablet owners can enjoy a new, enhanced edition of pocket BLU™ made especially to take advantage of the tablets’ larger screen and high resolution display.  Consumers will be able to browse through a library of Blu-ray™ content and watch entertaining extras on the go in a way that’s bigger and better than ever before.  pocket BLU™ offers advanced features such as:

ADVANCED REMOTE CONTROL:  A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease. 

VIDEO TIMELINE:  Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film. 

MOBILE-TO-GO:  Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.

BROWSE TITLES:  Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU™-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray™ Hi-Def.  They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.

KEYBOARD:  Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard.

DIGITAL COPY:  In addition to redeeming a Digital Copy of the movie through the pocket BLU™ app, Viewers can also download a digital version of the full-length movie from participating digital retailers to enjoy on a choice of popular electronic and portable devices.

 

The Blu-ray Combo pack specifications:

Layers: Duel, BD-50

Number of Discs: 2
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 1.78:1
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action and sexual and crude references
Languages/Subtitles: English/Spanish Subtitles/French Subtitles
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
Run Time: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

Release Date: DVD on January 10, 2012. Blu-ray Combo Pack on January 17, 2012

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: Only average and not the best of The Scorpion King series. Movie (D) Bonus Featurs (B) total experience (C )

 

 

WAR HORSE, Emotional War Tale

 

Steven Spielberg adds another holiday film to the mix, but this one tends to skew higher on the age scale due the violence and cruelty.  The film called War Horse has a bountiful cast of good actors, a bold story and brilliant cinematography that sometimes seems ‘too’ real.  Although targeted to young boys, the film gets a little too strong for immature adolescents. For acting and story however, the movie is a must see. Read more

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS, “A”

 

Another fine adventure for the London detective becomes afoot in the newest 19th century Sir Arthur Conan Doyle crime story Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  The cast from the 2009 release reprises their roles under the able direction of Guy Richie making this outing even more exciting than the last. Don’t skimp here; choose the theater with the best sound and picture quality to magnify your action experience.

 

Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) are at it again solving a mystery of magnitude consequence when the detective ends up with a mysterious note following a run in with his on again off again romantic interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams).  Quick to smell a rat, Holmes puts things in perspective leading him to a Gypsy named Madam Simza (Noomi Rapace) who gives Holmes a clue to the whereabouts of his archenemy Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris).  But, there’s more than meets the eye here as Holmes and Watson find out, it’s about an evil plan to make a fortune selling war armaments, the most modern cannons that deliver devastation and mayhem.  Will Holmes and Watson make it in time to stop a world war?

 

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. are Dr. Watson and Holmes

Downey and Law continue to entertain bringing Holmes and Watson to life as they pick at each other, protect each other’s lives, figure out the clues and charge full ahead until their perpetrator has been caught.  Whether it’s diving into a huge falls, fleeing machine guns, throwing Watson’s new wife off of a moving train or fighting an outnumbered number of adversaries, the two are complete as friends with each other.

 

Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza gets a message from Holmes

Adding to the wild and adventurous film Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) takes on the role of Madam Simza the sister of the ‘key’ in the game of shadows. Strong willed and spirited, Sim blends in well with the investigating duo as they track down her brother in order to stop Moriarty from starting a war.

 

The trick here is to reproduce and continue the momentum from the first Sherlock Homes film keeping it palatable enough for the action adventure junkies.  Without a doubt, returning producers Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey and Dan Lin have repeated with even more energy than their first release.  Not holding back a penny, you can see the quality of the production in the special effects, locations in France, Germany and Switzerland, a heightened production design team, extremely good make-up, and thrills provided by some cringing computer graphics.

 

Enhancing some tricks used by director Walter Hill, director Guy Richie develops a scene in the forest that’s reminiscent of The Long Riders.  This event, although less gory, provides a cacophony of sounds as bullets and cannon fired rounds burst through trees and shred anything that’s in its deadly path.  Shown in slow motion you can hear branches and trunks of trees split, and shrapnel wiz by the heads of Holmes and his mates fleeing through the dank forest.

 

What keeps this a big adventure is the music by Hanz Zimmer with its consistent brilliant percussion and brass musicians pounding out urgency and suspense.  Using some of the music from the original soundtrack, he ramps it up to pandemonium during most of the fighting scenes evoking memories of the beginning foot chase in the first Sherlock Holmes.

 

I like Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows as much, no even more than the original that spawned this sequel.  It’s probably the best film Richie has made and he should thank Downey Jr. and Law for believing in him so we the audience can benefit from the nicely written script.

 

Sherlock Holmes:A Game of Shadows has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense sequences of violence and action, and some drug material.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS: A smart action adventure with high energy and thrills. (A)

 

 

 

CONAN THE BARBARIAN, SWEET REMAKE

Hollywood has a way of reinventing things by rejuvenating characters and bringing them up to date with all the bells and whistles necessary to make it ‘fresh and new.’  This is the case of the film Conan the Barbarian where they have remade a classic adding all the CGI bells and whistles then throwing in some topless women for eye candy.  If you love a medieval action adventure that kicks butt, there’s a thrill a minute in the ‘new’ Conan the Barbarian.

 

The story takes place during the Hyborian Age where beastly men look for ways to become Gods.  After being sliced from his dieing mother’s womb, Conan gets raised by Corin (Ron Pearlman) his father a strong man and protector of the village. The villagers arch nemesis a Cimmerian warrior Kahalar Zym (Stephen Lang) pays Corin’s village a visit looking for the last piece of a magical mask that coupled with the blood of a descendent of the Sorcerers of Acheron will turn him into a God.  When Corin resists, Kahalar kills him and finds the last fragment. Filled with revenge Conan (Jason Momoa), now grown, starts his search to destroy the evil one.

Jason Momoa is CONAN THE BARBARIAN

The action is non-stop from the very beginning to its explosive ending.  In between Conan runs into extreme fighting against the protectors of Kahalar, a monster caged in a watery pit, and other devilish adversaries.  But the most incredible fight comes against the sand warriors that attack Conan with relentless energy while he’s protecting the gorgeous sorcerer’s descendent Tamara (Rachel Nichols) from capture.

 

Director Marcus Nispel uses every trick in his bag to make Conan realistic and comes up a winner.  His muscle-laden hero commands the screen with Nispel provided sets and Robert E. Howard’s visceral story.  All of the hideous characters are masterpieces of graphic evil personified.  He offsets the macabre with his grubby slave nymphs and meager villagers making his scenes realistically barbaric.

Conan faces frees slaves

The acting by Jason Momoa is really not bad, unlike Arnold Schwartzinegger at least you can understand what he says.  His muscular body mirrors much of what Arnold brought to the screen, but Momoa gets to add a bare butt for female viewers to buzz about.  Momoa’s Conan shows a lot more agility, expressiveness and realism possibly due to the updated special effects and computer graphics.

 

Nicols gives a steamy performance in one scene that if it was her body for real comes close to a prurient stag show.  She and a bevy of slave girls show some extremely enchanting visual food for mature filmgoers.  Her acting isn’t half bad also making Tamara a strong willed woman that doesn’t back down from a good fight.

 

Conan the Barbarian is rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality and nudity.  Trust me when I say this is a HARD R and should only be viewed my very mature. The 3D that some theaters will offer does nothing to enhance the film and my recommendation is save the extra bucks.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  An action adventure fit for mature sword and sorcery lovers. (B-)



CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER,

Not what I expected, but Captain America: The First Avenger pours on the adventure in style.  I’m not a huge comic book fan and know little about this super hero yet for me, that’s a good thing.  If you like your action with a good back-story, then this one should fuel your engine.

 

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has been trying to join the military to help his country fight the Nazis in Europe, but he keeps getting rejected because of his size. Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a scientist, has developed a super soldier serum and quite by accident finds Steve Rogers a perfect subject.  Steve volunteers to participate in the experimental program and it turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America. But Rogers finds himself being a recruiter for the Army instead of a fighter.  When the evil HYDRA organization led by the Red Skull (Hugo Wearing) takes over the Nazi crusade with special weapons, Captain America steps up to meet the challenge.

 

Chris Evans as Captain America

 

The computer graphics play a huge part in the production of the film and in most cases come across with a WOW factor.  There is plenty of action created by the huge blaster tanks, high-powered ray guns, Red Skull’s blazing car, special ‘gyrocopter’ and may other things to dazzle the action hound’s brain.  The winged airplane was a total treat with a battle that overshadows most Iron Man sequences.

Joe Johnson on the set of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER

Director Joe Johnson (Jumanji) does a terrific job of creating the period piece not only with an amazing set, but make-up and costumes for his cast. Hayley Atwell’s portrayal of the tough WAC Peggy Carter stands out in her WWII apparel, hot red lips and long black lashes dating her into the strong hearted women soldiers of the time.  I liked the way he deals with the whole Army sequence and relates to the war films of old.

Steve Rogers before and after serum

The film is not perfect as I found myself trying to fit Chris into my mind as a skinny little runt.  I am amazed on how they computerized his character, but something just didn’t feel right much like what bothered me with Benjamin Button (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and his body change.  But it’s easy to get past this and I found myself right in the middle of the action as the film progressed ‘knowing’ that Chris became the hulk that he is meant to be.

 

This chapter in the Avengers finally puts all the back-stories in line for the grand finale when Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye, The Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury get together in an estimated $150 million production for one explosive time.

 

Captain America: The First Avenger is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, nothing that most mature pre-teens cannot handle. The film is available in 3D (however unnecessary).

 

FINAL ANAYLSIS: A ‘BLAST’ of the past. (B)

 

 

 

HARRY POTTER DH Part 2, A THUNDERING FINALE

It’s all about the action in part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I can see why the filmmakers split the book for this final sequel as it would have been a long and drawn out affair if they hadn’t.  The special effects and CGI sparkle in this edition making the action explosive and adventurous.

 

Continuing where part 1 left off, Voldemort is found testing his new all-powerful wand.  Harry, Hermione and Ron have smashed another Horcrux (Voldemort’s death escape objects) and are searching for the final three in order to make him vulnerable.  When they find them an all out war begins between a horde of Voldemort followers, conjured creatures and the Death Eaters versus the Hogwarts class lead by Neville Longbottom, joining Hermione, Ron and Harry. But the final challenge between Voldemort and Harry strikes the final blow.

 

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Herminoe (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint)

 

Direction by David Yates who took over in 2007 with the series is courageous and impressive. He puts Harry into the action and in many cases with extras running in all directions yet the focus still stays on his main man. I like the way he brings back Longbottom, the Weasleys and others for one last great performance.  His ability to mix CGI with live action puts Yates up with the best of the directors of today.

Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort

 

Excellent Cinematography makes the film outstanding with amazing clarity even during the most hectic scenes with the cast running in all directions, CGI creatures entering the melee and Harry still the center of attraction.  Close-ups of Voldemort are amazingly hard to get due to special make-up, prosthetic pieces and computer graphic blend for his face, but that seemed to be little problem for the camera crew. I give a tip of the hat to the CGI crew for producing an incredible dragon.

 

It was fun to see the return to Hogwarts with all the people in the paintings running for cover, the moving staircases taking a lot of the action, Hogwarts castle resisting the onslaught of Voldemort’s wrath and more.  And many answers to the puzzling characters that came up during previous episodes are answered, friendships rekindled, and secrets are revealed.

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 has been rated PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence and frightening images. See it in 3D and you can reach for a piece of Voldemort.

 

FINAL ANALYSIS:  A truly good ending to a great series. (A)