Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Whoa! It’s Good to be Takei

Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that no state could deny two people of the same-sex a marriage license. In my adult life, I never would have expected this to happen. It really moved me when the decision was made as it impacts a huge number of people that I know and even more that I don’t know. I’m lucky to be a resident of California which after a misstep in 2008, finally got their act together in 2012 (with help from the same Supreme Court).

People ask me if I will finally get married and my answer is always the same. Marriage is not something that is at the top of my to do list. I don’t need a marriage to show that I am committed to one person or another. I’m not a deeply religious person so the faith-based part of marriage never appealed to me. The civil side of marriage is very appealing as it helps one get a house and leads to other financial and personal benefits (wills, healthcare, company benefits, etc.) and to boot you can spend the rest of your life gazing into each others eyes and wonder just what the heck are we doing together in this crazy life.

I posted a comment on a friend’s Facebook profile that basically sums it up. Getting married is like wanting a puppy. Seems like a good idea when you are all new and excited, but in reality it is a lot of work, costs lots of money and you have to be willing to clean up all the poop that comes with the love. I think more people should realize that before taking the plunge (Pets or Marriage!).

Having committed my views to my blog (unusual for me to be this personal but heck, I was moved by the weekend’s activities.) I will now probably make a fool of myself and run off to get married in Vegas and end up living in a hotel somewhere trying to figure life out. (Wait, I am technically living in a hotel now – crap! I’m already halfway there!!)

On another note: In celebration of all the pride going around, I finally got around to watching “To Be Takei” the documentary about my favorite Trek Star, George Takei. I credit George with being one of the reasons that society in general has changed their views on the LGBT community since he came out of the closet in October 2005. Personally, his appearances on Howard Stern and just being an advocate on TV and hundreds of appearances and parades has put a familiar face on an issue that makes many uncomfortable. This comes out (pun intended) in his movie where he talks about his issues over the years. I, for one and grateful that he has taken this step and helped so many, many teens and adults alike have a positive role model.

The other big item in the documentary is George’s role in getting the musical Allegiance to Broadway. Its such a personal story for George and I am glad he is finally getting a chance for it to make it to the Great White Way. I hope to see it someday to support George in his life’s legacy work. It’s the least I can do for someone who has provided me personally with lots of Star Trek lines to quote and has helped many people laugh on Facebook and Twitter, and been such a strong advocate for LGBT everywhere.

Into the Storm (2014)

After seeing the teaser trailer back in May, I was all gung-ho to see the movie in the theaters in August. Unfortunately, I never was able to make it into the theaters before the movie was gone. Thanks to modern technology, I finally rented the movie in HD via iTunes and enjoyed it in the comfort of my own home.

Basic summary: Needed less of the character stories and more disaster related action. To me, what makes a good disaster movie is the emotional investment in the poor characters who have to suffer through whatever is happening. In the Poseidon Adventure, we really care if Belle Rosen and the rest of the survivors are going to make it out alive. In Into the Storm, I just wanted the tornado to take everyone away. People compare this movie as Twister 2.0, but even Twister with all its flaws, was able to give us Helen Hunt who we actually cared about.

What about Josh’s other Disaster movie requirements:
Token Child (Little Brother)
Distressed Relationship that grows closer by the end of the movie (big time!)
Token exchange of sentimental item (in this case a knife)
token pet (Negative)
the use of the phrase “My God…” (Also Sorta)
the choice to follow someone (Sorta – Dad and kid follow the crew to find son)
old couple dying together (Negative)
lovable supporting character who gives their life to save others (in this case the character was not lovable but still made a sacrifice)

So it checks most of the boxes, but overall I didn’t buy the gimmick of this being a mockumentary that starts out as a high school graduation time capsule and ends up being about how they all pull together after a disaster. I think this style was part of the reason it was tough to get to know the characters. It also took away the subtle cheese that I like in my disaster films.

As for the disaster footage, some great SFX shots, but most of the money ones were featured in the trailer. Just seems they could have done more since the movie was just a brisk 89 minutes long.

All in all a good rental, and I am glad I waited for home video.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

After waiting a week, I finally was able to get out and see Big Hero 6 on the “big” screen. I use quotes here because, man, the theater I saw this in at Downtown Disney was tiny! We had missed the 45 min earlier show due to traffic in the area and unfortunately this meant the small theater. It didn’t help that the latest Hunger Games movie was plopped down in the big auditorium. I actually think I’d have rather watched this movie on my screen at home rather than see it on a tiny movie screen.

Getting to the movie – I loved this film! Easily one of my favorites of the latest Disney films. I’m not a princess movie guy, but I’ve really enjoyed the last few ‘princess’ features – Tangled, Princess and the Frog, and of course Frozen more than Wreck it Ralph. (I haven’t even seen Bolt or Winnie the Pooh (2011)). So I was a bit nervous about what this movie would bring until I saw the preview at Disneyland in the Magic Eye Theater. Once I saw the preview I knew I wanted to see the film.

The movie lived up to my expectations from the preview – just the right amount of action, fun, and of course Disney heart. It certainly feels more than 10 years away from “Home on the Range” and “Treasure Planet”.. A lot of things happen to young Hiro, and Baymax is the perfect health care companion to help him. This movie really gets a lot from Tadashi and Hiro’s relationship despite the short screen time they have together. I think that is what impressed me the most – I was invested in the characters from the get-go and therefore was impacted by events more than other recent Disney films.

The supporting characters are fun as well and who knows, maybe this will lead to spin off or further movies? Big Hero is a Marvel property so it’s nice to see the fruits of the Marvel/Disney relationship work well. Despite whatever gossip and rumblings of some issues behind the scenes between the two, it seems like this has the best of what Disney offers and of what Marvel has been doing with their cinematic universe. I’m a little disappointed that this officially doesn’t live in the same universe as I was hoping for a Baymax/Avengers cameo.

To sum up, a great movie that I enjoyed – I even got a Hiro action figure!

Iron Man Three (2013)

Only a month after watching Iron Man 2, I decided to not let my Netflix envelope sit on my TV stand too long and with Daniel working a night shift, I popped the Blu-Ray in and watched Iron Man Three. I have actually enjoyed going into these Marvel films blind – not reading up on what the movie will be about in Entertainment Weekly or online and oblivious to any spoilers that are around.

This Iron Man is my favorite one so far. Whereas the first two struggled to keep my attention, this one kept me focused that I didn’t feel the need to check my Twitter at all! (Such a 2010’s problem..) I liked the overall tone of this movie – not too gimmicky and Robert Downey Jr was once again great as Tony Stark. Everyone of the returning characters were better than they were in Iron Man 2 (Pepper, Happy, and Rhodey) and I loved the fact that Guy Pearce was in the movie as well. Like Mickey Rourke in the last movie, it wasn’t until halfway through the movie I realized – Oh, it’s him!

I’ll have to find a Marvel geek to explain the Mandolin to me. Either that or I will have to do some research about the character to see if the movie represents him faithfully to the comics. Sorry, I’m not an avid comics reader so I can’t tell you if it’s accurate or not. I can tell you as a complete noob, that I really enjoyed the movie, and the whole Iron Man exhibit at Innoventions finally makes sense.

Next up: Thor and Thor 2. By then I hope Captain America 2 will be on Netflix so I will be caught up. Just one year to Avengers 2 and by then I’ll actually get the in-jokes!

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

A perfect lazy Sunday movie, we caught Jason and the Argonauts on Turner Classic Movies this weekend and it was great. It was one of those movies you hear about (Tom Hanks likes it) and is widely considered one of the most influential and best of Ray Harryhausen’s films.

The plot follows Jason on his adventure to get a Golden Fleece which he feels will rally his country behind him as he tries to reclaim the throne from Pelias. I really enjoyed the journey along the way, not really remembering my Greek mythology very well. I’d say my only disappointment was the end of the film with the great climactic battle between the skeletons and Jason and his men. It just sort of ends and that’s the end of the movie. I keep waiting for a part 2 to finish the story. Doing some research, it seems that the story goes tragic and downhill from that point, so it’s probably for the best they ended when it did.

So check it out! TCM has it on every now and then, and I’m sure you can Netflix the DVD (sorry streaming only fans).

Iron Man 2 (2010)

After four months of sitting on my TV stand after watching Iron Man and one failed try to watch it, I finally sat down and finished Iron Man 2. First off, I can’t believe this movie came out four years ago. I am so behind the times.

At any rate, here we go with Iron Man 2. Honestly? I liked this one better than the first one. I was much more interested in Tony’s story ark and because I am a noob I totally didn’t see Scarlett Johansson as who she really was – despite having seen the Avengers already! So honestly, I think I had the same reaction as if I watched it in 2010. I also liked Sam Rockwell as the weasely Justin Hammer and until someone pointed it out to me I totally didn’t recognize Mickey Rourke. Also pleasantly surprised to see Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) show up in this movie. Knowing that some little Easter eggs were planted for Thor and The Avengers made my enjoyment factor rise.

Some not so goods: I thought the solution to people’s problems were too easy. Tony figures out what he needs to make to fix his condition way too fast. The fact he was able to create a new element in his garage and then it immediately has results in his chest thingy seems like an easy fit. Also, when Rhodey is using the older Iron Man suit and it gets taken over by the program, it seems like rebooting is way too easy a fix (although 90% of computer issues are resolved the same way).

All in all a good film and I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Next up is Thor to complete the Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic universe (sorry Hulk, you are on the if I’m totally bored list) – not sure if I will re-watch the Avengers, but it might be fun to see it in new context. For Phase 2, I need to see Thor 2, Iron Man 3, and Captain America 2 before Avengers 2 comes out. There is also Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m thinking it will be the Hulk of Phase 2 so might skip that one. Unless of course, they play a pivotal role in Avengers 2..

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1966)

dr who daleks movie poster

Having seen just about every serial of Doctor Who that exists (still waiting to find a copy of the Tenth Planet), and desperate for new WHO (series 8 doesn’t begin until August), I decided to rent via iTunes the first Doctor Who movie adaptation titled “Dr Who and the Daleks” from 1966. A lot of fans of Doctor Who cannot stand these movies as they wildly re-interpret classic WHO episodes from the First Doctor era. The first movie is based on the second serial of the show called “The Daleks”. The seven part serial written by Terry Nation is thought by many to be the one that really got the show going and saved it from being canceled.

The movie follows the same plot of the original serial, but shortens it for time and completely changes the back story of the characters. The Doctor is now an eccentric inventor called Dr. Who. His granddaughter is still Susan (though she is 12 now). The biggest changes are for Barbara (now Dr. Who’s granddaughter instead of Susan’s teacher) and Ian (now boyfriend of Barbara and a goof instead of down-low squeeze of Barbara and leading man). The characters land on the unnamed planet (which we know is Skaro) and learns about the Daleks and their war with the Thals. Honestly, if the original characters and actors had been in a movie version of the serial with the same length as this movie but with the original music and score, it would have been way, way better.

Despite these changes and missing the original cast, I really got into the story. It was a bit weird seeing the same things but now in technicolor but as a Doctor Who fan, I am used to changes to the characters and just roll with it. It certainly isn’t a masterpiece, but a fun oddity that is good to pop in and watch. I do wish they had kept the TARDIS interior to be more like the original series. I love the TARDIS and to see it a hodge-podge of wires and misc items was a bit painful (even though it makes the ‘invented by an earthling’ a bit more believable – who knows maybe this desktop is saved somewhere).

I hear the second film is not as good as this one, but hey, I am up for the challenge. Look for that review sometime soon.

Godzilla (2014)

2014
Dir: Gareth Edwards

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Godzilla movies. They honestly have not been very good – at the best they have been great camp and at the worst they have been completely boring to the point you just want Godzilla to destroy everything and move on to something else. To me, the franchise is at its best when they goofy scientists and little kids provide a little bit of story moving, and more of Godzilla kicking whomever’s hiney all over greater Japan.

The last attempt at a US made Godzilla was back in 1998, and at the time I recall it being disappointing and full of forced “in-jokes” like Mayor Ebert that just fell flat. Plus Godzilla looked ridiculous. I seem to remember writing a Movie Czar Reel Review about it (an old email list of movie reviews. Maybe a long time Club Josh visitor has a copy??) but alas I probably have it on an old Zip drive (that’s a bad in-joke for those of you who watch Godzilla 2014).

Getting to this year’s version of Godzilla. I really enjoyed the movie. It was much easier to follow than the last Godzilla movie I watched – Godzilla Final Wars (which I cannot recommend enough for pure out of left field confusion and awesomeness at the same time). The story centers around Ford Brody an Navy man who has a father (Bryan Cranston) who’s obsessed with an accident at the nuclear facility in Japan way back in 1999. Most of the Japan nuclear stuff seemed a bit awkward with Fukushima and the 3/11/11 Tohoku disaster still fresh in our minds, but the movie tip-toes around it and thankfully before too long we are in Hawaii. Poor Ford just wants to get back to his wife and kid in San Francisco, but Godzilla and some newly awakend M.U.T.Os just get in the way.

It’s an enjoyable journey through the 123 minutes but I have to say some of the early glimpses of Godzilla and the M.U.T.O. battling it out tease us as to how awesome these battles could be. There is the cimactic battle over SF that is pretty great, but the filmmakers seem intent on polluting a classic Kaiju battle with dumb people stuff. As I said, a good Godzilla movie uses the people as fluff and provides good high-quality monster battles. I think the filmmakers did such a good job with the early teases of Godzilla battles, that they left me wanting more. The rest of the film is littered with some great disaster movie elements that I love: the separated child, the pet running, the sacrifice of a loved one, and token exchange of sentimental item to name a few.

So check it out – certainly a good popcorn flick. I did have to laugh at all the previews for movies like Transformers and Jupiter Ascending because they all seemed like the same movie with slightly different plots. Lots of big things blowing up and battles. Made me think that the cinema is ready for a crossover like Godzilla vs. Transformers.

Iron Man (2008)

After holding out, I finally caved and sat down and watched the first Iron Man movie. Somehow, I had managed to see Captain America and the Avengers, both of which I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy. Of course not knowing back stories, I was confused, but not to the point where I could not enjoy the film. I am not a big comic book adaptation nerd, although I have enjoyed the first Batman series, Superman series, the first couple of Spiderman films, and the first three X-Men films (at which point I just got lost and gave up). I still don’t understand why there isn’t a Superfriends movie (and really it should be called Challenge of the Superfriends with the Legion of Doom)?

At any rate, emboldened by my enjoyment of the other two Marvel movies and the fact I still get a DVD from Netflix (last one sat in my house for almost a year..) I decided to queue up all three Iron Man movies so I can get caught up. I was advised to try and see all of the Marvel Universe movies in order they were released, so I might need to throw Thor in there at some point. (I have no plans for The Incredible Hulk at this point, but ask me again when I’m done..)

Iron Man turns out to be a pretty good movie as well – I enjoyed it as much as Captain America and it was nice to see how they set up the character. I wonder if they had made this movie in another decade if it would be some other group that attempts to kill Tony Stark. The movie kept my interest for the full two hours which is pretty impressive in this day and age (especially at home). I enjoyed a bald Jeff Bridges and even Gweneth Paltrow in the movie.

I think when I see them all I will have to do a full ranking. It’s too early to rank the first three that I have seen, so when I complete Iron Man series I will attempt to place them.

The Adventures of Tintin

2011
Dir: Steven Spielberg

The other day, I was home with nothing to do and this popped up on my Netflix screen as a popular choice. I had wanted to see the movie when it came out back in 2011, mainly because it was co-written by the current Doctor Who showrunner, Steven Moffat. It also looked halfway decent and got good reviews so I figured why not give it a chance.

I was pleasantly surprised with the movie! It kept me engaged for the most part through its 107 minute running time. I only felt the urge once to check my phone as my attention seemed to wander about midway in the desert scene, but overall it was a great movie. I had no idea what Tintin was about but left the movie curious to see more. It took me a bit to get over the animation style of the movie but no other major complaints. I was a bit confused with how old Tintin was supposed to be. He looked really young (like late teens), but manages to live in his own flat with some nice things and owns a handgun. I’d guess mid-20s, but I’ve read that he is supposed to be 15(!?!).

I had forgotten that it was a Spielberg film, and after watching the movie, I remembered there was a big outcry in Europe among the Tintin faithful that he was directing the movie. No complaints in that department as Spielberg delivers his usual good work here and certainly gave us some great Spielberg moments.

Worth a spin on the Netflix if you haven’t seen it.