Coming Soon: Summer Films 2015

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The summer movie season is about to kick off this coming weekend with the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. The sequel to the hugely successful film The Avengers is just the start of a deluge of eagerly (and not so anticipated) genre films due to be released this summer.

Will this be a summer to remember like in 1982 or 1984 or more recent summers like 2008 or 2012? That will be decided in the near future, but for now here’s is my personal ranking of films that I look forward to.

Avengers: Age of UltronFrom looking at early reviews, it appears that this sequel suffers from Iron Man 2itis, where too much time is being spent on setting up future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Putting that aside, this film looks terrific and a Marvel fan’s dream film. Let’s hope it does a better job of setting up future films than Iron Man 2 or The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and that we come away with happy memories of the Marvel Comics heroes stomping on rogue androids.

Jurassic World I’m a dinosaur junkie, I admit it. Put rampaging dinos and hapless human prey on a film and I’m there. Jurassic World may not top the original classic Jurassic Park but the trailers look fantastic. And despite what some gripers may say, I dig the idea of Chris Pratt using tamed velociraptors to take on the big, bad dinosaur baddie. Seriously, I just love that scene of him riding his motorcycle with his dinosaur companions running alongside like prehistoric attack dogs.

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Tomorrowland What I like about this film so far are two things. One it’s not a sequel or reboot but something original. Two, being that I have no idea what’s it about, I was blown away by the visuals of a girl discovering a futuristic city. The added bonus is that Brad Bird is directing this film, which is good enough for me.

Ant-Man I don’t care about Edgar Wright leaving the project and all the production headaches. Honestly, I think Wright’s films are way overrated and him walking away from Ant-Man weeks before filming was to start was no big loss. The first trailer was, let’s face it, underwhelming. But I was sold with the recent trailer that showcased that goofy and exciting throw down between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket, featuring the threat of Thomas the Tank Engine!

Maggie This film came out of nowhere and caught my eye. Arnold Schwarzenneger as a father trying to protect his teenage daughter who is becoming a zombie. It sounds like a ludicrous Arnold actioner from the early ’90s, but I liked the serious tone of the trailer that features Arnold as more of an everyman type. At this point, I’d rather see this than the latest Terminator film.

Mad Max: Fury Road George Miller who directed all the Mad Max films returns after too long with the latest entry of our favorite post-apocalyptic warrior driver. The loony visuals from the trailers embellished with bombastic music is a great throwback to the classic ’80s action flicks.

Self/Less I just love a good, solid science fiction film with a baiting premise and expert execution. Ben Kingsley is this dying guy who transfers his consciousness into a healthy body (Ryan Reynolds). As expected, all isn’t as it seems when evil corporations and past life pathos come into the fray.

Poltergeist The trailers were surprisingly creepy and made me interested in this remake of the Tobe Hooper horror classic. There’s a lot of skepticism with recent remakes of classic genre films like Robocop or Total Recall. And for good reason because they seemed unnecessary and didn’t bring anything new to the table. So…I hope Poltergeist will have a different fate.

poltergeist

San Andreas and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation These last two films aren’t strictly genre fare, but they look exciting! And if you think about it, they are borderline sci-fi with those life-like masks that are a Mission: Impossible standard and San Andreas’ premise of the “Big One” finally happening in California.

Other genre films scheduled for this summer include Terminator: Genisys, Inside Out, Sinister 2, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Fantastic Four, and Pixels. IMHO these films do not interest me and will probably blow, but I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong

T. Rod Jones

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Official Teaser Trailer For Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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Below is the first official teaser for next year’s epic film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As we all know this was supposed to come out next week, but some moron leaked today a really piss poor copy of this trailer, thus forcing Warner Bros./DC’s hand. It’s too bad they had to rush it out, but at least it makes us forget that limp teaser of a teaser shown yesterday that just showed the Superman and Batman costumes!

As a trailer it sells its point, but for some reason the pervading tone of the movie seems dark, not a bad thing, mind you. Just different from what we’ve been getting lately from Marvel (aside from the TV show Daredevil). But will the dark tone jibe with today’s fans? This mood was in vogue just a few years ago, especially when The Dark Knight was all the rage and fans have had bad to mixed reactions to the reboot of The Fantastic Four coming this summer for its bleak outlook based on its own teaser. So some may think this dark take of superheroes is outdated.

Nevertheless, this film won’t bomb. There are too many fans invested and the buzz is high. And its dourness helps sell the film’s motif that Superman is being mistrusted by the general public. It’s a refreshing direction to take with Superman and adds a touch of realism because let’s face it, in real life this fear of a super-powered alien among us would probably be the pervading attitude.

As for Batman, it seems as if director Zack Snyder is channeling Frank Miller’s seminal work The Dark Knight Returns and that by itself is great. It’s hard to judge Ben Affleck as an older Bruce Wayne, because we all got was one shot of him with a brooding look. But the shots of him as Batman and the Batmobile should satisfy most fans. Putting aside Ben Affleck and the new shots of Henry Cavill as Superman, honestly, the final moments of this trailer when it concludes with Superman and Batman about to face off with each other were the most scintillating parts.

This was a great week for trailers with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ant-Man, but this one for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a perfect capper!

Lewis T. Grove

Daredevil Is Marvel’s Best TV Show

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Brutal, gritty, engaging, authentic. Those are thoughts that come to mind when watching the new streaming TV show Daredevil on Netflix.

Daredevil is easily the best Marvel TV show ever done and puts Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter to shame with the ease at which it draws in viewers and in terms of quality. It’s even better than the DC TV shows The Flash and Arrow and that is a very high bar to pass.

matt and karenSet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Daredevil is undeniably more urban and grounded with its rare, vague references to the MCU and focuses correctly on the intimate lives of petty criminals and average folks in New York’s Hell Kitchen neighborhood. That locale is decidedly different than the actual neighborhood (now called Clinton) and that’s due to collateral damage from the climactic battle at the end of The Avengers. The result is a return to the seedy, hard-boiled streets the neighborhood last saw in the recent past and the perfect framework for Daredevil.

Based on the Marvel Comics superhero comic book created by Stan Lee and Everett, This version is heavily influenced by the stories done by comic book legend Frank Miller. It also uses many elements from Miller and John Romita, Jr.’s comic book mini-series Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, which depicts the origin of the blind superhero Daredevil. This TV show introduces Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a blind defense lawyer who operates secretly as a vigilante clad in black and uses his superhuman senses to aid him in fighting crime. As he comes to prominence both in his professional field and as a superhero, his work attracts the attention of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), a major crime lord. And, of course, before long they’re butting heads with each other.

One thing to praise about this show has to be the performance of Charlie Cox. He just hits the ground running matt and claireas the sympathetic and haunted hero driven with a supernatural sense for justice. More importantly, Cox doesn’t go overboard with his portrayal and hits the right balance of lawyer by day, vigilante by night. Even though he is a superhero with enhanced senses (minus sight), and an indomitable fighting spirit, Daredevil is vulnerable and human. He takes severe beatings and even when he wins the aftermath shows on him through nasty cuts and bruises. This vulnerability makes him more endearing to us and we’re more concerned for the outcomes of battles.

These fight scenes are just brutal and stunningly filmed without the cheap use of shaky cams. There was one sequence in the second episode “Cut Man” that lasted for several minutes and the stunt work and cinematography done by the production was perfect. It exemplified the graphic and cringe-inducing nature of the fights in Daredevil’s world, while coming off as authentic. There wasn’t any use of special effects or wire work, just good old fashioned stunt work that was wonderfully choreographed. Each punch or kick looked like they hurt the fighter and the victim, and every punch that Daredevil landed took a lot from him but his unrelenting nature kept us cheering for him and at times I wondered if he would falter.

daredevil street

Complementing this realistic take on fighting is the way the show depicts his use of super senses. There aren’t any overdone CG sequences like in the Daredevil film. Instead, rather subtle and simple camera and audio tricks are skillfully used to convey Murdock overhearing conversations from afar and so on.

Speaking of camera work, as mentioned above, the cinematography throughout the series is film-quality work. It seems like we’re watching mini-movies on our TV sets. Plus, the production decision to film in New York City paid off grandly as we feel the grittiness and glamour of the Big Apple and the background complements the characters we meet.

fisk and madameLet’s start with Fisk. Thanks to D’Onofrio’s subtle, but terrifying performance, Fisk is a huge, beefy, but cultured villain who is just broiling under the surface. His world is one of sophistication, but at the right moment (or wrong if you’re unfortunate enough), Fisk just let’s out this primal fury as he savages his opponents. It goes without saying that this show is very violent and not for the faint of heart.

But don’t think this course world is filled with vicious criminals. It’s also populated by more sympathetic types like Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) who is Murdock’s law partner and a likeable presence. Others include the lawyers’ secretary Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), a nurse who provides medical aide to Daredevil. Both are well played by these actresses and these women have many nuanced layers to them.

daredevil waiting

Daredevil is a triumph for Marvel and helps expand the intricate and varied MCU. More than that, it’s actually a surprisingly effective crime show without going over the top. This means that unlike say Gotham it doesn’t overly stress its comic book origins, which would’ve resulted in something that bordered on camp. No, Daredevil respects its source material and skillfully brings the hero and his world to life.

José Soto

 

Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”–Jedi Master Yoda

As we get ready for the continuation of the Star Wars saga with this December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, let’s look back at the previous six films of this iconic film series. Putting opinions aside, the first six Star Wars films will now forever be known as the ones that Star Wars creator George Lucas directly worked on. They bear the mark of what he intended for the overall story and for better or worse reflect his vision for the Star Wars saga. For the first retrospective of the entire star spanning saga, we begin not with the very first Star Wars film made but with the first chronological film in the saga: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

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The setting for Episode I as are the rest of the films is long ago in a distant galaxy. Large parts of it are ruled by the Galactic Republic. Consisting of thousands of worlds, the Republic’s relative peace for generations is at risk because of one of its members: the Trade Federation. In the film’s opening crawl, the Trade Federation is up in arms with the Republic over taxes on trade routes of the outer worlds. Their idea to resolve this issue is to place a blockade on the planet Naboo.

The Republic’s ruling chancellor dispatches two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MaGregor), to negotiate with Nute Gunray (Silas Carson), the Viceroy of the Federation. at his flagship orbiting Naboo. Not long after they arrive , the mystical warriors are attacked by the Federation’s droid soldiers who have orders to kill the Jedi. The relative ease to which the jar jar and jediJedi take out the mechanical troops is our first taste as to the true height of the Jedi’s powers. During the battle, the Jedi learn that the Federation are about to land troops on Naboo, so they hitch a ride on one of the invading ships and arrive on the planet to warn the inhabitants. Along the way, Qui-Gon saves a strange and goofy alien native, an amphibious Gungan called Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). The floppy eared alien decides to tag along with the Jedi because of a life debt owed to them as they make their way to the Naboo capital.

Once the trio reach the capital, the Jedi manage to rescue the planet’s ruling queen, Padme Amdilla (Natalie Portman), and her royal entourage, who were being held hostage by the Trade Federation’s droid army. They were captured by Gunray because he wanted to force the queen to sign a treaty legalizing the occupation of Naboo. After easily dispatching the cannon-fodder droid army in the city, the Jedi and the others board a spaceship and break the orbital blockade.

The queen wants to go to Coruscant, the capital world of the Republic, to plea for intervention. But although the ship is able to jump into hyperspace during the escape it was damaged. This forces them to set down for repairs in a nearby world: Tatooine, a desert planet that is outside the Republic’s domain.

On the backwater world, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Jar Jar leave for one of Tatooine’s towns Mos Espa to get spare parts for their ship. Joining them at the behest of the queen is one of her handmaidens, who is actually Padme herself pretending to be a commoner.

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They meet a coarse junk dealer called Watoo (voiced by Andy Secombe) who has the engine parts they need, but they’re unable to pay for them. During the visit to Watoo’s business, they meet his young human slave, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who befriends them and offers shelter in his mother’s home from a coming sandstorm. Qui-Gon immediately senses that the Force is strong in Anakin and takes a fast interest in the boy.

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For those who have been living under a rock since 1977 the Force is a metaphysical power in the Star Wars universe that is wielded by the Jedi and their opponents the Sith. According to Star Wars lore it’s a form of energy that flows through all life forms and those who are adept at using it can perform superhuman acts like telekinesis, controlling weak minds and so on.

qui gon vs maulQui-Gon wants to recruit the young slave and train him as a Jedi, but first he has to win the boy’s freedom. To accomplish this, he convinces Watoo to enter Anakin in a dangerous pod race where racers speed through the desert climes of Tatooine in cobbled together engine parts and makeshift carriages. If Anakin wins he’s to be freed as part of the conditions of a bet the Qui-Gon and Watoo placed with each other. Additionally, if Anakin wins, Qui-Gon will be able to get the parts needed for the queen’s ship so they can leave for Coruscant.

Unbeknownst to the group is that the Jedi are being tracked by Darth Maul (Ray Park) a devilish Sith apprentice and his superior Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid). Throughout the film, Sidious has been manipulating and controlling the Trade Federation for his own mysterious reasons and is the mastermind behind the Naboo invasion. More importantly, Sidious wants to renew the ancient feud his order has against the Jedi.

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While the heroes busy themselves with leaving Tatooine, reaching Coruscant and finding a way to end the Federation occupation, sinister forces are aligning against the Jedi and the Republic. Soon, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan will confront the deadly Sith as they attempt to free Naboo, and it’s an encounter which will have lasting ramifications throughout the galaxy.

naboo battleStar Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was probably the most eagerly awaited film in history. For sixteen years, fans had to endure a drought of Star Wars films after Return of the Jedi (ROTJ) came out in 1983 and there was doubt if there would ever be another Star Wars film. After ROTJ, George Lucas was burned out, plus the limitations of effects technology hampered his ability to bring forth his visions in additional films.

However, Lucas changed his mind after some time. He saw in the early ’90s that Star Wars was still popular thanks to the success of spinoff books and comic books. More importantly, he was impressed with the effects technology, specifically the emerging CG effect featured in films like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park. At last, he felt that he could bring his true unhindered vision to film thanks to the new CG technology.

Lucas had been fascinated with the backstory to the Star Wars saga and Darth Vader’s origin, which he wrote as a fifteen-page outline back when he was developing the very first film in the ’70s. Hence, the reason why his followup to the original trilogy would be prequels.

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