2014 Summer Movie Review: Hercules

Dwayne Johnson brings the muscles and the body armor in "Hercules"

Dwayne Johnson brings the muscles and the body armor in “Hercules”

There have been several movies featuring the legendary demigod Hercules. One of the most well-known versions was the 1997 animated film from Disney. Although I’ve seen bits and pieces of that version, it still gave me the knowledge about the origins of Hercules. With two movies featuring the hero came out this year, I assume the latest version starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner (who completely ruined the X-Men trilogy) is much more entertaining than 2014’s first big flop The Legend of Hercules, in which I avoided like the plague. However, one of the film’s reasons why it’s rated PG-13 is among the several problems I had with it. It’s not as bad as I expected it to be, but it’s nothing special.

Hercules opens up with, like with the other versions, the origins of the legendary hero. He became the son of Zeus (or more accurately, Jupiter) and known for his unbelievable strength, spent twelve labors, betrayed by his wife Hera, and believed he ended up murdering her and his children. Years later, he becomes mortal and shows up wearing a hide of Leo the Lion (I’m hoping you get the joke) to save his nephew Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) from the pirates who don’t believe the truth of Hercules. We see him as a leader of a group of mercenaries going to Thrace to be hired by King Cotys (John Hurt) to train his army in order to defend his kingdom by the vicious warlord Rhesus.

There is some entertaining scenes in this movie. The battle scenes are actually pretty good. Ratner knows how to film action, however, they are ruined by the poorly rendered CG effects. Some of the effects here make the effects from Ghost Rider look quite exhilarating. The backstories of Hercules are also ruined by Ratner’s weak direction. For instance, the first flashback with his wife and children getting slaughtered comes out of nowhere with absolutely no feeling of intimidation whatsoever. I understand this is a popcorn flick, but some of the one-liners makes the tone go into a completely different path.

I can’t imagine a better actor than Dwayne Johnson to play the titular role. With his WWE days behind him, he’s becoming capable of being a talented actor. Sure, he might star in some bad movies (like Tooth Fairy, where he wears a tutu), it’s impossible not to love this guy. He does a good job bringing loads of muscles and giving speeches like William Wallace from Braveheart or King Theoden from The Lord of the Rings.

1.5/4

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2014 Summer Movie Preview: August

The summer is almost over. Not only does it mean school (or for me, life) is about to start, but it also means the start of the Oscar season. Although there are some movies that have come out but I’ve yet to see (Boyhood, Begin Again, and Magic in the Moonlight), this summer movie season had a lot of successful hits (compared to last year). It seems like the month of August is going to have more movies that might flop, with the exception of a few movies (including one that is my most anticipated movie of the whole summer). Let’s discuss what has yet to come out this coming month, shall we?

August 1

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy – The latest from Marvel is my most anticipated movie for the entire summer. It’s always refreshing to have something new coming from Marvel. Like with Iron Man (2008), my excitement for this movie went through the roof. I believe this is what a great comic book movie should look like: hilarious, touching, action-packed, and entertaining as hell. With an excellent cast (not to mention Bradley Cooper being the voice of a talking raccoon), a soundtrack containing songs from the ’70s, Guardians of the Galaxy looks more like a comic book movie than an homage to some classic adventure movies (i.e. Star Wars and Indiana Jones). Looking forward to seeing it on opening day!

Get On Up

Get On Up – Biopics of Freddie Mercury, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis, and Elton John have yet to be made. Usually, music biopics can be very difficult to make. They need to have an actor/actress who could capture the essence and spirit of the music icon, and bring enough energy to make the movie worthwhile. Get on Up, the biopic of James Brown, looks like what Jersey Boys could have been. I can’t picture a better actor to play James Brown than Chadwick Boseman (Jackie Robinson from 42). Co-starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer under the direction of Tate Taylor (of The Help), I feel good to have a biopic about this legendary artist.

Calvary

Calvary – I haven’t heard anything much about this Irish film until recently. The movie stars Brendan Gleeson (known for his role of Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter) as a kind Catholic priest who is threatened during a confessional by a parishioner saying he’s going to kill him. He must face his forces that are closing in around him. I think this movie looks absolutely terrific. Like with Philomena talking more about becoming a more respectable human being than Irish Catholicism, this movie talks about suffering the sins and forgiving those around you. The scenery of Ireland looks absolutely beautiful.

August 8

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – I never seen the original television show from the ’90s, but it doesn’t mean I’ve never heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With Michael Bay being the producer and Johnathan Liebesman (of the appalling Battle: Los Angeles) directing, I rather eat a whole box of pizza than to see this film. Megan Fox and Will Arnett look horrendously miscast! Definitely avoiding this at all costs.

Into the Storm

Into the Storm – *sigh* I feel sorry for Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield of The Hobbit) for being a part of the movie. None of this looks believable at all! Anything else I need to say than that!?

Step Up - All In

Step Up: All In – Looks like the movie has a lot of attractive actors, loud music, and really impressive dance choreography. That’s basically all there is to it. I have never seen the other Step Up movies, and I don’t plan to see any of them (including this one).

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey – Now this is more like it! A movie without any big explosions or special effects. Just a warm/delightful story about a family from India opening an Indian restaurant in France across the street from a celebrated French restaurant. While these two cultures battle each other, they come to appreciate each other.

What If

What If – With his Harry Potter years behind him, Daniel Radcliffe is continuing to showcase his talent as an actor. One of his breakout post-Harry Potter films was 2012’s The Woman in Black, a solid yet atmospheric haunted house picture with old-fashioned scares and a decent mystery scattered about. This year, he’s going to be in two films: Horns and What If. Originally titled The F Word (no, not *that* F word), this looks like a good romance story without being too sentimental and sappy.

August 15

Let's Be Cops

Let’s Be Cops (opens Aug. 13) – I think Let’s Be Idiots Than Cops could have been a much better title. A movie about two friends who try to be cops after attending a costume party sounds royally dumb. After watching the trailer, I felt like I just watched the first half of the movie. I’m definitely skipping it.

The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3 – I haven’t seen the predecessors, but I guess it wouldn’t matter much. With a ginormous cast of action stars, these movies feel like they would be fun on their own right. I don’t mind seeing this movie without seeing the others.

The Giver

The Giver – I haven’t read the book since the sixth grade, but I remember it being undeniably strange. The film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s bestseller stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep (unrecognizable in her role), Katie Holmes, and Taylor Swift (also unrecognizable). I don’t know what to think about this movie. It might turn out good, or it might turn out bad. Who knows?

August 22

Sin City - A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – I’ve yet to see Sin City. I appreciate the visual style of these movies; almost like a moving comic book. I appreciate the all-star cast: Josh Brolin, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green, and so on. I guess it’s time to watch the predecessor.

If I Stay

If I Stay – This is like Ghost for a new generation. It has a deep story starring the lovely Chloe Grace Moretz about a teenage girl in critical condition after being in a car accident that leaves her family dead, and she must choose her own fate. I have a feeling this will have teenage audiences bawling their eyes out.

August 29

The November Man

The November Man (opens Aug. 27) -I can tell this is going to flop. Big time! Although having experience of playing a secret agent, Pierce Brosnan seems like he’s returning to his James Bond glory days. This doesn’t look original whatsoever.

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below – Another movie in which I assume is going to flop. There are a lot of horror films that are marketed as scary but come out as unintentionally goofy. I’m skipping this one for sure.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Calvary, Guardians of the Galaxy, Get On Up, The Hundred-Foot Journey

Least Anticipated: As Above, So Below, Into the Storm, Let’s Be Cops, Step Up: All In, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I hope you enjoyed reading on what my thoughts are on the upcoming movies for the month of August. Tell me in the comments on what are your most anticipated movies and least anticipated movies for the month of August. I appreciate anyone who has taken the time to read my thoughts on what had yet to come this summer. I had quite a bit of fun typing about them, and I’m looking forward to doing this next summer. Stay tuned for my list featuring my most anticipated movies for the rest of 2014. Take care.

2014 Summer Movie Review: Lucy

Scarlett Johansson can use all of her brain capacity in Luc Besson's "Lucy"

Scarlett Johansson can use all of her brain capacity in Luc Besson’s “Lucy”

If one of the prettiest actresses of all-time stars in a movie with an insane concept directed by the same creator of Léon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, what makes you wonder? It seems like Luc Besson put thought into the story of Lucy. It might sound similar to Limitless (which I haven’t seen but I assume that’s a much better movie). However, Luc Besson is capable of taking a silly yet intriguing idea seriously. The result is . . . quite something. It might hit several bumps in the road, but Lucy still hits full throttle until the end.

Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) gives a lecture about his research about the brain capacity. The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity. Someone asks what would happen if a person can use all of their brain, which Norman doesn’t have the complete answer to. Enter Lucy (Scarlett Johansson), a woman living in Taiwan as a drug mule. Under the supervision of drug lord Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik), she makes a deal to sell bags of drugs that could increase a person’s brain function. Instead, she is held captive with one bag in her stomach. When one of the drug thugs kicks her in the stomach, the drugs leak into her system. This causes Lucy to gain physical and mental abilities – instantly absorbing information, telekinesis, etc.

Lucy sets out on a mission to arrest the men responsible for putting the drugs in her. Before she does so, she calls her mother in a Taipei hospital (in a cheesy yet powerful scene) about how she feels everything from her. Unaware of the drugs, her mother doesn’t believe what she’s talking about. We know, however, that Lucy has just gained the ability to feel everything she had touched in her life. Then, Lucy calls upon Norman saying she had instantly read all of his research, and that he’s on the right track. As her brain power increases, the more unstoppable she becomes.

Besson does a capable job discussing how a complex theory would change how we view the world. He starts the movie out like a nature documentary on the Discovery or National Geographic channels about the evolution of humans, narrated by the God of Hollywood, Morgan Freeman. The stunning cinematography and visuals remind us of all the other sci-fi films, but not entirely ripping them off. He makes it Scarlett Johansson’s time of her life as the blond bombshell who can control everything. With Lucy running for 90 minutes, it becomes fascinating until the credits start to roll.

3/4

2014 Summer Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) enters the land occupied by Caesar and his apes in Matt Reeves' "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) enters the land occupied by Caesar and his apes in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

I haven’t seen any of the Planet of the Apes movies, but I am familiar with the series. The only one I’ve seen was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I was pleased with what I saw. It featured an underrated performance by James Franco (before he became a complete joke) as Will, a scientist testing his Alzheimer’s cure on his father and then on a chimp named Caesar. I couldn’t have asked for a better climax resulting in an incredible build-up for the sequel. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I’ve seen last night), director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) takes the story to a whole new level.

The movie opens in 2016, where our hero Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his group of apes unleashed a virus leaving billions around the world dead. The reason for this is that they could make peace for themselves. After taking San Francisco by storm a decade earlier, Caesar and his apes have settled in Muir Woods. He becomes the leader of the apes; learning that apes are equal, and they should not kill other apes (nod to George Orwell’s Animal Farm). He has a family; his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) becomes ill after giving birth. His son Blue Eyes is walking in the forest when he spots a human.

The human, Carver (Kirk Acevado) is one of the few hundred survivors of the virus outbreak. He’s a member of a group, led by Malcolm (Jason Clarke), struggling to make peace. With no power in the city, the group decide to enter Muir Woods to generate a dam that might restore the power. Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the head of the survivors, doesn’t appreciate the apes living on Earth. He decides to go to war with the apes to prove who’s the dominant species.

Caesar has as much respect for the survivors as for the apes like he did with Will in Rise. Even though he acts like a human-being, he is really sympathetic to humans. In one emotional scene, Malcolm and his family find shelter in Caesar’s childhood home when the war between man and apes is taking place. Caesar stays up in the attic for the night as he finds a fully charged camcorder. He presses ‘play’ and he watches a video of himself (as an infant) being taught by Will. After the video, Malcolm asks him “Who was that in the video?” “A good man,” Caesar responds, “Like you.” However, his lieutenant Koba (one of the best villains in recent memory), prefers to kill every human-being on Earth. This is understandable that he leads the other apes to war against the humans for Caesar. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits it out of the park with emotion.

Reeves brilliantly captures the ruined city of San Francisco and the apes’ settlement with an allegorical, emotionally powerful and action-packed story as intelligent as the apes themselves. It looks like the humans are actually corresponding to the computer-generated primates without pretending they aren’t even there. The motion capture is as phenomenal as ever; it makes us forget we’re watching an actor capturing the ape’s body language rather than a realistic CGI creation. I think it’s time that Andy Serkis receives a special achievement Oscar for bringing this wonderful technology to life. From Gollum to King Kong to Caesar, he’s definitely brought motion capture to the next level. If it isn’t for him, it would probably get old very fast. This is how a sequel is made!

4/4

“Forrest Gump”: A Search For One Man’s Destiny

Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump"

Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump”

"Run, Forrest! Run!"

“Run, Forrest! Run!”

One summer night in 2007, I never knew movies can have the power to providing meaning. I thought movies could only allow people to be entertained. I began flipping through channels on my television. Then, I proved myself wrong when I had come across Tom Hanks sitting on a bench talking to strangers about his spiritual journey. The movie was Forrest Gump, which immediately introduced to the world of movies. I knew I wanted to watch it again and again after watching it for the first time. After watching it dozens of times, I would always learn something new. Whether it has to do with American history or life lessons.

When it came out twenty years ago on this day, some people didn’t necessarily cared for its sentimental message. However, a lot of people loved it so much it became the most successful film of 1994, and ended up taking home six Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Everybody knows the story. Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks, in a performance of a lifetime), a man sitting on a bench in Savannah, Georgia. When strangers sit next to him, he begins to ponder about his past. He’s a person with an I.Q. of 75 who learns about life from his mother (Sally Field). She expects him to have “the same opportunities as everyone else”. On his first day of school, Forrest sits next to a girl named Jenny (Robin Wright) on the bus. Jenny asks, “Are you stupid or something?” Forrest says, “Mama says, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.'” They begin forming a bond (“We was like peas and carrots”); Jenny teaches him to run away from the bullies. When he becomes an adult, he becomes a part of many historic events including the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement.

Robert Zemeckis captures this journey with a lot of heart and passion when Forrest is finding his true destiny. In one scene, Forrest asks ‘mama’ what his destiny is. She leaves it all to him to find it for himself. “Life is a like a box of chocolates,” says Mama. “You never what you’re going to get.” She uses it as a metaphor of how everyone has no idea where their future would lead to. We learn that he really wants to marry his childhood sweetheart, but he comes across plenty of encounters. He went to the University of Alabama to receive a scholarship from head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. After college, he goes into the military and befriends Bubba (Mykelti Williamson), a man with a passion for shrimp. He makes a pact with Bubba to be a part of a shrimping business. Bubba tells him there are tons of ways to cook shrimp.

However, in Vietnam, Forrest is saving his troop in combat after it rained for months. When he saves Bubba, he dies and leaves it all to Forrest to start the business without him. Who else would

"I must of drank me about fifteen Dr. Peppers."

“I must of drank me about fifteen Dr. Peppers.”

be a part of the shrimping business other than Lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise)? He felt cheated that Forrest rescued him rather than dying with honor. Because of this, he had a destiny to die in Vietnam like his ancestors “who fought and died in every single American war”. This causes Lt. Dan to have his legs amputated. This is where CGI comes in handy for Zemeckis. He captures the CGI as if you don’t even recognize it at all. During one of the film’s funniest scenes in which Forrest tells JFK he has to pee, it looks he is actually talking to him. I digress.

When he makes his shrimping boat, Forrest accepts Lt. Dan as his first mate. Later, he acknowledges Forrest for saving his life in Vietnam. Without him, Lt. Dan would be helpless.

After winning a Medal of Honor for saving his troop, Forrest becomes an influence to people. When he’s a guest on The Dick Cavett Show, alongside John Lennon, he talks about his experience being a part of the All-American ping-pong team in China. His discussion inspires Lennon to write his famous solo hit, Imagine.

Forrest: “In the land of China, people hardly got nothing at all.”
Lennon: “No possessions?”
Forrest: “And in China, they never go to church.”
Lennon: “No religion, too?”
Dick Cavett: “Hard to imagine”
Lennon: “Well it’s easy if you try, Dick.”

"Sometimes, I guess there just aren't enough rocks."

“Sometimes, I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

While on his life-long journey (becoming rich and famous), he always thinks about living a terrific life with Jenny. It shows flashbacks of her living the American dream, which leads her to becoming a drug addict and a part of the “hippies”. She has a destiny of “flying far; far far away” from all of the crap she had to endure as a child, especially when she always gets sexually abused by his father. There is this sense of “flight” that becomes symbolic throughout the film. Zemeckis opens up the movie with a white feather floating in the breeze with Alan Silvestri’s masterful score playing in the background. The feather lands on Forrest’s sneaker, and he puts it in his copy of his favorite children’s book Curious George. The feather blowing in the wind represents the way Forrest goes through his life journey. The iconic image shows up again at the end. This time, emphasizing that Forrest is at the right place at the right time. He married Jenny who would later die from an unknown disease (assumingly from HIV/AIDS). Forrest places his grave underneath the tree where they like to hang out at (symbolizing the innocence of life). He leaves her grave after explaining how his life has been. Suddenly, birds fly overhead notifying Jenny has found her destiny.

Not only did this movie made me appreciate movies but it made me appreciate Tom Hanks as an actor. I think no one else can play Forrest better than Hanks himself. He leads a phenomenal cast as a role so natural that it seems like I am watching a real person with the low I.Q. albeit big heart seeing history right from his own eyes. Whenever he’s funny, I laugh. Whenever he’s sad, I choke up. Whenever he rescues people, I root for him. I love his enthusiasm that he brings to the screen. This is what makes his performance unforgettable. This movie will be with me until I die.

Movie Review: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Well, at least Michael Bay made up for what made Revenge of the Fallen crap. Peter Cullen is back for once giving a good performance as Optimus Prime However, he and Leonard Nimoy (as Sentinel Prime) are the only highlights of the 2011 follow-up, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I appreciated how the movie tried to give a more historical depth. A poorly computer-generated JFK calls out the astronauts to investigate a spacecraft, called the Ark, crashed on the moon.

The human characters are bland than ever, not to mention some gifted actors wasting their talents (John Malkovich, Frances MacDormand, Patrick Dempsey). I swear, if Shia LaBeouf shouted “OPTIMUS!” one more time, I would be like, “Calm down, Shia. You don’t have to shout every single name in the book.”

Instead of Megan Fox, Michael Bay cast Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Wisely as Shia LaBeouf’s love interest. Even though she’s eye candy, she delivers a slightly better performance than Megan Fox. The action and special effects are as big and obnoxious as ever, but even more eye-popping than the last film. However, some action seem to be a rip-off of Michael Bay earlier films, notably The Island (his only exceptionally decent film before Transformers). Bay still has his “magic tricks” of making a humungous action set loud, obnoxious and jaw-dropping.

1/4

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Boy, oh boy! It’s impossible to think of a lot of sequels that wouldn’t hold up to its predecessor. Enter Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a movie so bad that it misses every mark. That’s right, even Peter Cullen couldn’t save it from being a ginormous train-wreck of a film.

The storyline makes absolutely no sense, giving little to absolutely no explanation. For example, at the end of the last movie, Bumblebee got his broken voice-box fixed. However, in this movie, his voice-box is broken again. How it happened is beyond me. Also, when Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) goes to college and meets this hot girl (Isabel Lucas) who apparently is a Decepticon, no reason is given how Transformers can look like humans. It’s like the movie is written by a kid trapped in an adult’s body. The humor is even more stupid than the first film, not to mention two dogs humping each other and two wrecking balls resembling testicles (“I’m directly below the enemy’s scrotum”). The characters come of as annoying than witty, even some of them being racially insensitive. The action gives a purpose to kill every single one of our brain cells. One of the worst movies ever made.

0/4