Monthly Archives: December 2011

“Tintin” is an animated marvel

Finally, something good comes at the end of the year

Overseas, Europe was treated to Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Herge’s Tintin, the popular comics of a French journalist that engages in Indiana Jones adventures with bumbling twin detectives and a sea captain chasing after whiskey. These issues are well-known for tackling mature themes of alcoholism and self-sacrifice while being a safe read for the younger crowd as well. Now the man known for enchanting those with E.T. and Peter Jackson who saved fandoms everywhere with Lord of the Rings collaberate together to make this long-awaited adaptation. Already it has made back its $135 million budget in its foreign gross, but over here…at least its grossed back more than Mars Needs Moms so far.

The major fault that lies is how we are to go in and know who these characters are. Those who are unfamiliar with Herge’s characters might have some difficulty understanding certain elements, but unlike The Muppets, we get an introduction to each one and come accustom to their personality. Tintin has a great love for adventure even if it’s really to make a story. Then again, we get so caught up in the eager journalist’s ventures that one gets to see little of his newspaper lifestyle.

Based on The Crab with the Golden Claws and Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin has to deal with murder and mystery over three models of an old ship that each hold to clue to treasure. unfortunately, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine is on the hunt and plans to obtain all three models and figure out the secret to where the long-lost treasure is. Needless to say, Daniel Craig was quite menacing as a villain and the character as a whole acts as a sinister gentleman that tries to act civil, but knows when to be fierce when needed. On the side, there’s Archibald Haddock, a drunk sea captain that is the last in line of Haddocks that are to inherit a great amount of gold. The only problem is that he is constant need of whiskey, which tends to be part of his character. For the most time, Andy Seksis’s performance as the Scottish sea dog steals the whole show with his bumbling antics and infamous yet silly cuss words like jellyfish or ectoplasm.

The Adventures of Tintin feels like one big stunt show. If you are a lover of action and chase, this is your movie. Nearly every scene goes by without a moment to stop and take a break from massive pieces like the chase in a Morocco village or the scene where Tintin gets abducted and Snowy chases after. One after another, there is non-stop running and gun fire that goes on and on. Its done rather well and camera movement is a callback to Spielberg’s days of 1980s action like Raiders of the Lost Ark or blockbuster treats like Jurassic Park. The entertainment value is there and really lives up to being highly recommended.

The pacing of the story goes by rather fast that one doesn’t stop to think how much time has passed. It gets you engaged into the characters and the environment around you with moments that feel like they were lifted out of a 1940 serial. As far as the motion capture goes, WETA has done a good job again in creating charactures as opposed to making animated real people to where ImageMovers Digital failed in. ImageMovers was trying to break new ground, as opposed to making use of it by bending the reality. As a result, they easily outdo The Polar Express and its experimental view of the motion capture system. Then again, WETA has already perfected it with Goulm and King Kong, so nuff said.

However, while Tintin is already a massive hit internationally, in America it’s slowly getting an audience but not as much. My prediction is that it will do moderate in the weeks to come, but not as powerful as the UK release. Then again, with no new releases this New Years Day weekend, there is potential of it climbing to the top spots and according to Box Office Mojo its daily gross has increased from $2 million to $4-$5 million per day (at least for now). The good news is that it has grossed more than Mars Needs Moms, a truly depressing and unpleasant piece that grossed only $24 million domestically and did far worse overseas with $17 million. In comparison, it’s not too late to see a wonderful flick before the year ends that lets you know all is well with the world and that Hollywood hasn’t lost its touch.

Why the Hate: The Grinch

Not everyone like the Grinch a lot...at least this version

Not every holiday movie is a winner. For every good Christmas story, there’s another that tries to do the same but falls short of being a classic. This is where Ron Howard’s The Grinch comes in. A 2000 live action adaptation that was not only big budgeted but fell victim to the same trap 1994’s The Flintstones fell into in my opinion. It was over-hyped and many flocked to see what was done. At the time, many were curious to see what they did to the new green Seuss character we all know and love. For a while it was the talk of the town and became a run away hit on opening day.

I recall a story of seeing it on opening day with my family. We were going to see it Saturday, but changed our minds at the last-minute. We got there, tickets were sold out and had no choice but to reserve a spot for the next showing. As we waited, we went home and there was a news report about how massive and successful Grinch was doing. I was more curious than ever. Millions of people gathering to see one movie and on the same day as Rugrats in Pair was playing. So we go back to the theater, sit down, see the movie, and I enjoyed it. Sure there were one or two things I felt was not needed, but I still felt it was a fair adaptation. But when I read the reviews, I was puzzled as to why it got a lot of hate and negative feedback. Keep in mind, as a kid, you have a different perspective on things. And as I got older and learned how bigger the negative reception was among viewers today, it was well understood this would be a hard one to coupe with.

So to begin, things are really changed and most notable are the Whos. The facial design is rather odd as they have short noses and have this goofy cartoony look. Although, the personality is rather different. Instead, they are more human as opposed to a group of creatures that celebrate the holiday for what it is and only appreciate the commercialism the season gives off. Maybe the idea was to make the Whos more like normal people so we could connect with them, but it comes off as being a bit mature for a family film. The idea is not bad, but feels more fitting for a different film.

The Grinch himself is rather interesting. Interersting as the look is there, but the personality is rather over the top. Jim Carrey was an odd choice for the part, but he’s not too bad. You get a good chuckle out of him once in while, but most is hit and miss. While I don’t hate Jim and appreciate the movies he’s done, I feel he can be a dangerous ball of energy that doesn’t know when to stop his antics or limit himself. While there were times he did get out of control on some scenes, he was mostly fine with a few annoying mugs and degrading scenes of failing to scare off Cindy Lou Who.

And the plot…well, it follows the book and cartoon near the end. Instead of showing the big heist and making the center of the flick, we get a back story to how the Grinch hated Christmas which is strange and somewhat unneeded. We know why the Grinch hates it. He doesn’t appreciate the season for what it is and is heavily negative thinking it’s about what annoys him. The scenes where he was a small kid and going to school just felt somewhat dragging. Having a back story is ok, unless its done right and here it’s rather questionable.

On the plus note, the sets of Whoville are great to look at but maybe it would be better appreciated if there was more color to them. At times, they do feel somewhat diluted and not very cheery. Maybe its how unrestored the original master print is, but that is just a possible theory as the very poor Blu Ray transfer is  some proof. Everytime I bring up this movie in a conversation someone says they liked it and some say they hate it for going against the original source material. Personally, I’m more in between. I can understand how it goes overboard on the level of maturity, but compared to another live-action Seuss adaptation that came out three years after, Grinch is not too bad and at least they tried to do something. There were a few chuckles and lines from Jim I still enjoy hearing and despite the flaws in the first two acts, the last one slighty redeems it in some spots. However, not by a lot.

I keep going in with an open mind and normally after each viewing keep questioning the purpose of certain Jim Carrey gags or debating if my opinion has changed. For now, its at guilty pleasure and that’s where I think it will stay. Again, I don’t think its a great movie or even a fair adaptation but there is some decent moments that show some effort like scenes of the Grinch feeling bored about the lair or his interactions with Max. But the negatives are often more dominant and make this less good enough to recommend. While I’m a big fan of the Chuck Jones animated special and do recommend that over Ron’s attempt, I still have heart for this version….even if its only 3 out of 5 sizes small.

Box Office Buzz: Successful but Disapointing

Well three big titles went up to the home plate this weekend and while they seemed promising to do well, ended up underperforming to semi-disapointing grosses. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows managed to take spot #1 with $40 million, but that is short from the first installment’s debut of $62.3 million. In comparison, it was much lower than Tron Legacy’s weekend debut of $44 million. On that note, Alvin and Chipmunks: Chipwrecked grabbed to the #2 spot with $23.5 million, which is nearly half of The Squeakel’s weekend debut of $48.9 million. Despite the decent debuts, they still feel like they underperformed but for different reasons. Box Office Mojo theorizes that Game of Shadows “probably doesn’t have the sort of rabid fan base that will eagerly turn out for more of same, which seemed to bear out this weekend.” As for reasons of the third Alvin film’s not so great gross, “parents are probably being far more judicious in deciding what movies they will take their children to.”

On the bright side, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did well for its limited release of 425 theaters and gaining $13 million. It has topped Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason ($8.7 million) as the highest grossing limited debut ever. By having Ghost Protocol be seen five days prior to the actually release date, at least Paramount Pictures made the latest installment feel like an event film that is worth seeing on the big screen. But will its success continue when it debuts Wednesday along side Tintin? That is battle worth waiting to see.

Rental Corner: “Santa” is a near-perfect gift

...mostly harmless

Movies about the holiday season tend to rely on two big things. Reusing a plot like It’s a Wonderful Life or just using the “Christmas is in trouble” plot. In fact, there is rarely a big screen movie that has to deal with Christmas or any of the other holidays in our times. And most of the time its more aimed at a family friendly audience, which is fine as it ties in with the cheery season. But in the case of Santa Claus: The Movie, it’s a seasonal flick that celebrates Christmas while looking into the good and bad commercialism views which are present. But strangely it all occurs over the supposed “true” origin of the holiday icon.

In this one, Santa is depicted as a 14th century woodcutter that often delivers gifts to the villager’s children at the start. But a fierce blizzard picks up and almost freezes him and his wife to death upon travel. Luckily, they are saved and transported to a magical place where several elves reveal that his destiny was to distribute mounds and mounds of toys to all the good girls and boys. Although, the problem here is that it doesn’t go into great detail as to how he was chosen and how the elves knew he was the right choice. I find it strange how it does manage to answer questions like how does his reindeer fly and how he comes down the chimney, but yet unable to answer others as well. They do say their was a prophecy behind it, but doesn’t go into detail as to how elves made mounds of toys as their waiting for the right man to deliver them.

Still, the origin tale is handled better as the film progresses as we see Santa through the years till the 20th century. It tries to answer the basic questions that kids know and it does it well. The only fault is that there are some questions raised that it does bring up like how did a bunch of elves reside in the mystical mountains. Its creative but you can’t help that there are some other mysteries that never do get resolved. Then again there has been more than one film based on the origin tale of the famous icon, so its hard to say if this is the true tale or not.

Another oddity is how the second half switches stories as we go from a “how it all started” tale to one set on his assistant Patch (the late Dudley Moore), an elf with many ideas that he considers to be quite revolutionary. He even goes as far as trying to update the toy making with machinery that does work at first but then falls to failure. Patch then decides to seek opportunity in the real world as he makes a deal with BZ (John Lithgow), an evil business man who is more about money than spreading the joy of Christmas. As said before, this movie does take a look into both sides of the holiday’s commercialism value. The good being the tradition message of giving good to others and the negative of when one takes advantage for greedy means.

It does the job very well of showing both sides as Santa acts charitable and BZ just wants public affection and mounds of money. John Lithgow’s performance does come as cartoony from time to time, but in a good way. It’s an over the top delivery that is about as on par as Hans Conried’s Captain Hook and the chemistry between him and Dudley during the scene where BZ meets Patch for the first time is a memorable moment. But still, it feels like an entirely different movie was cut in.

The first half is nice and syrupy while the last half feels like a traditional family movie with conflict. While the way the two transition into each other is ok, there is no structure to connect the two. In fact, at the point when Patch leaves the North Pole, Santa is very much nearly forgotten as the main focus of the story as the inventive elf makes a candy that makes people fly for the desperate BZ. As said before, it really goes deep into how negative  the commercialistic view of the season can be with something so fascinating that everyone wants one and how corporate giants take a liking to capitalizing on the holiday. On a side note, I also find it strange how a movie that shows the good and bad of commercialism can manage to have product placement plugs from McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. In fact it’s no surprise that McD’s was a sponsor considering the mini-reindeer ornaments that were released during the film’s run as a promotional tie-in.

On top of that, Santa Claus is very special effects heavy with nearly believable reindeer animatronics  and continuous usage of blue screen and matt paintings. While there is no CGI throughout, there is a cheap quality to it. While it’s not bad, at times it feels like the quality of something one would watch on ABC’s Movie of the Week. But for the time, it was very ambitious and quite impressive. What’s holding it back from calling it a classic for me personally is how tends to feel close to another origin tale: Superman the Movie. They are practically identical in tone, story structure, and the main character’s motive and view of the world. In fact, it’s no coincidence to say that Santa Claus’ producers, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, were also behind the Man of Steel’s box office debut.

Aside from that, it’s just  a harmless holiday flick that really knows how to soften its viewers. Its one I recommend for the younger generation, but its nostalgic factor holds up a bit for older viewers. While it’s not a great film (and it shows), there are some nice and cheerful images that are great to look at like the sets of the elves workshop. While it does appear to be night and bright, I feel that it tends to be too safe at times and lacks the edge in fantasy films like The Dark Crystal or E.T. But still its a safe film for the kids to watch and worth a view for the older crowd. While lacking in structure and feeling somewhat dated, its a decent movie to watch around the season.

This Week’s Releases: Apes, Pandas, and Superheros! Oh My!

August had quite the surprise on their hands with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a story about an chimp that gets effected with a drug that is to cure alzheimers, but does more enhancing to the brain than possible. With great action scenes and unique special effects work, its no wonder this blockbuster hit is the highlight of this week and a good title to go with the past Ape films. Special features on the Blu Ray set include two audio commentraires from the director and writers, 12 minutes of deleted scenes with unfinished special effects, a collection of featuretts, galleries, and much more.

Another big highlight is DreamWorks’ successful follow-up, Kung Fu Panda 2 is another highlight for the week. Dragon Warrior Po continues his training on being a master of kung fu as him and the gang of other fighters go againts a new villian with a device that could bring an end to tradition. With stunning animation and plenty of action scenes, this is one CGI flick that is a great addition to the family. Special features on the Blu Ray set include a picture in picture commentary track, various behind the scenes featuretts, a few deleted scenes, a filmmaker’s commentray and a lot more.

And speaking of action packed, if its one overlooked classic that many should have its Joe Johnson’s The Rocketeer. Disney’s 1991 underrated cult favorite arrives on Blu Ray for the first time. The film centers a 1940s pilot that discovers a jetpack that can propel him in the air and creates a superhero identity. Released in honor of Joe Johnson’s adaptaion of Captain America, the “20th Anniversary Edition” couldn’t have been better timed. Early in the year, there was a special Q and A screening held to great acclaim for fans of old and new. While the new transfer is impressive, buyer beware, this “Anniversary Edition” is void of extras. For missing out on the opportunity is such a crime and even though things are somewhat promissing for Waren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, perhaps time should have been crafted into this DVD release.

Coming Attractions: From the Future

Next year offers plenty of fresh ideas and some that perhaps should have been thought more through before being greenlit. Case and point, Battleship. An adaptaion of the popular Parker Bros game board that has players going againts each other through ships placed on map grids. However, things are being taken a different route as filmgoers and skeptics feel this $250 million sub of a blockbuster will be sunk. The concept involves many internations navy groups being alientated from the world in a section of the seas, but its revealed to be a trap made by aliens from another world. People are aleady on the IMDb message boards firing “critical missiles” at this over-budgted turkey. We seen adaptaions of comic books and that has worked, but a board game? Now don’t let’s be silly.

On a brighter note, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones suit up again for Men In Black 3, the long-awaited follow-up to the popular franchise of a top secret angency that deals with foriegn space aliens posing as normal people. After the negative reception to the last installment, director Barry Sonnenfield (who did the Addams Family films and Get Shorty) returns as Agents J and K deal with a new villian named Boris, who travels back in time to see that K never existed. After some delays in production, fans can rejoice to see everyone’s favorite scf-fi duo back on the big screen, but it will be a bigger improvment over the last? Well, all I can say is that the trailer does look promising….

Them Farlely Brothers are at it again. After raunchy hits like There’s Something About Mary and cult-classic comedies like Dumb and Dumber, they return to the big screen with a revival of the Three Stooges. This is a film project that has been bounced around from studio to studio and finall has got off the ground for a 2012 release. The concept is to have three seperate Stooge tales wrapped around one big plot as the knuckleheaded trio try to save an orphanage they were raised at. While the dialouge and slapstick is there, the only thing viewers are asking is the heart in it all. Does it have the entertaining vaule and is it another throwaway adaptaion like Alvin and the Chipmunks or Marmaduke?

And speaking of adaptations, Disney is at again with another long-awaited film project. Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s sci-fi series Barsoom, John Carter is a character that is lifted from his normal life to leading a massive rebellion on the planet Mars. Not much else to comment, except that this is Andrew Stanton’s first live-action directorial debut after taking on two popular titles (Finding Nemo and Wall E) for Pixar.

Box-Office Buzz: Good News and Bad News

Why Gary Marshall? Why?

After a stunning three-week run, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is no longer in the top lead. However, the latest debut films turned to have quite a disappointing gross for the weekend. Garry Marshall’s follow-up to Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve which did gain the number spot as Box Office Mojo predicted, but boy was the gross off. Compared to Valentine’s Day’s $56.3 million debut in the first weekend, many felt New Year’s Eve would have a similar strong debut, but instead grossed $13.7 million while adding on to the negative reviews that followed. The estimate was for New Year’s Eve to break even and gain at least close to $30 million. With estimates like that, maybe one should also include elements like the target audience and the reception to predict just how far a holiday themed movie will go. Let alone one named after a holiday little appreciate.

Another loser at the helm is Jonah Hill’s The Sitter, a raunchy R-rated comedy about a babysitter that goes from watching a bunch of rambunctious kids to going out in the ghetto with a handful of trouble. It opened this week to the second spot with $10 million and is quite lower than any other film Jonah has been as the lead (Superbad and Get Him to the Greek.) To date, this is considered the lowest-gross debut for an R-rated comedy since The Change-Up in August. Then again, Jonah Hill hasn’t had much success since Fox cancelled the poorly received Allen Gregory.

And in this corner, with a total domestic gross of $259.5 million, become the third highest grossing movie of the year, and at the third place with $7.9 million is Breaking Dawn Part 1. ‘Nuff said.

And as far as the previous family trio that came out Thanksgiving, their status ranges from decent to really get an audience fast. The Muppets is now in fourth place with $7.1 million. As said last week, compared to The Muppet Movie’s gross of $65.2 million, The Muppets is already the highest-grossing in the franchise with $65.8 million. Arthur Christmas stayed on well for fifth place with $6.6 million, having already grossed $33.5 million domestically.

But the more curious case is Hugo. Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the children’s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” expanded to 2,608 theaters, but dipped to sixth place with $6.1 million. Paramount Pictures did some exit polling and found that 52 percent of the audience was male and that only 31 percent were under the age of 25. After three-weeks of critical acclaim and a domestic gross of $33.5 million, the competition will really heat up when the other holiday flicks kick in.

Rental Corner: “Transformers” rises…slightly

Its better then the last one...at least

The Transformer movies have been somewhat hit and miss. The first one was decent entertainment, but the second one (“Revenge of the Fallen”) is best to be remembered less for its plot holes and questionable material. “Revenge of the Fallen” proved to be a knife in the franchise as it attempted to beef up the first film’s simplistic idea of alien robots that can form into vehicles, which in itself is based on a long running franchise of 1980s cartoons and Hasbro Toys from where the hype first began. Now, Micheal Bay takes another swing after a home run and strike with “Dark of the Moon.”

The main lead, Sam (Shila Beouf returning again) has dealt with the responsibility of harboring an alien and the horrors of college. This time, he is off to find a job in the office department and yet a boss with possible OCD (John Malkovich) is the only one to hire him. While that goes on, Sam misses out on the discovery of the lifetime as Optimus Prime, leader of the remaining Autobots, discover there is more of their kind on the moon. Yes, apparently this is not the only summer blockbuster to mess about with history. First “X-Men: First Class” has the nuclear arms race involved and now Micheal Bay is joining the bandwagon with the idea that Neil Armstrong was sent to the moon to find alien robots have crash landed there. Keep this up and Pluto won’t be a planet but a massive space station built to destroy the universe.

Either way, they discover a living Prime robot in the craft, which escaped during a big war on the Autobot’s planet, but however he is on the side of the Deceptacons, a group of evil robots led by Megatron, who plan to bring forth their dying planet with four pillars that will transport it to our world. For a plot this complex, you think it would be simple to follow. Well, not when there is focus on Sam in the world of office work, trying to make sure his new girlfriend is happy, watch after some small and wise cracking bots, as well as try to get involved in the next war between the Autobots and the Decptacons that is if the new secretary in control would let him.

The first half is so slow and boring, that you wish they would cut about 15 to 40 minutes from it. It’s just filler to a massive showdown in a rural Chicago city. There are some action scenes along the way, but they feel like meatier recaps of the original like a fight on the highway. But when we do get the final fight in the last act, we feel like it was either worth the wait or tiresome after all those mini-battles that occurred. Still, there are some notable moments like a massive worm-like Deceptacon that devours a crumbling building with our heroes in it.

But, even the violence is taken up a notch with robots decapitating others, heads of the evil robots getting torn off, Deceptacon being torn to pieces, and even some spurting up blood instead of oil. For a movie rated PG-13, its more violent than the last one. While “Revenge of the Fallen” got negative feedback for its “sexual content and forced comedy” (most notable is a massive Decpetacon with two brass balls are present in the lower region and two male dogs mate), this one is very gritty and doesn’t hold back on the gore. One can argue that they are robots and the “blood” is some sort of anti-freeze or oil, but blood is always colored red in any movie that exists and we see plenty of it.

Oddly enough, during the fights and certain scenes, there are moments where two seconds of black occur between a big fight scene or something of importance. Its distracting and looks like some footage was removed without fixing the odd transitions. In the end, you’ll get a shot of people running from the machines, cuts to black and then cuts to an evil robot talking about what is the happen, cuts to black and then finally and strangely transitions into the next scene.

I have a basic theory that maybe “Dark of the Moon” was longer and instead was cut down leaving gaps of information unresolved. This is not the way to resolve it. If the priority is to show, perhaps it would be wiser to have this entry in two films rather than cut it into a massive summer flick or at least keep the action and edit out the slow spots. And speaking of  the title, we don’t spend much time on the moon so the title “Dark of the Moon” seems questionable as the aspect of surviving Autobots on the moon is looked into for the first half, but very little of it.

Even “Dark of the Moon” suffers the same problem that “Revenge of the Fallen” had where it ran at a 2 1/2 hour length and felt like too much was crammed in. As a sequel, it’s an improvement over the last, but as a film on its own, one must take caution when they have a pillow and blanket next to them. Fans may like it and forgive what harm was done or others will be bored and tired by the end wondering what else is there to offer aside from the robots taking sides against each other on our own planet concept. If a fourth film is be made, perhaps it would be more interesting to see the Autobot’s and Decptacon’s planet before the striffe and show what went on. Althought, to give some credit, at least it wasn’t as campy or annoying as the last.

Rental Corner: “Green Lantern” unexpectedly falls…

*facepalm not included

In the first 10 minutes, “Green Lantern” has two things that bug me throughout. First, the effects feel like something out of a video game and the main character is completely unlikable. With that said, I’m not surprised to say that I’m on the bandwagon of critics that feel this was a lazy attempt to adapt a popular DC comic book superhero. But the worst of the year? I think that goes to something else, even though there is an open spot for this one.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is depicted as a cocky Air Force pilot that uses manuevers leftover from Top Gun. After he shows off during a presentation where he destroys two drones, a dying alien gives him his powerful ring and a lantern that serves as a charger for his power. Apparently, the alien was previous part of a  Green Lantern squad that is said to “police” the galaxy, but we don’t see much of it. True, we do get to see their planet now and then, but we never see Hal go off on any big mission at another planet or understand more of how the way the Green Lanterns work. It just expects us to understand what is going on with the knowledge of the comic in place, which I can’t go into detail as I never read any of them.

In all honesty, who in their right mind would give a power gift to a jerk? In the first half, Hal is set up as this character that boasts his pilot work and has a girlfriend that seems less interested in him considering how he acts. Not to mention the relationship he has with his family that is troublesome, but get see in one scene. If you are going to make a character unlikable from the start, at least have something we can connect with him to understand why. We do get this phobia he has of ending up like his father, but it’s not emphasized enough.

The alien planet of Green Lanterns is a bit of laugh and bore. Thor had believable sets even if they were digital because they looked like places we could visit, compared to the desolate and moon cratered planet that homes possible over a thousand of these green suited creatures. Even the aliens themselves feel unoriginal and more like rejects from a special edition cut of Captain EO. Apparently, they have the ability to shoot out any item from their ring as long as its green and used to save people. Bit of a lazy power as heroes like Superman and relied on strength and powers that related to their “mutation” or pre-born superpowers. Even heroes like Batman didn’t have to shoot out shields and cartoony race car tracks to stop villains like the Joker.

Speaking of villains, we get two as a scientist named Hector that gets infected with an alien virus that causes him to do telepathic powers, but at the cost of having a big and swollen head. At times, I felt this character was not convincing as a villain or even a memorable one. He just acted like a bland creep that would sit there and try to get involved with the story, but does little to move the plot or make an impact.

The other is a massive squid-engergy force called Parallex, that is awaken and feeds on fear. His mission is to follow the Gallacticus rule and eat planets while sucking out the souls of those who fear him. This is probably the most ugliest thing placed on the screen and looks like a big glob of evil cookie dough than a threatening entity. If I meant up with this thing, I would laugh straight on at its ridiculous appearance.

“Green Lantern” as a whole is just silly, campy, and straight up bad. You think the people at the WB would even try to make a good movie on this green guy, but instead fail with no effort present to show they were trying to make a good movie. There’s too much CGI, the characters are not likable, and it’s just basic filler to a disappointing climax where Hal tries to lead the dirty beast into the sun. There’s just nothing new to offer here. Maybe if they followed closer to the comics and set the entire origin closer to the original comics as opposed to doing a modern spin, maybe there would be something more salvageable. Instead, it’s a waste of time and good popcorn on a superhero whose suit color is the same as another powerful thing that it will never gain back: the money that was put in its $200 million budget.

Rental Corner: “X-Men: First Class” needs to retake a grade…or two

X-Men First Class

A movie that is already on my "Worst of" list

There is one moment in “X-Men: First Class” that greatly sums up the movie. A young Xavier is about to make a proposal to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) about joining the band of mutants he is gathering, but instead Professor X is told off. It’s probably the biggest highlight of the entire movie, but at the time seems to say something as Hugh Jackman looks away probably thinking “no way I’m being in this installment after giving me a s**tty spin-off.” And probably, it’s for the best.

“X-Men: First Class” has a premise that works well on paper which is the idea of superheros interfering with historical events; in this case, the nuclear missile clash between America and the USSR in 1962. While not a bad idea, I felt it was handled better with comic adaptations like “Watchmen,” where the grim and political tone related to film’s themes of anarchy and society against vigilantes, and “Captain America,” where the lead character dealt with the event and was the center of the plot. At the same time, “Captain America” achieved to create a realistic (while obviously digital at times) 1940s setting and have some throwbacks to the era that had its charm.

“First Class” doesn’t have that charm. I can understand it was attempting to adapt the grim and chaotic feel of the 1960s, but there were moments where I felt the movie didn’t have that 1960s feel and just felt modern. A bit of a nitpick, but one example is the musical score, as it feels like leftover cues from Thor, rather than relate to the era while having a dramatic impact. Half of the time, it felt like material that would be heard in a Tron sequel and half of the time it felt like something from an electrical opera.

Aside from that, there are some positive marks. The main center of the film is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is forced to perform his power for a Nazi scientist (Kevin Bacon) after seeing his mother killed. In retaliation, he wants revenge for this act. However, the scientist is now a leader of a secret society that is relied on taking over the world, with a band of three evil mutants at his side. One can really feel that this movie was more meant for Magneto’s story and it should have been. All the time, you wish to see him fulfill his plot and comes out rather decent in the end.

Then, there is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who is a blue scaly girl who can shape-shift. The story arc she has is rather interesting as she goes back and forth between wether to hide from the human society and support it or just let her “true colors” show and be a mutant. An action that is propelled after an ill-faded romance with Hank McCoy, as he attempts to make a cure to get rid of his mutated and ape-like feet. An action that also fails as he becomes the blue Beast for the final act of the film. Needless to say, Jennifer’s performance is not bad and comes off rather sympathetic as her views of life sway back and forth. The only thing missing is that sleek and slyness Rebecca Romijn had in the other X-Men films. Here, its more the straight-up, goody-goody Mystique who feels intriguing at times but too vulnerable and innocent.

As for the rest of the crew, it’s a matter of “they were ok” or “I couldn’t have cared less about them.” One big gripe I had was with the character of Xavier. At times, he acted brainy and used his mental powers like his comic counterpart, but at times felt too cheeky. And when he has a big speech to say to his group or try to soften Magneto’s anger which controls his ability to move and bend metal, its hard to take it seriously when for the first 30 minutes the mentally powerful is seen as a constant drunk, womanizing, and very cheeky character that one would find in a local bar.

The political tone of the movie that involves themes of war and the nuclear race between American and the Soviet is a rather interesting one, but it’s not looked at enough. There are times where it gets to be brought up and has that satirical feel like something out of Dr. Strangeglove, but feels sandwiched in for a 2 hour movie about warfare and mutants trying to feel accepted.

For a majority of the time, we focus on the friendship between Xavier and Magneto and build up to the point where they become enemies. While not a bad story, it feels sandwiched between plots of which country is going to bomb who, mutants that question to be human or themselves, and Kevin Bacon trying to succeed his plan for another World War and have mutants be the more dominant species. There were even moments where five minutes of a scene to a plot played and then it would just cut to another like all the information we need is just there and go along with it. The pace is rather rushed and doesn’t know when its a good time to slow down until midway when the CIA’s facility is destroyed and Xaiver decides to teach the remaining mutants they have to fight for the humans. It’s hard to follow at times and a bit jumbled.

But it all boils down to a massive climax in the coast of Cuba where American and Russian Navy ships await the first attack as Xavier’s troop of students try to prevent another World War, Magneto attempts to get revenge, and the whole board of ships sit there and wait to know the entire outcome as opposed to playing  a part in the final fight on the beach that drags on and feels tiresome. The first two X-Mens movies were quite successful with fans and critics, and I feel those are the only two that are good in the series. They are so tightly connected that they feel like one major movie cut into two parts. The third one I couldn’t stand as the first act started solid, but when the death of one major character occurs (not Cyclops), it falls apart and turns into a meandering mess as the gang gets lost in the forest trying to reassemble themselves. Fans were really furious with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” over how they missed a great opportunity to adapt a great character and present his tale while meddling with too many elements that made it more campy and less edgy like the previous three. And they have every right to be angry with it. That said, how does “First Class” hold in my book?

Well to put it in  blant terms, you know what is written on a carton of coffee cream? “Half and Half.” Half of the time, it was ok with its premise, some of the characters, and its satirical, yet political view of the 1906s. But half of the time, there happened to be a few things that just didn’t work like the middle section or some moments at the end that feel somewhat “shoe-horned in” like how Xavier gets paralyzed and the true reason for Magneto turning against the gang of mutants he once helped teach. While the first two X-Men movies were strong and stayed true to its commentary on society’s view of treatment towards those of difference, this one just didn’t live up to my expectations. Some fans may welcome it with a fresh mind for starting the franchise in a new direction, but perhaps writers should take a closer look at the comic book or the previous movies to see what make it work and didn’t before jumping on to do a sequel. “First Class” was a major hit at the box office and a hit with critics, but sadly not with this one.