Tuesday, September 3, 2013

F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Palooza-Mania 2000 (+ 13) ... Part 1

Jonny Prophet and I see a lot of movies and during the summer season, when the biggest are rolled out, we tend to see even more. This summer we saw 14 and I saw an additional flick with TivoGirl. I figured I would reviews all 15 of those movies in a series of 3 parts. So in order of which they were seen, here is the F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Looza-Mania 2000 (+ 13)   

Iron Man 3 – I am a bit torn on this movie. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. I did like the Extremis soldiers could be effective villains to face a guy in a super robot suit, which is usually said bad guy in a robot suit of his own. I also liked that Tony Stark had to defend himself without the use of his armor for a good chuck of the movie. But there was so much about the film that didn’t make sense. Why was Iron Patriot in the movie? That particular armor had no purpose in the film; I suspect its inclusion was more to sell merchandise and act as a red herring of sorts for the big twist. And what was the big twist? That the dreaded Mandarin, Iron Man’s greatest comic book foe, was just some nobody actor. The real “Mandarin” (or Man Darin as he was known in China) was Killian Aldrich. As I said before, someone else could take up the mantle of the Mandarin… but I doubt anyone will in these films. The writers apparently couldn’t figure out how to make it work. Sometimes I really think certain script writers for comic book movies just don’t ‘get it.’ It would explain problems in movies like Hellboy, Jonah Hex and X-Men 3. I didn’t get why Tony Stark would invite a terrorist to attack him at his home, but not have a plan and actually be surprised when they show up and blow his place to kingdom come. I don’t get why he didn’t engage those terrorists as Iron Man or why he just didn’t send his army of remote control robot suits after the copters. Also, why didn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. do anything to help Stark, given his working relationship with them and the fact that taking down terrorist organizations (like Hydra) is something that S.H.I.E.L.D. does?  I didn’t understand the need to have Tony pal around with some kid midway through the flick. And Jonny and I really didn’t get his need to blow up all of his billions of dollars worth of suits at the end. Why? Was there no more evil in the world to fight? Did Tony forget to bring fireworks to impress Pepper so he had to improvise? It’s not like he really needed the gesture to save his relationship with her. She said earlier that she understands why he doesn’t want to give up the armor. Then Stark basically implies that he will just build new armor anyways. What was the point? Damn it, Tony, this is why we can’t have nice things!  

Star Trek: Into Darkness – I can understand some of the hatred of this movie but I also think people may be a little too hard on it. Recently there was some poll of Star Trek fans that revealed the movie non-Star Trek movie Galaxy Quest was a better Star Trek movie than Star Trek: Into Darkness. That’s kind of funny, but it should be noted that every crappy pre-Abrams Star Trek film (i.e. Final Frontier and Insurrection) is still a lot worse than Into Darkness. That said, Into Darkness isn’t really a Star Trek film. By this I mean that every Star Trek movie, no matter how awful, dabbled into the realms of science fiction concepts and creativity. The original Trek movie was boring as sin, but the V-GER concept was really interesting. Final Frontier was terrible, but the idea of an advanced being posing as God warrants some merit. Into Darkness was just a sci-fi action movie that really offered nothing interesting to the world of science fiction or the collective imaginative works of the franchise. (The most imaginative part came at the very beginning with the volcano on the alien planet.) To put it another way, Into Darkness is to Wrath of Khan what Aliens was to Alien. However, as an action movie it is pretty entertaining. The fight with the Klingons was cool, the battle with the U.S.S. Vengeance was awesome and the final brawl between Spock and Khan was fun. But in some ways the movie felt more like fan fiction than an actual Star Trek film. The inclusion of Khan, the plot being one of revenge, fighting Klingons (for no real reason), the U.S.S. Vengeance being a huge black looking Enterprise, Leonard Nemoy appearing (again), Spock yelling out “KHAN!” in the reversal from Wrath of Khan and even Khan’s blood being able to miraculously revive dead Kirk screams fan service. Abrams’ first Star Trek movie was criticized as being too much like an action movie, but even that has interesting concepts like time travel, divergent realities, red matter, the destruction of Vulcan and the near genocide of its people. After two viewings of Into Darkness I saw nothing that really enhances the Star Trek mythos. But, after two viewings, I still came away entertained and I will buy the movie on Blu-Ray (or put it on my Christmas list). So, like I said, it’s a mixed bag.

Fast & Furious 6 – Did you like the other Fast and the Furious movies? Then you’ll like this one. It’s a big, loud, dumb movie but if you turn off your brain it’s also a lot of fun. I always have low expectations heading into a Fast and Furious flick… I need to see fast cars, fighting, guns and at least one explosion. This one had all of those as well as the world’s longest runway… which is estimated to be over 20 miles long! Sure there were some ridiculously impossible moments, such as when Vin Diesel launched himself off the hood of a car to catch a freefalling Michelle Rodriguez in mid-air over a massive gap between freeway bridges and they both land safely on the hood/windshield of another car. But the previous film, Fast Five, taught Jonny Prophet and I a valuable lesson… all things are possible through “Vin Diesel’s Love.” How did Vin Diesel emerge unscathed from a massive explosion? Vin Diesel’s Love. In Fast Five how did The Rock, who was sent to apprehend the F&F crew, become their ally instead? Why it was the of gesture of Vin Diesel reaching down to pick him up after drug lords killed his squad, something we like to call… Vin Diesel’s Love! When you learn to accept Vin Diesel’s Love, you become less focused on the impossible and enjoy the movie more. (A similar practice works for Die Hard films. How did he do that? Because he’s John McClane!) Gina Carano was in this one and it is always a thrill to watch her in action. Even better though, one of the baddies working Luke Evans’ terrorist guy was in The Raid: Redemption. Jonny and I would have been pissed if there hadn’t been a scene where he got to display his insane martial arts abilities. Thankfully we weren’t disappointed as he kicked the crap out of Han and Vin Diesel’s replacement from 2 Fast 2 Furious! Of course this movie sets up part 7 (yes, there have been that many movies of all this) which follows part 3 (Tokyo Drift), finally putting all this into some order. We had hoped that Tokyo Drift had just been retconned out so Han might live (whenever Han spoke about going back to Japan, Jonny and I pleaded with the screen “No Han! We know what happens there!”). But it will be cool to have Jason Statham as the bad guy and brother to Luke Evans’ character from part 6. We’re sure Vin Diesel’s love will prevail in the end.

Now You See Me – I enjoyed this movie for a number of reasons. It was smart, clever and pretty original… especially in a Hollywood climate of sequels and remakes. It also had a great cast with well thought out characters. There was humor throughout as well as great scenes of action and tension. But then there’s the matter of plausibility. I can turn my brain off for dumb action like “Vin Diesel’s Love,” but this is an intelligent film meant to make you think and second guess your own theories and predictions. It was well written, but certain problems emerge when you stop to think about the overall plot. (Beware, I will spoil the crap out of this if you haven’t seen it!) In the film we learn that the Las Vegas magician ensemble, “The Four Horsemen,” went to France in a very elaborate scheme to seemingly rob a bank from Vegas. To do this, they had to find a Frenchman who had an account with the bank and then give him a series of mental suggestions to convince him to take a vacation in Las Vegas and to attend their show. Problem number one… there’s a lot of suspension of belief there that they could plant the suggestion into this man’s head to take a very expensive trip abroad… essentially on a whim. Imagine the number of X-factors that could have screwed up this plan. What if a loved one was sick and he couldn’t leave? What if he chose to vacation in Europe instead or not at all to save money?  How did they track this guy to ensure that he got on the plane, stayed in Vegas and attended the show? Another part I had an issue with was when they screwed over Michael Caine, who was playing a wealthy owner of an insurance company. At a show in New Orleans, it was revealed that the Four Horsemen had depleted Caine’s millions in savings. They then unveiled that the audience was comprised of victims of Hurricane Katrina, that they had all been denied claims by Caine’s insurance firm and that all of his money had mysteriously ended up in their bank accounts. Problem number two… so they tracked down every one of these victims and gave them free tickets? Okay, I guess that’s somewhat plausible. But that moment of joy from knowing the rich jerk got ripped off and the victims were rewarded? Yeah, that would be pretty short lived. You see, the authorities would make sure all of that cash was returned to Caine. It is all traceable as it was electronically transferred. Plus, that money was Caine’s own private savings, not the funds of the insurance company… so that’s just plain theft. Any Katrina victims who tried to keep it could go to prison. In the end, that entire scheme against Caine’s character would really just end up a minor inconvenience. The biggest gripe I have with the film is when we learn in the end that Mark Ruffalo’s character, the main antagonist of the movie as an FBI agent trying to bust the Four Horsemen, was also the man behind the whole thing. He had a vendetta against several people who screwed over his father, a magician who tragically died years ago, so he put together a group of four talents from the world of magic to aid in his revenge, without revealing himself to them. But before this, Ruffalo joined the FBI to so that he would be at the center of the action… assumingly to ensure success. Problem number three... it isn’t exactly easy to get into the FBI. There is rigorous training and testing along with a lifetime of commitment to police and detective work to become an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigations. It was implied Ruffalo’s character was a master of mental manipulation, so maybe he could have given “suggestions” to his superiors to promote him as necessary and even assign him to the Las Vegas branch. But that is a really big if. There are more little problems here and there, but a lot of those implausibilites are just the nature of the kind of movie Now You See Me is. Any movie about illusions and grifting will have shortcomings and unrealistic plot points. Maybe I am just being too critical here. I did like the movie. I found it pretty entertaining. In the end, it just left me trying to justify a little too much to myself.

This Is the End – I really don’t have much to say concerning this movie. I thought it was hilarious, it was extremely raunchy and a lot of fun to watch. Michael Cera, for what few scenes he was in, absolutely stole his scenes. There were tons of great cameos including a surprise one at the end that became one of the greatest jokes of the entire movie (that is something I won’t spoil). There were surprisingly good special effects for a movie about selfish, ignorant celebrities getting high and trying to survive the apocalypse. It’s definitely not for kids, but if you were a fan of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Superbad and Pineapple Express, you will like this one. I can’t wait for Pineapple Express 2!

Coming soon will be part 2 of F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Palooza-Mania 2000 (+ 13)

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