Independence Day

“Am I the only one that still refers to Independence Day as ID-4? Where did that name even start? Marketing? Maybe it stayed with me because I still can hear my dad referring to the film as such when he bought us tickets (prime example of a typical father/daughter activity for us). I have a distinct recollection that we went for his bday, except I can’t believe that we waited until late September. Maybe we did. Movies stuck around a lot longer back then.

I usually try to make an effort to watch this around the 4th. I intended to blog it last year, until I had a last minute inspiration to instead do Team America: World Police. With the upcoming sequel upon us, it was time for a revisit.

I’m generally of mixed feelings about the sequel. I’m always gonna be skeptical of such a distanced installment, and they’ve had mixed results in the past. The fact that this is one of the greatest blockbusters of all time also splits my opinion. On the one hand, it could be just as awesome. On the other, there are very low odds of living up to that. Oh and my mom is in town when it’s out, so I’m not sure how likely I’ll be to get her to go. Ultimately, she will if I want to, especially if I play the dad-took-me-to-the-first-one card. We’ll see.

But we’re talking about Insurgence later. Right now, it’s the original thing. For the most part, barring some technological advancements since, it still holds up. We’d never seen action sequences like that before. The characters have depth and we care about them. It’s fast paced and suspenseful. And there’s no denying that Bill Pullman/President Whitmore’s speech is one of the greatest motivational speeches or scenes in an action movie or powerful monologues of all time. I may have occassionally YouTubed that clip to watch on a whim, because it’s just that good.

Y’know, if the new one is even half as good, then it should at least be a fun and exciting afternoon at the movies, whenever I am able to get to it”

Warcraft

“I’ll admit it, I play World of Warcraft. I resisted for a very long time though. It was a huge deal back on my dorm. You couldn’t walk out into the lounge without seeing half a dozen people on laptops gaming away. I didn’t want to get sucked into that black hole, so I was the lone hold out. Then some years later there was a boy. And I still resisted for a while, until I eventually gave in. Now I’ve got 3 Alliance alts at max level: my main, DawnieDarko, a paladin draenei; Dawnatello, worgen hunter; and DawnCorleone, rogue night elf. I’m also working on leveling a Horde goblin warlock, DawnQuixote, and I’ve got a Death Knight of some sort, Dawnofthdead, that’s waiting in the wings. Even though it’s been a couple years, I still consider myself more of a n00b since there’s a bunch of aspects of the game I’m not too familiar with. I mostly stick with question, purely PvE stuff. I only ever touch PvP when trying to get a seasonal achievement or other thing of great (relative) importance.

All of that background is just to illustrate that yes, I do know this game, and therefore I am the target audience for the movie. So as someone who plays the game, it was very cool (that feels like an underwhelming choice of words) to see it on the big screen. Every familiar town or race or creature made my inner geek giddy, although let’s be real, my geek is anything but inner. The spell casting looked amazing and the level of detail in the costumes was fantastic.

Now we get to the very big “”but”” on that statement of glee. Generally as a movie, not a whole lot going on. Simplistic story that was over-reliant on big action. I also wonder how well people who aren’t into WoW would pick up on the nuances of what’s going on. Granted, not a lot of those people will likely be watching, but it’s a valid concern. Some great people in the cast, but none of them particularly memorable other than for being whatever class/race they were.

One other thing that they did get right, we got both sides of the story, Alliance and Horde. Now there were clear villainous characters, but there wasn’t a right and wrong side. For being based on a game that has many users on either side of the fence, this was very much a smart choice. Some of the other choices made in the film may not have been that great, but rest assured that they at least got the important things right.

Warcraft – \m/ \m/ \n”

Now You See Me 2

“Continuing in the year’s tradition of sequels that nobody asked for, we arrive at Now You See Me 2. I was completely shaking my head at the idea (though that didn’t stop me from adding it to my watch list), but within the first five minutes or so, the fun of it reminded me how much fun I had the first time around. Not that the sequel really added a whole lot to it. I think it might have been just as fun to rewatch the first, save myself the 10 bucks, and get to sleep at a decent hour.

So the Four Horsemen, the underground magicians known for their robin hood type illegal yet charitable act, are back. Well sort of back. Isla Fisher (who was pregnant at the time of filming) was replaced by Lizzy Caplan, and Mark Ruffalo is fully on board with the team now. And this time they’re facing off against Daniel Radcliffe, an eccentric rich guy who lives in the shadows and wants the horsemen to steal some technology to keep him off the grid.

Here’s a good time for a sidebar. Radcliffe was the one thing that had me excited for the film. For one, I just love him. But for two, I love the idea that the world’s most famous magical actor would join a film about magicians, as a rather bad magician himself. They could have played that up more though. Apparently the question came up in multiple interviews with the cast if Radcliffe taught any of them magic *facepalm*.

Yeah so again, it was fun. There was a decent amount of suspense (I hadn’t realized I held my breath thru all of one particularly intense sequence involving some expert sleight of hand, until I released my breath after). I think they did a better job of using practical effects instead of relying as much on digital magic or film tricks as before. Still, I think my previous statement holds. Not sure that this was worth its existence in this world, but at least I enjoyed the visit.

Now You See Me 2 – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

“I use the word “”clever”” way too much when describing comedies that I enjoy. But I want a comedy where the dialog has some intelligence and some imagination. It’s unexpected and not at all obvious. Popstar was very clever indeed.

Starring Andy Samberg in a kind of incognito Loney Island movie, he plays a Justin Beiber/Timberlake type of pop star, going solo after a successful group career. The solo turn, however, proves to be less successful. We follow him around mockumentary style thru his album release and subsequent fallout.

It could have been that was I kinda delirious from the late night (this was immediately following TMNT), but I was laughing out loud at a whole lot of it. If you’re familiar with The Lonely Island at all, they have a very random sense of humor, and that was carried over into the film. This time, it’s in the dialog as well as in the songs.

I’m not really selling this that well. I guess maybe I’m out of ways to describe a worthy comedy. Maybe I should just link my favorite Lonely Island song. If you want more, then go see the movie. If not, try another (not every one works for everyone) and then reassess

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

“So about that time I snuck a deep dish pizza in with me to see Ninja Turtles…

Okay there really isn’t too much of a story here. I was visiting a very good friend of mine in Chicago. We attempted to get a quick dinner before the movie, but got delayed and deep dish takes a long time to make. We drank our beers as we waited, but as soon as the pizza finally arrived, we asked for a box. Box was stuffed in my bag and we ran the half mile to the theater, where we enjoyed the cheesy goodness along with our favorite teenage mutants. It felt very fitting.

I’m writing this about a week after the events, so I’ve already had multiple conversations with peeps about this film, most of them childhood Turtle fans. My quick answer is that it wasn’t something I’d call “”good”” by any means, but that it was a whole lot of fun, and pretty much what a Turtles movie should be. From there, I’m usually asked very specific questions about how it compares to the old school stuff or how our new-to-this-incarnation longtime characters were portrayed. Here’s where I take a step back.

Baby of the 80s, child of the 90’s, we know this. So of course I did grow up with the Turtles, to some extent. My strongest impression of them, however, was in playing with the neighborhood kids. Two boys my age lived next door, and a third around the corner. Around second grade, we played together often, and Ninja Turtles was a favorite game. “”Were you always April?”” a friend once asked when telling this story sometime back. “”Heck no, I was Donatello!”” I remembered the toys and the theme song and basically just images of the boys.

Here’s the thing, though. I wasn’t actually allowed to _watch_ Ninja Turtles. Something about the “”ninja”” part didn’t fly with the ‘rents. Side story, I remember one time one of our church’s associate pastors’ kids was over at my house. We were screaming the turtles theme very loudly. My mom raced in to turn off the tv and stop us from watching that ungodly show. Except we weren’t watching, we were just singing. Anyways, moving on.

So when you ask me how did this compare to Secret of the Ooze or how awesome was Krang and OMG Beebop and Rocksteady, that’s where I come clean. I have a vague memory of these things, their images are familiar, but most of my Turtle life was in my own imagination.

All that said, watching this really did feel like playing with the boys in second grade. I think what made this one so much fun was that silly motormouth Mikey was in the forefront, not the serious and brooding Leonardo. There’s a place for the conflicted leader story, but it’s a lot harder to bring the loose fun with that. We’ve also got major points for bringing in Stephen “”Arrow”” Amell as Casey Jones. Such a different character from what I’m used to seeing in his Oliver Queen, and a perfect embodiment of the joy of the Half Shell. Turns out I could love him more than I already do. And unlike last time when I left the theater with a kind of “”meh”” feeling, these turtles had me positively giddy. All I can say to that is Cowabunga, dudes!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – \m/ \m/ \m/”

Hunger

“When Michael Fassbender was first announced as Magneto in X-Men: First Class, most people referenced him as one of the Inglorious Basterds. Some of the savvier film peeps also referenced him as the guy in this movie, Hunger. I’ll admit to having to go back and rewatch Basterds to see which guy they meant, but then got really really excited to put it all together. And of course, once I was converted as very much a fun, I eventually had to circle back to where is big break started.

Hunger tells the true story of Bobby Sands, an inmate in an Irish prison in the early 80’s who led a hunger strike in protest of the treatment of the prisoners. The film divides neatly into 3 acts. In the first, we observe the deplorable conditions of the inmates, and the every day horrors they face. From there, we get to know Sands as he converses and debates with a priest who has come to visit. The third act sees him withering away as a result of his starvation.

It’s not the most exciting film. In fact, it’s downright boring at times, as far as advancing plot. But the images are harrowing, making it impossible not to have a strong reaction. Especially in that middle section, it’s pretty easy to see how/why Fassbender caught the attention of people who wanted to put him in bigger movies. And now, of course, he’s one of the biggest stars we’ve got, coming off his second Oscar nomination. I’m sure a win isn’t too far off in the future”

The Angry Birds Movie

“Last time I sat down in the cafe to catch up on my blog posts, I had such a long list of ’em to get through. I was really proud of myself when I finished, and still had some of my snack left. Then I got home and realized I skipped this one. Whoops.

I was on the fence about seeing this for a while. I mean, really? A movie based on the Angry Birds video game? But I kept coming back to the voice cast (Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage), and I eventually caved. I really was a fan of the game a few years back, to the point where I had to make myself stop playing because the way I held my phone hurt my wrists after a while. I have since abandoned it for Candy Crush, and I will say no more on the subject.

I was actually surprised at how well the concept translated to film. First, the title just referred to the fact that our main birds were in anger management. But eventually once the pigs got involved, the rest of our birds turned angry. And yes, there were catapults. I didn’t remember all of the various birds traits in the game, but it did seem like most of them were included in the film. So that attention to detail was nice.

I said it was the voice cast that drew me to this film, and they were great, espeically Gad and Dinklage. The humor worked well enough. Not quite the level of jokes for the parents as I’d typically like, but they had some that worked.

So not that best kiddie movie out there, but certainly on the better side of things. And a fun distraction, if nothing else

The Angry Birds Movie – \m/ \m/ \m/”

School Ties

“I was kinda shocked when I found out this movie existed. How had I never heard of a film that starred an itty bitty (it was 1992) Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, pre-Robin Chris O’Donnell, Ben Affleck (who is only minimally in it, but gets put on the cover now because he’s Ben Affleck), and Anthony Rapp (for all you Rent-heads out there)?

Set in a 1950s elite prep school, Brendan Fraser is recruited from his poor and humble hometown, and brought in on scholarship to quarterback for the football team. In fear of being even more marginalized from the privileged boys he is now living with, he feels forced to hide his Jewish heritage. All he wants to do is keep his head down, win some football games, and ride the scholarship into a Harvard admission. But of course, life has other plans.

In answer to my earlier question of how I had not heard of this movie, I think I know exactly why. Dead Poets Society. Released just a few years apart from each other, both set in boys prep schools in the 50’s, they have a nearly identical look at feel. There’s even strong similarities in some of the B plots. I won’t debate which film is better than the other, especially since they cover very different subject matter once you get past the surface, but I think we all know which one resonated better over time. Let’s just say only one got a recent instant classic SNL parody.

If we’re being really honest, I mix up scenes from the two of them in my head all the time. As I was watching, I had to keep googling things to verify they were in one movie vs the other. I’d almost recommend against seeing this unless you have a very solid image of Poets in your head, lest you confuse the two as well.

I’d say almost recommend because the story is a very compelling and important one. The type of discrimination that happens here occurs often in different permutations, and there is just as much to learn from it today as any other.

Plus, it’s a fantastic and very underappreciated performane from Matt Damon, pre-Will Hunting. That itself is worth a watch!”

Alice Through the Looking Glass

“The sequel that nobody asked for to the movie that nobody particularly cared for. A staple of summer, though never embodied quite so fully as with Alice.

I wasn’t too impressed the first time around. Visually, it was stunning (thank you Tim Burton, Colleen Atwood, and the fabulous cast), but the story was dull and the pacing dragged. Unless we’re talking about American McGee’s video game world, Wonderland isn’t exactly a place I was looking to revisit. Yet here we are.

Of course, it took a while to get things going. Stuff happens (unimportant) until Alice is returned to Wonderland. The Hatter is ill, longing for his family, long believed to be dead. Alice must confront Time (a robotic being played by Sacha Baron Cohen) and journey back to where it all started in order to rescue her dear friend. Once the ball was rolling, there was a solid 30-40 minutes of solid movie. Fast pace, captivating plot, interesting characters. Then we hit a wall or something, and we slowed back down to trudge to the conclusion.

It’s also worth noting that this is Alan Rickman’s final film. However, since he only contributes voice work (and minimally at that), I prefer to think of Eye in the Sky as his last, as that was an infinitely better film, with a much more solid send off.

I do want to just emphasize, this wasn’t all bad, just mediocre. The cast is a great collection of peeps, even if they all have better offerings elsewhere (though I will say that this is the type of role I prefer Cohen in over his solo outings). The visuals are still stunning, even without the creatively bonkers supervision of Tim Burton. And I swore to myself that I was going to try and last the long Memorial Day Weekend-o-movies without going on some type of feminist rant, but I will at least take one second to herald Alice as a strong female heroine. But all told, this isn’t really a movie that needed to happen.

Alice Through the Looking Glass – \m/ \m/ \n”

Straight Outta Compton

“I chose to skip this one in the theaters. I fully own that. I just didn’t think it would be of interest to me. I know Dr Dre from his work with Eminem and know Ice Cube from his <a href=””>film work, but otherwise, NWA just aren’t my thing. I completely admit that it was all the positive feedback (and the Oscar nomination) it received that convinced me I should see it. And then the sale at Best Buy convinced me the time was now.

While the music may not speak to me, the movie does on some level (go figure). It mostly served to highlight just how different my life was from these boys. Their story is not my story, which is precisely why their music is not my music. While I don’t know first hand what their journey was like, I do know exactly what it is to hear your life in an album and have a profound connection (have we talked about my American Idiot obsession lately?) And through that understanding, I was able to connect with the movie.

To some extent, it’s not really different from any other biopic. We follow a group of artists from nothing to stardom, and all of their trials and tribulations in between. But what it did do for me was create a great respect for these guys and what they did. I may not be rushing to iTunes to download their music, but I can at least appreciate their contribution.”