‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Review

gi_joe_retaliation_ver25

Dir: Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis

Synopsis: The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence

 

It’s not very often when we get a sequel that is intended to be a sequel but at the same time a reboot. This is exactly what Paramount and Hasbro have done with director Jon M. Chu with their highly popular 80’s TV show and toy line G.I. Joe. If you didn’t see G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (lucky bastard) then you really don’t need to worry. The only characters that cross over to Retaliation are Duke (Channing Tatum), Strom Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), The President (Jonathan Pryce), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the character of Cobra Commander (although played and voiced by a different actor).

Now don’t worry, you’re not missing much really but the only real thing you have to know is that Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy) has been planted into the U.S government to take the form of the President by Cobra and that Cobra Commander is locked away. All caught up? Good now lets get on with the review.

I mention before that this movie acts like a sequel but also a reboot for the franchise which the movie truly needed. Besides some of the characters the whole movie brings in a new cast and a new overall approach of being more serious than comedic like The Rise of Cobra. The movie does have humorous scenes which fit very well within the scenes and aren’t so cheesy that it won’t make you roll your eyes.

The early scenes establish the close bond between Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock (Johnson). We’re told in a brief scene that Duke now runs his own unit and includes Snake-Eyes (Park), Flint (Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Palicki) and a few others. But when the Joes are framed and ambushed, Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye (I’ll get to Snake Eyes in a bit) escape and try to clear their names and find out what happened to them.

Now, this is only one half of the movie. The other half of the movie is told through the story of Snake Eyes and of course, ninjas. Maybe one of the only good things about Rise of Cobra was that it went into the some of the back story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Here it goes into more as Snake Eyes is trying to get Storm Shadow so he can pay for the murder of their clan leader.

This actually leads to the standout sequence of the movie and one that has been understandably well-featured in the trailers, the mountainside scene. The reason it truly stands out is because it is a dialogue-free fight between Snake Eyes, Jinx (Yung) and a horde of Red Ninjas, which is inspired by Larry Hama’s famous silent issue of the 1980s G.I. Joe Marvel comic. In about ten minutes all we get is background music and an intense and thrilling action scene that involves everybody diving, gliding, flipping and slicing each other. Retaliation goes back into its roots, more military combat and ninjas, and the movie doesn’t depend on heavy doses of CG, like power suits, expect for the destruction of London (not a spoiler it’s in the trailers) but does have some cool futuristic tech that I kind of wish they used more in the movie.

Let’s get to the performances shall we. They’re all pretty solid. Johnson pretty much runs the show here, arguably next to Snake Eyes, but Johnson proves that he can take over the franchise if need be. On the other end, Jonathan Pryce as the President/Zartan President, has more to do here and you can tell he’s having fun with the role and it’s pretty fun to watch. Palicki and Cotrona don’t really have a lot to do besides their action sequences which they hold their own. Elodie Yung’s Jinx is interesting because despite being a presence’s in the ninja storyline and mountain scene she kind of just gets lost in the background once the stories merge.

Stevenson, with his southern accent, looks to have fun playing the villain Firefly as does Walton Goggins who plays a warden that holds Cobra Commander. Speaking of Commander, he was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the first movie but was replaced in this one by two people (one voice other as the actual character). The funny thing about seeing Cobra Commander is that he actually looks like he does in the TV show and even his voice is a bit closer and yes it does sound a bit cheesy at times but come on that’s the character.

I know the commercials have been pushing Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton, he’s the reason they call themselves Joes, but he’s not really in the movie that much. Willis’s role is really a glorified cameo. But the real negative on the acting side is RZA as the Blind Master. Every time he comes on screen it kind of slows the movie down and the performances comes off more as campy than “good cheesy” (can I use that term?).

All in all, Retaliation is the G.I Joe movie that the first movie should have been. It was tons of fun to watch and really enjoyable with cool action sequences and humor that should please fans. I did end up watching the movie in 3D and some scenes were kind of cool to see but you can go watch it in 2D and won’t miss much.

G.I. Joe Retaliation

4 out of 5

Advertisements

‘Olympus Has Fallen’ Review

olympus_has_fallen_ver10

Dir: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune and Radha Mitchell

Synopsis: Disgraced former Presidential guard Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers

 

One of the two White House invasion movies has been released and this one feels like a 90’s movie…in the good way.

 

Gerard Butler stars as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, a tough but reliable agent who serves on the personal protection detail of President Ben Asher (Eckhart). He’s not just the President’s bodyguard, but also a close friend to both him and his young son Connor (Finley Jacobsen). But after a tragedy during the line of duty, Banning finds himself transferred to Treasury (the Secret Service’s other duty being counterfeiting investigations). Banning gets a chance to redeem himself when a surprise attack on the White House cripples the U.S. government and leads to the capture of President Asher and his key staff during the visit by the Prime Minster of South Korea.

Yes, the villains in the movie are North Koreans out to destroy the U.S. government and the American way of life (insert your rant here trolls). The primary villain however is Kang (Yune) who is more cunning and intelligent than over the top, although it kind of feels like it at times.

The actually take over the White House is really brutal as Kang’s forces take out the White House security and even civilians during the process before managing to kidnap Asher and his staff within their own secure bunker. During all the craziness Banning makes his way through the city and into the White House but not before taking out some baddies along the way. After the take over, Banning becomes the only contact to the outside world and remaining government figure like Secret Service director Jacobs (Bassett), General Clegg (Robert Forster) and Speaker of the House (now acting President) Trumbell (Freeman).

Once inside, Banning becomes a one man wrecking crew and kills pretty much all of Kang’s men he comes across in some pretty cool fashion. While inside he pulls off a side mission and then does the hero thing by going and trying to save the President.

The cast here does a solid job with the roles there given. Eckhart does well in his President role, Melissa Leo plays the Defense Secretary who fights back when she’s tested. Bassett’s Jacobs character has her moment to shine when she’s defending Banning trust and Freeman plays Trumbell the way you would think when someone is thrown into high power.

However, this is Butler’s movie and he kicks returns to the old 300 days of kicking some serious ass.  His Banning is stoic, but not wooden which some action hero roles sometimes fall under, tough but warm hearted to Asher’s son Connor, and humorous without coming off as trying to hard. Being nitpicky, he tries to keep his Scottish accent from slipping but sometimes you can see him twisting his mouth in order to do that, again that’s being nitpicky

The action in the movie is fun, enjoyable, and brutal (in the good action movie way) to watch. Besides the take over, Butler’s Banning likes to kill some of the bad guys a certain way that some of you may like. Like I said at the beginning it does have a 90’s action feel to it but enough that it hurts the movie.

What does hurt the movie is some of the CGI. It feels a bit clucky at times and other times a bit on the cheesy side. The movie also goes through some tonal changes a bit but action movie nowadays tend to do that.

All in all, Olympus Has Fallen is being labeled the “Die Hard in the White House” movie and at times it is. Butler proves that he can come back to the action genre where he belongs and the action in the movie is badass enough that you can forgive some the tonal changes and clucky CGI.

Olympus Has Fallen

4 out of 5

“Oz the Great and Powerful” Review

oz_the_great_and_powerful_ver5

Dir: Sam Raimi

Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, and Joey King

Synopsis: A small-time magician arrives in an enchanted land and is forced to decide if he will be a good man or a great one.

 

*Reviewer Note: This review, like all my other reviews, will be spoiler free and will NOT compare this movie to The Wizard of Oz (only a bit but huge like some other review out there). Also, I did not see this in 3D but I hear the 3D is great*

 

“I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great one” – Oz

 

This is essentially the journey we take with our main character Oscar “Oz” Diggs (Franco) as he lands in “The Land of Oz.” The movie itself acts a as a prequel to L. Frank Baum’s original story of The Wizard of Oz and follows Oz who is a pretty much selfish, womanizing and ego driven small town magician in a traveling circus who dreams of being that great man. Oz eventually lands in The Land of Oz after getting caught in a tornado and meets Theodora (Kunis).

Once there he finds out that there is a legend of a great wizard that will get rid of the wicked witch that is causing chaos and destruction all over the land. Oz goes along with it when he finds out that it comes with a nice reward of a room full of gold and being named king. Even though Theodora believes in him her sister, Evanora (Weisz), isn’t so impressed and to prove that he is the great wizard they have been waiting for she sends him to the Dark Forrest to get rid of the Wicked Witch.

On his journey he has companions in Finley the Flying Monkey (voiced by Braff), who is pretty much the comic relief on the group and also delivers his line with some charm. Then there is little China Girl (voice by King), made of porcelain, and is found by Finley and Oz in a destroyed city and looks to be the last of her kind. She’s probably going to be some people’s favorite characters with her witty-ness, charming, and tough attitude.

Then they encounter Glinda the good (Williams) and from there the movie changes in some tone and performances. I know that sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you’re not familiar with The Wizard of Oz (which really? The movie came out in 1939 COME ON) or Baum’s story.

Now let’s get performances shall we. Franco as the lead is good to a point. You can tell he’s having fun with the role and plays the character in a way like he’s always performing on a stage. As the movie progress he does change a bit but never in the way that hurts the film. Williams as Glinda is very calm and never really changes her attitude from the moment that we see her. Kunis is the interesting choice all of them, her performance may come off as “off putting” at times but other times it seems like some she could fit in the 30’s or 40’s era films. Then there’s the always reliable Rachel Weisz who like Franco looks to be having fun with her role and you’re almost kind of drawn to her when he’s on screen.

Now, I know people are going to try to find things that allude to The Wizard of Oz and it’s not a bad thing. There is quiet a lot of references and allusion to the Wizard of Oz,  then again it is a prequel, that aren’t always in your face. You kind have to look for them in the background or listen to the characters (or watch for similarities of some). For example the movie starts in a black and white frame like the original and then the frame expands with color once we get to Oz and even the famous “Yellow Brick Road.”

However, the biggest thing in this movie is “the land of Oz” itself. The effects in the movie are really beautiful to look at and stunning that make the landscape just a part of the movie as much as the characters. Sometimes the landscape saves the movie or at least improves the scenes.

Oz the Great and Powerful is pretty much a family film in the classic sense of the word. It is filled with big, colorful effects, lovable characters (what’s more lovable about a flying monkey that can talk and cracks jokes right?) and humor. But, it doesn’t mean adults or older audience won’t like the movie either. There are some “horror” moments that could be a little freighting for young viewers but will be nice for Raimi fans.

All in all, Sam Raimi does a pretty good job of bringing us back to the Land of Oz but the movie does slow down at times which kills the momentum just a bit. Will all fans be happy with the final product? Who knows but it’s still a pretty fun movie with action, thrills and humor.

Oz the Great and Powerful

3.5 out of 5

Jack the Giant Slayer Review

jack_the_giant_killer_ver10

Dir: Bryan Singer

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy

Synopsis: The ancient war between humans and a race of giants is reignited when Jack, a young farmhand fighting for a kingdom and the love of a princess, opens a gateway between the two worlds

 

Fairy tales adaptations have become more popular over the last few years. Whether they are family-friendly, Disney-fied retellings, darker tone myths (Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth could be consider one) and revision from Red Riding Hood or Alice in Wonderland. But now comes Jack the Giant Slayer (originally titled Jack the Giant Killer) which at times feels like a combination of all the previously mentioned but also trying to be it’s own thing.

The movie stars Nicholas Hoult (seen recently in Warm Bodies) as the titular Jack, a farm boy who must rise to the challenge when he inadvertently opens a pathway to the land of the giants, sending his love-interest, Princess Isabelle (Tomlinson), into their dangerous world. When her father, King Brahmwell (McShane) finds out that her daughter is missing and is up the beanstalk he sends her guard Elmont (McGregor) with his men and a shady Roderick (Tucci). Of course Jack offers to help and despite him being a “simple farm boy” Elmont decides to take him.

The performances are generally strong, but like the rest of the movie, they are a mixed bag when it comes to some of the tones. Tomlinson and Hoult have great chemistry as both sharing desire to have some adventure. The always reliable McGregor and Tucci play a bit the comedic roles but also have their moments when they have serious moments. Tucci always plays a great “lovable ass” character and this is no different. I don’t know what it was about McGregor’s Elmont at the beginning but he felt a bit cartoony but changes later on in the movie.

Tomlinson plays the princess that doesn’t want to be stuck in the castle and wants to get to know the people she can eventually rule over. Hoult plays Jack really well and makes us care what happens to him. Hoult shows his acting chops once again and is starting to become one of my favorite actors and that he can be a true star.

Nighy voices the main villain giant General Fallon that despite the giant CG design (I’ll get to that in a bit) creates a dramatic, and in moments legitimately scary, villain. McShane finds the perfect balance between heartfelt, offbeat and funny playing the king/father character which is nice to see.

Now the giants who are…not really that special. There are really only three physical different looking giants; General Fallon, which has two heads (for some reason), a giant with an afro, and an almost not necessary rival to Fallon, Fumm. Besides them all the giants pretty much look the same especially near the end when they’re wearing their armor to fight the humans. The design of the giants works on only a few occasions but other than that the effects are put into the amazing looking landscape of the giant world.

The movie has a pretty interesting a cool opening it that he shows the tradition of storytelling. It opens with Jack and Isabelle listening to the story of the defeat of the giants as told by their respective parents. It even has a pretty cool animated sequence showing the history and what is to happen. That intertwining sequence plays later on in the movie when the two are grown up and talking to their father (Isabelle) and uncle (Jack).

All in all, Jack the Giant Slayer does have some really fun moments and doesn’t fall into “just being for kids” kind of movie. The movie does jump around a lot between genres which makes it hard to really get into because once you get use to one you have to adjust to the other.

Jack the Giant Slayer

3 out of 5