My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton.  I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.

Continue reading My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Everyone’s Right, Guardians Of The Galaxy Is Awesome

guardians of the galaxyI was a huge fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series which came out of the Annihilation events, though apparently I never wrote about it here on UM (though I did review a trade collecting the first issues of the original series). The mix of comedy, action and cosmic threats made for a thoroughly entertaining series that seemed perfect for the big screen, even if characters like Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Drax, Gamora, Mantis and Cosmo were completely unknown to a larger audience.

When the actual film version was announced, I was shocked, but excited. I got even more jazzed when Slither director James Gunn was revealed as the captain of this ship. Throw in a stellar cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Josh Brolin and Michael Rooker. Of course, I rarely see movies in the theaters anymore, so it took until last weekend for me to see the film which everyone loved. I almost never say this — just look at my initial review of Cabin in the Woods — but this is a movie that lived up to the hype.

I won’t bother going into the film’s plot, because I assume you’ve all seen it, are waiting to see it or have no plans to see it. I will say that I was shocked at how little of the film was spoiled for me going in. I realized as we put the film on — yes, I watched this with my wife and 3-year-old daughter who also both loved it — that I knew very little about the actual story. Sure, I knew about the dancing, the team-up element, the adorable mid-credit sequence and the cheer-worthy post-credits sequence (from my daughter and I, at least), but as far as the actual story went? I was in the dark and that was delightful.

 A lot of people credit this film for being funny as well as action packed and that’s a dead-on assessment. Even after watching the flick three times in four days (like I said, the kid fell in love), I still found myself laughing at Groot, Drax and Rocket. But this isn’t just a fun adventure. There’s also a lot of heart. That opening scene is ROUGH, especially if you’ve lost someone close to you. And if Rocket’s drunken monolog doesn’t hit you hard, there’s something wrong with you. On top of all that, the film is packed with clever ideas. Introducing the adult version of your hero with a dance number on an alien planet? Awesome. Rocket’s plan for getting out of the prison? Genius. The way these wildly unique characters fight on their own and together? Fantastic.

I do have three complaints about the film, though, but only two of them are valid. First, I really disliked that moment in the beginning where Quill says he forgot about the alien woman. I also don’t like how Drax called Gamora a whore towards the end, which makes very little sense. I was primed to see both of these flaws because of the people I follow on Twitter, but I agree that they didn’t need to be there and could have easily been changed. The third complaint is that it took me a while to get used to the different versions of these characters, specifically Gamora. In the comics I’ve read Gamora is a ruthless warrior with little compassion. In this version she’s a lot more human which works perfectly for this story, but took me some time to get used to.

We had such a fun time watching this film that I feel compelled to buy it and add it to my collection. That hasn’t happened with a new film since…Man Of Steel I think. Going even further, this movie got me excited for what’s going on in the Marvel Studios films leading into both Avengers: Infinity War. The Guardians have to be involved right? They’ve just gotta be!

Kurtzman & Orci Returning For Third Tour Of Star Trek Duty

star trek into darkness After looking around Hollywood for new takes on the Star Trek film universe created by J.J. Abrams back in 2009, Paramount decided to go back to Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci to write the third installment, The Hollywood Reporter says. The deals haven’t been finalized just yet, but the genre writing duo who worked on the previous films are expected to join back in on the Trek fun. Meanwhile, Abrams might be busy helming Star Wars Episode VII, but the studio’s trying to get him on board as a producer of this film as well.

As THR points out, 2016 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s most famous franchise, so don’t be surprised if you see Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and the crew back on the screen by then.

I’m In Like With Avatar

Yesterday, in an unexpected twist, the in-laws and Em decided they wanted to  go see Avatar. Em had been making fun of it for months and her mom kept saying she didn’t want to see a sci-fi movie. I mentioned I’d be down for Avatar or Sherlock Holmes and eventually we ended up at the theater wearing Buddy Holly glasses and watching crazy aliens run around on-screen. I had been cautiously optimistic about the movie. Not because I’m a great big James Cameron fan and not because I’m that big of a sci-fi fan myself, but because I wanted to see the next step in 3D and CGI and I hoped it would be good. We walked out of the theater with all three of them singing the movie’s praises and I just felt kind of eh. I liked it and the special effects were amazing, but the movie didn’t really suck me in. I only ever got really absorbed and lost myself in the movie towards the end in the gigantic final battle scene, which not only looked sick, but had me really wondering how they were going to get themselves out of this one.

Again, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it or find it interesting. I actually found the idea of a planet where every living thing was connected basically by synapses to be fascinating and started catching on pretty early as our main character, Jake, was driving around his blue-skinned, genetically altered Avatar (a mix between human and the indigenous alien DNA) and their footprints were glowing. I also really liked how the CGI made the blue alien humanoids look real. There was only one brief moment where I felt like I was watching a Pixar movie instead of a live action one, but after that it felt “real” the whole way. The animals of the jungle and the plant life were all a lot of fun to look at too.

I guess what bugged me was the story. It felt a little been-there, done-that. Maybe it’s because I’ve read thousands of comics and seen hundreds of movies and cartoons, so the idea of humans on an alien planet trying to take what they want from the “savage” aboriginals isn’t all that new. I was also a little disappointed in the portrayal of the army-like dudes. I know they distinguished early on that these were not government military personnel, but hired guns working for a corporation, but they didn’t really nail it home enough in my opinion. Not that I want things completely laid out for me, but it seemed like a fairly big story point that I had to keep reminding myself of and I kept thinking that these Army guys were dicks. And they were, which is another problem. Everyone wearing camouflage with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez (who I generally hate, but liked enough in this) is a jerk. And not just a jerk, but a lame, one-liner spouting jerk. Had those dudes not been in the movie or at least better written, maybe I would have been more absorbed.

Overall, I guess it was the little things that kept popping me out of the story. I tried avoiding all the hype and press and did an okay enough job. Okay enough that I had no idea Uhuru played the main female alien. In fact, I couldn’t nail down exactly who she reminded me of, but it popped into my head at the very end. She looks just like Uma Thurman. It’s crazy. Anyway, I’m in like with the movie, not love and hope to give it another viewing. We did see it in 3D, which I would recommend, because it’s not really gimmicky (though it probably could have been in a few places early on), it just puts you into things a bit more, kind of like the visual equivalent of surround sound. In the end, I would recommend giving it a shot and in 3D whenever possible. Oh, plus, check out this cool YouTube video of the toys which use a new technology called augmented reality to add a bit of awesomeness in each package!