All Good Things…..

I started this blog over two years ago, and i’ve had a blast working on it. However, it’s now time for me to move on. I’ve now got a PS4 and am going to start trying to do more reviews for games that are more current, and thus I can no longer take on the moniker of “poor mans geek”. By the time you read this i’ll have started my new pages, “Ludophile Lab” and “What William’s Watching”. I’ll still be doing reviews, trailer impressions and editorials, but i’ll no longer be doing them on this site.

If I’m following you, then I enjoy your content and for the first few hours, days or however long it takes, i’ll go about re-following everyone I follow now so that I may keep up with your content, and I hope that, if you follow me now, you’ll follow me on my new pages as well.


Justice League vs Teen Titans Review

By William Shelton

Director: Sam Liu

Screenplay By: Bryan Q. Miller, Alan Burnett

Release Date: March 29, 2016 (digitally)

Run Time: 79 minuets

Rating: PG-13

Score: 3.5/5

The first review I ever did on this blog was the DC Animated film “Justice League: War”, an animated retelling of the New 52 origin story for DC’s flagship title. I didn’t care for it. So much so that I haven’t watched any other DC animated films after that. However, with this coming out at almost the exact time I’m planing on starting a new blog and wanting my last review here to be a special one some how, I thought I’d return to where this all started and take a look at the new DC Animated film: Justice League vs Teen Titans.

The film opens with the Justice League engaged in a fight with a few supervillains. Everyone goes down rather easily but one villain, Weather Wizard, tried to run for it. While running he steps in what looks to be a shadow that ends up possessing him. When the Flash catches him, the now possessed Wizard announces “Azarath calls, the child must answer”. Superman goes to attack, but even he is no match for the demon. The Justice League figure they are going to have a much harder fight on their hands than the one they Just got done with, so Batman calls Robin (this being his son, Damian) and tells him to keep the civilians safe.

This doesn’t go over well with Damian, who’s trained all his life to be an assassin and now feels he’s being forced to the side lines. So instead of doing what he was told, Damian hijacks the…batplane…batjet….not sure what that should be called…..and fly’s it directly into Wizards chest, forcing the demon out of him. This has the side effect of forcing the last of Batman’s patience out of him. Batman sends Damian over to the Teen Titans to learn how to be a better team member. And as always, this doesn’t please Damian.

The young Robin is instantly stand-offish towards his fellow titans Beast Boy, Raven and Blue Beetle. This climaxes in a fight between Robin and Blue Beetle, where Beetle loses control of the alien tech connected to him and he nearly kills Damian. Raven uses her magic to heal him, but in doing so the two of them get a look into each others minds. Raven is terrorized of Damian and asks for him to leave her alone while Damian finds himself more intrigued than scared.

Starfire, now the groups leader and mentor rather than an acting member, takes the group to the fair hoping that some some, non-training related activities would help the group bond a little, and as it turns out she was right. Everyone has a great time…until a group of demos come for Raven, saying that her father, Azarath is coming for her. The team fight off the demons and return to the tower to come up with their next move, but when they get there they learn that the Justice League has also learned that Raven is who Azarath is looking for and try to take her. The titans resist, saying that this is their team mate thus their problem to deal with. But as the two groups are arguing Azarath possesses the Justice League and use their powers to take down the teen age super heroes. In order to save her friends Raven agrees to go to her father. Now it’s up to a weakened group of teens to save their friend, the Justice League and the world.

One of the complaints i’ve heard about the movie was that Damian came off as “whiny”. I understand this complaint, but I don’t agree with it. I personal see Damian as being incredibly depressed and just not knowing how to deal with it. He was raised as an assassin and is very good at killing, but upon becoming Robin feels he’s constantly being held back by Batman’s rules and ideals. I saw a lot of my younger self in Damian, so seeing that character learn to get over these same kind of feels I had at his age endeared me to the character more than it might have otherwise. But also like me at that age, Damian was a little prick and I totally understand why some would be put off by him.

My main issue with the film is that it felt rushed. At under 80 minuets it would have been hard not to have been, but I feel like a lot of the scenes could have used some expanding, rather than constantly moving from one plot point to the next. The creative team did pretty well with what they had, but if a 90 minuet “directors cut” ever came out I think it would help the over all film immensely. I would have liked to see more bonding and more fighting as a team rather than separately. Another thing I didn’t like: the stupid T tower. Yeah, I remember this from what little of the show I watched, and I didn’t like it then either. Sorry, it just looks dumb. But that’s nit picky.

However, in a year when we’re getting two big budget movies from both the major comic book companies where their hero’s are fighting each other, I’m kind of surprised how well this handled that same topic. I went into this thinking it would be another edgelord made grimdark film about hero’s fighting, but what I got was actually a pretty sweet film about a group of teens learning to get along andd trying to help their friends. Even when the team has to take on Superman it’s never even considered to try and hurt him too much, just do whats needed to push the demon out of him. There is once scene where superman hurts someone a little more than necessary to force out the demon in them, but it’s a minor slip up in my opinion.

And unlike in “Justice League: War”, I didn’t end up hating the characters this time. I’ve never been a fan of the Superman/Wonder Woman paring, and I still wasn’t here, but the relation ship felt real, like two people who actually care about each other. And the characterizations in War that I hated so much are no where to be seen. Wonder Woman isn’t a war hungery idiot; she even gives a feminist critique of a film she a Clark watch together, which is just so much more fitting for her character than “i’m bored waiting to meet with a world leader, lets go kill some stuff”. And Superman isn’t this snobbish ass whole who knows he can win any fight and desperate to prove that fact. While the Justice League weren’t the main focus of the film, it was nice to see the characters behaving like themselves instead of the abominations they were turned into. And as for the Teen Titans themselves go, they were all portrayed rather well. While most of the screen time was reserved for Robin and Raven, the other Titans all had their moments and came off as a likable group of teenage hero’s. They got on each others nerves, they weren’t always sure hat too do, they were quike to lose their temper and act rashly: they were kids with powers they weren’t quite ready for and the film sold me on that idea.

I’d be willing to watch more Teen Titans movies from these creators and am really considering tracking down the old cartoon. This was so much better that I thought it would be, and I am so happy to be able to say that. I’m glad that I can actually say I liked a DC project again, because it’s been a lot time since I’ve been able too.

Final Fantasy 15 Brotherhood Episode 1 and Review

It has taken 10 years for Square Enix to give fans a release date for “Final Fantasy 15”(September 30th according to one source), but now just a few months before launch they give us a prequel anime AND Movie? I’d almost dare to say Square have some issues with priorities. It’s hard to be too up set though, because this was pretty good. While this doesn’t make up for the over long wait and whatever clusterfuck that forced them to changed the game from “Final Fantasy Verses 13” to “Final Fantasy 15”, but in all honesty I’m okay with anything that helps us move past and forget FF13.

As I am including the episode here and it’s only 11 minuets long, I’m going to skip over the plot synopsis and you can watch it for yourself. Instead, I’m just going to jump into the things I liked. First of which is the art. Not being the worlds biggest anime fan I’m not quite sure how to describe the art style, but I found it to be simple stunning to look at. Kind of like the game…..they one that was announced 10 years ago……yeah if you cant tell I’m still kind of sore about that. Anyways, good visuals.

I also liked how they incorporated game powers into the fight scene. With the exception of any magic, this fight included all of the combat abilities i’ve seen be used in game play used here: the teleporting attacks, the switching weapons, even helping out party members….i’ve seen all of that in game play. I’m sure it would have been easier for everyone involved if they just picked one main combat option and focused on that, but I’m glad they made such an obvious effort to go beyond the superficial in making this a “FF15 anime”.

That fight scene also might have answered a question i’ve had for a while: what’s the game’s rating going to be? With the demo being attached to “Final Fantasy Type 0”, the first M rated eatery to the franchise, I started looking at the combat and recently began wondering if Square were planing on this being the first Main-line entry to receive the “Mature” rating. But once I saw that most of the enemies you’ll be fighting are going to be robots, that may be a sign that they are still planing on going the T rout by showing us that we’re not going to be carving up real people. I’d be fine with this going either way, but it’s funny that this comes out right around the same time the question popped into my head.

All in all, I enjoyed this and am looking forward to the next episode. How a bout you? Leave a comment below and let me know what you thought.

Daredevil Season 2 Episodes 5-13 Review

By William Shelton

Okay, the first thing I ant to clear up is that I was wrong about the first four episodes being their own arch. While they did clear up most of the “Daredevil vs Punisher” stuff that was promised in the trailers, the next 9 episodes did continue on as one continuous story. As a whole the show changes focus from episode 5 on, but I was expecting the first four episodes to be largely disconnected from the rest of the series, and that simply wasn’t the case.

Spoilers below.

Episode four ends with Daredevil saving a wounded Punisher from the Irish and Turing him over the police. As Matt Mudock returns home he is greeted by Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios. We soon learn the two aren’t on the best of terms, so when Elektra asks him to represent her in a business meeting she is having the next day it’s no surprise that he says no. While Elektra leaves after this, she was clearly undeterred by his answer, as the next day a huge amount of money has interned the bank account of Nelson and Murdock. Matt knows instantly where it came from and goes to get answers. Using his super-hearing he spies on the meeting from the roof of a near by building.

Once the meeting is done Matt Makes his way to where Elektra is staying. Elektra reveals both that she is aware that Murdock is Daredevil, and that the two are about the be ambushed by Yakuza in retaliation for a stunt she pulled at the meeting. After the two of them fight the few goons sent their way Elektra explains to Matt the Yakuza are planing something, and her meeting was to uncover who they were working with. Matt agrees to help her so long as she agrees not too kill anyone.

Round the same time as all of this is happening, Matt and Foggy decide to represent Frank Castle, The Punisher, in an attempt to get the charges reduced on his sentence. But as Matt is spends time helping Elektra he begins to miss court, putting more pressure on Foggy as a lawyer and on the two men’s friendship. This doesn’t seem to matter much as no matter how well they do in court it seems like Frank is actively trying to sabotage his own case. This inevitably leads him to prison, where Wilson Fisk is waiting for him.

Upon learning that The Punisher would be making his way to the same prison, Fisk beings planing on ways to use this to his advantage. Even though the character is only in the show for a few episodes this season, actor Vincent D’Onofrio reminds everyone why he was the best part of the first season, and I can’t wait to see what they do with him in the seasons and spin offs to some (I’m hoping he’ll be the big bad for the Avengers like group series The Defenders). Once Fisk is done with Castle he tries to have him killed, but when that doesn’t work he uses his now considerable connections inside the prison to have Frank escape.

The information the Daredevil and Electra find leads them to the same place the now lose Punisher is heading, leading the two men to meet up at a dock where a massive heroine shipment has come in. Unfortunately for the two they didn’t find the person they were looking for, only a decoy.

The Punisher counties his search for the man behind his family’s death as Daredevil movies on, having to find his mentor Stick (the worst part of season one, and sadly the same here) who’s been kidnapped. Daredevil and Elektra find Stick, though they have apposing views on what to do with him as he and Elektra had something of a falling out a few episodes prier. We learn Electra’s back story which, from my understanding, is quite a bit different from the comics, as well as what the villain’s plans have been.

And in the end, it was a whole lot of build up to not much at all.

In fact the Elektra stuff turns out to be the worst part of the show. Elodie Yung does just fine in the role, but it’s the role she was give that’s the issue. I’m okay with the MCU making changes to the comics well established cannon if it helps create more interesting characters, but they literally strip Elektra of any character she might have had. Everything that could have made her interesting was set up either by Stick or by her “destiny” (which is probably the trope I hate the most) and the character herself has no real agency in her own story. And with how much time they spend on her story it really drags the season down. And the sad thing is that this had all the ingredient to make a fantastic bit television. Matt Murdock constantly ruining his own life at chances at real, mature happiness by his own religious need for self destructive pence manifesting itself in his attraction to a woman he knows he shouldn’t be with but can’t help himself while around her….that’s good shit in my opinion. I hope Yung returns in a later season, but I really hope the writers figure out something better for her too do.

In the end, season two was all together better than season one was, but now that we have Jessica Jones to compare both seasons two it’s hard not to see Daredevil as the “Thor” of the netflix based MUC project: serviceable but ultimately the lest necessary of Marvels projects. Daredevil is still worth a watch, and it’s given us one of, if not the best incarnations of The Punisher (who I hope gets his own Netflix show at some point), but it’s the one project they’ve done that I wouldn’t exactly miss if it were scraped all together. I can see a lot more being done with the show and its characters, and I hope the show reaches that point, but this season just didn’t quite reach those possible heights.

Overall I’d give this season


Daredevil Season 2 Episodes 1-4 Review

By William Shelton

Marvel Daredevil was pretty much everything I wanted it too be when I heard the the Netflix branch of the MCU was aiming to be a darker and more mature. The fight scenes were brutal and more striped back than the more family oriented film, Matt Murdock’s internal conflicts were much deeper than anything the A-listers had to deal with and the show had my favorite villain the MCU has produced by far. Unfortunately for out man without fear, the next marvel based Netflix show was Jessica Jones, which blew it out of the water in almost every way. So now the question is: will Daredevil’s second season be able to recapture the magic the first season had before it was outdone?
Short answer: no, but like season one it’s still pretty great.
The season opens strong, with Daredevil taking down a group of baddies without ever showing us Daredevil himself. This leads to what would have been a nice reveal of his costume if we hadn’t already seen it at the end of season 1, but it’s still a well paces opener. We are soon introduced to The Punisher in a similar fashion as he guns down a group of Irish moddsters with near surgical precision without ever being shown. He’s so proficient at killing that at first Matt Murdock and company believe they are up ageist an entire squad of trained killers. As good a killer as he is, even the punisher misses sometimes and one of the Irish managed to make it out alive.
By either coincidence or plot convenience Grotto (the Irishman from punisher assault) makes his way to Nelson and Murdock seeking to trade information for witness protection. While meeting with our “avocados at law” Grotto passes out from a gunshot he took and is taken to the hospital. Karen even stays behind and tries to pass herself off as his wife inorder to hind him from the punisher, who they’ve been assured will come looking.
This doesn’t work. The Punisher shows and….pisses me off.
Okay, taking a small break from the plot synopsis and getting to the political side of this. I’ve always liked the Punisher, but he’s a character that you really have to now how to write. Especially in the age of mass shootings. Who ever wrote this episode is not one of those writers. While I’m okay with the punisher shooting a bad guy in the hospital (that makes scenes with his character), when he does it here he goes I with a shotgun. The Punisher starts shooting in a crowded hospital, full of innocent people with a gun made to spread out it’s shoot range to hit targets in a wider area. This is not how the Punisher should be handled. Latter on he even cocks a gun at an unarmed elderly man. While some lip servant is paid to this all being an act and that he made sure innocent people wouldn’t have gotten hurt nothing he does here backs that claim up. While the dialogue is well written through out the season thus far and Jon Bernthal kills it in the role, this isn’t how the character should be handled….if he’s meant to be a hero. And that’s where this becomes an interesting talking point. Bernthal said he wants his role to get people talking about gun violence in America, and I can see that happen. Personally while I’m all for that pushing that conversation, I wish that did have to come at the expense of the character. For example, in the hospital scene, why give the punisher a shotgun? Why not a pistol or rifle or something more accurate? That at least would have at lest given some credence to the idea that he at lest made some effort not to kill those who didn’t deserve it, while still starting that political conversation.
Getting back on track, the first four episodes are dedicated to the fight between the Daredevil and the Punisher’s fight (which is why I’m not doing my normal 6 episode review) and it makes a pretty good mini arch. However, what made both Daredevil and Jessica Jones so great is that they were both one extended story, so having this not be the case here almost makes this season feel like a lesser entity than either of those. Not helping matters is the fact that Vincent D’Onofrio isn’t returning as Wilson Fisk, who was with out a doubt the best thing season one had going.
With all that said it’s easy to think I’m not fond of this season, but that’s not the case. It has it’s issues to be sure, but i’ve still had a blast watching it. Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal both sell the hell out of their roles as two men on similar yet vastly different paths in life, and each scene they share is something too look forwards too, whether they’re fighting to talking. However, it’s Elden Henson as Foggy that really makes the show for me. Not only is the character funny as hell, but Foggy’s take no shit approach to lawyering and dedication to protecting the his clients makes you wish more law professionals were like him. While he may not be “the badass” of the show, he’s the guy I personally want to be like: honest, smart as hell and loyal to a fault.
The fight scenes are also better this time around, with one tracking shot fight down a stairwell being the highlight of this arch for me personally. However, I wish they’d try a little harder not to go back to under lit hallways. Last season’s “Oldboy” inspired fight was a season highlight, I’m glad we all agree, but the constant call backs to it feel unnecessary. I mean, I know there’s only so much you can do with a locations as confined as this, but fights this good shouldn’t be healed back by repetitive environments.
As of right now I’m not sure any of this will matter in the long run. Will any of this play a part in the seasons over all plot? That remains to be scene, but so far it’s been a hell of a ride none the less. I’m still of the opinion that Jessica Jones is the better show, but this is miles above what they did with season one, and I can’t wait too see what comes next.

Deadpool Review

By William Shelton

Director: Tim Miller
Screenplay By: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Release Date: February 12, 2016
Run Time: 108 minuets
Rating: R
Score: 3.5/5

There is a lot to like about Deadpool: it’s funny, action packed and a rather nice change of pace from the more family oriented superhero films we’ve been getting the last few years. The biggest issue is that most of what there is too like has been in the trailers. Most of the best jokes and action stunts were featured in at lest one of the trailers, which made watching the actual film not as entertaining as it could have or should have been. It also doesn’t help that the movie just isn’t as funny as I was expecting. Yeah, I said it.
There were chuckles throughout the film, don’t get me wrong, but the films best joke comes right at the beginning with the opening title crawl, and nothing afterwards hits that same high mark. This could be due to overexposure from watching the trailers as much as I did, but even then it’s hard to excuse the movie as the film makers should have known better. Even Deadpool’s trade mark 4th-wall breaking was done in such a traditional manner that I have to ask how uninspired the creative team had to have been to not do more with it. Sure, lines about Fox’s X-men time line being a mess and a jab about the low budget of the film were funny enough, but more could have been done. A lot more.
At it’s core Deadpool is really only two extended action scenes with bits of back story to break up the action and to make sure Deadpool’s comedy shtick doesn’t begin to grate, and I found this format to be rather effective. At the heart of the whole thing is a rather touching love story. While the film tries to toe the “Guardians of the Galaxy” line where they undermine any scene that comes close to “sweet” or “sentimental”, I found the chemistry between Reynolds and Baccarin’s to be so good that this sincerity undermined the films attempt at undermining itself. It’s even pretty progressive in the area as (mild spoiler warning) Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa enters the film as a sex worker. It could have been easy for the film to make jokes about the relationship between her and Wade (the tired kind that assumes that strippers and prostitutes don’t feel any kind of real emotions ever), the film never goes there. It does make 3 or 4 rape jokes that I could have done without tho.
While the central romance is all well and good, it’s the action that keeps this movie firmly in the realm of entertaining to me. Again most of the big stunts were shown in the trailers but unlike with the jokes, what wasn’t already shown was just as good. Even just a few little things that got cut from scenes in the trailer made those bits better than I was expecting.
Everyone in the cast does a great job with Reynolds obviously being the best thing in the movie. As far as I’m concerned this more that makes up for “X-Men Origins” and “Green Lantern” (both of which the film lampoons). However, special mention must be given too Brianna Hildebrand as “Negasonic Teenage Warhead”. Not only does she do a phenomenal job in the role, but having the character there in the first place was a pretty bold move. Her entire presents is just about having a teen age character (what I’m sure will end up being the core audiences of the film) who “gets” Deadpool and just does not give a shit about him. Her entire job is to lampoon the film itself when it starts getting too pleased with itself. My favorite example of this is when Deadpool refers to her as “Ripley from Aliens 3” and her respond is simply “f**k you’re old”. Her presence forces Deadpool, both as a character and as a movie, to up his game and not rely on overly worn call-backs and pop-culture references. While I still stand by what I said about the movie just not being as funny as I wanted it to be, I can only imagine how much worse it would have been had the creative team not thought in advance to have this character.
I can’t lie, I wanted more out of Deadpool than what I got, but I still enjoyed myself. I don’t think anyone other than the underage kids sneaking into the theater will think of this as a classic superhero movie in time, but it’s well worth seeing. It’s an enjoyable film, just not a great one. And for a movie coming out in February, i’ll take “just enjoyable” over what we normally get this time of year.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Director: J.J. Abrams
Screenplay By: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Run Time: 135 Minuets
Rating: PG-13
Score: 4/5

I’m not going to lie, I went into The Force Awakens with lower than average expectations. I was sure the film would be…okay……tolerable……competent…..but nothing more. Most of this came down to one major issue: J.J. Abrams. Abrams is, by far, the most uniquely bland director I’ve ever known. He may be a better director than some one like Michael Bay, but from watching his films alone I can tell you more about Michael Bay than I can Abrams (like, for example: Bay as a clear hard on for Americana and the US Military especially). This is most clearly seen when focus is placed on Abrams one true strength as a film maker: mimicry. Abrams is always at his best when he’s trying to be another director, but once he tries to put his own spin on things, that’s when everything falls flat. The best example of this was, in my opinion, “Super 8”. When Super 8 was trying to be a Spielberg film, it was really enjoyable. Once Abrams had to rely on his own creativity, the entire film fell apart. This was a long form way of saying that I was expecting this to be the best Star War movie George Lucas made scene “The Empire Strikes Back” until it becomes yet another uninteresting, underwhelming Abrams film.
And I was totally wrong. While I still feel Abrams
shouldn’t have to lean so much on ’70s era Lucas to make a good film, I think this is the best film he’s made thus far in his career. So, with all that out of the way: lets talk about the movie.
We open, as Star Wars films always do, with a text crawl setting the scene. After “Return of the Jedi” and the fall of the Empire, and new foe called The First Order has surfaced to bring down the newly founded Republic and trying to reinstate the empire as it once was. We also learn that Luke Skywalker has gone missing. The film proper opens with a rebel pilot named Poe (Oscar Isaac) being given a map that leads to Luke’s position, but the First Order has found him before he could get the information to General Leia (note the “General” there. Leia has always been a badass, people seem to forget) so he gives it to his droid, the incredibly adorable BB-8, and sends it off so the information doesn’t fall into enemy hands.
As the enemy lands and attack the village Poe was in, we see a lone Stormtrooper cower from battle and unwilling to fire at the unarmed civilians. We learn that this is his first battle, and it’s clear a life of war isn’t something he is cut out for. So when the New masked Villain, Kylo Ren, abducts Poe to learn the whereabouts of the map, our Stormtrooper, Fin (John Boyega) decides to break him out. The two men manage to escape and even start becoming friends, but are shot down and land on the same planet they had just left.
As this is going on BB-8 runs into Ray, played by Daisy Ridley, and the two decide to team up and look for Poe in a near by town. It’s hear that Ray and Fin meet up and decide to escape together as the First Order soon attacks the town knowing it’s about where Poe and Fin’s downed ship would have landed.
Once the two are free they come across some old friends, Han and Chewy, who decide to help the two of them get BB-8 to someone who can take the droid to the rebel HQ. Unfortunately, once they get there they are spotted by both First Order and rebel spies and a full on battle breaks out. Ray is kidnapped and taken to the First Order base. Fin, Han and General Leia go back to theirs, using Fins first hand knowledge of the enemy base to get in, rescue Ray and destroy the enemy HQ once and for all.
Now, you may have noticed something in this description of the films story. Barring a few details, this sounds an awful lot like the plot of the first Star Wars (i’ll rot in hell before calling it “A New Hope”), and you’d be right. However, this didn’t really bother me much as it truly felt more like an homage rather than rip-off. The new beats keep things feeling new and unless you’re really looking for the similarities between the films they’re not all that noticeable.
However, there were two major issues (and a few minor ones as well).
The first is how much of the film relies on coincidences. Poe just happened to be on the same planet as Ray, Ray and Fin just happen to meet up, they just happen to run into Han and Chewy and so on. While i’ve heard some say that this is “the force” leading these people on their path, but I don’t really by that. Nothing about how the force has been depicted, even in the prequels, makes it seem like the force is some kind of conscious being.
The second thing, unfortunately, deals with this films relation too the prequels. As much as I hate the prequels, I will defend them as cannon. So, with that in mind, how does no one seem to remember the fact that the Jedi were real? How has Luke and his journey become the stuff of legend when it would have happened within most of their lifetimes or just before it? I’m sorry but if the Jedi were aiding the republic only about 100 years ago, especially in such a technologically advanced society, there should be some evidence for it, right?
Those were the two things that bothered me to the point were I had to doc the movie. But then there was Captain Phasma, who only shows up three god damn times and doesn’t do shit in the film. Sure, that didn’t make the film any worse, but so much could have been done with her. (if she doesn’t show back up in 8 or 9, I’m going to be pissed).
Pretty much everything else is top notch. While the film may not be as jaw droppingly beautiful as this years Crimson Peak, there are still a ton of amazing shots throughout, like one early scene where a laser blast is being force held in place. Fin and Ray are two of my favorite leads in a long, long time and Ray is probably the best female lead in a genre film scene Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” (sorry “Mad Max: Furry Road” Fans, I like Ray a bit more)
And going back to Abrams: one of the reasons his work fails is his “misery box” crap which never pays off well enough for it to be the big selling point for his films. However, there is a twist in the film that I honestly never saw coming. It’s not a story twist, but when it comes, you’ll know and it is beautifully well done.
In the end I’d say this is my second or third favorite film in the franchise. It’s not better than “The Empire Strikes Back” but I may have enjoyed this more than either the original or “Return of the Jedi”. I am absolutely looking forward to seeing where this new trilogy goes from here (although this “one new movie a year with a main installment every two years” thing kind of bothers me). If you haven’t seen this yet, just go do it. But don’t bother seeing it in 3D as it just does not add anything to the over all film.

Scorsese Month Review: Shutter Island

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: Laeta Kalogridis
Release Date: February 19, 2010
Run Time: 138 Minuets
Rating: R
Score: 3.5/5

First off, lets deal with the elephant in the room: a lot of people cannot stand the “asylum horror” genre of movies as they feel the films help in demonizing and stigmatizing the mentally ill. If you are one of those people, this is not going to be the film that changes your mind.
The film is about two U.S. Marshals, Edward “Teddy” Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate the disappearance of a prisoner/inmate of Shutter Island, a metal hospital for the criminally insane. As the two begin to explore it becomes clear to Edward that not everything is what it seems, and that the Island might have more in comment with a Nazi Death Camp than a metal hospital. Soon the simple task of finding the missing person is forgotten as Edward tries to unravel the mystery of what’s really going on.
And unless you’ve never seen a movie ever you will know exactly what’s going on. If you can’t figure it out, go watch the movie before reading on. So yeah, turns out Edward isn’t really a US Marshal. He was, but after killing his wife and going crazy due to the loss of his kids, he’s an inmate of Shutter Island himself, and this was all one big, elaborate game set up to break him out of his ruse. Shocker, I know. If you chose to ignore my warning kept reading before watching the movie, just know that this isn’t much of a twist. It’s meant to be, sure, but almost every movie, book or game set in an Asylum has the same basic twist. If the setting is an Asylum, there is almost always going to be a main character who has a secret history there.
Let’s go back to that elephant in the room. The reason most people don’t like this genre is because most of the scares are based on the idea that the mentally ill are inherently frightening, and this movie does fall into that trap. I’ve heard a few psychiatric justifications on the subject and i’m not going to debate the merits of arguments made by people way smarter that I am, but in the end, if you go up to someone and pretty much say “you’re frightening due to something you have no control over” it’s naturally going to anger or offend that person. What makes this movie both interesting and some what hard for me to judge is how it deals with that. Like I said, everything that happens in the film was a game, a role play set up by the head of the hospital to help break Edward out of his ruse. Once you learn this a lot of the “scary crazy people” loss a lot of what made them scary. They were playing a role, or actually giving good advise. But, you only learn this after the fact, meaning that in the moment, the scare is still based on “this person is crazy, be afraid”. While I am personally okay with this twist and how it handles the subject, I can’t say you will be or even that you should be.
The only thing that really holds the movie down is that I feel it runs a bit too long and there are a few odd scenes. For example, Edward was in World War 2, and thus doesn’t like Germans. One of the doctors is German, and Edward calls the guy out for trying to hard to hide his accent (going so far as to say the doctor was doing a good job, but he was hitting the consonants too hard) but…he wasn’t hiding an all. It was there for every one to see…well, hear. There were only one or two scenes like that, were it felt like one more rewrite would have been appropriate, but nothing that ruins the movie.
As always, I end by asking, how does this stack up for Scorsese? It’s not his best film (that’s is still “The Departed”) and it’s not my favorite film of his (that’s still either “Goodfellas” or “Wolf of Wall Street”), but I do think it’s the best summery of what Scorsese does as a film maker. See, Scorsese and the rest of the “Movie Brats” were the first generation of film makers who grew up with both movies and television being a huge part of their childhoods. Because of this, their field of reference wasn’t just limited too by what they were shown in film school, but also the low budge stuff they loved as kids. Because of this, Most of the best work from Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas and their elk was at its best by giving a new coat of paint to the movies they loved as kids and treating these “low brow” films with the same respect film makers gave “high brow” films.
So, what does this have to do with this movie? Well, that’s exactly what Scorsese did with this movie; he ave a new coat of paint to a ‘low brow” genre. But instead of just making a good movie out of it, he took a genre of film that can, and too often is, dehumanizing and allowed to get away with it, and made a great film. Sure, the twist is nothing special, and the main draw of the film is still to see a master film maker doing what he does best, but in the hands of anyone else this could have been just a bad as other films in the genre with out even the benefit of being well made either. You may dislike the movie, and maybe rightfully so, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.
I’ll See you next November for Scorsese Month 2016!

Scorsese Month Review: The Departed

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: William Monahan
Release Date: October 6, 2006
Run Time: 151 Minuets
Rating: R
Score: 4.5/5

While I can’t call this my favorite Scorsese movie I can say I think it’s his best (at lest from the ones i’ve seen). It’s as well acted, well directed and well scored as we’ve all come to expect from Scorsese, but what pushes this over the edge into “best of” territory is the script. “The Departed” is nothing less that a master class in dramatic irony. For those who skipped English class, dramatic irony is when we, the audience, are privy to knowledge that most of if not all the cast isn’t aware of. For example: in “Romeo and Juliet”, Romeo awakes near the end of the play to find Juliet dead, but we know that she is only sleeping. And no, I’m not adding a spoiler warning to a 400+ year old play you all should have read by now.
Getting back on topic, “The Departed” is about a group of Massachusetts police trying to take down the Costello crime family. Unbeknownst to the police, Costello has a man on the inside, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) who’s not just on the inside but a high ranking official. But that’s not all: what Costello doesn’t know is that the police have their own mole, Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio). Both groups end up finding out they’ve been infiltrated, and the moles are then tasked with finding each other. .
What makes this so good is, again, the dramatic irony. Dicaprio’s Costigan is constantly getting the crap beat out of him, while not much goes wrong in the life of Sullivan. Maybe I have a dark sense of humor, or maybe i’m just a bad person, but I constantly found this set up to rather funny. There’s a part where Dicaprio’s character has a broken arm, only to have it constantly smashed on a pool-table in order to break of the cast that I couldn’t stop laughing at. Is the scene meant to be funny? Probably not, but that doesn’t change the fact. It’s not all laughs though. There are a few scenes that are genuinely puls pounding, like when both moles are either close to each other or on different sides of an operation, each trying to inform their real owners on what’s going on. I can’t really say a whole lot more with out spoiling the movie, and in the case it really is better to go in as cold as possible.
What I can talk about is just how good the cast was. Damon and Dicaprio both did great, but you already knew that (or you should if you’ve ever watched a movie with either of them), but there wasn’t a single bad performance here. Hell, I even like Mark Wahlberg in this, and I normally don’t like him as an actor (granted, this isn’t as impressive as David Fincher making me like Tyler Perry in “Gone Girl”, but it’s impressive none the less). And then there’s Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello. Again, if you’ve ever seen a movie with Jack Nicholson then you already knew going into this that he was going to be good, he may be one of the best things in the movie. While he makes Costello intimidating, he also makes the character a lot of fun. There’s a scene with him and Damon in a theater that just cracked me up when I saw it. Out of ever Nicholson film i’ve seen, this has got to be one of the best from him. And when you take in to consideration that he’s been in both “Chinatown” and “the Shining” that says a lot.
Going back to Scorsese for a minuet, I said at the end of last weeks review that this was the film that landed him his first Oscar, for both best director and best picture. The question is: should it have won, and was does it should the academy have give him an award before hand. Personally, I think this was a group trying to make up for a looot of mistakes by not giving him an Oscar be for then. And yes, I think he should have won. I just wish he won in a better yeah. The 2007 nominees for best picture were lacking in my opinion. Sure, I liked “Bable” and “Little Miss Sunshine”, but winning over them and the other nominees is kind of like a sports star winning over a middle school team, and it’s this kind of thing that makes me not trust the oscars all that much (well, that and the fact that both “The English Patient” and “The Artist” also both won best picture). I mean, was “Dancing with Wolves” really better than “Goodfellas”? Was “Rocky” really better than “Taxi Driver”? In the end, while I think the award is pretty pointless, it was about time for Scorsese’s talent to be recognized, and they couldn’t have found a better movie to do it with. In the end, that’s really all there is to say. In the end that’s all that needs to be said. This is a fantastic movie and if you haven’t seen it you should go do that. Now. Like, right now. Stop reading and go. Why are you still here, get going.

Scorsese Month 2015 Review: Casino

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay By: Martin Scorsese and Nicholas Pileggi
Release Date: November 22, 1995
Run Time: 178 Minutes
Rating: R
Score: 2.75/5

While “Casino” is by no means a bad movie, this is by far the lest good movie i’ve seen from Scorsese up till this point. Again, it’s not bad, but the ease in witch i can put this one the bottom of the “best Scorses movies i’ve seen” list is kind of staggering. I think a larg part of that is the sorce material. Bassed off of a book writen by co-screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, i think a lot of my issues stim from this story simply not being as interesting from the get-go as “Goodfellas” or “Wolf oof Wall Street” was. I mean, the movie is about a guy helping the mob skim movie from Casino’s, there’s not a lot you can really do with that. Thius is a fact everyone seemed to be awear of as a lot of the film focusis on Robert De Niro’s “Sam Rothstein” and Sharon Stone’s “Ginger McKenna” detiriorating marriage. While that’s not all that happenes the fact is, nearly the entire second act of this movie feels like it forgot that it was a mob movie.
So what’s the film about? Well, in the 1970’s the Itallan mob had a pretty strong hold on Las Vagas Casino’s. In order to make sure everything is running smothly one family sends De Niro’s “Sam Rothstein” to run one of thier Casino’s, and Joe Pesci’s “Nicholas Santoro” to make sure nothing went wrong with the skim (where they mob bosses would take money off the top of the casino’s profit). The only problem? Well, Nicholas can’t quite control himself, and he soon finds the eyes of the law on him. While Sam tries to distance himself, Nicholas really doesn’t seem to care about the fact that the fed’s have their eyes on him and he continually made more trouble. As the two men become more and more enraged at each other (Sam angry over the unwanted attention and Nicholas mad over a seeming lack of disrespect) focus s taken off the Las Vegas operation until it all crumbles.
In the end, that’s really all there is too say about “Casino”. This is the story of two men who let ego and outside circumstances get in the way of what was a very lucrative operation. And if this was a 90 minuet movie, that probably wouldn’t have been too bad. Unfortunately the film is nearly 3 hours long, and thus there is a lot that feels like padding. For example, Sam gets married to a woman who says out right “i don’t love you”, so you know it’s not going to work out for the two of them, but there is so much time devoted to watching their marriage fall apart that you have to wonder why no one just did a voice over saying “things feel apart, and she died from an OD a few months after we got divorced”. Sure, there are scene that it makes since to have in the film, Like how McKenna left their child tide up and locked in her room alone one night so she could go out drinking, or how she ripped off Sam near the end, but almost everything else is superfluous and could have been handled in a way that didn’t make the movie drag on.
Then there is also a really annoying feature where both De Niro and Joe Pesci are giving movie-overs throughout the film. While I never confused one for the other or anything like that I found it to be an odd decision that didn’t sit well with me. This may just be a personal gripe, but it’s something that did make the film lesser in my eyes. To me it made the film seem like it was losing focus, and it would have been better to just make this De Niro’s story about having to deal with a man like Pesci’s “Nicholas”.
However, I did say the movie wasn’t bad, didn’t I? And to the films credit, the acting saves this film. While you wont think of “Sam Rothstein” when someone asks to name you’re favorite De Niro performance, he does great work here, and the same goes for the rest of the cast. Everyone took their roles seriously and the film is compulsively watchable because of it. Sure you may check you’re watch throughout the movie and even ask “was this scene really necessary” you will at lest be thankful you’re watching an overlong good movie instead of a 3 hour mess where either none of the cast can act or they choose not too (looking at you transformers).
So how does this stack up? Again, I can easily say this is the lest good Scorsese i’ve seen. While i don’t hate it, there really just isn’t a debate about that fact for me. But every director has thier “bad” movies right? Spielberg has “Kingdom of the Cristal Skull”, George Lucas has the “Star Wars” prequels and David Fincher has “Alien 3”, so it’s not uncommon for creative people to strike out every once in a while. And to be fair, “Casino” is a better movie than any of those, so even if this is the worst Scorsese has to offer, he’s still better than most. See you next time as i take a look at “The Departed”, the film that won Scorsese his first Oscare.