Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan

Billionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), was made an orphan when his parents were brutally murdered in the streets by a common thug. Vowing revenge, as an adult he began training himself to fight before ending up as a student of Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) – both in a shadowy group dedicated to eradicating evil called the League of Shadows. When Bruce disagrees with their methods, he takes what he’s learned and finances himself as a vigilante superhero called Batman. With enemies from his past and present arrayed against him, Batman has a lot of work to do to clean up Gotham.

This isn’t your 1989 Batman, that’s for sure.

This movie starts and ends with a bang. There isn’t much time to think about anything except for the awesomeness up on the screen, but there are just a couple of scenes that are a little too slow or bog down the action.

The acting is all top-notch (aside from how anyone looks at Christian Bale’s Batman voice) and the characters from Batman’s canon were all brought to life, more vibrant than any incarnation that came before it. We had the amazing Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, Michael Caine as Alfred. Not as great was the wooden Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, but hey, she’s still easy on the eyes.

Nolan’s vision ties everything together and by the end of the film, we see a story that has been artfully pieced together that leaves us nodding our heads in appreciation as the credits roll. I still think the second film, The Dark Knight is the best in the trilogy, but this is a close second.

All in all, this is a wonderful start to the Batman Trilogy by Christopher Nolan, and I’m glad that we’ve gone away from the campy nature of the Batman films of the 1990’s.

Batman is pretty damned serious.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For Batman Begins

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The Cleaners: Absent Bodies (2010)

The Cleaners: Absent Bodies (2010)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Creative Team: Mark Wheaton, Joshua Hale Fialokov, Rahsan Ekedal, Jon Graef

Robert Bellarmine, an ex-surgeon with a shady past, lives in the LA Basin and leads a skilled team of trauma-scene cleaners who are independently contracted. However, this is no ordinary crack team of cleaners…they have a knack for the supernatural side of things, and when signs start pointing to a supernatural force that may be responsible for a recent string of deaths and disappearances, Robert and his team must intervene and stop it if they can.

The Cleaners: Absent Bodies collects issues #1-4 of the Dark Horse Comics series of the same name, The Cleaners. Mark Wheaton and Joshua Hale Fialkov did the writing, while art and colors were done by Rahsan Ekedal and Jon Graef respectively.

Initially, this seemed like a really cool premise. People who have to go clean up crime scenes, who then encounter supernatural elements in their work. Indeed, during the time I read this noir-type trade paperback collection, I did enjoy the story…but unfortunately the artwork didn’t shine enough for me to enjoy the book to its full potential.

The artwork wasn’t awful or anything, but many of the characters, both men and women, were hard to tell apart. The panels with blood and the large splash panels were great but everything was sort of confusing for the smaller panels.

I felt like the script could stand on its own two feet and I think this would actually make a pretty cool television series or movie, as it has a sort of CSI-meets-Fringe type of feel to it. I liked that aspect.

I might check out later installments, but this first volume hasn’t really enticed me enough to do it right away.

JOE Rating: ★★

Check Out This Sample Page From The Cleaners: Absent Bodies!
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

Original Theatrical Release: December 14, 2012
Director: Peter Jackson

Before Bilbo Baggins’ (Martin Freeman) nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) ever set his hairy hobbit feet outside the Shire, Bilbo had an adventure of his own, and this was its beginning. Approached by the mysterious wizard, Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan), Bilbo is enlisted as a thief and lockpick because of his diminutive size to aid in the reclamation of Erebor for the Dwarven war party that comes crashing into his home. Along the way, Bilbo and his party must overcome great obstacles before reaching the mighty dragon, Smaug.

Okay, so this is a Lord of the Rings/Peter Jackson movie. I had extremely high hopes, and I will tell you that I wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, the film kept me engaged. The visuals were the same great quality I came to know while watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sweeping vistas, interesting creatures (especially a compelling encounter with Ian McShane as the Goblin King). We also got to see some neat tie-ins to the later movies, and I think when they’re all finished it will all fit together very nicely.

I know some purists will take issue with the content of the film’s story structure. That’s fine, but you must remember that the films and the books are still two separate entities no matter how close they get to the original source material.

The story moved a little bit slow, and I am not sure I liked the comedic aspect of the dwarves very much. Some of the dwarves looked like they were wearing prosthetic face applications while others looked like male models…not sure what the reasoning behind that was. Radagast (Sylvester McCoy) was also maybe a bit too silly, to be taken seriously as well. I know The Hobbit was more of a children’s tale, but it still had a serious heart. The dwarves were actually very unlikable in the film’s opening sequence, to be honest.

As the story unfolds, though, you are swept up in it and I think the coming sequels are going to be worth the wait.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: July 8, 2005
Director: Tim Story

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), brilliant scientist, has a theory that there are clouds of cosmic energy that move through space which can trigger evolution. Convinced that one of these clouds will come close enough to Earth to observe and analyze from a relatively short distance away in space, he enlists the help of his longtime friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to help him convince billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to let them use his private space station. He allows it, but only if the research is under his control. Doom then brings aboard his own genetics researcher Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) who complete the team. When something goes unaccording to plan, everyone aboard the space station aside from Doom is hit directly with the cosmic energy cloud, granting them amazing abilities and altering their DNA structures. Becoming media darlings after a rescue, the four researchers must struggle with their newfound abilities and fame as the Fantastic Four.

Being a Marvel movie, I was pretty excited for this film when it came out. Up until then, we’d had a pretty decent Spider-Man movie as well as Blade and X-Men. I thought the Thing looked a little cheesy, but figured it’d be okay up on the big screen because he was being played by Michael Chiklis. Chris Evans seemed perfect for the character of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jessica Alba didn’t initially sell me on being Susan Storm, but she’s hot so I figured I’d give it a chance. The guy who played Reed looked like he’d do well enough.

I was right about most of those initial thoughts. Michael Chiklis DID play Ben Grimm exactly how I’d want him to be played, but regardless of how well he acted…I have to say, that rubber suit was kind of atrocious. Not saying I wouldn’t love to wear it as a cosplay or something like that. It’s made really well but for the big screen in a movie that SHOULDN’T be full of camp, it added a sort of cheese factor that carried through to the rest of the film. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Johnny Storm. Jessica Alba was hot, but was not Susan Storm (and there was some controversy because of her being cast as Susan Storm and the fact that she’s not mixed-race in the comic books). Ioan Gruffudd (crazy name!) was just okay as Reed Richards.

I loved Julian McMahon’s acting and presence in the show Nip/Tuck, but as Victor Von Doom…not so much. I never really thought of Doom as a whiny socialite, like Tony Stark from Iron Man without the class. It didn’t work.

On top of that, we had a story that while initially starting out not that bad meandered all over the place and didn’t really provide much in the way of action for an action film. The end battle with Doom was extremely anti-climactic and I didn’t feel like I’d used my time well by watching the film, aside from my unhealthy obsession with Jessica Alba.

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

Give it a watch if you haven’t….see how it is compared to the upcoming 2015 reboot by Seth Grahame-Smith and Josh Trank. It’s still Marvel, after all. (Just don’t watch the second one with Silver Surfer…Jesus, that was bad).

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Fantastic Four

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (1991)

The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (1988)

Publisher: DC/Vertigo
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III

Set in the DC Universe, The Sandman Volume 1 collects issues 1-8 of the comic book series written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III.

A wizard who wants to live forever attempts to summon and trap Death, but inadvertantly traps her younger brother, Dream (aka Morpheus). Fearing retaliation, the wizard and his cohorts keep Morpheus imprisoned in a magical cell for a couple of lifetimes. When his captors make a mistake and Morpheus breaks free, he is weak from his time in imprisonment and also finds that his captors have stolen and have sold three of his possessions which help give him power. His helm, his bag of dust and his ruby pendant. With these items he will be close to full strength again, so he sets out to find them…but they are spread wide and though he is a god, Morpheus finds that some of them are guarded more closely than he would think. Teaming with well-known DC Comics characters like John Constantine and Martian Manhunter, Morpheus must go to Hell and back to find his things. Literally.

While this is not the strongest entry in the Sandman series, issues 1-8 are a great introduction to the world Morpheus inhabits and is a good set up to the wonderment that follows in later volumes. The artwork is great, but the colors in the collection versus the originals are a little bit off, a little bit darker. This might be problematic for some purists, but I think for the tone of the piece, the colors suit it well. Then again, the original colors were more dreamlike. It’s a coin toss on which you’ll like better.

This beginning collection is a story about starting over. Morpheus was content with where he was and with his station, overconfident that he had everything nailed down. When this was proven false by his imprisonment by a bunch of mortals, it shook him up a little. Weakened and forced to find alternate ways to deal with things, Morpheus becomes a compelling character. Though a god, he is still fallible.

The characters are all really interesting. We get to meet the perky character of Death, we get to see a new and frightening/sad interpretation of Cain and Abel. There are dangerous and fantastical dream creatures and lots of magic thrown in.

If other DC characters weren’t tossed into the mix, you wouldn’t even think of it as a comic book story that exists in the world of superheroes, but Neil Gaiman has seamlessly integrated Morpheus and his mythos into the existing DC canon.

Give this a read, and especially the later collections.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check Out This Sample Page From Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes!
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Pineapple Express (2008)

Pineapple Express (2008)

Original Theatrical Release: August 6, 2008
Director: David Gordon Green

When a lazy, stoner process server named Dale Denton (Seth Rogen) witnesses the murder of a Chinese drug dealer at the hands of Ted Jones (Gary Cole), the guy he was supposed to serve, he flees the scene of the crime and heads back to the guy who sells him pot (and his only friend) Saul Silver (James Franco). When it comes to light that Ted Jones is a major drug dealer, and the same guy who gave Saul a highly-rare strain of pot called Pineapple Express, the hapless duo realize that a couple of roaches left at the scene of the crime can be traced back to them. The two set out on the run from crooked cops and hired thugs, and all of them want the stoners dead.

I recently rewatched this, wondering if my original opinion had changed, and it did not. If anything, I think I like it more now than I did a couple years ago when I first saw it.

This is a stoner comedy done right. It has the appropriate amount of “touching” moments, without being sappy (like many of Adam Sandler’s comedies), has a lot of hilarious dialogue and stoner situations and, of course, has a lot of comedic talent.

Seth Rogen’s witty, sarcastic Dale Denton is a great character and we also see James Franco really dig in with his vapid, carefree portrayal of Saul Silver. Then, we have Danny McBride, who is hilarious as usual. There are lots of other cameos by other really funny people, too, like Bill Hader and Craig Robinson. It’s just a great ensemble cast.

The movie clipped along at a nice pace. Nothing really got too bogged down. There were plenty of chase scenes and awkward situational humor. I knew the inevitable rift between the main characters would come, and I disliked the way it was done in this film only because it was phoned ahead and it was hard not to see it coming when it did.

Many folks will prefer other movies by Team Apatow, like Knocked Up or Superbad. Those are great movies, too, but I think this one should be compared more to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back or Dude, Where’s My Car?. Next to those last two stoner flicks, I really think Pineapple Express can hold its own. If you don’t enjoy this movie, chances are, you don’t really like stoner flicks in general.

For a “stupid-humor” film, though, this has a pretty smart screenplay and some really great direction by David Gordon Green.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Pineapple Express

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 27, 2010
Director: Jared Hess

Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is a withdrawn, socially awkward home-schooled student with a love of science fiction. While at a writing camp for young authors, Benjamin gets to see his favorite sci-fi author, Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), who is one of the judges of a writing contest. Hoping to win the contest, and Chevalier’s respect, Benjamin submits a manuscript. When he sees extreme similarities between Chevalier’s new novel and his own manuscript, he decides to fight back.

I really, really wanted to like this.

  • I mean, it was made by Jared Hess, the same guy who made another movie I loved; Napoleon Dynamite.
  • It had Sam Rockwell in it, along with Jemaine Clement.
  • It was about science fiction writing and writing in general, which is something I’m very interested in right now. (I’ve been to writing workshops and seminars lately just like the one in the film)
  • It had all of the ingredients to be a great film but it ended up falling short.

I think the film’s first mistake was to under-use the main draw of the movie, for me, which was Jemaine Clement. He was hands-down the funniest part of the movie. Sam Rockwell was great as Bronco, too, but we at least got a decent amount of scenes of him between the various versions of the story used in the movie.

Michael Angarano wasn’t super-charismatic on screen and thus didn’t keep me as interested as the other characters in the movie. I felt he didn’t have much of a voice in the film.

On top of that, there weren’t a ton of hilarious parts in a supposed-to-be-hilarious movie like this. With Napoleon Dynamite we still had the kitsch, but there were a ton of laughs. This one was just very drawn-out and unfocused, moving between a film-within-a-film concept in addition to alternate versions of the original story both altered by Chevalier and Benjamin as well as the overall arc of the story that was going on simultaneously. Too much, too fast.

It had some good heart and a lot of ambition, but it wasn’t executed to its fullest extent.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Gentlemen Broncos