Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

After Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is fired by his boss – Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford) and Ron’s wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) is given a promotion, Ron is unexpectedly asked by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) to head one of the news teams on the new 24-hour Global News Network. To do so, he gathers his old team – Champ Kind (David Koechner), Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) – but finds that maybe he’s bitten off more than he can chew.

I went with a bunch of my friends to see this. I figured it was going to be one of those kind of movies, and I was right. So, let me start things off with the obvious: It was a funny movie. However, it wasn’t quite as consistently funny (in my opinion) as the first film.

Most of the jokes we see in this second installment of the legend of Ron Burgundy are recycled from the first flick and beefed up a little more. It’s not a terrible thing, but I would have liked to have seen more original material as well as more play on the fact that this takes place in the 1980’s. In the first film, the sense of 1970’s style was pervasive, but you barely notice the time period in this film and at times, could even be interchangeable. Also, Anchorman 2 is a little bit longer so it’s pretty noticeable.

Still, there are enough genuinely funny parts involved, and there was an effort made to up the ante so that counts for something. If you didn’t like the first film – don’t bother….because it basically is the first film in new trappings. If you loved the first film, try to be content with how great the first one was and look at this second film as a separate entity. Don’t have crazy expectations and you’ll have a good time.

Also, one other thing – the amount of cameos in this film was impressive and worth watching for that alone.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

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Hello, Again

For those of you who don’t know me too well, I’m in my fourth semester with an MFA program called Stonecoast. Well, I’m stopping in to say that due to all the work associated with this program, I’ve been away for a couple weeks and over the next six months until I graduate, I’ll be working on my thesis – so I won’t be able to do as many reviews as I normally do.

Stonecoast has been amazing, thus far. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different and talented authors including Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Nancy Holder (Resurrection, Domino Lady, Buffy) , Michael Kimball (Undone), David Anthony Durham (Acacia: The Sacred Band), James Patrick Kelly (The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories), Elizabeth Hand (Radiant Days) and Elizabeth Searle (Girl Held In Home) (. I’ve also had the pleasure of working closely with authors such as Mur Lafferty (Shambling Guide To New York City), Thomas Morrissey (Faustus Resurrectus), Laura Navarre (By Royal Command) and Magdalen Braden (Blackjack and Moonlight) among other many talented writers of all genres.

This is not to say that I won’t be doing any reviews, though. I have a backlog of both new and old pop culture items to post reviews on. Until then, here are a couple pictures of me at my residency in Freeport, Maine:

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Stonecoast Day 4 011 Stonecoast Day 5 030 Stonecoast Day 5 119 Stonecoast Final Day 024 Stonecoast Final Night 025

Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History Of Comic Art (1996)

Author Roger Sabin weaves together a tight narrative of the entire history of the comic book medium, moving from its beginnings in the Middle Ages (yes, that’s right, way back in medieval times) and how it has evolved into the art form and pop culture powerhouse we know and love today. Explore how the comic book moved from being newspaper fodder to hard-hitting social commentary and how it fell from grace before rising like a phoenix once the comic book witch hunt ended after the 1950’s. With plenty of great full-cover photo references to go along with the narrative, Sabin creates a helpful tome of comic book knowledge that will give you a one-up on all of your nerdy comic book friends who THINK they’ve heard everything there is to hear about comic books. I picked this book up at the library because I was writing a research paper and was pleased with just how much information was packed into its pages. It provided a good chunk of my research content and on top of that, I learned a ton of new stuff.

I have seen some folks posting about this, saying it was biased or what have you, but I didn’t really get any of those vibes from anything within. It was a great trip down memory lane, too, seeing all the old comic book covers and comic book pages displayed throughout the entirety of the book.

Give this a shot if you can find it. I think it’s on Amazon.com. It would make a killer addition to the coffee table collection, or in an office somewhere.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Joe Kidd (1972)

Joe Kidd (1972)

An ex-bounty hunter named Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is asked by a wealthy landowner, Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) to join his posse in order to help them capture a troublesome Mexican revolutionary named Luis Chama (John Saxon). Chama has organized a posse of his own and is trying to give the land back to his people by attacking settlements and driving the settlers out of the new Mexican town of Sinola. First, Kidd attempts to remain neutral, but when he falls for Stella Garcia (Helen Sanchez) he must decide where his loyalties lie.

With the original story written by Elmore Leonard (Jackie Brown, 3:10 to Yuma) and directed by John Sturges (The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven) and starring Robert Duvall as well as Clint Eastwood, you’d think that this film would have hit it out of the park. However, being that it’s just a watered-down attempt at Sergio Leone’s “Man WIth No Name” trilogy, it really wasn’t up to par.

However, you do get a solid performance from ol’ Clint, and that’s really the draw for anyone seeing these types of films. Also, it was interesting to see Duvall portray such a cad. He was pretty believable. (And what was up with his teeth?!)

Overall, I think the film was just the right length to not make it a bad watch. The story can be sort of nonsensical at times, but the style makes up for it. Also, if you’re the type to look for strong women characters, you won’t really find any here. Sanchez has screen presence, but her defiance is her strongest point.

It’s not the best western movie out there, but it’s decent.

JOE Rating: ★★★

47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin (2013)

After a treacherous and brutal warlord, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), has their master assassinated and banishes them all from their land, a band of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) assemble once again with the aid of an outcast half-breed, Kai (Keanu Reeves), to take revenge for their fallen leader and restore honor to their province.

Before I begin this review, let me just say that this is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s based, largely in part, on actual events. Unfortunately, it was only “based” on actual events and the film got a bunch of things incorrect. It’s too long to go into here, but if you check out this post on the History News Network, you’ll see what I mean ===> CLICK HERE

Now, with that out of the way, and disregarding all of the historical inaccuracies, I’ll get into just reviewing it on the basis of film conventions.

Story: There isn’t a ton of substance here. I’m sure if they stuck with the actual tale, it might have been more compelling. As it is, I think most American movie-goers will have a cultural disconnect and not be able to take it as seriously as, say, someone in Japan. Not sure how true that is, but there is only one connection for American audiences and that connection comes in the form of Keanu Reeves’ character, Kai. One interesting aspect is that Keanu wasn’t made to steal the show. It reminded me of how Antonio Banderas’ character in 13th Warrior was essential but didn’t drive all of the forward action. I liked that, in both films. BUT – since there wasn’t a ton of great story, it watched more like a very well-shot music video. Think about the movie Sucker Punch. Yeah, it has that kind of vibe.

Acting: The stony-faced Keanu Reeves did an okay job. Most of the other talented cast were amazing, but all were reduced to their base components and so weren’t able to develop much as characters. Rinko Kikuchi played an amazing foil to the main characters, being both seductive and evil, equally.

Special Effects: They were actually really, really good for the most part – but they were overused and as a result took me out of the movie at some points.

Length: It was a bit too long for my tastes. It would have been tolerable if there had been more action, but the few fight scenes there were took place sort of at the beginning and end of the film, with sparse scenes of a similar nature in-between.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this film but it was nice to look at. I bet that’s how it’d be to live with Megan Fox.

JOE Rating: ★★

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Following close on the heels of the previous installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), the adventure picks up as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the dwarves – led by the king-to-be; Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) finally find themselves close to Erebor, which they must reclaim from the terrifying dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After Journey, I honestly didn’t have much hope for the second installment. While the first film was “ok” – it felt bloated and it was pretty boring overall, even though Jackson tried to spice things up by throwing bits from The Lord of the Rings in there. Thankfully, they amped up the action in this middle chapter (which makes total sense because the content in the film covers the middle, and most exciting, part of the book). This is a good thing in many ways, but I honestly felt like they could have summed up the first film with only a few scenes included in this second film (that was almost three hours as it was, I’ll give you that) and tacked it on, rather than Jackson making three films out of the book (which people seem to despise). This second installment really only covers five chapters worth of material, so the development still feels a bit thin in the big picture – just when the steam starts gathering, the film ends.

The other side of this is that Jackson introduced a new character, Tauriel, (Evangeline Lilly) in order to “expand the world of the Elves” and to create another female character in a mostly male-dominated character cast – which has been proven to be pretty controversial.

To be clear: I love Tauriel. Evangeline Lilly is great to look at, is very dynamic and kick-ass, and although her acting style hasn’t seemed to change much since her days on Lost, she brings another dynamic to the stuffy ways of the Elves. If you’re a Tolkien purist, you’re going to probably hate Tauriel – but in terms of cinematic enjoyment, she is the epitome. The true adaptation was lost in the first film, anyway, with lots of different aspects that Jackson introduced. As a separate entity that still pays homage to the original, I believe this film and the Tauriel character succeeds.

Still, the movie could have been a little shorter and on a side note: did Orlando Bloom look kind of puffy and weird in this film, or was that just me? Also, keep an eye out in Lake Town to see if you can spot Stephen Colbert! Yup. He’s in it!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Marvel Heroes (PC – 2013)

In Marvel Heroes, players take control of one of several starting characters (Punisher, Colossus, Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, Human Torch, Hawkeye…among others, with the roster changing all the time) and embark on a mission to stop the nefarious Doctor Doom from his plans to use the Cosmic Cube for his own evil purposes.

If you’ve ever played a game like Diablo II, then you’ve essentially already played Marvel Heroes. This game isn’t innovative, but it doesn’t really seek to be – which is somewhat of a shame due to the Marvel property being so popular right now. However, for the casual gamer, this game will be great fun.

I had originally planned on boycotting this game when I found out that there was no character creation system and instead, as a player, you’d pick a character like Spider-Man or Colossus (whom I am using at the moment) and would be running around on-screen with potentially dozens of other players using the same character as you. However, in reality, it often doesn’t play out that way. The reason for this is due to there being (at the moment) 20+ characters (somewhere around 28, I believe) – all of whom have multiple costumes and other custom appearance options available to the player to make their particular Colossus or Spider-Man or Thor stand out. So even if two or more characters are using Colossus, there’s a good chance that most of them will have individualized aesthetics. Still not as good as being able to create your own character, which is what Champions Online excels at (Note: Champions Online was originally supposed to be a Marvel game) and even DC Universe Online is pretty decent at.

As it is, Marvel Heroes, despite not being innovative and despite being somewhat repetitive (as games in this genre sometimes are) is a decent action MMORPG. It’s best to play with friends for the fun factor, but there isn’t a large difficulty curve and it’s FREE (you can still pay for characters and costumes with real-life money but it’s not necessary to play the full version of the game – you can still buy characters and costumes with in-game currency that you earn, but it takes a long time), meaning that it’s not a huge investment and you’re likely to get at least some enjoyment out of it and the best thing about it is, well…it’s FREE. The only real thing that kept me from giving this four stars is the fact that you can’t pick any hero to begin with, and you can’t create your own hero.

Check it out, team up with your favorite characters and whup some bad-guy arse. The developers are constantly adding new characters to the mix, so gameplay isn’t likely to get too stale anytime soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★