Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship-Troopers

Original Theatrical Release Date: November 7, 1997
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In the distant future, the world is a fascist and militaristic society where a person can only become a citizen by joining the military and its never ending fight against an insectoid alien race looking to destroy humanity. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is the son of two wealthy non-citizens who is looking to join his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) in the armed forces in order to be with her and to gain his citizenship. Soon, though, the realities of military life and the hardships of the war separate Johnny, Carmen, and their friends from one another and they must overcome the chitinous tide of the Bugs if they are ever to reunite.

This film is based on the (much better) science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein – adapted to the screen by Edward Neumeier.

It’s been a while since the last time I watched this movie, but my brother gave me the DVD for my birthday this year. I was kind of interested to see how all the special effects and everything held up over the last 17 years. I was not disappointed to find out that most of it still looked pretty decent after all that time. The only thing that seemed dated at times was the retro-futuristic 1950’s-as-interpreted-by-the-late-1990’s hairdos and clothing styles for the characters. Other than that, though, I was transported through the film’s fun tongue-in-cheek narrative style.

I still have no idea where Casper Van Dien went to after the late 1990’s – but as Johnny Rico he was decent (if somewhat unbelievable) as the screaming, gun-firing, tough-guy lead. Denise Richards co-stars with her full and pouty lips as the always-effervescent (but still wooden) pilot Carmen Ibanez. Also, I was shocked to see Neil Patrick Harris in his role as Carl Jenkins – a role I forgot he’d done. (The last thing I remember him in was Harold And Kumar)

The bugs were creepy and not cheesy. The “internet” – style videos interspersed throughout the film add a nice touch, though the internet of the “future” looks pretty dated compared to our own, now. There is a creepy and unbelievable love triangle in the movie, but the real draw is the action sequences – which are peppered liberally throughout the movie. Still, the movie is a bit too long for an action flick.

All in all, not a perfect movie – but a nice flick to come back to every now and then if you want some sci-fi action.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starship Troopers

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Sin City (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2005
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Basin City, AKA “Sin” City, is a vile place of corruption, sex, and murder. Marv (Mickey Rourke), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) are just three hard-boiled characters with intersecting paths who are rays of light standing against the dark. Part comic book, part noir and all thrill – this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is very faithful to the source material.

Since the sequel to this film just came out, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, I felt like I needed to bone up on this film franchise once more before seeing the new one.

The narrative layout of the film is interesting. Vignettes showing each “main” character and their interactions with the film’s secondary characters including villains and allies, makes the world of Sin City seem large and real. Most of the shots in the film are lifted right from Frank Miller’s pages of artwork and the casting was all done very wonderfully, particularly with Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Seriously, look at the guy). You also get to see Brittany Murphy in one of her last good roles before she died….and the same with Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

The special effects are all very stylized, very slick, but a couple of times they look wonky. Most of that was due to the artwork not translating well to film, because of how stylized Frank Miller’s artwork is. The black and white look of the film kept everything very visually appealing. The dialogue was great noir fare, if you’re into noir – but if you’re not into noir at all it may seem hokey and even terrible in spots.

If Robert Rodriguez and/or Quentin Tarantino were to direct a comic book film, Sin City was the perfect choice for them and you can tell that they had fun directing it, which means if you’re like me – you’ll have fun watching it.

If you’re looking for strong women characters, then this typical noir setting probably isn’t for you. The women of Old Town run their prostitution rings with cold efficiency, keeping the mob and corrupt police officers on the level, but that’s about it. Most of the other women in the film gasp and toss their hands against their foreheads while the men do the real work.

The one drawback to the film is that the three main characters – Marv, Dwight and Hartigan – are all fairly similar, making the story arcs seem pretty repetitive. Clive Owen was underwhelming as Dwight. Mickey Rourke nailed Marv (as I said before) and Bruce Willis was great as Hartigan. Rosario Dawson was kinetic as Gail, and Jessica Alba was decent as Nancy Callahan. Also, Elijah Wood was surprisingly creepy in his role as Kevin and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. They weren’t in the film for very long but they definitely added very interesting bits to the story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Sin City

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Original Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder

Kal-El was sent from his dying planet, Krypton,  as an infant by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his mother Faora-Ul (Ayelet Zurer). With him, they sent the hopes and wishes of their entire Kryptonian race. Raised by human parents after crash-landing on Earth, Kal-El was renamed Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and eventually had to come to terms with his extraordinary and god-like abilities, using those abilities to help others though they didn’t always realize it. However, when another survivor from Krypton – Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up and demands that Earth give up this “Superman” or face dire consequences, Clark/Kal must choose a side. The Kryptonians or the Earthlings.

Now, before I get down to brass tacks, I need to say something: I am not the biggest Superman fan in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love the basic idea of his character, and his abilities are cool for the most part…but the dude is just too invulnerable. Sure, he’s got his weaknesses but they sort of change over time depending on the needs of the story line (in the comics, anyway). Plus, they’re really specific weaknesses – like Kryptonite, a rare green rock from space – really?! Also, Superman is an alien and it’s hard to identify with him already on account of his insane god-like abilities – but when you also throw in the fact that he’s not even human, then there is definitely a disconnect.

With that said, I don’t think this was the worst Superman movie I’ve ever seen.

I came into this film with no real expectations other than to be entertained for a while. I was entertained for the most part, for sure. Zack Snyder’s direction was the usual fare of fight sequences and thoughtful, introspective scenes. The writing by David Goyer was decent, but some of the elements were too clearly designed to be almost like a parable. The acting was decent by Henry Cavill and the rest of the cast, and it was nice to see Russell Crowe back in shape a little bit. He’d been looking a little chubby the past few years. However, some of the special effects were wonky and some of the story elements had me going “really?”, and that’s all on top of the movie being way too long. Two and a half hours with not much really to show for it.

Now, I had been entertaining the idea that this would be sort of a darker version of Superman, sort of how Christopher Nolan brought Batman back to his gothic roots. I was right in a way, but wow…I was not expecting the level of wanton destruction Superman caused during the fighting with Zod. In other incarnations of Superman, Supes would have tried to direct the fight to the countryside or somewhere uninhabited….but in the film, Superman uppercuts his opponents through skyscrapers, toppling the buildings, and he doesn’t have time to save anyone. Crazy. My other gripe was the way in which Jonathan Kent’s (Kevin Costner) character was handled. The writers wanted him to be “Uncle Ben” to Clark but it didn’t translate nearly in the same way as the poignant character of Uncle Ben did to Marvel’s Spider-Man.

All in all, it was decent as an action flick. I wouldn’t go in thinking much more than that, even if you’re a Superman fan. I am interested to see if they change anything up during the sequel. Guess we’ll find out! (EDIT: I’m feeling like the upcoming sequel will be a shit show, but I hope they prove me wrong. They are CRAMMING IN so many characters. It’s crazy.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Man Of Steel

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Original Theatrical Release Date: August 9, 1996
Director: John Carpenter

It’s 2013 and Los Angeles is now an island for undesirables, deported from America by the U.S. Government. Once you go there, you can never get back. The President’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a doomsday device and heads for the island in order to help free the prisoners there and daddy isn’t happy. He gets Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to go after her by having him injected with a disease that will end his life in hours and promising him the cure if he’s successful. However, a revolutionary named Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) and L.A.’s many dangerous denizens stand in the way.

Sequels are rarely ever able to outshine the originals, and this film is no exception.

The entire movie is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the entire culture of Los Angeles, and that it probably the most entertaining aspect of the film. It’s an action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that is fun for the most part but makes for a movie that’s hard to become attached to, unlike the first film Escape From New York.

Kurt Russell really channels his inner Clint Eastwood for this installment, and other actors such as Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda fall into their roles with seemingly great joy. Who doesn’t want to see Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills?

The movie plays out like an Extreme Sports story, with Kurt Russell taking on extreme forms of basketball, hang gliding and surfing, which is really strange in the context of this film, but made for some entertaining scenes.

The special effects have not held up well over time and some of them, while laughably funny, tend to take you right out of the movie. However, at this point in his career it seemed like John Carpenter was just having some fun, and the fun did shine through and it’s sort of infectious.

Still, for those who weren’t introduced to this series of films back when they originally came out, it might be hard to fully appreciate this sequel by today’s standards, though the original still holds up.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Escape From L.A.

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)

Original Theatrical Release Date: September 2 , 2011
Director: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

Eric (Jason Sudeikis) and his group of thirty-year-old friends have parties all summer at his dad’s house in the Hamptons. However, when his dad decides to sell the place, Eric proposes the party to end all parties…an orgy. The longtime friends must then decide if they’re up for potentially ruining their existing friendships in the process.

There are a few funny folks in this flick, but the story seemed disjointed and I was never quite sure where it was headed. That could have been a good thing because they didn’t seem to follow some of the same conventions these type of films tend to hold, but there was just no focus.

Sudeikis has never been one of my favorites, and I think he could probably be good in the right role but he (and none of the actors, really) reached out and tried to grab the audience. On top of that, the chemistry between all these friends seemed sparse and mostly artificial. There were a couple of moments where I chuckled to myself but I found no real guffaws.

Worth a view the first time around? Sure. A second viewing? Nah, probably not. There’s not much to quote from this film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One (2013)

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One (2013)

Publisher: Image Comics
Creative Team: Jimmie Robinson

Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume One collects Bomb Queen: Royal Flush #1-4, Bomb Queen II: Queen Of Hearts #1-4 as well as Bomb Queen VS Blacklight: Cat Fight, with art and writing by Jimmie Robinson (Evil & Malice, Avigon).

Bomb Queen doesn’t just govern New Port City…she rules it. After routing or killing not just all of the superheroes who would stand in her way…but her former teammates and other super-villains, she is the dictator of the city and the public just eats her up. But, being at the top means that there’s always someone who wants you to fall, and since she’s not into the business of making friends, her time in the spotlight may just be coming to an end.

The premise of this book is what sold me, really. What would it mean to live in a city of filth and moral absence? Bomb Queen hopes to explore that. Jimmie Robinson’s art style is sort of manga-influenced, and it also reminds me a lot of Amanda Connor’s artwork, though I do like her style better. The writing wasn’t anything super-special, so what we have here is a B-Movie in comic book form.

The vulgarity and the over-the-top cheesecake is a novel addition, though some won’t appreciate it. It’s highly cheesy and very kinetic. Bomb Queen is the epitome of sex and violence. Bomb Queen herself dresses in an impossibly skimpy outfit and other characters, including the self-righteous superheroes found within its pages, are no better….hiding bulging genitalia behind the thin fabric of their costumes, or going just plain nude.

In the hands of a better writer, this could be a great property. As it is, it seems a lot like a world similar to the one found in Escape From L.A., without Kurt Russel, of course.

Anyway, don’t expect anything too heady with this. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Bomb Queen Deluxe Edition: Volume 1
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Hot Rod (2007)

Hot Rod (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: August 3, 2007
Director: Akiva Schaffer

Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg) is the son of a stuntman who worked alongside Evel Knieval, and he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. So, he repeatedly attempts to do stunts, failing in the process. At the same time, he tries to make his stepfather Frank (Ian McShane) respect him…by beating him in hand-to-hand combat. When Frank gets sick and it’s discovered he needs a heart transplant or he’ll die, Rod decides to kill two birds with one stone and make the ultimate jump for the ultimate cash prize.

If you’re going into this movie expecting any Oscar-worthy performances or storyline, you obviously don’t know about Andy Samberg’s group, Lonely Island.

Hot Rod is basically a meld of Saturday Night Live and Lonely Island skits. Samberg does a great job with his usual comedic stylings, along with his other Lonely Island group members. Other cameos and supporting roles by great comedic actors like Bill Hader, Danny McBride and Will Arnett round out the bunch. Isla Fisher was okay, but there weren’t exactly a lot of great women’s roles, if you’re looking for that. Still, she was fine for what the role intended and she is very quirky in her own right and seemed to fit naturally within the film’s silly world that is at times reminiscent of Napoleon Dynamite.

I base my enjoyment of movies on what they were trying to accomplish and how successful they were at it, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the silly spectacle of this movie for what it was….which is an hour-long skit medley.

If you enjoy silly humor and need a night of laughs, watch this. (Also, the soundtrack is amazing)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Hot Rod