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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Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 08, 2009
Director: J. J. Abrams

James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is a hot-headed young man with a lot of potential. Under the tutelage of Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), he is expected to rise in rank although he sometimes goes against the grain and earns the ire of instructors such as Spock (Zachary Quinto). When the planet of Vulcan becomes endangered, the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise and her crew must come together to stop an evil Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana).

Let me start out by saying that I was never a massive Star Trek fan, so I’m not sure how my review would hold up against a true fan of the original series. I did watch a lot of the original, with Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Spock and Kirk, but it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember a lot of it. I am more familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even then, I’m a little fuzzy on the Star Trek mythos.

With that said, I do have to say that I enjoyed this entry into the Star Trek franchise. Say what you will about JJ Abrams, but the man knows how to direct action. There were plenty of fight scenes to wet the palate, and there is even a Beastie Boys cameo (in the form of music – lest we forget, the Beastie Boys are huge Star Trek nerds) during a cool action scene.

In this first film, the characters (I think) were a little more true to their television counterparts than in the second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I actually liked the casting choices of Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Zachary Quinto as Spock. (And, of course we get to see Leonard Nimoy back as Spock as well. Shhhhh!) I think Chris Pine plays a great Kirk. He is arrogant, a womanizer and indeed looks “corn-fed”. You want to hate him but his charm wins out.

Bana was lackluster as Nero – screaming and full of rage.  The Romulan ship was pretty neat. Not sure I was sold on the Uhura/Spock love entanglement, however.

All in all, this film might frustrate some hardcore Trekkies I know, but people must remember that it’s supposed to be an alternate timeline. Whether or not that helps, I’m not sure. As a non-Trekkie, I found this an easy introduction to the Star Trek characters, and I enjoyed the ride. It didn’t get too involved in the normal political mess (boring) of the television program and instead focused on the action and drama.

(Oh, and the weird thing is that you get to see Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s dad. Yup.)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Star Trek

 

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Northlanders: The Cross And The Hammer (2009)

Publisher: Vertigo
Creative Team: Brian Wood, Ryan Kelly

Set in Viking-era Ireland, Northlanders Book Two: The Cross And The Hammer, collects issues #11-16 of the DC/Vertigo comic book series written by Brian Wood (DMZ, Demo) and illustrated by Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, The New York Four).

It is 1014 in Viking-occupied Ireland. One lone man, only known as Magnus, refuses to bow to the will of the Viking overlords and is leaving a bloody trail of insurgency in his wake. Magnus has no ties, no weaknesses, nothing to lose…except his daughter Brigid. Magnus’ killing spree and defiance catches the attention of Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson, a forensic specialist and confidant of the King who becomes obsessed with finding Magnus and ending his uprising.

When it becomes apparent that the only way to draw Magnus out of hiding is to provoke him by senselessly murdering innocent Irish families, it sends the two foes into a circle of psychological warfare and intrigue.

I was really looking forward to this volume after having already read Northlanders: Sven The Returned, which was amazing…so maybe my hopes were a little too high.

First off, don’t get me wrong. I would rather read this volume than not read this volume. Northlanders is a great series, and Brian Wood is doing some great stuff. Even the premise of the arc in this volume is decent and had me intrigued, but it all ended up falling a little flat.

Ryan Kelly is a great artist but I was honestly, the entire time, comparing his style (without meaning to) to Davide Gianfelice’s, who did the art for the issues collected in the first volume. In some ways, Kelly’s artwork is better for this Irish story but in others it just doesn’t feel up to par. There was nothing wrong for it save for the flavor, and despite some great splash page work some of it seemed a bit cartoony.

On top of that, I was sort of brought out of the story some by the way Lord Ragnar Ragnarsson spoke/wrote in the way that you might see a character do on an episode of CSI. I kept thinking to myself “This is so modern sounding. WTF is going on here?

Another thing to watch out for is the twist ending. It seems to be all the rage nowadays to give a twist ending on everything, but I don’t think they had to do so, here. It wasn’t super-compelling as it was and then to sort of glaze over it all with a twist ending such as the one found within the pages of this TPB, it just dulled everything down even more.

Overall, I wouldn’t miss this entry into the series, but it could have been much better. I hear that Volume III is, indeed, much better…so I’ll have to check it out. So, give this a read if you follow along but I’m not so sure this will be a favored volume in the series.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Northlanders, Vol. 2: The Cross And The Hammer
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Everything Must Go (2010)

Everything Must Go (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: October 14, 2011
Director: Dan Rush

Nick Halsey (Will Ferrell) is an alcoholic struggling to kick the habit, but when he falls off the bandwagon, his wife has had it and throws all of his belongings out onto the front lawn in addition to having the locks to the house changed, and she goes away for a couple weeks. Unfortunately, this happened on the same day he was let go from his company, also mostly because he is an alcoholic. Forced to face the failures in his marriage and personal life, he must sleep amid his belongings and try to sell them off so he can start over.

This movie is based on a Raymond Carver short story that I’ve never read titled Why Don’t You Dance? I wasn’t aware of that until a friend pointed it out to me. (I’ll have to read it soon.)

Now, you wouldn’t think that Will Ferrell starring in a Raymond Carver story adaptation would be that great, but he was a very good choice for the role. People like to give Will Ferrell a bad rap, but he has proven himself in other films like Stranger Than Fiction and Melinda And Melinda, and so he doesn’t always have to be typecast as the normal, over-the-top roles he’s most placed in. He does have some acting chops. Rebecca Hall was okay as Samantha, but her role didn’t seem to add much and her character was pretty formulaic and seemed to exist just as a counterpoint to Ferrell’s character. I would have been more interested in seeing less of her character and more of the neighborhood kid, Kenny (Christopher Jordan Wallace) and his relationship with Nick.

The movie went along at a decent pace, and I really felt like Nick was a real person. Ferrell’s mix of seriousness and humor was a great blend. Dan Rush’s direction was great, but I’ll have to read the short story to see how well his adaptation matched up. I also happened to catch this film at the right time, having been through a recent separation and divorce myself, as well as ending up having to get rid of a lot of junk so I could move on. (I still have some work to do on that front)

If you’re expecting a lot of normal, Will Ferrell-style laughs like he’s given us in Step Brothers or Starsky and Hutch, you won’t find a lot of that here. Instead, you will find a lot of heart, though there are some laughs to be had.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Everything Must Go

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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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

Aristotle’s Poetics For Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002)

Aristotle's Poetics For Screenwriters, by Michael Tierno (2002)

Original Release Date: August 21, 2002
Publisher: Hyperion
Author: Michael Tierno

Michael Tierno takes Aristotle’s Poetics and breaks them down, utilizing Aristotle’s ideas about how storytelling should be done on the stage and applies it to story structure for the big screen and writing in general. Citing examples of other films to successfully use (intentionally or not) Aristotle’s formulas for success, Tierno makes a good case for why you should follow suit and also doles out advice on how to get your script seen by the bigwigs, having been a story analyst for Miramax Films himself.

The book is set up with small chapters that cover various things in high detail but with minimal confusion and the page count is relatively low for a reference book dealing with a subject that has so many facets to it. Aristotle was amazing when it came to story structure and the rules for writing comedies, tragedies and drama in general and this all still holds up today.

The price wasn’t bad. I bought mine on Amazon.com for only about $10, but you can find it brand new for only a bit more than that.

This is very informative for a screenwriter like myself who wants to improve their work, and you will find yourself going back to it for reference again and again.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Check Out A FREE Preview Of Aristotle’s Poetics For Screenwriters HERE