Sunday, June 8, 2014

'Edge of Tommorrow' REVIEW

Tom Cruise plays an advertising executive who was supposed to film an attack for the Army.  It's the future and humans are fighting these weird, tentacled aliens called Mimics.  The General orders him to fight with the team.  He makes it clear that he doesn't do that.  He has never been a soldier.  He tries to escape obeying this order and is knocked out by the General's men.  He wakes up on an Army base where he is forced to fight,  He is strapped to a mechanized battle suit and put on a plane.  He dies over and over again, always waking up for the next "try" on a pile of duffel bags, where the soldiers left him the first time.

You've probably seen the trailers and know that Tom Cruise keeps dying and re-living the same day over and over again (ala Groundhog Day).  I must say that one of things that I liked about this movie is that the trailers spoiled very little and some of the more interesting things were still in tact.  I don't even want to tell you why Tom Cruise is the one who can re-live the same day over and over again, but it is explained and there is a science fiction explanation for it, unlike Groundhog Day where Bill Murray had to re-live the day until Andie MacDowell slept with him...or whatever...and no one explained why he had to do this. Remember those scenes where Bill Murray kept trying to kill himself over and over (my personal favorite being when he put the toaster in the bathtub)?  Well, there is some humor like that where Emily Blunt, who knows about Tom Cruise's time warp ability (for a reason that I won't spoil) realizes that they failed at their mission and need to try again, so she shoots Tom Cruise in the head.  ( gore)  Tom Cruise makes alot of weird faces in the movie like he always does when he acts, so it's okay to laugh at him dying over and over again.

Good plot.  They explore the idea of reliving the same day over and over again very well until the end where they have to focus on killing the main alien so the war and movie will be over.  Kind of like "In Time" where they explore the idea of time being currency until it turned into a heist movie.  Sort of like that, but still well-done.  The chemistry between Cruise and Blunt is very good, so you will care about them during the action scenes.  Way better than 'Oblivion', but it won't make you forget 'Minority Report'.

3.5 Risky Businesses out of 5.

Yes, 'Edge of Tommorrow' was the theme song for 'Saved by the Bell: The College Years', so don't bother pointing that out.

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' REVIEW

In 2000, the first 'X-Men' movie was directed by a guy known for award-winning dramas (Bryan Singer).  Mind you, this was three years after 1997's 'Batman and Robin', arguably the worst mainstream superhero movie ever made (Steel, Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra were all spin-offs) and so the superhero movie genre needed a boost.  Today, superhero movies are such a "thing" that a few bad ones can come out and people still realize that the next one might be cool.  But back then, the Batman franchise was dead.  No one had made a Superman movie in years and Marvel wasn't doing what they are today (through any studio or their own), so the first 'X-Men', with good actors, where the science fiction elements were taken seriously, was quite a breakthrough 14 years ago.

Of course, Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men and the brilliant sequel X2 before killing two franchises by directing 'Superman Returns' and letting Brett "Rush Hour" Ratner direct the 3rd X-Men, killing off a number of main characters, thinking it was going to be the last one and "curing" others of their powers.  Yes, "death" in a sci-fi movie is reversible through cloning or time travel (as this movie proves) or transferring your consciousness into your twin brothers' body, but the thing that fans hated the most about the third one is the way the Phoenix storyline was handled.  Instead of being an entity from space like in the comics, the Phoenix was a part of Jean's brain that Professor X tried to steal off and it got mad.  Personally, I liked the "cure for mutation" storyline from X3, but they made the Phoenix lame.

So, now, the original director, the one that should have directed X3, is back.  We have most of the original X-Men back in their roles and their younger versions from 'X-Men: First Class' in a time travelling X-Men story, one of the most acclaimed from the comic books 'Days of Future Past'.  Since it's been a few years since X3, the actors look a little older, so seeing them in a futuristic landscape where everything has been wiped out by mutant-hunting Sentinel robots makes sense.  Think the future flashbacks from 'Terminator' with cooler robots.  The X-Men, including a few new characters you might remember from the comics or 1990's cartoon (Bishop has a small, but cool role) are at war with the Sentinels.  Kitty Pryde has figured out a way to send people's consciousness back in time to their younger body, but she can only send people back a few days or a week at a time.  She has been doing this to warn the X-Men's past selves about the Sentinels whenever they do attack.  The Sentinels kill a bunch of X-Men, she sends someone back a few days and they can move somewhere else.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  (Iceman has a pretty cool "death" that is erased by time travel.)

Thing is, sending someone's mind back through time takes a toll on the body, which is why Kitty only does it a week at a time.  Buuut, what if someone's body could heal super fast?  Enter everyone's favorite X-Men, whether you think it's stupid that he's always the star when it's supposed to be a team effort or not, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the one who can go back in time to the one event that started this dark future.  50 years in the past.  1973.  Futire Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and future Magneto (Ian McKellen) are friends in the future and they tell Wolverine that he must get them to unite in a time where they couldn't have been further apart.  This includes convincing a drugged-out 1970's Professor X that he is from the future, freeing Magneto from a prison many feet under the Pentagon (without Charles' powers, because he's taken a drug that allows him to walk again, but removes his mind powers) AND...stopping young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the man who built the Sentinels in the first place.  Not only does seeing a mutant kill a public figure make normal people hate mutants even more (making the President employ the Sentinels), but when Mystique is captured, her shape-shifting DNA is used on future upgrades, making the Sentinels deadlier in the future.  All the actors are great in their roles.  And personally, I felt that the one thing that X3 did right was humanizing Charles Xavier by giving him an "edge", instead of him "just" being the wise mentor.  This movie certainly does that with the young version (James McAvoy) by showing him at a low point in his life.

Ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be directing 'Days of Future Past', there was alot of fan talk online about whether he would acknowledge X3, which he did not direct, nor did fans like.  Well, while this movie can be enjoyed by someone who has never seen an X-Men film before, but who enjoys dark sci-fi, it is also kind of like that speech in the 2009 Star Trek reboot on the bridge of the Enterprise where they talk about an alternate reality.  Basically, the director's way of explaining why he changed a bunch of stuff.  Well, without spoiling too much, this movie is like that.  A combination of Bryan Singer trying to fix the effects of X3...or maybe just his own feelings about starting over and doing better.  Either way, I would just watch this movie as a stand alone film and not try to tie in in to lore too much, but it does reboot somewhat.

Much has been made too about how Professor X being alive after being killed in X3 isn't really explained.  I assume that those reviews did not watch the after-credits scene from X3, which plays off an earlier scene and in which Professor X has transferred his consciousness into another body with his powers.  Comic book fans know that the other guy was his twin brother, so, yeah...Patrick Stewart is in this movie and he's great as always even though he got vaporized by lame Phoenix n X3.  And ignore those goofy pictures of Quicksilver that you saw in EW magazine.  His character and his small role is awesome, he helps to free Magneto from prison, steals the scenes he is in and yes, they do acknowledge (but do not elaborate on) "where he comes from".  Oh, and we see him hugging his little sister at the end, so, um, yeah Scarlet Witch is in this movie too, but not really.  (More on her when Avengers 2 comes out)  Anyway, lots of nods to previous versions of the X-Men for longtime fans.

Bottom line, 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' is a great time travel movie with alot of great twists and turns along the way.  I love the way they tied everything in to real history the way "First Class" talked about the Cuban Missile crisis and JFK.  In this movie, we see mutants fighting in Vietnam, Richard Nixon is a character and we learn which ex-President (X-President) was really a mutant.  All in all, a great movie with an after-credits scene that you will have to explain to non-comic book fans, but that makes you psyched for the (Bryan Singer's) next X-Men film.  4.5 Sentinels out of 5.

PARENTS GUIDE: Professor X repeats the line that Wolverine said to him during his cameo in 'X-Men: First Class'.  So, yeah, one F-bomb that this movie could have done without.  Just sayin'.

'Godzilla' (2014) REVIEW

In 1954, the original Godzila movie was about the bad effects of radiation.  Made 9 years after the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of WWII, it had a very serious tone.  Future follow-ups would be campy and less serious, featuring WWE-style grudge matches between Godzilla and another monster (Mothra, Rodan, Mechagodzilla etc.).  They had camp value, but few (if any) of the sequels captured the serious tone of the original.

The new Godzilla successfully combines the serious tone of the original with the 'wow' factor of having Godzilla fight another monster.  In some of the Japanese Godzilla movies, Godzilla would destroy Tokyo and in others, another monster would destroy Tokyo and Godzilla would save it.  This is one of the latter, where Godzilla is the hero.  Unlike the 1998 Matthew Broderick American reboot, which I call 'Ferris Bueler vs. Godzilla', the human characters are interesting, so that the story can build up to when Godzilla or the other monster makes his entrance.  And a great entrance the King of Monsters makes.

Bryan Cranston plays a scientist who loses his wife during an accident in a nuclear power plant that they both worked at.  Grief-stricken, years later, he is obsessively looking into the events of that day, particularly an EMP-like energy that was detected that fateful day that he could not pinpoint what it was.  His obsessive behavior worries his soldier son (Aaron-Taylor Johnson).  When Dr. Widower (not his real name) detects it again, he discovers, not Godzilla, but a grasshopper-like monster called MUTO.  His name, an acronym for Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism, is a touch of the fun science-y stuff that made the best old-school Godzilla movies great, but it's not as ridiculous as the explanations in some of the campier films, which, to be fair, were translated from Japanese.  And we have an Asian scientist, played by the fake R'as Al Ghul from Batman Begins (Ken Watanabe) who pronounces Godzilla the right way.  "Gojira!"

But the soldier son is the main (human) character.  He is involved with finding out what is happening and stopping part of the larger threat.  We see his relationship with his wife (not his sister, that's a movie for next year) played by Michelle Tanner's real-life sister Elizabeth Olsen and long for soldier boy to survive so that they can be together again.  ('Avengers' fans will get the sister joke.)  I disagree with reviews that said that the human characters were boring, but I agree with those same people that the fights between Godzilla and MUTO shouldhave been longer.  It might have been a budget thing, but the monster vs. monster battles provide the epic scale and just the right touch of humor.  The awesome entrance that G-zilla makes (and one other moment) caused the theatre audience that I was sitting with to applaud.  I don't applaud at movies, but it was quite moving.

So, a story that was interesting enough to build up to when you actually see the monsters.  Great fight sequences that don't quite hit you in the face the way 'Pacific Rim' did.  And a nice touch of elements that made the old Godzilla movies great, including a scene where the soldier and Godzilla give each other knowing glances and sort of "bond" after they save each others lives.  Again, not as corny as him winking at Japanese children, but moving and fun nonetheless.

I give this movie 4 roars out of 5.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

'Amazing Spider-Man 2' movie review

Andrew Garfield is a beter Peter Parker than Tobey Macguire just based off the fact that he doesn't make a laughable face when he is crying in a scene.  Watch the bridge scene of the forgettable 'Spider-Man 3' for the worst example of this.  That being said, I agree with many of the other reviews that 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2's' flaws come from Sony's attempt to make a multi-franchise universe like 'The Avengers' when they only own the rights to ONE hero (and his villians and side characters).  They are going to make movies centered on the villians, which is not necessarily a bad idea.  They make gangster movies, centered around characters who would be villians in a Dick Tracy or other cop movie.  So, sort of like a comic book 'The Godfather'.  That being said, 'Iron Man 2' suffered greatly from trying to set up "other stuff" at the expense of its own movie and 'Spider-Man 3' suffered by cramming too many villians into one film.  This movie is WAY better than those two films, but has similar flaws.

The opening scene shows us Peter's father running away and leaving Peter with Aunt May just like the first movie, but gives us more information on what he was working on.  Then, we have a great "opening" action scene where Spidey is trying to take down the Russian gangster who later becomes the Rhino, despite the fact that Peter/Spidey is late for his high school graduation.  This scene is very exciting.  It has a lot of humor and is fun to watch. Paul Giamatti is a great actor.  Buuuut, the Rhino is only shown at the beginning of the movie and at the end.  Two very cool scenes.  Very funny and they both have a point, buuuut, Rhino should not have been in trailer based on the small amount of screen time he gets.  Yes, they are setting up the "bad guy" movies, which is why they gave a great actor such a small part, but don't expect too much Rhino but DO expect to enjoy the Rhino you get.

Real-life couple Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry as Peter and Gwen.  Peter breaks up with Gwen early on in the film, because whenever he is fighting crime as Spider-Man, he sees Gwen's father, who died in the first movie after making him promise that he would stay away from Gwen to protect her from his enemies.  But since the whole story arc is about him feeling guilty about putting her in danger and they end up back together anyway, the break-up scene feels unnecessary.  He could have gone the whole movie staying with her and feeling guilty and that would have served the same purpose in the end result, plus taking away from the scenes that dragged.

Early in the film, we meet Max Dillon, who will remind you of Edward Nygma/The Riddler in 'Batman Forever'.  He is lonely, has no friends and becomes obsessed with Spider-Man when he is shown a little attention.  Jamie Foxx is a great actor.  The character is not over the top like Jim Carrey did Riddler.  The filmmakers expect you to remember all that 'cross species genetics' stuff from the first movie so you won't question why they are building an electric generator out of eels.  Max falls in there and becomes Electro.  He becomes a villian when he feels slighted that Spider-Man doesn't remember his name.  His fight scene is also a little long, but very cool and does develop the character very well.

Peter soon meets up with his old friend Harry Osborn.  Harry finds out that he inherited a debilitating disease from his father.  Because of Oscorp's dabbling in 'cross species genetics', Harry suspects that Spider-Man's blood can help him find a cure and hates him when he refuses to help, fearing (because of his father's research) that it will do more harm than good.  I liked Peter and Harry's relationship.  This was the part of the movie that could have been better developed if they cut out the on-again, off-again stuff with Peter and Gwen.  They could still develop their relationship and have it be as romantic and cute as it is (one of the film's strengths), but a little snip could have given us more Peter and Harry.

As I said, there is a lot of "stuff" that makes the first half of this movie seem long and yes, they are developing future movies, but most of it does come together quite well in the final action scene, which was one of the most intense that I have seen in a while.  Very dramatic and well-done.  Director Marc Webb is very good at human drama, evidenced by the rom-coms he did pre-Spidey, but snipping SOME of the love story to develop the Peter/Harry rivalry would have only benefited that final scene, which is quite a tear-jerker even if you are familar with the outcome of 'Amazing Spider-Man #121' from 1973.  People in the theatre I was at were crying like Tobey Macguire during a bridge scene.  Peter does find out more information about what happened to his father and that Oscorp is evil, which moves his story forward and sets up future sequels and spin-offs.

I appreciate the efforts that this and the preceeding film made not to repeat/imitate the Tobey Macguire/Sam Raimi Spidey movies.  In the reboot, they took the "Spidey becomes a wrestler" part out of his origin because we saw that before.  They nodded to it by having Peter's mask be inspired by a wrestler's mask.  There is a version of the Green Goblin in the comics where Harry becomes a villian before/instead of his faher, so they went with that to avoid compairsons to the old series.  Part of me wanted to see J. Jonah Jameson, who is referred to, but not seen, but since my complaints were about the film being too cluttered in places, maybe I should just wait patiently for the third film.  And for the record, I am totally for them using the same guy, even though the rest of the cast is different.  I believe in J.K. Simmons.

So, even though it dragged in a few places, 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' is a very fun movie where everything comes together very well in the end.  Some fun nods for comic book fans and enough romance to keep the women in the audience interested (enough).  I give this movie 3 thwips out of 5.

'Divirgent' movie review

'Divirgent' is a 'Hunger Games' knock-off...and I say that from a very realistic place.  Even the Divirgent book came out three years after the first Hunger Games book.  I WAS going to review this film on its own merits, but since this movie has the same audience as Hunger Games, learning how much better Hunger Games was is relevant to how much this sucks.

Divirgent takes place in a future world in which the city of Chicago has been decimated by a war.  And you don't really know what's "out there" beyond the city of Chicago.  Like Hunger Games, it uses the backdrop of the future to set its own rules.  This is a different world than we live in.  There are five factions (in Chicago) that serve different purposes in this society, the intellectuals, the soldiers, the selfless ones (and two others) and they all have funny names.  There are some technologies that we don't have in real life, but other than that, the futuristic backdrop is just used to set its own rules.  No flying cars etc. (I just watched 'Fifth Element'.  None of that stuff here.)

Deleted scene Mary Jane Watson actress Shailene Woodley plays this girl who was born into the "selfless" faction (that is called something else).  She and her brother take an aptitude test that tell them which faction they would best fit into.  Her results are inconclusive, labeling her as (dumb dumb dumb) divirgent!  The lady who administers the test is nice enough to manually label her with the faction she grew up in, because we learn that divirgents are feared by the intellectuals who are trying to wrench power away from the selfless.  People who don't fit into society's (five) molds threaten the whole system and some have even been killed.  It is a much less interesting take on the "people don't understand me" teen angst sci-fi trope than the X-Men films.  All "being divirgent" does to this girl (and others who are) is that when the bad guys inject them with a mind-control serum, it doesn't work.  They can't fly or stop bullets or any Neo-like powers that would have improved this film.

Potential MJ doesn't like the selfless faction.  She wants to look at herself in the mirror (which is not allowed) because she's a teenage girl, so she joins the soldier faction.  "I wanna look at myself in the mirror, Mom!  I'm joining the Army!"  Yes, that is a major plot point.  Then, she jumps onto moving trains with her soldier buddies and gets a tattoo.  In 'The Hunger Games', Katniss is thrown into the "action" by a draft that she can't control.  The government picks her younger sister and she selflessly goes in her place (a commentary on young people being drafted into war).  Here, the rebellious (whiny) girl joins the Army because her parents are too strict.  Yes, she is sorry later, but the movie still glorifies teenage rebellion with the tattoo and the train jumping.  More "fight against the government" stuff (a beloved sci-fi trope) would have helped the plot (as it did with Hunger Games...and Star Wars...and The Matrix), but here is where Divirgent gets really sloppy.

As soon as the girl joins the Army faction, she meets this boy who is a jerk to her and later softens and they end up together.  Yes, picture that in the most cliched teen romance way you can, because that's it. make matters worse, there are LOOOOONG scenes of kids training for this Army.  Scenes in movies where people are fight training bore me to tears unless something else is done to spice them up.  In 'Rocky', it was a musical montage with a rousing theme.  In 'Batman Begins', it was intercut with scenes of Bruce learning stealth and making smoke bombs.  In 'The Matrix', the training scene was not that long and had some cool effects.  In all three of these examples, the characters were established before they starte training, so you cared what they were learning.  This movie uses the training to establish the characters and it doesn't work because you don't care who is fighting and it takes you out of the movie.  At least 'Ender's Game' had zero gravity stuff.

Like I said, this movie should have focused more on the "bring down the system" stuff, which is more interesting "rebellion" for a movie than running away to join the Army and getting a tattoo.  I give this movie 1.5 ferris wheels out of 5, just because Woodley and her movie mom, played by Naomi Watts, give good performances.

Friday, April 11, 2014

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' REVIEW

 In 2011, two superhero movies were taken to the next level by being period pieces.  'Captain America: The First Avenger' was set in WWII until Cap was frozen and reanimated in the present.  'X-Men: First Class' set the action in the 60's during the Cold War.  Then, Captain America hung out with 'The Avengers' the next year and took superhero team movies to a different level, a level that DC Comics and Warner Brothers have since been scrambling to imitate.  Now, with 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', Marvel (characters) show their diversity by making what feels like a Jason Borune movie with superheroes.

Reportedly, there were some scenes in The Avengers involving Cap being a fish out of water after waking up 70 years later that were cut because that movie was an emsemble piece and needed to focus equally on Iron Man, Hulk and Thor.  'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' does a good job of exploring that and playing it for a few laughs without letting that aspect of the movie drain the plot or the action down.  Scar Jo is back as Black Widow, who is constantly trying to set Cap up on a date while making quips about how out of touch he is with the modern world.  "Where's the museum?  I'm here to pick up a fossil," she quips as Cap gets into her car.  Apparently, someone has taught him how to use the Internet, so he has been doing some catching up.  He's seen War Games and has a list of TV shows and movies that he wants to check out, including I Love Lucy.  He meets Sam Wilson, an ex-Army pilot who suggests that he check out a specific Marvin Gaye album.  They become friends and he later becomes a colleague to Cap after donning a rocket-wing backpack that is considerably less ridiculous-looking than the costume that "The Falcon" wears in the comics.  Cap goes to a "greatest generation" museum that has a display about him and visits an old friend who WAS his own age during WWII in the nursing home.  This reminds him how much he has missed by being frozen for 70 years.

Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, who has his largest (and best) role yet in these Marvel movies.  He sends Cap and Black Widow on missions, but Cap starts to question his methods.  This leads into a very political, "current", topical debate over whether America should police the world by attacking "potential threats".  Cap, being old-fashioned, feels that the punishment came after the crime.  Nick disagrees.  But Nick also has a disagreement with a politician that he answers to, played by Robert Redford.  Alot of under-cutting and back-biting happens until Nick is attacked by bad guys led by The Winter Soldier.  This leads to other things being revealed that involve Hydra (the rogue Nazi science group from the first movie) and that send Cap, Black Widow and Nick on the run.  The plot is not too difficult to follow if you are paying attention, but there is alot of "who's stabbing who in the back" kind of stuff.  Yes, Black Widow is a good guy in the comics, but there was a version where she was not.  So, I had my eye on her for a good 40 minutes of the movie.  It's not so political that it beats you over the head, but even if you hate politics in real life (as I do), politics in a movie keeps you guessing and layers the plot, which is well-done here.

Cap and Scar Jo have great chemistry together when they are on the run and uncovering plot stuff.  All of the actors in this movie are great.  There are some great plot twists that I won't spoil.  Yes, if you know the comics, you know who the Winter Soldier is, who he was in the first movie and how he ties in with Cap's past.  I won't spoil it here, but this movie goes from a heartfelt storyline about Cap trying to find his way in the modern world to some rather thrilling political stuff that threatens to bring down the SHIELD organization (from the other films) and that all comes together in a very entertaining way.  Lots of shooting and explosions.  Some bloody wounds, but no "gore" and one hospital scene that shows blood.  I would keep small kids away from it until they are older, but a great addition to the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.  And yes, stay for the scenes after the credits for an Avengers 2 tidbit..

I give this movie 4 shields out of 5.

'Mr. Peabody' REVIEW

'Peabody's Improbable History' was a series of animated shorts that were part of the 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' show (in reruns when I was a kid) where a hyper-intelligent bespecaled canine (with a bow tie) named Mr. Peabody would introduce "my boy Sherman" before getting into the WABAC ("way back") machine and teaching kids about history, visiting some historical period, meeting historical figures and getting involved with some historical event.

Like the original series, the 'Mr. Peabody' movie combines being educational with being fun and adventurous.  Here, we get a backstory for Mr. Peabody.  He was different than the other dogs.  He didn't like to play fetch.  He was too smart to see the point of it.  "You're just going to throw it again."  He would rather read and learn.  The beginning of this movie tells us in a very humorous way who Mr. Peabody is and what he accomplished (Nobel prize, inventions etc.) before finding a baby named Sherman in a basket and adopting him because he wanted more with his life.  The cartoon shorts never told us that Sherman was the dog's adopted son (I don't think), which is a new spin we get from the movie that creates some very touching drama, as the world's most briliant dog has to learn how to tell his boy that he loves him.

The plot thickens when Sherman gets into a fight with a girl at school who was bullying him and bites her.  This puts Mr. Peabody on the radar of a child services worker who uses the incident to try to take Sherman away, claiming that a dog should not be raising a boy.  It was a very clever introduction to what a devoted father this canine Dr. Who is and a set-up for some touching and funny moments.  Mr. Peabody invites the girl's parents over for dinner, hoping to smooth things over with them.  Sherman's attempts to make friends with the girl involve him trying to impress her by showing her the WABAC time machine, despite Mr. Peabody's instructions not to touch.  That sets the stage for a series of funny adventures and some wacky time travel rules that are well-played out in the story.  Leonardo DaVinci, King Tut and Albert Einstein play supporting roles and Putty from 'Seinfeld' does the voice of one of the soldiers inside the Trojan horse.  There are quite a few jokes that will go over the kids' heads and that the adults will enjoy (especially if you know history), but you're probably better off if you don't know anything about Oedipus.  You will wonder why they put a joke about Oedpius (and how having dinner at his house was awkward) in a children's movie when he was a mythical figure anyway.  And you may feel icky.  If you let that joke go over your head, 'Mr. Peabody' is a clever, funny, witty, well-written fast-paced adventure that young and old (who are unfamiliar with Oedipus) can enjoy together.

I give 'Mr. Peabody' 3.5 bow ties out of 5.


In a room full of people.
A thousand conversations.
The room keeps spinning.
Figure out how to jump in.
“Is this weird?  The way I keep wringing my hands?
Is this off-putting?  I should find a comic book fan.”
The one thing that I know WAY too much about.
Normal people like it too.  It makes me want to shout.
As much I want to be a social butterfly
I rack my brain to figure out how or why
I even want to when my head is more comfy.
Small things are distracting.  Is my shirt lumpy?
Is that girl single?  Is that a new flavor of
Mike’s Hard Lemonade?  Is that a purple dove
On that girl’s purse?  I wonder if she can see me.
How do I say “hi” without being creepy?
With that deer in the headlights stare I always get.
Somewhere between “hi” and “Meet my husband Brett!”
Forced eye contact.  Fingers tapping on my knee caps.
Done with socializing.  Go talk to my friend’s cat.
“I am kinda jealous at the way you bathe, Simba.
I don’t have a rough tongue and I’m not that limber.
Those people seem cool, but I don’t understand them.
Their obsession with the real world just seems quite random
To me now.”

How did my world get in this room?
I peek out cautiously through my eyes
Hope I can come out soon.
I like living inside my head
Where I can be understood
Forget social cues, because conformity’s dead.
Conformity’s dead.

(verse two)
Now that I’m married, social cues can take a back seat
To spending time at home with something awesome to eat
My apartment is still an extension of my over-crowded head
A little neater, little warmer, brighter colors on my bed
Only let people in, who are respectful and who get me
When I do something weird, only stuck-up people sweat me
Conformity’s a girlfriend that I kicked to the curb
When I found myself a wife who can tolerate a nerd
Who watches cartoons like it’s normal for my age
While being clumsy and distracted, spilling milk onto the page
Of a first-edition comic book guest-starring Boba Fett
Then being sad the rest of the day, like I just lost a pet.
No need to pretend that I care about sports
Or “he said” “she said”, nosy teenage girl reports
Coming out of grown people who think that I’m swearing
When I say “Asperger”…their eyes start glaring.
“Ass burger?”…”No, asperger with a P.”

They don’t get it.  I don’t care.  Roll your eyes.  I’ll just be me.
Surround yourself with people...non-judgmental and who get it.
Laugh at the people…so uptight they start to sweat it!
Got Aspergers?
How did my world get in this room?
I peek out cautiously through my eyes
Hope I can come out soon.
I like living inside my head
Where I can be understood
Forget social cues, because conformity’s dead.
Conformity’s dead.

'Muppets Most Wanted' REVIEW

In 2011, Jason Segel and company rebooted the Muppets with a great movie in which a new character named Walter (the world's biggest Muppets fan) reunited the Muppets for a telethon that would save the old Muppet theatre from the original TV show (never before referenced in a movie) from being bulldozed.  Some complained that the movie centered too much on Walter and not enough on the core group, but the movie was about how Walter became a Muppet and was therefore about "The Muppets", hence the clever title.  And we had a very dramatic reunion between Kermit and Miss Piggy, which led to one of the more emotional moments in the film's climax, where three plot threads were brought together during the singing of the Muppets iconic song "Rainbow Connection".  Oh, and that other song won an Oscar and had a Jim Parsons cameo and was also awesome.

Now, we have 'Muppets Most Wanted', advertised as being in the vein of 'The Great Muppet Caper' (the best Muppet movie ever).  Kermit is barely in it.  Yes, you read that right.  Kermit is barely in it.  They made him very unlikable by having him flip out and yell at Miss Piggy very early on in the film about wanting to get married.  You probably know from the previews that there is a frog named Constantine that looks exactly like Kermit except for a mole.  Well, this movie focuses on him, his criminal partner (played by Ricky Gervais) and Tina Fey's (surprisingly unfunny) character more than any single Muppet.  This movie commits the crime that a few of the post-Jim Henson's death Muppet films made (killing the franchise, necessitating Jason Segel's reboot), which is that the human characters overshadow the Muppets themselves in the same way that Shia LaBeouf was more important to the Transformers movies than the Transformers as characters.

Kermit doppleganger Constantine escapes from the Gulag in Siberia, Russia and hatches a plan with Dominic Badguy (pronounced "bad-gee"...get it?) to steal a bunch of things that will help him steal the crown jewels in London.  Dominic poses as a concert promoter, convinces the Muppets to go on a world tour, despite Kermit's reluctance and then replaces him with Constantine.  Kermit gets sent to the Gulag (where he is barely seen for the rest of the film) while the Muppets are fooled into believing that Kermit is talking differently because he has a cold.  Previously, Kermit has been a stabilizing influence on the group when they perform, but "new Kermit" Constantine tells them to do what they want in the show while he is busy plotting his heists.  They like the creative freedom at first, but later realize they took Kermit for granted.

Meanwhile, Kermit is recruited by Tina Fey's prison guard character to headline their prison's talent show.  We are "treated" to some very long scenes where tough Russian prison inmates are turned into Broadway singers, scenes that become unfunny very fast and...again...are focused on human characters and not on the Muppets.  Yes, the idea of the other Muppets not telling Kermit and Constantine apart is "Muppet humor" (Kermit and Fozzie played twins in 'The Great Muppet Caper'), but the Muppets were never this dumb when Jim Henson was alive.  Maybe because he focused on Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy and Gonzo, allowing him to develop their characters more instead of making them the butt of dumb jokes.

I did admire the way this movie touched on a subject that I have wondered about for years, what Kermit and Miss Piggy's kids would look like.  It's in a fantasy sequence.  Miss Piggy fantasizes about what her life with Kermit would be like, raising a green girl pig and a pink frog boy.  I always pictured their offspring as being more of a freak show hybrid, but I liked that they explored it.  None of the celebrity cameos are as inspired as "human Walter" from the last movie or any of the cameos in the old Muppet films (Steve Martin, John Cleese etc.).  My personal disdain for Celine Dion aside, the scene she was in was very focused on her, making you forget that the song is about Miss Piggy's sadness.  The plot is very rushed to cram in these lame jokes that do not flow organically from the characters the way they did in 'Caper'.  And, let's just say that none of these songs will be nominated for anything but a Razzie.  There is a lot of self-aware, "make fun of ourselves" humor that also falls flat.  The opening song is "We're Doing a Sequel", the lyrics of which admit that the sequels are never as good.  (Unless it's 'The Great Muppet Caper'!!!) and there is a cameo by Rizzo the rat and Kermit's nephew Robin where they crack a joke about beloved characters that were absent from the last film.  (cue rimshot)

I give 'Muppets Most Wanted' 1 rainbow connection out of 5.  Go rent/buy/stream 'The Great Muppet Caper' to see what this movie should have been.  It will be cheaper than theatre tickets and you will have money left over for snacks.

Or...go see 'Mr. Peabody'...which I DID like and I will tell you why with my next review.

'The Goldbergs' review

'The Goldbergs' is a new sitcom (six episodes in as I am writing this) that takes place in the 80's and centers around a rather high-strung family who shouts a lot, but you can tell through and through that they care about one another.  It doesn't have the corny feel that many sitcoms that actually aired in the 80's did, but the father is not a Homer Simpson/Al Bundy/John Goodman in Roseanne-style idiot/pushover.  He (Murray) is just hot-blooded in that 'because I care too much' kind of way.  Screaming "Where have you been?  I could have killed you!" means "I was very worried."  He is definitely a good father who cares about his kids and his kids know that, so the show has a nice realistic vibe without being too edgy to be family-friendly.

The main character in this show is Adam, the youngest of the three Goldberg kids.  What is innovative about this main character is that the creator of the show is also Adam Goldberg.  This show is based on his real-life family.  The main character is him when he was an adolescent in the 80's and they even show Adam's real-life home movies during the closing credits.  That made me appreciate the show even more because the actors in this show nail their real-life counterparts.  Patton Oswalt from 'Parks and Rec' provides the voice of an adult Adam narrating from the future.

Adam has his high-strung (like dad) older brother Barry, his sister Erica, his doting mother Beverly and his grandpa Albert, all of whom are very relatable, witty characters in a well-written show.  Erica appears to be the voice of reason among the kids.  Beverly the mom provides some relatable (yes, relatable) humor, embarassing her children who are trying to be their own people.  (Yes, you can relate to that.)  And Grandpa Albert (whose wife has died) dates a different woman every weekend.  The only word of caution I would offer as far as this being a "family show" is that, in the first two episodes, Albert provided some off-color humor in the form of advice he gives to Adam about girls and something he says about his own date.  Since then, I don't recall any of that kind of humor being in the show, his character has focused more on trying to be there for his grandkids.  It was kind of like Howard Wolowitz in 'Big Bang Theory', where Howard provided a lot of off-color humor and now he's married, so not so much anymore.  Yes, Grandpa Albert still dates a bunch of women, going to bars dressed in 70's clothes, but the jokes aren't like they were in the first two.  There was a rather touching moment in one episode where Albert admits to his daughter that the reason he dates different women was because he is positive that no one can replace his deceased wife.

This show has additional apeal for those who grew up in the 80's.  There are countless references to things we grew up with.  One episode shows Barry begging his dad for some Reebok pumps.  (Like I did.  Well, my mom.)  He thinks they can make him jump higher.  (We all did.)  And then he tries to slam dunk without the athletic skills to back up the shoes and does a hilarious face plant on the pavement.  (I knew a kid.)  I think the show is funny on its own merits without the 80's references, just because the characters are very relatable, but seeing references to Rubix cubes, Flashdance, neon being in fashion, doing research on microfiche and Lou Ferrigno's Hulk are icing on the cake for those who remember that stuff.

I took away a 'star' because of Albert's off-color humor in the first two episodes. but gave back half of that star for the Reebok pumps episode.  I would rate 'The Goldberg's' 4.5 stars out of 5.  It is on ABC Tuesdays at 9 and is more than worth keeping the TV on after 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' which I'm sure you are already watching.

'RoboCop' (2014) REVIEW

'RoboCop is the remake to that 1987 movie that was SO violent that my mom wouldn't even let me watch the edited for TV version (when she was in the house, that is).  Well, this one is PG-13.  No blood spurts.  No one gets melted by toxic waste only to go SPLAT when they are hit by an oncoming truck.  I don't remember any actual blood being shown outside of scenes that take place in hospitals (in a medical context) when RoboCop is being built.  I mention that, because, when I heard that they were remaking RoboCop as a PG-13, I thought to myself that it might be good if it was just as satirical as the first one, but just "PG-13" the violence.  It succeeds and fails at the same time.  Allow me to explain.

Just as the old one satirized 1980's corporate greed, the new RoboCop harps on a hot-button political issue, the use of drones in warfare.  There is a company called Omni Corp that wants to extend their drone program to police the United States, but public opinion is not on their side, so they build RoboCop as a PR stunt, to show that robots can be used in American police work, but easing people into it, because he is part-human too.  He's a gateway drug to the full-robot cops they want to produce.

Joel Kinneman plays Alex Murphy, a good cop who is trying to hunt down a traitor in the Detroit PD.  This results in him getting a car bomb placed in his car and seriously injured (not killed like the original).  Alex's wife (played by Abbie Cornish) agrees to volunteer him to be turned into a cyborg (later named RoboCop).  I liked the fact that a lot of the story revolved around Alex's wife's reaction to what he was going through.  Not only because the original film neglected this, but because it gave the film a lot of added heart.  In the first movie, Alex doesn't remember his previous life when he becomes RoboCop, only to try to piece it together when he receives flashbacks (that involve his wife).  In this version, he remembers his family, but when Omni Corp realizes that Alex's human emotion cuts down on his efficiency as a cop, they try to take that from him and make him act more robotic.  They do the same thing backwards, but it adds to the conflict of the story, Alex being caught in the middle of this corrupt company's publicity stunt while trying to hunt down the corrupt cops that injured him.

Gary Oldman is great as the scientist who gets roped into creating RoboCop by Michael Keaton as the CEO of Omni Corp. (who should be in more movies).  Samuel L. Jackson is awesome and steals the movie as...basically a black Bill O'Reilly...named Pat Novak who has his own TV show (The Novak Element...not the O'Reilly Factor) and is on Omni Corp's side, wanting robots policing the streets.

I mentioned that the violence is considerably less here (no more than a TV cop show), but there are scenes that show what remained of Alex Murphy after the explosion and...well, you may be grossed out to see a lung moving in a glass case attached to Murphy's head (and some weird trachea thing).  Or the scientist sticking computer chips into Murphy's brain.  It's "medical", but I thought it was excessive.  And, the third act, takes a bunch of intriguing ideas that were introduced in the first two acts of the film and, well, doesn't play them out.  And the film ends in the most anti-climactic way they could have possibly ended it, dropping the things that were interesting and including one plot twist that was not explained and made no sense whatsoever.

So, the new RoboCop is decent.  The first scene is awesome and thought-provoking, lots of good acting...but you are going to walk out of the theatre wishing they had wrapped it up better.  And that he had said "your move, creep!"  They use all of his catch phrases except for that one.  I give it 2.5 blood spurts out of 5.