Friday, March 31, 2017

The Matrix Spoiler-Free Review

The Matrix, 3/31/17, 4.5 Stars.

What you have now is a choice: a choice to either continue reading this review or to just scroll past it like it’s nothing. If you choose to scroll through, then you will go about your day never knowing what I thought of The Matrix, but if you choose to read on, your reality will forever change. We begin with a cool computer code opening that shows us the framework of the Matrix, then we see a police raid overtaken by Special Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Their mission: arrest Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who escapes. Next, we’re introduced to our main character John Anderson/Neo (Keanu Reeves), a seemingly ordinary computer programmer who sells hacking technology to some low lifes. It is at some cyberpunk club that he meets Trinity, who tells him about Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and the next day at work, he gets a call from Morpheus, instructing him to get out through a series of directions that work up until he refuses to jump from the building, resulting in his capture by Agent Smith. After a brief interrogation, they plant a tracker in him in a visually fascinating warping of his body that alerts viewers to the non-reality John/Neo is living in. He wakes up, gets another call from Morpheus, and is picked up by Trinity. After she gets the bug off him, he meets Morpheus in person and gets a choice between the red and blue pills, one that reveals the truth or one that lets him live in ignorant bliss. Long story short, Neo learns the truth of his existence: it’s fake reality, very fake reality. He’s really wired into a computer program in a vast stack of human biological-VR pods run by machines that eventually flush him out (literally) and is eventually rescued by real-life Morpheus and Trinity. What follows is a semester’s worth of philosophical reality talk wrapped in a high concept sci-fi movie, wrapped in a mind-bending story that is relevant today with the emergence of Virtual Reality. It’s actually not that hard to follow because you always know where you are: if you’re in the Matrix, the lighting has a greenish tone to it, while if you’re in the main cast’s real world, I would have to say the lighting has a more blueish tone to it. The plot doesn’t waste too much time establishing what is going on and we get the revelation of “this is reality” within the first half-hour, followed by two hours of Neo learning the system so he can be “the one,” and you know what’s going on from when the movie boots up to when it’s powered down (until the sequel), and is easy to follow as long as you remember “Green lighting = Matrix,” and “Blue lighting = reality.” Neo is a pretty relatable guy, reacting the way any of us would react if we suddenly woke up in our fetal pod and realized the lives we’d lived had been a false reality, but none of these characters are really developed enough to make us care for them. I really did not get to know Neo enough to care about his origin as “the one,” and I certainly didn’t care much for Morpheus and his crew, though I will say they were pretty cool. Again, they just weren’t layered enough, and this is where the Wachowski bros corrupted the code of this movie (pardon my computer puns, but 01001001 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 11100010 10000000 10011001 01110100 00100000 01110010 01100101 01110011 01101001 01110011 01110100 00001101 00001010 doing so). However, what they did flawlessly were the effects, which I feel hold up well enough. Whether it’s the storage unit of humanity, the advanced technology, the Matrix fights, or the stylish computer code opening credits, the effects look believable for the situation and help establish the virtual world and post-apocalyptic future. It all adds up, and everything is there for a reason. As for the soundtrack, Don Davis conveyed the appropriate emotions and stayed in tune with the high-tech, high-concept sci-fi aspects of the story and visuals. It was also omitted in scenes like Smith interrogating Neo, up until the bug implant sequence. There is also plenty of humor to be found. Not much, just a few funny things happen, but that’s it. And there is some salty language, but nothing over-the-top. This movie is the one. The one you want to watch next if you have not seen it already. So now, another choice confronts you: watch The Matrix and discover the truth of what I say, or don’t watch it, and continue to live in ignorance of this poignant late-90s sci-fi film whose relevance is strong in today’s world of Virtual Reality. Once you see it for yourself, it cannot be unseen, so choose carefully.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes Trailer Reaction

The war is on! No time to monkey around with this trailer, click below to see the full reaction!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It Trailer Reaction

Today, I floated up to see if the latest adaptation of Stephen King's It would be worth seeing. Watch my full reaction below to see what I thought.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer Reaction

Today on The Legend of Henry, I reacted to the new trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming. I have to say, I look forward to seeing how Marvel Studios handles its more recognizable hero. Hopefully, they don't go all The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on it by throwing every villain at the wall and seeing what sticks. Either way, click below to watch my reaction to the trailer, I look forward to watching and reviewing it this July.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Power Rangers Spoiler-Free Review

Power Rangers, 3/25/17, 4.5 Stars.

Go go Power Rangers. Go take forever to show up in full outfit form. We do open with a cool look at an ancient battle where Zordon (Bryan Cranston) dies stopping Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) from harvesting the Earth’s life core. Fast forward 65 million years later, and we meet five diverse teenagers who all end up at the same space ship and undergo the same enhancements: Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery), Kimberly Hart (Naomi Scott), Billy Cranston (RJ Cyler), Trini (Becky G) and Zack (Ludi Lin). First, Jason, Kimberly, and Billy are thrust into detention after Jason sneaks a bull into the school for a prank and gets arrested after totalling his car, Kimberly humiliates a fellow cheerleader, and Billy accidentally blows up his lunch box. They meet Trini and Zack when Billy takes Jason to the gold mine and Kimberly just happened to be taking personal time there. After they discover the coins that give them superpowers, they go on a power discovery rampage reminiscent of The Amazing Spider-Man, and return to find the truth about their powers: they are the Power Rangers, chosen by the coins to stop Rita Repulsa for good (Unlike Zordon). It takes forever to see all five of them in full costume, like someone lit a mile-long fuse on a powder keg of an epic final act, because when they do get to that, I almost wanna forgive them for taking so long. Almost. However, the core group is likable enough without the armor, and really grow from the angry misfits they start as. Also, there are enough cool visuals on the spaceship that make me want to overlook the pace, but I just can’t. Everything we see advances the plot, from Zordon’s noble sacrifice to Jason’s senior prank gone wrong, and the final act that feels earned enough in my book. It’s all set to Brian Tyler’s exciting score that really earns him his paycheck at the final act. Overall, Power Rangers is a fun, dramatic movie about five teenagers who learn how to work together in the face of certain doom. So now, it’s watching time!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nightcrawler Review

Nightcrawler, 3/24/17, 4 Stars.
Whoah, Fox gave Nightcrawler his own movie? Oh wait, this isn’t an X-Men movie, it’s a crime thriller. Anyway, we open up by meeting Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a petty thief making money by stealing stuff and selling it, but only for himself, so he’s no Robin Hood. In fact, he doesn’t do anything as well meaning as Robin Hood. Anyway, after bargaining for a higher pay (and failing) he drives around until he sees an active crime scene and a pair of stringers film police pulling a woman out of a car crash. When one of the duo (Bill Paxton) reveals he’s selling it to local news stations to use on air, Lou develops an ambition to boldly do what these guys do, and what follows is his machiavellian quest to be the very best stringer that no one ever was. We waste no time getting into the independent news chaser story, which makes sense from the discovery of this being a thing to the climactic “in over his head” climax. I’m going to be honest, the character of Lou Bloom is not very well developed, though we all have aspirations we should be careful not to choke on. In fact, you kind of grow to dislike Lou, which I think is the point of the movie, given the fact that he and his business partner Rick (Riz Ahmed) run around filming crime scenes and anything the police show up at to sell to a local news station. You really grow to dislike him because he’s a pain to Nina (Rene Russo), the woman who runs the station Lou sells to, to the point he gets creepy on her, and I know we all have aspirations, but this guy crosses the line to the point where he’s essentially a serial killer with a camera and a temper. It’s also seen in the way he treats Rick: horribly. He’s just relentless, thankless, and just plain rude to the guy who gives his time to help make these shenanigans possible. He’s not very relatable in this sense, but Rick serves as the entry point for the audience, and the guy says what’s on most viewer’s minds: “What the hell’s he doing?” He and everybody else get no real development, but for the relatability factor, I’ll recognize him as the eyes of the audience. Nightcrawler also has this dark and gritty feel to it that just feels raw and believable, and everything we see advances the plot and speaks to the character of Lou Bloom and his insanity. Another flaw I’d like to point out though, is the vast levels of profanity. Was it really that necessary? It helps it feel raw, but I felt they could have toned down the language and made this accessible to younger audiences who should probably see this to see what media has become today: a scary, unpredictable force that brutally sticks to its guns in the face of being wrong. Before I go, I just wanna say James Newton Howard’s score was a nice movie score, just getting that out there to end on a positive note. So now, I can say that Nightcrawler is a hard-hitting tale of modern media and the world of TV news in the age of the Internet, led by a psychotic cameraman who wants to be the very best at it for no real reason, seen through the eyes of a sane guy who just needs to make some money, and tells it like it is, unlike news media today.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Iron Fist Season 1 Review

I feel it's been long enough since Iron Fist Season 1 dropped on Netflix. Assuming everyone reading this article watched one, two, maybe three episodes per day in the last week, you've probably finished it. I personally binge watched the entirety of the show on St. Patrick's Day, followed by my Friday Movie in the form of Caddyshack.

After recovering from the physical and emotional strains of binge watching 13 hours of TV and a 97 minute movie, I can say that Iron Fist isn't really as bad as the critics make it out to be. Yes, it starts slower than usual, and at this point you feel they were forcing Claire Temple to be in every single season in some form, whether a recurring role in Daredevil Season 1, a guest appearence in Jessica Jones Season 1, and a recurring role in the next three seasons of Marvel-Netflix TV. However, IGN's Season 1 review referred to Danny Rand's characterization as "inconsistent," and asked "How is the audience supposed to understand, enjoy or empathize with the main protagonist if the show cannot ever figure him out?" 

I'd like to rebuttal this argument and say that this may be the point of Danny's character. He is not very consistent because he was raised by the monks of K'un L'un, starting at the age of ten. It's a harsh life to adjust to at that age, as evidenced by Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy with the Jedi Order (I cite this example because the Jedi are based on Xioalin monks, which are Buddhist, like the Order of the Crane Mother). If he'd been born into it, he'd be more consistent, but from the ages of 10 to 25, he was raised in this harsh environment to be a living weapon. On top of that, he was used to the ultra-privileged life of wealth, which he did not leave willingly. I've seen the character in Ultimate Spider-Man on Disney XD, (voiced by the awesome Greg Cipes) and he willingly went into that lifestyle (and was also a teenage SHIELD agent) as shown in season 2, episode 13 of it, "Journey of the Iron Fist." Imagine if a wealthy ten-year old went from riches-to-rags-and-back-to-riches like that in real life, regardless of the mystical element. 

Overall, Marvel's Iron Fist is not the burning garbage critics make it out to be. Is it a little repetitive of Arrow and other origin stories? Depends on how much you've already seen. If you've seen Arrow and have been watching it since 2012, maybe. I don't watch the Arrowverse shows, so I can't say, but that aside, Iron Fist is worth watching for the plot elements that will lead to The Defenders, and is not only watchable, but fun to watch, and believable too. It's more flawed than the other Marvel-Netflix shows, but will still entertain you, give a different perspective of New York, and make you ready for The Defenders.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

New Reaction Videos

Today, I noticed some trends today: new trailers for upcoming movies. The live-action movie adaptation of Death Note on Netflix, and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Needless to say I'm ready for both, so click below to see my reactions:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Zootopia Written Review

Zootopia, 3/18/17, 4.5 Stars

80 odd years ago, Disney started making cartoons, and then expanded to feature length films. And now today, Disney continues this with Zootopia, a race relations story told through the lens of animals living in “harmony” together. A little long, but Disney coherently tells a story that comments on race relations with a “who-dunnit?” story about Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), Zootopia PD’s first bunny cop, and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a foxy con artist who happens to be a fox. They have to Liam Neeson their way to a missing otter, and it’s all mystery and a great message of acceptance. They’re a likable pair, and the other characters are fun to watch. Their interactions with them and each other develop them. And the whole scenery is gorgeously animated, with each frame advancing the “who-dunnit?” story and showing animals as they live in a human-like world, with anything from totally-not-iphones to innovative ways to get around and accommodate biological necessities. What also makes it relatable is Shakira’s (or in their world, Gazelle) song “Try Everything,” which acts like a mantra reinforcing the theme in the same way The LEGO Movie did, while also connecting to the idea of overplayed pop songs. There’s also a score by Michael Giacchino, who’s always a win. It’s used properly and Mr. Giacchino conveys all the appropriate emotions in it. Overall, Zootopia is a fun, heartwarming movie with a deep message we could all use at any time: be the best person you can be, don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Caddyshack Written Review

Caddyshack, 3/17/17, 4.5 Stars.

Success in the movie pool! A simple, fun movie about golf and gophers, Caddyshack really is a classic. We open with Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) having his dad grill him about college funds. After he gets to his job as a caddy, what follows is a hilarious plot of two guys getting into a golf match, while groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) goes all Liam Neeson and Punisher on a hilarious gopher. The effects in this movie are cheap, but believable considering the budget and release time, whether it’s a guy getting struck by lightning having some weird blue light around him or the gopher. The gopher’s phoniness may be a little obvious, but more believable than what CGI would have done. The soundtrack from Johnny Mandel maintains the cheesy feel to it, and with Kenny Loggins songs, adds to the humor. Overall, Caddyshack is a fun comedy that has two-dimensional characters make spectacles of themselves.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

First Coco Teaser

Click here for my Reaction to Coco Teaser which I think looks like a beautiful Pixar movie. It'll be something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Good Dinosaur Review

The Good Dinosaur, 3/11/17, 4.5 Stars.
The good dinosaur movie that could have been great if Pixar had seized the opportunity to make a Zootopia-like movie where dinosaurs and humans lived together. Guess not. What we do get, is a loving, albeit a bit overly sentimental, family movie. We start with Henry the Apatosaurus (Jeffrey Wright) tending to his field, later joined by his wife Ida (Frances McDormand) in a montage that shows the farm grow, followed by their family: Buck (Marcus Scribner), Libby (Maleah Padilla) and our main protagonist Arlo (Raymond Ochoa). In a montage of them growing into tweenagers (approximation) in dino years, each of them makes their mark on the silo. Except Arlo, because he is tiny compared to his brother and sister. Not comically tiny, but still the runt of the litter. One night, his poppa gives him the chance to make his mark by killing whatever beast is stealing their crops. After a failed attempt, they go out to Liam Neeson the pest, and what follows is a journey of self-discovery and self-confidence-building for Arlo and Spot (Jack Bright), as they meet a variety of dinosaurs. The story is told coherently with montages filling in long spaces of time that show their bonding, and it avoids montage-scene-montage, repeat, it just flows smoothly in its 95-minute runtime and ties up loose ends (a rarity in Hollywood these days). Arlo and Spot are the focus here, and they are well-developed in their journey together, and relatable because of the universal human theme of fear. And to compliment the story is beautiful animation that looks so much like live-action, I sometimes wonder if this was a CGI/Live-Action hybrid like Disney’s 2000 dinosaur movie, simply titled Dinosaur. Thankfully not, because it still feels like a world Arlo and Spot would believably inhabit. My only qualm is with them consuming mushrooms and sending us on Pixar’s first drug trip. Did we really need that? Was it absolutely necessary to have them bond? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel strongly about it being there. That aside, Mychael and Jeff Danna’s soundtrack worked with the Western-style setting and characters like the T-Rex cattle wranglers Arlo and Spot meet, and it’s used most appropriately there. Finally, The Good Dinosaur has a good sense of humor (minus the mushrooms) and is a good, (slightly) clean family movie that pulls at the heartstrings.

Way of the Dragon Review

Way of the Dragon, 3/10/17, 4.5 Stars.
A long time ago, before CGI spectacle took over movie screens across America, there were simple, fun martial arts movies where real people fought each other with real skills. That is one of the traits of Way of the Dragon that holds up today. We begin with Tang Lung (Bruce Lee) arriving in Rome, Italy to help Chen Ching-hua (Nora Miao) fight off some mobsters who want to claim her recently deceased father’s restaurant. What follows is a martial arts film that is modest in terms of action compared to today’s spectacles, but Bruce Lee’s martial arts skills still hold up. The only thing I would say feels dated is when someone is smoking in a restaraunt, but otherwise, this is almost as good now as it was in 1972. To today’s audiences, it comes off as a little cheesy. I call it that because of the way some of the mobsters act, and the fight scenes that are simply not as cinematic as Marvel’s Daredevil (a TV show). But that’s what is nice about Way of the Dragon: it is simple and fun. Early on, there are a few things Tang does that go nowhere, but otherwise, my only problem is with the cheesy vibes I got from some of the mobsters and fight scenes. Joseph Koo’s soundtrack that services the story still also adds to the cheesiness, but does its job all the same. What still holds up as a solid fight scene is the climactic fight between Tang Lung and America’s best martial artist (in the film and real life) Colt (Chuck Norris). Overall, Way of the Dragon has aged into a fun martial arts romp that still has the simplest great fight scene between two highly skilled people, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, who never fought off camera because the universe would have imploded if they did. It holds up, but still comes off as cheesy here and there.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Logan Spoiler-Filled Review Audio

The first audio movie chat is live on MixCloud! Click the link below to get an earful of what I thought, with spoilers!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Peanuts Movie Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Good grief, another beloved property has gotten the big screen treatment. Is nothing sacred to them? Well at least it’s sacred to the people who made this, because it shows. The people behind The Peanuts Movie waste no time establishing the storyline: Charlie Brown gathering the courage to talk to the Little Red Haired Girl while facing mishaps every step of the way. We begin with a snow day that establishes Charlie Brown as the down-on-his-luck guy who won’t give up on achieving his dreams. Meanwhile, Snoopy is there to support him, and write his own story based on what he sees, creating a story-within-a-story that is easy to follow for anyone. Throughout these two stories (which is an obvious sign of needing to stretch the movie to a ninety-minute run time), Charlie Brown is developed as the lovable failure we know from the TV specials ABC runs every year, and so is every other character, who are voiced by actual children you’ve never heard the names of before, which adds a layer of genuineness, but their similarity to the original voices makes me wonder if they edit the recordings to sound more like the original actors. At least they didn’t force well-known celebrities into this, or mangle it beyond recognition to do so. The care that went into translating the comic strips and TV specials to film was so obvious, they even left in little details that wouldn’t work if it were about something else, and instead of forcing it into a cookie-cutter style of animation, they stick to the art style and tropes of the comic strip and TV special. However, they go wrong when they use a pop song for Charlie Brown’s “learning to dance montage,” and the winter dance. It’s just totally wrong to use that there, I cannot forgive forcing pop songs into somewhere they have no place. Maybe the credits, but better yet, pop songs have no place in the Peanuts lore. Guess nothing is sacred. Except for also using true-to-the-source music and actual music from the TV specials in one form or another for authenticity. Overall, the Peanuts Movie will make you think “good grief” when you hear it exists, but will make you think “yay!” when you see it.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Spoiler-Free Logan Review

5 Stars for a stellar swan song to Hugh Jackman in the role. Expect the spoiler-filled Movie Chat episode on Sunday, but for now, enjoy a spoiler-free written review of Logan.

Fox strikes gold again without having to dig for it themselves. It just goes to show you don’t mess around with a director or star’s vision, and if you do, things get messier than a violent encounter with Wolverine. We begin with an elderly Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) getting into a roadside fight with some thugs who try stripping the car he uses for his job to fund medicine for Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who is in so horrible shape, he keeps him with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who can track other mutants. This opening scene establishes just how (bleep)ing R-rated it (bleep)ing is, with profanity, blood, gore, etc. Like Deadpool without the humore. Life is like this for them before and during the first act of the movie until Transgien nurse Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) hires him to take her surrogate daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe haven in South Dakota. Quick note on Laura, she is a mutant very much like Logan, and I must say it was brutal to see an 11-year-old fight just as violently as the now elderly Logan. Long story short, Logan, Professor X, and Laura are forced to escape Transgien’s head of security Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) after they launch an attack on their home, in one of the most violent scenes in X-Men movie history. They definitely give Deadpool a run for his money in terms of serious foul-language and blood-and-gore action. What follows is a road trip across Southwestern America, and Wolverine’s most intense-and-exciting film to date. It’s fairly lengthy, but engaging enough, but if you weren’t a fan of Deadpool’s blood-and-gore, then you’re not gonna like this any more. It also really nails in just how much of a person Logan is, and is the highlight of his father-figure relationship with Professor X we get only hints of in the other movies. This is definitely how they should have done Origins: Wolverine back in 2009, and The Wolverine in 2013, but better late than never. For those who ask, this takes place in the alternate timeline created in X-Men: Days of Future Past where Mystique didn’t kill Trask. Put simply, it takes place after the happy epilogue we saw in that movie, and something went horribly wrong to put them where they are in the opening scene. However, like Deadpool, there’s a fair amount of humor, although no satire of the genre needed. Marco Beltrami also returns to score the movie, and he makes it as intense as it should be in action scenes, while not going too far, or ripping off the Daredevil TV show’s action soundtrack. Ultimately, Logan is the Wolverine movie we needed and deserved after a prequel to the X-Men trilogy that made Fox create the new timeline, and follow-up to X-Men: The Last Stand that we’ll never see a follow up to because after that one, it’s basically the end of that timeline where there’s no hope for a future. We needed to see the R-rated Wolverine movie that Fox was gonna do in 2009 before chickening out, and deserved something more grounded while still being true to the world they live in. I’ll miss Hugh Jackman in the role, and I bet he’ll be like JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson: irreplaceable.