Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Gets an Honest Trailer for Christmas

Based on how amazing Nickelodeon's updated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series has been about sticking to the material and not treating the pre-adolescent target audience like simpletons, it's pretty mind-blowing that such a bizarre, disjointed and often inappropriate live-action TMNT film was allowed to hit movie screens this summer. Fortunately, the Honest Trailers folks have rightfully skewered the Michael Bay-produced Turtles flick just in time for the holidays. Unwrap and enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2014

‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’ Reviewed

Remember how, in middle school, you used double-spacing and wider margins to stretch out your five-paragraph book report to the required three pages, thinking you were fooling your teacher? That’s pretty much what Peter Jackson has done — albeit on a far grander scale — in his Hobbit trilogy.

 The third film in this bloated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved children’s story picks up where The Desolation of Smaug left off, with the iconic fire drake laying waste to Lake-town and Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) saving the day. But the dragon’s defeat only creates more problems for Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the company of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), as the titular armies converge on the Lonely Mountain for a massive showdown full of orcs, humans, elves, dwarves, trolls and a wide array of CGI beasts.

Since so much of the Hobbit story has already been told in the previous films — along with a whole lot of additional material added by Jackson to pad out the running time — there’s not much to this final film aside from large-scale battle sequences, but the moments that aren’t focused on fighting are largely forgettable. We see Thorin suffer from “dragon sickness” as the gold hoards within Erebor poison his mind, we see the White Council rescue Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellan) from Dol Guldur and we get more of the superfluous interspecies love story between Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). There’s also an abundance of scenes featuring a character named Alfrid Lickspittle (Ryan Gage), who’s just the worst ever.

The Battle of the Five Armies is a far more satisfying experience than the meandering Desolation of Smaug, but Jackson’s presumably final jaunt in Middle-earth too often feels like a video game cutscene. The battles lack the weight of those in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and are, unfortunately, lengthy to the point of exhaustion. Still, at a relatively brisk 144 minutes, it’s the most entertaining film in the trilogy.

 As much as I loved the original Lord of the Rings films — I still have the light-up Burger King goblets to prove it — I can’t help but feel that there was a superior adaptation of The Hobbit in the works before someone got the idea that a three-hundred page children’s book needed to be a three-film, eight-hour war epic. I’d much rather see that movie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New James Bond Gets a Title, All-Star Cast

It's a pretty good time to be a movie geek. After getting new trailers for Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we received news that the 24th James Bond film has a title, Spectre, and will feature Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Andrew Scott and Drax the Destroyer himself, Dave Bautista. Skyfall director Sam Mendes will return alongside Daniel Craig, who steps into 007's signature tuxedo for the fourth time in the anticipated film. Other returning Bond cast members include Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Miss Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as Q.

The title and the octopus-shaped bullet hole in the logo allude to SPECTRE, the terrorist organization Sean Connery and oft-forgotten 007 George Lazenby battled in the 1960s and early '70s. Although the criminal organization was seemingly reimagined as the group called Quantum in Craig's Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, we might see the entity emerge as an entirely new threat in the fourth film in this rebooted timeline. In any event, the fact that much of the Skyfall crew is coming back for this installment bodes very well. Also, is anyone else ridiculously pumped about the idea of seeing Christoph freakin' Waltz as a Bond villain?!

Spectre hits theaters Nov. 6, 2015. For more on this story, head over to IGN.

Every Day is Arm Day for Chewbacca

Damn, you'd better let the Wookiee win.

This Chewbacca figure, recently pulled from a large plastic bin of Star Wars figures in my closet, was part of the "Power of the Force" line released by Kenner in 1995. Like just about every figure in that lineup, Chewie sports an exaggerated physique that's more reminiscent of Mattel's Masters of the Universe than the classic Star Wars figures from more than a decade earlier. The bizarre buffness of 1990s Star Wars figures didn't really go away until the Episode 1 line got rolling, and although a lot of people roll their eyes at these POTF toys, they'll always hold a special place in my collection. That being said, I never liked that Chewbacca was too jacked to fly the Millennium Falcon.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oh, No! The Rancor!

Back when I devoted three whole shelves and the top of a dresser to my gargantuan Star Wars collection, the centerpiece of it all was my Millennium Falcon, Kenner's 1995 "Power of the Force" re-issue of the original 1978 toy with some minor upgrades. I amassed a sizable fleet of Kenner/Hasbro Star Wars vehicles in the 1990s, from Luke Skywalker's X-wing Starfighter to the still-amazing AT-AT, but the Falcon always had the spotlight in my bedroom display. It was the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, after all.

That all changed when a chance trip to KB Toys in the summer of 1998 introduced me to this guy: Jabba the Hutt's prized pet from Return of the Jedi, The Rancor. Immediately, this creature took center stage in my display, banishing the Falcon to the junkyards of Ord Mantell (a.k.a. my closet).

As a Deluxe Beast Pack, The Rancor came with a Luke armed only with an oversized bone to save him from the monster's maw. The Luke figure was pretty forgettable, but The Rancor was, to my 14-year-old mind, one of the coolest toys I'd ever seen. I definitely wasn't playing with Star Wars action figures at that point in my life, but if someone were to accuse me of occasionally making monster noises while "feeding" this guy Gamorrean Guards in the middle of the night, I might have a hard time denying it.

I dug this monstrosity out of a box of Star Wars toys the other day, and I'm convinced now more than ever that he warrants being displayed out in the open. Now, where are those Gamorrean Guards?