• "Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues."
    - Confucius

    The Marvel cinematic universe has grown considerably since “Iron Man”. What began with standard superhero fare, has matured into a complex and fascinating cinematic universe. Not afraid to shy away from a standard formula, Marvel studios began to tell stories within different genres. Now, the MCU is dipping their toes into the supernatural with Doctor Strange. Can they successfully continue this storytelling trend? Is Doctor Strange Marvel's first failure or not? Let's take a look.

    Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a “Rock star” neurosurgeon. The only thing bigger than his brilliance is his ego. A car accident puts a stop to his career, and he travels the globe for a way to heal his crippled hands. After conventional surgery fails him, he desperately seeks an alternative method. With the help of a mysterious woman called “The ancient one” (Tilda Swinton) he finds answers. As he learns of the mystic arts, he unwittingly is pulled into an ancient battle against an evil entity. Strange, must choose to use his powers that can restore him to his former glory or use his powers to protect the earth.

    Every time I think I've seen it all, along comes a director that ups the bar. The visual effects of Doctor Strange are on a different level. Director, Scott Derrickson and ILM, make Steve Ditko's, psychedelic artwork come to life. The action and fight scenes are beautifully choreographed and lean toward the incredible action of Hong Kong Cinema. Both the effects and action set pieces are fast, furious and is absolutely gorgeous. 

    While the script may be a bit thin it is definitely one of the better superhero origin stories. Not to say that “Doctor Strange” is without depth. It definitely has some deeper moments and a poignant message about humility. This however would not hit home without the masterful performances of this cast. Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange is a revelation. Cumberbatch loses himself completely in the role and humanizes him. His arc from arrogant to unlikely hero is handled expertly. Unfortunately, just like other marvel villains of the MCU, Mads Mikkelsen's, Kaecilius is the weak link. Mikkelsen's performance is excellent but his character is just underdeveloped and lacks screen time.

    Despite the casting controversy, the big surprise and the heart of the movie is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient one. She exudes a certain tenderness, wit and strength. She does a lot with her eyes and facial expressions. By giving less she achieves maximum results. Michael Giacchino's music is brilliant. It supports and enriches the images on screen. With a strong and a recognizable main theme this is quite possibly Marvel's best music score to date.
    ...Or Hero?

    Not afraid to take chances, Marvel has another winner on their hands. With remarkable visual effects, performances and important story themes, this film definitely belongs up there with Iron man and Captain America: Winter Soldier. Even if you do not like 3D, it is advised to see this on the biggest screen possible in 3D. You will sell yourself short if you do not. Do stay during and after the end credits. A game changer, beautiful and innovative. Go see it!

  • I love Star Trek. It's always been in my life one way or another. Unfortunately like anything in life you phase out of certain books, movies or music. In my case I lost touch with Star Trek. Then in 2009, J.J. Abrams' big screen reboot of Star Trek rekindled my interest for the franchise. I started to go back to the original movies featuring Kirk, Spock, Bones and the rest of the beloved crew. Once I went back to the original series, I absolutely fell in love again with theses characters. The writing holds up, the themes were and in some cases still are poignant and despite its limited budget and clunky sets, it had its heart in the right place.
    You never forget your first love...

    Having finished the third season of the original series, I felt a bit lost. I wanted more adventures of this crew. Then it was as if the Talosians themselves had captured me and given me the illusion of what I wanted. While looking up for anything TOS related on YouTube, I stumbled upon this fan created series called Star Trek Continues. As its title suggests it is indeed a continuation of the original series. An unofficial season 4 if you will. Helmed by Vic Mignogna, he and his crew successfully ran a crowdfund campaign for their first episode. So far they produced 7 episodes. It looks like Star Trek, sounds like Star Trek but does it have the heart? Let's ahead one-quarter impuls power and take a look at the third episode, “Fairest of them all”.
    Better than the Kelvin-verse?

    This third episode is a direct sequel to “Mirror, mirror” and takes place entirely in this parallel universe where The Federation is now the Terran Empire. It leans more towards fascism and the subjugation of other worlds instead of missions of peaceful exploration and aid. After Kirk (Vic Mignogna) destroys the Halkan council and its planet, Spock (Tod Haberkorn) now realizes that the fall of the Empire is an inevitability. The fact that the Andorians started to openly rebel against the Terran empire strengthens Spock's sentiments for change and peace. Together with Lt. Moreau (Asia De Marcos) and a small group of insurgents Spock must overthrow the murderous and psychotic Kirk and take control of the I.S.S. Enterprise. A deadly cat and mouse game ensues and Spock must be that one man with vision in the revolution to come.
    Considering revolution

    I've been very impressed with the writing of this show. In some of the other episodes they actually show the repercussions of what happened in the previous seasons. The losses and many extreme experiences Kirk and crew had mean something now. There is no reset button anymore. They masterfully continued the story that started with “Mirror, mirror”. You see the doubt in Spock as Kirk becomes more erratic and psychotic. They also show you that the “evil” counterparts aren't as villainous as you may think. They are very much victims of their circumstances and most of them begin to reject the ways of the Terran Empire. Only the ones set in their old ways are doomed to go down with this fascistic system. It's not done in an overtly blunt way but the message hits home through excellent acting and dialogue. The point this episode tries to make is simple, poignant but timeless. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    Now actually starting revolution!

    Star Trek continues does a tremendous job at capturing the feel and look of the original series. At times it can be a little too slavish to the somewhat clunky visual effects of the sixties. This however is just a very minor gripe. The performances are top notch. Mignogna channels just enough Shatner without it turning into parody. Haberkorn's Spock is excellent. He exudes a calm and cool without losing that same twinkle in the eye and charm that Leonard Nimoy had. 
    She's still a looker after all these years

    The rest of the cast is excellent as well. It features some well known actors like Erin Gray and also sees some Star Trek alumni like Michael Forest return. The son of James Doohan, Chris Doohan steps into the role of Mr. Scott and does a wonderful job. Also, Grant Imahara of Mythbusters takes on the role of Mr. Sulu and does a remarkable job. The writing of this show is its biggest strength. Like the original series, Star Trek Continues takes a look at real world issues as well. It tackles everything from child abuse, sexual assault, women's rights, slavery, loss and grief to the price of freedom and links it to where we are as a society today.
    Sulu's about to have a bad day...

    So, Yes, it looks like Star Trek and it sounds like Star Trek and it definitely has its heart in the right place. It pays homage to that wondrous show of the 60's but brings that same charm and wonder into the 21st century without tongue in cheek or parody. This is a labor of love and I felt every minute of it. Go watch the show now and you will too.

  • “Can it be done?” That was pretty much the question on everyones mind back in 2012. Josh Whedon's “The Avengers” hit theaters and against all odds he delivered a little miracle. Of course as they say, the rest is history. The question now is “Can he do it again?” Is this sequel, “Age of Ultron” just as fresh and surprising as its predecessor? Is this second Avengers movie another little miracle or is the formula losing a bit of its power? Let's put on our suits and masks and fly right into the review. 
    Trust me...
    Hydra is exposed! The remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers crackdown on the last of their strongholds. After successfully ending the mission, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) aka Iron Man finds a power source that could possibly fuel his Ultron (James Spader) project. Not realizing what he is meddling with, Stark unknowingly creates an artificial intelligence bent on the extinction of mankind. Now, as Ultron grows more powerful, The Avengers have to travel the globe and find a way to stop him before he can implement his “final solution”.
    You haven't
    It's incredible to see how the Marvel cinematic universe has grown and matured. Where does “Age of Ultron” fit into all of this? Well, if this were a TV show, one might say it was a so called filler episode, or better yet a bridge because it's clear from little pieces of dialog, situations and events that they are setting things up for very big things to come. Without this film there would be no natural way to go into the stories of “Civil War” and “The infinity War”.
    While this film is bigger in scope than its predecessor, It feels smaller, more intimate. We get to spend more time with the Avengers during their downtime. Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye is fleshed out considerably and he's definitely the heart of this movie. The rest of the cast is humanized as well. Just as the big action scenes are amazing, it is just as thrilling to see the cast in pain, struggling with their inner demons and the first hints of division between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Stark will be evident. Surprisingly enough it is James Spader and his portrayal of Ultron gives the film some levity. Not that he's a jokester but Spader performs his role with so much menace and sleaze that whenever he's on screen you can't help but smile. At first I had my hesitations about Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Quicksilver) but they got into their roles as the movie progressed. Paul Bettany (Vision) is a thing of beauty though and I can't wait to see how his character will be fleshed out.
    Yes, this movie has some great characterization but this is The Avengers and not Downton Abby. The action set-pieces and visual effects are jaw dropping beautiful! It is almost unnecessary to discuss this but this one thing has to be said; If you think they hit their visual ceiling in the last Avengers movie, think again. There are some action scenes in Age of Ultron that will blow your mind! Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman's music score is great. Expanding on Alan Silvestri's main theme they create a fresh and epic sounding piece of work. If you listen carefully you can hear some familiar themes from earlier Marvel movies. Great cinematography too. It feels more grounded in reality this time around. This is so far the best looking and sounding Marvel movie to date.
    On paper these Avengers movies shouldn't even work! Yet somehow Whedon and Co. always find the perfect balance between over the top action and character development. Does “Age of Ultron” offer anything new? No, not really. It misses that element of surprise that the first one gave us. That doesn't matter though. It gives us the time to get into the action and meat of the story without having to introduce us to these characters. “Age of Ultron” is a fine film! In some ways much better than it's predecessor. It doesn't only expand The Avengers but the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. See this one on a very big screen! Go see it now! Oh, and stay for the mid credits sequence.

  • Seldom have I encountered a movie that left me speechless, flabbergasted, dumbfounded or even sad. Yes, I'm talking about Brian Thompson's directorial debut called “The Extendables”. There is not much to say about this, so let's get into this thing.
    Yes, they use the actual light saber sound effects...
    Vardell Duseldorfer (Brian Thompson) is a has been. He was once Hollywood's biggest action star but after a couple of bad movies and decisions, he's pretty much a joke. To save what's left of his waning star he decides to direct a Sci-Fi action flick. Will he succeed to “extend” his dying career or is this the final nail in his coffin?
    When Kevin Sorbo gives the best performance, you know you´re in trouble!
    I like Brian Thompson, I really do. You might not know the name but you've definitely seen him. I loved it when he got his heart ripped out in "The Terminator", or how he went bowling with his friends in “Fright Night 2”, I absolutely adored him as the big bad in “The Order”. Next to Al Leong, Thompson is the quintessential goon/henchman/bad guy. 
    Pretty much the only action scene in the entire movie...sort of.
    The character of Vardell Duseldorfer is supposed to be a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal. One can assume, Thompson has seen all kinds of things happen on set with these men. This is pretty much his recollection of those experiences (mostly the worst). He wrote a story around it and tried to make a satire about film making, fame and its big stars attached to it. Yes, this isn't a spoof on The Expendables, in fact this isn't even an action film!
    Really, you shouldn´t have...
    One can can only wonder why this movie has been made. Was Thompson angry for not being asked to be in any of the Expendables movies? He does go out of his way to portray Duseldorfer as an incompetent fool. I don't know what he was trying to say with this. What I do know is that this is one of the worst things I've ever seen. The acting, screenplay, cinematography and visual effects are abysmal. The cameos are useless and this is ultimately a major wast of your time and money! This is barely a movie. Just avoid this.
  • It seems as if video game movies are cursed. Apart from being really bad or guilty pleasures, there hasn't really been a video game film that was actually any good. Now, Hollywood attempted to adapt the critically acclaimed fight game “Street Fighter II” not once but twice! Both times they failed miserably! Enter “Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist”. Does this independent movie have what it takes where the big studios failed? Let's take a look.
    Legends in the making
    “Assassin's Fist” chronicles Ryu (Mike Moh) and Ken's (Christian Howard) early days. We meet them as children and follow their training and trials in Japan as they try to master the mysterious power of hado. Parallel to their story we also follow Gouken (Akira Okieyama), Ken and Ryu's master as he reminisces about his past and the tragic fall from grace of his brother Gouki (Gaku Space). As the boys grow into teenagers there seems to be something “off” with Ryu. Things go wrong when a dark force from the past makes its return.
    2 brother and 1 girl...A drama in the making
    Started off as a short film by Joey Ansah and Christian Howard back in 2010. The overwhelming success of that short gave them the chance and the funds to adapt it into a 12 part web-series and a 2 hour film (As it was originally shot). For something that's based on a fight game it is surprisingly deep and character driven. The story is about friendship, brotherhood, honor and love. You really get to know the characters. The downside of that is that it tends to drag in its second act. So, is this a drama movie then? No. Don't worry, this film most definitely delivers on the fight and action scenes!
    You never forget your first Hadoken!
    See, the movie is superbly written by Ansah and Howard. They take their time for you to get into the characters, what makes them tick, their backgrounds, hopes and wishes. When they do fight, when they are in peril, you actually care for them! The fights are beautifully choreographed by Ansah (Matt Damon beat him up). He sprinkles the fights with the signature moves of the game without it becoming silly or too "video game-y". The performances are excellent with a standout performance by veteran actor Togo Igawa as Goutetsu, Gouken and Gouki's sensei. The cinematography by James Friendship is beautiful and the visual effects support the story rather well. The blu-ray "movie" version features an extra prologue. Now, I thought that this would be like an extra 2 minutes or something but it's actually quite lengthy and ends the movie on a cliffhanger! It's a sequence that gives somewhat of a closure to a character in the movie and is not seen in the web-series version. Also, be sure to stick around for the after credit sequence. You get a stinger that would make Marvel Studios proud.
    A darkness returns
    So, how is it possible then that the two big budget attempts failed? It's quite simple actually. Joey Ansah and Christian Howard know and love these characters; and their respective story lines. Above all, they respect the source material. This is why “Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist” is a triumph on many levels and as far as I'm concerned the only good and faithful (live-action) adaption of “Street Fighter”. So has the curse been broken then? Not entirely. The movie does have some pacing problems but apart from that, it is excellent. So, with a sequel coming up I'm more than certain that they'll break that curse and show the world that with care and passion you can make a great video game movie. This is a thing of beauty.

  • I remember how excited I was after I saw “Sin City” in 2005. I definitely wanted more of Robert Rodriquez' slick and stylized adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic Novels. After a lot of teasing and promises of a sequel my interest slowly faded away. Now, finally (and without much noise or excitement) the sequel “Sin City: A dame to kill for” opened in theaters. Does this film surpass its predecessor or is this simply a case of too little, too late? Let's find out shall we.
    Sin City...
    This time around we get four stories that serve as both prequel and sequel. In “Just another Saturday night”, Marv (Mickey Rourke) is out for justice after a couple of rich kids burn some wino's to death. In “A dame to kill for” we see Dwight (Josh Brolin) try to save Ava Lord (Eva Green) from an abusive husband. He gets more than he bargained for as thing go from bad to worse.
    A place of blood...
    We meet Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in “The long bad night”. He's a cocky young gambler that has some unfinished business with Senator Roarke (Powers Boothe). In “Nancy's last dance” we follow Nancy Callahan's (Jessica Alba) descent into darkness as she drinks away the pain of losing her love, John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). She blames Senator Roarke for all of it and is out for his blood and revenge.
    A place of sex...
    Right from the beginning you get the sense that something is off with the “Sin City” sequel. It has the right look, sound and apart from a couple of necessary recasts, the right actors as well. So why didn't it sit right with me then? The stories perhaps? The ones newly written for the film are very, weak. Both “The long bad Night and “Nancy's last dance” ultimately go nowhere and fail to make an impact on any level. They build up, giving you the impression that there is an explosive end to them but both stories just fizzle out without any real resolve.
    And a place of violence...
    The two adapted stories fare a bit better but never reach the level of brilliance of its predecessor. The stories are just a little weaker and at times Rodriguez makes strange decisions that take you out of the movie. The film looks gorgeous though. It has a more streamlined and refined look to it. The acting is deliciously campy with a standout performance from Eva Green. Just as she pretty much saved “300: Rise of an Empire” the same could be said for this movie, albeit to a lesser extent. 
    This rotten town. It soils everybody.
    This film feels rushed, unfinished and ultimately without passion. It hits some right notes but it misses the impact and good writing that made the first film so enjoyable. Is it a bad film then? No, absolutely not. The performances are good and it looks great! It just misses that charm, that spark the first movie does have. I hope that Rodriguez is allowed to streamline and perhaps re-shoot and/or add to certain scenes and segments for the blu-ray release. Underneath all the confusion and strange directorial choices, there is a great movie waiting to bust out. For now, I can only recommend that you rent this one.

  • Even though I have love for the “Planet of the Apes” movies, I've never been the biggest fan that franchise. Yes, the 1968 original is a classic but its sequels are pretty silly. When the reboot, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” hit theaters in 2011, I was pleasantly surprised. The film managed to create something fresh while still honoring what worked in the original films. It was much better than expected and left me wanting more. Now that the sequel is out, one wonders if it can recreate the magic of its predecessor. Let's find out!
    I was half expecting Will Smith to show up and do his crazy "Fred" rant.
    10 years after the events of “Rise”, mankind has fallen to the effects of the mysterious “simian flu”. During this time, Caesar (Andy Serkis) has founded a sort of ape colony; far away from the humans. When Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his fellow humans stumble upon the ape settlement, Caesar allows them to work on a dam to give what's left of their city a little electricity. Disturbed by the respect Caesar gives to the humans, Koba (Toby Kebbell), the second in command has his own agenda and sabotages the truce. Now, Caesar and Malcolm must do everything in their power to avert a full out war between man and ape.
    Koba, the ape with an idea...
    I usually continue a review with what I didn't like about a movie or point out what was flawed (for me). In this instance though, I can't really come up with one thing that didn't work or something that was weak. What Matt Reeves and co. have created here is a thing of beauty and makes “Planet of the Apes” as a sci-fi franchise more than relevant again. Especially in this day and age where racism, class-ism and inequality are on the rise. That's the one thing I always appreciated of the “Planet” movies; they didn't shy away from commenting on what ever social issues were important at the time.
    ...Dreyfus, the man with a plan. See what I did there?
    Does that mean this is a movie pushing some sort of political agenda? Absolutely not. At its core this is a movie about family. It has more heart and depth than any other so called blockbuster I've seen this summer. This can be attributed to a great screenplay. It gives humans in the film a voice and real motivation. It expertly avoids that whole “Humans are evil, apes are good” thing. Both sides have their strengths and flaws. Yes, even the villains have valid reasons for doing what they think is best. Where the performances in “Rise” were excellent, “Dawn” brings it to a whole new level. Each and every ape has a distinct voice, face and personality. What Andy Serkis and the other actor playing the apes have achieved here must get some kind of acting recognition. Not once did I say, “Great 3D animation”. These were real, living and breathing characters to me.
    And the Oscar for best visual effects goes to...WETA Digital!
    This could not have been possible of course without the superb work of the people at WETA digital. There are things in this film I've never, ever seen. The visual effects are beautiful. I also love the movie score. Michael Giacchino while keeping his own voice music wise, gives a respectful nod here and there to Jerry Goldsmith's score to the original “Planet of the Apes”. He does it very clever and subtle indeed. I have nothing but praise to give this film. It hits all the right notes, It has heart, it has adventure, it has action and I just can't recommend it enough. Go see this film now!

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