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Review: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Published on March 27, 2013 by in Movies, Reviews

I happened to check the movie times at my local theater and found out that there was a Special Advanced Screening of the new Joe movie on Tuesday. Being the Geeks that we are, we jumped at the chance and headed down to the Santikos Palladium IMAX to bask in the glory of Channing Tatum, The Rock, and Bruce Willis earlier than the general public.

Seriously, ya’ll, that’s a threesome of awesome right there. If I were ever on the verge of switching teams, that triumvirate might just be able to flip me. But can three muscle-bound dreamboats do more than blow things up and look good? Let’s find out in the Geek Dinks review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Let me start by saying that I was one of the few who actually enjoyed the first Joe movie, Rise of Cobra. It was silly, and it departed a little too heavily from the source material at times, but I still found it to be a fun movie with some solid humor. It was a bit sexist, and the technology made no sense. But I liked it anyway.

So what if you didn’t like Rise of Cobra? I can say with certainty that Retaliation is a better movie. It’s better crafted, better acted, and much closer to the source material. In fact, its biggest strength is the way in which the characters are portrayed. They feel a lot more like those cartoons you remember, and most of them get a fair amount of character development time.

This time around, there are no accelerator suits or invisibility cloaks. Lady Jaye wears fatigues just like the boys, not weird boob armor (though that’s not to say that they didn’t go out of their way to make sure to show off some of Lady Jaye’s assets). In Retaliation, the Joes are basically just elite army folk. They use mostly normal weaponry, they’re mostly American, and they manage to get all of the Armed Forces catchphrases mixed up.

For those who know their Joes, this movie boasts the characters of Duke, Roadblock, Mouse, Flint, Lady Jaye, General Joe Colton, Snake Eyes, and Jinx. In Cobra’s corner, you’ve got Cobra Commander, Zartan, Firefly, Destro (sort of) and Storm Shadow (sort of). It’s a big cast, so knowing your Joes from your Cobras before going in is helpful. Also, just remember that Firefly is Cajun no matter how uneven his accent is.

The acting in this movie is surprisingly solid. Akaemi says that Channing Tatum was the worst actor of the bunch, so she apparently didn’t get lost in his dreamy eyes like I did. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that Duke is not central to the plot and thus doesn’t bring the movie down. The Rock (I refuse to call him Dwayne!) does a great job and he’s the perfect actor for a movie solely based on explosions.

My favorite character was Firefly (played by Ray Stevenson). His accent was a little iffy, but the character was beautifully painted. It takes a lot to show the ninjas up, but he does a great job. His love of explosions and general quackery is awesome.

Perhaps the reason Firefly is such a great character is because he likes to make things explode. Retaliation does not have a great plot, but it does like to blow things up. If you blow things up often enough and loudly enough, the plot disappears. Sure, it’s the Michael Bay school of movie philosophy, but when done with charismatic actors and some good fight choreography, it can make a movie work. The cliff-side ninja fight in the trailers was both unique and exciting.

Something of particular note here was the strange way in which this movie tried to be both a reboot and a sequel. It embraces many of the plot elements of the first film, and acknowledges that they happened but then ignores other things when it suits the story. For instance, there is no explanation as to how Storm Shadow survived being cut up by Snake Eyes and dumped into arctic waters. We’ll just go with ninja training on that one, I guess.

If you’re one of those people who can’t turn off the logic for a bit and enjoy some explosions and good looking actors then Retaliation is probably not for you. But if you’ve honed that button in your brain that lets you forget all the logic and enjoy the movie, then you’ll like it. Sometimes things explode inexplicably, sometimes accents are all over the place, and sometimes people have returned from the dead without explanation… But dog gone it if it isn’t a fun time.

Verdict: 80% as good as The Avengers.

 

 
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Review: Oz the G&P

Published on March 19, 2013 by in Movies, Reviews

Geek Dinks is awesome. It’s updated all the time. Okay, so it’s not. We’re really bad about keeping it up, but in the last few months we’ve moved halfway across the country and began building a house so cut us some slack.

So we’re going to start 2013 with Oz the Great and Powerful. Before we get started, there are some things that you need to know in the interest of full disclosure.

A) Mila Kunis is hot, awesome and can do no wrong
B) James Franco is awesome and can do no wrong
C) Michelle Williams was in Dawson’s Creek so she is forgiven for anything

So with that out of the way, let’s get to the somewhat biased review of Sam Raimi’s latest spectacle.

The short review is that I liked this movie very much. It wasn’t perfect, but it won me over with charisma, references, and beauty. Two of those come solely from the actors in the film, so perhaps the movie had some room to improve.

The interesting thing about this movie is that it’s an original story. Rather than rely on the multitudes of Oz books already in existence, Disney decided the best course was to write their own movie. At first glance, that seems pretty silly, but I think they did a pretty good job of honing in on something that people would find interesting.

The origin story of Oz is nifty here because it is a parallel of Dorothy’s journey. In that way, it sorta has that Back to the Future story mirror going for it, and I really dug it. The movie was replete with references both large and small, and it was a lot of fun to see something happen and realize the effect it would later have on Dorothy.

The acting was all top-notch, but I have to admit that it was internally inconsistent. I love James Franco more than any grown man ought to, but even I can admit that his acting prowess is not on par with that of Michelle Williams. She’s an Oscar caliber actress and it was a little too clear that she was better at it than the rest of them. On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Weisz did a horrible job. Seriously, I shuddered every time she was on the screen.

I really liked Mila Kunis in this film, and I think she could be a lot of fun in this role when sequels inevitably roll around. In fact, I think a sequel would be well served by focusing entirely on her character and leaving the character of Oz in the background. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just leave it at that.

The CGI in the film was a bit cartoonish, which I’ve seen some critics take issue with. Personally, I thought it was fine for this film. Oz is a wondrous, dream-like place and having it be surreal is particularly appropriate in my opinion. We saw it in the 3D, which was well utilized for the most part but did occasionally get a little gimmicky.

The plot of the film is a little bit convoluted at times, and suffered greatly from the fact that it’s ending was already written for it. The plot had to get the character of Oz from point A to point B and sometimes that meant that a few weird turns had to be taken. It’s easy to forgive these oddities, and a satisfying ending that leaves everything where it should be is worth it in the end.

Overall, Oz the Great and Powerful is a great March movie. It’s not as good as our March blockbuster last year (Hunger Games), but it’s just the ticket for scratching the movie itch after a few months of nothing to speak of. It’s a New Year and this is the first review, so it gets to be on top for a little while.

Verdict: 82% as good as The Avengers.

 
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Movie Review: The Hobbit AUJ

Published on December 18, 2012 by in Movies, Reviews

The thing about blogs is they inevitably fall into disrepair. But then – out of nowhere – they come back and everyone rejoices. Okay, no one is going to rejoice, but maybe a few people are still reading. It’s time for another movie review. Everyone loves those right?

Because we’re the Geek Dinks and spending money is what we do, we went out and watched The Hobbit with all the bells and whistles so that the review would want for nothing. IMAX, 3D, HFR, Reserved Seating, you name it. If it was an upgrade in ticket price, we opted for it. So in this review you will find out whether HFR is the next big thing, or the next big gimmick, though I think it will remain contentious regardless of my opinion. So let’s get on with it.

Luckily, The Hobbit is so well known that I really don’t have to write much in the way of a synopsis. For reference, I have read precisely 40% of the book (according to my kindle), so it was a somewhat strange experience for me. I recognized much of the plot, but I’d say there was at least 50% of it that was nowhere in the digital pages of what I had read. It’s possible that stuff is just rearranged, or maybe it’s made up? I have no idea.

The beauty of the Hobbit is that Peter Jackson was able to faithfully recreate the universe from Lord of the Rings. It really feels like you’re back in Middle Earth, and that goodwill allows The Hobbit to stretch its legs a little more than one might allow for a movie with no such nostalgia. This movie is graded on a curve, and gets at least 50% of Avengers without even having to try.

The interesting thing to me about this consistency is that The Hobbit movie has many more LotR references than the book. While the books were mostly standalone affairs, the movie tries to cram in all of the references, foreshadowing, and cameos that it can. I quite enjoyed this addition, though purists may balk.

The Hobbit does suffer a bit from repetition, but having read 40% of the book, it can’t really help it. The story is a cycle of trouble, Gandalf saving, and walking. It happens repeatedly, with very little uniqueness between each cycle. I actually think the movie does a better job of making it bearable than the book does.

One thing that I thought The Hobbit did remarkably well was handle all of its characters. Though I still don’t expect anyone will be able to rattle off the names of the 13 dwarves, each gets some character that helps to make them memorable. Chief among them is Thorin Oakenshield who is given a compelling backstory, and set up to be the Aragorn of this film.

The acting is all quite capable, with an especially good turn at Bilbo by Martin Freeman. He seems to have slid into the role remarkably well and is able to convey the proper frustration of the character, while still making it believable that he can do amazing things. I daresay he captures the spirit of a hobbit better than any of the Hobbit actors from LotR.

And what of the technical parts? The special effects are impressive as expected, and in my humble opinion I believe they were helped out by the HFR. The HFR is weird and different, but I only found it distracting for the first few minutes. After that, I delighted in being able to make out details in fight scenes that are usually just a messy blur. I would embrace HFR becoming a standard.

On the flipside, the 3D was pretty horrendous. While I would fully support HFR, I can’t recommend 3D. It added very little to the film and those glasses are annoying. For full disclosure, I will mention that I was on the 5th row, so it is perhaps not the most ideal vantage point for perfect 3D.

Overall, The Hobbit is a great journey. As long as you understand that you’re getting 1/3rd of a book, there’s really nothing to be disappointed about. It captures your heart with the nostalgia of LotR and stays at a good enough pace to keep it interesting. Watch it. People will make fun of you if you don’t.

Verdict: 94% as good as The Avengers.

 
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Review: Pitch Perfect

Published on October 3, 2012 by in Movies, Reviews

I know it’s been a while, but we’ve been uprooting our Geek Dinks life from Virginia to Texas. It’s hard work moving! That being said, one of my first priorities was to check out the local movie theater. It’s a huge one with lots of theaters, all of the bells and whistles, and apparently some movies that aren’t out in wide release yet.

Originally the plan was to see Looper, but we got the opportunity to see Pitch Perfect before it opens in wide release this Friday and decided to take it. Sure, it’s a girl movie. But it has Anna Kendrick. Anna Kendrick is awesome.

The first thing to accept about Pitch Perfect is that you’ve seen this movie before. Maybe it didn’t have Anna Kendrick, maybe it didn’t involve A Capella singing groups, and maybe there was no Australian named Fat Amy — but you’ve seen it before.

Outcast girl meets Outcast guy. Outcast girl finds acceptance with an odd group of people. Outcast girl marginalizes and scares off Outcast guy. Outcast girl makes up for it by performing some over-the-top stunt. Outcast girl kisses Outcast guy. Roll credits.

But don’t let the tired plot scare you away. Pitch Perfect is a solid delivery mechanism for that plot with some top-notch acting, genuine comedy, and some killer A Capella.

The comedy primarily relies on the character of Fat Amy played by Rebel Wilson. She’s been in a few things, but I certainly haven’t noticed her. Here she plays a particularly odd and overly confident gal who is able to deliver some genuine laughs over the course of the movie.

Where Wilson provides the laughs, Kendrick provides the credibility. She’s a proven actress, and she brings her charms to bear on what would otherwise be a boring movie. She’s unique, beautiful, and sassy and she’s able to make this world of warring A Capella groups seem plausible with a few eye rolls and an air of self-awareness.

In many ways, this feels a lot like Glee might feel if it were a movie. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you are. It has the added skill of all of the musical numbers being A Cappella, but is otherwise uninspired. The music is good, but I think they could have been more avant garde with some of their song choices.

Elizabeth Banks was one of the producers of this film, and she has a small role in the film as an A Cappella commentator. Her performance is pretty hilarious, and seems inspired by Dodgeball and Jason Bateman as an ESPN Ocho commentator.

The movie is preposterous, but loveable. You’ll want to roll your eyes at the absurdity of it all, but Anna Kendrick will have already beaten you to it. She manages to make the movie sincere when it really ought not to be so.

If you enjoy romantic comedies, musicals, or you just think Anna Kendrick is adorable, then Pitch Perfect may be for you. It’s a low-key affair, but one that will have you tapping your toes and embracing A Capella.

Verdict: 74% as good as The Avengers.

 
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TiVo Stream: a first glance

Published on September 6, 2012 by in Tech, TV

so tiny!I have been waiting for this little guy to come out ever since I first heard rumblings of its existence. I’m a fan of watching shows on my iPad, but found it a little obnoxious to pay for shows via Hulu or iTunes, when I already pay Verizon for so much content. But now, thanks to the magic of TiVo, I don’t have to!

One of my coworkers sent me the tip that TiVo was letting special customers pre-order the Stream, so I tried my luck and called the number. They didn’t ask for any secret handshake, and 5 minutes later, I was promised that I’d get the new device a whole day before it was available to ‘the public’.

And so I did!

Lykaon beat me home, so he did the honors of opening the box and plugging the Stream into our home entertainment switch. We had to give it 5 or 10 minutes to update or something, and then we were good to go! From the iPad TiVo app, you can browse your TiVo (or, if watching TV is your second job, your TiVos) and select shows to watch or download to your iPad to watch later.

I’m happy to say that it works as advertised! One annoyance is that when downloading shows, you can’t do anything else on your iPad. Which was a little bothersome as I wanted to load my iPad up with shows for an upcoming road trip, and then I couldn’t do any raveling. Thankfully, the geek dink house is full of ways to connect to the internet, so I was able to get my fix via laptop.

The Stream is definitely going to get a lot of use, so there may very well be an update after we’ve had a chance to put it through its paces. I am anticipating that it will change the way we watch tv, and will allow us to own fewer televisions – and TiVos – than we might otherwise.

 
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© Geek Dinks 2012