Posts Tagged ‘action-adventure movie’

Wooden leads weigh down the dynamic script and direction of ‘Terminator Genisys’

December 15, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 15, 2017

Terminator Genisys, the would-be 2015 blockbuster, does its best to invigorate an action-adventure franchise that James Cameron unwittingly launched back in 1984. Alas, the movie falls flat — an immense soufflé prepared by a chef who lacked just one or two vital ingredients.

The plot is complex but holds up as long as the viewer simply accepts it as the necessary mishegas that propels the movie from one set piece to another. The action opens in the year 2029, just as John Connor (Jason Clarke of Zero Dark Thirty, Everest and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) is on the brink of leading humanity to a decisive victory over the evil computer Skynet and its legion of murderous Terminator robots.

As the last battle is seemingly won, humans seize a large machine-built device that the near-prescient Connor somehow knows is capable of sending people (and flesh-covered machines) back in time. Connor uses it to dispatch his right-hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, Bruce Willis’s son in A Good Day to Die Hard and a key character in the Divergent movies), to the year 1984. Reese’s mission is to protect John’s mother from a Terminator that’s been dispatched to kill her and thus crush humanity’s rebellion even before it can reach the cradle.

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Diana of the Amazons gets the royal treatment in Patty Jenkins’s spectacular ‘Wonder Woman’

August 12, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 12, 2017

Previously, I wrote about the movie rivalry between DC and Marvel Comics. Left unmentioned in my screed was the iconic comic-book character of Wonder Woman, who — at least for my generation — is probably the foremost female superhero.

There was a very good reason for that omission; actually, there were two of them. One was that I’d planned to compose this review. (Well, to be honest, I’d intended for my DC-Marvel movie rivalry recap to be an introduction to this review, but it took on a life of its own in the writing.) The other was that Wonder Woman hadn’t had a proper live-action movie until this June, although her appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hailed as perhaps that 2016 film’s only bright spot.

Previously, the character’s main live-action incarnation had been in the television series Wonder Woman, which spanned three seasons from 1975 through 1979. I have very vague memories of the program; they mainly center around Wonder Woman fighting Russians and my having a huge crush on the show’s star, Lynda Carter. The current obscurity of the series speaks to what I presume was its dearth of progressive gender politics, convincing special effects and overall quality. The same could probably be said of 1974 and 2011 TV movies respectively starring Cathy Lee Crosby and Adrianne Palicki and of the (rogue?) 2014 micro-budgeted movie fronted by Veronica Pierce.

Thankfully, the spectacular cinematic staging of the warrior Diana’s origin story in the new Wonder Woman is everything that the previous versions evidently were not. Moreover, this thoroughly impressive production could mark a turning of the tide in DC and Marvel’s movie feud.

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DC vs. Marvel at the movies

August 5, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Aug. 5, 2017

Author’s note: A few hours after I published this post, I added a note to my ersatz table indicating that two of the listings included ticket sales from the same Marvel movie. MEM

East Coast vs. West Coast, New York vs. Boston, Apple vs. Microsoft, DC vs. Marvel: Each one of these rivalries is famous and hard-fought. But over the past decade or so, perhaps none of these have been so one-sided as that between the two titans of comic books.

Although DC’s Superman and Batman are inarguably the best-known superheroes of all time, Marvel’s superhero teams — the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and, in recent years, the Guardians of the Galaxy — are by far more popular. Moreover, Marvel comics are generally thought to have more artistic merit and to be more socially relevant than DC products.

To add insult to injury, Marvel has been kicking DC’s heinie on the film front for a decade or more. This is despite the fact that DC’s flagship characters were phenomenally successful at the box office and helped establish the comic-book movie as a genre on the strength of productions such as Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and its 2008 and 2012 sequels.

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The Enterprise crew takes an entertaining but inessential voyage in ‘Star Trek Beyond’

April 13, 2017

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 13, 2017

Star Trek Beyond, the third entry in J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the venerable science fiction franchise, is a pleasant but ultimately inessential way to pass two hours.

As the picture begins, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise are roughly three years into their five-year mission. But Kirk has grown weary of deep-space exploration (there’s an amusing shot of him opening his closet to see several hangers displaying identical uniforms). Meanwhile, his first officer, Spock (Zachary Quinto), feels compelled to break off his relationship with the human communications officer Uhura (Zoe Saldana) because of his wish to help propagate the Vulcan species. This longing is only magnified when he learns of the death of Ambassador Spock (the late Leonard Nimoy, glimpsed in stills), his counterpart from and link to the original Star Trek TV series.

When Enterprise puts in for resupplying, rest and recreation at the remote (and oddly named) Starbase Yorktown after an unsuccessful attempt to broker peace between two warring alien races, there’s a distinct air of discontent about the ship. And yet Kirk remains up for a challenge; when the alien Kalara (Lydia Wilson) rockets toward Yorktown on an escape pod spinning a tale about how her crew has been marooned on an even more remote planet named Altamid, the captain gathers his crew for a voyage through an uncharted nebula.

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The strangely entertaining ‘The Accountant’ tests preconceived notions about autism and action-adventure movies

November 17, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 17, 2016

The Accountant is a cleverly constructed and strangely likable action-adventure movie built on an unusual premise: That an autistic child can be groomed to become a businessman with the acumen of Bruce Wayne, an assassin with the skill of James Bond, a criminal with the morality of Robin Hood and a ladies’ man with the swagger of… well, of a celibate monk.

Ben Affleck plays the eponymous accountant, who goes by the name Christian Wolff. He runs an unremarkable tax firm in an unremarkable strip mall in Illinois, but that’s really a cover — “Wolff” mainly earns his keep by serving as a forensic accountant for shadowy criminals, businessmen and governments the world over. The Accountant’s main action begins when he’s called in by Lamar Black (John Lithgow), the founder and head of an advanced prosthetics manufacturer called Living Robotics, in an attempt to sniff out some financial anomalies that have been discovered by one of the company’s junior bookkeepers, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).

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On the artistic and cinematic merits of ‘Aliens’

December 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 21, 2015

Back in July, I referred to James Cameron’s 1986 movie Aliens as seminal. I actually called it that twice, first in my review of Edge of Tomorrow (a.k.a. Live Die Repeat) and then in my writeup of Nick Cole’s 2014 novel, Soda Pop Soldier, which happens to pay homage to the Cameron film. (Rather improbably, the narrator of the book has not seen the movie.)

When I wrote those blog posts, I wanted to link to something that would back up my assertion about the importance of the movie. But I couldn’t find something that struck me as definitive, such as an entry on one of the American Film Institute’s lists of the top movies, and I didn’t want to get bogged down.

So I did what I often do when I’m looking into a topic: I opened a bunch of links and then I left the tabs open in my web browser for months.

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‘Jurassic World’ and the action-movie paradox: About movie portrayals of violence

June 21, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 21, 2015

The other day, in my review of Jurassic World, I wrote this:

What’s not honest is the way Jurassic World deals with the human toll of violence: It wants the audience to think they can eat their cake and have it, too. All the individuals who are killed are essentially unknown to the viewer or have been depicted as bad people. The filmmakers want us to be thrilled when a flock of flying dinosaurs are unleashed on a panicked pack of tourists, but the scene is remarkably bloodless for all that.

I meant that last sentence literally: As the fliers assault unarmed people and are shot out of the sky by a contingent of overwhelmed guards, there’s hardly a drop of crimson liquid on display.

Another incident in the sequence also bothered me tremendously because of what it didn’t show. It’s during the fliers’ attack that the only remotely sympathetic character in the movie to fall victim to a dino — or at least, the only remotely sympathetic person to be eaten whose name the audience is ever told — is chomped.

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Scaly injustice: Gene-spliced dinosaurs rampage through a crowded theme park in ‘Jurassic World’

June 19, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 19, 2015

Twenty-two years after Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park thrilled audiences with its computer-animated dinosaurs run amok, the franchise is back. Jurassic World is the fourth installment in the series, and for my money, it’s by far the best of the sequels — not that that’s saying much.

(Quick disclaimer: I arrived a few minutes late to the screening. Did I miss anything important? Um, I hope not. I mean, I’m pretty sure I didn’t.)

The story has a lot of moving parts, but it boils down to this: A large, powerful and mean dinosaur breaks loose in a crowded theme park; action ensues.

Yes, yes, yes — it defies all logic, but there it is. Despite the chaos and carnage inflicted by reanimated reptilians in the original 1993 blockbuster, the 1997 follow-up The Lost World: Jurassic Park (which loosed a Tyrannosaurus rex on San Diego, for heaven’s sake) and 2001’s Jurassic Park III, the late John Hammond’s vision of a theme park populated by extinct species has been built. And not only built: This incarnation of his vision has opened for business. It’s adding animals and attractions every few years.

Jurassic World, as this luxury vacation destination is called, is quite popular; it’s raking in buckets of visitor revenue from an easily distracted public. It turns out, however, that in the name of increasing profits, the park’s operators have been pushing the limits of both safety and sanity — not to mention, some human-interest subplots show us, the boundaries of sentimentality, too.

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Adventures in libertarian utopia: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ puts its violent antihero through a vicious, violent and dynamic wringer

June 4, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
June 4, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road, the new science fiction action movie from George Miller, is a brutal, kinetic, testosterone-powered thrill ride that finds cause to recognize (and even celebrate) women as something more than sex objects.

This is the fourth film in Miller’s series about a warrior who roams a twisted post-apocalyptic Australian desert landscape. While watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this apt dismissal of an entry in James Cameron’s franchise starring an Austrian as a post-apocalyptic warrior: “Terminator 2 probably ranks as the most violent tribute ever made to peace.”

The title character here is portrayed by the versatile English actor Tom Hardy, who played the petulant Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis, the puckish Eames in Inception and the murderous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Hardy steps in for Mel Gibson, the Australian-American whose star was made in no small part by Mad Max (1979), Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), all of which Miller wrote and directed. I’ve only seen the first of the earlier movies in its entirety (and many years ago — the details are quite hazy), although I’m of an age where snippets of the 1985 film couldn’t help but impose themselves on my adolescence.

But familiarity with Mad Max’s previous outings isn’t a prerequisite for watching Mad Max: Fury Road. The important thing is that the viewer enjoy watching cars and trucks race towards and past one another while various (mostly heavily muscled) characters direct guns, harpoons, explosive-tipped spears, chainsaws, knives and fisticuffs at one another.

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Guess who’s coming to invade? Revisiting ‘Independence Day’

February 3, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 3, 2015

Aliens are coming! Aliens are coming! And they’re going to blow up the White House, the Empire State Building and some skyscraper in Los Angeles!

That’s the elevator pitch for Independence Day, the blockbuster action-adventure movie directed by Roland Emmerich and co-written by Emmerich and Dean Devlin. ID4, as it was dubbed in marketing materials, was the top-grossing film of 1996 and to this day has the 12th-biggest Independence Day weekend opening of all time.

I remember watching Independence Day when it first came out and thinking that it was good, corny entertainment. (Confession: I’m almost positive that I owned, and eagerly read, the novelization of this movie.)

It was not without reservations that I sat down to re-watch Independence Day one night last week. After all, I’d recently read a rather indifferent assessment of the movie at Moria, Richard Scheib’s invaluable website for fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy films.

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