Inline skaters from around the world converge on Philadelphia annually. This year’s Friday night skate was special as Lars Hindsley (DangerMan) shot over 1.5 hours of the skate live while on the streets of Philly.
The skate was led by Doug Kelly, a long time Philadelphia Landskater member and reliable skate leader. He promised and delivered many casual stops along the way. Starting at the Philly Art Museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway and meandering around Center City Philly the route was soundly appreciated by all the skaters. From Love Park to South Street and many many other notable stops through the downtown area it seemed nowhere was left out. Chinatown, Delaware Avenue, The Liberty Bell, Washington Square, Rittenhouse Square, there really was something for everyone.
(DM) — Rogue One doesn’t follow the standard Star Wars formula and for this the film goers are rewarded with a perfect 10 of a film. So many Star Wars questions get answered! Does it fill in the gap between Episode three and four? No.
Does it lead into Episode four of Star Wars, A New Hope? Absolutely. Rogue One even answers the question how the film gets its name. In many ways Rogue One is the byproduct of 40 years of questions people begun to ask after the very first Star Wars, A New Hope hit theaters in 1977.
Has it been 40 years since the first Star Wars? That question is important because beyond Darth Vader being under a mask, a number of other players did in fact require some movie magic which almost works perfectly.
Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel’s Strongest Film Effort To Date
Five out of Five Dangers
(DM) — Guardians of the Galaxy is the most advertised Marvel movie to date. It’s the strongest effort produced by Marvel studios to date. Guardian’s is more of a science fiction romp than a superhero flick, scoring a five out of five. Our first to reach the top of all review scores.
More than just a film worth seeing, it’s worth owning in your media library with strong replay value.
Directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy is quirky, hilarious at times, balanced in action, character oriented, with a sensational blend of Marvel personalities that do not come off as Star Wars cantina oddballs. Marvel’s best hit is out of the galaxy.
(DM) — The MCU’s success should have set Fox straight. Follow cannon and your superhero movie will be a winner with the audience. Instead, X-Men Days of Future Past sucks without even comparing it MCU movies.
X-Men Days of Future Past is far from canon depicted in the original Marvel comic two part series The Uncanny X-Men #141 — #142. Unlike Spider-Man’s convolution of canon, the changes in the celluloid X-Men universe work on many levels. Perhaps most intriguing is that it changes the outcome of past X-Men movies without making them obsolete. In comic books this is called re-birth, in this film franchise it was just necessary.
As much praise as there is for upgrading Chris Claremont’s two part Days of Future Past run in The Uncanny X-Men issues 141 & 142, there is not getting past the fact the Fox franchise of X-Men films just don’t feel right. They lack the purity of a Marvel film. The franchise has moved forward in quality, but still lacks the sugar and spice of a Marvel movie. It has that wretched taste of Hollywood executive decisions all over it.
This is the seventh film in the X-Men franchise since 2000. (X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine). After 14 years the franchise has made the most of all the preceding good and bad X-Men films. With Bryan Singer back at the helm, great care and regard for the X-Men characters has resulted in movie magic intended to be on par with 2012’s Avengers.
(DL) — The golden rule in movie making. Don’t insult the viewer. Ender’s Game attempts being cute by giving away the end at the start. How? The director assumes everyone in the theater doesn’t pay attention to what they see.
Family Friendly Redeeming Value
Here is the good news. It meets all the good production notes. Well paced, interesting lead up, and twisted end, Ender’s Game works as a legitimate sci-fi space epic, but doesn’t leave you wanting more.
As an uninitiated and not having read the 1985 Nebular award-winning novel Ender’s Game, all that I knew going into the film Ender’s Game was that a young man Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield) was being groomed through video game dexterity to battle an entire enemy species the Formics. Why? He’s here to save humanity. Get the kids, Ender’s Game was best viewed with family.
Ender’s Game is based on a popular sci-fi novel explains why it was brought to the big screen. It’s perfect as blockbuster space epic. Author Scott Card wrote Ender’s Game with something else in mind.
He intended it to convey an overwhelming sense of empathetic humanity. That humanity would best be understood if delivered from the point of view of a violent little six year old kid. Ender Wiggin. Doesn’t it strike you as an ironic juxtaposition?
(DM) — Yes. The new Superman flies high, unfortunately Man of Steel contrasts hard against Marvel’s much softer, fun universe. The good news is — great new costume!
The once all-American fictional superhero of Detective Comics (Then Action Comics) created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938 is once again rebooted in the most modern effort yet.
Did someone whisper in Zack Snyder’s ear, “Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight”.
Comic book movies are shifting from all action — to dramatic character dynamics. Man of Steel delivers the goods in a darker style similar to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. If there is any challenge to a Superman movie it is in an attempt to take a dry character like Superman and make him relatable. Can that change be accomplished without going too far?
(DL) — Iron Man 3 thinks its Extremis. It’s not. Iron Man 3 is not Extremis because the Mark 42 armor is faithful only in visual representation, not function. Codenaming the autonomous prehensile propulsion suit as Extremis is an insult to the original story.
Ironically comic book Extremis armor looks great, on screen it’s damn ugly. Failing to fully and properly execute the Extremis story epitomises why Iron Man 3 is a dude. It may be the worst yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s just not a good movie. This is hard to admit when you’re a comic book superhero fan who’s waited a lifetime for these stories to hit the big screen.
So if the Mark 42 isn’t the Extremis hailed about in the comic book, what in the world is Extremis?
Science Fiction Oblivion Cinematography Style Pops — Losing Its Substance
(DL) — To say science fiction Oblivion is all style and no substance would be going too far. Does Oblivion get too far down in the sci-fi weeds? No. But it does have Kubrick pacing, sharp infinite focus and thoughtful scenes to parse. What it lacks is soul. It rides some early tension in the first act, then fades. Unless you are a true sci-fi fan, Oblivion and its real science fiction pacing, cinematography and dark future will come off as slow, thoughtless and thin commercial scenery. Not everyone is willing go full on sci-fi.
If you enjoyed Sam Rockwell in Moon, you may almost like Tom Cruise in Oblivion.
False Reality Plausible Possibility
Science Fiction asks us to accept a false reality based on plausible possibility. Great stories are best when each turn comes as a surprise. Neither takes place in Oblivion. We enter Earth in the year 2077. Earth won a war against an alien race called Scavs. In winning the war 60 years prior, humans lost the planet.
Consider the Source
Oblivion follows its source material closely. Why is that? The director Joseph Kosinski just happens to be the writer. As a director he had a storyboard without having the need to create one.
Our protagonist Jak Harper (Tom Cruise) tells us he is working on drones that protect giant mechanical beasts harvesting water for Earthlings now living on the Saturn moon Titan. The drones fight remaining Scavs that fight on against humans despite losing the war. Now the story begins.
Jak is part of a two person team about to finish a tour of duty and join other Earthlings on Titan but his human nature and fragmented memories push him to get answers. His curiosity and love for Earth is not shared by his assigned romantic teammate Victoria yet he accepts her affections.
Iceland is Beautiful This Time of Year
Homage to just about every other sci-fi story and film take place in Oblivion. To mention those films would spoil the story and will be left out of this review. The land is as open and elegant as the details of the story are simple. Iceland stands in for a desolate yet somewhat inhabitable Earth during filming.
Despite the ominous predictability, Oblivion‘s first act is promising. While the established combat scenes have purpose, they don’t instill and real concern. A certain level of mystery remains intact just long enough for you to realize you’ve been let down. Any real threat fades.
What will the story be from here out? You are meant to experience plot twists and nuanced changes that draw you in wondering what will happen next. However when a protagonist in the story tells you in the first 30 seconds of the story he and everyone else that works on Earth’s drones must undergo a memory wipe, a smart sci-fi buff figures out the entire film in seconds. In fact you may have done so even now.
Great Pacing No Tension
Jak’s story is one of self-awareness, acceptance, redemption, love and of course overcoming insurmountable odds. Without latching on to any one of these plot lines the feel and believability of the characters is not enough to overcome the fact you have figured out what is coming next.
In some films this is acceptable, look at the classic horror movie Jaws. You know the shark is going to eat someone but wow is it exciting to watch. This doesn’t take place in Oblivion at any point in the story.
Instead you are lead to believe the shark will get its prey, it will make a horrible mess and it will leave you in suffering for the victim. Then you realize it’s not going to happen. Never. There is zero tension. You wonder where the story can take you now? And still, the cinematography is so good, you go with it.
This takes place over-and-over throughout Oblivion making an otherwise well acted, well constructed world that is spectacular eye candy — just another sci-fi. I give it two of five Danger’s due to the weak story and overall predictability, while it is still a watchable film. I experienced it on IMAX. For such stunning cinematography this is a must see on the big screen.
The other saving grace for Oblivion is it’s pacing and direction. As outlined earlier the soul reason for watching this film is its stylistic cinematography of a post-apocalyptic wasteland and special effects.
Oblivion The Graphic Novel
Oblivion was originally planned as a graphic novel by director Joseph Kosinski & Arvid Nelson for Radical Comics in 2005. Oblivion has never been published and is confirmed that it will never be printed as a graphic novel but may be printed as an illustrated novel with 40 or more wide format images.
The screenplay is by Michael Arndt utilizing earlier drafts by Karl Gajdusek and William Monahan (all of which are based on the unreleased graphic novel by Kosinski and Arvid Nelson). Kosinski also directed the video game Gears of War commercial featuring Mad World (Tears for Fears) performed by Gary Jules.
Soundtrack: M83 Starring: Tom Cruise (Jak Harper) Olga Kurylenko (Julia) Andrea Riseborough (Victoria) Morgan Freeman (Malcolm Beech) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Sykes) Writers: Joseph Kosinski, William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek, Michael Ardnt Director: Joseph Kosinski (Previous film credit – Tron: Legacy) Rating: PG-13 Run Time: 2hr 5 min
Austin Texas Band MilkDrive’s Jazz Gypsy Bluegrass Sound
During a long drive home one fall evening in 2012 a College radio station was my time sink. As I left the city heading to the urban countryside a jazz grass band began to play. Maybe they didn’t exactly fit the mood in driving down a darkened interstate but they caught my ear. The sound stood out amid indy rock bands.
That is how I learned of MilkDrive. They are a four member band out of Austin Texas. The mighty little band enjoys numerous descriptive labels which all fit them. Call them jazz, gypsy jazz, jazz pickers to many more, they are most comfortable with jazz-grass.
(DL) — If Kill Bill had more sophistication and class, if The Professional had a tear jerker ending – it would be The Man From Nowhere. Bin Won portrays a man’s man in this amazing import.
The story is simple, a man left with nothing enduring his solitude has no interest in caring for anyone but himself. He just so happens to be ex-special forces. Billed as Korea’s top billing film of 2010 and rated R for intense violence and implied gruesome acts, it’s considered a Action-Thriller. It delivers on that promise.
Unique in modern film The Man From Nowhere doesn’t launch into action until the second act. We learn to identify with the characters densely packed into the story. It’s almost midway into the film before the tension blows.
You gotta give to the director, it takes balls to make your audience wait this long. It works. When hell breaks loose the previous pacing of a suspense thriller is gone. It’s all action from here out.