Monday, June 30, 2014

Earth to Echo

Releases July 2nd, 2014
1 hr 32 mins
Rated PG
Action/Adventure, Drama


Director: Dave Green


Teo Halm as Alex
Brian "Astro" Bradley as Tuck Simms
Reese C. Hartwig as Munch
Ella Wahlestedt as Emma
Jason Gray-Stanford as Dr. Lawrence Masden
Cassius Willis as Calvin
Drake Kemper as Mookie
Arthur Darbinyan as Pown Shop Owner
Christian Elizondo as Joey
Tiffany Espenson as Charlie
Mary Pat Gleason as Dusty
Sonya Leslie as Tuck's Mom
Peter Mackenzie as Emma's Dad
Virginia Louise Smith as Betty
Myk Watford as Blake
Valerie Wildman as Christine Hastings (Emma's Mom)
Chris Wylde as Security Guard

Review by Stephen M.

Earth to Echo won't wow and astound you but it makes for a nice summer family film for young teenagers to old folks to enjoy.  Younger kids may be frightened by certain elements of the film, with some of the humor perhaps too mature for kids age nine and under.  Quirky friends who share a tight bond on an adventure, and discovering an alien that wants to go home pretty much sums up the film.  Comparisons can be made with films like Goonies and E.T., but Earth to Echo is in a different universe than those classics.

In the film, three friends, who are a bit of social outcasts, faces the final days together as their neighborhood is threaten with a freeway project going through their small town in Nevada.  When the cellphones around the block of one of the friends started "barfing", they discover that the image on the phone is actually a map to a desert location.  Being that this is their last night together, they decide to bicycle out on a night's journey, unbeknownst to their parents, to discover the source of what's going on.

Along their journey, they discover that the construction workers are not who they seem to be, gets a tag along in Emma (Ella Wahlestedt) whom Tuck claims to have kissed, and of course meets a cute little alien they name Echo.  The young actors playing the kids put on strong performances, with hilarious scenes such as Munch (Reese C. Hartwig) getting the phone smacked out of his hand when he disastrously imitates his mother.

In contrast, the adults in the film, especially the lead "construction worker", Lawrence Masden (Jason Gray-Stanford) are not as believable in their roles.  Granted, their speaking roles are limited, but the scenarios with them involved are questionable.  Also implausible is the science and physics of the alien and his ship.  What are the chances the alien they find happens to be so cute and kid friendly as suppose to the ones that Sigourney Weaver faced off against?  And in regards to the ship (Spoiler Alert, highlight to read...), wouldn't the ending have left a giant sinkhole that would destroy the town anyway?  But of course the movie is not about that but about friendship which it does a great job of portraying.

Overall, I would recommend this movie especially for young teens.  The goofiness of the kids is what will attract you and keep you laughing from beginning to end.  The other parts of the story drags at times as they journey from one part of Nevada to another trying to help Echo home.  But of course if you stay until after the credits, the excitement is saved for last as the alien brings back an armada which directly leads into Edge of Tomorrow...

I'm kidding, despite not having what I just mention, it's still worth watching if at least as a matinee.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Opens June 27th, 2014
2 hr 45 mins
Rated PG-13



Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager
Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce
Nicola Peltz as Tessa Yeager
Jack Reynor as Shane Dyson
Kelsey Grammer as Harold Attinger
Li Bingbing as Su Yueming
Sophia Myles as Darcy Tyril
Titus Welliver as James Savoy
T. J. Miller as Lucas Flannery
Melanie Specht as the "Grande Dame"
Victoria Summer as Joshua's executive assistant

Peter Cullen voices Optimus Prime
John Goodman voices Hound
John DiMaggio voices Crosshairs
Ken Watanabe voices Drift
Robert Foxworth voices Ratchet
Reno Wilson voices Brains
Mark Ryan voices Lockdown
Frank Welker voices Galvatron

Review by Stephen M.

This is undoubtedly the best Transformers movie thus far and that's only because the bar was set so low by the prior movies.  Age of Extinction, a very cool title that did not have much to do with the movie, should have been called Transformers: One Big Infomercial.  I haven't seen so many obvious product placements since Men in Black 3.  From Victoria Secrets to Bud Light, they were in no way discreet in trying to hock you products and brands lengthening the movie more than was necessary.

The movie starts off with a scene of how the Dinosaurs really became extinct on Earth.  From there, we fast forward to the present after the Chicago war from the third movie Dark of the Moon.  Transformers are being hunted down by the Government for the safety of the public.  But of course, you can never trust the Government or at least CIA dark ops head Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer).

For the most part, we get to see Mark Wahlburg as an action hero, Cade Yeager, in the film.  He plays an inventor who discovers Optimus Prime in a debilitated state from the Chicago war when he goes picking for electronic items to fix, invent with and resell.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes away from other parts of the film that could have been better developed.  For example the Dinobots or delving deeper into what the antagonist Lockdown (Mark Ryan) refers to as the creators of the Transformers.  Mark's acting at times are somewhat questionable in the film especially the scene where Optimus, along with his daughter, gets sucked up into the air.  Nicole Peltz as Cade's daughter Tessa continues the useless but pretty female roles that Megan Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley had previously occupied. Li BingBing, last seen in Resident Evil: Retribution, plays the sorely lacking strong female character in the Transformers franchise.  But as with all the others, of course I wish the focus was more on the robots then the humans running around waiting to be squished.

With regards to the Transformers themselves, we do get a bunch of new ones in the Dinobots, and even Galvatron.  However, most of the other designs are generic or playing up to certain sterotypes that you would not expect from sentient robots.  They copy the vehicular form, correct?  Why does Hound look like an overweight gun ho and Drift a samurai in robot form?  Why does Crosshairs have what looks to be a trench coat as part of his design in robot form? I can't help but be slightly offended by Michael Bay's latest blockbuster from this and everything I mentioned above.

Overall, I would suggest watching as a matinee if you must see it and of course you would want to.  But otherwise wait for it to come out on Netflix.  The action between the Transformers is good especially the part where Optimus is gaining the respect of Grimlock which follows the comic/cartoon well.  Stanley Tucci and Li BingBing is wonderful.  Everything else as my friend would say is doo doo bird.


Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
Releases July 2nd, 2014
1 hr 58 mins
Rated R


Scott Derrickson

Eric Bana as Ralph Sarchie
Édgar Ramírez as Mendoza
Sean Harris as Santino
Joel McHale as Butler
Olivia Munn as Ralph’s wife
Dorian Missick as Gordon
Chris Coy as Jimmy Tratner
Rhona Fox as Zookeeper
Valentina Rendón as Claudia
Olivia Horton as Jane Crenna

Review by Stephen M.

Deliver Us From Evil by Director Scott Derrickson is based on the book "Beware the Night" by retired cop and current Demonologist Ralph Sarchie.  The book covers the bumps in the night he experienced as a police officer working the night shift in the Bronx.  The movie is based on one of the cases discussed in the book.  The story starts off in Iraq, 2010 where three U.S. soldiers on a mission enters a creepy cave.  When their video blacks out to the screams of their voices, we race forward to 2013...

Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) and his partner Butler (Joel McHale) are two experienced cops working the night shift.  Ralph has something his partner calls "radar", which is like your Spider senses to something extraordinary that will go down.  The duo comes across several cases that are seemingly linked together.  We learn later that the individuals involved are either the former soldiers mentioned in the beginning of the film or related to them.  During this time, unorthodox Father Mendoza (Édgar Ramírez) introduces himself to Ralph and later assists him as the linked cases shows Ralph that everything is not as it seems. It also doesn't help Ralph that with his long night shifts daily that his wife and child are neglected, leaving them vulnerable.

The screening I attended was a premiere in which Director Scott Derrickson was in attendance and spoke about how he wanted to make the film not strictly a horror film but part police procedural and supernatural. To a good degree, I think he definitely accomplished this as the film was more of a thriller then a true horror film.  The film was not without its eerie hair raising moments though.  But with intermittent buddy cop moments and even between Ralph and Mendoza, it's not a straight foward spiral to hell.  Other than speaking in strange voices, the antagonists can easily be mistaken for drugged up miscreants than demonically possessed individuals.  The acting overall is good, though not great, especially by Bana and Munn.  But what really leaves me empty in this movie is some of the loose ends in the movie.  Such as what happened to the below pictured lady in the jail scene.

Overall, I would recommend the film, but you may want to catch a matinee.  If you're looking for a pure horror film, then you're barking up the wrong tree.  There are certain elements and explanations that could have been done better.  But it's definitely still worth watching.  The filmmakers take on the susceptibility to the supernatural for Ralph was interesting especially with modern music.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

They Came Together
Releases June 27, 2014
1 hr 23 mins
Not Rated


David Wain

Amy Poehler as Molly
Paul Rudd as Joel
Ed Helms as Eggbert
Michael Ian Black as Trevor
Jason Mantzoukas as Bob
Cobie Smulders as Tiffany
Christopher Meloni as Roland
Michael Shannon as Spike
Norah Jones as Herself
Ellie Kemper as Karen
Max Greenfield as Jake
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Frank
Melanie Lynskey as Brenda
Michaela Watkins as Habermeyer
Jack McBrayer as Oliver
Kenan Thompson as Teddy
Ken Marino as Tommy
Bill Hader as Kyle
Noureen DeWulf as Melanie
Erinn Hayes as Valerie

Review by Stephen M.

They Came Together is a brilliantly funny film that pokes fun at itself, being that of a romantic comedy.  The setting is a pair of friends having dinner and discussing their relationships.  Amy Poehler as Molly and Paul Rudd as Joel talks about how they met each other to their friends.  Their story, as they say is like one of those romantic comedies, where Joel would be your typical leading man ("handsome but in a non threatening way) and Molly your typical leading woman ("cute clutzy girl that you can't help but fall in love with").  But of course there's just one more character... New York City...

As cheesy as that sounds, the movie is full of cliches like those that may have you throwing up, if it weren't for the way it presents itself.  It's not your typical romantic comedy, though it is, if that makes sense.  It doesn't take itself seriously and neither should you.  Like the part when Joel's coworker and best friend Bob (Jason Mantzoukas) falls through an office window hanging by the ledge and Joel is interrupted by his rival Trevor (Michael Ian Black) which conveniently makes Joel forget to retrieve Bob.  Yes it's silly but in a good way.  You get a lot of the literal jokes, and even slapstick type humor.  The humor does get a little bizarre at times though like the scene with Joel and his grandmother... Scenes like that have you just shaking your head no.

Amy and Paul are brilliant in their roles as is Christopher Meloni whom I know more for his serious roles such as Chris Keller in HBO's Oz.
His Halloween scene is among one of my favorite scenes in the movie of which there are plenty of good ones.  The way the filmmakers milk it with certain scenes such as Joel walking in the rain after a bad day or Joel and Molly breaking the fourth wall and then some by visiting the set of a musician performing a score for the movie is just part of what makes the film great.

Overall, I would highly recommend the film.  The cast is extremely talented and will have you laughing out loud.  The movie is not without your what the heck moments or lags.  But the jokes are at least not repetitive, unless you're talking about the scene with the repetitive joke at the bar.  Again, that's just the great humor about the film.  With the ending being a free for all, the story as the friends point out would make for a good movie and it does.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Today was the last day of Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con for me and it was all about Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan.  I had gotten their VIP pass which included autographs and the dual photo op.  Despite having the VIP pass, the lines were still long, as many passes of the dual were sold.  Though today is my last day, the con continues tomorrow.  The last day of the con often is the best shopping day as retailers do not want to necessary lug their inventory home.

As part of the Mackie and Stan VIP pass, I was able to sit within the first 15 rows of their panel in the late afternoon.  Though nothing shocking was revealed about possible roles or potential story line in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron or even Captain America 3, the audience had a blast.  This was mostly due to Anthony Mackie's overwhelming personality, as he often interrupts Sebastian and poke fun of his largely non-speaking role in Winter Soldier.  Some of the questions asked by the fans during the panel included:

1. How would you want your Marvel character to die? Anthony answered in an explosion, while Sebastian answered that his character would rip off his arm and beat himself to death.

2. Were they intimidated early on in their careers acting with movie legends?  Anthony had the more interesting story here, as he talked about how he worked with Morgan Freeman and Morgan beat him physically in the boxing scenes and not faking it.  Anthony hated Morgan for
this, but Morgan, after the filming was done, approached Anthony and thanked him and gave his person contact info and said if he ever needed anything to call him.

3. What Marvel or DC characters would they like to play if they had a chance to?  Sebastian refused to answer the question while Anthony replied that he would like to play Wonder Woman because of the spandex.

As far as the actual photo op, you can see the picture above.  The autograph session went well also, with Anthony's autograph session much more friendlier in that his reps or him personally will allow fans to take a quick picture with him at the autograph table.  Sebastian at the panel said he never hugged so many people so dearly in his life, not even with his family, as he did during his autograph session.

Thanks for checking out our coverage these last few days.  And now for the pictures!


Some of the other celebrities...

At the artist alley, my commissioned sketch cover and the legendary Marv Wolfman!


And of course the cosplayers!