Friday, November 11, 2016

Reviews #15 - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Plot: Miss Peregrine hosts a school for children with special abilities.

Review: I’ll admit that once this movie started and I saw that Tim Burton directed I was very surprised; I did not realize that this was his movie. But once you start watching it you can notice his gothic and quirky style. The movie is a mix of Harry Potter and X-Men. A lot of it feels familiar. It has a bit of it’s own spin to it but it’s nothing extravagant. The acting by everyone involved is decent enough. It’s mostly young actors so you get what you get. The story tends to drag for a while until Samuel L Jackson shows up and even after that it’s moderately interesting. It’s not a terrible movie but it’s a meh on ten.

Score: 5/10

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Reviews #14 - Cheers Season 1 (1982-1983)

Review: Cheers is one of, if not the, most popular sitcoms of all time. It’s iconic characters and setting marked a generation of TV viewers and the characters are still recognizable today. The reason it works is because of the characters. It really is a place with people you want to hang out with where everyone knows your name. It’s the romanticized version of bar life.

            The main character is ex Major League Baseball pitcher Sam Malone played by Ted Danson. He is extremely likeable and charismatic. You have waitresses Carla and Diane, played by Rhea Perlman and Shelley Long, who both can be annoying in their own way. Sam’s right hand man Coach is a character I was not familiar with but he ends up being really funny. He’s the butt of many jokes since he doesn’t tend to catch on to things quickly, a symptom of getting hit on the head with baseballs too much. Bar regulars Cliff and Norm are funny guys as well that you just want to be friends with.

            The show is a great watch. While some of the jokes may be a little dated, for the most part they are still very funny. It’s the kind of show you don’t get anymore today. You can relax and have a good time, almost like you are there with them. The show even tries to tackle some more serious subjects from time to time, like acceptance of homosexuals, which might have been taboo back then. I will definitely keep watching. There are still 10 more seasons to go through and I look forward to them.

Score: 7.5/10

Friday, November 4, 2016

Reviews #13 - The Fugitive (1993)

Plot: Doctor Richard Kimble is framed for murdering his wife and must find the one-armed man to clear his name.

Review: A remake of the 60s TV show, The Fugitive casts Harrison Ford as the main protagonist Richard Kimble. On his trail is a team of US Marshalls headed by Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). At this time in the 90s you could say that Harrison Ford was at the peak of his star power. This movie also revitalized Tommy Lee Jones’s career. When it was released it was a big deal but unfortunately I was too young to appreciate it so it was time to revisit it with adult eyes.

            The plot about a man trying to prove his innocence is of course one we have seen before. The take on the familiar plot in this movie is well done. It’s not too over the top, although you could say that the bus crash as well as the water fall jump are exaggerated, but they do give the movie iconic moments that are still remembered to this day. In the current era where everything is done with CGI, these actions scenes hold much more impact because they are done with practical effects and it keeps the sense of realism and maintains the viewer’s involvement. The sense of being on the run is constant throughout, it feels like the police are always a second away from catching Kimble.

            Harrison Ford does well in his role but he doesn’t blow the roof off the place. In the beginning scenes he does well as a man both grieving for his wife and trying to defend himself. As the movie goes though he becomes action movie Harrison Ford, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The true star though is Tommy Lee Jones. His constantly cranky and sarcastic US Marshall is entertaining throughout. The man is on a mission to catch Kimble and will not stop until he gets him. In the years that follow this movie he often would play very similar characters, even reprising the role itself in the 1997 sequel US Marshalls. Don’t let the cast list fool you about Julianne Moore. She is listed second or third in the actors list, but she is barely in it and only has a minor role. It appears like they were trying to bank on her name despite the limited role.

            The movie is good but it never reaches that upper stratosphere. It very much is a movie of it’s time. The pacing is good, never too slow nor too fast. It just never reaches that boiling point where the stakes are really high and you are on the edge of your seat. It’s a safe, relaxing time which is a good watch.

Score: 7/10

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Reviews #12 - The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Review: If you ever wonder why we do what we do without thinking, this is the book for you. Author Charles Duhigg explores what makes habits and how the brain can do things without us even thinking about it. Through various interviews and stories, we see how habits affect our lives in ways we don’t even realize. All of these stories are interesting, informative and at times infuriating. We explore the cue-routine-reward cycle and see how it applies to various actions of people as well as communities and even companies. The best part of it is that it makes you think about your own habits. Once you understand how it works, you can think of ways of changing your habits to be more positive. It’s a fantastic read that makes you think and is entertaining at the same time. Definitely worth your time.

Score: 8.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reviews #11 - Luke Cage Season 1 (2016)

Review: Luke Cage is the third Marvel character to get his own Netflix series after being introduced on Jessica Jones. As with Daredevil and Jessica Jones, Luke Cage has its own unique feel to it. This series takes place for the most part in Harlem and has a 70s blacksploitation feel to it. The music very much helps accentuate that feeling. There is also a good amount of live music sung by known artists.

            The story itself is about Luke Cage cleaning up some crime in Harlem. The storyline changes a bit in the second half of the season and goes in a different direction while still somewhat keeping the initial focus. Mike Coulter does a fantastic job as the titular character. He plays Luke as calm and cool but gets angry when the time is right. The show has a large cast of supporting characters. Simone Missick as detective Misty Knight becomes a stronger character as the season goes along. Her character is a good folly for Luke as she is at times an ally and an adversary. On the villains side it is hit and miss. The main villain Cottonmouth, played by Mahershala Ali, is sometimes an intelligent criminal mastermind, but then he’ll fly off the handle and do something stupid. His cousin Mariah (Alfre Woodard) is the super fake politician you love to hate. Theo Rossi as Shades is the most interesting one. He’s like the devil, whispering in everyone’s ear to do evil acts.

            The action on this show is smaller scale. There isn’t much grandiose superhero fighting. It keeps in line with Daredevil and is hand to hand without being overly superheroey. Granted Luke Cage has bulletproof skin and is super strong, but everything happens with guns and hand to hand fighting and not flying and eye lasers.

            The show splits in 2 sections. Unfortunately, I found the first half better than the second. The first part focuses on Cage trying to take down Cottonmouth, whilst the second part looks into Cage’s origin and brings in another villain. The second half was less strong primarily because it felt like it was a different show. There were long stretches that took the characters away from the elements that made the show what it is. It wasn’t that bad but it was a sidetrack that took us away from the action.

            Overall it is a good show but not quite as strong as Daredevil and Jessica Jones were. The season does end conclusively but it does leave some open ends for another season that are quite interesting and I do look forward to the show’s eventual return.

Score: 7/10

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Reviews #10 - Transmorphers (2007)


Humanity has been taken over by a race of alien robots and a group of underground fighters look for a way to defeat them once and for all.


When you watch an Asylum movie, you need to look at it with different eyes. You cannot expect the same quality as you would in an A class Hollywood movie. The acting will be much worse, the special effects garbage and the plot and dialogue written by a 10-year-old. In Transmorphers, they try to go with the post apocalyptic dark world. Truth be told, it just looks like they are filming under an overpass. They purposefully keep everything dark and rainy so that you can’t tell what is happening.  But that is just the beginning of the lack of budget showing through. The characters are supposed to be soldiers but their “uniforms” just consist of a grey shirt and a leather jacket. The sets are for the most part just hallways or offices in a concrete building. At one point they try to create a bar area but they just threw a fly net over an section and called it a day.

The acting is truly hard to stomach. The actors seem to confuse acting serious and acting bored. Almost everyone looks like they are about to fall asleep at any moment. If they are not acting bored, they are over the top. There was only one actor, Matthew Wolf who played the leader of the group Warren, who seemed to have taken some kind of an acting class. The rest looked like newbies hired off the street. Apparently one of the main actresses, Amy Weber, had done some work with the WWE on the Divas Search in 2004, I’ll have to find out more about that. They throw in all kinds of subplots about a revolution some people once started, a lesbian couple, androids, etc. It’s a staple of the Asylum to just throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks.

Let us not kid ourselves, the reason anyone came to watch this was for the robot fighting. The robot CGI was of course low quality. It looked like something you would see in a commercial in the late 90s. By Asylum standards though, it was not that bad. At least they had steady shots of the robots moving, transforming and there was a fair amount of animation for the moving parts. It would have been a good semester projects for someone starting animation school. The real problem is that, at no time, do you ever feel that the actors and the CGI are in the same area. One thing that bothered me was the inconsistency of how tough the robots were. At some points, they go down in one shot. At other time they will shoot at one for minutes and do no damage.

It may seem like I am going easy on this movie, but truth is I have seen much worse, unwatchable trash. This one is not that bad and if you are able to rate is along the Asylum scale you will find elements to appreciate.

Worst Scene

            At one point, one of the women goes to her sleeping quarters and finds that one of the pilots has taken over her bed, figuring that she will not return from the battle she is going to.  A couple of other women show up and a girl fight erupts, all over the top part of a bunk bed. The fight has some very bad slow motion parts and the punches are some of the softest, non realistic looking punches I’ve ever seen.

Lawsuit Potential?

This movie manages to offend not one, but two sci-fi franchises. Its title is an obvious rip-off of Transformers, but it’s plot is more in line with the future scenes from the Terminator franchise. The story though is different enough that it can say it’s not copying Terminator (although it definitely is) but the title is blatantly trying to get some of that Transformers money. This movie was released in 2007, the same year the first Transformers movie came out in theaters, not a coincidence in any way. There does not seem to have been a lawsuit directed towards this movie however, they got away scot free with this one.

Score: 4.5/10 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Reviews #9 - WWE Armageddon 2002

              By the end of 2002, the WWE was changing. Some of the bigger names of the Attitude era, like The Rock and Steve Austin, were rarely around. The company was building a new mega star with Brock Lesnar but what is possibly the biggest story was the return of Shawn Michaels. After a 4-year absence, he returned to the ring and won the World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series 2002. He had an intense feud with Triple H and the 2 would collide at this event as well.

            One thing I truly miss in WWE is some of the creativity. In this event, they made a little computer generated animation of helicopters attacking a robot running from the Armageddon logo. I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean but at least it’s a little cool something to start the show off with. We never get those anymore. The set was also impressive, with different stages of walls and flames bursting all over the place. Now it’s just the same set as Raw, lame!

World Tag Team Championship
4 Way Elimination Match
Chris Jericho and Christian (c) vs William Regal and Lance Storm vs The Dudley Boyz vs Booker T and Goldust

            This match did not stay a 4 way for very long. After a few minutes, the teams of The Dudley Boyz and Regal/Storm were quickly eliminated in succession, leaving only the 2 other teams, so it was basically a regular tag match. Once it’s just Booker T/Goldust vs Jericho/Christian, they pull every tag team trick in the book. Ref distractions, hot tag, attacking with the belt, they use it all. And it worked fairly well. The 2 teams gelled well enough together but it didn’t feel quite perfect. It seemed like Christian was constantly getting knocked off the apron, looking a bit like a fool but he was a heel so that’s ok. In the end Booker T finally hits his finisher for the win and a happy story to the comedy duo of BookDust.

Winners: Booker T and Goldust (new champions)

Edge vs A-Train

            A-Train or Albert or Tensai or whatever you want to call him, is currently the head trainer at NXT. After seeing this match, I have a better understanding why. Whilst his moveset may not have been as varied or exciting as Edge’s, he still managed to use his power and strength to have a good match. He and Edge worked really well together. The only problem with this match is that it did not go on for long and ended in a disqualification once A-Train attacked Edge with a chair.

Winner: Edge (by disqualification)

Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit

            2 legends that are unfortunately not with us anymore. What can be said about their matches. Benoit may have been one of the most intense wrestlers of all time and he brought a sense of realism to his matches. Guerrero was a great showman and a fantastic wrestler. Together they put on great matches and this is another very good one. They both knew each other so well and could tell a great story in the ring. In the end, Benoit got Eddie in the Crippler Crossface and forced him to tap out.

Winner: Christ Benoit

            There’s now a segment that is basically Jerry Springer trash TV. It’s the whole Dawn Marie getting engaged to Torrie Wilson’s dad but really she wanted Torrie all along. This leads to a scandalous video of the 2 women in a hotel room disrobing and then kissing. It’s just an excuse for 2 hot chicks to kiss. It’s a Raw segment that somehow made it to PPV and I’m never a fan of these kind of segments on PPV.

Batista with Ric Flair vs Kane

            As the announcers state at the beginning of this match, this is Batista’s first PPV appearance. Kane is always a good opponent for larger guys to face early on in their career because he can be beat and give a mini push to them. This match is kept fairly short. There is nothing particularly special about their encounter but it’s not bad either. The most entertaining part was Ric Flair, who was constantly distracting the referee and Kane, which eventually led to Batista hitting the Batista bomb for the win. I would say that there was a little too much distracting of the referee, they made him look like a fool but then again this was never meant to be a classic, just a starting point for Batista’s multiple world championship career.

Winner: Batista

            There’s next a segment of John Cena rapping. Again, this is something that belongs on Raw, not during a PPV. It doesn’t feel like it adds anything to the show and it’s a distraction.

Women’s Championship
Victoria (c) vs Trish Stratus vs Jacqueline

            3 women that can work very well, 2 of them are current hall of famers. The main problem with the match though is that I don’t think it even lasted 5 minutes. They were just getting warmed up. I enjoyed what they were doing, but it needed to go on longer to tell any kind of in ring story. Luckily there was a video package before the match to tell the story of the feud, but they really should have had more time.

Winner: Victoria

WWE Championship
Big Show (c) with Paul Heyman vs Kurt Angle

            In the pre match package, it was explained that Heyman betrayed Brock Lesnar, which allowed the Big Show to become WWE Champion. Lesnar attacked Big Show and other wrestlers and got himself suspended. Angle got Lesnar’s suspension overturned, on condition that he help him win the championship, which leads us to this match. It’s not a particularly good match. Big Show and Angle don’t gel that well together here. Angle does he damndest to get the most he can out of the Big Show but their styles just aren’t that compatible here. Surprisingly there isn’t that much interference by Paul Heyman since he gets taken out early on but there is interference by A-Train for some reason and then as expected Brock shows up to give Big Show an F5 and Angle the win.

Winner: Kurt Angle (new champion)

World Heavyweight Championship
2 out of 3 falls match
Shawn Michaels (c) vs Triple H with Ric Flair

            Right from the beginning Ric Flair takes a bump and gets himself thrown out by the referee, great start. During the match announcer Jerry Lawler keeps asking whether we are seeing Shawn Michaels or the Showstopper. After watching this, I can say that at this time he was still the Showstopper. Great interactions between both competitors who know each other super well at this point. The first fall was a street fight and they brought out garbage cans, tables and flaming barbed wire on a stick. It was violent and personal; they were out to hurt each other. After a long match Triple H gets the pinfall after a pedigree.

            The second fall is a cage match. Ric Flair comes back, gets hit by a chair and immediately starts bleeding. The action is a little slower here but it should be because both men are tired after the first fall. Good use of the cage as Triple H is constantly trying to escape and Michaels has to bring him back in. Near the end Michaels hits the sweet chin music on Triple H, puts him on a table and does a splash from the top of the cage to get the win.

            The third and final fall is a ladder match. It was shorter than the other 2 matches. Both men are exhausted at this point, barely able to climb up the ladder. Early on in the match, 2 tables were set up outside the ring. Later on Ric Flair added 2 more to the top, you knew at some point, someone is going through those. It came at the end of this match. Michaels got up the ladder and just as he was reaching for the belt, Triple H pushes the ladder, sending Michaels through the 4 tables. Triple H climbs up and grabs the belt to become champion once again. This match is a very good example of how to use violence effectively to tell a story. It’s not the best match of it’s kind but it very solid and doesn’t overdue the high spots and have guys kicking out of crazy moves.

Winner: Triple H (new champion)

            Overall the event was decent but not great. There was a fantastic main event but the WWE Championship match was so-so. There were a few matches that needed more time and suffered because of it. Instead of wasting time on segments that belong on Raw that time should have been used on these matches.

Rating: 6.5/10