Tag Archive for 'Action'

Doctor Who, Series 2

Doctor Who, Series 2 (9/10/15) Netflix (2005-06 ***1/2) Created by Sydney Newman, starring David Tennant, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones. 14 episodes, originally aired 12/25/05 – 6/8/06. A time-traveling alien and his companion, Rose Tyler, go about the known universe, and history, getting into trouble and doing their best to sort things out. First off, I understand that David Tennant is considered to be one of the favorite Doctors, but I felt like I had just gotten used to Christopher Eccleston in the role and it took me a few episodes to warm to Tennant, who I felt tended to over-act at the drop of a hat. I’ve heard from a number of people that the “new” Doctor Who series starts out rough but at some point the production values should start to reflect bigger budgets. I found the on-screen “values” to be widely varying over the course of the season, though there’s a general sense that they’re “doing the best they can with what money they’ve got.” I haven’t watched any of the old Tom Baker-era episodes since I was a teenager, but they evidently made an impact on me: There was something about the 4th episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” that really, really felt like an episode from the late-1970s. It had this whole “shot in the studio” vibe to it, from beginning to end. I have no idea if that was intentional or not. This second season / series also started digging into the old show in a big way, featuring appearances by K-9, The Daleks, The Cybermen and even Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor’s previous companions. As I explained in my review of the first series, I started watching the show on Netflix while by wife was out of town, not sure if I would really commit to it. But I think I actually may have crossed a certain threshold fan-wise: At some point the Daleks went from being ridiculous tin cans with irritating voices to being mildly scary creatures. Does this make me a “Whovian?”

Doctor Who, Series 1

Doctor Who, Series 1 (8/31/15) Netflix (2005 ***1/4) Series created by Sydney Newman, starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/26/05 – 6/18/05. A Time Lord picks up a 19-year-old companion named Rose Tyler and takes her on a whirlwind tour of time and space, leaving a trail of dead bodies in the wake of his TARDIS. Even though my wife and I had watched the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood in its entirety, I had deliberately put off watching the parent show. But with my wife out of town on her long European holiday and having run low on things to watch, I figured: “Now’s the time.” I had heard from various friends that the “new” Doctor Who reboot (which is ten years old now) starts out very cheesy before settling into something more serious. Consequently I wasn’t entirely surprised by the flatulent extraterrestrial Slitheen family and things of that nature. I also had a memory from my teenage years of watching a handful of Tom Baker episodes of the old show, and, from what I could tell, the new incarnation had a great deal in common with it. I can see the appeal of the show. But am I down with watching another seven seasons? I don’t know. On another note: Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my inability to make even the simplest of connections, but I didn’t realize until after watching most the first season that Billie Piper (who plays Rose) also recently played Frankenstein’s third creation Lily in Penny Dreadful.

Get Smart

Get Smart (8/28/15) IFC (2008 **) Directed by Peter Segal, based on the TV show created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin and Terence Stamp. A top-secret spy agency analyst named Maxwell Smart is promoted to field agent and teamed with an experienced female agent named 99. Prior to this film being released, I’d looked forward to it. Steve Carell seemed ideally cast for the role made so memorable on TV by Don Adams. But then I read the reviews, which were not kind, settling at a not particularly fresh 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. My personal experience matched that rating pretty accurately. To be honest, more than anything it made me want to watch the original show which ran from 1965-1970, then played in syndication in the after-school block of programming, which is where I watched it. It’s a real shame, too, because I think it could have been an excellent film, worthy of a sequel, if not two. As evidence, I humbly point you to This year’s Spy (2015), starring Melissa McCarthy, which had the same exact premise.

Daredevil, Season 1

Daredevil, Season 1 (8/8/15) Netflix (2015 ***1/2) Created by Drew Goddard, based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, starring Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson. 13 episodes, released en masse on 4/2/15. One half of the law team of Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson is a blind, ass-kicking vigilante, but I’m not going to tell you which half. I had heard very good things about this series since its release earlier this year, and I can attest to it being a well-made series. I must confess that among the pantheon of Marvel Comics super-heroes, Daredevil was never one of my favorites as a kid. Like many people, I had seen but largely blocked out the 2003 film starring Ben Affleck, so that didn’t really affect my enjoyment of the show. The setting of the Drew Goddard series is the gritty Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, though I’m not quite sure the neighborhood is nearly as rough in 2015 as it was back in the day. One of the tenets of good superhero storytelling is that the villain should be as interesting in or more engaging than the hero. In the case of this series, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin, though never identified by that name in the show, is… well, he’s just freakin’ awesome in every scene he appears in. By the way, Daredevil‘s Kingpin is not related to and should in no way be confused with the 1996 bowling comedy by the Farrelly Brothers. Just wanted to make sure you were all clear on that point.

Ant-Man

Ant-Man (7/30/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***1/4) Directed by Peyton Reed, starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly. An ex-convict with a talent for breaking and entering is recruited by a scientist with a talent for miniaturization… and talking to ants. As Marvel Universe movies go, it was a given that Ant-Man was going to be relatively lightweight fare, no pun intended. I understood that, and was prepared to accept it for what it was, and not reject it for what it wasn’t. I was also well aware of the film’s production difficulties, with Shaun of the Dead‘s Edgar Wright’s departure as director. In the leading role, Paul Rudd was likable as ever, and he was well cast. I kept thinking of how he will “fit in” with the other Avengers down the line, and something tells me he’ll do just fine, providing ample doses of comic relief. As superheroes go, miniaturization is a pretty bizarre power. Not much was really made of that fact in the film, which was probably for the best.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (6/29/15) British Airways: LAX -> LHR (2014 ***) Directed by Shawn Levy, starring Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais and Rebel Wilson as Tilly. When The Museum of Natural History’s animation-bestowing Tablet of Ahkmenrah goes on the fritz, Larry Daley and the “we come to life at night” gang travel to London to search for a fix. There is an element of pure fun to the Night at the Museum movies that is undeniable. They don’t ask their audiences for much, other than to sit back and enjoy the ride. This one offers a few nice touches, like (A) a caveman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Ben Stiller and… (B) Rebel Wilson, who — in my humble opinion — didn’t get nearly enough screen-time. This film was released a few months after Robin Williams’ suicide, and so it was impossible to watch his scenes without that in mind. He will be sorely missed.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland (6/22/15) DWA Screening (2015 ***) Directed by Brad Bird, starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. A teenage girl discovers a lapel pin that gives her a glimpse of a Utopian futuristic world. By now the verdict on Tomorrowland is already in: It’s a dud, both critically and at the box office. This is unfortunate, especially since Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles) is such a beloved figure. And while we may never get to see his San Francisco earthquake film 1902, he had proven his ability to helm a big-budget action film with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011). For me, Tomorrowland started strong, with a good first act and the first half of the second, but then at the midpoint its fuse fizzled out and it ended weakly. I loved the message: That there was a time not so long ago when the future was seen as an amazing place, filled with wonders limited only by the imagination. On an intellectual level, I appreciated the elegance of pitting Utopian versus dystopian versions of the future against each other. Unfortunately, for Tomorrowland, that conflict was presented almost too literally, and what action there was in the film’s climax didn’t feel especially meaningful.

Jurassic World

Jurassic World (6/21/15) Glendale Pacific 18 (2015 ***1/2) Directed by Colin Trevorrow, starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio and Jake Johnson. Decades after the original Jurassic Park fiasco, gene-splicing efforts to create a new attraction (and species) prove… regrettable. I still remember how turn-paging Michael Crichton’s original novel was and the thrill of sitting in a packed theater in the summer of 1993 to see Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park. After two somewhat disappointing sequels in 1997 and 2001, the Universal franchise lay dormant for a decade and a half, yet never quite going away. I went to Jurassic World with limited expectations. Quite frankly, I didn’t expect anything more than a fun roller coaster ride, and that I got in abundance. In a way, the film’s core premise — that in order to boost the audience they had to genetically design a pretty freaking horrifying dinosaur — was the story of this film too, which looks to break all kinds of box office records. Also, you get to see Chris Pratt ride a motorcycle through a jungle with his velociraptor buddies!

Star Trek: Insurrection

Star Trek: Insurrection (6/17/15) TMC (1998 **) Directed by Jonathan Frakes, starring Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden and F. Murray Abraham as Ru’afo. Starship Captain Jean-Luc Picard breaks the rules and disobeys the Federation’s plan to relocate the inhabitants of a special planet. This film was barely watchable, begging the question: Was this the film that killed the franchise? No, as it turns out, it was not: Star Trek: Nemesis was released in 2002. With all deference to Jonathan Frakes’ directing talents, it was probably not the wisest decision to let him helm a big-budget theatrical release, let alone two. This was actually his second Star Trek feature, having directed Star Trek: First Contact two years previously. While I haven’t watched that 1996 film since around the time it was released, Star Trek: Insurrection definitely resembled a slightly bigger-budget episode of the TV series, making it perfectly watchable, but with very little to recommend it. According to Frakes’ Imdb.com filmography, this was the last feature film he directed, but he has been quite active as a TV director in the past decade and a half.

iZombie, Season 1

iZombie, Season 1 (6/9/15) CW (2015 ***) Created by Diane Ruggiero and Rob Thomas, based on the comic series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, starring Rose McIver, Robert Buckley, Rahul Kohli and David Anders. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/17/15 – 6/9/15. Med student Liv Moore goes to the wrong party, gets turned into a zombie, then gets a job at the Seattle coroner’s office. First of all, I have to say kudos to The CW for creating a zombie show I can watch with my horror-averse wife. I wasn’t familiar with Roberson and Allred’s comic series on which the show is based, but Allred is one of my favorite comic artists, so it’s an extra kick to see his illustrations each week in the show’s title sequence. The premise of the show includes some special rules, which feed the story engine for each episode: Everybody knows zombies crave brains, but in the iZombie universe, the effect of eating brains is to mellow them out and keep them from becoming “the walking dead.” In addition, eating the brains of the deceased brings with it the memories of the departed as well. This feeds into the police procedural side of the show, allowing Liv to use her “visions” to help Detective Clive Babineaux (played by Malcolm Goodwin) solve his murders. Overall, I enjoyed this show’s first season and certainly plan to watch the second, but I can’t say I exactly loved it. And in particular I felt the season ended on a disappointing note.