Category Archives: Recommended

Things I think you should check out or would enjoy.

The Avengers

Forget for a minute that I am a fanboy… (yeah, right.) The Avengers is a good, entertaining movie. It does for super hero groups what Heath Ledger did for the Joker, Zack Snyder for Watchmen, and J.J. Abrams for Star Trek (2009). It transcends its geeky, isolated, basement roots and brings it into mainstream acceptability. It makes me really want to see super heroes duking it out on the streets of New York. Yes, it would be dangerous, but so is a tornado. Doesn’t make it any less awe inspiring.

Let’s run down the list of what we get…

Joss Whedon-The director and brilliant creator that brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. The man is a genius at fleshing out characters and going them another dimension. These heroes were already in place, he brought them to another level. We get a fight and dialogue scene involving Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth)that was better than the whole Thor movie. Joss is also good at throwing in some twists… There are 2 I’m pretty sure you won’t be expecting, and the first happens in the opening 10 minutes. His use of cultural relevance is spot on. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tells Captain America to have Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) “suit up.” (This works for two reasons, and when you see the movie, I hope you’ll understand.)

Action- Not only that, but action we can see!!! There were 2 instances that caught my eye where I went, “what was that?”, but only a few measly seconds. The rest of the time, we can see Natasha Romanoff, (Scarlett Johansson) the Black Widow, kicking ass. We can tell that Captain America(Chris Evans) just threw a punch, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) even gets into the fray. As a special bonus, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is bas ass! No stupid purple mask thing and dorky costume. He is a top S.H.I.E.L.D agent. Comic book fans may recognize some of their favorite panels brought to life. They may not be literal translations, but you definitely know where they came from. (Pssst-> Iron Man and Thor…) And a nice nod to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game.

Comic Book tech- We get a freakin’ Helicarrier! Not some lame ass ship with a S.H.I.E.L.D. logo painted on the side, bit the full blown aircraft carrier that can fly! Did I mention the Quinjets? I don’t remember them being called that by name, be they are there.

Story- What does it take to give us a good hero(s)? A good villain. Loki, The Master of Lies has made his way back to earth. I really can’t tell too much here without spoiling some things, let’s just say his return is like an onion…

Balance- The mix of action, humanity, humor, depth, and story are spot on. I didn’t get bored when they were “dialoguing.” One of the things I appreciate is that is an ensemble cast, and all characters are used well.

What we don’t get is War Machine. Unless you count the 6 yr old that dressed up.

Get a great director (who knows comics and imagination), story, actors, RIGHT & PURPOSEFUL special effects, and what do you get? A huge summer blockbuster that I will gladly go see again. I admit, I did not see it in IMAX or 3D. I have been told they are good, but I don’t think it is required to enjoy the awesomeness. I predict, (ok, hoping like crazy and crossing my fingers), that on the strength of his handling of the Avengers, Joss will be able to revive the Wonder Woman project…

FYI, before there was Siri, there was Jarvis… : )

Update: I’ve seen this movie for a second time, and I have to say, the 3D wasn’t atrocious! Much like the special effects, it looks like it was utilized correctly.

John Carter

John CarterBefore I start this review, I would like to make sure I have the attention of the person(s) responsible for Star Wars – Episodes 1, 2 & 3. Are you out there, are you listening? Good… The massive [correct use of ] technology was required to tell this type of story, it was not a vehicle to show off how much time was put into design and computer processing ability. And “Oh, yeah… let’s try and build crappy story around it.”

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a normal earth man, and a civil war vet, who finds himself transported to Mars (known as Barsoom to the inhabitants) and caught between warring factions. As Mars has lower gravity than Earth, John soon finds he has some enhanced abilities. Upon his arrival, he is discovered by Tars Tarkas, (Willem Dafoe) leader of the Tharks. Tharks are a race of tall, bipedal, four armed, green skinned, nomadic beings that inhabit Mars.

Did I forget to mention the Humans, (or at least human-like)? Yeah, there are some of those too. I was scratching my head about this, and then eventually let it go. There are two factions of “humans”, the city of Helium, of whom Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins), is their princess. (Deja is freaking incredible!) Sab Than (Dominic West), is the leader of Zodanga, a traveling city of destruction and the sworn enemy of Helium. Mark Strong makes a very memorable appearance as Matai Shang, a mysterious manipulator with (obviously) his own interests in the outcome of the conflict.

I cannot speak to the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs on which this movie is based, but the following comments are grounded in seeing this movie today, and the films that have come before it. Is John Carter the most imaginative piece of work I’ve ever seen? No. Is space travel/teleportation a unique concept? No. Do we see shades of other scifi, fantasy, love stories and aliens that will look familiar? Most definitely. Then why should I see this movie? As the answer parents give when they don’t want to explain everything, “Because I said so…”

John Carter has some flaws and a few inconsistencies, but I was so involved in enjoying myself, I didn’t care. It is fun, engaging, fanciful and the characters actually make me give a shit about what is happening to them. There will most likely not be any academy award nominations for best dramatic anything, but you will come away having enjoyed that 2hr 19min.

I have purposefully avoided focusing on some of the flaws of the film, because for the type of story and adventure John Carter is, I do not think they are important. Instead of trying to pick them out, sit back, relax and prepare to whisked away. Pay attention to Earth side story as well. It is important background (and just as entertaining as the off planet story) of how John Carter has become, and will become, the man we see on Mars. The Earth story also includes a special appearance by one of my favorites, Bryan Cranston.

3D is still useless. It blends ok in normal scenes, (I still don’t feel like I can reach out and touch the flying ship.) In action sequences is an abysmal and unnecessary distraction. Save the extra $ and see it in 2D.

Safe House

I’m not sure in which genre to categorize this film… Is it a thriller, a drama, action? Or a bit of all three. And very well done in all respects.

Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) is a CIA operative that has gone rogue and has been at large for about 10 years. In this time, he has uncovered secrets, sold information, and caused havoc for the CIA and beyond.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) has been the “housekeeper” in an extremely quiet section of Johannesburg for almost a year and he is itching to get out in the field. Matt’s handler, David Barlow (Brendan Gleeson) explains that he has no field experience. But to get a field position, he needs experience, but cannot get experience because he is stuck at the safe house.  See his dilemma?

Tobin has been in Johannesburg, doing what he does best and has come up against a situation he could not immediately escape. So his best option was to walk in the US embassy and be taken into custody. From there he becomes a “houseguest” of Weston’s.

And then, “SURPRISE!”, Weston gets his wish. Somehow, the super secret Safe House has been compromised by the very same people who nearly captured Frost earlier. Like a good host, Weston escorts his guest to new accommodations. (And Robert Patrick gets Steven Seagal‘d, a la Executive Decision.)

While in transit, there are a few bumps, bruises, gunshots and deaths, and most importantly, a mystery to be solved. How was Frost found?

It was good to see Ryan Reynolds acting again! From some of his recent movies, I was getting the impression he was going down the road that Jim Carrey had named after him, “Be the same Freakin Character, but in a Different Movie” lane.

Denzel does a very good job as the quiet, cerebral, and physically capable asset who “…literally rewrote the book on interrogation.” He has to be all of these things for us to believe he has survived hiding from one of, if not the most capable organizations at tracking people in the world.

Nora Arnezeder plays Ana Moreau, Weston’s girlfriend. While she does not have a large part, I feel it is important and well executed. This time, the love story is germane to the story, so I am not opposed to it.

I only noticed a few logic flaws in Safe House. The most glaringly obvious of which was when Weston called his girlfriend from a public phone, the CIA did not lock on and track the source of the call. The reason this is a “problem” for me is the order to watch the girlfriend was given by Harlan Whitford (Sam Shepard), in a room full of agents, using multi million dollar technology to track Weston and Frost, and nobody is watching the phone?!?!? (And on that note, why was Weston stupid enough not to use a burn phone?)

The only other complaint I have is the camera work. Too much MTV quick cuts and Bourne Supremacy hand held crap, particularly during the fight scenes. Both Denzel and Ryan have been around the block enough to know how to handle themselves, let them show us!

Captain America

Captain America joins Iron Man and Batman Begins in the ranks of damn good comic book movies! Hollywood is restoring a little faith for this fanboy.

Captain (Chris Evans) primarily takes place during WWII, and does an admirable job of showing patriotism without being overly so. Instead of focusing on Hitler’s attempt to dominate, The First Avenger’s nemesis is the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving [who isn’t abusing the speech patterns of Agent Smith]). He is the leader of Hydra, the German version of the war era (and more succesful) X-files/special weapons division. The Red Skull has been on the hunt for, and has found, an energy source of the gods which will enable him to wipe out those he believes to be unworthy. Which is pretty much EVERYONE, including Hitler.

We are treated with an actual hero’s journey (Thor, take note) that didn’t take place in 48 hours… Steve Rogers must deal with his desire yet inability to be recruited into the war effort and then how to be the man he was never meant to be.

I would categorize this as an action drama. It’s got enough good action to keep many entertained, but the right amount of drama so it does not pander to the lowest common denominator.

This may be my shortest review ever, but what can I say beyond it is worth seeing. This character is one of the most prolific in comic book history and his story is well known. This adaptation is well told. And of course brings us up to today in preparation for The Avengers

Also stars Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominic Cooper, and Stanley Tucci.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Quality movies based on comics, graphic novels and video games are cashing in right now, and Scott Pilgrim is possibly at the top of that list. Brought to us by the same man who gave us Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, (where is Simon Pegg?), Edgar Wright brings his latest often low key, otherwise pinpoint accurate comic genius to Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

Scott Pilgrim is a 22yr old Canadian bassist who plays video games, rocks with his band, deals with his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin), who can text in his sleep, telling his sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick) absolutely EVERYTHING, and is in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the new girl in town and the girl of his dreams. As we know, Scott must defeat her 7 Evil Ex’s, specifically defined as NOT 7 Evil Ex Boyfriends (this was given away in the trailer). Each ex is more powerful than the last and has a unique power. Who knew that being a Vegan could give you special abilities, like punching the highlights out of someones hair?!?

Having come from a somewhat geeky background, Scott Pilgrim strikes home. From the opening Universal logo in 8-bit, to the closing scene, I was enamored with this film. The sound effects are splashed in text across the scene, we get on screen hit point meters and character synopsis, plus Catholic School Girl uniforms! The setting appears to be a mix of the early 90′s and today. Meshing two worlds with a prolific use of pay phones and cell phones into a cohesive duality that works with the music, characters, and social/movie references.

The surrounding world is completely forgiving of everything that pops up, literally. No one is surprised nor questions Scott’s new found skills or the League of Evil Ex’s that surrounds Ramona. The first Ex, Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), arrives while Scott’s band, Sex Bomb-omb, is onstage. He sent an email detailing his intentions to do battle, and breaks out in a Bollywood style song complete with sexy ghost-like Demons. Scott only skimmed the email, and wonders what to do. Wallace yells the sage advice of, “FIGHT!!!”

Not only are we treated to a visual romp through a fantasy land that I wish I were a part of (come on, you want super powers too!), there is plenty of wisdom, smart dialogue, and useful dating and life lessons embedded within. With Scott being such a young man, he has a lot going on in his life. Juggling an ex in the band, Kim (Alison Pill), a current girlfriend groupie soon to be ex, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), an unstable ex and lead singer of a popular band, Envy (Brie Larson), and the woman he believes he is in love with, Scott ultimately heads on his journey into manhood.

This movies is absolute awesomenessness. Yes, I typed that correctly. Wright makes no excuses for items that are unexplained, but I don’t care. If you are more interested in the fine details of how the Vegan police were called, or if Sex Bomb-omb was playing the proper chord, maybe this movie isn’t for you. But it is definitely for me.

Inception

Inception is a rare gem… It’s intriguing, exciting, thought provoking, dramatic, complicated, and entertaining.

For the purpose of the film, the term “Inception” derives from the concept of “Extraction.” Extraction is the process of going into to a persons dreams via drugs and interconnection to pull information from an individuals subconscious. Unless the subject is aware or trained to defend against this intrusion, it will seem like any other dream. Inception is the process of PLANTING an idea… And is much more delicate and detailed. The idea has to be placed in such a manner that a seed takes root and grows, as opposed to a blatantly obvious, “DO THIS THING!”

The all star, and extremely capable cast (that delivered), includes Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, the troubled leader of the “Dream Team.” Arthur  (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is Cobb’s partner and voice of reason. Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the new architect of the dream worlds. Earnes (Tom Hardy) is the efficiently deadly muscle. Saito (Ken  Watanabe) is the motivator for Inception, and Robert Fischer Jr (Cillian Murphy) is the target.

Cobb is on the run, or at the very least, avoiding the United States. He is wanted for the murder of his wife. After an unsuccessful attempt to have information extracted from his mind, Saito presents Cobb with an offer… Plant an idea in the mind of Robert Fischer Jr that will benefit him. If it is works, Cobb can go home.

Thus ensues a story that anyone can tell Christopher Nolan has spent a hell of a lot of time working out the kinks. He has created an altered reality, and applies rules, explains them, and is truthful to them. Inception flows, and covers its tracks. Meaning, there is a LOT going on, but it all goes somewhere with a purpose. In case you haven’t noticed, I am sooo trying to write a review without giving away important information, only enough to explain why you should go see this movie.

The only portion I feel was a bit excessive is the music. It was a good score, but played at times where I felt it was not needed to push the tension. The exposition was enough, and natural in its own right. Imagine you are disclosing important information to someone who has just come into your life and may be able to help you fix a massive misunderstanding. And the whole time you have dramatic music underscoring you… Distracting, isn’t it?

There are so many reasons to like this film, but 2 of the biggest are, 1) Unlike much of the fare that comes out of Hollywood, it does not treat its audience like  swarm of imbeciles that need to be spoon fed a hacked up script. If there are things you don’t understand, go see it again, I’m pretty sure it was explained along the way.  2) The ending. All I’m going to say is I liked it.

Kick-Ass

KickAssUm, wow… That is pretty much what I have to say, but for those who want more, read on.

“Kick-Ass” actually surpassed my expectations. I do admit that I never read the graphic novel, so it’s existence never influenced my understanding of what this comic book movie was going to be. I’ll do my best not to give away any significant spoilers.

Read enough comics, watch enough adaptations and you think you can predict what is going to happen. Yeah, not so much with “Kick-Ass.” Maybe it is a narrow comment, or maybe you get used to [bad] bastardizations of pre existing material. I really liked some of the routes they chose to take.

Kick-Ass AKA Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who I believe does a better job of being the under appreciated, troubled secret hero than Tobey Maguire,  is our narrator and a “typical” high school comic geek who ponders the question, “Why has no one tried to be a superhero?” So he tries it, with some interesting results. He also finds that he is not the only one out there…

Big Daddy AKA Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) is the literal dark avenging vigilante with a purpose. Hit-Girl AKA Mindy Macready (Chloe Moretz)is his daughter who is I vote as most likely to need therapy even though it probably won’t help. But that is a long way down the road, currently she revels in her life of weaponry, jumping rooftops and mayhem.

Hit Girl stole the show. She was absolutely awesome! I am impressed how a 12 yr old can come off as someone to actually be feared. AFTER you find out she is not your average pre-teen. As a thug in the movie states, “She’s just a kid.” Cue the chaos…

Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) is David’s lust interest that likes the alternate personality, but never notices the real person standing in front of her. (Lois Lane anyone?)

Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) is our resident bad guy. They are required in almost every comic book story. Without a villain, what good is a hero? He is head of a criminal organization that finds its illicit activities interrupted by a rumored masked individual. The villain’s henchpeople seem to really enjoy reeking havoc, bringing criminalism into an artistic arena. More so, they are capable, this makes the triumph even more enthralling. Where’s the pleasure in defeating an idiot?

“Kick-Ass” pays tribute to much of the comic universe. Dave’s house looks eerily similar to Aunt May’s from Spider-Man. Big Daddy’s speech patterns remind me of Adam West’s campy Batman. “Wait til they get a load of me,” is quoted directly…

If you are a comic book fan, I think you will appreciate this film, minus a couple misguided instances in the final 5 minutes. It’s campy, fun, funny, violent and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but seriously enough.

How to Train Your Dragon

howtotrainyourdragon-poster“How to Train Your Dragon” makes me wish I had a dragon to train. Yes, I know they aren’t REAL, but if they were…

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the hapless child of the bold, strong, courageous, fearless, blah blah blah Viking leader. Everything Hiccup is not. Stoick (Gerard Butler) makes no qualms about letting his disappointment for his son be known. Again and again. This part was a bit troubling for me. “How can you be my son?” type commentary. I believe we got it after the first two indications. It felt like the proverbial dead horse was still being beaten. Much like this paragraph. Understood?

The only other area of concern was how much death and destruction is referred to in such a flippant manner. Yes, they are Dreamworks Vikings, but carry over quite a bit of historical violence. (This is the responsible side of the reviewer letting the parents know what the movie contains). I think this is handled so casually because we never see any of the deaths, nor do any of the main characters mysteriously “disappear.” (We do see animated endangered sheep, though…)

All the social responsibility stuff aside, I REALLY wish I had a dragon! Toothless is not terribly big as dragons go, has a feline like personality, and is absolutely awesome! He (gender assumption) is the only Night Fury breed that we see, and appears to be one of the most powerful. I applaud the diversity that the dragons were given, not a singular, across the board limitation (per film) we have known previously. They come in different sizes and have varied powers. The Monstrous Nightmare can light itself on fire and attack whilst flaming. The Hideous Zippleback has 2 heads, one that spews gas and the other ignites it.

Along Hiccup’s trip to greatness, we are granted the pleasure of meeting the more pleasurable of his Viking cohorts.  Gobber (Craig Ferguson) is the village weapons master and fixit guy. Who incidentally is missing a hand and a leg… Astrid (America Ferrera) is the crush interest of Hiccup and his main competitor in the dragon training ground.  My favorite is Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), while in battle he breaks down the fight sequence as if it is a role playing game.

“Dragon” is a fun romp through the world of animation that has been exploding recently. But like many of those films, (Shrek, Avatar, etc) this may not be a pure child friendly show. Let’s just say it’s a good time to be an adult who enjoys films that one might assume were supposed to be made for kids.

The Crazies

The-Crazies-Poster“The Crazies” is what I would call a realistically based thriller. (I choose not to use the term “horror,” based on many of the films that disgrace that genre) There are no 7 foot, knife wielding ,invincible monsters running around. As it turns out, this is a remake of the 1973 George Romero flick by the same name. Not to mention, he executive produced the current incarnation, which infers there is a possibility of zombie like beings.

David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) is the sheriff of a small corner of Iowa, with in striking distance of  Cedar Rapids. You can’t get anymore Mid-America than that.

This movie wastes no time getting to the point. In about 4 minutes, we are treated to our first victim. The set up is simple… Something is affecting the inhabitants, causing unusual, then lethal behavior. The infected show signs of disassociation and stoic, if not zombie like, behavior. (The George Romero influence)

The source of the infection is a downed plane which carried a military biological weapon that seeped into the water supply. We are told later the contagion was being shipped to Atlanta for destruction. It’s purpose was to destabilize the population. Yep, it certainly does that.

One of the great selling points for me is the characters feel real, and they do real things. No BS running through the woods in heels, tripping, and screaming. No having sex at the scariest lake on the planet where countless others have died. David is a Sheriff, his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) is a doctor, albeit a pregnant doctor. They aren’t stupid. They investigate, process information, rationalize, and proceed accordingly. After examining the information before them, they deduce they are screwed and do what they must to survive. Survival involves not drinking the water, avoiding the infected where ever possible, and being practical. They try to get the hell out of a bad situation.

One thing that is potentially scary, is the military shows signs of intelligence. When the townspeople are being rounded up, the readily available vehicles are booted to avoid escape by anyone missed in the sweep. (I think burning them would be easier and cheaper.) There are more moments of potential wisdom, but I don’t want to give it all away!

Deputy Russell Clank (Joe Anderson) is subtle “comedy” relief. I use quotes because there is nothing truly humorous in this film. There are some moments of wit where they may snap at each other and make snide comments, but no one is trying to be stand-up comic funny. Joe gives a good performance as the troubled man on the edge trying to deal with an impossible situation.

“The Crazies” turned out to more gruesome than I expected, though I don’t think it ever crossed the line into splatterfest. I was left with some lasting visions of a near apocalypse, one of which is going through the automated car wash… The end moments dangle their metaphoric toes in the water of becoming Hollywoody, but never takes the full jump.

Simply put, I enjoyed “The Crazies.” I was startled a few times, enjoyed a twist or two, and held my breath. It is one of the better thrillers I’ve seen in some time.

Avatar

Avatar

Avatar is finally here.
The short of it is, for the most part, this movie is definitely worth the hype! The long of it is, Avatar is by no means an original story. It is an amalgamation of familiar stories, transported to an whole different arena, and executed VERY well. Avatar is a combination of every love story you have ever seen, meets The Matrix, meets Platoon, meets Aliens, meets human ignorance and arrogance.
The year is 2154, and humans are still obsessed with greed and, well, that’s pretty much it. Except now they have expanded that greed across the galaxy to Pandora. A rich deposit of ore that is key to solving the earth’s energy crisis  lies beneath “Hometree,” a giant tree one of clans of the indigenous population called the “Na’vi,” inhabit.
Jake (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who is recruited to drive an Avatar after his twin brother dies on earth. An Avatar is a genetic Na’vi and human hybrid that allows its human driver to survive the toxic air of Pandora (they are DNA specific, hence the twin brother). His mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi, get them to trust him and do what he can to facilitate the relocation peacefully. On his first night out, Jake is separated from his science teammates, saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is allowed to meet the tribe and learn their ways.
At this point, the familiarity ensues. Jake, the “baby,” learns their native language, to hunt, survive in the harsh yet lovely environment, literally bond with the creatures of the planet, and that it is wrong to wipe out another species for profit. The social references are not veiled as earth’s history replays in my head…
Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) scientifically proves that everything on Pandora is intertwined and EVERYTHING lives in harmony. Of course the business and military contingents of the mission do not want to hear any of it. For all they care, the Na’vi could be second cousins asking for a loan. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate representative that is almost as eager as Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang) to destroy the Na’vi. (Think Carter Burke from Aliens on steroids). When the clash takes place, it is what the battle for Endor should have been. No cute and furry Teddy Bears, but real Warriors defending their home and fighting for the right to exist.
The visual eye candy, “real” and animated, is redonkulous! You’re in space, you’re in the dirt, you’re in the trees! (literally) If Avatar does not win any awards other than the most expensive movie made to date, then we know the fix is in. The epic value may be a bit grandiose at times, but it is worth it to see the imagination and creativity that went into creating Pandora. Floating mountains, lush landscapes, towering waterfalls, and creatures I wish really do exist, are brought to life with millions of zeros and ones.
The performances from everyone are believable, even Marine Grunt #12 was giving it his all. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez-a hottie in any movie!) is the Marine with a heart who “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Some of the other actors don’t have it as easy as she… I think it speaks volumes when the emotion transcends the boundary of being a digitally animated 9′ blue warrior on a fictional planet, and I actually “care.”
I actually found the 3D a little distracting at times. Yes, they shoot the arrows at the camera. Yes, leaves fall toward the lens. Yes, they fly headlong through huge CG trees at breakneck speeds and every other 3D trick we remember from the 80′s. If you can’t see it in 3D, don’t worry, it will not take away from the core experience.
Avatar is to animation, is what The Matrix was to special effects in 1999. It is undeniably ground breaking, definitely inspiring, and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the next step will be. And at a running time of 150, I am curious to see what could possibly be in the director’s cut…

James Cameron’s Avatar is finally here.

The short of it is, for the most part, this movie is definitely worth the hype! The long of it is, Avatar is by no means an original story. It is an amalgamation of familiar stories, transported to an whole different arena, and executed VERY well. Avatar is a combination of every love story you have ever seen, meets The Matrix, meets Platoon, meets Aliens, meets human ignorance and arrogance.

The year is 2154, surprisingly, humans are still obsessed with greed and, well, that’s pretty much it. Except now they have expanded that greed across the galaxy to Pandora. A rich deposit of ore that is key to solving the earth’s energy crisis  lies beneath “Hometree,” a giant tree one of clans of the indigenous population called the “Na’vi,” inhabit.

Jake (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic Marine who is recruited to drive an Avatar after his twin brother dies on earth. An Avatar is a genetic Na’vi and human hybrid that allows its human driver to survive the toxic air of Pandora (they are DNA specific, hence the twin brother). His mission is to infiltrate the Na’vi, get them to trust him and do what he can to facilitate the relocation peacefully. On his first night out, Jake is separated from his science teammates, saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and is allowed to meet the tribe and learn their ways.

At this point, the familiarity ensues. Jake, the “baby,” learns their native language, to hunt, survive in the harsh yet lovely environment, literally bond with the creatures of the planet, and that it is wrong to wipe out another species for profit. The social references are not veiled as earth’s history replays in my head…

Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) scientifically proves that everything on Pandora is intertwined and EVERYTHING lives in harmony. Of course the business and military contingents of the mission do not want to hear any of it. For all they care, the Na’vi could be second cousins asking for a loan. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate representative that is almost as eager as Colonel Miles Quatrich (Stephen Lang) to destroy the Na’vi. (Think a much more agressive Carter Burke from Aliens). When the inevitable clash takes place, it is what the battle for Endor should have been. No cute, furry Teddy Bears, but real Warriors defending their home and fighting for the right to exist.

The visual eye candy, “real” and animated, is redonkulous! You’re in space, you’re in the dirt, you’re in the trees! (literally) If Avatar does not win any awards other than the most expensive movie made to date, then we know the fix is in. The epic value may be a bit grandiose at times, but it is worth it to see the imagination and creativity that went into creating Pandora. Floating mountains, lush landscapes, towering waterfalls, and creatures I wish really do exist, are brought to life with millions of zeros and ones.

The performances from everyone are believable, even Marine Grunt #12 was giving it his all. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez-a hottie in any movie!) is the Marine with a heart who “didn’t sign on for this shit.” Some of the other actors don’t have it as easy as she… I think it speaks volumes when the emotion transcends the boundary of being a digitally animated 9′ blue warrior on a fictional planet, and I actually “care.”

I actually found the 3D a little distracting at times. Yes, they shoot the arrows at the camera. Yes, leaves fall toward the lens. Yes, they fly headlong through huge CG trees at breakneck speeds and every other 3D trick we remember from the 80′s. If you can’t see it in 3D, don’t worry, it will not take away from the core experience.

Avatar is to animation, is what The Matrix was to special effects in 1999. It is undeniably ground breaking, definitely inspiring, and has me sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to see what the next step will be. And at a running time of 150, I am curious to see what could possibly be in the director’s cut…