SDCC Justice League Teaser

Advertisements

Podcast 5 – June 22 2016

Bryan Cranston joins Power Rangers cast

Emmy Award winning actor Bryan Cranston has announced on Twitter that he will be playing Zordon in the Power Rangers film reboot.  Cranston, who is now perhaps best known for his role as Walter White in Breaking Bad, has a history with the Power Rangers franchise, having provided voices to various monsters throughout the series’ run before moving on to some of his bigger roles.  Cranston adds some strong starring power to the cast of the film which, aside from Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa, is composed of relatively unknown actors.  Power Rangers is currently scheduled for a March 24, 2017 release.

Warcraft is the highest grossing videogame movie of all time

Despite a steep decline in domestic revenue over the last week, Warcraft has become the highest grossing film adaptation of a videogame of all time – even adjusting for inflation.  Warcraft suffered a 73% drop in ticket sales from its opening weekend to last weekend, when it was up against the dominating force of Pixar’s Finding Dory.  The majority of the film’s ticket sales have come from overseas, with over $200 million of the film’s $377 earnings coming from China alone.  The film had a budget of $160 million and, despite some harsh reviews from critics, has been a success with fans.  Our own review gave the film a 3 / 3 (for a “Good” rank).  Despite the promising numbers, the film is expected to need to hit a $450 million gross to break even when considering the marketing budget, distribution costs, and a smaller cut from overseas markets.

The previous record holder, Prince of Persia, had a total gross of $335 million when its theatrical run finished.

Finding Dory Review

Pixar has, for years, defined quality family entertainment.  Their art direction has been emulated in several other films, and there’s a natural maturity to the films that is relatable to the countless adults in attendance.  The films are “safe” for children, even if the source material therein isn’t exactly targeted at them, though the marketing is.  Pixar is capable of creating worlds that are enticing for everyone with a beating heart and a sense of joy, with rarely a misstep between releases.  It’s no surprise, then, that Finding Dory is absolutely fantastic.

When the film was first announced, I was apprehensive.  Pixar’s last sequel, Cars 2, was one of those rare missteps.  It was a film that existed solely to sell merchandise and offered very little substance beyond that.  Not that Pixar is incapable of crafting worthy sequels, as the Toy Story franchise has proven, but the story of Finding Nemo felt complete.  I wasn’t begging for a sequel; I took the journey and was satisfied with the conclusion.  I was afraid that a sequel would be an unnecessary rehash and a cash grab.  How wrong I was.

Finding Dory opens, like every Pixar movie, with an animated short.  This one, titled Piper, tells the story of a little bird that needs to get its first meal on its own.  It’s a simple premise that is artfully crafted into one of the most charming shorts I’ve ever seen.  The animation is downright beautiful with a beach that feels real enough to walk on.  From the frothy waves lapping up on shore to the individual grains of sand that stick believably to the feathers of little Piper, the world feels so incredibly real and believable that Morgan Freeman’s voice narrating this bird’s journey to independence wouldn’t feel out of place.  It’s a charming short that tells viewers, without speaking a single word, “You can do great things.”  The cynicism that’s blossomed within me over the years got some much needed weeding from the pure joy I felt during Piper’s short runtime.  Its theme is one that fits well with the film that follows.  It’s such a beautifully charming short capable of making even the hardest of hearts laugh, if only for a moment.

Piper was such a strong opening, I had high expectations from that point forward.  Finding Dory is more as much a prequel as it is a sequel.  The story opening with a very young Dory and her patient parents as they work with her and her memory issues.  See, Dory has problems with short-term memory loss and is easily distracted.  As a result, her parents have to use shells and rhymes to embed important things into her memory, with varying results.

Throughout the film, we’re taken back to these moments as Dory encounters something that triggers her memory.  It creates a non-linear narrative that encompasses the story that was told in Finding Nemo without relying too heavily on its predecessor.  Sure, there are various callbacks to Finding Nemo, and being familiar with the characters might help the world to feel a little more familiar, but there’s absolutely nothing in Finding Dory that would alienate new viewers.  It’s a film that stands on its own, despite living in an existing universe.  There’s only a handful of characters from the first film that make an appearance, and even less that are actually featured as main characters.

The majority of the film – aside from focusing on Dory, Marlin, and Nemo – is composed of a variety of new characters.  Joining the cast of characters is Kaitlyn Olson as a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny, Ty Burrell as a beluga whale suffering from issues with echolocation after a recent concussion, and Ed O’Neill as an ornery “septopus” who is looking for a ticket to a Cleveland aquarium where he’ll be able to live a secluded life in a box free from getting touched.

Hank is easily my new favorite character to make its way into an animated movie.  He plays the unlikely hero as he agrees to help Dory only in exchange for her tag – a ticket to Cleveland.  As he spends more time with Dory, he slowly begins to sympathize with the character, and even care about her.  It’s a fluid evolution as Hank never transitions from being a self-serving anti-social jerk to a compassionate hero.  Hank, by the film’s end, is the same as he was, at his core, when he first met Dory.  We’re shown right off the bat that he isn’t entirely heartless – in fact, he has three.  He also has a set of principles:  a deal is a deal and I’ll make sure I hold up my end of said deal.  If that deal sees him taking some unexpected detours, he’ll take them.

It’s not just his personality, though, that makes Hank stand out.  That helps, for sure, but the creative animation transforms him from being just an abrasive cynic to a truly memorable and even iconic animated character.  Hank is a ruby octopus – well, he’s missing a tentacle, so Dory refers to him as a septopus.  In addition to using his array of tentacles to walk, crawl, and sling his way around, Hank also has the ability to perfectly mimicking his surroundings with his camouflage.  This sets up some brilliant visual gags and makes the character that much more endearing.

All of the new characters, though, add something special to the mix.  From the territorial sea lions to Bailey and his use of the world’s most powerful glasses, each inhabitant of this wonderfully zany universe is memorable in his or her own right.  The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the talented cast breathes life into the characters with heart and impeccable timing.

Finding Dory is, in some regards, a similar movie to its predecessor.  You have a fish embarking on a journey to find a family that was lost.  At its core, however, it’s a much smaller, more personal tale that trades the ocean-spanning adventure of the first film for a more focused character piece.  The majority of the film takes place in a single location with only one brief scene spent getting there.  It’s less a journey of finding someone else, and more of a journey of self-discovery.  Not only for Dory, but for the characters around her.  The film poses the question of “who is Dory?”  By the time the film concludes, she’ll feel as much a part of your family as she is a part of the family she’s looking for.

While I felt that Finding Dory took a full act of its own before it really found its groove (possibly because of the impossibly high expectations I had following Piper), the story, characters, and everything in between was a joy to watch.  Finding Dory is another standout Pixar film with tons of heart.  For each moment you laugh, there will be another, perfectly fitting moment of heartfelt sincerity that yanks at your emotions.  It’s hard to find a film that’s contains such a perfect blend of contrasting emotional themes, but it’s handled with such grace that viewers will be finding Dory, her cohorts, and the heartwarming journey they take entertaining for years to come.

 

Good – 3 / 3

Warcraft movie review

Videogame films have a long history of being among some of the worst films ever made.  Not from a lack of solid source material, but the execution has always proved lacking.  Early reviews of this summer’s Warcraft movie seemed to indicate that would be the case, yet again, with the first live action adaptation of one of the biggest franchises in the realm of PC gaming.  Early box office numbers seem to suggest otherwise.

The film thrusts viewers into the dying world of Draenor – the Orc homeworld.  We don’t know why it’s dying, but things are grim for this tribal race of warriors.  Hope for the Orcs lies beyond a portal into a new world.  To open and sustain this portal, the Orcish shaman Gul’dan harnesses the power of a mysterious magic known as “the fel.”  It’s a dark magic fueled by death, and a major driving force in the film’s plot.  The amount of energy required to open this portal is immense as Gul’dan harvests the life force of thousands of captives to lead an invading force into this new world, Azeroth.

As a relative newcomer to the lore of Warcraft, having only played one of the original games and less than 20 hours of World of Warcraft, I expected to be lost going into this film.  From the early reviews, it seemed like this was going to be a tale that would only make sense for viewers with a background in the established mythos of Warcraft.  However, I found this assumption to be hugely inaccurate.  While there were moments early in the narrative that felt confusing, the exposition, both from character dialogue and situational context, helped to weave those threads into a coherent plot that was genuinely enjoyable.

The basic premise of the film is rather simple:  a warrior race is moving to a new home, but the natives there don’t take too kindly to that invasion – especially since those invaders are working hard to kill everything in their path.  The way it progresses and the subtle intricacies peppered in the story’s intertwining subplots elevate the basic foundation of the plot and creates an entire world rich with fantasy lore and memorable characters.  It’s not as straightforward as a brutish horde encroaching on a civilized world.  There’s internal conflict from within the tribe as some Orcs begin to question if what Gul’dan is doing is right for the Orcs, or if he’s leading them down a destructive path that blasphemes their heritage and traditions.  The trailers for the film hint at unlikely alliances being formed as a result of these internal conflicts, but when these events take place in the film, the payoff is grand.  It not only sets up one of the best action scenes in the movie, but also unveils new mysteries that send viewers off to fantastic new locations as the players in the Alliance try to stop the rest of the devastating Horde from breaking through from Draenor and destroying the world of Azeroth.

While I can’t say that there’s anything particularly outstanding about the plot – nothing life-changing or deeply impactful – the story manages to be entertaining for the film’s 2-hour runtime.  The fantasy lore is deep and intriguing.  It doesn’t ease viewers in, necessarily, but it does a great job during the 120 minutes you’re in Azeroth to get you caught up.  It doesn’t go out of its way to remind viewers with callbacks or reiterating plot points; instead, exposition in this world feels natural with characters expecting their associates to remember a previous plot point without having to repeat it.  Some viewers may suffer during a first viewing, but the end result feels more organic than hearing a rehash of dialogues and ideas.

The world of Azeroth is a fantastical one filled with numerous fantasy races, powerful mages, devastating warriors, and fearsome Orcs.  The characters in the world are natural in this fantasy realm.  The dialogue is a blend of pseudo old timey expressions melded with contemporary English to give each line a fantasy feel without alienating audiences by being hard to follow.  The only confusion really comes with trying to keep track of characters and locales by name.  As strong as the cast of characters is, the otherworldly nomenclatures are definitely not easy to remember.

Being a fantasy action epic, there’s plenty of fantasy action to be had in Warcraft.  The world is inhabited by formidable warriors and powerful mages.  The Orcs that invade Azeroth are these gigantic, brutish beasts that wield proportionally large weapons.  These massive foes dwarf the humans of the alliance and their prowess of using pure force is downright terrifying when you see them in action.  The combat scenes are as intense as they are entertaining.  Unlike other fantasy films where the heroes are just slightly outmatched in strength by their foes, the Orcs in Warcraft are towering mounds of muscle that can toss a horse without breaking a sweat.  These aren’t end bosses in dungeons, these are the grunts in this army – each one just as powerful as the next.  It’s a genuine blast seeing just how devastating they can be in combat.

It’s not just the war hammers and battle axes that have this devastating impact.  Sorcery is also hugely important in the world of Warcraft.  The previously mentioned “fel” is a terrifying dark magic that feeds on life energy and can be used to bestow or, more appropriately, infect others with this power.  There are a number of spells that make an appearance in the film with each having this startlingly forceful power.  Even a teleport spell feels impressive when the bass reverberates throughout the cinema.

Warcraft is a huge IP.  Millions of gamers are still logging countless hours in World of Warcraft.  The franchise is no stranger to other mediums, and film feels like the next logical step for the brand.  And it’s one that makes sense.  The universe is huge, and the action lends itself well to a summer blockbuster.  Thankfully, the lore is interesting enough to keep the plot moving forward when characters aren’t engaging in combat.  It’s a loud, fun, summer flick that has plenty of depth to keep viewers invested.  While it may not win any awards, it’s certainly entertaining and absolutely worth a watch.

 

Good – 3 / 3

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

“The third film is always the worst.”  This pseudo self-aware line is spoken as a not so subtle nod to the less than stellar reception X-Men 3: The Last Stand received.  And, as painful as it was hearing this piss poor attempt at irony, it couldn’t be more true.

X-Men:  Apocalypse is the third film in the new X-Men timeline and follows the events of the X-Men sequel / reboot Days of Future Past.  While Days of Future Past had its faults, it still stood out as one of the stronger entries in the X-Men film franchise.  Sadly, the legacy of the excellent First Class does nothing to elevate Apocalypse above mediocrity.

The film opens strong enough with a thundering score and the titular En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) and his four henchman marching to a ritual to transfer his consciousness.  We’re treated to a fun, if a little clumsy, action scene right off the bat before the film tosses up the title card… and then devolves into a muddy mess of mediocrity and wasted potential.

The majority of the film is set in 1983, over 20 years after First Class, and it does little to emphasize this point aside from a few period outfits and a Return of the Jedi marquee.  Despite the cast having aged only 5 years since this new (old) class of heroes was introduced, we’re thrust into yet another decade with little to no reason.  Really, the only cues we have, aside from the punk clothing and movies playing in cinemas, that any time has passed between films is the damage done in the last two movies is barely a passing thought to anyone in this universe and one of the characters has a family now.

With First Class, and to a lesser extent Days of Future Past, the characters felt new and refreshing.  Even if we had seen them before in these films, the new interpretations added a new layer of depth.  In the original X-Men film, we were given a glimpse into what turned Erik into Magneto.  First Class took us deeper into that character evolution with an extended look at Erik’s time in Auschwitz and Michael Fassbender giving us a Magneto that, in spite of his feelings toward them, is more human.  The relationship between Charles and Erik in First Class gives more weight to each instance you hear the line “old friend” spoken in the original films.  It’s a compelling relationship and one I’d love to see more of, but one that takes a back seat to some of the new gifted youngsters as Apocalypse tries desperately to bridge the gap between the old and new.

While Days of Future Past did little to develop that relationship further, being essentially another Wolverine movie, the characters in that go ‘round were actually fun to follow.  Apocalypse shifts its focus to follow Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, and Scott Summers in their “first” appearance in the franchise.  I’ve never been a fan of how Cyclops has been presented in the film franchise, being a bit of a whiny douche, which is disappointing because he was always my favorite in the comics.  Apocalypse somehow manages to make the character even less likable than the James Marsden iteration of the character.  I understand, he’s going through some unexpected changes that are difficult to handle, but the stilted performance, cringe-worthy dialogue, and lack of chemistry do nothing to make those changes relatable – or even tolerable.

On the topic of dialogue, the script is downright terrible at times.  With a hodgepodge of graceless exposition, ham-fisted attempts at humor, and standard, impact-less “us versus the world” hero speeches, you’re sure to shake your head more than a few times at just how utterly stupid these characters can sound when they open their mouths.  That’s not to say that it’s all bad – there are moments with true dramatic weight, but I think that has less to do with the script and more to do with Michael Fassbender’s better-than-this-movie-deserves performance.  Each scene he’s in is mesmerizing, with one in particular striking nearly every emotional cord.  It’s a shame, then, that he’s such a small presence in the film.  Each scene with Erik is like watching a different movie.  A good movie.

The primary conflict in X-Men:  Apocolypse centers on the return of Apocalypse as he gathers an army of mutants to push the reset button on the world so the strong can survive and start anew.  It’s an idea with potential:  all-powerful being hell-bent on world destruction and domination surrounds himself with other, like-minded powerful beings to see that plan through.  Unfortunately, it’s wasted on unnecessary subplots and stupid characters.

Apocalypse keeps four henchmen nearby and, of those, only two are actually interesting in any way.  Olivia Munn as Psylocke is hard to watch – even if she is just a blip on the radar in the film – and the inclusion of Angel is downright baffling (I don’t remember him being in his forties in The Last Stand).  Alexandra Shipp’s turn as Storm is a vast improvement over Halle Berry’s, but she gets about as much screen time as Psylocke – which is a shame because she manages to be one of the few enjoyable characters in the film.  Apocalypse himself is bland and a waste of Oscar Isaac’s talent as the blue makeup and boring progression do a fine job of making him as unrecognizable as he is uninteresting.  There are brief moments where you can see a glimmer of what could be only to be pulled back down by a groan-inducing line someone managed to choke out.

There was an opportunity to build toward something bigger with ApocalypseDays of Future Past reset the timeline and created the possibility to do something new; instead, they went with another paint-by-numbers standalone superhero flick.  While some of the action is enjoyable and the time you get to spend with the Magneto subplot is absolutely worth watching, there’s little to nothing else in this film worth recommending.  It’s like a cocktail of one part good movie, two parts painfully mediocre movie, and one part absolutely horrible movie.  While it’s not downright terrible as a whole, it rarely ever tries not to be.

Meh – 2 / 3

Writers needed!

It’s becoming more and more challenging to post regularly as I continuously work on other projects.  PowerUp is still something that I love doing, but I don’t have the time to commit to it that it really deserves… so I need your help.  Entertainment writers, game and film enthusiasts, people with strong opinions… I need you!  If you have any passion for the entertainment industry and are vocal about your passions and opinions, I’d love to hear from you.  Simply send an email with the subject line “Write For PowerUp” to “poweruponline AT outlook DOT com” and I’ll get in touch with you.  I’d like to hear your area of expertise; tell me your favorite movie, game, and band; and provide a brief writing sample in the body of the email.  ABSOLUTELY NO ATTACHMENTS!  Word documents, .pdf files, pictures… none of it.  If there is an attachment, you will not be considered in any capacity.

Please note this is not a paid position.  PowerUp does not have a revenue flow and is entirely for sharing your passions in entertainment.  What I’d really like to see is some more views that differ from my own (I’m primarily an Xbox gamer, I have a Windows Phone, and I’ve got Windows 8.1 running on all of my computers… so, anybody who is outside of that Microsoft loop would be a breath of fresh air for my readers, I’m sure).  I’d like to see PowerUp feature more mobile entries focusing on Apps as well as indie games.  Film and music are also areas of opportunity.

Thanks for your interest, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Andrew T.S. Bedgood

Introducing Duskland: The Webseries

I know my activity on here has been sparse lately, and it’s truly regrettable, but I’ve been actively working on a couple new projects – one of which I’m ready to unveil today.  Some time ago, I started writing a collection of short stories thematically inspired by The Twilight Zone and dubbed this collection of stories Duskland.  While I’ve only published two tales under the Duskland banner (Freefall and The Tale of Another Job), I’m always brainstorming new ideas for when I have the time to commit them to paper.  Despite only publishing two Duskland tales, it’s something that is always on my mind and something that I’m always looking to expand.  It is for these reasons that I’m excited to announce a web series based on my Duskland tales.  The first episode will be an adaptation of The Tale of Another Job – which is available for reading and download from the Duskland blog – and production is already underway.  The web series will be produced in cooperation with Unity Films with future episodes being original stories crafted specifically for film.

Job Promo Poster 1

Dante’s Inferno film adaptation in the works

A film adaptation based on the Visceral Games title loosely inspired by the epic poem is currently in the works. The game’s story sends a battle hardened Dante on a murderous rampage through hell in search for his love, Beatrice. While there’s little resemblance to the tale that inspired it, the game (an unashamed God of War clone) was a lot of fun.

The film is being backed by Universal Pictures and will be directed by Fede Alvarez who recently helmed the Evil Dead reboot. A script is being written by Jay Basu.