6-23-11:  Review--Kick-Ass

by Brian LeTendre

And the late to the party award goes to--me. I missed Kick-Ass when it came to theaters last year, but it arrived on Netflix a couple weeks ago, so I finally got to see it. In short, it’s pretty much exactly what I wanted from the movie version of Millar and Romita Jr.’s comic.

For those that never read the story, Kick-Ass follows Dave Lizewski, a comic nerd that decides to pursue his dream of being a superhero by putting on a scuba suit and patrolling the streets. When someone film him protecting a stranger from a group of thugs and getting the crap beaten out of himself, he becomes an overnight internet sensation. 

This bring him to the attention of two parties--a father/daughter crime-fighting team who go by the names Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and a mobster named Frank D’amico who Big Daddy and Hit Girl have been waging war on. Kick-Ass gets sucked into the middle of the conflict, and mayhem ensues.

For the most part, the movie remains faithful to the comic, and the few changes that were made I actually liked better. The action was very well done, particularly the scenes with Big Daddy and Hit Girl. I wasn’t sure that Hit Girl’s character would survive the transition from comic to film,a s she’s basically a 10 year old, foul-mouthed ninja, but it did. Chloe Moretz was great as Hit Girl, and Nicholas Cage was equally great as Big Daddy. In fact, the weakest of the cast was Kick-Ass himself, Aaron Johnson, who I thought was trying to channel Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker a little too much.

All in all, Kick-Ass the movie is just as over the top as Kick-Ass the comic, and that’s really saying something. It’s rare that a story like Millar’s gets adapted without being watered down, and this movie doesn’t water down a thing.

4 out of 5 Red Mists

5-31-11:  Review--The Hangover Part II

by Brian LeTendre

My review of “Hangover 2” can be summed up with the old cliche: “If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like the second one.” The movie is essentially a carbon copy of the first one, with some jokes that are better than the original, and a few that fall flat. And much like the first movie, seeing Bradley Copper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms interact on  screen together is worth the price of admission alone.

“Hangover 2” sees Ed Helms’ character Stu getting married. The wedding is going to be in Thailand, where’s Stu’s fiancee Lauren’s family is from. Stu invites Phil (Bradley Cooper) and, against his better judgement, Alan (Zach Galifianakis). As you might imagine, once in Thailand, things go a little crazy, and the crew is left searching for a missing member the morning after a bender they can’t remember.

Just the fact that the movie is set in Thailand provides a whole new treasure trove of material for the cast to work with. Drug dealing monkeys, transgendered prostitutes and Interpol sting operations are just a few of the things the group gets involved with as they try to track down the little brother of Stu’s fiancee before the wedding is supposed to begin.

As I mentioned, the jokes in “Hangover 2” are hit and miss. It’s much more twisted than the first movie, so the funny moments are really funny. But it’s less consistent overall than the original, so you may be going longer periods of time without a big laugh, which makes the movie feel a little slow at times. The chemistry between Cooper, Helms and Galifianakis is so great though, they carry the weaker parts of the film. Helms in particular really stands out, as he is constantly the voice of reason, reacting to everything going on around him.

So, if you’re a fan of the first “Hangover” like I was, you’ll have a great time with “Hangover 2.” Since it took it $86 million in its first weekend alone, I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing these guys again in a year or two, and I can only imagine what that might entail.

4 out of 5 Three Best Friends That Anybody Could Have

P.S.  As with the first movie, be sure to stay for the credits, as the snapshots of the evening’s events are absolutely hysterical.

5-18-11:  Review--Smallville Series Finale

by Brian LeTendre

Historically, I’ve never been a huge fan of "Smallville." While I love the premise of the show, I felt like the creators never lived up to their end of the bargain with the viewer. They were basically asking people who watched the show to be OK with never seeing Clark don the Superman costume and become a full-blown superhero. That’s a tall order, and if I am going to accept that, then I need the creators to consistently blow me away with deep characters, varied storylines and a real sense of excitement and discovery as Clark learns what it means to be a superhero.  The show didn’t do that for me, so it lost me somewhere around the second season, and I’ve really only checked in on the show periodically for the past.

That is until the final season was announced. I made a decision to watch this whole season, as I knew enough of what had gone on to not be out of the loop, and I wanted to see how it all came together. I’ve enjoyed most of this final season, and I enjoyed the series finale, even if it didn’t play out exactly as I had hoped.

The strongest part of the finale for me dealt with the impending marriage of Lois and Clark. It was the focus of most of the first hour, and I think that’s OK. Knowing what a huge part of Superman’s life Lois is, it was good to see the creators really emphasize their relationship.  I also really enjoyed the wraparound story of Chloe reading a Smallville comic to her and Ollie’s son some years down the road. It sort of gave a timeless feel to the episode and it was a great nod to comics in general. Finally, when Clark did don the Superman suit, it was pretty great. The final shot of him running across the rooftop of the Daily Planet as he rips his shirt open was awesome.

The part of the episode that didn’t work for me at all was the whole Darkseid/Apokolips thing. There really is no payoff to the storyline that had been building for most of the season. There’s no fight with Darkseid, and the way Superman deals with Apoklolips is kind of dumb. Because you never really get to see what a threat Darkseid is, the whole situation never feels like the big event that pushes Clark to embrace being Superman.

The piece that falls somewhere in the middle for me is the return of Lex Luthor. The way Lex comes back is pretty interesting, as is the way his storyline tires to connect with the comic continuity. However, the actual confrontation between Lex and Clark falls flat. It’s too short, and it lacks the emotion that Lex’s return should have had.

Much like the series overall, the finale of Smallville was a mixed bag. What carried it for me was the Lois and Clark aspect of it, and it reminded me what an important part of Superman Lois actually is, and what a great character she is overall. I almost want to go back and watch the seasons with Lois in them just to see that relationship grow all over again.

3.5 out of 5 

5-11-11:  Review--Thor

by Brian LeTendre

“Thor” was a movie that I didn’t really have clear expectations for going into. I have never been a huge fan of the character--I don’t dislike him, he just never really resonated with me.  I also had not read J Michael Straczynski’s run on Thor, which plays a pretty big influence on the film. Despite all that however, “Thor” was a really fun experience, and probably the best Marvel film for the whole family since Fantastic Four.

The story in “Thor” is fairly simple. Thor is close to inheriting the throne of Asgard from his father, but he basically throws that out the window when he almost starts a war with the Frost Giants, who the Asgardians have had a tenuous truce with for many years. In the early part of the movie, Thor is an arrogant and impetuous warrior, and his manipulative brother Loki takes advantage of that to drive a wedge between Thor and his father Odin. Following a falling out between father and son, Odin casts Thor down to earth to teach him a lesson in humility. Loki takes advantage of the situation to make a power play, and Thor must redeem himself, regain his power, and save the day before Loki’s plans are completed.

What impressed me most about the movie was the great job director Kenneth Branagh and his crew did with the mythological aspects of the film. Asgard looks great, the Frost Giants were well done, and the costume designs had a medieval feel without feeling like a “Lord of the Rings” ripoff.

Chris Hemsworth was great as Thor, and I thought he and Natalie Portman had a fun chemistry together.  In fact, I felt like all of the parts of the movie that took place on earth had a fun vide to them, which contrasted the darker storyline involving Asgard. The whole feel of the film reminded me a lot of what I liked about the early Superman movies, which is why I think “Thor” makes for a good family film. It never gets to dark, and there’s a heart to it that captures what superhero movies should be about.  Not to mention, the underlying message about the stubborn kid realizing his parents were right all along is a good one.

While “Thor” may not have all the high moments of “Spider-Man” or “Batman Begins,” I think it makes for a better family film and one that’s accessible to younger audiences because of it’s heart. “Thor,” much like “Fantastic Four,” is a movie that may not feel hardcore enough for long time comic fans, but is a good superhero tale for all ages.

4 out of 5 Don’t Forget to Stay After the Credits

4-18-11:  Review--Scream 4

by Brian LeTendre

In 1996, the original “Scream” reinvented the slasher movie.  By both paying homage to and poking fun at the conventions of the slasher genre, it was one of those rare films that was able to juggle humor and horror and be good at both. “Scream” was the quintessential theater experience--sitting in a crowd of people that were laughing one minute and shrieking the next. Even “Scream” 2 and 3 were great to see in the theater, even if they didn’t live up to the first one.  So now, 11 years later, “Scream 4” brings back the original cast and creative team to revisit the slasher genre it turned on its ear 15 years ago.  And while it may not be the revolution it was back then, it’s a really fun ride that has something to say about the state of slasher films, as well as the social media culture we live in today.

“Scream 4” brings Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott back to Woodsboro on the 15th anniversary of the Woodsboro massacre. Sidney’s written a book about her experiences with the Ghostface killer, and she’s in town to promote it. Officer Dewey Prescott (David Arquette) is now Sherriff Prescott, and he’s married to Gail Weathers (Courtney Cox), whose career has pretty much went into the tank since the murders stopped a decade ago.  Sadly for everyone, the Ghostface killer has also returned to town to terrorize Sidney and kill off her remaining friends and loved ones, including her cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), who has become a prime target for the killer.

The laughs, the cameos and the horror movie references that the series is known for are all present and accounted for in “Sream 4,” which is pretty much what I expected. What I didn’t expect however, was just how much I’ve come to love the main characters of the series. Seeing Sidney, Gail and Dewey again had this familiar feel of coming home, and Wes Craven did a great job of really connecting with us 30 and 40-year olds that grew up with the Scream series. There’s a lot of commentary offered up about how the slasher has really gone in the tank over the past 10 years, and “Scream 4” is a great example of what the genre can and should be. Think about it: when was the last time you saw a good, old-fashioned slasher film? Most of today’s horror movies rely on excessive gore or quick edits to try and generate scares. “Scream 4” makes you remember what it’s like to feel tension--to know that the killer’s in the house.  There are no quick edits, there’s no jumping from one scene to another to induce cheap scares. Craven lets a scene (and a scare) build, and when the killer attacks, it all unfolds right before the viewer’s eyes.

There are times where the dialogue is super cheesy, and sometimes Craven and company’s message can get a little heavy-handed, but overall “Scream 4” really works, especially in its ability to keep you guessing about who the killer is until the big reveal. While the movie may have not reinvented the genre again, it certainly reminds us of what it can be.

Here’s hoping this is the beginning of a new trilogy.

4.5 out of 5 Welcome Returns

3-17-11: 'Battle: Los Angeles'

by Matman

For the life of me I can’t imagine why all the hate for ‘Battle: Los Angeles’! The film premise isn’t original; aliens invade us and begin to just wipe us away for our resources. The difference here is that there is so much character development, maybe people get confused!

The film starts at the beginning of a global alien invasion. As this is event is happening worldwide, we meet the players who will make the final stand against the invasion force in Los Angeles! Led by a retiring staff sergeant (Aaron Eckert) who reluctantly is forced into making tough choices he never wanted to make again. The group is sent to a police station to rescue civilians trapped there during the invasion and of course all hell breaks lose!!!

And that is the plot!

But it’s not the plot that makes this move…or even the special effects! It’s the characters as they head into battle. It’s the pacing as they end up in a no win firefight and it’s the sadness of losing a fellow soldier. Director Jonathan Liebesman has made a film about an extra terrestrial invasion and somehow makes it fresh and new. Combining the best of ‘Cloverfield’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’, this two hour ride packs emotion, fear and a surprise… patriotism. Seeing actors running around in modern marine gear, you begin to realize the sacrifice all our fighting men and women make for us today. Sad that it takes a movie for me to realize this.

Aaron Eckert plays Sgt. Michael Nantz, a combat vet who hasn’t had a chance to stop, reflect and recover from a mission gone wrong. Eckert is so tough in this film, when he finally lets his guard down; it’s a very emotional thing. Ramon Rodriguez and Michelle Rodriguez are excellent in their combat rolls and Bridget Moynahan adds a nice touch to the solid cast.

I know reviewers are critical in the dialogue and cookie cutter characters, but this is an amazing movie that I think does everything right! It’s fun, loud and entertaining! It keeps you in suspense the entire time like a good war movie and tickles your geek bone every time you see the aliens and their far superior tech!

‘Battle: Los Angeles’ is the movie ‘Independence Day’ should have been. See it and believe!

Matman Rating: 5 out of 5 meteor showers you don’t wanna see!

3-5-11: Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics

by Matman

75 years is a long time to be doing anything! So when you think that DC Comics has been producing the greatest comic characters is amazing! ‘Secret Origin: The Story Of DC Comics’ is not only a lesson in comic book history, but a history lesson in world events and how comic books played a part.

Narrated by the hunky Ryan Reynolds, ‘Secret Origin’ is an incredible look at the beginnings of the company that would produce such iconic characters as Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. On the disc you see and hear first hand why our favorite characters were created, sold and marketed over the years. Follow the heroes as they helped fight World War Two, battled sensorship and then fought to find an audience. Hear firsthand as Joe Kubert, Paul Levitz, Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and many more of the worlds greatest creators tell the story behind the stoies and why certain things happened.

But it’s not just the comics or DC that are covered. You’ll see how Superman and Batman translated to both the small and big screens, watch Frank Miller discuss the reasons behind ‘Batman - The Dark Knight’ and get into the mind of Neil Gaiman and the birth of the Vertigo line.

No comic fan, especially DC fans can afford to miss this. Having the future Green Lantern’s voice tell the tale of the Golden Age to the current comic market is a nice touch. After all, he will soon become a big part in the next 75 years of DC.

After spending time with this DVD, you will know your favorite characters and creators better than you did before.

Matman Rating – 4.5 out of 5 history lessons!

2-18-11:  The Rock Returns To The WWE, Will Host Wrestlemania

by Brian LeTendre

If you hadn’t heard already, the big news in the entertainment world this week was that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returned to the WWE. The Rock showed up on Monday Night Raw and announced that he will be guest hosting Wrestlemania 27 in April.  Despite haveing been gone from the WWE for seven years, The Rock pretty much picked up exactly where he left off, giving a 20-minute speech that was both hysterical and awesome.  

I absolutely love The Rock.  I was one of those guys who grew up on the Hogan-Piper era of wrestling, then got away from it for years.  The Rock brought me back. The first time I saw him give a speech I was captivated.  The entire time he was in the WWF/WWE, he was the most consistently entertaining guy on the roster.  When he left, I left.

It’s been great seeing The Rock make movies over the past few years, although none of them have really allowed him to entertain in the way he did when he was a wrestler.  From the second his music kicked on the other night, it was electric.  The crowd went insane.  Watching the video, I got chills, and even a little teary eyed (don’t tell anyone).  This was The Rock I knew and loved, and he had not lost a step.

I don’t know what the long term plans are for The Rock and the WWE, but at least we can all enjoy the next month and a half of cameos, speeches and all around fun that The Rock will bring back to the WWE.

Check out the player below to see The Rock’s fantastic appearance from Monday Night Raw.

You can check it out in the player below.

11-26-10: Young Justice  The Pilot (Cartoon Network)

by Matman

I know what you’re going to say…”Matman is very biased towards the Teen Titans. He can’t be objective with this review.” On the contrary! I feel my expectations make me a harder judge of anything ‘Titans’ and force me give a more honest review. So just minutes after the pilot episode of ‘Young Justice’ just ends I put my thoughts down to paper…or computer or whatever!

Following four crimes committed by ice based baddies, Kid Flash, Robin, Aqualad and Speedy join their contemporaries on a trip to the Hall of Justice. This is a big deal to the sidekicks, until they find out that they are not getting full access. It gets worse for the kids when they find out from Speedy that the Hall is only a public front and that the real action happens 22,000 miles above the earth in the JLA satellite. Speedy has a hissy and leaves just as two distress calls come in; one from Zatara (that the JLA handle) and a fire at Cadmus that the three remaining youngsters decide to take on. But fighting the fire they discover lower levels and adventure beyond anything they expected!


This one hour debut was amazing in so many ways! Most of the voices seemed to match (especially Kid Flash) and the story moved and felt like a comic book, which is what it’s supposed to be! As I watched it with my daughters who were both big fans of the Teen Titans cartoons, I got that old feeling of sharing something cool with my kids. There were some humorous moments but not too many that cheapened it. But there was a very powerful, very emotional moment that had my eyes a little misty. When Superman first looks at Superboy he gave him a look that a father gives his baby the moment they are born. 

Young Justice proves DC has the most visual and magical characters in comics. This is a series that could have serious legs if kept on the same path. Creators Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti have done a great job giving the characters a cool modern look without altering things too much. I feel a show or movie will be successful if the creators don’t add or take away what makes the characters awesome in the first place! 

Unfortunately we won’t be seeing any new Young Justice shows until January when the show premiers. But in the meantime, grab some Teen Titans or Young Justice comics until then.
Matman Rating: 5 out of 5 test tube heroes!

1-12-11:  Review--Bob's Burgers

by Brian LeTendre

If the name Loren Bouchard doesn’t ring any bells, then maybe “Dr. Katz” and “Home Movies” do.  Loren Bouchard was a producer on the brilliant “Dr. Katz” before going on to co-create one of my favorite shows of all time, “Home Movies.”  Both shows were well known for their style of dialogue-driven humor, and those shows pretty much made a star out of H. Jon Benjamin, who most recently played the lead character in another hillarious show, “Archer.” Benjamin has re-teamed with Bouchard for “Bob’s Burgers,” so my expectations for this show are very high.  While the first episode wasn’t amazing, all of the ingredients are there for “Bob’s Burgers” to be great.

The show centers on Benjamin’s Bob Belcher, who runs a small hamburger restaurant with his wife and three kids.  In episode one, Bob is investigated by the health inspector for possibly using human remains in his bugers, a rumor started by his own daughter when she tried to spice up her 'show and tell' project at school.  Complicating matters is the fact that the health inspector is an old boyfriend of Bob’s wife, who has never really gotten over her.

As expected, Benjamin is the highlight of the show, as his delivery can make any dialogue seem funny.  Of the rest of the family, I found Bob’s son Gene to be the funniest, especially when Gene was wearing a hamburger costume and flagging down potential customers using a voice-altering megaphone that emits fart sounds.  Overall though, the humor was hit and miss, and a little too bland for a first episode.  I would blame Fox, but this show is sansdwiched between The Simpsons and Family Guy, who demonstrate weekly that the Sunday night animated block can get away with pretty much anything.

Both “Dr. Katz” and “Home Movies” employed a slower-paced and more subtle form of humor than the shows that currently make up Fox’s animated lineup.  “Bob’s Burgers” seems to be following that trend, and it may take a few epiosdes for it to find its feet.  I just hope that it doesn’t get overshadowed by the shows around it, and that viewers can appreciate the unique brand of humor that Bouchard and company bring to the table.

3 out of 5 Wet Kisses