Friday, October 17, 2014

My NYC Comic Con 2014 Experience

I've been to conventions in the past. In my 20's, my friends and I went to quite a few and got to meet a lot of the cast of the original Star Trek. It was great fun, and I was looking forward to getting back to one, after the smaller Wizard World Con I went to last year.

Was I ever unprepared for what I experienced.

I've never been to anything this big. I've been to cons, sporting events, and short of a NASCAR race, I have never seen anything this big before. I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event.

I'm sure a lot of people probably think of these events as a bunch of basement dwelling nerds getting out of the house. While there were indeed a lot of people there who may have fit that stereotype, they were actually small in numbers. This was people from all walks of life, from the comic/movie nerds to families with their kids, all gathered together in a celebration of the things they love, all under one roof. A united community of very different people, but all with common interests.

Everything was represented here. Science Fiction, Horror, Comic Books, Television, Movies, Fantasy, collectibles....if it's a part of geek/pop culture, it was there.

It's so easy to get lost in the never ending stream of things there to purchase. Things you have never seen, or have only heard about. Things you have always wanted, things you use to have, things you never knew you wanted. It's a collectors dream. The artists there were also all over, and so many different styles, as with the merchandise, almost any type of art that interested you, you could find there.

Some of the highlights for me included.....

The cosplayers. I've made or helped make costumes in the past, so I know what it is like to create these things, and you could see the amount of work so many people put into their costumes. The quality ranged from obviously amateur, to nothing short of professional. But it didn't matter what the quality was, the passion was there, in everyone.

I got to see a Q & A panel with Ron Perlman, star of Hellboy and Sons Of Anarchy. He spoke about a book that he just released, memoirs of his life and career. The way he spoke about it, and the things he talked about that were in the book, made me want to read it. He was very funny, very personable. He took questions from the audience and answered all of them. You could tell he is a guy who is extremely grateful for his career and the people that got him to where he is. I'm glad I got to see him.

Stephen Amell. He's the star of the TV show "Arrow", one of my current favorite shows. I got an autographed picture of him and got to speak to him, albiet very briefly. He also comes across as a guy who really embraces his fans and is grateful for his success. Even got a fist bump from him, which may seem silly, but it was still cool. He comes across as a regular guy, no ego.

Now this next one may throw some people, but I think there will be those who will appreciate it.

I was walking down one of the many aisles, and I came across a table where I saw a gentleman signing autographs. I did not recognize him on sight, and looked at the table where it said his name....Peter Robbins. I'm sure some of you are saying "Who?" I said the same thing until I looked below his name.....

The original voice of.......

Charlie Brown.

I was in awe. I grew up with the early Peanuts animated specials. I have such fond memories of A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and others. To get to meet the man who voiced Charlie Brown in those shows that i love so much, and speak with him for a short time, meant as much to me as meeting any big name celebrity...perhaps even more.

My only disappointments were the fact that we went on Friday, and there were even more things going on Saturday & Sunday that would have been great to see. Next time, we will make sure that we get tickets for the weekend so we don't miss anything. Also, we wanted to get a copy of Ron Perlman's book, as he was autographing them, but the books sold out quickly.

All in all, a great experience, a bit overwhelming, but next time we will be more prepared. Anyone who has not been to this kind of event, and has any interest at all, should experience it at least once.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review - "Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes"

Following up the first excellent film in this revised series, “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes” was definitely going to be a tough job. The end of that movie left you wondering where they would take the next movie. After the director, Rupert Wyatt departed, it left a big question mark as to who could follow up such a great effort. I can safely say that director Matt Reeves not only met, but exceeded expectations.

Set ten years after the events of Rise, Dawn starts with the apes living in their own community, away from humans, living in peace, and wondering if human beings even exist anymore. Well, the humans show up, and the conflicts begin.

What was so great about this movie was that you saw the struggles on both sides, and characters who were very similar in their fears in beliefs and sometimes in behavior, both ape and human. You could understand both sides, and you could see the inevitable conflicts that were to come in this very delicate situation. Everyone wants to live in peace, but you know that as much as either side wants it, somehow, something will go wrong.

Andy Serkis again delivers a stellar performance that needs few words to convey the emotions and struggles of the ape leader, Caesar.  The rest of his companions in the ape community are also equally well portrayed. Koba, played by Toby Kebbell, was also great as the ape who suffered greatly at the hands of the humans in Rise, and does not trust them at all, and wants nothing to do with them .I really liked that the apes, although capable of speech, choose to use it only when they feel it necessary. Speaking of their speech, it is done very well, they just don't talk like humans, they talk like a species that is just learning how to talk, which makes it very believable.

The human cast, led by Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”) are also very solid, although no one gives what I would call a stand out performance, but that is not to say that anyone wasn't good. Gary Oldman wasn't in the movie as much as I though he would be, but delivers his usual solid performance as Dreyfus, the leader of the surviving humans in San Francisco, who cannot see the apes as anything more than mere animals, and considers them nothing but a threat to the human race.

The ape effects are absolutely stellar, you really believe you are watching animals, not actors. The music, composed by Michael Giacchino, is wonderful and adds a great emotional element to the movie.

To say much more about the story would give too much away, so I won't elaborate. I'll just say that there are so many great moments, I can't even pick one that I can say was my favorite.

The build up to the inevitable conflict is exciting, and the action set pieces really deliver the goods. There were even a few moments I got a bit teary eyed. Make no mistake , this is a dark movie, but one that is absolutely fantastic. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you liked Rise, you will love Dawn. I can only hope that director Matt Reeves will return for another movie, he's stepped up to the big time now, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review - "RoboCop" (2014)

Where do I start.

I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it either. 

The original “RoboCop” is one of my favorite movies. So I went into this cautious, as remakes tend to always miss the mark when it comes to capturing the magic of the original. Comparison to the original is inevitable, as much as the film maker's tried to make their own movie, you will always have the original in your mind and comparing the two. But I tried as hard as I could to give it a fair try.

The cast....Joel Kinnaman was fine, but I didn't feel a connection with his Alex Murphy like I did with Weller's Murphy. With Weller, I immediately like Alex Murphy and dread what is coming for him. I didn't feel that here. Considering that you spent more time with the character before his transformation into Robocop, that's not good. Michael Keaton was fine, and Gary Oldman was Gary Oldman. Jackie Earle Haley's character was the most interesting, but they spend almost no time with him, he's just kind of there, they should have developed him a bit more. He's kinda just there to hate Robocop, for no real clear cut reason. 

The beginning kind of dragged a little, they took a bit too long to really get into things, and that dragged the movie down a bit. It picks up, but they should have tightened it up. I agree with the others who have said there is no clear cut villain. Keaton is shady, there's some corrupt cops, and a drug dealer that was pretty much a waste. I didn't like that they try take away his humanity after he becomes Robocop...did they really think his humanity wouldn't present a problem? The whole “illusion of free will” thing I wasn't buying, I knew it wasn't going to work. Oh, showing him without the suit? Hated it. Totally not necessary. What is it with movies lately where they have to show you everything? You can't just say something and not show it anymore. 

It was nice to see the family interaction before he becomes Robo, and should have made his tragic event even sadder, but it didn't. In the original, Murphy dies a brutal , painful, horrible death. That didn't happen here, in fact it seemed to almost be an afterthought. I felt nothing when it happened. Oh he got pretty badly damaged, but it didn't seem important to the film makers to show us just how horrible it was. After he becomes Robo, the family didn't seem to serve any purpose at all. This all comes down to one thing....Murphy should have died before becoming Robo. Takes the family out of the equation, and makes him an actual machine. His death gives everything more gravitas.  I think for me what it all came down to was this movie lacked the one thing that made the original so special...heart. Didn't feel that here at all. Felt kind of empty. I had no emotional connection to anyone in this movie. That's a problem.

Visuals were very good, I liked the new slick look of the ED-209 (although I still like the original better, but this one was cool). The action sequences were shot pretty good, I really liked the shootout that took place in the dark. A bit too much with the shaky cam, but not enough that it drove me crazy. I barely noticed the score, except when they used the original theme redux, which was ok, but didn't have the grandeur of the original theme. It almost felt like things were being set up for another movie, even though the way it ended a sequel isn't clear cut. Even the ending seemed a bit anti-climactic.

They didn't make many references or lift too many lines from the original. The two that stand out most were a of the worked fine for me, and the other did not. The one that did not, felt like it was put in there for nostalgia sake. It didn't work in the scene they used it in, and if you have seen the movie, you know what I mean. If you are gonna use a classic line, DO IT RIGHT. 

All in all, as I said before, I didn't hate this movie, even though it may seem like I did. It was swiftly paced after a slow start, and it did entertain me on a basic level. 

While I do applaud the film makers for trying to do something different with this remake, in the end it doesn't matter how new and shiny everything is, if you don't have heart, if you don't have a bad guy you wanna see killed, and a hero (or any character) you don't connect with, you don't have much at all.