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A rundown of the biggest films to hit so far this summer…
            A great improvement on the first Captain America film in 2011. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have honed their craft shooting parody action scenes on NBC’s Community and Winter Solider greatly benefits from this. Possibly the first film in the Marvel extended universe to have any actual stakes, this will hold us over nicely until Guardians of the Galaxy/Ant-Man/Dr. Strange hit theaters in the coming years.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


            Another fun but non consequential romp from Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield. Ridiculous and cringe worthy coincidences litter this film all the way through but it doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining. A lot of universe building stuff à la Iron Man 2. Paul Giamatti is wasted in a sea of third act villains.

FilmFire review:
3.25/5 forms


            A total joy to watch. Intense slow burn through the beginning stages of the film until we get what we’ve been waiting for. Bryan Cranston shines but is the only relatable character in the movie. The lead actors are terribly written and given less than nothing to do, but it doesn’t stop the film from being wildy enjoyable. Insane ending climax that is brutally satisfying.

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


            A return to form for Bryan Singer, his first time directing an X-Men film since 2003. Fast paced and much more enjoyable than any of the X-Men movies from the last decade, Days of Future Past is a a ton of fun to watch. It manages to successfully combine the old and young casts into one film without seeming bloated with characters, something Sony should learn to do with their rambling Spider-Man franchise. The interesting take on time travel mechanics makes it a joy to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


            A complete butchering of the original fairy tale, there’s almost nothing of merit here besides Angelina Jolie chewing scenery. Completely takes the evil out of the witch and sanitizes all of the dark and broodiness from the original. She doesn’t even turn into the dragon. Maybe fun for families with little kids, but this is another case of Disney cashing in.

FilmFire review:
2/5 forms


With the introductions and bag-packing out of the way from the first film, the new movie jumps straight into the action and doesn’t relent until the cliffhanger ending almost three hours later.
-Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

Smaug ignites the excitement missing from Jackson’s sluggish first Hobbit flick, and the stunning visuals — cinematography, costuming, set design, effects — set it apart as one of the most impressive fantasy films ever made.
-Tyler Hanley, Palo Alto Weekly

If you awaken that beast you will destroy us all

The more time I can spend in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, the better. Another 3 hours in Tolkien’s fantasy world for Desolation of Smaug? Count me in, and I’m going to love every minute of it.

There have been numerous complaints about all the differences between this film and The Hobbit as a novel. Books don’t often translate too well to film and this is surely one of those cases. The Hobbit contains so much exposition and inner dialogue and characters meandering here and there, it would be a disaster of a film to do a straight one to one version of the book to screen. The Desolation of Smaug, however, is an “adaptation” of the novel and much has been changed to make for a better theatrical experience. Some things just make more sense visually on a screen than as written word and vice versa.

It never ceases to amaze me, the courage of Hobbits…

Sure, I was disappointed we didn’t see a lot of Beorn’s house, but how cinematic would it have been to watch the dwarves settle in and listen to Gandalf tell the story of what we’ve already watched? The wood elves forest parties are some of my favorite scenes from the book but they just wouldn’t work correctly in the context of the film. Remember how tedious the dwarf dinner scene from the first Hobbit was? Not too exciting.

If you can manage to turn off your thought process that compares the film to the book, the movie will be that much more enjoyable.

We’ve been blind, and in our blindness,
our enemy has returned.

What the film does suffer from is the same pacing issues from last years An Unexpected Journey. This second chapter seems to barrel along at rapid speed for the first hour and a half or so, bouncing from one set piece to the next, mixing in an action sequence here or there. As mentioned above, the scene at Beorn’s home is painfully short (for good reason, I suppose) and the entirety of Mirkwood flies by as well. But by the time we get to Lake Town and Erebor, the film has slowed down considerably, but not so much to it’s detriment. You COULD cut 20-30 minutes from this film without much damage, but why would you when it’s so much fun to watch?

The final few acts of the film revolve around the reveal of Smaug himself, and it is a joy to behold. Much like Gollum in the “Riddles in the Dark” scene from the previous film, Smaug is an unmatched technical achievement and so much fun to watch. The movie is worth it solely to see him slithering through all that gold treasure under the mountain. Voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch with some additional distortion techniques, Smaug should go down as one of the better cgi creatures in film.

Dragonfire and ruin! That is what he will bring upon us! He cannot see beyond his own desire!

A much better all around film than An Unexpected Journey last year and a lot more fun, The Desolation of Smaug is a fantastic journey back to Middle-earth. The climactic ending sets up next years conclusion perfectly; and much like when the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended, I’m already beginning to feel the emptiness set in for when this trilogy is over. Maybe after another 9 year break Peter Jackson can find a way to bring us back to this magical land just one more time.

…What have we done?

FilmFire review:
4/5 forms


Although people who loved the book will find much to love here – it really is a good movie – the potential impact is too soft for the epic it aspires to be.
-Kevin A. Ranson, Movie Crypt

About as good a film as you can squeeze out of a morally complex source work given today’s studio environment.
-Mark Keizer , Alt Film Guide

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy

Decades in the making, Orsen Scott Card’s “unfilmable” novel has finally hit cinemas. The first screen adaptation of Ender’s Game: Was it worth the wait? Read on to find out.

understand him well enough to defeat him

The cinematic version of Ender’s Game is, for good reason, much more streamlined and less meandering than the novel. The backbone and structure of the book are still in tact, essentially with quick cuts between the major scenes and set pieces in place of the smoother transitions the book uses. Understandably, this is about the best the filmmakers could have done considering the massive scale and stakes of the book. There is only so much that can fit in a 115 minute run time and unfortunately a lot of the books charm and whimsy is lost in translation.

then in that very moment I also love him.

As far as portraying the central storyline from the novel as cinematic as possible, the film does a pretty remarkable job. Battles at the Battle School are fully realized and well done. The effects look great across the board, particularly in a recurring all-cgi dream/game sequence that Ender has. The alien race from the book is hidden from view until the very end of the film, which works great. The creature design is unique and incredibly interesting to look at. One relatively minor flaw is the mundaneness of the set design. Battle School and Command School seem like nothing more than endless mazes of intersecting generic hallways and rooms that are shiny and metallic in nature. A little variety to these environments could have gone a long way.

One of the major flaws inherent of adapting a book of this scope to the screen is a loss of detail. This is especially evident in Ender’s Game. All the meat is there but most of the connective tissue is missing. There is virtually zero time for tension, buildup, character development or the exploration of many of the relationships Ender has in the novel. It feels like story beat after story beat, checking each major plot point off until the film is over. What ended up on the screen is very well done, it’s just missing a lot of the little things that made the book great.

And then, in that very moment when I love him…. I destroy him.”

Fans of the book will find a lot to like, but it’s not the same experience as reading it for the first time. Those who are unfamiliar with the source material may get confused at times due to the lack of quick nature of the films plotting and lack of explanatory dialogue. The way the ending of the film is written is jarring and somewhat off-putting, being much too tonally different from the scenes immediately prior. Thus, the film finishes on a somewhat sour note.

Ender’s Game is a valiant attempt at adopting the unfilmable novel and is much better than many anticipated. However, a lot of the idiosyncrasies and quirks of the book are left out and do the film no favors. It’s still a solid sci-fi film and worth checking out, who knows when we’ll see another Ender film?

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


Neill Blomkamp … keeps the action coherent and fills the plot with clever twists that make up for some of the insulting obviousness of the political allegory.
-Craig Seligman, Bloomberg

An exciting and visually stunning film, one which perhaps holds too much to a familiar path, but which is undeniably thrilling.
-John Lyus, HeyUGuys

You can save everyone.
There’s no coming back from this.

Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s much anticipated follow-up to his 2009 sleeper hit District 9. The world has been wondering: Will Elysium meet the high expectations of matching the success of Blomkamp’s freshman effort?

The year 2154: humanity is divided between 2 worlds…

The results are mixed, but mostly land on the positive side of things. Elysium is a fairly worthy successor, but thematically isn’t as strong of a film as District 9. Blomkamp is undeniably a talented film maker but it seems the studio may have interfered just a bit too much with his artistic vision on this one. A comparison of District 9’s modest $30 million budget to the $115 million production of Elysium proves that there was much more at stake here, and certain choices the film makes are catered to a mass audience appeal.

…We live on Earth…
In the year 2154, the wealthiest inhabitants of Earth have split from the planet and formed a utopian space habitat known as Elysium, built by the Armadyne Corporation. Citizens of Elysium take advantage of luxuries that include access to private medical bays that instantly cure any illness. Meanwhile, The rest of the population remain below in the disease riddled and overcrowded slum of a planet that Earth has become.
…The privileged live on Elysium.

Minister Delacourt (Jodie Foster) is the Secretary of Defense on Elysium. Her job: to enforce the strict Earth immigration laws and protect the Elysium border at all costs. She is the commander of the Civil Cooperation Bureau, keeping Earth in line and its citizens in place. Her strict zero tolerance beliefs when it comes to Earth immigration isn’t shared by the bulk of the Elysium government, but she will do what it takes to protect Elysium from illegals.


Jodie Foster is terribly miscast in this role. The character is extremely one-note and we never completely find out her motivations for being as evil as she is. Why does she have this unadultered hatred for the citizens of Earth? We never learn her backstory and there is no character arc to be found. Foster deserves a lot better and had very little to work with here.


“Undocumented ships are approaching elysium airspace…shoot them down!”

Agent M Kruger (Sharlto Copley) is a crucial weapon and first line of defense in Secretary Delacourt’s arsenal to keep Elysium free of illegals. One of Elysium’s most important Earth-based sleeper agents, Kruger has untold human rights violations to his name and is a professional killer. His bloodlust is unmatched.


Kruger is one of the most outrageous and intense villains I have ever seen in a film. Copely holds nothing back and plays this character as a completely psychotic madman thirsty for blood. It’s pretty fantastic to watch his insane performance, especially during the final act of the movie when he is chasing down Damon’s character. It’s a spectacle to behold.

“Whoever has this, has the power to override their whole system”
Our hero, Max Da Costa, (Matt Damon) is a citizen of Earth who doesn’t “play by the rules”. After growing up as an orphan in the streets of the now shantytown Los Angeles, he spent a good chunk of his young adult life in and out of prison. He finally commits to pulling his life together until he experiences lethal exposure to radiation during a workplace accident at his job as an assembly line worker. Told he has just 5 days to live, Max seeks a way to outmaneuver Delacourt and Kruger, breach Elysium security and receive the medical attention he needs.

Damon is always outstanding in the action hero role and he does the same great work here. What makes this character even better are the biomedical implants he has surgically added: a neural transmitter and exoskeleton suit.

We’re going to break into the most heavily guarded place in the universe

Like District 9, the story of Elysium has a very strong political allegory under the surface, although it’s much more heavy handed this time around. It’s painfully obvious how badly the film wants to make statements on border control and class discrimination but a little more subtlety would have been nice. District 9 was much more nuanced with its own metaphor for the South African apartheid, to greater effect.

The world building, artificial intelligence, creature effects, sound design and CGI are all outstanding in Elysium. It is an absolute visual feast to watch. The shantytowns and slums of Earth look incredibly intricate and detailed and juxtapose perfectly with the sun-bathed landscapes, swimming pools and palacial mansions of Elysium. The Earth police force is made up of merciless drone robots that look and sound fantastic, even the parole officers are mechanized mannequin-like robots that fit the world perfectly.

Elysium is an incredibly fun science fiction film that falls a little flat when it comes to articulating it’s themes. The actors are all solid, aside for the terribly written evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil character played by Jodie Foster. Sharlto Copely is a standout as deranged mercenary Kruger, the film is almost worth seeing just for him. Visually, the film looks phenomenal. The environments are all beautifully imagined and the characters are designed flawlessly. Although the heavy-handed take on inequality issues weigh the film down a bit and detract from the cool and interesting visuals, Elysium is still one of the better films of the summer and a blast to watch.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms


… a holdover to distract us from what we’ve been craving all along… it’s still better than the last Wolverine sorta-solo outing, so there’s that.
-Kevin A. Ranson, MovieCrypt.com

The Wolverine is surprisingly dour and uneventful, at least by the carnage-n-claptrap standards of modern superhero movies
-Luke Buckmaster, Crikey

What they did to me, what I am, can’t be undone.
The Wolverine, the latest from James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) is a very unique film especially considering the summer of destruction we’ve had so far:

  • Star Trek: Into Darkness left San Fransisco and London in ruins
  • Humans fled planet Earth in both Oblivion and After Earth
  • Superman and Zod completely destroyed metropolis in Man of Steel, with complete disregard for innocent human life
  • Iron Man 3 featured major Los Angeles landmarks being blown to pieces by Extremis
  • The world all but ended in Pacific Rim and World War Z
  • This is the End…enough said

We’ve seen so much destruction that even Damon Lindelof is getting tired of it.

The Wolverine tries to be the opposite of the films mentioned above: A comic book adaptation with a small scale, very little carnage and a minimal body count.

“Eternity can be a curse. The losses you have had to suffer.”

It’s not quite a character piece but not quite a superhero movie. With much smaller set pieces and scaled down action sprinkled throughout, this film is essentially a look into the character’s psyche. Not quite what we’re used to in a big budget summer tentpole release, it’s almost a jarring change of pace and even slightly refreshing.

“A man can run out of things to care for, lose his purpose.”

The year is 1945. Wolverine is imprisoned in an underground cell in a Japanese detainment camp in Nagasaki. As a pair of B-52 bombers appear in the horizon, his cell is opened by an officer named Yoshida, who begs him to escape and save himself. Instead, Wolverine pulls him inside and shields him from the blast as all other human life on the island is decimated by the bomb. Yoshida watches in horror as Wolverines body is burnt to a crisp then heals itself before his eyes.

“That day ain’t here yet.”

Flash forward to 2013. Disheveled, lonely and living off the land in the Canadian wilderness, Wolverine is haunted by visions of Jean Grey, whom he killed in X-Men: The Last Stand. Eventually located by a mutant named Yukio, Wolverine travels with her to Tokyo per the request of Yoshida, who is now on his deathbed. The reason? Immortality.

“You have struggled long enough. I can end your eternity…”

“I can make you mortal.”

For the great majority of the The Wolverine, it plays as a straight old-school samurai action film with Wolverine fighting bigger and better enemies as he progresses, resulting in his confrontation with the “big bad” as his biggest challenge yet at the end of the film. And for the most part, this progression works well. At least enough to keep an audience entertained. The opening scene in Nagasaki is incredible, most of the characters are impressively written and compelling, and there is even a fascinating sequence on a train that puts a similar action beat in The Lone Ranger to shame. Not to mention the ending post-credit tag is easily the best we’ve seen in quite a while.

“Trust me, bub, you don’t want what I got”

But there’s still something missing from The Wolverine. It’s not boring and it’s very well acted but it almost feels as if the events are taking place in slow motion. Some of the lesser action sequences seem dull and uninspired and the setting for much of the film takes place in drab and ugly environments that aren’t exactly fun to watch. One of the villains named “The Viper” makes no sense within the context of the movie and is shoehorned in, presumably to balance out the cast between mutants and human samurai.

“You’re a soldier, and you seek what all soldiers do…”

“An honorable death, an end to your pain”

Despite the natural progression of enemies Wolverine faces throughout the film, the final battle goes off the deep end and is laughably ridiculous. It’s the kind of ending one would expect from a more traditional comic book movie that feels the need to escalate the stakes to the point of absurdity instead of trusting the audience to understand the character without blatant symbolism.

Better than all of the comic book adaptations we’ve had this summer and BY FAR superior to the atrocious X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine brings a slightly refreshing change of pace and a much lower body count. Despite it’s pacing issues and uninspired final battle scene, it’s very unique and worth checking out if you’re a fan of the X-Men.

FilmFire review:
3.75/5 forms


As adventures in mechanised mayhem go, the picture does, of course, crush the Transformers franchise into iron filings.
-Donald Clarke, Irish Times

Is this going to give me enough of a story and enough characters to carry the amount of rocket-punching and monster-bashing that I want to see? The answer is yes.
-Widgett Walls, Needcoffee.com

We always thought alien life would come from the stars, but it came from deep beneath the sea; a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean.
Pacific Rim is Guillermo del Toro living out his wildest cinematic dreams: Giant robots battling giant aliens for the fate of mankind. The ultimate “fanboy” movie, Del Toro pulls no punches as blood is spilled, cities are destroyed, and millions are killed in the wake of a global-scale alien invasion through a portal in the Pacific Ocean.

“Something out there discovered us”

The year is 2013 when the first “Kaiju” attacks. (Literal Japanese translation of Kaiju: strange creature. Think Godzilla, Gamera or Mothra.) First just thought to be an earthquake in the middle of the ocean, a creature later emerged off the western United States coast, attacking and destroying the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, causing much destruction to city. Finally, it was killed by a nuclear bomb but the resulting carnage was devastating. This incident later became known as K-Day, the day the Earth went under attack.

The world prematurely took a collective sigh of relief, but the devastation had just begun. The next cities attacked were Manila and Kabo; the Kaiju started appearing in increasing frequency as traditional means of warfare had lesser and lesser affect. The top scientists on the planet began to brainstorm betters means of protection from the Kaiju. Inspired by robot and monster action figures, a prototype was created that would eventually become the Jaeger, Earth’s best hope for survival.

“There are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger you can finally fight the hurricane. You can win.”

Essentially a massively scaled suit of armor, Jaegers are a mobile exoskeleton weapon and the Pacific Rim’s first, last and only line of defense against the Kaiju. They were designed as giant humanoid mechs that could stand up to the Kaiju without resorting to nuclear weapons.

In order to fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.

“The Yaeger program was born. Two pilots, our minds, our memories connected. Man and machine become one.”

Jaegers are simultaneously controlled by multiple pilots from inside the cockpit, located in the “head”. The pilots are equipped with a special armor plating, allowing them to connect with the machine itself. The minds of the pilots are also connected to each other through a “neural bridge” that allows them to control the movement of the Jaeger as a team.

By 2024, there were forty six confirmed Kaiju attacks on Earth, resulting in astounding Jaeger losses. It was speculated that the Kaiju were beginning to adapt and learn how to defeat the Jaegers easier and quicker, in both land and water. The frequency of Kaiju had begun to increase so quickly that the world began to fear and prepare for multiple breaches at once, known as the Double Event and Triple Event.

This is where the events of the film begin.

Pacific Rim is a complete spectacle to watch. The astounding visuals and creature design are absolutely breath-taking. One major flaw of a lot of science fiction is boring or monotonous battle/fight scenes. This is fortunately a problem Pacific Rim does not have. The progression of Jaeger/Kaiju battles escalates to great effect throughout the first 2 acts of the film. As the stakes get higher and the body count climbs, the Kaiju become stronger and more intelligent. However, if Pacific Rim has one problem, it’s that the second act is so good the finale has nowhere to go but down. Because of this, the ending did leave me ever so slightly underwhelmed, but only due to the expectations set by the previous events of the film.

Today, at the edge of our hope, at the end of our time..

Most action films depict little about the setting and surrounding environments outside of the immediate story taking place. In Pacific Rim, the world building around the story is impeccable. The global effect of the chaos is shown as various countries around the planet try and fail to come up with solutions to stop the invasion. Kaiju religions spring up, organ harvesters sell body parts on the black market, the political and social ramifications of the tragic events are on full display here. It’s very refreshing for a film to broaden it’s scope outside of the main story arc.

..We have chosen not only to believe in ourselves, but in each other..

The characters of Pacific Rim are all fun and incredibly likable, although they hit every cliché in the book. Clichés are cliché for a reason: they’re entertaining and they work. Here we have the American badboy rebel who disobeys orders, the hard-nosed but noble British leader who motivates with an epic speech, a small-statured but deadly Asian woman with a tragic past, etc. All by the book action characters, but incredibly enjoyable and fun to root for.

..Today we face the monsters that are at our door..

This film is an absolute blast. It far surpasses the disappointing sequels and superhero films we’ve had this summer. Pushing the meaning of the word “Blockbuster” to a new level, Pacific Rim breaks new ground in the action/science fiction genre and hopefully is just the start of a very exciting new franchise helmed by Guillermo Del Toro.

..Today we are canceling the apocalypse!

FilmFire review:
4.5/5 forms


Almost more action movie than zombie movie, World War Z is less about the zombies than it is about the effect the outbreak has on the world. And it works.
-Tim Martain, The Mercury

A supremely well designed film, WWZ re-animates the zombie genre as Brad Pitt outsmarts the voracious undead in a compelling, creepy take on how the world might face its end.
-Simon Weaving, Screenwize

If you can fight, fight. Be prepared for anything. Our war has just begun.
World War Z was under a lot of pressure going into it’s opening weekend. A very troubled production had led many to wonder if this could be one of the biggest busts of the summer. Horribly over budget and faced with an entire rewrite (by none other than Damon Lindelof) and reshoot of the third act, World War Z was going to have to do gangbusters to be considered a success.

Fortunately, it did just that. Already eclipsing 160 million after it’s third weekend, it’s apparent that audiences weren’t concerned with any of the behind the scenes drama and just wanted to watch Brad Pitt vs the zombie apocalypse. So much so that sequel talks have already taken place, with Pitt set to produce and star in future installments.


Someone could probably use a breath mint
World War Z is an incredibly fun, expertly paced zombie movie. Essentially the zombie version of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, World War Z dives deep into mystery/thriller territory, bringing the search for “patient zero” to the forefront. This mystery element works really well as it allows the film to mostly forgo the usual tropes and jump-scares of a traditional zombie movie. With something more important at stake than scaring the audience, the film can strive for a lot more.

For the first two acts, the film essentially implements video game logic to progress through the story. The characters find clues in various locations that lead them to the next piece of the puzzle. The action climax of the movie takes place at an enormous set piece of Jerusalem, and is definitely one of the better action sequences we’ve had in any film this year so far. The third act (Lindelof’s contribution) slows the pace down substantially and sets a different tone for the end of the film. It is slightly jarring but is really fun to watch and does a good job wrapping up the character arcs and plot points the audience has become invested in.

Life as we know it will come to an end in 90 days. It’s on us to change that.
Brad Pitt plays a typical Tom-Cruisian role as a mild mannered every-man who is pulled into the middle of a global emergency. It sounds like a cliche action movie role but there’s a reason we keep seeing it over and over: it’s entertaining and works really well. It’s fun to watch Pitt run around, piecing clues together, saving the world, murdering his infected friends and neighbors, etc, etc.

His family, on the other hand, is almost entirely expendable and only exist to try to humanize Pitt a bit more and tug at the heartstrings a little. It doesn’t work. Most of what happens to the family in this movie is completely unrealistic and directly contradict the motiviations of quite a few different characters.


That’s a big pile of zombies
Smarter and a lot more fun than the most of the offerings so far this summer (the disappointing Man of Steel particularly), World War Z is an entertaining, well paced and mostly intelligent zombie film. There are some incredible action sequences and a solid performance by Brad Pitt the action star. As a unique and interesting take on zombie movies, World War Z is highly recommended.
Every human being we save is one less we have to fight.

FilmFire review:
4.25/5 forms