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Reorganizing for the New Year

December 30, 2013

Hello? Are you there? Oh, there you are.

Sorry, things have gotten way too busy for me with recent work and personal commitments. Some days I just can’t get everything I want to get done done. Some days I just don’t want to do anything. There’s just so much for me to do now. I hope things will settle down a bit with the Holidays winding down. I want to get back to writing on some of the many things I was able to check out.

I wish I had a time machine to help squeeze in the extra bits of time to get things done. Then I could write about the latest things about “Doctor Who” and the 50th Anniversary, or I hope to catch “The Hobbit” in the theaters while it is still showing. I can also go back to the DVD pile and start writing about my favorite action adventure yarn. If I am really ambitious, I would go hunting for the back issues of “Joe Adventure” and feed them into the computer, even the last unpublished ones.

It’s all a big ball of wibbley wobbley timey whimey stuff. With the new year and ironing out the schedule, I am going to try and commit writing every other week about entertaining adventures in cinema, anime, and other fantastic sources of action adventures and all things nerdy and fun.

Now where did I put my review of “Man of Steel?”

 

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Doctor Who- Day of the Doctor

November 23, 2013

Spoilers.

As of this writing, in just a few hours, the BBC will be broadcasting the 50th Anniversary episode of this classic TV series. It is a huge milestone for any television series. I may not be able to watch it until it comes out on DVD.

Crap.

I quickly became a newly minted Whovian after watching a near marathon session of Doctor Who episodes to see what the fuss was all about. I found the stories to be charming, brilliant, mash-ups of science fiction, fantasy, history, and other bits of wibbly wobbly timey whimey stuff. The acting has been superb, with David Tennant and Matt Smith inhabiting the role of the Doctor. All the episodes that I have been able to watch shows great storytelling, and grand adventures.

The only other television show that I know of that has survived  nearly as long with such a huge following is ‘Star Trek.” They share several similarities in how the series survived and remains a tent pole in pop culture. “Star Trek” survived its initial cancellation thanks to syndicated television. It branched out into other media, movies, and spinoff TV series. “Doctor Who” also flourished in reruns and branched out into media like radio and animation. There were some spin off TV shows as well set in the same world as “Doctor Who.” There was a gap of time when the series was not being shown on TV, leaving fans disheartened that the series may never be revived. That gap lasted about 16 years until a new team bought the show into the new millennium, and with the success of the new series, it has led to this.

This hotly anticipated episode has been shrouded in secrecy, with little or no details being released until these last few weeks before the premiere. This includes the trailers for the episode, some shorts that leave several clues in the story, and some snippets of the episode itself. The trailers have been just as puzzling, showing a jumble of scenes explaining next to nothing about the overall story, only that it brings two of the incarnations of the Doctor together to render aid to the unknown one who was not worthy of the name of the Doctor.

This is a stellar event, having two of the most popular actors that have played the Doctor share the same episode. From the trailers and the bits of interviews that the two have shared, they have gotten along smashingly and had a grand time with this episode. I am a little disappointed that the other Doctors have not been announced as appearing in the episode.

Of course, that’s a big gray area.

Paul McGann, who played the Doctor in the 1996 movie, made an appearance in one of the short prequels for this episode, which shows him becoming the War Doctor. If this is any indication on what we can expect from this episode, many fans will be delighted with the story. I do hope it will be filled with surprises. I hope I am able to watch it.

Crap.

John Hurt plays the one who betrays the name of the Doctor. In Season 7’s cliffhanger of an ending, we see the Doctor enter his own timestream to rescue his companion, “The Impossible Girl” Clara Oswald. She had risked her life to save the Doctor from The Great Intelligence, a psychic entity that had a long grudge with the Doctor, and vowed to destroy him.

In leaping into his own timestream, the Doctor encounters many versions of himself, which Clara sees. There was one, who lurks like a shadow, which gave the Doctor pause. It was revealed to be one who seems to have committed atrocities that went against his principles. It was then revealed that it was the Doctor as played by John Hurt.

Whoa.

I’ve watched the episode repeatedly and am impressed with the story leading up to this. The Doctor must confront a part of his past that seems to be affecting other parts of his timeline, thus meeting the 10th and 11th versions of him. And what does his cherished companion Rose Tyler have to do with this episode? Will we see River Song show up? And will other versions of the Doctor appear? I can’t wait to see this episode! Are they going to stream it? Or do I have to subscribe to cable and get BBC America to tune in?

Crap.

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The Adventures of Tintin

November 17, 2013
Tintin (Jamie Bell) finds a model of "The Unicorn" in "The Adventures of Tintin."

Tintin (Jamie Bell) finds a model of “The Unicorn” in “The Adventures of Tintin.”

My globetrotting buddy Paul introduced me to two important European comics while hanging out in our youths. One was “Asterix,” laugh out loud funny tale of Gaul warrior Asterix and his friend Obelix who fight to protect their village, mainly from the Romans. The other was “The Adventures of Tintin,” a young, earnest reporter who finds himself caught up in some amazing adventures and discoveries.

I have enjoyed both series immensely growing up and hoped one day I would find their adventures animated and can enjoy their antics on television or in the theater. Alas, I was not able to find anything at that time. My interest in anime gave way to the European comics for quite some time. When I learned that Steven Spielberg was planning on creating a film version of this, it showed promise that Tintin would become a thrilling, action packed adventure movie. Spielberg himself became a huge fan of the work of artist Herge’s creation after many comparisons to Indiana Jones and his adventures.

Coproduced by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson with a script by Stephen Moffat, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish, “The Adventures of Tintin” is the first film of an ongoing series, adapted from three of Tintin’s adventures where he meets his longtime friend Captain Haddock. This was Spielberg’s first venture into motion capture animation.

The craftsmanship that went into this animated feature shows, as Spielberg and Jackson were both fans of the series shows. It has the right touch of action and adventure that Spielberg is known for, with Jackson’s experience with motion capture helped generate the fantastic adventure we see. This form of work allowed the look of Tintin and the other characters to meld between reality and Herge’s cartoon characters. It is an interesting blend that gives the characters a hint of realism, while remaining true to the art of Herge.

The film adapts plots from three of Tintin’s published adventures. These elements tie together the best from these stories to form one grand cinematic experience. I found the whole story to be charming, full of adventure, and with the right amount of wit, comedy, and drama.

The adventure begins with Tintin buying a model ship of ‘The Unicorn’ at a street market. He is quickly approached by others to have the model purchased. He refuses and takes the model home. He examines the model to see what the fuss was all about, other than it being a rather exquisite model of a legendary ship. The model is broken as Tintin’s dog Snowy takes on an intruding cat. A mysterious tube slides out of the model ship and under Tintin’s cabinet. Distraught by the broken model, Tintin proceeds to investigate the history of the ship itself as it may lend some information on why so many people want it.

Returning home from his research, he finds his apartment trashed as an apparent thief made off with the model. He is once again approached by Barnaby, one of the men he met earlier who wanted to purchase the model. He is gunned down while trying to enlist Tintin’s help and the model. Tintin’s friends Thompson and Thompson help investigate the situation, while dealing with a notorious pickpocket. Clues lead Tintin to the other man who was interested in purchasing the model ship, Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine. He confronts him at his home, Marlinspike Hall.

Discovering that Sakharine did not steal the model and has one exactly like it, Tintin returns home to clean, where he finds the mysterious tube. In it is a piece of parchment with a poem and symbols written on it. It seemed to be some sort of clue in regards to The Unicorn’s sinking. He keeps the clue inside his billfold, which is taken by the pickpocket Aristide Silk.

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Captain Haddock and Tintin meet for the first time.

While trying to find the pickpocket and his next lead, Tintin is kidnapped and taken on board the freighter Karaboudjan. Here he learns more about what Sakharine is up to, and why he was looking for the models- the parchment hidden within the models. Tintin is uncooperative. While in captivity, he plans his escape with the help of Snowy, who managed to follow and stow away on the ship.

During Tintin’s escape, he meets the Karaboudjan’s erstwhile captain, Archibald Haddock. Drunk and seemingly out of sorts, the two become allies and manage to escape together, while the crew search frantically about the ship, hoping not to do harm to the Captain. Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Snowy managed to escape on a lifeboat.

Sakharine does not believe Captain Haddock to be dead, and has his men to search for them. Meanwhile, Tintin and Haddock are trying to reach shore. They manage to commandeer Sakharine’s men and their plane and race towards the city of Bagghar. While on board the Karabourdjan, Tintin learns that there is a third model of the ship, and one more clue that may lead to the wreckage of the Unicorn. Tintin and Haddock crash in the desert in trying to get through a storm. After wandering the desert for some time, they are rescued by the French Foreign Legion.

While recovering at their fort, Haddock is given alcohol, which puts him in a recollective stupor. He is able to tell his family history, which explains his connections to the history of the Unicorn and why Sakharine wants the models.  With the pieces of the puzzle starting to fall into place, it becomes a race to find the last model ship and clue that solves the mystery of the Unicorn.

The movie has a little bit of an uneven pace, but has a fantastic adventure with a grand mystery that motivates both hero and villain to solve. It brings a lot of likeable characters together and takes them on an incredible adventure. What may have soured some on the movie is the unfamiliarity of the characters, as the character of Tintin is well known in Europe. If you move past this, you will find a terrific fast paced adventure with a truly puzzling mystery that drives the movie.

The cast is fantastic in being a part of the animation process. Andy Serkis brings a lot of gusto and humor to the character of Captain Haddock. Daniel Craig is nearly unrecognizable as Sakharine, whose villainy is sinister laced with a bit of humor and wit. Jamie Bell breathes life to our hero, giving him his earnest charm. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost scene steal as Thompson and Thompson.

I found the whole film to be a solid, enjoyable adventure. It captures the right amount of action and adventure with a mystery at the center of it all. I can’t wait to see the next version, it can’t come soon enough.

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

November 17, 2013

The Dark Knight Returns

Way back in the day, when comics were starting to dwindle in sales and seemed doomed, there was one comic book that took the industry by storm and help reignite the industry. Helmed by Frank Miller, one of the hottest writers and artists of the time, “The Dark Knight Returns” was a look at Batman as if he were living in the real world and aging along with it.

In this tale, Bruce Wayne had retired from being Batman, after seemingly overcoming his enemies and fighting the good fight for Gotham City. He is still restless, possibly due to survivor’s guilt and his own need to fight crime. As crime escalates to new levels in Gotham, he is drawn out of retirement to face old foes and new criminals in the brave new world that was the 1980’s. No longer were the stories campy or fantasy driven. The stories would be like today’s modern crime procedural, almost visceral and stark for the time.

It became the inspiration and template for future alliterations of Batman and many of the other superhero comics. It grounds Batman into a human being- a near perfect soldier and detective doing what he does best, protecting the citizens of Gotham from crime. Here he is seen in a different light- edgy, paranoid, and ruthless in his battle against the criminal element.

“The Dark Knight Returns” has been lauded as one of the best graphic novels ever, with sharp writing, cinematic pacing, and overtones that make the story timeless. Miller’s art with Klaus Jansen’s gritty inks and Lynn Varley’s use of dull colors makes the story even more noir and pulp, adding extra texture to the story.

Now when I learned that DC Comics was going to produce an animated version of “The Dark Knight Returns,” I thought “Oh this can’t be good.” Even though it has influenced many of Batman’s incarnations, from the Animated Series, “Batman Beyond,” and the many recent film versions the character, I found it hard to believe they would adapt this story. The whole novel is very expansive, and in many ways like “Watchmen,” unfilmable. I took the news with a grain of salt as it was in the hands of Bruce Timm and his team, the creators of “Batman: The Animated Series.”

The original release of “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” had the feature divided into two parts. The animators adapt Miller’s designs from the comic, but the cel shaded images lack the graininess and grime that seem to permeate the graphic novel. It is bright and colorful, but it does a lot to retain the noirish feel of the novel, leading to the build-up of the key storylines that make up the four issue miniseries. I have the version that has both features stitched into one long movie.

The feature shows Bruce Wayne participating in a race and losing control of the car. He narrowly survives the resulting crash and walks away. Wayne seems content in his retirement, but is actually restless. There is still talk of the legendary figure of Batman, and how his presence has affected the many criminals he has encountered and incarcerated in Arkham Asylum. One of his oldest foes, Harvey Dent, or Two Face is recovering here, with plastic surgery repairing his scarred visage. His recovery and sudden disappearance, along with the escalating crime rate and ‘Mutant’ gang problem galvanizes Wayne to become Batman again.

Batman hunts down the criminals that have now plagued the city. It is not as easy as his age has slowed him down. He soon tracks down Dent, who resurfaces with a terrorist ploy of destroying one of Gotham City’s towers. It is in reality a suicide attempt that Batman manages to stop. Dent now admits the dark half of his dual personality has won over. Batman seems to sympathize with this.

Meanwhile, Carrie Kelley, a young girl that Batman saved earlier from Mutant gang members, has taken inspiration from this and decided to become Robin. She aids Batman as he is nearly beaten to death in a clash between the Mutant gang leader. She manages to rescue Batman from a severe beating and is taken back to the Batcave, where Alfred patches up the injured Batman. She is chosen to become Robin.

In a new ploy to stop the Mutants, Wayne has Carrie infiltrate the gang to spread the rumor of the Mutant leader’s showdown with Batman. The gang leader himself kills the Mayor of Gotham. As a last favor for Batman, Commissioner Gordon helps release the gang leader, where he successfully escapes but is beaten by Batman in a brutal fight.

The presence of Batman has awoken a catatonic Joker, who plans his escape from Arkham Asylum,  feigning his sincerity at reforming. This escalation culminates with his escape from custody during a taping of ‘The David Endochrine Show,’ where he kills everyone in the studio. Batman hunts down the Joker for their final confrontation.

Meanwhile, Superman has been serving the US by fighting for the government and the President. He has been serving in this capacity for some time, with many of the superheroes of the world were forced into retirement. His attention was drawn to Batman and his growing rabble in Gotham.

After tracking the Joker down, Batman has his final showdown with his most dangerous foe. The resulting conflict leads to the greatest confrontation of them all, with Batman fighting Superman.

As far as the adaptation goes, it plays rather well. It conveys the meat and potatoes of the story in most of its unflinching glory. Very little was changed from the graphic novel. The animation is sleek and high quality. The voice acting is impressive with veteran Peter Weller taking the lead as the voice of Batman/ Bruce Wayne. While lacking the baritone that many actors use to voice Batman, his near sinister tone adds gravity to the world weariness of the aged Bruce Wayne and the soldier fighting the war against crime. Ariel Winter is quite chipper as Carrie, almost sounding like the way I envisioned in my mind.

What I found lacking was the ongoing narrative in the story. In the graphic novel, the story is narrated to help carry the story along, much like a film noir or crime novel. Matched with the art, it paints a grim portrait of how the world had changed and why Batman chose to step down. The city of Gotham is a character itself, being grim and riddled with crime. While it is just a backdrop in the animation, it adds to the story by setting the stage and the mood. The graphic novel has a lot of texture to it, matching the story with grim muted shades. The animation seems to just gloss it over.

The animated “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” is a fantastic adaptation of the legendary graphic novel. While very enjoyable, it is hard to compare it to its source material, which in my opinion, is far superior.

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Ultimate Spider-Man

November 2, 2013
Spidey meets Thor the Frog of Thunder.

Spidey meets Thor the Frog of Thunder.

Who doesn’t like Spider-Man? In all of his incarnations, he is still a superhero who has a little bit of snark and drama to him. Taking on the responsibility that his powers bought him, he fights crime in the streets of New York City.

This take on Spider-man is a lot of fun to watch. The animation style is reminiscent of many versions of the comic book. It looks like an updated version of the 80’s “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.”

In this series, he is discovered by S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, Logistics Division) and recruited by Nick Fury to become a better superhero through special training. Since Spider-man leaves a wake of collateral damage in his fight with crime, Fury believes that Spidey could use his help to be a better hero.

This encourages Spidey to become a student in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s training program. His own idols, The Avengers, inspire him to be better than he is now. He works hard to improve his crime fighting abilities while being pursued by many super villains- classic ones from Spider-man’s long history.

In a twist in the story, he is teamed up with other up and coming superheroes. (Another set of classic heroes from the 70’s era of Marvel Comics.) The team of Power Man, Iron Fist, Nova, and White Tiger fight alongside Spider-man in many episodes.

Many of Marvel’s popular characters make cameo appearances and become part of an episode. The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man make a visit in different episodes, setting off different chains of events that Spidey and his team gets caught up in.

For example, when Iron Man appears, he is on the trail of the Living Laser, a former Stark Industries scientist who became a being consisting of photons (light to you and me). Iron Man is trying to stop him from his crime spree. He takes an interest in Spider-man due to his bad dress sense and provides him his own specialized “Iron Spider” suit. Problems ensue with Spidey not being able to effectively control the suit and the Living Laser able to control both the Iron Man and Iron Spider suits.

Another episode highlights the Hulk, in which Mary Jane Watson tries to win a contest by gaining a video interview with Spider-man. Peter/Spidey does it to improve his image and to hang out with is childhood friend and crush. The interview soon becomes a disaster film when the Hulk shows up and starts trashing the neighborhood. It is quite the inventive episode.

There is a lot of action and adventure spread throughout the series episodes that I have watched so far. One of the fun parts of the show is that Spidey constantly breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to the audience, mainly to explain the plot points and make light of a given situation. There are also little cutscenes that remind me of many episodes of “Looney Tunes,” “Animaniacs,” and “Teen Titans,” where they turn a scene into something quite humorous- it is a sight gag of sorts with all sorts of different tropes found in many funny cartoons.

I really like the lighthearted fun this series takes. While there is plenty of action and drama, it is almost balanced by the in-jokes and sight gags. The dialog the characters have are fast and smart. From the jabs that Spidey and Nova take at each other, to the Zen moments Iron Fist uses to input into a given situation, the stories are smart and well written.

Many veteran actors and well known voice actors are part of the cast. This includes Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), J.K. Simmons (J. Jonah Jameson- the same one in the Sam Raimi movies!), Steven Weber (Norman Osborn), Tara Strong (Mary Jane Watson), Chi McBride (Nick Fury), and Drake Bell (as Spider-Man/ Peter Parker). They give great voiceovers and make the characters fun and interesting.

I find the series to be a lot of fun to watch. It is a perfect blend of action, humor, and some lighthearted drama. This show caters towards the fans of the fun-lovin’ crime fightin’ antics of Spider-Man.  It is quite entertaining.

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ParaNorman

October 27, 2013

paranorman

There is something about animation that just captures your attention. With claymation, it brings characters to life using stop motion techniques, shooting the movements of the characters one at a time. “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Wallace and Grommit,” and “The Nightmare before Christmas” are some examples of well done animation done with clay characters.

The marriage of this kind of animation and a great story makes for movie magic. Here in “ParaNorman,” we get a great story of acceptance set against a dark curse. I found this movie to be a great coming of age story in the same vein as “The Goonies,” where a band of kids try to save their homes from foreclosure and  have a grand adventure solving the mysteries of a lost pirate treasure.

Norman Babcock is a seemingly normal kid with a passion for horror movies. He has one gift that seems to ostracize him from other kids his age and making him a target for the school bully Alvin: Norman can see and talk to the dead. He even carries on conversation with his deceased grandmother, who instead of passing on is watching over her dear grandson. He lives in the small town of Blithe Hollow, home to a legendary witch hunt.

School life for Norman is difficult, with the regular bullying from Alvin. Norman is befriended by Neil, another one of Alvin’s targets. Neil does not judge Norman by his odd behavior and thinks that Norman has a cool “superpower.” He even convinces him to find the ghost of his deceased dog so that they could all play together.

During drama class, Norman has a waking dream of Blithe Hollow’s past during the witch hunt. He does not know what to make of it. Later Norman and Neil meet the ‘town crazy’ Mr. Prenterghast, who warns Norman of the approaching danger of the witch’s curse. The witch hunt is part of the foundation of Blithe Hollow’s history, where a witch was found among it citizenry. This witch cursed the founders of the town for condemning her. Norman and Neil ignore him.

Neil and Norman perform the story of the witch hunt as part of the school play. During the performance, Norman has a full blown vision about the witch and the curse. He learns that the dead would be rising soon. Embarrassed by Norman’s antics, his father grounds him. Norman retreats into his room despondent that he is largely misunderstood and that nobody believes him.

Mr. Prenderghast, who dies of a heart attack, comes back as a ghost and confronts Norman in (of all places) the Boys bathroom. He tells Norman that it is his duty to continue his work in protecting the town from the witch’s curse, and that he must read the book at the grave of the witch before the end of the day. The book is still with his body.

Reluctantly, Norman goes to Mr. Prenderghast’s home with encouragement from his grandmother, who believes that Norman has the ability to help quell the witch’s curse. He retrieves the book and takes it to the town graveyard and begins reading the book at the site of the town founders. Alvin had caught up with him and again bullies him. A storm cloud appears with a crone’s face. It begins casting magic powers.  Norman and Alvin soon discover the town founders have begun rising from their graves. The seven began to chase Norman and Alvin who flee in terror.

Meanwhile, Norman’s older sister Courtney tries to find her little brother, who snuck out of the house while their parents enjoy a date night. She goes over to Neil’s house to see if Norman was there. Courtney, Neil and his older brother Mitch go out to searching for Norman. While driving around town, Mitch hits a pedestrian, which turns out to be one of the zombies of the town founders. They cross paths with Norman and Alvin, and together they flee in Mitch’s van, with one of the zombie’s riding along. While trying to defend themselves from the zombie, they race to the Town Hall’s records on the recommendation of his friend Selma. They hope to find the witch’s grave to put an end to the curse.

The zombies have made their way to town and are taken aback by the differences from their time. Discovered by the townspeople, they are not feared but are persecuted for being monsters. Norman and the other break into the Town Hall, but are not able to find the records. In a fit of anger, Norman sends the others away for not believing him or listening to what he has to say. He then tries to confront the witch, who has appeared over the town, striking down the witch iconography peppered throughout the town. He tries to read from the book, which was a copy of “Sleeping Beauty.” The witch strikes him down and he goes flying into the Town Hall.

Unconscious, Norman has a vision of the witch trial, where he learns that the witch was a girl the same age as he, with the ability to communicate with the dead. It also turns out that she is a powerful psychic, creating a powerful curse to raise the dead of the Town Council who persecuted her out of fear of her abilities.  Norman began to understand and empathize with the girl. He now understood the meaning of the curse. He now has to confront the angry townspeople to get them to listen to him and help stop the curse.

This story has several messages in it regarding bullying, finding friends who believe in you, and believing in yourself. It demonstrates what it is like to be alienated for what you are and how you can deal with this by finding those who can help and believe in you. It also shows that revenge against your bullies isn’t the answer to finding peace.

I found this feature to be charming and with a lot of heart. It is a fine adventure that is different from a typical horror/ zombie movie. It just happens to have these elements in them. Instead it is a character study of those shunned by others and how they handle being ridiculed. They in turn rise to the occasion to prove that there is more to them that can be found if only we would listen.

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Get Smart

October 27, 2013

getsmart

Here is another gem of a movie from my weekly visit to the local library, which has become my venue of choice for renting movies. I was interested in seeing this movie when it came out, having watched the series as a kid and being a fan of the spy spoof genre. “Get Smart” was the comedy version of more dramatic TV series such as “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “I-Spy,” and “Mission Impossible.”

A send-up of the James Bond formula, “Get Smart” was the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The lead spy, Agent Maxwell Smart or Agent 86 (as played by the brilliant Don Adams) was a rather exceptional spy, despite being accident prone. He is partnered with Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) a top agent of CONTROL, a CIA-like agency created to thwart the plans of KAOS, an underground spy network along the lines of “SPECTRE.”

The television series had Max and Agent 99 go stop KAOS agents’ evil machinations. Max being a rather rigid stickler for procedure, would use his skills, naiveté, and clumsiness to help stop the devious plots at hand. There would be adventures and laughs as Max and Agent 99 carry out their assignments.

Here in this feature film reboot, Max is played by Steve Carell. Here he is an Analyst with CONTROL who monitors communications for any threats to our nation’s security. He dreams of becoming a field agent, working very hard each year in the annual field agent exam. He even lost a significant amount of weight to achieve his dream.

His skills as an analyst are often ignored by the many active field agents, with the exception of Agent 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and the appreciative Chief (Alan Arkin). Agent 23 has sort of taken Max under his wing, helping with his continued training as a field agent.  After many failed attempts, the Chief had announced that Max had met his goal and was successful in passing his field agent exams. However, he is reluctant to put Max into the field as he is CONTROL’s best analyst.

While Max is consoling himself, CONTROL’s headquarters is attacked by an unknown organization, later identified as KAOS. Max tries to stop a reprisal with the help of Agent 99 (the charming Anne Hathaway) which turned out to be CONTROL agents. With their security breached and all active CONTROL agents’ identities compromised, the Chief reluctantly promotes Max to agent status as Agent 86. He partners with the veteran Agent 99 in trailing the suspected KAOS agents.

Through Max’s analysis of KAOS communications, Max and Agent 99 follow their lead, the Russian arms dealer and KAOS agent Ladislas Krstic. The pair are pursued by a giant of a man (think Jaws from James Bond) who attempts to kill them. They parachute into Russia, narrowly escaping their assassin. They find Krstic at his mansion, hosting an opulent party. Max and Agent 99 crash the party, trying to get the needed intel of what armament and where KAOS plans to use them.

They trail the arms to a bakery in Moscow, which are now identified as nuclear weapons. Max and 99 enter the bakery, only to have Max be captured by KAOS leader Siegfried (an underused Terence Stamp) and his right hand man Shtarker (Ken Davitian). Max engineers an escape while 99 aborts her attempt to infiltrate the bakery. They meet up inside the factory, with Max setting explosives to destroy the factory, burying the nuclear warheads and halting KAOS. The pair narrowly escape the destruction of the bakery’s building.

Max and 99 return to CONTROL only to learn that the bakery that was destroyed was in fact only a bakery. Agent 23 was sent in to observe the clean-up of the bakery but no nuclear weapons were found. Max is accused of being a double agent and is arrested.

Meanwhile, Siegfried has made a terrorist demand to the Vice President threatening the US with nuclear destruction if not paid $200 billion dollars. Largely ignored, they plan to destroy Los Angeles as an example, with the President of the United States (James Caan) in town.

While in holding, Max receives a message from the giant assassin Dalip (Dalip Singh), whom Max convinced not to kill him and Agent 99 while at the bakery. The coded message notes that Los Angeles is the site of KAOS’ nuclear demonstration. Determined to save the city and stop KAOS, Max engineers his escape and races to Los Angeles to stop Siegfried from turning it into a nuclear wasteland.

I found the movie to be quite a lot of fun. Steve Carell makes for a great Maxwell Smart. He does not try to imitate Don Adams, but brings his own take on the character. Although the bumbling that Carrell does seemed forced, it is still a fine performance. I think he and Anne Hathaway seemed a little mismatched, but that was really the point of the two characters. Terence Stamp is underused as a villain. Alan Arkin does steal some scenes and is not just a background character. Dwayne Johnson makes quite the interesting character, mixing his action hero persona with comedy.

What I find lacking in this movie is the subtle humor that the TV series had. A lot of the gags in this movie seemed forced. The sight gags weren’t that funny to me and were unoriginal. Still it had a good mix of action and humor. The humor could have been done a little better.

I do like the homage it pays to the original TV series with museum pieces from the TV series, the opening credits, and a lot of the fun gadgetry used in the TV show make both a guest appearance and get an update.

This movie is a lot of fun to watch with some scene stealing here and there by Arkin and Johnson. It is a great tribute to a great television comedy. It is a fine addition to the spy spoof genre.