Friday, 14 June 2013

Man of Steel Review

Man of Steel means a lot this summer. It's DC's newest tent-pole film and hopefully their key to unlocking the rest of the DC universe. I've read numerous articles about how the success of this movie will determine what happens with the troubled Justice League.

I have no doubt that financially, this will be a success. The marketing has been great and there is a good amount of buzz around it going into the weekend. As opposed to 2006's Superman Returns, this one has a lead in from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. With Nolan on board as producer for Man of Steel, it will carry on the dark, grittier tone of that franchise. While it's still speculative whether or not these characters will be part of a shared DC universe, Man of Steel will owe a great deal to Nolan in it's likely success.

The story is fairly straight forward. It starts by giving us a glimpse of the planet Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara Lor-Van (Ayelet Zurer) send their newborn child, Kal-El, to a far away planet to save him from the tragic fate of Krypton. Naturally this new planet happens to be Earth. Here that child is found and raised by the Kents (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane), and spends his teen years trying to live like a normal child while hiding his superhuman abilities.

As an adult he finally discovers his true origins, and after a chance run in with future love interest Lois Lane (Amy Adams), Clarke Kent (Henry Cavill) picks up the cape he was destined for and sets off to defend his family, friends, and earth, from the wrath of fellow Kryptonian, General Zod (Michael Shannon).

I've never been a huge Superman fan. I don't know how well this origin story fits into that of the comics. But through the eyes of someone new to the franchise, it works, and doesn't leave me with too many unanswered questions.

Just because the plot makes sense though, doesn't mean it's executed well. The weakest parts of this movie come in the first 30-60 minutes. The pacing here is pretty bad at times. Clarke Kent's years on earth are thrown at you in a "blink and you'll miss it" fashion. Jumping from his current whereabouts to quick glimpses of his childhood every few moments. The film doesn't stop to breath and let any of these character developments settle in. They are just dished out and stacked in a pile of "defining moments" in Clarke's journey to being Superman, without giving us any sympathy or attachment to his human persona.

Normally this would result in a poorly developed character we would care little about. Thankfully for Man of Steel, Henry Cavill is here. He is perfect in this role. His look and his controlled emotion throughout give us enough to know that he's a lonely, troubled being before, and even after, he finds the cape. He makes you care enough about the character during the poor introduction that it's not a complete loss. If it were a lesser actor I would have checked out of this film mentally very early on.

The rest of the cast were good as well. Amy Adams makes for a much more adventurous Lois Lane than I was expecting. Russell Crowe and Michael Shannon were amazing as you would expect. Diane Lane was a particular standout for me as Clarke Kent's mother Martha, bringing some touching moments in her interactions with Clarke. And props go to Christopher Meloni as Colonel Nathan Hardy. It's not a huge role but I think Meloni is a very underrated actor who needs more screen time. If you don't believe me then watch HBO's OZ and you'll see.

The place where Man of Steel really hits its stride is when the action starts. This is where director Zach Snyder shines. With stylized films such as 300, Watchmen, and Sucker Punch under his belt, he displays an ability here to control his over the top action style more effortlessly than any other director right now. With a carefully guiding hand from Chris Nolan, it gives this film some action scenes that are visually stunning, fast paced, tense, and easy to follow all at the same time.

Watching Superman fly through the air is a special treat for the eyes. Using an over the shoulder look usually reserved for video games, it gave a realism to flying that I never knew I was missing. At no point here will you think you're watching Iron Man zip around. You're right in the midst of the action instead of observing from the distance. It's exhilarating and a definite high point in the movie.

For the slow start this film gets, it more than makes up for it in the second half. Snyder has found his niche and has made a great action film with Man of Steel. His storytelling abilities still leave a bit to be desired though. Thankfully the movie ends off with a nice lead into the future of the character, with a touch of humor thrown in that almost catches you off guard. Hopefully the writers and people in charge take advantage of this in the future and give us a more fleshed out Clarke Kent in future films.

This is no The Dark Knight, don't be fooled. But don't let the weak first half deter you, go see this movie if you like the over the top action style that Snyder is known for. If you don't like his look then you may be better skipping. But for me, it was well worth the $17 IMAX 3D admission fee.

*Man of Steel - 7/10*

Monday, 10 June 2013

Ebert's Legacy and Knowing Limits

I don't know where to start writing about what went wrong with my idea to try to watch a list of the ten best films chosen by one of the most heralded film critics of our time, and then to collect my thoughts and feelings into a blog post. It could have been the length of time it took me to watch them all. It could have been the idea that I could fit my thoughts on these classics into a single blog post. Or it could have been my naivety in thinking that I could thoroughly analyze some of the greatest films ever made on a single viewing with my experience in the history of the medium.

The problem lay somewhere in the mix of the three. It did take way too long for me to watch all ten. I should have written individual blog posts along the way instead of saving for one. But even then I don't believe I could justify analyzing either of these classics on one viewing alone.

In the past few days I've been watching The Story of Film: An Odyssey on Netflix. This is a terrific series with an incredibly eye opening view on the history of cinema. It's also helped make me well aware that I have a long way to go in learning about this business I'm trying to immerse myself in. I know quite a bit more now than I did when I started watching it only a few days ago, but I still have a long way to go in learning about an industry that's been around since the turn of the nineteenth century.

Having said that, with my new found respect for decades of film history, of which I have barely scratched the surface of myself, I won't be giving a full review or in depth analysis of any of the films on my Ebert's Top 10 list.

I do apologize to anyone who has been following this blog and waiting to hear me discuss these but I just don't feel I could do them the service they deserve in one, or even two, blog posts. The enjoyment and meaning of these films comes from watching them, and a couple of paragraphs of my thoughts on each one would hardly suffice given what these films have to offer.

What I can tell you is that they are all worth your time and money if you are a person who enjoys the art of film as more than just mindless entertainment. Regardless of the age, look or language, if you look at films as visual art, masterful storytelling, or metaphors of the world we live in, then look no further for an incredibly rewarding and thought provoking list of films.

I instantly fell in love with each and every one of these. They all display film making and story telling at the top of it's game. There's little wonder why Roger Ebert chose these as his choices for the greatest films ever made. And this is coming from a man who watched more movies than you or I could ever dream of.

The age range here is all encompassing. Ranging from The General, which was made in 1927, all the way up to The Tree of Life which was only released in 2011. A common thread here being the timelessness of the films. The settings may vary throughout the century but the conflicts faced are all universal. Love, greed, jealousy, and the slow descent into madness are all just as much at home in the early 1900's as they are today.

Don't let the age or country of origin deter any of you from watching any of the films on this list. The General surprised me by being one of the funniest movies I've watched recently regardless of being the oldest on the list. And even though Tokyo Story is a black and white Japanese film from the 1950's, it is a perfect example of how to tell a story, and now sits high on my own personal list of favorite movies.

I'll leave my thoughts on the matter at that. What I leave for you guys are direct links to Roger Ebert's reviews of each of the films I watched. I originally started watching these movies as a small tribute to his legacy. Other than to strongly encourage you all to watch these films, I can see no better way for his legacy to be carried on than by reading his words, not mine, on why he believed these were some of the greatest movies ever made.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Hangover Part III Review

In 2009 we got surprised by one of the best comedies in recent memory.

In 2011 we got treated to a carbon copy of the original that nobody asked for and we all tried to forget.

In 2013 we get the finale of this unplanned trilogy, and believe me when I say I couldn't be any happier.

No, I'm not happy because The Hangover Part III was a hilarious return to the feel of the original. I'm happy because we can finally let this die. Hopefully.

Unlike the second film, this time around they at least went in a new direction. One of the biggest complaints with The Hangover Part II was undoubtedly that it was a copy and paste of the original. They changed the location and the character they are trying to find, but the course of events played out in a very similar manner. You knew what to expect, which immediately took away from the originals blindsided hilarity. And when they tried to top the original, it ended up being cringe worthy and offensive.

With The Hangover Part III they threw out the wedding/bachelor party blackout/find lost buddy format from the first two. That part was a no-brainer though. They got it right the first time and it got panned the second time around. The least I can say is that they learned from their mistakes.

This chapter finds the Wolf Pack spearheading an intervention for Alan (Zach Galifianakis), who has been neglecting his medication for his "mental complications" for a few months now. On route to bringing him to a treatment center they get kidnapped and dragged into a feud between Marshall (John Goodman), and Lesley Chow (Ken Jeong), that spun off from the events of the first two movies. Doug (Justin Bartha) gets taken as collateral and the rest of the pack are sent on their way to find and bring back Chow.

If you have seen the trailers for this movie then you already knew most of that. As is the trend these days, the trailers tell way too much. You see everything you need to know about the plot in less than two and half minutes, along with most of the laughs as well. A better part of the humor here has already been diluted through months of marketing, with the moments around them in the movie lacking any humor whatsoever.

There are a few good laughs hidden throughout, but at no point are you at risk of spilling your drink from laughing hysterically or missing any dialogue because it can't be heard over the collective laughter of the crowd.

Most of the humor that works centers around Alan. While the original was very much an ensemble comedy with Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan all playing unique characters with a hilarious rapport with one another. This time around it's very much the Alan show. This isn't a horrible concept as Alan happens to be an incredibly funny character, but Phil and Stu essentially turn into tired versions of their former selves, playing the same tunes they've played before, while Alan seems to have been the only one of the three that has grown over the trilogy. Their only humor comes through their responses to Alan's actions or comments.

Some of the humor seems to be just thrown in for shock value and completely misses the mark. Most notably being the highly marketed Giraffe vs. Bridge sequence. This happens very early during the movie, and acts as a catalyst of sorts to the events that follow, but it's almost cringe worthy how poorly planned out and executed it was. I don't know who thought that decapitating a giraffe would bring any comic value to the movie, and even Alan's response to the event when it unfolds adequately sums up the general feeling towards the whole sequence.

Another big complaint on my part was the heavy inclusion of the Lesley Chow character. He worked so well in the original because he was such an enigma. Very little was known about the man who hopped out of that trunk, flashing his manhood about while swinging a tire iron. And it worked. Ever since the sequel, his screen time has been upgraded and it turns out he's not actually that funny. I assume this was done in some vain attempt to carry over some of what made the original work. Instead he has turned into a pathetic, crude, offensive, scene stealing (and not in a good way) sore on this franchise that is just here to serve as more shock value.

Rounding out the rest of the cast we have John Goodman playing the "villain" Marshall, Heather Graham as Jade the escort from the original, Jeffrey Tambor as Alan's father Sid, and Melissa McCarthy as a pawn store owner named Cassie. All of these characters bring the movie to it's high points. They all fit their roles well and offer a nice breather from the main cast when things start to get a little out of control.

While I don't feel like this was a waste of my money, I'm not going to strongly encourage anyone to run out and see this. If you want a bit of a closer to the Hangover trilogy then you may find some solace here. Though with the story arc of the first two movies being tied up in each one, this one doesn't conclude anything that you wouldn't know you were missing without seeing this movie. But there are a few laughs to be had here, however tainted they may be from over-marketing.

If you're just in the mood for something humorous then I would recommend just waiting until next week when This Is the End hits theaters.

And as for The Hangover saga, I hope they stick to their word that this is the conclusion of the trilogy and let it go before we have to forget there were any other movies after the original.

*I gave The Hangover Part III a 4/10 on IMDB.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Fast & Furious 6 Review

Transformers, G.I. Joe, Resident Evil, and The Expendables. When one mentions pulpy summer blockbusters, these are some of the more commonly thought of names lately. They serve one real purpose: be big, be loud and bring in money (ok that's three but the main one is the money). They can be forgettable. They can be stupid. But as long as they bring in a crowd then who cares.

I'm not trying to fool myself. The Fast & Furious franchise fits into the same category as these other films. However, I believe it has managed to surpass them all in quality and entertainment value, even as it releases its sixth installment in the series.

The first thing that Fast & Furious 6 does right, is that it's completely self aware and it knows who it's audience is. It's trailers are clear examples of this. Showing fast cars, crazy stunts, and over the top action, nobody is going to be tricked into going to see this thinking they're getting an enlightened experience. The film even opens with a great recap of the previous installments in the series during the opening credits. By doing this the film gives anyone new or old to the series the minimal amount of information needed to keep the continuity going. This also shows that story-wise, there hasn't been a lot going on.

This approach works. There isn't much story here and it's the way it should be for this type of film. The plot has a few moments that linger on the relationship of two of the main cast members, and this is one of the only places it stumbles. Other than that it's a simple premise. Bad guys steal things. Former bad guys get coerced into helping law enforcement. Bad guys tackle with former bad guys. Former bad guys win.

That's a pretty poor plot summary, but honestly, that's all you need to know. There's very little story for the action to get snagged on. The fun of this movie comes from everything else that it does fantastically.

While the Fast and Furious franchise has steered clear of the street racing genre it began with, and has become more of a heist/action series, it still hits the mark with fast and sexy cars. The cars here are gorgeous and the chases are some of the best out there. It helps that everything is going too fast to really stop and think about how ridiculous it all is at times. But it's incredibly entertaining nonetheless. I did feel this movie was a little darker than it's predecessor, which took away from some of the chase sequences. Fast cars in dark, tight, European roads don't look as appealing as they do in the well lit streets of Brazil.

One area the series has, and continues to improve, is in the action sequences (vehicular and non-vehicular). I loved the amount of fighting that went on here. With actors such as Dwayne Johnson and Johannes Taslim it would be a shame to let their physical talents go to waste (for those not aware, Johannes Taslim starred in a little movie called The Raid: Redemption last year). Director Justin Lin takes full advantage of Johnson's staggering build and Taslim's martial arts background.

But he also includes everybody else into the mix. The rest of the cast hold their own (sometimes hilariously), even though they don't quite have the same presence on screen as Johnson. But who does really? He makes Vin Deisel look like a chump.

They also don't shy away from large action sequences. Bringing in a tank and a giant cargo jet, it at times feels like they're striving to push the bar too much, but it never does. The ridiculousness of it is filtered by the entertaining characters and their interaction between each other, and Justin Lin adds a sense of tension to these sequences that will have you on the edge of the seat.

Another huge plus for me was the female cast. I don't know if I've ever seen such a strong cast of women in a genre that is typically predominately male cast. The addition of the physical Gina Carano, and the choice to bring Michelle Rodriguez back into the game, set up for a couple rewarding fight sequences. Carano may not be able to act her way out of a paper bag but the girl knows how to fight. And I absolutely love Rodriguez and was thrilled to see her back. But it's not just limited to them. None of the women just sit back and watch the action pass you by. They're in the thick of it with the guys and they more than hold their own in every regard.

I can sit here for hours and talk about all the things I love but I'll stop it now. I feel I'm getting my point across. There's a lot to love here. I strongly urge anybody with a love of good action to go see this. Don't judge it by the past movies or it's ridiculously over-the-top style. This series is one of the rare ones that has fine tuned itself over the years and has evolved with it's audience. You just need to know "how" to watch a movie like this. Leave your skepticism at the door. Don't expect any award winning performances. This is still pulpy fun like the movies I mentioned at the beginning. It just happens to be the best of them.

*I gave Fast & Furious 6 a 7/10 on IMDB.

**Stick around after the credits as well. They do an amazing setup for the next movie.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Breathing Life Into The Dead

Anybody remember last November? A little film came out that marked the end of a franchise that happened to feature some depressing, melodramatic, sparkling vampires. I dare not speak the name of this emotional train wreck for teenage girls, but I only forced myself to suffer through the first two without risking a mental breakdown. That's all I could manage though.

Now that we are past all of that unpleasantness it's time to look to the future for the eternal blood suckers.

I reminisce of a time where slayers kept the fangs at bay. Where vampires were dark, brooding creatures that hid in the daytime and came out to hunt at night. They were loners, lovers, and killers. You feared them. Some of the more socially oppressed wanted to be them. But they were meant to control you with fear and lust. Sexual beings without the gaudy high school drama (save for some of Buffy, but that was all in good fun).

Even True Blood came close to imitating this former glory for vampires. Providing a couple of seasons of rated R vampire fun. But that eventually got a little off topic, introducing more classic, and non-classic, "monsters" than they had the time to successfully develop. I stopped watching after season 4. I could take no more of faeries and were-panthers when all I wanted was some good old fashioned, vampiric, angry-sex-head-twisting fun.

This year we finally have two vampire flicks showing up that I'm genuinely excited about. Byzantium and Only Lovers Left Alive. If you haven't heard of either than here's what you need to know.

Byzantium premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and is scheduled to be released worldwide on June 28th. Being directed by Neil Jordan, who's last work in the genre was the fantastic Interview With A Vampire, this is worth the watch from that credit alone.

The plot follows a teenage girl name Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Clare (Gemma Arterton) who have been living off of human blood in secrecy for 200 years. After settling into a abandoned guesthouse which shares the same name as the films title, Eleanor falls for Frank (Caleb Landry Jones) and begins to spill her 200 year old secret. Of course secrets can't stay as such forever and their past begins to catch up with them.

Here's the bloody trailer for your perusal:

I'll admit, there does seem to be a bit of a teen love story riddled in there, but if it is then it looks to be drowned in blood. This is what a vampire movie should look like. Lots of dark and lots of red. It has a great cast and seems appropriately atmospheric for what I expect from a great vampire movie. A few early reviews I've read have had good things to say and I'm incredibly excited for this.

The other film I want to bring to your attention is Only Lovers Left Alive starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. This one was brought to my attention last week while I was desperately trying to keep up with the coverage coming out of the Cannes Film Festival where it premiered.

Only Lovers Left Alive follows the aforementioned actors as two vampires who have been in love for centuries. When their eternal love is tested as her younger sister comes into the picture, they must learn to deal with her and adjust to the new modern world they find themselves in.

Other than a few warm reviews and some brief plot summaries there isn't a lot to judge this by so far. The cast looks great and another reason for my excitement (also featuring Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt). The movie seems to be a bit of a different pace from Byzantium. Less blood, with a hint of dark humor and drama is the vibe I've been getting from what I've read. The director, Jim Jarmusch, seems to have his own distinct sense of style which has caught my interest as well. I haven't seen any of his work yet but a few of his previous films have caught my eye and are on my never ending to-watch list.

While both of these films have me very excited, I don't know how universal the excitement will be? Neither seem to be getting much of a push for coverage. If I wasn't keeping up with news from TIFF and Cannes I would be surprised if I would know about these at all. Unfortunately that seems to be the way it goes with these indie films though. With any luck we may see these guys get a week of showing at the theater here once the summer blockbuster season slows down. Maybe even pick up a showing with the MUN cinema series during the fall. Most likely though, the first chance we'll get to see either of these here in St. John's will be when they are released to home media.

If you do get the chance to watch either, I strongly urge it. Maybe with some successful vampire movies along these lines it will show all the Twihards out there that the best vampires don't sparkle and cry about silly high school romances.

Friday, 31 May 2013

New Direction & Trekking Into Darkness

So that weekly update thing... yeah that's probably not going to work anymore. Not that it was a horribly idea. It's just that I missed two weeks and now I feel a little behind with it all.

The weekly update was providing another problem too. The length of the post. I'm personally not a fan of reading long blog posts or news articles, so trying to keep one weekly update with several different topics into as short a post as possible was posing a challenge. I always felt like I ended up ranting on a little too long about everything.

So with that being said I'm going to no longer commit to one post weekly. Instead I will try to trim it into smaller, more frequent posts regarding a single topic.

This one will still be a little sporadic though.


I've finished watching all of the movies in my Ebert's Top 10 list and I'll have a post up regarding that in the next week or so. I won't bother adding a summary of the last two films, Vertigo and Tree of Life. They were both great, watch them if you can, and I'll have my full thoughts in that coming blog post.


I've only seen a couple movies in the past couple of weeks. Pain and Gain and the new Star Trek. I'm only going to do a review for Star Trek. In a quick rundown, Pain and Gain was a fun movie at times but it was slow to start and bloated with Michael Bay's over stylized camera work and some annoying narration. It picks up about halfway through and turns the remainder into a good bit of ridiculous fun but it's never enough to rise it above being good. Mark Whalberg is great playing an ignorant muscle head oblivious of his own stupidity and was probably one of the best parts for me. I gave it a 5/10 on IMDB.

That's basically all for now. I'll end this off with my thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness and will be back in the next few days with a review of Fast and Furious 6 (hint: it's awesome) and my thoughts on Ebert's Top 10.

Star Trek Into Darkness 7/10

I'm going to open this review by stating that I've never seen any of the original Star Trek movies or TV shows. I recall passing over them as a kid while flicking through the channels and just thinking they looked silly at the time. With their drab outfits, odd looking characters and cold, dark sets the franchise always seemed a bit of a joke when I was a kid.

I jumped on the Star Trek bandwagon, as many others probably did, with the recent reboot. It brought color and life to characters I shrugged off in my youth. It had a great director at the helm with J.J. Abrams. It was fun and exciting. And most importantly it was smart. It used the gimmick of time travel, which is starting to get overexposed and stale, and simplified it to help open up the franchise to a whole new direction without alienating the fans of the original material. It is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of how to reboot/restart a franchise.

Warp to 4 years in the future and here we are staring the excessively hyped Star Trek Into Darkness in the face. The story this time around follows the crew of the Enterprise as they return to earth from a near fatal mission on a foreign planet. With the consequences of this mission looming over Spock and Kirk, a new threat appears and hits them where they live. Fueled by vengeance, Kirk leads the Enterprise and his crew to the reaches of space to hunt down the man responsible and end up finding more danger than they ever bargained for.

I can't say too much more as far as the plot goes without spoiling anything. One of the things I want to praise about the movie is the clever advertising. Once again, can't say too much, but I've complained a lot recently about the quality of trailers and the amount of information they give regarding plot and spoiling key moments in movies. Well, everyone needs to step back and start taking notes from Mr. Abrams on how to make a trailer because what I thought I was getting, and what I actually got, weren't quite the same. In a good way of course.

With the same cast and crew, the film carries over a lot of the same humor and style as the one before. It does, in typical blockbuster sequel fashion, take on a darker, more serious tone this time around though. This shift works in adding gravity to some elements of the story that would not have worked if it tried to keep with the same upbeat tone and colorful scenery as the first one. They still manage to squeeze in plenty of fancy special effects and explosions to brighten everything up, and the locations they visit at the beginning and end of the film are vivid and colorful to even it all out.

The 3D in this movie was terrific as well. I highly recommend watching this in IMAX 3D if possible. There's a lot of beauty going on here and this is one of the rare movies lately where I actually feel like the 3D added to the experience. I haven't seen it in 2D yet to compare but at no point during the movie did I find it distracting or gimmicky. It helped add depth to the environments and immerse me into the movie as 3D should.

While the cast and acting was good overall, I did feel that it spent too much time around Kirk and Spock. It's not the worst thing because Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto carry their roles well and the chemistry between the two characters is great. Chris Pine is turning into the charismatic action star that Ryan Reynolds wishes he could be. But I would have enjoyed it if more screen time was given to the rest of the crew. The relationship between Uhura and Spock is supposed to be one of the bigger parts of the plot but it never seems to get past childish, teenage bickering between the two. I never really felt their relationship was strained or played a vital part and at no point does the movie make me care enough about it even though it continued to be brought up. The one standout with the rest of the cast, and my favorite part of the movie was Benedict Cumberbatch. That boy can act and he can kick ass with the best of them as well. One particular action scene with him had me grinning from ear to ear and was one of the standout moments of the movie for me.

My biggest problem and fault I found with this movie is in the direction it took as a whole. The whole time I was watching the movie I had the sense that something was missing. It was loud and action packed and it was all done well but it just constantly nagged at me that the movie should have been smarter. It felt like it was slowly fitting into the same mold that so many senseless, generic summer blockbusters fill. Which is disappointing when you think of the potential available here. Space exploration should be groundbreaking. We should be seeing things that we've never seen in a movie before. New planets. New characters. That all seems to be sacrificed here to make room for unnecessary scenes setting up a bromance between Spock and Kirk. I feel this is a hugely missed opportunity and something that could set Star Trek above your typical summer blockbuster fare.

Hopefully in the third installment they expand more into the exploration portion of the series. Less time (if any) spent on earth and on the ship and more time running into danger on undiscovered planets and meeting some new and colorful characters we've never seen before. Why go through the trouble of giving a clean slate to the franchise with the alternate timeline plot point if you don't take advantage of it?

Anyway, until that time, Star Trek Into Darkness will entertain anyone who's a fan of your typical blockbuster eye candy. It's a worthy addition to a series that's at the top of it's game right now. And even if the franchise turns into your standard, run of the mill, summer popcorn flick, then it will still be one of the more entertaining options out there.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Weekly Update 05/15

I don't get Hollywood sometimes. I mentioned a couple weeks ago how Marvel has the potential to have one of the most lucrative franchises right now. With the success of The Avengers and the wave they're going to be riding off of that, they have the opportunity to bring almost any of their comic book characters to new life on the big screen. They have an incredibly good thing going.

So what's the point of having a good thing if you can't fuck it up?

That seems to be what Marvel is aiming to do with their current negotiations. The story I'm referring to is found here. Don't worry if you didn't read the whole thing. The gist of it is that Marvel doesn't give a shit about any of the actors they have playing their super human team that has raked in a few billion dollars for them thus far. All except for Robert Downey Jr. that is. And in his defense, he is the one who got this ball rolling with Iron Man. I highly doubt the movie and character would of had the same success without him in the now iconic role. He's also proven that he can make money on his own terms with the impressive run that Iron Man 3 is currently having. So it's not shocking that he's the only one of the bunch that Marvel seems to have any urgency to get back.

After the success of The Avengers they shouldn't be putting all their money on one person though. If The Avengers has shown us anything, it's that the fans are open to the ensemble cast idea and aren't tied down to one particular character. The only stand outs in The Avengers for myself were the Hulk and Loki. They stole the show on their own, but the rest worked best when they had another Avenger to banter with. It has spread to much more than just Iron Man at this point. If Downey Jr. doesn't show up for a few movies I don't think it's going to be the end of the world at this point.

I also don't get why it seems that the other main actors are falling in line behind Robert and letting him do the talking. I get that he's a bit of a proven box office draw at this point but if he was such a stand up guy then why isn't he willing to take a bit of a pay cut from his alleged $50-80 million he made from The Avengers so that everybody else can get a bit of a bump in pay? Doesn't sound to me like he has any of their interests in mind while negotiating. It's easy for him to say at this point that he won't come back unless the others get a pay increase, when he's made it public knowledge that he doesn't even want to play the Iron Man character much longer. If they don't take him back then he gets to do other things (which is what he seems to want). If they take him back then he's getting a solid payday for another role in a movie that's still two years away and possibly an even bigger payday (for what I assume would be a much smaller role) in a movie that's four-six years away. Assuming they only snag him for the next two Avenger movies and no more Iron Man.

I think Marvel is looking at this all the wrong way and are missing huge story-line opportunities. I don't read comic books but I know enough about them to tell you that a huge part of comic books is life and death. Superheros have been killed off and brought back plenty of times. Either through some fictional form of resurrection or by having new characters step into iconic roles. It all goes with the draw that anybody can be a superhero. So why doesn't Marvel go this route? If Chris Hemsworth doesn't want to come back without a good payday, then suck it up. Give him his payday but write his death into the script of the next Thor movie or the next Avengers movie. Let him die in some epic fashion that will fuel a story arc for another few movies. Give them something to fight for. And then bring him back in some Asgardian fashion in a few years with a new actor in the role. I think this life and death would help move this whole Marvel universe along, keep it fresh and invigorated, and give it a lifespan rivaled only by the Bond franchise.

Obviously not all characters can be written back in with a simple godly resurrection but I would even be ok with just saying goodbye to some characters. It's a very robust comic book universe out there. I think a well done Ant Man could be a worthy replacement for Iron Man.


Thankfully I managed to get caught up with my Eberts Top 10 list this week. It's taking me a very long time to watch 10 movies, I know. But bear with me. Only Vertigo and Tree of Life left for this week. Once again here's a quick summary:

Aguirre, Wrath of God
The hardest on the list to find and understandably so. Odd could be an appropriate word to describe this German film from the 1970's. What starts as an odd journey for riches through Peru, turns into an incredibly captivating descent into madness.

Apocalypse Now
Another of the films I've already seen. This is another look at the slow descent madness and may be one of my favorites. Brando is so amazing in the minimal amount of screen time he has here and Martin Sheen is equally as impressive. A younger version of myself would have probably been bored with this movie. Current me loves it.

Tokyo Story
Let down your guard. Realize that movies are about telling a story. Spectacle and excitement aren't always required. If you can do that then Tokyo Story will be one of the best and truest forms of visual storytelling there is. Not a wasted shot. No filler whatsoever. Never have I seen a movie where the story is so simply laid out in front of me but still had my full attention.

La Dolce Vita
From Italy (not France, my bad) and the first film I've seen from Federico Fellini. Not a movie you want to watch tired. I feel like some of the movie was lost on me with the dialogue, which doesn't always translate well when it's being dished out quickly, and also being a little tired when I watched it. It did leave me wanting to watch it again though and seek out more of Fellini's work.


Once again I only managed to squeeze in one new release this week. Not that I was too busy this week, just that I was still kind of broke from the move. There really hasn't been much to get excited about anyway. Pain and Gain, Olympus Has Fallen and Oblivion were the only ones last week that I was interested in seeing. None of those had me running to spend money on them either. Gatsby came out on Friday so I'll be seeing that sometime this week hopefully. And this coming Friday the new Star Trek is here so the reviews should be picking up a bit. Anyway, on to my thoughts on Oblivion, the only one I saw this week.

Oblivion 6/10

I love sci-fi. It's safe to say at this point it's my favorite genre of movie. I love getting lost in thoughts of what could be. Films are an excellent way to lose yourself. A good film will make you let go of your worries and sink into it. Science fiction movies can pull this off best because they bring you places and show you things that you normally don't see. You can let go of reason. I've never held anything against a sci-fi film for stretching the limits of what's actually possible. I just let it be. If it's good it will own my attention in awe and wonder for the time I'm watching. Even if it's bad it can still present great ideas and gorgeous imagery that you don't see anywhere else.

Oblivion manages to evoke some of that awe but unfortunately the sacrifice of box office success by attaching Tom Cruise to the project dwindles it down into something that's good, but just a hint of what it could have been.

Where it works is in the world and mythology it builds. The post-apocalyptic world that Joseph Kosinksi brings to life (in his graphic novel first and then translated it to the screen himself) is so enthralling, I was amazed by that alone. It's a desolate wasteland, which isn't a completely original idea at this point, that's brought to life beautifully. At one point we follow along as one of the characters zips along on a futuristic motorcycle through the still showing suspension cables of a long buried bridge and it just looks amazing. The whole world is created so elegantly that it makes me happy that CGI has gotten to the point it has.

The technology here is great too. It's futuristic but it's not all shiny with that new car smell still lingering around. It's worn, which is fitting since the movies follows a maintenance crew of sorts, and things break. It adds a level of realism to ideas that aren't quite in the realm of possible right now. It's also nice that they never shove it in your face. There's no elaborate displays of what can be done or no gimmicky ways of introducing them. It's all presented in a very matter-of-fact manner, as if this has been regular life for the characters and we're just stopping by to have a look. It's how science fiction should be handled at all times.

The plot is where the movie starts to hit snags. The idea and reasoning for the post apocalyptic world we're witnessing is pretty standard fare but it does offer an interesting twist on the scenario. I won't go into too many details but it keeps twisting. Sometimes for the better, but mostly for the worst. I can't say I hated the plot but I feel it would have benefited more if it didn't hold it's cards so close to it's chest. The build up is done poorly enough that you can see everything coming before the story thinks it's actually time to let you in. It spends so much time trying to trick you that it forgets to stop and think about where it's going.

The worst part of the movie for me was in the casting. I could forgive the weak plot under the right circumstances and still consider this a great sci-fi film. But someone went and cast Tom Cruise and ruined the chances of that happening. Now I don't hate Tom Cruise, but he really bothers me. Mostly it's his need to own the screen whenever he's in frame (which happens to be a lot). He can't just play subtle or let the story take over. He needs to impose his short stature in wherever he can and make everything he's in his own vessel. I understand the studio wanting a name such as Cruises involved with a project like this to give it some star power and help with box office number. It's hard enough for sci-fi films to be widely accepted when you're title doesn't begin with the word "Star". But I whole heartily think that casting a lesser known actor in the main role, someone who's not going to try to steal every scene, would have worked out much better.

The rest of the cast and crew are okay but nothing amazing. The best would go to Melissa Leo in her small role in the film. Morgan Freeman is great as ever but he actually has very little screen time which bummed me out a little. But with the movie dominated by Tom Cruise's presence nobody really gets any opportunity to stand out here.

In conclusion, I did enjoy the movie but it was mostly a case of me letting my mind wander and imagine what could have been. The world created is amazing and I really was in awe of some of the scenes and imagery present here. The story isn't going to win you over and neither are the characters. Unless you are a Tom Cruise fan of course. But if you are a fan of sci-fi then I would recommend it for the tech and beautiful world created alone. Just don't expect to be blown away by some mind bending plot.


And that's it again for another late blog post. Chances are next weeks won't be on time either as it is the long weekend coming up and I plan on heading out of town for some good ol' fashioned drankin in the woods. But I do plan on having Eberts Top 10 list finished this week and hopefully have reviews for The Great Gatsby and Start Trek up as well.

I'm also looking for feedback on the reviews I have posted thus far. I'll state again that this is all still a learning curve and I'm trying to figure this out as I go along, but I do feel like I start to ramble too much when I start writing a review. What do you think? Am I giving too much information? Too little?

I think I need to come up with a set format to stick to that I can apply to any film I review. Something on the shorter side as well. I recently read an article by Film Crit Hulk over at Badass Digest regarding reviews and it fits nicely into my feelings for movie trailers as well. That article can be found right here. It's had some influence on me as I write these reviews and I'm trying to come up with a style that really gives you nothing in forms of spoiler material as you watch movies. 

And yes that is a writer that goes by the name Film Crit Hulk on a website with Badass in the title. And yes he is awesome. I highly recommend reading some of his stuff.

Thanks again for stopping by folks! Cheers!