Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises Bane Poster

We may be expecting too much from this one, but either way, it's going to be an epic conclusion. Nolan knows better than to let down his fans.

More text reviews on the way!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Take Shelter (2011) Review

It’s an apocalypse movie, but not one centered around the actual apocalypse or its aftermath. Rather, it looks into the events leading up to the cataclysmic event, and that build-up of suspense makes the story that much more riveting. Jeff Nichols’s primary cast of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain have an undeniably strong chemistry in this movie. You’ll have a hard time differentiating them from people in the real world.

That’s not to say the performances aren’t without flaws. Though Shannon give an amazing performance, he seems too understated at times, like he’s detached from the movie. I acknowledge that it IS his character, but when taken slightly past a certain level, it becomes something else entirely. Secondly, the supporting cast wasn’t nearly as strong as Shannon, though all of the characters did mix well together.

The fact that the movie has had me giving it so much thought after the credits (much like Inception did, but in a way that doesn’t feel as cheap or inconclusive) owes to the masterful direction. Throughout the movie, you see that Curtis, Shannon’s character, is plagued with sleeplessness and terrifying dreams accompanied by audio-visual hallucinations, all of which he attributes to his declining psychological health. This main plotline builds up nicely, gradually worsening until Curtis decides to build a storm shelter to protect his family against the tragedy from his nightmares. His obsession with this project leads him to becomes the talk of the town – and not in a good way. The way Nichols builds tension is realistic and stunning. Accompanied by incredible visuals, this film leaves a remarkable impact on you.

There are some other plots that at first seemed unnecessary to me. The one in particular I want to talk about is Hannah, Curtis’s deaf daughter. She wasn’t always deaf so she’s still in the process of learning sign language, and throughout the movie, Curtis and his wife work to train her in it. Watching the movie, I was thinking it was simply padding on to the run time – which, for what the movie is, makes for a grueling two hours – but the more I think about it, the more it seems that she was more of a symbol to sees the world through visions – and that causes a communication barrier. She wasn’t always deaf, and Curtis wasn’t always having nightmares. The two are one and the same in a way. That relationship comes under stress for a powerful, emotionally-driven scene near the end, though I won’t spoil it.

The movie does run a bit too long, and somewhere in the middle, I looked something like this. Granted it gets dull and boring from time to time and many scenes well expire their welcome, Take Shelter does manage to accomplish something that many movies simply can’t. It pushes us into a cloud of uncertainty and leaves us alone to judge for ourselves what is and is not real in the world around us. It teaches us to trust our instincts and to keep those who we treasure the most closest to us. Here is a movie that won’t soon be escaping us…primarily because we’ll see it at the Oscars.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Lion King II Isn't Entirely Bad...

If you didn't know, I'll say so now: I'm skeptical of sequels. Every sequel has potential to be something great, but a lot of that potential typically isn't tapped. There are good franchises out there that are consistently good all the way through (The Bourne trilogy, Lord of the Rings, etc.), but most sequels tend to be watered down successors to the original. Surely you read the title of this post and are aware that my focus here will be one of those watered down sequels. The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. Anyone who hasn't seen the original Lion King is not human. Anyone whose seen the sequel should have taken more after those who neglected to see the first. It's not good. For the sake of not rehashing what's already been said, my review of Simba's Pride follows here.

Those points aside, there are some good things I can say about it.

  1. While no one can surpass Scar as the ultimate badass of the lion kingdom, some creatures can rise to meet him. Kovu doesn't quite make it there, but he gets close enough. From his off color to the beard on his elbows (and later, the scar), his physical appearance is enough to evoke memories of the past tyrant, and that's really all he needs as a character. I don't think he was meant to be particularly deep or riveting; he was meant to be compared to Scar. Everyone who watched the movie made comparisons throughout, and Kovu wasn't quite adequate. This shortcoming defined his character, and its prevalence served its purpose well.
  2. How many supporting characters do you know who have been able to carry their own show? Not many, I presume. Timon and Pumbaa were two of those few. From the original movie into the second, they were a consistent duo from which you could always expect a good chuckle or a smirk at the least. They weren't quite as witty in the second installment, but they never seemed washed out. Even their cartoon managed to keep the flavor alive through three seasons of misadventures.
It's only two points, yeah, but I just want to point out that there were some positive aspects of the movie even if they numbered in the few. I don't entirely hate Simba's Pride; in fact, I could rewatch it several times. Of course, that's not always a good thing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hellraiser and Overselling Characters

Many movies have fallen short of a good rating from underdeveloped plots. Yet some critics would praise movies that go without explanation for certain events. It can be a tough decision for filmmakers to decide which plot details to include, and I’m no professional on that subject, but I’m going to explain how I decide if a movie explained enough of its plot.

The best example to use here is horror movies in general. To elaborate upon that general example, I’ll use horror movie franchises. No, that doesn’t really eliminate many, but it works out for the sake of argument. It’s often been noted in horror movies that it’s best to leave maniacal serial killers as just that: maniacal serial killers. You don’t know why they do what they do. All the movie gives you is a small hint that they may have some underlying cause for their insanity, but that cause doesn’t need to be known.

Pinhead, being my all-time favorite horror villain, shall serve as my primary example. He’s a demon, a servant from hell whose function is to ferry those who seek to reach ultimate pleasure and pain into his sadomasochistic domain. That’s it. He’s a sinister creature with a task and never strays from completing that task. It’s his only motivation, and that worked fine in the first two movies. Then the third movie came around, giving Pinhead his infamously debilitating backstory. At the end of the second movie, you learn that he used to be human, and that memory reverts him back to his original, human form. That worked for the conclusion of Kirsty’s story arc as well as the series as a whole.

Unfortunately, the incredible popularity of Pinhead’s character, as well as the one-track minds of those behind future projects (money, if you didn’t already know), the series, which well concluded itself after the second movie, ran for another six films. (In totality, there are actually nine, but I refuse to acknowledge the ninth as a Hellraiser film). Of those four, Inferno and Hellworld don’t truly feature Pinhead as a character, so those, too, are void.

So what about the other movies made them so painfully bad? They tried too hard to establish that Pinhead and his legions of demons had a past that stemmed far back into history. That much was already implicitly made known in the first two movies. What’s more important, the film gained a lot of intrigue from the mystery surrounded Pinhead and the puzzle box. Curious humans would stumble upon it and unleash hell’s demons; and when they did, you’d think to yourself, “No, don’t do it! You have no idea what you’re getting into!” But by the time you understand Pinhead and his loosely constructed history, people fumbling with the Lament Configuration is as common as breathing. Your reaction changes to something like, “Oh, someone else is gonna open it? Oh well.” You’re aware of what’s on the other side of the box. You know that Pinhead, for reasons that don’t quite compute, is dead-set on causing as much pain and torment as possible. See, you didn’t understand exactly what was going on in hell or with Pinhead in the first movies, “and you always fear what you don’t understand.” (Courtesy quote from Batman Begins). As the series continues, that fear gradually weakens, and Pinhead becomes exponentially more like your stock horror villain.

That pretty much sums up why giving characters who are tastefully made to be ambiguous origin stories detracts from their personalities. It moves them from whatever unique world they originated from into one dominated by all the clich├ęs in the field. People – or at least I – grow tired of seeing the same characters given different names. I want to see quirks that aren’t present in other films. In Pinhead’s case, that quirk was that he was just doing his job. For the first two movies, it really worked. He meant business, but he could be bartered with and manipulated. Yet, he also wouldn’t take no for an answer where work was concerned. It seems almost like a flaw, but it makes him that much more fearful. He might find a good reason to delay appointments, but he would always find time for you.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fly (1986) Review

The Fly can be held in high regards for two very important reasons. One: it is a remake that is actually an appreciable enhancement of the original. The Fly first debuted in 1958, directed by Kurt Neumann as an adaptation of the short story of the same name. If you’re not confused about any of this yet, you will be after I say that the original 1958 movie spawned two sequels and this 1986 film which has a sequel of its own. Not only that, but there was also talks of a third remake, but to my knowledge, those plans have since been discarded. Granted I’ve only seen the original and this remake, I can’t make any definite conclusions, but I think it’s safe to say that this is the definitive version (we all know how horror sequels tend to work out). The second reason this movie hits its mark well is that it doesn’t try to sell itself with excessive gore. It’s the concept here that’s truly frightening.

The Fly deals with a concept that has often been speculated upon in the field of science: transportation – teleportation, specifically. The protagonist, scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), has spent the last six years of his career developing a means of teleporting objects. Goldblum does an excellent job of portraying the “eccentric/mad scientist” stereotype. Well, I say stereotype, but that’s not quite what it is. The film makes it evident that that’s the character model he is based from, but he always fits the bill for being a human character, not simply a cut-and-paste contrivance (think Jeffrey Comb’s interpretation of Herbert West in Reanimator). For that reason, you can become both engrossed in his madness and piteous when presented with his flaws. Did I mention he does an incredibly accurate imitation of a fly? His is the performance to look out for.

The other actors also hold their ground fairly well. Essentially, the movie only has three characters. Everyone else is pretty much just an extra, and it works surprisingly well. Veronica, played by Geena Davis, is the love interest who does an excellent job of being a…love interest. Regardless how deformed Seth becomes, she consistently supports him. She does, of course, feel that what he’s done to himself is a bastardization of the human form, but the love she develops never dissipates. To the very end, everything she does is in his best interest. Borans, played by John Getz, is Veronica’s former lover, and when things go awry with Brundle, he serves as her crutch throughout the ordeal. It’s interesting how the movie can manage itself while focusing on so few characters. I can barely recall anyone else who was significant to the plot, yet everything worked out much better than bloated movies (ie. The Expendables, not to pick on an ensemble film).

What’s horrific about the film is the sparing use of gore. There are a few bloody scenes, but it mostly relies on shock value from the unexpected fusion between man and fly to serve as its pedestal for the horror tag. Oh, spoiler. The fear of science becoming too powerful and inhumane for people to handle. The fear of never knowing what to expect next, never knowing how grotesque you may become; and the corresponding embrace of that transformation. These ideas become more and more prominent as the third act of the movie hits you. The most appalling aspects of this transformation and its ramifications are kept off-screen, but the biggest of the consequences (which I’ll do you the favor of not spoiling to help motivate you to go out and see this movie) raises a good many questions. Honestly, the movie is more thought-provoking that it is scary, but what sane man wouldn’t feel wary of a man-fly? Or here’s a better question: what man could be so insane that a complete transformation into something indistinguishable macabre would have no bearing at all on his motivation to continue with the project that modified him?

By the end of the movie, you’ll doubtlessly contemplate the idea of fusion between man and beast, its benefits, and its disadvantages. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously (given the concept, that’s more than a good thing) so it may not leave the strongest impression on you, but if you’re a thinker, you’ll have much about the world of science to consider. The Fly paints a good picture of forcible evolution. Regardless of the outcome, it neither condemns nor condones it, leaving the viewer alone with their thoughts to consider the possibilities.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Saw The Devil Review

I don’t really know what to make out of liking this movie. I held on to a few negative impressions throughout the film, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of it, so a lot must have been done right.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I feel like the main character was poorly developed. You don’t learn too much about him except that he loves his wife who happens to be the daughter of the police chief under whom he works. In a crazy twist of fate, a sadomasochistic serial killer and rapist finds and murders his her, leaving the head to drift in the river. Her father, as the chief of police, handles the situation quite passively, dedicating his time to smoking and brooding, but never completely overwhelmed by the loss of his daughter. The main character, however, takes it upon himself to exact revenge against the man who took his wife away from him. He must love her more than her own father, I guess.  By then, you know you’re in for a revenge story, but not as formulaic as other movies in this genre.

The protagonist isn’t satisfied with finding and killing his “prey.” Instead, he wants the man to suffer. So he plays a game of hide and seek. He finds the killer, brutally beats him, and lets him survive and escape. Obviously, the killer can’t go to the police to report being harassed by a member of the police force, as he is now a convicted man. As soon as this killing game begins, you learn nothing more about the protagonist. He transforms into a merciless hunter who seldom speaks. This transformation is evident by his change of clothes from business attire to a bulky hooded jacket and from the contrast between an early, cheerful conversation with his wife and his later social interactions. But you can’t say with certainty that his personality, which wasn’t entirely established, was affected; and he doesn’t seem to be conflicted about what he’s doing, which is strange for law enforcement, especially in a world that I’d like to take seriously.

So what are my main problems? Outside of an outstanding performance, the protagonist’s personality is quite flat. Besides a desire to avenge his wife, he comes across as quite emotionless.

On to what worked. For starters, the lighting. You’ll notice immediately that this is quite the dark tale. The lighting does a good job of complimenting this idea without becoming too focused on itself. There are scenes of light and dark working in contrast in several shots, which does call to attention that this quest for vengeance isn’t a mindless act of evil. It helps to show the goodness of the protagonist. Maybe that wasn’t the intent of the director, but that’s what I got out of it. The contrast also puts more attention on scenes that aren't meant to be taken as seriously (ie. the cannibal scene) which makes a joke out of the antagonist. However, lighting also seems to become a flaw later on, as the premise of darkly lit rooms disappears halfway through the movie, and everything becomes bright. At that point, the tone of the movie falls off a cliff; those last moments are the most tense, but we can't see that through the lighting anymore.

The performances are all-around astounding. I’m sure if I understood Korean, they would be even better. These characters seem completely human on screen. This humanity is captured by a quirky, comical style of direction. It’s subtle, and not the type of comic structure that will make you laugh because it’s funny, but because it’s such a natural thing for a human to do that we don’t often see portrayed in movies. For example, there’s a scene where the protagonist is confronted by a gunman. Before ducking, he cocks his head slightly to the side, completely surprised. Real people don’t have a “I’m a badass, shit doesn’t scare me” mentality, no matter how hardened they are. When the unexpected occurs, we are surprised, even if reflexes do save our lives seconds later, and that surprise will be visible through our countenances.

I’ve explained the plot already: a revenge story with a slightly different plot structure. The goal isn’t to kill, it’s to torment.  As a member of the police force himself, the protagonist also has to avoid detection from the police, which goes smoothly for him, likely to make more space for the main narrative. By the close of the second act, the morality of the protagonists actions is brought into question, which is rarely done in these kinds of movies. They tend to justify grotesque vengeance with the stimulus that provoked it, but that viewpoint doesn’t hold true in modern society. Every wrongdoing, regardless of motivation, is still a wrongdoing, and consequences will inevitably occur, whether they be physical or psychological.

I Saw The Devil is a two-and-a-half hour movie that plays out in one-and-a-half. It’s a bloody romp that doesn’t find pleasure in overextended scenes of mindless violence and gore. It’s a smart thriller that brings into question the ideas of good and evil. By the time the credits roll, you’ll have been adequately rewarded with a conclusion that does the length of the movie justice. True justice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Batman Shouldn’t Be Rebooted in 2015

If it’s not already painfully obvious, everyone loves Nolan’s version of Batman (alright, to be unbiased, it does have its fair share of “non-believers”). The last installation of Nolan’s reboot is planned for a theatrical release next year, and the box office will feel the sting of millions of fans preordering their tickets, and theaters will shake with the clamor of excitement as everyone waits in anticipation to discover how the trilogy will conclude.

Three years afterwards, fans of The Bat will have another live-action movie to look forward to. We would all be excited to see Nolan directing Bale, Caine, and the usual bunch in a fourth movie, but if plans for a new Batman don’t fall through, that won’t be the case. This new Batman project is intended as a completely new reboot, scrapping the previous canon established by Nolan. We’ve already seen The Green Lantern hit theaters, Man of Steel (the new Superman reboot, funny because the last reboot only lasted for one film) is currently filming, and there is speculation about a Wonder Woman flick. While this isn’t a comprehensive list of the heroes one would expect to see in a Justice League movie, the push towards producing so many superhero movies based on characters from the DC universe strikes me as odd considering only Marvel has really been pushing for big-screen adaptations of their material.

Doubtlessly, it was Nolan’s Batman Begins that set the stage for DC to begin moving forward with more movies based on their heroes. And it’s that exact stage-setting that makes this such an inopportune moment for yet another Batman reboot to arise. Even if Nolan is included on the team responsible for its creation, the expectation for it to live up to its predecessor will be a thorn in its side throughout both the production and marketing processes. Concurrently, with the intent of making the reboot of a different nature than the Begins series, people will expect to see something entirely different. Traces of Nolan’s influence will only serve to compound confusion in differentiating between the two reboots and to bring the canon of the Batman film franchise into question. Most importantly, many hearts have been captivated by Christian Bale’s Batman, and four years from now when the reboot is currently scheduled to be released, those captive hearts won’t have come close to forgetting what’s probably the best live iteration of Batman to date.

But as I begin to probe deeper into this situation, I stumble upon quite an interesting thought: Bale is adverse to the notion of sharing the spotlight with another actor. After all, he threatened to drop the role of the Caped Crusader if Robin was added to the cast. Yeah, that’s probably only because he had a bad experience with the original Batman and Robin, as so many have, but it still makes an interesting point. If Bale won’t share the screen with a single sidekick, why would he share it with multiple? To my knowledge, there has yet to be a big ensemble superhero film to hit Hollywood, so most recurring superhero actors are probably more than used to walking the path of righteous justice alone.

As of now, I’m not sure if Bale has been approached about taking the role of Batman in the Justice League movie, but I do know that the chances of someone else being able to replace what he left us with is slim. A Batman reboot should wait a good ten years after The Dark Knight Rises, when the hype has died down, and we become thirsty to revisit the cinematic presence of everyone’s favorite powerless superhero.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who Deserves Credit for Movies (Directors vs. Everyone Else)

It’s a trend that runs through the veins of most casual moviegoers – the attribution of the completion of a film solely to the director. It’s undeniable that the lucky individual who takes hold of the esteemed reins of director has the greatest influence over the development of a film. But to say that a movie like Shutter Island is “one of Scorsese’s best works” is a downright lie, not because there’s not a possibility for it to contend for one of his best works but because Scorsese wasn’t the only force driving the creation of the movie.

Shutter Island is the product of the adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane, multiple studios, Paramount, writer Laeta Kalogridis, a dozen producers, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the hundreds of members of the crew. Why, then, do most people attribute an entire movie’s creation to the director? My thoughts? They probably don’t know any better. I’m sure everyone has sat through the credits of at least one movie. The list of people involved are far too great for you to ever develop a familiarity with any of them, but that unfamiliarity doesn’t constitute the lack of recognition they receive. I’m willing to state that most directors don’t know how to handle all of the equipment, properly apply makeup, or perform most of the technical tasks required to make a movie successful.

Yes, it’s the director who makes decisions as to how scenes are shot, how to use the lighting, how actors should approach the scenes, and nearly every other aspect of how the film looks. But he couldn’t do any of that without a good many uncredited (by the general public) individuals.

For example, it doesn’t matter how Scorsese decides to direct DiCaprio, Leo is Leo. His screen presence is something in itself, something the viewer sees and automatically associates with DiCaprio, not Scorsese’s direction. In fact, many might also refer to Shutter Island as a Leonardo DiCaprio film, not a Scorsese film. Many likely considered Inception in the same manner. Despite Nolan’s direction being a large “must-see” stamp on the film, DiCaprio cast in the leading role was a magnet for his many Titanic fangirls and others who simply appreciate the work he does. The cast of a film is doubtlessly integral to its success, and leading actors may have just as much a right to call a film their own as the director.

The script, in this particular example, is unoriginal. No, I don’t mean stolen. I mean not the creative work of Scorsese. The film was adapted from a novel, but wasn’t advertised as such, and the collection of people who know about Shutter Island, the novel, are probably amongst the few who may sympathize with my ideas on this subject. Cinematography and film editing were each handled by a single members of the production team. Neither have names that I’m familiar with, though this contemplation of mine may lead me to take increased notice to these individuals. What’s more surprising to me is that the editor, Thelma Shoonmaker, is a three-time Oscar recipient who worked with Scorsese on multiple occasions, including Goodfellas and The Departed. However, I don’t recall ever hearing much about her, not even as a mere appendage to the name of Scorsese. Wouldn’t one be inclined to believe Shoonmaker’s editing has something to do with the visual presentation of what are considered some of Scorsese’s best? I’m sure many would say no because Scorsese oversaw her direction. For me, that’s not an excuse. Shoonmaker attended film school and studied the art of editing. She has her own style, and whether Scorsese had any input as to how she worked or not, it’s ultimately her style of editing that shows up, not Scorsese’s visual vision.

I believe I’ve made enough of my point clear in that brief analysis of Shutter Island, but readers would be wrong to interpret this as saying directors shouldn’t have their names pasted onto movie posters. That’s not true at all; in certain situations, they do deserve to be widely recognized as a driving force behind the creation of a film. In this area, directors such as Christopher Nolan and the Coen brothers begin to shine through. Not only to these directors oversee production, but they tend to fiddle with the screenplays, producing, cinematography, and editing. These are the directors who I have no problem attributing the majority of a film to. They put themselves in as many positions as possible, and while there are still a great many important aspects of creating a film that  they can’t take part in, the multiple roles they assume do enough to speak for their desire to create a film that’s most reflective of their creative vision.

So at the end of the day, who deserves credit for movies? Honestly, it’s hard to say. Cast and crew far outnumber directors, producers, and the like. There are roles that are more important than others. Maybe a movie would have turned out just fine with only a single grip. Maybe it would have turned out better without either; but that’s not to say they didn’t put forth their fair share of effort. It’s just an insignificant measure of worth that I’m using to determine who should be credited. There’s often only a single editor for a film. Without them, production would never conclude. Does that mean they deserve more credit than the casting director? Again, no.

At this point, I feel as though I’m just going around in circles, so I’ll finish up with but a few more statements. At the end of the day, deciding who should be given the most credit is quite ambiguous and largely varies from project to project. While I don’t agree with the fact that many people attribute movies only to the directors, there’s really no way to get everyone’s name out there – except in the credits. And for people who love making movies, that’s enough.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sequels to Look Forward to in 2012

Clash of the Titans 2
Most of those who’ve seen the original Clash of the Titans can agree that the first remake was highly unfaithful. That aside, it also created a huge buzz with converting a movie shot in 2D to 3D in post-production. I can predict where the cries of “blasphemy” shall erupt with this sequel. For starters, mostly everyone can agree that this should either be shot in 2D or 3D; it should stick with one or the other. The most important point is that the original Clash of the Titans spanned only one film. It’s completely unknown how this new project will expand upon the lore of Perseus…or if it will follow a new hero entirely.

G.I. Joe 2
The first G.I. Joe movie was…unremarkable. Very forgettable. For that reason, I don’t remember much about it, which doesn’t go over well for a sequel. When I hear of sequel plans, I want the events of the first movie to rush back to me. For G.I. Joe 2, they don’t at all. For me, this might as well be the first movie in the series.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Nicolas Cage. Ghost Rider sequel. Expect what you will. The end.

Underworld: Awakening
The first three movies in the Underworld series have typically met with mixed reviews from the professionals. From my perspective, they aren’t half bad – with the exception of the sequel. I’d really like to see where the story goes after the end of Evolution. Well, based on the trailer, I do have somewhat of an idea what the plot will entail, but what I’m really looking forward to is how well this fourth movie will be able to provide closure to the series (which the series does need). If there are any plans for a fifth Underworld that I’m not aware about, I hope that they are scrapped in the near future. The series is solid, but it doesn’t need to make the mistake of overstaying its welcome.

Men in Black 3
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones intend to reprise their roles in the third film in the Men in Black series, to be released an incredible ten years after the last, and will be joined onscreen by Josh Brolin, who, given his most recent roles in the Coen Brothers’ movies, seems like a great fit. The big question is how well this belated sequel will hold up to the first two movies, both whose quality is questionable.

Ice Age: Continental Drift
Why they still market these movie as “Ice Age” is far beyond my comprehension. The first movie was enjoyable, and the second looked like a good end to the series, with “the meltdown” spelling out doom for the ice age. But, in the interest of monetizing a popular franchise, it couldn’t stop there. I don’t know how to differentiate between the many ice ages of earth’s history, but I do know that the one we most commonly refer to occurred after dinosaurs became extinct, rendering Ice Age 3 a very questionable premise. And now, continental drift. Creatures that shouldn’t be able to survive in this warmer climate are to trudge on through another film…in 3D.

The Bourne Legacy
Like you, I was excited to know that another Bourne movie was in production. I was also highly upset upon the realization that, although this movie is the “Borne” legacy, it doesn’t feature Bourne. At all. Nope, Matt Damon won’t be the leading man in this fourth installment. He’ll be replaced by Jeremy Renner who I’m sure can handle the action-intensive world of Jason Bourne, but whether he’ll be able to get away with replacing the icon of the series is another matter entirely.

Resident Evil: Retribution
These movies aren’t getting any better. It’s amazing that they’ve made it this far because, to my knowledge, they aren’t the best performers at the box-office. Nonetheless, enough funding was secured to make another mundane movie with boring characters, boring actors, boring effects, and boring…everything else. Maybe I’m being a little too harsh on the series; maybe 2012 is the year where everything that was bad about the previous movies will finally be improved upon. But the chances of that are unlikely. Out of the many reasons I have for declaring such, I’ll entreat you with one: it’s a prequel. A prequel that still supposedly stars Milla Jovovich. While I wouldn’t like to see the movie, I would like to see how it compares to Underworld: Awakening.

Prometheus (Alien Prequel)
It’s been a long time since a real Alien sequel has seen the light of day. Naturally, the horrid crossover series between the Alien and Predator can’t be counted, and whether or not this can be counted is still under debate. While meant as a prequel to the Alien trilogy, it’s unknown how many connections this will have to the original three. After all, it is called Prometheus, and I’m unsure how the fire thief can be made to bear any relevance to an intergalactic species of murderous aliens.

Of course, between now and the start of next year (and during its course), there will likely be several more sequel announcements, kept obscure by the marketing giants. But for now, this is what we have to look forward to, and it is indeed a bleak future.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Disney/Pixar Live-Action Movie

I didn't believe it either, but it is true. Disney and Pixar are working on a live-action movie. It looks...archaic. Magical. Modern. And cheesy. All at the same time, but something's telling me that this might turn out better than many would expect. The first thing that came to my mind watching the trailer was Avatar, but this is clearly something entirely different that, even if it's not any good, promises to be an interesting ride.

John Carter Trailer

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top 3 Superhero/Comic Movies of 2011

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing as many movies as I would have liked, which includes some of which should be included in the running for this list. Given that mishap, it would be more than inappropriate for me to make some definite assertion of the credibility of this list. To the extent of what I did manage to see, I’d like to think my opinion on the matter is reliable; as for what I didn’t see, the most I can do for now is give my impressions of the movies.

Contestants: Captain America The First Avenger, Priest, Thor, X-Men First Class

#3 – Thor
Of all the movies I saw, Thor was without a doubt the worst. That’s not to say it was tremendously worse, because it wasn’t. Quite the contrary, it was a fun ride from start to finish. If you’ve seen my first blog entry about it, you should already be familiar with my thoughts on it. Comparatively, it evokes memories of Spiderman 3 which notoriously attempted to deal with the web-slinger’s universe from far too many angles. The same is the case here, with two stories acting simultaneously that might have been better developed and more engaging independently.

#2 – Captain America: The First Avenger
The First Avenger is that rare breed of movie that you absolutely want to love, but just can’t bring yourself to appreciate in the theater. My expectations were a gripping and compelling story told with stylized action sequences in between. From the trailers, that seemed to be what the movie was going for. Instead, the dialogue was quite goofy, the action stylized but repetitive, and the story silly. These aren’t things that make or break a movie, but that’s not how I felt the movie was advertised (which, I suppose, makes my opinion on the matter slightly biased). That disappointment aside, I don’t feel like the dialogue worked out regardless (honestly, such a comical take on world war should be punishable), the action became less interesting as the movie progressed, and only the Red Skull took the story seriously. I’m actually only realizing as I write this that that’s one of the problems present in Thor.

#1 – X-Men: First Class
This was the definitive superhero/comic movie of the season. It was everything you’d expect from an X-Men movie and more. That goes without saying it had its flaws. The performances seemed inconsistent at times to me, and the characters’ backstories were very noticeably rushed. This was a situation where it seemed like the characters involved in this movie should have all gotten the “Wolverine treatment” prior…except a quality treatment. Those gripes aside, First Class was a genuinely enjoyable movie from start to finish. The tone is consistent, the story deeper and darker than the original trilogy without becoming convoluted, and the cast of new faces a big refreshment. It’s one of few movies I’d hope everyone got a chance to see.

Impressions: Cowboys and Aliens, Green Lantern, Transformers Dark of the Moon

#3 – Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I don’t think I have to say much about this one. I enjoyed the first Transformers, but everything went downhill with Revenge of the Fallen. Based on the trailers, this seemed like an even bigger version of the first sequel, and that’s not something I’d be looking forward to at any given moment. More indistinguishable robots, a bigger plot with less relevance to anything relevant, more of Shia running around and screaming, a new set of annoying comic relief characters, and an enhanced dose of Michael Bay’s signature action movie treatment.

#2 – Green Lantern
The trailers for the Green Lantern were the weakest selling point and a major turnoff for me. Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan was a questionable casting choice in my opinion, on par with the casting in Fantastic Four, but at least that movie knew that it wasn’t looking to be taken completely seriously. Green Lantern gave me an entirely different impression, seeming like the kind of film hoping to make a lasting impact, just like the last DC Comics superhero movie to garner acclaim. I won’t spell out that reference any further. The effects look poor, and the trailer footage gave me the impression that Reynolds wouldn’t be capable of playing a convincing character.

#1 – Cowboys and Aliens
Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford joining forces was a concept that was too good to be true. I spent the better part of six months anticipating the release of this movie, so it’s one of the biggest shames of the summer that I never got around to seeing it. Nonetheless, I still have high expectations for the day I do have to pleasure of witnessing how well a western can meld with a science fiction tale as well as the chemistry between the modern James Bond and Indiana Jones. There’s something about those two’s prior roles that engages me, and I expect that engagement won’t be betrayed.

PS: I will be seeing Transformers (without any positive expectations) sometime in October. My opinion of that movie after viewing it likely won’t differ from my initial impressions.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thor Review

Being an esteemed student at the University of Georgia, I had the absolute pleasure of being able to watch a free screening of Thor. I remember my initial reaction to Thor when I first heard that it was in production. “How can they turn the story of a hammer-wielding god of thunder into a marketable movie?” The answer to that question was simple then, and it’s simple now. Marvel. Anything will Marvel’s name on it is bound to generate an incredible amount of buzz in the film industry, especially when they’re able to throw around references to better movies. But that practice in itself is a double-edged sword to those willing enough to consider the marketing strategy behind it.

When a movie can stand on its own merits, the need to cater to the public’s tastes becomes obsolete. Iron Man sold incredibly well, and it did so as a stand-alone movie. On the other hand, Thor advertised itself by referencing it as being a production from the creators of Iron Man, a movie with generally positive reviews and a positive following of fans. Why would Marvel need to do this? Of course, everyone already knew (or should have known) that the same people must have made Thor, as they are both intellectual properties of Marvel. The reasoning behind publicizing one movie with the success of a predecessor rests behind the studio/producer’s expectations of how well the movie will be able to stand alone. If they have low expectations, it becomes profitable to associate it with a piece of work that’s accepted as “great.” People, casual movie-goers particularly, will then come to expect a movie along the same lines of quality. In truth, one should expect a movie of lesser quality. Making the association between two movies is a clear cut sign that the parties responsible aren’t entirely confident that their newest work will receive as much acclaim as the last. It happens all the time. “From the writers of Hangover.” “By the visionary director of Buitiful.” “With five-time Academy Award-winner (insert actor’s name here).” Knowing that the creators aren’t confident in the work as a whole, I automatically lose confidence in it as well. Accompanied with my inherent distaste for the idea of a movie based on Thor, my motivation to see it was far below par.

To move away from that rant and back to my actual complaints with the movie, I’ll start by saying that it was much better than I expected, but not for the reasons I had previously anticipated. I expected Thor to be a poorly acted, contain a structurally fragmented plot, to have below-average special effects, and to try to take the concept too seriously. Some of those predictions proved well-made. Others fell short of the mark.

As for the pros of Thor, there are admittedly some fairly high points to be made. When the movie started, I immediately revoked any sentiments I harbored about the special effects beforehand. Visually, the movie was quite strong, and I did enjoy (for the most part) what I saw on screen. The costume design also stood out to me, particularly with Loki. He’s the kind of character who you should be able to recognize regardless who designs him – and notice him, I did. Odin’s eye piece and armor were great in my opinion, though I could only really see it comparatively (the comparison being between his subtle armor and Zeus’ extravagantly shiny and blinding armor from the Clash of the Titans remake). The costume that I really expected to fall through was Thor’s. Anyone who walks around in a red cape and a winged helmet is bound to look silly at one point or another, but there was a degree of professionalism to the outfit that I can’t quite wrap my mind around. The second high point was the foreshadowing. What this movie does best is serve as a huge advertisement for The Avengers which is going to be released sometime next year. Captain America did something very similar to this with the new technology being born from an Asgardian stone, it’s conclusion containing Nick Fury doing that thing that he likes to do in these Marvel movies, and a teaser trailer for The Avengers. Thor isn’t quite that covert with its advertising (please note the sarcasm), but there is something to be found that either hints at a sequel or at The Avengers. One such factor is Thor’s desire to return to earth. The second is that…well, Thor is one of the Avengers. If they never originally planned to make a Thor movie, it likely became a prerequisite for filming an Avengers movie. They needed backstories for each of the heroes meant to come together, and this was one of those backstories.

Now for the cons. I’ll try to keep this brief because I feel like I have an abundance of thoughts on this subject, but there’s no guarantee. First, I’d like to address that the story was somewhat fragmented, just as I’d predicted. At its core (if it can be said to have one), Thor was two movies. There was the first story of Thor’s intended ascension to the throne and Loki’s interference; and there was the story of Thor’s banishment to Earth. This duality of plotlines also spelled out another problem I had with the movie, which was the tone, something that I’ll discuss in conjunction with the story. To sum it up, there seemed to be a disconnect, largely because Asgard and Earth were so different visually, and what was happening in Asgard didn’t really have any influence over the events on Earth. To make matters worse, the events on Earth seemed more like a side story than anything else because it served much more as comic relief than the “life-or-death” mood set up in Asgard. Even Thor’s companions, who were typically serious in all that they did, became comical when they arrived on Earth. This separation between the fundamental function of the two worlds made the tone highly inconsistent. It’s not a problem having comic relief, but not to the point that it detracts from what the movie is supposed to be, which I felt was something serious. Tom Hiddleston as Loki seemed truly tormented and grave in his performance, as did Anthony Hopkins as Odin, but everyone else seemed somewhat campy, out on the set having a blast. Thor felt as though it was intended to be two completely different movies, one focused on Earth and one focused on Asgard. In the first, Thor could be banished to Earth and go through the process of redeeming himself so that he may return to his homeland. When he finally is able to return, he finds himself attached to the planet, and makes an oath to one day return. In the second part, Thor could return to Asgard to find that Loki has taken over, and wage war against his brother. The conflict would be the “dramatic sequel” that can function without having to introduce characters, as well as the bridge (get it, bridge?) that bestows upon Thor the ability to freely travel between two worlds. That ending would solidify his return to Earth for the Avengers. The last complaint I have (which I promise to keep brief) is the acting. Again, it seems inconsistent for a movie that I’m positive I’m supposed to be taking seriously. The characters, Thor particularly, too often move between being silly and serious. Sure, because of this, you never know what to expect in a scene, but it doesn’t always go over well for those who are anticipating something that they can invest themselves in.

The cons, for me, far outweigh the pros. Not in an overbearing way so that they’d completely ruin the movie for be, but enough for me to withhold my recommendation of it. I’d rate Thor a 55/100 give or take.

P.S. I still have no intention of seeing The Green Lantern unless a friend happens to acquire a DVD copy, and I can watch it for free.