Posted on 12/11/13 02:22 PM
Tis the season, as I'm writing this, to watch Christmas movies, coming hot off the heels of another RDJ and Shane Black Christmas team up (Iron Man 3) I realized I haven't done a proper review for one of the few Christmas movies I really, really love. This is a gem for not only contemporary Noir films but as well as one of the many showcases for the talents of RDJ.
The Good: Tongue in cheek, Noir homage done correctly, Val Kilmer, RDJ as the pitiful hero, quick pacing and a fun mystery drama.
The Bad: Chemistry in the romance is sort of lacking.
This film never, ever takes itself too seriously. Even in it's darkest moments there's an air of humor or it's never focused on for too long. That is such a huge improvement over movies where the overall humor is dragged down with long pauses of moroseness or tonal shifts like that. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, always strives for a never too serious feeling and the film really does it well, never overselling but more importantly never coming up short.
Noir is a hard genre to do an homage to without being a gimmick. Black's film has the foresight to say forget it, let's just be that gimmick and own it. Noir is a hard genre to give a nod to and Black has done by far the best.
Val Kilmer lost me when he played Batman, for a long, long time I had such a negative connotation to his name attached to a project that I avoided it like the plague. Not only did he vindicate himself in this film, he proved me to be prejudice without cause as well. Val as Perry is a hilarious, dark voice of reason for the movie, in a world where everyone does what they think they should do Perry does what he knows he should do. Val was spot on for the role and it was actually a pleasure to be proven so wrong.
Robert Downey Jr. most in my generation will only know him as the cool and confident hero who throws out one liners and saves the day as Sherlock Holmes or Iron Man, but his performance as Harry is so pathetic. It makes the character approachable and relatable, the guy got a lucky break in the most obscene of circumstances and he never has a real plan. Harry wings it the entire film, even in it's waning moments his position of solidarity is more of a haphazard to hell with it. This performance is probably my second favorite of RDJ's and it cant be praised enough.
The film moves along quickly, it never stalls, we catch our breath when we have to of course but it does it in a firm and confident pace between a run and a brisk walk. You'll never find yourself checking your watch during the film and it keeps you engrossed the entire ride.
This film for being so fast, being so tongue in cheek is a really, really fun mystery drama. You do want to figure out what happened, you do find every bit of evidence and revelation interesting. It walks a fine line being so cavalier about so much but it does it well, you can be engaged or sort of just listening and still have a great time watching this film.
It's strange that as a foil to Harry, Harmony works very well as a character. Yet, as a romantic interest I just don't buy it. The two seemed to have a history, a story and a motive but I don't think that it necessarily leant itself to a romantic sense. The chemistry just isn't there for me, it's only a minor complaint and some of the best scenes in the film are between Harry and Harmony, her character works just not quite as intended.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is a gem of a film, I highly recommend it as an unorthodox Christmas movie, a noir homage, a dark comedy but more importantly, a good movie.
Posted on 11/22/13 06:59 AM
I've heard people calling Iron Man 3 the "end of a trilogy." That's wrong, and clearly you don't understand what is trying to be done with the MCU. They are different story lines in the same universe, to say Iron Man 3 is part of a trilogy is wrong, as Stark appeared in both Hulk and The Avengers. Iron Man 3 might not be an end piece but is a great exploration of one of our favorite Avengers, Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. team up once more for another great film.
The Good: Christmas Story, little suit time, banter/comedy, Pepper's Increased Role the final battle scene and the Mandarin.
The Bad: Obnoxious opening music, bland bad guys, Don Cheadle's role, The Mandarin and a bit short of what it could have been.
Although Christmas isn't my favorite Holiday, it has made some of my favorite movies: A Christmas Story, Die Hard and of course Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. When Marvel announced that Black would be directing I speculated if it would be a Christmas story and was elated that it was. That's such a novel move, usually in the big franchises you get a scene or an act at Christmas but an entire film at Christmas really makes the MCU more versatile and really elevates the fun level of the film.
Many of the complaints I heard about Iron Man 3 was that there was very little Iron Man, it's true but I think there's just enough suit time. We've seen what Tony can do in the suit for three films now but we never had any idea what he could do out of it. This is a gamble and for some viewers it didn't pay off but for me it did. What I loved about the first Iron Man was that sense of discovery, and we're finally back on a path of discovery again in the third film. It's great and it's very in depth and a well played gamble. Strip Stark of everything, is he still a convincing character is he still interesting? You're damned sure he is.
Robert Downey Jr. was born for this role, but it appears at this point everyone else has finally caught up to the master of banter. Especially Gweneth Paltrow, she's a riot in the film and her wit is equal to that of RDJ, the two are hilarious together.
Speaking of Pepper, her role has increased considerably since 1,2 or the Avengers. She was merely a plot piece, something to protect, she became more by 2 but she still had that aura of needing protection. In the third we see Pepper don a suit of armor and help protect instead of being helpless, as well as actively helping solve the mystery of the Mandarin, I'm always for females having bigger and better roles and I hope if Paltrow returns in the MCU its as an active Avenger eventually.
The final battle scene was probably as entertaining as the Avengers finale but with a different sense of scope. This was truly a one man army, with every incarnation of his imagination going at it with the bad guys. It was fun to see, albeit briefly, different versions of Iron Man and Stark changing between forms at will, it shows a versatile and energetic final battle which is a nice departure from the overtly serious and ominous battles we see so often in final set pieces.
This last part is a double edged sword and is why it was reserved for the final piece of the good. The Mandarin reveal. If you don't know what it is I'm unfortunately going to divulge a spoiler and either scroll on down or go watch the movie. Regardless, the fact that the Mandarin was a fašade and more of an ideal was incredibly aggravating to the fan boy in me. The Mandarin is magical and I had a hard enough time accepting him as merely a terrorist, but Kingsly's portrayal up until the reveal had me captivated and engrossed. Yet, I did laugh at the turn of events and applauded it's novelty but at the same time-
--its not exactly the right move for the film. It's now suffering from too many villains and it not only made a mockery of what was supposed to be the biggest one but the surprise upsets the whole narrative. Let me explain, Aldrin was the catalyst we always expected he was a bit off but not the Mandarin himself, why did he have to hire someone to take on such a public persona? Was it really necessary or was this just a plot device thrown in there for the sake of their being a twist? It seems a bit unnecessary is all.
Also the opening music was a poor choice. Say what you will about Faverau but he understood the music of Iron Man, ACDC was a great choice, both shoot to thrill and back in black were spot on choices for the character and appropriate for the openings of the films. Choosing Im Blue was not a smart move, its not Stark music, it's dating the scene which is the point I understand considering it's in the 90's. However, it doesn't say much about Stark, he wouldn't listen to this he is a classic despite the times. Queen, Aerosmith, Black Sabbith, ACDC any one would have been better than the choice they used for the opening of the third film.
The extremis soldiers all sort of melt into one face, they weren't compelling villains, despite being mistreated veterans, and that's a damn shame. You could have said so much with these guys, being spurned by society and fighting back in all the wrong ways but instead they were made to be two dimensional back ground characters.
Another pointless part of the film also seems to be Don Cheadle's Rhodey. Rhodey is sort of just there, he helps Stark yes, but he's not as important as he was in the second film let alone the first. The point is Rhodey is clutter, he's there to be a buddy not to help Stark overcome his serious issues that are the focal point of this film. IT just seems like Rhodey was here to be a joke the "Iron Patriot" and it wasn't a funny joke.
The main problem of Iron Man 3 is it's a film with a lot to say and not a lot of time to do it, so no single message is ever really conveyed. The satire with the extremis soldiers was to be about how to handle soldiers, that plot line is never really elaborated on, Tony's cockiness brings his world crumbling around him, that's also never fully elaborated on. Hell the man blows up his suits at the end of the film, is that really the best way to handle it? Start over with no hint of your past life? That's not living that's hiding and if the message is that Tony is Iron Man so long as he doesn't have the suit that's false. The suit represented his amends, his commitment to rectifying his sins, getting rid of it and the arc reactor is to say Afghanistan never happened, that his realization back in the first film was irrelevant that putting his ego aside and saving New York meant nothing so long as he can have a "life." That's false and that's not the hero I love.
Iron Man 3 is a slight step up from Iron Man 2 but not the equal of either the Avengers or the first Iron Man. This film is a great and unorthodox Christmas film with a lot to say even if it's end message is a bit convoluted you're going to have a great time getting there anyways. 7/10
Posted on 11/11/13 10:29 PM
Four years ago one of the greatest crime dramas and super hero films to have ever graced the screen, The Dark Knight, forever changed the genre of superhero film. Had the Dark Knight been the end of Nolan's Bat saga it would have ended on a perfect note and left much to the imagination. Nolan however felt the story needed three parts. Every bit of Nolan's work I had not only liked but rather thoroughly enjoyed and each became one of my favorite films. The question is not only, is The Dark Knight Rises a fitting end to the legend? But, also is it a good film on its own as each sequel should be?
The Good; A strong follow up to Ledger in Hardy, Anne Hathaway's performance, The first two acts of the film and the shots of Batman in prison.
The Bad; This is a film about Bruce Wayne, the run time seems excessive, Alfred's absence , a rather shaky third act, a departure from realism, more actions than cognitive engagement, contradictions in philosophy and a less than satisfying ending.
The Ugly; Bane's fate by the end of the film and what it really means.
What was the most worrisome was what would be a suitable, if any at all, follow up villain or performance to Ledgers Joker? While Hardy did not quite meet Ledger's performance he did fantastic as Bane. Hardy was much closer to his actual character attributes than Bane was in Schumaker's horrible rendition of the character. Hardy brings a thoroughly intelligent Bane to the screen who speaks and thinks rather than using his brute strength to get what he wants. My favorite being when he successfully bankrupt Wayne, that was a beyond intelligently executed plan. Hardy's Bane is the best rendition thus far and a worthy follow up to Ledger's performance.
I am about to divulge a secret to all those reading this-my first crush was Michelle Pfiefer as Catwoman in Batman Returns. Ever since, I've thought no one could do a better rendition of the role than she. I was mistaken; Miss Hatheway brings elegance, sex appeal and a sense of danger to the character. The character is also incredibly intelligent and a bit cynical which was a rather delightful twist on Catwoman. The real question is does she hog too much screen time in the film? Actually my complaint is rather opposite I would have much preferred more Catwoman on screen to give the film some more life.
The first two acts of the film breeze along rather quickly and are most enjoyable. My favorite act being when Batman gets back into the life of Batman. The first two acts don't have the weight of the first two acts of Begins of The Dark Knight, but, Rises has a much lighter viewing to it that may be a perk otherwise.
The absolute best part of the film is perhaps the arc of Batman in Bane's prison. It is very allegory and incredibly entertaining, it is the most cognitively engaging moment of the entire film, that being the literal and figurative reconstruction of Bruce Wayne. Batman does not leave this prison. It is a finally mended Bruce Wayne rather. Which is an interesting swap in Batman Begins we saw the birth of Batman and in Rises we saw his demise but the rebirth of Bruce Wayne. It's a very expressionistic scene and arc and hands down the best scene of the film.
As I stated in the good section this film rather departs from the first two installments in it being a film about Batman, this is the film about Bruce Wayne and his rebirth. Which is not at all what I'd expected, in my opinion, Batman was born the night of Martha and Thomas Wayne's death. Bruce Wayne is merely a guise to further the agenda of the Batman. In Rise we see the rise of Bruce Wayne not the Dark Knight. Which in the context of what Nolan was trying to convey, overall narrative of the three films, is to have Bruce Wayne succeed is not what I'd expected. I cared not for Bruce Wayne's rebirth and it was a shame to see Batman slowly die as the film went on.
I applaud Nolan's attempt, to shake up the components of the Batman story, but Alfred was meant to be the in between. Alfred was the link to the rest of the world to instruct Batman how to be Bruce Wayne, this was made apparent in the first two installments, and Alfred brought heart and comic relief with his wry humor. Bale is not nearly the comedic equal nor was Hatheway, "Oh, that's what that feels like." Does not nearly measure up to what Alfred brought to each film. Nolan in many ways tried desperately to depart from what made the first two installments successful, taking Alfred out of the picture, in my opinion, was too far and too much removed from what made the three parts enjoyable.
Once Bruce Wayne has been reborn and he has made it back to Gotham and the third act has begun, you feel the picture shake underneath the weight of its own story. By this I mean it gives way to convention to try and be safe, to try and satisfy. The third act is the least enjoyable of all nine acts of the three films. I need not remind anyone the ending is astronomically important. I suppose that's where I feel most complaint, in that the film overall has departed from the first two installments in inclusive narrative.
I loved and held Nolan's Batman films over all other pieces of super hero fare due to the fact that the films were transformative and realistic. Rises departs from this harshly, it is pulpy in many moments and horribly unrealistic others. What I mean is that the films made me believe a Batman could exist or Scarecrow or the Joker, the last film is so unrealistic in moments that it's nearly silly. I believe the populace of Gotham would question Bane in his revealing of the truth, I don't believe a group of cops would charge mercenaries armed to the teeth. Also with as much coverage Bane's minions had they would have found the Bat in three months' time. This film also is silly in some portions, the montage where Catwoman is leading Batman to see Bane being the most ridiculous as if it is an ode to itself. The film also does not take itself seriously it isn't as intricate or refined as Begins or Knight it is much more straightforward in its representation of what is good and what is evil.
Nolan has had a knack for genre blending, he has created a superb transformative super hero crime drama in previous installments and now, it is a much more straightforward super hero film. Batman uses his fists much more often than he uses his mind, to interrogate, to deduce to solve. This film does not take a good deal of cognitive deduction to understand what is being conveyed, and then Batman punches and Batman slams, which is disappointing and is only entertaining to a point.
"What gives you the right? What's the difference between you and me?" "I'm not wearing hockey pads." What does this exchange mean? That means only a certain few can be the Batman and the rest of the populace are to be inspired by the symbol but can never be him. "That's the point of Batman it could be anyone" Wait one moment... Now we've changed our philosophy? This is a lie, not anyone can be the Batman. Batman passes on his mantle meticulously and knows what he is doing. The narrative in the sense of overall philosophy and message has found itself rather compromised here; it cannot decide what it means. "Well-if you're not wearing hockey pads and you have money-then-anyone can be the batman" Is that what we're trying to convey?
This is what I'd thought for an ending. Batman returns from Bane's prison reasonably afraid to die, knowing however that he had to. Flying the nuke over Gotham Harbor he does just that and sacrifices himself for the good of the city. This is how I thought Nolan's take on the Bat should have ended. This is not my film series and not my prerogative, however, this ending was a cheat. A convenient cop out for Bruce Wayne and the happy ending I did not wish to see honestly. Bruce Wayne has become Batman he does not hand over his mantle to someone who has none of the training he has had, nor does he leave to Italy to live the happy quiet life with Catwoman. This ending was such a letdown, such a disappointment for what Nolan has created and what's worse is this film really only is good by any means because it has two films prior to it. That is this sequel could not stand alone was it not for Dark Knight or Batman. You need not see Batman Begins to enjoy the Dark Knight; you must see Begins and Knight to enjoy Rises to any extent.
I love Bane in this film, I disdained Schumaker's rendition for it reduced Bane to a grumbling henchmen. In Rises we see Bane as a powerful political leader until the third act where it is revealed that Bane was merely a vehicle and a loud speaker for-Talia Al Ghul. Making Bane, once again, a henchman. Words cannot articulate my irritation at this. Bane is a powerful character and it would be nice if a film was made which finally showed him for what he was, a complex character who may not always be the villain and has some rationale for what he does, instead in Rises we see the return of Bane as a henchmen.
Overall, The Dark Knight trilogy is a rather enjoyable trilogy, its last installment needs the prior two films in order to be entertaining. It has a most disappointing ending but Rises will entertain and I am sure give a light ending to a heavy story. Rises is escapism rather than transformative which is a shame. Nolan has created a fine story even if it does not meet the heights of the rest of the story. 5/10
Posted on 11/11/13 10:28 PM
To be honest Thor was such a minor note in the scheme of Marvel that I never thought twice about him. The film and his inclusion in the Avengers did wonders but when I first reviewed this film I was more or less critiquing the character rather than the film. Years later I think I've finally figured out just what I have to say about The Mighty Avengers.
The Good: Good performances from Hemsworth, Hiddelston and Hopkines, Novel origins story, Culture clash, Fantastic visuals, Self deprecating humor and Actual character progression.
The Bad: Suffers from bland characters, Never really proves Science, Extra-terrestrials are too human and Magic theory, Romantic sub plot is very weak.
The Ugly: Pointless Avenger plug in.
Thor is very, very well cast, the character. Hemsworth brings to the role a self entitled swagger that is very convincing along with the physicality to make you believe he will rock your world. Hemsworth is also capable of delivering very emotional lines as well as the typical hero fare, and interacts really well with the cast. As does especially Hiddelston that had he been given more screen time might have stolen the show, he is an impish clever and deeply intelligent character. It's almost not fair to call him an antagonist he wants in essence what Thor wants and he very nearly gets it, at some points I may have been sort of hoping he got the throne. Hopkins is a very convincing god, he speaks with gravity, authority and his deliverance is impeccable. Including someone like Hopkins brought talent as well as star power to the film.
Have you ever really seen an origins story like this? No this was really novel, he had everything but his fall and climb back up is really unique and strange. The narrative shouldn't have worked like this but it paid off really well.
Much of the humor that defines the film comes from the culture clash. The asgardians live an almost cartoonish life-style and Thor's fall from grace into mortality is hilarious. Smashing coffee cups, hospitals, eating is all a hilarious culture clash story and it is Thor's greatest strength. One of the best lines of exposition comes from Selvic and Thor in the bar together where Jane and the stakes of the universe are discussed with honky tonk playing in the back ground.
This film really is a visual treat, the costumes are strange and unique, Asgard is beautiful and even the icy planet of Jodenheim is strangely beautiful. The best scenes aren't of Thor swinging the hammer but of the bifrost which was a unique presentation.
What moves the film along the most and is the most satisfying part is Thor actually changing. Thor starts as a spoiled brat and is irritating. When we see him crash it's almost pathetic but when he finally rises, he may not be a unique character in his delivery but it is rewarding all the same.
The amount of useless characters in this movie, or worse yet, unconvincing and bland characters is annoying and shocking. Natalie Portman, a generally good actor, gives a stale and unconvincing performance as Jane Foster. Even worse is the warriors three, I felt zero connection to them despite their large role and they felt like archetypes of heroes meant to serve Thor rather than change him. Its unconvincing and seriously brings the film down.
The line saying Thor comes from a land where science and magic are one and the same is interesting and I believed it at first, but think about it when did the film prove that? It proved it was just science, of another culture. The line almost just broadens the scope of the marvel universe instead of enhancing it.
Speaking of Natalie portman a paragraph ago, do you know when I checked my phone for what time it was? The scene with Thor and Jane atop the trailer. Jane Foster is a weak representation, she is a brilliant scientist who swoons after Thor like a love sick school girl. The romantic sub plot is annoying, distracting and the two stars really don't have any chemistry to speak of.
Aside from Thor, Loki and Odin the other Asgardians can almost be traced back to very human heroes. My point is that there are very few instances where I think of the Asgardians as extra-terrestrials, they're just humans that have read too many stories. The point is the Asgardians severely lacked a culture and it took away from the film.
Why was Hawkeye in this movie? There isn't a good reason, it was useless. This close up served no purpose except to say, "Hey! Remember the Avengers is coming out! This guy with the bow is one of them! Cool eh?" It's not even an easter egg its shameless plugging.
For a relatively unknown marvel title Thor does do well for itself, maybe not for the character but it does broaden the Marvel Universe beyond the bounds of earth. Hemsworth and a few other fine performances along with the humor and clever narrative save the film from what would otherwise have been a generic super hero film. However bland characters and useless sub plots really lower what could have been an intriguing piece if it just would have gone deeper. 6/10.
Posted on 11/11/13 10:02 PM
Do you know what?s hard to do? Apparently for me its writing a review on The Avengers. I think it?s because it is one of those films that everyone has so much to say about that getting in the conversation and actively adding to it is really difficult. We have all seen the great spectacle, and for the most part great movies, that has defined the MCU. Marvel?s ambition has yielded great results and in recent memory I can?t think of a movie that?s had such a great pay off since the Dark Knight, like the Avengers has had.
The Good: Character intros, Dysfunctional team, Comedy, Escapism done very well, Tom Hiddelston, Investment in the loss of Coulson, Logical final fight, Quick pace, In knowledge isn?t necessary.
The Bad: Slow and weak opening, Very bland final enemy and Cap's uniform.
Introducing characters in a franchise film like the Avengers is really difficult. There are going to be some who have seen Iron Man but not Captain America, or Thor but not The Incredible Hulk. Joss Whedon had the good sense to say to hell with it, concise intros that perfectly reflect who the characters are and they?re intentions. This is fantastic we have exposition that doesn?t irritate the initiated into the series while accurately describing to new comers who these heroes are. Whedon did the same on Serenity and shows why he is one of the best sci-fi directors working today.
Cinema has it's fair share of dysfunctional teams, but not quite like The Avengers does. The premise almost sounds like a bad joke, a billionaire genius, a patriotic war hero, a god and a man with anger issues have to work together. Whedon does a really great job of showing off different ways the team is dysfunctional. The obvious Thor and Hulk fight to Captain America and Iron Man?s huge culture and class clash. While characters like Coulson and us as the viewers look on in dismay. All we want you to do is work together! It?s great frustration and good story telling.
Escapism done right is impressive and has a high, high replay value. I saw the Avengers six times in the cinemas. The film never takes itself too seriously but also never forgets what is happening. Will this film change your life? No. Will you watch it again and again? Yes. This is great movie that is an easy watch.
Great escapist movies have great villains, Die Hard had Hanz Gruber, Harry Potter had Voldemort and The Avengers has Tom Hiddelston?s Loki. Loki is a devilish, trickster who?s swagger is disarmingly charming. His motivations are sound and although I never really came to hate Loki, I did love his brand of villainy that if it were not for Tom Hiddelston, would have been an unconvincing performance from any one else.
The end of the world is a been there, done that sort of fair. It?s sad but really it is, Whedon had a better object at stake. Funny and average, yet extraordinary Phil Coulson. Phil was almost like the audience, in the moment more of an observer and yet he separated himself from us by his abilities. When Coulson died in the film that was worth avenging. It was a novel move, a dark surprise and not only solidified the team but also the ultimate motivation for the final battle.
Speaking of the final fight scene it was really welcome to see some logic behind a final fight instead of a messy, oh god its everywhere final fight. The team actively says, logically we should contain this. That tiny bit of foresight does wonders for not only the scale of the fight but the reliance on the team.
The film has a very brisk pace, it has to be for the amount of star power that is very well divided among the team. Many events in the film come and go, all done justly and quickly with the team growing until it comes to a quick assemblage in New York. Considering the run time of the film it never feels like a long film.
For The Avengers ultimately being a sequel to several films it never feels like it. The same foresight that kept the intros concise but elaborate is at work the entire movie. You never need ot have seen another film in the MCU to understand just what?s going on in The Avengers. It?s nice to have it especially in terms of scale but it never stalls or leaves you wondering about anything.
The opening scene is the only moment in the film that sort of drags on. It?s a lot of exposition about the tesseract and were it not for Tom Hiddelston?s intro I would have thought the Avengers opened with more of a splat than a bang. That?s not to say the film has a completely weak opening it?s just bloated and even a collapsing building barely warrants a ?meh?.
The chitauri are a very, very bland enemy. There is nothing distinctive about them and their ships look almost like transformers. Loki is leading an army of faceless followers and it is distracting. Their numbers are impressive yes, but I never feared them, and honestly to describe them is almost ot say grey, velociraptor predatorish things. Weak support to a very strong antagonist.
Captain America's uniform in the first Avenger is utilitarian, plausible and works really well for the period piece. Had I been the one to make the call for Captain America?s uniform it would have been to stay in line with that, maybe a bit more modern but let?s not completely go full on spangly on the outfit. Cap?s outfit in the Avengers is almost distracting. It is uninspired and it does wonders to take the mask off, the colors swirl together and create an unimpressive scheme in comparison especially to the other costume. Minor note but it still does damage since Cap is such one of the leaders of the team.
The Avengers is a film that I honestly did not expect to succeed on the level that it did, Whedon is a great director and as his work in Serenity showed he can work around a team. Marvel has raised the bar for escapist super heroes at the movies that will be difficult to match, however it does suffer from an almost non starter beginning and issues in the visuals. 8.5/10
Posted on 11/11/13 08:55 PM
Do you remember a time before zombie movies? I know I don't, there's always been zombies as a plot point or a central character but I do remember a time that they weren't as popular as they are now. One of those gems that came after the second revival, which arguably really started with Zack Snyder's Dawn of the dead, was Shaun Of The Dead. As far as firsts go, this was also my first Edgar Wright film and aside from the true narrative power of zombies being portrayed for the first time since Night Of The Living Dead, this was my intro into elaborate and smart comedies.
The Good: Excellent exposition, Exacerbation, opening credits, growing up as an adult, great horror shots, double meanings, huge array of comedy and a touching film.
The Bad: Some bloated shots.
What plagues many horror films, and many films period, is the over use or under use of exposition especially in introductions. Either we painfully know all about a character or we know so very little and are left to decipher it as we go along. In Shaun Of The Dead the film is beyond clever in it's use of both. Introductions are fast paced and woven into the exposition of another character and their intentions and motivations are made clear. The first scene in The Winchester moved along briskly, hilariously and is an example that ought be followed.
The film has a few recurring themes but my favorite is Exacerbation. The film in many different ways shows how things continuously become exacerbated, from a small character level as well as the entire zombie apocalypse. The personal level is best at the Liz and Shaun relationship level, where Shaun is a grown man in a dead end job and yet the only good thing he really has going for him he continues to put under enormous amounts of stress that, finally, takes the end of the world to mend. It's important, clever and darkly funny to put such a focal point on exacerbation even so far as defining it in the opening scene.
Wright, is never a director to shy away from direct physical representation in his films, my favorite is in Hot Fuzz(review to follow.) However Wright's outright portrayal of society being at a stage of zombification is biting. What is Shaun defending other than a tame version of the apocalypse already come? Shaun himself is a form of that zombification shown in the opening, go to work, go home, go to the pub, play video games etc. etc. The opening scene really sets the tone of what to look for throughout the film and works really well at making you look inward to what's important in our lives and question our motives.
Growing up is a never ending process, we are all kids on some level. It's picking and choosing constantly that defines us at various levels along with our levels of responsibility. Shaun is a kid in adult attire. He takes the very bare amount of responsibilities having not even excelled in management in his own job and continuously putting boyhood antics ahead of his love life. It is extreme the example it takes for him to grow up but it is very well done, everything Shaun does from the outbreak on dictates him as a character, how he handles his routine and so on. It is fitting that his greatest fixation and crutch, The Winchester, is the moment he does disband his childishness and realizes what is important. It's very metaphorical and well done throughout the neighborhood, with symbolism of childhood interwoven, video games, late nights, even a child's slide.
Just a quick note on this but the horror and build up shots are very, very well done. The scene that comes most to mind is the scene of Shaun having the zombie atop him while his friend photographs the event. It is reminiscent of Night of The Living Dead, where the first zombie in film history is atop one of the protagonists. Wright has done his homework and his shots are perfect.
The comedy is really versatile in this film, there is the obvious slap stick that is used sparingly and very wise in that, but the true humor comes from the absurd and the intelligent. The antics that Shaun and crew come across in the wake of the zombie apocalypse are hilarious, whether it be acting to get across a field of zombies or lending helpful tips on how to handle a zombie kill, Wright is a very well crafted comedic film maker and one of the finest.
This film is endlessly touching. Every major relationship in life is represented and even some that aren't always represented in film. The most touching was that of Shaun and his step-father who in a tight space of time manages a story arc from beginning to end, that suitably ends in a chuckle rather than a tear. Goodbyes are the most common place in the film and in it we see Shaun say goodbye to friends, parents, habits and even a little bit of himself in all of it.
Some of the shots and scenes are a bit bloated, and over done. Wright generally fixes these wrongs with good pay off but some of the set up could have been tighter in the editing stages.
Aside from that minor complaint I really, really loved Shaun Of The Dead. It's a film that can be enjoyable for die hard horror and gore fans, as well as comedic and drama fans. It's a film with a wide array and it is still Wright's best film as of yet. 8/10
Posted on 10/08/13 12:48 PM
There are few more celebrated trilogies than that of the original Star Wars trilogy. Powerful mythology, effects and straight forward morality dictated the original trilogy that culminated in a powerful finale. However, though it succeeds as an ending, how does it measure up as a film on it's own? Not as the third chapter?
The Good: Continued powerful use of visual effects, non diagetic and diagetic film elements, a conflicted Darth Vader, the ominous emperor, the conclusion of the heroes journey, a closed ending.
The Bad: A weak opening, uneven pacing, a week empire, over use of slap stick and conflicting tones.
As with every Episode of Star Wars, the visual properties of the film are top notch. The cinematography, sets, miniatures and visual effects all stun. In Jedi, the set locations are particularly well done, especially the thick forest scenes on Endor. What really sold the empire in Jedi was the sheer of amount of storm troopers and imperial officers that were able to be mustered and put on camera. What I mean by all of this is, Jedi is a grand story, with grand amounts of extras and grand visuals.
Empire's greatest feats were not so much in the diagetic and non diagetic elements, in Jedi there is a return to their being the center, particularly the score. The lightsaber sounds are also rather impressive, especially the sounds of two sabers clashing. The sounds of Vader; the breathing and James Earl Jones, all culminated in the most powerful performance of Vader in the original trilogy.
What I am trying to state in this is that, this is the most human we see Vader, he truly is conflicted. Does his love for Luke prove that there is still good left in him? Vader has been proven to be a convincing dramatic character instead of a looming dark entity in the background. In this film and in this performance we have a very entertaining and versatile Vader, capable of all his malice and hate, yet, conflicted to love. Vader's stepping down as the main antagonist was a great performance, that as always, gets my round of applause to James Earl Jones.
With Vader stepping down as the main antagonist, the Emperor, is a delightfully subtle, yet powerful entity. The Emperor plays a disturbingly charming character. From his arrival onto the second Death Star, and his display as the most powerful being in the force with his first and final confrontation against Luke and Anakin Skywalker, the Emperor succeeds in playing an entirely terrifying antagonist in Jedi.
The greatest part of Jedi's narrative is the conclusion of Luke's training. Spanning the entire film we see a serious Luke, who is relying on himself more than anything. Rather than having the ghostly Obi Wan Kenobi, or the wise Yoda, Luke himself has become the embodiment of mysticism in this installment, by the journey's end, Luke himself seems able and immersed in the force enough to go on as the wise wizard. Not just Luke complete his journey as the hero. Anakin completed his quest to become the chosen one, he defeated the emperor after Luke defeated the evil in Vader. If Luke is the Wizard, then Vader is the champion.
What I really, really enjoyed was that this film had a definite ending. Not just in the final scene, everything has a nice, neat ending. The empire seems defeated, the love stories have been neatly assigned, Vader and the Emperor met their end, and Luke is a jedi. This ending to such a complete extent, harkens back to the original Star Wars, and is the most fitting end to this powerful, classic trilogy.
The opening to Jedi, is slow and at times boring. Crawling at the speed of the opening logos, the first act starts off with a considerable disappointment and a yawn within the first five minutes.
The improvement done in Empire has been undone in Jedi, there are the old pacing problems. It has a trouble maintaining any sort of rhythm in this murk of pacing, such as the slow opening, to the brisk introduction of R2 and C3PO, to the then long and drawn out failed rescue attempt, unfortunately the film doesn't establish a good rhythm until the third act and brings the entertainment of the film back a bit.
Another problem is that, aside from the emperor, I don't find any one that ominous. Vader is a believable conflicting figure, while the Empire. Is just there. Not fighting until provoked, defeated by Ewoks, and really, the only strength they seem to show is in numbers. It is hard to believe it but in Jedi, the empire seemed pathetic.
Another problem was at moments the film resorted to some rather overly childish antics, particularly slap stick, the most odd being Luke, Hand and Chewbacca stuck in a tree trap. Oh the hilarity was the intended effect I am sure, it is just the physical comedy elements were glaring in this epic, and at times seemed out of place.
The ultimate culmination in the conflict of slap stick vs. epic is just that problem, conflicting tones. A conflicting Vader is a dark element, but the film goes back and forth between very light and easy going (Ewok Battle) to Dark, serious and epic (Final Battle) the film contradicts itself, making each event not seem to matter as much as it ought. This lessens the film, instead of celebrating it's scope, it celebrates all of it's assets.
The Return of The Jedi is a better ending than most series ever get. On it's own it is a great film, it does not need the prior to films for you to understand it's scope. Jedi is not without it's flaws though, uneven pacing, conflicting tones and a less than oppressive evil lessen the need for our hero's to win. All the same, they did and even though it is a better complimentary piece to the story than it is a film all its own, Jedi is a film worth talking about. This is my fourth favorite in the series. 8/10
Posted on 10/08/13 12:48 PM
There was once a bet made between a friend and I, he stated that I could not read all four Twilight books and still dislike the series, citing that the films were not nearly as good as the films. Within two weeks I finished the series, returned the books and then promptly began citing my now refined literary, allegorical and philosophical disagreements with the novel series. With this I then was shown the twilight films, seeing that I had not reviewed any of the films, and being subjected to a viewing of the latest entry into the series, I give you my review of Break Dawn Part 2.
The Good; Best unintentional comedy in years, fantastic fight scene.
The Bad; unintentional comedy, poor CGI, severe instances of over acting, pacing and an awful ending.
The Ugly: Rationalizing pedophilia and anti catholic agenda.
Words can not articulate how much fun I had watching this film, I mean that, I don't believe this is the sort of entertainment the film makers intended for me. The scenes were so Soap opera inspired, so disgustingly wrapped in their own world and daring to present it as a serious film, that I really enjoyed the film. It was fantastically hilarious, my favorite bit being, when Bella recently turned into a vampire, has a slow motion running scene, and the elation on her face, usually stoic face I might add, with her fast moving body creates the best moment in the film. Although much of the film is hilarious, such as the actual intended humorous scene, where Bella harshly berates Jacob Black for naming her daughter Nessie, Stewart's acting is so off the mark that the scene, indeed, was hilarious.
The fantasy fight scene at the end of the film was immaculate. Words can not articulate how glad I was that the film had so heavily derailed from the novel that I was genuinely mad, when I found out it wasn't a gamble, it was a
The film's greatest strength is also it's weakness. It becomes irritating with everyone taking the material so seriously. It was an odd combination of extreme boredom to extreme laughter, over and over again, the film ought have embraced it's awful screenplay and dialogue with a very tongue in cheek approach. Really though, the worst bit I laughed at, was the end credits, with the bleeding heart soundtrack playing to the hallmark sequence of actors, some of whom, did not appear in the film-just then did Breaking Dawn Part 2 decide the entire saga was one big film-I laughed, I was irritated, what else is there to say?
The werewolves and especially Bella's CGI are awful. I chuckled every time a vampire would "woosh" to and fro, for no reason. They're fast, I understand it, but the tornado swooshes aren't doing much for the case of your film being seriously stooped in the supernatural, its steeped in, once again, unintentional comedy. The wolves however, never progressed past playstation 2 level graphics in any of the installments, and every time a wolf phased, not a laugh escaped me, just a mild groan, perhaps I have been spoiled on the Lord of the rings style graphics I am accustomed to.
While the acting was one of the strongest comedic formulas in the film, it became a bit much as time went on, Pattinson's irritation with his character is glaringly obvious, and all but then Egyptian vampires, seem very bored in their roles. There is either intense flashes of over acting, "She tells the truth!" or dead flat pan deliveries "Woman if we live through this, I'll follow you anywhere." "Now you tell me." Either way the performances either create the best elements in the film, comedic, or the worst, dull.
The film is a slow, slow, slow film. With an awful lot of unconvincing build up. The problem is that the film never takes off from more than a crawl save for one scene, the it never happened fight. Everything else, walks at a leisurely pace it does not deserve.
There was a moment in the film where I exclaimed "BULL SHIT" at the screen, my apologies to the multitude of Twilight faithful I annoyed in that moment. It was just the swap ending, was so awful, so irritating and so insulting, that it beyond perplexed me. The ending they had presented was just the gusto and back bone lacking in the novel series, if you are so powerful and better than your enemies prove it, it is clear the voltory are evil, finish them, what sort of message is it to let them continue to reign? When what they do is wrong?
Plain and simple, this film rationalized Pedophilia. There is no argument against it, Jacob Black and much of the wolf clan are pedophiles. This is disturbing, all the werewolves are of native American decent-so either they are truly savages who morally are inferior to the vampires, European/American, or the film's message is, Pedophilia, its good, as long as you wait.
I hail from a Hispanic/polish family. My father's side being Catholic. We were then Lutheran and now I am an atheist. I don't agree with any of the churches and I believe, it has a bit too much sway. This is from a human right's perspective purely. However, Myers being a Mormon, begs the question is her stance against Catholicism, The Voltory, really an issue besides that of faith? Is that the central conflict here? It's a distracting and obvious agenda in the film, and my not being Mormon nor catholic shoots up too many red flags.
Overall Breaking Dawn Part 2, ought be a much more controversial film than it is being hailed now, however it is the best unintentional comedy I have seen in years, I couldn't contain my laughter and was genuinely entertained during the fight scene, however, this is goodbye for me, I saw it twice to try and be fair and am guilty of contributing to the spectacle, and with that, I say goodbye Twilight, thanks for the laughs. 3.5/10
Posted on 10/08/13 12:48 PM
One of the finest qualities of the star wars franchise is in it's expanded universe. This of course directly lends itself to the films and for that I find that Attack of the Clones really gave birth to a fantastic expanded story line. And yet somehow that is where I find my common ground on my thoughts of this film nearly dissipates with other fans. Yet I found this installment a better ride than episode one.
The good: The Aniken, Obi wan relationship, the beginning of Aniken's fall, alternating story arcs, a great final battle and a continuation of a rotten political conspiracy and its ramifications.
The bad; stale dialogue, Obi Wan' hair, uneven pacing and a bit of an over extended run time.
What really did seem to make the first act of the film engaging was the back and forth between Obi Wan and Aniken. It was very tense, yet had the foundation of a solid relationship. By this I mean that Aniken seems to truly love Obi Wan, enough to not hinder his critique of his master yet is open on his feelings of the man. It was also great to see the difficulty of training a pupil with rather perplexing problems. In many respects yes Aniken is more powerful than Obi Wan, yet his emotions make he the lesser of Obi Wan. I found the relationship and it's dynamics most interesting.
I've heard the complaints of Chrstensen's performance in that the found him to be a whiney spoiled brat and that over all it was a bit wooden. I understand the complaint but I try to look at the performance in a different light. The dialogue is wooden and the man really tried to work with what was given to him, yet think of it. You're objective cababilities as a jedi are more than spoken for, yet because of a subjective flaw in your emotions you are told to wait. Especially in the mind set of a rather young person this would seem most frustrating. Yet what came out of it was exactly what the order was wary of from the beginning of Skywalker's training--his ability to destroy. His love for his mother lead to the destruction of the family of tusken raiders and his devaluing of their species. He is ashamed of his actions yet must now live with them. His obsession with the capabilities of machinery and mechanics to be fixed and his frustration with life literally cost him an arm. To me the beginning of the fall of Aniken in the second and final acts were most satisfying.
What made Empire a rather fun viewing was the intersecting story lines, between Han and crew and Luke's training that meshed into a great final act. Attack of the Clones does the same with less flare. Obi Wan's journey tends to be the more entertaining yet Aniken's beginning fall was ultimantly more entertaining when the crucial moments on Tattoine finally hit. All the same this is an example of a star wars film done correctly.
When Aniken, Obi Wan and PAdme all seemed prime to meet their fates and Mace Windu presented himself in the arena saber drawn, it's a rather exciting moment if not only for the culmination of a long awaited dream. The chance to see an army of Jedi Knights fight side by side in a duel of great magnitude, we see JEdi fall and rise until only the best of the best were left standing. This scene still stands out to me as a personal favorite of the comradory of the Jedi and their capability to fight cohesivly and ellegantly.
Palpatine had a rather minor, albiet very important, role. Tiny amounts of screen time equating to the slow rise of the Dark Lord of the sith. The entire political drama aspect that began in episode one continues rather nicely here. If there were no prior knowledge of the original trilogy his slow rise to power may actually come as a surprise to us.
The bad. The dialogue from episode on seemed to be overly heroic and at times rather annoying. Where as there were no overtly heroic catch phrases in this installment rather horrible romantic lines, very cliche, very over the top. Where as in Empire we had "I love you" "I know" very original, very endearing. Where as in this installment we have a multitude of eye brow raising back and forth between Aniken and Padme.
I know not why but for some reason Obi Wan's hair rather distracted me. It was a rather odd combination of mullet and giant hair that it took away from another fine performance from McGregor.
The back and forth between the Obi Wan and Aniken story lines was a rather good point, however, the pacing between the two stories takes away from enjoying either fully. Just when Aniken's story line becomes interesting we jump back to Obi Wan's that has become stale. And so on and so on until both story lines are prepped to intersect and become one again. It was a rather distracting point for Attack of the Clones and one that brought down the entire piece because of it.
The run time seemed exceedingly long. This was due in part to the rather extended Padme and Aniken love arc. Yes I understand this is crucial not only for the film but the entire Star Wars saga but I consistently was becoming disengaged by the story. This is by no means because I am no patron of Romance--I love the Princess Bride, I love Gone with the Wind. Love is a very important tool to a film maker but it was not employed properly here.
In short Episode Two is a reminder of what made Star Wars more fun, with the successful intertwining story lines echoing Empire Strikes Back as well as the Romance, and improves upon Episode One, it has it's share of problems, mainly pacing and a bloated run time. This is my fifth favorite in the series. 7/10.
Posted on 10/08/13 12:48 PM
By the time Revenge of The Sith was making it's debut, the hate for the prequel trilogy had reached near fever pitch, The Phantom Menace and Attack of The Clones were being touted as examples of poor film making. I never really fell into the trap, at most the first two installments weren't as good as A New Hope or Empire Strikes back, but neither was Return of The Jedi. Indeed the masses spoke of disappointment not poor film making, in this sixth installment, I argue, that Lucas has proven his critics wrong, and shown he is a great film maker, a great story teller and a man with vision.
The Good; The Visuals, special effects, adult drama, compelling fall from grace, the horrors, the final duel and a perfect ending.
The Bad; some stale romantic dialogue.
Being a proper episode of Star Wars, the visuals are grand, lush and at times harsh. Corresant the great city planet's visuals are immaculate, although all pail in comparison to the effects used on Mustafar, the planet of hell where Vader is truly born.
Lending itself to the visuals, the special effects in this were flawless, in Menace and Clones some of the CGI was too clunky and took the viewer out of the experience, where as in this installment, it is flawless. Especially the droid General, Grievous. The CGI also mixed in perfectly with the lightsaber duels, flips, hits, and lightning all perfectly conveyed and meshed in, showing that indeed CGI can have a
powerful and lasting dramatic effect.
This is the most adult and dark episode since the Empire Strikes Back. The ideals especially toyed with are fantastic. Especially the politics. Anakin's belief in Palpatine and doubt of the jedi were the cement for the entire conflict, the dialogue back and forth in this matter are mature concepts that although they take away from the children watching the episode, the adults can find themselves engaged. What is also played with in this chapter is fear of death. Anakin is not ready to let go, to say goodbye by any means. He is willing to destroy everything and anything in order to destroy death. This is a shared fear, yet by the end Anakin, and almost everyone he ever knew and loved have died with him.
I have always been in favor the Christianson's acting properly conveyed a darkness and a fall from grace. In the film, we see a war weary veteran in Skywalker returning to save the chancellor, still firm to his ideals until he looks inward. The fact that the fall was so quick is what made me believe it. Truly, Anakin would sacrifice anything for Padme, even the Jedi, even himself. So, when finally the suit is donned I believe Anakin is misguided, believing he does good but really doing evil. I believe he did it for love, in vein yes, but love is what made it work for me.
The most horrific scene I can recollect from Star Wars prior to this was Luke's hand being cut off. In this film we see Lucas not afraid to make you look and see the evils, the atrocities of Vader. The first true horror being Mace Windu's fate, the most awful is the scene with the children. My heart sank when I saw Anakin was to slay the children, the most obvious was his near death at the edge of the lava pit and a
chill runs down my spine when Vader draws his fist breath.
In mention of a specific scene, where all departments put all their hardest work into the scene was evident, the first duel between Anakin and Obi Wan. The emotional highs, lows and personification in the back ground was awe inspiring. Special note needs to be made to McGregor who truly looked in pain to be in the act of killing his brother.
This ending really reminds me of the ending in The Dark Knight. All is wrong, yet it must be. We don't want it to be, we see a way it need not be, yet it is. In this I mean, it is obvious Anakin was to become Darth Vader, but by episode Three I did not want him to be Vader at all. Yet it happened, the galaxy in shambles and evil is not on the horizon, it is high in the sky. This morose ending dared to be close and succeeded in it's gamble.
The only real complaint I had of this film and what hindered it was the exchange of dialogue between Anakin and Padme in certain scenes. Lucas' writing skills never fully materialized for a compelling romantic exchange, it hindered the film only slightly.
Revenge Of The Sith is an under rated episode of Star Wars, not only is it an improvement over it's last two installments by leaps and bounds, its an improvement over Return Of the Jedi. Many will continue to disdain the Prequel trilogy and disagree with me, making arguments against it, I recognize your opinions and politely disagree. Revenge Of The Sith is in fact, my favorite in the entire series. 9.5/10