Posted on 5/11/12 08:59 AM
Hey all (or none).
I've decided that my review for 'The Avengers' won't be in a typical fashion--you know, me pretending like I write for a newspaper or something.
I find it much easier/oftentimes more-satisfying to break apart what made a movie so successful by writing quick bullet-points, basically cliff notes to a formally-written review. When writing a review in the more standard convention, I find it robs a bit of the enjoyment out of writing, as I become more focused on grammar & whatnot, more than I do expressing my like/dislike for a film.
So, let the bullet-points ASSEMBLE!
-We're going to start with the most-obvious: JOSS WHEDON. Having started the project by throwing out screenwriter Zak Penn's original script (and publicly expressing his dislike for said script), Whedon made it HIS project from the get-go. The Marvel execs must have been patting themselves on the back when signing Whedon, given his numerous credits that almost seemed like the perfect résumé--critically acclaimed ensemble-writing with Buffy the Vampire Slayer & the short-lived but much-loved Firefly, a comic book writing background including 'Astonishing X-Men,' and experience with bigger-budgeted feature films (Serenity).
-THE HUMOR. As stated above, Whedon made 'The Avengers' solely his project from the get-go, rewriting Penn's script seemingly from scratch. One of the key components to what I found made the film so successful is Whedon's personal brand of humor. He gets his best lines from Tony Stark (Iron Man), but each character gets their own little moments of laughter, not all coming from dialogue--undoubtedly the funniest moment of the film comes from an encounter between The Hulk & Loki. It's with these moments that the audience finds themselves more connected to the superheroes, tapping into their human-qualities.
-THE CAST. Mostly a result of previous engagements, 'The Avengers' cast shines as one of the more successful aspects of the film; with Whedon's writing giving their acting numerous moments to shine. I'll start by discussing Black Widow/Natalia Romanova. Debuting in Iron Man 2 as a SHIELD agent and watchdog to Tony Stark, I felt like Scarlett Johansson's portrayal of the character came across as dull & under-played. Fast-forward to her role in 'The Avengers,' and I can honestly say I was FAR MORE impressed with her character this time around. What it proves, I believe, is that good writing evokes good performances, which is exactly what we see. Which isn't to downplay the remainder of the team--who all bring their A-game to the film. Robert Downey Jr. comes away as the stand-out with a character who entertains & delivers the best lines of the film (including a humorous Marijuana reference), while Chris Evans & Chris Hemsworth further their take on their characters, expanding interest with moments of well-delivered dialogue. The newcomer to the group, Mark Ruffalo, stands-out as the best portrayal of Bruce Banner yet, focusing on his misunderstood nature and complications with controlling the beast inside him. The weaker link in The Avengers line-up would have to be Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), as the story sees his character turned to the dark side before we're given a chance to further introduce. Tom Hiddleston reprises & revives his role as Loki (from the Thor universe), and is given several moments to express his true evil & disdain for the human race. Clark Gregg, playing Agent Coulson, holds a wider importance to the film, the audience finding interest in his character's geeky-love towards Captain America (which I'll go into more later). The only character's that ultimately fall to the wayside are Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury & newcomer Cobie Smulders Agent Maria Hill. They're given a nice intro and inclusion into the action, but later on don't become too integral into the story (admittedly, about as much as they could be).
-THE GEEKINESS OF AGENT PHIL COULSON. As mentioned above, Clark Gregg's character sees a greater importance in this film than any prior (he makes appearances in Iron Man 2 & Thor). Without spoiling anything, Coulson has become somewhat of a linchpin to the Marvel franchise, making appearances in three Marvel movies. Whedon takes advantage of this character dedication & uses it to the best of his abilities, adding to Coulson's personality by essentially making him a geek (he boasts to Captain America that he's collected all of his trading cards). Again, I won't give away why essentially making his character a geek this time around serves a greater purpose to the overall plot...but I will say that it is one of the many great Whedon moments.
-THE SPECIAL EFFECTS. Wow. Wow. And WOW again. American audiences have been spoiled for decades with special effects--though, the majority of big-budgeted summer blockbusters use them more as the star than an incredible backdrop for a great story/characters (cough...Transformers/Battleship...cough). I read that around fifteen (FIFTEEN!) different special effects shops worked on The Avengers, each group divvying up various models, sequences, etc. Knowing that makes it all the more incredible that standards never falter from scene-to-scene, giving the illusion that it was all created by one massive team (which it was, essentially). What I found most enjoyable is that Whedon's camerawork plays to the SFX's strengths, in that the action is never so frenetic that your eyes become crossed (cough...Transformers/Battleship...cough). The introduction alone has more SFX than ANY finale to a comic book movie. No joke. Within the first fifteen minutes of the film (roughly the opening), I was already amazed by the amount of work that was put into this film (I remember sitting in my seat thinking: 'My gawd! This movie is already amazing & the superheroes haven't even shown up!'). If Whedon is the captain of the ship, then the SFX are the ship itself--perhaps an amazing battleship that FLIES AMONGST THE CLOUDS. Bravo, team. Bravo.
-THE PLOT. For those who might have already seen the film, you may be thinking: "What? The plot was fairly bland. How is that one of the better parts?" I'll tell you why! One of the numerous reasons why Whedon was a great choice to direct The Avengers is that he not only understands his audience, but the subject matter, as well. Undoubtedly, there must have been a dozen or so items that Marvel execs requested be a part of an Avengers film, but what I imagine to be the most important was INTRODUCTIONS and INTERACTIONS. In analysis, Loki & the alien army serve two purposes. One, giving The Avengers something to fight (naturally). Secondly, their plans are simplified enough as to not distract or over-complicate the more important focus of the film, which is to witness the formation of The Avengers. Whedon effortlessly weaves the film's main plot into the overarching focus of the picture, sacrificing some complexity in favor of a more-focused adventure.
-THE SHIP. Oh joy, the ship! Feel free to skip this section if you haven't seen the movie, yet--some minor spoilers to follow. Now, since seeing the movie, I've gone ahead & watched several animated Marvel movies on Netflix instant, one of which was The Avengers. In this animated version, which came out a couple years prior to Whedon's film, we see a giant battleship that lifts out of the water by massive propellers to fly through the air. Assuming that this ship is an integral part into The Avengers/SHIELD (as you can tell, I don't follow comics as much as I should/want to), massive props to Whedon & crew for including the ship as quite possibly the biggest set-piece of the film (tied with New York City, I suppose). I personally love the dynamic this creates, in that basically all of these superheroes are forced to live with each other on this ship; and the more I think about it, this is definitely one of Whedon's forte's (Firefly).
-THE SPOILER. If you haven't seen the movie and have any interest to, PLEASE SKIP THIS. In the opening scene of The Avengers, we watch a scene where a Chitauri (alien race the Avengers fight) liaison holds a discussion with a mysterious character sitting on a throne--facing away from the camera. After the first set of credits, we're treated to an additional scene between the Chitauri liaison and this mystery figure, where the liaison relays that human beings are a more formidable force with the creation of The Avengers, stating something along the lines of "to attack Earth would be to incite death." This follows with the mystery character--the one pulling Loki & the Chitauri's strings--turning in his throne to be revealed to the camera. At first, I had no clue who this was--given that my comic book background is mostly limited to what I see on the screen (unfortunately). But upon further investigation, it was revealed that this character is (do not read if you don't want spoilers!) Thanos, a villain from the Marvel universe obsessed with death (hence the "to attack Earth would be to incite death" line, and his character smiling to the camera afterward). In reading his wiki-bio, my excitement is increased with the possibilities surrounding this character--most notably being that he seems to be a badass character capable of taking all The Avengers on at once, yet possessing enough intellect as to not be identified solely as a brute force. It's a great set-up for a sequel, in that we've already established the formation of The Avengers and the struggles that ensued, and now will be the time to truly test their strength as a team against an enemy unlike any other. Oh joy! I AM EXCITED.
So, the question stands: Is 'The Avengers' the best comic book movie? Difficult to determine! I cannot say with 100% conviction that 'The Avengers' is the best comic book movie, as it has an equally brilliant contender (The Dark Knight). But, the more I think about the question, the more I begin to think: Of course it's the greatest comic book movie! It's undoubtedly the biggest achievement in all comic book films! Years of careful, strategic planning--casting, origin stories, cross-characters, etc. Absolutely. Whedon was against enormous odds with this movie, and by-gosh did he pull it off. Sure, arguments can still be made for why 'The Dark Knight' is the best comic book movie, but I think that in the grander scheme of things, 'The Avengers' truly dominates.
Whew. There's WAY more I could discuss, but odds are I'm just writing this for myself. If there is anybody reading this (hey!), feel free to leave a comment in order to start a discussion on your own thoughts/insights!
And as always, thanks for reading.
(My first perfect score!)
Posted on 3/13/12 09:56 PM
'Young Adult' explores the life of Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a former high school "it girl" who now resides away from her past in a city where she's attempting to convince herself that her life is in anything but crisis mode. Through a routine of binge-drinking, reality TV, and casual sex, Mavis becomes interrupted by a reminder of a life that once was, starting a personal journey to reclaim what she finds is rightfully hers.
Penned by talented writer Diablo Cody, 'Young Adult' finds itself as a dissection of a character that's unable to grow-up. Through a series of young adult novels, Mavis' ghostwriting finds inspiration by eavesdropping on the current teenage youth--an obvious and depressing attempt to hold onto her own youth. When returning to her hometown, Mavis begins to subconsciously act as one of her own characters, attempting to rekindle a highly unavailable flame (Patrick Wilson). Serving as her conscious is Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), a disabled, witty geek who graduated high school the same year as Mavis.
In all honesty, I truly enjoyed Diablo Cody's exploration of Mavis. Filled with inspiration perhaps found from her own life (Mavis is a writer, after all), I found that the script tapped into something deeper than most films seem to manage. It expressed an amount of realism that I really respected, retaining a sense of humanity & humor that became all the more potent when times become dark.
Director Jason Reitman's simple, somewhat modern independent-film direction pairs with the material perfectly, becoming something smooth and natural. While watching, I found myself reminded of not only Reitman/Cody's 'Juno,' but also Alexander Payne's directorial style. As stated before, this simple style allows Cody's script to easily ride along, becoming a vehicle with beautiful pacing and just the right amount of subtle nuances.
Joining the terrific writing & superb directing are equally enticing performances, focused through Theron, Oswalt, and Wilson's characters. Theron definitely finds herself the stand-out, supplying an engaging, humorous performance, but also able to expertly handle scenes with intense emotion. Oswalt brings a level of honest charm & emotional guilt that allows the audience to feel for his character, and Wilson's subtle but near-perfect performance is never squashed by the other stars.
All-in-all, it's easy to claim that I really enjoyed this movie. The script is clever & intelligent, mixing the right amount of emotion and humor while remaining honest. The direction is subtle but nuanced, providing the right style to pair to the script. And the cast's performances consistently impress throughout, never creating a break in their character's persona. 'Young Adult' is a truly great dark comedy, one that explores an interesting character to great ends, while ending with a satisfying truth that finds itself humbly appreciated.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 2/14/12 12:21 AM
'Drive,' directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling, tells the story of an unnamed stunt driver/mechanic, who quickly finds trouble amongst dangerous men as he moonlights as a getaway driver. At the heart of his trouble is Irene (Carey Mulligan), a friendly neighbor to whom "The Driver" takes a liking to. Driven by love, the "Driver" risks his life head-on into the depths of a Los Angeles gang.
The film's introduction is smooth, albeit slow, turning on the ignition, revving the engine, then remaining mostly idle. It allows the audience to become attuned to Refn's direction, mixed with the quiet unease of Ryan Gosling's character and the life he leads.
In regards to the film's lead character, I find that 'Drive' holds several similarities to that of a true classic, Martin Scorsese's 'Taxi Driver.' Ultimately, the Driver comes off as a weak shell to Travis Bickle; a piñata who tricks the kids into believing he's full of candy. Whereas Bickle's brash violence becomes motivated by a tormented alienation to society, the Driver's seemingly appears from either an unknown source (my belief), or inspired by a love that is never properly developed.
There comes a turning point where the audience somewhat realizes that the lead is truly a psychopath, given that there's no clear motivation for such an amount of murderous rage. What makes it all the more frustrating is that the prerequisite for this scene of brutal violence is a "first kiss," not only given the underdeveloped relationship, but mostly because it confuses any belief of motivation. Later, we combine that with a mysteriously romantic phone call, followed by a masked, Michael-Myers'esque killing scene. Consider me one confused dude.
Another source of inconsistency stems from Drive's story: a simple, slow-paced plot mixed with perhaps too many side characters and coincidences for its own good. Without diving too deep, the source of Drive's hook comes from a sudden clash between two separated worlds; one being a quiet relationship between the Driver & Irene, the other a business contract between the Driver & a Los Angeles gang. In leading up to the clash, the audience is introduced to several side characters, the most confusing of which being an underutilized Christina Hendricks. Their inclusion only comes as an excuse for a couple of action scenes--something desperately needed up until that point. If it wasn't for a well-shot, yet poorly edited, car chase scene, most might come to the conclusion to "cut the middleman," to at least remove some of the unnecessary confusion.
Although Drive suffers from many inconsistencies, confusions, and underdeveloped relationships, it somewhat makes up for with style. Utilizing a deliberately slow pace, dialogue-less scenes, superimpositions, hyper-violence, 80s'esque music, and ever-changing cinematography, Drive definitely paints itself a unique picture. And although it disappoints, bouts of admiration must be given towards director Refn's attempt at a unique stylization, even if said style does contribute to the film's eventual breakdown.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 9/21/11 07:26 PM
I've had '2001: A Space Odyssey' among my collection of Blu-rays (oh, how I love thee) for a little under a year, now, and on a whim I decided that a dull Tuesday night in September was apparently the better time to receive it; I had not seen it prior.
I had heard that you have to be in the right state-of-mind before venturing into Kubrick's claimed "masterpiece," and although I hadn't built myself up to watching it, what I was treated to was no less than a truly memorable experience.
If I had to choose a list of films I would be comfortable with claiming as 'art,' undoubtedly '2001' would fall into it. I'm beginning to stall with how floored I became over what I was seeing--the direction Kubrick was taking. I don't think I've seen such intense deliberation in a film, one such being the achingly slow pace. At times it felt drawn, but those times were small in comparison to the amount of respect I had for the artistic choices. Having just come off of the recently released 'Star Wars' Blu-rays, '2001' comes off as a near polar opposite in regards to the sci-fi genre. Where 'Star Wars' deals in spectacle and action, '2001' finds itself as a series of beautiful still images, deliberate and calculating in their form and function, attempting to evoke emotion from the deepest of places.
Afterward, I found myself contrasting the experience against Spielberg's 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' Whereas Spielberg's film deals with the mystical nature of extraterrestrial beings in more of a culturally-understandable way, Kubrick's film combines its mysticism with a level of intellect and pure bizarre, more or less devoid of a meaningful plot.
For those of you who have not seen '2001: A Space Odyssey,' I highly recommend seeing it at your earliest convenience. If you're semi-lenient based off what I might have said in regards to the films slow pace, I might suggest watching 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' as a handle to the door of Kubrick's true masterpiece.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 6/06/11 07:44 AM
**Contains minor spoilers, but nothing directly pertaining to any of the films plot points. If you're completely unfamiliar with the X-Men film franchise, it might be best to wait until after you've seen the film before reading this review**
X-Men: First Class, director Matthew Vaughn's second comic book film within little over a year, tells an origins story as to how the first X-Men team came to be. Taking several key characters seen in previous X-Men films, most notably the eventual Professor X and Magneto, the film focuses on a split in mutant ideologies, and how they effect the characters involved. Serving as a historical backdrop and semi-plotline, Vaughn and Co. decided to tie-in the real-life Cuban Missile Crisis, set within the 1960s.
If memory serves correct, X-Men: First Class opens with a near-identical scene that mirrors an opening scene found in 2000's X-Men, that of a young Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) being separated from his parents at a German concentration camp in occupied Poland. In his agony, Erik unleashes the first of his mutant powers against the barbwire fence separating him from his parents, attracting the attention of a not-so-friendly doctor. The scene serves as a powerful introduction to those not familiar with X-Men, but to those such as myself, it comes off more as an 'I've already seen it' moment; the first of many.
The remainder of the film revolves around its two primary characters: an older Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier, and their relationship built as friends, then subsequently demolished as enemies (again, those familiar with any of the previous X-Men films, or anything X-Men in general, knows this). Xavier follows Lehnsherr's beginning with one of his own, that of a young boy in an impressive mansion, eventually discovering that his abilities are not as unique as he once thought, coming face-to-face with one of his own kind, Raven Darkholme/Mystique, who eventually becomes Charles' step-sister. This scene serves mostly as an introduction to one of the more-explored relationships in the film, not unlike the brother-sister relationship found in previous X-Men films between Wolverine and Rogue.
As stated before, the heart of the film comes from that of mutant ideologies, more specifically mutants place amongst the lesser-evolved, but highly outnumbering human beings. On the one hand, Erik Lehnsherr believes that mutants are the future, the perfect creation, and that human misunderstandings and negative reactions should be met with equal, yet oftentimes overpowering reactions. Charles Xavier, on the other hand, believes that human beings and mutants are meant to cohabitate peacefully, that a positive understanding between the two creatures is what would serve best for not only each other, but the planet they share. Coming between them is villain Sebastian Shaw, played impeccably well by Kevin Bacon, who sides more along with Erik's ideals, and believes that a perfect world is one without control by the human race. In believing this, Shaw plays against human weaknesses, through that of political inner workings, in an attempt to turn the world's superpowers (creative, when you think of the words dual meaning, in comic book terms) against each other, in hopes of causing World War III and obliterating human's control of the planet in a series of nuclear blasts.
Now, as I'm summarizing this, it all serves as a near-perfect premise for an epic superhero movie, one that raises issues on much higher grounds in comparison to those found in previous superhero films (Spiderman, The Dark Knight, etc.), yet, as it all plays out, I couldn't help feeling that I'd seen it all before. Had this film been released in replacement of Bryan Singer's X-Men, I would currently be raving that X-Men: First Class is one of the best superhero films ever made. As is, First Class still stands as one of the best superhero films made, but lower on the totem pole than would be if previous X-Men films never existed. As interesting as every action scene was, each scene of dialogue shared, and any plot twists revealed, First Class always feels as something you've already seen; also, being a origins story where you're mostly aware of how everything winds up doesn't help, either.
Other than faults not entirely of its own, there are a few shortcomings that First Class holds full responsibility for. First off, I find there's often a certain level of cheesiness found in the X-Men franchise when, yes, attempting to portray a highly fantastical premise, yet I find that it often detracts from the overarching tone of the themes presented (equality, civil rights, etc.). I often found that Michael Fassbender's character, Erik Lehnsherr, served as a 'saving grace' to many of the detracting, goofy side plots, where it seems his character would often come in at an ending moment to a scene, delivering a line that basically reminds the film's characters, and audience alike, that there's far more interesting issues present than 'are Raven and Hank McCoy going to kiss,' for example. It's an odd mix, as if it's used to mock the general movie-going audience that the films presence as a serious, thought-provoking film was dumbed down to accommodate that of lesser-interested minds. Yet again, it's also used smartly because as teenage mutants, it's true that they're not always going to be as presently interested in global issues as much as say, a romantic interest. (Oh, and on a side note, did anyone else feel like January Jones portrayal of Emma Frost was unapologetically dull? Did she not want to do the movie? Or did she actually feel that she was doing well?)
Other than ignoring interesting themes in the interest of being a summer blockbuster, another series of quirks that I find didn't work for First Class, and oftentimes the X-Men franchise in general, is the overall look of its characters, mostly in mutant form. First off, why the characters Banshee and Angel Salvadore were chosen to become portrayed in this film are beyond me. Didn't anybody realize that a dorky-looking/sounding kid screaming at a high pitch while flying in a squirrel suit would look and feel ridiculous no matter what sort of spin was put on it? Or that, when Angel would sprout her insect wings and shoot little fireballs out of her mouth while flying around, that she would look like something more out of a Peter Pan film than in a movie about mutants with cool superpowers? Guess not, because there's a scene that combines both of these oddly-chosen mutants, and it results as the most awkward action scene in the movie, or almost any movie I've seen. Oh, and if you find yourself excited by the first-person, werewolf-like transformation of Hank McCoy into the Beast, prepare to feel the urge to laugh when he makes his full body appearance onscreen. Lastly, not sure if anybody thought to test Jennifer Lawrence in Mystique make-up before deciding that she would be a good fit for the role, because every time she transforms into her blue self, she ends up coming off like a weird, misshaped doll.
But, out with the bad, in with the good. There are many things that First Class does right, including possibly the most important aspect: being a fun, engaging summer blockbuster. Action scenes are well thought out and carry weight to the story, never coming off as scenes where the director just wanted to show off the cool abilities (except for, you know, the scene where all of the younger mutants are doing just that). Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy impress as Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier, often giving the best acting found in the film, especially the scenes with Lehnsherr on the run for Nazi blood. As stated before, Kevin Bacon is great as Sebastian Shaw, who I found as one of the more interesting villain portrayals in any of the comic book movies I've seen. The 60s serves as a unique setting for First Class to live in, as found in the historical references, set pieces, and costuming. And, as other critics have often pointed out, it often gives a positive James Bond feel, when mixed in with multiple locales and spy-like scenes. Cameos are used to perfect effect, especially one that almost feels like a show-stealer. Jokes in the film always come off as actually humorous, yet a few of the repeated ones wear thin towards the finale. Speaking of, the film's finale is a great one, combining all of the greatest special effects seen up to that point into a half hour of truly exhilarating, smile-inducing fun.
Overall, X-Men: First Class accomplishes its dual goal: to reinstate the franchise while providing an entertaining summer blockbuster. Through interesting characters and themes, bouts of great acting and storyline, the X-Men franchise finally has its shining star that's almost bright enough to blind audiences from the last two failed attempts. Before the credits roll, the last line of the film may come off as a little heavy-handed, but at that point, you've already enrolled for next year.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 4/03/11 12:06 AM
I must start by stating that this will not be your atypical review. It will surely contain elements shared with common movie reviews, where I delve into the overall structure of the film, but as a fair warning, it may turn into some sort of a rant. A hopefully concise rant, but a rant nonetheless.
Reese Witherspoon plays Lisa, a player on the USA softball team, who soon finds herself cut due to her declining, but still admirable, skill (it is also presumed that age is a factor). This sends her into an evaluation of sorts, attempting to discover the next step in her life, whatever that may be. On the other end, there's George (Paul Rudd), a young businessman who soon finds himself indicted at his father's company. Similar to Lisa, but with greater difficulty, George also begins a struggling evaluation of his own life. The two meet sporadically over the course of their self-assessments, as they both eventually discover that the thing they need in their lives, for better or worse, is love.
Now, I propose that the title of the film, 'How Do You Know,' must have some connection to a question asked in the film: How do you know when you're in love? I am only proposing this, as I was completely lost in anything relating to the matter. At no point in the film, including the conclusion, did I have any feeling that love was the overarching theme. You know, other than the characters telling me so.
The characters in the film can easily be described as wholly one-dimensional, if that (are there negative dimensions?). I suppose at some point, characters are made to seem as if they're learning something about themselves, adapting and evolving to their repeated situations better than before, but it's just presented in such a rigid, uninteresting way, that I cannot think of any point in the movie where I felt that there was any justifiable character development. You know, other than the characters telling me so.
In addition, thwarting any attempt of allowing the audience to feel any connection whatsoever to the characters and their situations is the acting. I come from a point of such bewilderment, that I am unsure of how to describe it. The only other film that I can compare it to would be 'The Happening.' I left both films honestly asking myself: How could that of been created like that? More specifically, how can a film have such poor, misguided direction, that anybody would allow human emotion to be portrayed in such a phony, oftentimes unsettling way? It's such a deceitful act, in that oftentimes I found myself forcefully attempting to reconstruct my understanding of real human life in order to find any acceptation of the product.
And I really do hate referring to a film a product, as I feel it strips any notion that its creation was not solely for profit, but as is clear not only by the presented subject matter, but also the chosen actors and actresses to fill the roles. In the two films Reese Witherspoon provided her...public appeal...to in 2010, along with being a spokesperson for Avon, she personally netted 32 million dollars. Now, I could comment further on this, but perhaps an analysis of self indulgence on behalf of many, many Hollywood actors and actresses is best left for another venue.
So, how do you know that you should skip 'How Do You Know?' Because I am telling you, in any way that I can fathom at this point in time. I cannot put any more effort into creating a concise, closing paragraph, restating previous text in simpler terms, as I am exhausted more in writing this than watching the movie itself. Please, please, do not support this type of film-making. I am not saying all romantic comedies in general, as I have found bouts of enjoyment from them, as in the previously-viewed 'The Switch,' but rather, let previews and reviews as this be your guide into the undertaking of finding a decent romantic comedy.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 4/02/11 09:43 AM
'Source Code' tells the story about a convict sent back in time to discover who was responsible for a devastating viral attack that destroyed the majority of the human population.
Sorry. Wrong movie.
'Source Code' tells the story about a soldier sent back into another man's body to discover who was responsible for a devastating train bomb that destroyed everybody on board.
There we go, back on track (Get it? Ah, never-mind).
'Source Code' is the second film from director Duncan Jones, or as I have come to refer to him as: David Bowie's son! Which, I'm sure he might take some offense to (you know, the whole 'getting out from behind the shadow of your more-famous father,' thing). Then again, this is his follow-up to 'Moon,' which is the best science fiction film in the past ten years (sharing a bunk bed with 'District 9').
As stated before, 'Source Code' tells the story of Captain Colter Stevens, played predictably well by Jake Gyllenhaal, who wakes on a commuter train heading for Chicago, having no recollection of how he got there, who the passengers are, or why he's being mistaken for a different person. After exploding (not a spoiler--it happens a lot), Capt. Stevens is thrust into a gloomy capsule, strapped into a seat surrounded by tangled wires, sheet metal, and computer screens. You know, not unlike convict James Cole (OK, OK, last '12 Monkeys' joke).
Within minutes, Stevens discovers that he's a part of an operation named Beleaguered Castle, as explained through a monitor by Carol Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). In what little information is relayed, Stevens learns that he is suppose to be discovering who set off the bomb, in what he interprets as some sort of military simulation. Before any further explanation, he is thrust back into the body of the man he'd occupied just moments before, waking in the same time and location as the start.
This time around, director Duncan Jones follows the screenplay written by Ben Ripley, opposed to his own penned story as with 'Moon.' Although the story is not his own, it definitely explores similar themes, though not to better effect. As is, 'Source Code' sits mostly as an action thriller, with mild science fiction elements thrown into the pot. This doesn't hinder anything found in the film's progression, but definitely causes a hiccup when the finale decides it wants to be interpreted more as a science fiction film (sorry, too late). It also explores the question: "What would you do if you only had minutes to live?" Yet, again, the finale ruins everything partially explored with that, too. It's all a little unfortunate, as each under-realized theme hints at highly-interesting avenues, yet the film never decides which one it wants to take us down.
As for Jones direction (I keep wanting to call him Bowie), it feels somewhat hindered, given that he's essentially showing us the same scene over and over again. He does what he can to make each unique, although I personally hoped there would have been more of an emphasis on time. More specifically, the eight minutes given to Stevens every time he's placed back into train; he sets his watch at the start of each scene, yet always fails to check it (and when he does...the audience doesn't know what he's seeing!). I'd like to imagine that each scene runs exactly eight minutes before the subsequent explosion, accomplished with precise editing, but I know that's not the case. At one point, there's even an odd decision to have a semi-montage of failed attempts, as if that wasn't what was making the film engaging up until that point.
As an aside, I'm also a little confused on the choice for the villain. I mean, I was impressed that the choice wasn't typical, but for somebody we're suppose to believe is capable of mass murder (mass, as in, the entire city of Chicago), the character's ideologies come off as rather dumb.
Overall, 'Source Code' provides some good entertainment. It's enough to satisfy the casual moviegoer and sci-fi buff alike, although I can see the enthusiasts becoming more disappointed over time. Under-explored themes and some inconsistent direction ultimately bring the picture down, but it's never enough to dampen your overall enjoyment. You will leave satisfied (as some clap-happy people found in my theater), yet slightly confused on the direction taken for the finale. As it stands, 'Source Code' is an early summer treat, giving you enough reason to "accept" the bloated ticket prices in search for a wild (train) ride.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 2/13/11 07:27 AM
Reservoir Dogs, at its core, is a heist film. A diamond heist, to be particular. What makes Tarantino's heist film stand out of the pack is its choice to separate itself from the robbery itself, and to dwell on the events surrounding. Extremely non-linear, its form is built through character's dialogue, and the results of their interactions. With no obvious lead, each actor is given a distinct role & personality, their identities simplified to color-oriented names. Mr. Brown, Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Orange, and Mr. Pink. ("Because you're a faggot, alright?")
The film opens to a large diner table; surrounding it are the members of the soon-to-be diamond heist; the soon-to-be disastrous diamond heist. Tarantino's trademark dialogue starts off with one of the more memorable opening lines of a movie: "Let me tell you what 'Like a Virgin' is about. It's all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The entire song. It's a metaphor for big dicks." Immediately, any premonitions for what this heist flick "could be" are thrown out, & it's apparent that Tarantino has the belief that an entire movie can be held together & strengthened by interesting & thoroughly unique dialogue (even more-so apparent in his following masterpiece, Pulp Fiction). This opening diner scene establishes what the majority of films cannot accomplish in over a two-hour running time--and it's something that Tarantino does in ten minutes. He creates a complete understanding of the film's characters, from their personalities, interests, background, ideals, & mostly, it establishes their interactions as a group. As reservoir dogs, if you will.
Bouncing around from pre-heist to post, 'Reservoir Dogs' holds a certain tension not matched among other films. As viewers, we see the best of times, then are immediately shifted to the worst of times; from a casual conversation, to a gunshot-wounded Mr. Orange exclaiming from the back of a stolen car: "FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU! I'M FUCKIN' DYING HERE! I'M FUCKIN' DYING!" Our interest is held while we put the puzzle pieces in their place, curious to see the unforeseen variable in a seemingly fool-proof plan. And when said unforeseen variable is revealed within the first half of the film, our interest hasn't peaked--it's only started to form.
Interactions between the "reservoir dogs" are the glue that holds this ever-shifting puzzle together, & each performance is knowingly strong before the actor even picked up the screenplay. Tarantino's dialogue houses these great performances, but that's not to shrink the talent given through the performances of the "dogs." Harvey Keitel is fantastic as Mr. White, who's quickly found as easily the most-likeable & attachable character, one whom even sways a fellow character's ideals & understanding further than expected. Tim Roth is impressive, holding later parts of the film together through individual scenes designated to his character (Mr. Orange). Michael Madsen is eerily perfect as Mr. Blonde, adding a unique "coolness" to his psychopathic nature, unlike any other movie. And Steve Buscemi supports very-well as the weasel-like Mr. Pink, the actor pairing perfectly to the part (especially his voice--so fitting). Other supporting actors are mentionable, including the late Chris Penn as "Nice Guy" Eddie Cabot, who's role stands out as much as the other dogs in the pack (sorry, had to). Tarantino's reputation has been established enough to understand that the roles he gives to his actors/actresses are chosen with complete care, & it's no more apparent than in his debut film as the others that have followed.
What's most enjoyable about 'Reservoir Dogs' is that, on paper, it already contains great vision (I know, mostly because I own the paperback screenplay). There is no wondering how a former video store clerk convinced producer Lawrence Bender to fund a couple million to his film, let alone having Harvey Keitel agree to co-produce & star. On paper, the story alone is fantastic. On paper, the characters alone are fantastic. On paper, the dialogue alone is fantastic. On film, all these things together form one of my all-time favorite movies.
Posted on 7/17/10 10:05 PM
How does one write a review for a movie one does not fully understand? Err, perhaps I won't, at the moment. I'd like to, on the other hand, share my few initial thoughts of the movie, without yet taking the time to compile them into a nicely-formatted review. My apologies to those who think I'm being lazy, but for now I'm just too tired from thinking about it!
All and all, I'd say the movie was an enjoyable experience. I didn't hit me on quite the same level as The Dark Knight, for I feel that that is a better movie, but it definitely didn't lose me, either.
On the way out of the theater, I was asked what I thought of it, to which I responded: "It was good. Not his best, but still pretty good." But ask me again after I've had more time to think about it, and I believe I'd say something a little different...maybe.
What I'll say is this: the movie requires that the audience constantly remains focused, yet they're piecing together anything and everything they've seen prior, causing them to never really catch up to what they're watching on the screen. It's certainly a mind puzzle, in that at times you've stored some important thoughts about the plot in little pockets of your brain, only to pull them out, scramble them about, then rescramble them as something new appears. Basically, you're doing yourself a high injustice if you end up choosing to only see the movie once, as with 'The Prestige.'
But, after seeing the movie, letting it settle for awhile, then almost obsessively thinking about it for hours after watching, I'd definitely say that 'Inception' is one of the most thought-inducing movies I've ever seen, in a great way. It's truly hard to describe, because I feel that audiences will all have separate conclusions as to what they've seen, although I think there's a definite path that Nolan wants us to take. The last shot of the movie (and I won't ruin what that is), is what's really the cause for most of 'Inception's brilliance, because although the audience may groan (as mine did) over the somewhat non-conclusive ending, what it really does is forces one to think back on everything they've seen, in order to not cheat themselves from the full experience. Which I think is utterly fantastic, and ultimately the most successful part of the picture.
There are certain elements that work against each other in 'Inception,' one being the combo of intellect and action. Although the action scenes are all fantastically filmed (especially the hallway sequence--WOW.), it somewhat becomes a downtime for your brain to start calculating what its already seen. Here we have these fantastically choreographed fight sequences, yet I'm trying to string together information I've learned from the previous scene! Also, there were times where I would just shut my brain off for a second to fully embrace what I was watching, only to become upset that I hadn't yet fully figured out what was going on (haha).
Ultimately, I'd say 'Inception' has grown on me in a short period of time, much the way 'The Prestige' had. I'd assume that upon multiple additional viewings, I'll be fully able to comprehend my own conclusions, enough to satisfyingly say: "Yeah, I get this movie." Christopher Nolan is truly anti-modern-movie-making, in that he's conceived a film that's fully original, but one that provides enough familiar entertainment to satisfy the casual viewer. Although you may leave not fully understanding what you've seen, spending the time to really think about the events of the film whether alone or in discussion, is where you're really going to find that you love this movie.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on 5/26/10 09:32 AM
Dave Lizewski is your average teenager. Peter Parker'esque, save the brains and radioactive spider. He's coupled with comic book geek friends, and a crush who's under the impression he's gay. Pressed between child and adulthood, Dave's adolescence brings about the question: "How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero?" Donning a ski outfit, heavy boots, and a pair of batons, Dave Lizewski learns the hard way. The Kick-Ass way.
Largely what makes 'Kick-Ass' such an enjoyable movie is watching the somewhat true-to-life effects that becoming a superhero in reality brings. Dave knows he has no superpowers, and for the most part, has nothing more to offer than his shaky willpower. Needless to say, his first encounter with a couple of local thugs proves to be a real eye-opener, both to the character and to the audience. What this short scene accomplishes is what the entirety of the movie does, which is a true clash between the fantastical aspects of becoming a superhero, and the hard, blood-pouring truth. For the most part, it's the biggest struggle that Dave has to face, and only making it worse are the father-daughter duo that definitely know what they're doing. Even in the superhero world, Dave finds himself the same average loser. Ultimately, his choices lead to a difficult, struggling conclusion, one that will take him out of the middleground, between superhero and superaverage, and become what he's meant to be.
Style, for the most part, is what makes 'Kick-Ass' so...well...kick ass. It reaches just outside the realms of true realism, providing an aspiring level for the main character, and somewhat audience, to reach. Stylistically speaking, scenes shared between Hit Girl and Big Daddy (father-daughter duo that does mostly everything right) are some of the most entertaining, provided in its quick-cuts, brutal violence, and humorous, often endearing dialogue. That, being on the extreme end, counteracts against more realistic forms resulting from an uprising in superhero popularity. Kick-Ass' videos are smothered on YouTube, news reports, and even garners a comic book series. Dave secretly relishes in his newfound fame, while constantly reminded of the darker, potentially life-ending, side of things.
In part, what makes 'Kick-Ass' what it is, somewhat results in an awkward pairing that detaches from the movie. Basically, we're given different elements surrounding the realities of being a superhero. On one side, you have millions of adoring superfans, and on the other you have the multiple true-life criminals willing to kill you if it means the end of their struggles. On that level, nothing's really wrong; it's a good balance. On the other hand, the movie somewhat breaks away from its answer to the previously posed question: "Dude, if anybody did it in real life they'd get their ass kicked." The problem is...what's represented isn't real life. Yes, stepping a little outside the bounds to make the movie more entertaining wouldn't become a fault, but there's many scenes where you just don't know what "could" happen. The audience never fully understands what's possible within the world of 'Kick-Ass,' and although we're told it takes place in reality, things happen that everybody knows are unrealistic, to a point where it seems the subject matter doesn't understand itself 100%.
Ultimately, 'Kick-Ass' does work as a successful superhero film. It provides a unique vision into the world of a superhero, placing its characters in reality--sort of. There's no superpowers, no vengeance-inspired plots (for Kick-Ass, at least), but rather an interesting coming-of-age tale placed within a setting that's enjoyable for anybody who likes their entertainment wildly violent, and on the verge of possibly offensive.
Thanks for reading.