Grandiose and ambitious, Joss Whedon's 'The Avengers' raises the stakes for this season's blockbuster showdown for supremacy. It's lighthearted feel and strategically placed humor mingles well amongst the urgent, dire undertones, while a spectacle of CGI delights promise for one behemoth of a climax. Still, for all of its pleasures, the over commitment to hollow character interactions and heavily uneven acting stay this from reaching the astronomic heights that it no doubt set out for.
Humanity is threatened when an alien named Loki begins to execute his plan of dominance over the Earth. When this threat is discovered, the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury, attempts to bring together a team of heroes to oppose the hostile take over. With time running out, the team of 'Avengers' must learn to cooperate and stand together as one if there is any hope of repelling the forces that aim to dominate the world they love.
The practically unprecedented attempt to include such a vast amount of principle heroes into one movie warrants kudos alone, especially given that most had previously boasted their own feature films. Whedon did a good job spreading out camera time evenly between the oversized cache, affording them the opportunity to shine amongst their peers. Unfortunately, this time wasn't used nearly as efficiently as it should have been, as most scenes gave in to lapses of corny exchanges and yawnful attempts by characters to boast their superiority over one another. If used sparsely it may have been a welcome relief from the severity of the story line, but instead the act became tiresome during pivotal points that should have instead been building intensity into the climax.
Each Avenger had their moments, but there is a notable disparity amongst them as the movie progressed. Downy's Iron Man and Ruffalo's Hulk for example enjoyed the best chemistry as a duo by far due to their complicated personas and skilled actors. Their wit and sarcasm dimmed the crowd pleasing attributes of the remainder of the cast to the point where they felt muted at times. Because of this, the struggle of piecing together such a robust character field together in an equally beneficial way became apparent, as some simply were not as effective in a group as they were when flying solo.
For size and scale alone one could argue that the 'The Avengers' boasts one of the best climaxes in comic book movie history. The sense of urgency and special effects bombard you at every turn, as the resolution remains cloaked long enough to keep you anticipating how the day will be saved. Given the extended run time, the script intertwines a clever mixture of intensity and humor that keep the film neither from becoming kooky or taking itself too seriously. Every player, hero and villain alike, fit into their niche just in time to deliver an ending fitting of a blockbuster movie. And in true fashion of its genre, the credits give a glimpse to where the inevitable sequel will be taking us next.
Given the uncharted territory in which this film explores and the pitfalls of such an endeavor, I applaud it for succeeding more than it failed. I trust that now with a canvas to look back upon and touch up that the next installment will be a marked improvement. There was a lot to introduce here, and being able to reach out to audiences who have seen the previous films in which these characters spawned and those who haven't is a difficult task indeed.
A creative, yet ultimately lackluster entry into the sci-fi catalogue, 'Moon' for all its positives falls a far cry from epic. Mimicking more of a 30-minute independent TV special than a full length film, the viewer is never really given a chance to connect fully with the sole cast member. This along with its lack of high suspense moments prevented my high expectations I had for the film from being reached.
What first intrigued me about the movie is getting a chance to see how Sam Rockwell holds his own throughout the film. Like Tom Hanks had to accomplish in 'Cast Away', Rockwell had to portray a sense of reality to keep the movie grounded, and remain entertaining enough to keep the audience interested.
He plays an astronaut named Sam that is in charge of harvesting an energy resource from the dark side of the moon. Isolated and anxious to return to his family back on Earth, Sam has only the company of a talking computer to relieve him of his loneliness. But when the time approaches for him to make his trip back to the blue planet, Sam discovers secretes that lead him to believe he may not be able to see his loved ones after all.
While this may seem like the perfect platform for an intriguing journey to launch from, the film never takes off. Labeling it as dull might be extreme, but there just isn't enough here to amaze me. Rockwell remains more than fairly impressive, accurately sharing Sam's constantly changing psychological states with the audience. However, the two dimensional script and short run time prove to be too difficult for him to overcome. Instead of leading to a powerful climax, the film coasts to a finish with a mere sizzle. All of this severely cripples its replay value and left me with a feeling of "oh." instead of "ahhh.."
If you are a huge fan of Rockwell's work or character studies in general you may be able to dig up more fun here than I have. If not, this is an experience that will in all probability leave you disappointed. Alas, I will walk away from 'Moon' applauding its uniqueness but smirking at its monotonous tendencies.
After long bouts of various procrastination techniques, I finally gave this one the time and attention it deserved. Putting off a film with high accolades and hype when missing its initial theatrical run has become some what of a hobby of mine, but 'The King's Speech' has compelled me to make efforts to break that habit.
The film follows the trials and frustration endured by Prince Albert (played with an soft, engrossing severity by Colin Firth) as he struggles through overcoming a speech impediment. His stammer cripples his ability to given coherent public speeches which compounds doubts on his abilities to adequately fulfil his duties. After multiple failed attempts, his wife Elizabeth (Bonham Carter) seeks out an off-beat therapist (Geoffrey Rush) in a desperate effort to cure her husband. Though initially rocky terrain, the Duke and his new therapist begin the arduous task of ridding him of his hindrance before the country would need his voice more than ever.
Gears turn slowly during the opening. Once the conflict is introduced, a sense of urgency took over that left me awaiting what I believed to be the enevivetable solution. Usually I stay from such impatience, and I afford this outlook to have spawned from the early lifelessness of the characters along the the dreary, grayscale backdrop of England. Moving forward, however, the beautiful mixture of natural dialogue and quick witted humor breathed life into the picture along with the newly forged relationship of the principle players. The scope eventually blossomed as well, allowing the film to take flight beyond the early boundaries of its fixed focus.
Though I would be quite comfortable with accrediting Firth with the finest performance of the film, I still have a small yearning for me to give it to Rush. Not only is he able to hold his own against such a juggernaut of a central roll, but he is able to establish a strong and unique identity almost solely from interactions with the Firth's Albert. Either way you go, it is their pairing that emanates the film's true power and beauty.
While I applaud director Tom Hooper for his ability to successfully cascade the understated script over such a drab setting, I did take issue with some of the camera work. Overuse of low angles during inappropriate times seemed to be an attempt to shake things up rather than pronounce authority or strength. There were a few other gripes as well, but nothing by itself that holds much note.
Definitely worth the wait (or delay, in my case), 'The King's Speech' offers a sharp, good natured story of perseverance in the face of futility. It reaches its apex late and I was moved by all points of the climax, amplified further by a wonderful conclusion to the score. Unless you find yourself with a total disinterest with the subject matter or period, I dub it near impossible to leave unsatisfied.
The key to crafting a great survival movie is being able to balance realism with the elements of entertainment. Too much concentration on the former may leave the film feeling lifeless while the latter has a tendency to cripple the believability factor when used in overabundance. When a successful medium is achieved, however, it can result in an adventure that is tangible to the point where one may sympathize with the characters plights and engrossing enough to keep you immersed. 'The Grey' stalks dangerously close to such harmony.
Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a tortured soul who's life's misfortunes have lead him to a dangerous and loathsome job on an isolated oil drilling site in Alaska. His duties consist of protecting the companies employees by keeping the wolves in the area at bay with his rifle. Ottway remains poised and skilled at his craft, but the loss of his wife ever haunts him. As time ebbs by and the weight of depression reaches its limits, he nearly turns the rifle on himself to put it all behind him once and for all.
Ironically, it is not long after that fate throws him a cruel twist when he and his work mates are thrust into a fight for survival when their plane goes down on route to a different job site. As the survivors gather their wits and measure their odds of survival, it is Ottway that they will look to guide them to through the bitter cold and the ferocity of the beasts that he has been trained to kill.
The crux of the plot revolves between man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. beast. The isolated group does its best to overcome these perils, and the breakdown of individual needs slowly gives way to that which is more beneficial for the group. This idea is structured well enough, but the gelling happens before each character can establish their own identity due to a slightly hurried first act. Still, this surge into action stays the movie from becoming stale early on.
Due to the amount of attention that is given to Liam's character early on, it is easy to deduce that he is going to play the leader roll in the tattered collective. His skills give him an advantage over the others in matters of survival, and most of what he is capable of is explained sufficiently by his training. However, there are moments where I feel this is abused, and the 'jack of all trades' routine occasionally strikes as an all too convenient plot device. Luckily, this occurs only in short bursts and less frequently as the movie progresses.
Though the cinematography and stylized camera work succeeded in linking the audience to perils of the group, the CGI work seemed out of place when pinned against the solemn backdrop of the tundra. The wolves, especially, looked foreign during some of the confrontations, as their bright yellow eyes and obvious digital roots mismatched with the raw winter landscape. Fortunately, the auditory bells and whistles paired with these moments remained as ferocious as they did realistic, helping to level the believability factor. There is also a duality that exists between the pack of humans and wolves which becomes difficult to ignore, giving their presence an additional dimension that proves to be quite interesting.
What ultimately fuels the entire venture is the shadowy past of Ottway that is revealed in slices during the course of the film. The reasons for his melancholy yet determined nature are strategically placed throughout, offering an intriguing story that walks parallel with the groups struggle to survive. When the conclusion arrives, these two lines cross in such a magnificent way that I cannot help but label the phenomenon anything short of perfection. To date, I struggle to recall a more impressive closing ten minutes to any movie of its ilk, ever.
'The Grey' offers a different approach a oft replicated cinematic theme. The multiple layers and great use of its leading roll lend to its intensity and uniqueness. A quick start and an unprecedented climax tie the experience together justly, and when taken as a whole there is a little left to be desired.
A favorable blend of astonishing special effects and robust action sequences, 'Rise of The Planet of The Apes' serves as a formidable reboot of the historic franchise. The magic of the elaborate character designs is further illuminated by the warm, heartfelt script that brings an emotional depth to the primate and human personas alike.
Desperately trying to develop a cure for Alzheimer's disease, scientist Will Rodman (played by James Franco) uses chimpanzees to experiment his medicines on. He later finds that the retrovirus he injects them with has given them increased intelligence. The company he works for, however, chooses to abandon his research and exterminate the rest of the chimps after a test subject goes berserk and has to be put down. When Will discovers that the reason for the chimpanzee's outburst was to protect the baby it had in secret, he decides to take the infant home to save it from slaughter. Is is there that he learns that the tiny chimp, which Will names Caesar, has inherited the same abilities as his deceased mother.
The story revolves heavily around the relationship between Will and Caesar, which seems to symbolize the association of humans and primates as a whole. The clever way in which the movie uses the pair to mimic affairs on the macroscopic level gives a unique and detailed insight into how things develop. Early on, there is a tender closeness and curiosity that the two share with one another. The two appear content with Will playing the role as the father with Caesar obeying his lead. As time goes by, however, Caesar develops an uneasiness with this circumstance and becomes less satisfied with being treated like a pet. This same vexation grows on a larger scale that is notable as the films scope expands to include other primates. By using this juxtaposition, the audience is granted dual perspectives of the events that transpire.
The acting, as a whole, was above par. John Lithgow, who plays Will's Alzheimer's stricken father, proved to be a solid casting. Franco holds his own as the lead and seems at home in his roll. The real stars, however, are the apes themselves. The amount of screen time that is dedicated to the primates on the rise is extensive, and I was thoroughly impressed with how well defined their personalities were. Caesar, portrayed magnificently by Andy Serkis, was especially a delight to watch grow as the film progressed. His performance, at its peaks, reached the same caliber of what he brought to 'Lord of The Rings' as Gollum.
Though there were significant differences from the previous 'Apes' films, given that it is a reboot rather than a prequel, the director still took care to pay homage to its origins. The moments of nostalgia were skillfully placed and the fresh style in which they were delivered came off more clever than tacky.
The suspense builds slowly at first, but once the ball starts rolling it never lets up. This increased the excitement factor immensly, though I do believe that they could have slowed down the pace towards the climax of the film. The manner in how quickly organized the apes become is explained adequately, but some of the happenings may have come across more believable with the incorporation of a few preceding scenes. Things happens so quickly and with such intensity, however, this flaw was only noticed upon reflection of the film hours after I excited the theater.
And a visit to the cinema is indeed a must to take in all that the movie has to offer. The incredible CGI and effects deployed from start to finish warrant a theater sized screen to do them the justice they deserve. The sights and sounds strike like a storm and viewing through a home system, no matter how advanced, would be difficult to replicate sufficiently.
'ROTPOTA' is a big lumbering beast with a huge heart. The raw ferociousness of it all emanates from a sincere, passionate center. It's a crowd pleaser, being that there is a little bit for just about anyone willing to give it a go. There are lessons to be learned from its underlying themes as well that can be applied to numerous affairs in life, and to be able to take that from a film such as this was a pleasant surprise.