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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.
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
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
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.
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