This is of course is my opinion, but I think these movie one-sheets are the top five in terms of marketing/capturing the essence of the film, capturing my imagination and genre defining, artistic excellence.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs (2009) was a rare pleasant surprise in children’s 3-D animation. The creative team behind it took a silly and darn near irritating children’s book and turned it into a surprisingly quirky, sweet and funny movie. I avoided the movie in the theaters because I didn’t like the book and really didn’t want to see that particular story stretched out to feature length with pop psychology filler and pop-culture references. When I saw it 2 years after its theatrical release, because my son insisted that I sit down and watch it with him, I laughed so much that I went right to the computer and ordered a blue ray copy off of Amazon.
When a sequel was announced, I was suspicious because the original directors weren’t directing and honestly, I couldn’t see a sequel to a movie that shouldn’t have been good in the first place, but you never know. There have been good sequels to kids animation before, right? Toy Story 3 standing out as the Jewel in The Crown.
Anyway, this movie was a snooze. It was everything I expected the first film to be: dull and pointless and NOT funny. The contraption that turns water into food from the first film starts producing living food in the shape of animals. I saw that concept in the trailers and it bothered me because they were basically exploring and watering down the climax of the first movie which depicted rather creepy, unsettling scenes of walking roasted chickens trying to maul our heroes. Well, not only do they run that concept into the ground with endless puns and unfunny sight gags, they don’t even explore the idea as a theme, as in living food such as animals should not be killed and eaten. You may or may not agree with a vegan theme for a kids movie but it beats not having any theme.
Furthermore, the writers decided to pick on poor, dead Steve Jobs and Apple as the bad guy (with a cheap character history flashback straight out of Pixar’s Up.) when you have all this corporate food hustling going on in America. In the past year I’ve seen more documentaries about food than I can count. It seems to be the topic of the decade and yet this film series that seems poised to comment about the issue WON’T comment about the issue. Really, in the first film, the hero, Flint Lockwood, is tasked to produce junk food to stimulate his town’s economy. The first film didn’t quite point the finger the country for demanding such unhealthy treats (probably because there would be no McDonald’s and Subway movie tie-ins otherwise) but the idea was addressed albeit with kid gloves and so subtly as to be cowardly, with Bruce Campell’s Mayor character. So it seems to me if you’re going to do a sequel, the shock and opportunity of a machine that can produce junk food out of thin air would be too much for fast food giants to resist. There could have been any number of stories of Flint being made to be the hapless pawn in the food wars, where he would have to step up and take a stand toward healthy eating, you know, topical and basic conflict = drama type stuff. But no, the producers and creatives were content to make their money producing drivel about nothing that relates to no one.
Avoid this movie. It’s a time waster.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Having just watched the DVD of The Dark Knight Rises, I think its time I weighed in on Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.
In 2005, I walked out of Batman Begins with a bunch of enthusiastic friends who really liked it, and I snobbishly declared it a serious, well-filmed and well-intentioned epic that makes the same mistakes Tim Burton’s Batman did. Only worse. It ends with a gas attack on Gotham City that by all rights should be the central focus of the movie, but isn’t. And really, the big scheme of Ra’s A-Ghul and The League of Shadows is completely under-motivated. They want to destroy an entire city. Why again? Because it’s corrupt? Huh? Why don’t you just kill the corrupt politicians. What’s with having to kill everybody? And there’s Liam Neeson explaining this goofy history of the League of Shadows how they caused The Plague and on and on, and I just don’t believe they’ve thought their cause all the way through. And then! The big gas attack, hits a few people, then it’s over and forgotten about and we’re treated to an unconvincing fight on a model train. And while I enjoyed Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, I thought his performance as Batman was laughable. Putting on hoarse voice and growling about everything seemed silly to me. Most of all, since the movie was grounded in some sort of reality, I kinda thought that the overly serious tone made Batman seem unnecessary. The movie had everything I wanted Tim Burton’s Batman to have: a gritty, realistic tone, big epic fights, a large canvas, and yet, it didn’t work. At its core, Batman Begins was soul-less.
Things that work in comic books don’t quite work in reality. Batman Begins is a glaring example of that. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tim Burton’s theatrical, puppet show Batman movies, but I after Nolan’s versions, I had to admit that Mr. Burton’s movies work in their own silly little universe. Yes, Burton couldn’t film action to save his life, made the character look funny and move funny, and gosh darnit, The Penquin riding that giant rubber duck?! And circus gangs after The Joker?! Don’t get me started, but after all is said and done, Michael Keaton works as Bruce Wayne/Batman. I buy that Bruce Wayne dresses up as Batman. And, as I found out later, that’s a big hurdle to jump over.
The Dark Knight in 2008 only seemed to exacerbate that problem. This big sprawling crime pic that many geeks hailed as “better than the Godfather” and such baloney, really called into question Batman’s usefulness and the likelihood that anyone would go to the trouble of being Batman. There’s this scene after Joker blows up the warehouse with Batman’s true love, where Batman is standing amidst the rubble, and the shot evokes 9-11 imagery, and all I could think of during the scene was, “Who’s the dork in the Batman costume.” IT DOESN’T WORK! Forget all the holes in the story, they’re just comic book-ish plot contrivances, I can live with them. I can’t live with the movie where the entire time I’m thinking, “Why does he dress up as Batman!? It’s stupid!”
So that leaves The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. And believe it or not, this movie works. Plot holes? By the truckload! Silly? BANE WITH A SEAN CONNERY VOICE? Bane’s stupid plot where anyone could simply shoot him and be done with it?!! Cops and Bad guys duking it out like it’s a union busting scene? Absolutely. It has a “Hoo! Hoo! Ha!! chanting scene straight out of a King Kong movie. And yet, despite everything, I buy Batman as Batman and even better, I like his chemistry with Catwoman. When they kiss and end up together, it warmed my heart a little. It took three films for Christopher Nolan to get me to believe his characters and get emotionally attached to them.
So to sum up: Christopher Nolan’s Batman films have look and feel of great movies, but they’re really just pulpy comic book movies. And they’re only barely successful as those sorts of stories. Like with Spiderman, the real great Batman movie has yet to be made.
Monday, September 10, 2012
I feel kinda crummy. When this film came out, I was rooting for it to fail. And when it did fail, (some reports stating that its failure caused a work stoppage at Disney) I was gloating and snickering about it. Now, I’m not one of these die-hard Edgar Rice-Burrows fans who was crying “sacrilege!” any deviation from the books, and in fact, I’d only read one Burrows “Mars” book, “The Mastermind of Mars”, back in high school. (totally forgot what happened). But “John Carter of Mars” is like Dick Tracy or Doc Savage. He’s in my subconsciousness. As long as I can remember, I’ve been staring at John Carter covers in book stores or Frank Frazetta collections. I may not know a lot about the details of the stories, but he’s one of the grand old salts of science fiction, and based on the book covers alone, I wanted to see his adventures on the big screen.
Alas! I fell for the classic trap of listening to naysayers and avoiding the film in the theaters. I denied myself the opportunity to see John Carter on the big screen and instead saw it on a portable DVD player while doing the dishes.
And I really enjoyed every minute of it. It was a terrific, well-crafted, old-fashioned adventure. A real swashbuckler. With HEART. Great, seamless effects and a solid, if pulpy (and at this point, used up and dry storyline– but that’s not really the books’ or film’s fault that everyone’s been ripping off Burrows’ ideas since the 30’s.) And at the very least, at its core was the notion that we’re being controlled by the Power Masters of the Universe. And that’s an idea that should resonate in any sci fi action-er.
So now I have to ask myself: what was I so upset about? Why did I want this massive effort this work of hundreds if not thousands of hard-working craftspeople to fail?.
Well, the title “John Carter” does bother me, I guess. It speaks of a lack of faith in the source material and the concept. Would anyone have gone to see a movie awkwardly titled “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone” if it wasn’t a book first? I read that the director, Andrew Stanton, said that no girl would see “John Carter of Mars” and no boy would go see “Princess of Mars.” And for saying that, I guess, I felt he deserved to be banished into The Has Been Zone. Because “John Carter” sounds like “Michael Clayton” or “Dolores Claiborne”or any number of nondescript dramas about middle aged people. So if you’re so terrified of not appealing to the all-hallowed teenage demographic, why in the world would you make your movie sound like it was for 40 somethings? Why not just “John Carter and The Princess of Mars”? Or if you must appeal to all things moron, “John Carter’s Adventure on Mars.”
And while, sure, I’m hoping Mr. Stanton learned the hard way to believe in one’s concept and principles. I have to say, I’m much more upset at Disney for the way they released the film in March and gave it one of the worst ad campaigns I’ve seen for a film of this scope and importance. The posters reminded me of Disney’s “A Far Off Place.” I mean, who the hell were they marketing to? Ever hear of an artist named Drew Struzan? Did the Star Wars Special Edition posters among hundreds of other awesome one sheets? Why wasn’t there an epic, lush poster campaign drawn by him to emulate the Pulp roots of the concept? There’s any number of ways to market a movie and Disney chose the worst way in all of them, the trailers, the poster art, the concept. They kept pushing the next Avatar when in actuality they had a more old-fashioned adventure. If anything it harkened back to lush pulp adventures like Sinbad and Conan.
And by the way: SCREW THE KID DEMOGRAPHIC. I can’t stand this mentality. If a story is good enough, kids will go see it. Kids are adults in training and quality has a way of making its way to the top. Even kids know that.
Now let me cut in here to complain a little bit about another aspect that kept me away: the lead actor. Taylor Kitsch (who?!) was moderately good in the part and from what I hear in the DVD commentary, a genius at pretending things were there on set when they weren’t. But he does lack a certain charisma to make you want to see the film. And that kept me away as well. I thought Disney was forcing a young, marketable-to-screaming-girls- lead on the production and felt that maybe the film would be as weak-kneed as its casting. And sure, I would’ve preferred Eric Bana as John Carter, (a completely underrated and underused actor.) Mr. Kitsch didn’t kill the movie at all. He was totally fine. In fact, everybody was perfectly fine in the film. The Princess played by Lynn Collins was a nice blend of sexy and tough that didn’t stretch plausibility and everyone else was well-cast. I will say that there was a distinct lack of star power to capture the imagination. But the effects work and animation made up for it. The effects work served the story and didn’t overwhelm. Though there was something a little bland about the whole look of the film. It could’ve had a more colorful palate ala the 1980 Flash Gordon.
To its credit, however, I came way with was a sense of longing, that I wanted the adventure and romance to continue. Stanton and company committed to their story. And that’s a rare thing these days. Even with Avatar, which too was a labor of love and unfortunately , beat this film to the punch, when it was over, I was sort of glad. Like, I’d seen enough. There’s nothing inherently interesting about Cameron’s story. (And I can’t really imagine sitting through two more Avatar sequels) With John Carter, I almost want to crack open the books again and start reading to see what happens next to the characters.
With movies like Avengers, Dark Knight Rises and Amazing Spiderman, when they were over, it was only what I didn’t like about them that filled my thoughts. John Cater doesn’t fall into that trap. It came close to transporting me into the stratosphere of forgetting my troubles and just existing in its world.
In other words, when I was a lad, after seeing such A list fare as Superman, Empire Strikes Back or Indiana Jones. I had that heart-thumping, running hell for leather out of the theater, whistling the film score feeling. With John Carter there was a slight twinge of that. I guess that puts it at a Clash of The Titans, Superman II and Tron level. It’s good, not great.
But it captured my imagination. A rare feat in the age of Transformers and GI Joe movies. If only Disney’s Marketing Campaign did. If those marketing clowns lost their jobs because of their tremendous failure, I am a little happy about that.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Amazing Spiderman. If anyone read my Master’s thesis blog about Sam Raimi’s Spiderman from 2002, you’ll know that I’m a devoted nut about Spiderman and take the subject more seriously than a man my age has any right to.
But like many of you Spidey fans, I was perplexed and dismayed that for a fourth Spiderman feature they decided to go back to square one and “reboot” the origin story. And well, they really didn’t need to. In fact the filmmakers and top minds behind this new movie were so uninterested in retelling the origin of Spidey, that the message and strength of the origin story–the thief that big-headed Peter Parker/Spiderman was too proud to stop, comes back and murders his Uncle Ben– is rushed through and isn’t even an important element in Peter’s transformation into Spiderman. That’s akin to rebooting Batman where Batman’s parents are alive and well. The chief reason Peter becomes a crime fighter is to make up for Uncle Ben’s death. The Amazing Spiderman movie seems to forget that element after a scene or two. In fact, I don’t think Peter even realizes that the thief who killed his Uncle was the guy he didn’t stop. He gives up looking for him, I suppose because the thief is going to come back as another villain somewhere down the road but, jeez, Uncle Ben literally could be alive in the movie and it wouldn’t matter at all to the character of Peter Parker/Spiderman in THIS movie. You know? The one that I’m watching now and not two years from now, you stupid greedy bastards, Marvel and Sony. Quit setting things up without a payoff.
So, yeah, rushed is the operative word. The whole movie feels like a waiter quickly and mechanically wiping a table before you sit down, and the events all seem unimportant. As a big operatic superhero movie, it’s a failure.
HOWEVER… I still liked it better than Sam Raimi’s movies. While the plot and story are a mess, in many ways worse than the Raimi’s cornballers, the vibe is right. While I love the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of comics, I learned to read with the moody, angst-ridden Lee Romita comics from the early 70’s. This movie has that vibe. Maybe because of the prominence of Gwen Stacey and her father George. But mainly the serious tone Andrew Garfield brings to Peter. Read Spiderman from the 70’s and Peter is almost a downer as his normal self but then when he’s Spiderman, he’s a gas. And best of all, the Spidey action is top notch. I’m going to give a shout out to Jerome Chen, the effects supervisor. He’s clearly a man who knows iconic Spiderman action. I could use more awesome Spidey punching poses. (You know, where Spidey just lets a villain have it and they fly out into the foreground.) But it’s a small quibble. Any time Spidey is swinging and jumping and doing his Spidey thing, it looks like a living comic and not a screen saver.
There were a couple of minor irritating and confusing bits where Peter was inconsistently either too weak or too strong, as the scene required– even after scenes were established to show just how strong Peter was after the spider-bite, which irritated me no end with the Raimi films. Why is Peter afraid of a Wrestler? Why is he running from a gang of goons in this film? HE’S BLEEPING SPIDERMAN! (and, this movie repeats other mistakes Raimi made such as the source of the spider’s power wasn’t a random accident. It looks like it could be repeated at any time, so anyone could become Spiderman. And worst of all, Peter’s displays his agility and super strength in front of anyone who will notice when he’s not Spiderman, so anyone with a Pre-K sense of logic would be able to guess who Spiderman is. And again, he’s mask-less for so much of the film that I wondered why he even wore a costume at all. I don’t know why Marvel and Sony are ignoring the canon but they are and well, anyway, so what? I don’t care anymore. These movies are beating my love of Spiderman out of me.
Here it is. Weak movie with a much better actor in the Spiderman role. Andrew Garfield looks better physically as Peter Parker and Spiderman, lean and wiry and not like a pudgy kid wearing a Halloween costume, and he’s legitimately funny when he wise cracks as Spiderman. Emma Stone also brings her personality and a sense of enjoyment to the role of blonde and bland Gwen Stacey so she does a better job than Kirsten Dusnt as Mary Jane, who seemed sort of worried and pissed to be in Spiderman movies. The Peter and Gwen love scenes seem a little more organic and believable than the Tobey McGuire/Kirsten Dunst stuff which was all pretty sit-comish and unbearable.
You notice I haven’t chimed in the Lizard. Frankly, Rhys Ifans was fine. But the character just didn’t matter. Did I care that he didn’t look quite like the comic. Nope. Not a whit. He was as lifelessly written a villain as any in this day and age. Yes, he looked like a CGI dinosaur pet on TV. But he wasn’t as epic-ly offensive as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin costume.
The tell tale sign about this movie was that I took my two boys to see this movie and they were BORED. Like climbing all over the seats, going the bathroom four times bored. And my older son LOVED the Avengers. He wanted to go home one hour into Amazing SM, but I wouldn’t let him.
For this movie, I was mainly interested in the James Horner score (a major improvement — finally, a rousing theme in a superhero movie) and the spectacular Spidey effects and action. So I wasn’t bored.
But hardly thrilled.
So that’s all, true believers, I’m done.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The other day I happened upon Surrogates on TV. That came out a few years ago and I was always curious by the non-Bruce Willis centered ad campaign showing Angelina Jolie look-alikes and pretty boys with robotic skeletons showing under their skin. The movie came and went and it was directed by Jonathan Mostow, a director whose work I’ve never seen in the theater, so I forgot about it as soon as it opened to mediocre reviews.
Anyway, it was okay. Mainly forgettable. I only mention it because it had a premise that I was thinking about jotting down in story form in 1997 until The Matrix stole my thunder. Where we as humans just live a couch-potato like existence while our virtual selves, or in this case, perfect robotic altar egos live in the real world controlled by our thought impulses. The movie started fairly strong as a sci-fi concept with hot blonde robots turning out to be disgusting fat sloths in real life, but the film soon devolved into a routine cop thriller that raises more questions than it answers. And there is some inherent silliness and panic in the premise, which I didn’t realize before. While it’s conceivable that a good many people would enjoy such an existence the film also showed how the robots versions of the people get off, by zapping themselves and each other with some silly electric dildo looking thing. And there’s the problem with the idea. Why would anyone but hardcore nerds choose that over real intercourse? And as a nation of fat butts, why would we give up hamburgers for IV’s. It’s mentioned that Bruce Willis and his wife have lost a child. (following cop show cliche #74 — main cop character either has lost his wife or a child) So yeah… about those children…where are they? They showed college students going to school via surrogates, but either there are no children, like in Children of Men, or they’re being cared for by their surrogates, which is a movie in and of itself.
Now, I’ve just read the screenwriting book “Save The Cat” which every screenwriter these days swears by, and I found it nothing but a disheartening lesson in what a cookie cutter industry Hollywood has become. (Where a book that basically reworks and regurgitates “THE MASTER” Syd Field, who himself steered the industry in the direction of all film stories seeming the same– has become the guidebook that all studio execs swear by. Ugh.) So I’m sort of pissed off at Surrogates for not being a coming of age story about a kid whose real parents leave him alone with nothing but robot versions of themselves to take care of him.
But no! If I understand Save The Cat correctly. That movie would be too confusing because it would introduce too many elements for the audience to comprehend. Better take a far out sci-fi idea and turn it into a pedestrian whodunnit otherwise we can’t have any sci-fi at all.
Jeez! Did anyone ever see The Lathe of Heaven TV movie from 1980? There was a sci-fi movie about a guy whose dreams always came true. And my ten year old brain kept up with it fairly easily. Trust me, I was a C student all my life, even in grade school. What the heck is wrong with everyone? The author of Save The Cat would likely compare Lathe of Heaven to Miss Congeniality and deduce that Miss Congeniality was the superior film because it made 200 million dollars and followed all the story beats to the letter.
So, anyway, Surrogates is the perfect film to catch on a lazy Sunday evening while you’re folding laundry. It has enough of a concept to pique ones interest, then it’s forgettable enough to where you can concentrate on making crisp, even folds in your t-shirts and boxers. Show those surrogates that we humans can still do manual labor.
Monday, June 4, 2012
Because I can’t possibly write more than one blog I’m making this my all purpose blog for books and movies. So uh…Welcome to Gino’s Sci Fi and Book corner where I also review children’s books and such truck on top of sci-fi movies. Luckily I hate horror movies so those two interests won’t clash. And I don’t tend to cuss much, so it should all work out fine..
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
When I was a kid, I loved Superheroes a lot. A LOT!!! I used to desperately wish to the point of prayer that I’d get bitten by a radioactive spider so I could become Spiderman’s sidekick Cobweb Kid. My brother poked holes in that idea, pointing out that cobwebs were dusty and old and weak, but I didn’t care. I was proud of the alliterative name and rip off costumes that I drew and like many an uncoordinated, unpopular kid, I wished I had spider powers to show how awesome I truly was. In 1977 when CBS started producing Marvel-based 1 hour live action television programs of Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America, I tuned in every time. While those shows took strange dramatic license and made them based in the real world with Hulk and Spidey facing off against very ordinary criminals, or tediously helping Mariette Hartley fight a rare disease (and worse yet, kissing and marrying her!) in the case of the Hulk, I still declared them the best shows ever. However, something always nagged at me while watching them, “Why were there such huge differences?” “Why didn’t the Hulk talk or ever fight The Abomination?” “Why Did Spiderman’s web look like either rope or party spray?” Of course I didn’t understand budget limitations and such real world problems and while I was happy that my favorite superheroes were on TV, I kept wishing for more and better. “Someday, I hope they make a movie where all the Marvel Heroes are fighting each other and destroying a city.”
Well, that day is here. It’s kind of too bad for me that it took so long because here I am, married with children and I’m still blogging about superhereos, but you know, it’s my blog and I don’t feel like starting fights discussing politics and religion.
At any rate, since the dawn of the 21st Century and all the ensuing technological advances in the world of visual effects, superhero lovers like me seem to have not only our greatest wishes granted by Hollywood but even our minor and I guess their subconscious ones as well. For example: a Jonah Hex movie?
In most cases, from X-Men to Spiderman to Dark Knight the films attempted to ground the heroes in some sort of reality, sort of like their 1970’s TV cousins except now with bigger effects. The best and most creatively successful film of the Marvel Superhero genre, I think, was Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. In that film, Favreau managed to explain away a very silly origin, engage the viewer with a charming, funny lead character who was interesting both in and out of costume, and most importantly he made it all somewhat plausible while maintaining a buoyant sense of fun. I think Marvel has Favreau to thank for turning Iron Man into one of their more interesting and popular heroes.
Now since Iron Man, everyone knows that Marvel was building up to The Avengers, the big sprawling Super Team of the Marvel Universe. I was never in favor of that idea. I once subscribed to The Avengers Comic because I was a fan of the artist John Buscema. As luck would have it, as soon as I started getting the comic on a monthly basis, Buscema left the series and what came in the mail was usually a unremarkable, paint by numbers collection of our heroes against. Brain Leeches and Giant goobers from space. Plus, I never got into the heroes when they were on the team. It was all too busy. And that’s what I figured a film would be.
After a lackluster series of films from The Incredible Hulk through Thor to Captain America, everyone one of them awkwardly shoe-horning what basically amounted to a commercial for The Avengers into the plot, I was expecting a big disappointment.
Then the film came out and got rave reviews and made a billion dollars in two weeks and I thought, “Hey, maybe it’s great!” If it’s at least as good as the first Iron Man then I’d be happy.”
Well, here it is: It’s NOT as good as the first Iron Man. But I’m still happy. Iron Man the film still holds the crown as the perfect balance of all the elements needed to make a great super hero movie. But what Avengers manages to accomplish more than any of its predecessors in the comic book-to- film format and is better for it, is that’s it’s a big long 2.5 hour Marvel Comic. It’s not grounded in reality at all but it isn’t sheer nonsense like Transformers or GI Joe or any of those loud and soulless movies that my generation has thrust upon human-kind.
Avengers really is the equivalent of reading an entertaining comic run from start to finish. I think my problem with it was Thor and Loki, the element I always feared would be a problem, especially after the solo Thor film, which was really an underachiever. Thor, if you’re going to bring in a God of Thunder into the fairly realistic and pseudo-scientific world of the movies, really has to be a GOD. As in he shimmers and glows and his armor is shiny at all times, beautiful to behold and all that. But in the Thor movie and in the Avengers, he hangs out with everyone and just seems like a dork from a Shakespeare Festival, as Tony Stark points out. No one seems to be batting an eyelash over the fact that a NORSE GOD is in their presence. And if the Hulk can beat him, well, that makes Hulks transformation into one of the greatest things a scientific nightmare has ever produced. I had a Thor Comic where people are worshiping Thor and he’s embarrassed about it, and lo’ and behold a Christian religious nut gets powers from whomever and becomes The Crusader. And they fight it out in front of the worshipers A good comic, really. It brought in fairly real human issues about gods and religion. And while sure, the Avengers has too much on its plate to delve into what people think of Thor, Joss Whedon’s (and Kenneth Branagh’s) failure with the character is to make him so ordinary that he just seems silly. His hammer looks like a big hollow plastic prop.
Other than that, I thought the film was a good way to pass a couple of hours. Mark Ruffalo has been getting well-deserved praise for his performance as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. And I agree. For the first time in the modern age of superhero films, Banner is as, if not more, interesting than Hulk. Robert Downey is cool as ever as Tony Stark and Iron Man and Chris Evans raised my estimation of him as an actor as Captain America. He actually had the most to prove actually. I thought he did a credible job in the completely tedious Captain America film but I wondered how he’d evolve into the Avengers Leader, commanding Robert Downey and The Hulk et al. And he did it effortlessly. If you compare Chris Evans to say, oh, Casper Van Dien from Starship Troopers, who seemed like a suburban kid trying to wear big boots, then what Evans accomplished is an amazing feat in this era of men-children.
The effects were very good if not awe-inspiring and the film does have a somewhat sprawling and epic quality to it. After Serenity which I thought was television on the big screen, I’m impressed that Joss Whedon made such a watchable film.
UPDATE: After purchasing the DVD, I’ve sort of changed my mind about the film. It’s totally average, maybe elevated somewhat by Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans, but it looks cheap. TV cheap. And it’s yet another in a long line of “CLOSE THE PORTAL!” movies. And on a second pass, I was thinking, “Hey, how come Thor can’t just kill all the aliens with his lightning like he started to?” But in no way can it compare to the 1st Iron Man or even Superman or Batman. I admit it, I got caught up in the hype the first time I saw it. It’s definitely not going to stand the test of time as a great movie and will be the equivalent to Superman and The Mole Men, a dated post script to better versions, much like the 70’s Hulk and Spiderman shows.
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Liam Neeson tears through Paris on the tail of sex traffickers who kidnapped his daughter. And that’s it. Melodrama of the highest order, but oddly enjoyable and compelling, considering its bare-bones plot. I guess I was in the mood to see a one man army beating people up. I watched it while doing the dishes. (That’s my new term, by the way, I don’t call time killing movies pot-boilers, I call them DISH MATES).
I will say watching Liam Neeson playing a normal regular Joe family man was sort of funny. Almost like watching him scream, “I want a PINK ELEPHANT for my girlfriend!” in Darkman. To me, he doesn’t seem right as a Regular Joe. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a terrific actor and an action dynamo, but any scene where he was just smiley and supportive came across as…a little strange or slightly off.
So that’s it. The action was fine. And at the very least, I could tell what was happening. Which these days, is a plus.
Friday, May 18, 2012
I’m out of the target demographic for books and movies like Twilight and The Hunger Games, and while I get more ornery and crotchety every day, I still have it in me to check out what the kids are watching–just so I can declare my generation superior. But sure, I have enough youth and vitality left where I’m always hoping for a good yarn, for a film to get the mind racing and heart thumping. And I have to say, I The Hunger Games fooled me. When it started in the coal mining district of Panem (whatever) I thought, “Okay, it’s got a palpable mood and environment, this might be interesting.” Ironically, it held my interest until the titular games were underway. We have a crazy dystopian future society and a game where people kill each other, not the most original idea, but any idea can be good if executed with a little thought and emotional truth, and it seemed like the makers of HG were on the right track. The build-up to the games themselves was working, my heart was racing along with Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence, who does command attention, just like everyone says.) and then just like that, the movie fizzled. I haven’t read the book, but from what I’ve heard the movie follows the book closely. So then I have to say, um, “What possessed you, people?!” You have a supposed bad a** in your heroine, the odds on favorite, mean with a bow, etc. etc. And she basically spends the rising action and climax sitting on her duff or worse yet, slipping and tripping and sloppy kissing her way to victory. That was not what the poster promised.
Maybe I’m cold-hearted but I wasn’t disturbed by the premise of the movie–except possibly in the beginning when Katniss’ sister gets picked for the Hunger Games and Katniss jumps in and pleads for them to pick her. Nice moment. Emotional truth and all. Not that I want to see kids snuffing each other, but I want to feel the horror. What followed, however, was a story that didn’t exploit either the premise or the events that led up to the moment of truth. In my mind, the big confrontation shouldn’t be with the uber-jock Spartan kid. If I’d been hired to write the screenplay, I would’ve argued for a story change, where Katniss is, indeed, a fearsome opponent who takes down all the popular kids with nary a problem. It’s in facing off with the little cute kids where the meat of the premise lies, in my mind. When Katniss makes nice with cute and cuddly little Rue, I’m thinking. “Interesting, I wonder what happens when they have to kill each other?” Never happened.
And speaking of meat, the movie’s called The Hunger Games! Boo to the creative team for not ever making us feel that hunger. People in desperate situations do desperate things. Your every day Joe or Jane on Survivor –a show that clearly influenced the film’s message– has far more wits and strategic creativity than what the movie accounted for. And people go into that mode for a measly million dollars, not their very existence on earth. I can buy that Katniss has a heart of gold, sure, we have to root for her, but come on! She is a product of her society, fighting for her sister’s life. I don’t think she was ever confronted with that dilemma. Oh, sure, she whined about it a bit at the end, but she didn’t ever justify murder because of it. I think that’s how her epiphany was supposed to take place. Least for me at any rate. And did Katniss have an epiphany? I can’t recall. I was too busy scoffing at the Twilight-like love triangle that felt tacked on even though they were building it the entire movie. You know a movie’s not right when they can’t generate the slightest interest in the story points that usually generate the most interest. Like, you know, kids killing each other, loves triangles and stuff…
Hunger Games is aptly named. It’s gutless. Ho! Ho!