Thursday, June 27, 2013
There's no real logic presented here to the weapons or the world. It just is what it is. There's no reason why Hansel and Gretel look like they stepped out of the Matrix, they just do. Just go with it! Unfortunately, just go with it doesn't work for this film. What could have been a fun Rambo-style witch killing quest movie turns into a plot-contrived story with lost family members, family secrets, and the different between good and bad witches. I was hoping Gemma Arterton could salvage this film, as she did for Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans, but even those films had more elements going for it other then her than Hansel & Gretel does. Unless you're really curious about how bad this film is, skip it.
1 out of 5 stars
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Snitch is "inspired by actual events" where Dwayne's son gets arrested for signing for a package of drugs that got sent to him without his permission. His son now faces the mandatory minimums sentence for his crimes. Dwayne convinces the U.S. Attorney to let him "snitch" to make arrests on his son's behalf. Except that Dwayne has no connections. Jon Bernthal enters here as one of Dwayne's employees who has a past in the drug game. He makes introductions to the lowlifes working the street (Hi Omar from The Wire!). Things escalate from here when the DEA wants to grab the big Mexican cartel guy (Benjamin Bratt) instead of the lowlifes.
Snitch is a pretty good film. Dwayne and Jon Bernthal are really likable actors, so their performances keep your attention. The biggest detractor for this film is that there is nothing here to make it stand out from Dwayne's larger franchise films. There's no large acting twist for Dwayne to advertise, no large action sequence to compete with the other films, etc. Its just Dwayne doing his normal thing, making a decent movie. All in all, that is what Snitch is, a decent, likable film that won't stand out from the other things on the shelf.
3 out of 5 stars
The basic plot is that Jason Bateman's character, Sandy Patterson, has his identity stolen by Melissa McCarthy's character, Diana. Diana lives in Winter Park, FL and Sandy lives in Denver, CO, so he has to travel to Florida to bring Sandy back to Denver to sort out all his job troubles. Apparently there are no Federal laws she is breaking, and Denver Police have no relationship with other police departments. No FBI, nothing, so Sandy takes it on himself to apprehend her. Now, Winter Park, FL is a suburb or Orlando, FL and they did NOT Shoot in Winter Park at all. The Winter Park of this film looks more like Arizona or Louisiana than Florida. I live in Orlando and am in Winter Park frequently, so it did not pass muster with me. Small gripe, but whatever.
During this trip, driving back across the country, Sandy has to pretend that Diana is his wife, in order not to appear weird. I think technically this would be considered kidnapping? Anyways the best part of the film is when Diana invites another man back to their hotel room to have sex while Sandy watches. Hilarity ensues. Its all downhill after that. Sandy and Diana are on the run from a bill collector/bounty hunter (Robert Patrick) as well as some gangsters (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez). Its here that the film loses steam. I think the film would have been much funnier if we had more situations where Diana was stealing identities. Once these other characters enter the picture, the film turns into a predictable on the road/on the run comedy. There are certainly worse films than this one you could watch, but there are also certainly better films as well.
2 out of 5 stars
Monday, June 17, 2013
Onto the film itself. SPOILERS from here on out. I won't go into too much detail, but I will touch on one part of the film that seems to have affected dedicated Superman fans and split them from the movie.
Still here? Great! I enjoyed this film. There was clapping at the end of it in my theater, but I did not feel the same emotional satisfaction as I did when Batman Begins, or any of The Dark Knight trilogy ended. I like most things about this movie, but in particular I don't know that I can pick out anything that I don't like. It's strange. I love the cast. Henry Cavill is a good Superman. I definitely felt his loneliness and longing to belong. Amy Adams is a great choice for Lois Lane. She's more like the Teri Hatcher Lois, spunky, resourceful, except she doesn't get kidnapped nearly as much as Teri Hatcher's did. Michael Shannon was great as General Zod. He wasn't so much evil, as just narrow-minded and singular in purpose. It made sense.
Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) were good choices for me. I saw some critics disliking Kevin Costner's performance, saying he came across as annoyed by Clark, but I didn't take it that way at all. Most times Pa Kent came off as concerned. He's more concerned for keeping his son's secrets hidden, for the good of his son than anything, but he still wants his son to make good decisions. Pa Kent here knew that in time, Clark would have to come out to the world, and he wanted this son to be ready, even if the world wasn't.
I think one of the great victories of the film is its sequence on Krypton. The film opens with Kal-El's birth on Krypton, and its subsequent destruction. But instead of just rehashing the same old crystal motif here again, we see a more fully fleshed out Krypton. We see Jor-El atop a Kryptonian dragonfly-beast, as he rides it from the council chamber to the launching pad. We see the Kryptonian military with General Zod, we see the ruling Council. Everything here is new. The costume designs are amazingly alien, and make sense in a world with such rich history that they are clinging too as their world dies. I like the idea that Krypton was once an immense empire, spanning galaxies and setting up colonies and exploring new worlds. It lends credence to the fact that Jor-El knows where to send Kal-El. He didn't just land here by accident, and Jor-El isn't just hoping his son survives somewhere. It makes Krypton a lot more plausible than the magic growing crystals of the Donner films and Smallville. I want to go back to the Krypton of this film. I'd like another extended flashback, or a prequel film, or animated series. It was a stunning opening to a film, and made you forget any incarnation of Superman that had come before.
ruined the movie for him based on the "Superman doesn't kill" argument. I'm kind of okay with this moment. Superman hasn't yet learned how to make these decisions. Every life or death situation for him up until now was some sort of natural disaster where he could save human lives and not get hurt. This was unprecedented. Superman is not perfect, and I hate the fans who think he has to be. I know Batman doesn't kill deliberately or use guns because he knows what killing and a gun did to him and his psyche, but Superman's made no such vow. I'm pretty sure Jor-El killed a few of Zod's soldiers in the opening, and Pa Kent essentially kills himself to keep Clark's secret. Superman's fathers have not taught him not to kill, so how else is he going to learn this lesson? I may be reading too much into it, but that is my take on it.
After this moment is where the movie falls flat for me. Immediately after this scene we get some humor thrown at us to lighten the moment, but it's exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Even though I liked the fact that Superman had to kill Zod, I didn't like the handling of it. Another thing the film could have used is some more humor. Batman is funny in Nolan's films, he and Alfred trade barbs at each other from time to time, and I feel like Man of Steel could use some more moments like that. Don't get me wrong, there is some humor in the film, but not enough. Its clear why Jimmy Olsen serves a purpose, and could have served a purpose in this film as well if he was not included.
All in all Man of Steel is a great 2.3 hours in the multiplex. I would avoid 3D if possible, as a lot of it his handheld and so much is moving to fast to probably make the 3D worthwhile. See Cinemablend's 3D review for more detail on that. There are lots of things to like in this film, a few to love (like the casting and Hans Zimmer's score), and a few things to dislike.
4 out of 5 Stars
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Remember how I said I'd post my old movie-review podcasts? Here's another!
Aside from this blog, I've been part of the Comic Timing Podcast for several years with my friend +Ian Levenstein. We reviewed Iron Man 2 on our podcast so I'd like to link you to there to listen to it.
Comic Timing is a comics podcast where +Ian L and I will discuss comics, comic films, comic video games, and anything comics related. We've been doing it for a couple of years and are quickly approaching our 150th episode. If you like the Iron Man 3 review, we have done other movie reviews in the past, and I may link them here from time to time.
Being a resident of Orlando, I remember these stories of Sea World trainers being killed by their orcas. One in particular, Tillicum, has killed multiple people and went back to "work" at Sea World weeks later. This documentary focuses around Tillicum and is edited in a very compelling, terrifying way. I'm definitely going to search this one out. Yikes!
Monday, June 3, 2013
I'm currently working my way through Spartacus: War of the Damned from STARZ. If you haven't heard of it, Spartacus started a few years ago that looked like a 300 rip off because of its use of CGI blood, slow-motion shots, and fit bare-chested men. I caught the first two seasons, Blood and Sand and Gods of the Arena on Netflix, and was hooked in by the weaving storylines and well developed characters. All the action blood didn't hurt either. If you're a fan of 300 or HBO's ROME, Spartacus is a good mixture of both, minus the larger budgets. I'll talk about why you should take a look at the series and move my way towards the present series War of the Damned.
The first series launched in 2010 starring Andy Whitfield (Spartacus), Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), and John Hannah (Batiatus). This first series followed Spartacus' capture and enslavement and rise as Gladiator. What was neat about this season was seeing Spartacus build his resolve against the Romans through his mistreatment and betrayal, all of which came from Batiatus and his wife Lucretia. John Hannah and Lucy Lawless were really fun to watch. Not only were they manipulating their gladiators against each other, but they were also using their gladiator's successes and failures in the arena as leverage in the Roman politcal world. We were frequently visited by Roman senators and their wives, and we frequently saw how the slaves were used as entertainment for their masters. Often to the slave's embarassment, or occasionally, pleasure. This series gave us a lot of different characters to fall in love with. We had our hero Spartacus, his friend Varro, the head slave Oenomaus, and the rival Crixus. In any episode some or all of these characters could clash or work together, mostly to serve their own goals. I came into it thinking it was a cheap 300 knock-off but left wanting more, especially after the finale here.
Spartacus' star, Andy Whitfield was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and the series was put on pause to allow the actor to recover. Unfortunately, Andy Whitfield passed away in 2011 and Spartacus, now STARZ's first hit series, needed to be recast. In the meantime, STARZ gave us a six episode prequel series entitled Spartacus: Gods of the Arena to tide over fans. This short series showed us the rise of the house of Batiatus and his Gladiators, thanks to a new character, Gannicus. We saw Oenomaus become the head gladiator/trainer and Crixus' arrival into slavery, similar to Spartacus' in the first series, although they chose separate paths and approaches to it. Part of the fun of this series is our new gladiator, Gannicus, as he is totally opposite of Spartacus. Gannicus is not interested in freedom, only glory, women, wine and food. His victories in the arena grant him this until he falls in love with Oenomaus' wife, who also happens to be his best friend. Whoops! We also get a good dose of the Roman political maneuvering from Lucretia and Batiatus. When we join them here, Batiatus is not the head of the house, his father is. So we see his struggle with his father's decisions as Batiatus maneuvers to undermine them. All in all this was not as good as the first season, but it was an enjoyable placeholder until we got a full second season.
The second series, Spartacus: Vengence premiered and gave us a new Spartacus after Andy Whitfield's passing. Stepping into the role was Liam McIntyre. STARZ promoted a lot that Andy Whitfield was able to see Liam's audition, after it became clear he would not be able to act in the show any longer, and was so pleased with Liam's audition he gave him his blessing to carry Spartacus forward. It is hard to say who is the better Spartacus, although now, Liam has been in the role longer than Andy Whitfield. I think the large shift in the tone of Vengence helped eliminate comparisons between the two actors. Vengence finds our former slaves on the run from the Romans, wreaking havoc while formulating what will become a large rebellion in War of the Damned. What helped keep Spartacus on track, after losing and replacing its main actor, was the large number of returning cast members. We still had Crixus, Oenomaus, Lucretia, and Ashur to keep the series along. Seeing the old faces alongside McIntyre's helped improve his performance, I think.
If you like sword and sandals stories, sword fights, beautiful women, beautiful men, political dramas, family dramas, and can stand a little blood, sex, and gore, then definitely give Spartacus a shot in your Netflix DVD queue or buy the series from wherever you buy your content. It is worth your investment, and you won't question whether or not to continue after you finish the first series Blood and Sand. I promise, Scout's Honor!
One of the things that also struck me as strange was that the title, Silver Linings Playbook isn't really explained. Only once does Cooper's character say "silver lining" and as for "playbook" I guess that has to do with the football subplot surrounding Robert DeNiro's character. Its not really clear. Now, I'm not saying that film titles should be always on the nose, but most of the time I can understand after seeing a film why it is titled as such. I enjoyed watching the movie, but if you're only curious like I was because of the Oscar-buzz only, just be forewarned that the film will by no means blow you away with its plot or acting. I think the Oscar voters just wanted to see a young hottie onstage rather than her older competitors.
3 out of 5 stars
All the actors are good here. Sean Penn is threatening behind this ridiculous nose they gave him, Josh Brolin is solid as always, and Ryan Gosling does his pretty boy shtick One thing that I did find strange was that Ryan Gosling uses a high pitched tone throughout the whole movie. It wasn't good, nor bad, just unnecessary. The rest of the Gangster Squad is rounded out by the likes of Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, and Giovanni Ribisi, all whom are pretty good with their characters. Each member of the squad, like any cop movie, serves a certain purpose. You have your technology guy, your sharpshooter, the rookie, the hotshot, the leader, and your shakedown guy. Whats nice is that all of the team members get a moment to shine to serve their purpose as well as a moment to overcome it. So there is some character development. All in all , this is an enjoyable film, but nothing new is offered for people who love gangster films.
3.5 out of 5 stars.