Posted by benjamin on June 27, 2011
Runtime: 114 minutes
Plot: When a test pilot known to be fearless receives a powerful ring from a dying alien, he is inducted into a corp of superheroes known as the Green Lantern Corp.
This was it. Green Lantern was my movie of the summer. It was to be the big screen adaptation of one of my favorite comic book superheroes. Even when the first trailer was released and genuinely a letdown across the internet and world, I tried to hold out hope. Then when subsequent images or video was released, my hope started to grow stronger. Well, I guess my hope was sticking around just too long.
My two greatest fears for this movie revolved around Ryan Reynolds playing the lead and the seemingly overuse of CGI to create the DC world of the Green Lantern. The good news is that those two fears were conquered and each was better than expected. Ryan Reynolds played Ryan Reynolds as only he could but it worked for Hal Jordan. He’s never going to win an academy award, but he carries charisma that makes it easy for many to watch him (mainly the ladies I guess but that’s not charisma).
For the CGI, it definitely seemed overused, but for a movie that is centered partly in outer space and with a superhero that can create anything imaginable through his ring, the use of CGI and a large amount of it was a must. The CGI team definitely put in overtime to clean up many of the early shots that looked cheap and fake. They weren’t able to make it all perfect, but the work performed on each of the constructs (the creations from the Green Lantern’s ring) was beautiful. Each one of them was exactly how I could picture it would be in real life after reading the comics for so many years. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat anticipating each new creation. My personal favorite has to be the race car.
Now for the bad news, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, the script, the pace, and probably a few other things I’ve tried not to remember. Don’t get me wrong. This movie is not as bad as the internet is trying to make it out to be. Worse than X-Men 3 and Wolverine? Ouch, I’m not buying that one. This movie won’t win any awards, but at least it is watchable.
The largest issue here is the script based predominately on a great comic story, “Secret Origins”. Martin Campbell, who has produced films such as Goldeneye and Casino Royale, wasn’t able to build on the poor basis that was present. Mark Strong was brilliantly cast as Sinestro but was given absolutely nothing to do. Peter Sarsgaard was given the creepy role of Hector Hammond but produced an over-the-top presentation of the character that made his use more laughable than needed. Green Lantern is a character and world that is essentially a space opera in the realm of Star Wars and Star Trek. However, the makers of this movie insisted on keeping Hal grounded on Earth. Not sure why this decision was made as every person in attendance will tell you that their favorite parts of the film were Hal’s training sessions on Oa.
Overall, I was hoping for something better, but I only received something mediocre at best. Thankfully it will make enough money to possibly warrant a sequel, but here’s hoping that the second learns from the many mistakes of the first. I wished and hoped for another comic book property given the royal treatment like The Dark Knight was. No superhero movie will be The Dark Knight so maybe it is best to stop looking and just enjoy to be along for the rides. Next up, Captain America: The First Avenger.
X-Men: First Class
Posted by benjamin on June 12, 2011
Runtime: 132 minutes
Plot: Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men working together with other Mutants to prevent nuclear Armageddon. — Yahoo! Movies
Summer 2011 was living up to be the summer of the superheroes. We’ve already seen it once on ACG for Thor, but there’s plenty more to come. X-Men: First Class was always lost in the shuffle but since the first trailer released it seemed to bring a thought that it could potentially be the hit of them all. Well after a single viewing, I’d have to agree so far.
First Class takes place in the 60′s in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The movie centers on a time when mutants are really first becoming known to the world and the audience gets to see the first interaction between Magneto and Charles Xavier as the two grow to learn they are not the only ones. However, due to each’s upbringing, their view on how the world should deal with the mutants is quite different.
As the movie relies heavily on this friendship/tension between Xavier and Magneto, it was great to see the casting of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. Both shined in their roles. McAvoy created an Xavier that was a little more dashing and rakish than we are accustomed with Professor X but in the times, it works and works well. His only failure was the cartoonish way his hand always had to go to his head when using his powers. It was fine once or twice, but then it became old and annoying. Fassbender’s Magento is perfect. He’s smart, powerful, and dark when needed. The early parts of the movie that have Magneto hunting down those in charge of the concentration camps could have been a movie in of itself that I would enjoy. The other mutants are mostly forgettable or were only added for the final fight, except for Jennifer Lawerence’s Mystique and Nicholas Hoult’s Beast. The interaction between these two (new to me from the comic world I think) was sweet and definitely pushed the thoughts that many mutants want to be normal like most people do. Probably doesn’t help that mutations typically appear during the teenage years. I’d keep my eye on these four actors going forward. Might be nice to see what else they can do and bring to the screen.
Vaughn’s direction helped build the emotions and conflict. He borrowed from the original films but also added his own style. If he would have directed the third X-Men film, as was originally intended, maybe it wouldn’t have been the unholy mess that it ended up being. It can be difficult to create a period piece as well as an action movie, but Vaughn mixed the two with relative ease. Vaughn’s biggest letdown was late in the film when we encountered a “preparation” style montage that was cut together more like a comic book panel. I enjoyed this style in the first Hulk movie, but it seemed out of place here after not using it throughout the early parts of the film. Otherwise, Vaughn did very well to make a two and a half hour movie pass quickly and efficiently.
With all of this said though, I always believe that a superhero movie is made or broken by the villain. A strong villain can elevate the plot and heroes even when everything else is truly flat. Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw is that character. He is the Magento before Magneto becomes the ultimate villain. I was first worried about a mainstream film using a character and group, The Hellfire Club, that is relatively lesser known to the primary movie going audience. However, it was a brilliant move due to the time period and making the Club a true night club where the potential underground and shady deals could be taking place thanks to a few powerful mutants. Bacon is suave, charismatic, but he has a goal to make the world in the image that he approves. He’s even strong enough to make you forget just how forgettable the rest of the club is, including the “let’s show off what you have” Emma Frost who is played by January Jones.
As this movie continues to do well at the box office, I’m interested to see where the characters go from here. There is still plenty of time before the present day X-Men franchise timeline is met and several potential directions that are available. I’ve heard rumors that subsequent movies could be set in different decades such as the 70′s and 80′s. I’ll be there when that happens as well.
Note: There are two key cameos in this film that I thought were perfect. They weren’t too much or too little and fit nicely with the storyline when they are introduced. See if you can spot them.
Posted by benjamin on May 15, 2011
Runtime: 114 minutes
Plot: The God of Thunder is banished from his Asgardian home only to find himself placed on lowly Earth. Can he now learn from his prideful past in order to return home and regain his thrown?
The summer superhero season kicks off with Marvel’s latest comic to film presentation of Thor, the Norse god of thunder. We must wait until the end of the summer months to determine how it stacks up against Green Lantern and Captain America, but we can at least joy what we have to date.
The movie follows Thor’s time in Asgard, his fall to Earth due to his arrogance, and his eventual rise after understanding that his actions were wrong prior and that he must be a better god and leader in order to represent his people. The real strength of the story lies within Thor’s time on Earth, a.k.a. Midgard. During this time, the interactions seem genuine, easy to relate, and very entertaining. Thor’s simple misunderstanding that a diner does not bring more to drink when one smashes a cup on the floor demanding sustenance is humorous and allows the audience to understand that Thor has lost everything but is still a Norse god at heart. However, when we venture beyond Earth things are more sporadic and confusing. There are a multitude of characters that are introduced, which are important within the comics, but seem to be more in a filler role here. Why not just save those for another film or build the characters so that they have some actual personality to build upon. If Thor had been left to Earth without returning to Asgard, I would have enjoyed the movie much more than I did.
Even if I downplay the lack of growth with many of the minor characters within the film, I must applaud the casting of Thor. Hemsworth as Thor and Hiddleston as Loki was remarkable. They really shined in their roles. Hemsworth had the manners and look perfected. Hiddleston provided great growth in a character that is by far one of the more interesting villians within the Marvel universe (in my opinion). I’m interested to seeing both possibly reprising their roles within next year’s Avengers movie (Thor has been confirmed, Loki has not), but Marvel should tone back the build up for the Avengers to some degree. This movie and Captain America should not feel like a filler until next summer. They should stand their own without the need to reflect on what is to come.
I must applaud Kenneth Branagh’s work within this film but also provide my criticism for certain choices. For the praise, I must say that he took a subject and story that could have been delivered in an over the top manner, but he contained it well enough that it never seemed cheesy. Any other director would have last the majority of the audience within the first 15 minutes. Maybe it was his past experience with Shakespeare or maybe it was simply Hemsworth’s charisma, but whatever it was it worked and I’d be happy with him continuing to build this universe and set of characters. Now for the criticism. The costumes were just too rubbery for my taste. I would let this slide as there were times when the look on film worked well, but after seeing Thor’s mighty hammer, I just couldn’t accept it any longer. The hammer decided to strike fear into all that face Thor seemed more like some new toy that would be on the shelves of stores in a matter of months. I wanted….no….needed a hammer forged in something of the Earth, not something forged from a McDonald’s happy meal toy.
With all of this being said, I’m still torn between feeling if I loved the movie or want to toss it to the side. I laughed. I was entertained. But I wanted and expected something more. Is that the hype that is talking or someone who just though the film overall fell short of its potential and thus must suffer a rating of such? Until I can figure out my real thoughts, I must give a rating that is undecisive.
Two final notes. The first is that though Thor is advertised for 3D do not spend the money to watch it in 3D. It did not use the technology well enough to warrant the need to see the film in this way. The second is to stay through the credits. As is normal fashion prior to the Avengers, Marvel provides us small scenes which help build towards the mega superhero team up.
Posted by benjamin on April 29, 2011
Welcome to a new segment style review where I take a look at those that came before and those that are here now. Remake versus Original. There are thousands out there and I’m here to determine which wins on the rectangular screen.
A young business savy girl hires an old marshal, one with “true grit”, to find the coward who shot and killed her father in order to bring him to justice.
Growing up with a father that loved Westerns, I was always encouraged to sit down and enjoy the great John Wayne. Well looks like I finally took the advice because John Wayne shined as the drunken, grizzly marshal. It was a performance worthy of nominations and his eventual wins.
But John Wayne is not the only shining individual within this movie. As much as the film relies on Rooster Cogburn (Wayne), it also relies on the headstrong young girl who hired him. Kim Darby held her own on screen and the relationship between child and man grew from it. My only complaint with Darby’s Mattie Ross was that for someone with a father that was just killed she often seemed more excited to be on the journey to find her father’s killer than to actually bring that man to justice.
Often as it is with the classics, I love to be surprised by other famous actors that I did not realize were in the movie when I initially start it. True Grit offers two more greats in the form of Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper. Duvall is hard to miss but I definitely missed Hopper so I’ll have to line myself up for another viewing.
As good as this Western was, it was made during a time period where Westerns can often be campy and that’s not my preference. The G rating alone should have been my first sign but the opening music and credits solidified it only seconds into the movie.
Campy, but that’s the time period.
If this is the Coen’s Western, then sign me up. This was a Western that didn’t feel like a Western. It had all of the proper elements but something was missing that me believe it was a non-Western Western by being a Western. Not sure what that means but I do know that it means something good was on that screen in front of me. I’ll even step forward and request that they continue making films in this genre.
Just like the original, the film is defined by the marvelous 3 of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), La Boeuf (Matt Damon) and Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) and this trio shine like no other. It is the collection of moments on screen when all three are together and interacting with one another when I was the most enthralled by the story. These characters were brought to life before my eyes. Having seen the remake prior to the original, I didn’t realize that I was seeing actors make characters their own but still provide some of the needed characterizations that were brought by those actors that came before.
Now with this trio, one would expect greatness from Damon and Bridges, but it is Steinfeld who truly stole the show. Many newcomers would fall flat on their face when faced with her opposition, but at many times she stole the screen from many other seasoned actors. I honestly believe that the Coen dialog was what elevated her further. Her nomination was well deserved and hopefully there will be more great films and awards in her future.
As much as this film gave me, one of the defining scenes was a huge let down because of the way it was shot. As Mattie and Rooster rode off together, the scene looked campy and over the top instead of the raw and real look that accompanied the entire rest of the movie. The original True Grit shot this with the actors on real horses riding through the countryside. It added so much while the updated version lost so much more.
I had to pick a winner so I went with the Remake. I, of course, loved pieces of each more than the other, but in the end, the Remake seemed to provide me more of the elements that I wanted to enjoy. It was the complete package of dialog, performances, and visuals.
Posted by benjamin on March 3, 2011
Runtime: 105 minutes
Plot: After being betrayed by the organization who hired him, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss. — IMDb
Machete is the latest in the seemingly long list of grindhouse films brought to us by Robert Rodriguez. You know him. This is the same guy that brought us Sin City, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, and…Spy Kids 1, 2 & 3D. For those unfamiliar with the term grindhouse, Wikipedia defines it as “an American term for a theater that mainly shows exploitation films”. In the modern realm of Planet Terror, Death Proof, and now Machete, this means to make a B style movie that is over the top with language, blood and violence. Not typically a formula for enjoyment of most audiences including me.
However, I actually found myself enjoying this movie not just for its ability to be supremely over the top but also in what several of the actors were able to bring to their flat roles. Sure you have a character role staple in the lead of Danny Trejo as Machete, but there’s also Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, and Lindsay Lohan. Now I’d love to sit here and state that De Niro stood out above his cast mates, but I just can’t do that.
Actually my award for why one should see this is Don Johnson. Yes, we are talking about the same Don Johnson from Miami Vice and Nash Bridges. As Von Jackson, Johnson turns an almost too much villain role into something simply dark and hated. I found myself many times just wanting his character on screen rather than anyone else’s. After Johnson, the weight of the picture falls on Trejo who does what he does best and plays the same character role. It works here as the movie is built around that simple story: villain kills family, man kills everyone for revenge.
With all of that said, I know easily and strongly that this movie is not for everyone or even a somewhat majority of the movie going population. You just need to find yourself in that “I need a pointless action movie that will make me laugh for being ridiculous” mood. Well, I was there when I watched Machete and I’m quite glad that I was.