Archive | April, 2012

The Green Hornet – Review

30 Apr

In typical conversation about hero and villain lore, people generally tend to talk about characters like Superman, Spider-man, or Captain America. I’ve even been guilty of this. But who do you know is an avid fan of the Green Hornet? Not many, if any, I would bet. So when this character was being revitalized for the modern day big screen, I thought it was a great idea, although I didn’t really know anything about the character. Was I disappointed?

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is an irresponsible, spoiled brat of a multimillionaire publisher of The Daily Sentinel, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). However, when James dies of mysterious  circumstances, Britt is now left in charge of his father’s media empire. After he and his father’s best employee, Kato (Jay Chou), save a couple from a group of thugs, they both decide to fight crime by posing as the criminals and using the Daily Sentinel to rise to fame. Meanwhile, the criminal underworld is being shook by the violence of crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who may prove to be the end of Britt and Kato.

The Green Hornet really plays with the line between and action and a comedy. To ask yourself, “Is this an action or a comedy?” would prove to be difficult. There is plenty of comedy to be found here, but when the action picks up, it really plays like a flu fledged action/comic book film.

The reactions towards this movie, both critically and audiences, are heavily mixed. It really seems like you either love this film, or you hate it. Either you don’t think it’s funny at all, or you think it’s hysterical. I thought this film was good, laughed along the whole time, and got really into the action scenes, especially when Michael Gondry’s surreal style made itself evident. Unfortunately some of the jokes did fall on their face. There were times when I laughed at something, but it turned out that the joke wasn’t even over yet. Some were just stretched out too long, which is surprising considering Seth Rogen co-wrote The Green Hornet and is obviously very talented when it comes to comedy.

Christoph Waltz is the scene stealer as Benjamin Chudnofsky, who appears to be one of the most insecure villains to ever grace the screen. Waltz plays up the insecurities to feed the sadism of the character, and in turn creates a surprisingly good villain for a “superhero” action/comedy.

Another minor fault that befalls this movie is the length. Clocking in at almost two hours, the formulaic comedic plot drags the more action packed plot down in the middle. The comedy saves the movie, fortunately, making me laugh and helping me to forget that I was getting a little bore with the story. After a brief time of being dull, the third act picks up with unimaginable intensity, with instances that I would rank on a list of my favorite action scenes.

In the end, The Green Hornet had its glaring flaws, but the entertainment value is really high. I went into this film expecting a comedy, but I also got a good action film too. I can’t say that The Green Hornet should not be missed, but I can see how a lot of people wouldn’t like it. If you like Seth Rogen and are looking for a fun movie, I’d say check out The Green Hornet.

The King’s Speech – Review

27 Apr

I don’t really have a whole lot to say as in an introduction to my review for The King’s Speech, except for this little anecdote about the Academy Awards. I put my whole hope for Best Picture at the 2011 Oscars in Aronofsky’s Black Swan, even though I really didn’t think it would actually win. When The King’s Speech took Best Picture, I was pretty angry, still thinking that Black Swan should have won. This all took place before I actually saw The King’s Speech , and now that I have, my attitude is 100% changed.

Prince Albert (Colin Firth) has always had trouble speaking, especially with his stammer that makes it almost impossible for him to get a word out, but he’s been able to live with it for most of his life. When his father, King George V (Michael Gambon) dies and his brother Edward (Guy Pearce), because of his romantic interests, can’t reign as king, Albert is forced to become King George VI. Amongst the family troubles, King George is also staring Adolf Hitler and the impending WWII directly in the eyes, but has no voice to unify the people. Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), a speech therapist who will not stop until King George has overcome his speech impediment and the underlying fear, all with the support of Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter).

Sometimes it seems that there are certain actors who are born to play a particular role. This is the case with Colin Firth who plays King George VI in a way that needs to be seen to be believed. When you’re watching a movie, and you forget that the character you see in front of you is an actor merely playing a character, then you know that it is a terrific screen performance. I not only felt that way about Colin Firth, but also about Geoffrey Rush, who plays George’s eccentric speech therapist to a tee. He also gets the chance to offer the audience moments of much needed laughter amongst the drama, and the chemistry between Firth and Rush is just fantastic.

Director Tom Hooper, who first caught my eye with his fantastic mini-series John Adams, does a superb job at visualizing the King’s emotions and nervousness through not only the structure and blocking of the scene, but also in relation to the camerawork, which was stunning especially for a historical drama piece such as this. The framing seems to ignore the Rule of Thirds and makes evokes the feeling of uneasiness, discomfort, and/or insecurity. This combined with the numerous close ups that slightly distort the image and the constrictive hallways that the King finds himself in, adds a great deal to the visual style. It’s a truly remarkable way to visualize the feelings of this movie and Hooper rightly deserved his Oscar for Best Director.

The real drama in this movie doesn’t come from the family turmoil or the impending war with Germany. The drama stems completely from the battles that King George must go through with himself and his own self acceptance, in order to defeat his impediment. Although the story of a man who must rid himself of a speech problem doesn’t sound all that exciting, the personal way that the story is told, combined with the “backbone” of the other subplots makes The King’s Speech a full and moving story.

If you haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, it is absolutely necessary that you give it a watch. It doesn’t matter if you like action, drama, romantic comedies, or splatter horror. This film speaks to all people and will entertain even the most jaded of film goers.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang – Review

25 Apr

Unfortunately, there really is no way for me to say this next statement without sounding like a pretentious douche bag, but I’m going to give it a shot because it has to be said to preface the review for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. I’m absolutely sick and tired of the predictable, humdrum, and fearful styles that film makers implement nowadays, especially the Hollywood types. These familiar structures that are seen in many different mainstream movies are boring if not completely unoriginal. It takes a truly bold and talented film maker to take these conventions and manipulate them into something totally different. Shane Black does this with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, and at the same time, mocks the overused mainstream formula.

As far as petty thievery goes, the world has seen better than Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.). When one of his attempts ends up with the police hot on his tail, he finds his escape through an audition to be in a Hollywood movie, and is actually considered for the role. He is flown to Los Angeles and put under the wing of Private Investigator Perry van Shrike, nicknamed “Gay Perry” (for reasons you can probably guess, in order to prepare for the upcoming role. He is soon mixed up in a bizarre web of crime involving a millionaire producer and his daughter, and the lovely girl from back home, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan).

Shane Black is most known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and is arguably one of the forerunners in the modern day action scene, although he went awhile without making a film. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is his directorial debut, and it is clear that he has talent in both the writing and directing areas of film. The dialogue in this film is quick, witty, and sarcastic from beginning to end. Some of the humor is easy to pick up on, and some requires the viewer to be paying attention to get the joke.

As I said before, this film exists to entertain the audience, but also to call out modern film conventions and formulas, and make a mockery out of them in a clearly tongue-in-cheek way. From the get go, Harry Lockhart establishes himself as a terrible and completely unreliable narrator by forgetting something important to the story and needing to go back or simply by saying that a certain scene seems unnecessary. This film is also very self-aware in the way that a few characters talk to the audience and give them advice. It’s a really funny tool used by Black, but these are just a few ways this movie plays with certain formulas. This film also succeeds in calling out the Hollywood/Beverly Hills culture and making a joke out the way these people live, and the ruthlessness behind the film industry.

In certain sections, the film tries its best to be really cool, in the sort of Ocean’s 11 or Snatch kind of way. Unfortunately, this is the area where the movie is pretty weak. This film tries really hard to belong in that subsection of crime films, and it doesn’t really work very well. I went into the movie expecting something like the aforementioned movies, but got something totally different. Luckily for Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, what I got instead was just as good, if not a little better, than what I was expecting, even though it had the potential to fall flat on its face.

The chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Val Kilmer is fantastic and makes for some exceptionally hysterical bickering. This helps the audience sort of keep their head on straight and laugh while trying to make their way through the way too convoluted plot. I really enjoyed all of the scenes in the movie, but I don’t feel like I completely can wrap my head around everything that happened in the movie. There are so many twists and additional plot points that happen and the pace of the movie is so quick, you have to be paying very close attention to the characters and situations in order to firmly grasp the plot.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang may be convoluted and tries to hard to be cool, but the comedy, dialogue, and characters hit a home run and make this film a fantastic piece of self-aware entertainment. For anyone who is sick of the repetitive formula of most Hollywood films or if you just enjoy snappy wordplay, then Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is right up your alley. It’s are really good movie that I can’t wait to watch again!

Mars Attacks! – Review

20 Apr

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Most of his movies, besides maybe his version of Planet of the Apes, have an awesome style that combines the macabre with dark humor, which really strikes a cord with me. Mars Attacks! isn’t quite as dark as his other films, but the dark humor is absolutely overpowering, which both helps and hinders Burton’s personal ode to a series of vintage trading cards and the style of classic 1950s sic-fi B-movies.

When it is brought to the attention of President Jimmy Dale (Jack Nicholson) that Martian ships have surrounded Earth, he leaps at the chance to make contact with these beings and begin to work together. During the first meeting that is held with the aliens, a huge firefight breaks out between the Martians and the military. Soon, the world is engulfed in an all out war with the Martians, who with their sick senses of humor and love of violence attempt to take over our planet.

Mars Attacks! is loaded with celebrities. Jack Nicholson plays both the president and Art Land, a money hungry casino manager. Glenn Close plays the first lady and Martin Short is the horny Press Secretary Jerry Ross. Anette Bening plays Land’s peace loving alcoholic wife. Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker are sleazy news reporters, the latter having a strong attraction to Pierce Brosnan, who plays Professor Donald Kessler. Danny DeVito has a small part as a greedy gambler and Tom Jones is hysterical as himself.

These characters all made me laugh in their own way, but the really stars are the Martians themselves, who have really funny dialogue, even though all they say is “ack.” Even though we don’t speak their language, we as an audience know exactly what they are saying. These Martians try to conquer Earth in the most obnoxious way possible. They don’t only kill anything they see, but it is clearly evident they want to have as much fun as they can with the destruction of a planet.

Something I found really shocking about this movie was how violent it was, but don’t mistake me, I’m not condemning the violence in it. I’m merely saying it was a bit unexpected. Once the Martians arrive on Earth, the sic-fi shoot outs and destruction are pretty much non-stop. When a human gets hit with one of the lasers from the Martian’s, all the flesh disintegrates, leaving only a bright green or red skeleton. The effect is really cool and it was fun to watch. It was also fun seeing the Martian’s heads explode inside their helmets. Roger Ebert says that this particular gag was only funny the first couple of times, but I never got tired of it.

The only detraction I can really give this movie is that the storyline is INCREDIBLY weak. There really almost is no storyline besides “Martians attacks Earth and funny stuff happens.” None of the characters really go through any sort of change or discovery, and a couple characters in particular aren’t implemented enough. The characters themselves are pretty funny, but the real humor lies with the twisted Martians and how the human characters react.

While Mars Attacks! is far from being Tim Burton’s best movie, it’s still a really fun escape into a silly world where all of the important people of the world are ridiculous caricatures here for our amusement. The writing is average and the plot is pretty stupid, but I laughed at almost every scene. It may be silly, over the top, and juvenile at times, but it’s a fun ode to movies of the past.

Build-Up to The Avengers – Captain America

19 Apr

Well, this is it until The Avengers comes out in a couple weeks. I really could not be more excited, and it’s worth saying that this is a movie I’ve been dying to see since i was 7 years old. I’ve always been a Marvel guy who has been in love with the characters my whole life, and now comes the review for one of my favorite super heroes of all time, Captain America: The First Avenger. Did it live up to my expectations?

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a tiny, sickly, and extremely patriotic citizen of New York in the early 1940s. He dreams of being able to go to Europe and fight for his country in WWII, but his size and health permits him from doing so. Fortunately for Steve, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) recruits him, much to the disappointment of the cynical Col. Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) and to the joy of British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Altwell) to be a part of a new experiment that will be used to create super soldiers to fight for America (which was hinted at in The Incredible Hulk). So Steve Rogers is transformed into the super soldier that is Captain America. At first, he is only used for American propaganda purposes, but soon joins the fight in Italy against the evil Nazi Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), better known as the Red Skull.

After seeing this, I am totally ready for The Avengers. This movie really had everything that a great super hero origin story needs. There was terrific build-up leading to both the experiment that gives Steve Rogers his super abilities and to the unmasking of the Red Skull. I was really looking forward to how these two things were going to be handled in Captain America, and I was not disappointed in the least.

Chris Evans gives a fine and sincere performance, and I can’t think of anyone else that would fit the role of Captain America better, but Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones are the real scene stealers here. It seems that the character of Johann Schmidt/Red Skull were made for Hugo Weaving. He acts here with such glaring malice that it’s impossible not to take your eyes off him whenever he’s on screen, and I could argue that he is the best Marvel villain portrayed in a movie yet. Then again, the Red Skull has been one of my favorite villains since I was a kid, so my opinion might be a little biased. Besides his performance, the make up for this character looks absolutely fantastic. Tommy Lee Jones hams up his grumpy persona yet again, but he made me laugh a lot, so mission accomplished there.

Captain America: The First Avenger has a really old timey, pulp look to it that I really love to see in movies. Another example with a style that is seen here is in the fantastic and under appreciated film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The CGI background with its different tints of brown, gray, and blue give this film a great atmosphere.

As much as I love this film, it is not perfect. The pacing in the beginning started out great, and I really enjoyed the work they put in the character’s backstory, but once Steve Rogers became Captain America, the film slows down for a little bit before the action gets picked up again. The parts I’m talking about are when he is being used as a piece of American propaganda. I understand that they put this in the film because that’s what Captain America originally was: a piece of propaganda in the early 1940s.

The history, the characters, the effects, and the action makes Captain America: The First Avenger an above average superhero flick. It’s popcorn entertainment with more heart than most summer movies. Captain America has been one of my favorite heroes for years, and it was really exciting to see him in a movie. There was another Captain America film made in the early ’90s, but it was pretty atrocious and didn’t capture what Captain America is all about, which this one did. I definitely recommend this film.

Now I have to wait until May 4th for The Avengers. Expect a review for it right after I get back from the theaters.

Build-Up to The Avengers – Thor

16 Apr

Out of all of the members of The Avengers, Thor is the one that I know the least about, so while I was putting on the movie I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a spectacular experience color, set design, action, Shakespearean plot elements, and fantastic sound design. After watching Thor, I was ready to go to my local comic book shop and pick up some Thor comic books.

Thor tells the origin story of the Norse God of Thunder of the same name. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a great warrior, but just as arrogant, which is dangerous because he is to be the next king of Asgard. After a breach is made in Asgard by the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, the Asgardians oldest enemies, Thor,his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Sif and the Warriors Three (Jaimie Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Joshua Dallas, and Tadanobu Asano) travel to their realm and engage in a forbidden battle. Because Thor has broken the truce between Asgard and Jotunheim, Thor’s father and king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth, leaving Loki to take the throne. On Earth, Thor must learn to survive and find the hero within him, all while helping astrophysicist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) understand the different realms and defend her work from S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Meanwhile, Loki begins to conspire with the Frost Giants in order to take the throne from Odin and fix the problems of Asgard using all the wrong methods.

When Thor was over, the image that stayed in my head was the Bifröst Bridge. Honestly, this is probably one of the coolest, if not the coolest, set pieces I have ever seen in a movie. This can be said with all of Asgard. The computer graphics look fantastic and aren’t distracting. Instead, they create a surreal world with a gorgeous atmospheric design with buildings and enhanced colors that looked absolutely gorgeous.

Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, Thor’s jealous brother. He does a great job at playing a villain who is evil, but at the same time tragic and sympathetic. His backstory is fascinating and helped me feel for the character. Hemsworth brings great depth to Thor’s character along with a couple really humorous scenes. Natalie Portman is good, as well, but is probably the weakest and most stereotypical character.

As I said before, the plot of Thor is almost like something you would see in a Shakespeare play; that is, without the special agents, Norse Gods, and the Destroyer. But the theme of a dangerous jealousy among siblings rings true throughout the film, which really gives a nice layer to what would otherwise be a summer action film that is packed to the brim with action and special effects. This movie is special because the characters are very relatable, even though some of them are gods from another realm.

Thor is also full of references that will be appreciated by Marvel fans. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark are briefly mentioned, which I found great because I’m so excited for The Avengers, and I just love seeing all of these characters get tied together. It’s really a lot of fun.

So my consensus of Thor is that it’s a must see. Rarely does Marvel release a subpar comic book film, those being the two Fantastic 4 films, Hulk, and Daredevil (which many argue really stinks, but I think it’s alright.) Thor on the other hand is great, and an exceptional tie-in to The Avengers.

Build-Up to The Avengers – The Incredible Hulk

13 Apr

Personally, I refuse to acknowledge that the 2003 Ang Lee film Hulk exists. It simply does not. If it did, it would be the perfect example of how NOT to do a movie about the Hulk. It was dry, slow, and uninteresting. Thank goodness that in 2008, the year of the comic book adaptations, Marvel released the reboot that the Hulk deserved, this film being The Incredible Hulk.

The Incredible Hulk wastes no time getting started. In the opening credits, it is revealed that scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) was conducting an experiment to make humans immune to gamma radiation, but he was testing this on himself. Something in the experiment goes wrong and he is infected with a tremendous amount of gamma rays, transforming him into the Hulk. General Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) begins a hunt to find Banner, claiming that his body is property of the United States Military. A team of Marines is assembled led by Royal Marine Emil Blonsky to find Banner, but Blonsky soon becomes envious of the power Banner has and is determined to harness that power himself, which soon turns him into the Abomination.

When The Incredible Hulk ended, I said to myself, “That is how a film about the Hulk should be made.” This film is a tremendous amount of fun and had me grinning ear to ear with the multiple intense action sequences and the subtle tongue-in-cheek inside jokes that fans of the comic book and television show will love.

The special effects in this movie are also something that needs to be raved about. The Hulk looks fantastic and flows great. The same can be said about the Abomination. The entire showdown between the Hulk and the Abomination is a total CGI-fest, but it looks great and was so much fun to watch. It made me think what it actually looked like on the set as compared to what we are seeing as the final product.

Edward Norton really put his all in making Bruce Banner believable and sympathetic. Personally, I think he did a fantastic job, and it’s even said that he wrote his own version of the screenplay, some of which was used in the film. Liv Tyler looks and acts great here too. Some of her lines border on the cheesy side of the spectrum, but I went along with it. William Hurt and Tim Roth made great villains who are really easy to hate. William Hurt especially.

This film does a great job at making Bruce Banner out to be a regular person who does not want this weight on is shoulders, and likewise, Edward Norton conveys this perfectly. Sure, The Incredible Hulk is about seeing the Hulk cause as much damage as possible, but it’s also about the psychological and physical stress that it puts on Bruce and the supporting cast, both good and evil. There is also a small part of the film that seems to explore the morality of science.

The Incredible Hulk is, to put it simply, incredible. I laughed, I was on the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. The ending scene alone is fantastic. I can’t say it beats Iron Man, but that’s understandable. That would be very difficult. Still, I loved The Incredible Hulk and consider it a vast improvement to Ang Lee’s Hulk. 

One final note, to clear up any confusion: This is not a sequel to Ang Lee’s film. It is to be considered a reboot and a tie-in to The Avengers, where as Hulk is not (thank goodness).