Posts Tagged 'superman'

Review: MAN OF STEEL

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WARNING: Spoilers be comin! If you’re one of 8 people left who haven’t seen this movie, know that I discuss almost every detail of the plot at one point or another during this review. There, I told you.

Man of Steel is the best Superman movie ever made, and my new NEW favorite movie of 2013. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen all year, and easily the best movie I’ve seen so far this summer. I can confidently say that the only other movies that even have a chance to compete for Best Movie of the Summer are Elysium and Pacific Rim. Most of my complaints about the film are trivial at best, so the “Didn’t Like” section won’t be as long as it has been with a lot of other movies recently. MoS is far from perfect, but I didn’t have any huge gripes with it. Sorry, no nitpicking section this go-around. Sad face. But do join me for nearly 5,000 words of astute, insightful, edumacational reviewing…

Continue reading ‘Review: MAN OF STEEL’

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SUCKER PUNCH Review

Why do I use Jena Malone’s poster at the top? Because, surprisingly, she ended up being my favorite character in the film.

Sucker Punch arrives in theaters this weekend as the first “event” movie of 2011. It’s basically a summer movie being released in March. It’s the first original movie (i.e. not based on a previous book, comic, movie, etc.) that director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) has made, and that was the main draw for me from the moment I heard this project announced. I’m always curious what “visionary” filmmakers like him are capable of creating on their own. If you’ve read my movie opinions for any length of time, you’ll know I have much more respect for a great piece of original work than I do for great adaptations, mostly because creating superior original ideas for film is much more difficult (and, I’d argue, more creatively rewarding). Snyder came up with this idea and co-wrote the script with Steve Shibuya, who had previously only done crew work.

Since I loathe writing plot summaries in my reviews, I’ll just copy/paste/paraphrase from a synopsis on IMDb; “A young girl (Baby Doll, played by Emily Browning) is locked away in a mental asylum by her wicked stepfather, where she is scheduled to undergo a lobotomy in 5 days’ time. Faced with unimaginable odds, she retreats to fantastical world in her imagination where she and four other female inmates at the asylum plot to escape the facility. The lines between reality and fantasy blur as Baby Doll and her companions battle various creatures and enemies to retrieve the 5 items they need that will allow them to break free from their captors before it’s too late.”

I started writing this review less than an hour after seeing the film, and I’m still not sure whether or not I liked it, or whether I’d call it good or bad. I know I enjoyed watching it. Or maybe a better description would be…the 13-year old boy in me enjoyed it. Since I can’t yet determine whether or not I think the movie is any good, I’m thinking the easiest way to come to a conclusion while writing this review would be to do the old what’s good and what’s bad format. Let’s do it. MINOR SPOILERS ahead.

WHAT I LIKED

-I really liked the movie’s soundtrack. THIS is how soundtracks should be done. It almost feels like a musical at points. The soundtrack is composed primarily of covers, and I especially liked the use of a new version of The Pixies‘ classic “Where Is My Mind?”, which is performed here by Yoav (whoever that is) alongside the film’s star, Emily Browning. Only problem there is that it’s hard for any film to use that song without audiences thinking back to Fight Club. There’s also a nice version of Jefferson Airplane‘s “White Rabbit”, performed here by the lovely Emiliana Torrini (who performed one of my all-time favorite original songs for a movie, “Gollum’s Song”, from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).

-Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung were fun to look at. I’m not too interested in psychiatry, but if there’s a place in the real world with female inmates that attractive, I may have to consider a change in career plans. Oops, there’s the 13-year old in me talking again.

-Did I mention it’s fun to look at? Seriously, the visuals are almost worth the price of admission alone. The girls, the effects work, the costumes, the production design, it’s all wonderfully done. The film reportedly cost $82 million, and every penny of that is on the screen.

-Although this movie is in no way similar to Inception, I couldn’t help but be reminded of it a few times as we go from Baby Doll’s reality to her first layer of fantasy to her second, batshit crazy layer of fantasy where we see all the huge CG battles. Much like Inception, this becomes sort of a dream within a dream within a dream. I like the ambitiousness of it, and I think the movie is pretty creative in that sense, but the problem is…

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

…the script itself just isn’t that good. I didn’t ever have any real emotional investment in the characters, and the subpar, sometimes plain bad dialogue doesn’t make up for any of the flaws in the storytelling. What I’m saying is, except for how the film LOOKS, there’s nothing exceptional about it. During the fight sequences, this feels much more like a video game than a movie…

…and that’s because at no point during the fantasy sequences do you feel any of the girls are actually in danger. If there are no real consequences to doing these ridiculous, unrealistic stunts, then there’s no emotional investment, and thus, no reason for me to care. Also, modern filmmakers need to learn that when everything your heroes fight is computer-generated, and we all KNOW it’s computer-generated, the absurd stunts themselves become less impressive by default. I thought the first battle with the undead Nazis was pretty cool, the castle siege/dragon fight was okay, but the fight against the robots in the train was awful. The movie took brief pauses after each CG sequence, seemingly to allow the audience time to react or applaud, and I’m sorry, but there isn’t going to be much of that going on anywhere. You have to earn those reactions, not try to force us into them.

-The performances of the girls are pretty good considering what they’re working with, but there was nothing Scott Glenn could do to overcome the utter cheesiness of some of the shit he’s forced to say as the girls’ Yoda-like mentor in the fantasy sequences. Same goes for Oscar Isaacs as the asylum caretaker/club manager. Isaacs was fantastic as the villainous king in Robin Hood last year, but here he walks around with his two mute thugs in tow, making stupid threats and twirling his mustache with his silly scheming.

-The absurdity of what Snyder believes this girl would imagine herself doing and wearing strained credibility. It appears that the real world parts of this story take place no later than the 1960’s, yet I’m supposed to believe that a 20-year old girl in that time period is supposed to imagine herself and her friends dressed up in fashion that’s sexy in 2011 while they’re fighting enemies based in a World War II setting? Or a medieval setting? AND she can imagine futuristic robots and cities? Give me a break. This was a major logic flaw that I could not get past. Basically, this 20-year old girl in 1960 (or whenever) has the imagination of a 15-year old boy in 2011. That’s what I’m supposed to believe, and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t make that leap. I can’t imagine any 20-something girl fantasizing anything remotely like this if they were imagining themselves kicking ass.

I’d be very interested to see what a female writer/director would have done with this same story. I think it’s a cool concept, but the execution left much to be desired.

Plus, it’s just too damn simple-minded! These epic fight scenes in her fantasies are metaphors for such daring tasks in the real world as…stealing a map! Or…stealing a lighter! Come on, brah.

-More absurdity in the plot. Yes, I’m aware that we’re supposed to make a leap of faith in every movie in accepting that almost every one of our protagonists is attractive. But again with the superhot insane asylum inmates. At no point do we see any of the other girls besides Baby Doll doing anything crazy in the asylum. I guess we’re just supposed to assume they’ve all been wrongly imprisoned. But then, when Baby Doll comes up with her plan of escape, who is it that agrees to go with her? Why, it’s the 4 hottest inmates at the asylum, of course! Ugh. When you’re engrossed in a good story, you don’t think about stuff like this, but here it was a glaring issue.

-The tease. So apparently Baby Doll’s dancing can mesmerize any man while her cohorts steal whatever it is they need to steal to escape, but we the audience never actually get to see it. She starts wiggling around like someone awaiting a fatality in Mortal Kombat (I kept waiting to hear a voiceover yelling “FINISH HER!”), and then the camera tightens in on her face as we’re whisked away to her fantasies. That bugged the shit out of me. At least show what it is that’s so titillating ONCE, dude. That’s just basic filmmaking; showing is always better than telling. That’s one of the primary rules of screenwriting. Simply seeing a bunch of dudes stupefied after she’s done dancing doesn’t convince me it was all that great. PROVE IT! And yes, that’s a nitpick, but I don’t think it’s an insignificant one.

-I know this is a tired complaint, but as good as Snyder is at using slow-motion, I hold out hope that he’ll stop using it as such a crutch. I get particularly annoyed when he uses it in normal, real-world settings. There’s no reason that 50% (it may have even been more) of the first 5 minutes of this movie needed to be in slow-mo. Just let a guy open a fucking door in regular speed, will ya? Jesus Christ. When it comes to his next project, next year’s Superman: Man of Steel, Snyder needs to mature and cut his use of slow-mo by about 95%, or that film is going to look incredibly stupid. Personally, I don’t want to see Superman doing anything slowly. As a filmmaker, it’s not good if your most distinguishable visual attribute is your constant use of slow motion.

So there you have it. I guess I’m coming down on the side of the people who claim it’s a nice-looking, soulless mess. It’s funny, filmmakers fight against the studios for years trying to make one film that’s all their own. In Christopher Nolan‘s case, the massive success of his two Batman movies allowed him to do whatever he wanted, and he turned that opportunity into a homerun with Inception. Here, to keep him in the fold, Warner Bros. let Snyder do whatever he wanted, and Sucker Punch is the result. I dunno, I just wanted more from Snyder’s first big chance at having complete creative control. If this movie underperforms at the box office, he may not get the chance to do his own thing again with this kind of access to virtually unlimited resources. To make another baseball analogy (which is always fun), Sucker Punch is an out, but not a 3-pitch strikeout. It’s a 10-pitch at bat that ended with a foul out deep down the left field line.

Sucker Punch is a lot of big ideas built upon a very shaky foundation. I find it interesting that Zack Snyder, who recently made perhaps the most muscular movie in cinematic history (300), has now made the biggest masturbatory fantasy ever for teenage boys. I’m not sure what that says about him. If this review seems a bit messy or uneven, I apologize, but that’s what this movie does to you. Believe me, it’s much easier to trash a movie that’s complete shit. I still want to like Sucker Punch, but the fact remains it’s simply not a good movie.

It took an hour to write this caption, because I did it in SnyderMotion™!

No matter what opinion you hold about Sucker Punch, it has become one of those movies that critics have taken great pleasure in hating, which often results in some very amusing reviews. Here are a few I’ve found immensely entertaining and/or insightful:

Rotten Tomatoes (where it has a very “rotten” 21% rating)

Massawyrm at Aint It Cool News

Matt Goldberg at Collider

Vince Mancini at Filmdrunk (basically agrees with everything I’ve said, but says it a little funnier)

A.O. Scott at the NY Times

And finally, my boy Richard Roeper at The Chicago Sun-Times

Today’s Recommended Listening will be Metallica‘s “Whiplash”, because that’s how I felt after coming out of Sucker Punch

Super Movie Extravaganza Time!

The best part about going to 11am matinee movies on a Friday? The entire audience (aside from me) is people who qualify for senior citizen discounts. This is mostly a plus, as they don’t talk too much and they don’t text or use their phones at all. For the most part, old people have their priorities straight while they’re watching the movie. I respect that. That said, one thing a lot of them do tend to do is provide their own annoying narration. As a movie is unfolding onscreen, they’ll often try to predict what’s gonna happen next…out loud. “There’s already somebody in the house!” OH, REALLY? How could ya tell? From the broken glass and the door left ajar? THANK YOU, GRANDMA! “Ohhhh, he’s gonna shoot him!” THANK YOU, GRANDMA! No shit! That’s why he pulled his gun out! “Oh, got him!” THANK YOU, GRANDMA! But if I wanted celebratory commentary, I’d watch Gus Johnson call an NCAA basketball game.

Senior citizen narration. It’s irritating at times, but if it’s a choice between that and 4 teenage boys behind me being obnoxious with unfunny wisecracks through the entire movie, I’ll take the seniors’ narration.

Another funny thing happened while I was watching The Lincoln Lawyer on Friday morning. There’s a part where a man and his dog get killed in the man’s apartment. So a police officer tells Matthew McConaughey‘s character, “They shot [character name]”, which elicited a minor “Oh no” from a few senior citizens in the audience. Then the next thing the cop says is, “And they shot his dog, too,” at which point almost the entire audience (there were at least 50 people there), in unison, GASPED loudly, in complete shock and disgust. I had to L-O-L right then and there, just at the audience reaction, because of how telling it was about our culture in general. Very strange. Human misery and suffering…ehh, oh well. Even if it was a character we liked (which it was). But murdering a dog in a movie (even if it’s not shown)?! That’s about the worst thing you can do. Screenwriters take note.

Anywho, over the last week or so, there’s been a lot of interesting news out of Hollywood. So this is a post of all movie news and reaction. A lot of my movie nerd friends will have seen this stuff reported already, but dammit, you haven’t heard MY take yet! And away we go…

-Hey, great news! Men in Black III comes out next year!!! Yeah, I don’t care either. But they’re making it. That’s not the interesting part. The interesting part is how they’ve decided to make it. I insist you read this Hollywood Reporter story about just how fucked up the production has gotten. They deliberately started shooting the movie with only a third of the script complete, which is strange even by Hollywood standards. Really, if you’re at all interested in Hollywood insider biz stuff, it’s a fascinating 2-page read.

I’d been hoping that this movie never got made. My primary issue with the project is that it’s a complete waste of time for everyone involved. However, because Hollywood is so reliant on franchises these days, Sony was gonna make this movie no matter what it took, and once Will Smith finally agreed to do it, it was full steam ahead. Only now, Will Smith isn’t satisfied with the script, which is difficult to remedy once you’ve already started shooting. It’s troubling to me that the first decision made on most big movies these days is the release date. And because Sony has committed to a date (May 25, 2012), they’ll do whatever it takes to get the movie finished in time, even it means releasing a complete turd of a movie. They’re counting on all of us to show up opening weekend regardless, pay more than we should for 3D (oh yes, it’ll be in 3D), sit in our seats, shutup, and deliver a $100 million opening weekend.

The second Men in Black, though it did well (but not as well as the original), was a complete disaster of a movie. There has been no clamor amongst fans for a third movie, so this can only be a blatant money grab by EVERYONE involved (which makes it even more shameful in Smith’s case, because he can make big money doing any project he wants, and THIS is what he chooses- doing the same thing…again). I know damn well Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t want to do this again, but with a likely $20 million+ payday, I can’t name many people who would turn that down. Unlike Smith, Jones doesn’t make anything near that on his other movies. Hell, they had a hard time getting Jones back for part II. I think recent history has shown that sequels made so far apart just for the sake of continuing a tired franchise beating a dead horse (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull anyone?) have not fared so well creatively. It was 5 years between Men in Black and MiB II, and it will now be 10 years between II and III, and 15 years between the first and third. Perhaps if a movie is this hard to put together, it’s for a reason. Just a thought.

I enjoyed the original Men in Black, but for as long as I’ve wanted to make movies, I’ve wanted to see a serious, X-Files-type story about the so-called men in black, who have been a pop culture superstition for decades. It’s still possible we’ll get one eventually, but it would have to use another title, and it would have to be far removed from these more light-hearted versions. One day, I hope.

Kevin Costner has been cast in Zack Snyder‘s Superman. He’ll play Jonathan Kent, adopted father to Superman, opposite Diane Lane as Martha Kent. I love Diane Lane and I love Kevin Costner, so this is all good, baby. I’m not too familiar with the Superman canon, and it’s unconfirmed how big a part the Kents will play in the film, but it’s solid casting nonetheless. I appreciate how Costner has started taking more supporting roles of late, as his leading man star has faded considerably. I still think he could carry a film just fine, but until people pay to see him as a lead, he’s not gonna get those parts (unless he pays for the movie himself). Until that happens, better to see him in a supporting role than to not see him at all. So long as he keeps away from the Boston accents.

-I, like many others, was very disappointed to learn this week that Darren Aronofsky had suddenly vacated the director’s chair of The Wolverine. The film features a supposedly very solid script by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and was based on one of the most popular Wolverine comic storylines ever, one set in Japan. It’s supposed to be very raw, less reliant on CGI and more on a lot of hand to hand (and adamantium claw to katana) combat. Hugh Jackman is already deep into his physical training for the movie (and he’s sounded ecstatic about it since day 1), and it was set to shoot on location in Japan for much of the second half of this year. It’s yet unclear whether the recent Japanese earthquake/tsunami was going to delay or elongate the shooting schedule, but Aronofsky’s primary given reason for leaving the film was that it would take him out of the country and away from his family for too long. This is very depressing news. Any intelligent person who saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine knows how flawed that film was, but to have its sequel directed by a talent like Aronofsky had a lot of geeks (myself included) incredibly excited about its potential. And I’m not even a huge Wolverine fan. The film will reportedly still go ahead as scheduled, but obviously with another, likely lesser director. Many of us anxiously wait to learn who that will be. Seeing what Darren Aronofsky would’ve done with a mainstream property like this had a lot of people drooling. I now have to wipe my mouth clean.


RAAR! NOW HIRING: DIRECTOR!

-I’m very interested to see Morgan Spurlock‘s latest documentary, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which finally got a trailer this week. Basically, it’s about the grip advertising holds over our culture, and he financed the movie (or so he claims) solely by selling sponsorships that will appear onscreen during the film. It’s certainly a unique idea. Check it:

-Just about as fast as Arnold Schwarzenegger left office as Cal-ee-foe-nee-uh’s governor, he stated that he wanted to get back into acting. But what is the market for a semi-retired 60+ year old action star? That remains to be seen. Is he willing to try new genres and new types of roles, or does he really think he can get back into the action game at this late stage of his career? Is it physically possible for him to do what his 65-year old buddy Sylvester Stallone has been doing of late? Stallone has been performing on screen as though it were still 1985. Of course we can question HOW he’s managed to do that, but one has to assume that type of physical strain is not for every senior citizen actor.

I mention this because Tom Arnold recently opened his mouth and said that he thinks a True Lies sequel could be Arnold’s comeback movie. Anyone with any sense thinks that’s absurd for any number of reasons. First of all, James Cameron isn’t available to direct anything but Avatar sequels until 2016, at which point Arnold would be pushing 70. Would Schwarzenegger do a True Lies sequel without Cameron at the helm? Is Cameron even interested in writing it? Would Arnold get involved in a True Lies sequel that wasn’t written OR directed by Cameron? From everything I’ve read from him over the years, the answer is no. Yet every now and then Tom Arnold (and it’s usually ONLY Tom Arnold) tries to stir the pot by starting new True Lies 2 rumors that never go anywhere. This annoys me greatly. I think Tom Arnold is the only one in the world excited about the chance to make this movie. I for one don’t think it’s ever getting made, with or without Arnold Schwarzenegger. That ship has sailed. It’s 17 years and counting since True Lies (one of my favorite movies) came out in 1994. Again, why would anyone want to do it after so much time has passed? And where is the audience demand for it? Pretty much nonexistent, I’d wager. Add True Lies 2 to the list of “sequels nobody asked for.” I love the first movie, but what are you gonna do, have a 65-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger and 53-year old Jamie Lee Curtis back together for more zany espionage and adventure? No thanks.

-On the other hand, a sequel that a lot of people want to see (even if it makes no sense) is a followup to Taken, which is now actually going to happen. I guess for a long time there was a scheduling conflict that wouldn’t allow Liam Neeson to shoot it when they wanted to shoot it (wait, wouldn’t you WAIT for Neeson no matter how long it took?), but that scheduling conflict has apparently been resolved and the sequel will shoot late this year or early in 2012, potentially lining it up for a December ’12 release. The sequel will have the same writers as the original (Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen) and be directed by Olivier Megaton, whose most notable credit to date is the third Transporter movie. That’s not confidence-inspiring, but his last name is almost Megatron, so I’ll go with it for now.

Supposedly, the studio was considering other actors to star in the sequel (presumably not as the same character), but that would have been one of the all-time bonehead moves, no? You don’t make a sequel to Taken without Liam Neeson. That should be against the law. I can’t imagine they’ve come up with a plot believable enough to make this worth it, but I’ll see it anyway, dammit. The original is one of the all-time “if you come across it on TV, you’re not turning it off” movies, and it’ll be a tall order to recreate that magic. I truly can’t wait to hear what the plot of this movie is going to be. Maybe some Russian gangsters will kidnap his dog. There’s a great way to garner audience compassion! We’ll sell it as “Taken meets Marley & Me.” See you in HELL, Marco from Tropojë (yes, that’s how it’s spelled)!

Liam Neeson is offended by your arrogance, and here’s every single punch, chop and collision from the original Taken to prove it:


WINNING, anyone?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been officially added to the cast of The Dark Knight Rises, and it looks like he’ll be playing Alberto Falcone, the son of Carmine Falcone, played by the great Tom Wilkinson in Batman Begins. With such a big ensemble cast, this is going to be one massive, interweaving story. The only news I’m still waiting to hear on this project (easily my most anticipated movie of 2012) is whether or not James Newton Howard will again team with Hans Zimmer on the score. Zimmer is already confirmed back, but no word yet on JNH’s involvement. I think he’s gotta come back to wrap this thing up nicely. And for the love of god, more composer collaborations like this in the future! Like, if Zimmer ever teamed up with John Williams, I don’t know if my heart could take it.

-I’m sort of ashamed to admit this, but I really like the new trailer to Fast Five. Granted, it shows waaayyy too much, but the action looks amazing. And the reason it looks amazing it because it appears most of it was done practically, with real cars and real stuntmen. In some of the earlier installments, they’ve used CG cars, which ALWAYS look awful (seriously, why has this not been mastered yet, VFX guys?). At the very least, the Vin DieselDwayne Johnson 1v1 fist fight should be badass. Keyword: should be. The Fast and the Furious may be the stupidest, most unnecessary franchise in cinema history, but if it goes out with this kind of a bang, I’m willing to turn my brain off, sit back and enjoy the ride. Besides, I’ll get my usual dose of gratuitous T&A shots of the numerous hot chicks who randomly hang around the cars. What do you have to lose?

And did I mention, Fast Five is NOT in 3D! WohoO!!! That alone may make it worth the price of admission.

Sucker Punch opens Friday, which means more of YOU in my life, Emily Browning:


O, HAI!

Today’s Recommended Listening is a solid track off of Lupe Fiasco‘s new album, Lasers. It’s called “All Black Everything” and you WILL like it.  


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