The Wolverine Delivers Summer Movie Fun!

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The Wolverine is not a perfect film.  Yet, as a showcase for everyone’s favorite mutant, it delivers a solid narrative–a fantastic, new setting–some creative actions sequences–memorable sidekicks and baddies–and mostly, a perfect performance by Hugh Jackman.  He is Wolverine.  Period.  And if you like this character, at all, you will enjoy this outing–considerably better than the last time around, that is for sure.

The success of this character (& the film) lands squarely on Mr. Jackman’s broad, muscular shoulders and he bears it with grace and attitude.  Hard to believe it was 13 years ago that we were first introduced to his iconic turn as Wolverine.  Despite whatever may be going on around him (especially with the sad misstep that was Origins: Wolverine)–Jackman never fails to entertain and delight us with his flawless portrayal.   This time around we get Logan at a crossroads in his existence and again, Jackman draws us in and keeps us invested.   I also loved that he was extra grumpy and irritable, which lead to some genuinely funny moments.

Yes.  This film falls into the same trap as most summer films do, especially Comic Book movies–which is it’s basically the hero’s journey and there are only so many times you can see the structure and not predict the beats and themes that run throughout.  So, it is the execution that distinguishes it and James Mangold does an excellent job keeping our interest here.  Instead of going “big”, Mangold chooses to take the intimate approach. This is a quieter, more contemplative story that focuses on Logan’s inner struggle with his “gifts” and immortality and I loved it.   Trust me, there is plenty of “big” action–but, it is not overwhelming or underwhelming–it is just the right amount.

The script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank does suffer a little from clichés, plot holes and has some “groaners” sprinkled around yet, I appreciated the arch and journey that Logan takes on this time.   And the setting in Japan is brilliant.  The theme of honor works well and the connection to Wolverine being a solider (Ronin) lost without purpose leads to great inner conflict and revelations.  Japan is a character in this story–from the tragedy of atomic fallout to the technology that runs the city–the setting plays a role in different forms that challenge our hero.

I have to notice that this time around there was a distinct female presence.  From sidekick–lovers and villain–we are surrounded by strong, powerful women.   I like it.  😀   The badass sidekick is beautifully played by newcomer Rila Fukushima.  Her Yukio is layered and complex and a great foil for Logan.   In the lovers domain they are both old and new.  Famke Janssen returns as Jean Grey and is as lovely as ever (although I was never a fan of their romance because she belonged to Cyclops! ;))  and the gorgeous Tao Okamoto is the new love interest Mariko, who awakens feelings long since believed dead for our Wolverine.

In the villain department, Svetlana Khodchenkova kills it as Viper.  I loved the character design and her ice-cold delivery was dead on.  It was also cool to see Will Yun Lee as Harada, the ninja.  Been a fan of his for a while and he does a fine job here.  Add badass Hiroyuki Sanada as Shingen and Hal Yamanouchi as Yashida and you have an awesome supporting cast.

The action is fun and well choreographed.  I am a sucker for sword play and there are some cool sequences.   At times the hand-held jarring effect was a bit much–but unfortunately that is a common trait today.  I truly enjoyed the mixture of old and new–from ninjas to high-speed bullet trains–there were a lot of clever approaches.   Well done.

Bottom line?  I can not say The Wolverine is a perfect film–but, I can say it is a fun and enjoyable summer movie that delivers on its promise–more so than other films this year.   If you love Logan as a character and appreciate Hugh Jackman’s incarnation of Wolverine,  I believe you will have a good time.  Jackman has playing Wolverine down to a science and it’s an awesome thing to behold.

Snikt! Snikt! Slash!!

Pssst!  Stay for a bit during the credits–the teaser is AWESOME!!  So exciting!

June Movie Watching in Review

I saw a bunch of films at home last month and the year of mediocrity continues.  What can I say?  I have seen more “meh” films this year than good ones.  Hope it is just a fluke and not a trending pattern.

Here we go!

GI Joe: Retaliation

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Well…it had some cool action and fight sequences.  It had some good-looking eye candy.  But, sadly–that is it.

Fluffy summer fun.  Completely forgettable.

42

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The true story of Jackie Robinson is an important part of our history and his breaking of the color barrier in Baseball is inspiring.  Unfortunately, this film is not as  inspiring.  It is an ordinary film about an extraordinary man.  It’s not a bad movie–it is serviceable and safe, but fails to evoke any emotion, which should have been easy with such a topic.  But–hey, Harrison Ford is awesome in this and reminds us that he can act–that is worth the watch.

The Host

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WOW.  So bad.  I was laughing out loud.  The inner dialogue gets old (and hilarious) in two minutes.  The premise and concept are actually promising–but fails in execution.  Writer/Director Andrew Niccol started with a promising career and has been on a downhill slide–his last attempt 2011 In Time also suffered from “good idea–poor execution” syndrome, but at least had a stronger cast.  Saoirse Ronan proves she can indeed act–even with horrible material–and William Hurt shows up here (where have you been Will?) and it was nice to see him.  Everyone else?  Terrible.

Dead Man Down

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I had some expectations going in to Dead Man Down.  I was excited to see what Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (his first American film after the Danish Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) would do with the premise, which was strong and original.  I was excited that J.H. Wyman (Fringe show runner) had written the script–it should be good and clever.  So, I begin and I am liking it–a lot– Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace have wonderful chemistry and are knocking it out of the park.  Cool.  Terrence Howard and Dominic Cooper give us some solid support work.  The film looks great and has some wonderfully tense and well executed scenes.  All good–right?  Well…then it falls apart towards the end.  It becomes heavy with plot exposition–becomes easily predictable and honestly sloppy.  What a shame.

Evil Dead (2013)

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I like being scared.  Really.  It’s like riding a roller coaster–thrilling, scary and yet, safe.  You know you are okay in your home (or theater) and that this will not happen to you (hopefully).  I love watching scary movies with my daughter, Vieve because if it’s really good we will end up curled up together hugging each other tightly.  With Evil Dead we never reached cuddle status.  It started well.  They tried to build some character–the atmosphere was creepy and ominous–but quickly it all evolved into a gore fest.  Hey, that’s fine for some–but it is not my cup of tea.  It just stops being “scary” and just become gross.  By the end, we were nowhere near clasping each other for support–no need.  The original is better.  And also–it’s hard not to watch this and think Cabin in the Woods (yeah…chuckle.)

Bullet to the Head

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Is it 1985??  Because Bullet to the Head is straight out of that decade.  Big, loud, silly fun.  All the parts work.  Stallone is…well Stallone and there is nothing wrong with that.  😀   I enjoyed the cool action sequences and even cooler fist fights. Yes.  I love a creative fist fight and Jason Momoa is not only a good match for Stallone, he is a decent villain.  A solid good time–even for 2013.

Solomon Kane

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Cool action sequences.  That’s it.  I honestly cannot remember anything else.

Identity Thief

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I am a fan of Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy, so I thought this would surely be a good time.  I was wrong.  Neither of these two fine comedians could save this script and the down right silliness required of them.  A waste of fantastic talent.  Identify Thief never quite decides what kind of movie it wants to be and in turn ends up being disjointed and awkward.

Die Hard 5:  A Good Day to Die Hard

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No.  No.  No.  This is NOT the John McClane I love.  That poster alone makes me want to scream–really?  They took a beloved, classic line and what?  Made it cute??  UGH!  That is exactly what they did to this franchise.  Nothing worked for me.  It was big, loud and dumb.  The chemistry was terrible, the action was tired and Bruce Willis looked bored–not that I blame him.  🙂  I hope this ends now.  Either bring back the real McClane or stop it.

The Call

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There was a good movie in there–they just missed it.  A lot of things work in The Call.  Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin are solid and turn in great performances.  The premise is creative and original–911 dispatch is a unique approach and full of possible scenarios.  But so many opportunities were missed because it want to turn into some kind of action thriller?  It all goes down hill the last 30 minutes when they trade reality and drama for implausible and fake tension.  Bummer.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

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What can I say?  I wanted this to be funny.  I like all these guys.  But, no.  It wasn’t very funny.   There were glimpses of funny–but too brief to make any kind of impression.  I appreciated the character driven plot and the homage to magic, but overall I could not be impressed.

See?  A whole bunch of “meh”!  Let’s see what July brings…

Later, guys! 😀

Pacific Rim is pure AWESOMENESS!

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What an epic spectacle!  Pacific Rim is a mixture of creativity, humanity, badassery, monsters and giant robots–yeah…it’s awesome!  My excitement was justified–Guillermo del Toro has fulfilled his and my childhood dreams and reminded us what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be.  As a long time fan of del Toro this is not a surprise, at all!

The story is simple (as most action films are) but it is original and intricate.  The premise by  Travis Beacham and co-written with del Toro is a complete universe with a solid mythology established and it is an exciting discovery.  This is a rare occurrence in Hollywood today–(it does happen sometimes…Daybreakers–Looper–Matrix…to name a few) and Pacific Rim delivers a world so believable and so well thought out to the last detail, that you will find yourself immersed quickly.  (And now, I want to know more! Prequel, maybe?)

I love monsters! I remember fondly watching Godzilla marathons when I was a kid (Mothra shout out!) and now I still find myself drawn to creatures of all shapes and sizes.  I think it is a natural fascination with the unknown and it’s a direct manifestation of imagination and creativity.   And del Toro delivers some of the coolest, most original looking monsters I’ve ever seen.

Kaiju–The word “Kaiju” is a Japanese that literally translates to “strange beast,” but is often translated in English as “monster”.  And these are strange beasts indeed.  Fantastic.  I have to give some kudos to the film’s designers, which  include Wayne BarloweOscar Chichoni, monster sculptors David Meng and Simon Lee, and Hellboy II and The Hobbit designer Francisco Ruiz Velasco.  Amazing.

The trailer tells you all you need to know, so I will not divulge anything extra–(you know how I like to keep you untainted by not revealing too much information).  😀  But, simply–the Kaiju are from another dimension and are now a problem for humanity.  (I do love the time in which del Toro decides to bring us into the narrative–it was unexpected–I thought we were going to see some origin stuff, but no–interesting choice.)

So, humans unite and create our own monsters–giant robots called Jaeger–“Hunter” in German–to fight off the Kaiju. Simple.  Except to operate the Jaeger you need humans–two actually–united (the “Drift”) and their human connectivity fuels and determines the level of their strength.  Nice.  What a clever way to insert heart and soul in a metal shell.  I also enjoyed the new approach to the traditional love story–by having this drift connection it becomes more about inner compatibility than the typical attributes given to love.  It is subtle and interesting.  All in all, the metal shells and their human operation are absolutely awesome!

The genius is in tying humanity to the use and function of these machines.  The Jaeger pilots are the robots.  So when they are in danger–so are our heroes.  It adds a level of investment and risk needed to enhance the action sequences.  These Jaegers are incredible, too.  Beautifully designed and meticulously constructed.  Gypsy Danger is a Rock Star!  (Reading all the design considerations that went into creating them has been quite fascinating.)

But, the fighting…wow!  Not kinetic.  Not sped up.  Not edited down to bits.  Just knock-out-drag-out fights!!  Punches being swung.  Monsters pounding and piercing.  I am sure that my mouth fell open a few times.  Hell–I know once I heard myself say “WTF? Uh-uh!” –out loud! I applauded at few kills–yes, it was mind-blowing.  And all I will say is that the “we do have one more weapon” left moment is–BADASS!!  I may have squealed.  😉

That is another accomplishment–the special effects and monster creations are crazy good!  Industrial Light and Magic continues to impress and creates flawless effects.  I was never taken out of a moment–it all had a realism to it–they made you believe all this could be possible–surreal, but plausible.    

I love the cast.  Mostly, I am happy to see Idris Elba front and center!  “Canceling the Apocalypse” has already become quotable since the trailer and here he does not disappoint.  Elba’s Stacker Pentecost (great name) is the heart of the story really and his performance is perfect.  The lovely Rinko Kikuchi (loved her in Brothers Bloom) is Mako Mori and I found her charming (her character back story is one of the most haunting) and a strong match for our hero.   Charlie Hunnam‘s Raleigh Becket is our hero and although he may be the weakest link (could have been a bit more expressive), the chains are so strong around him that he is able to get by.  The comedy relief is dead on!  Charlie Day and Burn Gorman as resident scientists are hilarious and Mr. Ron Perlman shows up for some required helping of extra awesome.

Oh, I cannot forget to mention how gorgeous this film looked–del Toro reunited with long time collaborator Guillermo Navarro for cinematography and it’s beautiful.  And the music by Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) is fantastic–listening to it now actually–within five minutes I knew I wanted to own it–soaring and sweeping with some cool Tom Morello guitar solos.  Sweet.

It is clear that I can go on and on.  Pacific Rim is a masterpiece.  A masterpiece in scale and scope, but also with heart and originality.  del Toro’s enthusiasm and love for the material is evident and you can’t help but have it rub off on you.  Big, fun, creative and with a beating, human pulse.  Yes.  This is what summer blockbuster should be.  And hopefully now Guillermo del Toro will be able to do whatever he wants!  PLEASE!  (Hellboy 3 has to happen.) 😀

Go!  Have fun!  It’s pure awesomeness!

Pacific Rim – Official Trailer 1 [HD] – YouTube

The Lone Ranger doesn’t even meet my low expectations. It’s just bad.

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It is sad.  I was not expecting much from The Lone Ranger–a Pirates’ film in the west, maybe?  The trailer was bloated–but looked like silly fun.  Nope.  Actually, it was not a bit fun.  Awkward.  Strange.  Convoluted.  Long.  Unfunny.  Those are the first adjectives I would use to describe this film.

There were plenty of WTH? moments.  What?  How?  WHY?!  The prison escape?  The cannibalism?  Silver on the roof?  The bunnies? What the hell is up with those bunnies?  o_O    Yeah.  This whole thing was random and felt like snippets of about 5 different movies–it was very much like watching someone with a multiple personality disorder.  We are going to be a western.  NO.  Campy fun.  NO.  Mystical.  NO.  Funny.  NO.  And boy, was it NOT funny.  When I did laugh it was not with them…

Gore Verbinski is a seasoned director with a fine sense of style and a great eye for action.  Unlike many, I enjoyed all three Pirate movies (the first one is the best, of course) and I LOVED Rango–but, I can not make any excuses for Gore this time around.  Nope.  This is sloppy work.  No character development.  No tension.  No surprises.  Even the action sequences were bland.  I heard the last 30 minutes made the film watchable and I was waiting…and waiting…It never happened for me.  The ending may be better than the rest of the film–but it does not save it.

Now, I must say that I love Johnny Depp.  I respect him as an actor and will see any film he stars in–I have been faithful since he first appeared on my TV set (21 Jump Street).  Yet, lately I have gotten worried.  With Tonto he is not awful–but he is not inspired.   It feels stale and forced.  And sorry, the chemistry between him and Armie Hammer is flat.  I actually feel bad for Hammer.  What a thankless role–he is set up as a “half-wit” and a clown–the butt of all the jokes–well, with that kind of vibe it was hard to see him as the hero.  Even as an origin story it does not work–we see too little of his lone ranger as heroic to care by the end.

The supporting cast would be great (William FichtnerTom WilkinsonRuth WilsonJames Badge DaleBarry PepperHelena Bonham Carte)–if they had anything to work with.  Everyone on this cast was wasted and were barely on screen for 10 minutes each.  The script is credited to six writers–wow–that’s how many it took to come up with so many bad ideas.  I am trying to think of a positive thing to say to balance this review and I can not.  It’s the worst film I have seen this year.  Easily.

So, all I can say is…Go at your own risk!  😀

 

Much Ado About Nothing: Shakespeare and Whedon–what a pair!

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Never have two writers been more appropriately matched.   Joss Whedon‘s trademark wit and charm are perfect for William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing (one of my favorites) and I enjoyed his adaptation–it wasn’t perfect–but it was a good time.  What was really impressive is that Whedon shot this in 12 days at his home with a group of friends–that is one party I would have loved to attend! 😀

Much Ado About Nothing is a fast paced, witty and hilarious tale of love, misunderstandings, a “merry war” between the sexes and perception.   It has been given the Hollywood treatment before with the 1993 written and directed version by Kenneth Branagh–which I absolutely adore!  It was a star-studded cast and it did not stray far from the written word.  But, honestly, Branagh’s Benedict and Emma Thompson‘s Beatrice are superior to their new version counterparts–not totally dissing the new cast–but they are both able to deliver more nuanced performances (more talented actors??) and capture all the different tones throughout more convincingly.

With that said–I return to 2013.  To say this production is low-key is an understatement and yet, Whedon shines here.  He takes a simple approach that works with the atmosphere established.  He shoots scenes through windows and glass that almost make you feel like you’re in the house watching the shenanigans occur–this approach allows you to feel like you are a guest in the home, that just happens to see and hear everything–which is pretty cool.

The cast is great!  As a fan of the Whedon universe, it was awesome to see all the old friends from all the shows/films over the years and to watch them play with these Shakespearean roles.   Not a bad bunch–I enjoyed them all and they held their own (some a bit better than others, of course) and they were obviously having way too much fun.  Oh, by the way…Nathan Fillion–I love you.   😀   The stand out would have to be Amy Acker‘s Beatrice–(I have always been a fan and think she is sadly under appreciated)–who steals the film.  She is funny and sweet and yet, can cut you with a glance or a word.  Alexis Denisof is a good match for Acker and his Benedict has some of the best laughs.

My only problem with this adaptation is the retention of certain words and a particular theme.  While Whedon changed the time setting to fit the “filming at my house during my vacation” perimeters and for a more contemporary spin and it worked well for most of the story–there was the tiny issue of “purity”.   In 1598, when Shakespeare wrote this comedy it would be expected that a woman remain pure and a maid–in the literal definition–but in 2013??  Uh, not so much.  And I just felt that it was an obvious misstep.  It took me completely out of it–and I was unable to shake it.  Others may just notice the infidelity angle, but the words are quite specific.  It did not ruin the entire film for me–but, it was annoying–really, Joss?  You couldn’t change a few words?  :/

All in all, it was a lovely time with Mr. Whedon and Mr.Shakespeare and if you love either of these guys–you will enjoy yourself, too!  Who knows…maybe these two will pair up again?  Maybe during a vacation period while filming The Avengers 2?  Twelfth Night?  That would be awesome.

Monsters University made me happy…

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YAY!!  I will admit that I was worried.  The last two Pixar films have been mediocre–by their standards–and I was not sure how well a prequel would work.  I loved Monsters, Inc. and I am still amazed by its creativity and unique premise–could they capture the magic again?  Well, the answer is yes…yes, they could.  Monsters University is clever, original, funny and yet, with the tender heart and emotional core you’ve come to expect from Pixar.  And although I will not rank it in my top 5 Pixar films–they have met the challenge–beautifully.

Now, this story is not connected to the original–the characters have yet to evolve to that point and the events of that film are far from happening–so, the story has to stand alone and led into that time period.  This time, Mike Wazowski (my favorite) gets the character attention.  They focus on Mike and James P. Sullivan’s introduction and how their relationship evolves while attending MU–it is great knowing how it all turns out in the end–it adds something sweet to story–you know?  This premise allows for a whole new crop of characters and all sorts of college high jinks.  The parallels to our own human college experience are hilarious and the small troupe of misfits in the fraternity Oozma Kappa are all  lovable and charming.

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Billy Crystal was born to play Wazowski and he shines here–this is Mike’s story and Crystal bares the burden easily.  John Goodman is perfect as Sully (again) and I appreciated how he made Sullivan feel and sound younger.  The OK members are all perfectly cast–Sean Hayes and Dave Foley as Terri and Terry–Peter Sohn and Joel Murray as Squishy and Don–but my all out favorite is Charlie Day‘s Art!!  OMG! LOVE HIM!  Here is a random treat…

Monsters University – A Performance By “Art” – YouTube

All the voice talent is top-notch!  Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble is a bit intimidating and her character design is pretty cool.  And I love that Steve Buscemi‘s Randall is included–so great!

The intricate world of Monstropolis is expanded and they are able to capture all its charm.  I need to watch it a few more times to catch all the little, funny details in the background (loved that about Pixar!).  The character designs are amazing!  If you were impressed with Sully’s extraordinary hair–wait until you see Art’s fur!!  But, as always it is the soul that they are able to convey that continues to be their greatest achievement.

OH!  Before I forget!  Make sure to go early because the Pixar Short this time is AMAZING!!  It is The Blue Umbrella by Saschka Unseld (I am excited to see more from him) and the animation is incredible–looks so real it is mind-boggling.  And what they are able to accomplish with just some animated eyes and a mouth!  It’s a wonderful addition to their short library.  Check out this clip:  The Blue Umbrella

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Written by Monsters, Inc. scribes Daniel Gerson and Robert Baird the new narrative is consistent with these characters and they feel familiar and right.  Director Dan Scanlon did a fine job with the pacing and made smart choices with what could have been typical plot devices.  I enjoyed the unexpected directions and especially loved the ending–a great nod to accountability and real consequences–but also about having faith and working hard to achieve your dreams.  Being that this is his first big feature to direct–I am looking forward to what he does next.   And I need to mention Randy Newman‘s score, which is perfect and added to the feel of the film.

Obviously, I loved my time at Monsters University!  I laughed.  I awed.  I choked up.  I was moved.  I smiled.  Yup.  That’s a good Pixar experience–maybe not the best in their library but definitely better than the last two–which is hopeful for future projects.

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MIKE WAZOWSKI!!  😀

 

This is the End is the funniest film I’ve seen in 2013!

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OMG!! I haven’t laughed this hard since the original Hangover!  Yeah…really.  Truth.  From beginning to end, I laughed out loud.  Now, yes this is raunchy, vulgar, gross (at times) and there is  flat-out craziness–and yes…I loved it!  I’ve already seen it twice (that tells you a lot) because I had to take my daughter, Vieve right away so we can share in the awesomeness (She loved it just as much ;))

The premise is clever.  A group of friends are facing the end of the world.  (What kind of end?  I will let you find out. :D) These group of friends just happen to be actors–and these actors are playing thinly veiled versions and parodies of themselves.  First of all–how cool of them to be willingly to have fun with their images–and from what I read in some interviews they took true and real aspects of their personalities and then twisted them, one way or the other, to suit the story and propel the comedy.  It is a creative and very effective idea.  This group of friends  just also happens to be hilarious–all of them have perfect comedic timing and can bounce of each other even in the littlest ways.  Watching them interact is part of the fun!

Written and Directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (based on a short Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypsethe narrative is simple.  Yet, in simplicity they are able to touch on a variety of human emotions–fear–anger–jealously–rivalry–love–respect–honor–etc–and all in the wildest way possible.  LOL!  I was impressed by how well it was constructed and how the quick pacing kept it from going over the top.  Oh! The CG effects are also awesome and a surprise since I did not expect any.  😀

There is so much to say!  And yet…I can not.  I do not want to give a single solitary thing away.  I will say a few things:  I am now an even bigger fan of Jay Baruchel (and my daughter is now crushing on him ;)).  James Franco is fantastic.  Danny McBride is insane!  Jonah Hill is a trooper.  Craig Robinson is one cool dude.  Seth Rogen is everyone’s favorite.  Emma Watson is indeed a badass.  And Michael Cera?  LMAO.  Wow.  I will never look at him the same again.

I can go on and on.  There is way too much awesomeness for one post!  LOL.  But, I will end by saying go check it out!  You will laugh.  A lot.  And I kind of forgot how good that feels.  Laughing is good.  Really good.   Go get you some.  🙂

Man of Steel? I want to like it more than I do AND I want to hate it more than I do…

Superman, bearing his traditional red and blue costume, is shown flying towards the viewer, with the city Metropolis below. The film's title, production credits, rating and release date is written underneath.

Really.  I am conflicted with Man of Steel.  Although there are a lot of things done right with this latest reboot of the Superman story–there are also just as many things wrong.  The more I discuss it with people–the more I find myself praising and criticizing the film at the same time.  “I liked this…but I hated that…”  Round and round we go.  Anyways, I will try to make sense of it for you guys and again, you know I will not divulge any particulars so you can experience it on your own.  Here we go…

The Praise and the Criticism–they go hand in hand.

1.  The origin narrative.  I was stoked the first quarter of the film–I liked the Krypton prelude (ran a bit too long though) and then the flashes back to childhood while we follow Clark becoming an urban legend (very cool premise–again–wanted more along that vein).  Screenwriter David S. Goyer is a well-known fan boy and I liked the approach of showing how hard it was for Clark to grow up being “special” and how scary and overwhelming it would be to come to terms with all of it–especially when he was just a kid.  This is where Kevin Costner shines.  As Pa Kent, he is the emotional center of the film.  BUT….there were too few of these scenes.  I would have gladly traded a bloated fight sequences (more on that later) for more time with Clark and his human family, as well as the people he affected–I would have cared more for ALL of them if that had been the case.

2.  Henry Cavill.  Cavill definitely fits the part of Superman.  Physically, he is a perfect fit.  As an actor he is charismatic and although imposing in size–he is capable of seeming gentle and kind (an important aspect of Superman’s nature) and I can see him grow into this role.  My problems with him are not really his fault.  I blame Goyer’s script.  Cavill does not have much to work with.  I thought we could get to see his internal struggle–thought we could see him build relationships with humans on his travels–something other than what we already know.  Nope.  Ends up being flat.  And I know Superman can be a stick in the mud sometimes…but c’mon!  Can we have some levity?  Some jokes?  (I miss you Chris Reeves! :()  It sure would have helped us connect with him.

3. The script.  This thing was full of exposition!!  Two thirds of this is talking about stuff that already happened–to explain–because we had to fill up with so much action we have to tell you the stuff you need to know.  Boring.  Show.  Don’t tell.  Isn’t that storytelling 101?  The worst crime is the lack of character development.  Every single one is shallow.  With this top-notch cast it is a shame that they have no chemistry–and I believe that comes from the underdeveloped writing of their characters.

4.  The visual.  It sure does look pretty (shout out to cinematographer Amir Mokri).  And Zack Snyder can direct action.  He has a clear sense of style and this film has his fingerprints all over it (quick double zoom!).  The costumes and CGI are all pretty cool–loved all the Krypton design.  While the flight sequences are beautiful and their power is palpable–(you can almost feel the air rush past you)–the action sequences due tend to become heavy-handed.  There was a lot of action.  A LOT!   And if the sequences were unique or creatively orchestrated maybe they would have kept me engaged–but, it was all too familiar.    Especially the last quarter, I was ready for the destruction to stop.  😀  But, then I enjoyed the flying fist fight–very cool–for the first 5 minutes…  -_-

5.  The AWE factor.  Where are all the people?  The running theme throughout was how humanity would react and respond to the discovery that there is an Alien among us and guess what?  The reaction?  Well, there isn’t any.  NONE.  We don’t get any of it.  Not the “It’s a plane!  It’s a bird!  NO! It’s Superman”  classic line…not the “WTF?”  reaction…not the “Holy crap!  You’re flying!”   Nothing.  And that “awe” factor is important and an intricate part of his mythology.  Superman is humanity’s protector–right?  And yet, we do not see anything about them until towards the end–when a family of four is used as the representation for all humans and then they literally vanish.  Not even a “thanks-strange-man-in-a-cape-with-god-like-powers-for-saving-our-lives”–Wow.  Rude.

6.  The cast.  Costner is the stand out here and I truly hated how they concluded his story line–illogical and just plain dumb.  But, at least it was nice to see him back to form.  Diane Lane has one great scene with a young Clark–after that she fades in the background.  Russell Crowe is a force to be reckon with as Alien daddy Jor-El and I believed his convictions–Strong showing, for sure.  Amy Adams is a strong, modern Lois Lane–even though I still have issues with a reporter being present in all the scenarios that she is present for.  I like her okay, but do not believe the forced, rushed “love” story with Clark/ Kal-El–it left me wanting.  Laurence Fishburne is an afterthought as Perry, as well as the rest of the Planet staff (who is that again? I asked during a climatic scene.)  Michael Shannon is a good villain.  Good, not great.  I appreciated General Zod’s new-found purpose and focus and I think that while subdued in performance, Shannon is able to portray intensity with only his eyes.  You can see his madness.  Well done.  Oh!  I also loved the badass supers as henchmen.  😉

7.  The future.  Okay, Christopher Nolan‘s influence can be felt here–the dark/gritty feel to the universe–but that is about it except for his power to expand the Superman world.  I know that a sequel has been green lit and the rumors of a Justice League begin to form again and this is where I dare to get hopeful–there is enough here to work with–if they can enrich the characters–flesh out the universe–maybe a JL film will finally be possible.  I will keep my fingers crossed.

So, as you can tell, I can not hate Man of Steel, but I can not ardently love it either.  It is a better Superman than the last attempt and the potential seems greater than before–that in itself is a good thing…BUT…yeah…I will probably never watch this one again.

Until next time!  Later!

PS– I should state that I like Superman.  I grew up with the 70s films and loved the Justice League animated series, but in the greatest showdown between the Alien and Batman?  Yes.  Batman always wins.  Hell, I wanted to BE the Batman.  Really.  True story.   :p

Vieve’s View on Jack The Giant Slayer? Meh.

Hi Peoples!

This is Vieve here–Nedi’s daughter–to keep you updated with films that sometimes my mother is just too busy to watch. 😀    Or films I do not care to see…  😉  I will call these posts Vieve’s View on…

View-Master

hopefully, it will help fill in some film gaps.  Thanks, baby girl!  

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Finally we were able to watch Jack The Giant Slayer.  Sure, it didn’t look like the greatest movie, but it seemed like it could be fun! (Also, Ewan McGregor looked NIICE :P) Well my mom completely passed out–that should tell you something–and my best friend and I were left alone with a crappy movie.  The beginning of the film looked great visually and story seemed promising.  There were plenty of beautiful scenes and the animation/graphics were well done and they connected to the story to help it flow.

Then they fast forward and you are thrown ten years into the future with characters that are not very well-developed and that then seem to fall flat.  Even my weakness for Bill Nighy‘s voice or McGregor’s excellent armor–and great hair–and plenty of suave acting could salvage the film.  The film is very predictable, as we might have expected–and all though the film is one full of adventure, the typical obstacles, the typical conclusions, some cool graphics, a typical Hollywood romance, and of course plenty of action–in the end, I got all that I was expecting but the key ingredient was missing…character development.

I couldn’t care less for any of the characters–especially for Jack.  Nicholas Hoult is a fine actor but this role does not allow for much and has no real arc or growth .  Now, for the villain.  Wait.  Is there a definite villain?  Like my mom says–a villain can make or break a film and in this one it is broken.  Okay– another  big issue I had with the film was the ending. What was the point? Who is the boy? Why?

I understand what Jack The Giant Slayer was trying to do– a fantasy adventure romance– but where Matthew Vaughn executed that idea perfect in Stardust , unfortunately director Bryan Singer fell short.  (Real shame, Singer has yet to come back since X-Men…I hope he finds his groove again–soon.) 

A little part of me wishes I would have just fallen asleep and cuddled with my mom–she enjoyed herself the most, I dare say. Yet, I am glad I stayed up–I was curious about Jack The Giant Slayer and now I know.   Disappointment.  So, if you are curious?  Be warned.  Proceed at your own risk.  😀

Well, this was fun.  I will be back with some other reviews.  Bye!

Before Midnight brings a wonderful trilogy to the perfect end.

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I can’t believe it’s been eighteen years!  Wow!  Time truly does fly.  Before Midnight brings us back to visit the small, quiet universe created by Richard Linklater and then enriched by its stars and co writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.   With the Before trilogy, this talented trio has brought us one of the most honest, real and un-Hollywood stories about love, self discovery and our connection to others, especially as men and women.  My daughter, Vieve, and I decided to re-watch the two predecessors before the latest installment and it was very interesting to see them back to back.

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It was 1994 when Linklater had this daring idea to make a film, Before Sunrise, that was about two people walking and talking.  That’s it.  Nothing else happens–they walk and talk–and it is brilliant!  A new approach to an old formula of two young people falling in love.  A young American tourist, Jesse bumps into a Parisian young woman, Celine and they decide to explore Vienna together before his flight back to the US.  The evening they share is insightful and biting and yet, tender and hopeful.  Like its young stars, the story addresses the issues that are important to them and although romantic, they are both inexperienced and still have the optimistic view of love and life.  It was wonderful to watch their natural chemistry and to fall in love with these characters.  They part at the end with the promise to meet again in 6 months with no exchange of information–just their word that they will meet.  It is left to the audience to decide their fate.  Did they?  Do they live happily ever after?  Or do they continue with their separate lives with a common memory?

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Nine years later, they told us what happened in Before Sunset.  You know that I won’t give it away :D, but the premise is that they meet again in Paris.  Much has happened and whether they meet, as promised, or not–they are both older and full of life experiences.  It was awesome the way Linklater, Hawke and Delpy connected the two.  Revisiting topics of conversation to show the effects of time, wisdom and the consequences of our choices.  Now Jesse and Celine are a bit more cynical about life and love.  We are offered an honest approach to the decisions people make.  Do we settle?  What is love?  Is it not just commitment and compromise?  Will they find their happily ever after, after all?  Again, brilliant.

Now, another 9 years have passed and they give us Before Midnight.  This time around Jesse and Celine are in a totally different place than either of the earlier films.  And again, they offer an honest approach to relationships and revisit some familiar topics.  Officially middle-aged, they are now confronted with a whole new set of discussions and feelings about life and love (this time in Greece).  It was awesome to find answers to questions asked before–to seem them come full circle in ideas and in actions–and to see them both grow and change.  Side note: Whether you tend to agree with Jesse or Celine–I appreciated the debate brought forth–both sides have valid points and neither is cast as the wrong or right–in other words–it’s a fair fight!  😀  Well done.

I love this trilogy.  Sharply written–full of warmth, humor and truth.  Simply, yet smartly directed–Linklater makes intelligent choices in pacing and flow in all three movies that keeps it interesting–which is necessary when there is a bunch of talking and only talking going on.  😉  Beautifully and skillfully acted.  Both Hawke and Delpy are fantastic throughout!  They put a lot of themselves in the scripts and their wit and intelligence shines through.  How fascinating to create and play a character for so long–to see them evolve–I am sure that is a rare opportunity in film and it’s a pleasure to watch.  Honestly, you do not need more than that, despite what Hollywood says–you really don’t–it is enough.  I enjoyed my 18 years with Jesse and Celine–and I would love to revisit them again–maybe in another 9 years??  If they do–I will be there, ready to see what that chapter brings in their lives.