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Deadpool 2 (2018)
A Charming Comedy Superflick
Some of the acting is terrible.
Some of the earlier fight action is clunky.
There's a bit of drift where the comedy meets the drama.
PROS Deadpool and Ryan Reynolds are just charming as f---. There's some really great fight action in the later part of the film. The movie is unafraid to make some pretty amazing comedy moments. The J word.
So, maybe it's not as fresh as the first one was, but it's still got an adventurous spirit, and there's a good bit of thought put into both the comedy and the drama - enough to make both work, together and independently.
Definitely worth seeing.
A Tale of Music, Family, and Heart - Weeping for Joy
I haven't posted a review in some time, but I had to come back to imdb just to share how great this movie is.
Imagine an old shining guitar almost buried in bright golden marigold petals. That is this story, deeply surrounded by the rich culture of Mexico, it's Dia de Muertos, and the traditions of remembering our families throughout our lives and generations.
Another reviewer said that "you can't trust anyone who did not get emotional over this movie", and while I won't go that far, I can't see how anyone could not be moved by this story with it's beautiful arcs of familial love, loss, pride, rebellion, hope, and despair. Personally, I wept at the climactic close - a universal rush of gut-wrenching sadness and joy - extremely powerful and meaningful.
See this with your family and cry together and feel love together at this magnificent art.
13 Hours (2016)
Beyond any BS - Unexpected Excellence
In this age of bitter rhetoric, the name conjures all manner of furor and blame. A small stinging wound to honor and prestige - a name to carry hate and zealotry.
Michael Bay, OF ALL PEOPLE, was able to peer into the 2012 attack on US diplomatic and intelligence resources, and capture one hell of a war story. Going into this movie, I expected a number of things. Among them were gratuitous explosions, jingoistic flag waving, and tough-guy tired clichés. I did not get what I was expecting.
Instead, Bay, his cast, and his filmmaking team have brought out a solid, technically informed, faithfully rendered account of those who were caught in the conflagration - how they found themselves there, how they fought for their lives, and how they made it out...or didn't. There's no political agenda here. The only agenda is to show warriors (who are also real people, with cares, and hopes and flaws) engaged in struggle, with all the courage, and luck, horror, and terrible splendor that is timeless.
And in the end, there's no war worship - only somber reflection on the nature of struggle, and what it does to these warriors. This is a clear and worthy work for that. Bravo.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Theatric and Detailed
This is a fine piece of storytelling - a mystery, western, and political drama - all artfully melded together by a seasoned crew and talented actors.
The action is set in antebellum Wyoming, in the heart of a raging blizzard, in a frontier bar. Setting is very important here.
The period is meaningful for the political currents that flow in nearly all the characters. Feelings about the American civil war are very up-front, with complicit atrocity present in nearly all the characters. The war brought out horrible things in these people, and we see how they deal with that shared knowledge, both personally and to each other.
The blizzard provides the necessary isolation to the story. These characters are stuck with each other, and this forced closeness is central to the story - they're all Hateful, and that hate reverberates among them, destroying peace and hope. Hate is what brings them together and hate is what tears them apart. The blizzard also provides some interesting incidental elements that are fascinating to watch, like the hardship of a simple task like preparing guidelines, or going to the outhouse, and the cold hell explodes inward at times (when the door is opened) with punctuating effect, providing some breaks to the narrative, and even some needed laughs.
And the bar... This film's action takes place primarily in one large room. It feels very much like a stage play (as another reviewer mentioned), allowing greater intimacy with the characters and their interactions, while providing us with an opportunity to witness multiple scenarios unfolding at the same time. This density of action is very cool. We are afforded third person omniscience without losing connection with the motives and perspectives of the players.
And the stage setting meshes very integrally with the acting. We see the principal actors doing top-notch with not only their primary motivational actions, but nearly every choice in blocking and busy action. The director and production team make a very wise choice in showing the small little details of what's going on here. Attention is paid to realistic procedural actions, and reactions, for these details. The result is that we see characters behaving in reasonable ways to their environments, pausing to disarm a stranger, or undo a shackle, not simply because the plot calls for it, but because it's a reasonable choice that they would make at the time. Very refreshing to see, actually.
On the negative side, Tarrantino's choice to use narration was weakly executed. I don't know if there would have been a way to do this without narration, but the actual usage detracted from the ongoing story. Also, there were a few points in the action where the characters seemed to be a little too accepting of the events that transpire around them. This is purely a fault of direction/writing.
But overall, a very watchable film, that is notably unafraid to portray some very dirty and uncomfortable bits of the human psyche. Some folks seem to have an issue with this last part. My advice to them is to loosen up a bit and accept art that hurts a little. That's one of the things good art can do.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
It's 1992, and I'm just a normal teenage kid just starting to expand my musical tastes, and I come across this thing called Gangster Rap...and it hits me like motherfucking train.
From Ice T, to Geto Boys, to Bone, to N.W.A. this stuff was potent and vital and raw. And it was musical genius. It was perfect.
I think a lot of us grew up with that feeling. And more, it opened our eyes to some things - like how mainstream society can be so blind and deaf to loud new things. How music could intersect with politics and sociology, activism. Not to mention the plight of so many young black men in an American landscape previously dominated by whitewashed culture.
And it's nice to see the story of the guys who brought it out, who broke those boundaries, stood up for their freedom of speech, and moved a whole generation with them. The guys who laid the path for so much innovation and really great tunes. To see their personal stories and the troubles and triumphs.
A great music biop and a great snapshot of urban culture of that time.
True Detective (2014)
Southern Gothic Masterpiece
The first season of True Detective is a sharp, bleak look at Southern horror. From the title/intro onward, this show tapped into something stark and brutal, shaded with tones of moss, whiskey, and blood. Themes of human sacrifice (in many forms), weakness, and grim obsession are all explored masterfully in these eight episodes.
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have perhaps never been this good separately. Perhaps they bring to bear certain dark wisdom inherited from the wandering vastness of their Texas upbringing. Perhaps their own family stories infuse them with the thorny experience to navigate these roles. Whatever they're drawing from, they embody a twisting, wicked brilliance here - an intimate madness that sucks us into these characters' bleak lives and their hard scraping struggle.
Simply put, this is perhaps the most visually stunning series in years. Beyond simple camera work, is the delicate crafting of MOOD. Stylistically, this show is beautiful and harsh. We see, with acute clarity, a sprawl of green growing wildness all mangled up with the obscenely pretentious works of man. We see parishes of despair and sordid sameness, with dark patches of perverse, tainted, violence and death. With every outdoor scene, we sense that doom sleeps (and dreams) behind every moss-covered tree and broken down church.
And in those patches of doom, there are hints that some of the very underpinnings of this reality are dark and terrifying. The references to Chambers' The King in Yellow take all cutting elements of this production and bind them in a wicker-work of hopeless, calculated ruin. As the old poem goes - The shadows lengthen...In Carcosa.
A Stunning and Powerful Work - True to it's Source
This is one hell of a Batman movie.
Whether or not you've read the original work by Frank Miller, which it faithfully brings to life, this film keeps you enthralled. It is a thrilling, dark flight through the the final days of the most iconic hero of our time, brought to the screen with stunning, sharp animation, wonderful pacing, and great acting throughout.
For those of you who HAVE read the original books, have no fear - I can't imagine a more thorough and faithful reproduction of Frank Miller's classic tale. It's all there - the mutants, Harvey, Gordon's retirement, the Joker's haunting laughter, ...and the schoolboy. Even the finest nuances, like mutant-slang, are well-handled and actually seem much crisper when brought to life like this. And those brilliant visual moments that were so memorable in the books - the key images we remember are all there, and they're g-ddamn gorgeous!
Even folks who haven't read the comics (sad, but oh well) will find a Batman movie with as much action as any in the franchise, and a hell of a lot darker. Don't be misled - this is not just some cartoon. For god's sake, don't let your young kids watch this, unless you like them seeing brutal murder and violence.
Finally, the voice acting is great. Weller is almost perfect for 50-yr old Bruce Wayne, and he isn't afraid to bring things down into the gritty dark pathos which drives the bat, unrelenting. Ariel Winter's plucky-sly delivery is spot on for Robin. David Selby's Gordon - salty yet compassionate. Gary Anthony Williams' brutal dominance as the Mutant leader, and Michael Emerson (freaking Ben from Lost!) just drips evil with every phrase as Joker. Honorable mention to Jim Meskimen for a perfectly done "President", and Conan O'Bryan as David Endocrine. Almost everyone brings their A-game here.
So, if you enjoy dark action movies, or Batman, you really want to get this movie right now. 9 out of 10 stars...easily.
Gorgeous Peril at Every Turn
Gravity is a fast-paced flight through stunning beauty and danger.
CONS The movie seems short and there's not much time to really learn about the characters.
PROS This film is very impressive on three main fronts: visual imagery, technical detail, and seat-grabbing action.
The scenes of Earth from orbit are absolutely breathtaking. Space is also beautiful in itself - the silence of it, the empty reaches between objects - it's perfect nothing. The brilliant cinematography and cgi mastery really take us there. I really am in envy of those who have seen it for real if just some movie footage can capture such beauty.
And no detail is spared. The EV suits, the Hubble telescope, other satellite components, the space-shuttle, space-stations, and re-entry vehicles. All are rendered with care and loving attention. If you watched this movie 100 times, you probably still wouldn't notice all the tiny parts and pieces. Space-flight does not happen by magic, and the film-makers really want us to see how much ingenuity and craft has gone into letting us float above our world.
When some of these parts and pieces get away from us, though, that's when things get dangerous. And there's no deadlier place for this than the airless frozen void of space. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that I've never seen destruction that felt so close and immediately threatening. I was on the edge of my seat grabbing at anything I could for fear of the character(s) losing grip and tumbling off into the forever...or worse.
So, suit up and grab on - this is one hell of a ride.
Die Welle (2008)
Die Welle Uber Alles?
This film gives us a possible snapshot of German feelings about community, struggle, and the youthful process of finding a way forward in a confusing world. The script, acting, and artistic choices all come together in a solid film that keeps your interest and makes you think about your own emotional reactions.
--Summary-- Rainer Wenger is a teacher and coach at a modern urban highschool whose background and studies have educated him on social resistance, street movements, and anarchism. For the school's "project week" he is given, against his desire, the project of teaching about autocracy. In spite of his initial distaste, he decides to swim head-first into the themes of unity, cooperative action, and pride...and ends up in the unstoppable current of fascism.
Students from a range of social and economic backgrounds end up flooding into the class, finding strength and meaning in the growing movement that is taking form. The Wave, their name for their group, ends up breaking out of the classroom and flowing into all aspects of their lives. Many of the students find real achievement and growth, but these same young men and women fail to see that some of their actions are alienating and even persecuting non-members. As relationships with non-Wave loved ones become strained and certain youthful pranks get more and more attention (and resistance), Wenger himself realizes things have gone too far. But can he even stop this Wave that he created...before it washes away everything in it's wake? --/Summary--
The film is definitely memorable, especially as a German film. This reviewer believes it ends up showing where the balance is currently between the desire for greatness in German culture, and the lingering guilt of the Third Reich.
The East (2013)
A Solid Tale About Individual and Collective Action
As our society becomes ever more deeply entrenched in corporate government control, the tools of exposing the injustices within that control are there for those with the will and courage to do so. In this film, Brit Marling gives us a nuanced and potent narrative about a private corporate agent who ultimately becomes a force of public good.
Marling, Skarsgard, and the rest all bring honesty and vitality to their roles. The film gives a clear view into what the lives of what a modern-day resistance movement (some might say The Movement) might look like. The scripting is straightforward, intelligent, and interesting, and the production mixes the right amounts of human softness, technological potency, and danger to keep us interested - and invested - in the lives of these characters.
Most of us here won't choose to live the life of Snowden, Asange, the Underground, or others; we won't ever pick up and light the lantern that illuminates the way through obfuscation and repression. But this film gives us an example that those who do may be people who aren't so different after all where it counts.
The Suspect (2013)
Kept My Attention
This film has merits and problems, both, but in the end, it keeps your attention and makes you care about the characters and how the story is going to end.
The acting is pretty solid and the pace is lean and appropriate.
So it succeeds at a basic level.
AND the subject matter is thought-provoking. This reviewer found himself looking at situations and behaviour with a keen eye toward subtext and meaning. I can't say more without spoiling it.
As other reviewers have said, this is best viewed with a minimal or no previous understanding of the plot. Just enjoy the ride.
Don't Believe the Anti-Hype
I gave this an 8, just to bump it up a little - it's about a 7 honestly. That's still a good film folks - don't believe the score you see here on IMDb.
This movie is very well acted by pretty much everyone in it, with some notable performances from Ferris, Chiklis, and Liotta (who I haven't enjoyed much lately). The actions and reactions are believable and the drama is charged.
Most people seem to harp on the plot here - it's a complicated tale of a corrupt cop trying to arrange a heist against an underworld kingpin - a heist that goes wrong from the start. I can't go into too much detail without spoiling it, but the turns and surprises, though definitely unusual, are really not that hard to believe and - here's the important part - they make for a great watch.
Solid dialogue, fine direction, and solid gold acting make this an easy keeper for this movie viewer.
Soulful and Vital
When it all comes down to a final reckoning, what and who would you choose to fill your moments, to fulfill you? This brilliant and lovely tale examines who we are when we are just ourselves...without the wide world to carry us on...when it's just our choices and intuition left. Some rush into a void of nihilism, some look for a warm communal meshing, some cling to order and perfection, or the hope of a new beginning, some find God by the shining shore...
...And some people find the one person who's they've been missing, without even knowing it.
Keira Knightley and Steve Carell absolutely shine. Forget anything else they've done; it doesn't matter here. This road-story/love-story is well acted, well directed, and lovingly paced. There's very little cliché or need for any gimmickry. Every scene is packed full of human heart - even the simplest characters are imagined with fullness and care.
And the soundtrack is pure soul...music that really lets you dive in and swim.
I'd say, get with someone you love and enjoy it. And just accept that everything...in the end...is just the way it is. Choose to love your world, while you have it.
A Thrilling Ensemble
This story of loyalty and violence is elevated by great performances all around.
Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Blake Lively are utterly believable as a trio of lovers whose lives lead them into danger and whose dedication to each other lead them out of it. They're love is evident, and so simple as to not be even worthy of any small-minded titilation. Together, they sell weed. Great weed...powerful, magical weed, and have built their own close-knit organization of free-thinking experts, including a security branch of ex-soldiers. Business is booming.
Enter the Baha Cartel, represented by the polished and lethal agent played wonderfully by Demian Bichir, cultured on the surface, but lethal beneath. The cartel is outlined simply - a modern criminal organization with plenty of complexity and diversity, but with competitors of its own and a very violent, dangerous, culture. They want new territory.
The cartel's bloody work is carried out by Lado (embodied by Benicio Del Toro) a down-to-earth cold-blooded enforcer - a flat-out sociopath, really. Del Toro easily steals every scene he's in...
...Except for those with Salma Hayek, who really shines as Elena, the no-nonsense, feared, head of the cartel. I'd like to just emphasize that this is some of Hayek's best work, by far - she really nails the complexity of a woman who, through fate and choice, is leading an ultra-violent criminal gang - with an iron f--king fist in fact - but who is still human, with pain and fears of her own.
In the end, the tale is about these men and women and how they each protect what they care about most, which is usually each other. The actors really seem to bond, which lends a lot of investment to get us through a fairly wild and crazy plot.
Add in some artistic (but not too pretentious) camera work and editing, good pacing, and some really great technical touches, and you have a solid crime drama with a lot of heart and soul. This film really should be rated higher in my opinion.
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Great Acting but a Ludicrous Script
I'm voting this down, but I still pretty much enjoyed it. Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, and everyone else in this movie do superbly well with an engaging action thriller. I was engrossed enough in the first 20 minutes to want to see the whole thing through.
This movie is about revenge, society's concepts of justice and punishment, and the follies of unexamined ambition. It develops these themes from the start and with a good pace throughout the film. The two main leads and their supporting characters are pretty thoroughly believable and deserve much praise for their work.
And the second phase of the film is almost entirely unbelievable. As the action escalates, we are treated to plot action that defies even common sense to hammer home the pervading themes. For specific examples, I'm sure the message boards on this site can elaborate very competently. I was thinking "oh c'mon...really?" with every scene. It was that horrible.
My hope is that whichever producers hacked this up will not be given such latitude in film again. But sadly, schlock sells.
If it weren't for the wonderful strength of the performances, and certain nice detail touches during the first phase of the movie, I'd be rating this as a complete failure. Instead, it's a movie with lots of potential and heart that went way way off the rails into stupid Hollywood nonsense.
Yay kids! Murder is fun!
This is an example of how a pretty good assassin film can also contain reprehensible moral trash, namely that it's perfectly OK to teach kids that violence and murder not only is an integral part of life, but it will make you sexy and hip.
1. Kid's parents get killed because they chose a very very dangerous line of work and they put their kid at risk by having her local. 2. Thug uncle living a life of crime in Chicago had a son who died violently. That kid's room had violence all over the walls, not just Scarface promotionals but ACTUAL GUNS. Gee, what a surprise that he was killed. 3. Same uncle has no problem teaching this little girl to be his assassin, to lose any respect for life she might've regained, and to put her in danger constantly. 4. Oh wait, she said she WANTED TO BE A KILLER. That excuses everything. If our kids have had a hard life and want to be criminals, of course we should let them! 4. Government operatives are inept enough to lose track of a 9 yr old at an international airport. Transit personnel have no problem with young kids FLYING and travelling in general absolutely alone as long as they have a little piece of paper with an address on it. 5. Family members, especially women who have already been broken and used by the asshole men in their sad lives, stand by and watch as children are corrupted.
Now, the action sequences and stealthy tricks were neat, and satisfying for the genre, but this movie, like many, selectively ignores life consequences and focuses on pointless glamgore. At least with movies like La Femme Nikita, we see that the life lived by the young assassin turns out to be, in the end, not as much glamorous as it is cold, cruel, vicious, and unforgiving.
With this piece of schlock, we just have a pretty, deceitful piece of gore porn that will be simply enjoyed without thought by most, but will also be viewed with awe by some semi-retarded angsty adolescent girls who will buy-in a little bit more to the myth of GRRRL POWER that is actually keeping them repressed and separated from any real understanding of responsibility and influence in life.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
The Clichés from Outer Space
I'm giving this movie a 5 since I feel generous and sorry for Daniel Craig. The script and direction for this piece of crap was so bad, that even normally-powerful actors like Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell couldn't make it anything but B-grade sci-fi.
Every scene telegraphs the scenes ahead of it. We know pretty much exactly what is about to happen because the laws of cliché demand it. Here's a list of the sins of trite scripting that are present:
- Every fight is broken up by another fight. - The bad guys arrive right at the specific plot points they are called to. - The offspring of the rich always act like complete idiot assholes. - Nerd becomes hero with amazing aim after a few lessons with a rifle. - Gunmen covering hostages never actually shoot them even when there's nothing to stop them. - The hero has internal GPS, able to re-join the group even after a side/plot quest. - Wall climbing aliens apparently teleport where they're needed when the plot calls for it, but can be easily tracked by humans RIDING HORSES WHILE TRACKING. - Restraints give way at the darnedest times. - All Native Americans speak the same language and they can even retroactively switch tribes when battle demands it. - Aliens don't scout during the day, except for that one time when they did. - Dogs are invulnerable and also can teleport. - Groups of 40+ need next to no supplies. - Native Americans really just need a strong grizzled white man in their lives to give them direction and save their lives, unless they need to die to heal that man's old redeemable heart. - When people die, they just relax and look off into the distance. - When the armored alien can't get at the tactically-meaningless kid, it's time for it to -of course- expose it's most obviously vulnerable anatomy to said kid, just so a meaningful prop can be used at the right time. - All battles pause for a moment when emotional scenes demand it. - A kiss can do anything. - Every hostile spaceship must have a conveniently located tunnel/exhaust port/whatever that leads DIRECTLY to the unguarded main reactor. - Heroes can turn alien technology into anything they need it to be. Gun? No, it's now a bomb...cause I said so! - Aliens with weaponry that can explode rock will always charge unarmed into obvious choke-points.
And then, on top of all this, there's the God thing. At various points of the movie, we're not so subtly reminded that heaven awaits the fallen in battle. This is actually very blatant, especially at the end. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind seeing portrayals of faith, and one of the better characters in the movie is actually a pretty neat gunslinger priest, but the film-makers apparently didn't want to just portray things, they want to make it a point.
This movie only barely keeps your attention and abuses it at every turn. Congrats to the film-makers for trashing up a nifty concept.
Realistic and and engaging - no nonsense
I've seen a few bad reviews here that seem to stem from over-expectation. Some people look at the cast and seem to think - WOW! This is going to be like Jason Bourne -vs- Morpheus in the AI Spiderman Hot Zone!!! Please.
This is a fairly paced imagining of what a superflu outbreak would be like. The story is thoughtful, solid, and very realistic, covering all the themes of man-at-his-worst, paranoia, helplessness, being overwhelmed, etc... It doesn't veer into any hard-to-believe covert action nonsense that so fills the cinemas these days. There's no black-ops CDC teams, alien genetics, or grim revenge raids on high-security quarantine facilities.
Sorry. Look elsewhere.
Like Traffic, from the same director, we simply have a calm look at a frightening situation and an observation at the human interactions and emotions that go with it.
And as such, it works, it is enjoyable, and it is well done.
This film is a testament to modern film technology. It is a familiar story about slavery and freedom that cleverly weaves in concurrent themes of super-science, pandemic, and genetic acceleration. An engaging experience that is as much a study in struggle as it is an action/battle movie.
The main point of this movie has already been covered by plenty of films and fiction: What happens when some other group of entities attain a sentience formerly only known by humans - the will to assert coupled with intelligence. Whether it be apes, computers, or robots, the prime question is: How will the new beings treat humans? And an ancillary to that is: Will they hold a grudge? This film takes plenty of time to delve into these matters, with quite a few subtle references to man's own enslavement of man, by prison, by arms, and by general attitude. The acting and pacing are just right to let us explore this. But it goes further and PERSONALIZES the whole struggle in the story of Caesar.
Amazingly, through well-crafted CGI and the actor/model work of Andy Sirkis, we are captivated by the actions and thoughts of a character, who is not only a different species, but who uses no spoken words through most of the film. This is sheer movie magic, and it's why this movie is important and deserves praise.
Sirkis' and the other model actors' work is so nuanced and dense, that the mere posture and gestures of the apes tells us volumes. There's a real genuine emotional force as we share Caesar's life and his discovery of many not-too-pleasant realities, from the joy of his youth, to his first experience with xenophobic anger - his questioning of his origins, his visceral separation from peace, and his rise as a leader of men...er apes. I really have no end of praise for the work done for the non-human characters of this film. Strikingly, it's their performances that are by far the best in the film.
And, like Braveheart, by a certain point, we are very much cheering them on. The action sequences are clever and crisp, and a lot of thought went into the questions of how APES would conduct a struggle for freedom and resistance, with unique approaches that are decidedly not human, and therefore quite effective against the unprepared.
So come for an action film and linger on the deeper currents. Oh and there's plenty of homage in here too, for the film buffs who actually saw the brilliant originals. Overall one of the best movies of the year.
A Beautifully Textured Masterwork
This is a really amazing film. All the pieces - props, costume, camera-work, script, and acting - fit together as well as the finely crafted parts of a nickel-plated revolver. I was surprised I'd not heard more about it.
The film tells the story of the James Gang and specifically the fatal relationship of Jesse James and Robert Ford. During the course of the action we see darkness and light in everyone, even the "coward." Care is taken to finely pare into the psyches of these Outlaws and the cold world they walk in. I think I saw just about every emotion there is to have in these men and we can almost understand, even if we can't accept, what moves them in their deadly paths.
Pitt is both iconic and vulnerable - beautiful and frightening as Jesse James, a robber and killer who hoists up a reputation of fearless boss on one shoulder and charming folk hero on another. His character's movement through peril and praise reminds one of the great gangster characters from Scorsese's work, with an added rawness that only Pitt and a few others can genuinely summon. His fatalism is also quite entrancing and subtly masterful.
Affleck is truly mesmerizing as a born misfit who is so uncomfortable in this world around him, that his neuroses, if they can be called that, really get into your skin. I was reminded of Joaquin Phoenix's role as Comodus, but it's even more intense and yet so very believable. As the audience, I was torn between pitying the character, being utterly disappointed in him, and just wanting him to somehow be better. And the script's maturity really comes into play with this character. No one is beyond reproach, understanding, or grim fate.
I'd say that's the main theme here: fate.
There's no easy formula. No one simply "gets what's coming to them." There are no simple villains or heroes. There's just life and the actions taken and the echoes of those actions and eventually, an end. It transcends any petty ideas of justice or even legend. It takes a full snapshot of a beautiful and grim reality and lets us just take it in, like a corpse on ice. Profound by presentation alone.
A Whimsical and Sometimes Somber Fairy Tale
This movie is a charming and sometimes touching one. Clever scripting and naturalistic acting lend a very human warmth to over-the-top characters.
The key to the film is this warmth, and that's why I give it high marks. It doesn't simply try to make us laugh at the Wacky Briton or be shocked by his consumptive lifestyle. It explores the nuances of affection, anarchy, and loss in a lively and caring way.
Don't see it expecting "shocking raw comedy by a bad boy" and it should go over much smoother. It's really a very simple film and doesn't pretend to be a challenger for "Get Him to the Greek" or a great romance, but it achieves poignancy and entertainment, which was good enough for me.
X: First Class (2011)
Generally Solid Stuff
With any Marvel Comics-based material, there's tons of room for error - from cringeworthy "fan tribute" to cardboard characters, to contrived plotting, but this movie handles these risks well and delivers a pretty solid story in the meantime.
McAvoy is perfectly brilliant as a young, cocky Charles Xavier, who's charisma makes him a natural for leadership and whose moral compass steers him clear of the traps that power can bring. Fassbender is chilling and exciting at the same time as Erik Tellisch (spelling?) whose horrifying past has grown in him a grim desire for justice and revenge harder than steel.
Then there's Jennifer Lawrence as Raven, a young woman who finally overcomes her crushing self-consciousness to cast away all masks and become something beautifully lethal. And finally, Kevin Bacon, showing his mastery as a worldly psychopath capable of godlike power.
All these roles are well played with plenty of room for fleshing out and development. And they're backed by a solid action script that weaves real Cold War history into itself as seamlessly as genes in a chromosome.
Specifically, I liked Nolan's original 2 movies a little better (I'll pretend the 3rd X-Men movie didn't happen, and that wasn't him anyway), but Vaughn here does do a great job and this film can stand proudly among its peers in Action/Hero movies.
A good movie. Rent it and enjoy.
The Guard (2011)
Smart, Wry, and Ballsy
I REALLY enjoyed this flick. While I've seen Cheadle in better roles, he's aptly authentic and provides a great fish-out-of-water where the cliché is played smartly and without insulting intelligence. Gleeson is amazing - the salty rural garda who is as smart as any of the big city folk, but chooses to live with simplicity and directness.
It's the nuances and intelligence present in this film that make it so enjoyable. The characters are all superbly written with tons of personal detail that make them each really come alive, from the small little pipsqueek who's dangerously culturally aware, to the mother at the end of her life who demands integrity and vitality in her last days, to the narco-traffickers who ponder the worth of their lives...every damn character in this movie is brilliantly fleshed and realized.
I didn't laugh a lot, but this is one of those movies they call a "comedy" (Punch Drunk Love and Bowling for Columbine were also labelled as comedy) because they don't know what else to call it.
I call it a brilliant f--king film. A wonderfully pleasant surprise.
Powerful Family Dynamic and Beautiful Landscape
This is a throw-off piece of Marvel fiction that is packed full of cliché and predictability...to a point.
I found myself cringing at a lot of the scenes of heroism and there's a definite stink of pure cheetos-stained fanboyism in many of the scenes in general, with the usual over-the-top "glory" of this old four-color trope.
But certain things caught my attention as well-done.
First, Asgard is absolutely beautiful. They went all out in making a realm of metallic and elemental grandeur. I had no trouble in buying this as the realm of Asgard, the ultimate land of beautiful heroism. In particular, the rainbow bridge, the weaponry, and the interior scenes were very fitting in general style and specific detail. Very impressive visually and even thematically.
Second, Branagh's touch can be seen with Shakespearean flair in the family of Odin the AllFather. Odin himself is brimmed with both the rime of age and the wisdom that comes with it and yet his voice can instantly summon fearful authority. Hopkins does well with that balance, even through some cheesy scripting.
And the brothers... the sibling rivalry here is very very potent in that it is nuanced and fully realized by both actors. There is love there, but also a lack of understanding, envy, and hate. Loki is far from a cardboard villain, in that we see, all in one package - a fighter who protects his allies, an honest counselor, a liar, a cautious thinker, a smooth tongue, and an awkward one. He loves and reveres his father, but comes to almost fatally doubt him and even hate him...but it's all very real and very stirring. And even when it's clear that he's done very grim deeds, you can actually understand and accept his motives...and his last scene in the film brings all three of the family men together in a very poignant moment of utter loss.
I was pretty surprised how moving this all was, especially when put in the middle of some otherwise-uninspiring hero pablem.
So in summary, this movie both met my negative expectation of disappointment and surprised me with some purely moving content. See it to see if it surprises you at all as well, and forget the whole comic-book hero thing, since that's been done far better.
Thanks for reading.
Black Swan (2010)
Fascinating and Visceral
This film is a journey into the dark territory of change.
To transcend herself, a girl of innocence must realize that her skill is not enough, must navigate the spined halls of neurosis and conflict, must accept the stark beauty of aggression, and must embrace the glory of pure selfish power.
But it is only after fully understanding the inevitable cost and the sacrifices made, that she may come full circle and achieve the grace of tragic beauty and find true perfection, which is impossible to survive.
Graceful, moving, and laced with vital turmoil...
...la danse magnifique.