Saturday, November 9, 2013
Thor: The Dark World was an entertaining movie. I'm just not certain it really deserves to be called a good one. It was far more like its predecessor than the trailers would have you believe: this is still more comedy than action, though the producers were far more liberal in the special effects budget this time so the fight scenes were bigger.
I was mostly bored for the first third of the movie. The jokes didn't really win me over, and I didn't find the various plot threads all that engaging. A number of characters from the first movie showed up, but their roles felt more like cameos. Once again, Sif felt underutilized - I think she had a bigger part in the first installment. Other characters are given brief sequences, some of which seem to set up subplots that are immediately dropped. Is there a longer cut of this movie out there that delivers on some of this? Jane Foster is a major character, but she essentially comes off as comic relief.
I was about ready to write this one off when a funny thing happened. About forty minutes in, Loki stole the whole damn movie.
I've never been anywhere near as big a fan of the character as some people. I enjoyed Hiddleston's Loki in the first movie and in Avengers, but I certainly didn't worship him the way many of his fans do. But here, once he becomes a major character, he's really able to cut loose and enjoy the role. And in doing so, he makes the movie fun. As soon as he's unleashed, the movie's much stronger. There are some hilarious exchanges and ridiculous adventures.
The finale revolves around a strangely constructed fight sequence that works extremely well, despite fundamentally being slapstick. It's kind of fascinating to see: it's played for laughs, but the scope is large enough to be awesome.
This movie is, if nothing else, a lot of fun, even if it takes some time to get up to pace. There's a lot that needs to be overlooked - and it's essential you go into this understanding it's a comedy - but it's an enjoyable experience.
This is worth seeing for Loki, but - in my opinion at least - it's Marvel's second worst after Captain America.
Posted by Erin Snyder at 8:24 AM
Saturday, October 12, 2013
In 1994, a Fantastic Four movie is made that's so bad, Fox decides not to release it. Ten years later, they produce and release a movie that's actually worse. Three years after that, they make a sequel, introducing the Silver Surfer and a cloud that is not, under any reasonable definition, Galactus. It was, in fact, the worst of the three.
Two years from now, Fox is planning on releasing a relaunch. If the present trajectory continues, mathematics dictates the movie will be so abysmal, its presence onscreen will create a black hole of awfulness that could swallow the Earth.
Rise of the Silver Surfer was already damn near that bad, and they'll have had an additional eight years to screw the characters up further.
You may be wondering what we should have expected from the people who made the previous installment. I'd respond by saying, at bare minimum, we should have been able to expect that the sequel wouldn't be worse than part one. History has clearly proven me wrong.
I just tried typing out a synopsis of this movie, but the result was so awful, I deleted it. Look, I just... here's a paragraph from Wikipedia that explains this better than I ever could:
After an animal has digested eaten material, the remains of that material are expelled from its body as waste. Though it is lower in energy than the food it came from, feces may still contain a large amount of energy, often 50% of that of the original food. This means that of all food eaten, a significant amount of energy remains for the decomposers of ecosystems. Many organisms feed on feces, from bacteria to fungi to insects such as dung beetles, which can sense odors from long distances. Some may specialize in feces, while others may eat other foods as well. Feces serve not only as a basic food, but also a supplement to the usual diet of some animals. This is known as coprophagia, and occurs in various animal species such as young elephants eating their mother's feces to gain essential gut flora, or by other animals such as dogs, rabbits, and monkeys.I want to explain why this movie is as bad as it is, but I honestly don't even know where to start. Maybe Sue? Alba has a major role in this movie, very little of which has to do with her as a superhero. Instead, she's stressed about her wedding.
Think about every cliche they could possibly include. Guess what? You missed a few. Unfortunately, the writers did not: the first half of the movie is mostly a string of scenes that would feel trite in a 50's comedy.
Then, at the end, she inspires a male character to save the world.
But before you accuse this movie of sexism, rest assured it mistreats its male characters, as well. Reed and Ben are given next to nothing to do the entire movie, while Johnny gets all their powers at the end to fight it out with a galactic-powered Doom. And yet, when all's said and done, it almost feels like he was absent the whole movie.
The Surfer actually has a few sequences where he looks cool at the end, demonstrating the technology exists to bring him to the screen, but the not the talent. He's got maybe a half dozen lines the whole movie, none of which are remotely interesting.
Then there's Doctor Doom. Look, the character this guy's based on is easily one of the best villains ever created. Hell, you could argue he partially inspired Darth Vader. The fact they can't make him remotely interesting is astonishing.
This movie looks better than Origins: Wolverine or X-Men 3, but it's actually worse. For what it's worth, it's not as bad as the lowest tier, reserved for movies like Barb Wire and The Spirit, but it comes disturbingly close.
If you've avoided this so far, pat yourself on the back. Kudos. Most importantly, keep your distance, folks. This is an awful, awful movie.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
I had so much fun with the 1994 film, I decided it was time to revisit the 2004 streamlined remake (when I say "streamlined", I just mean they dropped the word "the", and when I say "remake", I'm just trying to insult Fox). Unlike its predecessor, this was released on the public, which tells us the studio was less humane than it had been a decade before.
Okay - maybe I'm exaggerating. In the scheme of things, this movie isn't actually that awful. There are a handful of amusing moments and gags that are occasionally funny. But this movie irritates me quite a bit, and a big part of that comes from just having seen the Corman version. Because that movie was bad - it was low budget, cheesy, and badly produced. But, for all its flaws, it managed to feel like a Fantastic Four movie. Not a good Fantastic Four, but at least authentic.
And the Fox version is just a generic superhero movie. Sure, it tries to be funny, which is a feature of the comics. And it leaves in a character trait here or there, but it doesn't come close to delivering the experience. The reason is pretty clear: they don't even try.
Fox obviously had the rights to these characters and wanted to repeat the success they'd had with X-Men and Sony had with Spider-Man. So they tried to make them modern, sexy. They tried to turn the FF into a team modern teens would relate to.
And that's not who the Fantastic Four are. None of these characters felt right, though The Thing and Human Torch came a lot closer than Mr. Fantastic, who was in turn a hell of a lot better realized than The Invisible Woman. God, they mangled her character, and even she came out better than Doctor Doom.
Any director who can't at least make Doctor Doom fun has no business working in film.
The script was as boring as the direction, which resulted in a movie lacking any real tension. Its attempts at fun were undermined by a self-serious tone. This is worse than a bad movie: it's an utter waste of time.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Gravity is at the very edge of greatness, but held back by a catch-22 imposed on the director by a harsh reality. It's a good movie, but that's the problem: it doesn't want to be a movie at all. It wants to be something else. The complication is that this particular "something else" doesn't exist, at least not in a way that would have allowed the director to play with the elements that make Gravity awesome.
There's a lot of cool stuff going on here. This is the closest most of us are ever going to get to being in space, and supposedly, it's a really good facsimile. That was clearly the director's goal: to show us what it's actually like in orbit. Appropriately, the threats they encountered were all completely real. No aliens or super science here: just space junk.
In fact, the technology and threats present in the movie are all so real, it's not even clear this should be called science-fiction. This is a dramatized thriller about something that could happen. And while there's certainly an existential undercurrent to the story, the primary theme being communicated is simply the experience of being in space itself: the sense of weightlessness, the total lack of direction, the beauty, and the terror.
That's where the vision of the movie is held back by the very fact it's a movie. Cuarón set out to create an experience, and that experience isn't enhanced by a 90 minute run time. He could have shaved this down to half that and lost none of the movie's impact. But he'd never have managed to get it on every IMAX screen in the country, which was essential in delivering his work to an audience.
For all intents and purposes, there are three characters in Gravity, and one is the camera. The other two are Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, both of whom do a great job. But they're not really playing movie characters: structurally, they're actually closer to people in video games.
Bullock plays a point-of-view. From time-to-time, the camera even dips into her helmet and gives us a first-person perspective. We're meant to experience the movie as she does: it's a testament to her skill that we do. Clooney has a different role: he's the NPC telling her (and by extension us) how to survive the next objective. Likewise, the dialogue and acting is good enough that we don't mind, but the similarities are difficult to ignore.
It's definitely pushing boundaries. This has elements from video games, amusement park rides, and - yes - films. As such, it doesn't deliver everything we're used to getting from a movie, but instead gives us something a bit different.
Gravity is extremely cool. Seeing it on the big screen is a fantastic experience, and I'd encourage you to give it a try. There's very little here that would survive being viewed at home: this is definitely worth seeing in 3D (and on IMAX, if at all possible).
Friday, September 6, 2013
First, a disclaimer: I'm one of The Chronicles of Riddick's few defenders. No, scratch that: I'm pretty sure I'm its biggest advocate. It's simultaneously good and so-bad-it's-good for entirely different reasons. You laugh at it and cheer it on at the same time: it's like getting two completely different, equally satisfying movie experiences for the price of one. It... out Fifth Elements the Fifth Element. It....
Sorry. I'm supposed to be talking about Riddick.
Well, this one - the third in the series - is pretty great, too. It's ostensibly more Pitch Black than Chronicles, but I was happy to see some elements from part two survive. This one might not contain any blatant fantasy, but there's a vein of barbarianism that runs to its core. I've seen it compared to Conan in more than one spot, and the parallels are easy to see. Unfortunately, there aren't any D&D characters running around, but the pulp sensibilities remain intact.
Like Pitch Black, this one is fairly disjointed. While part one was split neatly between day and night segments, this one was broken into thirds. They almost felt like episodes in a serial. The first third is the best, though I enjoyed the entire movie. The very ending felt a little anti-climatic, though I remember thinking the same thing about Pitch Black (Chronicles of Riddick, on the other hand, had one of the best endings I've ever seen).
There's not much to the characters or plot, but I don't see that as a negative. With the possible exception of Pitch Black, these are more about the imagery and a visceral sense of strength. Is that juvenile? Of course, but there's nothing wrong with that.
I'd love to spend more time in this universe, especially if we could explore more of what the second movie touched on. I don't know how likely that really is, but it's more than a little surprising we got this one after Chronicles bombed.
It might not be the best in the series, but it's a worthy addition and a hell of a lot of fun. If you're in the mood for an enjoyable dark SF flick this weekend, check it out. Just make sure you bring your inner 12 year-old with you - unlike its PG-13 rated predecessor, they won't be able to see it without an adult present.
Posted by Erin Snyder at 11:26 PM
Saturday, August 24, 2013
The World's End might not be the instant classic Shaun of the Dead was, but it's still a hell of a lot of fun. Once again, Pegg and Frost are the leads, and - once again - they're fantastic. Simon Pegg, in particular, plays a character miles away from the ones he played in Shaun or Hot Fuzz. I've seen some critics gripe that he isn't very likable here; I agree with the assessment, but I liked the choice.
I've also heard some grumbling about the ending, but I liked that, too. Actually, I think the ending was my favorite part of the movie (in case anyone's wondering, I'm including both the plot climax and the afterword as the ending - loved them both).
Just like before, this film is extremely clever. The jokes are solid, and the story is well thought out. I'd also like to personally thank Edgar Wright for making a drinking comedy with almost no vomit. That takes class.
My only real complaint is that the movie kept the horror at arm's length. I almost never say this, but I actually think we needed to see a little gore to sell the horror. On some level, the antagonists just didn't feel all that threatening.
This is definitely an impressive movie. If you're a genre fan, I strongly suggest you make a point of seeing it. However, I'm not sure it absolutely needs to be seen on the big screen. There's more than enough to make the trip worthwhile, but I think it would play almost as well at home if you're looking to save a few bucks. But if you're a fan of Wright, Pegg, and Frost, you'll feel like you're getting your money's worth regardless.
Just go in knowing this is as good as Hot Fuzz, not Shaun of the Dead.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Fox just made a drama about Wolverine. A large portion of the movie is built around the events of X-Men 3, particularly the death of Jean Grey.
By all rights, that formula should have resulted in a movie which fell somewhere between Origins: Wolverine and X-Men 3. Instead, we got something between First Class and X-Men 2. How did that happen? I'm honestly not sure.
It probably helped that this seems to have been directed by someone who knows the difference between a camera and a toilet and was therefore able to deliver a movie to the screen (take note Brett Ratner and Gavin Hood). It also helped that this movie pulled in some fantastic characters and does them justice. Yukio more or less steals this movie from right under Wolverine's nose.
A lot of X-Men fans - myself included - wanted future installments to bury the mess that was X-Men 3. Well, the makers of The Wolverine had another idea: they wanted to salvage it. They dug into the trauma of Jean's death. They wanted to make it clear that X-Men 3 happened.
And you know something: that's what they'd have done in the comics. You can't maintain continuity and ignore a bad story. You have to place it in the context of a larger story. The Wolverine takes place between The Last Stand and Days of Future Past. It serves as epilogue to one, a prologue to the other, and story of its own.
And it works on all three counts.
The movie isn't start-to-finish action, but there's plenty of violence for Wolverine fans. The claws come out, and blood gets spilled, including a lot of Wolverine's. As you know from the trailers, Logan spends a large portion of the movie mortal. But unlike Superman and Spider-Man 2, it's not to make him see how much the world needs him. If anything, it makes him into more of a bad-ass. Wolverine's best weapon was never the healing: it's the willpower. They got that.
The movie has flaws, of course. The final act villain was far too CG heavy and was the one character the movie didn't do justice. And even I had a hard time ignoring the fact Wolverine couldn't heal but his knuckles were mysteriously fine.
But make it a point to look past those details, and there's a great film here.