Personally, I loved it. It was very funny, funnier than most comedies, yet it was also a good action movie where Tony Stark, not Iron Man, does most of the heavy lift. There is no writer I can think of, save maybe Quentin Tarantino who could write Tony Stark as well as Shane Black, whose style of humor is so suited to Robert Downey Jr.
The critics who don’t like this movie are angry either that Iron Man is less the focus this time around, or the twist about the Mandarin, they just don’t get it that its really about Stark, the man in the suit and is tailor made for Downey’s unique talents. And it works. The big fight at the end is clearing things for the next one. I was very satisfied.
My friend Steven Grant has a movie coning out this year, based on his comic series of the same name from Boom! Good for him.
The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies and I love the Frank L Baum books which is one of the most original and best fantasy series of all time. So I wanted to see Sam Raimi’s movie and was hoping it would at least be a decent ride.
It was. Not as good as it had the potential to be but still well worth the admission price.
The effects are stellar, the acting good. The problem with the film as I see it is the writing. While not bad, its a little too straightforward dialog wise and the characters were not as memorable as they could have been, largely because the dialog wasn’t witty or funny enough. When you watch the Wizard of Oz the dialog is full of great lines. Here, most of the lines are forgettable because they are straightforward. And the music, while the film is not a musical like the Wizard of Oz, it still could have used a more memorable score. It was provided by Danny Elfman, who can produce a good score but he’s no Harold Arlen. Few composers are, but this film would have been elevated by better music. The music here is very Danny Elfman which is kind of interchangeable with plenty of Tim Burton films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (a movie I didn’t like).
Still, those are my only two complaints. Unlike most films this movie has a great climax that’s pretty clever. They couldn’t use elements from the Wizard of Oz because another studio owns the rights but they do a great job of staying true to the tradition and setting up the previous film as this is a prequel.
James Franco does a great job as the young conman who comes to Oz and becomes the Wizard. The witches are all handled by good actresses. I do think they were a little too straight forward but they were trying to be like the classic film. I appreciate their lack of modern winking irony but if you look at the classic there was so many clever bits of humor in the lines that was missed here. It would have taken it so far about where it is now, which is still decent entertainment. Oh, well.
I still think it’s a keeper.
2012 was a great year for movies. There were a few I missed which I finally caught up on that I highly recommend.
LIFE OF PI: Ang Lee’s story of a young man cast a drift on a lifeboat with a tiger is really a classic and original film. Extremely beautiful to watch and stars one of my favorite actors, Irrfan Khan, who plays the older Pi. HE spins a yarn about his adventure which is fantastic and like a modern day Arabian Nights tale or something. What I loved about it was, despite the nature of the story, it wasn’t full of typical BS. The Tiger is not anthropomorphicated like so many animals in a Hollywood film. I never once felt it was CGI either. Even though it probably was in most cases (if not all). It was extremely well done. If you think movies have gotten stake check this one out. It’s not at all. And it;s a very life affirming film. Easily Ang Lee’s best effort to date.
ROBOT AND FRANK: I wanted to see this last year when it came out but it went by really fast before I had a chance. Now its coming out on DVD and I highly recommend it, Frank is a retired jewel thief who lives alone in the woods in Upstate New York. His son is worried about him because he seems to be slowly losing his memories, so he gets him a robot caretaker. Frank resents it at first but when he realizes he can train it to pick locks he finds he has a new friend. Its a nice little film full of good actors. Frank Langella playing the lead. James Marsden is the son, Liv Tyler his daughter and Susan Sarandon his love interest.
STAND UP GUYS: This isn’t as good as the other two but enjoyable none the less. Al Pacino just gets out of prison and one of his only friends on earth is waiting for him, played by Christopher Walken. Pacino and Walken know its his last night on earth because he has a hit on him. So they spend the evening having various adventures. Alan Arkin plays their old wheel man and Mark Margolis is the mob boss who wants Pacino dead. It’s nice to see all those actors together in one movie. Margolis was in Scarface with Pacino as the hit man who wanted to blow up a guy at the UN. I dont know if Walken or Arkin worked with him before but its entertaining. Not an action movie, for the record. More of a character piece.
I really enjoyed Red, so hopefully this will be as fun.
Both of these films are really good. Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the hunt for Bin Laden and it’s an unflinching look at what it too to find him and the politics that stood in the way. The film is non partisan and shows that the agents trying to find Bin Laden had to do it by dancing around the shifting political climates and realities on the ground. The story mainly focuses on a CIA analyst named May played by Jessica Chastain who is driven to find Bin Laden even while the agency stops caring about him. It’s an interesting kind of spy film based on true events.
Silver Linings Playbook is a romantic comedy about how two bi-polar people fall in love. It’s extremely well written and acted with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the main characters with Robert DeNiro playing Cooper’s dad in one of his best roles in over a decade. It’s up for all sorts of awards and it deserves them. Its a really well made film. I found it very funny and touching.
I saw the Hobbit today in IMAX 3d and I loved it. I’m actually perplexed by some of the negative reviews. Maybe its the format I saw it in but I thought it looked amazing. It had a very high resolution look and the depth of field in 3D was awesome. And while I have some major bones to pick with Jackson on the Lord of the Rings movies taking certain liberties with that story, here the changes were more like enhancements to make it flow better on screen. He stuck fairly true to the book with the changes not being that important. One big change, if you’re familiar with the books is the introduction of Azog as a villain, a goblin leader from Moria who should be dead by the time this story takes place. But his introduction was fine.
I was happy to see at least three songs made it in so far and they were done in such a way that worked without being annoying or padding. And the action was exceptional. Despite reviews that say its slow, it moves along fairly well once they hit the road. As for that frame rate thing, maybe it looks bad in a 2D screener, I’ll have to see, but it was fine in 3D IMAX. Looked better than Avatar in my book.
This story is lighter and more fun than the Lord of the Rings. Those who say the plot is too thin are being rather foolish. It would be more fair to say the plot is simpler. But they did add some complexity to it (after all its based on a children’s book) by fleshing out the back story. As a fan of the books I was happy to see Radaghast the Brown, portrayed by the excellent Sylvester McCoy, one of the better Doctor Who actors from the old series.
All in all its a good movie to take the family to. They should be entertained.
Zack Snyder makes amazing looking films, I just hope it isn’t as cold and emotionless as some of his recent films. Hopefully Nolan’s influence will be there.
I saw Skyfall last night and have to say this is the first James Bond film, in a long long time that gets everything right. Casino Royale was a great movie but somehow it felt like it was missing something. Some of the James Bond flavor, This film had it while being fresh and original. Not rehashing old stuff. There was nothing corny or fake about it. James Bond was made into a very real character with some dimension we finally had a villain who was not some wooden rich guy wanting to rule the world. He was more like a very complex psychopath with an interesting back story.
The cinematography was fantastic, as the direction and all the acting and the music by newcomer (to Bond) Thomas Newman, was very good even though it didn’t slavishly try to imitate John Barry, The Bond touches in the music was all in the right places and didn’t hit you over the head repeatedly.
One of the best things about it was a story that fleshed out the characters like M and Bond as well as introducing new incarnations of the classic supporting characters that updated them yet worked so well. There was nothing forced or felt arbitrary or artificial. Craig really came into his own here as Bond. Making his version very distinctive and fresh, I wasn’t totally sold on Craig before as the character but he won me over here, Unlike his first two Bond movies, in this one he starts to loosen up and even make some quips, but they aren’t bad ones, The dialog in this film is excellent. The banter between characters is like you would expect in a classic film.
Overall, I was extremely pleased. This is the best “realistic” Bond film and stands with the top 3 of all time. Maybe even the best one yet. It all depends on your preferences, but the greatest thing they did was breathe fresh life into the character without changing him much. They went back to what made the character work in the first place and chucked all the silliness and fake glamour. It’s more faithful to Ian Fleming’s version.
I have to say thank you, Christopher Nolan for paving the way. It’s obvious his Batman films were a influence and what a difference it makes. Sam Mendes really made a masterpiece here.
In Cloud Atlas we see the return of the Wachowskis as a directing team and Tom (“Run, Lola, Run) Twker joins the fray to produce a very layered a and strange story about reincarnated people over hundreds of years that supposedly tells us how our actions effect our futures. That part isn’t very convincing, but visually its amazing and if you loved the first Matrix movie there are some action bits in there which echo the Matrix without being a rehash (slow mo is not used a lot here). Actors play multiple parts of characters over different generations and races. Which has predictably gotten some race counters annoyed that white characters play Asians in a future set in Seoul. Also, a black actor plays a Korean, but they ignore than Asian actors play whites in different incarnations too. The movie is trying to show different characters other incarnations using the same actors so it would be frankly very difficult if not pointless to use different actors in the Asian or Caucasian roles. Whatever. Race obsessed people should look in a mirror the next time they call something/someone racist.
What fascinates me about the Wachowskis is they are very left wing yet their obsession with evil oppressive states crushing liberty has come through in most of their films, namely the Matrix, V for Vendetta (which they produced) and Cloud Atlas where oppression is a common theme in all of the stories. You would think they were libertarians or something. Well, I think a lot of lefties are libertarians who haven’t woke up from their dreams of a socialist utopia. Powerful states become dystopias very easily and inevitably do.
Still, the movie is a decent way to pass the time. I didn’t love it exactly but I was entertained. It was probably the best film they’ve done since the first Matrix movie.
Some shots of Ben Kingsly as the Mandarin. Looks better than 2 so far
Someone made a documentary about fan films. Hope I get to see this one. I lobe wataching what people do with some of these.
Sorry I haven’t been blogging lately. Been very busy creating a new comic for Aces Weekly with Val Mayerik and some other projects. But I wanted to talk about two films I saw this weekend, both of which I enjoyed.
Taken 2 is getting a pounding by critics with only a 19% positive and a 76% positive by moviegoers. Why do critics hate it so much? I don’t know other than the bad guys are Muslims though its not ground into your face. They’re white Muslims, though I’m sure that doesn’t matter to them. The story is pretty basic but what do you expect from a Taken sequel? It does its job very well. Some implausibilities exist but nothing so bad it ruins the film. Anyway, 60 year old Liam Neeson is as lethal as any Expendables actor tries to be but with much more acting chops.
Looper sounds like a low budget sci-fi thriller with a twist, which is kind of what it is, however the writing, acting and story is way better than I expected. Its kind of a twist on the Terminator except with assassins. Criminals in the future send the people they want to kill back into the bast (our future) where they are killed by these assassins called Loopers. Since its hard to get rid of bodies in the future they use this twist in time travel. The problem is some crime boss in the future is killing a lot of people and sending them back to their younger selves to be killed as some kind of sick joke. The nominal; hero of the story, a drug addicted looper has to kill himself but he’s a bad ass in the future played by Bruce Willis and that’s no easy task. The film takes some very interesting turns I did not see coming. Time travel movies are often twisty and sometimes absurd but this one has a very clever couple of turns and some great character actors pop in here and there. Check it out.