Movie Review

Movie Review Lightning Round

So, I’ve actually seen a ton of movies lately. Not all of them fit the pop culture/”geek” vibe I skew towards on this blog, but I figure I’ve sunk enough money into ticket sales that it would be a waste not to get another blog entry out of it. And besides, I know hearing my thoughts on films is what you guys live for. So without further ado, here’s Movie Review Lightning Round!!

CLOUD ATLAS

I liked Cloud Atlas quite a bit for the sheer scope of it. It’s best synopsized as “Six visually stunning short films with broadly similar themes and the same cast in variously garish makeup, running together simultaneously.” The diversity of locations, effects, and especially tones (the story set in 2012 is largely a comedy in the vein of Monty Python, while the next story chronologically is a technicolor dystopian romance/tragedy) could have been too schizophrenic, but deft editing ties all of them together continuously while maintaining the right emotions for each. My only complaint is that after the wonder of these characters interacting and influencing one another over and over in different contexts wears off, the film is somewhat hollow. Statements like “love is good, freedom is good, selfishness is bad” apply here, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff, and a film of this magnitude deserves themes that will be talked about along with technical proficiency. Still, it’s one of the most interesting film experiences I’ve had all year, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out sometime.

RATING: THREE STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

ARGO

As a fan of the Canadian Caper, I was really looking forward to this movie, and it did not disappoint. Argo captures the tension and stakes of the operation perfectly, and managed to keep me hooked and on edge even as I knew from the get-go how it would end. Ben Affleck’s eye for detail and period elements is great, and there are a number of phenomenal performances, especially by bit players like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. Affleck’s acting is good but not great, but if a starring role for him is the price we have to pay to get movies like this and The Town, I’m more than willing to pay. A clear Best Picture contender.

RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

WRECK-IT RALPH

You can read my review in full here, but suffice to say I enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph immensely. Great characters, fun concepts, and although I think it loses a bit of imagination as it goes on, it’s a worthy addition to the Disney Animated Films legacy.

RATING: FOUR STARTS (OUT OF FOUR)

SKYFALL

I didn’t review Skyfall as much as I philosophized on it at length. If it wasn’t clear, I loved it. It’s the best Bond film in about two decades, and one of my favorites overall. Daniel Craig finally “becomes” James Bond, and the film establishes a clear way forward for a franchise which struggles to stay relevant. A treat for the eyes and ears.

RATING: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

FLIGHT

I was glad to see Robert Zemeckis finally let go of his dream for all films to involve weird motion-capture animation, at least for now. That said, I was a little disappointed with Flight. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got. This may have been as much my fault as the movie’s, but there it is. Denzel Washington does a great job portraying the realities of alcoholism, and the meditations on religious faith were interesting (and not something I’ve seen often in Zemeckis’ work), but overall this felt like a film taking a lot of time to say very little. The plane crash scene may be the most gripping sequence I’ve seen in theatres this year though, and I can’t stay mad at a movie with John Goodman as a freewheeling drug dealer for too long. (As a sidenote, can we get John Goodman as a small but scene-stealing role in every film from now on? Cool, thanks.)

RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

LINCOLN

There’s a lot to like in Lincoln. Great performances by Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field, among others. A great score. Some beautiful cinematography. But at the same time, it felt like this movie was lacking something important. It’s rather myopically focused on the passage of of the Thirteenth Amendment, and it lacks the varied viewpoint characters teased by the opening scene, in the aftermath of a battle. It dives quickly and deeply into a political landscape almost totally alien to viewers in 2012, and is a bit dry and heavy to follow easily. My brother offered the comparison of “a really weird period episode of The West Wing,” which isn’t too far off. I didn’t come away from it feeling like I had any greater insight to Lincoln, the president, nor Lincoln, the man. But it does contain a number of rousing speeches and great character moments, and these are worth seeing at least the one time.

RATING: TWO STARS (OUT OF FOUR)


Shaken, not stirred: Skyfall and the legacy and future of James Bond

Skyfall, the 23rd entry into the James Bond film franchise, had a rough development initially, due to MGM’s bankruptcy. More than that, though, it followed the comparatively poorly-received Quantum of Solace. Skepticism abounded after rumors of Bond forgoing a medium dry vodka martini for Heineken. What was Sam Mendes thinking? But thankfully (so, so thankfully), Skyfall is another entry into the core Bond canon, one that understands and respects the character and franchise’s lineage as it goes forward.

James Bond was created out of Ian Fleming’s military experience as a superman to fight the Russians on the stage of popular culture. He is the quintessential secret agent, defined as much by his tastes and his proclivities as his actions. The tuxedo, the martinis, the women and the quips; these are James Bond in the same way Connery or Moore or anyone else is. It’s the trappings of the story that capture our imagination. The sexy, smooth secret agent fighting the bad guys.

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Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph has reportedly been in some stage of development since the late 1980s, which is something I can’t help but marvel at. Video games and their effect on popular culture have changed so much in the past few decades that it’s clear Wreck-It Ralph has been a number of films, and it’s interesting to imagine how different it would’ve been had it come out ten or even five years ago. But that’s neither here nor there. The fact of the matter is that Wreck-It Ralph is a clever, stylish love letter to video games that both longtime fans and casual audiences can enjoy.

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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

It’s kind of hard to talk about The Dark Knight Rises without the context of the rest of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series, and the reaction to them. Nolan’s hyper-realisitc take on the Batman mythos began with Batman Begins, but it was the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight which received widespread critical acclaim, in large part for the late Heath Ledger’s gripping portrayal of Batman’s nemesis the Joker. Personally, I believe that The Dark Knight is a good movie which is largely carried by Ledger and Aaron Eckhart’s (Two-Face) performances. However, I think it’s reached a level of deification among fans that it doesn’t deserve, and I wasn’t hugely excited for TDKR, since it lacked the elements which drew me to The Dark Knight.

BOY, was I wrong. The Dark Knight Rises is phenomenal, a fitting end to the series which ties elements of Batman Begins to themes explored in The Dark Knight, while simultaneously adapting and homaging a number of seminal Batman storylines. It’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t seen it, since historically the execution of a lot of these things has faltered. But as far as I’m concerned, TDKR tops The Dark Knight. Let’s take a look at why. (Mild spoilers ahead. Nothing too terrible, but don’t read if you want to go in completely cold.)

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Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

This summer, a lot of people have asked,”Do we really need another Spider-Man movie?” This is a ridiculous question. Of course we don’t need another Spider-Man movie. We also don’t need another Batman movie, or air conditioning, or multiple pairs of shoes. But all of these things are available to us, for one reason or another (in this movie’s case, it’s thanks in no small part to Sony’s desire to keep the movie rights to Spider-Man rather than letting them revert to Marvel Studios), so we may as well take advantage of them. So, is Amazing Spider-Man better or worse than the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy?

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Movie Review (and some musings): The Avengers

As of right now, The Avengers has had the largest opening weekend of any film in history. It’s received rave reviews, and generated its share of controversy. You probably have an idea of whether or not you’re going to see it, if you haven’t seen it already. But in case you need my take on it to convince you, here it is: The Avengers is really, really good. Not perfect, not the best movie I have ever seen in my life, but a genuinely enjoyable, funny, well-written and acted summer blockbuster which is definitely worth seeing.

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A Discussion of The Cabin in The Woods (with plenty of spoilers)

I’ve seen The Cabin in the Woods twice now, and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit.  As most of you are probably aware, it relies heavily on the audience being unaware of a lot of the elements going in (I’d say “twists,” but that’s not exactly what’s going on here, at least not in the usual M. Night Shyamalan sense).  Most reviews have focused on broad strokes, giving a rough appraisal without spoiling anything.  I think that’s good, but I’m also interested to hear what people thought of specific elements and choice the film made.

SPOILER: At no point does the cabin literally change shape like a giant Rubik's Cube.

Thus, I’m posting a recap/discussion of some of the elements of the film.  Obviously, it’s going to involve spoilers.  If you haven’t seen The Cabin in the Woods yet, stop reading this and go out and see it.  Don’t read any other reviews, don’t even watch the trailer, just see it.  It’s not really very scary, and it’s definitely worth seeing.  You won’t really have much of an opinion or anything to discuss regarding what I’m about to say if you haven’t seen it.

So seriously, spoilers ahead.  Don’t read unless you’ve seen it.

Ok?

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