Tag Archives: Review

V/H/S transcends cinematic boundaries

When I tell people I’m into watching and making horror films, some try to shrivel into themselves like a turtle – with others, you practically hear the eyes rolling in their heads.  They seem to chalk the entire genre up to consisting merely of the ghoulish or the cheap trick, whereas, I’ve found the horror genre to be fertile ground for exploring human tragedies (The Descent) or tinkering with our own mythologies (zombies, vampires, etc.).

Horror films to me aren’t scary; there remains a distance.  It’s always a guy in a rubber mask, the knife is fake, and the dark is nothing to be afraid of.  There are always cinematic artifices that maintain the boundaries between reality and fiction: a film’s score, the editing, or the spectacle of special effects.  Even as a child I don’t know if I’ve ever been truly disturbed, unsettled at my core, by a horror film

Until now. Continue reading

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DVD Tuesday: Inside Job

When the envelope was opened last Sunday, one of my favorite films from last year, Exit Through the Gift Shop, lost to a documentary I had yet to see. Anticipating some of Banksy’s potential antics, I blamed the result on the Academy voting against the elusive artist instead of voting for any given film. Now that Inside Job has come out on DVD, I see that they were completely right. Exit Through the Gift Shop remains one of my favorite films of the year, but if ever a documentary deserved that Oscar, it’s this one: a film so relevant, so timely, and so perfectly executed that it has earned all of its recognition. Continue reading

Iron Man 2: At Length

I believe some of us (I hope most of us) go see the Iron Man movies for the comedy-action qualities as opposed to mere action segments.  Continuing in the footsteps of Iron Man, Iron Man 2 keeps up the wit and humor, never taking itself to seriously like those other, lesser, films featuring fighting robots.

This time around we have Mickey Rourke as Russian villain, Ivan Vanko/Whiplash.  After Ivan’s father Anton dies, he swears to bring vengeance on the Stark family as Anton helped create the arc reactor that vaults Tony Stark to even higher notoriety.

Meanwhile, Stark has problems of his own: Congress is busting his balls for not turning over “the Iron Man weapon” and his drinking habit comes to light when the arc reactor in his chest begins to poison him.  His computer J.A.R.V.I.S. quips that what’s keeping him alive is killing him.

Using an arc reactor based off his father’s schematics, Whiplash confronts Stark with electric whips that nearly kills him even with the Iron Man gear.  However, after Stark embarrassed competing weapons manufacturer, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Hammer decides to break Ivan out of jail in an effort to outdo Stark’s technology.

With Whiplash’s attack using Iron Man-like technology, Stark drinking, and refusing to hand over Iron Man suits to the U.S. military, Lt. Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle) steals one of the shiny suits.  Upon turning it over to his superiors, it is utilized by Hammer to refine his robot army.  These events bring S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) into the fracas, as Stark’s new personal assistant, Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) is actually S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow in the comics) assigned to Stark to keep an eye on things.  From there of course, let the battle between good and evil begin.

One of the biggest concerns leading up to Iron Man 2‘s release was the cascading waterfall of characters to be featured, resurrecting Spider-Man 3 flashbacks in the minds of geeks the world over.  I’m happy to say that the film delicately balances the spinning plates: though we don’t see a lot of Ivan/Whiplash, this works in his favor as the few moments we see him establish him as an unforgiving, Russian brute (I won’t get into the identity politics…for now); Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is an incredibly smarmy, wannabe Tony Stark, and Rockwell sells his impotence with convincing sincerity; and even though director Jon Favreau included Scarlett Johansson as competing eye candy to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Pots  for Stark and audience alike, Johansson’s brief fight scenes actually convinced me of her ability to kick some ass.  And I don’t even need to detail Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance: he’s great and he’s the reason we watch Iron Man.

So great cast, great writing (sans the few groan worthy lines from Iron Man), and an okay story.  Setting up Natalie and Pepper as competition for Stark’s heart adds a nice touch of sincerity to the film as well.  Though Natalie may be prettier than Pepper in some ways, Pepper and Stark are too alike in age, looks,  and intellect to not be with each other.  They’ve shared a lot of the years, so it’s sweet to see the guy go for the right girl instead of just the hot one.

There are a few minor hiccups:

MINOR SPOILER, SKIP PARAGRAPH

In the first film, the amazing thing about the arc reactor was its cheap, easy power, but in this film the arc reactor in Stark’s chest needs fuel of some sort that then requires Stark to artificially create a new element to sustain it.

After the big showdown, did we really need Stark to save Pepper Pots at the last second?  She totally succumbs to “damsel in distress” scripting and it’s just silly given what we know about her.

And finally, can we move away from Tony Stark regularly fighting dudes in revamped Iron Man outfits?

SPOILER ALERT OVER

There are also a few nerd moments: in the first Iron Man some fans spotted Captain America’s shield in the background on Stark’s workbench and it’s back

When we see Rhodes for the first time, Stark is surprised, but definitely on two levels: for the film’s story (“Oh, so surprised that you’ve arrived Rhodie”) and to acknowledge the audience’s surprise given the now infamous switch of actors for Rhodes, from Terrance Howard to Don Cheadle.  Cheadle says to Stark’s surprise, “I’m here, deal with it.”  Take note fanboys.

And I shouldn’t even have to tell you this, but stay after the credits (hell, you should stay for the credits for all films; you’ll better  appreciate how much work they require if you do, so show some respect)

Iron Man 2 outdoes the first (an accomplishment) and manages to be entertaining, not for the special effects, but due to quality cast and writing.  Even more impressive is that it expanded to fit more story and more characters, yet didn’t explode like a Gallagher melon.  Iron Man 2?  I approve.

Daybreakers: I Am Legend II, Even Lengendarier (I mean that in a good way)

Daybreakers teaser poster.

When my friend Jesse and I saw the initial ads for Daybreakers, he commented, “This looks like a sequel to I Am Legend [the book, not the movie].”  There are plenty of reasons for this:  I Am Legend left us with a world of vampire-like beings and a minority of humans–and that’s where Daybreakers picks up.  Society has adapted to serve the needs of the new vampire majority, as cars warn drivers of UV light, coffee/blood stands are in the subways, humans are “farmed” for their blood, and there is even a vampire army. Continue reading

Avatar: “Totally racist, dude.”

After many years of leaving us to wallow in superhero films, James Cameron has returned with one of the most hyped films…well since Transformers 2.

After seeing trailers, stills, some clips and words from the director himself, you might be concerned that it might just be another bloated CGI wankfest ready to pick up the quick cash during the opening weekend and make way for the DVD.  Sure, Avatar does business just like the others, but it’s not as bad as Wolverine…but that’s not saying much.

Continue reading

Moon Review

With this intriguing trailer, a score by Clint Mansell (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain), and Sam Rockwell starring as technician Sam Bell, I will admit to having some expectations. I would also say that most people intrigued by this film are going to be sci-fi nerds familiar with notable scif-fi movies.

Therein lies the problem with Moon: if you’ve seen Blade Runner, you’re just getting a rehash. Yes, the set design and CGI are great, especially when find out they did with a 5 million dollar budget. Clint Mansell’s score adds depth, tension, and excitement. Sam Rockwell playing two different characters: wonderful, he does a great job.

However the story falls flat after the first twenty minutes as you then predict the entire plot of the film and it doesn’t help that they reveal a major plot point in the trailer.

SPOILER ALERT (scroll down till you hit SPOILER ALERT OVER to read the conclusion)

Because after I saw the trailer I immediately predicted the film’s twists based on my knowledge of Blade Runner: Rockwell plays a clone created by a mining corporation who have implanted false memories of a life he’s never lived. The film further rides the Blade Runner band wagon when Sam looks sickly and starts coughing up blood… Surprise, surprise, the clones have a shelf life of three years!

The only part of the film in which you benefit from seeing previous sci-fi films is the send up to 2001: A Space Odyssey. During the film you wonder if the Kevin Spacey robot, Gerty, is going to be another whacked out HAL 9000: is he trying to hide the truth from Sam? Will he kill him for knowing too much? The filmmakers play with this expectation and is an upside for the film’s story. Since it is not the focus though, it still can’t make up for the Blade Runner fleecing.

And on a final spoiler note, the ending felt weak: as Sam Bell (at least one of them) is re-entering Earth’s atmosphere we hear radio broadcasts of his story being told.

One, the audience doesn’t really need to know if he got to Earth safely to feel good about the film. The fact that he escaped the Moon base at all is the payoff: he got free and there’s hope. So to clarify the point, and to do so with such casual briefness felt like both a disservice to the audience and the character.

SPOILER ALERT OVER

If you’re just getting into sci-fi movies, this is a great introduction. I will admit, even if you’re a veteran, it isn’t necessarily horrible either, as I mentioned the acting and technical achievements are evident. Just don’t expect any surprises.

I looked for a Moon poster and this was all I got.  :shudder:

I looked for a Moon poster and this was all I got. :shudder: