Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger review; it's a great superhero film

Captain America is one of the most beloved Marvel Superheros ever. It's kind of sad that it took this long to get his own movie considering what he represents.  The character of Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, is an interesting one.  He is small, puny and wants nothing more than to be a soldier in the U.S. Military.  When a doctor creates a serum to help him become physically superior soldier, that's when all the fun happens.  Let's go!

What I liked about the movie:
The Cast
The cast, both starring and supporting, were very impressive in this movie.  I didn't know how to feel about Chris Evans as Captain America.  I always thought he was a good actor for genre films, but didn't know if he could command attention as a superhero.  Rest assured, he's great!  In the first act, pre-serum injections, his acting ability really comes through.  The audience will feel sympathy for the kid from Brooklyn who wants nothing more than to serve his country.  Evans shows us that Steve Rogers was a good MAN, way before he was a good superhero.  Nicely Done!

The supporting cast was very awesome!  Hugo Weaving as the main villain, Red Skull, was great.  Even the cheesy accent was ok with me.  Weaving has the voice, arrogance and presence needed to play the villain.  I enjoyed his work very much.  Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter was a delight on screen, not the usual damsel in distress.  Tommy Lee Jones plays a perfect Colonel in the Military, he is compassionate enough for us to care about him, but stern enough to lead in a war.  Stanley Tucci... is there anything Tucci can't do?!  He's awesome as the Doctor who invents the serum for Steve Rogers.  Sebastian Stan plays Bucky, Steve Rogers best friend, nicely done by the young actor. 

The Setting
The movie mostly takes place during World War II.  The production design team does such an amazing job with the set pieces, the costumes, etc.  What's also impressive is the lighting, and camera work.  Shelly Johnson used just the right lighting that gave the movie an older feel without overdoing it.  It was nice to see a superhero film that wasn't in modern day times.

The Story / Writing
Simple, easy to follow and exciting.  Hugo Weaving's character believes in "magic" which was stolen from Odin's vault.  It is the Cosmic Cube which has been referenced in the Marvel Universe of films.  It has a great deal of power and, if harnessed correctly, could destroy every major city in the world.  Captain America and company must stop Red Skull from doing so.  The writing is clever and I never rolled my eyes at any horrible dialogue.  The writers were clever and even made fun of the Captain America suit before we could as an audience.  I love when writers acknowledge things like that without making it obvious! 

What I liked and didn't like about the film:
The Director
Joe Johnston has done a lot of work in Hollywood.  He made a great name for himself with popular films like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, The Rocketeer, Jumanji, October Sky and Jurassic Park III.  I think he's a good storyteller, but there are aspects of his films that just don't click.  His movies always look great, he can always get a terrific cast to work with him, and the stories are usually pretty enticing.  I will tell you this, this movie is MUCH better than the atrocious The Wolfman from a few years ago.  Most of the things I enjoyed in the film are because of him.  As are the things I didn't enjoy.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Action
It's too bad, this is an action film and the action is silly.  There are multiple action scenes with hundreds of henchmen at war with our Military.  Henchmen and soldiers alike are being killed so often, we don't feel any real loss.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, action should only compliment the story, not take it over.  The final action sequence was impressive though with many intricate camera shots.  Didn't totally leave a sour taste in my mouth.

The Score
I feel I pay very close attention to film scores.  I can tell you which ones work and which ones don't in my opinion.  The average movie going public probably doesn't even care, but I do!  It didn't evoke emotion, it didn't make me care and I never felt like I was pulled into 100%.  The score should have been big, uplifting even.  This is Captain America damn it!  He's viewed as the leader of The Avengers and the score should have matched.

The Verdict:
Liked it very much
I enjoyed the movie very much.  I know I listed a few things I didn't like, but they weren't deal breakers.  It was great to see a modern day superhero in the past.  We grow with the character, figuratively and literally.  Steve Rogers is a good man who just lacked the physical stature to do great things.  He stood up for those who are bullied and did what was right.  I can't wait for The Avengers next year, it will be another chance to see Captain America in action!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin trailer and poster

Aww Spielberg, I love your films, I really do. First I posted the trailer to War Horse, and now this.  The computer animated, The Adventures of Tintin.  Watch the trailer and read my thoughts below...

It looks like such a fun movie! A lot of wonder and imagination too. I love the look of the film, the animation is stunning! I don't usually go to the theater for animated films (minus Toy Story 3), but I may have to make an exception for this.  What about you all?  Good, bad, ugly?

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol trailer

Let the trailer fest continue. This is better late then never. The spy games continue, with or without Tom Cruise in the next installment of the Mission:Impossible franchise.  The film stars Cruise and newcomer to the team, Jeremy Renner, who will take over the lead in the franchise.  It is being directed by Brad Bird and looks pretty darn good.  Check it out:

War Horse trailer

I'm going to continue the trailer train... Next up is War Horse from Steven Spielberg.  It takes place during World War I and " the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets".  Sound good?  Take a look at the trailer!

Guess of how many nominations this wins? I'm going to say 7, just to keep it interesting. It looks good, a sweeping epic indeed. What do you all think?

Batman: Year One animated movie trailer

If you're a fan of Batman, you're going to love this trailer.  It is for the upcoming DC Animated Universe DVD; Batman: Year One.  The same graphic novel by Frank Miller that redefined the character to the one we know today.  If it isn't for Frank Miller, there is no Christopher Nolan's interpretation of the character.  Enjoy the trailer and let us know what you think.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rango DVD review

Rango was so far under my radar, I didn't post ANYTHING about it on this blog.  I don't know why, but I really had no desire to see it.  It made a lot of money in the theaters and received a lot of praise in the process.  It received an impressive 88% positive reviews on Well, I waited until the Blu-Ray came out and whoa... let's begin.

What I liked about the movie:
The Storytelling
Johnny Depp plays the loveable lizard in this animated western.  Depp plays Rango, a lizard who loves to act.  After a few twists of fate, and some clever acting, he ends up the Sheriff in a small town called Dirt.  The western aspect of the film ensues.  I don't want to talk plot, but the story is terrific.  Rango and his new found friends take off for a grand adventure.  What's beautiful are all the intricacies they built into the story.  For instance: It's the desert, so naturally, the currency for the city of Dirt is water.  Brilliant (sort of like The Book of Eli too, but don't tell anyone).  Those kinds of details are what made Pixar the juggernaut it is today.  There is so much adventure to be had, computer animation was the perfect medium for this story.  Well done. 

The Voice Actors
Depp is always awesome, but there are so many others in this film.  Isla Fisher plays Rango's pal Beans.  Also in the film: Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy and Timothy Olyphant just to name a few!  What's great about this movie is the way the voices were recorded.  The actors acted out their parts as if they were recording a live-action film.  This gave the actors the real feel for their characters' movements and speech.  

It's Smart!
I really wouldn't say this movie is for kids.  There are a lot of smart jokes that small children may not understand.  Granted the movie looks amazing, and that alone can keep a child occupied; but the jokes are so smart.  I know it sounds funny referring to Rango as a person, but the animators made him so interesting.  The dialogue is delivered beautifully by Depp.  And, the animators play off of a lot of western films' cliches. 

The Emotion
Maybe I'm getting a little soft in my old age, but I love the story of friendship.  The movie plays out very nicely and gives the characters an arc.  But what is great is the relationship between Rango and his friend Beans (Fisher).  She's the smart and savvy girl to save his butt in trouble.  I enjoyed the dynamic they created for them. 

What I didn't like about the movie:
The Stupid Birds
I'm not a fan of mariachi bands, so that's probably a large part of why I didn't like these characters.  They narrate the film through mariachi sing-song, and I didn't like it at all.  In fact, I was fast forwarding towards the end of the movie, right past them.  I know, I know I'm supposed to do that, but man they're annoying.

The Length
There are times when the movie is so slow.  It comes in at 107 minutes, that's a lot for an animated film.  ONLY A FEW TIMES, the movie had to fight to hold my attention, imagine a whiny kid at the theater, wow. 

The Verdict:
It's too good not to buy!
The story is engaging, the animation is beautiful, the actors kill it, what more do you want!  There's a moral to the story for the kids, and smart jokes for the adults.  Plus, there is so much to see on screen, a second and third viewing will be essential. 

The Blu-ray/DVD combo:
Tons of Goodies
There's an alternate ending, 10 deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes, a look at the real creatures in the movie, and and and.  There are so many goodies on this Blu-Ray.  I really enjoyed watching them all.  There are also some games for the kids to play with.  Overall, a great movie and an even better Blu-Ray offering.  Bravo.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 review

I'm one of those late arrivals to the Harry Potter world.  I never read any of J.K.Rowling books about the boy who lived.  I didn't know anything about the wizarding world, or witches, or where Hogwarts was.  I saw the first three films in the theaters, but skipped the rest.  Now?  Now, I love everything about the movies.  A few months ago when Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released on DVD; I started a Harry Potter marathon from the beginning.  I watched them all in order.  Since then, I've watched all the DVDs, four times.  That's 28 viewings of Harry Potter films all leading up to this.  The epic conclusion to the most successful (critical and commercial) series in cinema history.  Let me begin.

What I liked about the movie:
The Story
If this isn't obvious, I don't know what is.  An orphan wizard, magic spells, and an unknown connection to an evil wizard named Volemort.  The movie is easy to follow as a lot of the set up was done in earlier movies.  This is a balls to the wall action epic.  The final battle between Harry and the wizards against Voldemort and his army.  You really must see the previous films to fully appreciate the conclusions in this film.  The one thing that is important above all else... above all the explosions and magic and spells is simple... friendship.  The story of three best friends and their journey to this epic conclusion is unmatched by any other film I've ever seen.  THAT'S ultimately why these movies are so satisfying to so many people.  I don't want to say too much more, if you were looking for a plot summary, this review is not the place.

Characters / Actors
As with any great story, there must be great characters. And for 10+ years, the world enjoyed these characters.  Rowling has given the world so much.  And what this film has been able to do is showcase them all. 

I believe the supporting cast must be recognized.  The marvelous Ralph Fiennes as the evil Lord Voldemort.  Alan Rickman as the mysterious Snape.  Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange.  Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton as Lucious and Draco Malfoy.  Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom.  And the lovely Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonagall.  There are many more.  Maybe they weren't showcased for long periods of time, but every hero, every villain and every wizard in between is included in the story.

Then there are the three main characters, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) who really shine.  Their character development is key to the success of the film.  They each go through a transition and grow as a character.  It's amazing to think the producers have been able to keep all the same actors in tact for this epic series of films.  The best scenes in the movie involve the three best friends.  Like I've been saying all week... Harry, Ron and Hermione... I'll miss you.

The Score
The theme to Harry Potter was written back when the first film was released, by none other than John Williams.  The same brilliant man that brought us the scores to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman and so many more.  Alexandre Desplat scored HP and TDH Part 1, so it is fitting that he has returned to score the finale.  The score is beautiful.  I actually purchased it yesterday and I am listening to it as I type this review. 

The emotional weight of the score is vital to the story (you're going to read a lot about the emotional weight of the film in this review).  The music alone tells the story.  I was chatting with a friend about the film and told her I could discuss the score alone for hours.  And I really could.  The score was so impressive in relaying the emotion as well has elevating the action.  It was was enough to put me on the edge of my seat, literally.  And never forgetting the original theme created by Williams, it is weaved into this film as well.  Bravo Mr. Desplat.

The Editing / Pacing / Tone
This is something that doesn't get a lot of recognition in Hollywood, but it is so important to a movie like this.  If the editing and pacing is off, the entire movie crumbles.  You know by now there is a lot of emotion and also action in the movie.  How do you work those two together?  The editing is key.  Mark Day did an amazing job of keeping the film nice and neat.  There is no deviating from the plan.  For the most part, the film is told in chronological order, and there was a lot to cover.  The tone was perfect as well.  And I believe it is the marriage of cinematography, editing and score that sets the tone.  Great all around!

The Director
Really, what the score, editing, pacing and tone all come down to is the work of David Yates.  Yates has directed the last four Harry Potter films in the series.  And there is a reason for that.  He understood the material, he understood the world.  The producers of the films understood Yates is a fantastic director.  His work on this film proves you could have a huge Summer blockbuster, and still carry the emotional weight of a drama.  It was perfectly balanced and Yates is the man to thank.

What I didn't like about the movie:
Ironically, this is the shortest film in series.  If only that wasn't the case.  I understood Warner Brothers' motivation for splitting the two films in half.  But in retrospect, I wouldn't have split the movies where Yates did.  I would have included some of Part 1 in Part 2.  Just my opinion.  Maybe it's because I didn't want it to be over I was enjoying it so much! 

The Verdict:
Amazing, what all Summer movies should be
We've come to expect explosions and special effects in our Summer movies.  But what we are missing in most of those films is the emotional weight to make us care.  I know I keep repeating myself, but this movie made us care.  We felt invested in these characters and the final outcome of their stories.  This all goes back to Rowling and her writing.  Without her imagination, none of this comes true.  Brilliant, simply brilliant.

While watching some of the special features, the producers refer to the films as a series, NOT a franchise. This is true; the movies are a series spanning 8 films to tell an overall story. It's not a franchise of unrelated events.  So to see the 8th and final film combine so much was amazing.  There are aspects and remnants of all the prior movies in this film. 

It was difficult to say goodbye to all the amazing characters, but the beauty of cinema is this... great stories and great films stay with us, forever.  Whether it's E.T. and Elliot's remarkable friendship, or Harry, Ron and Hermione causing trouble... we're reminded, through film, of what it was like to be a kid again.  I sat next to a little boy at a sold out screening and was mesmerized by his reaction to the film.  He laughed, he cried and he covered his eyes at times.  But he was so engaged in the film, it was an awesome sight.  Movies like Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 give me hope for the future of cinema. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises poster, a trailer attached to Harry Potter film

Click to Enlarge

Fans went nuts when the first official photo from The Dark Knight Rises was released.  It showed a hunched over Tom Hardy as Bane, looking ripped and scary as hell.  Yesterday the first official poster was released.  As simple as it is, it has Batman fans excited as can be.  I know I am.  Sure it's simple, but it screams chaos.  He shows destruction and mayhem without saying a word.  It also appears to have a bat 'rising' up above the building.  Very creative and aggressive marketing.  I really like it.

The kicker is this... the first official trailer is going to be shown ahead of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 this weekend.  It's official and it sounds like it's going to be awesome!  As if I needed another reason to go watch Harry Potter this weekend?!  Stay tuned for the official trailer which should be online next week.  There's no point in posting the bootleg (which I refuse to see), it will just get taken down.  What do you think of the poster?!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows posters and trailer... did you expect less than awesome?

Seriously? Did we expect anything less from the duo of Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Ritchie?  The first Sherlock Holmes film was a massive hit.  It was a fun film with a lot of action and humor to keep us occupied for two hours.  Now comes the trailer to the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Missing is the beautiful Rachel McAdams, but we get the lovely Noomi Rapace and returning, Jude Law.  It's the franchises first stab at the villain Professor Moriaty, played by Jared Harris.  Check it out and tell us what you think!

Edward Norton may play the villain in The Bourne Legacy

It's been a long time since I've blogged about the next 'Bourne' film, titled The Bourne Legacy.  Maybe because it doesn't feel right without Matt Damon?  But, Hollywood doesn't care what I think.  A fourth Bourne film will be made and it will star Jeremy Renner in the part made famous by Damon.  I'm ok with the casting of Renner, he will do great, no doubt.  That's three viable franchises at once folks.  The Bourne films, The Avengers (where he'll play Hawkeye), and the Mission: Impossible films he's taking over from Tom Cruise

Today comes rumors that Edward Norton could play the villain.  This is spectacular because you all should know I think Norton is a great actor.  Yes, I also think he's a jerk and that's why directors can't work with him.  But he knows how to play a villain.  I doubt this movie will have a goofy tone the way his character was portrayed in The Italian Job; I think it will be darker like the world Matt Damon inhabited.  Either way, I'm psyched about the casting rumor and hope it's true.  Anyone else think Norton is worth the trouble?