Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Heat review; a hilarious cop comedy

A few Summers ago, I was in love with Bridesmaids.  It was a movie with an all female cast, that had me rolling with laughter.  The director?  Paul Feig.  He lead a cast of women, including Melissa McCarthy, towards box office gold.  Even landing McCarthy an Oscar nomination.  Fast forward 2 years, Feig and McCarthy reunite!  The Heat stars McCarthy as a local Boston cop, along side Sandra Bullock.  Bullock plays an FBI agent and she's teamed up with McCarthy to prove she can work with others.  On-screen chemistry explodes in this hilarious film.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Actors/Chemistry
You know, I always talk about chemistry in films.  And to me, it's such an important thing to have between actors.  McCarthy and Bullock are dynamite on-screen!  They play such polar opposites but it never felt forced.  It felt like these were two women that came together under extreme circumstances and are now forced to work with each other.  Bullock plays a stuffed shirt FBI agent, while McCarthy plays a short-tempered local cop.  And their scenes are hilarious.  I honestly kept looking forward to the next time the pair were going to be on screen.

I think it's also important to note that, because of the two terrific leads, the movie carries some emotional weight.  These women are the way that they are for reasons that far preceded the events of this film.  And the actors gave us a peak into these women's history, I really enjoyed that.  The soft, emotional scenes didn't feel fabricated, they felt authentic to me.  When the women begin to respect one another, it's not instantaneous or in your face.  It's subtle and authentic.  I really couldn't get enough of these two funny ladies.

There were some nice supporting actor performances as well.  Believe it or not, Marlon Wayans plays a pretty straight forward character, unlike his usual comedic roles.  Michael Rapaport plays McCarthy's brother and they have some hilarious scenes together.

The Director
Paul Feig has such a knack for comedy.  He just knows how to let the actors do their thing.  And what I mean by that is, improv.  Katie Dippold wrote a decent enough script for our two leads, but Feig obviously gave them the creative freedom to improv some memorable scenes.  I loved this.  McCarthy could probably riff for hours if Feig let her.  And there are some scenes where it's very apparent there was very little coming from the actors that was in a script.  But believe it or not, he never lets them stray too far, as to take the audience out of the scene.  He understand actors, and he understands comedic timing, just awesome work!

What I didn't like about the film:
The Story/Villain
The story is silly.  The villain is terrible.  And it's ok!  I was more than willing to look past these two negatives when it came to seeing McCarthy and Bullock go at it.  But I can't get past the fact that the story and villain are just plain stupid.  It all goes wrong in the second act where too many extremes take place; just so we can keep the main characters busy and 'involved' in the case.  I'm ok with this, really, but I'd like to think I know a thing or two about movies, and this story was just silly.

The Verdict:
Can't Wait for the Blu-Ray
I really really enjoyed this film.  I was laughing so hard my wife was sending me forearm shivers to keep me quite.  I was in a theater packed with people and they all seemed to agree with my feelings; often times the theater roared with laughter.  So loud sometimes that I couldn't hear the next few lines of dialogue.  And that's what I love about the movie going experience.  When you watch a movie like The Heat, and the audience is that into it, the energy is contagious.  Loved the actors, ignored the silly story, and I can't wait for the Blu-Ray so I can watch this movie over and over again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Now You See Me review; please make it disappear

An action-thriller about magicians stealing from the rich, to give to the poor; sounds pretty cool right?  The movie is Now You See Me, directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter).  It's got a great cast too!  Jesse Eisenberg as the leader of this magic group called the Four Horseman.  Woody Harrelson plays a hypnotist and brings some comedic flare to the party.  Isla Fisher plays a sexy escape artist.  And the final Horseman is Dave Franco, who plays a pickpocket turned magician.  I actually saw this film a few weeks ago, but with all the Man of Steel hype, I simply haven't had time to post my review.  But now I want to tell you about the movie, and the rest of the cast, so let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Cast
I mentioned the main characters/actors in the introduction.  Eisenberg will definitely remind people of his snarky self in The Social Network.  It was good and worked well for this character.  Harrelson is just awesome, isn't he?  How come he's not mentioned in the same conversations at Jeff Bridges and John Goodman as one of those great character actors that just delivers every time?  He's really funny in this film.  Fisher doesn't really have much to work with here, she inadvertently ends up a side-kick character.  Franco is great with his comedic timing, but when asked to pull off drama in a role, I think he misses the mark.  Great ensemble casting nonetheless.

And there are a few more actors that need to be mentioned as well.  Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are great in the film, with their limited screen time.  Caine plays the financier of the group's magic act.  And Freeman plays a man hellbent on exposing magicians as frauds, and he makes a good living doing it.  Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) plays an assistant FBI Agent and I just fell in love with her.  She's plays this really smart, sexy, and genuinely curious character.  I couldn't take my eyes off her the entire film.  Good stuff.

The Magic
I am a sucker for magic.  I've never denied this fact.  And I loved the magic in the movie, but not necessarily in the way portrayed in the trailers.  Let me explain.  The movie somewhat follows the format of an action film.  There are three 'action' (magic) sequences in the film.  That's not the stuff I liked.  I'll get to why I didn't like it in a minute.  I like the more minimal magic.  The slight of hand, the card tricks, the traditional stuff!  That is what mystified me as a kid, and continues to do so now.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Story/Mark Ruffalo
The story, was plain stupid.  Without spoiling anything, it's a total knock off of The Count of Monte Cristo, but isn't executed NEARLY as well as that film.  From about 30 minutes in, it's one eye roll after the other.  I think I was hoping for a story that was much more grounded in reality, like The Prestige, or The Illusionist. Instead we're given a million coincidences to believe while suspending our disbelief.  I hated the story.  And I'm sorry, but Mark Ruffalo just totally over-acts this entire role.  He's an FBI Agent who will do whatever it takes to capture the Horseman, you know... because they're stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  The conclusion will have you shaking your head and rolling your eyes at the same time.  Oh and heads up, if you're a movie fan of any kind, you'll see the ending coming with about 45 minutes left in the film.

The Action
As I mentioned earlier, the over-the-top action, or magic sets, are terrible.  And I don't know who's at fault for this.  You see, if they don't heighten the tricks, there's no real showmanship to the Horseman's act.  And if there's no spotlight, there's no major consequences; so I get it.  But I don't like it.  The action, especially the climactic ending is so damn stupid.  It just is.  It's stupid.  Watch the movie and let me know if you were as disengaged by the action as I was.

Louis Leterrier
I've come to a conclusion... Louis Leterrier is just not a very good director.  Or he's an inconsistent director at best.  I love the original Transporter film.  And I love The Incredible Hulk even more.  But Clash of the Titans, along with this film, make me wonder.  What's the deal?  Is he being pigeonholed by the studios he works for?  Is he wandering too far from scripts?  Or are the scripts just THAT bad?  I really don't know the answers.  But, Leterrier is capable of great storytelling.  Maybe he can give us a great 'small' film before returning to these big budget action flicks.

The Verdict:
Skip This Stinker
I didn't like the film at all.  Minus some cool magic tricks at the beginning, and some great acting by the supporting characters, I disliked this film very much.  The movie is sitting at a 'Rotten' 50% on RottenTomatoes right now.  And I don't think the reviews are as polarizing as maybe Man of Steel; overall, people (myself included) just hated the story and the stupidity of it all.  I know Ruffalo and company will be fine, and they'll get my hard earned cash on the next one.  But as far as this movie goes; now you see me, and now you don't...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Man of Steel review; the Superman film we deserve

He is undoubtedly the most recognized superhero in the world.  The "S" on his chest, a symbol of hope.  We are all so familiar with this character, and his incredibly creative backstory.  Born to a dying planet, Krypton; his parents send him to earth in a spaceship.  Adopted by a couple in the state of Kansas, raised to know right from wrong.  His morals unwavering.  This is the man we all pretended to be as children.  Superman!

The first time he was depicted in film was in the 1950's.  But it wasn't until 1978, with Richard Donner at the helm, did we believe a man could fly.  The film was Superman: The Movie.  The late Christopher Reeves gave us a hero that would be permanently etched into our memories.  He embodied Superman in every way we knew the character.  There were of course subsequent sequels, three to be exact.  And in 2006, Warner Brothers would attempt to reboot the franchise.  Bryan Singer, of X-Men fame, cast Brandon Routh as this generation's would-be Superman.  The film underperformed, to say the least, and we were left wanting more.  We the audience felt we DESERVED more.  And finally, we have been given the Superman we deserve.  This is... Man of Steel.  Let's fly!

What I liked about the film:
Our Hero
When Henry Cavill was cast as Kal-El (Superman), I think it was fair to have called him a relative unknown.  That's definitely no longer the case.  Cavill nails it as our hero!  What I loved most about his performance was, it was his own.  He wasn't trying to imitate Christopher Reeves, he was playing Superman.  Clark Kent's story arc is the main attraction.  Cavill portrays Clark as a man who is trying to figure out his place in the world.  I loved this, I've never thought of Superman as a 'lost soul' before.  And he truly is!  We can not forget that he is an alien to our planet.  Through a series of flashbacks, we see Clark as a child, growing up with the Kents.  We see his parents, played by Kevin Costner and Diane Lane, teaching him to be a patient, and kind person.  And I really got the feeling that these lessons lead Clark to become the man he is today.  I think Cavill is the epitome of perfect casting.  Nicely done!

The Supporting Actors
Amy Adams plays the world famous reporter Lois Lane, in a way I've never seen before.  I remember thinking to myself, "I am not annoyed by her at all".  The character is as confident as we've ever seen her, but still shows signs of vulnerability.  Her chemistry with Cavill is dynamite!  I'll explain more on that in a moment.    Laurence Fishburne plays Editor of the famous newspaper, the Daily Planet.  It's a small role for the Oscar nominated actor, but it was a nice change of pace from what we've seen from incarnations past of the character.

Michael Shannon plays the villain, General Zod.  Zod is out to find Kal-El after Krypton was destroyed.  I would describe Shannon's portrayal of the character as safe.  He was evil, had understandable motivations, and determined to execute his plans for the future.  But he wasn't as menacing as I expected Shannon to be.  There are a few scenes with Shannon and Russell Crowe that are perfectly written and performed.  You get the sense that they have a mutual respect, but different ideologies.

Speaking of Russell Crowe, he plays Jor-El, Superman's biological father from Krypton.  The filmmakers found an ingenious way to make Crowe and integral part of the story.  There is something so Shakespearean about Crowe.  He was another example of perfect casting.  I hope I don't ensue a riot, but I believe he is better in this film than Marlon Brando was in the original 1978 film.  Ayelet Zurer (Angels and Demons) plays Laura, Kal-El's biological mother.  While she has limited screen time, she is a part of one of the most emotional scenes in the film.

The Action
The action in Superman is unrelenting fun.  The action, along with the special effects, are seriously top notch.  It shows us Superman in ways we've never seen on film.  The flight looks incredible.  Seeing Cavill in the suit for the first time brought my theater to its feet.  The action set pieces get bigger and bigger as the film moves along.  And while some of the action could be categorized as excessive, it all added something to the story.  Whether it was to portray struggle, success, morality, etc.  It all assisted in the telling of the story.  The climax in this movie is as visually stunning as it is emotionally demanding.  It will have you cheering, and crying, at the same time.  Loved it!

The Score
Hans Zimmer has accomplished the unthinkable.  He found a way to make us, maybe not forget, but put aside the iconic John Williams score that has resonated for decades.  The music in this film is beautiful.  That's the best way I can describe it.  It's big, it's bold, it's soft, it's sweet, it's inspiring, it's anxious, it's anything and everything the movie needed it to be.  I am actually listening to the soundtrack as I type this review.  Perfect!

It's Different 
(SPOILERS), Skip These 2 Paragraph to Avoid Being Spoiled:
There are so many things that are done differently in this movie that I've never seen in other Superman films, and that's a great thing!  For example, Lois Lane discovers Superman's true identity in the first half of the film.  That's huge in my opinion.  I always rolled my eyes at the fact that Lois couldn't figure out who Superman really was.  The filmmakers eliminated a lot of things that had us rolling our eyes in the past.  The suit is another example.  The got rid of the underwear on the outside,  and gave the suit a purpose, a reason to belong in the film.  The suit, along with the "S" on the chest represent Kal-El and his people.  It is a symbol of hope, much as the man himself would become.  And the Fortress of Solitude is done in a very unconventional way.  Loved the creativity to change things up, while still respecting the source material.  Gone too are the cheesy 1940's references and sayings.  You won't hear it's a bird, it's a plane... anywhere in the film.

Another thing that was different, and very creatively done was the history of Krypton.  I can't say I read the comics religiously growing up, but I don't remember any incarnation of Krypton quite like that of Man of Steel.  It answers the question... why is General Zod so hellbent on finding Kal-El on Earth?  Well, Kal-El is the first naturally conceived birth on the dying planet in centuries.  Instead of natural births, children are spawned; genetically manufactured to fill very specific needs within the civilization.  General Zod wants to restore order and claim complete power of the planet by taking out Kal-El.  How creative is that?!  It's so different, it's so clever that you say to yourself, "Yes, that makes sense to me".  Also worth noting, that Kryptonite being Superman's only weakness is gone.  Sort of.  And I'll leave it at that.  That change alone made me respect the character for not being susceptible to green rocks.

The Big 3
If Zack Snyder earned the respect of comic book fans before this film, he can now demand it!  The casting, the action set pieces, the tone, it's all Snyder.  He did a magnificent job of bringing the character to the 21st century.  Also responsible for bringing the character to the modern world, are Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer.  The dynamic duo wrote the story, and Nolan was a producer on the film.  Goyer wrote the screenplay and maybe it's not perfect, but it's a major step in the right direction.  The big 3 delivered something that will hold up for a long time to come.

What I didn't like about the film:
Where's the Character Development?
Outside of Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, there is little to no character development in this film.  I would love to know more about Jor-El and Zod's history together.  What about Lois, what is her motivation for being as dedicated a reporter as she is?  And what about the Kents?  What kind of path led them to adopt an alien child who crash landed on their farm?  I loved the flashback sequences with Clark Kent, but I wanted more.

The Pacing
The film flies by so fast (pun intended), that you almost want it to slow down.  In fact, Superman dawns his cape so early into the film, I was a bit taken back by it.  And the action comes at you with only a few breathers in between.  I wish the movie was longer!  I know that sounds crazy, considering its longer than normal run time, but I wanted more!  A good problem I think, when you consider the 2006 debacle Superman Returns, which had little to NO action in the film.

The Verdict:
The Superman Film We Deserve
This character holds a spot near and dear to my heart.  Superman was always my younger brother's favorite character.  We would stay up late as kids and watch the Christopher Reeve Superman films together and just wonder to ourselves, 'how did they do that?'  That's how majestic the character was to us.  That's how majestic film was to us.  We went to the Superman Returns premiere together in 2006, and last night, we were able to watch the Man of Steel premiere together as well.  This character has meant so much, to so many people.  And for me, he was a representation of how good people of the world could be.  It what makes me want to believe in him, even at my adult age.  And when you have a character that can survive the scrutiny that this one has, you know he will be around forever.  I am so glad we finally got the Superman film we deserved, in the Man of Steel.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man of Steel sequel is a go, and who is going to write the Justice League film?

Man of Steel doesn't come out until Friday, but word is, a sequel has already been greenlit by Warner Brothers!  Zack Snyder would return to direct the sequel, and David S. Goyer would write the film.  That's pretty cool that WB has so much confidence in the first film, that they're moving ahead with a second.  But should we get all that excited?  Three years ago, TO THE DAY, Warner Brothers greenlit a sequel to Green Lantern, before the movie was release.  Wellllll, that movie went on to bomb at the box office, and the sequel has since died.  Man of Steel does not appear to be going down the same path, as far as box office success, but who knows?  Anything could happen in Hollywood!

And another tasty morsel of news has been making the rounds today.  Not only will David S. Goyer write a Man of Steel sequel, but a Justice League film as well.  This piece of news I'm not going to get excited about.  Because to be honest with you, I'm sick of the back and forth.  We're making a JL movie!  No, we're going to wait.  We're back on for the JL movie!  Nooo, we're going to hold off a bit.  Come, on!

I will say this, I have total confidence in Goyer.  The man has been a part of a number of successful superhero franchises.  He was a part of the Blade franchise (writing and/or directing all three films).  He was a part of my favorite superhero franchise of all time, The Dark Knight trilogy.  And with mostly positive reviews so far for the Superman reboot, I'd say Goyer has cemented himself amongst the top writers in the genre.  I'm in.  I'm in.  I'm in!  I get to see Man of Steel tomorrow and hope to post the review soon after.