Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quick Takes: "Raging Bull", "Barry Lyndon", "Australia", "Inglourious Basterds"

"Raging Bull" (****)
Directed by Martin Scorsese

A rather important dot to be crossed off my gargantuan in scope list of films I have yet to see, "Raging Bull" is one of the films that Martin Scorsese is most famed for, and for rather good reason. The film is so meticulously, at times grotesquely, debasing of the title character's fame and ego. There are rather few non-essential factors in the mix of this film, the makeup being transformative, though still disconcerting, since there's the subtle feeling that Robert De Niro isn't supposed to look like that. The editing is so utterly veracious and aggressive, as with the best of sports-oriented cinema. De Niro's performance, so repudiating of redemption in favor of honesty to the point of destruction. Scorsese, only dialing up the flash and flair when it is truly and ultimately necessary, which is something he tends to forget nowadays. Damn near immaculate in its construction.

"Barry Lyndon" (****)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Quite easily the most overlooked and under-appreciated film in Stanley Kubrick's rather short pantheon of work, the small details and slow effectiveness of "Barry Lyndon" only really starts sinking in upon further viewings. Ryan O'Neal does seem to break the tradition of Kubrick-esq performances, but he more represents a Channing Tatum of his own time. His dramatic tendencies serve best in tight comedic terms, but not to the point of them being utterly superfluous. The extended sufferings of this character with no home, family, or true identity, is as entertaining as it is non-consoling towards its title character. The pace moves smoothly across with masterful deliberation on Kubrick's part. Never have such precise and finicky movements been shown with so much passion. Buckle under the emotional weight of a final scene dictating a character signing her name on a piece of paper.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Les Miserables" Teaser Trailer

"Les Miserables" has been a subject of debate for quite some time now, especially given the post-Oscar dissent that Tom Hooper's last film, "The King's Speech", has often received. I do include myself in that party of distaste with Hooper's dutiful translations to screen. Bad, I don't think I'd go quite so far to claim, but certainly bland and uncinematic. Judging by "Les Miserables", Hooper is sticking to his near-perfectly framed art direction and costume design of the period. The characters, perhaps not so much. I leave that for the performances to decide, and I can definitely see Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway distinguishing themselves in this film, and perhaps newcomer Samantha Banks. But Hooper will have to dial up the style and flair if it's to go beyond simple performance accolades.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Film Review: "Oslo, August 31st" (***)

I made a film this past semester, and it was "Oslo, August 31st".

To clarify, I am not Joachim Trier, nor am I saying that he has plagiarized an idea that came from me. How could he, after all, since the film played Un Certain Regard last year, as well as won Best Film and Cinematography prizes at the Stockholm Film Festival that same year. If anything, I plagiarized an idea off of Trier's film, however quite inadvertently so. I am certainly not saying that the fact that I made a film similar in meaning has diminished "Oslo, August 31st" at all in my eyes. I barely made the film I made at all, barely getting it done in a month's time. It was an 5-minute long afterthought, and even at its end felt incomplete.

So I owe a great debt to Trier, not only for giving the story I meant to tell a proper representation, but raising the bar for me to tackle once more in post-production. It also gives me a particular challenge in avoiding too close relation to the film itself, whose form actually proves quite stimulating. Opening to a fantastically constructed travelogue including memories of Oslo, as well as the people there, we don't truly get an impression of who or what this film is going to focus in on. We're not at all certain if the people or experiences of that opening will bare greater significance on the story later on, and indeed they don't.

Films to See in 2012: June

May always does seem like more of a smooth transition into Summer than a direct onslaught. Now we're in June, where the blockbuster offerings come in great numbers, and all the better for it since there are bound to be a few that fall rather predictably. In the first week alone we have "Snow White and the Huntsman", which I can only greet with skepticism since it doesn't look to be an honest film by any means. "Mirror Mirror" has gained a wide array of differing opinions, but you cannot call it dishonest for the direction it took that story. The Kristen Stewart actioner seems to be simply to turn the story into something it isn't.

Also out that weekend are "Battlefield America" and "For Greater Glory", two films I'd previously not heard of until they were announced for wide releases. Exactly how wide that implies remains to be seen. In limited release, surprisingly, is "Piranha 3DD", which is likely to meet a quick and sudden death if expectations serve. It's thew following week that things really start picking up for the better. Amongst other things, "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" hits the stage, which should serve as acceptable entertaining for kids, and maybe just enough for adults too. If not much more, Dreamworks does have a tendency to be at least fun.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Film Review: "The Tree of Life" (***1/2)

With the Cannes Film Festival landscape all wrapped up now, one could say that the festival hasn't truly ended yet. After all, the films that appeared there will continue to trickle into release over the next several months, and the feeling still inevitably lingers long after that. I remember last year's festival as a potent memory, and in fact last year was such a dynamic year in cinema that couldn't possibly be ignored or overlooked. And in the several months that passed after that, I became specifically jaded against Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life". Mind you, that was a very negative time for me personally, and not necessarily the best time to be writing up film reviews.

Truth is, I never gave Malick's film a chance in the first place. I never really payed attention to it beyond the first screening, and in the several months that passed I allowed my view of the film to become distorted. I wanted it to be so, which kind of gave me a leg out of the hoopla that many found themselves in. The film registers different perspectives from nearly every person who sees it, which challenged me in a way I wasn't ready for. I'm a rather selfish moviegoer, and I expect a film to be something specific, even if it isn't my something. I just couldn't pin down the film, in all its ethereal mist, and it led me to landing on what seemed like a definitive condemning mark: Pretentious.

CANNES 2012 WRAP-UP: Best of the Fest

After a long, exhausting, and honestly rather underwhelming, week of the Cannes Film Festival, plenty thoughts and feelings are going about. There's plenty optimism towards the unseen properties of the year, as well there should be. There hasn't been a reaction from the fest that's absolutely demolished my anticipation for any single film. Are there a few out there? Absolutely, with the utmost being most definitively Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love", but then again, what could you really expect? Even the atmosphere of the film seemed rather cooler than that of "Certified Copy". I am still quite completely intrigued by what Kiarostami has to offer with this piece, but it's definitely now more of an object than a film.

Another weakened film, quite massively in fact, is Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" which has had a divided response from the festival, but not so encouragingly. The main word I've heard wringing from the films rags is "heavy-handed", which I never find to be an encouraging feature. Still interested? Again, absolutely, but there's that massive weight that's restraining it far in advance. Topping off a triplet of deflated expectations is David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis", which is also dividing the festival up, though not to such leveling effect as "Killing Them Softly". It remains as intriguing a property as it was before Cronenberg brought it to the festival. There will be insane positivity right along with the negativity, and we should be glad to hear that.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

CANNES 2012 AWARDS: "Amour" take the Palme!

Festival came. Festival went. This may have no inevitable bearing on the Oscar race this year, nor should it truly, but Cannes was a rather interesting time in our lives this year. The awards, on the other hand, I can't quite say so. Not that a whole lot of bad films took the wins. On the contrary, I've heard some rather good things regarding "Beyond the Hills", which took both Actress wins and Screenplay win for Mungiu. There's not a bad thing to be said about "Beasts of the Southern Wild", from all I've heard. Nor can truly be said about the Palme d'Or winner, Michael Haneke's "Amour". Who could complain for a film that got near universal praise.

The problem, as per usual, was that this was predictable and business as usual for the Cannes affair. Early rumors that Nanni Moretti hated "Holy Motors" seem to have come to fruition, which is a shame. I've heard quite a many crazy good things about that competition pic. Most ambiguous wins of the festival belong to the Jury winners, belonging to "Reality" by Matteo Garrone and "The Angel's Share" by Ken Loach. My knowledge of either? Slim, so slim in fact that I consider their wins alone to reason enough to be skeptical of them. It's a wait-and-see awards ceremony, to be certain. Far too unlike last year. The Palme to Malick? Director to Refn? Actress to Dunst? Actor to Dujardin? What a perfect fest! This year? What an imperfect one.

Palme d'Or: "Amour"
Grand Prix: "Reality"
Prix du Jury: "The Angel's Share"

Box Office Report: "Men in Black" cart "The Avengers" off

As far as Mays go, I can't truly say that 2012 had it that bad for movies. Of the box office giants that came out this month, the top two are actually quite deserving of the numbers they've brought in. "The Avengers", as many have already attested, is quite a fantastic ride of a character-mash, and "Men in Black 3" honestly had quite a few factors that not only saved it, but made its brand of humor genuinely fun. The two weeks that came between, we'll forget about for good measure. May was a good month for blockbuster movies, though time may still herald "Men in Black 3" as a box office disappointment.

Let's get our facts straight first. $55 million is a fantastic 3-day opening for Barry Sonnenfeld's film, though probably dwarfed by its predecessors if you factor inflation. Even then, it's a damn good figure for the film that they delivered. Now's the bad news. The film is rumored to be budgeted at $215 million, which certainly puts a few odds against this sci-fi comedy. Mind you, it's not nearly as big as the gulf that faced "John Carter", which is forever doomed to be scale against which all megabudget films are held. This won't be a failure, though possibilities on them getting a sequel really do depend on word-of-mouth impact.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Film Review: "Men in Black 3" (***)

Cannes is rolling out as we speak, and I'll be writing up my conclusion of the festival to come fresh tomorrow morning, but it turns out that my 2012 cinematic delight for this week came from as unexpected a place as could be guessed. Ten years after the previous film managed to be quite a disappointing diversion, you really couldn't be blamed for not believing there to be any spark left in "Men in Black"s brand. There's also quite a heavy chance that you came and left "Men in Black 3" with that sentiment in mind, and that's quite fine as well. For my part, I found it to be a zippy, if typically unhinged, delight.

Taking the central relationship into heavy consideration on this outing, the film inevitably opens with a hilariously camp-filled escape sequence in which Boris the Animal, our villain for this segment, breaks out of prison and sets off his master plan. 43 years back, Agent K shot off Boris' arm, foiled his plots, and sentenced him to prison. The simple solution? Time travel, as is always the best idea for fixing any given situation. Naturally it all goes off without a hitch, except that Agent J remembers K existed, and is set on heading back after Boris to stop the oncoming Armageddon that K originally avoided in the late 60s.

Friday, May 25, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis"

We're so very close to the end of Cannes you could spit on it, and naturally that finally brings us this film we've all been waiting to get word on. David Cronenberg hit a rather rough patch with "A Dangerous Method", which managed to not be dangerous or truly methodical. His streak of intense place and period studies had run its course, and didn't really have much more to offer. "Cosmopolis" is exactly the film that he needed to put him not necessarily in the direction he was in before, but in the direction he needed to go from here. Naturally, word from Cannes has been positive, which seems to be too much of a slighting statement, and I doubt it will be when I get my crack at the film. It's notthing unanimous, and there's enough thorns in the works, but it's enough to inspire a metered response.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "This is the richest, wittiest, most stimulating material Cronenberg has had to work with in a decade – not for nothing is it his first self-scripted feature since “eXistenZ” – but it will take further viewing and consideration for this writer to decide if the finished film, briskly paced and unapologetically talky as it is, quite makes good on the opportunity. As it stands, the permanently on-message postulating of “Cosmopolis” proves a little wearing, though perhaps more so to jaded patrons on their tenth day of festival viewing. Cronenberg’s keenness to cram as many of DeLillo’s words into a script that amounts to little more than a sequence of ornate two-person conversates threatens inertia, but the film largely avoids dullness."

TOP 10 SHOTS from "Inglourious Basterds"

Welcome back once again to TOP 10 SHOTS, our weekly space to catch up and gaze at the visual splendor that goes in service of narrative, or at times non-narrative, cinema. My humble apologies for not having anything to give you for the past two weeks. It seems that my laziness has caught up with me and I simply can't afford to indulge it any longer. So I'm back in full force with a weekly tackling of compelling cinema of the purest form. Visual cinema is quite possibly the most compelling, with dialogue at best only to be used as a propeller for the plot, and the plot to be used only as propeller for the visuals.

However, if I'm to be perfectly honest, it took me a rather long while to arrive at the film I'd be focusing on this week. It's not so easy as picking a film and running with it. Even the best can prove not to be treasure troves of visual wonder. So can very well be said of "Full Metal Jacket", Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam war film. Powerfully disturbing and brutally clinical in all the best Kubrick ways, it nonetheless isn't so visually compelled. I did have thoughts of going through "Men in Black 3"s cinematographer to take a look at "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", but that's a film made entertaining through feat of editing. Single shots have little to offer.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy"

It seems like the competition slate is going rather wonky in the head as of late, doesn't it? "Holy Motors" blew the hinges off this festival in a fantastic and much necessary way, and "Cosmopolis" is still wrapping at the door for a shot at the action. Now Lee Daniels has his moment with "The Paperboy", his follow-up to "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire", and the reception is rather understandably divided. What else can you expect, since the film itself seems divided at first fight between kinky sex-pot and... well, I honestly don't know what. All I know is that I'm interested enough to put this on the radar.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "Kidman, relishing the chance to allow most of the character to the surface for a change, is more sexually strident and earthily funny than she’s been since “To Die For,” but in her subtly brokered exchanges with Efron, smartly avoids patronizing Charlotte as a gone-to-seed Lolita. Gray, meanwhile, adds another spacily timed, implication-heavy, hazily sad character sketch to her growing gallery of striking miniatures – you’d say it’s a performance in search of a more coolly accommodating movie, but the ballsy, bonkers, sporadically dreadful but obnoxiously alive one Daniels has made thrives on all the conflicting textures it can get."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"The Great Gatsby" Trailer

How much time do people waste pretending that they don't absolutely love Baz Luhrmann? Is it not completely obvious that the man should have so much more commercial success than he has had? His films are practically built for a wide market of viewers, filled to the brim with luscious visuals and playful whimsy. As somebody who considers "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge" to be somewhere in the scheme of his 100 Best Films of All Time, as well as being unapologetic about my love for "Australia", a rather overly maligned film, "The Great Gatsby" is damn close to the top of my list for the end of year rounds. Pack "Avengers", "The Dark Knight Rises", "Prometheus", and "The Hobbit" into a bundle, you won't even come close to the sparkle Baz clearly has in store for us!

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Leos Carax's "Holy Motors"

So let's talk about Cannes films that came totally out of nowhere to surprise us with how brilliant they are. Last year that slot could so easily be filled by either "We Need to Talk About Kevin" or "Drive", films that journeyed beyond the beaten path to find something exciting and new. I hesitate to say the year prior was for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", since that film has faded from memory a great deal since, and only really got attention due to Tim Burton's fancy for it.

In any case, the Cannes surprise is a well honored tradition to come in one shape or another, and this year seems to have finally delivered one such artifact to us in the form of Leos Carax's "Holy Motors". I have little to no knowledge of what the film is about, who is involved, or where it is coming from, but the sudden eruption of enthusiasm surrounding it is not something you turn your nose up at. Of course there's still "On the Road", "The Paperboy", "Mud", "Cosmopolis", and others to stir up the pot, but we may have our Palme D'or champion already.
Guy Lodge (Time Out London): "Weird, yes. But even at its most wilfully absurd (let’s just say chimpanzees are involved), there’s something fragile, tender and even truthful about Carax’s hall-of-mirrors irrationality, the sense of an artist so weary of decayed human realities that he has no choice but to twist them into the more beautiful shapes afforded by cinema. By the time the film ends with Scob subtly referencing the character she played 52 years ago in ‘Eyes Without a Face’, you might feel an involuntary shiver down the spine – it’s hard to say what forces are propelling this ecstatic, idiotic, fizzy, frightening provocation, but we’re moved by them too."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTION: Michael Haneke's "Amour"

I think we may actually have the film of the festival upon us with "Amour", the latest from challenging director Michael Haneke. Yes, I still have only seen his "Cache", but it only takes a single film of his to come to grips with an absolutely dynamic vision at the head of things. Never too intent on giving precious information away, Haneke has been known to leave us dangling in near endless despair, and a film titled "Amour" seems like no difference. The general response out of Cannes has been not just positive, but universally accepted as no Haneke film has been before.
David Jenkins (Little White Lies): "Haneke is interested in presenting the stages of decay, and bar one strange moment of sudden catatonia, we’re never forced to endure the pain of seeing Anna actually experiencing her strokes. George looks on, saddling the increasing demands of his wife’s malady while making sure that no-one – including the audience – see any physical manifestation of what must be overwhelming internal sadness."

Quick Takes: "Pulp Fiction", "Scott Pilgrim", "The Social Network", "Spirited Away"

"Pulp Fiction" (***1/2)
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

I get the impression that "Pulp Fiction" is the most widely accepted of Quentin Tarantino's films, and it rather understandable to see why. The film rams out charismatic dialogue that doesn't cop to single-quote tactics, and is actually more of a dialogue between characters. In coming back to it, it is rather understandable to notice a slightly purposeless feeling about proceedings, since it renders characters quite easily dispensable in spite of their rather passionate segments. That being said, those segments are rather exciting pulp entertainment, like the title pronounces quite fervently. However, there's not so much more I can say that hasn't been said already. It's a rather simple film, to be perfectly honest and with no mark against it.

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" (***)
Directed by Edgar Wright

I'd already relegated a great deal of skepticism post-viewing regarding this film, as is no doubt easy to happen with a film that has such an ardent following. In any case of that happening, a film is cheapened by the hype around it. All that said, "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is a hilariously quirky ride, and among the few "quirky" films that manages not to turn me off. Usually "quirky comedy" is a condemning phrase, because it's all quirk and no passion in the works. Edgar Wright never goes quite to the level of passion, but he is rather invested, and as such this film isn't so hollow. It's quite fun, and worth it simply for Kieran Culkin's fantastically single-faced performance that soars further than it has any right to.

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly"

Amongst the less easy-to-pin films of Cannes thus far is Andrew Dominik's follow-up to "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford". To be honest, if they told me "Killing Them Softly" was just a contemporary update of that previous work, I'd believe them. This has been a difficult film to follow, due to an uncertainty over how it will turn out. But as the festival keeps moving ever forward, we keep hearing positive, if not overly ecstatic, receptions. Somehow that feels worst than having several major disappointments, but we'll learn to forgive. That's where this film stands, not quite at being "hit of the festival", and instead being rather simply agreeable.
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "The film noir crime dramas of the late 1940s and early 1950s were about a palpable unease in the country, but this remained a subtext rather than the overt subject of the films. Here, Dominik explicitly articulates his intended meanings, which have to do with money, institutional rot and what happens when you don’t keep your economic house in order. Either approach is valid but, perhaps in this day and age, audiences need their messages to be quick and direct. Killing Them Softly delivers them that way."

Monday, May 21, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Abbas Kiarostami's "Like Someone in Love"

Can we give Abbas Kiarostami a little credit for even being able to come up with anything more after "Certified Copy"? It's a feat to make a movie like that, and doubtless a greater one to follow it up. If the Cannes reaction isn't quite so deliciously heated as it was for her previous work, I wouldn't read too much into it. As a matter of fact, don't read too much into any of these opinions. I'm likely to see all these films by close of year anyway. That may have set "Like Someone in Love" to sound like something of a letdown, and in quite a few eyes, it is. But there's enough positivity on the production side of things not to discount it entirely.
Kevin Jagernauth (The Playlist): "Originally working under the title "The End," Kiarostami certainly concludes the picture with a literal bang. What it all means will be left to the viewer to sort out, but it's clear Kiarostami is making some kind of a statement about how personalities can evolve as a result of perception of identity and image. Or something. We're not quite sure and the journey to get there and the work required to unravel the thematic mystery of the film doesn't seem to be worth the effort. There is a fine line between meeting an audience halfway and witholding enough without falling into self-indulgence, but Kiarostami can't make that balance here. Enigmatic and dull to a maddening degree, "Like Someone In Love" finds Kiarostami spinning his wheels."
Jordan Mintzer (Hollywood Reporter): "After deconstructing a would-be romance in the Tuscany-set Certified Copy, Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami takes another trip abroad to explore the depths of unrequited desire in the Japanese drama, Like Someone in Love. However, this being a Kiarostami movie, the “Like” part of the title (taken from the widely covered jazz standard) is to be taken quite literally here, and this enchanting affair (of sorts) between a retired professor and a gorgeous young call girl is never exactly what it seems. Upscale art houses and admirers of the Palme d’Or laureate will be the major clients of this tenderhearted and melancholic work, provided its intentions are not lost in translation."
Guy Lodge (Variety): "Kiarostami's second film set and shot outside his native Iran continues his exploration of other global territories as a direct means of expressing certain cinephilic affections. Just as the Tuscany-set "Certified Copy" casually traced around multiple aspects of Roberto Rossellini's "Voyage to Italy," the spartan Tokyo story of "Like Someone in Love" is laced with references to the filmography of Yasujiro Ozu, from obvious narrative cues like a young woman's affectless neglect of her visiting grandmother to subtler variations on the Japanese master's framing. Quite what the homage is supporting is harder to gauge, as Kiarostami's breezy, sometimes cruel tale of mistaken identity reads as a near-parody of Ozu's still-waters humanism."

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: John Hillcoat's "Lawless"

It's rather easy to push powerful negativity towards a film for not being the greatest thing in the world, but there are some films that quite honestly aren't looking for that. It's hard to think that of them when they're in a competition to prove themselves better than the rest, but we'll forget about that requisite of the Cannes festival in the case of John Hillcoat's "Lawless". Word around the festival has been rather mixed, but I've heard enough good assessments to not discount this picture altogether. I very much look forward to the chance of checking it out once it turns the corner come August, so I'll just have to depend on these reviews as reassurance until then.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "It might sound the most backhanded of compliments to begin a film review with praise for its hairdressing, but here goes: John Hillcoat's brisk, bloody and sharply appointed Prohibition thriller "Lawless" is the most immaculately barbered film in recent memory. From the pragmatically shaved planes of Tom Hardy's short-back-and-sides to Shia LaBeouf's dandily pomaded undercut to Guy Pearce's unforgivingly skunky centre-right parting, no tonsorial decision in this robust period piece has been idly or accidentally made, every style revealing something of the wearer's designs, demographic and disposition."

"Skyfall" Teaser Trailer

The last pieces of this year are slowly starting to fall into place, be it with a certain gut-feeling of worry that we may not have quite the same quality of films that we had last year. With films falling off the end of year slate, such as "Gravity" most recently did, it's hard not to be just a bit worried for the status of our year's end celebration of cinema. What gets me even more worried is the irrational level of hype that surrounds a single teaser for a film. The internet has been abuzz all morning over "Skyfall", the latest Bond film which I'm actually quite optimistically inclined towards. I can only shrug at the prospect a simple teaser can offer. Does it pique my interest in the film? Sure, but not to the point of cutting myself each day I don't see it.

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Pablo Larrain's "No"

If your blinders to anything beyond the competition slate have been up, it's rather understandable for you to have missed this hit of the fest. Indeed it would have flew over my head if it hadn't been previously raised to my attention via Guy Lodge, who's been enthusiastic toward Pablo Larrain's work before. As for his latest film, "No", it hit the festival on the side, but with no less enthusiastic murmurings surrounding it. As somebody who still hasn't seen "Post-Mortem" and is looking desperately for that first viewing, consider this a film waiting for my enthusiasm to truly hit in. In any case, the reviews are quite favorable towards the film, and spell good things for its future.

Guy Lodge (In Contention): "So when the the tersely titled "No" (A-), the final instalment of his purported trilogy of pincered Pinochet-era satires, showed up in the Fortnight, instead of nabbing a more coveted Competition or Un Certain Regard slot, we had reason to think that Larrain's penchant for audience-repelling grimness had reached some kind of almighty apex, despite the friendly star presence of pocket radical Gael Garcia Bernal. As much of a kick as that might have been for us existing fans, however, it's even more gratifying to see Larrain wrongfoot us all by closing out the set with his most narratively robust and emotionally rousing film to date, a hearty celebration of hard-earned democracy spiked with just enough of the director's acidly crooked humor to remind us whose house we're in."

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"

Wait, what? Oh yeah, there are plenty of out-of-competition films looking to gain popularity amongst the festival crowd, or at least a little bit of buzz ahead of their releases. Usually they fit the position of opening night, but seeing as that slot has been host to more indie oriented flicks lately, they've found other avenues within the festival. Suffice it to say that "Madagascar 3" is getting a great deal more favor than "Pirates of the Caribbean" did when it showed up begrudgingly last year. Of course there are going to be people too set into their serious festival goer caps to give this film the time of day, but it's not one to simply dismiss, especially given the positive words that have eked their way out. This one's looking to be a sweet little dalliance.
Justin Chang (Variety): "This is the rare animated property that has consistently improved on its ho-hum origins, as 2008's "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" delivered unexpectedly fine character shadings and a less grating sense of humor than the 2005 franchise-starter. Given an extra-loopy comic spin by scribes Noah Baumbach (who previously ventured into animation writing with "Fantastic Mr. Fox") and Eric Darnell, "Madagascar 3" places a higher value on speed and spectacle than either of its predecessors, piling on the narrative lunacy to outlandish, even surreal ends."
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Madagascar 3 is colorful, moves like the TGV rather than the slow zoo train on view and is over in a flash. But it’s dominated by the characters shouting over one another, repetitively reacting with alarm to anything that happens and overcompensating for largely unfunny material by overacting by about 300 percent. Yes, it’s a cartoon, but it’s conspicuously unmodulated, with the volume set on high and the pacing all but pushed to fast-forward."
Mark Adams (Screen International): "Charmingly the 3D works to impressive effect as the stodgy old-fashioned circus is gradually transformed into a bright, balletic and stylish Cirque du Soleil affair, with much emphasis put on how the animals’ hard-work and creativity pays off, with a spectacular performance set against singer Katy Perry’s foot-tappingly perfect song 'Firework' as the animals spin and leap through the air with joyful abandon."

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Cristian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills"

Sorry for the weekend break. I needed some time to catch my breath and put my thoughts back together after a short stunting of inspiration. How can you blame me? It's been a tough Cannes Film Festival so far, with very little that really exceeds beyond the degree of "yeah, that's good." And there's quite obviously a large void between different opinions, this year being the most salient example we've seen in a while. Just look at Cristian Mungiu's follow-up to "4 months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days", which has divided people definitively in their opinions. In regards to "Beyond the Hills", some love it quite unapologetically, others remark their disappointments, and some just nod their heads in solid, though not ecstatic, approval. No bad film by any judgment, but it doesn't seem to be sweeping the floor with the competition.
Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter): "Admittedly two and a half hours of thwarted love and spiritual torment is something of an endurance test, especially considering the action rarely ventures outside its single bleak location. The film’s mid section, especially, feels slow and repetitive. Only during the final act, mostly shot in snow, does Mungiu remind us of the tightly wound tension and crisp visual composition that made 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days such a powerful thriller. Beyond the Hills is less fun than any film about lesbian nuns and their psychotic ex-lovers ought to be. But it is an engrossingly serious work, and confirms Mungiu as a maturing talent with more universal stories to tell than those defined by Romania’s recent political past."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Box Office Report: "Avengers" sinks "Battleship"

I suppose that Hasbro and Universal are digging a tough lesson into their heads right about now, that if you're going to adapt a boardgame you might want to stick to what was great about the game. OR, just don't adapt boardgames. That's a generally good rule of thumb. Their "adaptation", "Battleship", floundered at the box office, middling in the 20s where it was projected above the 40s. In its place at #1 was "The Avengers", continuing to hold up spectacularly, and the more weeks go on, the less you can expect the film to fall upon consecutive weekends. At this point I can very much see it reaching $650 million by the end of its run, but not much higher.

As for the other new releases, they too felt unusually stunted in comparison to "The Avengers". "The Dictator", which sadly enough may have been the most eligible film to court this weekend, wasn't even able to reach $20 million. "What to Expect When You're Expecting", which you'd think would get the chick flick crowd in easy, realized that it was clearly in the wrong landscape. Film really need to bring their A-game when going up against the higher class blockbusters of the summer. The weekend was an expected dip from last year, when "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" climbed to $90 million.

Friday, May 18, 2012

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: Matteo Garrone's "Reality"

Perhaps the most questionable prospect heading into this Cannes Film Festival is Matteo Garrone's follow-up to the acclaimed "Gomorrah". "Reality", fitfully set in the world of Italian reality television, seems to be receiving mixed receptions from around the Croisette, some coming into it with open arms, while others receive it as something of a disappointment. Then again, this is very likely to be the case on most Cannes films, but I'm not trying to advocate for any films that I haven't seen yet. The news of a satirically minded film hitting Cannes is enough to pique my interest, and some reviews prove rather encouraging to the prospect.
Drew McWeeny (Hitfix): "My only hesitation is that while I would compare this to Martin Scorsese's "King Of Comedy," it feels like it's missing a final beat that would punctuate the story perfectly.  Even so, there is a haunting quality to the wrap-up, and the dark laughs the film inspires got caught in my throat at times because of just how raw Arena is as Luciano.  His palpable longing and his visible deflation will stick with me, as will Matteo's sincere disdain for modern values.  "Reality" continues my Cannes streak, and I have no doubt it will be embraced as another major statement from an artist worth our time and attention."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Film Review: "Snowtown" (***1/2)

Extraordinary cinema isn't always a pleasant thing to behold, and these days it seems like the norm for films to gloss over the ugliness with glitz and flash. Enter Justin Kurzel's "Snowtown", domestically known as "The Snowtown Murders", though I absolutely refuse to address it with such a clinical title. "Clinical" is the last word I'd use to describe it, since most of the shocks and pains of this picture do come from a place of honesty.

While describing some of what was going on in the film to my roommates, they were repeatedly asking if this really happened, as if the truth of it would somehow degrade over time. Indeed, that is very much the emotion that I had while watching the film, was one of denial. The film starts out so smoothly, and indeed is able to continuously trick us into feeling that smoothness again and again, all the while a storm outside is brewing, and it's right there for us to see anyway.

Based on the real Australian murder story between 1992 and 1999, "Snowtown" focuses in on a lower-class suburban family in the titular town, who undergo abuse from the mother's deceitful boyfriend. Out of the distress of the situation comes John Bunting, who lifts the family up out of banality as protector, leader, but eventually master. Things soon fall out of the family's control, and they find themselves in a situation from which there is no escape.

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: "Rust and Bone"

This seems almost certainly the film that people were keeping an eye on heading into this Cannes Film Festival, but can you blame Jacques Audiard for not being as brilliant as he was with "A Prophet"? Hardly, though there is much of a diverging debate growing on the merits of his latest film, "Rust and Bone". Yes, it is a love story, and it seems that it throws in some sentimentality to the works. The core problem may indeed be that the plot is rather conventional, as many people are accusing the film of. Those hesitations notwithstanding, the grand portion of reviews have been quite positive, if not as ecstatic as Audiard's previous premiere.
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Audiard’s visual and dramatic approach is glancing, deliberately fragmented, marked by harsh contrasts between bright, bleached-out light and forbidding darkness. Charged emotions are felt and expressed but remain contained and not wallowed in. When Stephanie awakens in the hospital after her accident and realizes what’s happened to her, the dreadfulness of her discovery is palpable. But soon enough it’s absorbed, to the point where she calls Ali to take her on an outing (to the Croisette in Cannes), where he takes her back into the water."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Film Review: "The Deep Blue Sea" (***)

With Cannes Film Festival going on in the backdrop, it felt like as good an opportunity as ever to get up to date on some festival treats from yesteryear, and this one's just been beckoning to me for months. Quite often with a period film, the filmmaker becomes so preoccupied with pretentious mannerisms and stiff set design that they simply ignore the other aspects of the film. "The King's Speech" seems all too easy an example to be made of period-piece opportunities being trumped by period piece aesthetic. "The Deep Blue Sea" finds its setting as a necessity of its story, and not the other way around. As such, everything about the design comes from the meaning of the narrative.

A romance about a woman who decides to leave her husband in favor of an exciting younger man isn't the most original thing in the world, and writer/director Terrence Davies realizes that just under the wire. To that point, the film begins with the recital of a suicide letter, written by Rachel Weisz' Hester Collyer. The conditions of this letter aren't quite known until they're slowly revealed. Usually you'd expect a suicide to be the definitive end of a story, but the world and the people in it need something more from Hester to let her get away with dying so easily. It's worth watching simply for the fact that it doesn't cop to what's been done before.

CANNES 2012 REACTIONS: "Moonrise Kingdom"

It looks like this year's Cannes opener, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom", has managed to maintain the same general response as last year's "Midnight in Paris" did. The Cannes Film Festival can have a tendency to abound with some rather serious fare, so it's rather customary to kick off with something peppy, which is something that Wes Anderson is trademarked for. His return to live-action has been showered with positive reviews, mostly from people believing his quirky, twee aesthetic most well adapted towards children's issues and a 60s era setting. I remain skeptical, if only because I've heard that talk of Wes Anderson before, and am well prepared for something that feels somewhat halfhearted, but this will probably ring rather delightfully for most.
Drew McWeeny (HitFix): ""Moonrise Kingdom" is one of those films that seems slight on the surface, but there's so much emotion in it, so much genuine heartfelt observation, that I have a feeling it will grow the more I think about it, and that a second viewing will simply underline the feelings I have about it already.  Wes Anderson may have a distinct and easily recognized style, but his talent is genuine and his love of his characters rings loud and true in this film.  He may make it look easy because of how firmly his mannerisms are established at this point, but it takes a real artist to evoke the rocky emotional storms of adolescence and adulthood with such clear eyes and precise voice."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quick Takes: "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "Sword in the Stone", "Dr. Strangelove"

"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
Directed by Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson is one of those directors who appeals to the quirkier side of film direction, which is an area that quite often feels rather stilted and passionless to me. All that said, there is something about that style that translates rather well to animation, and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is such a pleasant surprise because of that. Filled to the brim with gleeful pointlessness, Anderson fills in the holes in the plot with some hilariously tucked human commentary. True, there are still scenes that ring not just utterly ridiculous, but have no purpose to actual film. That glaring fact that this is an artificial construct can be rather distracting at times, but Wes is just having so much fun with this new toy of stop-motion that you just get taken in with his exuberance about it.

"The Sword in the Stone"
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

It's rather dismaying to revisit childhood films and find that they're rather massively lacking in story, character, and style. My memories of this film had been fond, until I started watching it again, at which point it paled to playing out not just predictably, but with no passion whatsoever. From the first moment, it feels like everything's already happened. You're generally familiar with the story, know what's happening, and the film doesn't even create any tension in that respect. Neither does it create characters that are at all endearing. Merlin is rather pathetically silly and pointless, and Arthur is just plain, dull, and rather pathetic. The film's a catalyst to turn people into animals, and not in a particularly interesting way. It's all to easy, and there's really no joy there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

THE LISTS: Most Anticipated Films at Cannes 2012

We are precious few days from the kickoff of Cannes Film Festival, which pretty much begins the season of strong films coming to the fore. Of last year's festival, six films premiered that ended up making my end of year list, an additional one if you count "Certified Copy" of the previous year. "The Artist" went on to win Best Picture just less than a year after it premiered, so the festival clearly holds a strong place at the center of the cinematic year. This year obviously has a much different dynamic to it, skewing somewhat more mellow beforehand, but that could very well change depending on how the films perform.

So it figured like an appealing idea to spotlight ahead of time some of the more intriguing offerings of this year's festival circuit. Obviously I don't have quite a complete attachment to many of the foreign films showing, though I'm not discounting them altogether. I'm waiting for them to surprise, which they hopefully might. To that effect, I want to believe that "The Paperboy" is more than it seems to be. Lee Daniels isn't the most spectacular of directors, nor is Zac Efron the most skillful of leading men, but I am one for surprises. I can only hope there will be many, but I hope none of those are that the films I am anticipating aren't worthy of such.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Fringe" Review: "Brave New World"

I suppose there's some rather excusable anger going about in the wake of "Fringe"s penultimate season finale, mostly due to the fact that there wasn't very much of a stinger on the episode. It wasn't an episode that made for a gut-wrenching denouement, mostly because they'd already done that two episodes back. Their nineteenth episode, which often breaks formula and goes the strange route, broke the rule of leaving surprise revelations on next season to the very end. They revealed that, in the endgame of this season, everything would turn out alright, in a sense anyway. We'd already gotten the tough goodbye to the parallel universe. Now was closing up the arc of this season.

Now I suppose there's the simple suggestion that you leave "Letters of Transit" to the very end of the season, but that would have rung a little anticlimactic. If you think about it, the last four episode of the season really act as a four-part season finale, but in this case the first of those four episodes told us where Season 5 will take us. Does that obliterate any tension from the remaining three episodes? In a manner, yes. We know who lives to see the year 2036, and that makes it rather impossible for any of them to die. But there's also an inevitability to the rest of proceedings. "World's Apart" was such a pedal-to-the-floor episode as it tried to veer in the opposite direction of catastrophe, only to reach the conclusion that closing the door between universes was inevitable.

Friday, May 11, 2012

THE LISTS: Best Guest Performances on "Fringe"

I was caught off guard on this week's TOP 10 SHOTS column, since there just wasn't anything I could muster the heart to dissect for the occasion. The only occasion we have this weekend is Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows", and it's generally difficult to find anything Tim Burton has done that has an abundance of strong shots. Going off cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, I tried revisiting "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince", but that's honestly still a really boring film. And even going for a strained connection, "Pan's Labyrinth" was the only thing that came close, and it still failed to amuse me on revisiting.

I have to give an honorable mention to "Where the Wild Things Are", which would have made the cut if I had more time to ruminate. There will be plenty other opportunities for it, I'm sure. So in the rush of the moment, I feel like giving notice to the real event of this weekend, which will inevitably be overlooked in the presence of "The Avengers" and Tim Burton's heightened whining. "Fringe" takes up its season finale tonight, which will fortunately not be the end of the series, given their godsend renewal for season five. The prospect of the definitive end of a show that has been something of a defining attribute for me over the past several years is difficult to say the least, but also tantalizing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quick Takes: "Singin' in the Rain", "The Fountain", "Black Swan", "Toy Story 3"

"Singin' in the Rain"
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

The first ten minutes of "Singin' in the Rain" are absolutely atrocious, and set a pretty foul taste for the ninety minutes to follow. I was actually rather uncertain whether or not I wanted to continue on with it. Then the film dials up the Donald O'Connor with some one-liners that were slaying enough to latch me on for whatever hijinks ensued later on. Once they dispose of the obnoxious setup, they really let go of serious inclinations and go haphazard with absolutely everything. All the musical numbers that have been so hyped up over history are absolutely winning in spite of the flood of dilution. Gene Kelly is an exceptional exuberance, and that pervades the screen in both performance and direction. It balloons into a powerful inadvertent drug-trip, like "The Artist" meets "Mad Men" meets "Inception".

"The Fountain"
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Can you believe that I've gone this far without having officially seen the film that split Darren Aronofsky right down the middle in terms of how people viewed him? I always worried that I'd fall into that negative category, but as it turns out this film is absolutely deserving of infinite praise. If you don't raise the stakes of your own ambition, you can't truly achieve the same heights as films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey". I'm hardly saying that this journey across time, fiction, and mortality is just as good as Kubrick's singular masterpiece, but it is at the very least comparable. Darren strives six years to get this film on the screen, and it prevails to stun several years after. Cruelty is a powerful tool at Darren's disposal, as are the gorgeously brittle and fascinatingly layered performances by Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman, respectively. "The Fountain" moves swiftly and strangely along its journey to a place of awe, and I can't help but wonder how one could feel negatively about having been brought there.

"Toy Story 3"
Directed by Lee Unkrich

Is it all just overheated fanaticism surrounding Pixar's closing to their first series of "Toy Story" that makes it seem so great? Is it the fact that it came out at a junction of when the people who grew up with it are also going to college? Is it any of those obvious reasons that could so easily serve as excuses? As it turns out, and I am quite happy to realize this, "Toy Story 3" is absolutely thriving as a piece of singular and self-sustaining cinema. I'm happy because I could have come back to it and find that it was just exaggeration of circumstances, but as it turns out the film is massively thorough in its study of a wide variety of characters.

"Black Swan"
Directed by Darren Aronofsky

It gives me rather great joy to revisit Aronofsky's shaking character-study "Black Swan" and find it not overrated, but given new and greater life through a different pair of lens'. The film I remember was one that was personal and quite shattering, but something that I never quite realized before was how hilariously cruel the film is. Though this may prove to incite rage amongst people I know who adore the film, the dancing of a ballet company is admittedly quite trashy. Vincent Cassel's director Leroy is trying to take "Swan Lake" and make it "visceral and real", which however honest a pursuit is still rather ridiculous and full of hubris.

I was really able to remove myself from the film this time around, and give it a sort of piercing look from a bent point of view. Quite often you think you've reached the heart of a film and you stop searching for meaning. "Black Swan" absolutely obliterates that and influences you to keep searching for meaning, which seems so elusive given a mindfully messy approach to it. It is quite a contemporary fairy tale, and as such rather dark and cruel to its characters. Each of these characters seems so exaggerated and positively nutso, the bi-product of an unreliable protagonist showing us her experience through her not-exactly-healthy point of view. It's still absolutely devastating, but more because of the film's cruelty in how these characters are represented and not what is done to them.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Marvel Studios: Season Two?

There are several things that rummage through a studio's mind after a colossal debut like the one "The Avengers" just had. Immediately after "The Dark Knight" came out, there was heated speculation as to whether there would ever be another "Batman" film from Christopher Nolan. What does working on a film like that do to you after your featured star dies? But here we are four years later, with another go on the way. The "Transformers" series isn't at all likely to die down anytime soon. I'm surprised Warner Bros. hasn't pushed for further "Harry Potter" iterations wherever they can find them. So the question is worth raising, even if it's already answered, where do "The Avengers" go from here?

Marvel Studios already has its three primary sub-franchises renewed for further adventures. "Iron Man 3" has long been in pre-production, and will soon begin official photography. There's quite a bit of news and buzz surrounding that enterprise, with Ben Kingsley in talks to play a sort of villain for the film. Guy Pearce is pretty much a shoo-in at this point for a role. It's really advocating for a wide palette of stars in every Marvel film to come. They can't make excuses for not having people of high caliber anymore. Shane Black of "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" is set to direct the film after writing it, but what gets me most excited for the film is cinematographer John Toll. Tapping the man who shot "The Thin Red Line" for your film will get you that kind of attention.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Box Office Report: "Avengers" assemble massive opening

For once in my life, I'm not so entirely pissed at the prospect of a film becoming extremely successful, because in the case of "The Avengers" it is actually well deserved. The last two films that fell under that purview were "The Dark Knight" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". Bash it you may, but that film was one of visual splendors a plenty. I've made my point pretty clearly on my opinions concerning "The Avengers", and please don't try belittling them for not being extremely ecstatic. The joy I had finding "21 Jump Street" to be more than simply good is comparable to that which I got from the insane spectacle that Joss Whedon put together.

It's no mistake that it did well, as we all knew it would, but there's a difference in this case. "The Avengers" landed a record for opening day gross without midnight earnings factored in. But, who really cares about that when the rest of the weekend manages to rake in $200.3 million domestically? That's quite clearly a record, blowing "Deathly Hallows: Part 2"s relatively meager $169.2 million out of the water. Of course, there's high chance of over-estimation, but if this holds, then "The Dark Knight Rises" really does have a run for its money. Okay, that's an understatement. There's no way it's going to pass by "The Avengers".

Film Review: "The Avengers"

"And then Shawarma after."

There is a juncture about 90 minutes into Joss Whedon's superhero extravaganza "The Avengers" that states my feelings towards the film better than any words could. Mark Ruffalo's newly tuned Bruce Banner awakens in a pile of rubble to the company of a janitor played by none other than Harry Dean Stanton. It's a short scene played almost entirely for humor, with the hilarious delivery of the words, "I think you have a condition". That may very well be my absolute favorite moment of the film's two hour and twenty minute running time, filled enterprisingly with bombastic action, interpersonal conflict, and character articulation. A random cameo talking to a nude guy who just got busy breaking apart an air fortress.

It's that moment where I realize that this could easily have never happened, just as this film could have gone awry at any juncture. They had five films to build up to this one, and if one of them had been entirely horrible, this one would have fallen apart entirely. Against any possibility, this geek pipe dream has become a reality, and for nearly everyone else who sees it, it will be received as miraculous. Indeed, ignoring the film entirely, we have to spend a moment to acknowledge just how difficult it has been to bring us to this point, where a film like this is not only possible, but absolutely fluent. But if I'm building it up as a disappointment, it surely isn't.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Quick Takes: "21 Jump Street", "Iron Man 2", "Captain America"

"21 Jump Street"
Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller

Channing Tatum has been a massive anomaly and point of confusion since the start of his existence. He's not especially influential in his action roles, and plain sappy and dull in his romantic roles. The guy simply was not meant for serious work, so it's no mistake that "21 Jump Street" finally gives the guy something that he can thrive in. Spinning off of the old television show, it ultimately ignores that small fact to embrace something funnier and more interesting. The high school stereotypes of old have changed dramatically in years recent, and the power structure of schools is less and less with jocks, and more with charismatic members of band and drama.

"21 Jump Street" is not at all about intensity, and is more about two polar opposite personalities having to come to terms with aspects of themselves that they have not realized before. Jonah Hill often times falls to idiocy in comedic roles, but the man is on a mean streak recently. "Moneyball" showed that he had serious chops in him, and this film gives him some sweet and affectionate chemistry work between him and Tatum. As said before, Tatum is the guy who truly rocks this film. His typically dopey work is hilariously on time here, and the guy really is a born comedic actor. Don't be afraid to defame yourself Tatum. It may be where you belong! And Brie Larson is just darling. The girl had me at hello.

TOP 10 SHOTS from "Atonement"

Welcome to "Top 10 Shots", our weekly column to get together, look at some gorgeous visuals, and reminisce about great cinematic gems past and present, so if you haven't seen this week's central film, I warn of SPOILERS and urge you to come back once you've seen the film. "The Avengers" is out today, coming out to much anticipation from the geek and normal community of cinemagoers. It's rather firmly in position to become a juggernaut at the box office, so it's a no-brainer to do something that mindfully attaches. For quite some time, I believed that to ideally be the previous Marvel installments. But I ran into something of a roadblock while going back into the Marvel canon. This may come as no surprise to anybody, but the Marvel superhero films aren't all the brilliantly shot in terms of singular visual wonders.

Despite having such a great cinematographer as Matthew Libatique on "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2", Jon Favreau simply didn't have any direction for what the films were about. They looked good, but nothing stuck out as expressionist as "Black Swan". "The Incredible Hulk" was quite obviously a dull action fest with no visual inclinations. "Thor" is an absolute visual feast, but mostly in terms of concept art. Some shots stuck out, but it would be too greatly in that film's favor. And "Captain America" was a damn good time and all, but Joe Johnston has never been one to inflect major strokes of intelligence into his films.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quick Takes: "Iron Man", "Incredible Hulk", "Thor"

"Iron Man"
Directed by Jon Favreau

Did anybody else think it was an absolutely terrible idea to give this franchise to Jon Favreau? Don't get me wrong, because the guy got it started damn well. The first 90 minutes of this film are characteristic of the great film everybody believes it to be. The Stark character is very intriguingly placed in our world, and his purview is stated firmly as a go-between of military power and moral integrity. He's an idealist, but one that fits pretty firmly into a certain mindset that is closed off. He never questioned things, until his convoy was attacked, murdered, and him taken into captivity. That's where we see a dynamic shift in the character, and while Favreau may not be so interested in it, Robert Downey Jr. relishes it.

It's enough to have a chance for pure fun when Downey Jr. is concerned, and his natural comic timing hits best with the screw-the-script-we-have-an-outline-let's-improv-it mentality that the film takes on. The rest of the cast doesn't quite keep up, specifically Terrence Howard. He was no great loss, to be entirely honest. Gwyneth Paltrow, however, is rather adaptable to it. But all intriguing juggling of technology and morality work, until the Iron Monger moves in. As soon as the plot builds up the requisite villain, it loses its way. It simply doesn't know how to finish, and it ends up mindlessly action-oriented. No plot. No full-circle resolution to the arcs. It simply doesn't work, and that's what stops it from being Marvel's tops.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" Trailer 3

I'd really like to get to a point of great excitement regarding Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises", but I know that the last way to get there is through the trailers. They have truly never known how to properly sell these films in marketing, always operating well within the material they have, and not diverging for something that's possibly better. Perhaps it's just my disdain for trailers and their knack to give away the game well in advance. That's why I can't muster up a high degree of enthusiasm for this film, but I want to. It sounds like an excellent proposal, but it relies on the execution. The previous flicks tend to fly a little kid-friendly, with cute jokes that really don't warrant inclusion. Hoping that doesn't happen again.