Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iron Man 2

For those of you counting, this would be my third review of Iron Man 2. Even though I say the movie three times in three days I decided it would be best to space out the reviews so not to bore you. This time I’d like to talk about Scarlett Johansson.

A few years ago Ms. Johansson started to annoy me. I thought she was good actress, but she was falling into that typical trap of the young Hollywood sexpot – she was playing the same character in every movie. She’d show up in films as the hot young thing, that usually fell for the married man or man that was really bad for her, plenty of skin would be shown, her character would be pretensions and pretty girl vapid behavior wrapped into an “original” seeming character and at the end of the movie she’d usually end up scorned by love and worse off. It got old.

You can see why I was a bit worried when she was cast as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. I didn’t want to see yet another role where Johansson would seduce a man, then be left burnt. Thank God that didn’t happen. For the first time in years, I feel like Johansson had a somewhat original and fun character, and as an added bonus she kicked enough butt to make Sydney Bristow proud. If the trailer is any indication, there are probably a few things deleted from the film with her, that make her perhaps a more sultry character but the point is that they didn’t make it into the film – as such they are not a part of her final character. Amen. Great directing choice.

I am aching to see this film again, so you will probably be getting more reviews before Iron Man 2 leaves the theatre. Sorry. It’s just how I role. With each film and viewing I am becoming a bigger Favreau fan, and I think he’s a great dude to model my career after. I have to say the next film I am getting more and more excited about would have to be Cowboys & Aliens and I know that’s because of Favreau…

Tony: Who is she?
Pepper: She is from legal and she is potentially a very expensive sexual harassment lawsuit if you keep ogling her like that.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scream 2

sdcc wes craven 1
Originally uploaded by April A. Taylor
As if the first Scream weren’t reflexive enough, Scream 2 came around and suddenly instead of verbally making fun of the movies on which it is based, Kevin Williamson made the new tale center around the movie within the movie, Stab based on the Woodsboro killings from the original film. It’s a brilliant bit of writing and probably why I love this movie so much – it’s a movie about movies and Scream is the only horror franchise I can think of right off hand that is about the movies.

Wes Craven may be pigeon-holed into the horror genre but the man is a master at it. One of the reasons I love the Scream franchise is that the jumps and bumps are based on actual thrills and suspense that works, not gore and cheap tricks; the characters are also human and their struggles just real enough to put you in their shoes. While Kevin Williamson deserves a decent share in that credit, his scripts could have been completely butchered if it weren’t for the artful hand of Craven.

You may not be aware that Scream 4 is in production as I type this. The Craven/Williamson pairing is reuniting again and I can’t wait to see what new rules the characters will face now that their personal horror stories turned from a trilogy to a franchise. I for one can’t wait to see, and I hope desperately the studio does not force them into the horror movie killer – a PG-13 rating.

Mickey: Come on Randy, with all due respect, the killer obvious patterned himself after two serial killers who have been immortalized on film.
Film Class Guy: Thank you!
Teacher: Are you suggesting that someone's trying to make a real life sequel?
Randy: "Stab 2"? Who'd want to do that? Sequels suck!


"MacGruber" panel
Originally uploaded by Heather Leah Kennedy
There has been lots of talk about MacGruber being the best SNL movie since Wayne’s World, I must respectfully disagree. While MacGruber is a good SNL movie, worthy of laughs and probably a cult following, it will never reach the status of Wayne’s World.

From what I have seen, MacGruber has very little to do with the SNL shorts of the same name, mainly because in the SNL episodes each two minute, McGuyver-esque skit ends with MacGruber failing to save the day and being blown to smithereens. For a film, you can’t have the title character blow up every time he comes into a challenge – that would kind of ruin the running time of the film very quickly. However, here MacGruber is exactly what it should be – a homage to the action films of the 80’s and 90’s where Michael Bay, Mel Gibson and muscled, long haired villains reigned supreme.

I have said it once, and I will say it again, Kristen Wiig might be one of the biggest female actresses ever to come out of SNL. Next to Tina Fey, she is one of the funniest women to have ever been on the show and MacGruber included she proves over and over again that her humor and appeal extends to film. I can’t wait to see what this funny lady does when like Fey, she leaves SNL behind her.

Val Kilmer plays the villain in MacGruber and I for one loved it. Kilmer may have the reputation of being a handful on set, but when used properly, he is more than a superb addition to any cast. Dieter Von Cunth may not be as great as Gay Perry, but Kilmer does what he does best and makes the character maniacal, humerous and fun to watch.

MacGruber is not a film for everyone, and it very much deserves it’s R rating. However, if you find yourself a fan of SNL or the skit you will get something worth watching out of MacGruber. With a few more well placed homages this could have turned into a parody the likes of Hot Shots…but it’s still no Wayne’s World.

Director: Jorma Taccone
Writers: Will Forte, John Solomon & Jorma Taccone
MacGruber: Will Forte
Vicki St. Elmo: Kristen Wiig
Lt. Dixon Piper: Ryan Phillippe
Dieter Von Cunth: Val Kilmer
Col. Faith: Powers Boothe
Casey: Maya Rudolph

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Iron Man

As I stated before, I was able to take part in the promotion Paramount did for the release of Iron Man 2 and see a double feature – watching Iron Man before experiencing the new adventures of Tony Stark.

What I love so much about Iron Man - the first and second, is Tony Stark. I remember reading an interview with Jon Favreau where he talked about Stark; he realizes that unlike Superman or Batman, what has made Iron Man such an enduring character and book for years isn’t that he has a great villain like Joker or Lex Luthor, it’s the man – Tony Stark himself. All of the best known Iron Man series have been the ones where the story centers more around Tony’s own troubles than his villains (Demon in a Bottle) – Jon Favreau makes this translate so well on screen and that is what makes Iron Man so incredible a character piece, and vehicle for Robert Downey Jr.

I was afraid going into Iron Man 2 that somehow it would dampen my enthusiasm of the first installment (think The Matrix and it’s sequels, I have to ignore their existence to enjoy the original), but thankfully this did not happen. I’ve gotta give Superman the Favreau treatment one day…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Star Trek

It’s no secret that Star Trek is one of my happy movies. I love what JJ Abrams did to the franchise to make it relevant again and I think that Rodenberry would be happy with it to – knowing that a whole new generation was going to get to enjoy his creation.

The difficult thing about taking on such a well known formula, whether it be from the perspective of a director or an actor, is remembering to stay true to the formula while shaking up enough that you don’t fall into the traps of what came before you. If push comes to shove, when you boil down what the critics of Abrams Star Trek have to say is that they are upset that it deviated in style and tone from the series they remember. My rebuttal to this would be that if the formula, style and tone had been working then it wouldn’t have been changed. Abrams was brought in to breathe new life into the Trek franchise and that’s exactly what he did. As someone who never got caught up in arguing about the difference between a Trekkie and a Trecker he could do what so many couldn’t; together with his creative team he was able to take five decades of plot and characters and sift away at it – allowing the chaff to blow away into the breeze and be left with the real meat of concept.

I am waiting to see what a sequel to Star Trek will bring to the plate. I hope that Abram’s take on the franchise will be more than a one-note wonder, but only time will tell.

Spock: I would cite regulation, but I know you will simply ignore it.
Kirk: See? We are getting to know each other.

Wonder Woman

Wednesday Comics!
Originally uploaded by antonkawasaki
There is a list, at least in my head, of Hollywood projects that should have happened and didn’t. Joss Whedon’s Wonder Woman is one of those; while this err in judgment is being somewhat corrected by the fact that he is going to helm The Avengers, like so many DC heroes the Amazon princess has still never gotten a fair representation of herself on screen.

Other than Nolan’s Batman the one consistent way DC characters come to screen is through the DC direct to DVD animation division, which produced an origin story titled only Wonder Woman. While this story fit into the less cheesy frame of Dianna’s character than Linda Carter’s TV series, Wonder Woman still lacks everything a big screen version of the tale could bring her – namely reality and emotion.

This is the Batman Begins of Wonder Woman only it’s missing the glorious connective thread David Goyer wrote into Nolan’s tale. Instead, we begin Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazon’s defeating Ares and being granted a sanctuary for her Amazons. Since this great war of the gods the Amazon’s have been living in secrecy in a completely man-free environment until Capt. Steve Trevor crash lands on the Amazon’s island – an event that coincides with Ares escape into the real world. Dianna, princess of the Amazon’s is then sent to return Taylor to his country and find Ares, while Dianna secretly hopes to find a way to reconnect the Amazon’s with the outside world in the process.

While this plot sounds pretty concise and connected let me assure it is not. The main thing missing is any development of Taylor or Dianna themselves and the natural move of Dianna from being an Amazon princess to a super hero reluctant to return home. It all just happens.

Also, while I love the voice talent in this movie, I can’t help but feel that animation is not the way to connect with the Amazon’s. The DC animation lacked the heart and feeling I wanted to get behind the lines that were being said and the animation felt like a barrier leaving me wondering if it was the actors or images that were leaving me unable to connect to the characters.

All in all, while Wonder Woman was enjoyable it left me wanting a big screen version with a killer script that only Joss Whedon could have provided.

Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writer: Michael Jelenic
Wonder Woman: Keri Russell
Steve Trevor: Nathan Fillion
Ares: Alfred Molina
Artemis: Rosario Dawson
Hera: Marg Helgenberger
Hades: Oliver Platt
Hippolyta: Virginia Madsen

Advisor: Mr. President, the threat has been neutralized.
President: How?
Advisor: It seems by a group of armored supermodels.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Iron Man 2

As promise I saw Iron Man 2 a lot this weekend. I like to see movies multiple times, at least good ones.

I honestly think Iron Man 2 improves on repeat viewings. The first film is pretty simple in terms of plot – Tony Stark is captured in Afghanistan, has a change of heart about his life, creates Iron Man & comes home to skeptics while still trying to save the day. Iron Man 2 becomes much more complex.

In this film Tony isn’t recovering from PTSD, he’s suffering from something else entirely – his ego. Tony is no longer just a billionaire playboy, he’s internationally famous for being Iron Man and his ego can’t be checked by any of his friends. Pepper is trying to run Stark Industries, but all she does is put out Iron Man’s media fires, and Rhodes is feeling the pain of being part of the military until that wants nothing more than to pry the Iron Man technology from Tony for use in the military. As if those character archs weren’t enough you have Justin Hammer, a business rival to Tony that is trying to take his place in the the government arms race and Ivan Vanko who places all of his families misfortune on Tony. Then there’s SHIELD who is torn between recruiting Tony for the Avenger Initiative and keeping a close eye on his reckless behavior.

Nick Fury finally gets a decent amount of screen time in this film and I am already loving Samuel L. Jackson’s turn as the head Avenger. If it’s possible for a man to be sassy and masculine, I’d say that word fits Nick Fury. He is a dangerous man with attitude and Jackson holds his own nicely against Downey.

The film goes out of IMAX soon, so I am debating seeing Iron Man 2 a fourth time within the next week…

Monday, May 10, 2010

Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

I am a fan of all of the Harry Potter books and I am still amazed that for the Order of the Phoenix film they managed to completely cut out so much and yet make a movie that got the point of the book across so well.

Order of the Phoenix is one of the darkest stories in the series as there is arguable no win for our heroes – while by the end of the story the Wizzarding world is accepting that Harry & Dumbledore have told the truth and Voldemort is indeed back, there has been death in the family of heroes and no one has escaped unhurt.

Perhaps the single best addition to the series for me that came with Order of the Phoenix would have to be Luna Lovegood. Luna is an eccentric child who is an outcast at school and ends up becoming part of Dumbledore’s Army and one of Harry’s friends. Luna is a beautifully different character and Evanna Lynch plays her beautifully.

The Harry Potter franchise is undoubtedly one of Warner’s breadwinners and it will be interesting to see what takes its place as it draws to a close.

Harry: This connection between me and Voldemort... what if the reason for it is that I am becoming more like him? I just feel so angry, all the time. What if after everything that I've been through, something's gone wrong inside me? What if I'm becoming bad?
Sirius: I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You're not a bad person. You're a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

Six months after Tony Stark revealed his alter ego to the world, he is more famous and more alone than ever. His party-boy lifestyle enhanced by his new fame, Tony finds little time for the running of Stark Industries and turns the empire over to Pepper, and takes on a new assistant named Natalie. However, this new level of fame comes with consequences – the government wants to take the Iron Man weapon away, Rhoadie is pulled between friend & country, rival Justin Hammer is the new government weapons man and an old secret from the Stark family past surfaces in the form of Ivan Vanko. Vanko is set on proving Tony Stark is a fraud and invents a rival technology and alter ego bent on destroying Iron Man & Tony Stark.

Jon Favreau has done it. He’s proven that he and his franchise have the stuff; he’s turned out a quality movie that isn’t just a great sequel to a fantastic first part, but it’s a great movie on its own. Iron Man 2 is a sequel that lives up to its original and helps to make what we love about that world even better than it was before.

One of the elements that makes Iron Man 2 such a spectacular film is that while being a summer blockbuster, and an action film Favreau and writer Justin Theroux managed to remember that the effects and action are meaningless unless there is a story behind all of it. There is a story in Iron Man 2, a great one and what makes it great it exactly what made Iron Man great – it’s story about a flawed man that decides to do better.

Tony Stark is and always will be an amazing character, and in Iron Man 2 Stark ends up on a free fall, rushing towards rock bottom as he deals with fame, life and the monster in himself. Stark has the entire world at his fingertips and yet he is living completely out of control, drunk on power and fame. Robert Downey Jr. again takes a powerful turn as Stark and lends the role great gravitas, centering Tony’s arch which is one that is eerily similar to a spiral he was on earlier in his life.

Don Cheedle is also notable as Col. Rhodes and had one of the hardest parts in the film as he took the role over from the ousted Terrence Howard. However, by the end of Cheedle’s first scene you will forget Howard completely and be glad for the grounded air Cheedle gives Rhodes and his relationship torn between his country and Stark.

Perhaps what is the most comforting about Iron Man 2 is the obvious care shown throughout the film to create the Marvel Universe. This is a film about Tony Stark, but woven throughout the film are subtle hints that perhaps there are other things going on there as well, things that Nick Fury & SHIELD aren’t telling Stark or any of us.

This is a movie that will be seen multiple times by most audience members, and I urge you that when you go, especially if you are a fan of the Marvel Universe – stay until the end of the credits.

Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Threoux
Tony Stark: Robert Downey Jr.
Rhodey: Don Cheedle
Natalie Rushman: Scarlett Johansson
Pepper: Gwyneth Paltrow
Ivan Vanko: Mickey Rourke
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson
Agent Coulson: Clark Gregg
Howard Stark: John Slattery
Happy Hogan: Jon Favreau
Jarvis: Paul Bettany

Ivan Vanko: If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, and the sharks will come. All I have to do is sit here and watch, as the world will consume you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Iron Man

That’s right. The day has come.

I am seeing Iron Man 2 at midnight, and in a special stroke of brilliance Paramount is playing Iron Man at select theatres at 9 pm so you can see both.

The best double feature since GrindHouse.

Of course this didn’t keep me from watching it again on my own last week. I love this movie and I am far too excited about being invited back into Tony Starks world.

Pepper: Agent Couslon, I just wanted to say thank you very much for all of your help.
Agent Coulson: That's what we do. You'll be hearing from us.
Pepper: From the Strategic Homeland...
Agent Coulson: Just call us S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Losers

When assignment goes terribly wrong Clay and his special ops team “The Losers” fake their own death and go rogue, hiding out in South America until they can find a way to take out the man that tried to kill them Max. When Aisha appears on the scene she offers The Losers a chance not only to go home, but a way to find Max an kill him.

The Losers is one in a long line of comic book adaptations, and Sylvian White does not shy away from this, even using panels from the book in the opening credits sequence. The film is funny, action packed and full of stars that I like – so it took me awhile to identify what I thought was off about the film, and I finally realized it came down to two things: the tone and the ending.

The film, like the book is an action comedy. This is something that is deceptively hard to do, especially when your main characters are basically assassins and with the exception of Joss Whedon or Phil Alden Robinson, I can’t think of many people that can do that tone really well. While I enjoyed the comedy and the action in The Losers I couldn’t shake the feeling the whole time that I was at times watching two separate films that didn’t seem to fit together very well. Then there’s Max…the villain…he needed an image and dialogue makeover because not only was he really not villainous or funny but I found him downright cheesy – straight out of a B movie.

Then there’s the ending. I understand The Losers is a series and they’re probably hoping to turn the film into a franchise if they can, but the ending bothered me. The only thing I can think to describe it is that the ending felt so intentionally open ended; there was only a half resolution and nothing was really wrapped up. On top of that there continued to be post-ending sequences over the credits – while funny, they didn’t fit.

What did work greatly about this movie was main cast. Every one of the “Losers” was cast perfectly. I am a huge fan of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Zoe Saldana so I am always willing to watch either of them for two hours, and in this film they both kick some major butt. Then there’s Chris Evans, also known as the new Captian America, and that man is charismatic as hell and the only one that could pull off that level of comedy, geekiness and bravado in one character.

The Losers is enjoyable. But it struck me as the popcorn of comic book movies. I almost feel as though the writers should have pulled away from the source material just a little to make sure the film felt like a complete movie, not just the first part of a series.

Director: Sylvain White
Writers: Peter Berg & James Vanderbilt
Clay: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Aisha: Zoe Saldana
Jensen: Chris Evans
Roque: Idris Elba
Pooch: Columbus Short
Max: Jason Patric
Cougar: Oscar Jaenada