Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Monday, September 8, 2014
I hate this movie. I don't hate it because it's bad. It really wasn't all that terrible. It didn't even rub me the wrong way.
I hate this movie because it had all the pieces to be really damn good ... and misstepped.
|It's sad to say, but any Marvel movie with Tom Hiddleston|
is going to be successful
Most Idiotic Review
"It’s sad to say, but Thor: The Dark World marks Marvel’s first serious misfire." — Jack Giroux (Film School Rejects)
I don't know what context this is a serious misfire in, or at least, how this is Marvel's first. As far as I can see, it did far better than Thor at the Box Office, and between this and the two Iron Man sequels ... I'm going to stick to my guns and insist those were far shittier films. Robert Downey Jr.'s star power aside, Iron Man 2 and 3 were atrocious, as I've discussed before. Thor: The Dark World is merely disappointing.
|This scene is sadly an accurate depiction of the movie as a whole.|
Most Accurate Review
“Thor is back in another perfectly adequate Marvel movie that pleasantly killed a few hours of your time with enough cool visuals, action, and humor to keep you from wondering, 'Why does the elf man want to shoot magic Kool-Aid into the sky holes?'” — (Screen Junkies)
I feel like these guys hit the nail on the head pretty solidly. There were three parts of this film that just ... fell apart for me, Thor, the comic relief, and the bad-guy. Now that I've written those out they seem much more dire than I originally thought, but let me elaborate. Specifically, Thor's journey from ignorance to self-awareness (as my professors insist all great protagonists go on) ... isn't. It's there, certainly. We're told so, but we're never given an investment into this struggle. If anyone has a more relatable journey, it's, I hate to admit, Loki.
The Comic Relief are far more annoying in this film, if you ask me, for the simple reason that their antics are cutaways. They're the peanut gallery, not adding to the story ... and when they are adding to the story, blessed-be, they're not that annoying.
Lastly, the villains in this story were impossible to relate to: generic, unexplained, unsympathetic, and primarily speaking a foreign, made-up language. How exactly was the audience supposed to connect to these guys? And in a film already rocking fan-favorite, Loki, it really seems like these guys got seriously shortchanged.
Plot — Alright, let's see what we have. There is a mystical McGuffin of great and terrible power, a group that wants to control/dominate/destroy the universe with it, and a lone hero (and his ragtag friends) who are the only ones capable of stopping it. And speaking of the McGuffin, I really love how it's a liquid Infinity Stone. I'm not anal enough to let that bother me, I just find it rather funny.
|Sidenote, Sif deserves way more development and screentime|
especially compared to Kat Dennings.
Yep. It's a Marvel film, alright. The problem here isn't so much in the plot as the pacing. We open with a prologue with narration. I forgive this in films like Lord of the Rings, simply because there was so much damn exposition to fit into the films, it seemed a necessity. Also, one of the highly memorable quotes from a highly memorable trilogy was in the opening prologue, so I can also forgive them for doing it damn well (for those unsure, I'm referring to the, "history became legend legend became myth and that things that should not be forgotten are lost," line). Here, though, it just seems lazy, especially when the same information is delivered numerous times throughout the film.
They keep hammering the notion of the 'Convergence' into our heads. I know they talk about the rule of threes. I know they talk about the rule of threes. I know they talk about the rule of threes. YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING IT IS? It's not really that foreign a concept. "Once every X millennia the Y realms align and their borders become Play-do." We didn't need that hammered into our heads via 2x4 injection to the cranium.
My other major complaint with the pacing is the film's inability to get serious. Bare with me on this one for a moment. SPOILER ALERT
We have a really touching sacrifice of Thor's mother, Frigga, to save Jane Foster from Malaketh. We see quite a beautiful funeral scene. It's one of my favorite moments of the film, and right as it hooked me with what I considered pretty compelling drama, we cut to Erik Selvig spouting comedic exposition to a psychiatric ward that includes Stan Lee's goddamn cameo. It killed the mood entirely, and it struck me that almost every time the film reached out and did something moving, it skirted away from it, like it was terrified of scaring away their demographic.
Character — Thor is the big one (no surprise) so I'll start there. It is hinted that this Norse god is struggling with his duty of becoming King of Asgard, and his love for Jane Foster on Earth. Maybe it's because I'm a dried up old cynic who buried the last remnants of my romanticism in the backyard ... but this is not a storyline that the audience can get invested in. This might be for several reasons. It's not written well, or it's just not that engaging in and of itself. I felt like the film stumbled onto an arc for Thor in that his conflict isn't with being with Jane vs Ruling Asgard, so much as, Thor is a guardian, a warrior, a protector, more than a sovereign ruler. His place, where he feels most comfortable, is wading into the fray, not watching from afar. I thought the film would play with this more ... but it doesn't. It threw it into a few lines and then let it sit.
Jane Foster continues to be a bland character, although I'm of the opinion that Natalie Portman is doing what she can with what she has. She certainly has more chemistry with Hemsworth than she did with Hayden Christensen. I feel like Marvel, while having a ball, has a limited understanding of what strong female characters can be. It makes me miss the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Tara, Anya etc (and I have to mention Fred from Angel). Whedon's strength isn't just in crafting female characters of notable strength, but they're all different. Marvel's female characters ... like their villains, are starting to become threadbare after so much media attention.
|Then again, I've been single for the past five years.|
I might not know chemistry if it bit me in the ass.
Malekith is probably the worst villain Marvel has delivered. It's a real shame because, as usual, Marvel casts some really heavy-hitting talent. In this case, Doctor Who's Christopher Eccleston. As a character, this is what we know about the Dark Elves, of which Malekith is the most ruthless ruler. They come from before the universe. They want the universe to go back to the dark. Sure this flies in the face of 90% of layman physics I'm aware of, but we'll ignore that. So that's what we're given. That's it. There's also a McGuffin called the Aether that can turn any matter it touches into anti-matter. Sure we never actually see it do this, but that's what we're told (in voice-over narration, no less).
Oh, and I guess I have to talk about Loki or I'd get shivved by the Tumblr Girls (they're out there ... watching, waiting). Loki is probably at his best in this film. In Thor he was weak and mildly whiny. In Avengers ... I honestly just felt sorry for him, since he was so clearly out of his own league. This film, he shined, and many people pointed out the relationship between Thor and Loki was far more engaging than the supposed romance (and slash fiction writers rejoiced). That said, I wished they had actually killed him off, just like I wish they're killed Nick Fury in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Like Moffat's seasons of Doctor Who, there's an impending vacuum of threat. The villains are consistently laughable and their heroes are unkillable.
|WHY ARE YOU HERE?|
The Warriors Three and the Comic Relief return in this movie. One set has a distinct advantage over the other in terms of screentime, and I'll be honest, I was less than thrilled with the film's choice. I'm sorry, but the votes are in, and the comic relief in these films ... they're not funny. They're tonally out of place and obnoxious. Why? Every time they start doing their bit, the plot stops. Merry and Pippin might have been comic relief, but they moved the damn story along while they made jokes, or at least their jokes were interspersed enough not to feel like they were highhandedly dragging the movie into the pits of hell.
Last I'll mention Odin. I love Anthony Hopkins ... I think. It's been a long while since I've seen him in any roll that struck me as anything other than tired. Maybe that's the idea behind Odin, but all I get from him is that this guy really wants to retire, and neither or his son's will oblige him the opportunity to spend the rest of his days on a beach in Cabo.
Spectacle — The film is a little more rugged than the previous installment. Asgard feels less like a classic Shakespeare set as a lived-in world. It's pretty clear this is the influence Alan Taylor had in taking over the direction from Kenneth Branagh. Since it's built on the skeleton of the previous film's design, I do personally prefer this film's depiction, but it's just personal taste. I was more than a little annoyed by how easily invaded Asgard was though. For the most powerful race in the Nine Realms, the Dark Elves pretty solidly kicked their asses. I'm not even sure why they retreated at all, except for dramatic purposes. It was pretty well shown that the Asgardian forces posed about as much a threat as the Bulk and Skull from Power Rangers.
The fight scenes are ... less visceral than you'd think a film about a god wielding a magic hammer would be.
The final fight does have a fun concept and some colorful visuals, but I was so detached from the characters by that point, I just couldn't get invested. The action scenes were really impersonal, is what I'm getting at. They are well choreographed and stylish, but there's no heart to them. This might just be me, but the only moments in the film that warranted as legit ass-kicking, the deaths of two major characters, were greeted by more mundane and tradition venues of drama. That said, when you kill off two of the people closest to the God of Thunder, one might expect a more intense emotional outburst of wanton destruction. Butts should be liberally kicked.
And what's my takeaway from all this? Well, as I said at the beginning of the review, it's just sad.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
I'm behind the times on Game of Thrones, both the books and the shows, but having been laid low by a nasty-ass cold (seriously, hacking blood into a sink is a bit worrisome. I have no problem with the zombie apocalypse so long as I'm not patient zero), I decided it was an opportune time to try catching up on at least the show, since I just don't read fast enough to plow through the books in a weekend.
So I'll be up front with you guys ... I'm not a huge fan of Game of Thrones, and that IS NOT because I think it's bad. I think it's great. I think George R.R. Martin's books are fantastic (the 152 pages I've read) and the show a moderately faithful but still kickass adaptations. So what's my problem? I'm a cynic, and the show's sincere but perpetual portrayal of the human condition as nasty, deplorable, untrustworthy, and dishonorable just ... doesn't do it for me.
My favorite fantasy author, Stephen R. Donaldson once said, "Fantasy [is] involved in affirming the value of the individual. Fantasy implies that there is some way in which human beings are greater than the sum of their parts by using magic as a metaphor to discuss what it means to be a human being. It implies some kind of transcendence in the notion of who we are as people, and so it affirms by necessity the value of who we are and the lives we are living."
You can see this a lot in the genre of fantasy, Tolkien especially. Where you won't see it though, is in Game of Thrones, which is intentional. You see him talk about it in interviews, like for Rolling Stone, "Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it's not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn't ask the question: What was Aragorn's tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren't gone – they're in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?"
So Game of Thrones has done nothing wrong save for going off and boldly exploring an area that just doesn't much interest me.
Most Idiotic Review
"Game of Thrones has always been a slow-burning affair, which is worth more as a whole than the sum of its parts. But when a show pledges to give fans even more and then doesn’t deliver its leave of an empty feeling of mild disappointment." — Neela Debnath (The Independent)
Stuff like this annoys me. I think it's partially because it displays, what seems to me, to be something of a naive attitude toward storytelling structure. Case in point, show of hands, who here remembers Peter Jackson's King Kong? Okay, cool. How many of you remember the Brontosaurus chase sequence? Of course you do, it dominated a better portion of an already massive film and served little purpose in the context of the final film. In 2005 I was 13 years old, and guess what, I felt visually exhausted by the end of that scene, and there was still half of the movie left to go.
|"Who are you again?"|
So what did Game of Thrones pledge to deliver? Well, I'm assuming it's pretty much the same stuff we've known the whole time. We have the Whitewalkers, Daenarys and her Dragons, and the frankly insane level of complication involved in who's stabbing who in the back down in Westeros. Admittadly, the season isn't as grand. It's more character focused, but it certainly is establishing the brickwork to deliver what one can only hope to be a hellova ride for the next few seasons.
Most Accurate Review
"Game of Thrones a slog through constantly fluctuating politics and random instances of gore with only brief moments of true excitement when you know exactly who you're rooting for -- when you can distinguish good from evil. This is clearly a writer's choice and not one that should be criticized from a structural standpoint, only a moral one." — Ben Travers (indieWIRE)
This is definitely more in line with my own personal viewpoint. Westeros is a miserable place. I'm a fan of Joss Whedon, Tolkien, and Neal Stephenson. My upbringing never prepared me for the sheer level of abuse these characters inflict on one another, whether it be sexual, verbal, physical, or psychological, it doesn't seem to matter to them. I'm used to being emotionally decimated by shows like Buffy, Supernatural, or Doctor Who. But Game of Thrones operates on a whole different level, and while it's truly well done, that just makes me more uncomfortable. Call me overly sensitive if you will, and naive for preferring heroic characters over Martin's arguably more realistic ones, but it is what it is.
|This constitutes a break.|
What I Say
Plot — Well, I personally think Westeros needed a break after the Red Wedding and the Battle of Blackwater. Let's face it, the majority of primary characters were murdered in one, and the majority of opposing armies were murdered in the other. Everything is in shambles and the dust needs to settle a bit before the remaining forces make their move.
This season is dominated (after the death of a certain little troll) by personal character studies, mostly. We get some pretty powerful character arcs in this season. That said, the plot section will be a bit shorter, so I can devote some more time to the characters.
What is primarily happening in the wide world of Westeros? Daenerys and her dragons are finally bitten in the ass for her inability to understand economics and cultural diversity after freeing countless slaves who don't know how to live any other life than the one she finds morally abhorrent (I consider Daenerys to be one of the most frightening characters in the show).
Jon Snow is forced to contend with the Wildling forces as well as growing threat of the Whitewalkers, who we still only see brief glimpses of. The petulant twerp Geoffrey is finally offed, via poison, and the blame is placed on Tyrion, who just can't catch a break on this show, and is put on trial for regicide.
Comparatively, yes, it is a simple season, dealing primarily with fallout from the last three, and prepping for serious ass-kickery yet to come.
Characters — Seeing as there seems to be a bazillion characters starring in this show, I'll try to focus my attention by a random set of conditions that I'll try and pass off as reasoned and well thought out.
Arya Stark is undoubtedly a badass. She kicks ass and takes names and survived longer than the majority of her family, even when her circumstances were far worse. Even so, she's a terrifying little girl. Not even girl, she'd be terrifying as a boy. She'd be terrifying as an adult. The sad thing is, it didn't even occur to me until after the fact. She was strong, but now she's broken, and I don't mean that as a failing. Whatever mercy, understanding, or forgiveness she might have once had seems to have been smothered by sheer cruelty. She is now and forever a product of the war.
Jon Snow maintains his dour stoicism though. For every curveball the North throws at the poor bastard (everyone else points it out, why can't I?) he simply glowers, gets up, dusts himself off, and keeps doing his duty. Driven by honor and chivalry, he seems to be one of the handful remaining respectable characters left in the show who displays any level of restraint, even if in certain circumstances, I wish he'd cut loose on some of his superiors. His relationship with Ygritte is brought to a close, prompting more brooding (I said he was respectable, I didn't say he was complicated).
After a season dedicated to their growth, both Jaime and Brienne seem to drift at sea. It makes sense, seeing as where they are both physically and developmentally, as they're both trying to find their bearings. Tyrion too becomes very reactionary this season, having been blamed for Geoffrey's death, and is forced to sit inside his cell for the majority of the season. The relationship between the brothers and Cersei is expanded upon in the meantime, and we do see progression in this, further fueling Jaime's seeming redemption (that can't end well). Cersei continues to be crazy.
I know there's way more to delve into, but unless I broke the season down episode by episode (I could do that you know) I think I've said enough here. As it is, I excitedly await 2015's Season 5.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
I'm actually a little behind on this one. I too have suffered at the hands of Facebook's habit of NOT SHOWING POSTS FROM PEOPLE I'D LIKE TO SEE THEM FROM.
Anywho. Poets of the Fall is probably my favorite band of all time. I could wax philosophical, but simply put, I friggin' love their shit. So, why am I telling you this? They released the first single from their upcoming album, entitled "Jealous Gods," (to be released September 19) which is a bitch-ass title. The song is called 'Daze,' and if you've never seen any of their music videos before, you're in for both a visual and musical treat.
P.S. sorry about not posting a Throwback Thursday post (Thor 2: The Dark World was planned) but I had to attend the performing arts Major's Meeting tonight, and by the time that was finished, I didn't have the heart to watch a two-hour long movie. I promise all twenty of you who've been reading my blog this week, I WILL POST TOMORROW.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Okay, so I'd never had any experience with Sin City until today. I never had much a reason, I just never got around to it. So I guess, at the end of the day, I'm not really a fan of either film. They're really stupid, but that's okay. They're chalk full of brutal violence, but that's okay. They're full of scantily clad women, but that's okay.
My real problem has more to do with the source material. Not even the material, no ... just the source. Frank Miller is ... colorful to say the least. Or, one might say he's a misogynistic, homophobic fascist, and unfortunately, whatever qualities his works might have going for them, for me, personally, they're overshadowed by that.
Suffice it to say, I find the man distasteful. And to put it bluntly, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For ... ugh.
Most Idiotic Review
"I think it's almost as good as the first one. If you want to see a Sin City movie, that is exactly what you get." — Doug Walker
Wow, Doug ... I'm sorry. I just ... I'm so sorry, but I disagree so hard ... oh well. So it goes.
Most Accurate Review
"This is Rodriguez's second sequel in a row in which he turns sex, violence and exploitation into an occasional for dullness. For a film loaded with decapitations and gun-toting ladies in bondage gear, Sin City gets really tedious really quickly." — Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
This is one of the few times I checked the reviews before stepping into the movie. I really wasn't sure how it could be this bad, you know? I thought this might be a case where I and the critics really just didn't agree. That said ... well, I really agree.
What I Say
The more of this movie I watched, the more I hated it. I actually haven't hated a movie like this ... wow, Turtles didn't piss me off this badly. That's how badly I reacted to this movie. Wow. Just wow.
Plot — Well, we have two main stories. There's Joseph Gordon-Levitt who ... gah, I'm getting frustrated already. Okay, he's a lucky gambler who always wins and comes to Sin City to test his luck. And there's Josh Brolin who is playing as Clive Owen's character from the first film and they do a really shitty job establishing it's the same character. I didn't realize it until halfway through when Rosario Dawson reappears and recognizes him, cause I sure as hell didn't. Josh Brolin is caught up with Eva Green's character, a classic Femme Fatale, who ... wants power? I wasn't too clear on what exactly she wanted.
The plots themselves aren't horrible, but the pacing in this movie is god-awful, and all those reviewers saying they were checking their watches? Seriously spent the majority of the time doing just that. Man. They tried to recreate the multiple storylines element from the previous movie, but except maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt's, none of them are that interesting, but his is horribly anticlimactic.
Jessica Alba's storyline, on the other hand, pisses me off to no end. Apparently, without her man, Bruce Willis in her life, she descends into alcohol and eventually self-mutilation. I really hate this kind of storytelling. One could argue it's just in character, but I'll argue it stinks of sexism, and knowing Frank Miller's history? I'm pretty secure in making that argument.
The individual stories climax on their own time, contributing to the flawed pacing. In the first film, each climax felt like it was building toward a grander finale, or at least a personal, character driven one. I think that's what they were going for here, but I feel like they sidestepped success on that one.
Character — Okay, so we have some returning faces. Jessica Alba is back ... for the last half hour mostly. Marv returns, but he's sidelined as random muscle for the majority of the film. Josh Brolin plays Clive Owen's part from the first movie (I'm noticing that outside Marv ... I really don't know any of these characters' names) and while his arc takes up most of the first half of the film, I found myself far less invested than I expected to be. All in all ... a hodgepodge mess.
Spectacle — I will give the film credit, it is a violent, stylized, noir-fest ... but I don't think it's good. There is a distinct lack of pop, however you want to interpret that. At the end of the day, I suppose the film just really failed to grab me (like the first one did) leaving me with a muddled story and undertones of Frank Miller's insanity.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Like with Inception, I'm stretching my definition of 'terrible' this Tuesday. However, that does not really make this movie good. It has a flawed structure, a dull villain (or two), and a nigh incomprehensible plot. I'm really getting sick of movies nowadays trying to spruce things up with complications over complexities. Just because you can hardly track what's going on doesn't make it complex, just confusing. In this case, I'm mainly referring to the villain's ultimate goal, which he goes about achieving in a woefully questionable way.
Most Idiotic Review
"Visually spectacular and suitably action packed, Star Trek Into Darkness is a rock-solid installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise ...." — Rotten Tomatoes site consensus
Most Accurate Review
"If only the script actually made sense ..." — Keith Decandido (Tor.com)
Yeah ... that.
|Who cares about the script making sense?|
What I Say
Before I begin, I want just say, this review is coming out of me when I'm not at my best. My new semester just started yesterday and I've already run myself a bit ragged trying to keep up with the schedule that I have only myself to blame for creating. Normally I'd rewatch the entire film before throwing down with it, but frankly, I didn't like this movie nearly enough to sit through it again, having seen it at least three times I can think of off the top of my head.
I won't really delve into the film today, so much as what's stupid about it. Somewhere out there, I know I just made someone very happy. The villain, played by Peter Weller, has a pretty stupid plan as to start a war with the Klingons in order to ... prevent a war. Smooth. His mentality is that war is inevitable, but he wants it on his terms.
The way he goes about this is so painful I don't even like thinking about it. He manipulates Kirk into going after Khan (they try and fail for a reveal of this, but there were few if no people who didn't see it coming), and tries to get him to fire Khan's crew (secretly housed in torpedoes) at the planet to kill Khan. Then he rigs the ship to stall. Then, when he finds out they didn't kill Khan, he shows up himself ... and tries to kill everyone.
I love villains who think they're the good guys, since I find them the most believable and the most interesting ... Admiral Marcus is not one of these villains. His plan is very solidly in mustache twirler area, and the attempts to change that really fail. He comes across less sympathetic than Khan, even when one considers Khan's acts of terrorism at the end of the film when he crashes a Starship into Starfleet headquarters. Khan is actually fairly sympathetic all in all, but I'll get to that later.
Outside the stupidity of the plot, we also have a few other things crammed down our throat. Kirk fires Scotty for reasons that at first seem really stupid, which are confirmed when it's revealed the writers just needed Scotty off the Enterprise so he could go do other things.
They reverse the end of Wrath of Khan, putting Kirk in Spock's place, and reverse even their lines. It really doesn't work. Instead of hearkening to the original scene and then deviating to explore their own themes and their own character relationships (this Spock and Kirk do not have the same relationship as their Wrath of Khan counterparts), the identical dialogue just resonates wrong. It forces you to compare it to the original, which is unfair to Into Darkness.
There's plenty else to complain about in terms of inconsistencies (I tend to blame Lindelof for the majority of these, since I almost always have a bone to pick with that guy), like 'needing' Khan's super-blood when you have the rest of his crew in stasis, or the tribble ... which is just a frankly odd and out of place conclusion. The relationship between Spock and Uhura is just uncharacteristic to me, and feels like Hollywood overstepping its bounds and trying to make Star Trek more hip for a younger audience. I don't think it adds to either character. Kirk is both similar and dissimilar to Shatner's portrayal. I don't think this would bother me if not for Zachary Quinto's damned impressive portrayal of Spock. I read that he purportedly based the majority of his performance on actually spending time with Leonard Nimoy, and I believe it. I still argue the best scene in the 2009 film is the scene with the two Spocks near the end. So my problem isn't that Chris Pine is doing a poor job, by any means. He's doing his version of the character, but with the other lead doing his version of the original's version, I simply find it jarring.
The film does have a lot of good moments, although I don't really care for how J.J. Abrams handles a camera. There is a lot of shaky cam overall, even in softer quieter scenes, and I found it very distracting. Also, the lens flares are back in force. Considering the audience reaction to the 2009 film's overuse of the damn things, there's a lingering sense of 'fuck you, got mine,' that I've mentioned about other filmmakers.
Thankfully the movie has a star-studded cast and Benedict Cumberbatch steals the show. Someone pointed out on another review I read that it really is a testament to Martin Freeman's acting chops that he can so effortlessly play equal to Cumberbatch, who feels like he's walking over the rest of this cast. It's a surreal enough experience that it's almost reason alone to see Into Darkness. But, other than the aforementioned Abrams shaky-cam, the actions scenes are grand-scale epic, they're just difficult to discern what the hell is happening. It's a real shame that I've talked about before.
If there's one thing I walked away from this with a sense of dread with Abram's upcoming Star Wars film ... something I wasn't excited for in the first place.