Iron Man 3 (2013)

ironman3_3Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer

Directed by Shane Black

Expectations: Moderate. I do like these Marvel movies, but I’ve heard mixed things.

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It’s always good to see a movie for yourself to form your own opinion. If I had believed the majority of what I’d heard about Iron Man 3, I might have passed on it. Of course, I’m much too invested in Marvel’s cinematic universe experiment to quit now, but to illustrate a point let’s just say that I might have skipped it. In doing so, I would’ve skipped my favorite of the Iron Man films. Iron Man 3 is entertaining from start to finish, filled with humor and excitement and growth for the on-screen Tony Stark character that excites and satisfies completely. This is exactly what the Iron Man films needed after the fun, but ultimately forgettable Iron Man 2.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark is shaken and unable to focus on anything but his work. He’s dealing with anxiety issues that he’s never had to contend with before and it frightens him. Meanwhile, a mysterious terrorist calling himself The Mandarin has arisen, giving Tony Stark a threat unlike anything he’s yet faced. For a summer blockbuster, it’s also strangely set at Christmas, but it isn’t just “colored lights in the window,” as this backdrop provides a depth that enhances the story’s resonance.

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Lawless (2012)

lawless_1Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Chris McGarry, Tim Tolin, Gary Oldman, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester

Directed by John Hillcoat

Expectations: Low.

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There is such a thing as “too star-studded.” I’m sure on paper Lawless looked like a sure-fire winner. With a cast like this how could it fail? Apparently, it can fail in numerous ways! It’s a shame because a lot of the production design is well-realized, and the locations look great. Director John Hillcoat’s camera often finds a nice image to linger on, the only problem is that the majority of these images aren’t artistically deep or resonant to the overall film, they’re the wide establishing shots. Lawless is the cinematic equivalent to one of my friend’s favorite Raymond Chandler lines (from the novel The High Window), “From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

The story that Lawless tells is apparently based on the true story of three outlaw, moonshinin’ brothers in Franklin County, Virginia. Like all outlaw stories, they start small and their business gets increasingly bigger over the course of the film. Of course, there’s a detective gunning for the brothers’ business (played by Guy Pearce), but Pearce’s guide for the character must have been Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners because this dude is like a goddamn comic book villain. Anyway, they go back and forth throughout, and every once in a while Gary Oldman comes in to look badass.

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Lockout (2012)

lockout_posterStarring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare, Jacky Ido, Tim Plester, Mark Tankersley, Anne-Solenne Hatte, Peter Hudson

Directed by James Mather & Stephen St. Leger

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


Lockout isn’t a movie I watched because I expected it to be good, I watched it because I expected it to be fun. There was a time when I scoffed at every pseudo-science fiction film Hollywood churned out, angry that my beloved genre was getting such a shaft in the name of dumb action. But times have changed and I’ve softened on these types of films quite a bit, so when I saw the trailer for this film set in a space prison, I was game. It really doesn’t take much these days.

Lockout tells the story of a guy named Snow, who’s NOT supposed to be some sort of Snake Plissken-esque character. He’s tasked with infiltrating MS-1, a maximum security space prison to rescue the president’s daughter. OK, I lied, he is supposed to be Snake Plissken-esque. But where the story and the character are pure retread, its execution is a little more interesting than simple ripoff (or homage, depending on your point of view).

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Prometheus (2012)

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie, Guy Pearce

Directed by Ridley Scott

Expectations: High. Despite not liking the trailer, I’m dying to see this.


I take everything negative I ever said about Prometheus back. This is the real deal. A true science fiction film full of grand questions of existence and humanity, Prometheus is incredible. It has its flaws if you come at it with the wrong expectations, but for me, a high-concept lovin’ sci-fi fiend, it doesn’t get much better than this. This is a space exploration movie of the highest order, complete with its own symphonic theme song that’s probably the best Star Trek theme song that’s not actually a Star Trek theme song. Ridley Scott can clearly still throw down a phenomenal film, and I think my faith in his proposed Blade Runner sequel just grew exponentially (even if it does seem needless).

Prometheus is yet another movie you should go into cold, but one thing you should definitely know beforehand is that it’s not an Alien movie. It’s related, but if you expect corridor horror and rampaging xenomorphs you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s definitely in the franchise, so fans of the series will recognize many things that shed some light on Alien, but the events here are never directly connected to anything that happens in that film. Herein lies some of the problems with Prometheus, though, as Alien is a film that works perfectly as is, with its secrets firmly kept in the dark.

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Mini-Review: The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech (2010)

Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Andrews, Eve Best, Freya Wilson, Ramona Marquez, Claire Bloom, Tim Downie

Directed by Tom Hooper

Expectations: Low. I have no interest.


When a film that you have no interest in seeing wins Best Picture, what’s a film blogger to do? I probably should have just moved along, but my obsessive nature wouldn’t stop nagging me to see it, so I decided to check it out. I’ve seen most of the other big movies of last year, I might as well see the “best” one. The King’s Speech is a perfect example of why one should never blindly accept what the Academy deems the Best Picture, because while it is pretty good, it’s just so not for me.

The King’s Speech tells the tale of how the Duke of York tries to overcome his speech problem amidst the Royal drama surrounding the death of his father and the rise of World War II. Most of the film is comprised of Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush shooting lots of dialogue back and forth (what did you expect from a film titled The King’s Speech, explosions?), with Firth doing his best to stay within his shell and Rush doing his best to coax out Firth’s inner demons. The acting is excellent from everyone involved and Tom Hooper shoots the film interestingly for such a boring story, so that adds an extra layer of enjoyment for someone like myself. The set design and art direction is second to none as well, with rich colorful sets that pop off the screen beautifully. I wouldn’t necessarily call it realistic, but that’s beside the point because it looks great. The music, on the other hand, is some of the most boring and generic orchestral film music I’ve heard in a while… and, of course, it received an Oscar nomination. Great by association, I guess, but I thought it was rubbish.

Lots of people have mentioned that this film is quite funny, or even a laugh-out-loud film. It didn’t hit in that way for me at all, instead I found it caught between being too serious to truly be funny and too light-hearted to be truly serious. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to realize before people’s recommendations get you going in expecting a laugh riot. Overall, The King’s Speech is a good film, but not one that I would ever really go nuts over. It’s skillfully crafted and very well put together, but it’s fairly boring, predictable and the dramatic climax lacked the punch it should have had.

The Road (2009)

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael K. Williams, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron

Directed by John Hillcoat

Expectations: Very high.


I’ve been looking forward to this movie for way too long. My mind-hype was allowed to fester and there’s no way that the film could have lived up to that kind of expectation. It was originally slated to release late 2008 but got pushed back a few times, ultimately releasing over a year later in November 2009 to a limited number of screens. Whenever a film is pushed back to this degree, I always get apprehensive about its worth, but in this case it seems that the delay was more for post work and to (unsuccessfully) optimize Oscar potential, so I still expected it to be great.

The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name, but as I haven’t read it yet I can’t offer any sort of adaptation notes. The story follows the journey of a man and his boy in a world devastated by an unnamed catastrophe. There isn’t a defined plot other than the standard apocalypse fare of “Let’s get to the coast, I hear it’s OK there.” This works for the film as the point of it all is to examine the father/son relationship during an incredibly tough time where survival and primal instincts are the only constants. The father (Viggo Mortensen) struggles to keep himself and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) alive and away from the other survivors. As the apocalyptic events wiped out most life on Earth, including plants and animals, most people have resorted to cannibalism of those weaker than them. This is established at the opening of the film as Mortensen is forced to kill a man and he later finds his head and entrails under an overturned truck.

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