Archive for the 'movie monday' Category

Cowboys & Aliens: I Ain’t Sayin’ She a Gold Digger

A dilapidated gold rush town now run by a seemingly ruthless cattle boss. A lynch mob. A canyon ambush. And aliens. It’s all there in Cowboys & Aliens. The film delivers on the title in spades. But as the credits began to roll and I whipped out my phone to make my notes, I found myself not having a ton of things to type in for later. I couldn’t figure out what the deal was. Did I like it? Did it suck? Find out in a little bit. But first…

The Trailers
Mission Impossible 4 – Yep. When you go to the movies every week, you start seeing the same trailers over and over again.
War Horse – The trailer opens with “A Steven Spielberg Film” which grabs my attention. The rest of the trailer? Not so much. Lots of shots of a kid, and lots of shots of a horse. Not a lot of other details. Oh, it’s World War I.
Three Musketeers – How many times has this book been adapted for the silver screen? I don’t care. Milla Jovovich as M’Lady De Winter and Christoph Waltz (famously Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds) as Richelieu have me looking forward to this one. Plus, they’re going steampunk a bit it looks like. That can’t be bad, right? Right??
The Amazing Spider-Man – My Dad looks at me after this one is finished and says, “Really?” Exactly, Dad. Exactly.
Battleship – It’s the Milton Bradley game made into a movie, only the bad guy’s pieces are aliens. But hey, it’s got Tim Riggins from FNL in it so there’s that.
Tower Heist – A thuggish Eddie Murphy teams up with Ben Stiller to take down Alan Alda, a Bernie Madoff-like investment guru who stole a bunch of money. Oh yeah, it’s directed by Brett Ratner. I think I’ll pass.

The Movie
The movie starts out pretty much the same way the previews suggest – Daniel Craig wakes up in the middle of nowhere in his long johns, not knowing who or where he is. He ends up in town at a bar, has a near-standoff with the unruly son of the local cattle baron, and gets locked up for being a wanted man. The unruly son gets locked up for accidentally shooting a deputy. Harrison Ford, the cattle baron, learns of his son’s plight and organizes a lynch mob to come and collect his son. It seemed like they were setting up Ford’s character to be the antagonist of the film, and if this movie had just been titled “Cowboys,” that probably would have been the case. But not long after Ford’s lynch mob arrives in town to collect his wayward whelp the real antagonist arrives and begins abducting the townsfolk in what appears to be the alien equivalent of round-up, complete with alien lassos. Daniel Craig manages to shoot one of the alien craft out of the sky with his mysterious bracelet-turned-alien-killer-thing. The townsfolk lose many to the alien abductors. Amongst the abducted are the Sheriff and Harrison Ford’s son. This, of course, forces Harrison Ford to team up with Daniel Craig, and they give the aliens a merry chase. All the while, the mysterious and striking Olivia Wilde hovers about, acting quite mysterious yet remaining striking throughout. You know she knows more about what’s going on.

As the story unfolds, we learn that the aliens are after one thing. It’s not us… It’s not our water… It’s not all of our natural resources, no. They’re after… Gold. Apparently, they love gold. It’s as rare to them as it is to us. As far as I remember, though, they didn’t really explain why they love gold, or why they need it. It also didn’t really explain all of the people round-ups that had been happening. If they’re after the gold, why round up all of the people? Snacks, I guess?

Throughout the film I kept thinking to myself that this was a movie with an identity crisis. Each time I thought that, I chuckled and was reminded that the movie is in fact called Cowboys and Aliens. I suppose I’d hoped for a better merging of the genres, something like Firefly. Firefly was a sort of “space western,” set in the future, but heavily infused with wild west elements. The thing was, given the premise of that show, it worked well. Here, it doesn’t work so well. The cowboy scenes are very cowboy… Open ranges, posses on horseback, your typical western fare. The “alien” scenes feel out of place. I simply think they could have merged the two better, instead of it being a case of dueling genres.

The Cast
This one had a solid cast. Daniel Craig was great as the bad-guy-turned-good and handled himself pretty well as a cowboy. At first I wasn’t really sure about his accent, but he doesn’t do a whole lot of talking so it works out fine. The film makes good use of Olivia Wilde, taking advantage of her striking features to make you think that something isn’t quite right there. Sam Rockwell plays the doctor-turned-saloon-owner who finds his courage and helps save the day. Harrison Ford’s does a good job, but it felt like the movie couldn’t quite figure out what it wanted to do with the guy. First he’s a ruthless cattle baron who will circumvent the law for a son he doesn’t care for at all. Next, we learn that he’s a grizzled civil war veteran that lost a bunch of men at Antietam while fighting for the Union. The problem is, we later learn that when he was a boy, he spent time with his father in Mexico. Did he grow up in the South and fight for the North? It’s confusing. After that, he serves as a father figure for no less than three characters. Despite all of that, Harrison Ford’s performance was my favorite of the movie.

All in all, this was a decent summer movie that felt like the filmmakers simply couldn’t make up their minds about what they wanted it to be. The action sequences were well done, the effects were interesting, and the alien design was one of the more unique that I’ve seen in awhile. It had all the trappings of both a western and an alien invasion film, but it just doesn’t blend the two genres as well as it could have. Because of that, I ended up being a little disappointed.


Movie Monday: Cowboys & Aliens

Here we go. I’ve seen more trailers for this one than any other summer blockbuster, and frankly I was getting tired of seeing the same trailer over and over. I’m glad it’s finally here. I was about to say that I’m sure Rise of the Planet of the Apes will take over as the over-trailered movie, but it opens on Friday, so there’s no chance of that happening. At any rate, I’m looking forward to this one. There have been loads of trailers but not an incredible amount of details about the storyline or the characters that I’ve read so far, which is just the way I like it for movies that I’m anticipating. The less I know about it going in, the better. Plus, the movie isn’t being offered in 3D, which makes me oh so happy. Thank you, Jon Favreau.

As a side note, I’ve been seeing that the reviews for this one have been fairly mixed. However, I pay attention to reviewers only when I’m not entirely sure I want to see a movie, like I did with The Green Lantern earlier this summer. When there’s a movie that I know I want to see, I don’t care if the critics hated it so much that they threw tomatoes at the screen during their viewing. I’m still going to see it. As for the ones that I’m on the fence about, I’m probably going to take the advice that Jeremy offered several weeks ago: “Find a critic who likes the same movies you do, read him or her, and ignore the rest. Professional critics don’t judge on quality anymore. Instead, because they see 1800 movies each year, they look for something new and different, rather than just plain enjoyable.” I need to do that. Find a couple of critics that see movies the way I do and trust their judgment on movies about which I’m on the fence.

My thoughts on Cowboys & Aliens coming your way late tonight or tomorrow. Cheers!

Captain America: World Police!

This one is a tough one for me. Despite my lack of knowledge of the lore of Capt. America, I admit that I was a bit excited by what I’d seen in the previews and went into this week’s entry in the Movie Monday series with some anticipation. It was a solid origin story that had a bit of heart, a bit of humor, a bit of romance, and even a bit of tragedy to it. But did it live up to the expectations that I had going in? Read on and find out. But first…

The Trailers
Cowboys & Aliens – Comes out next week. Thank goodness… I’ve seen this trailer too many times. They have one advantage… They underestimate Daniel Craig. If that’s really true, they’re screwed!!
Abduction – Some guy from Twilight tries to be Jason Bourne. Yawn… Wait, what the heck are Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver doing in this movie? Oh well. Yawn.
Mission Impossible 4 – Same preview from a couple of weeks ago.
Adventures of Tintin – Directed by Spielberg. But I spent the whole trailer trying to figure out whether or not it was entirely CGI (the first shots didn’t look like it). It was. I wasn’t captivated.
The Amazing Spider-Man – Um, didn’t we do this about ten years ago? Ten years is long enough for a reboot? Oh well… I’ll probably see it. Maybe.
John Carter – What is this I don’t even… Teaser trailer. Made no sense to me whatsoever. Is it supposed to be hype?

The Movie
Before I get into the movie, I have to tell you that this was the worst moviegoing audience I’ve experienced in quite awhile. If you want to know my feelings on people who talk in movies, you can read a post I wrote a long time ago (aside: it seems I forgot to do any follow-ups with my moviegoing etiquette series. I shall have to think upon that.). Anyway, it was bad. I walk into the theater (the second largest at the cinema I attend for Movie Mondays) and am surprised that the theater has a decent number of people in it. Nowhere near packed or anything; just enough people that I didn’t have the row to myself. I pick a row and settle in for the pre-trailer entertainment. About five minutes later a couple enters, hikes up the stairs to my row, and ask me if the seats near me are taken. I politely tell them that the seats are free, thinking that the couple will take the seats two or three down from me. They don’t. They sit RIGHT NEXT TO ME. What’s worse – this is the work of the male half of the couple. Didn’t this guy ever learn the whole guys-never-sit-next-to-each-other-unless-there-are-no-seats rule? Good lord! The problem is, I’m trapped. I followed the aforementioned rule, so there wasn’t space for me to move over on my left. I suppose I could have relocated, but why should I give up my choice seat? It didn’t get better from there. The family behind me spent the first 45 minutes of the movie smacking and crunching on their snacks, loudly chatting to each other, and guffawing uncontrollably at the mildest humor. To top it off, there were no less than three toddlers in the theater, one of which babbled nonstop at the top of her lungs, completely unchecked by whatever guardian brought her to the movie. I expect this kind of audience at a weekend showing, but on a Monday? It was surreal.

Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest. Where was I? Oh yes…
The Movie
The movie’s setting is World War II, and as the introduction unfolds we’re introduced to our hero, a puny young man that is bound and determined to join the army in his father’s footsteps. The problem is that he’s tiny and has a laundry list of ailments that prevent him from being able to enlist. This catches the eye of the Einstein-esque Stanley Tucci, a German-born scientist helping the U.S. Army with its super-soldier program. Of course our hero would catch the scientist’s eye; I mean, nothing screams super-soldier like a 120 lb. athsmatic wimp, right? The movie’s exposition is a bit of a hot mess. We have some training scenes that show just how physcially unfit our hero really is, coupled with some run-of-the-mill basic training humor and a few genuine moments that draw us into the movie. We get to the transformation point where our hero is turned into Captain America, and suddenly the plot takes an unexpected – and unnecessary – turn for the boring. After a strange war bond tour, things finally pick up and the movie gets rolling quickly. I won’t spoil anything else that happens, but it follows a standard action scene/”emotional” scene formula throughout the rest of the film.

The action sequences were solid. The special effects were quite good, but the blending of future tech in a 1940s environment seemed a little bizarre. I didn’t flinch at laser rifles and mythical power sources, but the fact that everybody had surveillance video left me scratching my head. Then there was Captain America’s shield, a disc made of unobtanium (or the Marvel equivalent, anyway) that had mystical properties of its own. Lighter than steel and both bullet- and laser-proof, the shield also had amazing boomerang qualities as well, rebounding off of its target and sliding back onto the Captain’s arm as though it belonged there. Predictable and a little humorous, but I found myself enjoying it nonetheless. The best effects of the film, I felt, were in the first 30 minutes of the film where they borrowed a page from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings to make the Captain appear small and weak compared to the other actors. It was a good effect that had me believing that Chris Evans was actually that small.

Despite its predictability, I found myself thinking that it was a good summer movie. In this case, though, good is the enemy of great. The whole time I felt like it had the potential to be a really great movie, but on most fronts it failed to achieve that greatness. It had potential for some really gut-wrenching emotion, and while it achieved some success with a touching moment or two, the movie largely leaves the potential untapped. I just never cared all that much for any of the characters; it’s a shame because they made me want to care but failed to bring it home emotionally. In retrospect, I’m really disappointed in that. There was potential for some real emotion, but the film took the shallow, summer blockbuster route instead of exploring the depth of emotion that it could have.

The Cast
Chris Evans did a fine job as the Captain, but it was the supporting cast that I enjoyed the most. Hayley Atwell is lovely in the female lead; her Peggy Carter is a strong female that feels a little bit before her time. Tommy Lee Jones is our cranky colonel and plays his role well enough. Hugo Weaving as a villain is refreshing to see again, and his turn as Red Skull is pretty good. Stanley Tucci’s performance was my favorite, though. His German scientist looking to make right his past wrongs is genuine and his caring for the pre-bulk Captain is believable. The rest of the supporting cast is standard summer blockbuster faire. We have our “band of brothers,” the Captain’s unit. They even got Buck Compton, who sported a thick mustache and… a bowler hat? That was a weird addition. The unit itself was a model of diversity: you had the rough-and-tumble Asian guy from Fresno, the Frenchman, the bowler-wearing Buck Compton (was he supposed to be Irish? He kinda looked it but I’m not sure), and the trilingual African American. It was classic summer blockbuster caricature; nice and diverse, and completely wrong for the 1940s.

I think caricature is a good way to sum up this one. It’s not quite so over-the-top as Transformers, and it’s good enough that you can see the potential the story contained. But wherever the choice between great & subtle versus good & caricature is presented, the movie always goes with the caricature. It’s still a good summer blockbuster and has wider range than Transformers. While I was left slightly disappointed, in the end I enjoyed myself and Captain America: The First Avenger has me looking forward to next summer’s full Avengers movie.

Movie Monday: Captain America

This week’s selection is the latest movie to hit #1 at the box office – Captain America: The First Avenger. While I never collected any comics with Captain America as a central figure, this film is one of the ones I’ve been looking forward to this summer. And that shield is universally recognizable. I’m looking forward to it, with one minor hitch in my plans. The non-3D showings of the movie are at 5:10 or 8:30. There’s no way I’m going to the 8:30 showing, and I’ll barely be leaving work at 5:10. None, I repeat none, of the theaters around me have the movie in standard 2D at a time that I can see the film. Do I see it in 3D, despite having railed against the technology last week? I’d be okay with seeing it in 3D if it had been shot in 3D; but alas, it’s one of those films that has been upconverted to 3D. Which means that it’ll suck. I don’t know what to do.

Movie Monday: Harry Potter Part 7 Part 2 in 3D

That’s right. I saw the last Harry Potter film in 3D. I have comments about it. But first…

The Trailers
As an aside before I get to the trailers, tonight while I was walking into the theater I noticed one of those stand-up adverts for Final Destination 5. Wasn’t the last one called The Final Destination? How can there be a fifth movie if the fourth was THE final destination? Oh, just kidding, the previous four weren’t really the final destination. This is really the final destination. We promise, guys. Seriously, who’s giving these people money? Anyway, back to the trailers.

Lots of retreads this week. Some new, though.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of ShadowsLane Pryce plays Professor Moriarty? Perfect.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Steadily moving past the title on this one.
Real Steel – A few more viewings of this trailer and I’m going to want to see this movie. Or I’m going to feel this way about Hugh Jackman.
Cowboys & Aliens – nothing new to add. Seriously people, can we get some new trailers, please?!
Dark Knight Rises – YES! YES YES YES YES Ye–Wait. That was it? 90 seconds with 70 of it being recycled clips? I don’t care. I’m stoked.
Hugo – A 3D fantastical children’s movie directed by Martin Scorsese? I’m sorry, did anyone see Goodfellas, Casino, The Departed, or Shutter Island? Is this the man you want directing your child’s next Christmas movie?

The Movie
I’m not going to talk too much about this one. It was spectacular. It followed the books closely, for the most part. There are some departures that seem completely unnecessary to me, but I’m not going to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. At least, I won’d do that yet. Maybe a couple of weeks down the line. Also, there were a couple of points where it felt like they were trying to stick to themes in the book that hadn’t really been fleshed out all that well in Part 1 or Part 2, but they wanted to appease the book purists like me. The problem is, those moments felt disjointed and were confusing to people who haven’t read the books. But again, I’m not going into it for now. I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and recommend it to anyone who’s on the fence about seeing it. All ZERO of you. But I digress. Tonight was my second viewing of the film; I saw it in 3D with the thought of discussing the 3D experience.

The Three Dimensional Experience
To cut to the chase, do not see this movie in 3D. It is a waste of money. You know how when you’re watching a 3D movie with the glasses on, you close one of your eyes and keep the other open, everything stays clear but in 2D? I did that a couple of times during the movie. Zero difference whatsoever. In only a couple of scenes did I even notice a depth of field to the film. Even Transformers 3 had more 3D effects than HP Part 7 Part 2 in 3D. The vast majority of the time, it was all 2D. There were no gimmicky effects, either. No curses flying out of the screen at you; no wands pointing out at the audience or anything else you might expect from a massive movie such as this. And when it was 3D, it had the same ghosting effect that all 3D movies seem to have.

After two 3D movies in a row, I can safely declare myself a part of the “3D is a gimmick to get more money out of a gullible public” camp. I tried to remain aloof. I wanted to reserve judgment, to give filmmakers the benefit of the doubt that they would find the potential in the technology and not just use it as a ploy to charge $15 or more for a single movie ticket. I just can’t do it anymore. Two massive pictures like Transformers 3 and Harry Potter Part 7 Part 2 in 3D deserve strong 3D treatment. I was blown away by Avatar in 3D; I thought it was amazing. Sure, it had some of the standard drawbacks, but I was able to overlook them because the rest of the 3D was so well done. I’d hoped for the same sort of experience with these movies. I’ve been sadly disappointed. I don’t know if it’s the cost or logistics of shooting in 3D or both, but for some reason they’re not shooting movies in 3D. Instead, it appears they’re going back during post-production and rendering the movie in 3D, which produces crappy results not worth watching. They do this and people still shell out extra cash to see films in 3D because it’s supposed to be that much cooler. And because people continue to shell out the cash, they keep making the movies this way. Enough from me, though. Unless I know that a movie was actually shot in 3D instead of rendered in post-processing, I won’t be seeing movies in 3D anymore.

Hopefully you won’t, either. Avoid the 3D. Especially on Harry Potter Part 7 Part 2 in 3D. It’s a ripoff.

Transformers 3: Yep, It’s a Blockbuster

Transformers: Dark of the Moon was exactly what I expected and predicted, with one exception: the American flag was battered instead of pristine… But it was still there, waving proudly over the rubble as the heroes walked towards each other in slow motion at dusk. This movie was everything we’ve all come to expect from a Michael Bay blockbuster. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. First…

The Trailers
Cowboys & Aliens – James Bond, Han Solo, and “Thirteen” from House… And directed by Jon Favreau? I’m in.
Real Steel – A movie based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots… Okayyyyy…
Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Until this specific trailer, I couldn’t get past the title. Rise of the planet… of the apes. The planet is rising…?
Harry Potter Part 7.5 – Can’t wait. Cannot. Wait.
Mission Impossible 4 – Simon Pegg a part of the team, and Jeremy Renner? Sweet.
Captain America – Also on my summer list.

With the trailers finished and the 3D glasses donned, it was time for the film itself.

The Movie Itself
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the epitome of Summer Blockbuster excess. Every thing you’d expect to find in a big-budget summer action flick is here. Big explosions, lots of beautiful people, destruction of urban environments. The movie opens with an Autobot ship crash-landing on the dark side of the moon (hence the title) in the 1950s. The US and USSR observe the event, which of course gives rise to the space race. That’s the second movie of the summer that repurposed a major historical event, with X-Men having retold the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a bigger setpiece in X-Men, so it didn’t feel like a retread here. I liked it well enough. The movie shifts to present day and the story begins to slowly unfold. I won’t go into the plot any further, but suffice it to say it’s predictable and unsurprising, as big budget summer blockbusters tend to be. There were moments of the absurd. I laughed out loud when the scene shifts and the audience is informed that we’re now at a “Secret Headquarters” of the Autobot-human alliance, centered in urban Washington, D.C. This secret base is between two buildings, behind massive concrete barriers guarded by black-clad soldiers wielding M-4 assault rifles. Nice, guys. Some secret. Equally absurd is the sequence where John Turturro’s character is being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly.

Ok, I lied, I’ll go into one plot point to demonstrate one more level of absurdity. So, SPOILER ALERT. Patrick Dempsey works for the Decepticons. He’s aware of their plans to enslave the human race, but sees it as an inevitability and remains aligned with them in the hopes of survival. What’s absurd is how blind his loyalty is. At the pinnacle of the story when it appears that the humans and Autobots are going to win, instead of realizing that he doesn’t have to align himself with the Decepticons to survive, he pushes forward blindly, continuing to fight for them. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

It was a surprising and refreshing change to see that Michael Bay choosing Chicago to destroy, rather than New York. Perhaps he felt as though showing buildings collapsing into rubble might hit a little close to home if he set it in NYC. Regardless, I’m glad to see Bay choose another city to wipe off the map. I wonder if anyone will ever choose Dallas to destroy? Seeing Reunion Tower (AKA “The Big Round Ball” in my family) toppling might be an interesting visual.

The action was over the top, as expected, with ample usage of slow-motion effects to highlight impacts and blows between the transformers. Bay makes use of new trends like wingsuit jumping, which provided more of those sweeping camera shots that he loves so much. While I enjoyed the movie for what it was, I never had any kind of feeling of suspense throughout the movie. There were several moments where one or more of the main humans or transformers seemed on the brink of destruction, but not once did I ever feel any kind of connection with the characters in peril, because I knew that at the last second something would happen that would make it all better. And it did. The ending was exactly what I expected: The victors emerging from the battle, bruised yet still managing to look fabulous. Two groups walk towards each other, lovers catch sight of each other and run towards each other in slow motion while Optimus Prime’s voice talks about freedom or something. All the while, a battered American flag waves proudly over the carnage.

The Cast
The cast is fairly solid, and mostly beautiful. LaBeouf seems to have grown up a bit; though still a little angsty, he’s less obnoxious in this one than he has been in previous roles. Instead of Megan Fox on his arm, this time it’s the newcomer Rosie Huntington-Whitely, of Victoria’s Secret fame. I’ll admit to never having seen her before in my life, and I felt like she did a better job than Megan Fox. There were a lot less squinty-eyed, I’m-hot-and-I-know-it-and-so-do-you looks coming from Ms. Huntington-Whitely, and I was thankful for it. They took a potshot or two at Ms. Fox in the script, which was a bit humorous. Other beautiful people make appearances, such as Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and Patrick Dempsey. John Malkovich’s character is a sad waste of film space.

I thought Alan Tudyk’s Dutch was set to steal the show as John Turturro’s ambiguously homosexual personal assistant, but it seemed like the movie couldn’t quite decide what it wanted him to be. He’s comic relief as the assistant, then he’s a weapons expert, and later still he’s a world-class computer hacker. It’s like they took three characters and merged them into one. Ultimately, Ken Jeong’s turn as a creepy scientist is probably the show-stealer, but even he is somewhat overdone. Everyone in this movie is a caricature, larger than life and over the top.

Final Thoughts
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was exactly what I expected going into it, so I wasn’t disappointed. The script and acting take a backseat to impressive visuals and goofy humor. Whatever you do, don’t see it in 3D. I did, and it was a giant waste of the extra money. The 3D effects were wholly unimpressive, on many occasions the blurring effect was distracting. Thankfully I forgot about the 3D effects about a third of the way in and just enjoyed the movie. If you love summer blockbusters, it’s worth seeing. Otherwise, just Netflix it.

Movie Monday: Transformers 3

Yep, tonight I’m going to bite the bullet and go see Pink Floyd Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon. It came out over a week ago, but I’ve had a two week break in Movie Mondays due to the 4th of July and a less than attractive release schedule. Plus, Michael Bay is the epitome of the summer movie cliche: huge explosions, thin plot. Lots of beautiful people thrown into outlandish scenarios, mostly happening around dusk so that we get to see lots of slow-motion low-angle pans of the dirtied-yet-still-immaculate heroes emerging from some smoking rubble with a pristine American flag flying in the background. You know what I’m talking about. It really doesn’t get more summer movie-ish than that. I’ll report back with my observations tonight or tomorrow and let you know.