Another side of a similiar story…

Posted: June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

I promised the film update for the halfway point would be up soon. And seeing as I couldn’t get myself to sleep, I thought I’d go ahead and do it now. As is often the case, the first half of the year is a pretty slow time for the film industry. Many film critics see January and sometimes into February as the time that studios dump all the movies they made that they didn’t see as either awards fodder or box office smashes, so it’s very, very hit or miss during these months. Sometimes a film will sneak through these earlier months, but not often, so it’s hard to make a strong list so far. I can, however, tell you what I saw and weigh in a bit. So here we go, in order of release:

Gangster Squad: This one was pushed back to re-shoot the ending (which initially dealt with a shooting at movie theater, and the re-shoot was reaction to the shooting the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises), but in all honesty we weren’t missing much. It’s an okay film, but it’s very over the top and the cinematography is hard to get your mind around. It’s weird looking. The tone of the film is uncertain, too, so it’s hard to take it too seriously. All in all, it was mildly entertaining, but not much more. (C)

Side Effects: This is one of those movies that I spoke of earlier that I, for one, think should be getting at least some recognition come awards season. Sadly, it will probably be overlooked. All the actors are fascinating here, and even Channing Tatum doesn’t ruin it for me. Rooney Mara, above all, continues to astound me with the depth of her skills. If this is indeed Sorderbergh’s swan song, it’s a pretty good way to go out. (A)

A Good Day to Die Hard: I feel like they should have left this series alone. While Live Free or Die Hard was moderately entertaining, this one was just too over the top for it to really be John McClane. The scope of it just doesn’t work for a Die Hard film, and Bruce Willis just seems tired. A mostly brainless action flick that just doesn’t work overall. (C-)

Oz the Great and Powerful: Talk about a big budget clunker. And there’s so much potential. A talented cast. A director with imagination in spades. Zach Braff as a talking monkey! Yet for some reason there’s just no emotion here. It’s all about the glitz and special effects and you lose the heart, which is part of what makes The Wizard of Oz stories so great. That is not here. This is not very good. (C)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone: Another potentially great concept that just falls so flat in the execution. I’m not sure why, but with all these great comics working here, I really thought this would work better. Everybody is working really hard, and there were a few good laughs, but not enough to hold it altogether. Glad I only spent a $1 on it. (C+)

Trance: James McAvoy is one of my favorite actors, and he’s best when he’s playing off-the-wall, mentally unstable characters, which is part of the why this works so well. The other is Danny Boyle’s frantic pacing and precise characterization. This is a rather short film, clocking in at just 101 minutes, but the pace is absolutely perfect. The performances are good all around, too. This was a fun way to spend an afternoon, and I’m quite glad I saw it. (A-)

The Place Beyond the Pines: This is definitely not a happy tale, but it does have a lot to say about the choices we make. Ryan Gosling continues to show why he’s one of the better actors in Hollywood, in a performance with nuance and subtlety. Not for the feint of heart, but worth seeing if you can survive the despair of it. (A-)

Oblivion: Oh, Tom Cruise, what are you doing? You’re not longer a bona fide box office guarantee (in spite of the success of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which I’d wager was franchise love more than for him), and this sci-fi romp just lacks heart (there’s that word again). Again, the concept is interesting, but the execution is so flat and uninteresting throughout most of the film, it doesn’t do much to garner such a long running time. (C)

42: This should have been better, but it’s still a pretty good job of telling the story of Jackie Robinson. Harrison Ford is actually quite good here, even if his gruff Branch Rickey does get to be a little too much after a while, and newcomer Chadwick Boseman does a commendable job. I think there was more depth possible here, as this doesn’t quite feel complete. (B)

Iron Man 3: After the mammoth success of The Avengers, this film had the not-so-fortunate position of being the film that came after it. That’s a large task, and while Shane Black and Co do an admirable job, this is not nearly as solid an effort as last summer’s blockbuster. It is, however, quite a good addition to the Marvel canon, and nearly as good as the original Iron Man. Robert Downey, Jr is still fabulously funny and quick witted, and also gets to do some actual soul searching this time around, giving him more things to emote about. Here’s to The Avengers 2! (B+)

Star Trek Into Darkness: I’ve never been a Trekkie, so I cannot talk about this film in terms of nostalgia or what have you; I can only talk about it in terms of it being a follow-up to JJ Abrams original journey on the USS Enterprise. In that regard, it’s not nearly as entertaining or engaging, although Benedict Cumberbatch does his darndest to prove me otherwise. He’s fantastic here, but the rest of the cast seems to be phoning it in a little. And these films are nothing if I don’t care much what happens to these people. Sadly, here, I don’t care much. (B-)

The Great Gatsby: As a huge fan of the novel and of Baz Luhrmann, I sort of expected to love this going in. I was so excited, in fact, that I went solo to the 10PM showing the night it came out and again two days later for my birthday. Needless to say, I really enjoyed this take on it. It’s not boring like the Robert Redford version, and really captures the wild extravagance of the era. Is it weird to hear Jay-Z rap through the Roaring ’20’s? A little, but I’m okay with it because it feels deliberate (Luhrmann’s explanation is actually makes a good deal of sense…http://on.mtv.com/10KCLGI) In any case, I loved this movie. Is it perfect? Not by any stretch, but it was entertaining and shows a great care for its source material. And Leo DiCaprio–an actor I used to dislike a great deal–has turned into one of my favorite (and most overlooked) actors working today. (A)

Man of Steel: To me, Superman is a very bad protagonist. He has very little arch available to him, because he is always going to do the right thing. Because he’s Superman and this is what he does. He’s also terribly dull, lacks a sense of humor or personality like more recent superhero characters we’ve seen, so for better or for worse, Superman, in my eyes, will never make for an interesting film character. The movie is then limited to the size of its set pieces and action scenes, and they are awfully big and loud and almost too much for the most part. Not surprising giving Zach Snyder’s past films (300 and Watchman), and I guess it works okay for this type of story, but without the human connection we’ve felt in films like Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy or even the personalities of Iron Man/Tony Stark or Captain America, Supe will never really do it for me as a film star. (C+)

As of this writing, that’s all I’ve seen. Tomorrow I plan to see Monsters University and I plan on enjoying that a great deal. Got to love Pixar. Or at least I do. The following is a list of movies that have come out and I’ve yet to see or that I’m most looking forward to before the end of 2013:

Broken City, Sound City, Warm Bodies, To the Wonder, Disconnect, Mud, Frances Ha, The English Teacher, Before Midnight, Now You See Me, The East, Much Ado About Nothing, The Internship, The Bling Ring, World War Z, Despicable Me 2, The Lone Ranger, The Way, Way Back, Only God Forgives, The World’s End, Blue Jasmine, The Spectacular Now, Elysium, jOBS, Drinking Buddies, Closed Circuit, Prisoners, Rush, Don Jon, Runner, Runner, Gravity, Captain Phillips, The Fifth Estate, Oldboy, The Counselor, Ender’s Game, Thor: The Dark World, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Nebraska, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Out of the Furnace, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Saving Mr. Banks, Monuments Men, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, Jack Ryan

Obviously, those later film releases are subject to change, but I expect a lot of them will see the light of day in 2013. Looks like a good rest of the year. Looking forward to it!

 

Robert

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