Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Amazing Spider-man

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012

A Beautiful Mind: Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker, a troubled young genius trying to do right during a difficult time in his life.

In the repetitious competitive theme of superhero orphans, the 2nd most renown has to be Peter Parker but it’s only in the Amazing Spider-man do we have a definitive sense of what kind of stock he came from. Most people on the planet know the story of how Spider-man’s unique talents emerged but few know the story about his parents. Director of 500 Days of Summer Marc Webb explored extensively the psyche of Peter Parker to answer the questions concerning where his inquisitive/instinctive scientific mind was derived from, how his emotional attachment and sarcasm was expressed by his internalized expression of anger. Director Marc Webb gave us insight into the young man behind the mask and Spider-man is an after thought until the last third of the film.

 

Actor Andrew Garfield was the latest actor who wore the Spider-man mask. His Peter Parker was more of a sullen, downtrodden young Travis Bickle until his love interest Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone channeled the complexity of a Marc Webb script that relied heavily on awkward situations, subtle body language, and timing. Their chemistry in the second act epitomized the strengths of Webb’s talents that being young love.

 

The flaws of the film began to cascade once Garfield suited up in the third act to battle the lizard. The leaping transition from a self centered angst ridden teenager bent on revenge to selfless humanitarian outlaw, risking his life wasn’t as secure a grasp for Webb. The Lizard’s clunky plot didn’t make a lick of sense especially after he left Oscorp to set up an open lab in the NY sewer. Webb tried to flex that super hero/NY urban myth camp in that scene but it came off as tacked on. Peter’s compelling need to be the better man was  implied expression of the infamous “With Great power comes great responsibility” line. What was distilled from the equation was the fun of being Spider-man. The swinging became monotonous. Every scene seemed mandatory to get to the end.

 

By the end, The Amazing Spider-man was an improvement over its Raimi predecessor as a Peter Parker origin not as a Spider-man origin. That will hopefully elicit itself in the second film where we’ll finally find out what the Oscorp minion in the limo was going to tell a dying Norman Osborn.

 

The Amazing Spider-man rates a pint of dark beer that isn’t guzzled but rather nursed along in intervals.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012

Clear and Present Danger: Before he healed the nation, Abraham Lincoln was an axe wielding sociopath by night that paved his way to law school.

Review coming soon…

Prometheus

Posted by admin On August - 12 - 2012

Scream Queen: Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw searches the cosmos for a metaphysical connection to God and finds something entirely different from what she was hoping for.

 

Like the Depeche Mode song Black Celebration, human beings search the stars for the scientific explanation of God and paid a horrific price in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

 

Not a direct sequel to Alien, Scott created a stunning look to a very average story running congruent to its franchise cousin, alien. In this film, the story revolved around the Space Jockey race that left an iconic space crypt in the famous scene in Alien that left lingering questions for the next 25 yrs. While Scott answers some of the questions of the Jockey’s purpose, it’s writer Damon Lindelof, famous for Lost and Star Trek that adds more questions to the list. How far you’re willing to search for your answers may lead to arguing with your friends regarding the film’s interpretation of genetic recombination and evolution of organic technology. All roads seemed to point to life as the ultimate biological weapon that the Jockeys wielded like gods but what happens when God fails?

 

That’s where the movie switched tracks and the horror element felt forced and pedestrian at best. After 45 minutes of the most intriguing components of space exploration, the trigger that excelerated the film to its third act was nothing more than an act of stupidity none of which was convincing. Alas what came after was elementary.

 

The heart and soul of Prometheus is the theories where science and faith intertwine. Similar territory in Contact but with much more dire consequences.

 

Noomi Rapace

The Avengers

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

The A-team: When the going gets tough, Robert Downey Jr & company get going in the Avengers.

The Avengers Review by Ronald H. Pollock
When the Norse god of thunder’s mis-behaving step-brother Loki, god of mischief returns to Earth armed with a mind control infinity gem, a ruthless alien army, and swipes an artifact of immearsurable power, the hand of a American super spy Nick Fury, director of SHIELD was forced to assemble a freaky Homeland Security version of neighborhood watch, called the Avengers.

The movie itself wasn’t far from the initial concept that Marvel sold for 12 cents back in 1963. Discovering a new way to market some of their landmark characters from various titles by creating an All-Star team to boost sales even further. That business model hasn’t changed a bit today. Marvel studios produced individual character driven films starring Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America to construct/develop this fantastical comic book world of heroes. The Avengers is the culmination of all these character driven films, now under one roof.

In the past studios, fans and the media have always talked about a super hero team movie but it has been very hard to fathom this possibility because technology, character introduction and development, story, and tone always seemed to be a bridge too far. For long suffering comic book fans ages 35+ a “good” super hero team film was a difficult have faith because of a long history of misfires and horrific attempts. So it’s no surprise that there was an underlying feeling of skepticism.

Director Joss Whedon credited as the father of fan driven TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse did arguably the best job any director could have done. He captured the tone without cheesy winks to the camera, gave all the headliners their due while getting the most out of secondary characters such as the Black Widow, made the third actor to play Hulk relevant, and placed his faith in Tom Hiddelson as Loki to serve as the chain, grease, and spit to all of these moving parts.

For a thirty year comic book collector, the Avengers is the pinnacle of super hero movie making in terms of capturing the qualities of a comic book that being action, imagination and merging it with themes in more serious dramas such as empathy, acceptance, dysfunction, and emotion. It’s the emotional residual of differences put aside to serve a higher cause that inspires both comic book and non-comic book fans alike. That is a more difficult task than it looks. Nonetheless, Marvel has done what many would have said, was impossible.

The Avengers rates a fine wine of 5 yrs for fond memories, punch, and good laughs with friends.

 

The Hunger Games

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

The Hunter or Hunted? Jennifer Lawrence plays the girl on fire and the eye of affection of potentially 2 suitors.

Take the military draft, TV reality game shows blender them together with sprinkles of films like Logan’s Run,  Running Man and out pours this purée called the Hunger Games.  Its been often said, its not whether or not you win or lose but how you play the game. In The Hunger Games how you play the game, translates to how you win or survive. A dystopian future that suppressed hope and change through social media culture and more importantly made a statement about how the public perceives things juxtaposed against the realities of this world.

 

Since her father died Katniss Everdeen, the film’s main patriarch developed a tom boy attitude and a temper to match. A fancy name for a not so fancy girl played by Jennifer Lawrence lived in District 10, a mining town that more closely resembled a shanty town. When her younger sister was drafted into the Olympics of death more affectionately referred to as the Hunger Games Katniss volunteered, hoping it would give her sister a chance for a longer life than hers.

 

As with any youthful, angst ridden vehicle, there must be a male foil. In the Hunger Games there are two.  One is Peeta, a bakery’s son of untapped talent and strength. He’s both Katniss’ foil and her more even keeled emotionally balanced equal. There’s nothing in the film to indicate how the son of a baker was never as Naive as Katniss about the Hunger Games in terms of how the games are won.

 

 

 

Not having Katniss’ inner thoughts.

 

The flaws of the Hunger games was never more apparent than Peeta who is supposed to be a living chameleon of personality.

GR Spirit of Vengeance

Posted by admin On August - 11 - 2012

He may not know karate but Nic Cage knows Craaazy in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

 

Take 2 Review by Ronald H. Pollock

A young woman named Nadya who ran with the wrong crowd sold her soul to the devil in order to give birth to a good son but the devil always wants his due. Like all lost souls with no cards to play, Nadya played by the American’s Violante Placido entrusted her son’s safety with an alcoholic French priest played by Idris Elba. I’m guessing the Catholic Church has researched the probability entrusting the safety of the world with a drunken guardian. This situation adds up to desperation and peril pureed on a heap of trouble. Like a bat out of hell, Nicolas Cage resumed his role as the cursed vagabond Johnny Blaze and hit the road again, as the spirit of vengeance in the follow up to the unremarkable 2007 film directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance directed by Crank’s Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor amped up some of the chase scenes, confrontations, and certainly captures the uncontrollable cruelty of a demon that is barely controlled by its human host. At NYCC 2011 panel, the dynamic duel of gourmet gorilla indy style directing promised a lot of unorthodox shots and effects. They certainly delivered. When the action starts, the stuntwork was incredible and fit the décor of a comic book-esque violence.

A mis-marketed property based on a marginally popular comic book character, Ghost Rider returns to the big screen in what can be conceived as a “comme ci, Comme ca” sequel to the original. Marvel has never been very consistent with the Ghost Rider property. He’s kind of like the Hulk meets Easy Rider. He had the worst rogues Gallery: Water Wizard, Eyeball.

However the story was horribly generic. Why would the devil need a young body of an unremarkable child when there are other bodies more attractive to take over the world in? Like Donald Trump’s children or even Snooki holds more clout. No it has to be ONE kid who doesn’t have one red cent to his name.

One scene that didn’t fit in a conventional movie plot but what was definitely conveyed by the directors, a love of riding motorcycles and the freedom of the open road. The camera angles, the lighting, and feeling of going fast and having fun was more than adequate giving this sense of happiness before every thing goes to hell. It was meditative and spiritual in an Easy Rider tribute.

What didn’t work was Blaze’s whining, some silly scene with fighting gun porn monks to give Christopher Lambert some coin. Ghost Rider was missing 1 or 2 transitional scenes or beats to really eccentuate that this wicked demon can do so much damage that good nor evil wants to mess with it. Peeing fire should have inspired more acts of badness. Instead it’s literally a fantasy in every one’s head including the young boy.

Ghost Rider Spirits of Vengeance ranks a $5 beer tap special in Manhattan at your local watering hole.

-Ron

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Posted by sean On August - 26 - 2011

Poor Bumblebee is at a loss as to how a beloved franchise came to this.

The walking, talking junkyards, the Transformers, grace us with their return in the threequal, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  While many have been waiting with anticipation for their next battle, all of the explosions and crashing metal fail to sugar-coat this desecrated property.

 

Michael Bay’s latest orgasm of destruction follows the Autobots’ struggle to save Earth yet again from the Decepticons, pulling in Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebeouf) and his Victoria-Secret-model girlfriend, Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) as their new fight stems from a cover-up involving the moon landing and the plan to revive the dead planet of Cybertron.

 

The plot lacks the abundant number of gaping holes that littered the previous entry, but it’s nowhere near perfect.  It’s still farfetched, even for a movie with giant robots, with the motives behind the choices of both hero and villain inconsistent and illogical, such as the Decepticons wiping humanity out despite their plan to enslave them and the Autobots allowing thousands to perish to prove a point.  However, before the film even gets to the story, Bay opens with thirty minutes of plot-irrelevant, brain-numbing humor that desperately forces you to laugh with silly gags involving cameos from John Malkovich and Ken Jeong.  On top of that, the director treats the first act like the spawn of a car and lingerie commercial, throwing in sweeping images of hot rods and zooming so closely on Huntington-Whiteley’s ass, you’re afraid the director might perform a colonoscopy.  While these are trademarks of his, it leaves little time to make Sam and Carly’s relationship seem genuine outside of him being jealous of her boss (Patrick Dempsey).

 

Of course, Bay is renowned for his expert hand at special effects, and Dark of the Moon is no different.  The CGI hits an all-time high in detail.  The robots bear a realistic gleam in their parts as well as the dents and scratches they suffer in combat, all of which blends extremely well with the on-location shots and live detonations.  At times, it is a bit difficult to take in all the work that went into the animation with the action moving at a swift pace and so much cluttered into a single frame, especially during the climactic battle, but when things slow down long enough, you can fully absorb the visuals.

 

But just like the leading lady, unfortunately, the Transformers are portrayed as just something pretty to look at.  Little depth is given to support the amazing graphics, a crime against those who put in the countless hours creating them.  Optimus Prime is at least given an arc throughout the story involving his mentor, but his companions rely on what the audience knows from the previous films to get any sympathy from them.  Even Bumblebee, whose friendship with Sam played a huge role in first film, has little to do, and when the Autobots are an inch away from death, their lack of background snuffs out any sense of dread for their demise.  Any new characters introduced are left as caricatures that depend on the viewer’s familiarity with stereotypes, such as a vulgar Irish robot.  Unlike the controversial Mudflaps and Skids from Revenge of the Fallen, they’re not on screen long enough to be as annoying.

 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is like going to the dentist to get your tooth pulled only to have the Novocain wear off.  For all of its flare and no substance, Dark of the Moon is a bitter, flat beer that fails to numb the pain of what you have just witnessed.

-Sean

Super 8

Posted by ron On July - 2 - 2011

Ambitious kids in a small town desperately try to complete their zombie film unaware of the horrors the military tries to contain. Unfortunately the zombie film had more originality than Abrams' underwhelming Romeo and Juliet story.

Kids who fled an explosion while filming at a train station were unaware of precious military cargo that could threaten their quiet little town. If these tropes sound familiar, they are definitely reminiscent of Spielberg films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. Both films captivated childlike wonder mixed with fear of the unknown in a story that resolved itself neatly. Super 8 definitely accomplished the naïve friendship of troubled children who would do anything for each other including risking their lives. However the forbidden romance angle between the characters played by Elle Fanning and newcomer Joel Courtney and the overall theme of forgiveness supplanted the alien that was a major part of its viral marketing.

It’s been said, imitation is the best form of flattery but what does one call when a director tells a story in the tradition of the executive producer? Jean-Luc Godard once criticized Super 8 executive producer Steven Spielberg for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema. Whether or not it’s fair to hold Spielberg accountable for an entire generation of directors who are slaves to their nostalgic influences is subject to debate. What Super 8 delivered was a very sterile version of Spielberg-ian that definitely had the emotional center but nothing epic enough to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

Unlike her sister, Elle Fanning always had a knack for emotionally complex characters like Ruth Cole in the Door in the Floor (2004)

Director JJ Abrams’ streak for the right casting calls remained unblemished. He has a talent for the look of a film and for the faces. Super 8 anchored by Elle Fanning (Somewhere) played opposite Joel Courtney in a Romeo and Juliet themed kid romance during the 70s. Elle, the more talented Fanning sibling, had the heavier workload. Her character had to live with the weight of her father’s shame but also was his occasional verbal abuse toy. She had to convince us that her hatred of her father would later lead into forgiveness and also legitimately fall for a boy that was indirectly the source of her misery. The childlike behavior felt authentic in the casual scenes where kids hung out and had a rambling conversation without a narrative axis to support itself. It didn’t match itself in the fear department. The kids unconvincingly fled an exploding train wreck as if it was a morning jog. It was too easy to decry as kids running in front of a green screen. Likewise, it wasn’t at all convincing that kids wouldn’t feel any fear monster hunting or dodging the military. If their fear was unconvincing, the audience didn’t feel these likable characters were in sense of jeopardy. A lesson in film making 101 illustrated by Charles played by Riley Griffith. Unfortunately, the stronger narrative was in the zombie film that he completed.

By the time boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy makes peace with father, father makes peace with girl’s father, and boy saves girl had elapsed, the mystery involving the Space monster was a casually shoved in marketing tool that never lived up to the viral campaigning that it had promised. Super 8 was a nothing more than a forbidden kids’ romance. It didn’t have any elements of science fiction, the wonder with aliens, or any dimension to the creature. The extraterrestrial was so uninteresting that Charles’ zombie film had pushed it back to last in the hierarchy of importance.

In a film that was marketed so secretly and cleverly, Super 8 didn’t deliver on what it promised. By the time the locket left Joel’s fingers at the end, it was too late for any of the audience to leave a sterile homage of one of the most important American filmmakers of his generation.

Super 8 rated as a happy hour drink that was cost effective for what it delivered but nothing you felt compelled to return when better times return.

Cheers,

Ron

I'm serious with my coffee

The Rocketeer

Posted by Jose On June - 14 - 2011

We’re a month away from the release of Captain America: The First Avenger and currently in the middle of a comic book adaptation renaissance. And if fortune couldn’t smile upon us comic fans any further, we have a rare opportunity to look back at a time when adaptations weren’t money in the bank. It’s time to take a look back at a time when director Joe Johnston directed a movie based on a comic hero taking on the Nazi menace that wasn’t Captain America. Today we  look  at his first effort… The Rocketeer. Does it hold up today? Does it honor the comic it was based on? Does looking at this make you feel confident about his next film?

The film centers around Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who relies on his best friend/mechanic Peevy and his girlfriend Jenny to get him through the day, that is until he finds an experimental rocket pack.

Half the fun of this movie is seeing Cliff learn how to use the rocket pack. A pilot by trade, Cliff’s expertise is learning to control a piece of machinery to fly through the air. Once he puts on the rocket pack he is the machine. And through the use of visual effects and the score by James Horner, when Cliff puts on the rocket and first takes flight, you believe it even when he crash lands in mud.

The other fun half of this movie? The villains. Where as a film of this nature would give you one villain for our hero to overcome, this film gives you three! We have Eddie Valentine played by Paul Sorivino. Valentine’s a mobster whose gang is hired to steal the experimental rocket pack. As world famous actor of the silver screen, Timothy Dalton plays Neville Sinclair who is, in reality, a Nazi. Aiding his boss’ agenda is the deformed henchman Lothar. While Valentine and his goons seem to be a Maguffin simply to get the rocket to where Cliff is, both Sinclair and Lothar all the more enjoyable by the fact they’re based in some reality. Neville Sinclair’s character is a nod to the rumor that  Errol Flynn, star of stage and screen might have had ties to the Nazi party. Lothar’s physical appearance is a loving tribute to Rondo Hatton, B-movie star.

Like most movies at the time, the superhero alter-ego was usually saved for one big battle towards the end, and this film is no exception. The name “Rocketeer” is an invention of the newspapers when Cliff first puts on the helmet to save a friend in an air show earlier in the film. As the film progresses and Cliff realizes the importance of keeping the rocket out of the Nazi’s hands and eventually the Rocketeer comes through.

The cast is pretty good considering it was a lesser known character. You buy Billy Campbell as a young man who has the best of intentions but keeps screwing up. Alan Arkin as Peevy is very much an Alfred/Q character but the friendship he has with Cliff seems genuine, almost fatherly. Of course Jennifer Connelly is a knockout in this film as Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny. In a role that could’ve been nothing more than a damsel in distress, Connelly gives Jenny ambition. She’s a college girl with aspirations of becoming an actress.  But Timothy Dalton steals the show. His portrayal of a suave, charming actor hiding a dangerous secret is so hammy and over the top you can’t help but love it.

Before Jennifer Connelly set the record for playing females with issues, she was just a damsel in distress

Sadly, the film is considered to be something of a punch line considering how badly it bombed against expectations. It had to compete with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, City Slickers and of course, Terminator 2: Judgment Day; given the competition, it was no wonder the film didn’t perform as well as Disney would have hoped. And this is the biggest tragedy of this film. It’s so fun you wish it would have done better to see the story continue.

Another problem the film has is that it was part of a wave of failed pulp hero films that tried to start franchises. With the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, everyone wanted to try the superhero bandwagon. But with effects being what they were at the time and licensed characters being harder and harder to come by due to legal issues, Hollywood started mining lesser known characters. It started with The Rocketeer and continued with films like The Shadow, The Phantom and finally The Mask of Zorro. Although, to be fair, Zorro’s film made money and was a moderate success. All of these movies were fun films to see with the family, but sadly not enough families went to see them.

Strangely, twenty years after The Rocketeer, director Joe Johnston will release another film about a young man who dawns a costume to take on the Nazi menace. Okay, so instead of calling them Nazi’s it’s Hydra and instead of a rocket pack, the main hero has a shield, but the coincidence is staggering. Looking at The Rocketeer, it gives The Captain America film more of a hopeful vibe. Johnston knows how to incorporate action and a sense of wonder to the nineteen-thirties setting. This time he has a bigger budget and a more well known character, so time will tell if it’s a bomb or not. But, when July hits and you go to the theatre to see Captain America: The First Avenger, why not check out his first attempt to tackle the superhero genre. In fact, do it as a double feature. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Kungfu Panda 2

Posted by sean On June - 12 - 2011

Po channels the mighty power of Tenacious D as he faces an army of wolves led by a maniacal peacock.

 

DreamWorks brings back the animal kingdom of the Far East in their latest venture, Kungfu Panda 2.  While the company has been rather hit-and-miss with their animation, their first sequel outside of the Shrek franchise shows that they can still produce a film that is not a retread of the previous installment but a new, fun-filled chapter with a surprisingly deeper narrative.

 

Kungfu Panda 2 resumes the journey of Po, the jolly panda with a hefty appetite, as he has embraced his destiny as the Dragon Warrior and has been accepted by his companions, the Furious Five.  Yet with his newfound title, he confronts the mystery of his origins in a quest to defeat the evil Lord Shen and his weapons that have the power to “stop kungfu.”  Off the bat, the Kungfu Panda 2 retains close to the level of quality of the animation part one displayed.  It’s slightly improved in color and detail, and the template is given a chance to expand in scope as the characters are taken to new places, most impressively Gongmen City with its labyrinth streets and detailed architecture.  The film also incorporates animated segments that resemble Chinese shadow puppetry in several flashbacks, widening the range of stunning visuals beyond the computer graphics.

 

Paired nicely with the animation is the humor, which relies mostly on the witty writing and martial arts, as opposed to the pop culture references and dance scenes found in DreamWorks other pictures.  Most of the time, the banter works thanks to the actors speaking it, but Jack Black’s shtick does stretch itself a little thin.  He channels his typical “dude” persona, yet he at least pulls back enough during the weightier elements of the story to give his character a sympathetic, humble side.  The jokes hit more often than not, but most of them revolve Po’s enormous weight and hunger, and they do get repetitive to the point of predictability.  On the other hand, the visual gags are rather inventive with one that combines a Chinese dragon costume and Pacman drawing the biggest laughs.  Like the works of Stephen Chow and Jackie Chan, the slapstick nature of the fighting is both funny and awe-inspiring and manages to have something unique in the style with each progressing scene without retracing its own steps.

 
Displaying the greatest improvement over the first film is the new story.  The movie wastes no time in recapping its predecessor, nor does it follow it beat for beat.  Instead, it reestablishes the setting and its characters with a new, thoughtful tale that stems from the small, weird fact that Po was raised by a goose, purposely left unexplained in the last chapter.  While the illogical pairing provided a few laughs the first time around, it serves as the foundation of a serious story about Po’s past that deals with a subject matter that few kids films address in today’s society where not every child has a traditional upbringing.  It’s a nice move to wrap the idea of how it’s not where you’re from but how you’re brought up, no matter by who, and shows that in an industry diagnosed with sequelitis, the effort is still made to make an engaging, heartwarming narrative.

 

Kungfu Panda 2 is an ice cold beer.  It may lack the pleasant surprise the first round had, but it is just as fun with more of a reason to feel for its characters this time around.

-Sean

http://images.wikia.com/kungfupanda/images/4/47/PoFist.PNG

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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief

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