Reviews written by registered user
|43 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An entertaining take on the oft-told Superman tale, MAN OF STEEL is a
solemn but imaginative comic book movie.
Dreading both the words 'reboot' and 'origin-story' - I had very low hopes for this expensive-looking picture. To the filmmaker's credit, the movie manages to get a back-story in without interrupting a solid, simple main plot of good versus evil.
The tone is serious, but it is not dour enough for audiences to recognize that MAN OF STEEL is a feature-film version of a cartoon. The movie jumps all over time and place, with a canvas that reimagines Krypton as a Lord of the Rings/Steampunk planet, has Clark Kent a low- key do-gooder embarrassed by his super powers, and a General Zod that is a misunderstood baddie who is only trying to protect his home planet. Occasionally, the big battle at the end in Metropolis echoes some 9/11 imagery and the mind begins to wonder about all the people who are inadvertently killed during the superhero showdown.
Much has been made about the changes to the Superman folklore here. I have no problem separating this version of the legend from the 70s Richard Donner iconic epic or the 1950s TV show or even the last time Superman was rebooted just a few years ago in SUPERMAN RETURNS. They're all interesting, and even in the comics, interpreters frequently devised new story lines - ones that altered the established canon with their own sensibilities and reason to exist. Zack Snyder's version is just one of those, and I'm sure there will be others.
MAN OF STEEL boasts a uniformly great cast, and the picture's style and settings are impressively huge in scope. This big-budgeter delivers visual style and big action set pieces, and refreshes the Superman character just enough to make it new and interesting for longtime viewers. It was a pleasant surprise.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite being a gimmick documentary spread huge on the surface,
CINERAMA HOLIDAY actually boasts a surprisingly high-concept storyline:
an American couple and a Swiss couple switch continents and discover
each other's culture through travel. In the end, the film turns
slightly meta with our pair of happy vacationers meeting up in New York
City - to watch the film they were just in!
The picture's Cinerama process is eye-poppingly re-rendered gorgeously on Blu-Ray thanks to the loving care of Cinerama archivist David Strohmaier. The film may be a curio, but it's also a looking-glass glimpse of a time where even air travel to other countries was exotic and the providence of the lucky (or wealthy).
The fun really is seeing the Swiss couple discovering America. The set- ups are all obviously faked for the three-panel camera, but there's still the charm of these two European non-actors being dropped into a tiny Las Vegas or discovering the wide countryside. The American duo's jaunt through the Swiss Alps and Paris is equally wooden, yet spirited. Its fun to see the world through both couples' eyes.
This is another shaggy, low-key Bruce Brown surf docu. Endless Summer 2
has a tone very much in keeping with the chill surf culture, giving you
some interesting history and wrapping it all together with some well-
choreographed surfing scenes. It is endlessly enjoyable.
I remember this picture screening at a discount second-run house, and walking into the run-down downtown theatre simply to get out of the rain and kill some time before meeting some friends. Little did I know when I sat down that, by the end of this movie, I would totally flip for the sport and that this movie would be the impetus to get me surfing too.
Endless Summer 2 is just a slight, breezy little picture, a DIY travelogue with great scenery, big waves and daring surfers, Most of all, it just made surfing look like it would be a whole lot of fun - like anyone could do it. And I am here to tell you, it really is fun... and you really CAN do it.
There's plenty of other pictures that have dramatized the sport - Blue Crush, Point Break, In God's Hands, Chasing Mavericks etc - but this film is just a simple, pleasant 90 minutes that has a reverence for the sport, the power of nature and those who discover the world while in search of the next big pipeline.
Be warned: this movie will encourage any landlocked viewer to ditch work and catch a wave, too.
"The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu" at first view seems like a lost
cause - a slapped-together, throw-away, do-what-you-want star-ego mess
earned through star Peter Sellers' 70s Pink Panther popularity and
I would suppose that when it opened, it was a huge letdown and an inappropriate follow-up to his career-capping masterpiece, "Being There". I remember reviewers measuring the posthumous "Fu Manchu" against that one, and the film rightfully could only come up as the poorer for it.
Since its release in the summer of 1980, the film has never been regarded as any good. Certainly in watching it the first time, it appears unworthy of any reevaluation. But going back to it again and again over the course of more than 30 years, the movie's charms start to materialize.
Sellers' performance(s) as both the villain AND its hero yield many sly little character bits, unique line-readings and embellish laugh-out-loud set pieces. He can also be heard in overdubs as the King and other characters, which just adds to the attempted tour de force on view.
Despite a fractured plot and uneven tone, the film cautiously reveals its DNA in classic British pantomime and music hall, filled with post- Goons era silliness. There's plays-on-words, humorous asides, larger than life performances, British satire and an abruptly absurd conclusion that is both poignant and stupid - all at the same time. It's a throw- back 50s or 60s programmer that Sellers excelled in, but by 1980, was well out of step with the more punctuated audience taste.
The movie largely ignores coherency, and rarely takes itself very seriously. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of an intentionally nasty bone in its body, though the stereotypes and racial insults embraced do take a bit of the fun out of it in retrospect.
Still the enjoyable "Fu Manchu" highlights Sellers game skills as a handily interpretive and original comic performer. Modestly anarchic, it is well worth watching now for what it is - versus the viewing through the cinematic prism of what came before, or what it could have been.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Undoubtedly, MACHETE KILLS is the one movie in theatres this past
weekend that you may have missed while standing in line for artier-fare
like GRAVITY or CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. With a title MACHETE KILLS, there's
not a lot of room for subtlety, exploration of the human spirit or a
desperate pursuit for the elusive Oscar statuette. If anything, the
picture's title sounds less like a movie made for serious movie season
and more like an obvious safety warning.
I liked the first MACHETE movie enough. In fact, I liked it even more as a two-and-a-half minute fake trailer in GRINDHOUSE, so based on that, the rest of the 90 or so minutes of the first film ticked-off all that trailer's big moments with a large dose of in-joke silliness. Heavy on the gore and big movie stars like Robert DeNiro winking back at you from the big screen, it all worked.
So, just as promised at the end of the first picture, Machete (Danny Trejo) is back for more in MACHETE KILLS. It's another cinematic bucket from the 70's exploitation picture tribute well that has treated both director Robert Rodriguez and his buddy in B's Quentin Tarantino extremely generously.
Far be it for me to detail the overly-arch plot, because this one basically takes the illegal-alien Machete and turns him into a secret agent superman throwing him into lots of fights where he gets to use his machete and gets to blow stuff up.
The bad news is that most of the silly, cheap fun that propelled the first MACHETE picture is slowly drained from the sequel. It feels like this new film is trying too hard this time out. The movie works in fits and starts - funny in places, even exciting - then it seems to labour for long stretches to keep its compendium of camp, gore and needlessly- extraneous plot in the audience's interest. At 107 minutes, the picture wanders for much longer than would have ever been permitted in the old 1970s drive-in movie days. Where were the "Reel Missing" cards that Rodriguez ingeniously deployed in his other B-picture tributes to paint himself out of a corner and keep the plot turning? Could have used a few of them here to get this sucker down to a Grindhouse-friendly 82 minutes.
The good news here is the villains. Oscar-nominee Demian Beschir as the demented cartel warlord Mendez is incredible - he steals every scene he's in with his crazy-eyed energy and odd line-readings. He makes his character less a plot device and more a kinetic cartoon-y counterpoint to the stoic, mono-syllabic Machete. The other nice get is Mel Gibson as a Star Wars-obsessed aerospace magnate. Both look like they are having a lot of fun, and are so much better that the film that surrounds them - even if that film is supposed to be intentionally bad.
SPOILER ALERT: the third entry of the MACHETE series is actually teased at the very beginning of this film - as a trailer. The concept is loony and knowing: playing like a 'real' film franchise whose creators are so bankrupt of plot ideas that they stick their main character in outer space. It has goofy energy in a two minute burst, and a great BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS/STARCRASH vibe. Perhaps it would be best to leave MACHETE right there.
"Raiders of the Lost Ark" is one of my favourite movies - in fact, to
watch it with an audience 32 years later, it plays as perfectly today
as when I saw it on a late June matinée at the Vancouver Centre theatre
as a 12 year old in 1981.
Steven Spielberg's action masterpiece inspired me, and every one of my friends. We LOVED this movie. I saw it so many times in the theatre as a kid, and when it arrived on VHS in 1983, the film became so imprinted on my brain that I know the screenplay, the action and the music cues backwards and forwards as well as anything, even to this day. As much as I forget many, many things daily now, I still know "Raiders of the Lost Ark".
Along with "Back to the Future", Raiders remains a truly perfect modern-day film - perfectly written, directed, scored, and realized as a piece of exceptional movie entertainment - one that makes people happy, and they leave the theatre talking about it.
Spielberg was the guy. His movies constantly inspired my friends and I to make our own home-made movies (we erred on the side of James Bond pictures, sci-fi, and SCTV-style parodies - with a dash of John Landis anarchy) and we actually wrote screenplays, went out and shot footage, created special effects and worked to create a movie(s) of our own. This was all based on the fact that we were a TV generation - we saw all types of movies, from KVOS 8pm nightly movies, BCTV & CHEK 6 late shows, CKVU special stereo simulcasts with CFMI, everything. We absorbed the new VHS format and watched practically anything that was rentable. Pay TV was brand-new to Canada, too - and between the unedited and commercial-free "A" Hollywood titles, you ended up seeing classics and B-pictures and crappy Canadian tax-shelter dreck. And we studied the movies we saw, even the bad ones. Instead of sitting and just watching them though, with the advent of consumer-quality video cameras (thanks to the high school AV Club), we saw an opening: wanted to make some movies ourselves.
For me and my friends, it was a golden-age of movie making (the 1980s) and there were plenty of directors, ideas and plots to draw from. We put an awful lot of effort into creating pictures, but we never completed one from beginning to end - instead dropping one genre trope and moving on to the next in the excitement of seeing a cool new movie that wowed us. But boy, it was FUN. I learned an awful lot about real movie-making by actually doing it on the fly with my friends, working with a group of people who were all totally inspired by movies too. Even when I'm (rarely) shooting video today, I still use the things I learned working with my friends - editing inside the camera, framing, music, the cheats for shots, creating tension and emotion - stuff we all learned by endlessly studying movies, watching making-of documentaries and actually (sort-of) making short films with big picture ideas.
So, years ago I read an article in Entertainment Weekly or Premiere or somewhere on this thing that a group of friends in the U.S. south that had made a VHS shot-for-shot fan film re-creation of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" over many, many summers in the 1980s. They used the actual Lawrence Kasdan script, used the legendary John Williams underscore, and aped Spielberg's shots to make a kid-centric version of Raiders. Not only that, but they did stunts, created sets, even lit their parents' basement on fire to duplicate Marion Ravenwood's Nepalese bar set-piece where Indy fights the Nazi bad guy and his thugs.
Watching their ersatz movie adaptation simply blew me away. This was my early teenage dream played out on glitchy videotape: my experience as a kid who was crazy about movies, and who loved movies so much that to make a full-length movie inspired by the world's best movie (at the time) and as a way to be a part of making the same kind of entertainment that made audiences happy, excited and connected - just like the way I felt at the Vancouver Centre at that 2pm screening in 1981.
This is really a special film. It is entirely ingenious in its use of substitution, it nails the optimistic spirit of the original film and more over, you end up caring for the kids. I was particularly concerned for them when they actually lit each other on fire.
Their movie recreates in ultra-ultra-shoestring low-budget detail virtually every plot and action beat in the 1981 film so creatively, it's absolutely impossible to find any fault. The Adaptation is endlessly watchable - and as a viewer, you can't wait to see how they creatively tackle the next Spielberg multi-million dollar set-piece.
Just watch their version of the iconic desert truck chase: for my money, it is just as rip-roaringly good as Spielberg's version. And that's a REAL kid being dragged along that real gravel road. A kid that really, truly loves Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As a fan of the old 80's Star Trek movies, the new "Into Darkness"
picture is an impressively huge - if sometimes exhausting and confusing
- summer action picture that trades most of the simplicity of the old
films for big budget FX and massive set pieces.
With the film's quasi-reverential tone and this new series' more-than- willingness to raid the canon that came before, it might be time for director J.J. Abrams' version of the warhorse Trek series to explore new story lines and new galaxies and boldly go where others haven't gone, rather than relying on the tried-and-true that came before.
All the money's up on the screen and it IS entertaining, but a very soft 7/10.
In a summer that seems to have a sequel-a-week, a remake, a retread or
a rip-off, it is kind of surprising fun to watch "Pacific Rim" - which
in a lot of ways, is all of those.
It is, at the very least, a mega-million dollar kiddie matinée crossed with an old-school action/adventure movie. It could be a sequel to a Godzilla movie never made (or, at least an ode to "Destroy All Monsters"), and it thematically borrows from everything between Thunderbirds-Are-Go, Aliens, Transformers to Starship Troopers.
The movie is an imaginative rock 'em sock 'em robots-versus-monsters amusement park ride: just enjoyable, dumb fun in an air-conditioned movie theatre for 2 hours - perfect for your inner 10 year-old.
And it is pretty cool to see a robot punch a monster in the face.
The series that just can't quit - "Fast & The Furious 6" is about as
preposterous as they come (and I've seen Pacific Rim!), but all is
forgiven when there's so much idiotic car chase action and nice
Like the souped-up muscle cars in the movie, it's noisy and it all goes by very fast, and a few hours later, I couldn't quite connect what the whole James Bond plot was about, or really care.
It does have at least 4 good action set pieces, and by good I mean physics-defying, Wile E. Coyote-type - but the film is somehow cheerfully silly/good none-the-less.
A brainless $3 matinée, well-priced.
"The To-Do List" is an entirely raunchy, breezy coming-of-age comedy
that is anchored with a solid, fearless performance by Aubrey Plaza.
It's an "American Pie" race-to-lose-your-virginity tale that is not only surprisingly sweet, and at times smart, but also pleasantly positive about sex - filtered through a unique female voice and fresh perspective on age- old genre tropes. It's free of the snickering, juvenile gross-out attitudes of the "Pie" films.
The film is uneven, wanders a bit, and sometimes plays like a series of SNL sketches than a full-on film, but is, on occasion, laugh-out-loud funny.
It should get some more love and attention when it arrives on home video & PPV where it is sure to gain a word-of-mouth following.
|Page 1 of 5:||    |