Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

THOR

2011/05/10

 

http://thor.marvel.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Kenneth Branagh  Written by: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne  Produced by: Kevin Feige  Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos  Editing by: Paul Rubell  Music by: Patrick Doyle  Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

I never saw the appeal of Thor as a comic-book hero. Actually, if picky, I’d say Thor is not even a superhero by any means. He’s a Nordic mythical deity cast to Earth by his father Odin. And, with his red cape, ironclad armor and a little gold, winged helmet housing a set of goldilocks, he’s borderline a Halloween mascot.

“Thor” the movie is an attempt to make the character less kitsch – red cape, ironclad armor, and long flowing goldilocks for all the females to swoon over. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) took a lot of time working out for the ladies. Outside his armor he’s a pin-up for Levi’s commercials…at times where it would barely hold on to his tight derrière. His piercing blue eyes could raise your body temperature to tip the mercury.

But, “Thor” is a superhero comic-book adaptation. And it’s mostly for boys. What bright idea was it to make it into a romantic comedy? Sure, there were moments of clashing and flying fists and bodies. Of course there was a ton of CG effects that required a small nation of computer animators. But for the most part, the story somewhat circled around Thor and his love interest, Jane Foster, played sappily by the recent Oscar doll, Natalie Portman. However, the fault doesn’t lie with the actors, considering there are a few more big-screen heavyweights aside from Portman – Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Stellan Skarsgård (Jane’s senior yet timid colleague), and cameos by Jeremy Renner and Sam Jackson. It’s just that all the crucial stakes raised by the characters weren’t…all that crucial.

Thor’s an arrogant god born with invulnerability. Because of his hard head that put his realm in danger of going back to war with its nemesis, the frost giants, Thor is stripped of his powers by his father and cast to Earth as punishment. There, he meets Jane, by accident, and struggles to regain his senses and worth for his triumphant return. But then, the film segues to Jane and Thor getting acquainted for a really long time, leaving all the action and plots to the curb. Somehow, Thor (a daft god) finds Jane (a geeky, squeaky astrophysicist) really interesting. But, unlike other sensible action movies where at least the distressed dame would be the cause for the hero to go berserk and blow things up, Jane was just there to have coffee talk with Thor. And for the final battle, she isn’t even really in harm’s way; accept maybe stubbornly tiptoeing into crossfire.

Throughout the film, one character stood out sincerely, Kat Denning’s sexy, pouty Darcy – Jane’s intern, who found Thor, Jane, and the entire scenario to be a farce. It made a lot of sense on paper to point Kenneth Branagh to the director’s chair…for the amalgamation of theatrical period-costumed figures with modern-day countryside simpletons. But the delivery missed the target by a long shot. “Thor” was handled with little sensitivity to the comic-book genre and over-saturated melodrama that left it out by the backdoor like a wet dog. So despite the thunderous disputes and whirlwind high-school crush, Branagh hammered the last nail in Thor’s coffin.

LIMITLESS

2011/04/27

http://www.iamrogue.com/limitless/fullsite/

USA 2011  Directed by: Neil Burger  Written by: Leslie Dixon  Based on: The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn  Produced by: Leslie Dixon, Ryan Kavanaugh, Scott Kroopf  Cinematography by: Jo Willems  Editing by: Tracy Adams, Naomi Geraghty  Music by: Paul Leonard-Morgan  Cast: Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Anna Friel, Johnny Witworth, Robert John Burke, Tomas Arana, T.V. Carpio, Patricia Kalember, Andrew Howard

So much to do, so little time; some of us feel like this while others are just the opposite – with little purpose in life and thus feel like too much time on their hands. “Limitless” opened the window and let us peek out to the great wide open of possibilities and also see what could happen if one tries to fly too close to the sun. It’s a classic moral tale told through the lens of a very unique and innovative director, Neil Burger. Some of the imagery done here are downright trippy. But it styled the story so fittingly. After all, it is a science fiction piece about a loser writer, Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), with a mental block that got handed a miraculous tip in the form of a little transparent pill, which can optimize a person’s brain function to 100%. But with great power comes greater threats, turbo-charging all the stakes to overload.

This film rides heavily on Bradley Cooper, his first-time lead role. As an alumnus of The Actors Studio in New York (the Mecca for actors to be), he had all the training, intensity, and charm to silence any speculations over his ability to keep the audience in the seats and his supporting actor at bay – Robert De Niro, who plays Eddie’s boss, mentor and rival, Carl Van Loon.

The pill clocks in at 30 seconds to take effect and lasts 24 hours. At which time, Eddie crawls out of his grimy world and into one that is saturated with clarity, edge, detail and speed. A drug addict with a larger-than-life dream, Cooper’s repeating transformation from the slummed-out slacker to the golden boy with the Billionaire Boys Club swagger is easily entertaining as is sympathetic. It’s this constant contrast between the light and shadows that draws you in. Along the way, other characters are seen leveraging from this pill, each giving a notable attempt at this transformation; to which, surprisingly, was Eddie’s loan shark, a Russian immigrant – played palatably satisfying, maybe even trumping Cooper, by Andrew Howard.

With a plot that keeps twisting but never sliding far from its own truth – although a couple of scenes could have propelled it to ace status – “Limitless” carries enough weight to fend off any lip-gnawing thriller and yet has the humor, light or dark, to find everyone able to enjoy it with a few snorts and slaps to the knee. At the end, it even leaves the story open for new chapters and us wanting more…as long as the writers don’t run out of their limit of magic little pills.


SUCKER PUNCH

2011/03/30

http://suckerpunchmovie.warnerbros.com/

USA 2011  Directed by: Zack Snyder  Written by: Zack Snyder, Steve Shibuya  Produced by: Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder  Cinematography by: Larry Fong  Editing by: William Hoy  Music by: Tyler Bates, Marius De Vries  Cast: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Oscar Isaac, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Scott Glenn

They say if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. And in this day and age, with advanced technological support, it has become truer than ever. I’m sure Zack Snyder would be the first to agree, and eagerly trying to prove he can keep up with his peers such as Christopher Nolan, by making “Sucker Punch.” I personally don’t necessarily see Snyder as a filmmaker, but rather a hyper-action visual artist. His detail in composition, lighting, and movement is borderline impeccable, and usually always aims at one thing – a mind/eye devouring feast. And each of his films is a work of art.

Adding to his usual roles, Snyder directed, produced, and co-wrote “Sucker Punch.” But whereas pieces like “300” or “Watchmen” had been visually and verbally outlined, and simply needed a loyal adaptation, SP manifested from the pit of Snyder’s creative blender. And this is where it hit a speed bump.

The trouble with making ultra-stunning effects is they can easily become your crutch rather than a style. And the audience expects you to raise the bar each time, but that simply can’t persist, because all of Snyder’s bells and whistles jingled and jangled in his earlier pictures, which gave him notice in the first place.

With a blank canvas, Snyder painted a world of Baby Doll, a young woman (although she looked 14 in her Japanimation-fashioned outfit and makeup) desperately trying to survive and escape the insane asylum that she was committed in by her malicious stepfather. It seems, in this dark and dingy institution, only pretty young females are the patients. And even the head psychiatrist is a busty eastern European seductress played by the always sumptuous Carla Gugino. Through her guidance, Baby Doll finds herself able to bend the cruel reality into a spirited fantasy, fighting her way, along with her inmate patients, through Japanese feudal times and WWI Germany, and eventually to freedom. Sometimes there were dragons, other times futuristic robots. But at all times, girls were kicking bad guys’ asses, while in killer heels, dangerously short skirts and deadly décolletages. And?

The entrance to the fantasy world was always accompanied by a song played out in the room and Baby Doll’s irresistible dance that would set all the men in a trance, allowing the other girlie inmates to do their business – collecting items that would piece together the steps for all of them to escape. Till the end, we never saw what her dance actually was; it was always through the expressions of the men that we knew her moves were mesmerizing. And even though the color schemes and costumes contrasted between the two worlds, one element seemed to remain constant amongst the characters – really long eyelashes. Why?

If a film/story can be depicted by a genre of music, “Sucker Punch” would be a techno-trance maxed out on decibel levels. The action almost never seizes, and never quite allowed any downtime to peel back any layers of the characters. And yet, the actions almost always stayed at the same level, too – never really advanced the game from previous scenes. Sometimes, the fight sequences were caught too closely by the camera that was obviously placed on a lawn mower, giving way to vertigo and light reminder of last night’s dinner. This repeated several times throughout the show. What for?

In the end, through the psychiatrist’s final analysis, “Sucker Punch” concludes that the key to setting us free in this cruel world is…us. Really? Is that it? Can this be the punch-line to this episode? Did Snyder really go through all that pain to reveal a message that could be found inside a fortune cookie? I guess the audience got suckered in this one. Snyder needs to get back to what he does best: visualization – dust off his ego and hang up his writer’s hat, for awhile. And let’s hope his new installment of “Superman” will fly a bit higher, under the producing wings of his multiple-hat-wearing peer, Christopher Nolan.