Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some Movie Reviews...

Usually I review what I see right when I see it, but I've held things off... Especially a good review of Monsters University, but I'll mention a few things here along with my thoughts on other films that I've seen recently, so...

Warning: These reviews have spoilers...

Oblivion (viewed on April 27th) - Based on an unpublished graphic novel by TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski, Oblivion seemed great from the trailers. I was certainly intrigued not only because Kosinski himself was directing, but the film had shades of great sci-fi classics, great imagery, a potentially awesome plot and a good cast. So was it any good? It was above average, but nothing truly spectacular.

It's a very basic but serviceable post-apocalyptic story, one that tends to drag a little too much. I'm all for quiet stretches in films, but this one spaced out a little too much for my tastes. The action was overall solid, especially the sequences involving the vicious drones. I loved the tech and the design of the film, typical Kosinski style here. Story-wise, I'd say it's on par with TRON: Legacy, and I did not hate the storyline in that film. I thought it was just alright, critics made it seem like it was on par with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or something.

Anyways, it's not entirely memorable. Despite some good performances and things that work, Oblivion was just a decent sci-fi actioner. It's worth a watch, but I'm not sure if I'll be purchasing the Blu-ray or not. Need to rewatch this one!

Star Trek Into Darkness (viewed on June 8th) - I enjoyed the 2009 Star Trek very much, but I will admit, I haven't watched it since first viewing! Anyways, I saw this on a whim and loved it. I'm no Trek scholar, I barely know anything about it, so I really liked what I saw. Aside from spectacular action and thrills along with awesome effects (and some of the best post-conversion 3D I've seen), the story works and there's lots of little twists and turns. There may have been a few dull moments, but this film is an all-out action-packed ride though it takes some time to develop the Enterprise crew. Benedict Cumberbatch obviously stole the show as Khan, and there are some great moments.

I'll have to give it another watch to breathe it all in because it was so enjoyable the whole ride through. The dark aspect of it wasn't overdone, in fact it worked very well... Something I can't say about a certain other film that came out this summer. It was dark in a classic sense, where the stakes have been raised. Not "everything is depressing and bleak", and I think such a title and the marketing might've thrown audiences off, which is why it hasn't outgrossed its predecessor. Anyways, I really enjoyed it.

Man of Steel (viewed on June 15th) - More like "Meh" of Steel. I really, really wanted to love this. Despite my skepticism and my worries (with Zack Snyder directing, I was already unsure!), the final string of trailers and marketing made this film look amazing. I was pumped, since this is the first film in Warner Bros.' planned DC Cinematic Universe. Would it be like Marvel and Iron Man dashing out of the gate in 2008? Sadly, it wasn't. It trips out the gate.

David S. Goyer's script is weak, which makes me wonder... Why did they let him handle the script on his own?! The story structure was very jumbled, being told through flashbacks thanks to an overlong opening detailing Krypton's destruction. First he's an adult, then he's a kid, then he's a teenager, then he's an adult, then he's a teen... There was barely any development, they didn't make Kal-El/Clark Kent interesting, and despite great performances, the characters themselves felt like afterthoughts. Lois Lane? Totally wasted, which is horrible considering that Amy Adams was such a great choice to play her. Pa Kent was surprisingly a jerk ("Was I supposed to let them die?" "Maybe..."), which already rubbed me the wrong way when that aforementioned line was in the trailer. So that's the first half, the second half is just non-stop action. Great writing... Great writing...

But what I disliked most about this film was the tone. Dour, dire, downer! The desaturated color scheme (which is a shame, because the effects and action scenes were amazing) made this film seem like a wannabe arthouse film, and it suggested depression more than optimism. Hans Zimmers' disappointing score only adds to the tone. And when humorous bits came up, they were so out of place! Seriously, the Dark Knight formula did not work for this story. At all. I was expecting this Superman to be serious, but also optimistic and epic. Lighthearted? Maybe not all-out escapist fun, but jeez... I didn't want the polar opposite of fun and lighthearted. This is not The Dark Knight! And don't get me wrong, I love the Dark Knight trilogy (yes, even the third one!), but that tone suited Batman perfectly... But the films were also a lot of fun, not constantly depressing!

Okay, I have so much to say about it, but it's just a meh action film that's more for the crowds, because my audience applauded. A Superman film it is not, if you ask me. It's just decent, nothing more. If WB and DC apply this template (Dark Knight seriousness/bleakness, jumbled story) to any future DCU films, then I won't be excited. What's wrong with having fun with a superhero film? Also, iHop and 7-Eleven...

This Is The End (viewed on June 18th) - For me, this was the very definition of a pleasant surprise. I had heard a lot of great things about the film, but from the beginning, I thought "This is just going to be a stupid lowbrow comedy." It wasn't my cup of tea, but I ended up seeing this one on a whim because I had nothing better to do on a boring Tuesday... Plus, $5 Tuesdays at my local theater!

Anyways, that anecdote aside, I had a great time with this film. It started out kind of boring, as what was shown before the apocalypse occurs wasn't exactly to my liking. Some of the comedy was hilarious, but other jokes were kind of hit-or-miss for me... But when the apocalypse comes, that's when things shift into high gear. The film throws one surprise on top of the other, and it's just flat-out rip-roaringly hilarious. The theater burst into laughter throughout, so I had a great audience! What I like about it is that it's a movie that's well aware of how ridiculous it is. I mean, it's set in our world and the actors aren't playing characters. They're playing themselves (which makes for great movie references and jokes), and it's just hilarious to see what they go through during this apocalypse.

There's so many unexpected moments, from the guys filming a homemade Pineapple Express sequel to an encounter with cannibals. A lot of wickedly insane (and sometimes dark) humor litters the script, and it's totally okay with being tasteless. That's what makes it work, but the best thing about the film is not that it's extremely funny... But it's just loaded with unexpected brilliance. I loved it.

Monsters University (viewed on June 21st) - Well, it's great. Let's just get that out of the way, but I don't think it's excellent/near-perfect, or as great as Monsters, Inc.. But that's alright! Pixar is not dying, end of story. Anyways, Monsters University. First off, I liked the fact that they made this Mike's story. You really root for Mike, and at the same time in typical Pixar fashion, you feel bad for him because he's a not-so-scary cyclops trying to be a scarer. I also liked the fact that they made Sulley - a naturally terrifying beast - an arrogant slacker with no real passion for learning. Meanwhile, the monster who will never succeed in being a scarer has all the passion and ambition. It makes for a rather bittersweet ending, since we all know he becomes Sulley's assistant rather than a master of frightening children.

The characters are good, too. Oozma Kappa's lighthearted and friendly members were very likable new additions but the campus was also full of a lot of other colorful background characters. I especially liked faces such as the gargantuan librarian and the Greek Council presidents. How they handled some of the things that tied into the original worked out pretty well, I know some felt like they totally wasted Randall... I don't know, I think it worked because in Monsters, Inc., he's a big rival to Sulley before we really find out what he's up to. What happens to him here would totally motivate him to be Sulley's biggest rival, being a master scarer and whatnot. Or maybe I'm wrong and I need to see it again, but I felt it was handled well.

There's lots of fun and a lot of the same inventiveness that made the first one great, such as what we see in the Scare Games sequences. Those were all creative and lots of fun, and it certainly got me pumped up. The third act takes a hard turn, which a domestic trailer unfortunately spoiled for me with just two shots (seriously Disney Marketing, what the hell?!), but it all works story-wise. The end is nice, though it didn't make me bawl my eyes out. That's not a bad thing, not every Pixar film has to make you cry. It has a lot of heart, it's just not as potent as, say, Toy Story 3's emotional content.

On a second or third viewing, I shall be writing a bigger in-depth review. Overall, it's a damn good film. I'd say it's a little better than Brave, which I thought wasn't way inferior to Pixar's greatest. Just a little flawed and a bit below, that's all.

The Blue Umbrella was also fine. A visual masterpiece, though the story was typical. Paperman comparisons aside, it was just a simple boy-meets-girl story but the telling was very creative. Seriously, I absolutely loved what I was seeing. Now, can Saschka Unseld direct a feature at Pixar?

World War Z (viewed on July 6th) - Before I start, I just want to ask the press something... Why the hell are you always so enthusiastic about pile-driving salt into someone's wounds? Whenever a big budget film with production problems makes the waves, you always have to make up some bullshit story about the troubled production whilst predicting it'll be a floppily flop. Take John Carter instance. It's bad enough that the film had problems, the budget ballooned and the marketing was abysmal... But a lot of you started crafting stories about how Andrew Stanton was a total jerk on the set, was an egotistical maniac, changed the title from A Princess to Mars to John Carter of Mars because he's sexist and yadda yadda yadda. Then said film opens and then there's "FLOP!" and "Ishtar all over again!" Why do you get such joy out of a big budget movie failing at the box office? Why do you go all "Serves you right!" mode on studios? The very studios that are the reason why you have your jobs in the first place? Okay never mind, I'll save this for a rant!

So, World War Z... Well, I was surprised. It's not your typical big budget action film. In fact, for its $190 million budget (not $400 million you damn press wolves), it's rather small-scale. I was also surprised at the pacing and the running time... 116 minutes as opposed to two-and-a-half hours! The film takes off and doesn't stop, it never drags. The opening 10 minutes are intense, and there are touches of horror in this action thriller during a sequence where Gerry (Brad Pitt's character) and his family try to escape from an apartment building at dawn as the zombies run rampant through it.

Things start to get a little by-the-books and bland halfway through, but then that all washes away when the zombies successfully climb the wall protecting Jerusalem that later leads to an intense plane crash sequence... Then the third act kicks in... Oh man, the third act... Basically, Pitt in a health facility at night in a wing where idle zombies lurk, quietly trying to find what could possibly save the world. We got this suspense-filled half hour instead of a bland battle sequence in Russia where Pitt just takes on a bunch of zombies. Thank goodness that planned third act was left on the cutting room floor! That plane sequence and this act was a double-punch to my boredom that the middle portion of the film brought in. It's actually worth the price of admission, if you ask me.

So that's basically it. What did you think of these films?

1 comment:

  1. There's one problem with Monsters University for me: everything feels so rushed, and I thought they only gave the climax enough time. I would've loved to see more of the rivalry between the two Universities, the rivalry between Mike and Sully, the Scare Games (which was an oh-so predictable part), and how they made their way up to their current job at Monsters Inc. That's why I think it could have worked better as a mini TV series, instead of a movie. But still, there are a lot of things I love about this movie. I think this is the best looking Pixar movie yet, and the characters (both old and new) are pretty good. 7.5/10

    Also, I'm a bit disappointed we didn't get a teaser of The Good Dinosaur.

    Also #2: I'm surprised how The Lone Ranger is both a critical, and box-office failure. I saw the movie, and I liked it, I thought it was pretty good, and there was a lot of advertising for the movie.