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A Look Back: 2012 in Film (Part I)

I’ve been contemplating just how and when to provide my thoughts on the films of 2012.  This is the year I saw more new releases than any other, with the current count topping 30.  I thought about doing the usual Top 10 list with a few honorable mentions, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this has been a very comprehensive year for me.  And with pondering came the idea to make this an equally comprehensive look back.  This is why I’ll be going through 2012’s releases over the course of a three part blog.  The first part will feature the first half of the movies I saw, according to release.  The second part will cover the remaining half and the third will provide my ranking of every film, along with the movies I wanted to see but missed out on for whatever reason.  With that, let us begin my look back at the movies of 2012.

Haywire

First up on the calendar is Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, one of the few films I actually held off on until it hit home video.  Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t pay a penny to see this shoddy mess.  If you look up “haywire” in the dictionary, you’ll find it means “erratic” or “out of control,” which is exactly what this felt like.  Except it’s erratic in a disjointed, juvenile and amateurishly handled way, as opposed to being genuinely gripping.  The plot is cluttered, the characters aren’t worth investing in, the acting borders on atrocious and the low budget production style lends nothing to a film that, in turn, lends nothing to us.

Wanderlust

Next we have Wanderlust, a film that seemed to divide audiences with both its content and humor.  I’m open to most any style of film so long as its done right, something Wanderlust doesn’t grasp.  Like Haywire, I caught Wanderlust after its home video release, and it was a weary reminder as to why I like to trust my sagging gut.  This movie commits a huge crime that so many comedies are guilty of: lacking laughs.  Hell, forget laughs, entertainment is an even more criminal absence.  Were it not for the fact this was one of the few films of 2012 I disliked, Wanderlust would likely remain in my forgotten bin.  So bravo, Wanderlust, you achieved memorability for being that much closer to sheer atrocity.

Project X

I enjoy a good time as much as the next person, with or without drinking.  Parties can be a fun break from reality, though they seldom are.  Project X looked about as promising as that gigantic end of the semester party littered with everyone you hate from middle school.  I just knew that if I got the chance to see it, I’d utter nothing but the most disparaging remarks.  Then the film itself caught my interest and before long, my attention was sustained.  Much of the key events in Project X are genuinely eye catching which, combined with its proper amount of exposure, makes for a far more engaging watch than I ever conceived.  Now, I can’t take things out of proportion and say this was a good movie, but it was surprisingly enjoyable.  What makes it even more so is that this came out when so few films could even achieve any form of entertainment.  As such, it was the perfect break from a long, lethargic slumber.

21 Jump Street

21 Jump Street is yet another film I didn’t catch in theaters, primarily thanks to the unappealing trailers.  My gut impressions weren’t far from those for 2010’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which appeared dead, pointless and unconvincing.  But as you probably know, Rise was a very good film, remaining one of the greatest surprises I can recount.  In some ways, 21 Jump Street was also a pleasant surprise.  It’s definitely not on the same level as Rise, but what amazed me was that the film worked at all.  Laughs aren’t necessarily a constant, but entertainment was in sufficient supply, allowing my attention to actually go somewhere.  The film is very self-aware of its silliness, which is used to its advantage.  Is it a favorite?  Absolutely not.  Is it a good time regardless?  Very much so.

The Hunger Games

Not counting re-releases, The Hunger Games was my first theatrical viewing for 2012.  I went into this film almost completely blind, knowing only that it was similar in premise to Battle Royale.  Ultimately, it proved to be a fulfilling watch, remaining a memorable piece despite losing some of its edge after subsequent viewings.  The marketing was surprisingly well done, since very little of the actual Hunger Games were shown.  Lawrence puts on another solid performance alongside Woody Harrelson and, to my surprise, Lenny Kravitz.  We get a lot of brief looks into the depicted world, which is visionary without being self-indulgent.  This helps avoid overexposure, but I can’t help but want more, even with a nearly 2 1/2 hour runtime.  I’m actually about halfway through the first book, and have to say what I’ve read is adapted rather faithfully.  Both the book and film are solid works; neither are the top players of their respective styles, but there isn’t too much I can complain about.

Lockout

The title of this movie is Lockout.  I’d call it Guy Pearce’s One Liners.  Beforehand, I figured this would at least be a fair sci-fi romp.  Not long into the movie, I was ready to call it a night.  There’s a distinct lack of personality here, aside from how ineffective everything is.  The premise?  Tired and occasionally sporadic.  Main character?  Schwarzenegger would be proud.  Our villain?  A poorly handled maniac.  Investment?  Minimal to the very degree.  Lockout did little beyond slowly tiring and annoying me, only to become a film I’m happy to push out of memory.

The Avengers

Now we have The Avengers, the big money-maker of 2012.  There’s really no hiding the fact few films even touch The Avengers for sheer entertainment value.  The nerd and geek spectacle here is Category 7.  If nothing else, the final act warrants the price of admission alone.  Comical and awe-inducing moments run a constant, with just enough drama to remind us this isn’t merely a playful simulation.  Most will probably agree when I say this is a film you watch simply for fun at its most pristine level.  Anyone who actually doesn’t want that should stay away.  Those same people should also get their priorities straightened out.

The Dictator

Hopes for fun times ran high after The Avengers, something The Dictator couldn’t deliver enough of.  Crudely offensive and gratuitous material is what Sacha Baron Cohen is all about.  While it worked in a movie like Borat to wonderful degrees, here the comedic effects began to feel increasingly forced, leading to less and less fulfilling moments.  I can recall a considerable number of scenes from Borat, having seen it only a couple times.  The Dictator?  I’d be lucky to recollect half a dozen.  To say The Dictator was completely lacking is a harsh exaggeration, but I wouldn’t enthusiastically sit through it again.  It’s a load of heavy-handed offense, sprinkled with sparingly (but crassly) enjoyable moments.

Men in Black 3

Once again, we have a film I skipped out on seeing in theaters.  Almost nothing in Men in Black 3’s previews grabbed me, and despite not feeling so negative about the second film, I couldn’t justify spending primetime money on a stale-looking threequel.  Skip ahead one at-a-friend’s home viewing later and I’ll say it’s actually worthwhile in some regards.  The emotional arc, though debatably inconsistent, does make for a good way to help things come full circle.  Laughs are far from frequent, the villain is beyond weak and entertainment is in the so-so to relaxing range.  But our characters are colorful, usually fleshed out and when all is said and done, we could’ve certainly had a worse conclusion.

Moonrise Kingdom

The journey to Moonrise Kingdom was one ripe of frustration for yours truly.  I say this since no theater around me showed it, which mixes horribly with high anticipation.  Thankfully, by the time I did see this strange, unorthodox product, I had little to complain about.  Moonrise Kingdom definitely gets a nod for most unique feature of the year, as well as the most quirkily charming.  The ensemble cast is in terrific form, with the younger actors proving to be among the best in my entire memory.  These aren’t easy characters to play, especially considering their age, but they fit the roles wonderfully.  Even when deadpan and alarmingly stoic, you can’t help but be brought in.  Moonrise Kingdom is just like opening an odd yet colorful children’s book, one that withstands repeat readings through adolescence and into adulthood.

Snow White and the Huntsman

I have a sneaky suspicion that Snow White and the Huntsman’s relationship with me isn’t far from how everybody’s first special someone turns out.  The more I saw leading up to it, the more interested and hopeful I grew.  Then the film came out and I was left feeling…stumped.  A number of things definitely worked, namely the look and atmosphere.  Charlize Theron generally made for an effective villain, but she wasn’t as fully realized as I longed for.  Something that truly crippled the film was Snow White herself, who hardly says or does anything.  Aside from “you should know, you’re the one hunting me,” I can’t remember a single line she spoke.  Kristen Stewart isn’t a bad actress, but she isn’t up to par for silent emoting, which is an improper direction to take with Snow White’s character.  There’s a great movie here, but it’s buried underneath a slumbering mud pile which we endure for too much of the runtime.

Prometheus

Even with the likes of Bully and Zero Dark Thirty, I don’t think any film has or will top the controversy of Prometheus for some time.  Outrage has followed and literally ravaged this film from every angle.  I suppose I can consider my shield null and void when I reaffirm my praise for the film.  I’ve always been fascinated by the universe and lore of the Alien franchise from a conceptual standpoint.  The ideas and glimpses we’re afforded are always enjoyable and, if nothing else, visually interesting.  Call it a tease, bait and switch or complete and utter ploy if you must, Prometheus at least maintained my attention.  Do tired cliches of its genre(s) make their way into the current cut?  Yes.  Does the idea of waiting even longer for more answers frustrate me?  To a degree, but that’s part of the point.  A few questions are answered while more are posed, and just because we have questions doesn’t mean each will (or should) be resolved.  This is something the film poses at its very core during at least one scene, which rings true with the very beginning of the Alien plotline, as well as our own impulses as human beings.  It’s the kind of film that gets you thinking more and more the deeper you dig down, which in itself is something I personally admire.  An arbitrary compliment, perhaps, but someone or something has to ignite further discussions for us.

Rock of Ages

I once described Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as an excellent case for the legalization of select substances.  Subsequently, Rock of Ages is a film that I urge adults (of age) to see with drinks lined up for sips and shots aplenty.  Oh, and they might want to have 9-1-1 on standby.  Here we have a movie cheesy enough to make cholesterol levels spike to terminal levels.  Let’s just say it’s a miracle people weren’t diagnosed upon leaving their theater.

Brave

Two things kept me from watching Brave in theaters: audience and reception.  Disney and Pixar cater to kids, which oftentimes translate to some of the worst possible moviegoing experiences.  That and despite a generally positive recommendation, some people really picked the film apart.  It wasn’t until the end of my recent Pixar wrap-up that I decided to sit down and watch the film.  The first and most obvious part to address is that Brave looks incredible.  Several scenes and shots are convincingly life-like.  People make arguments that animation still has a ways to go before it can make a convincing case for reality.  To them I say watch Brave on Blu-ray.  For me, Brave was what you could call a tease.  The set up and setting promise something big, bold and interesting.  In a way that’s what we get, if by big we mean big to a child, bold referring to the sheer concept of the film’s catalyst, and interesting in regards to what’s suggested throughout.  The film seems to promise more than it delivers, and when there’s so much at the studio’s disposal, it comes off as underwhelming.  Now if we take the film for what it is, at face value, it’s not bad at all.  It is rather silly, I’ll admit, but if you go along with it the story can maintain your interest, providing a good dynamic between two of the characters.  To say it’s better than Cars 2 is a given, but the same can’t be said for it returning Pixar to their former glory.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

It seems to have become a pattern for the worst movies I experienced this year to be utterly forgettable.  If not that, then they fail to make much of an impression for much of the runtime.  Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sadly fits the latter category, since this is a film I really wanted to enjoy.  It simply never managed to grab me.  Much of what we need is in place: an impending scenario, decent character types, motivation to keep at least one of them going, moments aiming for comedic and dramatic effect, etc.  Yet none of it ever pulled me in.  Much of the movie falls on its characters who, in some ways, are different from what we typically get.  This would be great if I had a care in the soon-to-end world for them, which I didn’t.  And a film that fails to make me care fails to get more than a shrugged mention.

The Amazing Spider-Man

I’ve already mentioned that a couple films took me by surprise in 2012.  But if I had to pick one which completely exceeded my expectations and became a true favorite, it’d be The Amazing Spider-Man.  Not every promise made from the previews and trailers was kept, but at the very least we got a more grounded and realistic origin story.  Granted, this means a lot of familiar ground is covered, but the film shows it’s less the content and more the execution that matters.  The characters, especially Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, respectively, are tough to not get behind.  Their interactions and dynamics, among others, are why I felt so gripped and transported.  Not many films get me hoping for them to go on for double their runtime (or more), but The Amazing Spider-Man achieved just this.  I don’t care if we’re seeing much of the same stuff or if our villain is less than remarkable, there’s so much more that I managed to cling to and joyously savor.  For that, it effortlessly holds up as one of my favorite movies from 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises

Now the big guns are coming out.  As of my initial viewing(s), The Dark Knight Rises stormed onto the top of my favorite movies of the year, looking down at the competition with disdain.  Here we had a re-envisioned character coming full circle in a tour de force, featuring another great villain, visual/audio marvels and strong emotional payoff throughout.  By the time I saw the film a third or fourth time, however, things began to look gloomy for what is, in itself, a gloomy movie.  The Dark Knight Rises is a tough film to get into on that level without exposing certain details, the least of which is its ending.  What I’ll leave this brief recap at is that the film remains enthralling, if inconsistent.  Scenes with a scene-commanding Bane and scene-stealing Catwoman are among the film’s best moments, while parts getting into the nitty-gritty plot are, much like The Dark Knight, less engaging.  Subsequent viewings have only made its cracks all the more apparent, which might not cripple it the way they do Bruce Wayne, but they’re not doing it any favors either.

 
 

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Man of Steel Trailer 2 Impressions

You know you’re on the internet when you yourself begin jumping on multiple bandwagons (yes, “you”).  Hardly a day after a new movie trailer hits the net and half my film oriented subscriptions have their impressions up.  But I have something worth talking about with the first full-blown (and widely available) trailer for Man of Steel.  Although I’m hesitant to call this a trailer, simply because it feels like an extended teaser trailer.  Outside of the fact we have a more–you guessed it–realistic, grounded origin story, we’re not exactly handed a whole lot of plot points.  Obsessed viewers might be able to piece stuff together from the end montage, but many of us less discerning viewers take at face value.  A lot of it almost boils down to action, action, conflict and action.

But hey, that last minute sure looks nice.  This is one potential advantage to a more realistic reboot: by the time everything has been set up, we as the viewers are all the more invested when things finally liven up.  I hope this is the case because, frankly, Superman has never been that interesting to me.  Might as well throw out that I’ve only seen Superman Returns from start to finish while I’m at it.  Heck, I’ve been so sheltered from the original movies that when someone brings up the popular score I either nod, shrug or think “which score was that?”

Point is, I’ve never felt motivated to watch Superman; yet Man of Steel is at least doing a better job grabbing my attention.  Early on we see Clark in a disagreement with Kevin Costner over what I assume is the fact he saved a bus full of children.  Clark feels he should do the right thing while Costner essentially tells him it might have been best to let them die (no joke).  At least now I know who not to trust my kids with when disaster strikes.  With that in mind, I’m wondering how they’re going to handle Clark’s identity as Superman.  I don’t recall any shots in which he’s wearing glasses, so will he be completely open and public about it?  Could make for an interesting dynamic, especially since Green Lantern took a similar approach but didn’t take it very far.

Yet the real question on my mind is how Henry Cavill can handle being the Man of Steel.  Cavill is still a bit of a no-name in Hollywood, and the only film I’ve seen him in is Immortals.  Let’s just say neither him nor the film itself left me craving more.  I haven’t heard anyone mention a great previous performance by him which, combined with the horrible response to this year’s Cold Light of Day, still leaves me skeptical.  Not to mention Cavill gets maybe two lines in the trailer, both of which are narrated.

As you can probably tell, Man of Steel continues to leave me with more questions than it does answers.  I’m not sure it even answered anything after the first trailer, since I got a similar feel from that one.  I am enticed to see how this movie will play out and will likely catch it opening weekend.  This is a tough trailer for me to judge since so much of it is visual with very little of our lead star showing or saying anything.  For now, I just hope I don’t end up feeling like the kids on that bus prior to being saved.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2012 in Blog, Impressions

 

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The Dark Knight Rises: Full, Spoiler-Free Review

Christopher Nolan’s Batman films are among the few you can get away with coming to a verdict on before even seeing.  The big reason is that, regardless of what we’re given, it’s going to be quality work.  At this point it’s, well, pointless to talk about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight since they both live up to said pedigree.  And just like the initial skepticisms for those two films, concerns are beyond cast aside in The Dark Knight Rises.

Not many films get the idea of effective marketing, but The Dark Knight Rises really has it down.  The trailers often showed similar footage and, beyond the limited release of the prologue, all we had to work with were fragments.  As such, this is less a movie to spoil and more one to discuss in limited detail.

The film is set eight years after The Dark Knight, with Gotham’s criminal activity apparently at an all-time low.  During that time, the city has thrived off of a lie which has taken its toll on those who know the truth.  Much of the film’s first half reacquaints us with just what consequences have followed, which is played off as the more immediate threat ensues.

Enter Bane, who we all know from the trailers as the man who’ll become “Gotham’s reckoning.”  In a recent behind-the-scenes video, actor Tom Hardy said “The Joker wanted to watch the world burn.  Bane’s here to pull the pin on the grenade.”  There’s really no other way to say it, as Bane is pretty much the embodiment of a Batman villain in the form of a terrorist.  It gets to the point that you almost forget this is based on a graphic novel.  That is, until one or two tiny parts creep up and remind you that nothing is quite off limits, even under Nolan’s direction.  The presence and role Bane has is infrequent but significant.  It’s just a shame that his lines are still tough to make out, despite addressing the concerns of many fans (including myself).  Eventually it comes down to actions speaking louder than words, but it’s still tough to get a first impression when much of what you hear sounds like sheer distortion, bass and accent.

The villains from the Dark Knight films have been perhaps the most memorable.  And while Bane does more than enough to leave an impression (or two), we thankfully get a bit more of our heroes a la Batman Begins.  Superb as The Dark Knight was, the film was really about the Joker; his show-stealing scenes almost took away from our actual hero.  Not so much the case here.  Christian Bale puts on his best performance as Bruce Wayne and Batman, with the rest of the main cast matching his commitment.  In fact, while we’re on that subject, Michael Caine deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance.  He has hardly three or four scenes, but those moments really count and stick with you.

It’s a good thing we have these characters to enjoy and invest ourselves in, because without them, the story would definitely cripple.  Plot points almost come off like small details at first, but quickly play bigger and even pivotal roles.  To the more indifferent viewer, these are bound to be potential problems, but to the film’s credit, it’s at least trying to take itself and its audience seriously.  If you can’t get the entire picture, you’ll at least get the gist of things.

What The Dark Knight Rises manages to be, more than anything, is an effective concoction.  For a while it brews and swells with set ups and potential before utilizing the last hour to build the intensity with more than a few gripping, boiling points.  It leaves you panting, losing breath but still wanting to be subjected.  The universe is deeply grounded with characters pulling you in while the action and tension leave you immobilized.  It’s a fine, worthy conclusion that shows it’s less about matching or outdoing its predecessors, but more about ending the series on a proper note.

 
 

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Theater Feature: The Amazing Spider-Man

It’s safe to say that many haven’t gotten over the fact we’re already getting a Spider-Man reboot half a decade after Spider-Man 3.  I for one am in the minority of people who didn’t mind the third film, even if it was the weakest in Raimi’s trilogy.  Not to mention we sort of got a reboot with The Incredible Hulk five years after the Ang Lee version, and I don’t recall many people complaining about that.  But I digress.

Needless to say, when The Amazing Spider-Man was announced, I simply rolled my eyes and spewed a “screw you, Hollywood” phrase so unoriginal it’d probably make them sigh in response.  Then footage started coming out and while I still wasn’t entirely sold, my enticement at least crept upward.  Generally speaking, the early reviews have been favorable, though I’m surprised people aren’t more immensely gratified.  Then again, the two sites I consistently visit have glowing reviews for that abominable Katy Perry movie, so I took the reception with more than a single grain of salt.  Thankfully, two YouTubers I’m fond of (Chris Stuckmann and Jeremy Jahns) both had great things to say about the movie, so I went in quite hopeful.

The end result: I freaking loved it.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, the film covers very familiar territory, especially at the beginning.  Yet what ultimately matters is just how well everything is told, which The Amazing Spider-Man accomplishes very successfully.  Aunt May and Uncle Ben felt way more developed in this film, which makes the subsequent events hit that much harder.  The level of depth and interaction between them and/or Peter is so much more realized and complete than the Raimi version.  Another area the film really works well is the chemistry between Peter and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, which is so much more believable and strong than Peter and MJ in Raimi’s trilogy.  The fact Emma’s a way prettier face than Kirsten Dunst is a nice plus too.  What’s more is that Andrew Garfield is a way more interesting Peter Parker and Spider-Man.  Sure, Tobey Maguire might come off to some as the quintessential Peter Parker, but Garfield’s performance is just more interesting and varied.  As a result, we identify and grow to like him even more.

All of this is even more important when the story has to be told, because without investible characters there’s not much left to care about.  I came to love these characters, their interactions and the entire movie so much that I didn’t want it to end.  I can already tell that this is one movie I’ll be watching over and over on Blu-ray simply because it does so much so well.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I liked this movie more than The Avengers.  Yes, send the outburst-filled posts my way, my mind is clear.  The Avengers might be the bigger, more action-oriented film but when you break it down The Avengers is superhero action done right, whereas The Amazing Spider-Man is a superhero story done right altogether.  Of course the action scenes and final 30 minutes of The Avengers is better than any of the action here, but there’s simply more (and arguably better) development in the latest Spidey iteration.

There were honestly very few things I didn’t like about the film and I have no major qualms.  Anything holding the film back simply involves our villain, the Lizard.  He’s not a bad villain per se, but there’s a good chance I won’t remember him much down the line.  The CGI is really most apparent when he’s on-screen and his shifting motivations are very jumbled to say the least.  In many ways The Lizard is merely a plot device, which I suppose is a serious problem, but it does lead to an at least decent climax, so I’m not too bothered by it.

Even if you’re a huge fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, I think this version by Marc Webb is definitely worth your time.  The cast and characters are great, the story holds up, the action and choreography all suffice and it ends in a way that keeps us guessing.  I can safely say that I’m all for this version and can’t wait to see just where it’ll be taken next.

 
 

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Casting Calls That Could Have Been…

Most of us know the movie industry well enough to realize that initial casting choices are like kids and vegetables: They seldom stick.  Recent news that Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for The Riddler in The Dark Knight Rises has become the latest in many publicized could-have-beens.  Some might even remember that before Keanu Reeves, Will Smith was sought for the role of Neo in The Matrix.  Stretches like these happen quite frequently, which are generally…interesting to stumble upon.  So to find out just how bewildering initial considerations were, here’s a list of various roles that could have gone to somebody else.

Spider-Man: Leonardo DiCaprio and James Franco as Peter Parker.

The suit must be surprising comfortable.

While we’re on the topic of Leonardo DiCaprio and superhero films, he was actually one of the actors considered for the part of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.  And in a twist of heroes and (semi) villains, James Franco, who went on to play Harry Osborn, was also among the screen tested actors.  Leo sure seems to shrug away from superheroes.  He’ll play a full-on retard and controversial, supposed homosexual, but isn’t up to being a comic book hero or villain?  Where’s the fun in that?

The Shawshank Redemption: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp and Kevin Costner as Andy Dufrense.  And Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Red.

Prison does things to a man.

Yes, there were quite a few potential combinations for the roles of Andy and Red in The Shawshank Redemption.  Those who’ve seen the film know that Andy is a very subdued character, so I’m really flabbergasted that Nicolas Cage came to be considered.  But hey, maybe a transition Vampire’s Kiss to one of the few subtle Stephen King stories isn’t as much a jump as I suspect.  Though in all seriousness, Johnny Depp and Clint Eastwood playing together in the famous roles sure sounds interesting.  Maybe that way Clint could warn Johnny to back away from Tim Burton a bit earlier and keep his resume from molding up.

Titanic: Matthew McConaughey and Macaulay Culkin as Jack Dawson.

I know, right?

DiCaprio’s role as Jack Dawson in Titanic probably isn’t one that he’d label as self-defining.  But hey, it probably brought on a big, fat paycheck and plenty of attention-paying teenage girls; hard to complain with that!  And Matthew McConaughey has always struck me as a guy trying to be charming or suave, so I can understand his consideration.  Then there’s Macauley Culkin.  Who’d have thought Home Alone’s own Kevin could’ve followed up losing his family (twice) by dying on the infamous ship’s maiden voyage?  The kid hasn’t exactly had a brag-worthy career either; maybe he’s got some relation to Bad Luck Brian.  In all honesty, his twig of a body probably wouldn’t have endured past hauling Kate Winslet over the stern of the ship.  Can’t win ’em all.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Bill Murray, Steve Martin and Robin Williams as Captain Jack Sparrow.

Someone else playing me?  Hand up the rum.

Pirates of the Caribbean sat in development Hell for over a decade, with the story originally being pitched for Steven Spielberg to potentially direct.  At the time, the colorful lead character was pondered on quite a bit; and guess what?  Most of the initial actors lean(ed) towards silly, comedic roles!  Given the shaky track record Steve Martin and Robin Williams have, it’s weird to imagine them as the wobbly but strangely thoughtful captain.  As for Bill Murray, he just seems to come off as dryly sarcastic, so I’m not sure how colorful and upbeat he’d be.  I think this is just one more instance that the final choice is one we can agree was for the best.

Air Force One: Kevin Costner as President Marshall.

Surely the make-up wouldn’t be THAT bad?

Oh the many, many actors we’d rather see as the President of the United States.  Many people (including myself) absolutely loved Harrison Ford as the fictionalized President in Air Force One, a film light on plausibility but heavy on entertainment.  Although any movie where the President is a decent individual–let alone a badass who does things himself–has no realism in this day and age.  Then there’s the insanely inconsistent Kevin Costner.  I might be alone here, but I think the man is talented and is given too much flak.  I could see him playing the President quite well, though I doubt his voice would command nearly as much as Ford did.  But hey, this role wasn’t such a waste; I’m sure The Postman will live on with much more respect and recognition.

Alien: Veronica Cartwright as Ripley.

Switch roles?  You got a face-swap for us?

Right now one might make an argument the Alien franchise has hit the point of being milked.  Even so, throughout the course of over thirty years now, the role of Ripley in each Alien movie has become a bit of an icon.  And with a character this memorable, you can be sure a lot of it has to do with the actress, to which Sigourney Weaver proved to be likable in each film.  Now, looking back, could we see another actress tackling and sticking with the role?  One of the other Alien stars, Veronica Cartwright, was actually considered for the key role.  I for one could see her playing Ripley in Alien, but I’m not so sure about the sequels.  But thanks to the way Weaver handled her speech at the end of Alien, she ultimately got (and stuck with) the role.

Sandra Bullock as Maggie in Million Dollar Baby

We’re not convinced.

Here’s one we can shrug aside in hindsight, since both ladies in question were given an Academy Award.  But at the time of Million Dollar Baby’s release, you’d have to wonder even more just what Maggie could have been like.  I won’t hide that I’m not the biggest Sandra Bullock fan, finding her to essentially be a more famous Linda Hamilton.  She has talent, but I’m glad that Swank was chosen, since I always find her to be a versatile actress–precisely what the role called for.

Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder as Queen Ravena in Snow White and the Huntsman

Angelina gets to play a make-up and costume-drenched freak after all.  Happy seasons!

For one of these actresses, I can definitely see why they were considered.  For the other, I can’t imagine it.  But given the final choice, I’m thankful.  Angelina Jolie seems to be an immediate go-to actress for these big, tough female characters.  And I might risk what little reputation I have already, but she can never suspend me.  I feel that her as the Evil Queen wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting, but it’s probably more than what I can say for Ryder.  She’s certainly a likeable actress, but as the intimidating villain?  Sorry, but her child-like face just doesn’t scream evil or queen-like in any way.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Shailene Woodley as Katniss in The Hunger Games

Does this face scream bows, burns and harsh survival?

Here are two young actresses I’m quite fond of, despite having only seen one or two performances by each of them.  Chloe Grace Moretz of Hugo and Kick-Ass has already established herself as more adaptable than most adult actresses.  And Shailene Woodley turned out to be perhaps the biggest, most pleasant surprise of The Descendants.  That said, this is another instance that I must say I’m content with the final choice.  Jennifer Lawrence is another still-rising actress who’s impressed me with her filmography thus far.  For the role of Katness, I think she pulled it off better than the others could since she seems more physically adept (please don’t take that out of proper context).  The performance likely would have been great if any of the other two were chosen, but Lawrence just looks the part so much more.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Film, Movies

 

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Theater Feature: The Avengers (2012)

This past weekend brought the ultimate wet dream for comic book fans as The Avengers hit theaters, meeting with a pleasant amount of praise along the way.  Factor in that it’s the latest in a long line of films from the past 3 years to set an opening weekend record and it’s bluntly obvious just about anyone remotely interested has already seen it.  At this point it’s literally pointless to ask-then-answer whether the film is good or not, so I’ll be taking a less conventional approach with this review.  In case you haven’t seen The Avengers, be warned this review will be FULL OF SPOILERS.  If you just want my quick thoughts on the film without having too much ruined, all you need to know is that The Avengers is a damn good time and perfect for a theatrical viewing.  Also, if you’re going to watch it in 3D, then be sure you catch it in IMAX, since this is far from the 3D quality seen in the first 15 minutes of Hugo.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

Like I said, the film is a great time and one of the few that can warrant more than one theatrical viewing, if your wallet/bank account is feeling overly generous.  While a lot of this has to do with the well done action scenes, I actually found myself most invested when the characters were simply talking to each other.  Literally everyone has wonderful chemistry, whether the playfulness between Bruce and Tony or the family problem feuds between Loki and Thor.  Call me crazy, but I actually wanted to hear more of the big argument scene around the halfway mark.  Perhaps it’s a testament to the writing and/or characters, or maybe I’m so used to watching dramas and wish every argument could be a film itself (much like 12 Angry Men).  But I digress.

Another reason the film works so well is the humor, which definitely derives from the writing.  Just about any scene involving Tony Stark or the Hulk is comedic gold and if you disagree then your laughing strings are beyond withered.

One question I’m surprised hasn’t been asked more frequently is who everyone’s favorite Avenger is.  Tony Stark is his usual, brilliant, egocentric self; Thor is rash but good-hearted; Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce/Hulk is a great combination of thought and comedy; Captain America is the typical (but terrific) relatable, all around good guy; and Black Widow and Hawkeye are the determined, somewhat dryly humorous agents.  It’s truly a clash of awesomeness, which is a testament to this film’s build up and execution.  The last Avenger movie I saw leading up to this was Captain America–while it was still in theaters, so quite a few months separated my attachment from The Avengers.  But much like Fast Five, that didn’t matter; the characters were enjoyable and likable, so connecting wasn’t much of an issue.

If it sounds like The Avengers is the perfect summertime action film, that’s because it is.  But of course, like its predecessors (whether spiritual or not), it isn’t without a few problems.  Many of these might be nitpicks, but they exist.  First off, there’s a rumor that about 2 hours of footage was cut, which definitely show.  For a 140-minute movie, The Avengers really flies by, and even on my first viewing I had a feeling of where certain scenes were likely cut.  It’s a shame studios won’t give us everything up-front; films like Das Boot and each Lord of the Rings have cuts going for about 4 hours or more, each far superior to the theatrical version.  I suppose it’s just one more way to gip us when the movie comes out on DVD/Blu-ray (then we’ll have a longer cut for a gigantic box set that’ll make Harry Potter roll in his grave).

There were also a few small, unanswered questions I had throughout.  One of the biggest ones was what happened to Peggy from Captain America?  Sure, she probably got old and passed away, but I thought she’d at least get closure.  What also surprised me is that we never see Captain America ask about her, but we get confirmation that Thor’s love interest was flown out.  Speaking of which, what about Bruce Banner’s love interest?  We never even get a hint about her in this film.  I guess Gods really do get everything while humans get screwed over.  Sure, I’m not much for romantic subplots, but they should at least be resolved if included, instead of simply being cast aside.  Hopefully these are things that Thor 2, Captain America 2 and the next Hulk film will answer.

Also, I’m not sure if I’m alone on this, but did anyone else feel a bit of sympathy for Loki?  Yes, the film does do one hell of a job portraying how ruthless he can be, but I always got the impression he had some reluctance and was constantly trying to set it aside.

Despite my questions and quibbles, The Avengers does still stand as a fine way to start the summer off.  It might be easy to say that it’s all downhill from here for the season and superhero films, but I’d categorize the film as almost-amazing rather than flat-out awesome.  The Avengers certainly doesn’t hold a torch to The Dark Knight and I’d be surprised if The Dark Knight Rises happens to be inferior, but we are talking about very different films.  Ultimately, I’m in agreement and on the bandwagon: The Avengers is just a great film.

 

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Quote Review: Thor (2011)

“Oh, no… this is Earth… isn’t it?”

One of the biggest theaterical surprises since Iron Man, Thor is a very different film compared to what Kenneth Branagh has directed in the past. The effects and action sequences are a joy to look at, most of the attempts at comedy work well and there’s a rather decent story with more-than-adequate performances to boot. Hemsworth is also bound to show up in many future action films, thanks in part to his enjoyable performance.

Did you enjoy Thor?  Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

 

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The Dark Knight Rises: Trailer 3 & Impressions

Many fans have been skeptical but holding high hopes for what’s already one of the summer’s biggest movies.  The first two trailers for The Dark Knight Rises were somewhat scarce on details, arguably less so than those for its predecessor.  But now we have our final trailer before the third and final (?) of Nolan’s Batman films comes out.

Rather than literally say what’s in the trailer (since I’d be doing a disservice in the process), here are some details that I’ve found, as well as my actual impressions.

The slow, opening play of piano is wonderful; chilling and immediately grabbing.

Bane’s voice has been much improved over the second trailer and the prologue.  His two lines in this trailer seem to emote differently, so that’s definitely a plus.

Compared to the final trailer for The Dark Knight, there’s a good chance Bane isn’t going to have as many lines as The Joker.  But it’s clear he’s still going to have a key part in the film.

The shot of the bridges blowing up followed by people looking out windows to see falling snow seems to indicate being alone or cut off.

We’ve seen snow (or something to replicate it) between the trailers and set photos, which can be associated with a colder nature.  The snow can also be paralleled to the fact Tim Burton’s Batman Returns took place during Christmas.

It’s essentially confirmed in the trailer that Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) knows Bane, which solidifies my early suspicion that she’s been directly involved with Bane.

The very end of the trailer also shows Batman and Catwoman in the new Batpod; sounds like a team-up to me.  What I’m guessing is that Selina/Catwoman is conflicted from her possible relationship with Bane, her life and maybe something Bruce offers her.  There’s also a brief shot that shows her in a fight and Batman fighting in the background.

Of course there’s also the concern about whether Bruce/Batman dies.  At one point in the trailer, Selina’s asked by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character “did he kill him?”  The finger seems to point at him referring to Bane killing Batman.  There’s also Batman responding to Catwoman ( “you’ve given them everything”) with “not everything.  Not yet.”  It might be a long shot, but perhaps Levitt’s questioning of Selina is right at or around the end.

And we finally see Lucius is going to be in the film.  Since none of the previous trailers showed him and the fact Lucius no longer works for Bruce, it makes me wonder how he’ll still fit in.

Given the shots we’re given throughout of chaos in the streets (not to mention the blowing up of bridges and a football field), it appears that the people of Gotham and Bane’s forces are going to at their very ends here.

The building music in the second half of the trailer transitioning to the Bane Chant is just pure bliss.  A popular move to use when teasing a finale such as this, but they often work and it’s no different in this trailer.

Those are just some of my quick thoughts.  I’m definitely looking forward to this film, the trailer has left me ecstatic beyond belief, and I’m looking forward to The Avengers even more just to see this trailer on the big screen.

What do you think?  Is The Dark Knight Rises going to be the number one film this summer?  Will it be nominated for any Academy Awards?  What observations or theories do you have?  Spill your thoughts below!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Film, Movies

 

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Quote Review: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

“The first of many.”

With a summer full of straightforward action films cluttering 2011, Captain America finds itself sitting comfortably in the middle. We get a good (re)introduction to the character, played surprisingly well by Chris Evans.  Granted, like the other summertime films of the year, there are plenty of flaws to find here (especially if you tend to nitpick). But since this is really our first taste of another Avenger, these issues shouldn’t bother or come to-mind for the more casual viewer. If you didn’t have enough options throughout the summer for sufficient action, then this will suffice for quenching your appetite.

Did you enjoy Captain America?  Share your thoughts and comment below!

 
 

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Quote Review: Green Lantern (2011)

“You don’t think I would recognize you because I can’t see your cheekbones?”

Too ambitious and underdeveloped to be a good summer film, Green Lantern glosses over the source material too much for both newcomers and avid fans of the superhero to truly appreciate. The few action sequences are enjoyable, albeit in a completely silly and thematically inconsistent way.  For that much, there is some entertainment to be had, but you’ll have to keep your expectations and standards quite low.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Film Review, Movie Review

 

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