I thought I’d make it easy on myself and do 6 short, quick reviews, but I guess it’s never like that. It’ll probably sound like I’m being too negative, but it just worked out that I only like 2 of the last 6 films I’ve seen at the movie theater… Oh, well. If you want positivity, just skip to the end. Anyway… Here they are in no particular order.
Maleficent (2014, PG-13)
The Premise: Disney sets out to prove why making villains the protagonists (generally) isn’t a good idea… Or… ‘ A re-imagining of the classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story, by looking at it from the villainess’ poiint of view, blaming everything on men and ultimately making her the hero.
Why You Should Run Away From This As Fast As You Possibly Can… But A Lot of People Probably Won’t:
It SOUNDED like a great idea. Looking at Angelina Jolie made up as a live action Maleficent LOKS like a great idea… But, the result is a horrid, seizure inducing poorly written, mis-directed crapapalooza. I have to say, I haven’t been the biggest Angelina Jolie fan in the past. She’s been involved with a myriad of celluloid putridity in her career. Her best films are mostly average. She was not the problem here. She looked like she was born to play the title character and looked smokin’ in black. The way she entered scenes with her head tilting back and forth and the cape and the um… black leather… She was CLEARLY not the problem.
The problem was making her the heroine, the ‘protector of the Moors’, trying to shoehorn in a reasoning for why the character was acting ‘like a villain’ and not to mention showing her as a child. The only way I can describe what Disney has done here is by saying imagine they ‘re-imagined’ Die Hard, but now they were going to show everything from Hans Gruber’s perspective. You’ll see little Hans being wronged in some way as a child by ‘The Man’. When he grew up, he decided to rob the Nakatomi building, but not because he’s a greedy self important evil dude that’s willing to kill a lot of people to make himself rich, but he really wants to make John McClane rich because McClane had absent parents. And during the heist, he protects the cop from danger. Does that sound stupid? Well, it’s no more stupid than this particular film. And it’s apparent, as it seems to be with a lot of these films coming out these days, that the directors can put sequences of bright shiny FX together, but they never learned how to tell a coherent story.
About a half hour into the film, I thought to myself that the scene where young Aurora (the Sleeping Beauty of the story) was christened as a baby was where the film should have started. But, then I started realizing that the film should have never been made. It doesn’t even follow a logical progression for a fairy tale. After she’s cursed by Maleficent, Aurora’s father sends his newborn daughter away to live with strangers for 16 years. SIXTEEN YEARS without seeing her, because he’s protecting her? What?
Just a complete missed opportunity. Jolie is really great in this film when they’re shooting her in the shadows and playing up the villainy. When she’s filmed in the bright sunny daylight, it makes her look like she’s a Comic Con attendee. And other than Maleficent’s costume design (And I’m referring to the adult Maleficent without wings, not the child version), I’ll even say the character designs… mainly the creatures in the forest… fell flat… Especially whatever those toad things with the goggle eyes were. And remember the look of Maleficent herself was created by Disney artist Marc Davis (One of the Nine Old Men) way back in the 50s. Just disappointed… And I was even robbed of MAleficent becoming the big black dragon as she did in the cartoon. Way to go Disney. Maybe you’re getting the ‘Marvel’ influence now. Marvel knows how to ruin their own characters like no one else. Speaking of which…
1.5 of 5
X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014, Rated PG-13)
The Premise: Not so far in the future mutant-kind is being wiped out by shapeshifting super powers absorbing robots called the Sentinels. The only hope for theX-Men (and everyone else) is for Kitty Pryde, who besides being able to walk through walls has now gained the ability to send other people’s consciousnesses back through time, but they need to send someone back to the 1970s to prevent the creator of the Sentinels (Peter Dinklage) from being murdered by X-Men good girl turned evil mutant Mystique who, like Wolverine, is more important to the X-Men series than the original 5 X-Men of the comics…. But, I digress. Wolverine, who can heal very quickly (and somehow can heal from drowning and being.. dead…) is the only one that can handle the mental strain of being sent so far back. Wait. What? Never mind. Professor X was on drugs so that he could walk and not use his super powers, that’s all I know.
Why You ShouldYAAAAWWWNNN… Bryan Singer’s back! Yay! Bryan Singer’s back! He directed the first two X-movies and they were brilliant! Nope. No, they weren’t. YOU ARE WRONG (yes, you). They were better than what followed, but were they good? Well, at least he took the idea of random people being born with random superpowers with no explanation seriously. I’ll have to admit, although I grew up LOVING the X-Men mostly because of the artists on the book… Neal Adams, John Romita Jr. (and Dan Green), Paul Smith, Dave Cockrum (!), Marc Silvestri, Alan Davis, Rick Leonardi, Joe Mad, Jim Lee, etcetera, not to mention baddest of the bad: John CUSS Byrne… the stories were generally taken directly from elsewhere…the Avengers (British series)… Wild, Wild West… Alien… Dr. Who… STAR TREK. Whatever long tenured X-scribe Chris Claremont happened to be watching at the time it seemed. This particular storyline (Days of Future Past) is where you can almost mark where the stories started to get irreparably convoluted with all of the time travel stories, the fake Jean Greys, making the X-Men’s arch nemisis a misunderstood freedom fighter and all of the other nonsense. If you haven’t seen any of the other films, much like the Harry Potter films, you will be hopelessly lost. If you have, you still may be lost , especially when some of the new back story starts conflicting with the other films’ continuity. Probably the most entertaining sequence in the film involves super speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters), but is only in the film for a scant few minutes, because I guess they realized they made him SO fast that he could have solved all the problems at the end of the film in a few seconds, so the X-Men leave him at home… which made no sense. It doesn’t matter what I say about it, though. The film has already made over a half billion dollars. People (myself included) keep showing up to see the next Marvel film even if almost every single one of them are mediocre at best. The film looks okay (like every other overly slick, stagey Marvel product), there are some cool slick CGI FX, you get to see lots of mutants die (even if they keep coming back to life just like they do in the comics) and it’s a pretty good cast of actors, but… shrug. Zzzzzzzzzzz.
2 of 5
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, R)
The Premise: An author recounts the story of how a lowly hotel worker became its owner and what it meant to him.
Why You Should See It If It’s Still Playing At An Art House Near You… It’s Wes Anderson at his Wes Anderson-iest and gives a little screen time to all of his usual co-conspirators… Murray, Wilson, Norton, Schwartzman, Brody and Dafoe, plus a number of other big names. It’s not really a surprise that Ralph Fiennes is as brilliant in a comedy as he is in all of the serious roles he’s been in. He’s just a great actor and carries most of the film on his back. Tony Revolori plays the stoic unlikely hero/sidekick and manages to hold his own with all of the bigger names in the film. Saoirse Ronan, young mistress of accents, also turned up as Revolori’s love interest. She’s a bright shiny light in everything she’s in, even if the movie is not so good, so it’s even better that she’s in yet another good one.
It’s good to F. Murray Abraham in a few really good films like this one and Inside Llewyn Davis. Abraham played one of the greatest villain protagonists (Salieri) of all time in one of the best films of all time (Amadeus). Unlike ‘Maleficent’, it had a point to making the bad guy the protagonist, but I digress.
This probably doesn’t crack my Top 5 of Anderson films (Royal Tenanbaums, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox…). But, it’s right up there and not to be included in his ‘lesser’ films. I shouldn’t give anything away (and I usually don’t with any good film when it comes to plot and happenings, but the thing with the cat was horrible… And really, REALLY funny. That poor cat.
4.5 of 5
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (PG-13, 2014)
The Premise: Captain America, now (uncomfortably) working for government agency SHIELD, discovers that the villainous terrorist group Hydra has infiltrated their ranks.
Why You Should Wait For The DVD: The film has its moments, but some of the best ones have been featured in trailers and previews. It’s a Marvel movie, through and through. Lots of CGI that doesn’t amount to much. People begin fighting when they suspect the audience may realize there isn’t really a story. I thought having Robert Redford involved might have upped the script quality up a notch, but it doesn’t. There are many instances where a little suspense could have been introduced into the proceedings, as when Redford announces that a character is wearing a device that could kill them with the click of a button. In terms of storytelling, a short scene showing this being used on someone earlier in the film would have at least given the illusion that they weren’t just making this up as they went along.
Besides that, there was certainly too much focus on the attempt on Nick Fury’s life or more specifically on how bad@$$ his vehicle is during the attempt. The Winter Soldier bored me. He looked too much like one of Marc Silvestri’s characters and even befor the reveal, comes off as a pretty boy villain. And once again, they keep telling you how bad@$$ he is, instead of just letting the audience make up their own mind. And the last thing I’ll complain about before I move on, is that apparently gravity doesn’t really work in the Marvel universe like it does in reality. Noone seems to die by falling like 10 stories… Or off of some mountain. I mostly liked the first film… even if I think they should have had Captain America wake up from being frozen in ice in the first act, but I digress… Needless to say, I was disappointed by this one, but Chris Evans is still a pretty good Captain America (and I liked Anthonie Mackie as The Falcon a lot more than I thought I would). I just wished they wouldn’t have given the short shrift to Arnim Zola. I was so looking forward to the ‘old’ Arnim Zola. At least he made an appearance, along with Batroc, even if they got rid of the exaggerated French accent and moustache.
2.5 of 5
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014, PG-13)
Hhhhhhhhhh… The Premise. The Premise. The Premise: An iconic comic book character has been turned into a multi-billion dollar movie franchise that is marketed towards… Nononono… Spider-Man returns with a massive strategic ad campaign aimeed at— nononono… Spider-Man returns to fight crime, retain a celibate relationship with his hot nerd girl friend, not work for a living spending all of his time swinging around the city while leeching off of his poor aunt, being angsty about—-Ah, crap. I really don’t know where to begin with this so, I guess I’ll start with what I do best; complain about all of the film’s shortcomings… Be warned, this is more just me complaining about a movie than an actual review. If you want an actual review, try my review about the first film here. Wait. Did I review that one or…? I didn’t really like that one, either, I suppose. Anyway… Ahem…
SPOILER ALERT. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a spectacular collection of misfires, miscalculations, half realized (rushed) ideas and suffers from an apparent lack of storytelling skills by the film’s director, writer and producers. It’s a 200+ million dollar hack job. The film could have been about a lot of things, but sadly isn’t really about anything other than a super powered guy randomly fighting super powered bad guys. It’s unapologetically cartoonish all the while having MUCH to apologize for.
I won’t complain about the storyline a with Peter Parker’s… parents. I won’t complain about taking away the CORE component of the character (his failure to be a responsible citizen) that is NOT EVEN an afterthought in this sequel (I THINK they mentioned Uncle Ben… I THINK) nor did they even continue with the change to his origin (did they forget that he was supposed to be searching for Uncle Ben’s killer.. Or did they realize that longtime fans like me HATED that and they tried to act like that never happened? I won’t kvetch about ‘too many villians’ (I will not mention the Rhino.I will not mention the Rhino). I won’t complain about the film trying to make Gwen Stacy Spider-Man’s crime fighting partner in this… Okay, I might complain about that. Yes, I’ll START with that since it leads to bigger problems in the film. In the moments leading up to the climax, Gwen Stacy (Peter’s girlfriend) steals a police car and saves Spider-Man from Electro, one of the film’s villains which is followed by a temper tantrum/women’s empowerment moment where she proclaims she can fight side by side with her boyfriend if she wants to… Even if the villain IS a guy that is essentially made of electricity. If she’s not afraid of the bad guy, then why should the audience be concerned? And the director, Marc Webb gives no illustration why anyone should care, either. He just shows Electro turning out the city’s lights. No consequences. No one gets hurt really. He just turns out the lights. Sure, the FX are kind of cool, but, where’s the dramatic tension? He just floats around complaining. This might’ve been the occasion to show why the villain feels so worthless, but, no. He doesn’t even have a motivation to call his own, anyway. It all revolves around Spider-Man, as does the motivation of the Green Goblin (yes, we get a third Green Goblin appearance in 5 movies). Isn’t establishing a motivation for your characters screenwriting 101? But Webb really establishes nothing in the film. He just wants to get to the ‘good parts’.
Gwen Stacy… Poor Emma Stone. You can’t kill off Gwen Stacy (yes, I just SPOILED that one, but in my defense, this has been known to everyone who’s picked up a Spider-mAn comic book since the mid-197—OHMYGODWE’REGOINGTOGETAGWENSTACYCLONEINTHETHIRDONEAREN’TWE?!OHMYGOD!!!!NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!NoNONONONONONOACK…ARRRHHH…ACK…)(Eating my hat…MMMMMMMMM. Good)…. Ahem…. You can’t kill her off in the second film without at least a LITTLE foreshortening; without the film being about THAT. You have to at least have a scene where she has a close call… Or at least show the… sonuvabitch… the ‘valedictorianbecauseshehastobebetterthanPeter’ speech in the BEGINNING, so that it has some poignace/relevance at the end instead of dropping that out of the sky. You could’ve also introduced Mary JAne back into this, which was a SHOCKER that they did not, since they spent so much time ‘setting up’ the next film. And I say ‘setting up’ in that they just say a character’s name like Smythe or Felicity or show some Vulture wings or metal tentacles. It’s not really setting anything up a la the end of the Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader may be Luke’s father, but I digress. We’re expected to believe Parker and the young Harry Osbourne are pals, but it’s hard to buy into that as a viewer when he’s dropped into the middle of the second film, having never been mentioned. And realistically, without a scene where they’re at least shown together as kids, it’s hard to believe how a billionaire’s son and a kid living with his struggling aunt and uncle would have been in a situation where they would have become friends. It’s even stated that Osbourne was shipped off to boarding school when he was 11, so when were they pals?
All of the characters suffer from being written cartoonishly. Electro with his child-like self esteem issues. Harry Osbourne who is never anything other than a weasel who resembles Stephen Geoffreys’ Evil Ed character from the original Fright Night ever increasingly as the film progresses. They got the Green Goblin wrong yet again, by the way. Dane DeHaan certainly wasn’t cast because of his threatening persona and the script dipped past ‘cartoonish’ and landed squarely in the land of ‘comic-bookish’ when it came to his dialogue (I will not mention the Rhino.I will not mention the Rhino). He may be one of the least menacing onscreen super villains to ever appear in a big budget superhero film and his part in the story also seems extremely rushed. I’m not an authority on matters of the law, but I do know that you can’t inherent a multi-billion dollar corporation and be fired a day or two later by your underlings without a whole lot of lawyers getting involved.
And the CUSS Rhino. That is NOT the Rhino. Don’t give me any CUSS about “you can’t show the Rhino in the comic book costume, because no one would take that seriously”. The main character in the movie got SPIDER POWERS from being BITTEN by a a spider and he wears red and blue tights and swings around Manhattan via ‘web shooters’ that he MADE (practically overnight) and we’re coming off of a film where a man that turns into a lizard is trying to turn everyonein Manhattan into a lizard like himself. At least the Lizard had a motivation even if it was stupid. And WHY oh WHY couldn’t you give Electro the old green and yellow costume that worked for thirty years or so, until writers that hate comic book superheroes started writing all of Marvel’s superhero books?
AND THE LITTLE 7 YEAR OLD KID IN THE SPIDER-MAN costume at the end that stands down the Rhino. ARE YOU CUSS TELLING ME THAT YOU CAN DO THAT, BUT YOU CAN’T CUSS PUT ANY OF THE VILLAINS ONSCREEN THE WAY THEY CUSS LOOKED IN THE COMICS FOR DECADES? It’s like you made the last 2 minutes for 4 year olds, but only Spider-Man can look like he does (somewhat) in the comics?
I give up. I think I’m done with Marvel’s movies. I’m not in their films’ target audience; I like good movies.
Am I just being a ‘hater’… Or maybe ‘hater’ is just a word created for people who like crap?… I went in hoping to like this. I really did. And I DID like it up until about the time when Osbourne takes over at Oscorp… Even with all the shortcomings. I like Garfield and Stone. Garfield makes a great Peter Parker even without a good script. I USUALLY like Paul Giamatti (I will not mention the Rhino. I will NOT CUSS mention the Rhino)…. Or maybe I just want to be heard like Electro. I would like Marvel’s executives to know that at least this fan thinks their movies suck and I would like them to at least ACT like they’re trying in the process of stealing my dollars. Find a good director and turn the reins over to them and trust that they can do a better job than what’s being done. CUSS.
Sorry. I’m ranting, so in order to end on a much more positive note, let me start typing about Gojira…
END OF SPOILER ALERT.
2 of 5
Godzilla (PG-13, 2014)
The Premise: A mining expedition unwittingly unleashes massive indestructible prehistoric radiation absorbing behemoths upon the populace and the only solution to stopping the city stomping creatures is possibly a third creature that the government has been aware of for decades…. and have failed to destroy.
Why you should see it: It’s the greatest Godzilla film ever made that harkens back to its cautionary tale roots while fully embracing what the iconic beastie became with the numerous Toho Company films that followed. Originally, Godzilla was a stand-in for the atom bombs that were dropped on the Japanese and later became a ‘force for good’ battling the likes of Gigan, Megalon, King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla. Gareth Edwards, the director, for my money got everything right (and this is coming from a guy that LOATHED his first indie film ‘Monsters’). The monsters, the destruction, the human element, the tension, the tone, everything… All the while nodding to a host of other classic sci fi films, monster movies and Stephen Spielberg especially. My only complaint is that maybe Godzilla wasn’t shown enough (the anticipation for Godzilla’s first big appearance was kind of like waiting for Old Greenskin in the first half of Ang Lee’s Hulk). This movie MUST be seen in IMAX and would make a killer double feature with last year’s Pacific Rim. Marvel should take take some notes or maybe just hire Edwards for their next big comic book adaptation (and get out of his way).
4.5 of 5
And that’s that. Anyone make it all the way through? No?Fell asleep on that second one, huh? I didn’t promise the reviews would be any better.