Archive for April, 2011
“Super” is a totally different kind of superhero. It’s about an everyday man who decides to start fighting crimes, eventhough he has zero skills or powers. The story takes place in the real world, where of course nobody has done this before. Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) is that guy. He is married to the beautiful sarah (Liv Tyler). He is a loser who is totally satisfied of being a loser. He’s also dumb and clueless. When his wife is literally stolen by a drug lord (Kevin Bacon), he decides to become a superhero. He goes on a quest to hide behind dumpsters and wait for some crime to happen. Equipped with a monkey wrench, he eventually teams up with Libby (Ellen Page), who claims she’s 22 but has the attitude of a 10 year old. This isn’t necesarrily funny, and I mean it. “Super” is a movie that approaches humor, and the first half is hilarious, but when it came down to almost beating a man to death for cutting a line, the dark humor really escalated. When this happened, I asked myself a very important question: why am I rooting for this mentally disturbed man? From this moment on, the movie plunges into violence and blood, which would totally be cool if this was a black comedy. But it isn’t. “Super” is being sold as a pure comedy, but after watching it, I doubt it will play that way. This is a superhero story for the real world, and once you see it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. But is it still worth watching? You bet.
Summer season is officially on (at least cinematically), and I’m glad to report that the first blockbuster of the year is actually a lot of fun. And eventhough he lacks the profile of Spiderman or even Iron Man, Thor (a.k.a The God of Thunder) is easily one of the best superhero movies since “The Dark Knight”. And unlike “Iron Man 2”, “Thor” has plenty of pedigree: it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh (“Henry V”, “Frankenstein”), and stars Anthony Hopkins (in a role he was born to play), Natalie Portman (yep she’s in it too), and Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth who is fantastic as the mighty God of Thunder. Not only does he meet the physical requirements for the role, but also succeeds in providing a comedic side (which certainly worked for the benefit of the picture). When we first meet him, he’s arrogant, reckless, and very dangerous. But he’s also very brave, which is why we root for him every step of the way. Thor finds himself banished to earth by his father Odin, and stripped of his powers after his arrogance and hasty decision making cause him to declare war against the Frost Giants. On earth, he befriends scientists Jane Foster (Portman), Darcy Lewis, and Eric Selvig. Meanwhile, we learn that his brother Loki has got his eyes set on his father’s throne, and that he might be plotting to get rid of Thor for good. I’ll say no more, except that director Kenneth Branagh has an incredible eye for details. The contrast between the two worlds (Asgard and Earth) is certainly one of the most fascinating things about the movie. With 3D, Asgard is simply beautiful to look at, in particular the bridge that links the two worlds together. Prepare to be blown away, big time.
Visual experience aside, “Thor” is a thrilling and very entertaining comic book adaptation. It’s a dazzling example of a superhero movie done right, and I don’t think anybody could have pulled it off better than Chris Hemsworth in the lead. He’s tough, funny, and extremely talented. The dude was basically an unknown until now, but with “Thor”, this could be his ticket into the big league. The only complaint however is that there’s not enough of him in action (he spends most if his time on earth with no powers at all), but considering this is an origin movie, there is sure to be a lot more in the sequel. Bring on part two!
Based on the novel of the same name by Ayelet Aldman, “Love and Other Impossible Pursuits” deals with divorce, step-parenting, grief and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). I guess one of the main reasons why this movie didn’t make it on first theatre release (note that it was made in 2009) is because it was falsely advertised as a Comedy/Drama about a woman’s difficult relationship with her stepson. You’ll notice that this is only a small part of the story, and that the film is hardly a comedy. There are smiles, but certainly no laughs. With that aside, the movie still delivers some solid emotional moments. Natalie Portman in the lead is more than enough to hook you up, and she actually proves her acting talent yet again in this difficult, multi-layered role. She plays the second wife of a New York lawyer who is burdened by guilt born out of a mistaken belief that she might have accidentally smothered her three day old baby to death. Her guilt clouds her judgement and alienates her from friends and family. No sign of comedy here. Portman’s performance is enhanced by that of Charlie Tahan, the talented young actor who plays William, her stepson. Their scenes together are probably the best thing about the movie, and they are both likable and a treat to watch. And though the film has many apparent flaws, the opportunity to watch Natalie Portman in something completely different for once is reason enough for you to watch this small, but effective relationship drama. A.k.a “The Other Woman”.
Beware! The multiplex has officially become a no-fly zone for good movies. Hum “Amen” while I call out recent filmmaking screw-ups: “The Rite”, “Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son”, “Battle: Los Angeles”, “Season Of The Witch”, and the craptacular “Skyline”. The epidemic continues with this dreadful “thriller” starring Minka Kelly as a college student who finds her safety jeopardized after her new roommate and emotionally unstable freshman Leighton Meester (a.k.a Blair Waldorf) grows obsessed with her. Throw in a couple of ridiculous sub-plots involving Billy Zane as an Art teacher (yikes!), and Kelly’s stalker ex boyfriend, and you got yourself a recipe for disaster. I’ll say no more, except that Danish director Christian E. Christiansen (in his English language debut) has no flair for suspense. His film has no plot, no character development, no nothing. “The Roommate” even fails to be the pointless horror flick that you watch just for the fun of it. Ultimately, it is almost as bad as “I Know Who Killed Me” (you get the picture now). It’s a suspense movie made by people who’ve apparently never seen a suspense movie before. And I thought “Big Mommas” was bad. Run for your lives!
Fiasco! (what else?)
Director John Landis was just 19 years old when he wrote this imaginative and deliciously creepy horror film starring David Naughton and Griffin Dunne as two young American backpackers who venture onto the Yorkshire Moors one night despite being warned by the suspicious people of the Slaughtered Lamb not to. Soon enough, they find out why they should have listened when they are pursued by a hungry werewolf. Dunne meets a horrific end, while Naughton discovers the bite he has received has turned him into a half-wolf when he wakes up in a London Zoo one morning with the taste of human flesh in his mouth. You can bet the rest of the film is as terrific as its premise, thanks to a clever script, and some wonderful special effects (the transformation scene still packs a jolt even after all these years) by Rick Baker, who was hired by Michael Jackson soon after the movie’s release to work on his classic video, “Thriller”. To be completely honest though, “Werewolf In London” is a very rewarding film, not for its gory sequences, but for its freshness, suspense and winning comic approach. And of course, London.
For anyone who has enjoyed the old Universal’s classic version of “The Wolf Man” saga, this modern tale of horror doesn’t violate any tradition. And in case you’re not familiar with any of the above, no worries; “An American Werewolf In London” is a movie that easily stands on its own. It’s definitely one of the best of its genre.
Since “The Exorcist”, only a few movies dealing with the same subject turned out to be decent enough. “The Rite” isn’t one of them. In fact, it would be unnecessary to talk about its premise, which sounds chilling at first. Think of it as “The Exorcist” meets “The Order”, minus the fun. “The Rite” offers absolutely nothing new to the table. Even as a cliché exorcism flick, it fails miserably. Why do I sound so pissed off you might wonder? Well to be fair, the film starts of pretty well. The first 30 minutes were really promising. But from then on, it derails, and it derails badly. For a second there, I thought the movie had potential. Boy was I wrong. The story (supposedly based on true events) gets everything wrong. From the underdeveloped, dry performances to the unsatisfying direction, it’s a terrible mess. And to think this is the same director who brought us the far more superior thriller “1408”. How far you have fallen man. To make things even worse, not even Legendary actor Anthony Hopkins could save this from being a complete waste of time. Granted he’s the best here, which isn’t saying much really.
Between a solid start and a terrible climax, “The Rite” offers nothing more than a series of exorcism rituals that grow tiresome with repetition. “The Exorcist” is still the only keeper. And you’d be doing yourself a huge favor if you just exorcise this from your list of movies to see this year.
What can you say in a few words about a four hour movie that depicts the life of Moses, the Egyptian prince who learned of his true heritage as a Hebrew and who became the deliverer of his people? Let’s try “perfection”, which is what director Cecil B. DeMille achieved in this epic film. Apply “magnificient” to the tour de force Charlton Heston delivers as Moses, and who was picked for the role because of his striking resemblance to Michelangelo’s sculpture, in particular his facial expression. But it was not only Heston who made this movie a huge success, but all the elements that came together: the special effects (they look dazzling even after all these years), the costumes, the sets, and best of all the amazing parting of the Red Sea. Today, this would probably be a piece of cake for the effects department, but in pre-CGI days, it was something special (the special effects deservedly won an oscar that year).
A lot of people critisized this movie for being campy, and there a loads of foul-ups, both technical and scriptural (why kill the first born pharaoh?), but the visuals are superb, the acting unforgettable, and the film itself is a treat to watch. And you don’t have to be a religious fanatic in order to enjoy this truly outsdanding movie. It definitely stood the test of time. Thou Shalt not want to miss it.