Tuesday, June 25, 2013

World War Z- review

World War Z is a zombie film based on the novel of the same name. If you are a fan of the novel you should not go into this film with any expectations for it to be similar in any way to the novel other than the title and the fact that zombies exist and desire to kill humans.  On its own merits the film is fairly dull and brings nothing new to the table.

Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, is a U.N employee that is living with his family in Philadelphia.  One day all hell breaks loose and fast zombies attack while he is in traffic.  After a rough night of surviving looters and zombie attacks, he has to hop across the globe to try to find a cure and save the world.  Can he find a solution that will not spell doom for the human race?

The acting is forgettable.  Brad Pitt does nothing to make the audience give a crap about his plight. The only person that seemed worth a damn in this movie was Daniella Kertesz who played an Israeli Soldier named Segen. She seemed to actually be trying which was more than you can say for just about any other big name actor in this movie. 

The effects were fairly poor. Even though there were a few built up a moments of suspense while people hid in the shadows trying to avoid zombies- it was not enough to be entertaining. The constant suspenseful effects made this movie feel like a videogame.  The zombies do not move like people so it takes you out of the movie when these supposedly undead spontaneously get the mentality of ants to start climbing over one another to get over walls and into helicopters. 

This movie has so little in common with its novel’s namesake that fans will roll their eyes at the banality of the script.  There is nothing new here and there are dozens of better zombie movies that are much more entertaining and thought provoking.  If you are desperate for a zombie movie it’s worth a rental.  However, it lacks much substance and it will leave you wanting something with more substance.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel – review

Man of Steel is the latest reboot of the Superman franchise, which intends on being the flagship film to launch a series of DC universe films. The movie has great acting.  The effects are fantastic and overwhelming.  Finally, this film is different in all the right ways that a Superman film needed to be. 

Man of Steel opens with the destruction of planet Krypton. Jor-El, played by Russell Crowe and his wife Lara, played by Ayelet Zurer, send their newborn son Kal-El to Earth along with a codex of Krypton race.  General Zod, played by Michael Shannon, attempts to get Krypton back during a violent coup but ends up getting caught and sent into the Phantom Zone.  On Earth Kal-El is raised as Clark Kent and is taught many great human virtues.  His parents Martha, played by Diane Lane, and Jonathan, played by Kevin Costner, want to protect him but also believe he was sent to Earth for something greater.

In his search for who he his he helps many people including Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, an adventurous young reporter who comes to see the good in this alien super hero.   When General Zod and his followers escape the Phantom Zone they come to Earth and seek him out as well as the codex Jor-El gave him.  Will it spell doom for planet Earth?

The acting is really good in this movie.  Michael Shannon’s General Zod is a great villain with a believable motivation.  All of the actors portraying the parents of Clark Kent/Kal-El knocked it out of the park. The best scenes included these characters and they really capture the feelings of isolation and hardship Superman must have gone through in his youth.  It makes for some very emotional drama.  Amy Adams is cute as a button and yet her portrayal of Lois Lane is one of the best and most likable I’ve seen on-screen.  She is smart and willing to take chances and is clearly able to stand on her own two feet, which was good to see.  It was a really decent change.

The effects are really well done.  The planet Krypton looks great and bizarre with creatures that are dreamlike and technology that is so wild that it can only be described as alien.  The design works well since the suit looks to have been upgraded and seems much more modern.  I liked that they changed the dynamic between Superman and Lois as well.  The past stories wasted a lot of time with stale comic relief of Clark Kent being a doofus and this one seemed to skip that goofy stuff and get to the meat of the story. 

The small problem I had with this film was that it is a bit too long.  Some of the fight scenes could have been trimmed for time and one scene in particular involving Superman and a big Kryptonian lug and Zod’s second in command, Faora, could have been cut entirely.  It really did not add anything important to the story. That aside, it’s a damn good movie and entertaining.

I recommend this movie to anyone looking to see a fun summer blockbuster. It’s action packed. Man of Steel shows it’s true colors when he acts like a man.  It becomes a much deeper movie and is really fun to watch.  It’s an original take to the story that takes out the corny humor that the other movies attempted to keep and gives Superman a sense of realism without seeming too dark like Nolan’s Batman films did.  It’s a good adaptation that I’d like to see more of and hopefully we will.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Purge- review

The Purge could have been an interesting concept for a short story.  It’s a very implausible story.  The characters are fairly unlikable and with the exception of the father, played by Ethan Hawke and the daughter, played by Adelaide Kane.  The movie is a really flimsy way to make a home invasion movie and instead of giving you substance there is essentially nothing gained from this ham-fisted attempt at social commentary.

In the year 2022 America decides that in order to maintain it’s low crime rate and low unemployment they will make one day of the year where all crimes, including murder is legal for a 12 hour period.  This day is called “The Purge” and it is supposed to serve as a cathartic period for people to release their violence and anger all in one time period.  James Sandin, played by Ethan Hawke, is ready with his family to turn on a heavy security system and hide in his house for another purge day.  His son sees a man in trouble and disarms the security to let him inside their house.  Their house is soon surround by people who want the man inside and they will not stop until they get their target for the purge, even if it means breaking inside and killing the Sandin family.

The Purge is filled with plot holes.  For example, if there was a day when murder was legal in the United States wouldn’t you want to leave the country for that day.  It seems like the idea of staying in the U.S. is a terrifying prospect.  Also, the movie has the kids constantly looking at the parents as if asking, “What have we become?” during the events of the night.  They were raised with the purge. It should not be a new concept to them since they do not know of a world without it. 

For such a short movie there are scenes just wasted wandering around in the dark.  The son is an absolutely terribly character and everything bad that happens is entirely his fault.  The movie had potential to end with something to at least indicate it had a backbone and maybe salvage something with a darker turn of events, but it inevitably goes the predictable route and plays it safe the entire movie.

There are a few action sequences that are shot well and are fun to see.  However, it doesn’t happen often and it certainly isn’t enough to carry this movie.  The freaky strangers in masks were only slightly creepy.  Since they decided to all wear matching costumes for the most part.  It made it more theatrical and certainly less realistic.  Still, they had an almost childish attitude in the chaos they were wrecking upon the house so it was eerie at the very least.

In the end The Purge is just a forgettable movie that will likely see release on late night cable where it belongs.  It is a shame because it should have at least been interesting, and it failed at that.  I would not recommend seeing this in theaters but if you are desperate for a rental give it a look or wait until it’s on cable.  I am pretty sure it is one of those movies that most people will realize is not nearly as intellectually deep as it wanted to be.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Now You See Me- review

Now You See Me a caper movie with a good but squandered cast. The writing is pretty weak and the focus is mismanaged.  There is a lot of action, but the shaky camera makes it difficult to watch.  On top of it all, the overall message even seems muddled.  For such an ambitions movie, it’s a mess.

A mysterious benefactor recruits four street magicians with various skills to steal a great deal of money. They form a performance group called the Four Horsemen.  An FBI agent, played by Mark Ruffalo, and an Interpol agent, played by Melanie Laurent, chases them.  While their paths cross, they come to discover the plot is part of something much deeper than simple tricks.  Who is behind these great magic tricks and getting these four together?

As I mentioned before the cast is fairly solid.  Melanie Laurent is really charming and does a fine job playing a red herring.  Mark Ruffalo also does a decent job as a burn out F.B.I. agent attempting to catch the Four Horsemen.  What I don’t understand is why they decided to make Mark Ruffalo the main focus of the story.  In a caper movie I usually want to focus on those doing the caper, not those attempting to catch the criminals.  For another thing, audiences want the crimes to succeed- so why are we following the F.B.I. agent that is trying to foil them?

There is also a matter of the twist ending which is truly stupid.  It wants to be a much more clever movie than it is, but in the end it is just about thieves.  They even make a big preachy speech about what they did to supposedly bring magic to the lives of people and not be about greed. The emotional appeal does not change the fact that the plot is motivated basically by revenge and plays on the mindset that because the victims they steal from are rich, they deserve it.

In fact that is a huge flaw to this story.  You are given so little details about the characters that you really don’t care much when things happen.  There are lots of action scenes that are filmed poorly through a shaky camera. For example, we have interrogation scenes for the Four Horsemen where they only focus on Jesse Eisenberg’s and Woody Harrelson’s characters.  So Isla Fisher and Dave Franco get the short end of the stick.

In short Now You See Me is a bad movie.  It has star power and it has a few fun parts that remind me of seeing some great magic shows as a kid and being super impressed with the illusion of it all.  However, those scenes are very few and far between.  It would be worth a rental for the idea alone but the twist ending will leave a bad taste in your mouth.  If you see it, watch it with a very open mind.