Category Archives: Decent Movies



When I first saw the trailer for Oblivion, I thought it was based on a video game. Not a super promising start, although I did still want to see it. This video game anecdote is meaningless, essentially. Doesn’t go anywhere. I’m gonna leave it in.

I wasn’t expecting this movie to be good, but for some reason it grabbed my attention. When I didn’t have any field work on the docket Friday afternoon (a serious rarity for me), I knew it was time to take advantage. Solo mission to Court St Cinema.

Movies about space, the future, aliens, etc….these are well-traveled safe-zones for me. Throughout my life, whenever I couldn’t find anything to watch, I would take refuge in some mediocre Sci-Fi. It’s really easy for me to zone out and half-watch something that takes place in a space-station, or underwater lab, or some such. “Oh man, nothing on. OK, I guess I’ll watch Sphere.” My inner monologue has said those exact words many times in my life. Insert The Fifth Element, or Pitch Black, or practically anything with the word “Star” in the title. Event Horizon is one of my all-time faves. I’ve seen all those stupid underwater movies that came out around 1990 a dozen times or more. Gimme  a shout if you ever want to watch talk Deep Star Six.

One might say I was predisposed to liking Oblivion. Or at least, to kinda liking it. It was a safe bet for me, in that way. Post-apocalyptic, earth abandoned, apartment in the sky with futuristic amenities. The framework was there.

Tom Cruise, though. Not my favorite actor. I find it a little strange that he’s still out there getting these roles, what with being a known lunatic and everything. I don’t even dislike him, per se, it’s just difficult for him to melt into a role at this point. I mean, we’ve seen this guy jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, we’ve seen him doing a crazy Scientology recruitment video, we’ve seen his weird sham marriages. After seeing all that, am I really going to be seeing “Jack”(his character’s name) when I see this movie? No, I see Cruise. Thats all you can see.

He’s increasingly jacked in his old age too, which is kind of a bummer. I mean, every leading man is shredded now, thats just the game*. But Cruise has been in the game since before that was the norm, and its a little sad to see him getting on a steroid cycle just like all the new guys. After all this time, shouldn’t he be above that? It doesn’t look natural at all. He’s 50 years old and what, 5’5”?

*How/when did this become the norm? Its been a while, but when specifically, like what movie was the turning point? I don’t think we can just link this to Arnold, that was overt. Nowadays its presented as such a casual thing, as if everyone lift weights 5 times per week. “Yep, here’s Jack, just an average Joe, loves his girlfriend, eats at home, 9-to-5er. Totally shredded, just like everybody. Did we mention he wears a ball cap?” Maybe if these movies want us to believe the character is an average joe, they shouldn’t mandate gigantic biceps? Lets go back to the Costner/Kilmer/Quaid body type. 

Is Cruise a bad actor though? I struggle with that. I don’t think he did a bad job with this. I never found my inner monologue mocking him or scoffing. Someone more low-key would’ve been better, but Cruise was fine. Maybe good, even, if you’re a fan of his.

Morgan Freeman was also in da how, of course, but the days of him eliciting any reaction from me are long gone. Good actor, same wise elder statesman role every time. Nothing new to see here.

In terms of pleasant surprises, it doesn’t get much better than my boy The Kingslayer. Was happy to see him show up, wielding weapons and looking handsome. I think he’s pretty good? Hard to say. None of the actors besides Cruise are allowed to do much, really. Still, nice to see a familiar face from Westeros every now and again.

I was hoping to be blown away visually, and frankly, I was not. A post-apocalytpic story provides a golden opportunity to use the ruins of humanity’s past glory as a backdrop. That potential went largely unrealized here. The football field scene from the trailer was one of the few attempts, and that did absolutely nothing for me. Borderline laughable, in fact. Just a regular guy remembering football games, you know? Helmet off, ballcap on. Reminiscing about how the crowd roared.

The Sci-Fi visuals, on the other hand, were pretty well done. The aforementioned sky apartment? Matty likey. In particular the pool, which was essentially a gigantic glass-bottom boat suspended in midair. I will have a pool like that one day, mark my words. I don’t care who I have to kill how hard I have to work to get there.

I wasn’t expecting much of a story with this one, and I was actually pleasantly surprised on that front. Decent backstory*, decent twists, pretty well-executed I thought. Formulaic at times, maybe, but I was kept pretty interested. This was contrary to pretty much every review I’ve read. Must be that my tastes are next-level sophisticated.

*The aliens blew up the moon before they invaded, wreaking havoc with the tides and such. Has that ever been done before? I thought it was clever. Provided a cool visual throughout the movie, too. If I ever want to invade Earth, I’m most definitely going to attack the moon first. 

Look, I’m not going to tell you to pay money to see Oblivion. If it ever hits the netflix/hulu/HBO circuit though, its worth a watch. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish watching Witness, starring my boy Harry Ford, and then hit the sack. I’ll check back in with you guys once I’ve seen the new Star Trek. There’s also talk of a retroactive* Hobbit review. Things are happening at the SFC!

*Words also considered here: posthumous, postmortem, punitive, retrospectical



Filed under Decent Movies

Shiny Objects

I walked out of Sucker Punch thinking I might’ve just seen a good movie.  Couldn’t be sure though.  I’d gotten extremely stoney beforehand.  This was intentional.  I wanted to give the visuals every chance to wow me and the best way to facilitate that is to go in so spooney you can barely follow the plot.  I smoked six batties on the walk from the subway to the theater.  My googly-eyed goal was accomplished, but the unfortunate side-effect is I don’t have a very firm grasp on the actual quality of the first hour or so of the movie.  I was lookin’, not thinkin’. 

I broached the subject at my trivia night  and the crowd was incredulous.  No, this movie was not good, they insisted.  It couldn’t have been.  Critics agreed.  I was officially not sure enough of myself to comment on a movie I’d just seen.  A weird place to be.  Didn’t want people to think I was uncool, you know?  So I’ve mostly kept mum.

But now your boy is ready to speak up, and I’ll start here: these girls are super, super hot.  Like, crazy hot.  I honestly wasn’t expecting that.  The subway posters made them all look like teenagers, which isn’t my cup of tea (yet).  In reality none of these girls are younger than 23, and the average age is 26.  Girls in their twenties dressing like teenagers?  Thats more like it.

Naturally, I had my worries that this would be a girl power extravaganza.  Those worries proved to be unfounded.  The female heroines are most often portrayed frightened and vulnerable.  The fantastical action scenes featured in the ad campaign only account for a fraction of the film.  Most of it takes place in a 20s-style brothel setting.  And both of these are actually fantasy worlds inside the head of a newly interred mental patient in a 1960s asylum.  It sounds more confusing than it is.  A girl gets unjustly institutionalized and creates a fantasy world to cope with it.  Pretty easy to follow.

I’m not gonna lie to you and say the plot or acting are good.  They are not.  Emily Browning in the lead role is straight-up unfortunate.  Wooden, not particularly likable.  Even her shy act wasn’t that convincing.  Of the five girls she was easily the worst actress.  Arguably the worst-looking too, which I only mention because a surprising amount of the film dwells on how much hotter she’s supposed to be than everyone else.  Given that, I thought this actress was an odd choice.  I’d be interested to hear from anyone else who saw this movie and has an opinion on her. 

Most of the others were good enough, although I don’t see any stoneys being handed out here.  Abby Cornish (hotter than shit) as Sweat Pea was probably the best, and even she didn’t exactly wow me.  Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung* are fantastic, top-of-the-line eye candy whose characters are barely developed.  They are meant to look amazing, and they do.  They really, really do.  Zack Snyder must have an eye for hot chicks.  Lord knows he’s scoring points continually casting my girl Carla Gugino

*Also known as Jamie from the Real World San Diego.  I didn’t piece this together until the very end.  She’s way hotter than I remember.  At the time I was all about Robin(‘s fake boobs), and to a lesser extent Cameron.  Now Robin is sobbing into an ashtray somewhere and Jamie is the most tantalizing eye-candy in a movie full of it.  And she’s, like, a borderline successful actress?  How did this fly under my radar?  Every Real World cast member for the last fifteen years has been shamelessly trying to become an actor or actress and this girl actually did it?  Hey, good for her.  She seemed to humiliate herself a little less than the rest of her reality TV colleagues along the way.  Maybe that was the key. 

I think I might be a fan of Zack Snyder.  I realize he hasn’t exactly killed it so far, but I think he has good works ahead of him.  Watchmen was mighty fine (and I’m a nerdy fanboy of the graphic novel so I was ready to cross my arms and shake my head).  I’m not a huge fan of 300 and its weird he directed that owl movie, but I’m willing to bet he’s trending up.  His next project is the Superman remake with Christopher Nolan as producer.  That is sure to be a success.  And after seeing Sucker Punch, I think I have a good feel for his strengths. 

He may not be an innovator, but I see Snyder as a guy who will consistently get the job done.  His movies always look pretty cool.  He makes interesting casting decisions rather than going for the big stars.  You’ll see some familiar faces, and they’ll be faces you’re pleasantly surprised to see.  The colors always pop and contrast well with each other.  The soundtrack will be good, but not great. 

To be clear, I don’t see Snyder ever winning, or deserving , an oscar.  But I do see him directing movies I see and enjoy.  Sucker Punch falls into that category.  Great scenery of all kinds.  The sets, the chicks, and the special effects.  When I like the way a film looks I’m less inclined to sweat the other stuff.  I guess thats what seeing this movie was: a lesson in not sweating the other stuff.

I’l leave you with this scintillating tidbit: This film lives up to its name.  There is, indeed, a cinematic sucker punch, and it’s delivered by none other than Jon Hamm.  If that doesn’t interest you, I don’t know what will.


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The one where Ray Stevenson kills people

If I was just a little dumber, I’d probably really like Ray Stevenson.  I already almost do.   And In Kill the Irishman, he managed to toe the line between affable and murderer pretty well.  Not that thats especially hard to do.  It’s actually really easy, come to think of it.  The lovable scamp criminal is a fixture of modern cinema. 

I have two main problems with Stevenson.  One: he isn’t a good actor.  Two: he is an actor.

Allow me to explain.  Actors are not tough.  They’re the opposite of tough.  Not that I place a lot of stock in toughness (outside the cage).  But whenever an actor tries to make a name for himself specifically as a badass I just think it comes off unbelievably lame.   For me this all started with Sam Jackson constantly being referred to (and referring to himself) as a “bad motherfucker.”  Even then, over a decade ago, my reaction was “Yeah right dude, you’re not a badass.  You pretend to be fictional badasses.”  And thats pretty much how I feel about Ray Stevenson, too. 

Hey, maybe he actually does, I don’t know, fight people or whatever.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t, but even if he did it wouldn’t change much for me.  It would just be a different can of worms.  An actor trying to typecast himself as a badass is lame even if he actually is one.  That’s my feeling on the matter. 

As to his acting abilities, they’re extremely limited.  I used to love him as Titus Pullo in Rome.  But both he and the guy who played Lucius Vorenus are really pretty bad actors.  The beauty of the set and the richness of the material cover for them at first, but when you start to watch these episodes for the second time it becomes obvious both of those guys, and Stevenson in particular, were far from impressive.  Some of their scenes together are borderline laughable.  And I love that show. 

Kill the Irishman was by no means his worst work.  In fact, I enjoyed it.  But I’ve had some people assume I’m a big Ray Stevenson fan, and I want to go on the record and say that is not the case. 

I’ll tell you who I am a fan of: Val Kilmer.  He’s in it.  As are Christopher Walken and Vincent D’Onofrio.  Pretty interesting cast, I thought*.  Kilmer is Kilmer.  Walken has some funny parts.  D’Onofrio brings his usual  brand of confused facial expressions.  Vinnie Jones was also in da how.  I’d really like to know which of these guys, if any, were hanging out together during filming.  A Kilmer/Walken hang in particular would be fascinating. 

*The exception to this being that douchebag Guido Steve Schirripa.  “Hey, check me out, I’m fat!  I’m Italian!”  Barf.  The guy “wrote” a “book” called The Goomba’s Guide to Life.  Shameless.  Fuck him. 

This movie tells the story of Danny Greene, an Irish gangster who went up against the mafia in Cleveland in the 70s.  Obviously a little before my time, but I gather this guy was somewhat of a household name back then.  36 car bombs went off in the Cleveland mob wars in 1976 alone.  Greene survived countless assassination attempts, and even killed several of the assassins the mob sent for him.  In 1977 he was finally killed, but the war he’d started crippled the mob in Cleveland, and they never really recovered.  It’s a pretty cool story.  Inspired a book entitled To Kill The Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia.  If I ever stumble across it in my travels, it will be purchased and read.

My main problem with the movie was that it seemed all too willing to sacrifice historical accuracy in the name of an easy-to-digest narrative.  I guess you could probably say the same of every mob movie to an extent, but the good ones always seem very genuine and unique.  Kill the Irishman borrows from the genre a little too much.  As opposed to something like Goodfellas, which never really gives you what you want or expect.  That movie ends with Liotta’s character living a dull, normal life full of regret.  Nobody would’ve written that, but the fact that it’s actually what happened makes it much more interesting.  Kill the Irishman‘s ending can be predicted five minutes in.  Very obvious, very contrived. 

Ending aside, director Jonathan Hensleigh* deserves some dap for managing to avoid a few common mistakes.  First, he didn’t try to play up how much Greene and his wife loved each other.  Didn’t try to make a cookie-cutter romance where there wasn’t one.  I’m tired of every movie having to be about the greatest love ever known.  You shouldn’t be subjected to that onscreen unless it’s what you’re going to the movie for.  You go see fucking Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants (stupidest title ever?) and you’ve signed up for some love-at-first-sight-that-lasts-forever-and-burns-with-the-passion-of-a-thousand-suns boo-shit.  A mob movie shouldn’t feel obligated to cram that down our throats.  Thankfully, this one doesn’t.  Greene’s first wife and children play a very small role, as does his later romantic interest. 

*Hensleigh hasn’t done much directing, but check out these hilarious writing credits!  The Punisher (Tom Jane version), The Saint, Next, Armageddon, Jumanji, Die Hard: With a Vengeance.  That right there is a rap-sheet worthy of some discussion

The other mistake Hensligh avoided was the unknown side-character ridiculous death scene.  You know, the one that goes for the heartstrings but misses the mark so badly its laughable?  These are becoming increasingly common.  Almost every action movie comes equipped with one.  Sometimes its a character you don’t even recognize.  Kill the Irishman features numerous deaths, but other than Greene’s they’re all handled in more or less the right way.  The sad ones are actually characters you’ve grown to like, and the plot doesn’t dwell unnecessarily on the others. 

This movie doesn’t try too hard to pull on the heartstrings until the very end.  I appreciated that.  Everything in its measure.  A real historical character becomes much more tragic if his true story is told.  I can’t say for sure if that was done here, and frankly I suspect not.  You’re definitely fed cheese, but it hasn’t quite curdled.  These days I’m calling that $13 well spent.


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The Rain From Spain

Really bad scene, here. Kind of a deal-breaker.

I occasionally review foreign films.  My reviews of them are bad, I think.  I never really know what to say.  I’m….not qualified for this.  Me critiquing foreign culture is an affront to the “art” of criticism.  As opposed to my sterling efforts with English language films (people are still talking about that time I reviewed The Next Three Days while watching Edge of Darkness). 

Even the Rain was the Spanish entry for best foreign film in 2010.  I saw a trailer for it while watching The Company Men and was intrigued.  I like to see these movies when they look at all interesting.  And this one surely did.  Muy muy.  There was a shot of a giant cross and then some angry people and I was like, “Oh yeah.  I’m seeing that.”

The movie is about a movie…..about a movie!  I actually tacked on an extra “about a movie” there.  It follows a director and producer attempting to make a film about Christopher Columbus.  They shoot in Bolivia to keep costs down, but this is during the Cochabamba water riots ten years ago.  I can’t say I remember them, but after a cursory study the situation appears to be one of the worst examples of white people gone bad in recent history.  Bolivia was forced to sell its water supply to foreign corporations, who, of course, jacked up the prices and squeezed the local population as much as possible.  Barf.  Who is in charge of these companies?  Whose idea was it to buy a country’s water, and how many promotions did they get?

This is a real drama, which I like.  And the acting was pretty good, for the most part.  There were some unfortunate exceptions.  Juan Carlos Aduviri, who is arguably the film’s protagonist, ends up being pretty bad.  He plays Daniel, a local leader of the water protests who the director casts as Hatuey, leader of the tribe who resisted Columbus.  For most of the movie Aduviri pulls off stoic with a touch of hostility well enough.  Unfortunately, his last scene requires acting chops he simply doesn’t have.  He gets exposed.  Like the Chiefs in the playoffs.  I’m sure the rest of his performance would look very different to me now if I watched it again.  This scene was really supposed to bring it all home, and it was laughable.  I literally laughed at one point (like a bitch). 

Gael Garcia Marquez as the director, Sebastian, is pretty good.  And Luis Tosa as Costa, the director, is decent.  But the movie often confuses their roles in the plot.  in some scenes Sebastian speaks up for the people’s rights, in others everyone’s well-being comes second to his own goals.  Costa, too, shifts back and forth.  You’re never quite sure which of them you’re supposed to like and which is the quasi-villain.  In the end I guess roles don’t always have to be clearly defined, but I thought this was poorly done.

The best acting by far came from Karra Elajalde as the actor cast to play Christopher Columbus.  He was damn good.  A character I really grew fond of although he wasn’t central to the plot.  More of an occassional wise sage.  I now think of him as the Spanish Michael Caine. 

The plot was solid, although message-wise, director Iciar Bollain’s reach exceeded her grasp.  Still, I was invested.  And there was some cool scenery.  I sort of feel about this movie the way I felt about The Secret In Their Eyes.  Pretty decent, a worthy effort, but not something I’m giving two thumbs up.  My hope for foreign films is always that they’ll be able to avoid the mistakes that seem to have become endemic to Hollywood.  In some ways, they do.  But I’m looking for a country whose cinema I really like, and I haven’t found that yet.  Also haven’t looked very hard.  Methinks I should spend some time sampling eastern fare.

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O Blackest Of Swans

not mutually exclusive

Black Swan came out almost two months ago, so I have to assume if you were going to see it, you’d have seen it.  It feels a little silly doing a review this far after the release, but I’d mainly just like to get a dialogue going.  I feel like this movie warrants discussion, and I want a few outside opinions for a variety of reasons. 

First of all, I was extremely hung over when I saw it.  And whats worse, I hadn’t eaten anything other than an apple that day.  My stomach really goes haywire these days if I don’t eat a decent breakfast.  In high school and college I never ate breakfast.  Even my first few years in the real world* I’d often go without.  Now the second my stomach is empty it becomes a crippling malady.  I’m confused by this change.  It’s unsettling. 

*You know, working for my uncle, spooney sales, medical studies.  The real world. 

The combination of my hangover, an empty stomach, and the fact that I’m grossed out easily (except by violence) really worked against me on this one.  I had a tough time with several scenes.  The finger-cutting and toe-stubbing in particular.  Matty no likey.  And the fact that I was oobie doobie ensured I’d be thinking too much about the scenes that disturbed me.  All in all, it was a pretty miserable theater experience.  That definitely affected my impression of the movie.  I kept telling myself not to let it alter my opinion of the film, but how could it not?  We see movies to have a good time, after all.

Another factor was my companion on this hang, who swore she had the movie totally figured out afterwards, and filled my addled brain with what may have been nonsense.  She said the entire movie was about mind control.  I’m not sure how accurate that is. 

What was this movie really about?  I have a feeling when asked that question Darren Aranofsky takes shelter in that land of mysteries directors love so well.  Vague answers, winks, proliferation of theories.  When a director treads that path I’m left to assume its a VERY calculated move.  I simply can’t believe a good director would make a movie without knowing precisely what he/she wants to say.  Is that cynical?  Should I stop trying to define art?  Don’t answer that.  It was a stupid question.

I’m tempted to say this film was overrated, but I don’t want to be that guy.  If a movie these days even hints at originality I try to award points for that.  Black Swan is definitely original.  I’ve never seen anything else remotely similar.  And there is definitely something to be said for a movie about ballet that can appeal to male viewers.  To take a decidedly feminine topic and make a gender neutral movie is no small feat. 

One problem: Dreams, visions, and any type of false reality always strikes me as a bit of an easy way out.  I want a director to be held accountable for each scene and its impact on the viewer.  What Arrenofsky has essentially done is give himself carte blanch to use any startling image or event without being tied to its effect on a real plot.  Because that part of the plot isn’t real.  That feels cheap to me.  Dream sequences and hallucinations almost always do.

I can’t say I loved the casting, either.  Not bad necessarily, but inconsistent.  Look, I’ve got nothing against Mila Kunis personally, but I’m just not ready to take her seriously as an actress.  And I’m definitely inclined to root against someone who became an “it” girl (or boy) without actually doing anything good.  Her success screams “I hired the most aggressive agent and publicist I could find and told them I was willing to do anything to be famous.”  This is a snap-judgement.  But seriously, the girl from That 70s Show in a potential oscar winner?  How did that happen?  What has she ever done well?  They really should’ve stuck with the original plan and gone with Latifah here. 

I’m also pretty sure Winona Ryder is a bad actress, while we’re on the subject.  In fact, at times I’ve found her downright terrible.  This wasn’t her worst effort, but she was an odd choice, to say the least. 

Portman, on the other hand, definitely belongs in movies of this caliber.  She’s very good, we all know that.  And she definitely did a perfect job evincing sheltered, timid and alone.  The viewer has no choice but to pity her almost right from the start.  The stuff with her mom in particular was great.  That was just an excellent character.  Virtually all of my favorite scenes included her in some way (masturbation scene!).  I felt like an entire movie could’ve been made just out of that relationship.  Barbara Hershey is due a major tip-of-the-cap here.  As is Vincent Cassel for his portrayal of Thomas, predatory choreographer extraordinaire.  This truly was the part his face was born to play.  

I’m awarding Black Swan points for plot, aesthetic, and suspense.  But I still can’t shake the feeling that this film is riding a wave of praise it didn’t really earn.  Am I off base here?  Let’s talk about it.  I realize this review is poorly written and irrelevant, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a discussion. 

What think you?


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Tron 2: The Wrath Of Tron

I saw Tron: Legacy a couple of weeks ago and never got around to reviewing it.  I’ve been really busy filming the new season of Amazing Race.  Me and Leonard Maltin were the film critic team.  It was a blast, although I found out today our footage wasn’t used due to some controversial sexual material.  Did we win the race?  I’m not at liberty to say.

People always assume I’m a big fan of the original Tron.  An understandable assumption, given my proclivity for most such endeavors.  But in this case, not accurate.  I barely even remember the original.  Laser bikes and disks were about all I could recall.  There were also some vague recollections of a scene in a cave.  I may respect Tron fans, but I myself am not a Tron fan.  I was going in with a clean slate, for better or worse.

I’m guessing the plot was never really what the love of the original was all about.  It was about visuals and a glimpse of the future (I assume). 

An early problem Tron: Legacy encounters is how to handle the technology from the original.  In a sense, Tron predicted the direction computers would take our society.  Its predictions didn’t come true.  I’m not talking about 1984 here, but the original was all about how this digital universe was going to change the world.  Then the sequel is set in the present day.  So… did it change the world exactly?

The attempts to rectify this quandary are vague, but do the job if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief.  ENCOM still exists, and it sells some sort of operating system or network or some such.  They never say exactly what it does, but everyone needs it.  One problem: solved.

Now what to do about that pesky Grid?  The one that was supposed to change everything?  POOF!  It disappeared, along with Jeff Bridges, in 1989.  Now we’re ready to make a movie. 

Bridges’ son, played by the not-that-likable Garrett Hedlund, is a motorcyclin’ prankster.  He’s the leading shareholder of ENCOM, yet lives in some sort of converted garage in the slums.  Not your average billionaire orphan, right?  He gumptions his way into The Grid via secret passage and laser beam, and it’s off to the races.

Once on the grid, father and son are quickly re-united.  Bridges’ explanation of The Grid is an odd mixture of techno-babble and mysticism.  It sort of works.  He carries it well, anyway.  Its best not to think too much about what The Grid is or why it exists.  You’re there.  Try to enjoy it.  It’s not going to take your breath away, but there are some really cool visuals. 

I’m not a huge fan of the return to 3D.  I’ve seen it work and not work, but I’m naturally suspicious of anything the theaters can justify charging more for.  Some of these movies are shown in 3D without actually having been shot for 3D.  Before the start of Tron: Legacy a screen flashed admitting some scenes were shot in 2D, but that they would be shown as originally shot and not in 3D.  So parts of the movie were in 3D and other parts wasn’t.  Each scene, apparently, is shown the way it was meant to be shown.  Hmm.

Was this a sign of integrity by the filmmakers?  I wanted to think so, and I’m sure that was the design.  But this is Disney we’re talking about here.  If the movie was always intended to be shown in 3D, why did they shoot any 2D scenes to begin with?  It’s pretty clear the switch to 3D was a profit-grab just like it has been for most of the movies that have done it.  Shrewd gamesmanship, Disneycorp.  I guess its our move.

The good news is both the 3D and 2D scenes really did look excellent.  Words like sharp and crisp come to mind although I couldn’t necessarily explain why.  It wasn’t so sweeping as Avatar or so colorful as Alice In Wonderland.  Definitely a little more understated.  I enjoyed that. 

I think the key to this movie’s look was combining darkness with light.  A dark atmosphere lends credibility to any drama or action movie.  Ominous, tragic, foreboding, these are traits that will help an audience take a movie seriously.  The problem is, you can’t just make everything dark literally, because then the audience can’t see.  Sounds elementary, but directors still make that mistake ALL THE TIME. 

What directors need to strive for, and what Tron: Legacy succeeds somewhat in creating, is an aesthetic that feels dark no matter how bright the colors.  This particular film doesn’t use many colors, most of it is either simply light or dark, with the classic reds and blues from the original.  But the light and darkness always contrast beautifully.  The apartment where Bridges and the mysterious Quora (Olivia Wilde) are in hiding was a simple yet aesthetically pleasing afffair.  And the slow space-ride up towards the homeward portal near the end of the film was downright beautiful.  One of the best scenes of the year in my stoney opinion.  In both of these cases, the atmosphere was undeniably dark, yet everything was crystal clear.  I applaud that.

What keeps Tron: Legacy from being a legit movie, unfortunately, is the acting.  We know Bridges can hang, but he is all alone in this one.  Neither Wilde nor Hedlund bring much to the table other than a good body for spandex.  There are no cool cameos or respectable character actors.  The small role that begged for someone interesting, the flamboyant double-agent Zeus, was instead played by the unbelievably annoying Michael Sheen

There are other flaws, as well.  The original Kevin Flynn (Bridges) may have aged, but his program copy, Clu, has not.  So the villain is also Bridges, but in young makeup that looks totally stupid, just like young makeup always does.  The difference is normally its only used for a scene.  This movie leans on it for the entirety. 

And this may be nitpicking, but the title character, Tron, is largely ignored until the very end.  At that point we’re supposed to remember and care about him, but we’ve just watched a 2-hour movie in which he doesn’t say a word or even show his face.  It falls flat. 

When it comes down to it, this is a PG Disney movie with only one actor you could possibly give a shit about.  It won’t be winning any oscars.  But I think it can be enjoyed with the right attitude.  Suspend your disbelief.  Don’t think too hard about anything anyone asserts.  When Bridges says Quora, some sort of spontaneously created program, will “change the world” don’t ask any questions.  Just take it at face value.  Don’t think.  Watch and feel.  If you do that, and you get supe to the dupe beforehand, you will have a good time.


Filed under Decent Movies

Affleck flies too close to the sun

There were literally hundreds of hilarious options for this picture

I like Ben Affleck.  Always have.  I don’t know why.  I’m not even that into Good Will Hunting.  It probably all goes back to Dazed And Confused.  I have always loved Affleck in that movie.  Wooderson may have stolen the show in the minds of most*, but to me Affleck’s loser bully back for a second senior year was way funnier.  That character combined with a particularly endearing job hosting SNL right after he got famous was enough to get me in his camp early.

*Wooderson was, admittedly, hilarious.  I actually still don’t really hate McConaughey.  I feel like he reaps what he sows.

After a while, it became funny to like Affleck.  Whenever anybody brings up Mattt Damon I always say “I prefer Affleck”.  Great bit.  Doesn’t get a lot of laughs.

Virtually all his movies are bad.  And he went from J-Lo and her fat butt to the surprisingly average looking Jennifer Garner.  Maybe she’s cool.  If so, respect.  If not….whatever.  I don’t really care who these people date or get married to.  I’m just saying his taste in women is weird and his movies are bad.  He became a joke.

Then he directed Gone, Baby Gone. If you haven’t seen it, you need to check it out.  One of the best movies of the decade.  It was difficult to tell if the credit should go to Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, or the material they were given by made-for-the-silver-screen author Dennis Lehane.  His books are good movies every time (e.g. Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island).  Regardless, the fact is Ben Affleck directed an awesome movie, and I vowed to see his next.

I can’t really tell you whether The Town was good or not.  Judging the particulars of the movie would be like trying to judge a football team with a bad quarterback.  Maybe “bad” isn’t the right word.  Let’s say funny quarterback.  A guy you root for but laugh at.  Think Jason “Cam” Campbell.  Can you really judge an offense with Cam Campbell at quarterback?

That analogy sucked.  What I’m trying to say is its extremely difficult for me to render an accurate opinion about this film.  Affleck is front and center in basically every scene.  He’s wearing track suits and speaking with a heavy Boston accent.  He’s jacked out of his mind.  He has that huge head and perfectly manicured stubble.  It’s impossible to take him seriously, and this is supposed to be a serious movie.

So whenever anyone asks me how it was I’m not sure what to say.  I mean, it was Affleck, you know?  Was a movie good if you were you had to suppress chuckles during dramatic scenes?

My boy Benny really did himself a disservice by taking the lead role.  I know it’s a Boston movie, and I don’t begrudge that crew their Boston movies.  If I could ever write my own ticket I’d be making KC movies all over the place, you best balee ‘dat.  There’d be a dramatic scene with me and my boy Young drinking whiskey straight from the bottle at the rose garden in Loose Park.  We’d be bearing our souls after just having killed a man for money.  So yeah, I can understand the allure of playing roles in your home town.  If he wasn’t also the director I’d have been all for him headlining this movie (although I wouldn’t have seen it).  But he was the director.  A little restraint would’ve gone a long way.  If he’d cast his younger brother again, everyone would probably be singing his praises.

It’s not that he did a bad job.  He was actually legitimately funny at times.  Mentioned the show Bones at one point and got a legit lol.  You all know what I’m saying about Affleck at this point.  A lot of you probably dislike him, come to think of it.  Cowards.

The rest of the casting was excellent.  They had the good sense to borrow from some awesome stuff.  A couple of guys from Gone, Baby Gone, the chick who played Bale’s wife in The PrestigeJeremy Renner, from Jesse James, was maybe the highlight.  He’s got a long career of gettin’ ugly and playing the heel ahead of him.  My boy Sweetums’ boy Pete Posthelwait is in da how as a crime boss who fronts as a florist.  He was very good, as always (except Clash of the Titans).  When talking to Affleck he hacks away at roses with a small knife in a pretty convincing manner.  I thought that was a nice touch.  I bet he summered somewhere to learn that.  What, he thinks he’s better than me?

Blake Lively was scintillating as a slutty, white trash Boston chick.  Matty likey that archetype.  In the movies, anyway.  In real life people from Boston make me want to barf blood (what-up, Boston!).

The only unfortunate casting was Jon Hamm.  This was a bad career move for Hamm.  When trying to distinguish yourself as a legit actor, don’t take the head FBI agent role in a caper movie.  That should be Career Building 101.  There is no fresh spin to put on that role.  Hamm was force to swagger and quip and act way too into the case just like that character always does.  He was also holding his mouth a funny way, but thats neither here nor there.  I brought it up afterwards* and didn’t get a lot of traction.

*I almost always go to movies by myself.  But this was saturday night on opening weekend, so I needed some company.  The solution?  Third wheel hang with a friend and his girlfriend.  Afterwards they went to dinner, I went home and blogged about MMA.  City that never sleeps baby!

In the end, I can’t help but wonder what might’ve been.  With Casey in the lead role this would’ve been a legitimately awesome cast.  Ben just changed the game too much.  It’s as simple as that.  Is he a potentially great director?  The Town gets us no closer to the truth.


Filed under Decent Movies