JT Film Review

120 – Hulk (2003)

Hulk REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Ang Lee

Cast – Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliot, Nick Nolte, Josh Lucas

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Hulk is one of those shiny superhero movies. It fits in right along with Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Catwoman, Elektra, etc., in that it is colourful, over-lit, and mainly devoid of anything new to offer. Hulk tries to give us something new, I will give it that. It is a pity (and maybe a shock, considering the quality of many of those involved) that it rarely succeeds.

Ang Lee was in the director’s chair. He is most recognized for the excellent Sense and Sensibility, the award-winning Brokeback Mountain, and the exciting Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He tries here to replicate the look and feel of comic books, from the cinematography (which is colourful and fairly vibrant), to the (in)famous split screen process which attempted to replicate the frames of comic books. I disagree with the majority, and think the latter technique is fairly succesful. The former is disastrous however. I hate the “plastic-ness” of it all.

All in all what sinks the movie is its insistence on trying to create a deep dramatic weight to Banner/Hulk. This is what sank Fantastic Four, and even though Hulk isn’t as bad as that movie, the same effects are felt here. The flashy mis en scene doesn’t allow for any serious character development, and to add to all that, the writing here is underdone.

This is where the sequel/reboot The Incredible Hulk did slightly better. It skipped the origin story (we all know it anyway), and got right to the movie. It added more (and better) action, improved the CGI (so much so that looks like a ten-year difference instead of 5), and just took more care in general.

The acting is quite good here though, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Eric Bana. He always seems stiff, and either expressionless or over-dramatic. Nick Nolte is his wacky self, and Jennifer Connelly does her “wife to a crazy guy” bit. I really enjoyed Sam Elliot, he brings a surprising amount of depth to an underwritten role. I didn’t actually expect that.

OVERALL

Hulk is a movie that tries but, despite the quality of those involved, pretty much fails in almost every regard. It is too flashy to support the dramatic weight that they want, but not exciting enough to hold interest. The Incredible Hulk is a better effort, even with its flaws.

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“Hulk” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 27, 2011 Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Superhero, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m a DC

I’m a DC

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The idea for this post came from Katie over at Stories That Really Mattered, specifically a challenge she issued to bloggers to ” find out who really is the better franchise once and for all”, Marvel or DC. 

Now I must admit to not following the comic book universes of either company, but I have a decent knowledge of their movies, and I will approach this from that angle.

After much thought I realized that while I like films from both sides, DC eventually came to the top. Here is why…

(Please note this comes from the perspective of the MOVIES alone, not the comic books.)

1. Batman (duh)

Even those who prefer Marvel admit that Batman throws a wrench in their gears. 4 of the 6 Batman movies (we’ll ignore Adam West, eh?) are considered classics. That’s a really good record for most franchises, and doubly so for superhero franchises. The Batman movies have been excellent platforms for 2 emerging directors (Burton and Nolan) to show off their talent and launch them higher in the movie-making stratosphere. Neither of these directors would have had such a high-profile career without this as a launching pad.

2. The villains

Quick, name super-villians. The first ones coming to most people mind are the Joker, Lex Luthor, Two-Face, Catwoman, the Penquin. To comic book fans of course the answers will differ, but it is undeniable that DC’s villains have inundated our pop culture more than Marvel’s.

3. Quality over Quantity

DC hasn’t put out near as many movies as Marvel. Take a look at the Wikipedia page for each (Marvel’s list here, and DC’s list here). They focus on quality over quantity. A much higher ratio of DC’s pictures are better than Marvel. DC’s other imprints such as Vertigo and Paradox Press help with that, and prove DC’s willingness to take a risk with non-cape-wearing characters.

 4. “Grit”

DC has produced it’s fair of stinkers, let’s not dance around the facts. But DC’s bad movies are consistently more interesting than Marvel’s. This is usually due to the “grit” factor. DC tends to go for a dark tone in its movies, and no matter who you are, that is usually much more interesting than the shiny, plastic, generic stinkers that Marvel puts out (Fantastic Four, Spiderman (yeah, so sue me), Elektra, Hulk etc. This is of course not a hard and fast rule, so there are exceptions (The Incredible Hulk for example). But it is these exceptions that prove the rule. Marvel also did Howard the Duck…. Case closed? Almost.

 5. The Critics

As detailed in my previous post, DC vs. Marvel, DC is the choice of American film critics. It is a slim margin, to be sure, but it’s there nonetheless. Take that!

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One Point In Favor of Marvel (to be fair)

1. The “Universizing”

Congrats to Marvel on merging some of their best films into a single movie universe. This will bring a great sense of continuity for them, and all leading up to The Avengers. Comic book fans, it’s a good time to be alive.

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Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!

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January 26, 2011 Posted by | List | , | 4 Comments

119 – Carriers (2009)

Carriers REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Àlex Pastor and David Pastor

Cast – Lou Taylor Pucci, Chris Pine, Piper Perabo, Emily VanCamp

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Carriers is a small budget film about four young people, two guys and two girls, who have survived an apocalyptic virus and are journeying to a beloved childhood vacation home of the two guys. The movie follows them on their journey as they run into other survivors, and experience different reactions to the situation they have found themselves in.

The biggest draw for this movie for me was, quite frankly, the presence of Chris Pine (as the older brother, Brian). His presence in Star Trek was one of my favorite parts of that particular film (I know I gave that a bad review, I’m writing a “Re-Review” for it soon). Here I think we get an even better look at his talent, even though he is technically a supporting character. Chris Pine is a fast rising star, and deservedly so I think.

The true main character of the movie is the younger brother of the two young men, Danny, played by Lou Taylor Pucci. He is intimidated by Danny, and has always lived in his shadow. He lets Danny take the lead in most situations, even though his rash behaviour often leads to morally questionable results. It’s not that we see the world of Carriers through his eyes, but we stick with him the most. 

Chris Pine brother certainly overshadows Pucci, mainly because Pine has much more charisma than Pucci does, but I liked this. Some people, I think, thought this meant that Pucci wasn’t strong enough to lead the movie. On the contrary, I found this helped us see the true nature of the brother’s relationship even clearer. This was excellent casting at work.

I understand Carriers had quite a small budget, but it is surprisingly well produced. The cinematography is even striking in parts. You really get a feeling of the heat striking down on the characters and landscape.

OVERALL

While certainly not bringing anything new to the table, Carriers is a solid entry into the “apocalyptic virus” genre. The running time is short and sweet, and the drama between the main characters and their situation is quite effective. I would recommend it to fans of the genre, keeping in mind that it is a much smaller and more intimate movie than 28 Days Later and movies of that type.

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“Carriers” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 20, 2011 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Horror, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

118 – The Green Hornet (2011)

The Green Hornet REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Michel Gondry

Cast – Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christopher Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Tom Wilkinson, David Harbour

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Acclaimed French director Michel Gondry, whose work spans from the ethereal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to the decidedly more mainstream Be Kind Rewind, once again has tried his hand at pop filmmaking. The director, known for his stylish visuals, may seem at first glance to be a good match for a fun superhero flick. What we get is actually more in common with Rogen’s movies and sense of humor. What is perhaps more surprising is that these elements are the strongest part of the movie. In an interview Gondry said he approached The Green Hornet as an action film with comedic elements, not as a comedy. Unfortunately the action and most of the superhero elements, when played straight, are quite weak. It’s a shame, too, because Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, and especially Christopher Waltz are very funny.

In general this movie doesn’t try hard enough to be different from the myriad of superhero movies and even basic action movies, that surround it. It never tries to be a parody, and for that I applaud it, but by the last third the movie it forgets its comedic roots (I maintain the movie is a comedy at heart, despite what Gondry says) and gives us one long, generic action scene that at the end is shown to have no plot value whatsoever, as the Macguffin of the scene turns out to be worthless. Pointless…

Christopher Waltz as the villian is excellent here, and does more to “de-construct” the superhero genre than Kick-Ass ever will. His remarks about “branding” himself and becoming more scary were bang on the money, and funny as well.

I guess all in all The Green Hornet could have used a sense of what it was. Is it a comedy based around an action movie or an action movie with some funny bits? Personally I think the former is where it succeeds best, but a bit more focus would have been nice. That, or at least make the action interesting…

OVERALL

The Green Hornet certainly gets an A for effort, but it loses grasp of what could have made it a good movie in the first place. Gondry shows surprisingly little directorial flair here, and phones int he action sequences. It’s a pity, cuz we could have had an excellent little movie here, instead of just a passable one.

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“The Green Hornet” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

January 19, 2011 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Superhero, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

117 – The King’s Speech (2011)

The King’s Speech REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Tom Harper

Cast – Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle, Derek Jacobi

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The King’s Speech is about the relationship between future King of England George VI, or “Bertie” (played by Colin Firth) and his speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush. Numerous excellent British actors appear, including Helene Bonham Carter as Bertie’s wife, the future Queen Mother, and Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.

This is one of those movies that I would like to metaphorically curl up in front of the fire with. It is a warm-hearted movie with a well told story and excellent portrayals of well written characters. Much of the inevitable backlash directed toward this movie will probably focuses around its fairly simple and fully predictable story. This is definitely true, but it couldn’t matter less. We all know that by the end of the movie “Bertie” will be on the way to controlling his stuttering. Sure the movie ends on a note reminiscent of a sports flick. We don’t watch it for that.

Actually, the sports movie reference is rather apt, as this is a classic example of the good ol’ underdog story used so much in that genre. A person has a huge obstacle to overcome, and, through numerous trials and tribulations, said obstacle is overcome just in time for The Big Game. This movie has all that to be sure, but here we are watching the movie for the journey, not what twists or inventive story telling is used. It’s not supposed to be Pulp Fiction, just roll with it.

Not that this is exactly a cookie cutter movie, far from it. There are some interesting techniques used throughout. One of my favorite is the quite imaginative shots used throughout, both to comment on and deepen the impact of the story. My particular favorite is used whenever Bertie has to speak in public. The camera follows him from the small, quiet waiting rooms to the large halls or stadiums where he must speak. Seeing the large or imposing crowd appear in front of us shows us how it feels to talk in public, especially when one doesn’t particularly want to. In fact the cinematography in general is a very strong element of the movie.

The script is very strong as well, though I do find that for a movie that carries itself mainly on the relationship between Bertie and Logue, it veered away from that quite a bit. This was, of course, to further set up Bertie’s relationship to his brother, his new station, and royalty in general, but I still found myself yearning to get back to Logue. Part of that is because Geoffrey Rush’s characterization is so amusing in contrast to Firth’s straight and true, upper crust manner. I don’t mean to take away from Firth’s excellent acting, but Logue is probably the guy you’d want to have a beer with. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Firth got an Oscar for this (at the very least a nomination), and deservedly so.

OVERALL

The King’s Speech is a straight forward movie that relies on an excellent script to take you through its journey. The acting is wonderful, and the direction both wonderfully low-key and involving. While the cast may not exactly look like their counterparts too much (I must admit I found it hard to accept 43-year-old Guy Pierce as the older brother to 50-year-old Colin Firth), but that is fairly easy to look past. While it is not particularly ground breaking (nor should it be) The King’s Speech is involving and rewarding. It is a great experience, recommended to all.

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“The King’s Speech” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 19, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

116 – Changing Lanes (2002)

Changing Lanes REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Roger Michell

Cast – Ben Affleck, Samuel Jackson, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet

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I have seen Changing Lanes in more discount DVD bins than almost any other movie, I swear. It’s everywhere. This is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand it doesn’t seem like many people are watching it, but on the other hand it should be fairly easy for you to pick up a copy, which I highly recommend you do.

The movie is about a young idealistic lawyer (they’re everywhere, aren’t they) played by Affleck  and a down on his luck recovering alcoholic, played by Jackson. They get into a fender-bender while each on their way to a court dates. Jackson’s car comes off the worst, and when Affleck refuses to give him a ride, Jackson threatens to destroy a valuable document that Affleck left at the side of the road. This escalates into a series of increasingly harmful back-and-forth jabs between the two, going from one tense and damaging situation to another.

There are two ways to look at the movie. First you can look at it as it is billed, a tense legal-type thriller. The movie to some degree is successful as such, but I don’t think that is the point of the movie. If seen as a thriller, Changing Lanes is undermined by its rather over-the-top premise. I can’t say it really seems probable that a young lawyers assistant would be on first name basis with a mysterious “hacker” (use that word in the movies and you can get away with anything) who can delete bank records and alter credit ratings, etc.

The best way to look at the movie is, quite simply,  as a morality play, or a cautionary tale. If seen in this way the heightened emotions and over the top events make sense. It would fit in well with an Aesop’s Fable, that sort of thing. Changing Lanes is not meant to be very realistic, and so we can excuse its occasional extravagance.

The acting throughout is top-notch, with reliable character actors like Richard Jenkins providing ample support for stars like Affleck (an under-rated talent who is finally coming into his own with Gone Baby, Gone and The Town) and Samuel L. Jackson. Sydney Pollack also appears in a significant role. I always like seeing him; if you see Pollack in a film it is a good indication that it is of good quality. That is definitely the case here.

OVERALL

Changing Lanes is quite effective as a thriller if you want to take it on that level. I think it is much more effective when seen as a cautionary tale about human foibles, but there is definitely room for both. The acting is very good, and the wonderful direction keeps us interested without going too overboard. Changing Lanes was quite a surprise for me, hopefully others will find it so.

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“Changing Lanes” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 12, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Drama, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment