Movie sequels are rarely good, especially ones that have a decade or more gap between them. Luckily, Tron: Legacy was able to break free from this stigma and was one of the few good movies in a mostly lackluster year of film.
When watching the movie, I remembered the wonder and awe that used to come from experiencing a Disney movie and, for a moment, forgot what an evil corporation it was.
The movie is far from perfect, but extremely enjoyable. The story moved slowly at times, but I found this refreshing, as most movies these days try to shove far too many side plots and superfluous scenes in just to make it more fast-paced.
I can thank Quentin Tarantino for my current infatuation with westerns. As an impatient kid flipping through channels, I moved like lightning past the dusty catwalk towns, the pallid landscapes, the Stetson hats. I sought the humor, pace, and vividness of a Spielberg adventure, a Lucas fantasy, or Disney fairy tale. But since my first viewing of Resevoir Dogs with its gritty, in-your-face violence, its cool anti-heroes, and its witty and verbose humor, I have developed an insatiable appetite for B-movies, action and kung-fu flicks, and westerns. This is the first in a series of blogs dedicated to one of my favorite filmmakers working today, Mr. Quentin Tarantino, and it will focus on one of my new favorite genres, the western.
My first pick is Shane (1953) directed by George Stevens and starring Alan Ladd as the title character. This is an extraordinary western. The story follows Shane, a stranger who helps a small band of oppressed farmers fight back against a wealthy cattle baron who is trying to force them from their land. It is essentially a ‘David vs. Goliath’ struggle, but what makes this a truly unique film are the memorable characters, both bad and good, and the passion and perspective that the filmmakers infused into this masterpiece. We feel the anger of the homesteaders being pushed off their land by the remorseless cattle baron. We love the innocence of their wives and children and long for their safety. We despise the hired gun (Jack Palance at his best) who mercilessly and joyfully guns down innocent men. And, as if we’re children again, we look up to Shane as he reluctantly and dutifully leads us towards the thrilling climax. It’s exciting, heartbreaking, and lovely, and I cannot recommend this movie enough!
Marvel’s Thor is opening in The States soon, and the staff here at Sam’s Wednesday Slog wanna give you some hot, little tidbits about some of the godly characters you’ll be seeing in the movie. For the most part, these folks all live in Asgard, you know, the capital city of the world of the Aesir, one of the nine worlds from Norse mythology. Well, way back when, there were constant struggles over land and resources (My, how times have changed!), and dudes had to secure their rightful reign/sexuality by fighting each other. We talked last week about Odin Thorsdad (not actually his last name, but it should’ve been) who battled many foes in order to maintain his status as dart champion of the world/King of Asgard.
Sony Pictures Classics bought Take Shelter blindly before it had even premiered at Sundance 2011, a rare occurrence in the indie film world. This happened for one main reason: Michael Shannon. Shannon (Oscar-nominated for Revolutionary Road) gives a gripping, powerhouse performance as Curtis LaForche, a man plagued by apocalyptic visions. Thanks to great writing and direction by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories), the story, pacing, and supporting cast add to Shannon’s performance, which serves to sink us deeper into this sci-fi, psychological drama.
LaForche lives in rural Ohio and is husband to a beautiful wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and the father of a young, hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart). He works for a construction company day-in and day-out, but, slowly, nightmarish visions paint an entirely different picture of his life and future. His love for his family and his desire to protect them heighten his fears, and he focuses his anxiety-ridden energy into building a costly storm shelter in his backyard. The shelter becomes the focal point of the film, and his drive to complete it mirrors his rising level of worry.
The most recent DC animated release is a series of shorts featuring staple DC Universe characters that are slightly less known. Designed to give us a glimpse and maybe pique our interest in these second-tier characters, the showcase succeeds brilliantly. It delivers four animated shorts, clocking in at around 20 minutes each, which are well-crafted and fun introductory pieces to “Captain Marvel,” “The Spectre,” “Green Arrow,” and “Jonah Hex.”
The story of “Captain Marvel,” a young boy who can change into a superhero and back with the uttering of the word "Shazam," is in itself geared toward children. This animated short from the DC Universe still manages to be engaging for the adult crowd. There are certainly a few lines that are so saturated in old, dried-out moral au jus that Superman might as well just break the fourth wall, bend his advice into the shape of a crowbar, and start beating us over the head with it. Instead, he, as Clark Kent to young, orphaned Billy Batson, and later as Superman to the newly empowered Captain Marvel, assumes the role of mentor to this wide-eyed do-good-er. There are clearly many parallels between young Billy Batson and Clark Kent, and you can understand the bond between them. Batson, orphaned at a young age and then transferred from an orphanage, to a troubled youth home, to a nice-looking-then-savagely-evil foster parents, to the street, where he currently spends his time contemplating how to be more like Superman (including unsuccessfully calling out three thugs who are robbing a homeless man). Afterward, Kent's message to the bruised youngster that doing bad is always easier than doing good, seems a little naive, but we definitely get the good intention.
Well, we lost the Super Bowl (three turnovers, Steelers? Really?!), but it wasn’t all bad. We got to see a whole bunch of new footage from movies promising to make this summer very exciting for us fans. Below are links to the TV spots and my humble opinion on what we saw.
Cowboys & Aliens Super Bowl TV Spot!!!
I have been excited about this movie ever since I first heard about it while sitting in Hall H at the 2010 SDCC (the last SDCC I may ever attend unless they figure out this ticket thing, eh Barb?!). This movie from Dreamworks/Universal is based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. The movie has some heavy-hitters involved like Favreau, Howard, and Spielberg, and the cast is equally as exciting with Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, and Keith Carradine. Having not read the graphic novel, the movie seems to be a mash up of gritty western and sci-fi action. How could it be anything but amazing? The teaser that aired during the Super Bowl featured a ton of new footage (highlight: when Daniel Craig leaps from his horse onto a speeding UFO). Distinct from any other clips/trailers we’ve seen so far, this one was far more testosterone-fueled, giving us 30 seconds of explosions, bar brawls, crashing spaceships, and naked Olivia Wilde. What’s not to love?
I know it is a bold statement, especially since Sucker Punch just opened to a mounting pile of disastrous reviews. But, if I was the one with the power of Greyskull in Hollywood, then my choice for director of The Hunger Games would be my boy, Zack Snyder. With films like Watchmen, 300, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead under his belt, Snyder is known for his fanboy glee for ultra-violence and epically beautiful visuals, and he is currently attached to the next big budget Superman film, Man of Steel.
If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games yet, (which would be hard on this website given that the FBC staff considers the book series the literary equivalent of crystal meth) it is the first book in a trilogy of intensely popular young adult novels involving a Battle Royale-esque plot set in a dystopian future where twelve districts exist under the rule of a tyrannical Capitol. As punishment for a prior rebellion against The Capitol by the districts, each year two children, one boy and one girl, are selected from each district and forced to participate in “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death that is broadcast on live television. While the book series has a rabid following and has already been heralded in Hollywood as the next Harry Potter or Twilight-type phenomenon, this comparison falls short of representing what author Suzanne Collins has actually created. While The Hunger Games does have elements of the epic battle between good and evil from the Potter films and contains a romance plot that will easily rival the Twilight franchise, it excels beyond both by telling a complicated, honest, and brutal story that deftly explores themes of society’s obsession with violence and death, the true nature of war, and the complexity of evil. This is not to say that these other series do not touch on these themes, but somehow Collins seems to do it with a master writer’s grace, never missing a beat and never condescending to her audience. In short, she never lets The Hunger Games feel like a young adult novel.
I was lucky to attend the Sundance premiere of Kevin Smith’s highly anticipated horror flick Red State, starring up-and-coming actors Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and Nicholas Braun, as well as established actors Michael Parks (Then Came Bronson, Twin Peaks, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Grindhouse), Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, and John Goodman. When I arrived at Eccles Theater in Park City, Utah, I was greeted by a huge line and a mix of protesters: half, serious religious picketers, half, ironical picketers, which included Kevin Smith himself, as well as a teen with my favorite sign that read: God Hates That I Couldn’t Get Tickets To Red State. The film centers on a trio of high school youngsters (Angarano, Gallner, and Braun) who, out of a combination of sheer boredom and raging hormones, respond to a woman’s internet sex ad in the hopes of having an ill-planned, and ill-fated, gangbang. Smith leaves his signature mark on this film with witty banter, unapologetic plot twists, and overt social critique, but his own style ultimately ends up hurting the film. Watching Red State was a hard-to-swallow experience, as there is as much good as there are short comings, and I was left with the frustrating—and not uncommon—sentiment that hidden somewhere in this film was the potential for greatness.
Emmanuel Carrere directs this adaptation of his own novel, La Moustache, creating one of the most odd, funny, and disturbing films I have ever seen. My brother recommended the film to me (thanks, Ben!) and suggested that I simply watch it and not read anything about it, including the Netflix synopsis paragraph. I did and I really enjoyed the movie. In this review I hope to talk to you a little about the movie without actually describing what it’s about. I will most likely fail, but it’s like Abe Lincoln said, “Does this beard make me look fat?”
La Moustache, starring Vincent London and the beautiful Emmanuelle Devos, is tangentially, an exploration of a modern, settled-but-not-stale relationship, and, more directly, it is the story of Marc (London) losing his grasp on reality. His unraveling begins in a bath tub as he decides on a whim to shave the mustache he has worn for the past 15 years (see how I’m failing already). From there we are plunged into an ocean of disturbing reveals and confounding twists for both Marc and the audience alike. London’s acting is subtle yet powerful as he negotiates the relationship drama and the psychological torment in a completely natural and understated manner.
I had the good fortune to attend the premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s new grindhouse flick, Machete, starring ex-con and Rodriguez staple Mr. Danny Trejo at the Orpheum Theater in downtown LA. Let me tell you, it was amazing. Outside the theater was a parking lot housing dozens of low riders and choppers (complete with custom paint jobs and hydraulics) which ferried the cast to the red carpet. Almost every major cast member attended and took the stage before the film screened. Robert Rodriguez gave us a brief introduction before retiring to a balcony-level opera booth to watch the film with friend and fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. The movie itself is filthy and funny and chock full action, nudity, and gore. And, with an eclectic cast of amazing actors playing their over-the-top lines with absolute seriousness, this modernized exploitation film will have you laughing and shouting for more. I definitely recommend seeing this one on the big screen!