Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim can be summarized with one word: BIG. Big robots, big monsters, big characters, big action, big everything. Hideo Kojima (video game maker, Metal Gear) tweeted, “Pacific Rim is the ultimate otaku film that all of us had always been waiting for…”. In many ways, it is. The initial Rim teaser trailer immediately reminded me of …
I saw Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing recently. I have been trying to formulate an “official” review but instead have opted for a more informal reaction piece in the form of this blog post. There were elements that I liked while trying to put a review together but I couldn’t get it to where I liked the review as a whole, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts. Then it hit me, that is EXACTLY how I felt about the film. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the film, just not as much as I had expected to. The blending of old school (Shakespeare’s story and verse) and new (modern day setting) was successful, just not as successful as I think it could have been.
Reboots are tricky. The stakes were very high. The film had a decent amount of imperfections. That being said, Christopher Nolan, Zach Snyder and the rest of the cast and crew accomplished what they needed to accomplish. They delivered a successful, emotionally driven thrill-ride origin story of an extremely iconic character. They also get DC/WB back in the game and although Marvel/Disney is still winning by a large margin, at least it is now a contest. We, the fans of comics, super heroes and movies are the benefactors of that.
Director and Michigan native, Paul Feig, cranks out a dud in his newest female-centric comedy, The Heat, starring the increasingly familiar performances of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Bridesmaids is a better comedy that forwards the march of great female leading films. The Heat cools that trend. However, fans of Bullock and McCarthy may find enough elements to survive a box office already swarming with super heroes, monsters and zombies.
Marc Forster’s (Machine Gun Preacher, Quantum of Solace) zombie epic is far from perfect, but it offers enough Outbreak and Contagion-like paranoia and suspense to please general audiences. Perhaps I am not the most unbiased movie-goer when it comes to Zombies – if it involves the undead, I feel alive. In a genre in the midst of a renaissance – zombies aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. For this zombie-lover, that’s good news.
Pixar looks to pop-culture fave Revenge of the Nerds, for inspiration in its new animated feature, Monsters University. While not as emotionally engaging as its predecessor, University packs a load of humor and spirited fun in 110 minutes, earning our weekend box office recommendation.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express) create the most vile Armageddon skit ever put to film in their directorial debut of This Is The End. It’s also the funniest film since A Haunted House, another horror-comedy deeply rooted in spoofing its source material. This Is The End pushes its R-rating to exhaustively funny limits. It’s a no-apologies exposition of repulsive behavior and redemption and should not be overlooked this summer.
Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, After Earth – the summer blockbusters are here. Now You See Me appears from thin air to claim its stake. But this magician/illusionist heist film falls flat, ironically, because of too many “magic tricks” and a lack of originality. The cast consists of the illusionist Atlas (Jessie Eisenberg), the mentalist Merritt (Woody Harrelson), the escapist Henley (Isla Fisher), and pick-pocket Jack (Dave Franco); together they form The Four Horsemen. Through illusion and distraction, the Horsemen rob a French bank while safely entertaining a sold out Las Vegas venue. The magic show’s attending audience enjoys a nice fortune, inevitably catching the attention of law enforcement agencies world-wide. The misdirection continues as director, Louis Leterrier, scams the viewer with annoying camera cuts and an often distracting soundtrack. The experience is overwhelming.
Into Darkness is a relentless film full of spectacular action sequences, first class special effects and classic Trek callbacks. The first and final fifteen minutes alone are worth a ticket aboard ship. Abrams and his writing team, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, are creating something special at the helm of Star Trek, while not completely rewriting history. This encounter is an erratic and visceral thrill ride from start to conclusion, and damn is it fun. The concluding act is nothing short of a cinematic breakthrough in special effects that firmly sets the bar high for the summer blockbuster releases that follow. Star Trek Into Darkness sets its phasers to stun audiences May 16.
Marvel round 2 kicked off Friday with the release of the third Tony Stark adventure, Iron Man 3. Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout) assumes directing and writing duties to place emphasis on the man, not the machine. Iron Man 3 is more a voyage of self discovery than a full-blown superhero film. The Marvel formula is present, but more emphasis has been placed on the leading man. I found myself missing Downey Jr. aboard his high-tech armor, and worse, Tony Stark’s inability to pilot a suit seemed to negate the “heroes voyage” these films rely on so often. Turns out, Black’s approach to the genre is that of irony – where Tony required a machine (in Iron Man 1) to survive shrapnel nearing his heart or to escape captivity, in this chapter, the machine clearly needs the man.
Pain & Gain is Michael Bay’s farce of real-life gruesome crimes committed by a clumsy trio of body building thugs: the Sun Gym Gang. The product is a darkly comedic antihero campaign, and is arguably, some of Bay’s most entertaining work. These misadventures are so well executed on film, it is easy to forget (or not know) that these are true events that had grave consequences. The Sun Gym kidnappings were often botched, their victims were tortured, murdered, and yes, they returned weapons to the Home Depot. These are evil men who committed sadistic acts, and as their antics became more bizarre and hilarious than the last, in sneaks a reality check, “this is still a true story.”
Retaliation sets out to redeem itself from the soulless dreck that befell the Joes in Rise of Cobra. Rise of Cobra was an overproduced, incoherent chapter – better left for dead. But Paramount forwarded the storyline, scrapped the original cast, and added some 3D this time out. Director Jon M. Chu’s resulting film is marginally better due in part to post-production success and far less cheese. Retaliation, however, doesn’t shed enough of its predecessor’s mistakes to reinvigorate the franchise. Picking and choosing elements from a previous film creates inconsistencies and those holes need filled. How did Storm Shadow survive? What happened to Ripcord? Nanomites are an utterly ridiculous antagonist, please terminate. Cobra Commander is mostly absent again, I don’t need to explain why this sucks. Throw us a bone. The Joes were recalled late last summer to allow for a 3D track. It is the film’s most notable achievement and might just be worth the price of admission alone. It will have you dodging bullets and shrapnel and laughing in embarrassment. With that said, never go see a movie just for 3D.