Amazing Spiderman 2

It has been a while since I posted a movie review – or commentary which is what I think my posts are more like.  I have seen several movies, but none really inspired me to offer any commentary – until now. I recently saw the Amazing Spiderman 2.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but I did have some problems with the film. First, if my memory is correct, super-hero films with more than one film tend to be horrible. Let;s add to that by having one movie serve as origin movies for 3 villains. I get that the groundwork was being laid for a future battle between Spidey and the Sinister Six. However, I found the origin of Green Goblin to be a bit too contrived and too much of a departure from established Spidey canon - if you saw the first trilogy of Spiderman movies, you are already familiar with the origin of the  Green Goblin. Rhino seems like he was thrown in at the last minute.

Now let’s talk about Electro. Glad to see that they did not use the comic book costume. While the comic book origin may have seemed unbelievable by any stretch of the imagination, the origin in the movie was a bit too similar to Spidey’s own origin.  I get that the character is supposed to be a “loser” before becoming Electro – but he did not have to be so so terrible stereo-typical: bad dresser and a really bad comb-over?!? It was more like Jamie Foxx was channeling Eddie Murphy;s character in Bowfinger.

Leading up to one dramatic scene, bio-science wizard – Gwen Stacy – claims that she can figure out how to reset the power grid because she saw the plans.  Plans the Electro designed (before he became Electro) and were used to masterful power the city in a single grid (not a smart move if the power foes out)  At first blush, this strains credibility. How simple could those plans have been. It turns out, my disbelief was misplaced – all Gwen had to do was break a single lock and press one button. Really?

The movie does a pretty good depiction of Amazing Spiderman #121. It is not the same exact story, but it is similar enough not to disappoint most comic fans.

 

 

JOBS

We watched Jobs on DVD last night (Netflix rental). I thought Ashton Kuchner really looked the part. This movie tells a bit about the origins of Apple Computers and its iconic founder, Steve Jobs.

I hope there are some very scenes from the movie that ended up on the cutting room floor because sometimes the movie seemed a bit disjointed. For example, early on in the film, we see Jobs at college. We see him as a barefoot, drug using college-drop out. We have no indication of the technical genius. One does get hints of his being a real visionary. At least one school college professor/administrator wanted to see him enrolled at the school, but one can’t understand why. Jobs comes across as an egotistical bastard. As stated in the movie, he was so focused on the particular product that he was working on that he didn’t care about the loss of his own relationship or the important relationship between company and consumer. While the movie does highlight the fact that Jobs was an innovator and visionary, one walks away with the feeling that he was a really big jerk.

The Grandmaster

I wish I saw the Grandmaster in the theater. I love a good martial arts film. This was an epic martial arts film. Lots of action, a decent story. Many martial arts tales take place in some medieval time in the some Eastern country. This movie is firmly rooted in history taking place from the late 30′s to the early 50′s in Japanese-occupied China as it tells the story of Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee in martial arts.

When the opening credits started, I assumed the movie was not in English; so,. I turned on the captioning. How was I to know that the movie was dubbed in English (or at least it appeared that way)? There was a slight disconnect between what was being said and the captioning. It was not a word-for-word translation of what was said; rather, it was more often an interpretation of what was said. The meaning was there, if not the exact language.

The film was nominated, but did not win, two Academy awards: Best Achievement in Cinematography, and
Best Achievement in Costume Design. With regard to the latter, any period movie, which this was, that is decent usually gets a nomination for costume design. As far as the cinematography goes, it was well filmed. However, at times, it seems like a final exam for film school – where someone would have to identify the type of shot that was used in the film. MANY MANY close-ups, MANY MANY “zoomed-in” shots. It was obvious when the film was slowed down and when it was sped up. It almost felt like every possible technique was being used in the film. to me it took away from some of the movie.

I think it was definitely worth renting.

Carrie (2013)

I recently rented through Netflix the remake of Carrie. I think the movie was updated well. The use of social media as a way to tease Carrie in high school is consistent with what one would expect in a current movie. The character protrayed by Julianne Moore, Margaret White, was given an additional personality quirk which added to the weirdness to the character.

There are two problems that I had with the remake. First, in the original movie, you always got the sense that Carrie was acting our of anger and fear. At some point in the remake, Carrie appears to be acting out of spite. She became similar to the mean girls that teased her in school. So, I lost some of the sympathy for the character. The best indication of this is Carrie’s reaction to seeing the car being driven by Billy toward Carrie. In the original, the response is more reactionary – Carrie lashes out partially in surprise. In the remake, her response is much more brutal.

Second, there is the final scene of the movie. For those of you who saw/remember the final scene, Sue who tries to befriend Carrie brings flowers to her grave. In the original, it is not a cemetery to which she goes, but the land where Carrie’s house was sitting. The “For Sale” sign forms a cross and spray-painted across is the phrase “Carrie White Burns in Hell”. Here is a link to the final clip. In the remake, Sue goes to a cemetery and the same phrase is painted on the tombstone, but the ending is different. Despite the increased violence and better special effects, the ending in the 2013 version is tamer than in the original.

It was an evening’s entertainment, but the original is, in my opinion, the better movie.

Prisoners

Prisoners is nominated for an Academy Award for Cinematography. The  American Society of Cinematography defines cinematography as:

a creative and interpretive process that culminates in the authorship of an original work of art rather than the simple recording of a physical event. Cinematography is not a subcategory of photography. Rather, photography is but one craft that the cinematographer uses in addition to other physical, organizational, managerial, interpretive and image-manipulating techniques to effect one coherent process.

I prefer to think of it as how the film looks. How is the mood conveyed in the film other than through the script and the acting.  With that “lens”, I can not say that I understand why this film was nominated. Don’t get me wrong. I think the movie was fine, but I do not know why it would have been elevated above other movies from 2013.  Maybe it was because the movie seemed long. Part of the way through the movie, I stopped caring about whether or not the “villain” was apprehended. I will admit, though, that I the revelation of the “villain” was a surprise to me. Maybe there were clues that I did not catch because I lost interest.

The film has a well known cast, including Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, and Melissa Leo. 

It was an afternoon’s entertainment.

All is Lost

If you define “dialogue” as the exchange of words between two or more people, then there is no dialogue in All is Lost. If you consider “dialogue” to be any spoken statements by a person, then there is some dialogue in this movie. I bring this to your attention because there is very little that is spoken in this movie. So, you really have to be in the mood to sit and pay attention to the entire screen. If you are sitting at home watching this on DVD, like I did, you should not be doing anything like folding clothes or checking Facebook at the same time. Knowing this beforehand (thank you to Netflix for mentioning this in the summary description.)

If this movie were not nominated for Sound Editing, I am not sure I would have rented the DVD. I say this because after a while I get a bit bored with some movies. For example, although I enjoyed Gravity, after a while, I was thinking – okay you are still stuck in space. Or, in Life of Pi – I get it, you are still stuck in a boat. Same thing with this movie. For the entire movie, Robert Redford’s character (did he even have a name) is stranded asea in his sailboat, the Virginia Jean. I found it fascinating that he was able to keep certain things dry after his boat flipped over more than once. How was he able to keep track of his eyeglasses?

The difficulty I had with this movie was the lack of the spoken word. Since I am not a sailor, there are things that Redford’s character did during the movie, but I did not know what he was doing it or why he was doing it. Sometimes, we need a little exposition or explanation. Some of it can be figured out afterwards; other things, you just have to take on faith that it was the right things to do.

I would have expected that this film would have been nominated for cinematography since it very vividly captured all that Redford’s character was experiencing.

The Lone Ranger

There are some which would be shocked to know that the critically panned remake of the Lone Ranger is actually nominated for 2 Academy Awards: Best Make up and Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects. The fact that it is also nominated for a few Razzies was no surprise. I must admit that the make up for Tonto as an old man was quite good – perhaps better than Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa. For an action film, it moved rather slow. The humor was forced. Including an outlaw with a preference for wearing pieces of women’s clothing was unnecessary. The running jokes were tiresome. The storyline got too convoluted.

While I am glad that I did not pay to see this movie in the theater, it was over 2 hours of my life I will not get back.

Animated Shorts

This weekend I had the opportunity to see all 5 Academy Award nominated animated shorts.  There was nothing special about this opportunity. Anyone who wants to buy a ticket can see them at the Ritz at the Bourse in Philadelphia. One ticket gets you all 5 nominees.  The 5 nominees are as follows:

  • Feral
  • Get a Horse!
  • Mr. Hublot
  • Possessions
  • Room on the Broom

“Feral” tells the story of the attempt to civilize a feral child in the 19th century. It was an interesting story.

“Get a Horse!” was submitted by Disney.  It is a combination of “Steamboat Willie” era looking animation with “Epic Mickey” type graphics. The story sort of breaks the fourth wall. It does not quite direct things at the audience, but it makes it clear that the “Steamboat Willie” style animation is the cartoon and  the “Epic Mickey” like art is the outside the cartoon. I think I would have liked it better if the animation style for the action apart from the cartoon was not in a readily accessible style.

“Mr. Hublot” was a French cartoon that shows how the life of Mr. Hublot, who suffers from OCD, is changed by his adoption of a robot pet dog.  The animation has a very steam-punk feel to it. Definitely a pleasant story.

“Possessions” hails from Japan. It tells the story of an itinerant repairman who take shelter one night from the storm.  The short is premised on the thought that physical objects can develop personalities over time.  Possessions has a double meaning, therefore, as it refers to both material objects, i.e. one’s possession, and things being inhabited by spirits. Another enjoyable short.

“Room on the Broom” was probably my favorite of them all. This English short also had the biggest “star power” behind it as it employed the vocal talents of several well known performers as Simon Pegg (Star Trek,, the World’s End, Shaun of the Dead, Paul), Gillian Anderson (X-Files), Timothy Spall (King’s Speech, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1 and 2), and Sally Hawkins (nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Blue Jasmine) .

The primary way to see these shorts is either at showings like the one I went to or at film festivals where they might be presented.

While they were all good, I hope “Room on the Broom” wins.

 

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

The absolutely only reason why I watched this movie was because it was nominated for Best Hair and Makeup. In this movie, Johnny Knoxville is made to look like the titular Bad Grandpa. I must admit from a distance, the make=up looks convincing. However, when the camera pans closer to the actor, it seemed more obvious that it was make-up – at least to me. The premise of the movie is that this old man gets saddled with his grandson when his daughter leaves the child with Grandpa right before she is sent to prison. Grandpa’s job is to drive the child from the Midwest to North Carolina to deliver the child to his biological father, who only wants the child for the money he expects to receive from the state to care for the child. With this overarching “plot” (and I do use that terms loosely), the movie is a series of scenes that appear to me more of an updated and less tasteful version of ,Candid Camera. Knoxville’s character and the little boy interact with  people as they do outlandish things with the interactions all filmed for the movie. Whether it is the young child travelling to gentlemen’s clubs in search of his wayward grandfather or the , grandfather flying through a plate glass window  on a children’s ride gone awry, the nature reaction of the “innocent bystanders” are all captured.  Some of the scenes are funnier than others and, without a doubt, some are much more tasteful than others.I can understand why the move was nominated – I saw more of Bad Grandpa’s genitalia than I care to see – but I don’t think the Academy will bestow the award on this movie.

If you want some cheap, base thrills, give this movie a rental. of course, there are reality shows that already do similar things without being as vulgar.

Blue Jasmine

Thank you Netflix for allowing me to see another Academy Award nominated film. this afternoon I saw Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett.

This film is nominated for three Academy Awards:
BLUE JASMINE
3 Nominations
Actress in a Leading Role – Cate Blanchett
Actress in a Supporting Role – Sally Hawkins
Writing (Original Screenplay)- Woody Allen

The film tells the story of a New York housewife whose life falls apart after her husband goes to jail for dubious financial dealings. This somewhat pretension woman moves cross-country to San Francisco to stay with her blue collar/middle class sister. In some ways, it was almost like watching an episode of the Real Housewives of New York, Cate’s character is constantly popping pills and drinking vodka to calm her delicate nerves. Cate’s performance is wonderful. The script is well written and the scenes flow almost effortlessly between Cate’s character remembering her past and living her present.

I must admit that I had to check who was in the full cast because the actor who played Eddie looked very familiar – it was Max Casella, who first became famous as Vinnie Delpino – Doogie Howse’s best friend.

Really enjoyed the film.