Monthly Archives: July 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Marvel launches another super franchise with this action-packed origin story, which follows Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he volunteers for a secret experiment during World War II. Transformed into a superhero named Captain America, Steve goes after the Axis. With his perfect physique and heightened reflexes — and his sidekick, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) — Steve battles the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a super soldier created by Italian fascists.

Kyle
Rating: 8 out of 10

This actually came out about what I was expecting. I was a little concerned it would deliver similar to “Thor” but came out a lot better. My optimism finally paid off. 

Chris Evans didn’t disappoint. He brought a great performance as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Hugo Weaving was alright though I thought his German accent was off. I thought it was odd, too, that the organization that Red Skull led (Hydra) existed almost separate from that of the Nazi party. It just seemed Hydra’s intentions were very much different than that of the Nazi party from my original understanding of the Red Skull; no hints of Anti-Semitism. 

The only other thing that bothered me was at a few of the CG sequences with Evan’s head on a smaller body. A couple of the shots were a bit unbearable; his chin was not cropped properly and it just appeared to end. Also, I thought they could’ve scaled it down a tad so that his head was proportionate the body they put him on. Other than that, I thought it was a really good film. It had lots of action, suspense, and heart. Captain America just wants to help those in need and that mentality is seen from beginning to end. 

Oh, and the post-credits footage was bonerific. Great tease to what next summer will hold in store for Marvel fans.

Unstoppable

It’s a nail-biting race against time as an unmanned train carrying a load of lethal chemicals speeds out of control, and a conductor and engineer do everything in their power to keep it from derailing and killing tens of thousands of people. Denzel Washington leads the cast in Tony Scott’s tough-minded action thriller, in which a terrible circumstance forces a cThis ain’t training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.
ouple of ordinary men to become extraordinary heroes.

Matt
Rating: 3 out of 10

This is based on a true story. While moving a train in a station, a train depot worker forgot to switch the tracks, so he hops out  of the moving train and tries to hit the switch, but the train gets away from him. Man, would I hate to be that guy. I think this movie would have been more interesting if it was from their perspective — all the guilt and feeling of helplessness as this train lumbered on a path of destruction and mayhem. Sure, the heroes are cool and all, but they get stuck with bad hero-like dialogue, like: “This ain’t training. In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.”

The other part is, since it’s based on real events, it’s kind of anti-climactic since we know they stop the train (SPOILER) and the action parts are fictionalized and dramatized to cartoonish proportions that it actually takes away from the real bravery and guts these men displayed. This movie suffers from a lot. Bad dialogue and poor attempts at developing characters with talk about marital problems.

I will say that Denzel Washington is always good. But he’s better than this movie. There’s a lot of things better than this movie. Root canal for instance. 

Gnomeo and Juliet

An edgy Shakespeare adaptation like no other, this animated musical transports the classic tale of forbidden romance between two star-crossed lovers from warring families to the unlikely yet hysterical world of garden gnomes. Featuring songs from legendary recording artist Elton John, this movie features the vocal talents of Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart and Michael Caine.

Lauren
Rating: 8 out of 10

Awwwe. Gnomeo & Juliet is so cute. These angry little garden gnomes live in neighboring English gardens and come to life whenever their owners disappear.

Just like in the original Romeo & Juliet, the two families are feuding but we don’t really know why. Gnomeo is a blue and Juliet is a red but when they first see each other they miss the color of the others hat and fall in love.

Things get complicated when they find out who the other is, but anyone who knows Shakespeare’s story knows what’s coming. Of course this is a cartoon about Gnomes so there isn’t as much sex or death, but the general components of the classic tragedy are there.

The story isn’t the only thing that’s cute. The animation is also unique and creative. The gnomes are all a little scratched and dented, which make them look lifelike.

I should admit, I boycotted the 3D version for the old-fashioned 2D, so I can’t comment there. But I don’t know that any movie needs 3D, let alone Gnomeo & Juliet.

The Last Man on Earth

A plague has wiped out most of mankind, and those who survived have become bloodthirsty vampires. The only “normal” human left on earth, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) — who was spared by a twist of fate — spends his days methodically hunting down the undead mutants and his nights barricaded against their attacks. But when he meets the beautiful but contaminated Ruth, he discovers a secret that will unravel what’s left of his existence.

Victor
Rating: 8 out of 10

The 1954 novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson has always been one of my favorite sci-fi/horror novels. This 1964 film directed by Sidney Salkow and shot on a meager budget in Italy is the first adaptation of Matheson’s zombie tale. Many consider it to still be the finest of the 3 that have been done thus far. The film carries on, faithfully, the idea of an apocalypse started by disease. Vincent Price portrays Robert Morgan, the only survivor who seems immune to the plague which has obliterated mankind. During the day he goes about routine and mundane things. He fixes his home, looks for vehicles and hunts and kills vampiric zombies created by the contagion. He then takes them to burn in a crater like hole where he dumps them in. He endures attacks at night by the same horde of monsters, one being a close friend of his.

It is the versatile Vincent Price that really carries this film far and beyond the already great material. He is a lonely man and Price deftly emotes such realism in his performance. He is grieving, sorrowful, angry and at times desperate. His survival instincts, though, are always finely tuned to the dangers that lie beyond the threshold of his sanctuary. His story is told in flashbacks and it is here where we learn the origin of the contagion and we begin to feel for him and his plight. At night he endures the ghouls who want him to succumb. That is his plight.

The film is dense, dark and scary. It is eerily lit with emotion and fright highlighting the menace of the cinematography. Price is joined by a capable cast and the Italian actresses are beauties. But it is the desolation, dread and futility that stirs us. The score is disquieting and effective for this type of film. It is a hidden gem of the genre.

The Champ (1931)


Andy Purcell (Wallace Beery) is a washed-up, boozy boxer and compulsive gambler who travels from bout to bout with his adoring son, Dink (Jackie Cooper), in tow. But when Andy lands in a Tijuana jail, he realizes Dink’s welfare is at stake and sends him to live with his mother (Irene Rich). For his tour-de-force performance in the title role, Beery walked away with the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This is a film from 1931, and while some of the language and culture doesn’t translate, the excellent performances and storyline endure.

We’re given a familiar character in today’s films, a former champ, now aging, a drinker who tries to be a good father but repeatedly fails. It reminds me of Ricky “The Ram” in the masterpiece “The Wrestler.” We follow The Champ as he faulters, all while his adoring son, who idolizes, watches and cares for him no matter the lousy situation he’s put in, supports him through it all.

Wallace Beery delivers the definition of an understated performance, and the film is held together by the performance of his son, played with skill beyond his very young years by Jackie Cooper. While some things come off a bit corny, like people saying, “Gee wiz,” it’s easy to overlook. There’s a couple of timeline disconnections you couldn’t get away with today, but this film is a charmer with grit, real drama and characters you root for — despite their faults.

Cyrus

Indie favorites Jay and Mark Duplass co-direct this wry look at modern love and family dysfunction. John C. Reilly plays a divorced man who thinks he’s found just the right woman (Marisa Tomei) to help him recover and move on. Unfortunately, the woman’s son, played by Jonah Hill, has no interest in allowing another man into their lives — a stance he proceeds to demonstrate in a variety of obnoxious ways.

Matt
Rating: 7 out of 10

This is a movie that works because of the excellent cast, directing, and a smart script that is patient and respectful of its audience.

“Cyrus” has the potential to be a silly movie about the adult son of a single mother who torments his mother’s new boyfriend with ridiculous stunts that make you uncomfortable to watch. Certainly, there are uncomfortable moments, but it’s because they feel like you could know insane people like this. The film’s characters react with emotion, and there is some drama that gives it a backbone  that set a foundation of reality.

This film may not be what many hope it is, and I think that’s a virtue.

Insidious

After moving into a new home, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Renai (Rose Byrne) confront terrifying tribulations when their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) falls into a coma and his body starts to attract malevolent forces from a mysterious netherworld. But when the family decides to move again, hoping to leave the evil spirits behind, they realize that their problems are just beginning. James Wan (Saw) directs.

Matt
Rating: 5 out of 10

The first hour of this movie was outstanding. One of the best horror films to come out in years. It had me jumping and nervous, and was a great date night movie that was intriguing, smart, well-paced with great performances and sharp direction.

The last act of the movie, however, took a huge nosedive. We are given the impression that a demon is after a little boy’s soul. We get narrow glimpses of him throughout the movie but never see him. It’s the Alfred Hitchcock theory that what the audience doesn’t see is what scares them the most. And it’s true.

In the last act, however, we get so much over-the-top demon, it just gets downright silly. It really stopped my viewing pleasure and made the whole thing seem silly. The ending is strong, and has a nice twist, but I was disinterested by the time it got there. It’s a shame, because this movie was so close to being amazing. Hard to say it’s anything better than average, though.