Category Archives: Brian

“Iron Man 3” (2013)

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When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Directed by Shane Black

Reviewed by Brian –

I really enjoyed the first two Iron Man films and was looking forward to watching this one. It’s tough to put your finger on just why this one doesn’t feel right. I had my Iron Man checklist ready:

Sarcastic and funny Tony..check

Humor within the action…check

Formidible bad guy…check

Romantic chemistry…check

But, why didn’t this one succeed like the first two films? The main problem is the story just isn’t compelling. A former business associate turns into a fire guy while running an underground terrorist organzation to flush out the president so the Vice President can take over to pass his legal agendas? That’s really the best idea they could come up with?

There’s thousands of issues of Iron Man available with far more compelling enemies and plot twists that they could of decided on. Another issue I had is that they really make Iron Man far too vulnerable. One of the reasons that super hero films are so engaging is that you have a collection of characters that can do spectacular things. “Iron Man 3” doesn’t even have Tony in the suit for 85% of the film and when they do a lot of his suit’s functions either don’t work or are ineffective against his foes. It’s hard to accept when in the Avengers movies he was taking out an advanced alien race, fighting toe to toe with a God, and hurling a nuclear bomb into a wormhole. Now I’m supposed to believe that because a group of people can turn their skin hot, he’s done for?

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My criticisms may sound harsh but I still enjoyed watching “Iron Man 3.”  Robert Downey Jr. is typically great in the role, Ben Kingsley has some scene stealing moments, and the special effects are better than ever. It just didn’t click together for me. You could possibly chalk it up to the change in director from Jon Favreau to Shane Black. Black’s tone is certainly darker and more desperate which takes away some of the fun. But, I tend to feel the more of these comic book films come out, the more the writers have to find ways to challenge our super heroes. The problem with Iron Man 3 is it challenged him to the point of making him no longer feeling super.

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Brian’s Review – Man Of Steel (2013)

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Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

4 out of 10

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race:

I blame annoying ass comic book fanboys for this film. After the release of Bryan Singer’s 2006 resurrection of the franchise with Superman Returns, fanboys bitched and moaned up and down with quotes like:

“There’s not enough action.”

“Why is the film all about the romantic element?”

“Why isn’t the film darker?”

“Why can’t it be more like Batman?”

Well asshole fanboys, you got what you wanted. And guess what? Your dream version of Superman isn’t very good. It’s not a complete catastrophe but it’s way too long for such a thin story and it literally sucks the joy out of the Superman experience.

The film opens with a long stretch similar to the far superior 1978 version that shows the end of the planet Krypton. What are the differences? Instead of showing an imaginative ice world filled with overly confident scientists whose own arrogance proves to be the destruction of their planet, we get a rock world filled with too much CGI and fisticuffs between Superman’s Dad and Zod. Despite the obvious advances in special effects, it doesn’t draw the viewer in. It’s cold and boring. The unfortunate part of that is that it permeates through the entire 2 1/2 hour running time.

After the obvious jettison of baby Superman to Earth in his ship that is curiously shaped like a penis, baby Supes goes through growing up bullied, alienated, and rejected. Does he discover new powers? Does he realize he’s capable of abilities that make him God-like? No! He mopes, he whines about how he’s different, and he makes himself the victim all the time. It’s again a far cry from the 1978 version that showed a young Clark Kent laughing and smiling while out running a train. Also, unlike the original film, this version does everything in flashback. Clark is roaming place to place in search of where he comes from and once in a while, he finds people to save. There’s no characters even brought into the experience that we relate to.

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I’ll run down the list of things this films gets wrong:

1. It’s not fun. Superman hates being Superman almost the entire film.

2. Lois feels crowbarred into the story. She’s in it a lot and you’ll scratch your head as to how she got there in the first place.

3. Clark doesn’t work at the Daily Planet. He’s a fisherman or something else for almost the whole film.

4. There’s no chemistry between Superman and Lois. This was the entire backbone of the original film.

5. Zod is terribly boring. He’s single-minded and 2 dimensional.

6. Perry White is in the film but doesn’t have any bearing on the story.

7. Kevin Costner dies trying to save a dog. Yes, a dog…. Remember the original Johnathon Kent. He had a heart attack and Clark couldn’t save him? It added extra meaning because it reminded him that as powerful as was, he couldn’t save everyone. It was poignant. This is not.

8. Action scenes go on and on without purpose, or suspense, or involvement from the viewer.

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What did I like? Henry Cavill could be a terrific Superman in a better film. There’s a few decent moments between Clark and his adopted parents. The problem is that these scenes are few and far between because we keep getting thrown into action scenes that aren’t interesting. It’s a city under destruction that was done better in the Avengers. That films had character development within the action. This does not.

I have always been a fan of the Superman character. He is a representation of the American myth that we are all capable of amazing things. We may not fly, or have super strength, or X-ray vision. But, he represented the inner good and possibility o the human spirit to help his fellow man without the need for reward. It was a character and story-line that was fun, romantic, and made you believe a man could fly. The “Man of Steel” felt like he never left the ground.

Brian’s Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

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After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Directed by J.J. Abrams

9 out of 10

It’s a great relief to me to see that J.J. Abrams has taken over the Star Wars series starting with Episode 7 and a great sadness that he will no longer be making any Star Trek films. This is every bit as good as the previous entry where Abrams reinvented the series by creating an alternate timeline that separates it from the original television and movie series with William Shatter and company. That was brilliant masterstroke of sci-fi writing because it opened the floodgates to possibilities of what could happen to these classic characters that differed from the original stories.

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Star Trek:Into Darkness is action packed and loaded with first rate stunts and special effects. However, I’m glad to say that they never come at the expense of storytelling or character interaction. All of the Enterprise crew have a likeability in their own way and you find yourself rooting for them. The main differences between this film and the last is a first rate villain played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch who is far more interesting than Eric Bana’s villain in the last and an even more frenetic pacing because we no longer need introductions to the main players. I won’t give away plot details because there are several easy things to spoil. However, I will tell you that this is first rate popcorn entertainment. It may not be the brainy sci-fi that some Trekkies live for but it sure is fun.

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Brian’s Note: I saw this in IMAX 3-D and recommend it. It’s done much more tastefully than other three dimensional efforts. I still prefer 2-D but it’s acceptable.

Brian’s Review – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Brian

Rating: 9 out of 10

Holy Shit! Bradley Cooper can act! I honestly had no idea. Everything I’ve ever seen him in prior to this movie, he’s always delivered a minimalist performance where he seems to be doing little more than acting like himself. But, here he delivers a nuanced and fleshed out character that isn’t just interesting, but funny and touching as well. Honestly, all the acting in this film is fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver are all top notch and make the film work but I knew THEY could act. Cooper caught me a bit off guard.

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As I’m sure you’ve read from the above synopsis, this is a film about mental illness and the long term effects it can have on life, love, and finding your place in the world. As generalized as that description can sound, it describes the experience of watching the film perfectly. David O. Russell does his best work since Three Kings here. He has always been a visionary director that uses interesting characters to help round out a detailed and oft-kilter world. But, here is a film that is more about emotion than rational thought. Cooper, De Niro, and Lawrence all have their mental illness vices. De Niro is obsessive compulsive, Lawrence lost her husband and has thrown herself to any man sexually who will make her forget her pain, and Cooper has constant fits of rage stemming all the way back to an incident where his wife was unfaithful. Each of them is looking for their own “Silver Lining.”

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 That makes for an interesting premise and certainly Russell is adept at weaving the tale but it’s the interaction between the characters that makes this film special, particularly the believable chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper. Their relationship builds over the course of the movie, not from some lame chance meeting like all of the predictable romantic comedies. They have very little in common except for one thing: they both have no filter between their brains and their mouths. This makes for some funny and unpredictable dialogue that is completely original.

I’ll admit that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of film goers like their neat and tidy films that ride off into the sunset. While this film is far from a negative experience, it doesn’t dare to think that these people are cured. It just lets them find their silver lining within their imperfect existence. 

 

“End Of Watch” (2012)

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Shot documentary-style, this film follows the daily grind of two young police officers in LA who are partners and friends, and what happens when they meet criminal forces greater than themselves.

End of Watch

Rating: 5 out of 10

End of Watch is a classic example of a great film trying to escape from behind the trappings of a well worn gimmick that doesn’t work. All of the elements are there: two solid male performances, an environment filled with love and brotherhood within violent trappings, and some dynamic actions scenes that had potential. Why didn’t they work? Well, the main gimmick is the idea that the police officer lead ( played very well by Jake Gyllenhaal) has a camera that he carries everywhere and he records (cough..Blair Witch Project…) his day to day life. The problem with that idea is that it’s a trade off. While it can create an almost pseudo-documentary, the price for that added sense of realism is that the narration has to constantly account for the camera. Who’s holding it? If they’re holding it, what’s the other guy doing?

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How do you show them in their daily lives if they can never be shown alone. Well, the answer is that they stop trying. At some point in the first third of the film, they never explain anymore. So, if you couldn’t account for who is holding the camera, why have the gimmick?!?! It’s such an obvious omission that even the least observant viewers will notice it. Also, the plot is extremely thin. I realize that the writers wanted to give you a broad picture of friendship and brotherhood with the Los Angeles Police Department but there’s really no plot progression. The characters are the same at the end as they were in the beginning. Very little was learned because it wasn’t as if they weren’t friends from the start. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to see two Los Angeles cops who are paired together and bond through shared experiences on the job? My last complaint would be the ending (which I won’t give away here). Why would you show that? Why close the film on a humorous note after everything you just put the audience through to get there?

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So, why aren’t I rating this lower? Two reasons: Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal. They are both so perfect in their roles and so natural that it felt like they ad-libbed most of their lines. You will believe in their friendship and their interactions never feel forced or unnatural. I still can’t recommend the film though. It’s never boring but the well worn gimmicks and lack of plot bog down what could have been a great cop film.

Brian’s Review – “Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance”

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I have no one to blame for the abysmal, wretched, horrible, pitiful and downright painful experience of watching this pile of shit but myself. I watched the original Ghost Rider and thought that movie sucked and yet somewhere in my mind I said, “Well, let’s give another Ghost Rider movie one more day in court. They can’t possible do worse.” Well, guess what? It’s worse…..a lot worse. This is my pic for the turkey of the year.

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The script is pointless, Nicholas Cage’s acting is laughably horrid as is the rest of the cast, you don’t know what’s going on and when you do you won’t care and the direction is completely rudderless and full of so many bad ideas that I don’t know how the producers green lit it. I cannot overstate for you to avoid this film. I’m sure many of you will have the line, “It’s a Ghost Rider film, what did you expect?” I’ll respond with: A MOVIE!! You know, a reason for me to sit for 2 hours and say that I experienced SOMETHING….ANYTHING!!!

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I would rather sit and stare at a fucking wall! Who in their right mind ever considered this acceptable for a major release? There’s no story, no progression of the characters, terrible special effects, confusing and pointless action scenes, miscast characters, and nothing even resembling a cohesive plot. Do NOT bother with this film even to pique your curiosity as to how bad it may be. It’s a full on exercise of what zero ideas and zero talent can accomplish with millions of dollars…

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Brian’s Review – “Django Unchained” (2012)

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“With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.”

Django Unchained

Rating –  8 out of 10

Tarantino has definitely brought credibility back to the “revenge” genre. His last three films were all based on that subject. “Kill Bill” was classic over the top samurai fun, Inglorious Basterds was the Jewish fantasy of being able to get back at the Nazis, and now “Django” again deals with the historical fictional revenge of what would happen if a slave was able to get back at his owners.

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A lot has been written about this film and little of it focused on its quality. Most of what I read was about its use of the N-word, its over the top violence, and its realistic depiction of torture towards slaves. All of what you’ve heard is true. It constantly uses the N-word, its violence is the most extreme yet for a Tarantino film, and its depiction of slave torture is gruesome and cruel. But, guess what? It’s also a hell of a film! Tarantino and Westerns were bound to cross paths at some point. All of his films have nods to spaghetti westerns, particularly Sergio Leone’s masterpieces. But, while he takes elements from the past, this is definitely an original piece of work with rock solid direction and a pitch perfect cast all the way around.

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Jamie Foxx hold down the lead just fine, Christoph Waltz is utterly brilliant, Leonardo DiCaprio will no doubt get an Oscar nod, and Samuel Jackson should win one. This is the best performance of Jackson’s entire career and you will develop a hatred for him unlike anyone in a film in some time. While DiCaprio’s slave owner is expected to be a cold and heartless piece of shit, Jackson’s turn as the Uncle Tom is really what will piss you off. The script is really terrific as well and I particularly like Tarantino’s use of time. There’s flashbacks and flash forwards several times to explain back story and they’re never confusing or superfluous. In fact, the first hour of the films is pretty damn near perfect.

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So, why not a 10? The middle section bogs it down a bit. There’s a very long stretch where we’re waiting to get to DiCaprio’s plantation that could have been tightened up significantly. There’s also a double ending(I’m trying to stay vague to avoid spoilers) that was fairly unnecessary. It is literally about 25 minutes of cut footage away from being damn near perfect because you really couldn’t ask for much better of a script and certainly not better performances. Highly recommended!