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Movie Review: Green Lantern (2D) (2011) August 15, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews, Reviews.
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Green Lantern, the latest comic book adaptation (from DC), is the type of film that would have been better received a few years ago — before the genre got ‘realistic’ and before the bar was exponentially raised by films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Does that make Green Lantern a horrible film?  No.  But when lined up against the other quality superhero films of recent times — actually, even just 2011 (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) — Green Lantern suddenly looks like a weak link.

I had almost no idea who or what Green Lantern was before this film came along — for years I got it confused with The Green Hornet (I thought the hornet lived in the lantern).

Well, in short, it’s about this intergalactic league of superhero protectors called ‘Lanterns’ that rely on the green power of ‘will’ (encased in a ring, powered by an actual lantern!) to fight enemies that utilise the yellow power of ‘fear’.  Stuff happens, a new Lantern is needed, and the ring chooses a human, a reckless fighter jet pilot by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Of course, fear has also chosen someone, and it’s up to Jordan to overcome his own fear and save the world.

That sounds like a silly and derivative premise (it has shades of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Superman), and it is, but so are the premises of most comic superhero films.  It’s up to the makers of the film to make us believe in it, even if it’s just within the confines of the story’s own universe.

And that’s where Green Lantern struck out for me — apart from a fairly strong introduction, I didn’t believe in the story for the majority of the film’s 114-minute running time, and as a result, couldn’t connect emotionally with the narrative or the characters.   There were just too many gaps, inconsistencies and avoided issues to prevent the film from being a more engaging experience.  The writers and the director (Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness) didn’t make the necessary adjustments in bringing a comic book to life, and instead, the film played out like a children’s cartoon with (predominantly) human actors.  Perhaps for once they stayed too true to the original source.

Speaking of actors, Ryan Reynolds did everything he possibly could to fill the shoes of Hal Jordan but was still a disappointment.  On paper, Reynolds, with his pearly whites, ripped bod, boyish charm and wry sense of humour, was probably the one of the best choices for this superhero, but the poor screenplay never allowed him to fully break out.  The result was a relatively flat, forgettable performance and a character that should have been a lot more likeable.

Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood friend and fellow pilot Carol Ferris, and does a surprisingly good job, and dare I say looks better as a brunette than a blonde.  There is genuine chemistry between her and Reynolds, but again, something was holding them back.

The remainder of the all-star cast were all solid — Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi (from Boy), plus the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clancy Brown (everyone’s favourite warden from Shawshank) — with the standout being Peter Saarsgard’s wonderful villain, who was more interesting to me than the hero and deserved more.

Having come across as rather negative, Green Lantern certainly wasn’t bad.  There were some exciting scenes, a few cracking action sequences and moments of ingenuity, and none of the film could be described as slow.  The digital effects were also very good, but nothing outstanding by today’s standards.  If we hadn’t been spoiled by so many good superhero movies in recent years, Green Lantern probably would have received a lot more love from critics and viewers alike.  Nonetheless, I hear Warner Bros are pushing forward with a sequel, with a potential for a trilogy.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Robin Hood (2010) May 16, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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I went into the latest Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott film, Robin Hood, knowing relatively little about what kind of movie it was going to be, considering it is, after all, a “blockbuster”.

What I can say is that while Robin Hood is pretty good, it’s certainly no Gladiator.

I had heard that this new depiction of the iconic hero was panned for “pretending” to be historically accurate when it wasn’t, and the film had eschewed all the merriness that made Robin and his men were famous for.  Accordingly, compared to previous renditions of Robin Hood, this one was dull and lacking in fun.

I don’t agree with that.  Frankly, I couldn’t care less how historically accurate this new Robin Hood is, as long as it is compelling and entertaining to watch.  And why must all Robin Hood films be confined to merry men in tights who sing and dance all day?  Ridley Scott decided to deliver a more serious, gritty and “realistic” vision of the folktale hero, and I don’t have a problem with that.  He can do whatever he wants as long as the result is a good movie.

However, that’s not to say Scott and Crowe hit the bulls-eye with Robin Hood.  Don’t get me wrong, the film does have its positives, namely, the performances and the action.

Russell Crowe brings his Maximus charm and brooding presence to Robin Longstride (aka Hood), making him a sound hero; Cate Blanchett was fantastic was Lady Marion, as was Max Von Sydow as her father-in-law, Walter Loxley; Mark Strong shows once again that he can be a superb villain, and Oscar Isaac does a fine job as the surprising King John.

The action sequences are also done very well, with the best moments coming during the initial siege scene and the final climatic battle.  It’s not quite Lord of the Rings, but Scott manages to capture that epic scale battle feeling (for the most part) by thrusting you into the middle of the action.

Having said that, it still felt like something was missing.  The film is I suppose a prequel to the Robin Hood legend, in the same way that Batman Begins was for Bruce Wayne.  But with this Robin Hood, it didn’t feel like there was any character transformation — at the start he was a good archer and an honest man who believed in justice.  By the end, he was essentially still the same guy, just with different surrounding circumstances.

Furthermore, while the film didn’t feel particularly long at 140 minutes, I felt as though not a whole lot happened during the running time.  I suppose that means I wanted more.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: I don’t get all the hoopla about Russell’s accent.  Is it really that big of a deal?  Come one, at least he tried, unlike some other Robin Hoods of the past, cough cough Mr Costner…I’d much rather everyone talk about the feral kids in the movie — what the heck was the deal with that?]

Movie Review: Kick-Ass (2010) April 10, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Movie Reviews.
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Regardless of what I or anyone thinks of the teen superhero action flick Kick-Ass (based on the comic of the same name), one thing is for sure — I’ve never seen anything like it.

It’s so different from any other superhero or teen movie that it doesn’t really deserve to be put into a specific category.  It’s funny, insightful, crude, and outrageously violent, to the point where it has caused a lot of controversy amongst conservative groups.

Stuff that and stuff them.  Be warned about the film’s content, the over-the-top, brutal violence involving teenagers and pre-teen children, and the nasty language they use.  If you don’t like it, fair enough.  Don’t watch it.  Don’t take your kids to see it.  Advise others against it.  But please, let less uptight people enjoy it for what it is — an original, strangely poignant action film where the blood and violence is so crazy that it is obviously comical, and disturbing — but in a good way.

The premise of the film is rather straightforward.  A typical teenager, Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson), wonders why ordinary people don’t help others in need, and why there aren’t any “real” superheroes out there.  So he takes matters into his own hands and becomes Kick-Ass, a masked vigilante who gets more than he bargained for when he stumbles across truly dangerous criminals (led by Mark Strong) and “true” superheroes (played by Nicholas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz).

If you think Kick-Ass is a cookie-cutter superhero parody, you’re in for a nasty surprise.  From the very first scenes where Dave gives us an insight into his life, and the introduction of Cage’s “Big Daddy” and Moretz’s “Hit Girl”, I could tell the film was going to be a lot darker and much more uncomfortable than your ordinary superhero flick.  You just don’t normally see films like this tackle the type of issues and subjects that Kick-Ass does, you just don’t see 11-year old girls use those sorts of words (!), and you certainly don’t see them slicing people up and shooting them in the head.  But these are the things that keep Kick-Ass fresh and compelling to watch.

Like all superhero movies, Kick-Ass requires suspension of disbelief, but director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) makes the world in which the characters inhabit about as believable as it could be.

However, Kick-Ass is far from perfect.  The tone was very uneven — the mix of regular teen comedy jokes and extremely dark, unsettling violent comedy, plus actual serious plot/character development scenes made it a difficult ride on the emotional roller coaster.  Further, at 117-minutes, the film was and felt too long.  And while I liked Dave’s friends, the whole love interest subplot was lost on me.  Not enough attention was given to it (in my opinion) to make it work.

Having said that, I have little doubt Kick-Ass will go down as a cult classic.  Moretz’s “Hit Girl”, of course, steals the show, even though Aaron Johnson manages to portray Kick-Ass as a highly likable protagonist.  The truth is, the action scenes in Kick-Ass are simply phenomenal, better than most “pure” action films out there today.  It’s heavily influenced by John Woo’s films (especially the earlier flicks), and the film itself recognises this.  And I loved the tributes to classics I won’t spoil by mentioning.

Yes, Kick-Ass is confronting and unsettling and controversial.  But don’t we want more films like that?

4 out of 5 stars!

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