Archive for June, 2013

Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

June 29, 2013

Iron Man 3 has a distinctively different style than the previous two films in the Robert Downey Jr. starring series. Written and directed by Shane Black, who previously directed RDJ in the off-beat dark comedy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black presents a story that feels more like a spin-off or side quest for Tony Stark, rather than a climactic bookend to a trilogy.

I suppose Marvel’s intention, unlike Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, is to extend the current Iron Man series further, although I find it difficult to see how much more RDJ can take performing this role, especially after The Avengers 2 is finished. While RDJ is as entertaining as ever with his usual witty charm and manic brilliance, he seems tired in this movie, as if he just wants to get it over with so he can move on to another project.

Unlike the previous films in the series, Iron Man 3 focuses more on Tony Stark rather than Iron Man, and this decision provides a much different tone more akin to a detective story than a superhero story. The pacing felt very similar to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Tony Stark is even very similar to RDJ’s character from Kiss Kiss, Harry Lockhart, as he finds himself in a place of mental instability (PTSD), unable to sleep and having panic attacks after his recent battle with Loki and his alien army that took place in The Avengers.

There is a lot more off-beat humor and downtime in Iron Man 3, which I found to be a nice change, although fans who are expecting Iron Man 3 to simply be the next chapter in continuation of the series will probably find the change of pace to be undesirable, as has been the case with several negative reviews that I’ve seen online.

The bottom line is, if you enjoy watching RDJ do his thing, you will enjoy Iron Man 3, and if you can allow yourself to separate it from the previous two films in the series, you will be able to appreciate it more as a sidestep than a misfire.

Film Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

June 28, 2013

When I first heard Baz Luhrmann would be doing a remake of the classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, I was intrigued by the casting decisions, although I was a bit afraid Luhrmann’s over-the-top style would produce a similar result to his previous film, Australia, which I did not end up seeing after hearing a lot of negative feedback about it.

While Gatsby was certainly an extravagant production, I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s depth and artistry, and Leonardo DiCaprio’s take on the enigmatic Jay Gatsby was superb, along with great supporting performances by Tobey Maquire, Joel Edgerton, and Carey Mulligan.

My only complaint about the film was that some parts of the soundtrack, featuring hip-hop music by Jay-Z, did not fit the time period of the story, which broke the immersion for me. The majority of the soundtrack was excellent, though, and the visual effects and cinematography were intoxicating.

Regardless if you’re a fan of the classic novel, I guarantee you will have a great time watching this larger-than-life adaptation of The Great Gatsby. While it’s not a perfect film, it’s definitely worth seeing at least once.

Film Review: Side Effects (2013)

June 26, 2013

One thing I’ve always liked about Steven Soderbergh is that he is always trying something new. Throughout his filmography, there is an eclectic mix of projects, ranging from heist films (the Ocean’s series), to sci-fi (Solaris, Contagion), to explorations into sexuality (The Girlfriend Experience, Magic Mike), to his supposed final feature film, Side Effects, a psychological thriller. Although Soderbergh’s films tended to be hit or miss, I’ve always felt he had a distinct style that, regardless of the premise, was always uniquely his own. I sincerely hope Soderbergh finds a way to work in the film industry again, but at least he is not gone from cinema for good quite yet, as he is still working in television.

Side Effects features Jude Law and Rooney Mara in a complicated doctor-patient relationship that ultimately leads to a much greater conspiracy after a tragic incident occurs while Emily (Mara) is under the influence of a new pharmaceutical drug that her psychiatrist, Dr. Banks (Law), prescribed to her. Like most thrillers, the story reveals each layer of the plot gradually, and there are many twists and turns along the way that lead to an ultimate revealing at the end. While you may figure out some pieces of the puzzle on your own, the script is well-written enough to keep you guessing, and the production values and performances are enjoyable enough to make the ride worthwhile.

Overall, I enjoyed Side Effects, but I would really only recommend this film to those who are, in particular, fans of Soderbergh or one of the stars (I became a Rooney Mara fan after her turn as Lisbeth Salander). It is good enough on its own even if you don’t have a preference toward any of the major players involved, although I don’t see why anyone would watch this film if they weren’t—it just doesn’t present that type of mainstream appeal.

Film Review: Man of Steel (2013)

June 24, 2013

I’ve never been a big Superman fan (I haven’t seen any of the recent movies or Smallville), although my interest in Man of Steel, the new reboot helmed by Zack Snyder starring Henry Cavill, Amy AdamsMichael Shannon, and Russell Crowe was piqued after I saw the talent involved, and the serious, realistic direction the studio was taking with it.

While the movie was rather disjointed at times, it held my attention all the way through, and the metaphysical concepts behind the story were well portrayed. I found Superman’s backstory of escaping the doomed Krypton to Earth as an infant to be reflective of the fall of Atlantis, and as a star seed I found Superman’s situation growing up as an extraterrestrial on Earth to be relatable.

Overall, I would recommend Man of Steel to anyone who’s interested in Superman or sci-fi movies, but I especially recommend it to fellow star seeds—I think it will help you remember more about who you are and why you’re here.

Film Review: The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

June 18, 2013

Derek Cianfrance’s crime drama, The Place Beyond the Pines, chronicles the lives of two fathers, one a cop named Avery (Bradley Cooper), the other a criminal named Luke (Ryan Gosling), and the effect their combined actions have on their two sons in the future.

The film is segmented into three parts, the first telling Luke’s story, the second Avery’s, and the third their 17-year-old sons’. Naturally, there is an incident that interconnects all the lead characters, and although the trajectory of the film is pretty predictable, the film is gripping and poignant from beginning to end. Luke’s segment of the film is by far the most riveting, followed by Avery’s, but the last one drags on for a bit too long and loses its focus.

If you’re looking for a serious crime drama with great acting and quality production values, The Place Beyond the Pines is a worthy choice, just make sure you’re prepared for over two hours of gloominess.

Film Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

June 14, 2013

Just like J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek movie back in 2009, Into Darkness is another film that has a lot of flashy action sequences, funny quips, and epic explosions, but not too much depth or clarity. While Wrath of Khan was mainly a philosophical drama with very little action sequences beyond the mental chess game between Khan and Kirk, Into Darkness keeps the iconic characters always on the run, and never with any time to stop and think about what they’re doing.

Overall, I had a lot of fun watching Benedict Cumberbatch steal every scene he was in as the new Khan, and the constant verbal dueling between Kirk and Spock, but in the end I was left empty and tired with the plot. Just like the characters in the movie, I never had any time to let anything sink in and be processed. It was a constant jump from action scene to action scene without any real conviction of the effects caused by the character’s choices, which dampened the overall impact of the dramatic elements and made it difficult to care too much about the fate of the characters or the world they live in.

If you’re really into Star Trek or are looking for a fun and flashy sci-fi action movie, you’ll enjoy Into Darkness, but if you’re looking for more depth and focus on good writing and acting it would be better to look elsewhere, perhaps at one of these other great Star Trek classics.