Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

This movie was actually really good, a hell of a lot better than I ever expected. It may well be my favorite of the Avengers series, it's definitely up there with Iron Man. Honestly, everything about this movie just clicks. It's well humored, well acted, the action is entertaining, and the plot, while silly at times, never comes across as overly cheesy, which it very easily could have.

Despite being an origins story, this movie doesn't feel like an origins story. We don't have to go through the whole process of seeing Steve Rogers getting used to his new powers, because really, he's the exact same guy he's always been. The only difference is that, after gaining his powers, he now has a physical outlet in which to do the things he's always mentally stood for in the first place. And since origins stories are so overdone these days, it was refreshing to be able to pretty much gloss over that whole aspect.

Chris Evans does a great job as Captain America. And, well, honestly, everyone does a great job in their roles. Tommy Lee Jones especially stood out. I was pleased to see he was included in so much of the film, as he has a tendency to steal scenes, and puts in his contribution for funniest line of the year.

There's several scenes that pretty much poke fun at certain tropes that other movies go for, making you groan as you initially think the film's headed for one direction, only to steer back on course in satisfying fashion. The romance plot is especially handled well in this regard. It really could have gone so horribly wrong, but it's never forced and they managed to pull it off quite well.

And they also managed to pull off skinny Rogers, who always stood out as awkward and misplaced in the trailers. I was really not looking forward to these earlier scenes going in because they looked so bad, but they seriously fixed him up for the final film. He looks completely natural here.

By far my favorite part of the movie was the USO sequence, a montage which in itself sold me on this movie. Just everything about it was so lovely, Cap's obviously goofy suit, the bright colors, the patriotic music, Cap punching out Hitler. Really, this scene, as well as another montage later on of Cap and the boys in action, really drive home the propaganda elements that this movie is going for and cement it in the time period it takes place in.

If there's one thing this movie didn't do right, though, it was the ending sequence, where they essentially moved the after credits scene to before the credits, forcing in the Avengers tie-in. I would have preferred if this could work more as a stand alone and they left it after the credits where it could be more easily ignored, but the last line in the movie is almost enough to save this scene, so it's not that big of a hindrance.

I really enjoyed this movie, which was such a pleasant surprise. I've been left somewhat disappointed by so many comic book movies lately that it was a real treat to finally come across one that truly nailed it. Captain America - FUCK YEAH!

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Different Take

Okay, personal blog time.

As of 7AM this morning, I have exited the workforce. It's been something I've been planning for a while, trying to figure out how exactly to go about it. I came to the realization that, not only was I not happy at my job, but I wouldn't be happy at any job, because every job that I've been at has been the same thing. I get to a point where I'm so stressed out, whether it's with management, the company, or customers, that I just flat out don't wanna do it anymore.

It's more than unhappy, really, it was downright miserable, and I knew that something wasn't quite right. I was just going in circles, jumping from job to job until I spiraled right back down to that same point of rage and depression. But this last time that it happened, I didn't even bother looking for a replacement job to jump over to, just to have the cycle repeat itself all over again. I decided that it was time for a change in my life, and a fairly major one at that.

In some ways I feel like I've wasted the last six years of my life, though that's not completely true. I've gained a world of knowledge and experience, and I've even gained inspiration for some of my stories I'm working on. So it hasn't all been for naught, and that inspiration is truly going to come in handy now, because that's exactly the rout I intend to take.

As of this moment, I am a full time writer. I am also, for all intents and purposes, unemployed. Though I've saved up enough money to live off of for a while, and I've also been blessed with loving, supporting family who are helping me out as well. But now, without a job to suck all of the energy out of me every single day (or night), I have no more excuses, and no more distractions. It's time to buckle down and get this writing thing going.

I've already got a slew of projects I intend to get started on, with plans that would hopefully help me get my foot in a door somewhere. And in the meantime, I'm still trying to get my completed novel published as well, so we'll see how that goes.

I do have other goals in my career, but for right now, I want to focus on perfecting this craft and making it in this industry before I move on to those other things. It sounds easy enough at first, writing at home all day. This isn't going to be a cakewalk, though, I already know that. But I'm definitely up for the challenge, and I'm super excited for what lies ahead in my future.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

So it's the big conclusion to the movie series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. And while I wouldn't call it a bad movie, it certainly has its problems, and it's a bit of a shame that the series couldn't have ended on a higher note.

The main issue with this movie is the pacing. I blame this mostly on the fact that they essentially split the final story into two parts. Part 1's only real issue (which was a minor one at that) was that it ended a bit anticlimactically. With this one, the beginning is really jarring, throwing you right into the action and never letting up for quite some time. This movie is very action heavy, and it just goes and goes, never giving you a moment to catch your breath.

Now granted, all of the action is entertaining enough, and the effects are particularly awesome this time around. But everything else takes a backseat to the action, and the film oftentimes feels rushed as a result. For instance, in previous installments, Ron and Hermione are just as much main characters as Harry himself. But here, they're little more than supporting cast, while most everyone else around them is lucky to share even a few moments on the screen.

But what I think has stood out within the movies are actually the slower moments, when the movies take their time and show us a little more of their human side. That's when these movies really come to life. And that holds true even in this installment, as the only real standout scene sure enough happens later in the movie when it finally puts the action on hold for a little bit, and we learn about Snape's history.

While I complained about Part 1's anticlimactic ending, it at least had the excuse that it was only the first half of a story. This movie has no such excuse. The finale is very underwhelming, with the only satisfying moment coming at the hands of Neville of all people.

And the epilogue, wow. It apparently takes place 19 years after the events of the main story, but they didn't even attempt to age our actors. They're supposed to be in their mid- to late-thirties, yet they all look clearly in their early twenties, which just looks ridiculous and is hard to ignore. I wanna know what spell they're using to age so well! But even that arguably minor complaint aside, I just don't see why it was necessary to include. Sure, it may have been in the books, but from what I've heard it wasn't very popular there, and it certainly didn't work here either to provide a satisfying close for the series.

It sounds like I'm complaining a lot about this movie, which I suppose I am, but I was really left disappointed overall with what we got. And especially coming off of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows: Part 1, which were both great movies in their own right and, in my opinion at least, by far the best in the series, it kind of sucks to see the series take such a dip in quality for the big finale. It's still an overall enjoyable experience, though, so I'm not not recommending the movie. I'm just saying to maybe lower your expectations a little.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Green Lantern

So this has become this year's go-to hate movie, and now I feel somewhat obligated to step up in its defense. I liked this movie. It wasn't great, but it certainly wasn't all that bad, either.

Going in, the most interesting looking parts of the movie were all of the scenes in space, while everything on Earth really didn't look good at all. But after seeing it, I actually thought everything was entertaining in their own right, even the Earth scenes, so I was pleasantly surprised about that. But entertaining as it all was, yes, the film has some issues. It's overly silly at times, there are scenes that are entirely pointless, the love interest is given a little too much importance, and there are some editing issues from time to time. Now, that said, this movie openly acknowledges almost all of these issues, and even pokes fun at itself for them. And that's really why I don't have a problem with this movie.

My personal biggest gripe with the movie was the constant back and forth cuts earlier on between our hero, Hal, and the villain, Hector. This was initially jarring to watch, but as the parallel between these two character became more and more apparent, not only did this no longer become an issue for me, I actually kinda liked that they did it. Hal and Hector are exact opposites of one another in every sense of the word, and they go down their separate paths at the same time, so cutting back and forth and seeing how each reacts to these different changes actually works out well.

Another minor issue was Hal's mask while as the Green Lantern, which honestly does little to actually hide his identity. There's a scene where he approaches his old girlfriend's window, and while watching this, I'm pretty sure everyone in the audience was thinking that there's no way she can't tell who he is. Sure enough, just as we're all thinking that, the woman recognizes him, and all is well again.

But this kind of thing keeps happening, such as the first time Hal uses his Green Lantern powers. It looks so cheesy and goofy, but the characters in the movie actually mock him for being so cheesy and goofy. It embraces its own shortcomings, making it a hard movie to hate... well, for me, at least!

I also mentioned there being scenes that serve no purpose, and while I don't have much of a defense for them, all I can suggest is to just not put too much thought into it. The movie knows what it is, and it never even attempts to take itself seriously or be anything more than that. It's really just an all around fun, occasionally dumb film at the end of the day, and because of this, I honestly can't see why everyone's chosen to hate on it so much.

Disappointing weekend at the movies

I saw two new movies this weekend and, well, neither of them were all that good. So fair warning, I've got a couple of negative reviews in store this time.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

So surprising even to me, I actually didn't really like this movie. I didn't hate it, but I felt it was by far the weakest of the three movies. After the first two, I instantly felt that I had to see them again. With this one, though, it was hard enough sitting through the first half one time, I couldn't imagine doing it again.

That's basically where this movie suffers, there's about a good hour that really should have been cut out. Things start interesting enough in the beginning, when they're talking about the moon landing and tying it together with the Transformers arriving to Earth. But after that whole sequence, the movie begins to drag. We pretty much figure out what's happening early on, but the film feels need to drill the point home over and over, and it drags on so much that by the time the action finally starts, I just really don't even care anymore.

And when the action does start, it just didn't feel right somehow. For one thing, the focus is placed far more on the human characters than ever before, relegating the actual Transformers to the background for the most part. But also, it just wasn't as exciting. For instance, Optimus' little rampage in the trailer gave me goosebumps every time I saw it. But here, it did absolutely nothing for me, and that's sort of how I felt about all of the action. It just felt a little deflated, even if it was more coherent than the previous movies.

Concerning the Transformers, as little as we see them, they, too, don't feel right. Optimus Prime in particular is completely out of character in this movie. He's supposed to be a merciful being, but here he's not just merciless, he's straight up blood-lusted. And yeah, his change in attitude is certainly justified, but it's just not right. It goes completely against his character as its been established not only in the film franchise, but in every other medium as well. But not all of the Transformers were off, we actually got to see a little more of Starscream's character this time, which is always a treat.

I will say this, though, the love interest is about a million times more likable than Megan Fox ever was, but that's honestly the only thing this movie has over its predecessors. Some of the humor works, some of it doesn't, some scenes are cool (Sam being ejected from a transforming Bumblebee was awesome), but a lot of it falls flat. I don't really have much else to say, it was what it was, but this time I actually left the theater disappointed.

The Tree of Life

Wow, whoever said this movie was pretentious nonsense wasn't lying. Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life is completely obnoxious and full of itself, and it left me rolling my eyes and groaning just about every other minute with its pointless artsy-fartsyness.

The thing is, there's actually a potentially decent movie hidden underneath all of this mess. Really, there's about a good 90 minutes of random shots of nature and shiny, cloudy things that could have easily been cut out. This is especially intrusive during an entire sequence portraying the evolution of the world which really probably should go. In the end, it just sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn't really fit. I understand what he was going for with it, what with the whole "life goes on" message and all, and I can actually see why he tried to include it. But it was just executed so poorly. It was so boring, and it dragged on for so, so long.

Really, that's the major problem with this movie, it never gets to the point. Scenes just drag on and on and on and on, and when it finally looks like its getting somewhere, guess what? It doesn't. Nope, just keeps going, and by the time we finally do get to the point, I'm completely removed from the movie.

At times this movie almost becomes a drinking game. I almost wish I saw this with some people, because I kept screaming in my head every time he cut to a random shot of nature. "Tree!" or "water!" And when he cut to the sunflowers at the end, I literally facepalmed and almost walked out right then and there. Not that it would make a difference, the movie's all but over by that point, though it's not like that was the first time I was considering walking out. But no, that shot wasn't clever, that was ridiculous, and I wasn't the only one in the theater who thought so, as someone behind me was laughing hysterically throughout the entire ending sequence (which totally wasn't intended to be funny at all).

But like I said, there actually is a potentially interesting story to be told here, and interesting concepts to be explored, they're just not executed well at all. In the beginning, we're introduced to a mother and father who receive news that one of their sons has died. We then see how they, as well as their eldest son, relive their past and try to cope with this loss and come to terms with everything leading up to the moment of his death.

The main story of the eldest son growing up with his increasingly strict and borderline abusive father, and how his father's actions chip away at the family little by little is legitimately interesting. Seeing the effects this has on everyone, and watching the evolution the eldest son undergoes, and how this effects his own relationship with his younger brother, really is almost fascinating at times. Brad Pitt, who plays the father, is by far the standout of this movie. His character is the most intriguing, especially given how he's introduced at first as this really caring guy, only to see that raising his kids, he really was just a straight up asshole. But I think seeing this evolution of his character really did strengthen our earlier impression of him, seeing how regretful he's become for his actions.

None of that matters when the rest of the movie is nearly unwatchable, however. Malick tried way too hard to be artsy, and his movie suffers tremendously for it. This is admittedly a very polarizing movie, with everyone who sees it either absolutely loving it, or completely hating it. I just happen to fall under the latter group, though I know plenty of people who did enjoy this film, so take that for whatever it's worth.