Sunday, May 17, 2015

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - We are not things.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a rare gem - part reboot, part sequel (or in-between-quel?), it's another in a long line of Hollywood projects mining 80's nostalgia for box office gold. To date, this trend hasn't turned out to be particularly successful either in making many decent films or getting folks flocking to the theater.

But this one is different. It's almost like director George Miller (Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Babe 2 - yes, really) has apparently been watching Hollywood action movies for the last 30 years and grew so sick of most modern directors being frankly pretty crap at it that he made Fury Road to show everyone how it's done.

This is the real deal.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON - End of an Era

One of the biggest questions on everyone's mind after the game-changing, record-shattering, audience-wowing original was "How do you follow THAT up?"

Well, if the original movie was geek icon Joss Whedon finally showing the full oceanic expanse of the potential in bringing everything lovably loopy and dense and fantastic from the pages of comic books to blockbuster cinema, then Age of Ultron is Whedon diving into those waters head-first and seeing just how deep he can go.

And in doing so, he makes it impossible for the next guy(s) to do the same thing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

FURIOUS 7 - The Flawed and the Miraculous

By all rights, we shouldn't be here at all. It would have been easy to either rest on laurels (or end things completely) after the phenomenally enjoyable Furious 6, but a post-credits tease (casting a long-promised dangling thread in a whole new light) had this series barreling toward all new levels of insanity. However, with the tragic mid-production passing of Paul Walker, who's blond racer Brian O'Connor had been a pillar of the series to this point, this movie could have been unsalvageable.

But the folks behind and in front of the camera pulled off a miracle. Because Furious 7 is flawed and uneven, but damn is it a beautiful - and genuinely emotional - joy.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

CINDERELLA - A Perfect Fit

For years now - certainly since Dreamworks threw down the "anti-fairy tale" gauntlet with the first Shrek and arguably since the Disney Renaissance of the 90's - the in thing has been the subversion, revision, or deconstruction of traditional fairy tales. Sequels, prequels, restructurings, stories from the villain's perspective, and other approaches have lead to some great movies (2013's Frozen, for example), some admirable-if-uneven ones (last year's Maleficent) and some truly terrible ones (2010's Alice in Wonderland).

But for this year's live-action Cinderella, Disney took a different approach. With Shakespeare alum Kenneth Branagh (who also directed the first Thor) at the helm, this is a straight retelling of the story, from the friendly mice to the glass slipper. And somehow, whether through the refreshingly upfront nature of the tale or the stylistic approach of the film-maker, the result is a beautifully-told story that manages to feel old-fashioned in all the best ways without feeling regressive.

Friday, February 13, 2015

KINGSMAN: HARRY POTTER AND THE SECRET SERVICE

For a few years in the late 80's and 90's, one of the hottest names in science fiction blockbusters was an eccentric Dutchman named Paul Verhoven (Robocop, Total Recall). Part of the director's appeal - apart from a contagious enthusiasm for splatterific violence - was the way the films balanced wild appeasement of the id while also being a lot smarter than they let on. The mix of genre-savvy idea-driven film-making and biting satire were sometimes so skillfully folded into his movies that some missed the joke entirely (see: the initial reactions to Starship Troopers).

The reason I bring this up in relation to a spy movie from a different director? Because, in short, Matthew Vaughn is playing the exact same sort of game. And doing a damn good job of it too.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Films That Salvaged 2014

This year was a pretty terrible. I mean that in general (lots of nasty stuff souring my favorite hobbies, like GamerGate and the death of some childhood movie icons, not to mention awful, toxic, racist stuff in our legal/law enforcement systems), as well as some personal stuff that hit me hard. But when asked, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the theater?" I at least have a few answers.

Because 2014 was a really really good year for movies. The financial headlines will make hay about how box office was down significantly from the last couple of years, but across the board - from big studio films to smaller dramas and quirky genre movies - this was a great time at the cinema. Considering the total ****-show that this year was, I'll take what bright spots I can find.

So here are the Films That Salvaged 2014 for me - as well as what was awful, what was surprising, and what was just plain awesome.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF TOO MANY COOKS

Eleven years ago to the day, a minor miracle happened. With the release of The Return of the King, Peter Jackson not only finished an ambitious film trilogy (filmed as a single project over more than a year of shooting), but managed the double-tap of a worthy adaptation of fantasy literature AND a genuinely great cap to a film series. And as trilogies like The Godfather can attest, sticking the landing can be a hell of a thing.

I bring this up in relation to the third and final film based on the Lord of the Rings prelude The Hobbit because. . . well frankly, The Battle of the Five Armies relishes referencing its own bigger, better siblings at every opportunity.

As to whether Jackson managed to stick the landing again? Short answer: sort of.