Friday, May 31, 2013
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto
May 16, 2013
2 hours 13 minutes
When 'Star Trek' was released back in 2009, it brought the beloved characters and universe to an entirely new generation, as well as to an entirely new type of audience: the modern moviegoer. So it only made sense for J.J. Abrams to make a sequel to that hit first film in order to expand on the new story and pay homage to the original series. This sequel is called 'Star Trek: Into Darkness,' and the USS Enterprise definitely are going boldly where no other 'Star Trek' film has gone before: the third dimension. Not only is this film being released in 3D, but select scenes were shot with IMAX cameras, which basically implies that IMAX is THE way to see this film. Sure enough, IMAX does add to the experience overall, as does 3D. However both aren't needed to enjoy the film, because 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' is a superb sequel that is equivalent in quality to the original, maybe even better.
James T. Kirk is now the captain of the USS Enterprise, managing all of the crew members on board. After an unfortunate mishap regarding responsibility, Kirk is reinstated due to a new terrorist threat coming on the rise. This terrorist threat is known as John Harrison. There's something about John Harrison that's just off, and Kirk wants to know what his master plan is. Turns out that there's an even bigger plot that's brewing up within Star Fleet, and it's up to Kirk and his crew to stop it before John Harrison takes over and wrecks havoc on the entire world.
J.J. Abrams really does have an understanding of the original source material. He's able to take the classic characters and special easter eggs placed throughout the film and make them enjoyable for any audience member going to see it. The writers of the film, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, clearly understood the original series and made it as fresh as ever, with some great twists, fun action sequences, and fantastic character development. All of the actors do a solid job in their roles and bring the emotion and fun-ness of each character, especially Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Benedict Cumberbatch, as Pine, Spock, and John Harrison respectively. Due to the release of 'After Earth' this weekend, this film is losing a lot of IMAX theaters. Honestly, if you can see it in IMAX, see it in IMAX. The IMAX shot sequences are spectacular and add to the fun of this movie. Even fi you don't see it in IMAX, or even 3D, 'Star Trek: Into Darkness' is high octaine summer fun that is definitely worth seeing in a theater.
PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
World War Z
Ender's Game (IMAX)
Man of Steel (IMAX)
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
May 31, 2013
Fox Searchlight Pictures
1 hour 56 minutes
Brit Marling really knows how to stay loyal to her friends and make great films with them in the process. In 2011, Marling teamed with Mike Cahill to make 'Another Earth,' which won the Alfred P. Sloan prize at Sundance that year. The other film she released at Sundance that year, entitled 'Sound of My Voice,' was released over a year later and was more thrown into theaters rather than being given the marketing and audience it deserved. A year after that, Marling has teamed up with the director/co-writer of 'Sound of My Voice,' named Zal Batmanglij, to co-write and star in a new film entitled 'The East.' From the trailer, which thankfully doesn't show anything other than a montage of footage and the opening of the film's voiceover from Ellen Page's character Izzy, one would expect a full on corporate thriller straight through. That is not the case here. Instead, the result is something much better than the typical Hollywood thriller.
Sarah Ross is an undercover operative for a private intelligence firm called Hiller Brood. She has a seemingly nice life, with a good guy in her life, a nice job, and stuff like that. As part of her job, Sarah is willing to do anything to protect the clients of Hiller Brood, no matter how extreme the case is. Her boss, Sharon, assigns her to go undercover and infiltrate a eco-terrorist organization who call themselves "The East." At first, she has no idea what she's gotten herself into. As time goes on though, she integrates with the group and befriends the groups leader Benji. Living with The East though stsrts to change Sarah, making it seem that maybe Hiller Brood is the real terrorist organization and The East, whose actions or "jams" against these companies might be a little extreme, might actually be onto something in trying to make the world a better place.
Seriously, Brit Marling is one of the most talented people working in Hollywood today. Her performance in this film is riveting and engaging at the same time. I said in my review for 'Another Earth' that Marling gave a performance similar to Jennifer Lawrence in her Academy Award nominated performance in 'Winter's Bone.' In this film, she is comparable to Jessica Chastain in 'Zero Dark Thirty' in a way, showing a more determined and fierce side of her that hasn't been shown before. Her performance in this movie is one of the best performances of 2013 so far, without a doubt. Not only can she act, however, but she can also write engaging and sometimes disturbing original stories.
Marling and director Zal Batmanglij (pronounced baat-man-gleege) co-wrote this film together and based it on a summer they spent together where they lived for free in Los Angeles. eating food out of dumpsters (there's a reason for it explained in the film, so don't get grossed out) and taking the train for no cost at all. During the Q&A after my screening of the film, Batmanglij said that just about everything in this film was based on true things that actually happened involving big corporate companies. This includes water poisoning, awful side effects in drugs, and other things in that nature. I applaud Marling and Batmanglij for making the latest wake up call to the environment and everyone living inside it. Speaking of Batmanglij, this was quite a different directorial effort compared to his last film, in a good way though.
The film 'Sound of My Voice' was such a small movie, not just in its release, but also the atmosphere of it. At the same time though, the small environment in a way helped increase the tension between characters and help you step into this cult much easier. While this film for the most part is a small film, there are sequences that feel like a big Hollywood action film without all of the special effects and explosions. Batmanglij's direction is superb in the film, mainly because he knows when to make the film feel like a fun Hollywood thriller and when to give the film some time to let it show off its characters. This guy is one of the pioneers of a new generation of filmmaking, and may possibly get an Oscar nomination for a movie of his someday. Frankly I would love to see this get some awards recognition, but there are a lot of movies out there this year so this may be kicked into the sidelines with other potential nominees. 'The East' is only his second film, yet the potential to awards success is clearly in the pudding.
The rest of the cast was not as great as Marling, but still electrifying as hell. Alexander Skarsgård played the most complex and most interesting character of the supporting cast, named Benji. Benji is the leader of The East and has motives to do these jams that are truly shocking and awesome at the same time. Skarsgård's character is so fascinating to watch mainly because he's such a believable and intriguing character, so much so that you want to root for him at the same time you want to be against him. Equally great is Ellen Page as Izzy, Benji's second in command, so to speak. Page gives an engaging and great performance that makes audiences remember why she was nominated for an Oscar for 'Juno.' Patricia Clarkson also delivered on a solid antagonistic-esque role whose role in Sarah's undercover life gets even more interesting as the film progresses. Another person who should be lauded for their work in the film is Shiloh Fernandez, who plays Luca, another member of the eco-terrorist group. Fernandez in this film is quite charming, as well as really cool. Overall the entire supporting cast is fantastic, with no weak performances whatsoever.
'The East' is the type of movie that with further thinking, you may like it more. That's what happened to me personally. I saw this movie back in April, and after the film my father and I had a pretty deep conversation about what we had both seen. This is a film that will spark up many conversations, and for good reason too. There are things I picked up on days after seeing the film. This is THE thinker's movie of 2013. Not only is this film thrilling and engaging, but it's also thought provoking and stellar. Big props go out to Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij for writing, starring, and directing in this movie. There are scenes that are strange but intriguing, as well as scenes that may have you scratching your head. 'The East' is one of those movies that requires multiple viewings in order to fully process it. I, for one, can't wait to go see this film again.
WeLiveFilm founder Scott Menzel and myself with the star/co-writer of 'The East,' Brit Marling at a special early screening of the movie in Philadelphia, PA!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
May 24, 2013
20th Century Fox,
Blue Sky Studios
1 hour 42 minutes
There have only been two other animated films to have come out in 2013 so far, and only one of them, 'The Croods,' was worth going to see. The fact that there have been very little animated/family movies to be released this year is disappointing, so to see that something like 'Epic' is coming out is both a nice sight and a bad one. On one hand, the animation looks stunning and there is some decent talent behind it, including 'Ice Age' and 'Rio' director Chris Wedge and stars Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz. On the other hand, however, the jokes look terrible, the story looks like something we've seen before, and there are voice talents that have little to no acting experience, including music superstars Steven Tyler and Pitbull. After seeing the film, I can say that 'Epic,' while not perfect or an animation masterpiece, is a surprisingly enjoyable family movie that does have its moments of excitement and clever humor, despite a forced romance and a subplot that has no relevance to the film until the very end.
Teenager Mary Katherine, or MK as she likes to be called, is moving in with her father, a crazy man obsessed with finding the "little people" living in the woods behind his house, after her mother passed away. It's clear that these two don't have the best relationship, since the father is too obsessed with his work and MK just wants to find some closure. After MK stumbles upon a little flower on the ground, she is magically shrunken down and transported to the world of the little people her father has been going on about for years. These tiny people, or "leaf men" as they like to be called, are on a mission to protect that little flower, which has taken a holding onto MK, from the rotting villains of the forrest, and make sure it blooms so it can become the new queen of the forrest. If the rotting baddies get ahold of this queen to be, then it could become the dark prince of the forrest and destroy life in the forrest, and the world, as they know it.
Even if their movies aren't the greatest, it's hard to deny that the movies at Blue Sky look absolutely stunning. Every character in this film has their own unique look, and some are designed more uniquely than others. Even the most minor of characters have some type of trait that makes one just say "wow" while watching. I even admire their use of 3D. This is one of the very few time when a 3D kids movie never had a single moment where something pops out at the screen. Instead, the audience just straps in and gets transported into this gorgeous world with a lot of depth and clarity. It's about time animated movies didn't go all the way in terms of making a goofy kids film. Sadly though, there are a fair amount of unfunny jokes that take away from the film overall.
Whenever the film tries to strive in the humor department, the result is just about as mediocre as any unfunny kids movie can be. For the most part, a lot of the jokes fall flat, especially when the film is trying to make a stupid pun or a bathroom reference. The funniest stuff in the film actually comes from a three legged dog in the film. That's mostly physical humor, but that stuff just made me laugh. The film even lacks originality in terms of the plot. There's an unneeded romance that's thrown in there for the hell of it, a subplot that has little to no significance in the film until the end, and a story that, in a way, has been done before. Still though, the film manages to break past all of those errors to make a harmless and enjoyable enough animated flick worth seeing with the family.
The voice cast overall is just decent. There are some good performances from the actors, and some forgettable and bland performances as well. The actors who fall in the bland category include Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, and even Christoph Waltz. Sure, their roles were fine for what they were, but honestly, anyone could have played those characters and the film would have stayed exactly the same. The four are all very talented overall, but their talents weren't taken full advantage of in this film. The best performances overall came from Jason Sudekis, Beyonce Knowles, and surprisingly enough, Steven Tyler. These actors actually seemed to have fun with their roles and did it because they wanted to entertain the children, and not entertain themselves with money. Sure, there are a lot of talented actors in this film, but sadly very few of them show any passion in their performances.
While 'Epic' has its fair share of flaws, it is a somewhat enjoyable family film. It has all the elements of a bad kids movie present, including a useless subplot, a forced romance, and very weak comedy. However, it does have outstanding visuals, clever ideas about the forrest and the motion of humans and tiny insects, a decent enough cast, and some fun battle sequences. The pros of this film luckily outweigh the cons ever so slightly enough to give this movie a mild recommendation. It's nowhere near as good as the original 'Ice Age' flick, but it is far superior to 'Continental Drift,' so that alone is a good thing. While this isn't the most original and most spectacular animated movie anyone will see, this is definitely passable entertainment that will make parents happy that their kids are happy. Plus, parents may even get a few chuckles out of this. If your kids want to see a movie, and you think 'Iron Man 3' might be a little too intense, then 'Epic' has the perfect amount of humor, adventure, and heart to satisfy any family with small children.
PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:
Saturday, May 18, 2013
The Great Gatsby
May 10, 2013
Warner Bros. Pictures
2 hours 23 minutes
Baz Luhrmann is like a man on an acid trip: he sees pretty colors and imagines glossy and stylistic things happening all around him in a spectacular fashion. He portrays that in practically all of his movies, from the crazy "Young Hearts Run Free" sequence in 'William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet' to the first 30 minutes of 'Moulin Rouge.' Now Luhrmann is back with his take on an adaptation of what's considered to be THE great American novel, 'The Great Gatsby.' Instead of this film being a deadly serious and strict retelling of the book, the style of Luhrmann takes the story and turns it into a glossy, stunning, and exhilarating party film... for the first 45 minutes. After that, the film does turn into a stylish yet serious drama that is captivating, but not as spectacular as the first 45 minutes. Still though, the film is well acted, well directed, fascinating to watch, and overall an entertaining movie that brings the roaring 20's back in style.
The year is 1922. The music is jazz. The city of New York is jumping with parties and technology. Nick Carraway has just bought a home in New York for the summer to spend time with his cousin Daisy and her husband John. Next door to Nick is a huge mansion with lights flashing, music booming, and party's happening every single night. The host of those parties is a man named Jay Gatsby, who is so mysterious that nobody knows who he really is, until Nick meets him. From there, the two form an interesting relationship that also connects Nick's cousin Daisy, who shares a deep and intimate history with Gatsby. Tales of love, friendship, partying, and adultery all fold out from there.
The acting in this film overall is top notch. Leonardo DiCaprio I don't think has ever done a bad performance at all in his life. With the character of Gatsby, DiCaprio loses himself and literally becomes the character so much so that we don't see Leo the actor, but we see only Gatsby. It's not his best performance, but it does show how much range Leo does have and how he is without a doubt one of the best actors working today. Tobey Maguire also delivers a strong performance as Nick Carraway.
I believe that Maguire is one of those actors that, if given the right opportunity, could pull off an Academy Award worthy performance. His performance as Carraway isn't deep, but there is emotion and it does show off a side of Maguire that was never featured in the 'Spider-Man' movies. Joel Edgerton is also great playing the main antagonist of the story. Ususally shown as a protagonist, Edgerton really shows his rangte in acting and proves that he can play more than just the likable hero. Everyone else in the film, including Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher, are all great. It's the three main guys of the cast that really bring in the scene-stealing moments.
Baz Lurhmann does indeed have a certain style with his movies. Even if one of his films stinks, it's hard to ignore how gorgeous and lush it looks, and how much the soundtrack pops. With this movie, the first 45 minutes are the gorgeous, soundtrack-inducing montage that Luhrmann is known for, and damn is it a fun time. The 3D is spectacular, and the soundtrack from producer Jay-Z is electric and works on so many levels. Once we're introduced to the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy, though, the film slows down and becomes a compelling drama. This is where the film gets weaker in quality. The film doesn't get bad, per say, but it gets dull and a little boring. It didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the film, but I wish that the film as a whole was as fun as its first 45 minutes.
Believe it or not, I have never read the actual 'Gatsby' novel prior to seeing this film. In a way, I purposely chose to do this so I could be surprised with the twists and turns the book/film take. I can imagine that the book is superior to the film, but having spoken with people who both saw the film and read the book, they said that this was an accurate enough adaptation of a once believed to be "unfilmable" book. As a whole, the film is very enjoyable, but does drag on a little. The acting is superb, especially from Leo DiCaprio. Jay-Z's soundtrack sparks the film up and makes the parties shown in the film a lot more fun than they would with old-school jazz, not that old-school jazz is bad. Luhrmann's direction is very good as a whole, but it does drag the film on a little too long and sometimes make you very antsy in your seat. Overall, 'The Great Gatsby' may not be an ideal summer flick, but it is a very enjoyable, fun, and moving movie that you won't regret seeing, especially in 3D.
PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:
The Hangover Part III
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Iron Man 3
Robert Downey Jr.,
May 3, 2013
Marvel Studios (Disney),
2 hours 10 minutes
In terms of the quality of their movies, Marvel Studios has really been kicking some serious ass in the past couple of years. Though 'Thor' and 'Captain America: The First Avenger' weren't up to par with 'X-Men: First Class' (this was a Fox movie, Marvel only co-produced it) back in 2011, the iconic superhero brand still generated two solid movies that led up to 'The Avengers' last year, and that film was a superhero masterpiece. Now it's 2013, and Marvel has decided to end the trilogy that started the "Avengers initiative" with 'Iron Man 3.' Robert Downey Jr. of course returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, who is starting to face new problems involving panic attacks, the love of his life Pepper Potts, and a new villain under the name of "The Mandarin." This is the first Marvel film to come out after 'The Avengers,' so of course there is a lot of expectations considering how 'Iron Man 2' was a disappointment to many who saw it. While this film isn't as great as 'The Avengers,' it is, without a doubt, a lot better than 'Iron Man 2.' Hell, it might be even better than the first 'Iron Man' movie! Phase 2 of Marvel's Avengers plan has started off fantastically, as 'Iron Man 3' is funny, exciting, and overall an awesome superhero movie.
Tony Stark cannot get over what went down in New York. Ever since he came hurtling out of that space wormhole, he hasn't been the same. Stark can't sleep, only wants to work, and recently has started having panic attacks. It doesn't help him when a new terrorist under the name of "The Mandarin" comes onto the scene and starts killing innocent lives and destroying buildings all over the world. Then, it becomes personal for Tony, as The Mandarin, and a face from the past named Aldrich Killian start destroying the things he loves the most, including the love from his girlfriend Pepper. Now Tony must decide what is most important to him: the suit or the man.
It's pretty safe to say that Robert Downey Jr. is a full fledged movie star altogether. He is one of those guys who not only delves deep into his characters, but also has fun while doing it. His portrayal of Tony Stark is always the best thing in the 'Iron Man' films, whether the moment's supposed to be serious or comedic. Downey Jr. said that he may not want to come back for another 'Iron Man' or even the second 'Avengers' movie in the future. While I can respect his decisions, he is still undoubtedly perfect for the role, and nobody could step in the shoes he's filled since 2008 and give the same superstar-type performance. While RDJ was the best thing about the film, the rest of the cast was also great in the film as well.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, and Jon Favareu are among the group of actors who are returning to the series as Pepper Potts, Jim Rhodes, and Smiley respectively. All are great in there roles, and there's not much else to say after that. The real guys to talk about are Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian. Without getting into any spoilers, Ben Kingsley is both sinister and hilarious as The Mandarin. Honestly that's all that can be said without going into any spoilers, so let's move on to the main villain of the film, Guy Pearce. Surprisingly enough, Pearce is great at playing a man holding a grudge on Stark, and he's really good in the film overall. There are scenes that make the audience love to hate the bad guy in this film. In a superhero movie, those are the best types of villains to have. Overall, everyone is great in the film, with Robert Downey Jr. stealing the show as always.
'Iron Man 3' is overall a superb superhero spectacle that is action-packed, hilarious, and shockingly deep at times. There are so many twists and turns in the film that one would have to go in expecting the unexpected. Director Shane Black really brought out his passionate fanboy side with this movie, giving even Chris Nolan and Joss Whedon a run for their money. I didn't see the film in 3D, due to the negative buzz surrounding it. I will tell you though, regardless of the format you see it in, this is one hell of a summer flick that you will regret missing in theaters if you do. 'Iron Man 3' is everything a superhero, or summer in general, sequel should be, and much much more than that.
PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Fast and Furious 6
White House Down
Thor: The Dark World
The Lone Ranger