Friday, May 1, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon
Based on The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, James Spader, Stellan Skarsgard, James Spader, and Samuel L. Jackson

    Apart from The Force Awakens, no film in 2015 is as hotly anticipated as Age of Ultron, the penultimate film in Marvel’s Phase Two, and with good reason. The first Avengers movie is generally seen as a high watermark for superhero cinema; Marvel is coming off two of its best offerings yet with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Greek god of geekdom himself, Joss Whedon, is returning to the helm. It would have been easy for Age of Ultron to be a monumental disappointment given those expectations, so it’s a testament to the movies strength that it isn’t. While it’s not as strong as the first Avengers in some ways, in others it exceeds its predecessor and becomes a better movie than anyone could have expected.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Review

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Bowen, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro
Based on J.R.R. Tolkien
Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, and Orlando Bloom

The Battle of the Five Armies could have been the Revenge of the Sith of its disappointing prequel trilogy. The movie where, after two big misfires, the series reaches deep down inside itself to find quality that no one had any clue it had. It might not have been great, but it would have been better than what came before, and maybe even worthy of the title of “pretty good.” And while Battle of the Five Armies does fix a couple of the mistakes from those Hobbits that came before it, it focuses so much on wrapping up every running storyline from the series that it never grows a strong story of it’s own. Viewers are left with a tonally uneven film that has a lot of momentum, but no direction in which to point it, resulting in one final, dragon-sized disappointment.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Review

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro
Based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom

    While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was certainly a disappointment in comparison to The Lord of the Rings, it wasn’t necessarily a bad movie. It’s bloated length and numerous underdeveloped characters aside, it was still a well-acted movie that at least felt like it belonged in the same universe Peter Jackson had brought to the big screen in the early 2000’s. The second chapter in this inexplicable trilogy is a different story. Desolation of Smaug is not only a disappointment when compared to The Lord of the Rings, but even pales in contrast to its mediocre immediate predecessor. It’s a film that is ridiculously overlong, filled with cartoonish, overused effects, weak, over-the-top action scenes, and more failed potential than The Phantom Menace. After nearly three hours of viewers checking their watches, they’re rewarded with an astoundingly weak climax and a cliffhanger that seems designed to blackmail viewers into seeing the next movie rather than getting them to see it based on any sort of merit.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (2014)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig
Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland

    Looking back at the Hunger Games series as it stands right now, there’s a clear line of escalation. The first film was a serviceable young adult flick, the wrongheaded direction of which was evened out by a terrific central performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Catching Fire upped the ante to become a terrific blend of action and thrills that improved on the original in every way and made the wait for the final films seem much longer. Mockingjay, Part 1 kicks things up another gear, delivering something akin to a war movie. Or, rather, the first half of a war movie. Yeah, while Mockingjay 1.0 is still a worthy entry in the series, it’s still brought down by the fact that it’s only the first half of its story. It’s not as bad as something like, say, The Hobbit, but the lack of momentum and boring love triangle filler almost derail the first chapter of the final chapter of the Hunger Games series.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Big Hero 6 Review

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams
Written by Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, and Jordan Roberts
Based on Big Hero 6 by Man of Action
Starring Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Genesis Rodriguez

    Walt Disney Animation has been on a roll lately in the computer-animation department, with their latest films ranging from the incredibly clever and funny Tangled, to the incredibly original Wreck-It Ralph, to the incredibly marketable Frozen. In the same way, Marvel (which is, yes, owned by Disney) rules the box office whenever it releases a new movie, and will pretty much continue to do so until either they run out of ideas or audiences simply get tired of superheroes. Finally, someone had the bright idea to make a computer-animated Marvel movie, which would hopefully combine all the charm of a Disney film with all the excitement of a Marvel movie. The result is Big Hero 6, a movie based on a comic so obscure that it makes Guardians of the Galaxy look Batman-levels of mainstream, and which, while entertaining and fun at times, never really seems to live up to the expectations of either of its parent studios’ past work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar Review

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn

    The marketing for Interstellar was something special, managing to give tantalizing glimpses of the size, scope and plot of the movie without giving too much away. That said, most people would probably say they have a pretty good idea of what the movie is about. They would be wrong. The trailers for Interstellar barely hint at the finished product which is significantly larger in scale and more thought-provoking than anyone ever thought. What looked like a straightforward sci-fi movie about finding another planet for humanity to inhabit ends up looking more like a modern day 2001: A Space Odyssey than anything else, as it reflects on where humanity has been as well as where it could go. While it’s far from perfect, Interstellar is still an incredible ride.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dear Michael Bay (A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review)

Dear Michael Bay
A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty
Starring Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, and Tony Shalhoub

(To better get across my feeling for this particular film, I have drafted my review as a letter to producer Michael Bay. Enjoy.)

Dear Michael Bay,

    Well, I owe you an apology. After seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction, I was sure that it would stand as my least favorite movie of the summer, if not the year. I was wrong. Not that Age of Extinction was every bit as godawful as I made it out to be. No, it's still a piece of [expletive removed involving feces], and you should continue to be ashamed of yourself, but it no longer holds claim to that dreaded bottom spot. That, Mr. Bay, goes to a movie that you may not have directed, but still had a hand in: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.