Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Avengers (movie)

Once again I have been super busy so my reviews have slipped (in quantity but never quality). I will try to be better folks but working 60+ hours a week makes even things like typing and seeing movies difficult.

I have already written one review about a Joss Whedon film once this year which got high marks (Cabin in the Woods) and I seem to be on a Whedon kick (I'm watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) That said I was a bit ambivalent about seeing The Avengers. Not that it looked bad or that the reviews were bad (quite to the contrary actually), but more because I'm not a huge fan of Marvel's Avengers.... although I do love me some Tony Stark/Iron Man *drool*. But the Hulk, Captain America and Thor or the other two (Black Widow and Hawkeye) were never heroes that I grew up with or truly cared for (neither was Iron Man until Robert Downy Jr.). I was a Batman, Wolverine, and Spider-man fan. So when my mom came to visit me in late June and offered to take me to a movie I figured The Avengers would be an excellent choice - mainly to see the big blockbuster on the big screen for free (thanks mom). And I was thrilled with it. The Avengers ended up being incredibly witty, well written, and surprisingly true to the characters' history and personalities. I'll break this down by character and then plot:

Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk: I was really worried about this actor/character pairing. The Hulk has gone through numerous interpretations starting with Eric Bana then progressing to Edward Norton but neither of whom got it quite right. Bana being way too bland and Norton being well, just an odd choice. Mark Ruffalo combines the perfect amount of brainy, compassionate doctor with the knee-jerk reaction to go from calm, civil, and withdrawn to angry and green and busting out of pants, jacket and shirt. Dr. Bruce Banner, a super smart scientist (physicist to be specific) who had an "accident" resulting in him being... well, hulking, green, and very angry. Ruffalo present his version of the Hulk as more Jeckyll and Hyde like in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where they can hear each other in the other's dominant state, although it's not seen much in the movie. Ruffalo also plays an excellent reserved, but suffering man with anger-management issues. He is often paired up with Tony Stark/Iron Man due to their common backgrounds in science and genius statuses. The Hulk's opposites are Captain America and Black Widow who are driven by loyalty and duty which is what he runs from. 

Robert Downy Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man: Ah the perfect pairing. Sarcastic, aloof, arrogant but somehow charming. Unlike the Hulk, Stark retains his whole personality in or out of his Iron Man suit. Stark has already been redeemed in his own movies Iron Man & Iron Man 2 so this movie isn't really about him. He is however one of the brains that drives this movie. He helps Dr. Banner accept the Hulk but doesn't get along well with Thor and most notably Captain America although he will (obviously) have to depend on them sometime in the movie. 

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Capt. America: Steve Rogers was an unlikely hero being too small to actually enlist in the military - which was his desire. Instead he was allowed to enlist and participate in an experiment which would turn him into a super solider. It buffs him up and gives him better endurance and better healing.... I don't know. I really could care less about Captain (sorry Cap't.). Anyways, he got trapped in a nuclear submarine in one of the World Wars and was recovered only recently. His stint in the Avengers Initiative is his first real foray back into the real world. His gets along with Black Widow due to their mutual commitment but due to his dedication he is estranged from the Hulk/Banner and Iron Man/Stark.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor: Chris Hemsworth is a very pretty man. Well, alien.. from a planet where the Norse gods live.... kinda. Don't ask me I'm not a Thor expert. He was expelled from his home planet and crash-landed on earth and fell for Natalie Portman while saving the Earth from his evil brother Loki (who - coincidentally is the bad guy again this time around). He, like Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye are all motivated by duty - yes, to different things but it gives them the same goals. Thor feels guilty that again it is his brother (well, adoptive brother) who has put in the world in jeopardy and he has to balance the inner turmoil of the pity and pain he feels for his little brother and having to save the world again - whereas it's just professional for everyone else.

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow & Jermey Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Scarlett Johansson is carrying over her role as Black Widow from Iron Man 2 and although I think she and her alter-ego are well paired... I guess I'm just not sure she was entirely necessary for the movie (although they did try and her essential). I get the same feeling about Hawkeye... maybe it's because they seem like such second class heroes without real powers (don't shot me if I get this wrong - as I said, I don't really know much about these two). Regardless, I think that although they could have been written out easily, I like their plot lines and chemistry. 

Alright, on to plot! Loki, Thor's evil "brother", has new allies in this movie and decides that he's going to throw a major tantrum on Earth to piss off Thor. So Loki steals some alien technology which is supposed to be able to make a bridge across universes and be able to transfer matter - in this case an alien invasion. Next comes the gathering of the heroes - some of which is easy, most of which is not. From the difficulties in recruiting to the conflicting personalities and ideologies - the team fails in their original objective and must somehow pull together to actually kick some alien ass. After about 10 minutes in, I could not stop laughing. Seriously, I was the only one in the theater who would chuckle, bark out laughter, and just chortle with mirth and glee. And some of my favorite moments were with the Hulk. They took the traditional catch phrase of the Hulk: "Hulk smash!" and gave it to Captain America - making it an order. I know it sounds stupid but was hilarious. I give 5 out of 5 stars to The Avengers

Check out the trailer here!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

review: Snow White & the Huntsman (movie)

I was on the fence about this movie. I mean sure - it looks with amazing, gorgeous, expensive special effects. Hell, even the actors are pretty (minus Kristen Stewart - ironic since she's supposed to be the fairest of them all). But, I'm not a huge fan of the Snow White story either - it was always my second least favorite of  the Disney movies (with Alice in Wonderland being my least favorite). I guess I was hopping that the awesomeness of the special effects would balance out my dislike for Kristen Stewart and my preconceived notions of the Snow White story.

So the hotness quotient is there: Chris Hemsworth plays the Huntman - a total hunk; he played Thor in both the self-titled movie Thor and The Avengers. And then there's Charlize Theron, GORGEOUS, who plays the queen, Ravenna and she's been in so many movies I'm not going to bother listing more than her two of her recent ones: Prometheus and Hancock. You already know my opinion on Kristen Stewart and, needless to say although I'll say it anyways, Kristen Stewart makes me want to hurl, particularly for her involvement in The Twilight Saga, although her performance wasn't all that inspired in Snow White and the Huntsman. She's no the fairest of them all in any stretch of the imagination. Actually this comic describes my feeling perfectly. Kristen Stewart is perfect playing a frozen, sickly, depressed, prisoner princess but hopeful or inspiring or even happy isn't exactly her cup-o-tea. 

And while Chris Hemsworth is a very pretty man, his dialogue with Stewart is less than stellar. In fact it's so jilted and awkward, it makes me wish for the silent parts where there's just pretty special effects. Stewart's mouth hangs open almost the entire movie (no covering her buck teeth for that would ruin the "fairest" bit) and there are so many shots of face and over-acting eyebrows it's a little disturbing. There's also no depth to either of them. Theron's Ravenna has a lot of depth but then she just kinda goes off the deep end which means that there are no relateable main characters - the closest of which is William, Snow White's childhood friend and other love interest.

There were things I liked in this movie: the effects, the costumes, the music, the explanation for the step-mom evilness and the Disney nods that were included. The music was great and fit well with the film's composition. James Newton Howard was the composer and he's done some great soundtrack (Treasure Planet, I Am Legend, both of Nolan's Batman movies [with Hans Zimmer], and The Hunger Games). The Disney nods within the movie included Snow White's puffy sleeves with red inserts and then the run through the dark forest with the trees with creepy faces  - although in this version it's the fault of some "magic" mushrooms. The biggest draw for this flick were the special effects. No matter how stupid the rest of the movie is, the effects were amazing. It's like Avatar, plot wasn't great but you saw it for the amazing effects or the first movie with a wide-spread 3D release. Ravenna was one of the saving graces of this film. She had Charlize Theron playing her, kick-ass costumes, and an interesting twist from the classic "evil step-mother" Disney vibe.

The thing that really bothered me was the Christian prayer that Snow White says in the tower. It sets the theme for the entire movie. Any good magic is then considered righteous and probably one of God's miracles while Ravenna is seen as evil (well, to be fair she is) but her magic is a perversion. The only exception is the weird, Mononoke-esque deer in the forest which is obviously a good portent. That and the weird fairies... So, basically only Christian miracles are good magic. Ug, pissed me off so much.

Anyways, I give Snow White & the Huntsman 2 out of 5 stars for beautiful special effects but crappy plot, bad acting, and stupid, unnecessary Christian overtones.

Check out the trailer here!