Tyger, Tyger, burning bright

A den for thoughts and discussions on games, life, tigers and art.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Real American Hero

Caught the midnight screening of Captain America: the First Avenger flick today. After the credits is a nice trailer shot for the new Avengers film coming out next year. The rest of the film? Hard to comment on. It was an action-y tale of the initial rise of Cap during World War 2 and how he helped defeat the Nazis when he punched out Hitler. Oh wait, they don't do that. We get Hydra in place of Nazis and it's all about Red Skull instead of Der Fuhrer. Chris Evans did a fine job as all-American Steven Rogers. Now, did they CG the pre-operation body? Or did this guy bulk up like a steroid fiend for post-op Cap? Tommy Lee Jones is cast as the gruff and grouchy commander of the unit that Rogers eventually ends up in, Hugo Weaving portrays the German Johann Schmidt/Red Skull in a curious casting. Then again if Alan Rickman can be a German terrorist, I guess Mr. Weaving can too. Stanley Tucci plays the doctor who developed the super soldier process and comes off as grandfatherly and humorous with his little quips. We also get Howard Stark, Tony's father (or is it grandfather) played pretty well by Dominic Cooper working with the U.S. military as a technical genius. I haven't mentioned Hayley Atwell's role as Peggy Carter, the female main and to be frank, beyond a sort of "I believe in you, Steven, so you should to" role, she was pretty extraneous to the film as a whole.
The plot is a movie about a war hero. His desire to serve, the method by which he can serve, his growth from a sort of a joke into the hero we know him to be and eventually kicking ass. There's a MacGuffin early acquired by the Red Skull and it powers their technology to zap people into dust. And boy howdy do people just get vaporized. Like, War of the Worlds remake level of violence here. They insert a montage in as Cap is doing missions and I felt it detracted because clips of action are not nearly as cool as full scenes set up of assaults and fallout. Then again the film probably would have run for three hours (as it stands it's just over two, clocking in at 125 min) if we saw each of Caps missions played out in full. I don't suppose it's much of a spoiler to know the Skull's ploy is ultimately beaten and we get our Avenger tie-in involving Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury at the end (pre-credits, actually), which led to a weak ending ultimately.
It's a fine film, it falls in line with the other Avenger "prequels" we've had so far with Iron-Man and Thor. Definately not for an audience younger than 10 or so due to the level of violence.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It isn't easy, being green. Also super spy vehicles.

The new Green Lantern movie has become one of the most criticized films of this summer blockbuster season (With Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon gaining more heat) and I do not entirely agree with critics here. It isn't a dramatic work with self reflection and deep character study of Hal Jordan, but instead a pretty standard action movie with giant special effects. Does it work in that regard? Certainly! The CG here is necessary due to the power that the ring of the Green Lantern Corps. provides, which is one's imagination made manifest. There are some effects that some would consider "hokey" (such as using computers to plaster the actor's face upon a CG rendered body, why couldn't they just film the actor in the suit in front of a screen?) and the plot suffers from being all over the place as it never manages to strike a balance between the galactic problem (Parallax) versus the super-hero on Earth. (Slowly mutating scientist man) There are scenes that didn't need to be part of the film, establishing nothing for any character and introducing us to people the film will never touch on again. That said, I found the CG ring effects to be cool and the film managed to keep me entertained for its length. Oh, and I saw it in 3D, and there were times I had to take my glasses off due to eye strain and many times where the 3D felt unneeded (Like between Hal Jordan and his would-be girlfriend. Really? Why is that in 3D movie? Save it for the flight scenes. Or the fight sequences.) Ryan Reynolds makes a good Hal and Peter Sarsgaard seems to be enjoying his role as Dr. Hammond. I also thought Mark Strong as Sinestro seemed to be having a good time as the character. I felt Blake Lively (the female love interest) and Tim Robbins, unfortunately, gave relatively flat performances. The movie is slapped with a PG-13 rating, keeping it away from the younger viewers who might be more easily wow-ed by the special effects, due to the degree of violence and on-screen death. I found the movie fun enough and worth at least a matinee showing price. Just not in 3D.

The other criticized film I had the pleasure of watching was Cars 2. I had sided with the reviews on this one without having given it an honest go, accepting the claim of it being, "Pixar's worst film yet." Well, is it? Yes and no. It's not particularly groundbreaking, it doesn't invoke strong elements of emotion and pathos, and the plot seems less involved and a bit more formulaic than previous movies put out by this studio. It still does the job of giving us a spy movie set in a world of anthropomorphic automobiles. It is, however, a movie primarily focused upon Tow Mater this time instead of Lightning McQueen. Do you want to watch an hour and forty minutes of Larry the Cable Guy attempt to be a secret agent with Bond-style gadgets? If not, skip this flick. The framing device of the international races is pretty much a way to shoe horn in McQueen's character, and ultimately is superfluous to the rest of the movie. It ends up being predictable and slow, with a few comedic spots, a cameo I wasn't expecting (Bruce Campbell voices an American spy) and ultimately mediocre. It even has a few instances of on-screen death. Y'know, for children! If you've got a child in the under 10 and over 3 range they'll be squirmy during slow moments and the younger set may not be able to follow the secret agent plot, but it should keep their interest for the duration due to the silliness of Mater's antics. If you are just a fan of Pixar films, there isn't much written for adults in this installment, unless you're an avid follower of Larry's style of humor.