May 15, 2013

Critical Capsule: Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Pain and Gain, Oblivion, Disconnect, Trance, 42

I just realized that there have been a few recent releases that I have not weighed on on here on the site. As much as I would like to review everything that I watch, regardless of where I see it, that just isn't going to happen. I am not going to say I will never do proper reviews on these films, but I thought before they get too far back in the rearview mirror, I would chime I with a little blurb on each, if you will.


First up is one of the most recent film of the bunch, Iron Man 3. I must say that I quite enjoyed this third outing for Marvel's most prominent cinematic hero. It is certainly a step up from the second film, although not nearly as thrilling as The Avengers. The movie has a different feel with director Shane Black at the helm, taking over where Jon Favreau left off. We also finally get a movie where the bad guy doesn't have a version of the arc reactor. I like how the movie balances seriousness with silly entertainment, I also like how our hero is suffering anxiety attacks in the wake of what happened in The Avengers. This sequel also gives us a nice twist on the villain that is sure to annoy a lot of people but worked great fir me, it shows that they can be true to the tone of the source while nit being a slave to it. It is a big, fun filled Summer outing tat delivers just what I wanted from it.

The early blockbuster season also sees the delayed Baz Luhrman helmed The Great Gatsby arrive. It was originally slated for a Christmas release, but was delayed for reasons I never bothered to go look for, the only thing that springs to mind would be to avoid competition with Les Miserables. I like Luhrman, I am a fan of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, but I did not care for Gatsby. As a matter of fact, I am pretty sure I fell asleep for a little bit. The movie is a visual wonder and tailor made for 3D, which is the way to see it, should you really want to. Although, when the 3D reveal is made during the titles, I half expected to see Pinhead pop up ("you opened the box, we came."). I also think the soundtrack is pretty solid with its reinventions of modern tunes with more appropriate period work. I just found, and I never read the book, that I just did not care about any of these people. Plus, I could not help but feel Tobey Maguire had an unhealthy interest in Gatsby and was a little stalkerish.

Michael Bay's first non-toy based directorial effort in awhile is the oddly entertaining Pain and Gain. The decidedly R-rated crime comedy is a really odd film. The true life story tells of a personal trainer who teams up with a couple of guys, blackmail a rich dude out of all his money, botch a murder, and have everything fall apart around them. The movie is exactly as the trailer makes it look. It is a mix of dry crime drama, over the top antics and constant hero shots. Seriously, so many hero shots, slow motion, low angle, it is crazy how many of these things are crammed in there. It is not a great movie, but it is oddly compelling, certainly entertaining, and Dwayne Johnson just steals the show. The Rock is hilarious, has a great screen presence, can be scary and comical, and is a force to be reckoned with. Not necessarily worth running out for, but it is worth a look.

Oblivion is a movie that I was looking forward to and ultimately came away with more middling feelings about it. It is a movie that comes across not as advertised, but in a good way. The movie offers an interesting look at the future, paints a compelling picture of a world devastated by a war won by the good guys but at what cost? Cruise gives us a character who always looks for something more, believes here is life left here and does not really relish going to meet the rest of humanity. Then he runs into someone who changes his way of hiking, shows him something else. This leads to the twist of the movie, one I did not see coming. I walked away thinking the effects were well done (you should read about their use of giant screens and projected footage instead of green screen), but it was a little slower and dragged than I was expecting. It caused a conflict between my enjoying where the story went and the feeling that it went nowhere fast. I suspect that I will like it more upon a second viewing. Sometimes knowing what happens leads to better understanding and more enjoyment with subsequent revisits.

Disconnect is a movie that did not make that much of an impact. It was one I knew I did not really feel like writing about, but here I am. The movie weaves together a few threads that all deal with technological terrors encroaching on our lives. In one thread there is the lonely outcast that a couple of smartass kids decide to mess with using a fake Facebook account. Another thread has a family's identity and life savings stolen. A third looks at the exploitation of youth in the adult entertainment industry. It is no a bad movie, but it seems to want to hammer it home that connections through the web are fleeting and dangerous and no good can come of it. It never really digs in to look at things from multiple angles. It was interesting to watch Jason Bateman in a dramatic role. This might be worth a video watch.

Danny Boyle follows up 127 Hours with Trance. This movie jus annoyed me. It is all about explaining what the story is only to pull the rug out and tell you what the real story is, only to swerve you again and give another story reveal. It all seems needlessly convoluted and does nothing but take you away from the characters and makes you instead wait for the next swerve. It is a shame, too, as I think Boyle is a really good director and he has a solid cast with James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson. In short, the movie is about an auctioneer who gets caught up in the theft of a painting and uses a hypnotherapist to help discover where the painting is. Or is it?

Over the past few years I have spoken of my growing disillusionment with true life stories and biopics. Simply put, I find I am just not as taken with them as so many people seem to be. In the case of biopics, they all get boiled down to their essence, leaving just the big beats to fill out the runtime and relying on a star's ability to mimic whoever it happens to be about. I do not find his as interesting. Actors forced to create something fresh. In any case, 42 is an entertaining, smile inducing movie by one of the biggest figures to ever don a baseball uniform. There is no denying what Jackie Robinson meant to baseball, no denying his talent, and no denying his Latin legacy. This movie does nothing to diminish that, but it does not really expand it either. I like the movie, but it is big, broad, and I suspect a bit toned down. Yes, the movie has its share of insults hurled at Robinson, but I am sure it is nothing next to reality. In the end, I liked the movie, I liked Chadwick Boseman's performance as Jackie. While I am not a big fan of biopics, this is an entertaining if not terribly informative movie.

That about wraps up a batch of theatrical viewings I neglected to give full reviews to. Hopefully, this offered a little insight to my thoughts on them.

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