Friday, September 6, 2013

F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Looza-Mania 2000 (+ 13) - Part 2

It's time we continue the series of summer movie reviews with the not at all excessively titled F'N Toaster's Movies of 2013 Review-a-rama-thon Spectacu-Looza-Mania 2000 (+ 13)!   

Man of Steel – I’ve already spoken a bit about this movie concerning the end controversy and a list of weird things I observed in the film, so I won’t go back into that. What I am going to address is what I liked about Man of Steel and why. There was a surprising amount of hatred toward Man of Steel that I don’t entirely get. I’ve heard complaints about the tone being too much like a Batman movie. I heard a lot of people didn’t like Superman killing Zod (the aforementioned controversy). Honestly, I haven’t given much time to listening to people’s V-log bitch sessions about Man of Steel. I know I like the movie; I don’t really need to be convinced otherwise. So, what did I like? I thought Henry Cavill did a great job as Clark Kent and Superman. He affectively walked that line between kindness and aggression. Cavill also captured what director Zack Snyder and writer David Goyer wanted in a young man trying to find his identity… without it being too artsy like Superman Returns was. I also thought Amy Adams was the best Lois Lane I have ever seen. Not only was she actually attractive (sorry, but I never got Superman’s desire for Margot Kidder… maybe it’s just me) but Adams made Lane a very capable, tough and smart woman… a far cry for the damsel in distress she has been portrayed as in the past. I particularly love how she was able to figure out who Superman was. I mean, she is a journalist after all! But now, we won’t have to sit through that old shtick of “Clark! Where were you? Superman was just here!” and bumbling Clark Kent goes “Oh, well Lois I got stuck in the bathroom stall. What did I miss?” It’s kind of refreshing, really. Michael Shannon made for a truly vicious and driven version of General Zod. I do think that Terrence Stamp was the better Zod in Superman II, but that’s just because he was such a pimp in that movie! But Shannon brought a very different Zod, in some ways one more fitting of the title “General” than Stamp. I was really surprised about how much involvement Russell Crowe had in the movie as Jor-El. He did a good job in the role (when does he not?) and his portrayal as Kal-El’s father really brought heartfelt warmth to the film. Remember that Jor-El, for much of the movie, is only a ghostly recording… a father’s attempt to connect to the son he was forced to surrender so that he may live. By contrast, I always found Marlon Brando’s interpretation of Jor-El was too cold and stuffy. He came across more like a college professor than a loving message from beyond the grave to guide Kal toward his destiny. (I really feel that Brando was cast because he was Brando.) One thing I really appreciated about Man of Steel was that SUPERMAN ACTUALLY FOUGHT SOMEONE! Seriously, out of 6 Superman movies, the strongest and most powerful superhero on Earth has only fought, and I mean really fought, a super powered villain in 3 of them! And out of that measly half, you have to count that terrible Quest for Peace bad guy Nuclear Man!  I was shocked to hear how many people preferred Superman Returns to Man of Steel considering how boring it was. I felt Man of Steel had a good plot, amazing action sequences, awesome villains (I actually thought Faora, the female Kryptonian in Man of Steel, was better than Ursa in Superman II) and to me was the Superman movie I have always wanted. It took itself seriously. It didn’t have the goofiness of the Richard Donner films. On a nostalgic level I do love those movies, but I can do without the amnesia kiss or the weird cellophane “S” shield and especially turning the Earth backward. Personally I think that is the heart of the matter here. I suspect that the majority of those who detest Man of Steel were hoping it was going to be like the Richard Donner films (Superman and Superman II) from their childhood. I base this theory on the fact that I have not met a single comic book geek (such as myself) that disliked Man of Steel. The Richard Donner films were great representations of the “silver age” Superman and all of the wackiness that came with that era. Man of Steel, however, represents the modern age Superman… which is something comic fans like me have wanted to see on screen for years. 

World War Z – I already did a post about what little this movie actually has in common with the novel, so I won’t really get into that again. For what its worth, World War Z is a decent zombie flick. I’ve seen better and I’ve definitely seen worse. Even Jonny thought it was okay and he tends to avoid horror films. There were some great scenes of tension, like in the apartment building, in Israel (I really thought the Israeli soldier woman would have died at some point in the movie) and in the CDC (a scene that was apparently written by Damon Lindelof as a new ending). I did think it was weird that the little boy that joined Brad Pitt and his family in the apartment building really didn’t seem too torn up over having just lost his own folks to zombies. Kids are just so desensitized these days… I blame the video games! I was curious as to how Hollywood would make a movie of Max Brooks’ novel, which was written as an anthology of stories about survivors of the zombie war ten years prior. When put together, the anthological tales made for a chronological overarching story of the entire beginning, middle and end of the war. The movie was not that at all. I think that those who saw it were probably pleased enough, as those who were hardcore fans of the novel had to have figured the movie would stray significantly from the source material and thusly just stayed home. All I can say is Pitt and the studio dodged a major “flop” bullet as World War Z, with its rewrites, production problems and runaway budget, looked like it was going to crash and burn hard. Thank God for those international numbers! 

Despicable Me 2 – This is the only movie I didn’t see in theaters with Jonny. Instead my wife TivoGirl joined me. After all, we both enjoyed the first Despicable Me so why not. The sequel was pretty good, about as good as the original from my perspective. It was definitely just as funny. If you like the Minions (and if you don’t, why would you ever watch a Despicable Me movie?) they are just as funny if not funnier in this one. (I do worry about the upcoming Minion movie. 90 minutes of all Minions nonsense has serious potential to burn out their amusing factor. In a possibly related fun fact, I once watched a one hour special of all of Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python cartoons in one montage… I thought my brain was going to implode.) I will say as a criticism that out of Gru’s daughters, only Margo (the oldest) gets any major screen time. Her subplot of starting to date boys was hilarious, though. Kristen Wiig’s Lucy character was amusing, but I couldn’t help thinking it too closely resembled her Looney Tunes Show character of Lola. To be fair, since Lola is one of the best characters on The Looney Tunes Show, that isn’t a terrible thing, it’s just not very original. I think Despicable Me is one of the better non-Pixar animated franchises out there and offers something I am always on the look-out for… kid friendly movies that don’t suck. Now that I have a Little Toaster crawling (very close to walking) around, I have been building a collection of such shows and films. I already own the first Despicable Me and I am sure I will buy the second.

Pacific Rim – On one hand, Jonny and I wanted this film to do well as it was pretty awesome and could be a cool franchise. On the other hand, Pacific Rim was amazingly self-contained and could easily remain a standalone film. Whether the international ticket sales have given this film hope of a sequel remains to be seen. Jonny and I really liked Pacific Rim. Was it high art? Hell no! Did it deliver what it promised? Hell yes! Giant robots fighting big monsters! It looked awesome, the battles were great and it was just a lot of fun. There have been some criticisms of this movie. One I read was that you couldn’t see the Kaiju well enough because all the battles were at night. Well no, not all the battles were at night and I saw the Kaiju pretty clearly, the exception being the class 5 one in the ocean at the end. Another complaint was that the humans could have been given more character development. I thought the humans had okay character development, it could have been better. I will say in defense though that nobody goes to a movie about robots fighting monsters for the human subplots. Watching Godzilla movies as a kid, I always felt the humans were just boring filler that I had to sit through to get to the rubber suited monsters fighting and destroying model cities at the end… you know, the good part!  My complaint was that Charlie Hunnam needs to learn to speak with a damn American accent! I swear, he changed accent and dialect repeatedly throughout the movie. It’s now a running joke with me, one that might just strike a certain nerve with the Sons of Anarchy loving Jonny Prophet. Seriously though, Hunnam isn’t a bad actor but considering how long he has been acting in the States, I would have thought he would have had a better American accent. In speaking of Sons of Anarchy, since fellow SoA co-star Ron Perlman was in the movie, Jonny and I joke that Pacific Rim is the second weirdest episode of that show ever. (The first is still Frankie Goes Boom… Ron Perlman in drag, to quote the Sea Captain on The Simpsons, will “replace the whale in me nightmares!”)  The cast was comprised of relative unknowns and television stars, which worked well. Idris Elba is just awesome in everything. Charlie Day was hilarious as always. Ron Perlman is great in whatever he is in because he is Ron Perlman. (Yes, I admit Jonny and I lean heavily into Ron’s corner because we love him so.)  If you just want to watch a fun sci-fi action flick, you can’t go wrong with Pacific Rim… unless you want the Kaiju to win. (By the way, while watching Pacific Rim, I kept repeating to Jonny how great it is to live nowhere near an ocean so we don’t have to deal with this crap. Besides, what are the monsters going to do… destroy Detroit? They’ll just think someone already did and move on to Cleveland. Take that Cleveland!) 

RED 2 – When people ask me “How was RED 2?” I always reply the same way… “It had a better plot than the first one, but it wasn’t as funny.” Now don’t get me wrong, RED 2 was plenty funny, but I found the original funnier for two main reasons. The first was that the novelty of elderly people, particularly Dame Helen Mirren, being bad asses had slightly played itself out by the sequel. The second was the funniest character Marvin, played by John Malkovich, was at times the voice of reason in the second one… which was kind of weird. It was sad that Morgan Freeman (who died in the first one) and Ernest Borgnine (who died for real) weren’t in RED 2. Jonny and I were also disappointed that Karl Urban wasn’t in it as well. (He is, after all, one of the Enigma Society’s favorite actors!) Instead the role of somewhat antagonistic bad ass younger man that gets schooled by Bruce Willis went to the guy who played Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies… which is a pretty good consolation prize. Newcomer Anthony Hopkins (I don’t think anyone has associated that word with him in a long time) gave his usual Anthony Hopkins performance, but he was a good character. That’s the weird thing about Hopkins; even when he gives a phoned-in performance there’s something about him that still seems like a he did a great job at it. Maybe it’s his accent. Like I said, the plot was better in RED 2, at least in my opinion. I thought the plot of the original was a little outlandish. I get that a Vice-Presidential hopeful would want to cover up that he went insane in combat and slaughtered a village of innocent people. I just don’t get how he could put together a team of Special Ops soldiers to take out the other people from his platoon and manage to keep that a secret as well. This one dealt more with old cold war weapons and protocol, something that seems more apt to the characters whose heyday was fighting communists and such. I didn’t really care for the Catherine Zeta Jones character. She seemed to be thrown in for the sole purpose of creating friction between Willis and Mary Louise Parker. Zeta Jones’ character was pretty cliché, the attractive but untrustworthy enemy agent, was pretty cardboard. However, I was really surprised that she was killed off; it seemed like they could have brought her back in future sequels (assuming there will be any). I was happy to see Brian Cox made a special appearance, though learning one of his character’s fetishes was a little unsettling. Jonny and I were both amused that RED 2 had their own “Not a nuclear bomb but everyone knows it’s basically a nuclear bomb” with the red mercury device… which creates a nuke sized explosion but without all that nasty radiation. (Red mercury is actually a theoretical explosive thought to have been created by the Soviets… so the writer did do some homework.) I don’t know if RED 2 did well enough to warrant an additional sequel, but frankly I was surprised a sequel was made at all! I didn’t think the first one did that well. 

Stay tuned to the EPIC conclusion of my summer movie write-up... or don't. Come on, don't be that guy. Where's the love?

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