Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Iceman Review: Michael Shannon goes crazy...again

Dir. Ariel Vromen
103 Minutes
Rated R

Based on true events, The Iceman stars Michael Shannon as notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, who in his time killed over 100 unfortunate dudes.  The funny thing is that he considered himself a family man, even whilst slitting throats and gunning down guys, and his wife (Winona Ryder) and two daughters were completely oblivious to his mob activity before his ultimate arrest.  Shannon's performance is an amazing portrait of a killer, and the supporting cast is just as strong.  Winona Ryder is great in a sort of comeback role for her (originally meant for Maggie Gyllenhaal), and Chris Evans is nearly unrecognizable in what I consider to be the best role of his career so far, playing a guy who makes bodies disappear, fronting as an ice cream truck driver.  Plus there's Ray Liotta and one of the Fratelli Brothers (from The Goonies) playing mob guys.  You can't go wrong there.  The film retreads a lot of ground we've seen before with these types of crime dramas, but the performances were strong enough to make it an entertaining watch.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Fast & Furious 6  Review: Big, dumb, crazy action at its finest

Dir. Justin Lin
130 Minutes
Rated PG-13

The Fast and the Furious franchise is pretty odd in that its fifth film was the highest grossing, most critically "acclaimed" entry of the popular street racing saga (and yes, it is a saga).  The plots have never been good in any of the films, often just marking the time in between the racing scenes, and Fast and Furious 6 is no different.  The story continues where Fast Five left off, bringing back Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of pro-racers, this time to take down yet another vaguely "bad" organization, a mission sent  by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).  Much like Fast Five elements of past films are called back on so fans of the series should have an enriched experience when it comes to certain plot turns, but overall the script takes a backseat to the action, with which director Justin Lin has outdone himself.  Lin has directed the last four entries, starting with Tokyo Drift, and you can track his evolution through the movies, getting bigger and better with each sequel. Assuming you came to Fast and Furious 6 for the badass, insane, physically implausible car chase sequences, you get your money's worth.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness Review: Where no man has gone before, except in the previous film I suppose...

Dir. J.J. Abrams
133 Minutes
Rated PG-13

J.J. god damn Abrams.  He's probably made billions of dollars, has dozens of TV shows with his name slapped on the front of it, and now he's at the helm of the two biggest sci-fi properties of all time.  I don't know whose dick this guy's sucking to get these gigs, but it's certainly the right one.  I'm barely familiar with the Star Trek mythology and I personally wasn't a huge fan of Abram's Star Trek reboot in 2009 (I'm definitely in the minority there). It's not that I didn't think it was any good, it was just exactly what you would expect and nothing more.  Just a hero's journey wrapped up in a ton of space fights and explosions.  It was solid enough.  But the thing that got me excited for the sequel, and this may be controversial, was that Damon Lindelof was writing the screenplay.  It seems in the nerd world Lindelof inspires either a lot of love or a lot of ravenous hate, but I think he's an amazing writer.  Lost is one of my favorite TV shows of all time and I appreciated the finale, and I even thought Prometheus was one of the best movies last summer despite all the hate it received.  And it wasn't just a simple "eh, I didn't care for that film" - people legitimately got violent and angry over that film.  Lindelof writes challenging material filled with philosophy and humanity, and isn't afraid to trek into non-convention.  But Star Trek Into Darkness, as serviceable a Trek film as it is, still suffers from the "vanilla sci-fi" I experienced the first time around.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby Review: This ain't your mother's Gatsby, old sport

Dir. Baz Luhrmann
143 Minutes
Rated PG-13

I have to admit: I used Sparknotes in high school.  I never really made it all the way through the original F. Scott Fitzgerald book, and I'm unsure if that's because it truly was boring, or if I just wasn't cultured enough to sit through it.  The Great Gatsby is one of those iconic stories that's never had a great film attached to it, though many have tried.  Now Baz Luhrmann is entering the ring, putting his over-the-top ADHD spin on it.  On a conceptual level this is pretty ambitious stuff: Jay Z produced the music, there are tons of weird anachronisms, the camera moves around so fast you'll get whiplash, and not to mention it's a romantic character drama shot in 3D.  I personally did not catch this one in 3D, and because I'm behind on my movie-watching, I have also never seen a previous film by Luhrmann.  Sorry, my fellow movie-goers, it's just one of my blindspots.  But from what I hear they are similarly bombastic.  Really I just wanted to watch this in the hope that maybe his revisionist take on the material would finally make The Great Gatsby relatable and/or bearable for me for the first time, and I also wanted to see Leo again because he is simply a dreamboat.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Iron Man 3  Review: Marvel's 'Phase 2' starts off strong

Dir. Shane Black
130 Minutes
Rated PG-13

The Avengers, love it or loathe it, changed the landscape of superhero films.  Warner Brothers is now trying to play catch-up with a Justice League film that has disaster written all over it and Disney has a chokehold on superhero properties as it gradually sucks up more and more famous comic book characters (Daredevil and Ghost Rider just passed on over to the House of Mouse).  So now with The Avengers under their belt, that gives the company virtually unlimited directions to head in, and it will be interesting to see how some of these big ideas play out - especially with James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy.  But to usher in the second chapter for Marvel Studios is the hero that started it all: Tony Stark. In his fourth big screen adventure, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is going solo again.  After the events in New York (the whole wormhole opening up a rift in space thing), Stark is suffering from a little anxiety.  Sure he has his girl, Pepper Potts (Gwenyth Paltrow), by his side and his partner, Rhodes (Don Cheadle) at his back, but a new terrorist force, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), is causing a ruckus. Throw in a mentally unstable scientist (Guy Pearce) with a 10-year grudge against Tony, and the crock pot is fully stirred for action.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Summer 2013 Movie Predictions

Hey people, Iron Man 3 was just officially released in my homeland of America, kicking off the summer season of over-budgeted mega-blockbusters to a great start (I'd say beating The Avengers  at the international box office is a pretty big deal).  So I thought it'd be fun to play the ol' guess the box office game that I've seen many bloggers participate in.  I've never done it, so who knows what could happen? H'yuk!

Pain & Gain Review: Michael Bay believes in fitness

Dir. Michael Bay
129 Minutes
Rated R

[WARNING:  This is based on a true story, so spoilers for real life ahead]

Pain and Gain is based on a true story which was featured in a 1999 Miami New Times article recounting a group of criminal bodybuilders who kidnapped, extorted money, and tortured victims, two of whom ultimately received the death penalty.  The film marks a return to roots for Michael Bay, who took a break from having giant robots punch each other in the Transformers series for a low budget action picture similar in expense to his directorial debut Bad Boys. The cast, including Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, took pay cuts to keep costs low for this "little," more character-driven piece.  But never fear, it's still as bat shit insane as anything else Bay has produced.

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