Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bad Words, Thor: The Dark World, Particle Fever

Bad Words
Dir. Jason Bateman
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After spending years on the infamous Hollywood "Black List" for the best unproduced screenplays, Jason Bateman finally took it upon himself to star in and direct for the first time Andrew Dodge's dark comedy script.  Bateman plays Guy Trilby, a foul-mouthed, immature, but brilliant asshole who loopholes his way into a national spelling bee for reasons we learn incrementally throughout the film.  Bateman proves with Bad Words that not only can he direct well, but turn in a solid dramatic performance.

This truly earns its title of 'black comedy,' with Bateman fearlessly playing what's pretty much a sociopathic character for laughs, and it totally works.  I'm also just a sucker for pissed-off older guy paired with young kid movies (like Bad Santa and Bad Grandpa...I guess any comedy that starts with the word 'bad').  It's just pure fun to hear Bateman spew off one snappy, outrageously offensive line after the other in front of the most innocent, wide-eyed kid (played by Rohan Chand, who you may recognize from Lone Survivor).  I don't want to give much away, but I really had a good time with this one.  Although sometimes it did go a little too far (exposing a young kid to prostitutes and alcohol was a bit much), and the overall "brown" look of the film wasn't especially pleasing to the eye, Bad Words was really funny and surprisingly touching.

Rating: B

Thor: The Dark World
Dir. Alan Taylor
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Thor is fucking boring. There's not a lot to him: he's this all-powerful god with a big hammer and he's trying to save the universe.  Thor: The Dark World, Marvel's post-Avengers sequel to the equally dunder-headed Thor, still doesn't add much dimension to the character.  With a plot right out of a (bad) video game, there's some race of pointy-eared alien dudes that really hate all the Gods in Asgard, but luckily they were destroyed a while ago.  But for no particular reason at all Thor's Earthling GF Jane (Natalie Portman) gets sucked into some vortex and some sort of red goo gets inside of her and that unleashes all the pointy-eared dudes...I really don't know.  The plot of this film is pointlessly confusing and uninteresting.

While the film does have some fun moments of comedic relief, mostly coming from Kat Dennings, they don't outweigh the unbearably self-serious and illogical plot.  The film is filled with great acting talent doing the best with their roles (I think Hemsworth and Hiddleston totally own their roles as Thor and Loki), there's just not much substance to this film.  It feels like one giant "Avengers" circle-jerk made for comic book fans to spend more of their money on a recognizable property.  Maybe some people like this kind of "turn your brain off" CG action film, but I thought Thor was a total bore.  Honestly reminded me of Attack of the Clones.

Rating: D

Particle Fever
Dir. Mark Levinson
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One of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in recent history has been the Large Hadron Collider.  It's been covered by every news outlet and physicists everywhere are claiming that the results of this massive experiment could explain everything in the universe - but still I have no idea what it actually is.  And although it still goes way over my head after watching the documentary Particle Fever, I do have a newfound appreciation for all the tireless work put in by thousands of people from many, even warring, countries.

Directed by an actual particle physicist, the film does a good job of getting us into the headspace of these brilliant minds, young and old.  I really liked how the film shared with us the genuine wonder of these people: to them a blip on a screen was like winning the lottery.  I also really like the juxtaposition of them working with the smallest particles in existence to answer the biggest questions imaginable. The film was edited by Walter Murch, probably one of the most famous film editors of all time (he literally wrote "the book" on editing), and it definitely has a great flow.  Even though I had no clue what was going on, just watching these experts' move their hands across a chalkboard and pour out these long equations was strangely spellbinding.  While Particle Fever may not have been that "for-dummies" explanation I was looking for, it was still an interesting story on the human side of things.

Rating: B

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