The Official Review Thread of 2013

Sabin
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Thu May 23, 2013 1:17 am

Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams)

Nope, not an original idea in the mystery box that is his head.

There are some big problems that stand in the way of Star Trek Into Darkness being a very good film, but they didn’t much impede my experience. Everything that falls short in J.J.’s first reboostallment is pretty much improved upon here: stronger third act, character trajectories, and my goodness villain. If this is going to be remembered for anything, it will be the moment that mass audiences were introduced to Benedict Cumberbatch, with his voice straddling Rickman & Irons and his amphibious face, the latest in a line of imprisoned sociopaths who are never more terrifying than when they are imprisoned. The obvious comparisons are Javier Bardem in Skyfall and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, but there’s something different at work in Cumberbatch’s performance that makes what he offers audiences a bit more rare. Ledger and Bardem were all about controlled psychosis. When Benedict Cumberbatch gets his scene (and fuck, yes, he does) it’s replete with tears – vengeful, possibly unscripted, wounded tears signifying strength and not weakness. As I’ve stated, audiences have been treated to a fantastic range of terrifying psychopaths recently, but when they leave this film I’ll wager they won’t speak first of how scary Benedict Cumberbatch is but rather what a great actor he is. I want to see Netflix viewings of Sherlock spike after this week.

If Cumberbatch never quite transcends intimidating into scary, then neither does the film truly take the plunge into the dark. It’s J.J. after all for better or worse. For worse? By the end of the film, I wasn’t sure if he had any intention of returning to this franchise. He leaves it on a note that would seem more fitting for the end of a trilogy. There’s a much darker, Empire Strikes Back ending straining to bulge out. It’s not unsatisfying but it’s phony. For better? I’m trying to think of a more entertaining summer movie to come out in the past few years and I’m coming up short. I had a terrific time in The Avengers but I can’t say the story grabbed me. It was the margins. Star Trek Into Darkness starts retro with a kitchy escape from a worshipful Native planet and it never really lost me as it continued to flirt with a fashionable post-9/11 spiral of madmen-a-go-go. It grabbed me in a Spider-Man 2 kind of way. It’s not as good (few films are; I think Spider-Man 2 is my favorite summer film of all time) but there’s a spirit of adventure here, and the film flips a great many payoffs from previous canon Star Trek features in satisfying ways that in some cases play better than in their original incarnations.

Before traipsing into spoilers, I had a lot of fun in this film, and I did so in spite of the fact that there are some plot details that are so idiotic I don’t know where to begin.



…SPOILERS


...they’re in the torpedoes? That’s insane. But that’s not what I want to discuss. I want to discuss the fallacy of J.J. Abram’s “Mystery Box” which for me is quickly becoming as obnoxious an addition to the lexicon as “Extremism in the defense of library is no vice…”

As we all know from J.J. Abram’s Ted Talk, the “Mystery Box” basically summed up is the notion that mystery is more important than knowledge. Considering how many jerkwads will defend Lost to this day, he’s not wrong. “The Mystery Box” is that which tantalizes us and keeps us intriguing and looking for an answer. On the surface, this is the canniest method of narrative filmmaking. Always withholding but not boring the audience either. So when J.J. Abrams went into production for the second Star Trek film, the internet went abuzz…there will be Khan?

Benedict Cumberbatch is introduced as John Harrison, a fugitive who must be hunted down, a dangerous man, and the Enterprise is given experimental new torpedoes to shoot at him and hunt him down, The Enterprise goes after him, they find him on Cronos The Klingon Empire, they are told there will only be one man there, John Harrison, they can just fire at him, they can’t, I forget why, they beam down, it’s not John Harrison, it’s many armed Klingons, this is possible war with the Klingons if the Enterprise is there, and then wow! John Harrison appears, fires on the Klingons, fights them off, allows himself to be captured once he finds out about the torpedoes, and then once imprisoned he begins to manipulate Kirk, tells him his story, and reveals to him that he…is…Khan!

Now, a few things: why on Earth does Khan need John Harrison as a fake identity? The only people who would be taken in by this fake identity are the ones who wouldn’t know who Khan is? Mumurs? Let’s say mumurs. Rumblings. Safety protocol. And putting aside all the dubious plot mechanics surrounding this development, I will ask this:

The fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Khan and not a man named John Harrison matters not a lick. It doesn’t change shit. All it does is all that time that we’ve spent looking at Cumberbatch askance and wondering what exactly he is up to is rewarded BECAUSE! What is he up to? He’s up to being secretly Khan. YOU, SIR, ARE GUILTY OF BEING KHAN!

There is nothing darker in Star Trek Into Darkness than the emptiness of the mystery box.
“This is something, as long as we live in a world where something means anything. I’m not sure we do anymore. It seems serious, but do we live in a world devoid of consequences now? This seems like a seismic event, but it might be nothing.” John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun May 19, 2013 9:03 am

THE GREAT GATSBY
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Elizabeth Debicki, Amitabh Bachchan, Jack Thompson.
Dir: Baz Luhrmann.

Director Baz Luhrmann is a filmmaker whose style I both admire and hate in almost equal portions. There are moments in nearly all the films I've seen of his which I like and which I find irritating. Unfortunately for this film, the irritating parts won out. I've just read the F. Scott Fitzgerald book and this film simply ratches up the lavish decadence described in the book in a way, way, way too stylistic way. So stylistic that the substance within the book was lost. Now, this type of thing would be forgiven if Luhrmann had taken it either a few steps further and made into an over-the-top melodramatic musical but he wanted to have it both ways and ultimately it felt half-assed. The production design and costume design are pretty to look at and the actors try their best. Not completely horrible but falls short.

Oscar Prospects. Costume Design and Production Design.

Grade: C.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 18, 2013 6:27 am

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy.
Dir: J.J. Abrams

I intentionally avoided spoilers and trailers for this movie so color me surprised. As it turns out, the second film from the Abrams-verse alternate Star Trek timeline is actually a pseudo-remake of (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Wrath of Kahn. Although it does not follow the exact same story, the story beats and structure of the film felt familiar. It also helps that Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an outstanding performance as the main villain. He is absolutely riveting when he's on screen. That, coupled with an extremely well-crafted and exciting action picture makes this film probably my favorite summer movie so far.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Makeup and Art Direction are possible. I actually wouldn't be against a Best Supporting Actor campaign for Cumberbatch!

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat May 11, 2013 5:36 am

EVIL DEAD
Cast: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore.
Dir: Fede Alvarez.

I'll say it off the top: I consider myself an Evil Dead fan. I love the original trilogy. So I was extremely suspicious and skeptical of a remake. That being said, I have to say that I really enjoyed this remake. Sure, it offers very little surprises. Sure, the bigger budget allows for a more slicker special effects and gore but part of the charm (the horror movie definition of "charm") of the original was its low-budget aesthetic. But goshdarnit, I'd be lying if I didn't say I didn't have a good time. Fede Alvarez very wisely did not try to be the original and instead simply paid tribute to it taking advantage of the bigger budget and contemporary sensibilities. It offers up an enjoyable old-fashioned horror splatter film that's gruesomely entertaining. It's also also an impeccably crafted film. Someone give Alvarez money to do something original, stat.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Wed May 01, 2013 5:40 am

TRANCE
Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, Danny Sapani, Matt Cross, Wahab Sheikh.
Dir: Danny Boyle.

Danny Boyle is an interesting filmmaker, kind of hit and miss with me. This one is a mixed bag. First off, the first act sets the stage for potentially intriguing and interesting twisty thriller: A heist of a valuable painting gone wrong when one of the accomplices loses his memory and the thieves enlist a hypnotist to retrieve it. The next couple of acts go from one twist and gotcha moment after another. It's these types of high-concept genre films that has twists and turns and the blurring lines of what's real and what's not and who's playing who can go off the rails pretty easily since it is a balancing act of writing, directing and editing. These elements often go off the rails until the thing doesn't make all that much sense but the performances and filmmaking are all on point and exquisite that I'm almost willing to forgive the narrative flaws and logic lapses therein.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: B-.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Heksagon » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:06 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:First off, this is way better than Iron Man 2.


I wish you hadn't said that.... I had already decided I wasn't going to see this film, but now I'm tempted to reconsider. I just know that I'll hate it.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:17 am

IRON MAN 3
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Stephanie Szostak, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Ty Simpkins, Dale Dickey.
Dir: Shane Black.

First off, this is way better than Iron Man 2. Shane Black manages to infuse some wicked humor and subvert, even just a little bit, genre tropes giving the franchise a breath of fresh air. Robert Downey Jr. is as usual terrific but Gwyneth Paltrow steps up her game in this one, managing not to be just a damsel in distress. Ben Kingsley, though, gives a hilarious performance....and INTENTIONAL too. To reveal it here would be spoiling something but if you're one of the people who had problems with his accent/appearance in the trailers, it will make sense when you see the film. All in all, a very, very entertaining, fun film.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing.

Grade: B+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:29 pm

Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)

Hard to talk about the one aspect of Upstream Color that I'm on the fence about without wondering if I'm giving something away. No, literally. It's impossible to know if it is possible to give something away in a way that A) makes sense while reading it, or B) even if it makes sense while reading it to understand while it's happening. If Primer was confusing on one end of the spectrum, this is confusing on the polar opposite. And yet aesthetically, it is an insane achievement in its usage of associative editing and not simply creating a largely silent narrative. That doesn't do it justice. I think the wisest decision in Upstream Color, a portrait of metaphysical connectedness, is making sure that it tracks [wordlessly] as an emotional experience. I basically understood everything this pretty much cosmically raped couple was going through even if occasionally it involved one reading Walden aloud while the other fetched rocks from the bottom of a pool. That Upstream Color was for me an emotional engagement marks it as a triumph.

Now...the one aspect of Upstream Color that I'm on the fence about...

What I loved about Primer was that it was the head-trippiest portrayal of time travel that I had ever seen. It was a rush. A literal-minded rush. Upstream Color is as far from literal as you can get. Although it starts as a puzzle to unlock (in retrospect teasing answers that will not become clear), really Upstream Color is a capital-G Gesture. It's a hopeful gesture of utopian sentiments that I found incredibly moving but also halfway kinda dopey. I think that's what keeps me from loving it. Aside from the fact that to truly love a film I need a little more to hang onto, Upstream Color wants to leave us with a message of how we're all kinds of the same matter (physical, memory, emotion) connected, and I couldn't help but halfway resist. It's a feel piece dressed as a think piece by an insanely relentless thinker.

So, there's my take on Upstream Color. I think it's pretty much impossible to understand anything I'm talking about until you see it. I don't see it getting much love on this Board. I don't expect to see many movies this year but it's easily the first one that warrants attention.
“This is something, as long as we live in a world where something means anything. I’m not sure we do anymore. It seems serious, but do we live in a world devoid of consequences now? This seems like a seismic event, but it might be nothing.” John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 6:31 am

OBLIVION
Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olgay Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo.
Dir: Joseph Kosinski.

The first act of this film felt a bit derivative: Earth is deserted after a war with alien invaders left everything devastated and two people are tasked with "cleaning things up" while the rest of the population are up in space. However, the third act twist elevates this to very good instead of just being okay. Joseph Kosinski's last film, TRON: Legacy was visually dazzling with a great score but left me cold otherwise. This one, however, is a vast improvement. It may not be a sci-fi masterpiece but it's engaging story with some darn good special effects. Kosinski knows how to direct action scenes, thank goodness there's a decent enough story built around it.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects, Art Direction, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Original Score, Original Song and Cinematography are all possible.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Sabin » Sun Apr 07, 2013 4:55 pm

Saw two movies a little while ago. Mustering up much to say about either one is going to be difficult. Ironically, these are two movies that validate the simplistic nature of Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down more than any film in a bit.

The Place Behind the Pines (Derek Cianfrance)

In no way shape or form was I looking forward to this movie. From the director of the almost intolerable Blue Valentine comes a two and a half hour suburban epic about fathers and sons grappling with power and powerlessness in Schenectady over the course of years? No, sorry. Sign me out.

The first five to ten minutes are a wank-fest to Ryan Gosling's unblinking puppy-eyed stare and I had no idea how I was going to make it through the rest. Chalk it up to having no idea what was going to happen over the course of this film but it almost completely held my attention. It's shot just gorgeously, giving this world a fairly intoxicating atmosphere. I don't want to give away too terribly much but it's Emory Cohen as AJ and Dane DeHaan was Jason that steal the show. In easily the most obvious part of the film, these two actors elevate the material into something fairly moving. The characters are one-dimensional archetypes but that didn't bother me too terribly much. I was prepared for much worse. Gosling mixes his self-congratulatorily blank cipher from Drive with his mannered Blue Valentine style and comes up withs something better than both performances but that' snot saying a ton. Bradley Cooper doesn't have much to do. Ray Liotta has a small role but is better here than anything I've seen him do in ages, finding a fresh new spin on his menacingly squinty, snapping smile.

Chalk it up to knowing very little going in and expecting very little (my friend's father passed and it was the only thing she wanted to see, so I really could not get out of it) but I was entertained. Derek Cianfrance clearly wants to be the best filmmaker in the world. After Blue Valentine, I was confident I never wanted to see another film by him again. I still don't think he has any original ideas in his head, but I wouldn't mind checking something else out by him in the future.


Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

I love a movie devoid of consensus. While nobody can really agree on what exactly to make of Spring Breakers, I feel like its success is combination of two factors: the edgy jail-bait titulation factor, and the "Every Filmmaker From the 90s Must Come Back Into Style At Some Point" factor. This apparently extends to Harmony Korine, whose career I bailed on after Kids and Gummo. I do want to see Gummo again at some point, but the guy cannot tell a story. He can capture some images, some moments, some performances, but it will not add up to anything. Spring Breakers is the work of an editor who has been told that this film must resemble a narrative in some capacity, so the result is a lot of flashbacks adding faux-profundity to Girls Gone Wild B-camera roll, looping repeated dialogue to signpost a narrative thread, and a couple of genuinely fun scenes adding up to really nothing I had any use for. I have never been so bored of tits in my life as I was during Spring Breakers. It made me feel old, if I'm being honest.

It's fake art and almost intolerable for the first half, although I liked certain spiking moments that touch on their sociopathic tendencies. Then James Franco upends the film into a piece of intensely indulgent K. Fed wigga caricature that has nothing to do with the film but is certainly entertaining. Excuse me, "It has everything to do with the film because Spring Breakers is about the fallacies of The American Dream! #bullshit" There is a GIF being made as we speak of him felating a pistol.

I had pretty much no use for this annoying little film. There is a fantastic scene by the pool of the girls dancing as Franco plays Britney Spears on the piano. Fantastic for a host of reasons that the film never attempts to match.
“This is something, as long as we live in a world where something means anything. I’m not sure we do anymore. It seems serious, but do we live in a world devoid of consequences now? This seems like a seismic event, but it might be nothing.” John Oliver

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:53 am

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Jonathan Pryce, D.J. Cotrona, Adrianne Palicki, Channing Tatum, Byung Hung-lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, RZA, Walton Goggins, Arnold Vosloo, Luke Bracey, Joseph Mazzello.
Dir: Jon M. Chu.

I didn't bother to see the first one. I wasn't going to see this one either after the delay and the re-shoots. I wasn't looking forward to it. I just saw it because I'm bored and it's the only thing playing the cheaper theater that wasn't a Filipino rom-com so why the hell not? Okay, I'm not a hoity-toity artsy fartsy film snob who can only be excited by a black & white subtitled film from an obscure country (I love watching those though!). I love a good escapist action picture. Cinematic junk food that's fun and filled with eye candy and 'splosions. I only require one thing from them: That the script, direction and acting is good enough that I give a shit about what's happening. That didn't happen here. There are some really neat action scenes like the really cool fight scene with the ninjas flying around wires on a cliffside with swords but not enough to really engage me. Every cool gadget, every cool explosion, every incredible fight/moves/stunts that would've made me go WOW! COOL! had the cinematic foundations surrounding it was better made. It's inoffensive but so are screensavers.

Oscar Prospects: None.

Grade: D+

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:32 am

THE CROODS
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders (voices).
Dirs: Kirk DeMicco & Chris Sanders.

This is a fun, entertaining 3D animated feature film about a family of cavemen. The story is somewhat just okay but what makes this film work are the eye-popping visuals and the inventive, fun creatures that the animators come up with. I saw it in 3D and it's pretty damn good looking in 3D as well. It's good fun. But it's a bit generic, really. Nicolas Cage is surprisingly really good as a caveman.

Oscar Prospects: Animated Feature and Original Song are both possible.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:47 am

anonymous1980 wrote: I'm surprised how much I liked this to be frank.


I read this with my still sleepy eyes and thought it said "I'm surprised how much I liked this to be Frank." thinking it was a reference to Frank Morgan.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Mar 09, 2013 6:05 am

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
Cast: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Bill Cobbs, Joey King, Tony Cox.
Dir: Sam Raimi.

Someone I know said this is like Army of Darkness for kids. And it is. Sort of. At least I can see what they're talking about. It's far from perfect but it's actually a very whimsical visually spectacular love letter to the classic 1939 film version. They advertise this as from the producers of Alice in Wonderland but it's a far better film than that. It's also probably the closest thing to Evil Dead-type playfulness from Sam Raimi in his foray to big-budget Hollywood productions including his Spider-Man movies. I'm surprised how much I liked this to be frank.

Oscar Prospects: This is probably already a lock for Production Design. Strong contender for Makeup & Hairstyling, Visual Effects and Costume Design. Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing are possible.

Grade: B.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2013

Postby anonymous1980 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:26 am

STOKER
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Phyllis Sommerville, Alden Ehrenreich, Lucas Till.
Dir: Park Chan-wook

I'm actually NOT a fan of Oldboy, unlike most people. But I do think Park Chan-wook is an interesting filmmaker and I do want to see more of his work. I'm intrigued by the idea of him making an English-language Hollywood film (though I'm more interested in what Bong Joon-ho or Kim Ki-duk do with an English language project). The result? It's basically a Hitchcockian story with the fucked up elements of a David Lynch film. I like it. It's creepy, disturbing and at times borderline campy made with very heavy stylistic flourishes. It's not perfect but it didn't play safe and I do like films that swing for the fences like these.

Oscar Prospects: Deserves Score and Cinematography mentions but unlikely.

Grade: B+

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Eddie Marsan.
Dir: Bryan Singer.

What is it with re-imaginings of fairy tales lately? Two Snow White movies last year and now it's Jack and the Beanstalk's turn to get adapted as an expanded 3D (though I saw it in 2D) fantasy-adventure. The result is something that I can only say is not bad. It's fine, entertaining, fun but as generic and predictable as they come. It doesn't help that the CGI of the giants isn't really all that impressive. Nicholas Hoult further proves he can be an appealing leading man but I hope he gets better scripts soon.

Oscar Prospects: Longshot contender for Art Direction, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. But all are unlikely.

Grade: C+


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