Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Immortals Review

I know this one is coming a little late but here it is.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What You Need to Know:  The Immortals is the new action adventure film from director, Tarsem Singh. The story follows the Greek mythological hero, Theseus (played by future Superman, Henry Cavill), as he faces Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke), an evil dictator seeking to conquer Greece. The film also features Frieda Pinto as the oracle Pheidra and Luke Evans as Zeus.

Technical Stuff: Tarsem Singh has an amazing talent at creating beautiful imagery in his films. Beginning with The Cell (2000) and followed by The Fall (2006), he has been inspired by paintings, and that is evident in The Immortals. Every scene is carefully framed to accentuate the awe and wonder of the environment as well as the scope of the story. While credit should be shared with Director of Photography, Brendan Galvin, a consistency in scope exists in Tarsem's work. The sets also share in amplifying the scale of this epic.

One of Tarsem's mainstays on his crew is costume designer, Eiko Ishioka. Her costume designs are awe-inspiring and exotic. While working within the constricts of the time period, certain costumes allow for character defining traits. For example, while Hyperion's army are all wearing an identical featureless mask modeled after Hyperion's own, his generals have added more to set themselves apart such as the Beast's bull head helm.

I am not a fan of 3D. 9 times out of 10 I will advise against choosing the 3D option, and more often than not that 10th option is animated. Most of the time, it is added as an after thought. Very few live-action films truly utilize it to its fullest potential. The Immortals is not one of these films. Despite being a post-converted film, Tarsem Singh's style of layered compositions and the incredible depth in his framing allows for the 3D to actually be a credible option for your viewing pleasure.

As for the story, this is where the film falls a little short. It is a well told story with interesting turns. However, as was the case with The Fall, story and pacing fall second to the aesthetic. While one can argue film is a visual medium and should thus look good, it also a narrative medium. The pacing suffers in part to the slow motion fight scenes popularized in 300. While Zack Snyder used it well to slow the adrenaline filled fight sequences, Tarsem's use slows down an already plodding pace. There are moments where it is successful. The primary example of this is the gods' fight sequences as it separates them from the human world and their way of fighting.

In Summary: If you are looking for an action movie along the lines of 300, you will not be utterly disappointed. However, it is a different beast. While 300 takes you to war, the Immortals is a struggle. The pacing is different. While I cite it as a fault, I don't think it should be reason to not watch the film. It is a truly well made film. The acting is wonderful. This film gives me confidence in Cavill's ability to play Clark Kent/Superman. The aesthetic is beautiful, and not often seen in films not made by Guillermo del Toro. Even if you wait until home release, you should watch this film!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Amazing Trailer

Today, I saw the trailer for the upcoming Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds film Safe House. Check it out.

It looks like an interesting betrayal and intrigue story with some straightforward action scenes. While it would be a cliche twist, I'm a little disappointed that they hint at the betrayal in the trailer. Ryan Reynold's appears to be his same old self in this. He's done this role a few times with slight twists. Denzel is in fine form. In this, he resembles his role in Training Day as the antagonistic mentor. I don't doubt by the end Ryan Reynolds will see eye-to-eye with Denzel's character. It should be a good movie.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trailers Galore

So today was a day of trailer awesomeness. Three really caught my eye.

21 Jump Street

I was a little disappointed in the fact that 21 Jump Street was tagged as another in the long line of remakes. The original series was out in late 80's when I was just born. The concept never really clicked with me, but this trailer pokes fun at that and endears me to it. I'm curious about more info and trailers about the movie because this makes it look good.

Project X

It's The Hangover meets Super Bad. With a concept that unites two of the most popular comedies of the past five years. It's also done in a "found footage" style, which I think is interesting and works with the setting.

And a non-movie trailer...

Grand Theft Auto V

Unfortunately I can't embed the video properly, so I will link it to Collider.

From the trailer, you definitely get a Goodfellas feel to the Ray Liotta sound-alike. I have mixed feelings about the setting of Los Santos from San Andreas. LA Noire is still fairly fresh in my mind, and so to see another Los Angeles facsimile is a little disappointing. On the other hand, they do make it look good. It also appears as though the map is going to be expanded to include Vinewood (Hollywood), Las Puerte (Santa Monica), Little Seoul (Korea Town) and Downtown. Time and more trailers will tell, but this looks like another strong entry in the GTA franchise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

America Needs Derren Brown

Aside from a short lived SciFi Channel series called Mind Control with Derren Brown and random shorts, there is not much access to British illusionist/mentalist Derren Brown. He is a brilliant and talented performer. With a strong blend of science (Psychology, sociology, etc,) and showmanship, Derren Brown's shows can blow your mind. Most recently, his new series, The Experiments, is airing on the UK's Channel 4. Here's a little something to whet your appetite:

Also my favorite from a few years back, featuring Paul star, Simon Pegg:

Does anyone else think someone here in the US should license this so we can at least check these out on DVD?

Paranormal Activity 3 Review

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What You Need to Know: The next sequel/prequel of the vastly popular ghost horror series. Once again, this film takes us back into the past. The year is 1988 and we meet young sisters (Katie and Kristi from Parts One and Two respectively), their mother (Julie), and their step-father Dennis. Creepy noises and strange happenings ensue.

Also, if the trailer is what made you want to watch this, know this: many of the scenes of the trailer are either not in the film or changed slightly. In my opinion, that is a phenomenal idea because you get a sense of the film and what it is about, but the best scares are not spoiled in the trailer. In contrast, the first two films managed to use the climax for both of their trailers, respectively.

Technical Stuff: The films' director/creator, Oren Peli, is a master of building suspense to almost painful trepidation. I'm an avid fan of the more paranormal and psychological horror movies as opposed to gore porn such as Saw and Hostel. I understand the anticipation and timing of a good shock in horror films', but at several points in the film, Peli holds that timing a little longer. I found myself mentally calling the shock and then waiting just a bit more for it to come. What does that do to an audience? In those seconds, it makes the moment that much more uncomfortable and suspenseful before allowing for a release through scream or laughter. That scream or laughter is up to your personality. (I laugh.)

As made clear in the trailer, this sequel is another prequel and I was left apprehensive. At many points in the film, I am left wondering why are these people lugging around huge video cameras. Especially in the climax, this feels awkward and unnecessary. I forgave this in the first film due to the time period. It is set in the mid aughts ('06 to be exact). The YouTube generation was just beginning and users were posting some of the most mundane videos from life. The second film did away with most of the handheld by using security cameras mounted throughout the house, but strained the use of the camera in the climax. Now, the third film falls back almost twenty years. A MacGuyver'ed (actually referenced) fan is utilized for an interesting, if somewhat unbelievable, panning mount.

The prequel aspect also doesn't work due to story. I enjoyed the story building from the previous two films, but I felt it only worked to affirm assumptions of the past films. I'm more curious as to what has happened to Katie and baby Hunter. The end of this film feels inevitable, where the others were a bit more surprising.

Finally, I will return to the positive and say that the male lead is the most compelling of the three male leads. Micah, in the first film, is very cynical. He taunts the demon, and considers much of the activity a joke while Katie's fears intensify. In the second, Dan does not believe any of the ghost talk. He is a very caring father, but he ignores the possibility of a haunting. And when he finally believes, he decides to pass the buck onto Katie. Not the most heroic move, by any means. On the flip side of these two, Dennis is loving to Julie and the girls. He completely believes what is happening and actually spares Julie from most of the activity caught on tape.

In Summary: This movie is well-paced and extremely suspenseful. There are some moments that stretch suspension of disbelief very thin, but it still manages to raise hairs on the back of your neck. I would definitely suggest this film as a Halloween fright night feature, especially if you enjoyed the first two. The first film is the best of the three, but the third lives up to much of the hype. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Avengers 2 Takeover

The Avengers is still about half a year away, but over the weekend, Marvel Studios' President of Production, Kevin Feige, spoke about the next set of films following The Avengers. Iron Man 3 will be the first in the pipeline (due for release in May 2013) and part of what Feige called "Phase Two of this Avenger Assemble talk".So Iron Man 3 will lead to Avengers 2, as will Thor 2 and the films currently in development.

Personally, I think Marvel is making a huge mistake. I enjoyed this build toward The Avengers in the current Marvel films, but as evidenced in Iron Man 2, too much extraneous info can pull a film down. I argue constantly with friends that Iron Man 2 was actually a pretty good movie. It was simply mired down by the heavy-handed presence of Nick Fury and SHIELD. Black Widow could have worked on her own. In fact, the revelation of her involvement with SHIELD could have been saved for the after credit sequence.

Furthermore, Avengers will now be its own established franchise. Allow all the franchises to build and grow on their own merit. Let Iron Man 3 be its own film where Tony Stark has to face the threat of the Ten Rings Cult. In Thor 2, let Thor face another threat from Norse mythology (Hela, Surtur) or other pantheons on other worlds (Ares). Captain America 2 should explore Captain America in the present and the modern Hydra. Captain America most closely allows for SHIELD and build up toward the Avengers. Should it ever be made, Incredible Hulk 2 should feature the Hulk fighting other Gamma threats. The Leader was teased with the inclusion of Samuel Stern and his exposure to Hulk's Gamma bleed-off. He could be the mastermind in the background like the Mandarin potentially hides behind the Ten Rings Cult.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Does Whatever A Spider Can...

NYCC is here and news is making its way onto the... dun dun dun... internet. I could've made a web joke there, but spared you this time. The most interesting tidbit to me as a comic fan born of the nineties is a new Scarlet Spider series which had been teased in Marvel's Point One ad campaign. I'm going to avoid spoiling too much about Amazing Spider-man #671, but seeing the ad, it became fairly obvious who was taking the role of the Scarlet Spider after the events of that issue. I do have to say that I am not a fan of the costume. Take a look:

Interestingly, I did a redesign for Project: Rooftop's Spider-man redesign contest. In my design I played with the black mask and red eyes, but here I think the eyes take up too much of the mask. The red takes over the costume, which works for SCARLET Spider, but I wish the black didn't end at the collar bone. Hopefully a better view will become available so I can make a little more sense of what's going on.