Archive | November, 2012

Marcus Reviews Lincoln

18 Nov

Synopsis:

Steven Spielberg directs Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, a revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.

What I Liked:

Daniel Day Lewis is absolutely phenomenal in this. He was so good in fact that every time he appeared on screen and spoke, everyone else suddenly felt irrelevant which is very rare. Lewis portrayed Lincoln as an idealist that was as stubborn as he was ambitious, a man of the people proficient in anecdotal stories and a conflicted commander & chief in warring times with ease. His Lincoln was towering in height but with a frail physique and a gentle voice that spoke powerful words. To date this is the most amazingly human portrayal of a person of power that I can remember seeing. I’d honestly be shocked and upset if Lewis didn’t get the Oscar for his role here.

Steven Spielberg did a wonderful job at scaling back his more extravagant tendencies and really capturing the more intimate moments in this film. There were a lot of lingering close ups or occasional pregnant pauses that really forced you to get wrapped up in whatever emotion that the scene was trying to convey whether it be dour or lighthearted. The movie worked the best in those isolated moments.

The supporting cast was stacked with young up and comers and Hollywood veterans and while most of them were only in the movie for a scene or two, there were several who were truly able to stand out when not getting eclipsed by Lewis’ performance. The most notable of which were Sally Field as Lincoln’s unstable yet fiery & supportive wife, David Strathairn as conflicted & skeptical secretary of state, James Spader in a hilarious turn as one of four Democratic operatives that Lincoln hires to garner votes for the amendment and last but certainly not least, Tommy Lee Jones as a hardnosed Congressman who can turn a phrase as well as he can sling an insult. While ultimately this is definitely Lewis’ film, for the most part the supporting cast give the film some color & levity as well as provide Lewis with energy to feed off of.

With a strong message that is all too familiar to anyone who went to school in this country, the movie does a great job at making not only Lincoln but also the 13th Amendment feel as though we’re learning about them for the first time and it never once shoves them down our throats. I give credit to Lewis & Spielberg once again for that because I feel as though a director and actor of lesser talent wouldn’t have been able to pull that off.

Movie score legend & frequent Spielberg collaborator, John Williams provides yet another sweeping score that actually adds to the impact of the film without being heavy handed and patronizing like his War Horse score.

What I Didn’t Like:

Though the film does an amazing job painting Lincoln as a layered individual, I feel like the ball was dropped when it came time to portray him as a family man. Not enough time was spent examining the relationships in his household in my eyes and because of that Mary Todd Lincoln’s grief came off as unwarranted at times and Joseph Gordon Levitt was wasted in his role as Robert Todd Lincoln who we barely even get to know.

The dialogue in this film is very true to the time period and because of that some of the phrases and quips were completely lost on me. I’m not saying that this is a fault of the film though so much as an element of the film that made it a bit difficult to understand at times.

Due to the intimate and somewhat meditative nature of the film, at times it became a bit plodding and felt overlong. Looking back over the film there were just some scenes that didn’t feel needed in the grand scheme of things.

I felt that Lincoln’s death was handled terribly. For a movie that’s so intimate and candid, the death and its aftermath were very impersonal and detached. It’s not like I was expecting them to show every detail but they could’ve given us more than they did to really drive home how horrible of an event in history that it was.

I could’ve sworn there was a moment where there was a shot of the modern day White House.

Overall:

Lincoln is a very powerful film, a flawed film, but a powerful one nonetheless. In my eyes Spielberg’s best work lies in his fantasy/sci-fi films but every now and then he’s able to bring his signature charm and awe to a historical property and breath new life into it as he’s done here. It’s not paced as cleanly as it could’ve been which results in it becoming plodding in some places but it still manages to be a film that’s a charming & witty as it is informative & insightful. The supporting cast does a great job at filling out the film, the score is strong, as is the script, but at the end of the day it’s Daniel Day Lewis who is truly responsible for this film’s brilliance. Lewis provides us with a truly majestic performance that the rest of the film doesn’t quite match up to and I honestly believe that if a lesser actor were to have been at the head of this film, it would not have been as strong. Nevertheless, at the end of the day Lincoln is a fine film that enjoyed greatly. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it got Spielberg yet another Oscar nod (if War Horse got him one then this definitely will) and quite possibly give Lewis his 3rd Academy Award for Best Actor. I’m not sure if I’d recommend this to the masses (most of you are probably gonna see Twilight this weekend anyway if you haven’t already) but if you’ve got 2 & a half hours to spare and you’re looking for an enriching film experience then by all means go see Lincoln.

 

Rating: B+

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Avery Has Issues…with These Issues II

14 Nov

Apologies for the wait but PCP is back with another edition of ….(*sigh*) Avery has Issues with these Issues. The gang sits down and dissects two of the new Marvel Now books the hilarious Deadpool and the poorly drawn Ironman. Witness Josiah put his foot down on the books he’s reading and Marvel Now catches its first casualties of the line when two people finally drop two books. Elsewhere, there’s a little PCP business talk at the end to wrap up the episode and the guys bunker down for a deluge of books comic in the next week.

Marcus Reviews Skyfall

10 Nov

Synopsis:

In Skyfall, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

What I Liked:

Skyfall has quite possibly the most thrilling opening act of 2012. From the very start to the opening credits it has you completely immersed. I knew that from this moment on I was in store for one hell of a movie.

Speaking of the opening credits, Skyfall may very well have the most visually arresting intro that they’ve ever had. Combined with Adele’s excellent song it truly captured the classic Bond feel will also keeping it very modern.

Sam Mendes’ direction in this is masterclass. One of the biggest issues with the more modern Bond films (both Brosnan & Craig) is that they lacked poise and focused more on the spectacle. While there is still plenty of brilliant spectacle in Skyfall, Mendes also brings back the meditative, slow burn nature of some of the older films and because of this the film flows much more smoothly. His substance over style brand of direction really comes across with the moments of dialogue as in several scenes he just leaves the camera in one position without any needless angle changes or editing and just lets the actors shine. Mendes turned this Bond film into a quiet storm as opposed to the raging tornado that most of the previous films have been.

Ever since Casino Royale the main criticism that people have given Craig’s Bond is that, while he had the grittiness of Bond from the novels, he never quite nailed the classic smoothness that he was known for. He was very rough around the edges (though I think it’s more due to the material he was given). Taking that all into account, Skyfall signals the first time in his run as Bond where he finally put all of the pieces together and truly embodied the character (possibly even better than Connery) which I can’t help but think is thanks to the fact that he’s no longer weighed down by a love interest. He wasn’t overly gritty like he was in Quantum of Solace while at the same time he wasn’t overly stylistic either like Brosnan’s Bond was. He was still intense/gritty but he was also suave, witty and precise. For the first time in the modern era, I felt like I was watching the REAL James Bond.

To piggyback off of my praise of Craig, Skyfall features arguably the best ensemble acting in a Bond movie since the Connery era. Everybody on the cast had electric chemistry with one another and really shined in their own individual performances. Whether it was the veteran Dame Judi Dench as the classy yet staunch M or newcomers like Naomie Harris as the feisty Eve and Ben Whishaw as the young tech prodigy Q, everyone did great. The star that shined brightest though was a platinum blonde Javier Bardem as the film’s villain, Raoul Silva. If there’s one major thing that Bond films have been severely lacking ever since Goldeneye, it’s a memorable villain and Bardem makes up for that lack and then some in this role as he chewed up the scenery every time he appeared on screen. I don’t want to delve to far into what made his character so special (so that I don’t spoil the movie for anyone) but he had this boyish innocence and effortless charm to him that made him almost as endearing as he was completely unsettling. If I were to describe him to someone I’d say he was like a sick mixture of Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hannibal Lector, Hans Landa from Inglorious Bastards and Tom Hardy’s Bane. Due to the character of James Bond being a force of nature in his own right often times the villain becomes obsolete, but in this particular instance Bond finally had a villain that matched him in every way and it was a joy to behold.

After two overly serious Bond films, the dry and witty humor that the franchise is known for makes its return and it was sorely missed.

James Bond movies have always been known for being striking on a cinematic level but they have never been THIS gorgeous. The cinematography in this movie was absolutely stunning and there were several breathtaking moments of stillness that I found myself completely lost in. Another credit to Mendes’ bravura direction as well as Roger Deakins.

The action set pieces & fight choreography in this were top notch and thankfully there was no use of shaky cam or shoddy editing to obscure the scenes.

Thomas Newman’s score was just as powerful and sweeping as the massive landscapes and intense action that inhabited Skyfall. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he got an Oscar nod for this because it’s truly amazing stuff.

If you’re a fan of the Bond franchise as a whole then you will find great delight in the nods, jabs and homages that this film sends to the older Bond films. Some are blatant and some are very subtle but they’re all brilliantly done.

What I Didn’t Like:

While I understand that she was used to help set up the Silva’s debut into the film, Severine (played by French actress Bérénice Lim Marlohe) ultimately felt expendable and by the time the movie had reached the final act I’d practically forgot that she was even in it at all.

Overall:

As we come upon the 50th anniversary of the granddaddy of all spy media, Skyfall presents the questions of whether or not spies are redundant in this day and age and more importantly if James Bond is still capable of getting the job done after all this time. Skyfall is a story of revenge, resurrection & redemption that wisely doesn’t simply focus on Bond himself but also those who are immersed in and have been effected by his line of work. It’s a movie that ponders whether or not both the Bond character and the franchise itself should hang it up ride off  and into the sunset with it’s legacy still intact. With the stakes this high Skyfall had no choice but to rise to the occasion and thanks to Sam Mendes’ brilliant direction, amazing ensemble acting, breathtaking cinematography, powerful scoring and truly dynamic action, it did that and then some. Skyfall is a a cinematic tour de force that not only redeems James Bond the character but also reinvigorates the franchise by taking a few cues from the past. Please do yourself a favor, grab some friends and go see this immediately.

Rating: A

Shegaw Reviews Wreck-It Ralph

4 Nov

It’s strange how dubious of a title being called “the best video game movie of all-time” can be. Sure, there’s the virtue of video game movies being inherently awful. We are all familiar with this. Exceptions have been made for movies like the first Mortal Kombat. Maybe some of the Resident Evil movies were passable, but I’d be hard-pressed to distinguish any of them from each other. Oh, and I have my soft spot Street Fighter. I mean, “Muscles from Brussels” [Jean-Claude Van Damme] as an American military colonel spouting lines like, “Come out from behind the curtain, wizard!”

Having said that, it is generally recognized that these movies are good for video games, but not as movies in their own right. The bar is set low for video game adaptations. But there have been great video game movies. Scott Pilgrim was musical that broke into fighting games (and song too). King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was a great documentary that worked up competition of a video game world record into a professional boxing match. eXistenZ, Indie Game: The Movie and many others have held the title of “best video game movie” as well and now Wreck-It Ralph can join that club.

Wreck-it Ralph is an analog of seminal Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr. games. The titular Wreck-It Ralph, voiced by John C. Reily, is the appropriately named antagonist to Fix-It Felix [voiced by Jack McBrayer]. Simple relationship: Ralph wrecks stuff, Felix fixes it and obvious reviewer is obvious. Taking a page out of Toy Story, and this is where I’ll draw the line on the comparisons to it, the games and characters in a place called Litwak’s Arcade come to life when the place closes at night and gather at Game Central Station. Feeling unfulfilled and unwanted, Ralph decides that he no longer wants be the villain and sets out on a mission to become a good guy and leave his own game. However, there are unforeseen consequences for leaving his own game that could leave all of the games in peril.

The sight of seeing so many characters from the most popular games of the 80s and 90s is just something to behold for video game fans. No doubt, you’ve seen the trailer for this one that depicts the bad guy support group. It’s great, funny and only a taste of all the characters you’ll see in the first act of the film. Disney certainly put their money where their mouth is here as this movie must have been one of the most expensive just in terms of rights acquisition. The House of Mouse/Avengers/Jedi managed to capture a surreal daze for a while making these characters interact. It’s akin to seeing Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse together in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Michael Playstation 3 commercial or pitting Mario, Sonic and Solid Snake against each other in Super Smash Brothers Brawl.

Of course, it’s not enough to have a fat wallet and afford these characters to make a good movie. There’s a genuine sensation of recognition for these characters and the way they act. Yes, Q*bert makes the @!#?@! sounds, but it’s often more subtle than that. You’ll be watching two characters talk and, in the background, Sonic will get gently nudged causing rings to come flying out of him. There’s graffiti on the arcade that says stuff like “all your base are belong to us” and “Leeroy Jenkins.” It just displays that the people working on this movie have a genuine love for the subject matter. Even the short that opens the film, Paperman, is fantastic in that respect. The movie has heart and humor, but it’s not without its faults.

While the first act is a buffet of references and sight gags, things slowed down a bit after that because the movie isn’t about those characters. It’s about Ralph and his quest for identity, recognition and fulfillment. This introduces us to the main plot device of the film: game jumping. In an effort to get his, Ralph leaves his game to enter another called Hero’s Duty that’s effectively Halo meets Call of Duty meets Gears of War. There’s actually an interesting thematic commentary here on the generation gap and how much things have changed 20-30 years. Games are more violent and scary and it makes me wonder if we as a society are becoming increasingly hardened and perhaps cynical at times. But then I steal a car, kill civilians with gun that uses a cat as a silencer, buy a hooker, run her over, get my money back and go about my day. In all seriousness, the Hero’s Duty section is probably the best part of the film. It’s full of action, allows for a bit of drama, but it is very much short lived. It felt like as I was settling into this world, it gets replaced with another game jump. This time to a game called Sugar Rush.

The Sugar Rush portion of this film is Candyland (hey, it’s still a game) crossed with a stock cart racing game. I don’t want to say Mario Kart because it’s so easy, so I’ll cite it as an allusion to all those flash games on kids websites out there. It’s too bad that for a racing game called Sugar Rush that things slow down. And if you’re groaning at the pun, you should! This whole movie has it’s share of puns, but this section is filthy with them. It’s borderline Cars 2 level pun-ishment. What’s worse is that they’re not even game-based. They’re puns about candy. Halloween just passed and you’re drilling this into our teeth? Admittedly, this section skews younger and introduces the character Vanellope von Schweetz [Sarah Silverman]. She’s the typical annoying and diminutive comedic relief with a surprising emotional turn that gets injecting into these animated films. I’ll admit that the dramatic turn in this section is genuinely gripping, but the whole section still feels drawn out for the kids. It may be necessary considering how many of the games alluded to in this movie skew to older audiences.

One of my complaints about this movie has to do with the balance of what we, as an audience, have been given and what we’ve been sold on. I make a point not to criticize movies for what I would have done, but what has been done or at least attempted. I wanted more games in this movies. Yes, they’re all over the arcade, but that gets curtailed once we’ve started game jumping and it really should have picked up more. We enter this these worlds [Hero’s Duty, Sugar Rush] created for the movie, but they’re juxtaposed to all of the real world virtual worlds. Yes, it’s a self-contradictory statement, but give a free slot here, I’m on a roll. If anything, the adjacent arcade cabinets weren’t as thoroughly explored as they could have been.

And here’s where I may be plucking at short hairs, but for all of the characters that Disney got from games to be in this film, there is at least one that is conspicuously absent. It is a gripe that is purely business related, and many would cite me for being ungrateful for all that we’re given. Yeah, I’d love it if Nathan Drake, Master Chief, Kratos, Vector Man and Okami were there, but I’m not complaining about it, but it’s clear that the movie wanted to go down a road regarding a particular character it was just incapable of doing so. I’m sure you guys can tell based on my not so clandestine coded language that I’m talking about Toe Jam & Earl. I just want a poindexter wearing rocketskates. Still, for all of my complaining, this a Disney movie that contains Mortal Kombat style Fatalities! The film was practically tailored for me and I was smiling throughout it. It’s visual feast, the voice acting is good across the cast (the line blurring the actors from their animated forms is very thin and pixelated), sight gags like limited animation are aplenty and it may even warm your heart at times. Hopefully, this movie makes enough slots and tokens that it gets a 1up so more game worlds and characters can be explored. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to ponder how awful the direct video game tie-in for this movie would have been.

Marcus Reviews The Man With The Iron Fists

3 Nov

Synopsis:

Making his debut as a big-screen director and leading man, RZA-alongside a stellar international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu-tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero in nineteenth-century China who must unite to destroy the clan traitor who would destroy them all. Since his arrival in China’s Jungle Village, the town’s blacksmith (RZA) has been forced by radical tribal factions to create elaborate tools of destruction. When the clans’ brewing war boils over, the stranger channels an ancient energy to transform himself into a human weapon. As he fights alongside iconic heroes and against soulless villains, one man must harness this power to become savior of his adopted people.

What I Liked:

The biggest compliment that I can give this movie is that it made me feel extremely nostalgic. Having grown up watching old kung fu classics such as The Seven Deadly Venoms, Enter The Dragon, etc, watching this felt like taking a time machine back to my childhood. You can tell that RZA is a huge fan of those films as all of the classic kung fu tropes appear in this film.

Like most kung fu movies there are alot of colorful characters that inhabit this world that RZA created. Most impressive/entertaining of which were Jack Knife played by Russell Crowe (who was basically Jack Sparrow but was a blast to watch), Madame Blossom played by Lucy Liu (Basically playing her character in Kill Bill amped up to 11), Brassbody played by Batista (who did some impressive physical acting) and Silver Lion played by Byron Mann (who chewed up the scenery every time he came on screen and was by far my favorite character).

There were some brilliant moments of self satire in the dialogue (mostly given to Silver Lion) as well as a moment of pure gold uttered by Russell Crowe’s character that almost made me stand up and cap.

You could tell that RZA’s spent many hours in his life watching classic kung fu movies as he used alot of the editing techniques and camera tricks used in them to make it feel more authentic.

The fight choreography, though not for everyone, was pretty damn impressive throughout.

“Shame On A Nigga” by The Wu + Kung Fu Badassery = one of the dopest movie intros that I’ve seen all year. My friends and I were AMPED after it had ended.

What I Didn’t Like:

While he’s a solid director, RZA is an outright TERRIBLE actor even by kung fu movie standards. He seems to have a really hard time enunciating and his voice was ridiculously low so most of the time I didn’t understand what he was saying. To make matters worse he was narrating the entire movie.

While storytelling was never one of the strong suits of the Kung Fu genre, this movie was so all over the place at times that it was easy to lose track of what the whole thing was about in the first place. While I didn’t have much difficulty keeping up personally, my friends were totally lost and I’m sure most of the other people in the theater were too.

Though I understand why they used it, I HATE CG blood and this movie had loads of it.

The section of the movie where they explored RZA’s character’s back story and he became the focal point of the movie was by far the weakest and most unintentionally hilarious part of the entire movie. After it was all said and done I couldn’t help but feel like this would’ve been a better, and more coherent, movie without his character all together.

For a movie directed by the head of the Wu-Tang Clan, there was a surprising lack of hip-hop in the score which was honestly disappointing to me (especially after how amazing the intro was).

After all of the buildup, I was left feeling that the finale was a tad bit anticlimactic.

Overall:

Let me start off by saying that The Man With The Iron Fists is a terrible movie but it’s terrible in the best way possible. If we’re judging it by pure filmmaking standards it’s got incoherent storytelling, amateur camerawork, hilariously bad acting and somewhat schizophrenic fight choreography but at the same time that’s what made it so entertaining. It’s almost unfair to critique this in terms of filmmaking because going into this one should already expect it be below average in that respect. If you’ve seen pure kung fu movies before then you know that the best ones revel in how ridiculous they are and The Man With The Iron Fists succeeds in that respect for the most part. Though I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments where I was curious about how this movie would’ve turned out if Quentin Tarantino had directed it instead of RZA. Nevertheless, While I wouldn’t recommend this to most people, if you’re a fan of kung fu movies and are just looking for a good time/you’ve already seen Wreck-It-Ralph then gather some likeminded friends and check this gem that’s destined to land on many people’s guilty pleasure list.

Rating: C