Monthly Archives: July 2011
CinEffect Episode #7: Rubber, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Catherine, Cyrus, and more The Tree of Life
Captain America: The First Avenger Movie Review
[Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by Joe Johnston
Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Tommy Lee Jones, and Haley Atwell
MPAA: PG-13 – For Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence]
Here’s a rundown of the superhero movies we’ve received this summer…
Thor: Mediocre. X-Men: First Class: Better, but with crippling problems that keep it from greatness. Green Lantern: Crap on a flaming stick. It’s kind of sad to see this. The Dark Knight pretty much raised the bar to a whole new level for the superhero genre, so shouldn’t superhero movies in general be given more of an effort after that film pretty much dominated everything about popular culture for being a great film?
Well, I dunno where I’m going with this stupid ramble so here’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and while this film still doesn’t even get to the level of good of Spider-Man 2 (or Iron Man, for that matter), I still have to call it the best superhero film of the year. It’s not great, but there are some elements in the film that work really weel thanks to director Joe Johnston’s great use of balancing the seriousness and goofiness in the premise.
The film opens with an excavation team in the arctic discovering a crashed ship in the middle of the snow and a shield emblazoned with the colors of red, white, and blue. We then flashback to the early 1940’s, where we meet Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans), a plucky, skinny, but brave little runt who is so goody-two-shoes that it is almost inhuman. Despite being the weakest living human being in America-land, he still wishes to kick Nazi ass in the second World War, stand up against bullies in alleyways, and pretty much fight for the good of all of mankind. If he were put in a Miss America pageant, he would be the only girl in the bunch who would say “World Peace” and actually mean it.
Soon, he’s picked for a special project headed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, and yes, they mean that Stark) that is aimed at creating the perfect super-soldier. Why is he chosen? Because he’s the only one in the god damn pageant who meant it when he said “World peace” that’s why. Soon, he becomes a public symbol for the American way and dons the name of Captain America. In good time, he’s kicking Nazi ass and hunting down the leader of the evil Hydra corporation led by Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving at his Hugo Weaving-est), a man who was literally kicked out of Hitler’s army for being “too evil”.
So, we have a protagonist who is too good to be remotely human, an antagonist who is too evil to be remotely human, and the trailers suggest sci-fi and fantasy elements that look out of place in a 40’s period setting. And despite all this, Captain America works better than Thor‘s attempt at blending Norse fantasy with modern superheroes, or X-Men: First Class‘s attempt at injecting the Cuban Missile crisis with mutants. This is mainly due to Joe Johnston’s direction, who takes things seriously enough without taking things too seriously. In short, he achieves a tough balancing act. It isn’t too silly, too goofy, or too grim, and he somehow finds a way to make Captain America‘s more fantastical elements right at home with the 40’s setting (He did direct The Rocketeer, as well).
The plot is most certainly derivative, and it’s characters are either way too good or too evil to be believable, but the film doesn’t treat everything with irony or moroseness. This isn’t like Priest where every single cliche is evident and yet the film smugly puts itself on a high horse. This isn’t like Scream 3 where the film makes fun of its cliches, yet failing to subvert them in the process. Captain America essentially has a sense of traditionality to it, if that’s even a word. The hero is a good guy, the villain is a bad guy, and not a single shade of gray can be found in the film. And Joe Johnston makes it work, because he adds a sense of class and respect to everything, without putting the film in a golden throne.
The other main reason it works is because of the performances. Chris Evans was the only likeable thing about the Fantastic Four films, he added tons of charisma to The Losers and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and here, he makes Steve Rodgers a believable, and more importantly, likeable goody-two-shoes. That last bit is important. While there still isn’t much depth to the character, you automatically root for the Cap because of his no-nonsense charm and likeability. Hugo Weaving is an expert at making all the villains he’s played as (Most notably Mr. Smith in the Matrix trilogy) deliciously devilish and devious. And Tommy Lee Jones is…well, he’s Tommy Lee Jones, you don’t fuck around with him.
But Thor and X-Men: First Class also had some excellent performances. So what makes Captain America any better? I think the main reason is because unlike those two films, Captain America feels suitably EPIC. The film spans many years in the evolution of Captain America and the second World War, and Joe Johnston embues actual stakes into the picture. Many felt disappointed that Thor felt very small in scale, and I personally felt that X-Men: First Class didn’t feel as epic as it should’ve been. Captain America feels epic. The set-pieces are big and impressive-looking, the passage of time is long, and there is simply just a lot of stuff that happens.
The film still has some problems though. The characters are still rather one-dimensional, when major characters die you don’t really feel too much sympathy, not enough time is spent with Rodgers coping with his newfound powers, and certain aspects of the story will confuse people not familiar with the ones who watched Thor, because of Marvel Studios’s use of applying comic-book continuity to big-screen motion pictures. All that being said, it’s the best superhero film of the year thanks to the performances, directing, and it’s surprising and unconventional ending.
Final Verdict: Captain America: The First Avenger glides on Joe Johnston’s direction and Chris Evans’s leading-man presence. It isn’t perfect, but those two qualities are enough to elevate it above the other superhero films that have released this summer, and this year in general.
That is all.
See ya next time, now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait after the credits because–HOLY SHIT THERE’S AN AVENGERS TRAILER RIGHT AFTER IT AND IT KICKS ASS!! BYE!!
Rubber Movie Review
MPAA: R: For some violent images and language]
Usually, I start out my reviews with an introduction that is partially related to the movie being discussed, or with a witty opening line; but literally all you need to know about Rubber is this: It’s a movie about a killer tire that uses its psychic powers to make people’s heads explode. Yes, this movie actually exists. No, I’m not making this all up. Yes, it came out in (select) theaters. No, it’s not some kind of cheesy B-movie…okay it is totally a cheesy B-movie, but not in the way you’d expect.
Rubber is a film that, I personally think, is impossible to really despise, because it uses such a strange device for telling its narrative about a psychic killer tire that it almost transcends the conventions of storytelling in general. It runs in its own strange internal logic, and it’s impossible to argue with it because it exists solely in a world of “no reason”. As the film’s introduction states: Yes, all of life, even your own, is littered with many moments of “no reason”, but Rubber takes it up to eleven. It’s impossible to hate because it exists in its own world, which, by the way, is unlike anything else. Can we really totally hate on something if there’s literally nothing else to compare it to?
I normally go about giving a full-on plot description at this part of the review, but…I already did. It’s literally just a movie about a killer psychic tire. If I tell you anything more, the experience is spoiled. Therefore, because this movie is, in its own way, impossible to hate, and because describing anything more about the movie would lead to spoilers, this review is pretty much obsolete. So, I guess all I can do now is fuck around with my word processor and tell you how my day went.
So, yeah, I basically beat Deadly Premonition on my Xbox today. What a fucking weird game that is. Your main character is an FBI agent who has an imaginary friend named Zach, talks about old B-movies to him in the car, gets predictions for the future in his coffee (srsly), and talks about serial rapists who pissed and drank on young women’s mutilated skulls in casual conversation. Yeah, pretty effed up. It was awesome.
Other than that, I didn’t really do anything else. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. God, after seeing The Tree of Life I can’t help but feel that I’m wasting my time a lot. It’s actually rather depressing, especially since I (apparently) received spiritual enlightenment from a Terrence Malick movie starring Brad Pitt. I have been writing short stories more often, but I’m too young to be published.
Oh what do you care. These last three paragraphs are being struck out anyway just for comedic effect. Why are you reading this? This is all just one big joke. One big, stupid, stupid, stupid joke that only the comedy-retardant would find funny. I’m practically just bullshitting my way through this. I told you I can’t review this movie. It’s unreviewable…if that’s even a word! So go! Scram! I want to look at my porn now! Why are you still here?!?! You know what, fine, I’ll review the fucking movie.
There’s an element in the film that involves a huge group of people just standing in the desert, all of them looking through a pair of binoculars at the movie that you are supposed to be watching. Confused? It’s really hard to explain this concept in writing, but basically, it’s a way of breaking the fourth wall without breaking the fourth wall. That really doesn’t help to make things less confusing, but just stick with me.
The group of people with binoculars (called the “Spectators” in the film) are all like a surrogate audience for the film. It’s like a fourth wall within the fourth wall. I don’t know whether to call it the “second wall” or the “eighth wall” or something stupid like that, but yeah, I’m not making this stuff up.
Rubber decides to use these elements as an “allegory” of sorts on audience expectations, except it doesn’t work nearly as well as the other plot going on in the film; you know, the more interesting one about the fucking killer psychic tire that can make people’s heads explode.
Not only is the story of Robert The Tire more interesting, but it’s also much better made too. The opening bits with our Rubber friend learning to roll on its own and explode shit for the very first time has a weird, magical quality to it. There’s no dialogue, and it’s all done through a visual language using the tire’s movements. And considering a tire can’t do much movement outside of just rolling around, it’s an incredibly impressive accomplishment. It actually reminded me a lot of the Pixar short film Luxo Jr. and the first third of WALL-E. If the film was just about Robert’s urge to blow things up, I would’ve been much more satisfied…
Granted, it’s hard to make a full-length feature on a tire that makes shit blow up, but the self-aware elements of the film are definitely polarizing to say the least. If Rubber was just a 40 minute short film about this killer tire, with all the “Spectator” business used sparsely, Rubber could’ve gone to ingeniousness. As it is now, it’s still rather good and I’d recommend it, but the film ends up being “too clever” for its own good because it’s penchant for being self-aware gets in the way of the action in many moments.
Not that all this criticism matters because it’s a film that, like I said, is impossible to really hate. And you have to admire the fact that writer/director Quentin Dupieux put all his hard work and money on a very distinctive creative vision about a “psychic killer tire movie”. That really takes balls.
Final Verdict: Even in spite of its imperfections, there really is nothing like Rubber. It’s narrative devices can be a bit too out there for people, but it’s still an incredibly interesting homage to B-movies and certainly much better than one would expect out of a movie about a psychic killer tire. If anything, it’s worth it just for the first 25-30 minutes alone.
That is all.
See ya next time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to kill myself only to reincarnate into an SUV. Oh, the lessons you learn from movies. Bye!
CinEffect Episode 6: The Tree of Life, X-Men: First Class, Operation Rainfall, Trenched, and Triangle
Welcome to the CinEffect Podcast. In this podcast of constant douchebaggery, me (Chris), Alex, and Brady talk about film, games, and everything in between. This week, we review X-Men: First Class, discuss the hidden direct-to-video gem Triangle, get into heated debates about the Operation Rainfall boycott of Nintendo and the Supreme Court ruling of video games as a legitimate art-form, and finally conclude with a philosophically charged in-depth review of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. A profound episode, to say the least.
(0:00) The Moldau by Bedrich Smentana – The Tree of Life OST (Plus Disclaimer)
What We’ve Been Playing
(4:25) Chris – L.A. Noire
(10:48) Brady – Mass Effect, Trenched
(15:33) Alex – Trenched
What We’ve Been Watching
(17:58) Brady – Clerks, Boondock Saints
(22:48) Alex Talks Comics – The Runaways
(28:28) Chris – Paranormal Activity 2, The Living and the Dead, Triangle, Falling Skies
(46:28) Supreme Court defends video games
(55:12) Jamie Foxx is Django Unchained
(1:03:32) Operation Rainfall
(1:16:33) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Trailer
(1:24:21) Alex – The Hangover Part II
(1:29:32) Chris – Bridesmaids
(1:31:56) Chris – Midnight in Paris
(1:35:42) Brady & Chris – X-Men First Class
(1:43:19) Alex & Chris – The Tree of Life
(2:14:23) Where to find us on the internet
(2:15:24) What we’re watching next week
(2:17:04) River by Alexander Desplat – The Tree of Life OST