Movie Review: The Fighter

It is 2011, but The Fighter is currently duking it out with The Social Network for my favorite film of 2010.  That may give you a clue into how I felt about this movie as a whole.  See a previous post as to why I was slacking on going to the theatre.  I also have to see True Grit (and hopefully 127 Hours).

I’m not even sure where to begin – the acting, the authenticity, the direction, the cinematography, the musical choices (and cues) and the majority of the fight scenes.

The acting.  Christian Bale steals the show as crack-addicted, former pride of Lowell, MA Dicky Eklund.  I’m sure you’ve heard the praise being heaped upon him, and it is all deserved. He may have even been on crack for the part. If you have been to after hours, you can spot a crackhead. Just as good is Mark Wahlberg, who seems custom made to play Micky Ward; the quiet, in-the-shadow younger half-brother of Dicky. Amy Adams felt like she just came off a street in Lowell… and the cast all-around was pretty spot-on. Melissa Leo was good, although a bit over-the-top as the boy’s overprotective manager/mother.

If I had one complaint it’s that they constantly hit us over the head with the ‘I knocked down Sugar Ray’ lines about Dicky… or the fact that Alice (the mother) loved Dicky more. We got it.

The movie was more about this fighter’s struggle with wanting to continue fighting, and the forces in his life that were pulling him apart – and less about the man himself. Which was fine by me, I’m a huge fight fan. By the end of the film, during his fight with Neery for the championship I was so invested in the characters and story I wanted to jump out of my seat cheering a few times.

The fight scenes themselves were pretty great. David O. Russell decided to shoot them as they were shot in the 80’s for ESPN and HBO – and to great effect. It added to the authenticity.  There were some punch close-ups that were lame, but that is a small, nitpicking complaint.

Overall, this movie rocked and I still can’t decide if this was my favorite film of 2010 – or The Social Network.

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I wanted to hate this movie.  I really did. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World signifies everything ‘hipster’ that I despise. I don’t like manga or that art style either.

But I couldn’t. And I didn’t. I actually really liked it.

I think all the credit goes to Edgar Wright.  I am not a huge fan of any of his other films, but he makes this thing not only pop off the screen, but zip along at an incredible pace.  Truly creating a comic book on the screen.

Michael Cera, although he plays the same role in very film, fits Scott Pilgrim perfectly.  In fact, the movie was really well cast.

I’m not going to delve too deep into this one, because you can find a ton of reviews out there raving about this movie.  And I’m sure a ton hating it.  It’s definitely worth catching this little gem.

I do want to point out that I think it could have been about 15 minutes shorter.  I’ve heard this elsewhere, and a few of those people all said – I get it, there were 7 evil ex’s in the book – but it’s not serving the plot.  And I’d agree.  I think you can actually knock one of them away – and the one I’d do without is Chris Evans – evil ex #2.  He’s the only one that doesn’t advance the story – and gives exposition we can get anywhere else.

Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

The Kids are All Right is exactly what you would expect from Lisa Cholodenko (I was a fan of Laurel Canyon).  A slice of life film with excellent acting, tight directing and a sharp script. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. There are people out there who may call it a pointless film, as I’ve heard with Laurel Canyon. But it is enjoyable and well worth two hours of your life. But don’t expect to be challenged in any way or to be surprised with anything that happens.

The real prize here is Mark Ruffalo.  He shows a care-free dude-like attitude, but where most actors could have played this without a soul – Ruffalo gives him many layers (credit to the script and direction as well).  Coming from a female writer/director, you might expect this character to be a one-note flake from start to finish, but he is complex and you find yourself rooting for him (at least I did).
Annette Bening and Julianne Moore are exceptional as a lesbian couple with the same problems any married couple would face. I don’t know how you could pick one over the other for any award consideration… it’s sort of a toss-up with who’s better.  I liked Moore’s character more, but I could see how Bening would be embraced by critics more. She’s got a real sharp edge.
The one actor who seemed out of his league here is Josh Hutcherson, who plays the son Laser. He may be a capable actor, but surrounded by so much talent he stood out.
A special mention to Yaya DaCosta, who started her career off as a model, but played a hostess and lover of Ruffalo’s Paul in the film. Most of the time the ability doesn’t match looks, but she’s pretty good.  And she’s got a unique look too.

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans

Could I follow-up Percy Jackson any other way than with the remake of Clash of the Titans?  I even saw them about two nights apart.  So, no, I couldn’t.

They actually have a decent amount in common.  Both are steeped in Greek mythology, with two of the three Gods they focus on being Zeus and Hades.  Both leads are based on Perseus.  Both have the hero having to face Medussa for any chance of success of their mission… and both use Medussa in the same way.

That’s about where the similarities end though.  I have to admit, I was excited about Clash of the Titans when it was first announced, then when Louis Leterrier was attached as director, and even more excited when I saw the trailer.  I’m also a Sam Worthington fan.  But did I see this in theaters?  No.  Because word of mouth was so bad I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  And because the 3D up-conversion was supposedly horrendous.

The action in the film was good from start to finish, as I would expect with Leterrier directing.  The story strains a little in terms of logic, actually a lot – but the action keeps it moving forward at such a clip that you don’t start second guessing things until the movie ends.  For the most part.  Gemma Arterton, who I just raved about in Prince of Persia, looks pretty good here – but not nearly as good as Prince of Persia. She’s a pretty decent actress as well.

Where Leterrier went off the rails was in how he depicted the Gods. They have this Twilight like glow. It is lame, takes you out of the film and just plain sucks. It’s extremely distracting and unnecessary.

And here are my two biggest complaints about the film. One – Hades comes in, ready to wreak havoc on the world. He’s obviously capable of doing what he wants on earth. Why does he empower a rotted soldier to hunt Sam Worthington’s Perseus?  Why didn’t he just do it himself?  End of Perseus.  End of movie.

Two – they hype the Krakken the entire film as the beast that could kill the Gods themselves.  That once they release this thing it is the end of human life as they know it.  It seems like the cousin of the monster in Cloverfield, not the harbinger of death.  In fact, I’m not sure how many people it actually kills. It should have been on a city crushing bender when Perseus finally tackles it.  Not about to kill some princess we hardly know, nor give a shit about.

I guess these are two pretty huge holes in the plot for me and ultimately ruined any enjoyment I was getting out of the action.  But Worthington holds his own again and if you aren’t a Mads Mikkelson fan, you aren’t watching enough of his films.

Movie Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Without harping on the movie’s title, which has been lambasted elsewhere, I’ll get right to it with this one and go after my real target – Christopher Columbus.

What happened to this guy? He wrote and directed some classic films.  Movies like Gremlins and The Goonies and the original Harry Potter.

Although this is a popular young adult book series, it seems like he’s slumming it here. I say ‘seems’ because, to be honest, this film could have been much better in the hands of another director.  Was Columbus phoning this in for a paycheck?  Does he need money that badly?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians has some really fun elements in it. Logan Lerman, who plays Percy, is quite capable.  They have a decent twist in terms of who the lightning thief is and why. As I was watching it, I was angry at some of the logic and then later it all paid off and it had me kicking myself.  I love it when that happens. But it all sort of falls flat and seems like a bunch of scenes randomly strung together.

My girlfriend lasted about 15 minutes before pulling the plug.  But it’s not a bad movie because the book’s plot is entertaining.  If you’re a pre-teen or if you like Greek mythology in a light fantasy setting, this could be up your alley.

Movie Review: Get Him To the Greek

Get Him to the Greek is the type of film is the type of film I see on DVD and kick myself for not seeing when it was out in theaters.  I’d do a roll call for all the films that fit this description, but the list is very long.

Nick Stoller’s followup, and quasi-sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall (another highly enjoyable film I missed in theaters and have watched a dozen times) may lack the overall narrative of the former film, but is even more enjoyable start to finish.  It begins and then doesn’t let up until the end.  Even when it is being sentimental, Stoller and Russell Brand don’t ever let it be boring.

It is Brand who really shines here.  I’m not sure how he got his start in the UK, but I know that he was extremely likeable and funny in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and he just kills it here.  I guess he’s playing a version of himself, but even so – he’s pretty damn good.  His comic timing is spot on, and while he never lets it get sentimental he also doesn’t allow it to go to farce – no matter how far the story pushes there.  I’m not sure there are many other actors out there who could have pulled that off.  The film hits some pretty dark places, and this is something I actually really appreciated in the end.

You kind of see where the plot is going, although that’s not the point of this movie.  It is accepting that and just going along for the wild ride.

Movie Review: Splice

Although I did not get a chance to see Splice in theaters, I wanted to.  As a fan of Vincenzo Natali’s Cube films I thought this sounded interesting… and like Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley.

I’m kind of glad I waited to see this on DVD, because although I thought it was okay – it was just okay.  I would have been disappointed if I had seen it in theaters because my expectations would have been higher.

It is a fairly small movie in terms of story, something you’d expect from Natali – but as usual, he presents some really interesting scientific and theoretical ideas.  That’s sort of where this loses its steam.  Things, from a script and story perspective, start to unravel after they cross the DNA of a human with the animals they’ve been successful crossing.  It’s engaging, but seems to become less and less plausible as it progresses.  And not because a half-human, half-multi-animal creature grows and exists.  But because the actions taken by the two leads seem less and less plausible.

It ends with a battle scene that seems out of place for this film – almost like he was told he needed more action when there was probably a more intelligent way to end it.  Although it falls off the rails a bit, Spliceis a decent filma and Natali does a good job of holding what’s left of the train together.