Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” is the sixth “Spider-Man” film, and it’s easily the best since “Spider-Man 2” (from the original trilogy). The Spider-Man franchise has had a bit of inconsistency, starting strong but ending a bit weakly with the dreaded (but somewhat over-hated) “Spider-Man 3”; then, rebooted with 2 completely forgettable films and a forgettable Peter (played as dutifully by Andrew Garfield as possible). As reliable as Spider-Man is as an entertaining comic book hero, his movie franchise hasn’t been as dependable.

Marvel still wants to save their golden boy, however; they threw him in “The Avengers: Civil War”, and a young, boisterous Tom Holland was cast. His cameo was brief but fun, and gave enough of an excuse I guess, to give him a full feature length film.

But this time, the studio was smart to not reboot the whole story all over again, so that in the 3rd time in 15 years, we’d have a “Peter Parker origin story”. In “Spider-Man: Homecoming”, directed by Jon Watts (“Clown”), we already know Peter is Spider-Man, and he’s already fought with the Avengers. This allows the character to be exactly where he needs to be, and not re-introduced again.

Parker has returned from fighting the Battle of New York, and is ecstatic that he’s been able to cut his teeth with Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr., if you didn’t know that already) and the Avengers. He’s given the guise of being an intern to the Stark company, so no one suspects what he’s really up to. His Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) encourages him in his internship, and he seems to be the envy of some students at school. But Parker has his teenage problems: he longs for a shot at a girl named Liz (Laura Harrier), a brainy and beautiful girl that is keen to Parker’s attraction. He also has a little rivalry with the school rich kid Eugene “Flash” Thompson (Tony Revolori), who competes with Parker in the ‘mathletes’. And, unfortunately for Parker, school comes before superhero. He still has to do his homework.

The city has its share of thieves and criminals, but none more powerful than a mysterious villain referred to (in credits only) as the Vulture. He’s only known in the film as Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), a contractor whose business is co-opted by Stark’s own Damage Control following the Battle, to clean up the after effects. Toomes, dismayed but not detracted, steals some of the artifacts himself and sells the exotic weapons at a high price to support his family. Toomes is a lunch bucket villain. He’s blue collar, not looking to take over the world, just looking for a piece of American Pie.

But this doesn’t sit well for 15 year-old Peter, who trails him and tries to stop him by himself. This bothers Stark, and Parker’s chaperone Happy (Stark’s colleague, played by Jon Favreau), and it gets Spider-Man in quite a lot of hot water.

For us, as an audience, we’re licking our chops to watch Spider-Man fight. And, like Stark, his suit is powered by AI, a bit of a SmartSuit. His AI, Karen (voiced by Jennifer Connelly), helps him out of jams both with the bad guys, and gives some sage life advice.

Also along for the ride is Peter’s school friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), who wants to be “the guy in the chair”, the one behind the scenes who aids his super hero friend. At first Peter is hesitant; but after some run-ins, and Ned’s assistance, he agrees. Ned’s contributions are essential to Peter’s escaping certain doom, and proves his worth as his “sidekick”.

There are some breathtaking action sequences that string the film along, including one that takes place on the Staten Island Ferry; and the other atop the Washington monument. The Ferry sequence may remind viewers of the subway scene in “Spider-Man 2”; but it doesn’t feel like a rip off. This is actually the bread and butter of a Spider-Man story: he has to save a piece of New York City. In the 1st movie, it’s the Queensboro Bridge (in the reboot it’s the Williamsburg Bridge).

Most of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is watching Tom Holland eat up the Peter Parker role. He’s the youngest actor to portray the character, which works to its benefit. There’s a literal breath of new life into the character; and for some reason, it makes him more believable than previous incarnations played by Garfield and Tobey Maguire.

The strongest parts, like much of the MCU films, involve humor. There are a lot of quality laughs here, and it certainly strengthens the film’s entertainment value. Stark’s scenes are amusing; but it’s a lot more than that. RDJ doesn’t have to save this film. He’s just a piece. Keaton is exceptional as the ice cold Toomes, just trying to make a good living, but is also cutthroat. Batalon as Spidey’s BFF is also cute and charismatic. And, can’t forget Zandaya’s Michelle, or “MJ” (duh!). On balance, the whole cast provides good performances. Holland and Keaton’s stand out, but they all do well to round out the film.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” brings confidence back to the franchise, and sets up nicely for its own series. I want to see more of Holland as Peter, and watch him grow up a little. He already started to toward the end of the film. Now, as a future Avenger, we can see the character finally reach his full potential.

Just don’t go forcing Venom on us again right now, mkay?

My rating: :-)

Iron Man 3

May 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Movies

I had to go back and look up my review of “Iron Man 2” to remember what I thought of it. That seems to be standard operating procedure when it comes to comic book movies lately. Years ago I used to read comic books, and I enjoyed them. But they disappeared from my mind almost the instant my eyes finished the last panel. It’s not that they’re not worth remembering; it’s just that for the most part, there’s nothing to remember. I’d read it, enjoy it, and move on. That’s not including the deeper graphic novels I’ve read such as “Watchmen”, “The Sandman” or “From Hell”. Even mini-series such as “Midnight Nation” and certain storylines of major super heroes like “The Dark Knight Returns” have resonated in my mind. But something like a random “Superman” or “Punisher” comic tends to be nothing more than eye candy.

That’s pretty much the equivalent of a summer blockbuster, too. They’re not meant to challenge your brain or make you think about anything. And the good ones will keep your mind occupied so that when you’re ready to flush it out, it isn’t a painful experience. Maybe movies like these don’t really need to stay in your memory anyway.

That was my approach to “Iron Man 3”. When I had read my review, I did recall a few things from part 2. I didn’t find it to be as entertaining as “Iron Man” mainly because it was more of the same, which is true of a lot of sequels. I enjoyed elements of it, mostly concerning Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark, which is always a treat. So going into “Iron Man 3”, I suppose I had really no expectations. I’ve found that’s the best way to enjoy a movie like this. Then again, it didn’t help when it came to “Men in Black 3”. But sometimes movies disappoint without expectations at all.

“Iron Man 3” did not disappoint; on the contrary, I was pleasantly entertained. Downey, Jr. returns as the deadpan but smug and thoroughly egotistical Tony Stark. This time he’s remembered a time when he blew off a potential client, named Aldrich Killian (played well by Guy Pearce). It was 1999, and New Year’s Eve, and Stark had females on his mind, a “botanist” named Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall). She began developing something that later becomes known as “Extremis”, a volcanic virus inside you that helps heal your physical disabilities while also turning you bright red. Killian comes off as a bit nerdy and clingy for Tony’s liking, and so he leaves him high and dry.

This turns out to be a big mistake for Stark as now Killian has fully developed the virus “Extremis” and plans on using it for his own benefit, at the expense of Tony Stark’s life. But Stark isn’t the only one targeted. He also has a thing for his wife, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) who was at one time Stark’s assistant.

Another villain trolling around known as the Mandarin (played by Ben Kingsley), who is threatening the President and all of America to terrorize anyone and anything he can to make his statement about…whatever it is he is making a statement about. This catches the eye of Stark enough to threaten him, and tells the Mandarin publicly what his home address is.

Next thing you know, Stark’s home is destroyed and all of his toys with it. Except one suit, which gets so badly damaged that Stark has to practically build it from scratch. He has a little bit of help, after being dumped in Tennessee due to his artificial assistant JARVIS using a flight plan previously made by Stark to investigate the Mandarin. He meets a kid named Harley (nicely played by Ty Simpkins) who is also handy with electronics, and the two form a small bond as they help each other out of their respective jams.

There’s a twist about the Mandarin I won’t give away but you shouldn’t be too surprised when it happens. There really isn’t anything that surprises in a film like this–it really is just a blow-em-up with all the bells and whistles. What makes it fun is Downey Jr.’s performance, some big laughs, some sweet moments between him and Harley and him and Pepper, and there’s a very funny scene involving Kingsley that makes his performance one of the best in the film.

It’s another “getaway” movie. It really doesn’t take itself that seriously, and it doesn’t beat you over the head too much with overblown special effects. There is just enough character development thrown in to make it more than just a spectacle for the eyes.

Out of the three films, I may keep this one in mind the most. I liked that they raised the stakes a bit for Stark, making him start from scratch, having to pull all of his resources. He gets some help from his buddy Rhodey (Don Cheadle, good as always), and Favreau is a delight as Happy. But since Stark has such an easy time being a genius and indestructible hero, it was nice to see him have to lose a little bit so he could really have to fend for himself. He’s also still struggling with his near run in with death back in “The Avengers” (making a nice cross reference), so he has some demons to battle there.

The action scenes are well done, and well written too. This is coming from Shane Black, who directed and co-wrote the film. He is all-too well known in the Hollywood world for being a master of action. He wrote films like “Lethal Weapon”, “The Last Boy Scout”, “Last Action Hero” and “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, for example. He has just enough wit, and just enough bombastic action in this film to make it a well rounded experience.

My rating: :-)

The Avengers

May 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

We are still in the throes of the Super Hero Blockbuster era, and it seems to have gotten so out of hand that now individual super heroes are going to share screen time with others, while also enjoying their own separate franchises. In the DC Universe, we’ve been familiar with this idea with the Justice League. Everybody knows the Justice League–Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and who could forget Aquaman? Well, it seems as though JL has a long ways to go before being able to make their own film. On the Marvel side, however, things have been gearing up for years to make “The Avengers”. Beginning with 2008’s “Ironman”, and culminating in last summer’s “Captain America”, the ingredients were there to put together Marvel’s own Justice League: Ironman, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and various members of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and Hawkeye. You’ll have to be somewhat knowledgeable to follow who Hawkeye and the Black Widow are; but really, we just want to see the heavyweights. We’re introduced to a new Hulk, because Ed Norton from the 2008 reincarnation of the super beast was “not available” (he declined). So we’re given Mark Ruffalo to provide the body needed for the brainiac Bruce Banner. The body needed for the rageaholic Incredible Hulk is already provided by the obligatory CGI post production magic.

The set up for the story of “The Avengers” couldn’t be simpler: Loki (well played again by Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother (did you see “Thor”? well, maybe it won’t matter either way), wants to harness the power of the Tesseract, a cube shaped energy source with limitless possibilities, and control the world. He wants to use a race of supreme beings from another world known as the Chitauri to conquer Earth and be master of the universe, I guess. He infiltrates by way of a portal opening up during a Tesseract trial run and steals the the cube from S.H.I.E.L.D. that’s been protecting it, and also turns a few people into turncloaks–like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

The rest of the plot is basically about assembling the Avengers and winding them up into an inevitable climax with a lot of bad guys and a few creepy slug like monsters that wreak havoc on New York City. But the joy of “The Avengers” is not about the plot. Unless you were totally riveted by my last paragraph, what you came to see was a bunch of super heroes geeking out and bantering. And that’s just what Joss Whedon provides in this easily predictable but still most entertaining action tour de force.

Whedon didn’t have too much to think about while constructing the plot with co-story writer Zak Penn. But his script is crisp and full of wit. You have the familiar Whedonisms he’s utilized in “Buffy” and “Firefly”/”Serenity”–the zippy one-liners, characters you really like will meet untimely deaths (I won’t say who), girl power, and at least one or five fist fights among the main characters. Nothing gets too bitter or over the top. Whedon does a fine job of keeping everyone in each other’s faces but not at each other’s throats. There are some in-fights between the heroes–after all, they’re super heroes. Don’t think they have super egos to go along with them?

The wonderful thing about the film, too, is that these heroes are portrayed by good actors. Robert Downey, Jr. is always a welcome face, especially as Tony Stark/Ironman and provides the most throwaway lines. Chris Evans is extremely credible as the patriotic but still questioning Captain America. Chris Hemsworth is charismatic and hunky as Thor. Scarlett Johansson is more than just pretty, she’s also quite cunning as Black Widow. No surprise, but certainly a treat, is of course having the new guy, Mark Ruffalo, who will most likely get his own rebooted franchise for the “Hulk” (which would make the third time this happens in the last ten years, but who’s counting?). Ruffalo is cool and calm and smart as Banner; but he has something inside that’s itching to come out. And his best line–“I’m always angry”–perfectly defines Banner/The Hulk. I was always fascinated by this Jekyll/Hyde character, and Ruffalo pulls it off pretty well. He doesn’t have the angst level of Ed Norton or the good looks of Eric Bana; but he’s got that just-right touch that makes him instantly believable.

Most of the film is a mix of characters chiding each other and wall-to-wall action. Just about all of the third act involves the baddies from another universe coming down to earth. This is probably where the film gets the most derivative as far as modern action films are concerned. Nothing here is anything you haven’t seen in just about every summer blockbuster of the past 5 years. But that’s really just window dressing. There’s not a lot to admire in the action department. We’ve seen all of that. But it’s still fun because Whedon has done a really good job of setting everything up with likable and entertaining characters. I wasn’t a fan of the film “Captain America”, but his character is well written in “The Avengers” that I’d be willing to give him another chance whenever his sequel is released.

And of course, we’re going to have another “Avengers” movie. It can get a bit groan inducing to think that we’re going to have an “Iron Man 3”, “Thor 2”, and eventually another “Hulk” movie. Not to mention, Spidey’s movie is coming out this summer too. For those who follow the comics, Spider-Man is also an Avenger. So, we could have him show up in “The Avengers 2”. That’s an awful lot of Marvel inundating Hollywood.

If they could get Whedon to helm more of these projects, though, I think I’d be more excited to see them. This stuff is right up Whedon’s alley. While I thought he was trying too hard to press the right buttons with “Cabin in the Woods”, here the keystrokes come easy. He just has a knack for turning the cliched and predictable action genre into something fresh and fun. And you just want more.

My rating:  :-)

Sherlock Holmes

December 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

In some ways this film felt more like a summer action flick than a brooding winter film. Somehow, a film involving a shrewd and careful detective like Sherlock Holmes doesn’t seem like it would involve a lot of action or fighting. But in Guy Ritchie’s world, Holmes doesn’t just have to beat you up mentally–he has to beat the living daylights out of you physically, too. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

This film snaps, crackles and pops from the very getgo. It starts in a rather brooding way, as Holmes is introduced as somewhat of a brute more than an intellectual. It’s Watson that’s more down to earth and calm. Their chemistry works well, although as usual Downey, Jr. steals the show.

The plot revolves around a mysterious and dangerous man named Blackwood who apparently has supernatural powers (and gives off the feel of Voldemort from “Harry Potter”), and “rises from the dead” after being hanged for murder. Also revealed is a larger plot involving an underground occult society that has big plans for England, and the world, as far as a takeover. For the most part, I wasn’t sure how this would work out since Holmes stories don’t usually involve the supernatural. But the pay offs, while predictable, make sense–and Holmes will always get to the bottom of it.

There are some things that didn’t seem to work. Rachel McAdams plays an ancillary character who is a criminal, but is a love interest for Holmes. For some reason, this chemistry never seemed to mesh. I like McAdams and I think she has been very good in some of her roles. But this just seemed a bit forced, and thrown in because the studio wanted a romantic sub-plot. Also, some of the ways Holmes figures things out can be a bit contrived as well. You don’t get to follow his logic, he is always three steps ahead of you. While that works for most of the film, it’d be nice for the audience to be in on it a little bit and be able to figure out how some of these things unfolded rather than Holmes just automatically telling you. I’ve never been a big fan of the “Let me explain to you the entire plot, Mr. Bond” thing.

But this film is very enjoyable from start to finish, and it certainly delivers where it should. Guy Ritchie may have too much a fondness for grungy characters and violence, but he sure knows how to shoot it and make it look good.

My rating: :-)

Martini Take – Summer Movies 2008

September 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog

With the forthcoming weather getting decidedly cooler, and the box office draws becoming decidedly weaker, it’s time to realize that we are entering autumn, one of my favorite times of the year–and, one of my least favorite times of the year. Well, as a filmgoer, at least. I’m sure I’ve chimed in more than once about how much I hate September for movies, and October doesn’t get much better. In fact, things really don’t start getting good until November and December when you get the Oscar nods out and the quality is much better. And the pretention is off the charts!

So, I decided why not take a look back at what was the summer of 2008, the highs and lows, and the meh’s.

I’m going to cheat a little bit, and start in the spring. The only reason why I’m doing this is because I wanted to write some glowing words about a seemingly forgotten comedy that I thought was wonderfully entertaining.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

This was released in late April, but had the feel of a summer comedy, mainly because it took place in Hawaii most of the time. The film starred Jason Segel, who also wrote the screenplay, about a guy who works in Hollywood as a musical composer for a hot Network TV show that’s a hilarious parody of “CSI”, called “Crime Scene”. Segel’s character, named Peter, is also going out with the show’s main star, Sarah Marshall. But she ultimately breaks up with him, and just by a strange coincidence, they both find themselves on the same resort in Hawaii. Peter goes because his friend, played by Bill Hader (Michael Ian Black, I miss you dearly), tells him he needs to get away. Sarah goes because she is with her new man, a hippie rockstar played by Russell Brand. Brand’s character is actually sympathetic toward Peter, and while Peter makes his situation more miserable by dwelling on Sarah, the friendly and beautiful receptionist Rachel (played by Mila Kunis), tries to help him…forget her. The film is very funny and honest about love and relationships, and I pretty much bought it the entire way. The only nagging problem, which I’ve alluded to before with Apatow movies, is that the scenes did go on too long at times, and while the Dracula puppet show was a good pay off, the scene in which it is first presented is a bit awkward, even for awkward’s sake. But a great pick up on DVD, a great date movie, and if you’ve just been broken up with…maybe you can pretend you’ll find your Rachel too, and keep on kidding yourself. My rating: :-)

Moving right along into May…we start to inch closer to summer, but not before…

Iron Man

One of the biggest surprises for me of this year. I wasn’t really expecting it to be much of a film, even though I am a big time Robert Downey, Jr. apologist (can you really be a fan of this guy?). I still wasn’t really into the whole thing, and while I do read comic books, Iron Man never really interested me that much. But my God was I impressed. This movie was a lot of fun. Now, it’s important to realize that this is a comic book movie. There are certain rules in comic book movies: 1) Don’t follow the science of things. It is really just made up, and made to look really cool. Anybody pounding away on a keyboard, or doing some diagnostic work on something chemical or robotic–it’s not going to be accurate, and it’s not going to be logical sometimes. But it still looks cool! Okay? Now I’ll be honest and say that the plot isn’t exactly going to blow you away. It’s fairly predictable. But it is well done, and it’s well executed. It’s not boring. And of course, the best part–Robert Downey, Jr. The guy is just a lot of fun to watch. He really makes you forget you’re watching a comic book movie. The film does devolve a bit into typical comic book movie “Final Boss Fight” mode toward the end, but it’s still a great spectacle, and anyone who didn’t find the movie entertaining should probably lighten up. This was a great start to the summer season. My rating: :-)

Now after that, a monkeywrench is thrown into the whole thing. What was the Summer of 2008 without…Indiana Jones? Well, I’ll tell you what it was with Indiana Jones–lamer.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

This was without a doubt the most anticipated movie of the summer until a certain actor died right after playing a certain role in a…all right, you get it. 19 years after the last Indiana Jones movie, which I was 10 when I saw it, and I could not wait for this movie. Now, I didn’t have the highest expectations. Let’s be real: Spielberg hasn’t made a really good film in years, and Lucas hasn’t written anything coherent in decades. And then you add David Koepp to the mix? I think Monty Burns’ monkeys could have concocted a better script than this drivel. But, it’s not the script we look for in an Indiana Jones movie. It’s the action, right? And that was done fairly well. But, a little heavy use of the CGI and not enough Indy kickin some A, the movie sort of fell flat…in just about every aspect. Cate Blanchett wasn’t even good in this movie. Overall, I didn’t hate it. But I thought it was a bit of a wasted opportunity. And the ending? I think I went into diabetic shock with how sugary it was. It will most likely be the last Indiana Jones film, and that’s fine with me, if this is where it was headed anyway. My rating: :?

Then you have a movie come out of nowhere at the end of May that I thought was actually quite good. A well done horror film that is a bit of an old school throwback to the chilling slasher flicks like “Halloween”.

The Strangers

This is the debut of Bryan Bertino, and you can tell, especially with the unnecessary way it ends. But, he definitely shows some promise as he takes us on a journey with a couple that is sort of on the brink of break-up, after the main character proposes to his girlfriend, and she tells him, “No.” To make it worse, he had done up his parents’ old summer house all romantic like, thinking she would say “Yes” and the two would have a great night to remember. Well, it turns out to be a night to remember, in far worse ways. A trio of masked individuals taunt and scare the couple, and ultimately trap them in their own house. There is never a reason for their behavior, and that makes it all the more unnerving. The film has a very claustrophobic feel, and the scenes in which the masked people are just staring at the couple in different areas is absolutely haunting. The film loses its touch in the final moments, but the wheels don’t completely come off. I think this movie fell into oblivion during the summer, but should make a comeback around October, when it’s Scary Movie Time. Overall, a very solid horror flick. My rating: :-)

And with that, summer arrives. It’s June. “Kung Fu Panda” is released, another Adam Sandler movie is released that nobody’ll watch except Adam Sandler and his friends, and…whoa, what’s this? “The Happening”? So M. Knight Shyamalan be a summer hero?

No.

The Happening

Probably the most pitiful excuse for a horror or a science fiction thriller produced in recent memory, “The Happening” is trite, boring, incomprehensible, and a total waste of good acting talents. The movie’s “plot” revolves around people killing themselves because…get this…it’s the revenge of the plants. They’re revolting against us! Shyamalan has to be on thin ice right now, and if this is his best effort to try and save himself from his latest blunders “The Village”, and “Lady in the Water”, his next appearance in the movie theatres may involve him ripping your ticket. My rating: :x

June actually got stronger with a decent second effort on the Hulk franchise, and I really enjoyed Ed Norton’s more somber approach than Eric Bana’s angry-at-everything-for-some-reason approach. “The Incredible Hulk”, unlike the hollow “Hulk”, had some depth and some charisma. It didn’t have the overall feel of a comic movie, there were some moments in which the Hulk felt like a character, but it still, again, devolves into comic book fanboydom with the final battle. “Get Smart” proved to be a winning comedy, and then you had “Wanted”, which surprised a lot of people because it was actually more entertaining than most expected. I think you could put that one in the “sleeper” category. Oh, and then there was “Wall-E”. Did uh, anybody see that?

So we move into July, and we’re in the meat and potatoes of the summer. With the exception of the over-the-top disappointing “Hancock”, there were some nice surprises like “Stepbrothers”, “Hellboy II: The Golden Army”, and in my opinion, the best movie of the summer, “The Dark Knight”. July had to go and end on somewhat of a sour note with “The X-Files: I Want to Believe”, but we won’t get into that. Seriously, Chris Carter…seriously? Man…

August never really brings that much excitement, but I was stoked to see “Pineapple Express”, and was bummed out by how long it was, and how it wasn’t as funny as it should have been nor as endearing as it could have been. I didn’t bother with “The Rocker”, because…well, I love Rainn Wilson but I’m not a teenager, so I didn’t think this one would really be that appealing. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”? Next? Of course, “Tropic Thunder” rounded out things nicely, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe it could have hit a little harder. “Tropic Thunder” might not have the staying power that, say, “Zoolander” does, but it was still an enjoyable movie.

Biggest Winner

Definitely “The Dark Knight”. I felt it delivered on every level. I know people say Nolan’s “Batman” series is more pretentious and artsy-darksy, but I for one like the change from the goofy Batman, and I think this is far more embracing than Burton’s cold but spiffy Batman.

Biggest Loser

Has to be “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. Many a Youtube Vloggers will agree…it “gargled balls”. It was an insult to the franchise, and they should be ashamed of themselves for making it! Well, okay I know I said it wasn’t that bad…it is a lot of fun to make fun of though. And besides, they’d make fun of YOU the first chance they get!

Sleeper of the Summer

While I’d like to give it to “Stepbrothers” because that turned out to be a very fun film, I’d still say “Tropic Thunder” pwned the box office longer than I thought it would, however, there may have been enough hype to knock “Tropic Thunder” out of sleeper status. “Wanted” is definitely in the conversation, but I think a lot of movies that were supposed to do well did well, and the ones that didn’t, didn’t. I may be wrong about that, but it sounded good when I said it. And, really, do you care what I think? Do I? Hm…

Best Actor

Heath Ledger. What a surprise, huh? But I’m sorry, the guy was just downright superb. He made the Joker into a much more sinister, devilish character. Nicholson’s was a bit more jovial, while Ledger’s was far more  deranged. Runner up: Downey, Jr. Not just for “Iron Man”. He was fantastic in “Tropic Thunder” as well.

Best Actress

Gillian Anderson. Even though “The X-Files” was a waste of time, her performance was anything but. It was a shame, because she’s grown so much as an actress, and was so convincing again as Dana Scully, it’s a shame that she had to waste it on such a poor script.

Worst Actor

Mark Wahlberg. I don’t know if there was anyone who could convincingly say any of the awful dialog that M. Knight wrote in “The Happening”, but Wahlberg looked completely out of sorts in this movie. It was really strange, and embarrassing watching. Just about everybody was terrible in this flick. It was almost like they didn’t even want to be a part of it, and just did it to…be nice.

Worst Actress

Cate Blanchett. I mentioned before how bad she was in “Indiana Jones”. I mean, her accent was so over the top, and I realize that that might have been on purpose. But it was even more irritating and distracting than Malkovich’s french accent in “Johnny English”. It was very half assed. I was disappointed, because I’m usually a very big fan of hers.

Overall Thoughts

I didn’t really know how I wanted to tackle this whole “blog” because I’m not really much of a blogger. I wanted to at least give out some reviews of movies I saw before the web site started, and then gloss over the ones I’ve already written reviews for, obviously. I think overall, this summer was a good one for movies. There have been a lot of summers recently that haven’t really delivered, and I think this one had at least a few movies that lived up to the hype. You’re always going to have over hyped films, and you’re always going to have surprise movies that will go quietly.

I’m looking forward to our upcoming Oscar Season, with movies like “Milk”, “Frost/Nixon”, and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Pri–” oh…nevermind. Yeah…still not quite over that one yet.

There will be a slight hiatus from me viewing new films until the end of this month, but I still intend on renting some and keeping up the reviews as best as I can. And one of these days I do plan on buying some new music. Worry not!

Hope you had a great summer, and we’ll do it again next year. BFF.

Tropic Thunder

August 17, 2008 by  
Filed under Movies

It’s August, so that means it’s the end of the summer blockbuster period, and now we get close to what I call the Dead Zone of the movie season, heading into fall with movies that were shelved by studios because they knew they wouldn’t make any money against the bigger films. But before we enter into that, we’re given one final treat as the summer closes. One last glimpse at the sun before it sets.

“Tropic Thunder” is easily for me the funniest comedy of the entire summer. More focused and playful than “Pineapple Express”, a bit more soulful and bigger laughs than “Step Brothers”; “Tropic Thunder” brings it on every level and fires on all cylinders.

The first ten minutes of this film had me laughing so hard, I couldn’t breathe. It starts with one of the film’s stars, a rapper-turned-actor Apla Chino, promoting his new line of candy bars and some sort of soft drink, followed by fake trailers for the characters played by Ben Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey Jr. Stiller’s movie is a 6th sequel in an action franchise called “Scorcher”; Black’s is a sequel to his hit “The Fatties” (with a comical sequel title), and Downey Jr.’s is a period piece about a homosexual monk. All three trailers are hilarious, but you may find yourself thinking that these could possibly be real trailers–especially with what Hollywood is about to throw at us for the next two months.

The plot is very similar to “Three Amigos!”, but I found it to be not only smarter, but also had more laughs. It’s about a Hollywood production for a film based on the book of a Vietnam vet’s personal story of his tour of duty called “Tropic Thunder”, played by Nick Nolte, and it’s pretty much in production hell. The cast is full of primadonnas, the director can’t seem to handle it, and their mega producer mogul (played by Tom Cruise in a role that is up there in funniest cameos ever territory) is losing patience. The vet offers to the director to shoot the film “guerilla style”, sending the guys out into the jungle and really feeling what it was like for soldiers to be in war. Of course, all hell breaks loose once they’re in the jungle because they come across a bunch of Southeast Asian drug smugglers and think that it’s just a part of the movie.

The film’s second act is weighed down a bit by getting a little heavy handed with the theme of identity and image, and what it really means to be yourself rather than pretending to be a hero–you know the schtick. But it does redeem itself by the end with a fantastic scene at the Academy Awards, in which the documentary about the film wins loads of awards.

Stiller is an industry guy, so this movie isn’t as brutal a satire as, say, “Team America” with how it satirizes Hollywood. It’s more of a light poking-fun-at, but it still gets the job done and I found it to be one of the most fun movies I’ve seen at the movies this summer.

We’ll see how this one ages but for now I think it, along with “Dark Knight” are two movies that lived up to their hype. It’s a rare thing when this happens, but it’s always a pleasure.

Stiller proves he’s still got something left in him, and he also proves he can get some serious talent to make a very non-serious big budget action parody. It’s weird to say that one of the best Hollywood movies this summer is a satire of itself, but then again…it says a lot about the industry doesn’t it?

My rating: :smile:

Family value: Teenagers will be ok with this one, but there’s a lot of foul language and violence that should tell you to keep the little ones away from this one.