The supposed-to-be inspiring underdog story of the smaller-than-his-opponents robot boxer, Atom, coupled with the reconnecting of a father and son, the movie delivers wanton punches of overzealously fervent drama.
When Charlie, a down-on-his-luck ex-boxer played by Hugh Jackman, loses his last robot boxer to a 2,000 pound bull, he’s fatefully contacted by attorneys who inform him of the passing of an ex-girlfriend, notifying him that he now has custody of their son, 11-year-old Max. He makes a deal with the deceased’s brother-in-law, which lands him enough cash for a new bot, and the summer with his son. The two of them take the new bot, Noisy Boy, to an underground fight, where they promptly let their arrogance take hold and lose the fight in splendid fashion. Afterwards, the two head to a junkyard in search of parts to build a new bot; when Max has a near death experience, sliding down a cliff, he stumbles upon an entire, in tact sparring bot, named Atom. After cleaning and rebuilding Atom, the small bot wins several underground fights, landing him a career-changing fight in the World Robot Boxing league, where he, of course, beats his opponent, named Twin Cities. After Twin Cities falls, Max charges into the ring, grabbing the mic and challenging the world champion, the predictably named Zeus, to a fight.
The movie serves up, first and foremost, characters that are lovable and irritating at the same time. With stubbornness from the two leads that makes you grit your teeth, the audience is given a look into the more-than-believable bonding between a father and his estranged son amid their utterly campy rise-to-fame.
With no surprises or plot twists, the movie is populated by events you can see 10 minutes prior, lines that are obviously meant to be hard-hitting dramatic quotables that somehow fall short, hard-to-watch dancing, and computer graphics that take clear advantage of the post-Transformers, robot lull.
I give it a 6/10.
A documentary that doesn’t appear to be a documentary. There are no formal interviews or experts, this is a documentary in its purest form. Using purely archival footage, taped interviews, with no computer graphic additions or CGI recreations, this documentary is a pure depiction of the Formula 1 career of Ayrton Senna, perhaps the greatest driver the sport will ever see, cut down before his prime was reached.
Ayrton Senna, of Brazil, went overseas to Europe to move beyond the Brazilian go-kart racing scene, first going to Britain’s open-seat racing in 1981, and finally moving on to Formula 1 in 1984. By the time he would win his first world championship in 1988, he would already be considered a genius at the wheel, with his incredible and intuitive performances proving to be a hallmark of his career and an attribute to be sought after by those to follow him.
The film, constructed chronologically, introduces Senna as a young, naive driver who, despite being nervous and humbled by the chance to enter into Formula 1, is anxious and ambitious, remaining realistic though optimistic, wishing to prove himself as, not just a competent racer but, rather, a great one. Quickly proving himself to be a competent racer, his goals reach ever higher as he continues to out-perform his peers. As he continues to dominate the field he struggles on and off the track with the politics behind the curtain, but remains at the head of the racing pack. After winning three world championships and on the road to a fourth, he shows that he has the potential to be the greatest driver the sport has ever seen, but before he can get there he is wounded fatally in a terrible accident during the course of one of his races.
Throughout the movie, we come to see Senna as a humble, honest man, eager to perfect himself as a driver, eager to prove himself as a racer, and eager to find himself as a person. God-fearing, Senna keeps his spirituality with him always, living a moral life and always wishing to help if he can. Becoming a global superstar through his Formula 1 winnings, he is at the forefront of fame, always pulling his Brazilian heritage and pride along with him, and becoming a national hero to his country, the film depicts the tragedy his countrymen and women face at his death, and, racing fan or not, the audience feels their pain.
As the credits roll and the sad background turns into more uplifting music, I wish the soundtrack would stay somber, as if I’m horrified that the death of this great man could be mocked by such a song. With that feeling, I suppose the movie carried out its intended purpose to memorialize Ayrton Senna.
I give it a 7.5/10.
A cinematically nostalgic film that places emphasis on the empty spaces instead of the words that get spoken, as signified by the the lack of a given name for Ryan Gosling’s character, who is referred to as “the Driver” or “kid.”
Ryan Gosling plays an auto-mechanic and Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights for his boss, Shannon, played by Bryan Cranston, as a getaway driver for robbers. Both his boss and himself have big plans for their immediate future, but that changes when Gosling becomes involved with his next-door neighbor, Irene, her ex-inmate husband, Standard, and their son. When Standard’s criminal associates come to him for money owed and Gosling becomes aware of the danger to his family, who he has grown attached to, Gosling decides to offer his services to Standard. When the heist goes bad, Gosling has some running, driving, and cleaning up to do to get clear of everyone after him and make sure Standard’s family is safe.
Gosling’s character is a man of few words, mysterious and enigmatic, carrying himself with a certain poise and grace that few men have, and the movie mirrors his character. Silent but loud, slow but fast, the movie is a thoughtful, emotional, and harrowing story of one man’s journey to protect friends that he has quickly come to love. A modern view of a noir film, with intense nostalgic touches, the movie is a coal-covered diamond, a work of art, really, something that’s easy to dislike on first glance, but easy to love when you see it for what it is, beyond any slow-moving, lack of dimension first impressions.
With incredible performances, directing, editing, sound and soundtrack, costume design, and attention to detail, “Drive” is a slick, dramatic masterpiece masquerading as a thriller and action film.
I give it a 9/10.
Let me begin by saying that this movie belongs in a select league of incredibly emotionally driving action films. Although not an über original back story, the performances by the characters make this one of the most compelling ‘fight’ movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy give spellbound performances as Brendan and Tommy Conlon, emotionally charged brothers who haven’t seen each other since they were young teens, separated by difficult life choices that they have never had the opportunity to come to terms with, only made worse by the situations that they’ve recently found themselves in. Fueled by conflicted emotions involving their once-alcoholic and previously abusive father, the two brothers find themselves turning to mixed martial arts competition, which they were both raised to master by the hinted-at-being-controversial-tutelage of their father, as a last resort to fix their own problems.
The movie takes up a slow pace, relishing a goodly amount of time revealing the characters, their relations, their problems, etc, without overselling the situations or foreshadowing the end. Small tastes of fighting dot this beginning section, giving a taste of the action; its not enough to serve as any real stretch of an ‘action’ sequence but each quick scene opens your eyes up and leaves you needing to see the finale. However, the film works so well that by the time the finale comes around, you’re wanting the emotional conclusion just as much as the ‘knockout.’ And although the action doesn’t let up once it starts, any bout of fists is not enough to overcome the powerfully rewarding finish.
With incredible cinematic technique and a flourish of emotional performances by every actor, Warrior is a winning combination of the drama and fight genres, successfully bringing the two together for a fighting style I never would’ve imagined would get this kind of detailed and loving attention.
I give it an 8.5/10.
Captain America: The First Avenger
I’ve been waiting for this movie for quite some time. However, given some previous comic-adaptation failures, I didn’t let my hopes get too high. But I was pleasantly surprised, the movie restored my faith in comic-to-movie adaptations.
Captain America is the story of Mr. Steve Rogers. A young man from Brooklyn trying to join the army, wanting to do his part. He’s as much stubborn as he is humble, wanting to help his country and do his part, just like all the other volunteers who are overseas, putting their lives on the line. The problem is that he’s a short, skinny, underweight kid with a myriad of health problems. His determination eventually pays off, though, when the head of a research project overhears Steve talking to his best friend.
Steve’s fifth application to the army is accepted by the doctor, and he’s let into the doctor’s research project. The first part of the project is to determine the best candidate for the next phase. This is the hard part for Steve. He has to stand out among taller, stronger, more physically fit (in every way) candidates. But after passing the tests, he’s finally chosen, not for his strength of muscle, but for his strength of will.
Chris Evans is in a group of actors like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio: you wouldn’t expect an attractive male lead to have good acting, but they continually surprise you with the quality of it. The character development in this movie is quite good, better than previous comic-adaptations, and the setting up for the remainder of the film is great. The tie-in of having Steve Rogers become a spokesperson, Captain America, on stage selling bonds was a brilliant set-up. This movie is gritty, its real, and in the world of the movie, its believable. The climax is underplayed, but its emotional, moving, and it works better than expected. Its an intense buildup to an emotionally moving finale.
My only major complaint would be the intense ‘little guy’ push in the beginning of the movie. It was so intense that it was actually overdone; Steve’s height comparative to other characters fluctuated dramatically, and actually annoyed me quite a bit; yet they only focused on his physical attributes, failing quite spectacularly to show any of his bodily health problems. But besides that, the movie successfully got my adrenaline pumping with a strongly believable story arc, and had me fixated by the end.
A superhero movie can only go so far, especially with a story we’re all so familiar with, so some predictability is to be expected, but its not a hard hit to the movie, and it remains a memorable film, not perfect, but worth it, entertaining, and one that I’d see again.
And let’s not forget, it’s a great lead-in to the Avengers.
I give it an 8/10.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
After the first few installments of the Harry Potter franchise, I gave up hope of seeing a good film interpretation of the JK Rowling series, so coming into the theater to see this final film, I didn’t have very high expectations. Its almost sad to know that I could accurately predict how good the final product would be.
Of course, this movie follows Part 1, starting right where the previous movie left off: Voldemort has just retrieved the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s grave, Dobby just died, Daniel Radcliffe is short, etc etc. Honestly, I don’t think I need to recount the plot for everyone, I’ll just jump straight into my opinions and views.
By now, everyone should know that Harry Potter as a franchise is the current leader in awkward character moments and bad presentation of lines from the books. At this point its not so much a matter of the content that they leave out, but more the way they interpret the content that they leave in, and that’s my main problem with the movies, because the way they interpret the emotions, the inflection of lines, the facial reactions, etc etc etc etc are all just… bad… I thought that by the final movie I’d have gotten used to the fact that the main character is played by such a detrimental actor, but I haven’t.
And once again, the climax is about as anti-climactic as Hollywood can manage. It was simply a waste. Its the final demise of Voldemort and it gets such a downplayed moment? Slow motion, almost no sound, no big effects or lights or anything, just an agonized face and the visual of him slowly fading away in the wind… Previous moments in the film had been far more epic than this final duel, it was actually incredibly disappointing. Then the final shot of the three best friends standing next to each other, holding hands, and awkwardly looking out into the distance somewhere was just a horribly awkward shot, right before an equally horribly awkward epilogue.
All of this isn’t to say that I utterly hate the movie, I still enjoy this visual version of the books that I love so much, but they could’ve made them better, and the fans certainly deserved better.
I give it a 6.5/10.
Cars 2 is certainly a far cry from the original. Its actually a momentous movie for Pixar, but a momentous low, definitely the only letdown I’ve encountered from the CG juggernaut. I can’t even begin to explain my dissatisfaction.
The movie begins, I assume, 3 years after the end of the original, as Lightning McQueen has just won a third straight Piston Cup. A giant post-oil-baron, turned-alternate-fuel-entrepreneur is putting on a World Grand Prix with the required fuel being his newly-produced Allinol, a safe, clean, alternate fuel choice, and of course he needs the biggest names in racing, with Lightning McQueen accepting an invitation , albeit with some blunderous help from Mater. The story proceeds fairly enough, revealing spies, espionage, racing, etc, and yet, especially for a Pixar movie, all the pieces fall into place far too perfectly, mirroring a paint-by-number instead of a puzzle.
Suffice my dissatisfaction to say that the story wasn’t very compelling. I wasn’t, ultimately, drawn into the plight of the characters and, in the end, it was quite predictable. This sequel just didn’t match the emotional attachment gained from the first movie. I found myself detached from the climax, with my mind wandering.
I suppose it could somewhat be due to the children in the audience which seemed to make up the majority. Throughout the film, there were babies crying, people getting up, and even the back of my seat being kicked by 7 or 8 year olds who barely sat down throughout the movie. But really, if the movie had been better I wouldn’t have even cared.
The animation is top-notch as always, but its just not enough this time.
I give it a 6/10.
The first thing you need to know is that this is, to date, my least favorite comic book movie, passing Thor by a few strides. I don’t even want to waste my time writing an entire, drawn out review of the film.
The set up for the story was great, although they proceeded, then, to fuck up the major plot points. Throughout the movie there were a lot of lines that left me thinking, “Did they really write that? …really?” The casting was a little disheartening, Blake Lively just didn’t seem to fit the role and her acting was certainly subpar, although I would certainly split the blame between her and the script, as seemingly every actor wasn’t up to par, just doing the best they could with a letdown of a screenplay. Additionally, the scene-cuts were quite annoying, shifting between moods/music/lighting in an instant, repeatedly, leaving the audience to quite suddenly put emotions and expectations on hold until they’re able to grasp what they’re seeing now.
The action and drama, of course, was brilliant, albeit with, similarly to Thor, an intensely anti-climactic finale. The movie plays out by putting a lot of weight on the upcoming action, stressing that the limits of the rings are only the limits of the imagination, leading the audience to wonder time and time again what the film has in store, but remaining positive that it’ll certainly be something incredible. But the film then begins to sputter out of steam as the filmmakers fail to deliver such a spectacle, while remaining insistent that the action is incredible with the normal use of dramatic tools: music, timing, etc; they remain quite oblivious to the fact that the allure of the movie has by now quite run out.
By the end of the movie, I’m left wondering when the next action scene or turn at treachery is coming, because surely this can’t be it. But alas, it was.
I give it a 5.5/10.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Let’s start, firstly, by pointing out that Michael Bay has always been a visual director. His movies have and always will be characterized by the intensely stylized look and feel of the film, most notably the extensive use of sweeping, slow-motion/under-p.o.v. shots, in addition to drawn out action sequences. So although he’s had good plots previously, and I stress good, as opposed to notable or noteworthy, it would be unjust to the high-class visuals of the films to review them mainly on the quality of the storyline and script. Secondly, you don’t go to an action movie for the award-winning story, you go for the action.
This movie is notable for the low quality of the script, story, and character development. That being said, however, the decision by Megan Fox to not return for this sequel put a significant bump in the development road, although it opened the door for a more dynamic story, character development had to contend with that, and clearly the story won, although the story still suffered.
In the end, it felt like the story was just Michael Bay’s way to to segue into the enormously long and drawn out Act 3, the final “war” between the Autobots and Decepticons, which I would readily believe had lasted an hour or more. He really pulled out all the stops, using all his talent and trickery to draw out the battle as long as he possibly could. Its his way of fitting in as many of his Bayist visuals as possible.
Really, the movie itself isn’t bad. The story is just adequate enough to be bearable as you drown in the intense stylizing of the film’s visuals: sweeping slow-motion, lens-flares from bright lights, saturated colors, and the absence of sound except the deepest bass during slow-motion action.
So if you end up liking the movie, it won’t be for the plot, acting, and lovable characters. It’ll be for the great visual aspect, kickass robots, and the barely-remembered, though humorous moments peppered throughout the film.
I give it 6.8/10.
I went into the movie unsure of what to expect. The trailers were pretty vague and confusing, but I guess that’s better than the alternative. All I knew was that some kids were shooting a movie and a train crashes? Oh well, it seemed interesting and Steven Spielberg and JJ Abrams have a pretty good track record so I figured it was worth a shot, and I was quite pleasantly surprised, finding a movie that I loved.
Joe Lamb, a middle schooler in a small Ohio town, is helping his friends finish work on a zombie movie just four months after the death of his mother, when, one night during filming at a train station, they witness and experience a terrible train crash, even catching some of it on their dropped camera. After the crash, the town gets overrun with air force personnel, claiming to be there in order to clean up the train wreckage, which was an air force freight train. Joe’s father, a town deputy, tries to figure out what’s going on, often clashing with the air force(s) personnel, while Joe and his friends work as often as possible to get the film done.
The resulting film is a suspenseful, often heart-pounding, often hilarious, and often romantic drama. The film is sure to remind you of Spielberg’s other work, notably ET and Close Encounters, but it still holds true as it maintains most of its originality. Spielberg, known for being a great director of child actors, brings a great touch of that to this film, as this brings with it perhaps the best acting from children that I’ve ever seen; they bring real, raw, believable emotion to the film, actually provoking emotional responses from me, and I’m not embarrassed to say that as the film reached its close, I almost shed a tear.
Despite the shining review so far I was annoyed a few times, sometimes at the overly corny/romantic scenes between middle schoolers, but mostly at the failure to show more of the relationship between Joe and his father. Its not a huge loss, though, and the movie is still enjoyable, believable, and altogether amazing: a successful mix of comedy, romance, suspense, thriller, horror, and even some action.
I give it 8/10.