It’s time for fun in the sun! And not just in the sun, but also in the cavernous over-air-conditioned confines of local theaters. The “Season of Blockbusters” has begun. I hope you all have seen my list of most-anticipated films on Cinefessions. I will try to see as many as I can, and I will review them here. Without further ado, here are my initial entries.
Another post-apocalyptic adventure, which become so popular whenever the public is afraid of what’s going on in real life. And like the atomic bomb scare and all the alien-attack films that were produced then, or the epidemic and zombie films that proliferate as we find new strains of diseases, now is a really scary time in the world.
The production value, effects, and pacing of Oblivion are spot-on. Overall it’s a fun movie to watch. The acting is decent, though a bit stilted at times. But I’ll bet it’s most entertaining for people who have never seen another movie like this in their lives. For those of us who have, it’s a kind of a hotchpotch of every other sci-fi/dystopia/conspiracy story ever made. I didn’t read the graphic novel on which the story is based (maybe because it was never published), so I can’t speak for the original plot and how it “borrows” from existing stories. But the film certainly does.
I saw scenes and vignettes in this film from many iconic and obscure movies alike. If you haven’t seen this film but plan to, you might want to avoid the following possible spoilers.
Apparent to movie and/or TV mavens are events and themes from Silent Running (1972 – rarity of plant life); the Matrix series (1999-2003 – secret underground survivors who know “the truth”); Independence Day (1996) and V (1984-85 – alien overlords); Gattaca (1986) and Code 46 (2003 – cloning); Moon (2009 – an isolated space-traveler’s struggle); Logan’s Run (1976) and many others (forbidden zones); Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and others (implanted memories and identity in general) … the list goes on and on. There is just nothing, and I mean nothing, original about this film.
So, let’s be nice and call this movie an homage to all the sci-fi we know and love. Yeah, that’s it.
Iron Man 3
As a big fan of Marvel movie adaptations, I enjoy all of these films about our favorite heroes and villains. Admittedly, though, some are not the gems that the majority turn out to be (I’ll bet The Hulk popped into many minds just now). Most of the time, sequels run that risk more than original projects, so I think we all view them a bit more cautiously.
After an auspiciously marvelous beginning with the first Iron Man (2008), which invigorated the strained career of Robert Downey Jr., this franchise had a tiny blip with its sequel, Iron Man 2 (2010). It was a terrific film – successful at the box office and pretty well critically received – but it didn’t quite have the spark of the first film. It was a bit jolting that Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Tony Stark’s friend and eventual sidekick, and with Stark “near death” and considering stepping away from his life throughout the movie, it wasn’t quite as much fun. To be fair, that is the case with the vast majority of sequels that follow fantastically powerful debuts, which Iron Man certainly had been.
That fun and power are back in Iron Man 3. The film features Stark back on top of his game (with the exception of some PTSD, thanks to his adventure with the Avengers) and facing a mercurial and deadly villain. Performances by all involved are excellent, the action is exciting and well paced, and the interplay with the storyline of The Avengers (2012) is well done.
On top of that, there is a relationship and subplot in this movie that was the highpoint for me: Tony Stark meeting Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). The boy is adorable and fresh and wise-assed beyond his years. They say that cute kids and cuddly animals can upstage anyone, but in this case it brings out the best and worst (in a very good way) in Stark and, well, produces magic.
Iron Man 3 is sure to remain one of the highlights of this summer movie season.
This was one of my most-anticipated films of summer, so I hoped it would indeed be great. I am a fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and director Baz Luhrmann, but I knew from Luhrmann’s body of work (Romeo + Juliet, 1996; Moulin Rouge!, 2001; Australia, 2008) that he plays fast and loose with material he’s adapting and favors lavish spectacle. I wondered just how far his vision of Gatsby would veer from the classic novel.
I was pleasantly surprised by the loving care taken to tell the story of Nick, Jay, Daisy, and all of their companions. Yet there was not much sacrifice of the Luhrmann over-the-top style and panache. However, it seems to take a backseat and defer to the storytelling with careful control.
The narration by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moved more slowly than did Christian’s relating of his woeful tale in Moulin Rouge!, but it fits and sets a more melancholy tone. The atmosphere of the movie is absolutely stunning: It conveys the opulent decadence of the era which thinly veils the precarious despair under the surface.
Upon first hearing about this project, I thought from the beginning that DiCaprio was a brilliant choice to play Gatsby; his performance supports that judgment. He flawlessly captures the self-deluded air of our antihero from determination through devastation. Daisy (Carey Mulligan) also is perfectly cast, and all of the performances are superb. At first, Maguire’s half-goofy, half-stiff portrayal of Carraway threw me a bit, but it worked in the end, since he was unobtrusive within the drama playing itself out, as the narrator of this story should be.
Finally, I will be quite surprised if this film doesn’t win Oscars in such categories as costuming and art direction. It is truly a treat for all the senses.