The Dark Knight Rises

 “The Dark Knight Rises” Dark_knight_rises_poster

Unfortunately, I believe this film will ever be remembered for the Aurora shooting in Colorado than for the film itself.  I believe that it has tarnished this film, not unlike Heath Ledger’s overdose tarnished “The Dark Knight” back in 2008.  This has been a very tragic franchise for Chris Nolan – tragic & lucrative.  Nice to see Christian Bale though going to visit the victims in the hospital; I can only imagine how awful everyone involved in this film must feel.  Of course, I believe that people will remember & people will still care years from now.  Sadly, my optimistic view of the world may be very wrong – and maybe people have short memories after all.

Let me say this about “The Dark Knight Rises”: it gave a lot to the fans of the comics.  Is Joseph Gordon Levitt playing Robin?  Yes!  Well…sort of.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  You decide for yourself.  Is Anne Hathaway terrific as Catwoman?  You bet!  Was she spot-on?  Well, sort of.  You decide for yourself.  Bale was fantastic at capturing Frank Miller’s bitter “retired” Bruce Wayne from the infamous Dark Knight graphic novels that brought Batman back from oblivion.  He also excelled as the fatalist as seen in “ the Knightfall ” storyline from the comics all those years ago.  Quite truthfully, there’s also a high percentage of the famous (and glorious) “ No Man’s Land ” story arc / graphic novels in this film as well.  Really, like I said, there’s a lot in it for the fans.

Michael Caine is and will forever be Alfred to me.  He’s a charming actor, but Alfred is iconic.  That character FINALLY came to life after all these years when Nolan cast Caine in “Batman Begins”.  In this film though, Caine brings real power to the character.  In other words, I believed Alfred was a real person with real emotions and real relationships.  That is one of the real gems to this film.  Love the ending!

Sadly, the bad guy of the film is Bane.  The voice of this character was HORRID.  I couldn’t decide if it was trying to be British and elitist or maybe vaguely comical (like an animated Disney villain might be).  He was hard to understand frequently, and it would have just been so much better if he had a deep, growling voice.  Imagine if Darth Vader had walked onto the Tantive IV and bellowed his opening lines with the voice of Stewie Griffin?  It just didn’t work.  I don’t know what they were going for with his voice but it destroyed everything to the character.  Of course, he is supposed to be uber-tough, but going toe to toe with Batman and not even flinching?  I find that implausible without sufficient credit.  Of course, if Nolan HAD supplied the accreditation I seek, then it would have been BANE from the comics with his Venom drug in full swing.  Now granted, Nolan managed to squeeze a lot of the character from the comics into Tom Hardy’s portrayal in “Dark Knight Rises”.  I still cannot get past the voice though!

The supporting cast is wonderful, once more.  Morgan Freeman returns as Lucius Fox – brilliant as always.  Gary Oldman IS Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, and I honestly don’t think anyone else will ever do half as good a job as he has done with this character.  (As with Alfred, I loved the ending!)  The additions of Matthew Modine as Foley (the wannabe Police Commissioner) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake (the wannabe Robin) were great additions to the storyline.  I was really impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt especially.  Marion Cotillard plays Miranda – a billionaire that can save Wayne Industries AND make an honest man out of Bruce Wayne?  That was a nice touch!  By far though, Anne Hathaway was the real stand-out.  She brought such gusto to her performance (love the line about the shoes!) that it is hard to remember why any of us thought Michelle Pfeiffer was good in “Batman Returns”.  She is a believable Selina Kyle, an exceptional thief that is just way in over her head.  A brilliant job!

So, this franchise ends and it actually is tied up rather nicely.  It leaves the door open for others to follow – both with the story lines created by Nolan for these films and in the films themselves.  What I mean is, if another director wanted to pick up where this story ends and carry on, he could do so.  Batman is an icon, not necessarily a person.  So, it is plausible that a director could do this.  Will somebody do this?  Unlikely.  Look at “the Amazing Spider-Man”.  That franchise was only 5 years dead and the studio decided to hit the reset button & start fresh.  I expect this will be no different.

A word of warning though about “The Dark Knight Rises”: this is a very dark film.  This is NOT “the Avengers”.  No bright colors or clearly identifiable good guys here.  For that matter, the bad guys might not actually seem that bad.  Truth is, that’s how DC Comics rolls.  Everybody should know this by now – and the Batman is the darkest of all comic book heroes.  So, keep the kids at home.  Teenagers can handle it (but still might not get some story lines) but anyone under the age of 14 should stay at home for this one.

I believe this is a great ending to the franchise and I hope the Dark Knight stays out of motion pictures for a while.  Let us savor and enjoy this one – even as we remember those innocent victims of a senseless shooting in Aurora.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

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The Avengers (2012)

“The Avengers” TheAvengers2012Poster

There will not be any film breaking the records set by this film any time soon.  It has broken 22 of them so far, including the fastest film to ever gross $1 billion worldwide.  It did that in 10 days.  Think on that for a minute…

Seriously, the closest records to this film’s grosses at the Box Office are “The Dark Knight” and the last of the Harry Potter filmsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”.  If you are any movie studio other than Marvel & Disney, you can just assure your investors that you MAY recuperate your losses in production & distribution for this Summer’s releases – and that’s all.  Why?  Because “The Avengers” is blockbuster gold!

A “blockbuster” is defined (according to Dictionary.com) as “as applied to film or theater, denotes a very popular and/or successful production. The term was originally derived from theater slang referring to a particularly successful play but is now used primarily by the film industry.”  To further note: “The etymology of the term is uncertain; some histories cite it as originally referring to a play that is so successful that competing theaters on the block are “busted” and driven out of business; others claim a derivation from the nickname of a type of World War II-era bomb capable of destroying an entire city block.”  The “other theaters” on the block could be referring to all other so-called big releases of the Summer (which typically starts Memorial Day weekend).  Anyone releasing a film this Summer had better hope that the buzz of “The Avengers” has died down by July.  As for the reference to a WWII bomb that levels whole blocks: that sounds like an accurate analogy of what this film will do to the (ahem) competition this Summer.

Why am I talking so much about blockbusters?  Well, a little history is needed to explain my point of view.  The 1st film to ever be tagged a “blockbuster” was “Gone with the Wind”.  It set the Box Office record for most money ever made off a film by such a huge margin that no one dreamt it could ever be beaten.  Fast Forward to 1976 where we find Spielberg and his fish-tale “Jaws” breaking that record.  That’s right: a shark beat out Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.  As amazing as that was, what happened the next Spring was even more astonishing.  A film that was released in May stayed in the theaters in some areas for more than a year, and it was so successful it opened at Mann’s Chinese Theatre TWICE.  That film was “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (or as many of us know it, simply “Star Wars”).  It shattered records and raised the bar for what would later be called a success in Hollywood in many, many ways.  What’s so significant about that?  Not to labor the point, but it let the whole world know that the epic good guy vs. bad guy saga was not only plausible, it was profitable.

Now, in this time period, we see “Harry Potter” films grossing huge sums.  It was an epic story, spawned by a wildly successful series of books.  We also the success of another film series like the “Twilight” saga (pardon me while I vomit).  Right up there is a super hero movie, a sequel to a great re-birth of a franchise and featuring a critically-acclaimed performance, “the Dark Knight”.  Notice a pattern here?  These are all escape-films, which are films that are designed to by completely implausible in story and comprised of the fantasy, horror, or comic book genres.  What do you think would top the Box Office records?  The answer is obvious: “The Avengers”.

But why the financial success of a super-hero film that centers on not one but SIX super heroes?  The truth is that movie-goers want entertainment, but they also want characters that they can connect with.  They want a hero film because they like rooting for the good guy – just so long as the villain is vile enough to really despise.  They want the big action and the great special effects, but they don’t want to lose out on the story.  “The Dark Knight” may have won a lot of doubters over to the super-hero genre, but some people felt it was a little too dark and depressing.  They craved a heroic tale, but with something really SUPER in it.  They want a hero that they can connect with, or at least empathize with (look that word up because it’s a fantastic word!).  So, where one is good, six must be better, right?  This is where you have to realize the unique quality to “the Avengers”.  To balance 6 different stories (really that’s what it is) with character development enough to draw people in, that is an impressive feat for any director and/or writer.

Enter Joss Whedon, a man primarily known for his supernatural chick-powered TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  Sometimes, you just need the right person for the right job.  Sometimes you bail on projects about Amazonian women and bad casting ideas.  Sometimes Ang Lee is not the right choice for a tale about a green monster.  Sometimes, you need a little of that Favreau connection.  Sometimes, you ditch prima donnas named Norton in favor of a nice-guy actor.  And in the case of “the Avengers”, you needed Joss Whedon.  Whedon took on this project and he made all the right choices in my opinion.  And this is one hell of a project too! (Its budget alone was over $220 million.)

With Whedon at the helm, “the Avengers” started to assemble.  Robert Downey Jr. joins in as “Iron Man”, Chris Hemsworth brings the hammer down as “Thor”, Chris Evans dutifully shoudlers his shield again as “Captain America”, and they welcomed Mark Ruffalo as “The Incredible Hulk”.  Each is the master of their own franchise.  At this rate, we can easily expect another installment for each hero.  (We now know that “Iron Man 3” & “Avengers 2” are confirmed.)  Ruffalo brings warmth and charm to the tormented Bruce Banner, and who would have thought the Hulk was funny?  RDJ rocks as Stark once more.  As a huge Iron Man fan, I will forever be biased towards that character.  But I also have to admit that I loved Evans as Cap once again.  It’s so refreshing to see a man out of time like this and just doing what he knows to try and save people.  He’s brilliant – both as character and the actor portraying him. They are all great, each in their own way.  The real deal is that all of these guys have the spotlight.  All of them do cool stuff.  All of them have their deep moments on screen.  And it is all perfectly balanced.

Even the supplemental characters, the supporting cast, of Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), Stellan Skarsgård, and Samuel L. Jackson (Col. Nick Fury) returns.  I didn’t like Hawkeye so much, but that’s because he is henchman for Loki for much of the film.  That and I never much cared for the character in the comics either.  Black Widow?  Eh.  I don’t know if I like her or not in this.  I understand the necessity of the character in the plot, but as a charecter to be included herein I just wasn’t sold on her.  The best parts of this supporting cast though are Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson and Tom Hiddleston as the villain God Loki.  Hiddleston fills the shoes of that oh-so-desired role of a God bent on revenge and willed to destroy a whole planet to accomplish this feat, and he does so brilliantly!  Loki lives up to the comic book version of himself in every way, so fans will NOT be disappointed.  Gregg though is the heart of this film.  His character will reach you in a way that you did not expect.  (Watch other audience members reactions to his character and you’ll see what I mean.)

When Whedon turns up the action for the final showdown with Loki, you will appreciate being in a large movie theater with really LOUD speakers and a great picture!  The action is fabulous!  There is more property damage shown in this film than any film short of “Independence Day” and it is gloriously executed.  Even during these climatic action sequences, Whedon finds areas to include the thought “how would this character act in this situation”.  If you are a fan of the comics (and I admit, my preference was always the Avengers over the X-Men), you will really appreciate this.

The humor of this film really kind of takes you by surprise.  There are a lot of really funny parts to this ensemble piece, and it isn’t just Tony Stark quipping one-liners either!  Clark Gregg is priceless as is the Hulk!  Of course, RDJ has his moments and they are great too!  God, there’s so much humor in this film, it will definitely throw you.  It’s just not what you expect from a super-hero flick.

Oh, the plot – right!  Loki wants to conquer Earth by means of the Tesseract (we’ll just call it the Cosmic Cube, okay?) which he will use to open a doorway to an alien dimension & bring into our realm an army of alien monsters.  The agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D decides to activate the Avengers Initiative to “fight the battles we can’t” and thus begins to pull together Earth’s mightiest heroes.  The plot may seem simple enough, but it is an intricately woven tale that allows us to see Loki doing what he does best and in the process we get to see what our heroes can do to each other.  Somebody said it right: they are like a dysfunctional family.  In the end, the team comes together to battle Loki, and the rest is Box Office history.  The story may sound cliché but in truth it is EXACTLY what it was supposed to be.  It gives patrons precisely what they crave; hence the records being set.

My recommendation: start Summer early.  Go to the theater.  Buy some popcorn.  Sit in the air-conditioned loveliness that is a darkened movie house.  Sit back and enjoy a FANATSTIC tale of heroes banding together to stop the forces of evil and save the world.  It’s an eye-popping, ear-blasting, laugh-inducing, heart-felt super hero extravaganza!!!  Do stick around as the credits roll; there are TWO additional scenes!  “The Avengers” have arrived …and the box office will never be the same.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Super 8

Super 8Super_8_Poster

This film is brought to you by Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment – and it shows.  It is directed by the hot “it” boy of Hollywood right now by creator of the TV Show “ Lost ”, J.J. Abrams.  “Super 8” is a good summer flick, featuring adolescent teens and set in the early 1980s.  The film works on a lot of levels, but the buddy alien that wants to go home has been done before…by Spielberg…in a little film called “E.T.”.  It too was set in the early ‘80s.  Oh wait, that’s when it was made.  Riiiiight.  You can see where I am going with this, of course, but the similarities end there – thank goodness!

Super 8” is really the story of Joe Lamb and Alice as they fall in love with each other.  To heck with the rest of the alien storyline, because this is what the movie is really about.  It is touching and utterly believable.  I credit neither J.J. Abrams nor Steven Spielberg with this either.  I credit two very young, but exquisitely talented actors: Joel Courtney & Elle Fanning.  Basically, if you don’t want to see a movie about 2 young teens falling in love in the early ‘80s, then skip this film entirely.  On the other hand, if that kind of story you might find touching, then I HIGHLY recommend “Super 8”.

The film will keep you guessing as to what will happen next, and there are several suspenseful moments in the film, including some make-you-jump moments.  There is some humor of course, but it is suited to the younger kids and things they will readily grasp.  I think many of us “children of the ‘80s” can identify with this movie, in a kind of “Goonies” way.  The kids are misfits, to an extent, but I found myself thinking “I knew a kid I grew up with that was a lot like that”.  I think many other viewers with have a similar reaction to the film.

The supporting cast is filled with great actors, like Kyle Chandler as Deputy Lamb and Ron Eldard as Alice’s dad and Noah Emmerich as Col. Nelec.  Right now, you are probably wondering who these people are, right?  Ron Eldard you might remember as Shep from the ’95 & ’96 seasons of the TV Show “ E.R.”.   Noah Emmerich will ring a bell if you have ever seen “the Truman Show” with Jim Carrey.  Kyle Chandler I had to look up.  I knew he was familiar but I couldn’t place him.  Think Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” and the cheesy actor named Bruce Greenwood is how you will know Chandler.  It really is a fantastic ensemble supporting cast.  Kudos to the casting director!  The kids that play all of Joe’s film buddies are of course unknown, but mark their names because you will hear of them again – and soon.  They are: Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee, Gabriel Basso, and Zach Mills.

I have to recommend “Super 8” for a lot of the acting talent and the writing.  However, the alien story serves as a backdrop and is not the feature of the film and it makes no difference at all whether you understand any of it.  Not a great deal of explanation is given, not even to the level of an old episode of the “X Files”.  So in this regard, I have to say the trailer is very misleading.  It’s still a great movie though!  Just be prepared for a bit of ‘80s teen nostalgia – minus the teen music of the ‘80s.  No John Hughes influences here, but more Stephen King a la’ “Stand by Me” and definitely the influence of “the Goonies”.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009)” Startrekposter

Another of the big Summer hit movies to be released thus far was “Star Trek”.  This film is not a re-make, but instead it is a revision of the classic TV show.  It is designed to give a big facelift to the franchise and introduce new blood to film-goers.  I am a fan of the original TV show because of its groundbreaking casting and some rather brilliant story-telling.  While I am a MUCH bigger fan of “Star Wars”, I cannot deny the genius of such classic episodes of the original TV show like “The Cage” and “The City on the Edge of Forever”.  The original movie was entitled “Star Trek: the Motion Picture” which I also believe had a great story.  Of course, nobody forgets “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan”!  This film is NOT connected to any of the above mentioned stories or plots.

Basically, imagine an unknown actor as a TV character you remember pretty well (if you are over the age of 30).  Imagine a few recognizable faces in roles that they actually really fit, like Spock played by Zachary Quinto and McCoy played by Karl Urban.  Imagine someone writing a tale using the Star Trek characters with a pretty good story that captures the essence of what was and make it more …modern.  That sounds strange to say, but it is accurate.  Todays hit TV shows, like “Lost” and “Grey’s Anatomy” demand a lot of attention to detail from the audience.  Isn’t that the point of good writing?  Well that is precisely what this film brings to the table: good writing.

Contrary to popular belief, Summer movies can be well-written.  In fact, they had better be in today’s market.  You have to write a decent story if you are going to capture the modern-day movie audiences.  We have all seen the “duds of Summer”.  These are films you go to see that have been hyped for the last 3 months, and when you walk out of the theatre you wish you hadn’t wasted your time.  I say again, in case any Hollywood insiders are listening, Summer movies CAN be well-written.  “Star Trek” proves it.

So, let’s review.  Good storyline?  Check.  Good actors? Check.  Classic dialogue that add a bit of nostalgia?  Check.  Now, throw in a high priced special effect budget and some well-choreographed fight sequences and a lot of action in general.  What do you get?  An incredibly worthwhile Summer movie that plays to fans of the old, the new, and the regrettable Star Trek franchise.  Seriously folks, if you enjoyed any of the Star Trek TV shows, you’ll be getting your money’s worth out of this film!

The casting is great, and there are many wonderful spot cameos that are surprisingly good, including Ben Cross and Winona Ryder.  The guy who plays Chekov is Anton Yelchin.  I don’t recognize him but he was absolutely wonderful!  I could bore you with who played what part and what I liked about them, but honestly, I don’t want to spoil anything.  Just do yourself a favor, and catch this one before it leaves the theatre.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Predators

PredatorsPredators_54632_glg

Apparently, there is this huge rush in Hollywood to revisit the films of the ‘80s.  In recent memory, we have seen the return of “Friday the 13th”, “Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Clash of the Titans”, “Karate Kid”, and now the studios are attempting to hitch a ride on the coat tails of other Sci-Fi franchises from the ‘80s such as the Alien and Predator series.  I abhor such tasteless attempts to capitalize on existing films!  I mean, does Hollywood think we aren’t going to see through this transparent attempt to turn in a “blockbuster” without ACTUALLY creating a new story?  This method of filmmaking could be summarized in a more literary term: plagiarism.  The word is defined as “the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work”.  That sounds about right to me.

To begin with, there is a lot wrong with anyone attempting to follow up on the masterful work of such an original movie as “Predator” (see my earlier review of this film).  I know that a lot of people out there think that a sequel to a hit movie is just a natural instinct, almost like a reflex.  Folks, I am here to tell you it isn’t.  Worse still, there are players within Hollywood that feel it is somehow necessary to exploit 1 successful movie and a somewhat successful sequel with doing yet another film.  The problem with these so-called franchises is that they were never designed that way.  In other words, “Lord of the Rings”, “the Matrix”, “Harry Potter”, and the iconic “Star Wars” films were all designed to be more than a single movie.  When you look at the Predator & Alien series of films, it is obvious that is NOT the case here.

“Predators” is the latest in this string of bad-idea films and it doesn’t bode well for future movies that fall under this same kind of umbrella.  I guess Hollywood wised up and saw that the shot-for-shot remakes of all the Horror movies were being condemned long before they ever hit the big screen.  Now, they say “oh, this isn’t a sequel OR a prequel – it’s a continuation of the story”.  If you understand what precisely that means, please let me know.  “Predators” starts off fairly promising, but it quickly shows its hand.  Worse still, “Predators” makes a horrible mistake: it actually borrows several lines, the musical score, and a song from the original movie!  That’s right fellow sci-fi fans – they actually use the lines “over here” and “come on and kill me – I am right here”!  Can you believe that?!?!

The characters are cardboard cut-outs and have no depth.  They die off as fast as they show up.  Topher Grace plays a nice psycho, but he could have done more with it.  Laurence Fishburne was wasted in this film, and he was barely in it!  The only plus in this film was Adrien Brody, who surprised me as an action hero.  He actually did a fantastic job with his character in the movie and carried the entire movie on his shoulders.  Well done, Adrien!

Don’t waste your money or your time with this one folks.  You can even skip owning or renting this one.  Yep, it is THAT bad.  I suppose you can’t expect much when the Director’s name is Nimrod.  (I swear, I am NOT lying!)  But wait!  It gets better….Robert Rodriguez, the film’s producer says that there will definitely be a sequel to this.  It is such a sad, sad state of affairs when this was the best-looking Sci-Fi flick being released this summer.

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2”  Iron_Man_2_poster

I’m a huge comic book fan, especially of Marvel comics.  In particular, I love the character of Iron Man.  I think the main reason for this affection stems from the fact that Iron Man is really just a guy in armored suit.  You might say the suit is the super hero, and the guy inside it just operates the suit.  This may be oversimplifying things, but I think you can see the difference with that very broad overview between Iron Man and the rest of the super heroes out there.  I think of Tony Stark as a continuous work-in-progress as a character, and therefore seemingly very real.  In a nutshell, this means that Iron Man is not without flaws.  That is why I like him as a comic book super hero.

All that having been said, Marvel Studios has done a marvelous job bringing Iron to life on the big screen.  This is due to two factors: Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr.  Favreau is a director that has a deep love for the material he is handling (not unlike Sam Raimi with the “Spider Man” films).  Favreau has taken the super hero franchise to a whole new level, thanks to Marvel’s unfailing support of his work.  In short, they have simply gotten the story, the feel, of Iron Man exactly correct.  Robert Downy, Jr. has come back from relative obscurity into an entirely new fan base.  (Read my review of “Sherlock Holmes” for more of my praise of him.)  Downey just absolutely NAILS Tony Stark; nobody else could have done the character so much justice.

Iron Man 2” is fantastic!  It is precisely what the film should have been.  As a sequel and a continuation of the Iron Man franchise, it succeeds on a masterful level.  It has action right up there on a level that a super hero movie should have.  The suits, the technology, the setting – it’s all there and all of it is EXACTLY how it should have been done.  I cannot express how delighted I was to see a film pack all of the elements it was supposed to have that are ACTUALLY in the film!  “Iron Man 2” delivers on all levels. If you liked the 1st film, you will love the sequel!

The most surprising element of “Iron Man 2” (to me) was that it captured the feel of the comic book so well.  IN the comics, Tony Stark is always at the center of some drama involving his staff (kudos to Gwynneth Paltrow for once more hitting the mark as Pepper Potts!) amid some sort of industrial espionage plot against him (usually by Justin Hammer).  Add to this scenario either Tony’s failing health due to something related to his armor or his continuous battle with alcoholism and you have the perfect Iron Man comic storyline.  “Iron Man 2” captured all of that so well, that I was utterly spellbound.

For all you fellow comic geeks out there who loved Iron Man from the early ‘80s thru the early ‘90s, this film has got you covered!  You have Black Widow, S.H.I.E.L.D., Pepper, Happy, Justin Hammer, Whiplash (sort of), and – of course – War Machine.  I won’t spoil anything by speaking about some of the events in the film, but comic fans know that something really great lies in store when you have War Machine AND Iron Man in the same storyline.  Scarlett Johansen was fine as Black Widow (although she was never named as such in the film), but I was disappointed in her lack of a Russian accent.  Mickey Rourke was brilliant as Ivan Vanko (presented as an amalgamation of the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash) and they did a fine job of his “creation” storyline.  The show stopper though was Justin Hammer, played perfectly by Sam Rockwell (skip the age discrepancy between comic and film).  I couldn’t believe it!  He may be a little pluckier than most fans would have wanted.  However, I think he was done in the exact manner he should have been done.

There of course are some inside jokes that were thrown in there for just the comic fans.  Stay after the credits if you want a little teaser of an upcoming Marvel film, but again that’s really just for us comic book fans.  There’s just so much of this film that was done right that I cannot help by give it a stellar review and a GLOWING recommendation!

Enjoy the 1st real hit film of the Summer movie season with “Iron Man 2”!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans (2010)” Clashofthetitansremakeposter1

Alright, let those summertime blockbuster hits roll!  With the temperatures outside, you might think it is July or so.   This remake of the classic 1981 hit “Clash of the Titans” certainly has the feel of a summer blockbuster too.  I wasn’t hesitant at all about seeing this one in the theatre – except I’ll continue to pass on this whole 3D nonsense.  So, allow me to present my thoughts on what I feel is the 1st summer hit of 2010.

Clash of the Titans” is special effects action adventure starring Sam Worthington of “Terminator: Salvation” and “Avatar” fame.  To begin with, this is not a “remake” per se.  It is a revision of the original, meaning that the story isn’t what it once was.  In the ’81 original, Perseus, the son of Zeus, seeks his destiny and tries to win the hand of the beautiful Andromeda, princess of Joppa.  In this version of the film, Perseus is not after Andromeda at all.  In light of that, I must also say that not all remakes are that great.  Here’s the surprise on this film though: the let-down wasn’t the story or the acting, it was the special effects.  Can you believe it?  The effects created by wizard Ray Harryhausen (God bless you Ray!)  were not bested in this digital age in this remake!  I provide 2 perfect examples of what I am talking about: the giant scorpions and Medusa herself.  In this version of “Titans”, the scorpions move too fast and don’t look very real, while Medusa looks far too pretty.  I would like to add that Medusa’s death scene in the original is FANTASTIC, but in this version is only mildly entertaining.

I have read already that people like to bash this movie saying things like Worthington is too stiff and that his haircut is very out of place.  I also read that his attire isn’t quite right and other such drivel.  Please!  You want to see an entertaining action flick?  Go check out this movie!  The story is appealing, and there’s a lot of really cool stuff in this film worth watching.  If these other critics are willing to bash this film on THESE grounds, I would seriously recommend to all of you to avoid them at all costs.  This includes the Orlando Sentinel and Ain’t It Cool News.  I think that people read reviews to find out if someone found the film worthwhile or not.  Yet, to bash a film because of pathetic details like haircuts sounds like they are deliberately seeking to give the film a bad review.  Folks, don’t fall for it.

Like a lot of other movies that are soon to be released, “Clash of the Titans” is popcorn fun!  Sit back, and enjoy!  I can tell you that there are wonderful additions to the story: most notably Sam Worthington is a much better Perseus than Harry Hamlin.  Some have said that Worthington is akin to the immortal Charlton Heston – a high bit of praise indeed!  Pegasus has had his myth reduced in scope which was a little disappointing, and Caliboss was ruined by the storyline.  However, the lovely Io (played by  Gemma Arterton), the tough-as-nails Draco (played by  Mads Mikklesen) and the fiendish Hades (played by Ralph Fiennes) were absolutely delightful.  There is one small allusion to the ’81 classic, but it is very brief.  For the most part, this film is actually a better story than the original (although I still love the original, but that’s just me).  I find it interesting that this film is still called “Clash of the Titans” when neither the Kraken nor Medusa (where the CLASH comes in) are Titans.  However, that being said, I know that Ray Harryhausen said he didn’t really care about accurate to the mythology when he made the original; he just wanted to make a fun movie.  Mission accomplished, Ray.  That also holds true to this remake: it’s just a fun movie!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.

Angels and Demons

“Angels & Demons” Angels_and_demons

This is one of the first really big hits of the Summer season!  “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” seemed to kick it all off, followed by “Star Trek” (which I will be reviewing very shortly!).  This film is based off the prequel novel to The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown by the same name.  Overall, I can say that this film is a much better film than “the DaVinci Code”.  It has a faster pace which will help viewers looking for some fun Summer entertainment enjoy it more.  Its predecessor seemed to plot along, even if its story was rather compelling.  I believe the best part of the Dan Brown novels is the combination of mystery, a lot of historical information, and a real thriller of a story.  Sadly, the films have to cut back on the amount of information they can give you in order to maintain the pacing required for the film’s run time.  This is not a fault; it is merely the nature of the beast.

Angels & Demons” sees the return of Professor Robert Langdon, played with more zeal this time around by the wonderful Tom Hanks.  I mean, c’mon!  Who doesn’t like Tom Hanks?  I felt that in “The DaVinci Code” Hanks sounded as if he was suffering from a cold the entire time and he wasn’t what I imagined for the character.  Langdon is described in the books as being this avid swimmer and is nicknamed “the Dolphin” because of it.  That usually implies a swimmer’s physique, which Hanks clearly lacked in “The DaVinci Code”.  However, in “Angels” he appears thinner and more in tune with being what I imagined Langdon to appear as.  Hanks is a marvelous actor and he fills the character more completely in this film than in “Code”.  Maybe he was more comfortable with this one?  Regardless, I found him much more appealing in this film than in “Code”.

Another bonus to the film is the delightful performance of Ewan McGregor as the Camerlengo Patrick McKenna.  McGregor gives a very delicate portrayal of this pivotal character of the story.  You truly feel as though the character was very easy for McGregor to play.  The character has you truly empathizing with him and his soft-spoken demeanor is a really nice touch.  I also really enjoyed Armin Mueller-Stahl as Cardinal Strauss.  In fact, casting is really top notch in this thriller. The only let down in my opinion was the character of Vittoria Vetra, played by Ayelet Zurer.  The character seemed minimized in the film which is a bit disheartening only because of her prominence in the novel.

I chastise people all the time for comparing the book to the film, since they are completely different mediums.  So, having read the book and now having seen the film, I will NOT compare the two.  I will however point out one thing that is of note for fans of this author and the films based on his books.  If you liked the plethora of knowledge imparted by the novel about the Catholic Church, Vatican City, and in particular the famous artworks of (perhaps the most talented sculptor the world has ever known) Bernini , then the film MAY let you down to a degree.  There just isn’t time in film to go into the kind of depth that you can go to in books.  Again I say, it is the nature of the beast.

Angels” is a thrilling ride.  Filmed on location in Rome, you really can feel like you are in the city.  The citizens of Rome were the extras for the film – which I think actually adds to the enjoyment of the film.  I suppose it adds to the authentic feel to the film, for me anyway.  There’s a really nice pace to the film.  So, if you are hunting that 1st really enjoyable film of the Summer to check out on a rainy day, I highly recommend “Angels & Demons”.

The writers changed some of the plot of this film and the reason for this eludes me.  If you haven’t read the book, you won’t know and it all works just fine.  If you read the novel, it is still very entertaining.  If you liked “Code”, you will easily find this sequel film to be as enjoyable if not more so!

…and that’s it for this edition of the REEL VOICE

The Amazing Spider-Man

“The Amazing Spider-Man

The_Amazing_Spider-Man_theatrical_poster

Aaaaah….Summer.  It means Will Smith, popcorn with loads of butter, over-priced tickets, and a string of “blockbusters”.  It’s true that Hollywood studios make their bank for the year off of the Summer season.  You can look it up for yourself, if you’d like.  Summer is a time of escapism inside your local Cineplex.  Get out of the heat and inside the near-freezing & hushed atmosphere of the movie theater.  And so it is no surprise to anyone these days that the Summer movie season is chock-full of the ultimate escapism in today’s cinema: the super-hero film.

My wife said it best when she 1st saw this trailer: “they’re re-doing Spider-Man, already?!”

Here’s the quick of it: Sony Pictures owns the rights to Spider-Man as a film entity.  The 1st three Spidey films (shockingly known as “Spider-Man”, “Spider-Man 2”, and – GASP! – “Spider-Man 3”) were directed by Sam Raimi and starred Tobey Maguire, and they were released respectively in 2002, 2004, and 2007.  That franchise came to a skidding halt when the studio applied too much creative control over devoted Spider-Man fan Raimi’s upcoming “Spider Man 4”.  Raimi wanted to do a Spidey villain that the studios didn’t agree with.  Well, Sam walked away from the franchise, and with him went Maguire and his co-star Kirsten Dunst.  Sony decided it didn’t need them and wanted a fresh start, hence the re-boot now.

For comic fans you know what’s wrong with this film without even seeing it.  The phrase muttered most often when exiting the theater is “too much Ultimate Universe”.  That’s geek-speak for “not the original storyline”.  For a more realistic approach to the film’s release, see my wife’s reaction I mentioned above.  That sums it up.  Why was this film made?  Answer: to keep Marvel Studios from owning the rights to this cash-cow of a franchise.  Regardless of what anyone says about this film from a critique perspective, no one can deny that truth – and that’s pathetic.

So, I will run through this pretty quick.  Andrew Garfield (from “The Social Network”) plays a pretty cocky version of Peter Parker.  That was a departure from the version I know (which Tobey Maguire played pretty well, I thought).  Emma Stone (last seen in “The Help”) plays Gwen Stacy, Parker’s love interest – in high school.  Okay, she is one talented actress because I believed she very well could have been in high school.  Garfield, not so much.  Anyway, the chemistry between them is good and plays well on the screen, but Parker just never would have acted that way, in my oh-so-humble opinion.  He just isn’t that good with the ladies – at least not until his college years.  Okay, so this is the version Sony is selling and I should just move on, right?

There’s just one problem with that – Spider Man is like an institution, an icon, and not JUST a character from a book that is now on the big screen.  Tack on to that the recent treatment of said-icon in 2002, 2004, and 2007.  Aside from some minor glitches in the storyline, those were pretty faithful to the original material.  And so, my argument is that people are VERY fairly with how Spidey is supposed to be presented and when you change that, it makes the audience less appreciative of the work.

Was it a good escape? Sure!  Was it worth what I paid for it?  Yes, but I didn’t pay even half of what full price was.  Spider-Man looks great and there’s a lot of very nifty Spidey acrobatics and stunt work.  The CGI is incredible in this film, without question.  The actors are good, and I enjoyed the Lizard as the villain.  However, could you not make him have a human face?  That seriously bugged me, because it looked goofy, not scary.  The plot was decent and I enjoyed it, but it is NOT the Spider-Man we all know and love.    My wife summed it up perfectly, and I think any Spidey fan will concur, this film should not have been made for another 10 years at least.

Do yourself – and for you die-hards, do it for Marvel Studios – a favor, skip this one and go and see “The Avengers” again!

…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.