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Captain America–Orion’s Take

July 29, 2011 2 comments

Captain AmericaThe best word to describe a movie like Captain America is “vintage.”  Captain America literally came into being as a Nazi-fighting superhero in the 1940s, so it’s no surprise that the villain of the film is a Nazi super soldier, albeit one with greater ambition than might be expected.  But back to the point: this is a vintage film with vintage characters.  The good guy is a good guy.  The bad guy is a bad guy.  They fight.   Mayhem ensues.

This is not to say that the mayhem that ensues is entirely without character of its own.  I enjoyed watching the transformation of a patriotic if weak-bodied man into Captain America, especially since that transformation took more than a secret serum.  Steve Rogers goes from a nobody with a dream to a dancing monkey to a real American hero, and boy, is it fun to watch.  It’s a lot more fun than Thor, for sure.  There’s grit to balance the kitsch, a certain subtlety to match the cheesiness.  And most importantly for me, there is character.  The casting is well done for this: Chris Evans plays a convincing Steve Rogers, Tommy Lee Jones is great as usual as a grizzled Colonel, and Hugo Weaving plays an excellent villain (though the accent was a little eh).  The interactions between these three and the love interest Hayley Atwell (played by Peggy Carter) make for fun viewing when the audience isn’t watching Captain America bash some Hydra heads in.

I simply couldn’t take this film seriously.  And that was a good thing for the movie, because taken seriously it makes no sense.  But taken as it is, a film about a man who grows into something great, a film made to have fun and make people laugh, it is successful enough to warrant seeing.  This review is short because there isn’t much to say–watch this film if you like superheroes and if you want to have a little fun.

3/5 Waffles

-Orion

See also: Apple’s Review (2.5/5)

Categories: Uncategorized

I don’t like bullies: on classic emotions in “Captain America” (A: 2.5/5)

“Captain America: The First Avenger” was classic.  Whether the time setting or the costumes had anything to do with this feeling, I’m not entirely sure, but it definitely had a classic feel to it.  For a while, it was refreshing to have such a simple, wholesome protagonist (he is defined by determination, with a few hints of awkwardness), but it soon grew boring. “Captain America” did what it did rather well; it just didn’t push any boundaries on originality.

In the previews, we saw flashes of a darker take on the barely-old Spiderman franchise (unfortunately featuring Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker) – that’s what we’ve become used to after “The Dark Knight.”  In a time where war feels like a big mess, where it seems soldiers are more characterized by symptoms of PTSD than courage or patriotism, Steve Rogers aka Captain America is as unknowable to us as the Odin magic that bad guy Schmidt aka the Red Skull wields.

That’s not to say that this kind of movie is not fun; on the contrary, “Captain America” was action-packed and entertaining.  Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith from the Matrix series) was an excellent villain as always.  His sneer, thin lips, and constantly sharp eyebrows gave the character a chilling touch.  Chris Evans, who stars as Steve Rogers, kept reminded me of Nicholas Cage, which was disconcerting at best.  Haylet Atwell did a surprisingly convincing job as love interest Peggy Carter, and Tommy Lee Jones effortlessly played his role as a grizzled old colonel.

In other news, I am super excited for “The Avengers,” the megapicture whose trailer we glimpsed after sitting through an eternity of credits.  All the superheroes are going to come together, ranging from Iron Man to Thor.  The only problem with this is that each hero loses his own story, gets diluted in the jumble.  Whenever all the strongest are brought together, someone will always have to be the weakest.

Overall – 2.5/5; “Captain America” is an old-fashioned movie in all aspects – it has a classic good vs. bad, little vs. big, etc.  It’s entertaining for sure, but that’s all it is.

Best regards,

Apple

See also: Orion’s Review (3/5)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2—Orion’s Take

July 17, 2011 1 comment

The Journey Comes to an EndTo say that this is the end of beautiful journey is no jest.  I read Harry Potter starting in the 3rd grade, meaning I’ve spent over a decade with this wizard, this wonderful boy, this brave man.  It’s been quite the adventure—some cultural commentators have dubbed my generation the “Harry Potter generation,” something I think most of us can understand.  So going into this movie there was only one question: will it be enough?  Will this movie transport me into the world of Harry Potter for a new adventure one last time?  Or will it fail to imbue me with a sense of magic that leaves me breathless and teary-eyed?

The answer to this question was surprising.  I felt neither disappointment nor sheer bliss at the end of the film, merely relief.  The movie didn’t destroy my love of Harry Potter, but it didn’t elevate it either.  This was a good film, a solid ending, and a tribute to the books.  I don’t know about those who have only seen the movies, but this film was strangely hollow in comparison to the books—but that is in no way a real criticism.  The books, which stand second only to my beloved Lord of the Rings, are so complete it would be impossible for the films to add anything to my sense of satisfaction on turning the page and reading “19 years later.”  Speaking of which, the epilogue to this film was rather silly.

This film is all about the last reunion of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson.  Theirs truly was a match madeThe Trio in heaven, though I imagine that after the amount of time they’ve spent together, they are either best friends or worst enemies.  Here, despite the rushed atmosphere of the film, there are moments where you see them together and you can see the bonds they’ve forged.  One scene struck me in particular: the three walk together, hand in hand, exchange glances and in those glances you see the weight of the years of filming, of the story, of the pressure of stardom, and you realize that they are content with it, happy with the way it’s ending, happy and sad to move on.

To touch briefly on the story—all the necessitated quotes are there, including Clover’s favorite (“NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!”) and one about living and love (you know what I’m talking about) and I caught them, and I appreciated them, but still there were so many little things I missed—and it’s always been that way.  For some reason, it bothers me more with Harry Potter than with Lord of the Rings.  There is one scene in particular, one that made me cry, which was entirely excluded from the movie and replaced with a scene that provided the same function without any of the emotion.

I guess I liked it, and of course, you have to go watch it if you are a Harry Potter fan, but I can’t say that this ending is one I will always look back too.  Unlike the books, which I will read over and over until I die, I can’t say that I’ll come back to this film to revisit my memories of Harry and Hermione and Ron and Hogwarts—I’ll just crack open one of the books, sit down on the couch, and read.

4/5 Waffles

–Orion

See also: Apple’s Review (4.5/5)

Categories: Movie Reviews

“Not my daughter, you bitch!” – on fleeting (but satisfying) endings in “Deathly Hallows 2”

July 16, 2011 1 comment

It’s hard to believe that we’ve spent over a decade obsessing over Harry Potter; I still remember the day I went to buy the first book because our teacher was reading it too slowly to us in class.  It was magical then, and as a college graduate now, it’s still magical.  I thought I was going to burst, I was so excited on the way to the theatre; Orion will vouch that I wouldn’t stop talking on the drive over.

There’s something to be said about endings.  As an author or director, once you’ve built a magnificent empire of a series, how do you go about ending it?  I remember being terribly disappointed with Star Wars Episode 3’s ending – sure, it set in place all the motions needed for Episodes 4, 5, and 6, but it was just so blah.  The same can be said for Stephen King’s Dark Tower series – it was such a massive piece that the only ending he could make was one that (semi spoiler) was in fact no ending at all.

Luckily, this is not the case for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” – the theatre was completely packed, even though we were at a Friday 2PM viewing, and we arrived over an hour early in order to get seats.  (When we left, the lines for the next show trailed down the hallway and wrapped around the corner, out of view.)  The movie began where “Part 1” left off – with Voldemort arriving at Dumbledore’s grave, and Harry in front of Dobby’s.

From there, the movie proceeds at what feels like lightspeed – not a moment is wasted before the audience is plunged into a whirlwind of activity: Harry, Ron, and Hermione rush to Gringotts and escape and then rush to Hogwarts and then rush all around everywhere.  Maybe it was because the seventh book was split into two parts, but it really felt like everything in this movie took place really fast.  “Part 1” dragged on for months (movie-time), whereas “Part 2” took up approximately a day and a night’s worth of events.

Many times, it felt like the filmmakers did a perfect job with emotional, gut-wrenching scenes: when Harry walks amongst the wounded, or when Professor McGonagall summons the warrior statues of Hogwarts, or when Neville finally gets his moment to have his word.  Other times, as is to be expected, there is much that is not dwelt upon – not much detail is given to Dumbledore’s past, and wand lore is a little sketchy too.  Furthermore, it was strange to see so many locations of the castle mapped out – reading the books, Hogwarts always felt like this massive behemoth of a building and it’s weird to see the moviemaker’s vision superimposed on one’s own.

Regardless of all that, the movie is a satisfying finish to a long series.  It has been wonderful getting to see all the actors and actresses grow up over time, as well as getting to see each other grow up but still be in love with a series technically from our childhoods.  Harry Potter has been such a huge phenomena, and it was wonderful to see this final, if fleeting, installment.  (The epilogue was a little weird and short, and the actors definitely didn’t look 19 years older, but whatever.)

Overall, 4.5/5 – it wasn’t perfect, but certainly managed to escape being disappointing, which is a lot to say based on the high expectations and demands of the Harry Potter fan world.  I’ll call it a must-see, but I suspect many of you have been planning on seeing it since the movies first started.  Good bye, Harry Potter and friends, though I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of you!

Best regards,

Apple

See also: Orion’s Review (4/5)

Can’t wait for Deathly Hallows II: 96% on RT!

Orion and I will be at the theatre this time tomorrow!  So excited!

Transformers 3: A Hot Mess—Orion’s Take

July 9, 2011 1 comment

That's a big ship.The issue with this installment of the Transformer’s franchise is not, as Clover has insinuated, that it is boring.  I personally had a lot of fun watching this flashy, funny, explosive film.  The issue is that it’s a film made to be a hit, a film that doesn’t bother making sense, a film that mashes together so many different ideas and styles and explosions that it becomes something akin to a hamburger tossed in a blender: easily digestible but ultimately lacking anything that could be called character.

Truthfully, I need to tell you absolutely nothing about the plot for you to “get” this movie—everything is explained in such excruciating detail that I was simply amused that the film catered so obviously to the casual viewer.  My only real experience with the Transformer’s brand was my love of the Beast War series, which I loved.  Just to let you know, Beast Wars is pretty well regarded for a Transformer’s series, even though it’s often seen as the black sheep in the family, simply because it tackled interesting themes and was still cool.  This movie is severely lacking in the interesting themes department.  The villains suck, the good guys rule—there is no dilemma at all.  The action scenes are good but not great.  The romance scenes are passable.  The humor is a safe laugh.

I mean, this movie is fun.  But it’s so mindless.  Epic?  Maybe, but the topic can’t cover for such a messy film.  To be fair, this movie is certainly better than the 36% rating on RT might suggest, but it’s just not that good either.  It reminds me of Eclipse: I was laughing the whole time, it was too long, and I still managed to have fun.  Go see this movie for a bit of mindless fun, but don’t bother putting your thinking caps on: you’ll just be wasting time.

3/5 Waffles

–Orion

See also: Apple’s Review (4.5/5)

Categories: Uncategorized

Just a messenger: on grand scale in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

I have not seen either of the previous two “Transformers” movies, but since “Green Lantern” had terrible reviews, Orion and I decided to watch this intriguing “Dark of the Moon” piece.  I remember seeing trailers for this since last year, which revealed very little of the story, and focused mainly on astronauts discovering a giant alien spaceship.

Currently, “Transformers 3” has a Critics: 36% on Rotten Tomatoes, but a whopping Audience: 90% – its special effects are praised over and over again, but its story, acting, and script have been bashed just as much.  I went into the theatre not expecting anything, and was shocked not only by how much content there was, but also by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the entire movie.

Orion will call this movie flat, boring, and lame, but let me tell you now, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was filled with nonstop excitement.  Megan Fox’s replacement, Rosie Huntington-Whitely, was pretty and perky, and Shia LaBeouf seemed comfortable enough returning to a character for the third time.  I can’t compare this with the previous two installments, but I can say that it definitely makes me want to see them, despite negative reviews.

What was it about “Transformers” that kept me so hooked for two and a half hours?  Was it the theatre’s giant screen, bringing to life robotic alien lifeforms?  Was it the vibrant color and constant movement?  The movie follows not just Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) and Carly (Huntington-Whitely), but also Optimus and Bumblebee, Sam’s parents, Robert Epps, Seymour Simmons, William Lennox, Carly’s boss Dylan Gould, Charlotte Mearing the director of CIA…  This behemoth movie gives us so many stories, from so many perspectives – the epic scale is awesome.

Overall, 4.5/5 – “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” was filled with beautiful, nonstop action and excitement; see it and you won’t be disappointed!

Best regards,

Apple

PS – Have you guys seen the Wikipedia page for Optimus Prime?  It is ridiculously long.

See also: Orion’s review (3/5)

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