REVIEW: Captain America

Captain America: The First Avenger
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (screenplay), Joe Simon & Jack Kirby (comic books)
Starring: Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, and Tommy Lee Jones

If you’re sick of super hero or war movies, it might be wise to avoid the inevitable screen adaptation of Captain America.  Slated as the last prequel before next year’s The Avengers, Captain America: The First Avenger takes place the furthest back in time: during World War II.

What’s most curious about The Avenger prequels- Iron Man & Iron Man II, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, this movie-  is how different they are stylistically.  That’s because they were all headed by different directors with different talents.  Thor was at its best when it showed the “fish out of water” aspect of its viking, while the Iron Man movies worked best as vehicles for Robert Downey Jr.’s motormouth delivery.

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REVIEW: Super 8

Super 8
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and Riley Griffiths

Science fiction might be a genre that appears to always be looking ahead, embracing the latest 3D technology, CGI backgrounds or scientific discoveries; but at its core it has always looked at its influences and initial pioneers to give direction to stories that span light years, universes or complex human-political analogies away.

With the names J.J. Abrams and Steven Steven Spielberg attached to a summer monster movie, it appeared we’d be expecting the same expectations-breaking story: big blockbuster, big effects, big noises and big disappointment. Collaborations like Spielberg and Bay’s Transformers series didn’t give us much hope, but Abram’s recent works like Star Trek certainly did. A young gun with a visual track record and a producer with the know-how is a great comparison to Peter Jackson apprenticing Neil Bloomkamp with his District 9, which isn’t the only comparison Super 8 draws with the movie.

To put it briefly: instead of attempting to rewrite the genre as Abrams has done with TV, they flip the pages back, finding the core and simplicity in great story telling with a soft $50 million budget. Continue reading

REVIEW: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, & Matthew Vaughn
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Kevin Bacon

Following up his post-modern polarizer Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn has decided to make an actual superhero movie.  Not only that, but he also decides to make an origin story.  It’s hard not to doubt his sincerity, because he had such gleeful fun deconstructing the genre in his blood-splattered last feature.

X-Men: First Class is nowhere near as bleak and melancholy as the original two films directed by Bryan Singer.  It takes place in the 60s at the height of the Cold War, with its groovy suits and groovier language.  James McAvoy seems to be the only one equipped with that vocabulary, though.  Waltzing onto the university scene as a physics  professor who also takes shots in the bar with his students, this isn’t the dry, wheelchair-confined Professor Xavier that you’re used to.

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REVIEW: Thor

Thor
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, & Don Payne (screenplay), Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby (comic)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston

It’s almost hard not to write off Thor as the beginning of an onslaught of mindless summer action movies.  However, with its welcome injection of humor and a toned-down scale, it rises above that classification if only by a little bit.

The best moments of Thor occur outside Asgard, the homeworld of its hero, in a small town in New Mexico.  He arrives there much like many movie aliens, and director Kenneth Branagh riffs off this aspect quite well.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings alien customs (which closely resembles stereotypical viking culture) to such places as small-town diners and hospital rooms.  In one hilarious instance, he smashes a glass down on the floor and demands a refill.

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REVIEW: Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: David Guion & Michael Handelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, and Jemaine Clement

The mainstream American comedy is in trouble.  Like the America pre-economic meltdown, it’s been lulled into a state of laziness.  Audiences are being tricked into the same movie over and over again by slick, money-grubbing studio executives, not unlike those bankers and brokers.  And so here we are with Dinner for Schmucks, the latest comic swindler from the modern studio system.

At the helm, if it even matters, is director Jay Roach, who previously brought us Meet the Parents, a funny if not overwhelmingly original movie with a diverse cast that drew in a lot of different people.  With this movie, we get the inevitable pairing of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, who first worked together on the 40 Year Old Virgin.

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REVIEW: Inception

Inception
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard

Waves crashing to shore, then a body; these are both one of the first things we see in Inception, and one of the last.  Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated dream-thriller may wow you with its visual prowess, dazzle you with its high-ended concepts, and intrigue you with its heist-style head invading, but it has a typical Hollywood-style circular structure.

If it sounds like I’m already being hard on Nolan and his predetermined masterpiece, it’s only because you need to know right off the bat that it does not reinvent cinema the way it’s publicity campaign suggested.

Many reviews have pointed out all of Nolan’s influences (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix) and for good reason: Inception is chock full of moments where anyone who’s seen a sci-fi movie will chuckle to themselves.

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Five Movies to Celebrate The Fourth of July

1. The Patriot– A South Carolina farmer and French-Indian war vet haunted by his past wants no part of the Revolutionary War, at least until one of his sons is taken by the a British colonel. Based very loosely on history and tightly on American ideals of simple people fighting for their family, Roland Emmerich directs one film that actually works to build American landmarks instead of destroying them. Patriotic spirit, Mel Gibson, history, farming, a father’s love and a very sharp Heath Ledger make this actioner about as American as it gets.

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