Saturday, September 24, 2011

9-24-11: Oregon or bust.

THE OREGONIAN (2011) **** D: Calvin Lee Reeder.  Lindsay Pulsipher, Robert Longstreet, Roger M. Mayer.

After a car accident, a bruised and bloodied woman sets out on the open road to find help.   In the process she finds herself on a dark, surreal, nightmarish journey into the unknown.

This psychological mystery can easily be viewed as a disjointed mess.  However, despite its disjointedness there is a cohesive narrative there that as new pieces of the puzzle are revealed you begin to see the bigger picture...or at least what you think may be the bigger picture.   In the end, you are not given the answers and there is no wrong answer as to what you think it all means.   What you think may be metaphorical is just plain bizarre and what you think is plain bizarre is actually metaphorical but only the viewer can determine what is or isn't.

This is by no means a film for mainstream audiences  This may even try the patience of the most discerning viewer.   What cannot be denied is that like Malick's "The Tree of Life" or Refn's "Drive" after it's over you will find yourself debating just what it is you just watched.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

9-18-11: "Drive" angry!!!

DRIVE (2011) **** D: Nicolas Winding Refn.  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Albert Brooks.

"Drive" could easily be described as a conventional thriller yet it completely abandons and defies convention.   It is a slow-burn thriller that escalates yet remains on the same level as it began.  

A stunt driver also works as a wheel-man.   When he decides to take on a particular job everything goes wrong and gets progressively worse.    

There are flourishes of intense violence and car chases but they are played realistically and are over before you know it.  

In the midst of this is a tender relationship that develops between the driver and a neighbor on his floor.  You may think you know where this story arc is going but again it defies convention.

Well acted, directed and written.  This is definitely worth a look.  Don't go in expecting a Jason Statham revenge flick, this is far removed but far more rewarding. 


9-18-11: Hakuna Matata in your face!!

THE LION KING 3-D (2011) ***** D: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff.  Matthew Broderick, Moira Kelly, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones.

"The Lion King" is the crown jewel of the Disney renaissance that began with "The Little Mermaid".  A cinematic classic that is at once captivating, stirring, thrilling and powerful.   To this day, Disney has yet to match the synergy between story and music as seen here.   Now, seventeen years later the film is reissued in 3-D.

I have always said that the three types of film that greatly benefit from 3-D are concerts, documentaries and animated.  3-D for concerts and documentaries really puts you in the moment.  For animation, it adds additional depth to the 2D animation.   Think of the opening scene from "Beauty and the Beast".  The 3-dimensionality of that scene was achieved using multiplane animation.  3-D adds depth to the 2-D image and when done right it's breathtaking.

Time was taken to properly convert the film to 3-D and the film looks great.   The question now is do you want to see it in 3-D.   If you've seen it before, it's definitely worth seeing.   If not, the film works whether it's 2-D or 3-D.   Either way, this is one to see in a theatre while you have the opportunity.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

9-17-11: Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots-The Motion Picture

REAL STEEL (2011) **1/2 D: Shawn Levy.  Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Hope Davis, Dakota Goyo.

When I first saw the trailer for this film I immediately dubbed it "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots-The Movie."  I mean after all "Battleship" is being made into a movie.

Unlike the game, the novelty of this film doesn't wear off quickly.   Unfortunately, despite the solid visual effects and decent acting the film is cliched and predictable to the core.

In the near future it is determined that boxing needed something more.   Since men fighting mano-a-mano can only go so far, remote controlled robots were introduced to give the sport that added spark the humans couldn't provide.    Now under the control of their users the robots fight in the ring, crushing, ripping and destroying each other until only one is left standing.

Hugh Jackman is a trainer who is deep in debt, down on his luck and always on the look out for the big score.  He finds himself caring for his son and takes him on the road with him.   The film doesn't miss one predictable beat as the two while at odds grow to love each other, how the boy shows the man what's most important in life, not to mention how the two rise from obscurity to the championship match.

The visual effects are excellent.  However, visually the fighting sequences are cool but not very engaging nor is there a sense of danger.   After all, these are just robots.   During one fight, I was amused to the point of laughing how the staging of one fight resembled the first 3 rounds of the Balboa/Drago fight in Rocky IV.

When I saw the trailer for "Warrior" I thought it was just a MMA movie.  It turns out there was more to that film then advertised and it turned out to be one of the best films of the year.  With "Real Steel" there is more to the movie then just the fights, it's just that all the drama between the matches you've seen before.

It's passable entertainment but really amounts to nothing special in the end.