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We finally caught it over this last weekend. I guess a lot of other people did too, since it’s hit 300 million bucks already. I am eagerly waiting to find out if it has the sort of legs that’ll get it into the top five ever domestic, although I suspect it won’t.

Somewhat surprisingly, it didn’t blow me away. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t overwhelm me. Great acting, excellent plot and theme — I thought the whole balance of duty and public personae was superb, and it echoed through both good guys and bad guys. The early Scarecrow appearance was ideal.

Still and all, the movie needed to be half an hour shorter. I’m not sure what you’d cut — you could lose the foreign travel and edit out the cell phone moral dilemma, but you’d still have a movie that feels somewhat overstuffed. I’ve heard a lot of people call the movie relentless, and it was, and I liked that. I just think it would have been tighter with a couple fewer beats in the Joker’s plan.

Nobody’s ever accused Christopher Nolan of being insufficiently intricate, I suppose.

Second, the fight scenes were muddy. I have a sudden fear that I’m getting too old here, except I recall liking the fight scenes in the last Bond movie, so — crap. Yeah, I’m getting old. Well, the fight scenes were still muddy. Batman’s sonar vision did not help this in the least. Nolan’s not known as an action director, obviously, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but he ought to get someone to give him a hand with the fight scenes next time. In all fairness, the car chase was pretty great.

So as not to give the impression that I didn’t like the movie…

Really good acting all around; probably the best I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. I loved that it wasn’t Batman’s movie — it was about Commissioner Gordon, the Joker, and Harvey Dent. All three of those guys were great. Particularly Gary Oldman. I wish it had been more Rachel Dawes’ movie, but even so, Maggie Gyllenhaal kicks Katie Holmes’ ass.

Batman really doesn’t make a lot of choices during the movie, and the one choice he does make is predicted and subverted by the Joker. That’s practically a theme — Harvey Dent takes Batman’s choices away from him, the Joker does it a few times, and so on. Thus, the aforementioned trio has to drive the movie, and they’re really good at it.

Also, Heath Ledger’s performance is about as scary-good as people are saying; emphasis on scary. The movie’s worth it just for that.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

bryant: (Default)

Sadly I’m not going again this year, for good reasons involving schedule and finances, but that’s OK. It will not stop me from considering the lineup at length.

The ticketing is wild this year. The festival starts this Thursday; tickets go on sale tomorrow. The schedule only came out like Friday. Make your decisions quick. I’m thinking next year I just choose a week and trust in fate for the movies. Or go for two weeks. Mmm, two weeks.

Here is the volume. Here is the pump. Here is the dance floor. Do what is right.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

bryant: (Default)

Wanted sucked rocks. Here’s a list of the good:

  • Set pieces: the skyscraper assassination, the sunroof bit, the keyboard across the face.
  • Angelina Jolie’s performance, which was surprisingly nuanced and subtle, especially at the end.
  • The Russian thriller-verging-on-horror aesthetic: the knife fight in the denoument.
  • Timur Bekmambetov bringing in his Russian homeboy Konstantin Khabensky to play a supporting role.
  • Curving bullets.

And the bad:

  • That’s not a plot, Timur.
  • That’s not an American accent, Wesley.
  • Blurred choppy confusing action sequences. And I like fast cuts.
  • Misogyny to beat the band, lovingly preserved from the original comic.
  • No wasting Terrence Stamp, please.
  • What the hell? The rat bit? That makes no sense.
  • Come to think of it, the weird recuperation pools kept changing, too.
  • After all that talk about how assassination can be moral because it saves lives, the train? Excuse me?

The scales balance poorly. There were way more blurred choppy confusing action sequences than there were excellent set pieces. If the action had been all good, I might have forgotten about the lack of creamy moral center. However, none of the victory conditions were achieved. Pity.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

Iron Man

May. 5th, 2008 12:15 pm
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I have been driving Susan nuts by humming the Black Sabbath song incessantly. “I… am… Iron Man!” Which are not the actual lyrics. “Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah!”

Does everyone know I put spoilers in my reviews? OK, good.

I think it’s the best acting we’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. Downey’s fussy and scared and pissed off in appropriate measure. In a way, yeah, he’s playing himself in that Tony Stark has addiction problems and a lot of money. On the other hand, Downey isn’t living a life overshadowed by the achievements of his father, with a mentor who he looks to for paternal wisdom. So there’s that.

Likewise, Jeff Bridges is good. It’s tricky to make the big fight scenes work, what with the masks and all. Bridges does this nice slow patient simmer throughout the movie, which means it’s easy to believe that the big giant suit of armor is letting out all that tension through the thrill of physical violence. You know it’s Bridges inside there not because he takes his hat off at the end, but because Bridges portrayed a character who’d get off on acting the way the suit acts.

Also good: Paltrow! Not expected. I’ve seen her turn in good performances, but it’s usually in the chilly socially superior roles, so I wasn’t expecting her to do a good job as Pepper Potts. Possibly it’s that she needs a character with a lot of reserve and a lot of pride? Either way, yep, that worked. And Terrence Howard is great as Stark’s other pal. I’ve literally never seen him before — no, I lie, I’ve seen Dead Presidents. But I don’t remember it. Anyway, he’s got kind of a thankless role, but I liked him holding down the acting fort while Tony’s jetting around with a mask on in foreign airspace.

OK, so great acting. Allow me to summarize the CGI with this: “Yep, the CGI isn’t getting in the way of the movie any more, good times.”

The script, well, I liked the dialogue. Unfortunately, I think the plot reveals that Favreau falls prey to one of the comic book movie traps; he doesn’t give the story enough weight. You kind of want to do something, even just a throwaway, to establish why Stark is willing to use the same battery for both his pacemaker and his powered armor. And it’s helpful to explain why modern surgery is unable to get shrapnel fragments out of someone, given that an electromagnet can hold ‘em back from penetrating the heart. Maybe turning up the power on the magnet would help?

I think it bugs me a little in retrospect — and it didn’t bug me during the movie at all — because you can maybe work around that stuff. Tony’s obviously too busy to get surgery, and he’s a stubborn bastard, so throw that line in there. The scene with Pepper swapping out fusion generators is a great scene, but it means that Tony clearly can build multiples of the thing, so there’s no reason not to put one (or two) in each suit of armor. I’m not a screenwriter, so I won’t come up with a glib fix. It’s just a plot hole of minor importance.

None of this kept me from thinking it’s in the top echelon of superhero movies. Again: best acting. And a good script, mostly, just with those few casual flaws.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

bryant: (Default)

Quickie review of Forbidden Kingdom:

Two of the fight scenes are excellent, and the rest are pretty good.

I mean, you’re not seeing it for the plot, which is light. You’re seeing it because it’s the first time Jet Li and Jackie Chan have been in a movie together, and despite the fact that you’re nervous about Rob Minkoff’s directing (I mean, The Lion King?), Woo-ping Yuen is a great action choreographer.

It works out pretty well. Michael Angarano is not a completely embarassing martial arts actor; in particular, during his one extended fight scene, he does a decent job of being outclassed by the Witch of the Wolves. Everyone else is solid, of course. The Jackie Chan/Jet Li fight scene is superb and just about as good as you’d have wanted it to be, even with both of them aging.

And as far as I can tell, all the Westerners involved have a fondness for Hong Kong martial arts flicks. Nobody’s trying to dress this up or make it deep — it’s just another kung fu movie with a big premise and some time travel. Exposition is for art movies. If you don’t know who the Eight Immortals are, you can either find out on your own or live without understanding some of the references.

So I liked it, even though the South Boston accents were abysmal.

Originally published at Imaginary Vestibule.

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