Director Joseph Kosinski, who helmed the vapid and cartoonish TRON: Legacy, uses every frame of Oblivion as a canvas on which he can project the massive adventure he wants audiences to experience. Kosinski, who made a sizable impression on the industry with his commercial work, has a background as an architect and his eye for details and contrasting imagery is front and center in this film.
The problem with writing this review of Upstream Color is that I’ve only seen it once. This isn’t to say that the movie will make complete sense upon subsequent viewings, but it definitely requires multiple watches (plus access to Wikipedia, fan theories, and frame-by-frame analysis) in order to begin to appreciate what writer-director-actor-composer-fundraiser-distributor Shane Carruth accomplished with his second feature about the “subjective experience of life,” relationships, and several other intangibles.
Unable to fathom who would actually enjoy a movie like that, I wondered how I was going to write a critical analysis of such a terrible piece of Hollywood junk. So, for my review of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I have invited a special guest to help me discuss the movie and break down what worked and what did not. Please help me in welcoming my 12-year-old self, Matt.
In the suburbs, there’s a feeling of camaraderie. If you need a hand fixing the minivan’s broken taillight, Joe from next door can help you out. If you’d like a date night for Italian food and a romantic comedy in theaters, Christine from up the street can take the kids. No one ever shows up empty-handed to a neighborhood barbeque. With so many families packed into such a tiny space, who could possibly feel unsafe?
Spanning over 500 years and following more than a dozen characters, the film is composed of six separate stories that do not intertwine (see Magnolia, Love Actually) but instead link from one to the next with the sense that each character is re-living his or her life again and again. While the word “reincarnation” is never used, the sense that this is what Mitchell intended is undeniable. Like the resistance fighters in The Matrix or the protagonist in Run Lola Run, the characters of Cloud Atlas are given the chance to correct mistakes from “past lives.”
With Looper, Johnson takes on science-fiction, but in his own signature approach that comes at the genre from an obtuse angle. He doesn’t waste time explaining the time travel technology (Who cares? It works.) or the inherent paradoxes that are unavoidable. (At one point, Abe says, “This time travel crap just fries your brain like an egg.” Johnson is telling audiences not to worry about the details, just enjoy the ride.)
Please forgive the crassness because there is no more eloquent way to say it: Dredd 3D is just badass. In an era of cinema when every comic book adaptation or Hollywood blockbuster is practically indistinguishable from one another, Dredd sets itself apart from the deluge of mediocrity by gambling on the unique vision of director Pete Travis and screenwriter Alex Garland. Thankfully, that gamble pays off.
No, Resident Evil isn’t an exemplar of well-crafted story, subtle dialogue, or flawless continuity, but it certainly is fun to watch. During an impressive chase scene involving a colossal dog-like zombie creature thing, I grinned like an idiot, shaking my head at the implausibility of it while enjoying every second.
Early in the film, we meet Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) as they are excavating a cave located on the side of a remote mountain. Inside they find drawings on the walls that match other images they have found at different sites all over the world. We jump ahead four years to 2093 where Shaw and Holloway wake from cryo-sleep aboard the Prometheus. The ship is on a mission to a very distant moon called LV-223 which Shaw and Holloway believe is the home of the alien beings that left the cave paintings.
Smith, in his first role in four years, appears refreshed and re-energized as an actor. His performance in Men in Black 3 relies more heavily on comedic timing and verbal sparring than on silly faces and faux macho bravado. The real success of the film comes from the wonderfully talented supporting cast. Nothing will prepare you for Brolin’s dead on performance as a younger Tommy Lee Jones. Somehow, Brolin has mastered Jones’ vocal cadence and the rhythm with which he delivers his dialogue and one-liners.
Not to compare actors to superheroes, but this cast could easily have exploded in our faces; like their characters, each of these actors is famous in his or her own right. Some are A-list while others hover just below, and it takes a persuasive genius (shall we call Whedon a Nick Fury of sorts?) to gather them and get them to fight for a common cause.
On opening night, the theater was filled with preteen girls carrying bows and wearing shirts that declare TEAM PEETA or TEAM GALE; you could mistake this fandom for something along the lines of Twilight – there’s giggling at every kiss, every meaningful glance. Bella Swan, though, wouldn’t last two seconds in the Hunger Games without her shimmering savior.
And the budget? Oh, it ballooned. The movie’s credits include so many visual effects and art department crew members your eyes will cross. The end result, unfortunately, is about two hundred million dollars worth of mediocre. Burroughs’s books were pulpy, light, implausible science fiction, and the movie feels the same despite its ostensible scale.
Detractors of Rob Zombie’s Halloween know that the cardinal rule of a classic monster is this: don’t reveal too much. In the same way Michael Myers was a far spookier fiend when he hid behind the impassive mask, tilting his head in fascination at his kills, the alien in The Thing was wholly horrifying when it was an unknown life form. When Zombie strove to tell us the story of how Michael Myers became a monster, we quit listening. Unfortunately, van Heijningen falls into the same trap with his prequel.