Billy Soistmann

Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

Review: Iron Man 2

In 2010, Action, Comedy, Comic Books, Jon Favreau, Paramount, Reviews on May 6, 2010 at 3:30 PM

I’ll be honest. Iron Man 2 surprised me. After such a brilliant start, I was worried that the sequel would either fall flat or try too hard. However, the movie delivers exactly as a summer blockbuster should. Although I have always been adamant that a great film should have something deeper to say, the true purpose of a film is to tell a story, whether it is entertaining, sad, or scary.

Iron Man 2 has no proverb it is trying to get across. No insight into the human condition. What it is is pure entertainment. Now, I hesitate to say this because normally I would attack a film that attempts solely to entertain. But, there is a difference between mindless entertainment and an enjoyable movie such as this one.

This sequel to 2008’s Iron Man is an action-packed tale of how Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) attempts to deal with the ramifications of being Iron Man, as well as a life-threatening medical condition, a competing weapons contractor (Sam Rockwell), and a very bitter Russian physicist (Mickey Rourke).

The film opens in Russia as a very angry Mickey Rourke begins building some kind a weapon and continues into an amazing shot (which you can see embedded below) of Iron Man jumping from a plane into the grand opening of his Stark Expo. The kinetic energy in this sequence really sets the mood for the rest of the movie.

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As the film progresses, there are several great action set pieces as well as a lot comedy. Sam Rockwell delivers a hilarious performance as the wannabe Tony Stark. Overall, the acting was good. Downey Jr. is fantastic, as usual, and director Jon Favreau also has a sizable part. Mickey Rourke is a great villain, although sometimes that accent was just ridiculous. Paltrow is good as the straight-laced Pepper Potts, but Scarlett Johannson, on the other hand, delivers an cringe-worthy performance as Stark’s new secretary with a secret.

The main problem this movie has is its plot. At times, the film could have been paced much more smoothly. Especially in the second half, I felt as if the story became too rushed. However, these issues never reach the level of the atrocity that was Spider-Man 3. The film remains coherent, and interesting, throughout.

The bigger error, however, comes from the science. In Iron Man, if you believed that a device as powerful and tiny as Stark’s arc reactor was possible, the rest of the movie made sense, at least from a technical point-of-view. Unfortunately, the sequel throws this out the window. This isn’t a huge deal, but does detract from the believability of the story, which, frankly, matters little considering the movie’s superhero roots.

So, where exactly does this film succeed? It doesn’t have a fantastic story, but the plot is interesting, the characters are great, and it’s just so much fun. This movie is a blast and, although it wasn’t on par with the first film, Iron Man 2 is a great way to start off the summer movie season.

Tron Legacy Trailer Debuts Online

In 2010, Action, Coming Soon, Disney, Joseph Kosinski, News, Remakes & Sequels, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Trailers on March 8, 2010 at 10:19 PM

I’m not one to keep up with all the latest trailers, but this is different. After someone more clever than myself solved this crazy site, we were all treated to the trailer for Tron Legacy. Watch it below:

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To download, go here for standard or here for HD.

This movie looks awesome. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, “Legacy” is the follow-up to the 1982 classic Tron and stars Garrett Hedlund, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen, Olivia Wilde, and Academy Award-winner Jeff Bridges.

Review: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

In 2010, 20th Century Fox, Action, Chris Columbus, Family, Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy on February 13, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is not the next Harry Potter. That’s exactly what 20th Century Fox was going for – based on the series by Rick Riordan, it stars Logan Lerman as Percy Jackson, a young man who discovers that Greek legends are real, and is directed by Chris Columbus.

Although based on an intriguing premise, “The Lightning Thief” falls flat. It’s a real shame, too. It could have been a fun adventure through Greek mythology. Instead, it falls into a simple movie formula that we’ve all seen many times over.

The film begins with Zeus (Sean Bean) confronting Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) over the theft of his lightning bolt. The scene plays off well as tongue-in-cheek comedy, although I don’t think that’s what they were aiming for. The dialogue is ridiculous, but if the entire film just stuck with this not-too-serious feel, I would have liked it much more.

The first major flaw is the lack of an introduction. We see Percy and his best friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), but we never really get to know them before the plot quickens and the action begins. The writers hit the points they need to, but the characters never come alive.

The plot of the movie is terrible. This film takes a good premise and ruins it by making it so formulaic and predictable, there’s almost no point in watching it. The only redeeming factor is that the movie is actually pretty fun most of the time.

The acting is atrocious all-around. Even the excellent supporting cast, including Uma Thurman, Catherine Keener, Joe Pantoliano, Pierce Brosnan, and Sean Bean, are humiliated through silly dialogue with no real characters beneath. As for the stars, this film goes to show you that very few teens can actually act.

However, these shortcomings don’t diminish the movie as much as they should. Somehow, this mess of a screenplay plays out as a surprisingly fun family adventure. Although not a good film by any stretch, “Percy Jackson” provides a fun adventure suitable for the whole family, and is better than most films aimed at the same audience.

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

In Action, Dreamworks, Michael Bay, Paramount, Remakes & Sequels, Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Transformers on June 24, 2009 at 4:14 AM

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a sheer mess. I really want to like it, but it’s impossible – the movie has a horrible plot and is way too long. The only reason there even is a plot is to set up a lot of cool robot fighting.

This time around, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) finds a piece of the All Spark in a hoodie from the first movie (Why he hasn’t touched that sweatshirt in two years is never explained.) which causes him to have visions of ancient symbols. Megatron (Hugo Weaving) comes back and our hero is joined by his girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) and Leo (Ramon Rodriguez), who is introduced as an alien/robot conspiracy theorist, but only uses his knowledge once. (In order to get Agent Simmons (John Turturro), who knows more than him.) Sam and the gang finally end up in Egypt looking for the Matrix of Leadership. (Which turns out to be incredibly easy-to-find item, considering it’s been hidden for about 20,000 years.) Of course, an enourmous battle ensues. Besides the logical dilemmas such as the seemingly endless supply of robots who were mysteriously missing in the first movie (I guess it was their day off.), the fundamental problem is that the story leaves absolutely no room for any character development or underlying themes. Sure there’s enough story to fuel copious amounts of cool robot fighting, but there is no meaning or question explored by this film (at least the first hinted at humanity’s capacity for good). This is especially atrocious considering the two lead robots – Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and the Fallen (Tony Todd).

The first is Optimus Prime, an extremely wise, very old alien robot who has been through a lot. Basically, he’s the Autobots’ philosopher and everything he says sounds world-shattering thanks to Peter Cullen’s fantastic voice work. Why not use this asset to explore more of human nature? The second, the Fallen of the film’s title, has been described as “the Lucifer of the Transformers universe.” No he isn’t – at least not in the movie. The film begins in 17000 BC as the Fallen is working on a huge machine on Earth. Now, I’d figure that a trip back almost 20,000 years would be pretty important. Not in this film. The only purpose that scene serves is to set up the title card and to establish that there is a huge machine underground in Egypt. Essentially, the movie skips right over the Fallen’s “fall”. The pivotal turning point that establishes this titular character’s motivation for 20 milleniums is glazed over.

Throughout the film, there is a feeling of manufactured epic-ness. Of course, the movie spans continents and cost around $200 million, but every potential emotionally-charged scene is overdone almost to the point of losing any real effect. For example, Sam cries out “OPTIMUS!” in a moment clearly overblown to make the scene seem important (and to beef up the trailer). The audience is smart enough to choose for themselves what characters they care about, Optimus Prime included, without the movie spoon-feeding them.

Now for Sam and Mikaela’s relationship. During the hiatus between films, the couple have been dating, but have a difficult choice coming up. With Sam going off to college, Mikaela decides to stay with her ex-con father working on automobiles. Maybe these kinds of things are just not my cup of tea, but I cringed every time they had a serious conversation with each other. I just don’t buy their relationship at all.

At two-and-a-half hours, “Transformers 2” is not a short movie but I’m not against a long movie. A feature film should be as long as it needs to be, but this movie doesn’t need that much time – in this form, anyway. If any meaningful subjects were explored or the characters were developed on any real level, then I could excuse such a runtime.

So, without a decent story, is there anything left? Basically, there’s a whole lot of alien robots fighting and it looks amazing. The special effects are the movie’s high point and the folks at ILM have really given us a spectacular showcase of amazing visuals. The transformers are an incredible sight when they fight and even more so when they actually transform. Another strong point is the humor. There are many funny moments that create a fun atmosphere for all the action. We see much more of Sam’s parents, who are hysterical but start to lose their edge by the conclusion. Still, special effects and some laughs alone cannot carry an entire movie.

How about the direction? Surprisingly, director Michael Bay isn’t too bad this time around. Setting aside numerous gratuitous slow motion shots and a dismal climax, the action is frenetic yet discernible.

From an acting point of view, Shia is not his best. This could be due to the poor script, but he is not up to par with his performances in Disturbia or even Holes. Other than him, Peter Cullen is (once again) perfect as Optimus, Megan Fox replaces her looks for any superb acting (actually, her performance gets better as the movie goes on), and John Turturro does well as an exiled secret agent.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is full of missed opportunities and mindless fighting. Surprised? I didn’t think so. In any case, you should enjoy the spectacle, at least until you realize how much better the film could be.

My Rating: 4.3/10

Review: The Dark Knight

In Action, Batman, Christopher Nolan, Comic Books, Comic Books & Superheroes, Drama, Remakes & Sequels, Reviews, The Forum, Warner Brothers on September 12, 2008 at 8:23 AM

(This is an article I wrote earlier in the year for another publication. I have estimated a date and added it here late so please excuse any time discrepancies.)

After leaving the theater over 74 million people were amazed. This sequel was even better than anticipated. Unheard of!

On June 15, 2005, Batman debuted on the big screen for the first time in about eight years. Batman Begins was a great re-introduction to Batman and far surpassed any previous Batman film. Exactly 1,029 days later, its sequel, The Dark Knight, was released. Months of anticipation and hype, which were even more fueled by Heath Ledger’s death on January 22, made it seem impossible that The Dark Knight could live up to its expectations. In the months since, critical acclaim and word-of-mouth catapulted The Dark Knight to 27 on the box office chart (adjusted for inflation) at $525,904,700.

While Batman Begins is a fantastic movie about how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, The Dark Knight focuses on the criminal underbelly of Gotham and how Batman and the police department strive to fight it. In this way, The Dark Knight becomes a much deeper movie than Batman Begins because it raises questions of what is right, and “how far is too far?” Other thought-provoking dilemma the film explores are “Should Batman fight crime?” and “Is the world better off without him?”

In an interview with David Halbfinger of The New York Times, the director and co-writer, Christopher Nolan said, “As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman’s presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, [it] attracts lunacy. When you’re dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead?” This leads to the Joker.

“I love that dynamic between The Joker and Batman,” says Christian Bale (Batman) in an interview with SuperHeroHype.com, “He completes him in a sense that he finally has a really worthy challenge, a worthy opponent that challenges him in a way that nobody else ever has.”

Originally portrayed by Cesar Romero in 1966, the role of the Joker was then passed on to Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). In July 2006, Heath Ledger was confirmed to play the Joker in The Dark Knight. To prepare for the role, he spent a month living in an apartment in London where he developed the character. Eventually, he settled on an anarchic interpretation that fit the feel of Batman Begins. Even though Heath Ledger’s iconic voice and laugh for the Joker are excellent, the most impressive aspect of the performance is that in every scene, the Joker’s body language and small nuances in his face tell you more about his character than any amount of dialogue can. The most frightening aspect of the character is that all he cares about is “seeing the world burn.” He couldn’t care less about money or power. Most criminals want something, so they can be negotiated with, however, the Joker cannot be dissuaded. After filming concluded, Heath Ledger tragically died from a prescription drug overdose on January 22, 2008.

“The Joker, he sort of cuts through the film – he’s got no story arc, he’s just a force of nature tearing through,” says Christopher Nolan, in an interview with The LA Times, “Harvey Dent is a tragic figure, and his story is the backbone of this film.”

In The Dark Knight, Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart, has recently been elected District Attorney and is starting to crack down on crime in Gotham. Dubbed “The White Knight,” he contrasts with Batman, because while Batman, “The Dark Knight,” fights crime by his own rules, Dent attempts to fight crime through the court system. Dent’s presence causes Batman to question his motives and ask himself whether or not he should be fighting crime in this way. However, what makes Dent a centerpiece of the film is what he does in response to the Joker, not the affect he has on Batman.

The Dark Knight is definitely the best film of the summer, not only because it is a great superhero movie, but also because it is a very complex morality tale. We eagerly anticipate what is next for the record-shattering “Dark Knight.” Is there a posthumous Oscar in store for Heath Ledger? What conflicts and villains await our hero? Can Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film surpass the first two? Only time will reveal all… and eager fans will certainly be in line.