Billy Soistmann

Archive for the ‘2010’ 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.

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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: Shutter Island

In 2010, Horror, Martin Scorsese, Mystery, Paramount, Reviews, Thrillers & Mystery/Suspense on February 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Sometimes, it’s not what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it and that is definitely the case in Shutter Island. Martin Scorsese delivers an incredible film from good, but flawed source material.

Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy, a US Marshal who, along with his partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), are assigned to investigate the disappearance of a psychotic patient from the mental institution on the titular island. Dr. John Cowley (Ben Kingsley), along with Dr. Jeremiah Naering (Max von Sydow) and the warden (Ted Levine), run the facility with an iron fist. The fantastic supporting cast is rounded off with Jackie Earle Haley and Michelle Williams. As the mystery unfolds, Teddy learns that the island is definitely more intimidating than he first suspected.

From the opening shot of this film, you know you are in for something special. The opening sequence is clearly the work of a master filmmaker. Scorsese lets his shots run their course, rather than cutting away. We watch as the boat slowly emerges from the fog heading toward the island. After some dialog, we see the island for the first time in a shot that says a lot about the character of this wretched place – the jagged rocks, the rocking boat, the imposing cliffs. As the on-edge police force escorts the marshals into the institution, Scorsese utilizes his signature sweeping camera moves which give the film a constant kinetic energy.

Shutter Island is visually stunning. The composition is absolutely perfect. The movie is also partly surrealist. The dream sequences play out through unique visuals and give a glimpse into DiCaprio’s mental collapse. Overall, the pacing and editing make for an incredible thriller. Scorsese channels his inner Hitchcock and continually builds suspense. Rather than rely on simple jump scares, this film is psychological. The score also contributes immensely to the overall feeling of the movie. Incredibly, a score wasn’t even written for the movie. Instead, Scorsese and singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson created an ensemble of already-recorded music. The haunting music and, even more so, the lack of sound during certain scenes also adds to the unnerving atmosphere.

The plot of the film plays like a classic thriller. The movie uses several horror clichés, such as the telephone lines being knocked out by a storm, but I didn’t mind them. As for the sotry, it started out well, but then fell short a little around 2/3rds of the way through. Towards the end, I did not like the direction the story was going, but the ending was amazingly ambiguous. (I’ll definitely have to write more in-depth about this in a later, spoiler-filled post.) In the end, the craftsmanship of the film outweighs any shortcomings in the script.

Apart from the technical aspects, which were virtually perfect, Shutter Island provides several levels of enjoyment. There is suspense throughout – the film is an excellent thriller. On a deeper level, the movie examines the nature of human sanity. Overall, Shutter Island is an engrossing thriller told through excellent visuals that only Scorsese can create. The fantastic directing, acting, and technical aspects of the movie take a typical horror film and make it into a thought-provoking, beautiful film.

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.

Toy Story 3 Trailer #2

In 2010, Animation, Comedy, Coming Soon, Disney, Family, Lee Unkrich, News, Pixar, Trailers on February 11, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Here’s the new trailer for Toy Story 3:

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I cannot wait for this movie. Toy Story, the first computer-animated feature-length film, as well as its sequel, Toy Story 2, were magnificent movies with a real heart and the new installment is looking just as incredible. Pixar is a great studio and I can’t imagine them rushing a story through just to get cash.

Toy Story 3 looks like an even grander adventure than its predecessors, as the toys are sent to a Day Care Center and must get back to their beloved owner, Andy.

Toy Story 3, directed by Lee Unkrich and starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, hits theaters June 18th.

Meet the New Characters in Toy Story 3

In 2010, Animation, Buzz, Comedy, Coming Soon, Disney, Lee Unkrich, News, Pixar on February 10, 2010 at 5:55 PM

Earlier today, Lee Unkrich, director of the upcoming Toy Story 3, posted an intriguing picture of 14 new characters that will be appearing in the film. The film focuses on the toys as they begin a new life at a day care center when their beloved Andy goes to college. Presumably, these new cast members are toys from the day care.

Here’s the image (click to enlarge):

Right now, we can see two new characters, Peas in a Pod and a Ken doll, while the rest are hidden in silhouette. Any guesses as to what any of them will be? Please post your predictions in the comment section below.

Sundance Review: Bass Ackwards

In 2010, Character-Driven, Distribution, Independent, Linas Phillips, Reviews, Sundance on January 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Watching a Film On YouTube

Wow. Technology is awesome: I just finished watching, on YouTube, Bass Ackwards, a film premiering tonight at the Sundance Film Festival. As a part of the festival’s current theme of “rebirth” and their campaign to get away from what Sundance has become in 21st century (As Ebert puts it, “a sort of yuppie tech-head geek consumerist trade show and party animal convention”), five Sundance films, three from 2010, two from last year, are available to rent at YouTube.com/Movies.

Say what you will about how Google has handled YouTube, but this really appealed to me. I wish I could be at Sundance right now, but I just didn’t have the time or money to get there this year. With this streaming deal, I can at least watch a few films from the festival from the comfort of my own home.

So how did it work out? After putting my credit card into Google Checkout, I went to the page for the movie. It looks just like a normal video, except you are prompted that it costs $3.99 to rent the movie. I clicked “Rent” and I was off. Overall, it went well. The quality was very good (720p), but there were some issues with buffering. Several times, the image would stutter and, sometimes, even pause completely. Streaming a film off of the internet is not the ideal format, but enough about how I watched it. How was the film itself?

In Bass Ackwards, Linas (played by Director/Writer Linas Phillips) drives a ’76 Volkswagon bus cross-country and meets some interesting people along the way. This movie was nothing like my expectations. Rather than a quirky, hip indie flick, Bass Ackwards is an honest portrait of how a cross-country journey affects one lonely man.

This is precisely why this film works: Instead of relying on a recycled road movie plot, like the trailer pretends it is, Ass Backwards simply creates a character that we care about and follows him. Other movies that share this quality are Chop Shop and Munyurangabo. These types of films are rare, but utterly refreshing.

The film is also shot beautifully. The transitional scenery along Linas’ travels are impressive considering the film’s low budget. Also, there is a certain magic to the 1976 VW bus. By the end of the movie, it becomes a character of its own.

Where the movie fails slightly is the comedy. There are many funny moments and Alex Karpovsky is hilarious as a gas station manager, but overall the film falls somewhere in this gray area between drama and comedy, which many movies fall into, but the mixture just isn’t quite right.

In spite of this flaw, Bass Ackwards is a very good film with some great vignettes and a solid emotional core.