Thursday, May 19, 2011

Action abounds, but story sinks "Pirates 4"


The fourth installment of the “Pirates” franchise is a mediocre one at best. For a series that started with a bang, one can’t help but wonder if this is the final time we see Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.


The previous two films were head-scratchers to say the least, and Depp admittingly acknowledging that he was never quite sure what the story was about. The fourth film doesn’t alleviate any of those issues either. While the action and swordplay is again top notch for the action genre, there is little heart and even less story considering there is a sword fight/battle every 5 minutes.
Director Rob Marshall is new to the franchise and regrettably, takes the film down a predictable and clichéd path. In the scant moments where you might try to believe that character development is coming, don’t bother; another sword fight will show up. It’s a tired and worn-out method, akin to many brain-dead summer action movies with little story.
Fans of the series undoubtedly love Depp’s character, what with his slapstick humor and spirit. I’m sure they realize that this movie never tries to take itself that seriously, which is a good thing. Better to poke fun at yourself than try to make a serious action movie and fail miserably in the process.
The action scenes are fun, and Depp does a very good job of selling the sequences. As with the previous films, his character is full of bravado and panache. His antics on camera are a delight to watch, and thankfully he does manage to keep this film entertaining, albeit only at a superficial level

The story is the true downfall of the film however: the race to discover Ponce de Leon’s fountain of youth. Geoffrey Rush is back playing Barbossa, this time as a privateer working for the crown. Penélope Cruz is also present as Angelica, though she is now in league with the supernatural power-wielding Blackbeard.


One would think that a race to the fountain of youth might be a grand idea and journey, but the story simply sloshes along, much as if you’re traipsing through the marshes of the Everglades right after it rained. Pointless characters (a minister and a mermaid?), unneeded side stories, and enough plot holes to sink Jack’s ship (why does the bad guy always stop using his main power when he’s about to win?) derail the main story enough to ensure this film’s fate of nothing more than typical summer fodder.
Depp really tries to save this film, but one man cannot save a script and this lackluster material. I can’t imagine he’ll have many kind things to say, in retrospect, about this script either. And for the obligatory post-credit scene, I suppose this won’t be the last time we’ll see this franchise. One has to wonder if Depp will sail off into the sunset and leave this aimless franchise to someone else.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First extended clip of X-Men: First Class

The following clip is about a minute long, and involves Charles Xavier trying to convince the United States government that mutants are real. This is the first look at an extended scene that we've had beyond what we've seen in the trailers.

Keep checking this blog for more information regarding X-Men: First Class.

Enjoy!
video

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

X-Men First Class Preview - The "Other" Mutants


The next summer blockbuster will be arriving in theaters in approximately three weeks, X-Men: First Class is poised to continue the strong showing for the comic book genre in 2011.

The basic details surrounding the film center on the emerging friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, portrayed in previous films by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, their differing ideas on how mutants should integrate into society, what roles mutants should have, and thus their subsequent falling out and forming different factions entirely.

Most people with a pulse know who Professor X and Magneto are. That being said, First Class introduces some new characters to the lineup that some may be unfamiliar with, or revised for this installment. This preview will focus on who they are.

Beast

Seen previously in X-Men: The Last Stand (X-Men 3) portrayed by Dr. Fraiser Crane himself (Kelsey Grammer for those who don't know Fraiser), Hank McCoy (a.k.a. Beast) doesn't fit into the time-line continuity established in the previous trilogy, but that matters little with this film. Like Rogue in that series, Beast doesn't embrace his mutation, and is looking for any outlet to be "normal." He wants to be cured, and this sentiment is increased significantly when he undergoes his permanent transformation into the blue, ape-like mutant we know from the comics.


Mystique

Also seen in the previous trilogy, Mystique is getting more proper treatment to the origin of her character than the previous trilogy did. She has a very unnatural look when in mutant form, though she can take on the shape and form of any humanoid being. In this film, she has a very soft spot for Hank McCoy.


Havok


You know his brother, Scott Summers, also known as Cyclops. Alex Summers is his little brother. How the time-line will be worked out here, I have no idea, considering Cyclops is supposed to be one of the original X-Men. One theory floating around the internet is that Havok in this film will actually be Scott and Alex's father. Considering the film is set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, that could potentially work. Havok's mutation is that he emits plasma radiation from his body, and he has problems controlling it. Professor X helps him learn to focus his power, control it, and harness it's full potential.


Banshee

Sean Cassidy (Banshee) has an unusual mutation: Sonic Screams. With it, he can unleash all sorts of chaos, as well as the ability to fly. Banshee in the original comics is an Irishman, and it would appear from the trailers that he will not speak with an Irish accent. Perhaps his backstory was not important to the filmmakers, though I feel this somewhat cheapens his character.

X-Men: First Class opens in theaters in the United States on Friday, June 3rd, 2011.  




Friday, May 6, 2011

Movie Review: Thor

I sat in my basement, dutifully wrapping up the last stages of the game Marvel Ultimate Alliance. I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to see these Marvel comic characters come to life on the Big Screen, moving past what we had already seen in the X-Men and Spiderman films.

That was 2006. My hopes weren't very high, after all, all we had were franchises owned by corporations that knew nothing of the Marvel comics, and we were only 2 years removed from Ang Lee's horrible rendition of The Hulk.

But 2008 was just around the corner, with solid performances by Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man and Ed Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Marvel had a plan at that point, as both films hinted with post-credit sequences towards an incredible event, the culmination of these heroes in one movie, The Avengers.

Which finally leads me back to the purpose of this review, my review of Thor.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Odin (Anthony Hopkins)
The film follows a fairly traditional plot line: young and arrogant youth on the cusp of reaching his ultimate glory is cast down through a series of events, must prove himself worthy of said glory, regain it and save a lot of people. Predictable? Of course. But director Kenneth Branagh achieves incredible heights in the journey that you don't feel cheated in the slightest.

Chris Hemsworth plays the title character, Thor, and does a fantastic job displaying the heroes journey. He's witty, but not overtly funny; he's charming, but not sappy. His on-screen chemistry with Natalie Portman is strong, aided even more by Portman's natural grace.

Tom Hiddleston plays Loki, Thor's brother. Hiddleston, in my opinion, stole the show with his portrayal of the God of Mischief. His screen chemistry with Hemsworth and Anthony Hopkins (Thor and Loki's father, Odin) sold those heavily-rendered CGI scenes.

The Asgardian scenes were downright beautiful, even for CGI. Each of them were rendered with breathtaking details, and the scenes were acted straight out of a Shakespearean play. Love? Check. Betrayal? Check. Jealousy? Check. Loss of innocence? Check.

I've read some dissatisfaction with the scenes on Earth, the whole "fish out of water" element to them. I personally enjoyed them. I didn't think the humor elements were overboard by any means, and the characters' portrayals of what would happen if this really did occur in real life was believable and plausible. I also didn't think the film was trying too hard to point ahead to The Avengers, though one scene featuring Hawkeye doing absolutely nothing was somewhat puzzling.

Now to my favorite part: the score. Patrick Doyle's music was incredibly moving, making you swell up inside with something I can't even describe. Music touches us all in a very special way, and this film is no different.

The only criticism that I had of this film was the length: I felt it was 15-20 minutes too short. Rene Russo had 2 lines that I remembered. I imagine that the 15-20 minutes I'm seeking is on the cutting room floor, with many of those being character-driven scenes involving Hopkins and Russo. Hopefully we get to see those on the DVD.

Overall, I give this movie a solid "A," an incredible way to start the 2011 summer movie season. And if this film is any indication on what we're to expect going forward, not only will Captain America be a treat, but The Avengers is going to be a smashing success.