Tag Archives: 3D

Guardians of the Galaxy

MV5BMjA3ODU4MDUyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTE2OTkzMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_The crazy thing about how far behind my reviews have fallen isn’t that the backlog is huge, but that it’s so very, very small. There’s the movie I saw before this, which I have finally accepted won’t be served by a useless review and which will therefore have to wait until dollar theaters pick it up so I can purge expiate my sins, there’s this one, and there’s one book I finished almost at the same time. Nothing else.

I haven’t exactly been avoiding the theater? I have most definitely been avoiding books though. Which is to say, boy howdy have I read a ton of comics over the past month. None of that has anything to do with anything, except oh wait, it totally does, since I just remembered that the movie I am reviewing is Guardians of the Galaxy. If you were to guess I had seen that comic in the mid ’70s, the answer would be, sort of? I did, but just the premiere issue so far, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the characters that populate this movie. I did read a handful of issues of Adam Warlock which introduce Gamora, making her, so far as I can tell, the oldest of these characters in Marveldom. This is not only pretty cool, but it definitely puts a pleasantly ironic spin on a situation I read about a few weeks ago where someone was selling kidshirts of the characters and left her off because she wouldn’t appeal to boys enough. That’s already dumb on the face of it, obviously, but man oh man is it five times as dumb with the added knowledge about their collective history in comics.

None of which has anything to do with how good the movie is, I know, but… it’s been out more than a month. I kind of missed the boat on that one already, y’know? But let’s pretend I haven’t, and someone who can see this hasn’t actually seen the movie yet. It’s like this. A misfit kid with the soundtrack of the ’70s and ’80s as his sole possession in life winds up in space because that’s how comics work sometimes, only now he’s a cool thief[1]. Then he gets caught up in a galactic civil war[2] between the Kree and some other people who are not the Skrulls and who I would probably know more about if I had read comics from the ’80s, meets up with the daughter of the baddest dude in the galaxy[3], not to mention a psychotic raccoon, his pet tree who has a lot to say but only the raccoon can translate, and an angry tattooed giant out for revenge because the second baddest dude in the galaxy killed his entire family one time.[4] Then, they… well, the point is, literally any damn thing could happen, and if you aren’t desperate to know what, we are entirely different people, you and I.

[1] Not the Danny Ocean kind of thief, the Indiana Jones kind, if Indy had ever acknowledged that he’s totally a thief but for museums, which by the way is 100% what he is. I mean, it’s not his fault, it is colonialism’s fault, but think about it.
[2] It’s more complicated than that, but at some point I’m just writing a spoiler-filled summary of the movie instead of a review; plus also, if I break it down, the movie sounds less like Star Wars.
[3] Who we last saw financing the destruction of the earth for unknown reasons.
[4] “For you, the day Bison graced your village with his presence was the single most important moment of your life. For me, it was a Tuesday.” Oh Raul Julia, we miss you still.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

rs_634x939-140324091106-634.jennifer-lawrence-x-men.ls.32414Hard to believe, yet true: over the past fourteen years, there have been seven X-Men movies, all in the same continuity, and all including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. 20th Century Fox is doing nearly as good of a job as Marvel Studios. That’s really pretty impressive, all in all. (I mean, okay, the actual movies have not been as consistently good, but it’s nearly impossible to credit how much better special effects have gotten in the not quite a generation between then and now.[1])

All of which brings me to the seventh such movie, Days of Future Past, which is named after what I understand will eventually be a really important storyline that I’m still probably more than a decade from reading. That said, I’m not so sure it’s very similar to that storyline? It is, however, extremely cool and handles time travel pretty well, both philosophically and structurally. I don’t want to say much about it, because of spoilers, but the title already gave away time travel and the end of The Wolverine already gave away the Sentinels; so I will only add that I thought the Sentinels were handled at least as well as the time travel was, and probably quite a bit better.

What was handled best of all, though, were the characters. The movie is, more than anything, a sequel to First Class, which was already heavily character driven. All of the dangling conflicts are brought to fruition in satisfying ways, and what more can you really ask? Well, that the characters also be fully realized, but I think they are. (Speaking of which, the scene with “Peter” in the Pentagon? Definitely the best characterization of him I have ever seen, and all without a word of dialogue. Bravo!)

[1] That makes it sound like I’m saying the special effects are the only flaws in early or for that matter middle X-Men movies. I’m not saying that, but having watched the first one a week or so ago, special effects are what stuck out to me as the second biggest flaw, just barely ahead of pacing[2] and way behind upscaled 480p, which it turns out is eye-hurtingly unwatchable in modernity. At least, it is if there are any special effects happening.
[2] Because, seriously, half that film was spent on Liberty Island! Climactic battles should not feel draggy. And don’t even get me started on treating Rogue as a major character in one half of the flick only to leave her as a damsel in distress for the other half. That she was rescued by a mixed team instead of a big strong man helps a bit, but not really enough.[3]
[3] Talk about being in the wrong review, right?

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

MV5BOTA5NDYxNTg0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODE5NzU1MTE@._V1__SX1217_SY911_Can I just say I’m really happy that Spider-Man got rebooted? I would not have predicted feeling that way, but after two movies into the current franchise, it is become more and more clear to me that Tobey Maguire’s take just didn’t really cut it. It’s true, Peter Parker has a really hard life; but he’s not a sad, mopey person, and that’s what we got out of the previous trilogy. (Yes, the second movie starring Doctor Octopus was still incredibly done every step of the way, and my realizations do not take away from that in the tiniest regard.)

There are plenty of things that work better about this new series. I’ve already mentioned how the seeds of sequels are planted here and there and all over the place, just as though it’s a living, breathing world in which all relevant information doesn’t happen in the same segment but instead gets spread out over time. Comics weren’t episodic in the 1960s at the latest, TV has stopped being episodic as of the 1990s, and if serial movies can make the transition? All the better for me! (And, I would argue, the viewing public in general, but nothing pleases everybody, regardless of how much it ought to do.)

As for the movie in question? Clearly, I am still okay with the basic structure and with the way the characters are being acted. Gwen Stacy is a strong, modern woman who actively contributes and makes her own damn choices[1], Spider-Man runs at a quip a minute, Oscorp is a creepy company that has its tendrils into everything, etc., ad nauseum, this is Spider-Man done right nearly as much as Marvel is doing its own properties right in the expanded Avengers franchise; my only complaint, if any, is that they aren’t all in the same world, as God and Stan Lee intended. And the story is pretty good too! Nearly everyone is paying for the sins of the past, sins none of the players actually committed. It’s not a new plot, but it’s one you can’t really go wrong with. Plus, usually that plot doesn’t star Jamie Foxx as a being of pure electrical energy with an inferiority complex. It’s cool, you can’t go wrong with that plot element either.

[1]  Which, okay, Mary Jane was doing by the 1960s also, and I guess you can see yet another reason why I’ve always been enamored of these comics.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Argh, this movie. Here’s the problem, in a nutshell. I saw it in a double feature with the first one, as a premiere event before opening day. And I had no idea how to review it, because literally anything I could say that delves into character motivations or why some characters work and others do not, and how…. anything at all would be a massive spoiler. So instead I’ve sat here for days, letting the review get stale, still just as stuck with nothing to say. It’s hateful is what it is.

Instead, I will talk about the event. Even though it’s probably all stuff I’ve said before. See, I’ve certainly discussed how much I love the Alamo Drafthouse out of Austin, and I know I’ve talked about my excitement that it finally came to Dallas. What I only believe I’ve said (but have no proof, short of 12 seconds’ worth of research that clearly isn’t going to happen) is how thrilled I am by the Dallas location’s management. These guys are as genuinely excited about their movie events as the original management in Austin, and not to leave out that they’re as excited as yours truly. It’s not the single most comfortable theater experience I’ve had, and it’s nowhere near the most high-tech or immersive. But I can always be certain of the quality of the audience, and I can always be certain of the quality of the staff, and I can always be certain of the quality of the event. More to the point, I can always be certain that every film I see there will be worthy of being called an event.

I’m pretty passionate about this chain, is what I guess I’m saying. And yes, the new Captain America movie was no exception. Where else do you get to watch animated Baron Zemo from the ’60s dancing around in glee after being reminded that maybe Paste Pot Pete can help him get the mask off his face from where it’s been glued for twenty years, during the half hour pre-show entertainment?

Okay, that plus the cut I’m about to put in here should be plenty enough spoiler space. Screw it, everything hereafter is for people who saw the movie or else want to be sad.

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Thor: The Dark World

THURS_003B_G_ENG-GB_70x100.inddFirst things first, to get it out of the way. Yeah, I really liked this movie. There were disappointingly obvious problems with Newtonian physics, and there was, as far as I can recall, no more than one plot turn I didn’t see coming. Nevertheless? Loved it. I mean, to start with, I’ll watch an entire 120 minutes’ worth of Darcy reaction quips and consider it money well spent.

But aside from hammer gags, cool explosions, and Kat Dennings, there are solid reasons to like Thor: The Dark World. Probably the precipitating plot, in which Christopher Eccleston is more or less wasted behind too much makeup as an inexplicably albino Dark Elf who wants to return the universe to eternal darkness and who nearly kicked Odin’s father’s ass several thousand years ago during his first attempt, is not one of them? I’m not saying I dislike comic book plots, because I don’t, but it’s impossible to deny that this one is towards the fringier end of the form.

The broad, vague answer is that I liked the acting. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been immersed in 1960s Thor comics for the past few months, but it was cool to watch Odin interacting with his two sons. Far more than that, though, this movie gave me something I didn’t realize I’d been missing in the annals of Marveldom[1]. I finally have a solid, bone-deep belief that Thor and Loki really are brothers. That’s going to help me later, when I’m still reading 1960s Thor comics and Loki is still a cartoonishly annoying villain instead of nuanced and clever.

Also, Natalie Portman was in it, I guess? In retrospect, I should probably have more to say about someone who got so much screen time.

[1] Except maybe the Loki book I read years ago now, before I’d barely gotten started on my in-depth project here? Who can remember what happened in 2007, though?


And then I finally saw a new movie, for the first time in I really don’t want to look up how many months. Gravity pits George Clooney (charm amped up to 12) and Sandra Bullock (charm amped down to 5 or so) against space in a nailbiter of an escape movie. See, there’s an exploded satellite that, post-explosion, has become a debris field, but not to worry, that won’t stop either Bullock’s specialist repairs on the Hubble nor Clooney’s “you didn’t have to be there because I’m so good at painting the picture” stories that everyone in Houston has heard dozens of times before. ….until it does. Debris fields can be a real bitch that way.

What follows is 60 minutes of sheer adrenaline broken up by 20 minutes of philosophical musings, gorgeous tracking shots of the earth and space and the tiny objects floating above the former from within the latter, and occasional bursts of tension-relieving humor. Do you want to see it? Probably, as long as you like solid acting and are not allergic to being tense for long periods of time. Do you want to see it on an IMAX screen in 3D? Yes, unless you have that motion-sickness problem some people get, and even then, still probably yes unless you can find it in IMAX 2D, because you’ll be a pretty sad panda if you see it on some middling five-story screen. I mean, it’s space. Space is supposed to be big! Y’know?

But seriously? It was good. And absurd once or twice in the best kind of way, where you are saying to yourself, “Come on! That’s not fair!”, but you are not thinking “Come on! That could never happen!” Also, in the interests of full disclosure, I grew up in the ’80s when the shuttle program was in full swing, and was raised by a man who built parts for it for basically his entire career. So I may be more than usually locked into the idea that space missions matter, among the non-scientist set. But that said, I’m pretty sure this was a really good movie on its own merits, and not just because space is cool. But that said, it was definitely as cool as it was[1] only because space is as cool as it is.

[1] “Cool” and “good” are not the same thing, obviously. But it’s always better when they intersect.

The Wolverine (2013)

MV5BNzg1MDQxMTQ2OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk3MjAzOQ@@._V1_The Wolverine is the first new sequel to the X-Men trilogy in seven years. That’s kind of a long time, right? I’m not going to get into a “worth the wait” discussion, since those never end well and speak to expectations, which I try not to set in the first place. But certainly it was good.

First, a recap of relevant information: Wolverine is a pretty old mutant whose DNA has an impressive healing factor, such that he can recover from nearly any wound you can imagine and he doesn’t really age. Over the past hundred, maybe hundred and fifty years, he’s seen a lot of the world. Also, he has claws that grow out of his hand. Also also, his entire skeletal structure has been coated in adamantium, the hardest substance known to comic-book man. (This was made possible by his healing factor, you see. If you pause a moment to consider what having molten metal forged around your bones would feel like, not to mention the logistics of it, you will see why this would suck more for anyone else than the prodigious amount of sucking it did for him.)

So, okay, that should have you nice and caught up. This movie? Is about a haunted Wolverine, filled with regrets over the outcome of the last X-Men movie. Then, he gets caught up in some Japanese family politics. Since this is a comic book movie, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to promise you some hot mutant-on-ninja action, and also there’s a samurai with a distinctly silvery cast to his features, if you know what I mean and I bet you probably don’t, honestly.

The most important plot issue in a mostly character-driven movie (despite all that ninja action) is in the scene after the credits, when we are promised one hell of a spectacle of a new fully X-Men sequel. So, y’know, yes please.

Texas Chainsaw 3D

Here are the problems with Texas Chainsaw 3D, in no particular order. 1) The 3D was honestly kind of… no, wait, I’m sorry. I’m thinking of the preview for the GI Joe sequel in front of it. That 3D was terrible. This 3D was perfectly fine, if you are not the kind of person who hates 3D. 2) The timeline did not make even a vague attempt at working. If you have an original movie set in 1974, and… man, I’m bad at this. Now I’m trying to remember what year was listed on all the stones in the cemetery. Maybe they pushed up the start year after all? But if I’m right and it was 1974, then you can’t very well have an infant in 1974 return to claim her inheritance in 2012, yet only be 24 or so at the most (and realistically, more like 19). 3) Lack of naked. And, okay, I do not require naked in my horror movies. It’s cool and all, but by no means required. But, if you’re going to condemn people by their sexual transgressions, or pop open the last two buttons of our heroine’s shirt, then you should deliver the goods. It’s perfectly fine to decide that the plot will not be served by naked, but teasing is a violation of the covenant.

And now I look like a chump, because I’ve overruled all of my problems but the nudity. But seriously, I did overrule them in real time, this was not a clever bait and switch (unlike when nobody got naked in the movie), I swear. Anyway, here is what they did right, also in no particular order. 1) Favorable violation of one of the far more unfortunate covenants set forth by the horror movie oeuvre. 2) Chainsaws. 3) Plot twists! 4) Yeah, I’m gonna say chainsaws again, because, boy howdy was there a healthy dose of chainsawing going down.

Oh, and hey, I just remembered another valid complaint! Do you know where they filmed? Louisiana. Are you kidding me?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

It occurs to me that, if I am to go to the bother of seeing a midnight movie premiere, I ought to at least have the common decency to get my review up before release-day proper has begun. I would try to defend myself by pointing out the incredible lack of sleep I was dealing with, but if I’m being honest, well-rested Chris would probably not have written his review of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, Part One of Many yet either.

So, let’s see. Was it good? It was, but at the same time… here’s the thing. One of the great strengths of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in cinematic form was that it pared Tolkien down to manageable levels. Because not everyone wants to watch dwarves dance around a kitchen making fun of their host to song and dance collectively written on the spot, is why. And so I want to grouse and complain that some degree of editing should have occurred, yet I really cannot do so in good conscience, because it’s fair to say that there are 13 potentially identical characters out of the 15 that are central to the plot, and Jackson has avoided that trap pretty neatly. And I doubt he could have without paying careful attention to every beat that Tolkien provided. Plus, the small hints of what was going on that Bilbo could not see (that will certainly provide a great deal of meat in future movies) were absolutely worth adding. So, in summation, this trilogy will be way too long and way too Tolkieny, but Jackson has made a compelling case for why he did it this way, and I cannot ask for more. (If I had not enjoyed myself, I could, but, yeah. Good movie. With internal-to-this-entry character growth in multiple places, even! But the rock fight was kind of dumb.)

I would be remiss, at this point, to not mention that this is a kid-movie. It’s less obviously so than many, but, y’know, kid-book, kid-movie. That is how the formula works. So don’t be surprised by your memory that it is a classic instead of a kid-book. I mean, it’s both, but you’ll only accidentally forget the one. ….and then there’s the technology.

So, the 3D? Quite good. The IMAX? Always dandy. 48 frames per second, which is the shiny new tech introduced by this movie? I believe that it was successful. The image was hyper-real, and I have no idea if this is what people want in the theater, but there’s no question now that it can be done. The biggest problem was with speed; several action shots seemed to be on a slight fast-forward, like when you turn too fast and the world lurches just a little bit. Which is to say, I’m pretty sure The Hobbit will be looked upon as a really clumsy implementation of 48fps in a few years, but for ground-breaking, you really could not request a better representative. (However, if that’s just how it will always work, then I kind of expect the experiment to fail.)

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D

Okay, look. Yes, the next movie I saw was also a horror movie based on a video game franchise, and yes the previous entry in that series was objectively worse than any of the Resident Evil movies. That is no excuse to just skip to the next review. Thbbt, I say.

I actually do have at least a handful of things to say about Silent Hill: Revelation. The first is that it was shockingly coherent, with plot turns that could be predicted, characters that (mostly, at least[1]) had explicable motivations, and a by-the-book cultist storyline that was definitely a viable sequel to the earlier work. The second is that it used up a lot of that goodwill by giving none of its non-cultist characters agency after the first third of the film. The third and most mysterious is that the girl you undoubtedly saw walking around in a red Marty McFly vest in the previews is actually not Michelle Williams, a possibility that never entered my mind until her name wasn’t in the closing credits. (Sean Bean is still her father, though.)

The last thing is that the various nods to videogame iconography thrown around have made me itchier than ever to play Silent Hill 3, which it turns out is directly what this movie was based upon. Who knew? I thought all of those games were standalone, but I guess not.

[1] I mean, I guess you accept that cults want to raise some god or demon, or bind one, because some awesome thing will happen if they do, but as the awesome thing is never quite explained in such a way as to illuminate the uninitiated and never particularly comes to pass either, one must settle for accepting (or not).