Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Movie Review Round-Up

It occurs to me that it's been well over a year since I've written a movie review. Since I've seen 10 movies (theatrically) in that time, that sounds like the perfect number for a round-up of brief reviews.

Iron Man 3
Tony Stark experiences PTSD from the events of The Avengers as he goes up against the Mandarin.  Although the final battle was a bit over-long, this is perhaps my favorite of the Iron Man franchise.  It retains the levels of sarcastic Tony we saw in the previous Avengers universe film, which some people thought detracting, but which I thought the first two Iron Man films could have done with more of.  And the twist with the Mandarin, though not entirely unpredictable, was still hilarious and brilliant.

Star Trek Into Darkness
J. J. Abrams remakes Wrath of Khan with younger, prettier actors (Cumberbatch!!!).  Into Darkness follows up 2009's Star Trek by showing us more of how Kirk became Captain Kirk, instead of just letting him be Captain Kirk.  Plus, references to TOS seem a bit more forced this time around, and Uhura is reduced to having "relationship problems" with Spock.  It just wasn't any good.

The World's End
Five guys return to their home town to complete a pub crawl from their youth, only something's not quite right....  Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright team up once again to make one of their comedy homages, this time to science fiction films, particularly Invasion of the Body SnatchersWith some familiar faces (Nick Frost plays the straight man this time around), they deliver entertainment and laughs.  It's good, but just not up to the levels of excellence of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which became even more apparent if, like me, you saw it in a Three Flavors of Cornetto screening. 


The Wolverine
Logan vows to protect the granddaughter of a Japanese soldier who saved his life, but there's something more sinister going on... something that might just make him mortal after all.  The Wolverine was quite unambitious, but that works in its favor.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't awful either, and delivered some solid entertainment and, apart from some obligatory Mecha, good action.

Sunshine on Leith
Two Scottish soldiers return from Afghanistan to face the complicated world of family, relationships, and... music!!  Set to the songs of the Proclaimers, Sunshine on Leith is the Scottish (filmed on location in Edinburgh and supported by Creative Scotland) musical that blows Brigadoon off the map.  It blends the working-class milieu of social realism with the musical in a way that shouldn't work, but totally does.  Vocal performances were good all around--yes, even Peter Mullan's.  And who knew the Reid twins wrote something other than "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"!

Thor:  The Dark World
A bunch of Elves led by the 9th Doctor are coming back, and apparently their threat to not just Norway but all the realms is so great that Thor must team up with Loki to stop them.  It's certainly much better directed than the previous Thor movie--the action was better, the plot made a bit more sense, and the moments of humor seemed more appropriate--but it's still a Thor movie.  But on the plus side, it did have some great bromance bits between the two Asgardian brothers, some wonderful moments for Tom Hiddleston to do some proper acting, and a scene with Chris Hemsworth shirtless.

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug
The bits from The Hobbit in between when they escape the Orcs in the Misty Mountains and when they run afoul of Smaug.  More so than An Unexpected Journey, Desolation of Smaug is really suffering from Peter Jackson's decision to split the book into three films.  Whereas Part 1 padded things out with character development and world building, Part 2 went with extended action sequences that felt really unnecessary.  As there isn't really much left from the book, I dread to see what Part 3 will have to offer.  Although I don't mind too much the material taken from The Silmarillion, it's the original stuff I don't much care for.  As a character, Tauriel was okay, but The Hobbit is already a great story; it doesn't need a superfluous romance.


The Lego Movie
Ordinary Lego figure Emmet gets mistaken for a Master Builder and has to stop President Business from destroying the world with the Kragle.  Full of in-jokes, cameos, and heartwarming moments, The Lego Movie was the most fun I've had at the cinema in years.  Yes, the message of "don't follow the rules" does seem a bit incongruous coming from a massive corporation like Lego, but the story delivers it well.  Everything is awesome!

Muppets Most Wanted
Kermit gets mistaken for the world's most wanted frog, who uses the Muppets' European tour to pull off the ultimate heist.  The movie opened with the brilliant musical number "We're Doing a Sequel", which was about how sequels are never as good as the original.  Sadly, this was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Aside from some good jokes and the wonderful double act between CIA agent Sam the Eagle and his "European" counterpart from Interpol, it just didn't live up to the promise of The Muppets.  The story was a bit weak, and Walter is starting to get (even more) annoying.


Captain America:  The Winter Soldier 
Someone within S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to kill Nick Fury, so, with no one they can trust, Captain America and Black Widow team up to stop them and the mysterious Winter Soldier.  Great action, solid story with a lot of intrigue and suspense.  I think Hydra have become my favorite Marvel villain (and meme).  There's a lot that can be done with Steve Rogers as a concept and a character, and that's perhaps why the Captain America franchise is the best one in the Avengers universe.


Ranking them, best to worst:
The Lego Movie
Sunshine on Leith
Captain American:  The Winter Soldier
Iron Man 3
The World's End
The Wolverine
Thor:  The Dark World
Muppets Most Wanted
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Star Trek Into Darkness

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