Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review – Iron Man Flies, but doesn’t Quite Soar!

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After a year of speculation, spoilers, and marketing hype. The summer film season kicks off, not with a bang and not a whimper. One of my most anticipated films of 2008 – Iron Man is finally here in all it’s technicolor glory!  I liked this movie a lot, technically it’s brilliant, acting is spot on, but it was missing something that I couldn’t put my finger on what.  From the moment this movie was announced every decision by Director Jon Favreau has been spot on. Casting  Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark was truly inspired. This film rests squarely on Downey’s shoulders and he takes the ball and scores a touchdown.  He was born to play this part. He’s perfectly sarcastic, vapid, yet brilliant and roguish. Could not have been happier with his performance.  In the Pantheon of Marvel Characters, Iron Man was always a major player in the Marvel Universe, but he’s never been a fan favorite and recently Marvel has turned Tony into a completely unlikable, know it all dick.  The movie version of Tony is more circa 80s Stark – pre-alcoholism.

When I first watched the trailer on my computer, it was the first time where I had concerns about this film. I thought it looked way too fake. But within the context of the film, everything works perfectly. Never once do you not believe that this suit is real. Favreau spends so much time showing the construction of this armor and the entire testing process that when we finally see him take off you buy into it. Stan Winston did an incredible job designing the Mark III Armor. It’s straight out of the comic book and is exactly how I always imagined Iron Man’s Armor in a live action film to look like. It’s a brilliant mix of CGI and practical SFX. But here’s my problem with the film, I kept trying to force a connection to it and wondering why I’m not LOVING this movie. I liked it a hell of a lot but didn’t LOVE it.  I think it comes down to the lack of real tension. Everything felt slightly plastic and a little too technical. With no real peril or villains.

When Stark does his first bit of Super-Hero work it’s against some nameless terrorist group. That is not clearly defined or established enough to make us care. All of the violence is done off camera as well. This leads to several weird edit moments where Iron Man is blowing up bad guys left and right, we see the repulser blasts, stuff getting blown up, but we never really see the bad guys get what’s coming to them, it’s all done off camera. I’m not one who needs to see blood and guts, but in a film like this it lacks an edge that it sorely needs.  It’s interesting the Favreau and his writers decided to go this route instead of using Iron-Man’s signature nemesis The Mandarin. He clearly wanted to focus all the attention on telling us who Tony Stark was before worrying about the villains. Which is where most Super Hero films falter.  Now that we have a clear idea who Stark is, Favreau can use the next film to give us Mandarin.  It’s funny, as an avid Iron-Man fan from back in the day, I can’t name any of Iron’s enemies, he doesn’t have a very good Rogues Gallery. Who would be good in this movie? Stiltman? Stingray?

The cast was perfect, Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes was done really well and Tony’s long suffering secretary Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) was nicely done. Jeff Bridges was barely recognizable as (Obadiah Stane / Iron Monger).  The movie’s only down moment came in final fight between Iron Man and Iron Monger was disappointing at best. Turned into a really lame Transformers rip-off.  Iron-Man is a great kick off to a front loaded Summer Blockbuster season and this is a fabulous start to the Iron-Man franchise. Bring on The Mandarin.

Final Grade A-

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 5.2.08

Iron Man: Marvel’s Right Wing Superhero Soars!

Battle-Scarred MK III

Tony Stark [Robert Downey Jr.] is a hedonistic billionaire weapons manufacturer until a trip to Afghanistan for a weapons demonstration ends with him in the hands of terrorists. He builds himself a suit of iron armor to escape and goes on to put together a more refined version to enable him to save the people who have been put in harm’s way by his company’s weapons.

Iron Man is about a lot of things: a modern knight in shining armor; crazed ambition; superheroics; even innovative CGI [check out Stark manipulating CG plans as if they were the real thing]. Oddly enough, despite its political ramifications and good old-fashioned superheroic fun, in the end, Iron Man is about a guy who goes through a kind of reverse mid-life crisis. The hedonistic, irresponsible Stark metamorphoses into a more – dare I say – mature adult by deciding to kill his company’s weapons making business in favor of some thing more planet friendly.

Downey isn’t working in a vacuum, either. It’s been a while since Gwyneth Paltrow has glowed so brightly on the big screen – here playing Stark’s right-hand person with considerable aplomb [watching her keep Stark on his toes is a delight]. Jeff Bridges makes for an affably deceptive villain and Terrence Howard makes his small role as Stark’s best friend shine.

While the action scenes aren’t as accomplished as something by Michael Bay, they come off better because director Jon Favreau understands that it’s the characters that make everything else in the film work. He keeps the pace high enough to prevent lessening of interest and knows how to make the film’s effects serve the story. This is a film with surprising wit and genuine intelligence.

Final Grade: A-

Speed Racer – Be the first to see Speed Racer!

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From writers/directors/producers Larry and Andy Wachowski, creators of the groundbreaking “The Matrix” trilogy, and producer Joel Silver comes the live-action, high-octane family adventure “Speed Racer.” Hurtling down the track, careening around, over and through the competition, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is a natural behind the wheel.  Born to race cars, Speed is aggressive, instinctive and, most of all, fearless.  His only real competition is the memory of the brother he idolized—the legendary Rex Racer, whose death in a race has left behind a legacy that Speed is driven to fulfill. Speed is loyal to the family racing business, led by his father, Pops Racer (John Goodman), the designer of Speed’s thundering Mach 5.  When Speed turns down a lucrative and tempting offer from Royalton Industries, he not only infuriates the company’s maniacal owner (Roger Allam) but uncovers a terrible secret—some of the biggest races are being fixed by a handful of ruthless moguls who manipulate the top drivers to boost profits.  If Speed won’t drive for Royalton, Royalton will see to it that the Mach 5 never crosses another finish line. The only way for Speed to save his family’s business and the sport he loves is to beat Royalton at his own game.  With the support of his family and his loyal girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), Speed teams with his one-time rival—the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox)—to win the race that had taken his brother’s life: the death-defying, cross-country rally known as The Crucible.

Slated for release on May 9, 2008, “Speed Racer” marks the Wachowski brothers’ first writing/directing collaboration since “The Matrix” movies.  Joel Silver, who previously worked with the Wachowskis on “The Matrix” movies and “V For Vendetta,” is producing the film under his Silver Pictures banner.  Grant Hill, Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski are also producing, with David Lane Seltzer, Michael Lambert and Bruce Berman serving as executive producers.
The behind the scenes creative team includes director of photography David Tattersall, production designer Owen Paterson, editors Zach Staenberg and Roger Barton, and costume designer Kym Barrett.  The music is by Michael Giacchino. The screening will be held this Saturday at 10:30 AM in Tyson’s Corner, VA. If you want to go, click this link. For your chance to receive a complimentary pass to the SPEED RACER screening on Saturday, May 3, log on to www.gofobo.com/rsvp  and input the following code: ECLP2557 to download your ticket.

Harold and Kumar: The Stoner Hope & Crosby!

Harold, Kumar & Friend

In Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, the pair’s craving for a specific kind of fast food was turned into an epic quest – call it the stoner version of Homer’s Odyssey. Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay turns them into the mutant spawn of The Fugitive and Hope & Crosby’s “Road” movies.

When Harold [John Cho] and Kumar [Kal Penn] head for Amsterdam hours after the first movie’s conclusion, they are victimized by racial profiling and mistaken for terrorists when Kumar’s high tech bong is mistaken for a bomb. After being tossed into Guantanamo Bay, they escape – with idiot Homeland Security Agent Ron Fox [Rob Corddry] hot on their heels. Throughout, Kumar fills the Bob Hope role by getting the pair into further difficulties, while Harold is the sensible one.

While taking accurate shots at aspects of the current political situation, Escape From Guantanamo Bay’s funniest gag is that these absolutely normal American guys could be getting into all this trouble just because they want to smoke a bit o’ weed and find their One True Loves. Throw in Neil Patrick Harris – once again playing the Bizarro World version of himself – shattered and reinforced redneck stereotypes and a delightful take on Dubya [here, he may not speak real good English, but he’s slyer, smarter and mellower than we are expecting] and the result is a solidly funny movie that Says Something more by highlighting the characters of Harold and Kumar than by the political jokes.

Somehow, the crude, lewd and grotesque bits that are meant to be funny actually are funny – and the relationships [buddies Harold and Kumar; each of them and their OTLs] work because, at its heart, there is an innocent [yes, innocent] charm to these guys.

Final Grade: B

Reviewing Forgetting Sarah Marshall In 300 Words or Less

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall is doomed to be remembered as “that naked break-up movie” though it’s considerably more. For one thing, the naked break-up is a simultaneously funny and poignant scene and Jason Segel’s performance as Peter [the breakee] is staggeringly vulnerable. For another, that vulnerability continues to come into play when Peter tries to get away from it all at the same Hawaiian resort where Sarah [Kristin Bell] is staying with her rock god boyfriend. In turn, Peter’s heartbreak is tempered by Rachel [Mila Kunis], a pretty, intelligent hotel employee who has also had a miserable heartbreak.

Segel‘s script meanders a bit, but those wanderings lead to emotional payoffs that make sense – especially when news that the TV series that stars Sarah, and for which he composes the “dark, ominous tones,” has been cancelled. A comment from Rachel leads Peter to finish his dream project [a rock opera for puppets – about Dracula and his search for True Love], while Aldous’ [the rock god, played by Russell Brand] behavior has Sarah rethinking leaving Peter.

Director Nicholas Stoller keeps the wandering script focused and gets terrific performances from his entire cast. Check out supporting work by the reliable Paul Rudd [as a goofy surfing guru] and Jonah Hill as Aldous’ number one fan. Stoller understands the necessity for an extra beat in a quiet moment and how to set up a gag without being obvious. As a result, Forgetting Sarah Marshall is one of the best films to come out of the Judd Apatow crude-with-a-heart comedy factory. I may not have laughed as often as the lady behind me, but I did laugh and smile and chuckle enough to recommend Forgetting Sarah Marshall as more than your daily recommended dose of fun.

Final Grade: B+

Movie Review – Forgetting Sarah Marshall

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Hey it’s been a whole two or three months since the last Judd Apatow produced flick.  This time he applies his successful comedy formula to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’ve figured out the method to Apatow’s success, he uses the same script and characters in all of his films only he switches between teen comedies and adult comedies. But all of his films are essentially the same. I will say, as a hater, that with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I’m finally aboard the Apatow train. The funny thing about this movie is, that it’s not that funny. Oh, you’ll get a few chuckles, but it’s not laugh out loud funny. It actually tries to be a little subtle and show more heart.

Star and Writer Jason Segel, who wrote the wretched Knocked Up and director Nicholas Stoller (who also directed the upcoming Pineapple Express) have crafted a cute story about a television composer, Peter Breter (Segel) who gets dumped by his television star girlfriend, played by Kristen Bell who is really stretching her acting abilities here. In one of the film’s funnier moments he tries to forget her by having a series of one night stands. When this doesn’t work his brother in law, Brian (Bill Hader) tells him to take a vacation.  Naturally this doesn’t work because Sarah just happens to be there with her new lover, a sex crazed rock star (Russell Brand).  The first hour of Marshall fills a little long in the tooth, we get that Peter just got dumped we don’t need to have it beaten into the ground. The more we see of Sarah the less we like her. The film does a good job of showing balance, we see Sarah through Peter’s rose tinted eyes and as she really is – the cliched, vapid, Hollywood Actress who doesn’t know what she wants and becomes competitive when she realizes that Peter has started hanging out with the Front Desk Clerk. The movie looks amazingly beautiful, but then it’s almost impossible to make Hawaii look ugly.  

I love Kristen Bell in Veronica Mars but the more I see her outside of her trademark role, the less I like her. It doesn’t seem like she’s really trying that hard, she just is. I think the surprise in this film was Russell Brand who had most of the good bits in this. Segel does a great job of making you care about Peter but I almost couldn’t get past his uncanny resemblance to Judge Reinhold.  Marshall is a cute little, forgettable film.

Final Grade B-

EM Review by
Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted 4.18.2008

Forbidden Kingdom: Jackie Chan and Jet Li Together At Last!

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For a long time, fans of martial arts movies have longed to see Jackie Chan and Jet Li do a film together. Well, even though Chan is noticeably a step slower, and the real hero of The Forbidden Kingdom is a time-traveling poor white kid from the present, the two still provide a lot of fun in a movie that’s a fun riff on a number of martial arts movie themes.

Continue reading Forbidden Kingdom: Jackie Chan and Jet Li Together At Last!

X-Files: I Want To Believe is the official Title

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Talk about anti-climatic and ho-hum. Chris Carter and company announced the name of the new X-Files Movie – “I Want To Believe.”  This title would be perfect if the focus was on the X-File’s convoluted mytharc, but this is a stand alone monster of the week film so it feels a little off to me. The second big-screen spinoff of the paranormal TV adventure will be called “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” Chris Carter, the series’ creator and the movie’s director and co-writer, told The Associated Press. Distributor 20th Century Fox signed off on the title Wednesday. The title is a familiar phrase for fans of the series that starred David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents chasing after aliens and supernatural happenings. “I Want to Believe” was the slogan on a poster Duchovny’s UFO-obsessed agent Fox Mulder had hanging in the cluttered basement office where he and Anderson’s Dana Scully worked. “It’s a natural title,” Carter said in a telephone interview Tuesday during a break from editing the film. “It’s a story that involves the difficulties in mediating faith and science. `I Want to Believe.’ It really does suggest Mulder’s struggle with his faith.” “I Want to Believe” comes 10 years after the first film and six years after the finale of the series, whose opening credits for much of its nine-year run featured the catch-phrase “the truth is out there.”   I’m attending Friday night’s New York Comic Con Panel and have been in talks with Fox to get Chris on the Hot Seat, but it’s looking more like it’s going to happen sometime after this weekend’s show.