Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Ten Statements About....THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Sometimes these fights for top billing can get hairy...
1) I’m ready to call it; Guy Ritchie should only do period pieces from now on.  Just as with the Sherlock Holmes films, Ritchie is able to catch the feel visually and aurally of the 60‘s in this movie.  Such things as  the frequent use of split screen only emphasizes this.

2) I like the use of a variant of the trick Ritchie used in the Holmes film, this time rewinding time to show us information we didn’t originally have.

3) Of course, the most 60‘s thing about this movie is Alicia Vikander’s Gaby.  Given her modest figure and impeccable poise, she’s able to rock those Mod fashions something fierce.  Hell, she even makes those overlarge sunglasses work for her.  Granted, I would have preferred they named her April Dancer, but that might have tipped the movie’s hand as to what her role was in the
"Why yes, I know how to rock these Carnaby Street fashion..."

4) This is another film that suffers from a lackluster set of villains.  Neither Elizabeth Debicki’s Victoria or her husband make much of an impression, and their motivation could use some work.  Even their main henchman is ruined by the way he blabs it up so readily when the tables are turned on him.

5) I wonder if we really needed an origin story for the two leads.  One being a thief and the other having anger issues doesn’t really contribute anything to what is, at its core, a very simple high concept.  We don’t need that level of depth in this context.

6) Boy, Henry Cavill is...earnest in his portrayal of Napoleon Solo.  It’s the kind of performance where I don’t know if he’s being serious or taking the piss out of the spy genre.  Considering that Armie Hammer plays his role straight, it sets up a weird vibe between them.
"No, really...we ARE so villains!"

7) While I think Ritchie’s urge to do a chase scene on three different planes of location was intriguing, I don’t think it quite works.  The fact is, even with the shots showing where the planes were in relation to each other, I found it quite hard to follow.

8) There are a couple of interesting sequences which use two focuses, both for comic effect.  And both seem to benefit from Cavill’s comic timing.

9) Even though an argument could be made that he’s underplaying it, it does seem that Hugh Grant is having fun playing Waverly...and I like how the movie foreshadows his appearance a couple of times before he makes his full debut.

10) While it was nice to see the distinctive UNCLE guns in one sequence, it would have been nice to get a clear shot of them (no pun intended).

Overall...Yes, it’s flawed, but it’s also great eye candy and further proof that Guy Ritchie knows his period pieces.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ten Statements About....THEY LIVE (1988)

"We wear our sunglasses at night..."
“Brother, life’s a bitch...and it’s back in heat."

1) For a first time actor, Rod Piper does pretty well.  His John Nada manages to be fairly low-key and almost melancholy at times throughout the first act...until he puts on those sunglasses, at which point he keeps switching from Nada to Rowdy Roddy Piper, and those moments tend to detract from the main story.

2) Man, does this film move slowly.  There are long stretches where pretty much nothing happens, especially at the beginning and end of the film.  There’s none of that increasing speed of storytelling we see in some of Carpenter’s other films like Escape From New York  or Big Trouble In Little China.  As such, the story crawls, making it seem longer than its ninety-five minutes run time.

3) One of the many slow moments Carpenter could have cut to liven the pace?  That third act ‘tour’ of the alien’s facility.  All we really need to know about the aliens is that they are the  ultimate capitalist exploiters--they see humanity as chattel and are altering the planet to suit their industrial needs.  We don’t need to see every. single. thing. about how things work with them.
So a skinless man walks into a bar....

4) Even though her role is so wispy it could fly away with a good strong breath, Meg Foster does nothing to give any life to Holly.  She’s just not a good actress, delivering every line in a soporific monotone that, if anything, serves to reveal a major portion of her character arc way too early.

5) This films relies so much on coincidence in moving its plot that it’s ridiculous.  Even though Nada is surprisingly proactive for a Carpenter hero, he would be just sitting with his thumb up his butt if he didn’t happen to meet the right people who happen to be wandering by at the right time.

6) Hello, primitive CGI flying thingie.  If only you hadn’t flown apart so awkwardly when shot....
I've heard of simplifying articles, but this....

7) Okay, that fight scene--I really don’t think it works as a parody of wrestling (as my buddy Derrick Ferguson claims; I’ve always thought it was Carpenter’s tribute to the legendary Rod Taylor fight scene in Darker Than Amber) even if Piper does break out a couple of wrestling moves.  It doesn’t work because it stops and starts.  The killer isn’t the fight itself but the constant pausing we get throughout it.  Those pauses disrupt the flow and make us impatient to get the scene over with.  That being said....

8) It’s really refreshing to see a lead who obviously isn’t being doubled for his stunt work and fights.  This is where Piper’s experience as a wrestler works for him rather than against him.
Something for the ladies....

9) If you ask me who this film’s MVP is, it’s Keith David.  David is given a character whose arc literally changes in mid-stream, is made to work opposite an actor he really has no chemistry with, and goes out like a punk...and yet he makes this character work.  It’s a testament to his skill that Frank has any dimension at all.

10) One of the things that bugs me the most about this film is how it doesn’t so much end as stop.  Maybe Carpenter thought a sex gag (which makes no sense given how the aliens claim humans are repulsive to them, but that could just be me reading too much into a throwaway line) was a fitting capper to this story....but it, well, isn’t.

Overall...a messy, sloppy film that probably has its reputation due to a handful of--well, okay, a single--memorable line.  Its slowness and tendency to work in fits and starts blunt what could have been an effective little satirical thriller.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ten Statements About....ANT-MAN (2015)

Ant-Man gives this shower curtain thumbs up....
“The world sure seems different from down here, doesn't it, Scott?"

1) It’s refreshing for once to have a Marvel movie where the stakes are not on a city-destroying level.  Because this is a more personal story, there’s not any of the ‘collateral damage fatigue’ that some of these later entries have suffered from.  And it makes us easier to accept the explodey parts in Act Three.  Although...

2) ...I wonder if the fact that this is many ways a kinda, sorta remake of Iron Man struck anyone at any period of time.  There are moments in the film--especially in the third act, it comes down to our hero and a bald guy in a more aggressive version of his suit throwing down in a major metropolitan area--where the connections are inescapable.

3) There is a moment where a character asks ‘when did this happen?’, and I had to agree.  That development comes way out of nowhere given how the relationship between the two characters being referenced had been prickly-to-friendly up until that point.

4) It’s surprising how the film still has Edgar Wright’s fingerprints are on it, even after that acrimonious split.  There are moments (especially whenever Michael Pena goes into flashback mode) that are pure Wright, giving this film a different sheen than other Marvel films.
That's right...Mole Man is already taken!

5) Maybe it’s me, but Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym comes off as a dick, even after he gets a moment where he explains his angst by borrowing some of comic book era Captain America’s.  It’s not so much a character arc as a character line.

6) Similarly--and this may be because I’m comparing him to Obediah Stane--I find Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross sort of one-dimensional and broad.  At no point do we doubt that he’s Pure-D-Evil, here only to hiss and make us appreciate how honorable Scott and his crew are.

7) Okay, those television spots spoiled the big surprise, but I did enjoy the throwdown between Scott and The Falcon.  It’s a very Marvel moment, having two heroes fight over a misunderstanding.

8) As someone who hates CGI, I have to admit that the use of it here gives the action scene a sense of three-dimensionality I enjoyed.  The way the camera swoops and slides as Scott and Cross are battling both in miniature and enlarged (am I the only one who thinks the Yellowjacket outfit looked silly in its enlarged state?), changing perspective a number of times in novel ways while never losing sight of what’s going on
"Follow me, because I'm like...evil and stuff."

9) Even though the light hearted nature of this film required a comedic actor like Paul Rudd at its center, I appreciate how he keeps things more or less low key.  There’s no mugging, no out-of-place quipping, no winking at the camera.  In fact, Rudd manages to keep Scott seeming very ‘regular joe’ while still giving us a hint of charisma.  It’s a rather commendable performance.

10) So you set your film in one of the most photogenic cities in the country....and yet you manage to make it so generic that you don’t even notice the setting until it’s mentioned in the third act?

Overall...while it has its flaws, this is a non-offensive time waster with some nice moments.