With "Iron Man 3," Shane Black and company have crafted a fully loaded, supremely entertaining superhero spectacular. Moreover, it is a deconstructionist epic that is not afraid to make statements about its own genre and the world in which its audience lives.
While Shane Black's style of cinematic storytelling is more rollicking and lively than Jon Favreau's, this Iron Man is not necessarily a departure from the first two films. Powered by the charisma of Robert Downey, Jr., the films…
I once imagined an alternate universe where Nicolas Cage was cast as Tony Stark.
"Iron Man 2" was never made.
"Thor" was never made.
"Captain America" was never made.
"The Avengers" was never made.
"Iron Man 3" was never made.
The "Ghost Rider" films were never made either, though nobody bemoans that.
Thankfully, we live in this universe; and, thankfully, Robert Downey, Jr. is a magnificent Tony Stark.
(I have since rewatched "Iron Man 3" and written a more traditional-style review. Feel free to give it a read.)
Although "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" may ring as empty as a quarter-behind-the-ear trick, the comedy, built around dueling Las Vegas magicians, is an uptempo and consistently funny film. It offers little satire and smarts, but the gags are effective and the script is witty enough to keep smiles planted on its audience's face. The cast, highlighted by Steves Carell and Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, and Alan Arkin, is winning, selling the material with the expected comic chops. Overall, the experience is light-weight but satisfyingly fun.
It would be easy, even appropriate, to write off Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" as a bloated, insincere family adventure that lacks a brain, a heart, and the courage to be something different than a CGI-heavy extravaganza. The enterprise looks to be set up for translation directly into a Disney theme park, while, at the same time, the narrative is a dull slog through digital landscapes and well-worn hero quest tropes. Moreover, the film could easily be analogous…
Early on, "Jack the Giant Slayer" is replete with issues. The film's story, a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, is limp and offers nothing new or special. The film's pacing lacks spark, and its tone wavers from swashbuckling to silly. Finally, the film's CGI-driven thrills feel empty.
So, why does the film deserve an admittedly generous and qualified four stars? To answer, when the film finally hits its stride, it becomes an exciting, entertaining adventure. The elements that were…
"Warm Bodies" is a surprising experience. A romantic horror fable (sort of John Hughes-meets-George Romero), the film is built around the premise of a corpse who develops affection for a living girl. In broad strokes, this story has been told hundreds of times; but "Warm Bodies" keeps the formula fresh with honest humor and unexpected warmth.
Cinematically, the film provides standard zombie thrills, and its PG-13 rating keeps the violence to a minimum. It is well cast and features a…
Though "Mama" is a few flaws short of being a great horror film, it is a solidly spooky and surprisingly jolting fright flick. The small-scale film is neatly crafted and nicely shot. Its story is engrossing, and the film deftly combines a handful of jump scares, a creepy and tension-inducing atmosphere, and strong performances. Some less-than-satisfying story beats bog the film down, but "Mama" is definitely worth seeing.
Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is a sprawling epic of a Western that, although it collapses under the weight of its Tarantino-ness, is very worthy of praise. A compelling and violent story of antebellum bounty hunters, the film has an excellent cast. A great Christof Waltz gives the film its center, while Jamie Foxx's charismatic turn as Django Freeman adds luster to the proceedings. Leonardo DiCaprio, Don Johnson, and Samuel L. Jackson are kinetic in their supporting roles.
Tarantino's widescreen compositions…
"Les Miserables" is, at once, both old fashioned and contemporary. With its handsomely crafted costumes and period sets, and its operatic story combining epic conflict and personal melodrama, it is a movie musical in the style of the Hollywood prestige pictures of the past. With its swooping cameras, close-shot attention to character and emotion, and refusal to be stagey, it is remarkably fresh.
A story of hope and redemption, "Les Miserables" is quakingly emotional. These emotions are writ large, not…
To write that "Jack Reacher" is a mixed bag is an apt but entirely too negative-sounding description. Christopher McQuarries's film, a slow burning mystery with a comic, tone-bending lilt, follows Tom Cruise's ex-army cop (or something) protagonist through a rip roaring, investigative adventure. McQuarrie pumps elements of noir and action into film in which a lack of style in some scenes becomes a style all its own.
Fortunately, this bag of mixed genre elements and energies is thoroughly engrossing and…
While "The Impossible" offers little new in terms of heart-string-tugging, triumph-of-the-human-spirit dramas, the film is an effective telling of one family's struggle against the odds after the tsunami that devasted parts of Asia in 2004. "The Impossible" is less about the natural disaster itself or sharply defined drama and more about the survival of its core protagonists, so those looking for a film broad in scope may be disappointed. The film is harrowing, inspiring, and well-acted. The cinematography is at times gauzey and, at times, crystal clear. Overall, the film is a servicably made, thematically straightforward experience that can be both gripping and moving.