Iron Man 3 Confronts Emotions That Many Superhero Films Would Rather Ignore
Iron Man 3 International Poster
Title: Iron Man 3
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Oblivion Recalls Greater Science Fiction Films, While Being Better Looking Than Most
Oblivion Theatrical Poster
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Title: The Raid: Redemption
Director(s): Gareth Evans
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
It’s usually hard to get me to go to a theater to see an action film because I treat the cinema in a different respect than some, and I’d hope akin to others. When I go to see a movie, I generally don’t go just to films that will be mindless fun. The only way I will do that is if someone invites me and I have nothing better to do, or the film genuinely seems like it might have something unique to offer. I went to this film having not seen any trailers or knowing virtually anything about the film other than what I might infer from the title. This goes against my nature for most films because I usually always need to view a trailer before I settle on going to see a film. So the way I went into The Raid: Redemption was fairly different than usual for me. The reason I decided to go see this film was because I was on an action high after having watched 13 Assassins recently. As I said I knew nothing about The Raid: Redemption (I’m just going to call it The Raid from now on, despite there being a sequel in the works and an american remake both under the same title, tentatively) and because of this, the movie became so much more engrossing than I could have imagined.
If I could recommend one action film to see this year, it would be this one. Nothing will top it, and if something does, it will have to be absolutely incredible. The Raid has very few flaws, and those can easily be overlooked in no time. It’s a story about corruption, at it’s core, but the story is definitely one of those very few flaws the film contains. I didn’t really grasp why the title was called “The Raid: Redemption” mainly because there didn’t seem to be any story of redemption, unless we look at the film less literally, and break down what little story there is. That’s completely unnecessary though, because not grasping the title is the last thing one needs to worry about when watching a film.
The Raid somehow manages to make every single action sequence interesting and really makes the viewer feel like they just took a shot of adrenaline. This is one of the few films where I’ve been verbally expressive about how much pain someone on screen is experiencing. I really felt some of the impact each fight had, and that may very well be because I was so entranced with the choreography of each fight sequence. There was only one moment where I felt the fight was a little long, and that’s one fight out of about 6 or 7, if I remember correctly, which comprise the entire film. Some of these sequences go on for about 20 minutes and the feeling of adrenaline never ceases. Accompany this with some incredibly striking visuals and interesting camera angles, and you have yourself some great eye candy.
But it’s not only the fight sequences that stun, but the suspenseful parts too. There were two moments in the film where I was on the very edge of my seat. One of which gets interrupted by a fight sequence and yet that completely builds the suspense. This is mostly in part to the audio, which sometimes was too prominent, but ultimately didn’t detract from the experience but made it much more engrossing. There’s not much more that I could ask for in a film to be honest. The acting wasn’t perfect, but it never felt mediocre, and no one felt out of place. There’s an introduced plot line that doesn’t feel too forced and culminates in a very intense climax, which usually would feel contrived and like a late-addition, but it doesn’t here.
I haven’t exactly talked about the story yet, but one of the major plot twists is hinted at early on, and the film benefits from not knowing the story. It’s not crucial that you don’t know, but it helps. I’ll just give IMDB’s synopsis which is very bare bones and not too in-depth:
A SWAT team becomes trapped in a tenement run by a ruthless mobster and his army of killers and thugs.
But as I’ve said, the story is the only thing that hinders the movie from being the best action film out there. As far as I’ve seen, it is my favourite action film, but there’s a lot I haven’t seen that do look enjoyable. Ultimately, I cannot recommend The Raid: Redemption enough. It’s a movie that somehow packs about 80 minutes of action into a 101 minute film and only once does it feel a bit too long, but even then it doesn’t detract from the overall experience. This is an example of a movie that transcends its faults and will likely hold up to multiple viewings and even become a timeless action film. It’s not perfect, but its faults play up its strengths.
*Note: Yes, I’m giving this film a perfect score, despite the fact that it does have some flaws. I’m looking at this film as an action film, seeing as how the action is pretty much the only component of this film and it still manages to complete a three act structure without ever feeling boring. Even the moments of dialogue while almost pointless, are still interesting and retain attention until the next fight. I would also like to add that while I very rarely endorse Roger Ebert reviews, if you would like a review that looks at an action film for purely story and narrative purposes, check out his review right here.
Title: Red State
Director(s): Kevin Smith
Release Year: 2011
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Every time I hear there’s going to be a new Kevin Smith film, I already feel like I know the entire movie. There will be lots of conversation involving juvenile humor, or an attempt to create the most outlandish, and gross, scenes in the history of cinema (a la donkey sex in Clerks 2). The problem with Kevin Smith as a director is that he never seems to be trying to do something different. Sure, the plot may be different than his previous films, but there’s never been a sense that one film is incredibly different from another (with the exception of Dogma which retains the same Smith-vibe but deals with religion almost entirely). It’s because of this that going into Red State, one might be hesitant in seeing another Smith film especially after the disappointments that were Cop Out and Zack & Miri Make a Porno.
Well, have no fear, Kevin Smith is back and in full swing. Red State pays homage to the films of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez (and Coen Brothers in terms of the ending) while still managing to hold together that signature dialogue that made Kevin Smith famous. The film melds together many genres of movies into one action-packed thriller that maintains a very even balance between action and tension. This is a Kevin Smith film only in the sense that the dialogue feels real, and there’s some humor throughout the film to ease the viewer. The movie is ultimately a thriller though, and you will not find a Kevin Smith film that does this ever again (he’s stated that his next film Hit Somebody which will be in 2 parts, will also be his last directorial effort).
Red State is essentially an analysis of the Westboro Baptist Church and their beliefs (in this film, the church is called the Five Points Trinity Church). The film revolves around three boys who answer an ad online to participate in a foursome with a woman. They arrive at her place and, well, not everything goes according to plan. The woman (played wonderfully by Melissa Leo) is actually Abin Cooper’s (Michael Parks) daughter and has brought the boys to their church to be punished for their sins. I will not discuss anymore of the plot as the movie is only an hour and a half long and I don’t want to risk ruining any of the surprises that ensue.
One thing I do want to discuss more in depth is the performance by Michael Parks. One of the biggest disappointments of 2011 was that Parks was not nominated for his role in Red State. He was nominated for some indie award ceremonies but this was a performance that continued to irk me as I watched the film. There is one scene where he delivers an entire sermon, and while many complained about the length of it (the version shown at Sundance had a longer cut of the speech, which was cut for subsequent viewings), it added a massive amount of tension that made you wonder when something was going to happen. Parks plays a religious nut so perfectly that it’s hard to see him in another role after watching this, and for him not to get a nomination from at least the Screen Actors Guild is a crying shame.
There’s so much packed into Red State that it’s really hard not to like this film. Smith did an excellent job making you get attached to characters and making you feel sympathetic when you need to feel sympathetic, and hateful when you need to feel hateful. Looking at this movie too deeply may come out with some negative aspects, but the only thing I can complain about is that the sermon by Abin Cooper is a tiny bit too long and redundant. It’s not long enough to pull me out of the film, but it’s not entirely necessary and will likely bore most other viewers near the end.
Finally, I just want to mention, and this has no effect on the score I give, but the entire story behind the creation and distribution of this film is such an inspiring story and even though Kevin delivers it in such a “Fuck you” attitude, it still makes me feel like I too can make and sell a film. The likelihood of me doing that is very unlikely but it’s still a very inspiring outlook and turns Smith into an inspiring figure for aspiring filmmakers everywhere, like he did back with his first film Clerks.
Note: I have not read the books, nor do I really have any interest to.
The Hunger Games is the first big blockbuster film of 2012, and while it’s not a superhero film like the many other blockbusters to come, it embodies what superheroes try to embody themselves: hope. This is merely a film dependent solely on the idea that even when death appears imminent, people still cling to hope.
Saying that now though, the movie is really just a social commentary on reality television and it’s ills. The entire concept is that people die, everyone watches them die, and (almost) everyone accepts it as necessary to keep some notion of peace. For those unaware with the film and the books, it takes place in, I guess a futuristic world as opposed to another universe altogether, because everything about the environment is still Earth, there’s just upgrades in the technology. Roughly 75 years ago there was an uprising that destroyed District 13, causing a great power struggle between the Capitol (government) and the citizens of each respective district (there are 12, post-uprising). Each district, as a means of keeping the peace, offers both a boy and a girl between 12 and 18 years old to be a “sacrifice” and participate in The Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between 24 sacrifices.
I did have to look up some of that information mainly about why The Hunger Games ended up existing because although there was an introductory video and some opening text that explained the concept, I didn’t quite understand the whole notion of it’s existence other than as punishment for war. That is probably the only gripe I have with the details in this movie, because I feel like, having not read the books, this was a pretty detailed adaptation of the novel. It’s hard to imagine that there could be much else to include especially seeing as how the film is a hefty 144 minutes.
I think it’s because of the length of the film that I feel disappointed, even though I felt like I was going to be disappointed anyways. Having seen the trailers and knowing the basic outline (kids fight to death live on television), I didn’t expect much because it was a PG-13 film. This is why so many comparisons to a film like Battle Royale occur (I have not personally seen the film, but I’ve heard enough about it to know that it’s essentially the same basic concept, but rated R) because that is a film that had an R rating and thus was allowed to show just how violent a fight to the death would be. With that being said, The Hunger Games delivers in violence as much as it could, and should have, given it’s rating and preferred demographic. But going back to the length of the film, it is 144 minutes or 2 hours and 24 minutes, which is what I expect from these types of films, but I don’t think it earns that sort of length. It felt like half the movie was spent hyping the games up, and then the other half was just the games themselves, and to be completely honest, I found the hype to be better than the actual games. There’s a lot more cheesiness in the arena, especially because they weave this relationship into the story making it almost impossible not to laugh at some of the dialogue. Plus, there’s a lot of scenes that feel way too drawn out to try and create an emotional reaction to Katniss’s circumstances, but it’s too long and loses any effect it might have had.
On top of all that, pretty much everyone in the film could have been replaced with another actor and it still would have retained it’s quality. The only shout-outs I have to give in the film are Stanley Tucci who plays gay so well, Elizabeth Banks for being so out there and will never play a role like that outside of this series, Woody Harrelson for getting to have a head full of hair, and the one performance that I think was truly noteworthy was Jennifer Lawrence. They cast her so perfectly for Katniss Everdeen that it makes the entire film so much more enjoyable just because she’s truly giving a great acting performance. It’s hard to imagine another female who could play that role off the top of my head, but she deserves her praise. However, Josh Hutcherson who plays a whiny kid who just wants attention from his crush, Katniss, really could have been played by almost anyone else. I don’t think he was bad in his role, but he wasn’t perfect., and I think that has to do with some of the cheesiness weaved into the story.
An example of this cheesiness is probably why this movie has one of the funniest scenes in the film, and it’s not really a spoiler so don’t worry about it. But anyways, Peeta (Hutcherson’s character, though the entire film I thought no one was pronouncing his name wrong, turns out he’s a baker’s boy so Peeta just became cheesier) has learned how to camouflage himself exceptionally well. I mean, EXCEPTIONALLY, because he can apply texture and gradient, the perfect colours, and the movie doesn’t really get to explain how he does it, but he does it twice in the film. The first time, he’s sort of just blending with a tree, and he offers to explain how he does it, but never does, and says that he learned from making cakes. Then there’s a scene in the movie where the announcer of the tournament says during the games to the contestants something that makes Katniss go searching for Peeta (not going to spoil it). She finally finds him bleeding, while laying down with the rocks near a river, completely camouflaged. I shit you not, it was the funniest thing I had seen in a serious film, in the longest time. It’s really this Peeta character that presents some of the worst scenes in the film, but this is solely because of the writing.
There’s not much else for me to talk about except that I will say the shaky-cam that’s used in this movie an incredulous amount, could have been toned down a bit. It absolutely beat it to death, and I understand why it was used so much, but it wasn’t necessary for every scene. There was one in the beginning where Katniss is just running to meet Gale (Liam Hemsworth, who gets virtually no screen time but you can tell in the sequel he will get way more) and it’s a 2 minute long run, and the camera would not stop shaking, which felt absolutely pointless.
To summarize my feelings about this movie. It was enjoyable, and as I said Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for the role and can display a wide array of emotions that makes the movie much more interesting to view. However, the cheesiness in the film, along with the drawn out length, and the mediocre cast, makes this big budget film more forgettable than it should have been. It had all the right things going for it, and I know it’s already made a crapload of money, and will get it’s proposed trilogy, but it didn’t make me feel like wanting to watch the second film. I will ultimately end up watching it I think, but beyond the fact that the concept interests me and Lawrence is a great actress, I see no reason to buy the films when they come out. I will recommend the film though, because it is definitely not terrible, in fact, it has it’s moments where it shines as a movie, but without Jennifer Lawrence it would have all fallen apart I believe.