'Man of Steel' (2013) Review by Steve Oatney -
This was an interesting week. I’d been waiting for this film for months and months, being that I am a huge fan of comics, sci-fi, and especially of the big blue boy scout. Sadly, however, I was unable to see the film on opening day, or before, per my usual focus on a movie of this type and genre. So, as you can surely imagine, I was forced to endure seeing Twitter and Facebook posts from friends, acquaintances, and critics, for several days now. Mostly good, but some, as you may already know, were not so good. I tried not to read too much, in the way of critiques, as I did not want to bias myself before even entering the theater, but alas it was too late, I’d already absorbed too much information, and went in with an already skeptical attitude.
Let me further set the stage for you, with regards to what I had heard, before telling you what I personally think of the film. People I know, who liked it, had said things like “Perhaps the best superhero film of all time,” and “Can’t wait to see it again.” Among other very positive reactions, these types of judgements were making me insanely jealous, and making me wish I could just drop everything and head to the nearest theater. Then, however, there were the negative judgements which rolled in as well. “Won’t ever watch that again.” “What were they thinking?” Some even compared Man of Steel to notably bad films like Battlefield Earth, and G.I. Joe!
It is almost always somewhat easy to draw comparisons between films of the same genre and Man of Steel is not immune to our doing so, much like kryptonite. Surely it had elements in it that made me think of Avatar, John Carter (of Mars), Star Trek (the reboot), Star Wars (the prequels), The Matrix, and even the 1978 Superman starring our beloved, and departed, Christopher Reeve. By the way, any Superman film review that does not, at the very least, mention Christopher Reeve, is a travesty, in my opinion. He set the bar. He set it high. He made us all believe a man could fly. He perfectly embodied both the mild-mannered Clark Kent and the most powerful extraterrestrial ever to have lived on our little blue planet. For over three decades Christopher Reeve has been the face that I always associate with the man of steel, and rightly so. He was brilliant.
So, let me try to succinctly address the comparison and contrast of Man of Steel against the 1978 Superman and 1980 Superman II films. There is far too much to fit into one review, so I’ll just hit some potential sore spots for some die hard fans of Kal-El (Superman’s Kryptonian birth name, for the two of you, out there, who still don’t know).
Here is what stayed the same, thankfully so: 1) Kal-El is a child born on a dying planet called Krypton. 2) Before Krypton explodes, his birth-father, Jor-El, is part of a committee that sentences General Zod and his key officers to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone for crimes against their people. 3) Kal-El’s parents Jor-El and Lara-Lor-Van send him to Earth in a space capsule. 4) On Earth, Kal-El is found and adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent who hide the space capsule under their barn. 5) Growing up under Earth’s yellow sun, the now renamed boy, Clark, learns of his differences, and begins to experiment with his super-powers (strength, invulnerability, x-ray vision, heat vision, super-hearing, and eventually flight) afforded to him by the radiation of our sun. 6) After hiding his secret for years, events unfold that force the super-powered alien immigrant to come out of hiding and to fight for the people of earth against the greatest threat our world has ever known, the escape and arrival of General Zod and his officers.
That’s what stayed the same from the late seventies and early eighties through to today. Here are some things that changed. You can decide for yourself which ones offend you, and which ones don’t. You’ve probably already done so.
1) Young Clark Kent struggles greatly as his powers manifest in elementary school and overwhelm his senses, making for a powerful meltdown scene at school. You can easily imagine how hard it would be if you could see through everything and everyone, and if you could hear even the quietest whispers from people all around you for blocks or even miles. Learning to focus would take time and practice which was a wonderful new addition to Superman’s origin-story.
2) Kryptonite is Kal-El’s one vulnerability which is often used against him in film and comic-books. In Man of Steel, it was a welcome twist that they did not have green glowing rocks that baddies used against Superman just when we think he’s defeating evil, in order to build further suspense. Yes, there is a weakness causing element in this new film, but I’ll not give it away, and let you see how they approached it, in a new way, and let you decide if you like it better than green rocks.
3) The blue suit and red-underwear worn on the outside, where do you stand on their changing his costume? He now wears a dark blue-gray suit, the red-underwear is gone, and the red cape has no yellow “S” emblem on it. For me, I dig it. As much as I love the classic brighter blue suit, and I never really minded the red speedos, I’m now 100% on board with updating his costume to reflect alien technology and get away from the spandex stereotype of most all comic heroes. As for the “S,” as you probably already know from the previews, it isn’t the letter “S,” because on Krypton, according to this new mythos, it is his family’s symbol which means “hope.” Again, I dig it.
4) Ice, is it an essential part of Krypton and Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, in your opinion? For many fans, I am sure, the 1978 film’s vision of Krypton being an ice-covered planet, and therefore Clark’s secret super home on earth, also made of ice crystals, is an indispensable element of the story. For me, not so much. I loved the ice crystals, but I also love this new reimagining of Krypton as a world with vegetation and water, not unlike Earth. Plus, it afforded the writers the ability to bring multiple new alien species into the mix for some intense sci-fi special effects amazements.
5) Speaking of special effects, computer-generated-imagery has come a long long way since 1978, and thankfully so! While we had no trouble believing that Superman in ‘78 could fly, and that he was strong, the new Superman visuals give him a more realistic appearance representing more effectively how a being of such incredible powers might move, fight, and fly. Plus, creating a lush and vibrant alien world with extraterrestrial species, structures, and vehicles, gave us new elements to feed our curiosities.
6) This paragraph, and the next one, both contain SPOILERS. Please skip numbers six and seven if you do not want key plot elements revealed to you. [WARNING: SPOILER ALERT] Jonathan Kent, adoptive father, who raised Clark with his wife Martha, died in the 1978 film from a heart attack on their farm. In director Zack Snyder’s reboot, they added a bit more drama and action to Pa Kent’s death. Jonathan makes the choice to help save people and pets in a massive tornado, and is, himself, killed in the process. Fans may not join me in finding the heroic last actions of Jonathan to be a welcome change, but I feel that it very much stayed in character with this reboot’s story-arc for Jonathan. Clark’s Earth father taught him to do what is right, but also not to reveal his super-powers to the world until the world was ready.
7) This is also going to be a SPOILER, and there is no getting around it. Please skip this paragraph if you do not want part of the ending spoiled! [WARNING: SPOILER ALERT] Superman, our beloved boy scout who always chooses imprisonment over capital-punishment, makes the choice to kill General Zod when faced with the fact that Zod will never ever stop torturing and killing the humans of Earth. Some fans will be outraged at this newly darkened characterization of Superman. We can all guess why the writers decided to do this. Just look at some of the other extremely successful comic-book franchises, and the characters within. Batman, now the Dark Knight, whom we love for his dark and tortured nature. Iron Man, also a man with some questionable morals, we love in spite of all of his flaws. And of course, Wolverine, who has razor-sharp claws that extend from his hands. Audiences no longer want to see boxing matches that end with the evil bad guy going to jail for life without parole. In this day of real-life terrorism, on our planet, arguably most people want evil eliminated. Very few complained when Bin Laden was erased from the Earth. So, as it goes, most movie-goers want closure. They want the finality of complete victory of good over evil, and that means breaking a few eggs to make that tasty omelette. A brutal truth about human nature.
As expected, I didn’t come out of the theater, finding MOS to be better than The Dark Knight nor The Avengers, but I certainly put it above many many other comic-book films. Much like the new Star Trek reboot, I really enjoyed the filmmakers having taken well-known and well-loved characters and breathing new life into them. Superman, and his iconic “S” symbol are known the world over, and it has been said that his chest-emblem is the second most recognizable symbol next to the Christian cross. How does one make changes to such a legendary character such as this one created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1933? Yes, that is eighty years ago, kids. Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 in June of 1938 and has since appeared in most every kind of media imaginable. Re-booting a property like DC Comics’ Superman is a daunting task at best.
The writers were surely tasked with creating a new story, and new architecture for Superman, without destroying what the masses know and love about him, while also giving the masses something new and exciting to enjoy. Comic-book fans may be some of the biggest critics of such films made about characters that they know better than the masses ever could, but luckily for filmmakers, they only need impress the masses, only some of which are die hard comic-book readers and collectors. This means, in no uncertain terms, that filmmakers can bend or break rules with regards to character’s canon, as long as it sells their product. I’m glad to say that I do not feel that they bent nor broke Superman’s canon in ways that crumbled the true essence of the immigrant alien turned hero of Earth. There is a fine-line that filmmakers have to walk between staying “true” to the originally created character, and breathing new life into older, often out-of-date characters. Superman has certainly withstood the test of time, and is still a comic favorite, but much like Wonder Woman, and Thor, Kal-El is a tough cookie to prevent from crumbling. Know what I mean? I know you do.
Characters such as these are gods, or godlike, and are just simply too powerful for people to relate to, essentially. Batman = flawed human. Iron Man = flawed human. Even Wolverine and Captain America… super-powered, but human. The masses, today, seem to like their heroes with that all-too-human factor. They need them to be emotionally and physically imperfect, and vulnerable on some level. Even Spider-Man is someone with whom many can relate. We all went to high school and who hasn’t wished that they were secretly super-powered? I know I have.
I was not completely let down by Thor (the film) and am looking forward to "Dark World" to see where they go with it, but it certainly isn’t one of my favorites of the superhero-film franchises. Wonder Woman, as you well know, has been harder to bring to the big-screen than anyone would have ever thought possible. She, being the #1 most recognizable female super-heroine of ALL TIME, has had to have been pitched in every way and in every direction ever since the 1970s TV show. Heck, they couldn’t even get the new TV pilot to air! Seriously?!
Lastly, let me quickly mention casting. Henry Cavill, a perfect new Superman. Amy Adams, I have to say I think she is the best Lois yet. Russell Crowe as Jor-El, was a powerfully strong role. Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, heartfelt and human. Michael Shannon as Zod, intense and evil greatness. Laurence Fishburn as Perry White, awesome. Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Christopher Meloni as Col. Hardy were also well cast.
I have to believe that writing a great story, to which we can all relate, is not so easy, containing characters such as these, and especially Kal-El. His origin keeps getting told, and re-told, and I hope for the day when one of these reboots takes hold, so that they can further the story of the world’s favorite extraterrestrial superhero. Today, just may be that day.
_______ #ManOfSteel #Superman #ComicBooks #DCComics #Film #Movies #SciFi
'Star Trek Into Darkness' Review by Steve Oatney —
In 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted one of the most successful ongoing science-fiction series franchises of all time. Truly, Star Wars and Doctor Who are probably the only others that even give Trek a run for the money. So, it comes down to this: Did you like the ’09 reboot? If so, I am confident that you’ll like its new sequel, Into Darkness.
Are these new embodiments of the classic characters appealing to all viewers and all Trekkies/Trekkers? No, of course not, but I am in the camp that not only loved the original television series, and subsequent tv spinoffs, but also absolutely loved the recent film reboot of the original series’ crew and adventures. The main element that I constantly try to keep clearly in mind, is that this is a completely new reality, and that it need not adhere too closely to the original characters nor their story-lines. Abrams purposefully used the element of time-travel to go back, cause a divergent timeline, and therefore create a blank slate from which to rewrite the story of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and her crew. Brilliant.
So, with that, as a critic often does, I try to compare and contrast new films, with what has gone before, which I’m sure fans often do as well. Best Kirk, William Shatner or Chris Pine? Best Spock, Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto? I try not to let myself explore those types of comparisons too deeply, as I see the old and the new as apples and oranges. Same characters, different universes. In fact, I believe that the alternate reality (or new-reality, shall we say) created by Mr. Spock’s time-travel event actually helps me to enjoy the rebooted franchise even more than I might have if they simply rehashed the same Star Trek story arcs that we know so well.
As much as I love the origin stories for beloved characters, I really don’t need to see that same story told over and over again. Superman and Spider-Man are two favorites in the sci-fi genre, and we’ve now seen their respective origins multiple times, each, on screen. Great stuff, but move on already. Star Trek did, so can you. While some die-hard Trekkies may believe that Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, is rolling over in his grave, I am NOT one such person. I think Gene would have loved to see the new life that J.J. is breathing into the franchise. Granted, I never knew Gene, but I feel like I sort of know him, through his large body of work, as I’m guessing many of you probably feel the same.
What happens in this new sequel, “Into Darkness,” you ask? Well, being that it is a sequel, filmmakers often feel the need to up the ante, and everything else, when it comes to size and scope of the new project. Into Darkness is no exception. Bigger effects and bigger stunts are added to the pleasant addition of screen time, and development, for some of the main characters. Kirk, Spock, Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Scotty (Simon Pegg), and Bones (Karl Urban) all had significant screen-time to give us more insight into their new personas. Sulu (John Cho) had one wonderful speech, and Chekov (Anton Yechin) had a more secondary role in this installment. Hopefully, he is not your favorite character, so you’re not too disappointed.
New additions, for Into Darkness, included Benedict Cumberbatch as a perfectly wonderful antagonist, and Peter Weller of Robocop fame, who was afforded a high-ranking position in Starfleet and an integral role in the film. Alice Eve also played a key secondary role as a Starfleet science officer whose unannounced appearance on the Enterprise causes a few raised eyebrows, in more ways than one.
Into Darkness did lots and lots of things correctly, in my opinion. Great action, effects, make-up, costuming, camerawork, sound, music, acting, the list goes on and on. I could, literally, go on ad nauseam about how visually stunning this film is, and how it very much makes me feel as though I am right there in the future, in outer space, on starships, etc. What you would rather know is how good or bad the story was. Am I right? We all know that the effects and stunts will be incredible, and there were every bit so. For me, I found the story pleasantly comfortable, but not as chocked full of surprises, as one might hope. Star Trek has always hung its hat on a well-seasoned formula of the Enterprise crew encountering danger, getting themselves into deeper danger, risking the lives of all those on board and possibly the lives of everyone on a planet, then as the Enterprise is on her last leg, somehow they fix her up enough to complete the final task to save everyone, and defeat the villain. Throw in some sexy alien women for Kirk to seduce and a couple of good fisticuff brawls, and presto, you’ve made science-fiction that millions will pay good money to watch. Me included.
Was the story too cliché, predictable, or even boring? No, certainly not. The formula is comfortable and fulfilling, and while I was not blown away by major unseen plot twists, there was quite enough uniqueness to keep me engaged and happy. I will say, however, that I think the only drawback of Into Darkness is that it tries too hard to tip its hat in homage to previous Star Trek films and story-lines. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Trek geek, and I loved every single tidbit of Star Trek history that was brought back, or touched upon, in tasty movie-morsels to make me grin in knowing each specific reference. With that, though, many of the moments where Abrams had his actors pay tribute to what has gone before, ended up feeling a bit corny, sad to say.
As you know, I rarely put into my reviews any descriptive spoilers, so as not to ruin the story for you, in case you have not yet seen it. I’ll leave the set-up, simply as this… Captain Kirk’s recklessness brings about a change in his role in Starfleet, but when an apparent terrorist seemingly targets the high-ranking officials of Starfleet, Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew are tasked with hunting down the threat, and eliminating it. That much you probably already know from the preview trailers, so no big shockers in there. The journey that unfolds and confrontations that ensure will surely delight many sci-fi fans, all around the world, as it did for me. Even with the bits of corniness thrown in, which I shrug off as attempts at comedy-relief, I really enjoyed Into Darkness, and look forward to seeing it again, and spending time with these newly reprised old friends of mine, on the silver screen. —
#StarTrek #IntoDarkness #Kirk #Spock #GeneRoddenberry #Film #Movies #SciFi
'IRON MAN 3' Review by Steve Oatney —
This fantastic third installment in the Tony Stark saga (fourth, if you count ‘The Avengers’), is a worthy story to be told, and a worthy film to watch. Could it have been better? Of course. Could it have been much worse? For sure.
Director Shane Black took the reigns from Jon Favreau and pulled off another fun blockbuster of a superhero flick. Below are some aspects that I think Shane Black and writer Drew Pearce included to steer the ongoing Iron Man story in a positive direction:
— They made Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) a more troubled soul and showed him suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder type symptoms. He is chased by his inner demons, has difficulty with panic-attacks, and cannot sleep. Great idea, though I would have liked to see it pushed even further into an even darker place for Tony. His small, and often humorous, panic-attacks were a bit too comedic and, in my opinion, would have been much more powerful if they were portrayed as scary and/or dangerous to his physical and mental well-being.
— They introduced an iconic Iron Man arch-enemy straight out of the Marvel comic-books, “The Mandarin,” originally created by Stan Lee and designed by Don Heck. While the on-screen character was deftly played by Ben Kingsley, he was not much like the genius-scientist/martial-artist/wizard that came from the sequential-art pages. I’ll not give a spoiler here, but let’s just say that Kingsley got to play a unique and twisted twist on the Marvel villain. Yes, I said “twisted twist,” yeah, so!
— They gave Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) a real meat-on-the-bones integral role this time! While the brilliant actress got good amounts of screen-time in the first two films, in ‘3’ she didn’t just get to help the hero, she became a heroine, full-on! For me, I just cannot get enough of strong female characters (hint hint, DC Comics, lets get Wonder Woman to the big screen). With acting talent, such as Paltrow’s, it is easy to take a character like Pepper to the next level, and kudos to them for doing so! Did I believe that her character might make all of the decisions she made in this film? Well, maybe not, but being in a relationship with Tony Stark would certainly bring out hidden aspects of a person’s personality, for sure, so I’ve let go of my criticisms of her somewhat hard-to-believe heroic choices made.
— Guy Pierce doesn’t tend to let me down, and didn’t in IM3, either. Loved him in Memento, L.A. Confidential, and The Hurt Locker, to name a few, and I count him as a reliable actor pulling off every character I’ve seen him embody. In IM3, he plays Aldrich Killian, a brilliant scientist who’s company strives for years to perfect a human-regenerative vaccine called “Extremis.”
— Extremis can not only heal the body, but also regrow lost limbs (not unlike the work of Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, from that other Marvel comic web-tastic film franchise). Of course, with a drug of this sort, it is bound to have major side-effects, and this one surely does, in spades. SPOILER: Those in the Extremis program can also super-heat their body parts at will, giving them the ability to melt or burn anything they touch, though some become victims as they are unable to control the explosive nature of their special-ability.
Admittedly, this is a very cool power, and is based on the wonderful comic story-arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. However, I found it quite odd that each time the Extremis villains utilized this heat-power, that neither their clothes nor hair ever burned away. At one point, one of them even slowly walked through a gas-fire, in a kitchen, and came through the other side without their clothes ablaze. Fire-retardant fabrics must be standard issue for all of those folks, eh? Guess so. Still, the special-effects used for the Extremis effects are stellar.
— Armor, a few words about armor… without the iron, there would be no Iron Man, right? Well, if you like the ever-developing versions of Tony Stark’s protective and multi-functional armor, then this movie will not disappoint! Another MINI-SPOILER: If you haven’t seen all of the preview trailers, then you might not know that Stark has many new suits of armor, with all sorts of new capabilities. The kid in me loved seeing so many of them using their individual tech to battle baddies! I’m not so sure that they were all necessary, but it sure was fun, and filmmakers know that they now have to contend on a playing field with high-tech movies like ‘Transformers,’ ‘G.I.Joe,’ and ‘Pacific Rim’ coming July 12. LAST SPOILER: I’m not sure that I followed the “clean-slate” protocol at the end, but I suppose I do like the idea of a clean-slate for Tony & Pepper from which to move forward.
— A child element? OK, so they can’t yet have Tony and Pepper have a child, as it is too soon with ‘The Avengers 2,’ and other films on the horizon. It would just be too complicated to fit a baby into the storyline, but they found away around that by using Ty Simpkins to play Harley Keener, a young boy with a bit of a tinkerer/inventor’s soul who buddies up with Tony when Stark comes to his town to investigate a mysterious explosion cover-up that Tony felt had a connection to the terrorist activities of The Mandarin. The conversations and interactions between Tony and Harley were usually rife with comedic repartee, but unfortunately felt forced to me. Tony, I get it, he is a brilliant philanthropist, playboy, and genius, so a quick-witted tongue is accepted, if not expected. For this little boy to keep up with Tony seemed a bit far-fetched, but again, it was fun, and well played.
— “Iron Patriot,” the red-white-and-blue armor that Col. James Rhody (Don Cheadle) wore was much anticipated, with early on-set leaked photos, and more recent previews showing the patriotic Stark tech. Yes, very cool armor that would make even Captain America jealous, but Rhody’s role felt a bit less kick-ass than when he donned the ‘War Machine” suit. Plus, the fact that there was no mention of the Captain, even though the new suit looked like the Super Soldier in metal, was a missed opportunity. Is a Chris Evans cameo out of the question? It would have been great to see an Avenger pop up in this flick, somewhere. Ah, wishful thinking (don’t miss the after-credits, by the way, wink-wink). Rhody does get a bit more out-of-suit action scenes and impressive stunts which certainly set him above your more typical serviceman, and furthermore showed himself as as extreme marksman with handgun accuracy that would impress The Punisher (another Marvel character who likes guns, maybe you’ve heard of him).
— Jon Favreau may not have directed this installment, but he reprised his role as “Happy Hogan,” the previous bodyguard of Tony Stark, who is now head of security for Pepper Pott’s Stark Industries team. A nice change for him which gave us more of a glimpse into the character well played by Favreau.
— Finally, a few additional roles played by Rebecca Hall and James Badge Dale were notable, and the always wonderful Paul Bettany who has played the voice of Jarvis, Stark’s computer, in all three films, is the best-of-series actor who never gets any on-camera time.
All in all, I really enjoyed Iron Man 3, and will recommend it to those who liked the first two. For me, I rank it third among the three, but very close to ‘2’ in quality. Keep going Marvel, I love what you’re doing!!! —
'OBLIVION' Review by Steve Oatney —
Surely you know the age-old saying: “If you can’t beat them, move to another planet.” Heh, that is where this new, and amazing, science-fiction film’s story begins. So, if the earth were to be attacked by a technologically far superior extra-terrestrial force, would we fight down to the last standing human, or would we move off-world and give Earth, lock stock, to the attackers? Good question, right?
Pride dictates that we “should” never give up, but what if we did? In order to salvage what is left of the human race, what if we all moved to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, in 2017? Oblivion takes place in 2077, sixty years after the attack. Earth is mostly unable to support life, and Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is one of the last remaining humans stationed here, helping to extract Earth’s remaining resources for use on Titan.
Where things get interesting is through Jack’s dreams, which aren’t actually supposed to be there, due to the fact that he, and the others like him, all had their memories wiped so as not to give away information if ever captured and interrogated by the “Scavs” (short for the alien “Scavengers”). Jack has dreams of our world as it was, before the attack, and also of a woman, with whom he clearly has a connection.
Furthering the intrigue is Jack’s interaction with what he believes are Scavs on our planet, when they try to capture him, instead of killing him. At this moment, in my review, I will now stop myself from telling the wonderful twists and turns that the plot takes, as I’d hate to ruin the über fun surprises for you. I’ll just say that I found the multiple reveals in the last half of the film to be nothing short of fantastic science-fiction storytelling!
Also, without giving anything further away to you, I feel it is important to mention that Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurlenko, and Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau all put in wonderful performances. Thankfully so, considering the unusually small sized cast, for such a “big” movie.
If you could not tell from the above, whether or not I liked Oblivion, then please let me clarify. I really really liked it! Story, acting, effects, sound, music, camerawork… all get “A” grades from me. While I’m not a loyal Tom Cruise fan, I have to say that this is now one of my top favorites, of his body of work. —
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' Mini-review by Steve Oatney —
Who hasn’t felt like no one really understands them? Who hasn’t felt like an outcast, at some point, and had trouble fitting in? Who hasn’t had moments of introversion and hesitance to put themselves out there? Who hasn’t had life-challenges that seem insurmountable?
All of those things are quite common, but none are pleasant. Wallflower visits, in perfect clarity, the high school life to which so many of us can relate. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a semi-typical 15 year old freshman, but also struggles with mental illness and the loss of a dear loved one. All the while, he is trying to fit in with new classmates, and make some friends. He is a good student, and a talented writer, and does make friends with Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who are both seniors, and also with a teacher played by Paul Rudd.
The story is heartfelt and heart-wrenching, but the poignant story is worth watching and does give enough closure to the characters by the end, that the hard-to-watch difficulties that the characters endure are all well placed and necessary. As any good film should, Wallflower brought back some of my own old memories and old feelings. Some bad, some good, but I feel that any film that brings up emotion as this one did, is valuable. —
'Magic Mike' Mini-Review by Steve Oatney —
Yes, I saw Magic Mike. No, I wasn’t first in line at the box office. My wife and I caught it via Netflix, and I have to say, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I supposed it would be, based on the trailers I had seen. Even as I now think through the plot, I am even more impressed that they put together a half-decent film.
Mike (Channing Tatum) is a part-time, experienced construction worker who is introduced to a newbie worker at a construction site. After finding that this new kid, Adam (Alex Pettyfer), needs work, Mike brings him on board at his other job where he is a male stripper. Adam takes to stripping like a fish to water and gets in trouble soon after. All the while, Mike is trying to build a better life for himself as a furniture builder, and falls in love with Adam’s sister. I’ll not spoil the ending, but while predictable, it was pleasantly expected.
I have to say, while the story was not complex, nor was the acting, the film still was somewhat enjoyable. It is a glimpse into a strange world that most of us never see, and I found it interesting. Does this mean that I’ll be buying the Blu-Ray and watching it monthly? No, not even close. Did I regret spending 110 minutes watching it? Also a no. Even with the one-dimensional characters and the simplistic storyline, I still managed to get into the flick. It is probably due to all of the years I spent training male strippers to lose clothes in order to gain income. Ha ha. —
'DRIVE' Mini-Review by Steve Oatney —
The Notebook may have put Ryan Gosling on the map, but Drive established him as Hollywood’s newest, and youngest, strong & silent tough-guy. Now, I have to be careful here, as there is an unusually large contingent of cult followers, online, for Drive… so, with that I’ll say that I liked the film. I didn’t love it, and do not intend to watch it over and over, but it was powerful, emotive, and well done, so kudos to Director Nicholas Winding Refn, and good work Mr. Gosling. What’s it about? Oh, you haven’t yet seen it? Well, it is about a quiet and mysterious stuntman slash mechanic slash robbery getaway driver who involves himself in his friendly neighbor’s family turmoil. Give it a look.
'The Grey' Mini-Review by Steve Oatney —
We can all agree that Liam Neeson is a badass, yes? I’ve loved Neeson in every tough-guy flick I’ve seen him in, including Rob Roy, Batman Begins, and the Taken series. Does this mean that I also loved The Grey? No, I did not. While Neeson does a superb job in the film, as usual, I just could not get past the fact that there was no let up in the ever constant level of stress in the storyline. No comedy relief, no light-hearted moments, and no happy en… whoops, sorry, SPOILER ALERT, there’s no happy ending! Now I’m not saying that all movies must have a happy ending, but I was really hoping for one, being that the whole film was so depressing and defeatist. Anyway, the film is well made, and achieves exactly what I believe it set out to achieve, so perhaps kudos are in order. I caution you, if you are hoping to see a film about triumph over nature, which I rather was. What you’ll get is suspense, tension, fear, and the tic-tic-tic of a story arc time-bomb counting down to the end of the film.
'Prometheus' Mini-Review by Steve Oatney —
Another stellar cast, including Noomi Rapace, Michael Fssbender, and Charlize Theron, but unfortunately it was not the sci-fi “prequel” to Alien for which I was hoping. I know, I know, Director Ridley Scott claims that Prometheus takes place in the same “universe” as Alien, but is not a “prequel,” per se. That said, I still had hoped for a more Alien or Aliens-like film. What’s that? Didn’t it similarly have scary murderous aliens in it? Yes, but that is about where the similarity ended for me. While the special effects and epic landscape shots were worth the ticket-price, the confusing birth-of-life storyline left me hanging and a bit disappointed. Maybe I need to see it again, if I can bring myself to do so.
'Dark Shadows' Mini-Review by Steve Oatney —
Admittedly, I never watched the ‘66-‘71 TV series of the same name, so I have only this film by which to judge. To me, it came across as a sort of strange mix between Interview with a Vampire and The Addams Family, and that is about where I would place it with regards to my personal enjoyment. Like Interview and Addams, I enjoyed Dark Shadows' unique take on a monster-movie, and more specifically on a vampire-flick.
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, again, put together a film that feels like a Burton-Depp collaboration, that we know and love. Depp plays his usual offbeat, yet lovable, lead peculiarity, while a capable cast surrounds him. Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, and Chloe Grace Moretz, to name a few, help make Shadows worth watching, but Barnabas Collins’ story of becoming a vampire in 1752, being entombed until 1972, and re-emerging to find his estate in ruins, just did not reach the Captain Jack Sparrow’s level of epic.