Review: 'Rebel Without a Cause' (1955) by Steve Oatney —
I had not seen this classic film, in its entirety, until last week. Lufthansa was playing it in-flight, so I glad to have it available to me. As with many classic films, its pacing is quite a bit slower than modern day movies. Once you accept that, and relax, it affords a pleasant and relaxing viewing experience.
Alright, so is the film as amazing as people tend to make it out to be? Was James Dean a tragic loss to the acting world, when he was killed at such a young age, in a car accident? Well, the truth is, I didn’t find the film, nor Dean, to be overly exceptional. However, I did enjoy both the film, and Dean’s unique portrayal of a troubled teenage youth just trying to find normalcy in the world. I would very much liked to have seen how he might have developed as an actor had he lived a longer life.
A bit sadly, I kept thinking about what Hollywood would do to remake this movie, today. Likely, it would be approached either like Twilight or High School Musical, is my guess. I think the reason my mind kept wandering back to a potential remake is that the suspense in the film never really grabbed a hold of me, as strongly I would have liked. Modern day directors have a greatly different approach to building suspense, which I guess I’m all too used to.
OK, so I just discovered that there WAS a remake in 1991, called Cool as Ice. Apparently it was rap-oriented spin, with Vanilla Ice in the lead role. Someone please remind me not to catch that on Netflix, thanks. I’ve also discovered a bevy of rumors about a future remake. As guessed, the rumor-mill is casting Robert Pattinson, or James Franco (like, duh) in the James Dean role. Franco has already played Dean in a 2001 TV movie called James Dean.
So sorry, back to the real review, not the silly speculative. Natalie Wood plays the almost believable love interest and Sal Mineo plays the new found best friend who is even more troubled than Dean’s Jim Stark character. Some interesting actors were to be found in there, as well. Jim Backus, later to star in Gilligan’s Island, played Jim Stark’s ineffective father. A very young Dennis Hopper even played one of the greaser goon antagonists. Also, Edward Platt of TV’s Get Smart played a cop, just to name a few familiar faces.
While I cannot give Rebel a five-star rating, I am glad I saw it, and look forward to watching more classic films showing us the progression of filmmaking over the decades and century.
'The Dark Knight Rises' Review by Steve Oatney —
Well, I started writing this review yesterday, before the tragedy in Aurora Colorado happened early this morning. I’ve been finding it ever so difficult to Finish writing my review of a film that is now tainted with the real-life spilled blood of the victims of the horrific event. Again, my heart and thoughts go to those directly, and indirectly affected by the shootings.
Having said that, I still feel it is necessary to review what I consider to be one of the best films of the year, and one of the best superhero films, to date, so here we go…
Two hours and forty-four minutes passed without a thought. TDKR is a long film, but does not feel excessive, save the last few minutes that could have been edited, or perhaps removed. Not to spoil, but the epilogue vignettes are somewhat unnecessary, though I didn’t dislike them as much as my film critic friends apparently did, in our post-film discussions.
Let’s do some comparisons, how does that sound? Let’s start by comparing the character Bane in TDKR and Batman & Robin. While I would have liked to have seen more of Tom Hardy’s full-face, as acting with a mask covering one’s face presents serious difficulties, I have to say his Bane was MUCH more realistic and believable than Joel Schumacher’s in 1997. The difference is that Christopher Nolan did not follow, in any way, what Tim Burton, nor Schumacher did with their respective story telling of the Bruce Wayne legend which began in comic books, so many decades ago. Less of a cartoon, and more of a modern-day warrior psychopath, makes Tom Hardy’s Bane a fearsome and formidable foe for the Bat. For those who know the comic book storyline, the character may deviate in some ways, but some of his his actions stay ever true to canon.
For those who may not know, there have been A LOT of Catwomen on the big, and small, screens. Live-action actresses Eartha Kitt, and Julie Newmar played the cat-burglar on television, and Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Halle Berry brought her to the big-screen. In my opinion, Pfeiffer is the only comparison to make against Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, as the other actresses were either working within the limited campy versions of the character, or were not given powerful enough stories with which to work. While I loved Pfeiffer’s Cat, I have to say that Hathaway’s updated character not only works well, but surprised me, pleasantly, that she could pull it off without it coming off overdone and overacted.
OK, how about we briefly compare Nolan’s three Bat films, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises. While TDK has firmly planted itself as one of the best superhero films of all time, Batman Begins was no slouch of a film in the sci-fi category. TDKR is a Nolan film, in the vein of both of his prior Bat-films, but it stands alone as its own entity. It is a whole new hero’s journey (much like Batman Begins), but with a healthy dose of darkness (like TDK).
What about our returning actors, you ask? Well, first off, Michael Caine as Alfred needs some recognition here, as he is given more than one good slice of dialogue which he delivered with practiced accuracy and seasoned talent. Morgan Freeman (one of my all-time favorite actors) is given some significant screen-time, but his character isn’t as integral and interesting this go-round. Christian Bale passed the Bruce Wayne test, and was again believable in that character, but Nolan didn’t seem to demand anything new from his portrayal, other than starting him off as out-of-shape and ill. Gary Oldman (another all-time favorite) reprised Jim Gordon with a good helping of being a key player in the film, which was well appreciated.
One last bit on actors [spoiler-less]. The new faces of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Matthew Modine really upped the ante for quality actors and their characters had developing depth which were perfect additions to the film’s story arc.
Two last things. 1) Will those in the Occupy Wall Street movement be pleased with this film? My guess is no. Direct comparisons can be made between the film’s criminal element, and the OWS, painting them in a less than flattering light. 2) Was The Dark Knight Rises BETTER than The Avengers? How dare you ask me that? That is like asking me to choose between DC and Marvel comics. However, I must say that while I’ll watch The Avengers more often, over and over, once I own it on Blu-Ray… I might have trouble calling it “better” than Rises.
SteveO's Film Fun Fumblog: I Live in Denver, Colorado -
As you know, I review films. What you may not have known, is that I live just a few short miles from Aurora, here in Colorado. Aurora is a suburb East of Denver proper.
This morning, I’m finding it quite difficult to focus on finishing my review of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' as I am feeling intense sorrow for the families affected by the shooting at the midnight showing, last night. I’m also harboring a great deal of anger towards the killer.
My thoughts are with the people caught unaware in that theater, and the people of Aurora, who may now think twice about going to see movies in their city.
As a fan of Batman, for over three decades, I will get around to posting my review of the film, later on. I will do so, with a heavy heart, but I will wait a while, out of respect for the dead, and for those suffering. Lastly, I’d like to send out a quick “thank you,” to those who have worked all night on aiding the injured and distraught, and to law-enforcement who have hopefully captured the guilty criminal and will see him brought to justice.
- Steve Oatney steveosfilmfun
Mini-Review: 'Snow White and the Huntsman' by Steve Oatney —
Surprisingly well done! I went in with somewhat low expectations and was ever so pleasantly surprised with this retelling of the classic fantasy tale. SWATH seemingly attempted to follow a bit in the footsteps of Lord of the Rings, and didn’t fall as short as you might think. I’m not saying that Rupert Sanders’ Snow White is on par with Peter Jackson’s incredible trilogy, but there are distinct comparisons found between them, and pleasantly so. If you are going to follow good fantasy storytelling, then LOTR is a superb role-model.
I was not disappointed in the acting, story, nor action and effects, and was even inspecting closely to find flaws in the effects of making the dwarves… well, “dwarvish.” Considering that the dwarves were all full-size actors (or at least their heads were), I have to give them kudos for the special-effects used to make them all appear so small. Conversely, I have to agree with the little people actors who were angered at the studio’s not utilizing their group’s ready-made talents.
Overall, I liked Snow White and the Huntsman, and look forward to seeing it again.
1st Annual DENVER COMIC CON review —
Colorado finally hosts a worthy comics/pop-culture convention! I know what I’m talking about as I am one of the previous promoters of the Rocky Mountain Comic Convention renamed Majesticon, then sold and renamed The Comic Super Show, then sold and renamed ComicFest by StarFest (the only sizable geekfest Colorado could previously claim). I’m glad to say that the DCC promoters started with a bang!
The DCC's portion of the venue held in approximately 100,000 square feet within the Colorado Convention Center. Saturday afternoon was jam-packed and reminiscent of bigger cons around the nation. The Denver Post reported an estimated weekend attendance might reach 20,000 people! Not sure what the final count was, but all in all, a very respectable first show!
While a small-by-comparison first show cannot pull in the same caliber or quantity of A-list celebrities, as San Diego or New York (yet), there were still plenty enough there to attract autograph seekers in droves. As the show grows, so will it’s star appearances. Same goes for it’s featured guest artists, an impressive list that will surely become more so with each year to follow!
Artist Alley was pretty freakin’ enormous, I must say, in comparison to the overall size of the convention, and had more than a few top-notch artists on hand for sketches, commissions, and autographs. Look for me behind a table there, next year. ;-)
The DCC was hosted by Comics In The Classroom, a group dedicated to promoting literacy through comics. Nice work team! Thanks for everything. Keep it up. see you next year!
DCC on Facebook
‘BATTLESHIP’ review by Steve Oatney —
Can I recommend an action sci-fi movie that is based on a Hasbro game for children? Good question. Well, that all depends on what expectations you have going into such a film? If you are seeking a story with depth, with characters that feel real who are placed into situations that also feel real, then Battleship probably isn’t for you. However, if you are looking for a movie with big action, big effects, big clichés, and big plot holes, then you’ll probably love Battleship.
Seriously, if you liked Armageddon and the Transformers movies, then you are likely to enjoy Battleship, or at least parts of it, as I did. Yes, it’s true, I did find myself enjoying parts of this movie. It is hard not to find yourself rooting for patriotic Americans, and people in general, fighting to save our planet.
The set up of the plot is basic, but viable, in that upon discovering a planet in another solar system, much like our earth, we begin to send amplified radio signals to that world to say “hello.” Bad idea, right? It is made clear, from the get go, that any technically advanced species capable of coming to earth, would be far more advanced than we. That in mind, do we really want a superior species dropping by, with the risk of their potentially dominating our species? Well, suffice it to say, based on the trailers you’ve all seen, our outer space neighbors drop by with a hot apple pie to welcome us to the neighborhood.
The unoriginal reluctant hero’s journey that the main character (Taylor Kitsch) takes, through the film, was less intriguing to me than the fun it was to see how battleships could be written into naval combat sequences, considering the last two US battleships, USS Wisconsin, and USS Missouri were decommissioned in 1991 and ’92. Well, they found a way, and I’ll not spoil the fun of this film’s twist on Space Cowboys. Oops, that may have been a spoiler, so sorry.
How did Rihanna do, acting? I’d have to say she did alright, as yet another pop-star turned movie-star. Good actors like Liam Neeson, Peter MacNicol, and Alexander Skarsgård weren’t given much room to shine, as lesser-known actors like Brooklyn Decker, Gregory Gadson, and Tadanobu Asano got more screen time. Kitsch was the screen-hog, but I didn’t feel even as much authenticity in his character, as I did in John Carter, sadly.
So, I feel I must mention that I’ve played the classic plastic-grid guessing-game as a child, and as an adult. It is a bit silly and doesn’t take much brainpower… much like this movie. What’s that? Does the movie actually glean anything from the game? Why yes, yes it does. If you are a die hard fan of the game, then you’ll be pleased to see that specific elements of it are clearly present in the flick. Included are the grid-guessing and calling-shots of targeting missiles, but furthermore the main enemy weapons are actually shaped like the game’s plastic pegs!
To sum up, big action, big sound, big effects, and big heroism make Battleship tolerable, if not terrific. Would I see it again? Yes, but probably not in a theater.
‘THE AVENGERS’ Review by Steve Oatney —
CHOKED-UP, with GOOSEBUMPS, and BREATHLESS… is how The Avengers had me, at times!!! For many of you, seeing Iron Man on the big screen may have been your introduction to the armored hero, and I’m sure the same can be said for most of the other main characters in The Avengers, now Marvel Comic’s third team film. First X-Men, then The Fantastic Four, and now The Avengers follows up with a movie that does the comic book fans proud! Speaking only for myself, of course.
Let me start by saying that director Joss Whedon (Serenity, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) was the perfect choice to take on the overwhelming task of bringing together some of Marvel’s mightiest heroes! He managed to give each, and every character more depth, screen time, and importance than even I had expected. It was a major concern that this might become another Iron Man film, with other superheroes just along for the ride. Such was NOT the case! Every single actor was given their moments to shine, and shine they did!
The main story arc is just as it should be, a growing threat to the world which forces Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to try to form the team, codename: “The Avengers Initiative.” For a detailed story arc, with spoilers, I’ll just add this link, and also this link to the end-credits surprise spoiler.
As for our other core cast members, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is a gamma-ray expert scientist in hiding, so that his raging monster alter-ego, Hulk, is kept in check. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still trying to cope with waking up in the present day after decades over being frozen, and is called to suit up once again as Captain America. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is an arrogant loner and in no way wants to be part of the group, nor does the world protection agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., want Iron Man, until push comes to shove, that is. Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, and has screen presence strength worthy of a “god.” Natasha Romanoff’s character, played by Scarlett Johansson, was introduced in Iron Man 2, and had little depth, but now Black Widow is given significantly more with which to work. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is back, after his brief appearance in Thor, as Hawkeye, and has an interesting twist of a role through much of the film. Finally, Tom Hiddleston is back as the arch-villain Loki, adopted brother of Thor, and this time he’s brought an army to make him king of the earth!
Rounding out the supporting cast are Gwyneth Paltrow, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård, and Paul Bettany, returning as Pepper Potts, Agent Phil Coulson, Dr. Selvig, and Jarvis respectively. Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) has been added as Agent Maria Hill and was rumored to be a favorite of Joss Whedon’s from when he was working on a Wonder Woman film script. Nice to see a small role from Powers Booth (Tombstone) as a World Security Council member, as well. Stan Lee, co-creator of the comic book team, of course made his ubiquitous cameo, and even Lou Ferrigno from 1978 television’s The Incredible Hulk, was the voice of Hulk once again!
WHEW! What a cast! Whedon really hit a home run with this list of amazing actors, and kudos to him for reigning them all in and letting them all perform beautifully, each in their own unique ways. I could go on and on about special effects, music, sound, camerawork, wardrobe, etc., but I think I’ll just chalk it all up as amazing and say that as a fan of science-fiction films, and also a fan of comic books, I was impressed and ecstatic to have The Avengers choke me up, give me goosebumps, and take my breath away.