Sunday, May 30, 2010

On the Tube: 'You Don't Know Jack'

I went to the movies this evening and caught Robin Hood. It was a fine film - the acting, directing, and cinematography were all superb. It could've withstood about fifteen minutes of it to have hit the editing floor, but otherwise, it was quite entertaining. Go see it if you want to see a good (not great or perfect) movie.

I also watched an HBO film You Don't Know Jack about Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He was played by Al Pacino. I watched it in two parts, mostly due to the length paired with my laziness and the fact that I went to the movies to see the previously mentioned piece. Now, having said that I watched the HBO film in two parts is not to say that it was boring. Quite the opposite. Tt wasn't, especially the second half of it. I honestly am not sure that Al Pacino doesn't top himself playing Dr. Kevorkian. He did what Heath Ledger did for his role as the Joker in The Dark Knight: he made it to where I couldn't make it be Al Pacino any more while I was watching it. He became the doctor of death. He was him.

Maybe what made You Don't Know Jack so enthralling is that it seemed to be very truthful to the events and how they happened. I didn't hear anything that really sounded like the truth being stretched, and they even went so far as to use actual video documentation of Dr. Kevorkian's assisted suicides on almost all of his patients. Yes, that's in the movie.

He made many excellent points during the movie. More importantly, he made really great points in his actual life (some of the lines were used in the film). I love movies that make me think. They are important to our culture.

What do you think? Or, do you?

Lastly, I found it interesting how both Robin Hood and You Don't Know Jack had some similarities with their protagonists. They are truly men of the people, fighting an antiquated law to help others, no matter the danger it may bring to them.

You should really watch those youtube videos when you have the time. They should get the ball rolling on thinking, I hope.

Friday, May 7, 2010

In the Theater: Kick-Ass & Iron Man 2

Comic book movies are a tricky venture. It's easy to get them wrong: you can make it too cheesy and unbelievable; and on the other hand, you can take it too seriously suck all of the fun out of it. But, when you get it just right, you make an incredibly entertaining, exhilarating movie experience.

This week, I saw two movies that managed to find the right mixture: Kick-Ass and Iron Man 2.

Kick-Ass is the tale of ordinary people who decide to become "super" heroes -- kind of like Watchmen, but without the super-serious overtones and gigantic blue penis.

What ensues is a shit-ton of hilarity and good story-telling. It's nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary (kid wants to do good, becomes superhero; others want revenge, become superheroes), but it is something that Hollywood hasn't seen too much of lately: a damn-good movie that's well-written, well-directed, and well-acted.

As you can tell from the red band trailer above, it ain't exactly a kid-friendly flick. There's intense language, and a pretty good load of violence. To top it off, an 11-year-old girl calls someone a cunt -- if that ain't funny to you, well then it's best we not hang out.

What Kick-Ass excels at is reminding people that going to the movies is supposed to be fun. It doesn't sacrifice story for action, and it has its share of "whoa" moments. It's definitely something I'd recommend you see.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Iron Man 2, the more serious sequel to the surprise hit of 2008.

Sequels are always towing a thin line. They're often held up to the high standard of the original movies, and if the originals were successful, the bar is almost impossible to reach. Ultimately, you want to expand on the success of the first one, take what worked and improve on what didn't.

Iron Man 2 had a tall task at hand. The first movie revived Robert Downey, Jr.'s career, raised the bar for comic book movies in general, and took a mildly-popular comic book hero and turned him into a national icon.

The result? A success in my book. It expanded on Downey's Tony Stark character extremely well. We see how Stark has taken his new role as a superhero, and how it affects both his business and personal life, and the lives of those around him like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). We see the toll it takes on those who envy and despise him, like Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell).

It provided much more action than the first, which is almost a given in any series. While maybe it wasn't as "smart" as the first, it didn't necessarily need to be. The first established the Stark/Iron Man character, along with Potts and Rhodes. It set the universe for Iron Man. It gave us a foundation to sit upon.

Iron Man 2 probably isn't better than the first, but it doesn't need to be. We all know this is at least a trilogy, maybe even a series. So IM2 just needed to move the series along without setting it back. Sequels are almost never glaringly better than the first -- the short list of sequels that stack up to or exceed their widely-acclaimed original is pretty much limited to The Godfather 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight; and all of those can be debated through the night.

IM2 succeeded in moving the series along, and preparing us for the next movie. It introduced new conflicts -- be they new enemies or personal conflict within Stark. It gave us a wider scope of the universe Iron Man lives in. And, as far as the Marvel movie universe goes, it definitely further moved us towards The Avengers.

In the end, we come back to the acting, particularly Downey and his transcendent portrayal of Tony Stark. The subtleties that Downey adds to the character are just perfect, he is by far the best cast of any superhero out there (Christian Bale's Batman/Bruce Wayne is also worth noting, but that damned Batman voice he does loses him points).

Add to that the superb surrounding cast of Paltrow, Cheadle (who was a solid replacement for Terrence Howard, although for some reason I just liked Howard more for the role), and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Fury's role was definitely more vital in this film, namely in moving along The Avengers storyline, but also in helping Stark with his internal strife.

Add in three excellent new additions, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, and Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer, and you have a ton to build on for future installments. Rockwell's portrayal of Hammer almost rivaled Downey's Stark, and really showed a lot of potential for becoming a superb antagonist in Iron Man's universe. Johansson wasn't vying for any Oscars, but she fulfilled the role she was cast for. It also helped a whole hell of a lot that every look on her face said either "I'm going to kick the shit out of you" or "I'm going to fuck your brains out." And Rourke served as a much better villian than Jeff Bridge's Obadiah Stane.

So, while the writing (and probably the directing) could have been better, the acting more than made up for it. It's a must see for fans of the series and comic book fans alike, and a pretty damn solid venture for those who want to see a good action flick.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Random Cool Shit: "Machete" Trailer

I'm pretty sure the above qualifies as a "guy thing" -- but really, who cares? That trailer exudes awesomeness on every level. I want.