Movie Review #428: Thor: The Dark World

My 9th straight Avenger film over C+…just barely

You can’t really ding Thor 2 for not being as epic as The Avengers – we expected that. To be honest the superhero isn’t as interesting anymore now that he’s the selfless and responsible God that Asgard needs him to be. So it made sense for Marvel and director Alan Taylor to shift the focus of the film to the rest of Thor’s posse to keep things interesting.  With the aid of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Darcy (Kat Dennings), Fandral (Zachary Levi), and even Captain America, The Dark World salvages itself from becoming a definite black sheep in the franchise and provides enough thrills and unique visuals to consider it a worthwhile watch.

While most of the movie’s flaws can be easily forgiven, there are a couple of things I would like to mention. First is the apparent weakness of the villain, Malekith, despite the film trying so hard to make him look incredibly powerful with the capability to destroy the Earth. And because I wasn’t convinced with him I never felt truly engrossed with what he was doing. The other problem is that Marvel got a little ahead of itself when it came to advertising their next product. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but some reveals felt forced and were never really explained. And the ending (I’m not talking about the end-credits) wasn’t that satisfying as it just left me confused, although I could see other people thinking differently.

Fortunately the level of entertainment Thor provides as a whole allowed me to overlook those problems. The CGI work put into Asgard and the warships is commendable and I enjoyed most of the action bombarded towards me. It’s also hard not to laugh at the punchlines because the cast’s comic timing is perfect. It also minimizes dull scenes and pulls the mood back when it’s about to get overly silly or serious. This means that in the end, most of my issues don’t really matter as long as you just want to have a good time. I just felt like a little extra effort wouldn’t hurt.

GRADE: B-

Movie Review #427: Hero (2004)

Gravity-defying swordplay with a balance of hits and misses

In terms of its structure, Zhang Yimou’s Chinese epic Hero is brilliant. Believability on the other hand is another thing altogether. While the sword fights take up a majority of the film’s sequences, it in itself is the strongest and weakest points. It particularly works when the cast’s feet still touch the ground (stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Jet Li, and Zhang Ziyi) but when they start to fly without wings on their robes things become so ridiculous that it ruins the serious mood. But like I said, the way the story is told is fascinating and will keep you interested despite the myriad of action scenes present. It’s a good thing I didn’t know anything about this movie prior to watching it because had I known it was an Academy-award nominee I would’ve been so disappointed. Still, it’s not bad. And if you can get over some of the things I complained about you would probably have a good time for 99 minutes.

GRADE: C+

Movie Reviews of 2013: The Great Gatsby (#425), Beautiful Creatures (#426)

THE GREAT GATSBY

A generic telling of the classic novel merely given a facelift

Flashy but not compelling, straightforward but a little too simple, Baz Luhrman’s artistic style is as lavish as ever – yet if feels out of sync when paired with The Great Gatsby’s uninspired narrative. But ultimately, Gatsby’s greatest downfall comes from its 142-minute running time, which diminished and downplayed a lot of scenes where tension was supposed to be running high.

What saves the film from being a total mess is its talented cast whose strongest player isn’t even the one playing Gatsby. Rather, it’s Tobey Maguire the storyteller who caught most of my attention. Despite his subdued presence in the film, I felt like his character was the one gluing them together and I also found his narration very engaging. Almost as captivating is Leonardo DiCaprio who’s dashing looks truly fit his role, though the way Gatsby was presented wasn’t something I absolutely adored. Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Elizabeth Debicki stood their ground as well, but they weren’t as charismatic as the two male leads.

GRADE: C+

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES

Cute, charming and fresh

Now this is truly an outlier among a plethora of bad young-adult fantasy romance titles being released lately. Beautiful Creatures is cute, charming and fresh. It’s absolutely guilt-free and I’m not embarrassed to say I liked it! Most commendable is its involvement of two very strong leads (Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert), young actors who are not your typical Hollywood top billers. Yet they command such charisma that helps make their love story believable enough to make me forget about the other generic elements the movie possesses. If studios keep surprising us with flicks such as this, then we may not need to lose hope on the genre after all.

GRADE: B

Movie Reviews of 2013: Gangster Squad (#423), Spring Breakers (#424)

GANGSTER SQUAD

Guns ablazing and not much more

You don’t have to worry about getting mind-f*cked in Gangster Squad, because it plays exactly by-the-book that there isn’t much room left to be surprised with anything they reveal. So to make up for its lack of originality, it overloads on action and explosions. Not to mention the film features veteran actors Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Nick Nolte together with the alluring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The cast proves that despite the generic story they are able to turn any dialogue into something still interesting. It’s too bad they can’t do something better with that pool of talent.

GRADE: C+

SPRING BREAKERS

Ironically abuses style more than substance

Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a fitting representation of a film that’s unafraid to go all wild and experimental, but ends up forgetting the story in favor of some flashy visuals. The plot is such a shallow one that it’s unforgivable and no amount of eye candy can make up for it. And despite James Franco’s performance being commendable, I personally did not enjoy his character as well as those of his bikini-clad companions. The end result is something I’d rather not revisit again, though it’s not completely disgraceful. If you’re planning to see this though, try to check out what other people think as this is one very polarizing film.

GRADE: D+