Archive for the ‘Movies A-C’ Category

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Were they out of Mr. Potato Heads? “Annabelle”

October 4, 2014

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James Wan’s supernatural horror films—Insidious, Insidious Chapter 2,  and The Conjuringare basically the cinematic equivalent of popcorn: reasonably enjoyable as distraction food, but mostly air and empty calories. Not, in other words, very substantive. Annabelle, the latest installment in the Wan franchise isn’t even directed by Wan, but instead by his cinematographer John R. Leonetti. So whatever imprimatur Wan brings to his work is now run the Xerox machine, giving us a faded copy of a not-terribly bold-faced original. Basically, this is a film so rickety that it only works if you believe two normal, sane, stable adults to would by their newborn a baby a doll that looks as it was crafted by Satan himself.
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Operating on a full charge: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro”

May 3, 2014

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If you recall my review of 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man (or if you bothered to read the review I helpfully reposted), you know that I was less than thrilled at that film. Despite better actors in the lead roles, and a giant lizard-man (and, really, don’t giant lizard-men make everything automatically more cool? Name for me one thing that wouldn’t be more cool with a giant lizard-man? The Oscars? The DMV? Christmas mass?), it was hard to see TASM as anything other than a mercenary rights-grab by Sony. So maybe it was my diminished expectations that kept me from running as hot and cold on The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro as most critics. I thought this movie was pretty good. It’s a fun, if unremarkable, adventure with one of the more endearing superheroes. At least until it all goes to hell in the last act (but more on that later).
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Repost: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

May 3, 2014

[In anticipation of The Amazing Spider-Man 2: The Rise of Electro (man, I am NOT looking forward to typing that more than once in a post), here is my review of The Amazing Spider-Man, posted on July 5th, 2012.]

The existence of The Amazing Spider-Man would make you think there was a larger plan in place for why Sony would basically remake a hugely successful–if not genuinely iconic—summer blockbuster only ten years-old. Maybe there’s some new technology that makes it plausible that Spidey could operate outside of Midtown.  Or perhaps they’ve retconned the story so that Peter Parker is now a tough cop who plays by his own rules and has a super-intelligent aardvark as a partner. Or maybe this is gonna be a more adult-oriented Spider-Man, who likes a snootful of ecstasy before he punishes evildoers with his flame-webs, and then unwinds by having threesomes with Swedish stewardesses and snorting coke off their butts. Alas, the depressing truth of the matter is that Sony was going to lose the rights to Spider-Man if they didn’t make another, so they rebooted the franchise, rather than tell an original story. The result is this perfectly good, but hugely redundant, movie.
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In Memory of Bob Hoskins: “The Long Good Friday”

May 1, 2014

The Long Good Friday begins with Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) swaggering off a Concorde and through Heathrow Airport with the arrogance of a lion inspecting its patch of the Serengeti (or wherever lions live) while a ‘70s-era saxophones wail on the soundtrack. The jazz might as well be Harold’s own personal theme music, since, as we quickly learn, he came up hard in the underworld of the London docks, defeated all contenders, built a criminal empire, and is now poised to make a killing developing the very docks Harold tamed. He wears a perfectly-tailored, cream-colored suit; keeps with a beautiful, intelligent mistress (Helen Mirren); and splits his time between his penthouse apartment and yacht moored on the Thames. Harold, if anyone, deserves wah-wah saxophones playing while he walks. The Long Good Friday is about the 48 hours in his life in which he tears it all down. It’s a great movie—one which secures Bob Hoskins in the pantheon of brilliant actors—and it more than deserves its place as my 300th post.
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More questions for the Cap: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

April 7, 2014

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Well, the new Captain America movie opened here in Jakarta this weekend—Captain America: The Winter Soldier—and, like the first one, it was one of the better Marvel standalone movies. Captain America has proven to be, IMHO, the strongest of the Marvel superheroes. Iron Man, and by extension Tony Stark, is certainly the most fun, but Cap is the most three-dimensional of the lot. Thus far, his movies has felt less like placeholders than the god-awful Thor movies, and serve as the conscience of the Marvel universe. The Winter Soldier isn’t as fleet or breezy as The First Avenger, but it does seem to have something on its mind—a rarity in a spring blockbuster.
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Questioning the Cap: “Captain America: The First Avenger”

April 7, 2014

In anticipation for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I am reposting my review of Captain America: The First Avenger published on August 3rd 2011.


Well, Captain America finally opened here in Bangkok last weekend, and, as promised, it’s another fun addition to what has turned out to be a remarkably solid summer movie season. In case you missed the premise, let me recap: Chris Evans plays a creepy, Gollum-like creature named Steve Rogers who keeps getting turned down for service in The Big One (that’s World War Two to you folks born after 1980). After catching the eye of a kindly German scientist (Stanley Tucci), he becomes a lab rat for an experimental serum that makes him a super-soldier. After an impressive light show, he emerges a primo slab of man-meat. Wackiness ensues. And by “wackiness” I mean, “he wins World War Two” (oh, uh, spoiler alert).
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Run silent, run terrified: “Below”

January 18, 2014

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The little-seen 2002 horror film Below almost became an entry in “Criminally Overlooked,” except that, well, it’s really not a big deal if you miss it. Unlike some of the other entries in that category, Below isn’t required viewing, and really doesn’t bring much to the medium. Probably the only distinction it can claim is that it’s the best technical portrayal of a World War II sub on film. Still, it’s an effective little thriller that’s never boring, and at times genuinely creepy.
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