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Category Archives: Cinematic
A Film Review of Man of Steel by Alexander Morales
Opening to great hype and a legion of future movie deals on its back is the Man of Steel, DC Comics’ Hail Mary pass to try and keep its film franchise relevant. Unfortunately, do to a Swiss cheese-like plot and cringe-inducing dialogue, this modern day Messiah falls well short to its potential.
Let’s start with the good. Henry Cavill as the title hero is fantastic. Cavill’s portrayal of Kal-El, Clark Kent/Superman is epically perfect and he both looks and plays the part the way it should be. Discretely humble, every moment he fills the screen you simply can’t take your eyes off of him. Every moment he is allowed to be “super” is breathtaking and it’s a shame that this film does not live up to his performance. At the same time, Antje Traue (Pandorum) is strikingly gorgeous as she is deadly. As the heavy’s right hand enforcer, Faora-Ul chews up the screen with her limited time and, next to Cavill, steals the show. I was smitten with her villainy.
Along with that, surprisingly Kevin Costner gives an emotionally strong turn as Jonathon Kent – Kal-El/Clark’s adopted father. I was both surprised and pleased to see such sweet exchanges between a boy and his father that I honestly felt a little teary-eyed during one scene in particular.
In terms of the special effects – wow! Superman flying has never looked this good and the massive amounts of destruction that occurs is spectacular. While more restrained in terms of his visual style for this film, Zach Snyder (300, The Watchmen) knows how to sculpt a scene. Substance … well that’s another thing.
Unfortunately, now it’s time to move on to the not so positive aspects. Pretty much everything else.
More “alien invasion” than super hero film, Man of Steel spends so much time setting itself up and jumping from one set piece to the next that it never really allows the audience to get comfortable. In some genres, this is a good thing. But not here. Instead of a simple roller coaster ride of entertainment, detail after monotonous detail is thrown at the audience making it difficult to just enjoy the film. Every moment leads back to the same father/son lesson, repeated over and over again throughout the hero’s lifespan while overly complicated DNA genetics crap buries the moments making the audience either irritatingly say “OK, I got it!” or “Who cares?”
The plot falls a part so easily that it is nearly laughable. Convenience is the best (and possible only way) to describe the story arc which works directly against how the the filmmaking team of Synder and Christopher Nolan (with writer David S. Goyer) described their motivations for the film. “A more realistic look” or some other buzz-filled quote was what we were promised but the delivered product was not even close. Yes, I know it’s a character based on a comic book, but nothing from the way military acts to even the mass destruction and death of thousands of people seems realistic or believable. Why was Lois Lane allowed on the ship? Oh, just so she can do that. Why is the ship over Metropolis? Oh, just so these characters can seem in harm’s way. It’s all just matters of convenience versus real motivations.
Speaking of Lois … what a waste! Not that Amy Adams does a bad job with what she is given, but she is never really allowed to be the Lois Lane fans would both expect or want to see. Sure, they give her a gun for part of it, but it’s not even close to enough. At the same time, Michael Shannon as General Zod is never really given the chance to be the badass he needs to be. Confused zealot is possibly the best way to describe him in the film and unfortunately, we’ve seen this before. Nearly the exact same character as Agent Nelson Van Alden from Boardwalk Empire, I expected to him to go into his spaceship and begin flogging himself for his sins.
However, the most glaringly negative aspect that can’t be denied is how much this film steals from the Matrix film franchise. With an art direction that looks stolen from Geof Darrows’ rejection pile from 1998 and the exact character template as Keanu Reeves’ Neo, Man of Steel is extremely lacking in the originality department. Babies get harvested by machines, Christ-like overtones (not even undertones) and a final fight scene that is such a complete retread that if Neo and Agent Smith were inserted into this film, you wouldn’t even notice. There’s even a machine that looks exactly like the squid-like robots that Superman has to fight near the end. Save for the near 60 minutes of explosions that Man of Steel pours into your eyeballs, this film falls just a short of its promised potential as Matrix: Revolutions. Other creative properties that were pick-pocketed include, but are not limited too Avatar, Invincible (the comic book which kind of stole from Superman but then was robbed for this film) and Alien.
Too long in terms of run time and too little in terms of substantial story, Man of Steel comes nowhere close to representing the 75 years of legendary character that DC Comics has built. Is it a better film than Superman Returns? Most definitely. Can it contend with Marvel’s wave of super hero films? Not really. Lacking fun and vibrancy, Man of Steel is as dull as the metallic black and grey color palette that overwhelms the film.
I will say, even with all of these negative aspects, I was still entertained. I can’t say enough about how Cavill and his performance and presence helped keep the film engaging. This really is impressive considering the lagging moments of boredom that occur and a character decision that the story has Superman make that is exactly the same thing that he is trying to stop Zod from doing. (No spoilers.)
Also – there is no reason to see this movie in 3D. Headache inducing hand-held camera work and nearly zero 3D effects make that a waste of money.
Overall, while nowhere near what we were hoping for, Man of Steel will probably still make its money. Flocks of people want to see this film and hopefully some of them enjoy the experience more than I did. Word on the street is that they are already fast tracking a sequel … so good for them. Bad for Superman aficionados. My heart skipped a beat when Clark wears both a Royals and University of Kansas shirt (Rock Chalk!) in the film, but that just wasn’t enough to win me over. Poor storytelling, heavy dialogue and a lack of originality kept this Man of Steel from being my summer movie hero.
3 out of 5 Flying Krypton Creatures
“Man of Steel” Saves Our Summer
By Jason Gregg
Ugh, it has been a brutal summer at America’s theaters. With expected blockbusters like the Hangover III, After Earth and Now You See Me filmed to impress us; they have fallen flat. We have been waiting patiently for a hero to rescue us (agreed we did get Iron Man 3 earlier this year), and to rise above our expectations letting us escape into a world of fantasy for a couple of hours. That hero comes in the form of Kal-El, er… I mean Superman/ Man of Steel/ Clark Kent. Call him what you will, he still gets the job done.
We begin with the birth of our hero Kal-El on planet Krypton. He is a special infant, since this is the first natural childbirth in centuries for the people of Krypton. After Kal-El’s birth, there is a violent coup by General Zod (played by Michael Shannon). We discover that Zod and Kal-El’s father, Jor-El (played by Russell Crowe) were once friends but thanks to Zod’s coup, the line between them has been drawn. That’s OK because Jor-El doesn’t live long after his son is jettisoned into space to begin his new life on planet Earth (Well, Jor-El dies but not really, I’ll explain later). General Zod is soon arrested and his fellow collaborators are banished to space prison.
Director Zack Snyder and writer David S. Goyer (who penned the stories for The Dark Knight trilogy) take a non-linear approach to Kal-El’s (played by Henry Cavill) life on earth. We see him as a grown man named Clark Kent, jumping from odd job to odd job, searching for an answer to who he is and where he comes from originally. For a drifter, he is totally ripped in the muscular sense. He has flashbacks to his childhood and how he learned to harness his strength, X-ray vision and desire for revenge. His earthly father, Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) and mother, Martha (played by Diane Lane) taught him how to be more human like.
Fortunately Clark’s journey’s leads him to the far north where the U.S. Air Force is uncovering a spaceship that has been trapped under ice for the last 20,000 years. A feisty young reporter from the Daily Planet, Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) is there to break the story. Clark eventually steals the ship and is reunited with the consciousness of his dead father (see I told you he wasn’t dead) who teaches Clark about his backstory and gives him a snazzy new suit with a bright red cape and big S on the chest (but on Krypton it’s not an S; it’s a symbol for hope). After a few attempts Clark learns to fly and it’s pretty darn cool to take a few minutes to watch him fly over different terrains. Sure, it’s all style and little substance, but who cares.
General Zod, after breaking free of his space prison, makes his appearance and with one shi, holds our entire planet of 7 billion people hostage while demanding that we release Kal-El to him. Clark is torn and seeks guidance at a local church, and in his moment of clarity, we see his Messiah moment complete with a stained glass image of Jesus Christ in the background. He realizes he must make a sacrifice for us.
And, sacrifices he does make, to the extreme. The rest of film truly his one long action packed fight after another. Lois comes to Kal-El’s rescue while aboard a spaceship and then Kal-El rescues her… quite a bit. And it goes on like this for a while. A long while – a fight destroying Superman’s hometown Smallville, Kansas (much love is given to our Jayhawks and Royals throughout the movie) and a good chunk of the fictional city Metropolis is ruined. A minor character even mentions that Superman saved them, even though half of their city is now rubble. There is fight after fight until the very end when truth and justice prevails, but not without us seeing Superman’s darker side.
Should you see this movie? Yes, it’s a solid piece of work with a great performance by Cavill who plays a quieter Superman. His dialogue is at a minimum compared to the rest of the cast, but with all that flying around and fighting, it’s hard to say much.
The story does not focus as much on the superhero fantasy but takes a science fiction approach to the plot with the reasons why General Zod his trying to destroy our hero. Many of the ships and textures used are reminiscent of War of the Worlds or the latest Star Trek films. While several of the scenes take place outside of earth’s atmosphere, we are still reminded that our hero is not an earthling but still has the characteristics of one of us.
Six. Can you believe it? Six? With a seventh already on the way. Yeah … for real.
Since 2001, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner have been revving the engines of fans and taking audiences for rides in some of the fastest 10 second cars Hollywood could build and while the second film in the series suffered from a sophomore slump … there’s no denying that the filmmakers behind the Fast and the Furious franchise are living by the motto – “Go big or go home.”
While not nearly as good (surprisingly) as Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 is pretty damn entertaining. By bringing back Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Agent Hobbs and Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, this film is giving fans exactly want they want in their summer film fun – more, more, more. Of course, this film is not going to win any acting awards. Never. No way. But in knowing that, this movie can be appreciated it for what it truly is – a return to the macho, one-liner, testosterone fueled action-fests that are hardly ever done well anymore.
Quickly wrapping up the events of the first, second, fourth and fifth installments (skipping part three of course because Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift occurs after the events of all of the before-mentioned films) with a montage of scenes over a hip hop beat, everyone gets back on the same page. After pulling off the big heist from the last film, our heroes are all living the life, spending their riches and trying to move on from their criminal pasts. That is until Toretto has an encounter with Hobbs, learns that Letty is still alive and calls the team back in for an afternoon drive. Now, with Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Sung Kang (Han), Gal Gadot (Gisele) and Ludacris (Tej) all together, they can help Hobbs take down an international criminal (Luke Evans) and (possibly) get their records wiped clear and be able to return to American soil. Got it. Yeah, like a season of Scandal, this is soap opera goodness for gear heads.
Along the way, Gina Carano shows up, kicks some ass and shows why she is the baddest hot-chick on screen. And yes, I understand that in calling her a chick, I run the risk of getting punched really hard in the face by her … but that’s a risk I’ll take just to be near her.
This film is ridiculous. Not in the “were-they-trying-to-be-serious” kind-0f way, but overall in terms of the action, plot/story and character development. From the thuggish thievery of the first film to this international espionage tale, everything has grown exponentially over-the-top. Luckily, in this case, it kind of works … for the most part.
Things to consider before watching this film:
1. Physics do not really apply.
2. Everyone can take ass beatings that would kill an average person.
3. A quarter-mile race in a 10-second car takes about five minutes.
4. You will see gear shifting.
5. Who cares? Just have fun.
Super-charged muscle cars, bone-shattering wrecks and a tank are just the beginning. When the action is on, the movie really works. Put any of the characters behind the wheel of anything with tires or let them fight and it pops. Clearly, this cast is having fun. You can actually see Carano smirking through every fight scene showing off her skills. Where the movie fails … pretty much at all the quiet spots in between. While the cast does have good chemistry and there is some fun humor, the dialogue is cringe-inducing and the over-acting is silly at times. Luckily … who cares? It’s the Fast series. You’re not expecting Shakespeare. Just go with it. However, the run time is 20 minutes too long and I believe would have been a better experience if it was shorter. Cut out some of the excess and the movie would stay in gear longer.
While nowhere near the level of Fast Five, Fast 6 is still a solid addition to this guilty pleasure franchise. In my opinion, Tokyo Drift was the best – which also (interestingly enough) only included Diesel in a quick cameo role at the end – but with the addition of Johnson and growth of action in the last film, the franchise has grown with its audience and expanded into something more than street racers running from the cops. Pure cheesy goodness, fans will be excited with what they see and by connecting the dots throughout all six of the films, this oil soaked soap opera will get the one thing every summer movie wants – fans in the seats. While average in terms of scale when compared to the other big films coming out, I’m sure fans will not be disappointed.
3 out of 5 NOS canisters
I am no Trekkie. I’m not. Yes … I’ve seen all the movies. I’ve watched some of the original television series – mostly to make fun of them – and I’ve enjoyed going back through old episodes of Next Generation … mainly for the all the sexy-time undertones (or overtones.) But, I am no Trekkie. Basically I know enough to have conversations with our KC Studio editor and be dangerous to other teams at a pub quiz. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a uniform-wearing, “Phasers set to stun” kind-of-a-person to enjoy the newly released, action-packed, thrill-ride that is JJ Abrams’ second installment into the Star Trek universe.
With all the crew from the 2009 reboot coming back, Star Trek Into Darkness jumps right in and never looks back. Timelines and canon be damned, this is not the Star Trek of before. While the first film was successful, yet highly criticized by devotees of the franchise, this film is really going to piss some Prime Directive Zealots off.
Of course, there are plot lines to the film that are extremely spoilerific and by me mentioning them here, will ruin the fun. So here are the bare essentials of the story: Still brash and headstrong, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his team aboard the Starship Enterprise are traveling on missions and getting into trouble all throughout space. Unluckily for him, a threat he and the rest of Starfleet never considered is waiting for them right under their noses. By enacting a terrorist attack in futuristic London and potentially causing war between the Federation and the Klingons, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) walks the line between good and evil. What are his true intentions and who is he really? Well it’s up to Kirk to find out.
And … that’s all you get.
With hilarious dialogue that I found smart, witty and near Empire Strikes Back levels, I genuinely enjoyed this film experience. Strong acting from all the principle characters with Easter eggs scattered throughout for fans of the fiction and pop culture jokes, I know mass audiences will be wolfing down popcorn and enjoying every Gorn-fearing minute of it.
In terms of the cast, the writers do a great job giving us what we want. With eight characters needing appropriate attention and purpose, I found the screen-time both balanced and interesting. Standing out above the rest is Zachary Quinto as Spock and Simon Pegg as Scotty. Yes, Karl Urban is great, once again channeling Bones and Zoë Saldana’s sleek Uhura makes being smart sexier than it already is, but in this film, it’s all Spock and Scotty. A close second is John Cho as Sulu and that really is based on one scene where he shows a level of bassassery that this actor never gets to show.
Quinto as Spock is excellent and a shining reason to see this film. While not only capturing the overall feeling of the character, Quinto also does an impressive job expressing emotion while keeping Spock’s deadpan, serious personality.
And then there’s Cumberbatch. As an adversarial-type character, Cumberbatch exudes self-confidence and commands every second he is shown on screen. Almost computer-like you can see him assessing ever detail in front of him in a way that makes everyone around him uncomfortable. And I liked it.
In terms of the action and special effects, I was blown away by the size and pace of the film. I could feel myself leaning forward with giddiness wanting more and enjoying the eye candy dancing across the screen. Were there explosions? Hell yeah! Was there running and jumping and fighting and stuff? Hell yeah! Was it loud with lens flares? Um … yeah. But so what? Above all, this is where most Trek fans are going to get annoyed. Big explosions to some equate to big dumbness and that’s not always true. Usually true. See Transformers for proof. But was Next Generation … with a Klingon (gasp) on board just like the original series … no. This is for new audiences and while clearly there are films I do not like because of these very reasons, Into Darkness is not one of those films.
While Into Darkess does borrow a great deal from another Star Trek film of the past, I enjoyed how the story brought the overall arc back to near it’s roots. Again, this is where many of devoted fans may also have some very big problems and you know what, they may be right. However, it’s clear that in trying to make this new arm of the franchise, the filmmakers do have a love and respect for the original series.
As always, there are holes in the story and as a narrative, it does sag a bit in the middle. However the solid acting, kinetic pacing and action all help keep it on a track that I believe mass audiences will love. I do, however with the camera was a little more stationary. Critics give Michael Bay a bunch of crap form constantly keeping the camera in motion and in that sense, I feel Abrams deserves similar criticism. Along with that, clearly this is a project Damon Lindelof worked on because there a few holes in logic that would make Spock raise an eyebrow.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It’s a space adventure and everything that Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Star Wars was not. Building on the success of the 2009 film, Abrams has added solid addition to the franchise. Some will call Star Trek Into Darkness a dumbed-down version of a beloved series that is to be worshiped forevermore … and that’s just not true. At its center, there is a wonderful focus on friendship, the importance of the team and the capacity of sacrifice that people will give for the one’s they love. Plus you get explosions, a Klingon or two, Tribbles and a few reveals that, while may seem obvious to some, pay off well in the end. Audiences will love the crew and leave highly entertained.
Lastly … the 3D. If you know me … you have heard me complain countless times that I dislike 3D. It’s a ploy to get people to pay more for an overrated experience. Since 3D found its way back on the scene, I have only had a handful of good experiences … Avatar, Hugo, the Avengers, Life of Pi and maybe, possible, kind of The Hobbit. With that being said, I was very impressed with the 3D on this film. It was clear, crisp and added an enhanced to the viewing. I still think it’s overrated but, I would recommend seeing this film in that format.
4 out of 5 Red Shirts on an Away Mission
Nope. Not at all. Not even a little. Maybe for a second but then, poof, gone. Boring. Fake. Not even close to past work. Uninteresting with horrible editing.
Yup … that’s what I think.
I could go on with sentences like these – if that’s even what you could call them. It would be easy. And yet, even in this hateful prose style, my review would still have more substance than Baz Luhrmann’s newest film experience The Great Gatsby.
To say that I did not enjoy this experience … would be an understatement.
Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge each hold solid places in my “filmophile” heart. I understand the criticisms and agree with some, but the overall experiments in terms of color, music and acting all made for an unusual and interesting movie watching experience that I, still to do this day enjoy.
Not the case here.
With source material that drowns itself in the excess of wealth that New York was seeing in the early 1900s and the flowing booze of Prohibition, the visual potential of Luhrmann’s over-the-top, sensory overload of sound and color style would seemingly be the perfect choice. Alas, special effects that look fake-as-hell (and by fake I mean really bad-fake), a soundtrack that is extremely distracting and an overall heavy handedness in terms of dialogue and acting that treats the audience like a bunch of idiots all contribute to a film experience that was both disappointing and irritating.
Flat and emotionless, the actors and actresses are pushed into scenes that seemingly have no focus and no real meaning. Which is an extreme shame considering the cast that Luhrmann and his team have brought together. Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan. Really. Do I need to say more?
DiCaprio alone is usually worth the cost of admission. I mean, come one. As the title character, DiCaprio was the perfect casting choice. Classically handsome, strong acting chops and that ability to pull off social arrogance had me convinced that this was his chance at Oscar contention after being passed over so many times before. I was wrong. A poor script and worse direction took that away. Tobey Maguire, with his … his … well, whatever … should have been great as the wide-eyed Nick Carraway. And yet … no. Again, a poor script and, well his inability to be a narrator ruined that. On and on, it’s so easy to give give kudos and cheers to the cast for past work, but in this film they are left stranded by their leader with clearly no sense of how to either emote the scenes they in or what thematically they should be focusing on for their characters.
Yes this film is based on F. Scott Fitgerald’s classic (some would say in terms of story I would say only in terms of age) novel of the same name, so criticizing the overall story is a little unfair, but, how the director chooses to represent that story is another matter entirely.
Let’s talk about the visuals. Flat and horrible. Nothing near the splendor of Moulin Rouge, Gatsby just plods from scene to scene with effects that want to be cool but end up just looking more and more fake as the film goes on. Yeah, I get it. The visuals are part of the theme that Gatsby as a character represents … yes. Fake. Yes. But I can put my dog’s paws in paint and say that the tracks he makes are meaningful themes on an insignificant animal in terms of the overall existence of life on planet Earth but that doesn’t make it high art and that doesn’t mean I deserve to waste people’s time by making them suffer through the presentation.
And then … the music. What the hell is up with the music? My apologies to my keyboard but with furious anger I type these words … WHAT THE HELL?!? Layered noise that added nothing to the overall experience pounded my eardrums that gave me nothing but a few chuckles and resounding headache.
And that’s not even the least of it.
I could go on and on, but why. This film has already taken up enough of my life and seriously, I would rather have been changing diapers and folding laundry then spending my time being bored listening to Maguire’s narration tell me about what I was already watching while (fingers beginning to tense with irritation while typing again) wispy words in handwritten script also flows across the screen making you read what Maguire is describing while it is happening.
Oh … oh! Do not see this movie in 3D. Eye-numbingly bad. It’s obvious that the film was not made with the 3D in mind while it was being filmed and the transfer is awful.
Should of … could of … would of. That’s all this film left me with.
2 out of 5 Green Lights Bobbing in the Water
A Film Review of Iron Man 3 by Alexander Morales
Everyone loves Tony Stark. I mean, what’s not to love … right? He’s smart, funny, handsome and worth piles and piles of money. Stark is the dude at the party you want to be seen with and the guy most girls want to go home to. He’s awesome. Fantastic. Yes, his ego is pretty much completely out of control and his lack of appropriate behavior is near childlike while he dashes from person to person forgetting who they are, playing with their emotions like a cat finding a small mouse to terrorize before gobbling it down with a smile … but come on … what’s not to like … right?
Well wrong. Apparently there is a lot of stuff to hate about Tony Stark and in director Shane Black’s (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) first flight into the Marvel Universe, we get to see just how much and what lengths some people may go for a little revenge.
Based loosely on the 2005 Extremis story arc from the Iron Man comic books, the new film once again unites Robert Downey Jr. (Stark), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts, Stark Industries CEO and love interest for our hero) and Don Cheadle (Colonel James Rhodes, pilot of the War Machine Armor and friend) against a whole new level of terrorism.
So here’s the skinny: After a quick flashback to New Years Eve 1999, we find Tony being Tony. Boozing it up, being the guy everyone knew prior to the events in the first Iron Man movie. While putting the moves on young scientist Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), an awkward Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) approaches with some new ideas. However, Tony being his usual brash self, takes the opportunity to show how clever he is and before breakfast the next morning potentially burns bridges against two of the top minds in the world.
Fast forward to now and the world has a whole person to be afraid of – The Mandarin (a remarkable and wonderful Ben Kingsley), a human horror that has taken shape in the shadow of the alien invasion thwarted by the Avengers in New York. In seemingly a passionate hate for the United States, the Mandarin is producing acts or terror throughout the world, all targeting U.S. forces or civilians.
At the same time, back from outer space … literally, Tony is having some issues. Panic attacks and a fear of not being prepared for every possible threat have made him a bit of a tech-hermit much to the dismay of Pepper. Unluckily for Tony, into Stark Industries walks a now, unawkward Killian who has more than new technology that he’d like to show off to Tony’s love interest.
And then … boom. Explosions, mayhem, personal vendettas get explained, terrorism and more happen all culminating in perhaps the best individual hero story that Marvel has produced to date.
This film is solid. Entertaining, tense during the action scenes, funny and engaging are all the top layer ways to describe the overall film. As always, Downey, Jr. is spot on as the quick-witted hero and with great performances by secondary characters like Pearce and Kingsley, the film feels well-rounded and smart. At the same time, the dialogue throughout the film is strong for nearly every character including the random bad guy goons making all people involved seem more real and somewhat intelligent. Why is this important you ask? Well, because the old, tired scene where the hero is caught and surrounded by armed guards becomes a memorable, hilarious sequence where throw-away guards are able to be people and not just cardboard tough-guys who are there just to be pulverized by the hero. It’s the little things that matter and this film is, for the most part, full of them.
Along with that, in comparison to Iron Man and Iron Man 2, this film’s structure and story is much more compelling and better. It, unlike its predecessors, does not fall apart during its climaxes and, as a whole, better humanizes the hero as a character. This continues to other characters and even adds some wonderful twists that, in my opinion, ground the villain in realism that I both appreciated and loved.
However, not everything is all shiny with the armor. Like always, I think the film is too long and with action scenes that are breath-tauntingly fun, there is just too much time in between them. Along with that a new side character is introduced and to my dismay, it’s a kid. Yuck. Not to say that Ty Simpkins is a bad actor, but the story seemingly forces him into it and everything about him feels convenient, heavy-handed and at times irritating. Seriously, out of every kid that Tony Stark can bump into, it’s the one that has an understanding of electronics and physics? The dialogue between them saves the experience, but for me, too much, too long and too yuck.
Also, while very fun to watch, there is a battle that is very much a rehash from Iron Man 2 and, in a way, kind of pussifies the integrity of the Iron Man armor and makes you wonder how Tony’s lasted so long during the Chitauri invasion from the Avengers.
It’s only after over-thinking and reflecting on the film after the credits roll that I realized there are a few more holes in the script that, in the end could have made the experience so much better. I won’t go into detail here because they involve major plot lines and may spoil the fun, but I will say that if this film is the fist step to what Marvel Comics is calling Phase 2 for the film franchise, they missed out on including more from the Avengers and overall character universe.
With that being said, mass audiences are going to eat this film up with a spoon and ask for seconds. The inclusion of all the different types of armor is a toy and marketing goldmine that Disney is already capitalizing on with the Hall of Armor exhibit at Disneyland. Solid acting, a quality, compelling story with wonderful dialogue and fun action sequences will make this the summer movie to beat. With few gripes and more good, fans of the series will enjoy the film and even hardcore nerds will put down their 20-sided die to give it the praise it needs. There a few character choices that some may hate, but I found to be refreshing and brave. On a cold, blustery May day in Kansas City, this film is a great way to get you out of the weather and into a warm, action adventure.
3.75 out of 5 giant, stuffed bunny rabbits
Ink magazine and The Record Machine, a pioneering, homegrown indie record label, are pleased to announce the kickoff of Ink’s Middle of the Map Film Fest presented by KC Chevy Dealers. This year’s title sponsor is Chipotle.
Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest expands this year to include its first film fest taking place May 1 – 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse at 14th and Main in downtown Kansas City, Mo. The Middle of the Map Film Fest will screen a diverse cross section of curated films. Special guests and fanfare parties will also be hosted throughout the fest. Events include local band Soft Reeds playing a David Bowie cover set before a screening of the 80′s classic film Labyrinth.
The fest’s closing party will feature a band playing as Sex Bob-omb, the fictional band from the cult hit Scott Pilgrim Vs The World before a screening of that film. The first 50 badge holders to arrive at 5pm on Wednesday night, May 1, will win passes to either the opening night of Iron Man 3 on Thursday, May 2 or a pre-screening of The Great Gatsby on Monday, May 6.
With 25+ films of all kinds; feature films, independent flicks, award-winning movies, rockumentaries, documentaries, fanfare parties, Alamo Drafthouse experiences and shorts programs, Ink’s Middle of the Map Film Fest is simply aimed at rewarding audiences with excellent cinematic experiences. After the screenings of locally produced films Corporate FM, The Equation and We Are Superman, there will be Q&A sessions with the cast and directors.
Director Michael Mohan will present his film Save The Date, starring Alison Brie, Lizzy Caplan, Martin Starr. Chipotle is presenting Eating Alabama, a film about an Alabama family that tries to eat nothing but locally grown food. Cyclists are encouraged to make use of Alamo’s Bike Valet to see Where the Trail Ends, an insanely beautiful Free Ride Mountain Bike film from Red Bull.
This year’s film fest line-up includes:
Labyrinth, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Miami Connection, Save The Date (with director Michael Mohan), Awful Nice, Andrew Bird: Fever Year, Minecraft: The Story of Mojang, This is Martin Bonner, A Band Called Death, War Witch, Greetings From Tim Buckley, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Lesser Blessed, The Ghost of Piramida, The Kitchen, Picture Day, The History of Future Folk, In the Deep Shade, Eating Alabama, Another Version of the Truth, KCAI Shorts Program, UMKC Shorts Program, We are Superman, The Equation, Corporate FM, The Rep, Where The Trail Ends and I Declare War.
Lineup and guests subject to change.
Tickets are available for purchase online atmiddleofthemapfest.com
- $25 for a five-day pass
- $10 for an individual screening at the door
Advance tickets will go off sale on May 1, but will be available at the door.
Alamo Parking Information
H&R Block parking garage at 13th and Main – after 6pm on weekdays, after noon on Saturday and all day Sunday – all free with Alamo validation
Cosentino’s Downtown parking garage at 13th and Main – free parking Sunday to Wednesday and $2 parking Thursday to Saturday with Alamo validation
There is also plenty of free street-parking starting after 6 p.m.
About Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest
Ink’s Middle of the Map Fest annually curates and cultivates the unique arts and creative culture of the Midwest, bringing together a sense of community in local and national talent in an annual festival featuring music, forum and film.
Tickets are available for purchase online at middleofthemapfest.com.
By Kellie Houx, Editor | Photos Courtesy Judith G. Levy
Multidisciplinary artist Judith G. Levy’s film on envy may resonate with a few artists and others who struggle with their own envious feelings.
In contrast and almost with a sort of wink and nod from Levy, the process to make the short film represented the epitome of benevolence and a spirit of collaboration. “It was interesting to consider this topic as I gained lots of support. All over, this is such a supportive, cooperative and collaborative community,” she says.
NV in KC: a Story about Artists and Envy in Kansas City started with Levy receiving an Andy Warhol Foundation Rocket Grant award. The program, made possible by Charlotte Street Foundation and the KU Spencer Museum of Art, with funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, “fuels the energy of the Kansas City regional visual arts community by encouraging and supporting work that is innovative and
inventive and engages an audience outside of established arts venues, museums, theaters, art galleries or arts districts. The grants enable artists to take new risks with their work …”
Levy developed the full script and had many of the more than 30 performers and crew already in mind. Some were artists, musicians, actors and neighbors she already knew. Then she tapped some arts leaders in town to provide some of the expert voices for the story and to create documentary-like interviews that capture the complexity of a challenging emotion, Levy says. “I play an artist, Lee J. Ross, who is working on a conceptual art project about envy, and in spite of its limitations, my character sees her project as a worthy one. Throughout the course of the film, Lee J., inadvertently upsets her friends, when she was hoping to enlighten them.” “The topic of envy is a challenging one,” says Levy, “and that is why I wanted to create something that is entertaining, has humor and also addresses an emotion we rarely talk about.”
The fictional artist that Levy has created shares her home, her studio, her friends, her therapy sessions, throughout the film, as she tries to understand why her project isn’t achieving what she’d hoped it would accomplish. The arts leaders that perform in this film are Dr. Julián Zugazagoitia, CEO and president of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Sherry Leedy, director at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art; Raechell Smith, H&R Block Artspace director/curator; Spencer Museum director Saralyn Reece Hardy; and Rachael Cozad, former director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and current director of Rachael Cozad Fine Art.
Levy filmed from February 2012 and into the fall, working around people’s schedules and her other obligations. The film is required to have a public showing to fulfill part of the Rocket Grant requirements. To that end, Levy is offering cast and crew screenings that are open to the public on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Tivoli in Westport and on May 9 at 7 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center. The events are free, but reservations are required for the May 2 screening. To receive free reservations, visit www.nvinkc.com.
“I felt like I had to define the words envy and jealousy, and I do this in the film. It’s really interesting to explore those two,” she says. “I don’t want to give too much away, but there is some drama in the mix of this invented narrative.” Along with Levy, who stars in the film, some of the local actors who have key roles are De De DeVille, Carol Holstead, Erin McGrane, Shannon Michalski, Garry Noland, and Jaimie Warren. “I consider this a community filmmaking project.”
Levy says that she was inspired to make this film, because, “I wanted to write a story that would be entertaining while it explores a difficult, universal emotion. The challenge is to learn to use envy and make it productive. Sure envy can make us feel badly about ourselves, because it often causes feelings of resentment and shame, but it also can be a tool to identify goals.”
Levy says she is “grateful to the Andy Warhol Foundation for funding Rocket Grants and to The Charlotte Street Foundation and The Spencer Museum of Art for administering this program.” She also believes that she “would not have pushed herself to make a film that is almost an hour long, without the support and funding.”
Exploring emotion among a wide range of people is nothing new to Levy. Last year, she had a sort of short film integrated into a piece of art. A kitchen table is set with a place for person to sit in and 18 different people greet the participant, exploring culture and the association to food. The piece is titled You Never Dine Alone.
“No matter what I am working on, I want to explore challenging issues,” she says. “I want to look outward toward things like how our cities grow or racism. Then I want to turn inward and look at how we got to be who we are as a culture and as a nation. Then the work has to be accessible and engaging. Getting the Rocket Grant helped so much so I could address the issue of envy.”
NV in KC could be entered into film festivals, she says. In 2012, her short video, On the Seventh Day, was screened at seven national and international film festivals, including the New York City International Film Festival. She has a studio in the Crossroads and is currently working on an installation, Memory Cloud, for a fall group exhibition at the University of Rochester in New York. She is also continuing her ongoing Panoramic Postcard series. “These postcards are an amalgamation of other postcards, but with a commentary that the viewer has to see. I am hoping for an array of 12 cards when I am done,” she says. “And I have a kernel of an idea for another short film.”
Wait … I think I’ve seen this before. Post apocalyptic future … check. Robots doing clean-up on a desolated and deserted planet … check. Tom Cruise doing stuff that Tom Cruise does … double check.
Yup I’ve seen it before. But, ah heck, I’ll watch it again.
Directed by Joseph Kosinski, the visual mastermind behind Tron:Legacy, Oblivion brings together a hodgepodge of nearly ever successful sci-fi story and theme that we have been witness to over the last, oh say, 25 years or so. Based on a unpublished graphic novel of the same name, Oblivion is highly successful in certain aspects, but falls short in a few others. Luckily, the good stuff easily makes up for the bad.
Picture this: the year is 2077 and Earth is a quiet wasteland, watched over by the last two humans on the planet. In the aftermath of an intergalactic war, humans have won but alas, have had to leave our precious planet due to the fallout. Now, giant moisture machines draw necessary resources from the sea and are closely guarded by Tech 49, Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), his communications officer, Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and their intimidating, well armed army of flying drones. Their mission: Protect the resources getting drawn from the planet by keeping the drones working. Their only contact: A daily video feed from Sally (Melissa Leo), the missions control officer who is housed on the giant “Death Star”-like way station called the Tet, that stores the resources prior to sending them off to the newly inhabited planet or moon. With relief coming in two weeks, the affects of a memory wipe (a tool used to aid the duo in keeping focused on the mission) are starting to wear off and Jack is starting to remember something … or someone. Like all good things, something bad happens and Jack finds out there is much more to his mission than meets the eye.
As a leading man, you can’t get any better than Tom Cruise. Seriously, the man is 50 and looks like I want to look. He’s charismatic, likeable and, like always, he plays the confused hero perfectly. Coupled with the highly sexual Riseborough, the two play off each other nicely – him using his instincts to succeed on the ground and her for keeping him … ahem … stimulated above. It’s not until more of the human cast is introduced that the film begins to waiver.
With little dialogue (for most of the film) the soundtrack crafted for the film is out of this world (sigh … did I really just type that?). Music aficionados will probably say different, and while not quite near the level of what Daft Punk did for Tron: Legacy, I still contend that the score by Anthony Gonzalez (M83) and Joe Trapanese is strong. Coupled with the spectacular sound effects – specifically from the drones – the audience is given a mood enhancing background that becomes as much a character as it’s physical counterparts.
At the same time, the technology and special effects are consistently strong. While clearly inspired by the video games Portal and Portal 2, the look and feel of the film is gorgeous. While futuristic white and grey have been over-used, the overall designs fit well together and luckily, will never go out of fashion. I especially liked the drones. Like I said before, the sound effects from the drones are fantastic and the way they interact, move and sound in the environment is both fun to watch and menacing at the same time. When I saw it draw its weapons for the first time, I immediately thought of the Enforcement Droid 209 (ED-209) from the Robocop franchise.
And then there’s the action. While few and far between, when the action heats up, it really gets going. Always at the core of the action, the drones add a very high level of tension due to their lack of emotion and every time they spring into action, your eyes are glued to the screen. At the same time, as the movie evolves, the tension and emotion, surprisingly grows and while most people will be able to figure out what’s really happening 10 minutes into the film, I still found myself happily interested in the development of Jack and his his motivations.
The film is just way too long. We get it … he flies in his ship. We get it … he remembers something. We get it. Move along please. Over and over the audience is bashed over the head with scenes of him traveling or him remembering a moment on the Empire State Building and it just gets old. Maybe this was a device to represent the monotonous aspects of the mission but damn … move along please.
At the same time and as I mentioned before, once other humans are introduced, the dialogue and overall intrigue kind of goes away. I was fascinated by the relationship between Jack and Victoria, and this neat triangle thing happens half way through the film. However, when Morpheous … I mean Morgan Freeman shows up with Jaime Lannister … shoot, did it again … I mean Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, stuff gets convoluted for a bit and honestly, I just started to lose interest. Luckily those incredible action scenes happen, and I found myself right back in.
Lastily, the story is … a bit weak. Not in terms of its overall arch, but in terms of holes. I can’t get really into it without spoiling the plot, but if people have negative opinions of the film, the story will get the brunt of it.
Nothing. There’s nothing ugly about this film. It looks good, sounds good and most of all it will fit well into a season of big-budget movies.
While not perfect, Oblivion is a solid outing for Kosinski. Cruise keeps the epic from getting out of control and grounded in belief while the supporting special effects and score heighten the experience. As the film progresses, other human characters kind of get in the way, but overall still an entertaining movie experience. Critics will dissect for not being terribly original and for its transparent story, but audiences will be kinder and find more enjoyment from this futuristic tale.
3.5 out 5 Stuffed Gorillas Seemingly Just a Little Dirty and Hardly Worn Out After 60 Some Years
When you say the words Evil and Dead together … extremely specific things come to mind. For many horror fans, the first is, of course, Ash. The iconic, tortured hero played proudly by the one and only Briscoe County Junior – Bruce Campbell – “The Chin” himself. Secondly and strangely, after that, it’s love. Love for a movie that, since originally being released has inspired countless fans and professionals to mimic, gush over and above all watch and rewatch and throw parties over and recite dialogue from and laugh and be horrified and … well, you get the idea.
For those of you unaware or a little lost in the mythos, Evil Dead (1983), was one of powerhouse director and producer Sam Raimi’s (Spider-Man, Oz the Great and Powerful) early works. Low budget, full of schtick and completely bonkers, this was appointment television after midnight for kids like me. True story – as a kid, I once set my alarm to wake me up 10 minutes before Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 came on Cinemax at 2 a.m. so that I could sneak downstairs and get lost in the carnage.
Fast-forward years later and of course the Hollywood remake machine gets refueled, refired and reworked for a whole new generation of horror fans. Luckily (and unluckily … weird how this happens) back for another run at the ole cabin in the woods is Sam Raimi, this time as an executive producer, with newcomer Fede Alvarez at the helm.
Okay, so it’s a remake … yada, yada … what’s it about? Well, it’s about 5 kids, a bad book and one idiot that decides not to follow directions. Something gets woken up … and bad things start to happen. Really bad things. Enjoy.
Haven’t we’ve seen this before? I mean, isn’t that the basis for almost every horror film out there. Bad decisions lead to bad things?
Well … yeah … but it’s Evil Dead … So … you know. Hush.
Besides, this time out, with a much larger budget and a fan-base itching for more, more, more, Alvarez ups the gore to a new level and tries to push the envelope in terms of what his poor victims can take.
Filled with cringe-inducing moments overflowing with spurting blood, chunky demon/zombie vomit and nail gun wounds, I couldn’t help myself but giggle nervously as more and more pain was dished out to the young quintet. This film is not for everyone. While mass audiences will swarm looking for the next big thing, this is the kind of horror and gruesome imagery that only a select hub of people can enjoy and happily, I am one of them.
Filling out the cast is a group that some people will recognize but most people won’t. Unfortunately, in a film like this, there is only one or two characters that really matter so luckily, everyone does their parts effectively. Along with that, instead of just wandering to place filled with evil or deciding to go on a little trip to, quite possible, the worst place to relax, the filmmakers have given the young offerings a reason to be there and best of all a reason to not get the hell out of there right away when the bloody poop hits the fan. Smart.
However there are two places that I think this film falls short. The style with which the film is made and the last act of the film. Clearly, Alvarez is a fan of the original. At the same time, it’s clear that he is extremely talented. The film looks great. Technically sound with solid pacing – for most of the film – this version of Evil Dead would be a good horror film on its own. However, throughout the film are techniques that are very specific to Raimi’s style of filmmaking and sadly, I think it actually holds the new director back a little. Immediately a certain tone is set for the film and at times, I feel as though these particular techniques unbalance and undermine the director’s work. Nostalgically, I understand why they were used – but for me, they just didn’t fit in this new vision.
In terms of the second act, it’s just a little too long. I’m all for more, more, more, but (and please note that I am not giving any spoilers away) but at the end a decision is made for a character that can best be described as and then, and then, and then. It’s gets a little too long for me and not as satisfying when the end credits started to roll.
Overall, yes, please check this movie out. As executive producer, I believe that this is the film Raimi wanted to originally make. Over the top, shocking at times and completely gruesome, the remake of Evil Dead is enjoyable, is worth of the iconic title and will be in every horror fan’s collections. While perhaps not at as groundbreakingly jaw dropping as the original proved to be (in its time), this version is solid entry into the horror genre and a fantastic outing for a new director like Alvarez.
3.9 out of 5 dead hanging cat corpses
Creative Manager Ryan Davis is sure the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be ready to capture and enrapture movie patrons who attend the Kansas City FilmFest April 10 -14.
The Alamo chain purchased the Main Street location from AMC in the spring of 2012, closed June 20, 2012 and reopened later in the year. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, popular in Texas, now has locations in Colorado and Virginia as well. Alamo is known for the recent launch of Drafthouse Films, a new film distribution label and plans to extend its theaters and unique programming philosophy to additional markets across the United States. Davis says the film label gives Alamo that kindred spirit to other filmmakers and film festivals. “Drafthouse Films is dedicated to scouring the globe in search of amazing, challenging and unique films that we are passionate about sharing with a wide audience.”
“There’s full dining service in all the theaters now and a larger menu,” Davis says. “We see going to the movies as an event. It’s meant to be like the 1940s where there was no advertising before the movies and the things people saw were relevant to their lives and the movies.” The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, the first, is known for its own film festival, the Fantastic Fest which showcases eight days of offbeat cinema from independents, international filmmakers and major Hollywood Studios.
“We are excited to show off what we have and we can cater to every generation. We are bringing in classics such as Dial M For Murder. Then we have teamed with The Kansas City Art Institute to bring folks Film School, which takes a KCAI professor who facilitates a film showing and elicits discussion minus the credit fees. Kids Camp offers films for younger movie lovers. The film festival crowd will find a home here too. It’s simply a haven for the movie lover.”
Davis says the filmgoers’ experience is the number one goal. “It’s about our presentation. We change the bulbs often in the projectors to ensure top picture quality. There is the sound surrounding the patrons. We know that people get lost in the movies and the backbone of the experience is our no talking or texting policy.”
A fan coming to the Kansas City FilmFest will receive:
1. An experience like no other as they watch directors and
actors introduce the films. “You stand in line with people who really are your peers because you both love film.”
2. Find some great choices in food. Davis prefers the Royale with Cheese.
3. Come with high expectations of more than popcorn and candy
4. Find a film or two – shorts or feature length – then find the filmmaker and make a friend.