Category Archives: Movies

Short take on In Time

Short take on _In Time_:
The movie was relatively entertaining, although a bit too didactic and a little too much of hammering the morals and the theme a little too relentlessly at the expense of plot, characterization and setting.
Cillian Murphy is far and away the best thing in the movie.
The cinematography is good even if most of the movie is an extended chase scene.
While an intriguing premise on the surface, the movie is somewhat lacking for a couple of reasons:
The worldbuilding needed another go around. The basic concept is fine, but the director seems to not have to thought out the consequences of using time as a currency and an implanted one at that without any safeguards. I didn’t find that believable especially since its implied you can steal time from someone who is sleeping.
The security of banks and other places seems awfully weak and easy to break.
There is the hints of a strand of plot involving Cillian Murphy’s character and Justin Timberlake’s long-ago-dead father that really isn’t resolved or dealt with in an effective fashion. It feels like that development arc got cut.
Amanda Seyfried has no real chemistry with Justin Timberlake and, no surprise in Hollywood, has a underdeveloped character.
In Time is a movie long on premise but disappointing on the execution.

The ladder scale of Superheroes: Thor, a movie review

There is a power scale to superheroes and the threats that they face. Different superheroes have different levels of abilities, and thus the opponents they usually tangle with vary in scope and ability as well. Daredevil, for instance, usually takes on criminals and other low-powered types. Iron Man and the X-Men team much more formidable dangers. And generally these rules, with some variation, remains in place. You generally don’t see Cyclops going after muggers, and Kato and the Green Hornet, in the DC universe, do not go hunting after Darkseid.
Spiderman breaks these rules, as he always does, as comic book writers seem to love to have him punch far above his weight class. Similarly, the Joker, ostensibly not a dangerous threat to the more super powered denizens of the DC Universe, also breaks the rules as being an antagonist that even Superman takes very seriously.
Thor, the superhero featured in the latest movie, is near the top of the scale of ability and power. He’s a certifiable deity, and a major one at that. The power he and his hammer wields are vast and varied. And thus, making a movie with Thor as the protagonist is a challenge. There are two major tacks that comics take when using Thor. Either give him truly cosmic challenges to overcome, challenges that few other superheroes can take on directly, or, depower him, cut him off from his power and abilities and force him to deal with matters without having nearly unlimited strength. The Thor movie uses both approaches to its titular hero.
Thor starts Chris Hemsworth, as the titular Norse God/superhero, as directed by Kenneth Branagh. After a brief opening scene with Natalie Portman’s astrophysicist Jane Foster, who literally runs into Thor, we flash back to find out how Thor wound up on Earth. The scenes in Asgard and Jotunheim, done with the latest CGI are gorgeous, and establish the Shakespearean family dynamic of Odin and his two sons, Thor and Loki. Once Thor is stripped of his power and exiled to Earth for breaking the peace with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, the story truly starts to get in motion. Mostly.
As I said above, Thor stories usually have him either depowered or facing cosmic threats, and in this movie, we get both. Thor’s time on Earth is nothing more than as a pretty talented mortal, but he is not a world-beater by any stretch of the imagination. The overarching story, as Loki’s villainy develops and his plan comes into focus, IS a cosmic threat, and Thor, when powered up again, IS facing a threat equal to the vast powers he has when at the height of his abilities. In this regard, Thor the movie gets it exactly right.
However, Thor, as a movie, does not rise to the level of the top tier superhero movies for the simple reason that it feels as if it was designed as a clothesline between previous films and new ones. At 2 hours long, the movie is, I think, a bit too short to really get a handle on all the characters. Branagh does try, hard, and it does work for an extent with the family trio listed above. But the rest of the characters do not far anywhere near as well.
It’s a pity, too, because the potential is there. Portman’s Jane Foster seems to be far more capable than most Jane Fosters in the comics (I can think of one who picked up the Hammer herself, but she is an exception). The movie does pass the Bechdel test, by cleverly giving Portman a female assistant (Darcy, played by Kat Dennings). Stellan Skarsgård plays Foster’s academic advisor, and resource for information on Norse mythology. And as for Thor’s quartet of martial friends from Asgard, Sif and the “Warriors Three” of Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun? We learn very little about them. I amused myself, inspired by a friend of mine, to recast them as characters from a fantasy novel, and thus give them an artificial depth of character not really present in the movie.
There are a few nice touches of humor in the movie here, and there, ranging from Thor learning that smashing cups in a diner is NOT a sign of respect, to the humorous attempts at New Mexico locals to try and pick up (or even move) Thor’s hammer, Mjollnir.
What the movie does very well, for better or worse, is to tie into the shared universe Marvel is trying to build in its films. Some might even say that the entire point of the Thor movie is to continue to string the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” along. The obligatory credit cookie scene at the end of Thor features Skarsgård ‘s character and suggests that there is more to him than meets the eye, but it is little more than a teaser and a revelation of who the villain of the Avengers might be. There are also appearances by Hawkeye and most notably, Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wikipedia actually has a webpage to keep all of this straight:
As entertainment, despite its weaknesses, the movie entertains and there are worse ways to spend $10 and 2 hours of your time. I saw the movie in 2-D myself, and can’t imagine, personally, it being worth any extra money to see it in 3-D. Branagh’s direction, and a story co-created by J. Michael Straczynski don’t rise above the bar of mere entertainment though, as I had hoped they would.
While Thor the comic book superhero, God of Thunder, is in the top bracket of superheroes, this movie, unfortunately, is not. I wish it was, I really do. It’s not Iron Man or the Dark Knight, instead Thor is a second-tier superhero movie, serviceable, but nothing more.

Knight and Daye

Felicia and I went to see Knight and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. Watching it has helped me formulate a theory of movie success in this economy.
A light frothy action-comedy, the plot revolves around Roy Miller, who at first uses Diaz’s June Havens, and then his complicated double-dealing spy life keeps intersecting with hers.
It’s nothing innovative, especially if you are a fan of, say, Alias. What works is the chemistry between the leads, the comedy mixed in with the action.
Other things work a little less well. There are a couple of thin points in the plot (June gets knocked out alittle too often so that she can be moved around the world), but overall it was funny and engaging, and the direction is well done. For once, an action movie was not dominated by hand held cameras and incomprehensible ADD style cinematography.
The movie, however, is flopping at the box office, and I think I know why.This dovetails into a conversation on an email list I was having recently regarding movies.
Movies today succeed or fail if they appeal to the one high-going movie demographic: teenagers. If a movie doesn’t have appeal for teenagers, it is doomed in America. It can certainly appeal to other demographics, but if it doesn’t have something for the 12-21 market, the movie will fail.
If Knight and Day came out in 2000 instead of 2010, it could have been a hit for the summer. As it is, Diaz is “too old” and not as young looking as, say, Kristen Stewart. And Tom Cruise is now more well known for jumping on couches than his earlier movies. Despite the movie’s virtues, Jane and John Teenager have little interest in seeing this movie. And so its box office is pitiful.
According to Box Office Mojo, last weekend:
Distributor 20th Century Fox’s research showed that Knight & Day’s audience had an even split between genders and that 56 percent was over 25 years old.
I rest my case.