Every Single Article Written by Russell - All 140
The Hangover was a damn good movie. It combined dark comedy, crude humor, and a noir-ish mystery plot into one of the more innovative mainstream comedies of the past two decades. I still like that movie. Then The Hangover Part II came out, and that was just a shallow retread of the original. Now four years after the original flick made waves, The Hangover Part III hits theaters. It breaks with the formula of the first two movies, but the filmmakers neglected to include much in the way of actual jokes or gags.
Until I sat down to watch Fast & Furious 6 recently, I had never watched any of the previous five movies in the franchise from beginning to end. Obviously the series has come a long way in the past decade, because I was under the impression these movies were supposed be about illegal street races. Fast & Furious 6, however, features an A-team of world renowned thieves teaming up with federal agents to take down a gang of international terrorists. Cars are also involved.
The sibling filmmaking duo of Jen and Sylvia Soska has done something interesting with their second feature: they’ve created a tasteful torture porn flick. Don’t get me wrong, American Mary is still a grotesque and disconcerting movie. It happens to have some redeeming qualities, however.
I suppose anyone setting out to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel is destined for failure. The Great Gatsby is one of those rare literary experiences that is simply too perfect to be adequately captured on the big screen. Still, Baz Lurhmann swings for the fences on this ambitious adaptation and he achieves some moderate success. Lurhmann has created a film that is both captivating and infuriating in equal measure.
With The Avengers, supergeek Joss Whedon crafted an almost impossibly epic superhero movie. After years of buildup, we were finally given a movie that featured all of these larger-than-life characters joining together as a team to defend the entire planet. It worked because it fulfilled Marvel’s promise to its audience; it was a massive, unique event. However, many must have asked, “How can sequels starring only individual superheroes from the team possibly hope to top this movie?” By its very nature, an Avengers movie must contain more spectacle than an entry following one of the individual heroes. Any movie attempting to top The Avengers on its own terms is destined to fail.
Am I going crazy this week? This is the first time I’ve seen a Michael Bay movie and a Terrence Malick movie in the same week and ended up liking the Michael Bay movie and hating the Terrence Malick movie. Nevertheless, Terrence Malick’s latest film, little more than a montage of people walking away from the camera while vague narration waxes poetic, is his weakest by far.
With Pain and Gain, Michael Bay attempts to tell his own Scorsese-esque crime biopic. The result isn’t as bad as you might expect. In fact, Pain and Gain is a pretty damn good movie. That’s partially because Bay resisted the impulse to turn this into a slam-bang action flick with constant explosions and partially because he finally found subject matter that fit his sensibilities as a director like a glove.
Dragon, starring legendary performer Donnie Yen, is another entry in the Chinese genre of wuxia. For the uninitiated, that means this is a martial arts flick wherein the characters possess mystical powers allowing them to leap great distances, perform tremendous feats of strength, and even fly. Wuxia flicks tend to be simple morality tales spiced up with a metric ton of well-choreographed fighting. Dragon (its original Chinese title is simply “Wu Xia”) promises to deconstruct the wuxia film the way Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven deconstructed the western, but the filmmakers ultimately chicken out.
Oblivion will divide audiences just as last year’s Cloud Atlas did. Those who expect straightforward plotting and constant action from their movies will walk away disappointed. However, the intended audience for this film will find an ambitious, gorgeous, science fiction yarn boosted by strong performances from Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, and Morgan Freeman. Oblivion may end up being the best science fiction movie of 2013.
Writer/director Brian Helgeland’s 42 purports to be a biopic on the life and career of Jackie Robinson, the major league baseball Hall of Fame-r who shattered the color barrier in sports by becoming the first African American to play baseball on the professional level. The film is a well-intentioned picture that unfortunately stands as another example of what happens when a white guy attempts to tell African American history: Instead of focusing on Jackie Robinson, the story mostly centers on Branch Rickey, the executive responsible for signing Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers.