Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America

Captain America is an odd film. While it is more or less what you’d expect and thoroughly predictable there’s quite a bit to work with in the film that certainly could have made it into a good/great movie in it’s own right instead of just being an entertaining dumb action movie. The first half hour of the film is essentially what you see in the trailers aside from the best action sequence in the film featuring the sole effective villain who takes some cyanide so that the American war machine can prosper in his absence.

Red Skull is also introduced very early on, discovering and enhancing random nazi superweapons (some of which are very true to failed prototypes in reality) but while nazis are possibly the greatest villain in any movie since they’re so fun to mutilate and demonize they aren’t even the opposition for most of the film. No… Red Skull has other plans and even dumber salutes and “Hails” (no not Heil, Hail) and unofficially splits off from the Nazis pretty early on. He has plenty of doom soldiers and pew pew lasers to utilize in the quest for world domination, but it is kind of sad to me that the Nazis aren’t even the villain in their own damn film.

For being ridiculously technologically superior to the Americans the Skull-Nazi Doom soldiers are insanely ineffectual. If stormtroopers were remarkably terrible in the Star Wars movies I’d have to think these are far, far worse. What almost made Inglorious Basterds so great was the effectiveness of Hans Landa, even though the Nazis never really had a chance in that movie they were still somehow terrifying, the Skull Nazis are absolutely a joke throughout. They’ve got heavy armor and fucking laser rifles, the opposition has a few weak ancient pistols to combat them with and win easily every time.

In fact, Captain America wasn’t needed in the slightest to combat the Skull Nazis, all America really needed was a ragtag group of unarmed POWs who could easily overpower their amazingly well equipped enemy. I believe only 2 speaking allied characters die in the entire film, one of them isn’t even directly killed by a Nazi (the other is handled by the previously discussed only vaguely effective suicidal villain in the whole film). This POW group yields an amazing American Melting Pot of success, included in a small squad alongside Captain America are; an Italian, A French guy, an Irishman with a fucking awesome civil war Moustache (he probably should’ve been the real hero), a Black dude that speaks French and Italian, an Asian, and a ruthless British Woman. Now, everyone likes to joke about how there’s token appearances in most random movies but this is set in 1943 with pretty hardcore segregation and quite a lot of racial tension between most whites so it makes absolutely no sense in this case.

Taking all of this into account I am forced to admit this is still a pretty entertaining movie, a lot of really stupid fun alongside a bit too much exposition with no payoff. It could have been much better though, the acting is all pretty good aside from Hugo Weaving who kind of phones it in, the 3 or 4 characters that exist are solid to build a story around, and there was certainly a chance to make the villains more impressive. This is essentially a modern day propaganda piece, as Captain America (and many other) comics themselves were back in the day, America is invincible with or without the man with the silly shield and racial equality existed many years before civil rights ever took place. Who are you to say otherwise, sir? You sure as hell aren’t welcome in our country!

Aside: There’s a pretty great Avengers trailer (not just a 5 second clip) at the end of this movie, another direction the movie could have gone is have about an hour and a half in the past and a full half hour to 45 minutes in the future while ol Cap’n gets used to his new surroundings.

For Reference's Sake Battle LA would've been 1.5 stars, GI Joe 2 Stars, and Russell Crowe's Robin Hood 2.5 stars, all relatively comparable movies to this.

America, FUCK YEAH!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Shutter Island

Shutter Island is a bizarre film, one I never bothered to see in theaters. The trailers for it were all spooky-horror sort of things but the film itself isn't really in that vein at all. This is sort of what I expected since it's directed by Martin Scorcese and stars Dicaprio, it's hard to see what sort of horror franchise they might have spawned. This film is purely suspense and like most suspense films holds a major twist.

I won't spoil too much of the film but Dicaprio is introduced as a US Marshal in the 1950's who is sent to investigate an Insane Asylum, Shutter Island in Massachusetts (the land of post 2000 Crime Dramas). This island is pretty fantastic, a virtual fortress with electrified fences and only one way on or off with razor sharp rocks barring all other entry. As he explores the island with his partner he gradually unravels some odd mystery of various theoretical experiments to abuse and improve patients.

The supporting cast in this film is fantastic, while the film itself isn't much different than say The Machinist it is greatly enhanced by all of the support. Mark Ruffalo plays Leo's partner Chuck very convincingly, Michelle Williams plays his wife to a spectacular note, Krishna Banji err... Ben Kingsley plays Doctor Cawley as utterly unreadable yet still sort of inquisitive and soothing. Even minor characters like the Warden and Deputy are all fantastic. There is not a single role that has more than 30 seconds of screen time that isn't impeccably acted.

Despite all the support and makings of a masterpiece this film does fall slightly short. I still think it is an excellent movie but it is one of the middle of the pack pictures directed by Scorcese, not as good as it could have potentially been. There are numerous great scenes in the film but it isn't very cohesive when you get down to it. The opening and ending musical themes are both terrible and overdone (though nothing through the middle of the picture is all that poor).

Ultimately the biggest problem with the film is the feasibility of the big twist, there simply isn't enough valid foreshadowing in the rest of the film to make it an acceptable result, while the individual scenes themselves make sense the acting is still relatively consistent throughout, there isn't a dramatic shift in any character except for Michelle Williams, which is pretty staggering considering Dicaprio should have been deeply impacted by the end result. This film made me realize that Dicaprio, while riveting in both Inception and the Departed, is playing the exact same character in both films as he is in this one and the acting certainly works but he isn't playing to the character, he's simply playing some apparition of himself. While it's nowhere near as bad as what happened to Pacino and De Niro it could feasibly get worse in the future.